I suspect there will be more ranting later in the weekend, but I have had a lovely day and so I plan to end it with two recommendations.
First, an actual book.
Lonely Werewolf Girl
by Martin Millar
(Soft Skull Press)
Millar has been one of my favourite writers since the mid-80s. Originally a mainstay of the independent comics scene, where he was one of the few writers I would read despite some of my cluey friends correctly predicting that the graphic novel was the
coming medium, he produced a series of acutely observed urban fantasies where gods and fairies, humans and heroes walked the streets of London beside students, musicians, artists and activists. From Milk Sulphate and Alby Salvation
, through Lux the Poet
and The Good Fairies of New York
to Dreams of Sex and Stage Diving
, he pioneered what others would interpret as grunge and herion chic while Kurt Cobain was still wearing neatly pressed slacks. And he did it all with a wry sense of humour that held genuine jokes, not just the selfconsciously witty footnoted intertextual play of other postmodern novelists.
His novels contained broken loves, solid friendships, hope and despair, and effective recipes for ersatz hair gel. Plus an inordinate amount of street fashion. I loved him, and missed him when it seemed as though he had stopped writing. As it turned out, he hadn't stopped, his publisher had just been bought out by a multinational that wasn't quite ready to promote someone whose characters incited the odd riot. Which is a shame, because Millar is the novelist that Neil Gaiman – an excellent teller of fairytales, but not a novelist – would like to be.
Lonely Werewolf Girl is a solid 558 pages of loveliness. Kalix, the youngest daughter of the Thane of a Scottish werewolf clan, is on the run after nearly killing her father. He former lover has been exiled, her brothers and sisters want nothing to do with her (and indeed have their own problems) and she is being pursued both by human werewolf hunters and by her own kin who wish to bring her, or her heart, back home.
When she falls into the company of two young students, it seems an accident of the moment, and she is soon gone, with hunters in pursuit. For Moonglow and Daniel, though, Kalix is a lost young creature who needs their help. Albeit one that has supernatural strength and a ferocious bloodlust to accompany her eating disorder.
Thanks to the two young humans, Kalix's family start to cross her path. Thrix, her older sister, is a nearly famous fashion designer, whose best friend is a fire elemental and who cares less for moonlight wolfiness than she does for this season's shoe leathers. All she wants to do is complete her collections and watch this year's shows, if only she could keep her family at bay.
Markus, her older brother, would be the next Thane, if only his older brother didn't stand in his way. His girlfriend is yet to learn about his transvestism, though, so it may not have been the best idea for him to try on her clothes before leaving the house.
Their eldest brother, Sarapen, is everything a werewolf should be: pompous, arrogant, and happy to rip your throat out, especially if you're Kalix. He has the succession sewn up, so he thinks, it only requires the requisite votes from the family. Sadly, he's failed to factor in the machinations of their mother, Verasa, who favours Markus.
Dominil, white-haired cousin to Kalix and her siblings, is interested only in translating Roman poets, and has hated Sarapen since the bad end of their love affair. When Verasa enlists her to support Markus's bid for Thaneship she thinks it will entail a vote, and is happy to help. When she ends up managing the chaotic rock careers of her cousins Beauty and Delicious, she realises there are levels of hell that even Roman poets didn't mention.
All the strands weave in and out of each other as the great werewolf feud spills out from the Highlands of Scotland and through the streets of London, and where there are enemies and ex-lovers around every corner. And while love may be doomed in this world, friendship and loyalty aren't. Millar never once loses sight of where everyone is and what they are doing, and his voice is a constant delight throughout the text.
Thrix read the band's set list with interest.
"Stupid Werewolf Bitch? Evil White-Haired Slut?" She laughed. "They wrote two songs about you."
"Three," said Dominil. "They encore with Vile Werewolf Whore."
And a fic rec. shiv5468
's Miserable Gits Club
has a new chapter up. I read the whole story again earlier today in a bid to reassure myself that there was good het fic in the world. It worked. Hermione finds that life after saving the world is neither as fair nor as fun as she was expecting it to be. Harry and Ron are busy Auroring, so it is left to unexpected allies to come to her aid.
Lucius Malfoy is now very aware of the full extent of his stupidity, thank you very much. If there is one thing he can be proud of in the last year it's the fact that he has been a loyal friend to Severus Snape as he recovers from his near-death at Nagini's fangs. When fate throws Lucius in the way of helping the girl he watched his sister-in-law torture, he finds himself rising to the occasion. Pun quite possibly intended.
As for Severus, he's spent 20 years beating himself for a deep failure of judgement, and one year feeling as though a snake tried to rip his throat out. Now he spends his days in the conservatory at Malfoy Manor, surrounded by orchids and vaguely contemplating what comes next. The sudden intrusion of an unexpected figure from his previous life starts his shift into something new, and the closing of some things old.
The whole story has that fine quality of Shiv fic; surface gloss and polish only serves to show deep reflections. Like Wilde, her mannered dialogue is the polite patter of social nicety, not for a second hiding the pain, possibility and hope that each character nurses. Chapter six, which is freshly up, is genuinely beautiful. Without for a moment stepping away from their canonical characterisations, she presents a Lucius and Severus who evoke empathy and a wish that they might find calm and peace.
Note well the fact that canon is still well in place – there is snarkiness and tricksiness abungo, and for every moment of honesty, several of amusing duplicity, but, like Martin Millar, Shiv writes stories that have genuine affection at heart. And it shows in every elegantly constructed line. Whether you read it for the glorious style, or for the Deep Thinking underneath it, is up to you.