the complete ivory, doris egan

These books are great fun. Theodora the barbarian is a witty and well-read guide through a solidly-thought-through, far-future planetary system. It’s as if the rest of the Vorkosigan books had been about awesome Cordelia, instead of poor old Miles.

Theodora rides in, a day late and a penny short. Whenever I have one of my profound insights I find out later that somebody had it first in the fifth century oldstyle and it’s been a cliche ever since. That sort of thing happens to me a lot. Back on Pyrene, whenever I found a piece of classical music that I liked I was usually told later that it was a big favorite centuries ago of the Poliker Secret Police, and they often played it when they were torturing people. Believe me, news like that can affect your self-esteem in all sorts of ways…

Doris Egan is better known as a screenwriter (for Torchwood and House, among many others) than as a novelist. My grand unified theory of screenwriting, inspired by the career of Aaron Sorkin and amply confirmed by that of George “Aargh, aargh” Martin, is that everything a screenwriter writes is about screenwriting and the unrecognized centrality of screenwriter heroism to an uncaring wider culture. The reason The Social Network is so oddly Not About Silicon Valley is that it’s actually about Hollywood, and how clever Mark-Zuckerberg-slash-Aaron-Sorkin is, and how dumb and pretentious everyone is who isn’t Mark-Zuckerberg-slash-Aaron-Sorkin. (He’s not an asshole, he’s just a very haughty boy!) And I could make some fanciful allegory here about how the Westeros dragons represent creativity and Wild Mind, and their skulls in the basement of Kings Landing are the Golden Age Hollywood studio sets on the back lots, dwindling in size until the species itself goes extinct, and Daenerys who walks through fire to resurrect them is Martin himself, but I think I just did.

Ivory belongs in the same genre, though without Sorkin’s increasingly unpalatable narcissism. Theodora is a bookish anthropologist stranded on a strange, sunlit planet where everyone else is gobsmackingly beautiful, but she maintains an excellent sense of humour about it.

His distorted view of marriage, distorted in its way as mine, is like an anchor: he’s unreasonably prejudiced in my favor, just because I had the good sense to marry him. So he’s willing to put up with a great deal, too, and just assume that my intentions are good.

That’s an attitude worth gold. It’s not why I married him, but I’m beginning to see that people get married for reasons that are different from the reasons they don’t get divorced.

Theodora is also a masseuse, and I am firmly of the opinion that massage-trained action heroines are underrepresented in literature.

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