Look! Jim C. Hines has a new Libriomancer book! I adored the first in this series and was delighted to read Codex Born. Jim’s main character, Isaac Vainio is a reference librarian but more than that, he’s a type of magician who can pull magic out of books. Not just magic, actually. He can pull any object that will fit through the pages out of a book. Excaliber? Check. Lightsaber? No problem. Phaser? You got it. So he can take these things, kick ass, and appropriately catalog the bad guys afterwards.
What I was really excited to see in the new book, is an expansion of one of my favorite characters, Lena. She’s a dryad and can do amazing, amazing things with anything wood. Jim handles thorny issues of identity and self-awareness in this book, so it’s not only a full-throtle adventure, it also makes you think. I highly recommend this series.
So what’s his Favorite Bit?
JIM C. HINES
Lena Greenwood is one of the most challenging characters I’ve ever written. That was a deliberate, if masochistic, choice on my part. I wanted her to challenge assumptions about the prototypical strong urban fantasy heroine. Lena is short, heavyset, dark-skinned, and badass enough to take out a sparkling vampire with a pair of chopsticks.
And she’s problematic as hell. In Libriomancer, we learn Lena is a dryad, born from the pages of a novel called Nymphs of Neptune, a book which, like so many others, plays directly into male sexual fantasies. Lena’s nature is defined by that book, meaning her personality molds itself to the preferences and desires of her lover. In her words, “I was a fantasy. I had more in common with the airbrushed centerfold of a men’s magazine than I did with a real human being.”
How often do we see women portrayed in exactly this way? Even their strength is fetishized. Comics offer some of the most obvious examples, creating women who are simultaneously strong and powerful, but also exaggerated and posed to appeal to the desires of men. They’re drawn for sexual consumption. Lena makes the same connection in Codex Born.
“Ridiculously clothed women stared up at me from the pages, bodies contorted into bone-bending poses that better displayed their exaggerated curves … I reached out to turn the page of a recent issue of Catwoman. In one panel, the breasts straining to burst from her leather bodysuit were larger than her head, and her waist was thinner than her neck.”
Part of what I wanted to do in this book was show Lena’s struggle to come to terms with who and what she is, and her efforts to try to move beyond the limits of her nature. One step in that process was to acknowledge and explicitly reject ideas about feminine perfection and idealized beauty, and to recognize that the myth of the perfect fantasy lover is both ridiculous and destructive.
That’s what led to one of my favorite parts of Codex Born, in which Lena muses about humanity and our ideas on beauty and relationships:
Maybe that’s why they created me. To be their other half, the answer to the myth.Easier than scouring the planet for an impossible dream. Easier, too, than learning to set aside the dream and embrace a human being who is as flawed and imperfect as you.
Humans are so obsessed with true love, the perfect relationship. They imagine that one elusive person who fits their quirks and foibles and desires like a puzzle piece. And of course, when a potential mate falls short of that perfection, they reject them. They were too old, too young, too silly, too serious, too fat, too thin. They liked the wrong TV shows. They hated chocolate. They voted for the other guy. They didn’t put the toilet seat down.
They invent a million excuses for rejection, a million ways to find others unattractive. Their skill at seeing ugliness in others is matched only by their ability to see it in the mirror, to punish themselves for every imagined flaw. No matter who I’ve become, I never understood that facet of humanity.
I remember when Isaac introduced me to Doctor Who. In one episode, the Doctor met a man who said he wasn’t important. The Doctor replied, “I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”
I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t beautiful. People have simply forgotten how to see.
Frank Dearing was a selfish, petty, controlling bastard, but when he was working in the field, the hard muscles of his body shining with sweat as he coaxed life from the dirt…the man was an asshole, but he was a hot asshole.
Nidhi Shah was softer. She dressed to minimize the physical. Age and stress had mapped faint lines onto her face. And she was gorgeous. Even before you stripped off her clothes and kissed your way down her neck…
Then there was Isaac Vainio, a skinny geek of a man who lugged his pet spider around everywhere he went. But he had such passion, such raw joy and excitement. That passion transformed him into something sexier than any rock star.
The more we narrow the definition of beauty, the more beauty we shut out of our lives.
Jim C. Hines is a level 6 geek, multiclassed as a writer and customer support person. He generally wears leather thieves’ armor (with 39 hidden pockets for everything from bookmarks to a sonic screwdriver) that gives him a +2 armor class bonus. He took blogging as a bonus feat and recently spent some skill points in Sanchin-Ryu karate, earning a black belt that gives +3 to roughhousing with his two children. He also put points into juggling and yo-yo tricks, because juggling and yo-yos are cool. He gets an automatic penalty to all encounters with goblins, who still haven’t forgiven him for everything he put them through in his GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim is worth 350 XP. Roll on Treasure Chart F to determine what he will be carrying. For complete character stats or excerpts from his work, please check out www.jimchines.com.