Reaching Out through Retold Stories [Radio Readings]

Reaching Out through Retold Stories [Radio Readings] March 7, 2015

You can listen to “Fights in Good Faith,” my weekly radio program, streaming today at 5pm ET and tomorrow (Sun) at 1pm  The episode is now available to download/stream on demand.

This week, Rosamund Hodge’s Crimson Bound served as a jumping off point to talk about why I love reading retold stories.

fights in good faith

Every week, I put up a “Radio Readings” post, so you can track down the books, articles, and, (this week) fanfiction that I cite on the show. So, without further ado, here’s what I’m talking about this week.


Guaranteed Redemption or Damnation, Pick One


  • Rosamund Hodge’s Crimson Bound is set in a world where people marked by the forestborn must kill someone within three days or die themselves.  If they survive, they will eventually become one of the heartless forestborn themselves.
  • Ted Chiang’s “Hell is the Absence of God” is set in a world where angels visit earth frequently, and people blinded by their light will automatically go to Heaven when they die.
  • Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy includes a secular Jewish character who winds up as a vampire and is distressed by his inability to say the name of God or pray the Sh’ma.



Why set a story inside another story?




Allusions and Asperger’s


  • The Moss Troll problem is the difficulty fantasy authors have, cut off from common points of reference, building up both sides of their analogies at once.
  • In Priscilla Goodman’s The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, her hyperlexic son was more likely to use other people’s words than his own.
  • In “I See Your Value Now: Asperger’s and  the Art of Allegory” Rachel Edidin describes how she finds it easiest to communicate by reaching for cultural references

    The only way I am consistently comfortable communicating feelings is via broad fictional allegory. The friends who know me best—not just likes-and-dislikes-and-interests, but things more fundamental and less articulable; the friends I’m willing to let see me fucked up; the friends I text at 3 AM when my world is falling apart; are the friends who read the same comics I do.

    I tell him that I have a folder on my desktop labeled “feelings” that is mostly panels clipped from comics and Community gifs.

  • The Curb Cut Effect is when an accommodation intended for people with a certain disability or other acute need winds up making life easier for a broader group of people than expected.
  • (If you want the fastest two-book summary of all of my feelings, pick up So You Want to Be a Wizard and Witches Abroad)



Arena Culture and #TheDress


  • David Brooks discusses “Arena Culture” — a modern substitute for a shared understanding of the world

    For the past hundred years or so, we have lived in a secular age. That does not mean that people aren’t religious. It means there is no shared set of values we all absorb as preconscious assumptions. In our world, individuals have to find or create their own meaning.

    This, Dreyfus and Kelly argue, has led to a pervasive sadness. Individuals are usually not capable of creating their own lives from the ground up. So modern life is marked by frequent feelings of indecision and anxiety.

  • Shared cultural references are required to pull off a joke like this Hunger Games/Mulan video:
  • My friend group has build up a strange, shared canon (Black Lamb and Grey FalconKristin Lavransdatter) but we didn’t read them simultaneously the way we all did Harry Potter



Bonus content that didn’t wind up on the air: Princeton’s syllabus for their class on fanfiction, Barbara McClay on “What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About When We Talk” and a charming niche shared moment when the BLS didn’t release the jobs report exactly on time, and all the econwonks flailed around together.

Oh! And if you don’t want to wait til May to read Crimson Bound, Rosamund Hodge has another novel, Cruel Beauty which is Beauty and the Beast/Bluebeard-ish, plus Gilded Ashes, a creepy Cinderella novella set in the same world as Cruel Beauty.

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