The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Phoenix

Phoenix cover

 

This one came out more or less the way I wanted it to. It was going to be the last Vlad novel, at least for a while, but then Athyra came up and bit me. The drummer is based on Robin Anders, my drum teacher, and he really is like that. Honest. You can always tell a drummer, but, uh…what was the question?

ornament

Discussion Page

6 Comments

  1. In Phoenix, chapter (“lesson”) 18 (right towards the end of the book), Vladimir is having thoughts in the narrative that go:

    “There are fools who pretend that one can get through life without hating, or that the emotion itself is somehow wrong, but I’ve never had that problem.”

    I’m one of those fools, I suppose. It’s my empathy with Buddhism and monkish things I suppose. Of course I’ve hated things passionately, including myself at times (which truly seems to be the worst thing to hate), but I think that one can “evolve” to a point where someone no longer hates. I think the Dalai Lama is an example of this. (The book “The Art of Happiness” has highly influenced my opinion on this.)

    It makes sense that Vladimir would feel this way about hate, but I’m just wondering how much you empathize with your character. Do you feel that one can’t go through life without hating?

    I believe Vlad also says earlier in the book that one can not love without hate. That I disagree with even more strongly. I think the two are actually quite unrelated and that the times in my life where I’ve been hateful, fearful, etc, have been times when I was the least loving.

    So again, it makes sense that Vladimir feels this way. It just makes me wonder how much you have to have been able to empathize with this train of thought in order to write it.

    If I may be so bold, it seems that you must be too wise to actually feel this way about these things. And that said, if you do feel that way, then you must have a good reason that I’ve completely overlooked in my own experiences.

    In a way, it seems like hate is one of the “themes” in Phoenix (as they’d say if we were discussing this book in a high-school English class). I’d be interested to hear you expound upon this.

    (Can you tell I’m spending all my spare time reading the Vladimir series right now? Thoroughly enjoying it too.)

  2. skzb

    I think it is possible for people to cut themselves off from their emotions; I just don’t think it’s possible to be that selective about it: “I will feel love, but not hate; I will feel comfort, but not fear” &c. To be sure, there are some emotions that some individuals are exempt from, by nature, as it were (I seem to have trouble managing to find jealousy, for example; although his little sister envy shows up from time to time). But if I were to work on not feeling hate, I’d be working on not feeling love as well, and that’s a choice I’m not willing to make.

    Secondarily, I think hate is healthy. I think seeing what terrible things a person can do, and internalizing it to the point where it becomes passionate dislike with elements of disgust and contempt, is good way of staying discontented; and discontent is one of the things that can do the most to drive us to committing acts of beauty and kindness. Hate is one of the emotions that lights fires under us, to drive us to act; and sometimes even to understand. What we do with that hate can be healthy or unhealthy (spending a lot of time wallowing in it, for example, strikes me as silly), but I’m certainly in favor of experiencing the full range of emotions, and all of them to the hilt.

    I can no longer remember exactly how much of that was in Phoenix, but that’s my position, more or less, as it feels this morning. Thanks for asking.

    And thank you for telling me you enjoy the books: this pleases me by inspiring feelings of pride and happiness–two more emotions that I wouldn’t care to lose, even if it meant no longer feeling shame or sorrow.

  3. In the story, Vlad decides to accept plain hard cash for his job for Vera. That got me to wondering about the economic model for the gods, and specifically where she got that cash in the first place.

    Do the gods have tax collectors? I supposed they would call them tithe collectors to make it sound better.

    I would think that they perhaps get a cut of what is donated to their temples. Does then Vera have one of the priests regularly pray to her so that she can manifest and get her earnings? More likely she would have an assistant do the pick-up, but it not a god then how do they get to and from the Halls? I know that Devera can do it, but she is a special case (unless there is a whole bunch of demi-gods running about that we have not heard of).

    Do the gods even need cash, outside of a petty cash fund for various mortal exchanges as per this novel? I keep thinking of the meme that kings are often cash poor, and wonder if that applies to gods.

    Also, would the system of indulgences be in place, given that there is a corporal entity with which to make the exchange, as opposed to our earthly model where it is just a one-sided middleman ‘promise’.

  4. I’ve reread Phoenix this week, and it really is an amazing book. Between it and Teckla, I love how you wrote the realistic collapse of a marriage and the ill feelings that come with it – in far too much of literature, the point at which two people get together is viewed as some sort of a happy end and dot, and what might happen after isn’t really explored.

    The sheer… well-supported absurdity of a goddess going “well, fuck” when her attempt at nudging society where she wanted – an attempt that hasn’t been the first such to fail in our history – has completely flopped. And of course, being from Slovakia, I can’t but smile at the descriptions of so many all-too-familiar foods, though I’ve mentioned it a few years back already. For that matter, I also appreciate how none of the politics in either book devolves into preachiness and the political arguments between characters are genuine, with no party being made look artificially terrible.

    I though, if you might indulge, do have a question, which, for everyone else reading might be slightly spoilerific, and which you might not even want to answer.

    At one point, Verra mentions Kelly getting his hands on texts older than the Empire, from
    different time and place, that describe the truth about how society works. Well. I can’t help but wonder if it’s the works I’m thinking of as themselves (and their two esteemed authors) or some sort of in-universe grown parallels (after all, there’s many falsities, but only one truth that someone will arrive to eventually, so they’re bound to be similar.) and for that matter, what was the origin of those records in the first place? Was there a society on the world before the Dragaeran tribes (or even Jenoine) that was at the point of industrialization where this sort of ideas would meaningfully arise, and where the Empire is just coming into? Or was it something else entirely?

    Of course, if you choose to keep it for yourself, or plainly don’t have it thought out/plotted yet, that’s a perfectly fair stance. Best wishes to you from Slovakia , and keep up with the awesome work, either way!

  5. skzb

    First of all, thank you kindly; you’ve brightened my day.

    About the texts in question, if you mean are they the works of Marx and Engels, well, I might be wrong, but I kinda think so. Your hypothesis is also reasonable.

  6. Glad to be of service, and thank you for your kind reply! Also, sorry for late reply, I sort of kept not having time. Anyhow, this creates an interesting question – what other books from earth might have made their way into Lyorn archives?

    Because when you think about it, it’s not just sound social science that could make an impact. I mean… think of all the magic described in fantastic novels. It’s quite possible someone manages something that sounds about right to the applications of the Orb, and some mage spending their time reading it might go “Hmm, maybe this can be done.” and ends up with a new sorcerous process.

    Also the obvious jokes about how the likes of Friedman and Hayek might be given honorary titles in the House of Orca.

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