". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Reading Wednesday - A Crown for Cold Silver

A Crown for Cold Silver (2015 - Orbit) by Alex Marshall (a pseudonym) begins as a comic parody of grimdark fantasies.  Grimdark burlesque, because what else can a reader take away from these lines straight off the first page?

First sentence:
"It was all going so nicely, right up until the massacre."
Second sentence begins with the invocation of the thoughts of a Sir Hjortt, who hollers at an innocent little village:
"I am Sir Efrain Hjortt of Azgaroth, Fifteenth Colonel of the Crimson Empire  . . . "
 yadda yadda yadda. Followed by:
"In the names of the Pontiff of the west and the Queen of the Rest . . ." 
 and somebody called Queen Indsorith.

What kind of name is Hjortt? try it out on the tongue sometime, and dang doesn't it come out as something close to fart? soon followed by a tipica grimdark litany of preposterous mashed-up naming (such as even the title of the book!), titles, places, demons, animals, thrown on the page at random:  Azgaroth, Crimson Empire, Immaculates, weirdborn, Crimson Codices, Chainwitch, owlbats, the Cobalt General, the Five Villains, Fallen Mother, horned wolves, sun knives, etc, as well as every possible diversity of gender and match-up that can be thought of  among a variety of species and demons, religions and

cultures assembled from those in Europe and Asia -- hey, we are diverse! No faux European medieval - Renaissance fantasy for us!  But worry not -- there are no full-blooded characters here either, just the expected grimdark cutout placeholders, who, you know, are subverting the genre.

From the start then, present is the signature grimdark authorial self-congratulation of her/himself's witty cleverness (Some Have Said  author's editor has confirmed Alex Marshall is male).  See! my many references to the names of metal bands!  And like metal bands' "music" arrangements, lyrics and presentation, the text is bloated with faux portent, pretension and self-complacent superiority.

As well, readers see present from the first line, parody or not, the signature of grimdark, which is grimdark protagonists just cannot shut up and their narrators just cannot resist commenting. Protags and narrators talk-talk-talk everyone to death, most of all the reader.  A Crown for Cold Silver's protags and narrator are no different in this than it is in its authorial self-congratulation of her/himself's witty cleverness.

In case the reader misses the joke of parody/burlesque of grimdark self-inflation, the book is tricked out with an epigraph from Goya and his Los Caprichos:
"Friendship is the daughter of virtue. Villains may be accomplices but not friends."
The reader cannot help but connect this epigram to the title's inclusion of "cold silver" which recollects Judas sell-out of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  Beyond that too, this is one of the many textual moments that provokes the reader into believing the author keeps falling into being a better writers than s/he intends for this particular work.

None of this will come to the eleven-year-old male mind of a certain sort -- who will  more than likely take this book seriously and love it -- except -- O! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  the Cobalt General is an old lady. NO NO NO NO! O, author, so sly, so delighting in "grimdark subversion". . . .


BTW, Cold Silver also mocks Steven Brust's Vlad Tatlos Dragaeran series and the Khaavren Romances. So much to mock, so little time, one imagines Marshal thinking as s/he frantically types so many words: Burnished Chain, dunecroc, Diadem's Central Chainhouse Known as the Dens, Diadem's Jewel, Black Pope, Almighty Matron, godguana and etc.

Question: is it possible to mock what was already a mockery?

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