heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
[personal profile] heron61
I've been reading a great deal of Caitlin Kiernan's fiction lately, mostly everything associated with the Threshold, Low Red Moon, Daughter of Hounds series, including a fair number of her short stories. While Threshold is a very good book, I'm impressed at how much Kiernan has improved as a writer since 2001. I'm also learning more about her writing and why it speaks to me so deeply. One of the first points I noticed is that a fair amount of it is more what I would consider dark fantasy than horror, and much of this has to do with the nature of the protagonists.

Especially in Daughter of Hounds and the stories in the same setting, characters are either insiders or outsiders regarding the supernatural. Her insiders are characters who did not just learn about the supernatural, they also have either through experience, accident, or birth a close connection to it that is effectively inescapable. These characters can be monsters or heroes, but they are very rarely victims (Dancy Flammarion being an odd exception, because she is simultaneously a hero, a victim, and a monster). However, in Kiernan's work, characters who are outsiders in the supernatural, even including ones with some talent for it like Chance Matthews or Deacon Silvey, can be quite heroic at times, but they are ultimately victims of the supernatural. Unsurprisingly, I greatly prefer stories focusing on supernatural insiders, both because of my natural inclinations in this direction, and (more importantly), because I am not as fond of reading stories where the protagonists are victims.

The primary reason I like Kiernan's writing is that the worldview so closely parallels my own, vaguely lovecraftian worldview. For me, the world is not only vastly complex, it is far more complex than our limited minds and brains can possibly understand, resulting in all manner of seeming contradictions that actually make sense when viewed from a larger perspective. I believe the world is full of all manner of wonders, terrors, and strangeness and all manner of unexpected surprises of all sorts. Not unsurprisingly, this worldview is one of the reasons I'm a transhumanist, since I believe that only by drasticaly expanding both our brains and our lifespans can we understand far more of both the spiritual and the physical world. Kiernan's writing gives me a vision of a world of near infinite complexity and wonder, where answers are not simple and often involve layers of history stretching back into deep time, and I love reading about such settings.

Date: 2007-11-15 11:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mindstalk.livejournal.com
All I know of her is from The Dreaming comic.

Death did wonders for Echo.

Date: 2007-11-21 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heronheart.livejournal.com
" I believe that only by drasticaly expanding both our brains and our lifespans can we understand far more of both the spiritual and the physical world."

What strikes me here is that there is an assumption that the role of human intelligence is to convert Mystery into Knowledge through Analysis.

Date: 2007-11-21 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heron61.livejournal.com
Most definitely. That and the practical goal of using intelligence to make the lives of all humans better seem (to me at least) to be the most important and profound uses of intelligence. Hmm, I just realized that I've effectively described the classic distinction between High (spiritual) and Low (practical) magic. In any case, add in play and you have (for me) by far the three most important uses and roles of intelligence.

I'm curious, given how much your ideas often diverge from mine, what you you see as the role(s) of human intelligence?
From: [identity profile] heronheart.livejournal.com
The short answer I usually give to that question is "To build good soil." The long answer is that we have arisen as part of an incredibly diverse and beautiful ecosystem. Our role is to contribute to that biological beauty and diversity. To the extent that human intelligence (and human life in general) fails to contribute to that end, I view it is at best irrelevant and at worst destructive.
From: [identity profile] heron61.livejournal.com
I can in part agree with that. I'm definitely in favor of humanity learning to both recreate extinct species (from mammoths to dodo, and even older creatures if possible) and creating ones never before seen, while also avoiding destroying the existing ecosystem.
From: [identity profile] heronheart.livejournal.com
"while also avoiding destroying the existing ecosystem."

For me this is the kicker. I think humanity really needs to show that we can stop destroying before we even consider creating.

Date: 2007-11-27 12:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amberite.livejournal.com
I love you. :-)

Especially when you talk like this.

Looking forward to the care package...

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