Ambushed: Sarah Monette on the Definition of Heroism
As part of a new feature, I'll be checking in on various writers and asking what's currently on their minds. Think of it as a literary ambush, Amazon-style. Today, it's critically acclaimed fantasy author Sarah Monette, whose creepy-cool The Bone Key features linked stories about a museum archivist who can see ghosts, ghouls, and incubi--a delightful combination of M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft. She recently collaborated with Elizabeth Bear on A Companion to Wolves. Monette has also written a series of highly praised novels set in the milieu of the strange city of Melusine: Melusine, The Virtu, The Mirador, and the forthcoming Corambis. Her short fiction has been collected in several year's best anthologies. Monette has been thinking about the definition of heroism:
"I just finished reading Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party by George R. Stewart, so I've been thinking a lot about definitions of heroism. Who's eligible to be a 'hero' and why? For Stewart, writing in 1936, action is heroic, and so he focuses on the men and on the relief parties which struggled to cross (and recross) the pass. But what stands out to me, reading his account, is the heroism of the women, especially Tamsen Donner, who died at Donner Lake but could have gotten safely to California if she had been willing to abandon her dying husband. And also the heroism of the children. Half of the Donner Party were under eighteen, and those children's suffering and courage is every bit as real and admirable and tragic as the suffering and courage of the adults. But it's harder to see, because it isn't the heroism of action; it's the heroism of endurance. And action makes for a better story."