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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"Honor and Talent"
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Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952
Yesterday, one of the students in the writing course, "Essence of Story" that Jean Lorrah and I have been teaching on www.simegen.com came to my house with an old friend to visit. They had just returned from a "La Femme Nikita" convention in Toronto and were collaborating on a fanfic novel they were posting a chapter at a time on a "Nikita" list with electrifying success.
I have seen only the promos for this very popular TV show, and never watched an episode. We discussed the theme of the show, its roots in classic literature and psychology, and its appeal to the modern TV viewership -- and it's appeal to its fanfiction writing fans.
I concluded "Nikita" has much in common with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, its spinoff Angel, as well as a couple of e-books I've just finished, plus 2 print novels I've read recently: The Hollow by Cathy McCarthy, from Awe-Struck E-Books ( www.awe-struck.net ), The Bleeding Sun by Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, ( www.newconceptspublishing.com ), Dark Nadir by Lisanne Norman, DAW, pb '99 and Ladylord by Sasha Miller, Tor hc, 1996. All of which are fully recommended as both good reads in themselves and also essential instruction to the student of the Occult facing the Millenium turning.
Instruction in what? They all discuss the problem central to the (also all highly recommended) Darkover Novels by the recently deceased Marion Zimmer Bradley (www.mzbfm.com) -- "What is the Honorable way to live when you are born with a rare talent that is valuable or even vital to your society and/or civilization?"
It doesn't matter if your talent is for unarmed combat with the forces of Evil (Buffy & Angel) and Darkness (Nikita), or psychic combat with those forces (Darkover), or moral combat (as with the priesthood - Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels) or administrative combat as with a born Heir Apparent to a Throne (Ladylord) , or armed combat using strategy and tactics as in a)Dark Nadir, b)Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai novels, c)Star Trek (s), or ritual magic combat as in The Hollow (which is about Native American magic -- this one is so good, it doesn't appear to be researched at all. It feels as if the author speaks from personal knowledge).
Buffy's premier episode shows the Identity Transformation that must occur with legal Majority (her Watcher teaches her independence by appearing to abandon her), and the second episode forces her to rely upon her own judgement that her roommate isn't just irritating, but is in fact a demon. Meanwhile, several story-arc hints are thrown in via silent visuals.
Angel premiers with Angel meeting another part-human, part-supernatural being who gives him Assignments in his quest for expiation. I have the impression that what's driving him is a) his recent experience of "Hell", and b) hope that he can merit reunion with Buffy when she's an adult. Next week there will be an Angel/Buffy crossover episode.
The Hollow gives us the effect of childhood memories retrieved as an adult, and the meaning that comes with having Ancestors, and living in an Alien world.
Dark Nadir is the culmination of a long search for the answer to the question, "What am I?" by a nonhuman who doesn't know his species and planet of origin. He finds his ancestral heritage, as does the protagonist of "The Hollow" and in both novels, that's only the start of the problems.
The Bleeding Sun is a Vampire novel, which has all the earmarks of Horror Genre (the vampires must kill to exist and can't control that reflex), but focuses on a new-made Vampire who refuses that impulse, and falls in love with the Vampire she believes did this to her without her consent. Now she has real Power -- but does she have Responsibility?
Ladylord is set in a fantasy Oriental country where a daughter of a local Lord who has only daughters, is formally and legally declared to be his son because she's demonstrated a talent for armed combat, and his heir because she's politically savvy. He dies. The Liege who must confirm her status sends her on an Impossible Quest to retrieve a dragon's egg and magically transform it into a semi-human loyal servant to prove herself. She succeeds, and that's just the start of the trouble.
The question about Honor is raised when the individual finds that what his/her society calls him/her to do because of Talent does not provide the satisfaction-in-life that other, non-Talented, individuals rightly expect from Life. Are those with rare Talent to live a privileged existence, free of angst? Or are they doomed to sacrifice happiness for the good of civilization? Or is it a free choice?
How much happiness can one person be asked to sacrifice for the good of others?
Isn't this the question every father faces who is responsible for paying the bills of a family? Isn't this the question every mother faces who has to make up the difference in income and do all the household chores and childcare too because her husband is flying all over the world on business? Or working three jobs? Or every child who's desperate to win a scholarship?
Do you have to do it -- just because you can? Does Power confer Responsibility? And if so, where do you draw the line? How much do you have to give up because of Talent?
As the Millenium turns, as we all face this Fixed Grand Cross, see disasters raining down all around, see the Greats of the 20th Century passing the torch and laying down their life of responsibility that provided us with many good things, it could help to read these books, watch these shows, and ponder how these "fantasies" actually depict our own real-life situations and decisions, then let your subconscious process the questions of Honor that come with your Talents. How much do you owe your Ancestors? What will you teach your children about Honor, Talent, and Responsibility?
What will it take for you to face the Guardian at the Gate with a clear conscience? Where do you draw your line?
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg