Tag Archives: Magister Trilogy

C.S. Friedman and Heterosexual Privilege

Slash fan art drawn by Yukipon, based on descr...

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While looking over C.S. Friedman‘s website as part of writing my blog post about her treatment of religion in her fiction, I ran across her commentary on slash fiction[1] that she included in her FAQ page.  Apparently, Friedman is not a fan of us gay people, and presumably other QUILTBAG individuals as well.  That may change my opinion of her, though it doesn’t really change my opinion of or appreciation of her fiction.  She doesn’t have to approve of my sexual orientation — though I would love to challenge where she thinks she gets off disapproving of it, either.  After all, it’s my life, not hers.  Not her life, not her business.

But what really got me was the following statement regarding slash fiction:

I admit to no comprehension at all about why this appeals to folks….

Personally, I admit that I cannot comprehend how someone can be that wrapped up in heterosexual privilege that they just don’t get why at least gay people[2] might like to see stories about same-sex couples.  It leaves me wondering just how blind they are to gay people (and others in the QUILTBAG spectrum) and their basic humanity.  So while I doubt Ms. Friedman will ever read this, allow me to offer a simple explanation:

Some of us like slash-fiction because we like to see relationships and sexual activities that mirror our own interests and desires.

Is that really so hard to comprehend?

Seriously, think about this for a moment.  For many people, part of the enjoyment of reading is to identify with the characters, to put yourself in their shoes.  I often either imagine myself as being one of the characters or being there with them.  I think most people like characters whose minds and bodies we can slip into and share.

That illusion, that experience of identification, can be severely stunted for me when the character I identify with suddenly starts romantically pursuing or becomes sexually involved with a woman.  Suddenly, we are very different people at a very basic level.  They are doing something that I wouldn’t do and wouldn’t want to do.  I’m left behind, separated.

And almost every single book I read is filled with characters whose romantic and sexual pursuits are foreign to me.  It can be frustrating and lonely.

So when someone takes a world and characters that I absolutely love and identify with on so many levels and adds in romantic and sexual elements that I can identify with, that’s pure gold to me.  To be honest, I’m surprised I don’t write slash fiction myself.

Of course, what really gets me is that having just read The Magister Trilogy — which explores sexuality as well as its intersection with power and violence quite extensively — I admit that I’m quite tempted to pick up my pen and write about gay characters in the world C.S. Friedman created for the series.  Quite frankly, the series is begging for someone to do it.  At least that’s my opinion.  The series brings questions to my mind.  What would happen if a male ikati bonded with a gay human?  Would such a mating even be possible?  If so, would two gay men each bonded to an ikati be able to form a relationship of any kind with one another? Would there ever be such a thing as a gay ikati?  How would that effect the mating dance and the species’ overall aggression?[3]

These questions seem obvious to me.  These questions nag at me to the point that I’m seriously considering a new writing project.  And while I can certainly understand that these question may not interest Friedman in they way that the interest me, I am astounded that she’s completely blinded to such questions’ very existence or the idea that for some of us, those questions would be hard to ignore.

I can only write it off as immense heterosexual privilege.

Update:  For anyone interested, I have talked further about some of my ideas for playing in C.S. Friedman’s world over at WdC.


[1]  For those who may not be familiar with the term, slash fiction is a special category of fanfiction that describes and explores same-sex romantic and sexual pairings.  For example, I understand there are a large number of slash fiction stories in which Harry Potter and Draco Malfo either get romantically involved or just plain get freaky.


[2]  In reality, I also know of heterosexual people who like to see same-sex pairings for a multitude of reasons.

[3]  Of course, the whole premise of the ikati species is predicated on the presumption gender essentialism.  How would the introduction of transgender individuals (either human or ikati) challenge or change the whole premise?  I bring this up in a footnote because I simply don’t feel I am qualified to address this issue beyond asking it and hoping someone else might choose to tackle it.

For that matter, I think there could be some interesting points of analysis of comparing and contrasting the characters of Siderea, Gwynofar, and Kamala from a feminist perspective.  That is something I might consider attacking, though I’ll gladly hand that project over to any of my readers who are much more grounded in feminist thought.

Adventures in reading

This weekend, I finished reading Wings of Wrath by C.S. Friedman.  Wrath is the second book in the author’s new Magister Trilogy.  I found it a fantastic read, and I’m disappointed now that I have to wait the third book to come out.  (I had to buy wrath in hardcover because it’s not even out in paperback yet.)

One of the things I absolutely love about Friedman’s Magister Trilogy is her conceptualization of magic.  She describes magic as an act that draws upon and uses up the athra, the very fire of the soul, to work.  In the cases of witches, this means that every spell cast costs the witch moments of her life.  The first book, Feast of Souls, starts out with a witch who knows she’s near the end of her life performing one last final act of magic.  This is after announcing years ago that she would do no more magic so that she might enjoy what little life she had remaining.  The town turned against her and she lived in solitude, until a woman came with her two small children to beg for her help.  The baby boy in her arms was sick with a plague that could kill everyone.  Here’s part of that scene, as scene from the witch’s perspective:

The log in the stove hadn’t caught; the fire was dying.  Winter’s chill seeped into thecabin and into her bones, and she let it.  There wasn’t enough power left within her to keep her flesh warm and heal the boy as well.  Not that an witch with a brain would waste power on the former task anyway…no when there was wood to be burned.  The power was too precious to waste on simple things.  If only she’d understood that, in the youth of her witchery!  A tear coursed down her cheek as she remembered teh hundred and one little magics she could have done without, the tricks performed for pleasure or show or physical comfort.  If she could undo them all now, how much tme would they add up to?  Would they buy her another wee, another year of life?

Too late now, Death whispered.

Dying.  She was dying.  This is what it felt like, when the embers of the soul expired at last.  She could feel the last tiny sparks of her athra flickering weekly inside her.  So little power left.  How much time?  Merely minutes, or did she have all of an hour left to wonder if she had done the right thing?

A young girl, the sick boy’s sister, witnessed that scene.  That girl is later introduced in the story as Kamala, the first woman to ever successfully become a magister, those sorcerors who have somehow learned to do magic without sacrificing their own lives.  They are ageless and can live practically forever.  Of course, what most people do not know is that the secret to the magisters’ survival is that they have learned how to tap into and use other people’s athra for their magic.

I’m anxious to read the final book of the trilogy, as Friedman has managed to weave some intriguing mysteries into the story.  I’m looking to find out who the magister Colivar really is, for example, and why he knows so much about the ancient souleaters, who have suddenly returned to the world of men.  Friedman has also hinted that there is a relationship between the magisters and those ancient beasts, and I’m anxious to find out the connections.