On Freedom

Welp. That’s another birthday in the books for our great nation.

I hope you all had a great celebration. My weekend was largely spent reassuring my dogs that the British were not, in fact, beating down our door. In addition to fireworks, we had several thunderstorms over the weekend, so Sirius and Tonks spent a lot of time wrapped in their ThunderShirts and finding every possible way to be in physical contact with me in some fashion.

These poor babies… And all the stress shedding… The loud booms are super scary.

Exploring Core Values

A couple of months ago, one of the books we read in my non-fiction book club challenged me to think more deeply about my values. The author suggested narrowing them down to two core values–two values that everything else flows from. This was, as you might imagine, pretty tough for me. I have a lot of values–faith, family, creativity, kindness, diligence, hard work, independence, and so on.

But as I thought about it, I finally narrowed things down to two core values: freedom and truth.

For me, most of the way I live my life these days is in pursuit of those two values. In regard to freedom, we moved to a state where we thought we could have a little more say over our own lives and keep a little more of the fruits of our labors, and I work as an independent contractor who has no desire to take a “real” job. I like picking and choosing projects and clients, setting my own schedule, and running my own administrative stuff (mostly).

It probably doesn’t come as any shock to people who’ve ready my books that liberty and freedom figure prominently in The Taurin Chronicles. Even before I put words to those core values of mine, the concept of freedom was leaking out of my fingers into my stories. Since it’s such a core theme, and since we just celebrated a 246-year-old document that enshrined precepts associated with freedom into our national consciousness, I thought this would be a good time to ramble about the significance of freedom in my books.

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I think I need to lump the freedom into three basic categories: physical, personal, and spiritual.

Free the Captives

From the very beginning, I knew there would be an element of slavery in The Taurin Chronicles. I didn’t want it to be part of Taura or Eirya–to me, both countries had made some strides beyond the idea that any human being should be forced into labor or sexual servitude. In my head, Eirya is something of an experiment in egalitarianism, and Taura, while struggling to catch up, is nevertheless on a path that will inexorably lead there.

But in the rest of the world that I’ve lived in since 2009, slavery still runs rampant.

For Connor and Mairead, this is an unacceptable state of affairs.

Connor has always rejected the very concept of slavery. Even in the course of his checkered past, even in backstory that I’ve written, he has always pushed toward freedom for every human being. In early versions of Ravenmarked, I included dialogue that revealed that his paramour, Helene, freed her slaves at his request. He has never believed that any human has a right to another human’s labor, property, or body.

And then, Mairead walked into his world.

I think that slavery may have been the first thing Connor and Mairead could agree on. They argued about almost everything at first–even her desire to help the poor. Mairead’s journey through Culidar at Connor’s side awakened her to brutal realities of a society where the strongest can control the weakest, and she does not like it. Ever since the end of Ravenmarked, Mairead has said repeatedly that her purpose on Culidar is to free the slaves and bring justice to the continent.

I hope it’s obvious that I am, to say the least, against slavery. I think it’s one of the most brutal and unjust states that humans can inflict on other humans. It’s an easy evil to write against, because no one will push back and say it’s something subjective (at least, not publicly).

But in The Taurin Chronicles, it’s also a bit of a symbol for the changing political tides of that world. To me, The Taurin Chronicles is a world on the cusp of something of an age of reason. Few countries or people groups can go immediately from monarchy to republic or self-governance, but the heroes of my series are people who are largely uninterested in being kings and queens. They see themselves as servants of the people, and as new egalitarian ideas creep into their world, they’re willing to try them.

The world of The Taurin Chronicles represents, in some sense, an end to old ways of doing things. By the end of the series, the world will have shifted mightily in favor of equality and reason, and the end of the slaving empires in Culidar will be one sign that there are new realities in the offing.

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You’re Not the Boss Of Me

For Igraine, freedom has a very different meaning.

It’s not that Igraine believes she is a victim of chattel slavery–far from it. Igraine knows exactly how privileged she is. Her position as a royal lady means that money is not a problem, so she never has to compromise her principles to survive financially. She is educated within an inch of her life, and because she has three older brothers, no one is depending on her to provide heirs for her father’s throne.

However.

Because she is a woman, her freedom is truncated. She can’t go wandering the world like her brother Ian, and she is fully aware of the expectations placed on her to marry well and behave like a noble lady should. Igraine has learned to scheme and manipulate to stay out of unwanted positions, and she’s done her best to live a life wild enough to push away anyone genuinely unsuited as a match for her.

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Igraine faces the challenge that women have faced for centuries–the challenge of not being one’s own boss. She is well aware that she could go straight from being under the authority of her father to being under the authority of a husband, her choices forever limited by the realities imposed upon her by her sex. While she thought that serving in the sayada would give her some element of freedom, she never intended to follow through on taking vows there, either; she didn’t want a sayana or kiron or God himself telling her what to do. The sayada was simply a place to hide until she could figure out something better.

Braedan gave her the hope of something better–a position where she could make a difference and have her own name. Even his proposal was one that would allow her a level of freedom that she couldn’t hope for previously. And given the quality of their relationship, she felt confident that Braedan would never expect her to be an obedient wife or one who could be controlled.

The events of Unquickened will challenge Igraine’s perspectives on freedom in some vital ways, though, and by the end, I think she’ll realize that the line between independence and serving something bigger than yourself is a very, very fine one.

Free Indeed

Every one of the main characters in The Taurin Chronicles is on a spiritual journey. Mairead and Minerva may have the simplest one (though not the easiest) in that they believe deeply in the spiritual truth of that world. The things they go through are more about testing and deepening their faith.

Logan’s spiritual journey is very fraught, and though he believes the facts about the religion of The Taurin Chronicles, he is absolutely convinced that there is no room for him in it. He is a man who is entirely dependent upon his works to give him some level of redemption, even as he believes that redemption is impossible for someone who carries as many sins on his conscience as he does.

For Connor, his spiritual journey started as a man who believed, but didn’t accept. He had an uneasy truce with the truth until he realized that the only way to achieve any level of peace and balance was to surrender to God. To some degree, Braedan has the same journey, though he doesn’t have the complicating factors of the Morrag and Sidh blood to muddy things.

Igraine’s journey is somewhat different. As someone who has not encountered supernatural forces directly, she rejects the religion of the church, even when she’s serving the poor and downtrodden within the church walls. She believes that God is capricious and cruel, if he even exists. As evidence mounts about her own identity and the truth of the world, she only pushes back harder, stubbornly refusing to bend her will. It’s only when she has no choice that she surrenders to the truth, and the remainder of her journey will be just as difficult.

Every single one of these people will realize by the end of the series that the greatest freedom anyone can hope for is found when we surrender ourselves to Something Bigger–Someone outside ourselves. Subsuming our will to bigger ideals and truths brings freedom from spiritual strife that no other freedom can match.

So there you have it–a bit of a dissertation on what freedom means to me and how the theme winds through my novels. I can’t say whether this is a theme that will run through future work, but I think for this series, it was something that I needed to write as I processed (and continue to process) my own faith journey. At certain points, I’ve been and still am every one of my characters on their own journeys. Taking the journey with them is, in some sense, like traveling with friends.

It would be nice, though, if my next set of friends could find an easier theme, like maybe the value of chocolate or why puppies are an objective good.

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Those would sure be a lot easier to process.

 

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