NaNoWriMo Excerpt: “Remember the Zyrauá”

Per the instructions from Chuck Wendig, this is an excerpt from this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, which tentatively titled “Remember the Zyrauá”. The excerpt features the tritagonist of the story, and it’s set a few scenes before the midpoint of the novel.

A cloud hung over the city of Portén, like a breath waiting to be exhaled.

The feeling of electricity crowded out the wet fishy smell of the river, even the humidity of the summer air. Tauxe strolled through the street market, a sheaf of leaflets on one hip and her fist on the other. Gossip rolled over her in brief static bursts: the defeat of the dynast emperor. Whether the queen would sell the princess off to the highest bidder for a wife to secure the borders against a peacetime Torrelanca. The price of tea (too expensive). The new proposal coming for a hearing in the Enclave this week.

The bill was a paper balloon filled with hot air, as far as Tauxe was concerned. The queen’s proposed law would have let Tauxe inherit and own property, titles, money — all things she would never have in the first place. The streets were packed with the lost and hungry, and what the queen cared about was whether rich women would spend their husbands’ money or their dead fathers’.

Tauxe could feel the weight of some stares as she pushed her way in between the crowded stalls. Sacks of tea, rows of black and white chickens hung by their feet, piles of knotty sunchokes; women in brightly colored skirts and ponchos carried laden baskets and children on their backs, shaded from the sun under flat-brimmed hats and shawls. And here was Tauxe, a man’s cotton shirt hanging loosely on her wiry frame, with wide-legged pants tied at the ankles with string, like a cowboy would have worn. It was odd wear for the city, but Tauxe could hardly don a pair of fitted trousers, and the wide-legged pants were baggy enough to almost pass for a skirt. Enough so that no one would object, though not enough not to attract some odd looks. She shrugged it off. She had more important things on her mind than her mode of dress.

There was enough space between the basket-seller and the end of the street for Tauxe to squeeze in and take her post. She pressed leaflets into the hands of those who walked by, whether they looked interested or not, and told each person who passed her by, in case they could not read, the time and place of the planned walkouts and march. Portén would soon see where she stood without the immigrants who manned her factories and ferried her goods up and down the river and tilled her soil under threat of Quidirá spears and arrows.

No, not Portén. To say the city’s name here was to cede its streets and its buildings to the colonías, to erase Tauxe and her fellows from its face. It was the queen who would soon see where she stood with half a city laying down its work, her and the Keyholders she swept along with her skirts.

Something small caught Tauxe’s attention, as she pressed one of her flyers into a large brown hand and poured her urgent words into open ears. Two words, words she’d heard before but would happily never hear again: “Children’s Crusade.”

Tauxe ground her teeth and focused on the faces nearest to her, the ones receptive to her message. The title of “Children’s Crusade” was an ugly one hung on her and her compatriots by the newspapers, and yes, they were young, how could they be anything else, the lost children whose parents had struggled so hard to bring them to this land and worked themselves into the grave to give them life here?

The newspapers could print what they liked. Tauxe would do the same. A break in the crowd gave her the space to knot her ink-stained fingers into a fist, then relax them. Time and tide were in her favor. The queen would answer yet for the stifling mess she had made of this city. And then someone truly worthy of the crown could sit on the Oromeano throne at last.

Not so long ago in a bullseye-shaped galaxy not so far away

Would you buy a Star Wars play-set featuring all of the main characters except Luke Skywalker?

It’s a bizarre question. Who would want to play with a toy set that’s missing its lead? How could kids re-tell the stories of the movies, and make up their own sequels, when the star isn’t available? No one would ever try to market a toy set based on the original movies that was missing a Luke figure. But they would, and did, make a set based on The Force Awakens without including Rey, the new movie’s lead character.

target hasbro star wars 6-pack

(via Target)

I came across this in the toy aisle at Target while hopefully browsing for Star Wars toys that I could plausibly give to my 2-year-olds for their birthday this month. Instead, I found this ridiculous version of events in a galaxy far far away where the female population appears to have been killed off by some sort of highly specific plague.

There’s no Rey, although the other two leads (both male) are present — even though one of those dudes has yet to have a line in any of the trailers or TV spots. There’s a Chewbacca figure, as well as Kylo Ren, the lead villain. And the last two spots are filled with a generic stormtrooper and generic TIE fighter pilot.

I love Chewbacca as much as any kid born in 1983 loves Chewbacca, but did he really need to supplant the lead character in a toy set? And two slots given out to nameless, faceless characters? You can argue that kids need villain figures to serve as antagonists in their stories and games, but in that case, why not include the named female villain character, Captain Phasma, who is a stormtrooper officer of some sort and theoretically relevant to the story? You can’t even see her face in her uniform, but apparently, the potential realization that there is a lady somewhere under that chrome armor would ruin the whole toy set.

There are no known cases of little boys being harmed by having female characters included in their toys. There are plenty of cases of little girls being harmed by the erasure of characters they can identify with in the media they love. It doesn’t even matter if those characters drive the entire plot of the media in question: if she’s a girl, she’s worthless. Pointless. Cootie-riddled. That’s the message young girls get when they’re disappeared from stories, and that’s the message young boys get too. This isn’t for girls, it’s for me. Girls in sci-fi are anomalies, are misplaced, are lost.

Not coincidentally, I picked up some original-trilogy Star Wars sticker books on the Target dollar aisle on the same trip. On four pages of stickers, there wasn’t a single Princess Leia. It was bad enough having just Leia in the original films, a character who couldn’t even be “not like those other girls” because there literally weren’t any other girls to compare her to. But now the women are being swept under the rug altogether, if not in the new movie itself (or at least, I certainly hope not) then in the surrounding hoopla.

And that’s not good enough. My daughter deserves to grow up seeing women as complex, multidimensional characters, heroes and villains alike — and so does my son. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to be complex and multidimensional when you don’t even exist in the first place.