Jo Walton (papersky) wrote,
Jo Walton

I love Kathleen Thompson Norris

I never have the faintest idea where her plots are going.

Martie The Unconquered. It's 1915, and the book is 80% over. Will our heroine, a penniless widow of 28 with a child:

a) Marry the man she loves and who loves her but who is divorced?


b) Marry the older rich bank manager in her California hometown who offers her position and advantage and the opportunity to be raised above everyone who snubbed her before?


c) Something from completely out of left field.

c) in this case was "Go to New York and get a job on a magazine writing about how women's lives suck and living as a single mother". But it could have been "die of TB" or "get reincarnated in utopia" and I wouldn't even be surprised by an alien invasion -- and the other thing is that it could always be A or B. I do know, from having read half a ton of Norris at this point, that A could never make her happy, because in her universe divorce is like fairy gold, and B could never make her happy, because marrying without love works even worse in Norris's universe than in this one. But there are books of hers where the characters choose things like A or B and remain unhappy to the end. Happy endings are certainly not a requirement here.

I'm interested in the space stories can get told in, the axiom space, the kinds of things that can happen. Also, most of the time if I am half way through a book I can tell you what will happen in the second half and where the beats will fall. Norris consistently throws me on this stuff, without it seeming arbitrary in retrospect. Stories give you characters and worlds and they set up questions that they will answer, and I find the potential space the answers can fall into interesting. So a normal mainstream book will give you a situation where a woman discovers that her husband is having an affair with her mother resolve with the women being reincarnated in another version of Earth, but Norris's Through A Glass Darkly does just that. A normal mainstream book might bring out radical political ideas, but it's unlikely to have the characters fix the Depression, even if (especiallyt if) it's written during the Depression. Norris does this more than once. It's one of the huge advantages of SF in the broadest sense that you have access to more interesting possible answers, but Norris usually isn't writing anything you could really point at as SF and yet she isn't limiting herself at all when it comes to answer space. She keeps on fascinating me. They have such potential. Anything could happen.
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