skygiants: Drosselmeyer's old pages from Princess Tutu, with text 'rocks fall, everyone dies, the end' (endings are heartless)
[personal profile] skygiants
I recently reread Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death. It remains an onslaught of a book, although being somewhat braced for the barrage of ANGER INJUSTICE GENOCIDE GONNA DESTROY A WHOLE CITY NOW does allow a little more time to, uh, stop and appreciate the occasional non-fraught thing that happens along the way? Onyesonwu makes friends with a camel at one point! That's nice!

(...for the record, my review from 2010 seems to indicate that at the time I understood and appreciated what happened at the end. Well, good job, past self, because my present self has no idea. Onyesonwu is dead? Onyesonwu is simultaneously alive and dead? All of history was rewritten back from the point of the Great Book having been rewritten and Onyesonwu is only dead in a small pocket of wrong-history that should never have existed? Onyesonwu just shapeshifted in a great sand explosion and flew away and the kids who saw her die were just confused? WHO KNOWS, I DON'T.)

Anyway! Rereading Who Fears Death got me thinking about the kind of books that are constructed around an ancient lore or a knowledge of the world that turns out to be fundamentally wrong, cultures constructed around poisoned lies. The Fifth Season is the other immediate example that springs to mind of a book like this -- not that there aren't other parallels between The Fifth Season and Who Fears Death. It seems to me that I ought to be able to think of more, but since I can't I'm sure you guys can.

When I mentioned this to [personal profile] genarti, she immediately said "YA dystopia! Fallout!" and that's true, a lot of dystopias are built around a Fundamentally Flawed Premise that has been imposed upon the innocent population by a dictatorial government. Those feel a little different to me, though, maybe just because that sort of dystopia very clearly grows out of our own world. We know from the beginning how to judge truth and lies, we're WAY AHEAD of our naive heroine who believes the color blue is evil because the government put an inexplicable ban on it. But Who Fears Death, while it may be set in our future, is in a future so distant from our own that there's no particular tracing back from it, and The Fifth Season is another world altogether, and we don't have any home court advantage over the protagonists as they figure out where the lies are except a belief that something that poisonous has to be wrong; maybe that's the difference.

Date: 2017-06-22 12:34 am (UTC)
ambyr: a dark-winged man standing in a doorway over water; his reflection has white wings (watercolor by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law) (Default)
From: [personal profile] ambyr
...I was under the impression that The Fifth Season was post-apocalyptic Earth. But maybe this is an unpopular interpretation?

I feel like the whole Lost Colony genre of SF might fit in here to some extent, at least the ones who have been lost for sufficiently long to forget where they came from.

Date: 2017-06-22 03:00 am (UTC)
ambyr: a dark-winged man standing in a doorway over water; his reflection has white wings (watercolor by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law) (Default)
From: [personal profile] ambyr
...huh. Well, she would know!

Date: 2017-06-22 08:37 am (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
I guess that explains the magic.

Date: 2017-06-22 01:44 am (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
the kind of books that are constructed around an ancient lore or a knowledge of the world that turns out to be fundamentally wrong, cultures constructed around poisoned lies.

I think of a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction in this vein, not just dystopias. Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy, for example. Almost everyone's basic idea of the world is wrong and the ones who know better are deliberately keeping the knowledge to themselves.
Edited Date: 2017-06-22 01:44 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-06-22 01:57 am (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Riddle-Master is post-apocalyptic?

Yes. It's post-apocalyptic fantasy rather than science fiction, which I think camouflages it, but it is explicitly stated that gur jnef bs gur Rnegu-Znfgref zber be yrff erfuncrq gur cynarg: "Gur ernyz nf lbh xabj vg jbhyq abg unir ynfgrq gjb qnlf va gur sbepr bs gubfr onggyrf. Jr enmrq bhe bja pvgvrf. Jr qrfgeblrq bar nabgure. Jr qrfgeblrq bhe puvyqera, qerj gur cbjre rira bhg bs gurz . . . V fjrcg [gur Rnegu-Znfgref] vagb gur frn juvyr gur rnegu fybjyl urnyrq vgfrys." Praghevrf gb zvyyraavn cnffrq orsber uhzna frggyrzrag ortna, va gur ehvaf bs gur Rnegu-Znfgref' pvgvrf, xabjvat fbzr bgure phygher unq pbzr orsber gurz, abg xabjvat jung raqrq vg. Gung xabjyrqtr vf fgvyy pbaprnyrq ng gur fgneg bs gur svefg obbx; vg guerngraf crbcyr'f yvirf. I read these books so young, it took me years to notice the depth of time in them and on some level just how weird they are.

I wonder if a better question might be whether there's fiction like this that isn't post-apocalyptic in some way or another?

It's hard to get the conditions for a total societal reset otherwise.

Though as I have just said that, I think a lot of white people I know right now are waking up to the poisoned lies that have underlain America since it was founded, so perhaps you only need an apocalypse for some part of the population, not the entire culture.
Edited (missing words, whee; forgot to rot13 for people who have not read the books) Date: 2017-06-22 07:38 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-07-01 10:51 pm (UTC)
sovay: (I Claudius)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I have read those books at least three times now, and every time I'm convinced that this is the time that will stick, and every time -- anyway.

I think the way McKillip writes is congruent to my brain and not to everyone else's, that's all. What I've never been able to decide is jurgure gur Rnegu-Znfgref ner bhe sne shgher be fbzr frpbaqnel jbeyq'f qrrc cnfg. I don't actually think it makes a difference to the story, but ever since it occurred to me (on second re-read, I think, in high school) I feel textually it could go either way.

'Partial societal reset,' however, such as conquest or revolution or anything that can lead to a glorified founding myth ...

So here's something that's been coming up a lot in conversation lately: where in this schema would you put the Confederate myth of the Lost Cause? Because they failed as a revolution, but the self-defensive mythology of their defeat turns out to have worked its way almost as deeply into mainstream America as the founding myths of the Revolutionary War, which suggests to me that civil war qualifies as partial societal reset regardless of which side wins—the process of reconciliation of necessity makes the rejoined society susceptible to myth-making—but I'd like more data before I try to draw definitive conclusions. (This comment brought to you specifically by not having realized until this week that there are hagiographic stained glass windows to Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee in the National Cathedral, installed in 1953 by the generosity of the Daughters of the Confederacy, what the hell.)

Date: 2017-06-22 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ninjapenguin
The Steerswoman series springs to mind. There's also an entry in the The Ship Who series where they discover a world whose human occupents believe that they have magical artifacts but it turns out


It's not magic, just sufficiently advanced technology which was created by the original inhabitants, who the humans believe are just some type of frog.

Date: 2017-06-22 08:20 am (UTC)
agonistes: (king of the wild frontier)
From: [personal profile] agonistes
Not a book, but... that's Dragon Age: Inquisition. Which is kind of what [personal profile] shati's vid is about!

(Also, I in my cynicism/own lane of expertise will make an argument for Confederate monuments and memorialization being this particular thing, too.)

Date: 2017-07-01 06:47 am (UTC)
monanotlisa: Diana as Diana Prince in glasses and a hat, lifting the rim of the latter rakishly. HOT! (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
This is such a great review! And you're the second person to recommend Who Fears Death. I'm just so averse to rape in any form...


skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)

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