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Sarah Gailey

Fiction and Excerpts [9]
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I Don’t Know What A Sympathetic Character Is Anymore

I’ve lost track of the number of times the characters I write have been called unsympathetic. They have an apparently-unpalatable tendency to be emotional, selfish, illogical. They make choices that are motivated by fear and greed and pure unfettered impulse. They make bad choices and treat each other poorly and try to get away with things when it would probably be simpler to just fess up, or better yet, to make smarter choices.

When people describe these characters as unsympathetic, I start to wonder if maybe I don’t know what the word ‘sympathetic’ means. I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way—the functional meaning of a word is influenced heavily by popular usage. Pedantry can be a useful tool for self-soothing in an uncertain world, and I understand the urge to cling to it—but in practical terms, I don’t have much use for fussing over whether a word is being used incorrectly. I just want to understand what people are trying to communicate in a way that brings us as close as possible to mutual understanding.

[What do people mean when they talk about sympathetic characters?]

Do Hippos Count as Dragons: An Examination of Identity and Taxonomy

Someone recently asked me a fun question: Do hippos count as dragons?

When I was a kid, I mean a real little kid, I had this toy, it was a long white board with five white pegs sticking up off it, and there were shapes with holes in the middle of them—stars, triangles, squares, circles, and hearts—and each shape came in five colors—red green yellow blue purple—and I would sit there for hours sorting them onto the pegs. All the same colors together, or all the same shapes together, or all different colors and shapes in a very particular order. I treated the game like a puzzle I was intended to solve, only of course, there was no way to solve it. One of my earliest memories is of the realization that this was not a thing that would reveal an answer to me, and that was the last day I played with it.

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Magic for Liars: Chapter 3

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it. Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life—or at least, she’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars is available June 4th from Tor Books. Read chapter 3 below, or head back to the beginning with the prologue!

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Magic for Liars: Chapters 1 and 2

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it. Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life—or at least, she’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars is available June 4th from Tor Books. Read chapters 1 and 2 below, and stay tuned for additional chapters soon!

[Read more]

Magic for Liars: Prologue

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it. Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life—or at least, she’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars is available June 4th from Tor Books. Read the prologue below, and stay tuned for additional chapters soon!

[Read more]

Revolutionary Honesty: Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady from the Black Lagoon

In the first episode of her YouTube series, Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova discusses the nature of truth and memory. There are, she says, three version of events: the objective truth of What Happened, the remembered truth of the people who experienced What Happened, and the reported truth. Events occur, and then they pass through filters—filters of memory, of identity, of conversation. People lie, and people misremember. People manipulate the truth for purposes of entertainment and personal gain and cruelty.

Over time, the Objective Truth can come to feel completely inaccessible, lost to all the people who’ve divided it into pieces and swallowed those pieces and digested them into stories and gossip and history. The prospect of trying to unravel it all to find out what really happened can feel like an insurmountable obstacle.

But author Mallory O’Meara is an unstoppable force.

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Highway to the Danger Zone: The Heterosexual Tragedy of Top Gun

Top Gun is a motion picture. Say what you will about it: it’s a film, and that’s undeniable. When Tony Scott settled into the director’s chair on the set of Top Gun and shouted “action” into a cartoony metal bullhorn, there’s no doubt that he knew he was about to do some cinema at American audiences. There’s also no doubt that he knew exactly what kind of movie he was about to produce: a cautionary tale of heterosexual tragedy.

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7 Books That Helped Me Survive 2018

This is the first year I’ve failed to meet my reading goal.

Every year of my life since I can remember, I’ve read at least one hundred books. This year, I’ve managed half of that. I can blame part of that on writing, and I can blame part of it on edits, critiques, and the abject hell that is moving—but if I’m honest, it’s just been a hard year. It’s been a hard year for everyone I know; the world is a hard place to be right now, and the small personal struggles we all face feel unbearably magnified. For so many of us, 2018 has been a year of loss and grief: we’ve lost jobs, pets, friendships, relationships, health, family members, children, and a good measure of hope.

It’s been a hard year, and I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do. When I have been reading, I’ve been gravitating toward books that are kind to their audience, that treat the reader like a partner rather than an adversary.

[Here are some of the books that helped me to navigate this impossible year]

Evil in a Teacup: Fighting the Institutional Authority of Dolores Umbridge

Who is the villain?

Is the villain the leader who starts the movement? The demagogue who decides to rally the tiny cruelties that live within the hearts of people who think of themselves as good? Is it the person who blows on the embers of hatred until they finally catch and erupt into an all-consuming flame?

Or is it the person who finds themself in a position of power, and chooses not to put the fire out? Is the villain the person who chooses to sit before that fire, warming their hands?

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The Future Tornadoes Want: Twister

When Jan de Bont released Twister in May of 1996, he probably thought he was being sneaky. He probably didn’t expect anyone to figure out that he’d made a horror film in which the monster represents the death of heteronormativity in the American nuclear family structure. He probably thought he got away with it. Well, I’ve got bad news for you, Jan…

(Oh, did you think Jan de Bont was safe from this essay series? Did you think I wouldn’t come after the director of Speed 2: Cruise Control? Did you think that just because he also directed Speed 1: It’s Actually Just Called Speed, I wouldn’t force a too-small hand-knit sweater of literary analysis over the narrow shoulders of one of his summer blockbusters? Welcome to Hell, where the essays are long and the tornadoes are feminists. The only way out is through. Let’s do this. Twister.)

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Space Dads for America: Armageddon

It’s not that Michael Bay isn’t to blame for Armageddon. I want to be very clear about that. Bay should absolutely be held responsible for the film he inflicted on an unsuspecting world in 1998. But for all that the weight of guilt rests on his shoulders and his alone, one would be remiss were one to forget the serpent twined irrevocably ’round the roots of that motion picture: America’s subconscious desire to play the abusive father figure to a grateful world.

(There’s a lot of material here, reader. I’m dismayed to inform you that, despite what many literary wanks would like to tell you about the shallow nature of genre cinema, Armageddon is embarrassingly ripe for analysis. Let’s drill down (sorry) to the bottom of the longest montage ever made. Here we go. Armageddon.)

[Read more]

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