Pamela’s Full Circle

Pamela Freeman, Full Circle (Orbit 2009)

Did I mention in my post about James Tiptree Jr’s Meet Me at Infinity that it’s full of quotable bits? Here’s Tiptree on High Fantasy, in 1975, a year or so before she was outed as a woman:

I’ve been reading a mess of Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Wm Morris, and T. H. White. And I find extraordinary the unspoken assumption that the greatest boon a people can achieve is – a king. The King Has Returned! Well, perhaps in the feudal state of things one can understand some of that. But I suspect it is largely a male contribution.

It led me on to think that women are supposed to be more dependent, to slide easily into and adjust gratefully to domination. […] But who are the real dependents? Who insist on a captain, a boss, a Great Leader? Who have evolved lunatic systems of authoritarianism in every known activity except maybe solo farming? Who gratefully accept being beaten up and then faithfully follow the bully?

Three guesses. And don’t say guppies.

Full CircleI don’t for a minute believe Pamela Freeman intended the Castings Trilogy, of which Full Circle is the final book, as a feminist tract; I’d be mildly surprised if she’s read that bit from Tiptree; I’m sure she shares Tiptree’s bemusement at the persistence of monarchist ideology in fantasy; and there are moments in the narrative where I found myself thinking subliminally of guppies – though some of the characters who inspired that response were able to grow beyond their grateful adjustment to domination.

I ought to declare that Pamela is a friend of mine, in the facebook sense as well as the english-language sense. So I’ll content myself with saying that this is a most satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy: there is an army of the dead, the living world as we know it is under threat of extermination, the web of comradeship and betrayal, love and loss, heroism and cowardice, filial piety well placed and misplaced, vengeance and forgiveness, violence and tenderness, epic sweep and intimate gesture is as complex as anyone could hope for. As an added fillip, things happen in the climactic scenes that make one want to go back to the start and graze one’s way through the whole 1000+ pages.

Satisfied though I am, I’m nevertheless pleased to know that a further, stand-alone novel set in this same world is nearing the end of its first draft.

2 responses to “Pamela’s Full Circle

  1. You do me wrong, you do me great wrong! I am a total Tiptree fan and have certainly read that before! Not only that, my doctoral thesis was on why monarchy is the default political structure in epic fantasy. But I’m not a believer in tracts of any kind, so I’m glad you don’t think Full Circle was one… happy you enjoyed it!


  2. I apologise, Pamela. I knew you were taking issue with monarchy as the default, but it was the guppies that made the Tiptree seem relevant, and I was so pleased with myself that I’d read, and marked, it recently enough to remember it.


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