Traumatized Ever After

I was supposed to post like a week ago; I know.  This is still really hard.  In addition to my hand I’ve had to deal with an Activities of Daily Living emergency over the last few weeks.  This post is not going to be about that though.  I don’t want to deal with writing about that until I get my cast off on Tuesday.  So something different now and probably short.

Of Course I Always Say It’s Going To Be Short…

So…  Stories are important.  Stories help organize people’s memory of their lives and decide what they’ve learned.  Stories let us know what to hope for.  Stories often have messages and it’s important that those messages be good.  I’m not going to waste time arguing for these points because I think people already know that narrative matters basically all the time unless they’re specifically trying to be defensive but implying that it doesn’t.

People already know this and they already know how to object to a story with a bad message.  If a story allows a bad means to cause a good end without consequences, people who take the story seriously might well be bothered.  If the portrayal of a minority is a negative stereotype people notice.

But there are other problems with narrative that are less specific and are often missed.

Against Happy Endings

Most stories have happy endings.  Most that don’t have fully tragic endings without hope, or certain kinds of bittersweet that are still really tidy and extra resolved.  Or mind-screw endings that barely count as endings.  But other than those fiction in general has a problem of too much simplicity in the endings and its a problem.

Concrete and obvious example: killing off failed love interests.  (Or worse killing off disabled people, but that has a more concrete problem, obviously.)  Often this is done because they cannot be part of the perfect happy ending.

But What About the Readers That Know They Cannot Be Part Of a Perfect Happy Ending?

When I was a kid my parents were in denial about my problems and super proud of my intelligence.  The told me constantly of all the impressive things I would do.  This sounds nice except that it didn’t take long for me to know it wasn’t true.  I just knew it was expected of me.  I knew I was destined to disappoint them over and over and wondered if they would still love me after next time.

When I was a kid all my stories had tragic endings.  (Except the ones I wrote in school to satisfy the teachers so they wouldn’t call my parents.  But I didn’t care about those.)  I couldn’t relate to a happy ending.  It didn’t seem to be about me.

This is still true.  Even as I’ve spent most of my life trying to “fix” myself, with clever solutions and hard work so I can “reach my potential,” I always knew the ending was always the same.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve made lots of real improvements in my life.  Though most of my progress has involved realizing somethings that I want or that people want from me are impossible and working around them.

I know I will never be a world class scientist.  I know that I may or may not ever have a normal full time job.

A Call For Shiny Shiny Mediocrity

I wish there more stories about learning to lower your expectations, about learning to settle.  I wish there were more stories where the characters don’t get everything they want, or even everything they think they need, but they’re okay.  I want more stories where they’re not even anything you’d call okay, but, given the worse alternatives they escaped, they still sparkle with the hope of it all.

I want more stories where the heroes live traumatized ever after: they’ll never be the same after the plot, but there’re alive and they have each other.

I want more stories where the plan to solve the big problem or defeat the big villain turns out to be unworkable, but the heroes manage to do something worthwhile to mitigate it nonetheless.

You know: stuff like that.

Obvious Hypocrisy Aversion

 Of course, I write stories, so if I want this I should write them myself.  I am doing and will keep doing.  But I want more stories like this to exist than I can reasonably write.  So y’all should write them too.

Final Squids

So yeah.  I wrote a post.  I think I get to say that was sort of topical.  It was also actually shorter than usual, though not quite short.  Which is good I guess.  I’ll start to post some more after my cast gets off.  Squid out.

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4 Responses to Traumatized Ever After

  1. Have you read any Russian classic lit? You may enjoy it–or find it more along the themes you’re looking for. A Hero of Our Time is an interesting read. Oblomov is too. Dostoevsky is always a winner. Perhaps Envy by Yuri Olesha which speaks directly to mediocrity and the character’s struggle with his (you guessed it) envy and resentment as he finds he cannot fit into the new world that the communists are building. And so forth…

  2. Henry says:

    Vague spoilers for Perdido Street Station ahead:

    I just want to point out that Mieville has talked about this being the reason for the particularly brutal treatment of a certain character at the end of Perdido Street Station—that rather than cleanly killing said person off, he wanted the other characters to live with the consequences of what had happened to said character.

  3. xuesheng says:

    Hello, I wanted to say thank you for this blog- I just finished reading it and it was great 🙂

    Also, I know a good ‘traumatised ever after’ novel- ‘Independent People’ by Halldor Laxness. It’s about pre-WW2 iceland, where there was nothing but misery and sheep…

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