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Author Topic: PC345: Makeisha In Time  (Read 8059 times)
Ocicat
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« on: January 06, 2015, 02:23:20 AM »

PodCastle 345: Makeisha In Time

by Rachael K. Jones

Read by K. Tempest Bradford

Originally published in Crossed Genres, Issue #20, August 2014. Read it here!

Makeisha has always been able to bend the fourth dimension, though no one believes her. She has been a soldier, a sheriff, a pilot, a prophet, a poet, a ninja, a nun, a conductor (of trains and symphonies), a cordwainer, a comedian, a carpetbagger, a troubadour, a queen, and a receptionist. She has shot arrows, guns, and cannons. She speaks an extinct Ethiopian dialect with a perfect accent. She knows a recipe for mead that is measured in aurochs horns, and with a katana, she is deadly.

Her jumps happen intermittently. She will be yanked from the present without warning, and live a whole lifetime in the past. When she dies, she returns right back to where she left, restored to a younger age. It usually happens when she is deep in conversation with her boss, or arguing with her mother-in-law, or during a book club meeting just when it is her turn to speak. One moment, Makeisha is firmly grounded in the timeline of her birth, and the next, she is elsewhere. Elsewhen.

Makeisha has seen the sun rise over prehistoric shores, where the ocean writhed with soft, slimy things that bore the promise of dung beetles, Archeopteryx, and Edgar Allan Poe. She has seen the sun set upon long-forgotten empires. When Makeisha skims a map of the continents, she sees a fractured Pangaea. She never knows where she will jump next, or how long she will stay, but she is never afraid. Makeisha has been doing this all her life.


Rated R. Contains violence.

Editors’ Note: Please hang out after the episode for an announcement from Dave and Anna. Additionally, you can check out Dave’s blog here.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 30, 2015, 09:15:38 AM by Talia » Logged
Ocicat
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2015, 02:43:49 AM »

Regarding that announcement: I've preemptively split the thread.  This thread is for the episode itself.  Any comments on the annoucement or to the editors should go over here: Podcastle editorial announcement (split from PC345)
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2015, 02:11:25 PM »

Full disclosure: I'm married to the author, so I'm totally biased in the story's favor.

Having said that, I listened to this on my way into work this morning, and even though I've read every draft of the story since it was first conceived, I still got choked up listening to Bradford's reading.  It's good stuff.
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2015, 02:57:40 PM »

[Comments on the announcement pre-emptively snipped]

...as far as this story went, man I loved it. I've been saying this for a long time. I hate how we let these entirely fictitious ideas about history - motivated by racism, sexism, and all around human asshattery -  warp our ideas of where we came from. And in the genres of science fiction and fantasy? Don't get me started. If I have to read one more snooty Elf monoculture, I am going to vomit. Forever. I will drown the world in puke.

I don't read a lot of fantasy that I haven't vetted yet. You're all welcome.

But this story was great.

The only other thing I want to point out is how this story really got into the meat of how our terrible way of erasing and warping our history is so caustic to our relationships. Makeisha's relationship falls apart because she is driven to visit the past, and she's driven to visit the past because of the terrible injustices she sees perpetrated on her relationships (and, it's implied at least a little, she is sent to the past in order to correct these injustices). You can't build a life or a relationship on a foundation of lies and spite.
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2015, 09:31:24 PM »

Full disclosure: I'm married to the author, so I'm totally biased in the story's favor.

Having said that, I listened to this on my way into work this morning, and even though I've read every draft of the story since it was first conceived, I still got choked up listening to Bradford's reading.  It's good stuff.

After hearing that story, I'm jealous of you! 
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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2015, 10:40:48 AM »

Since people in this thread seem to be about full disclosure, I'll start with that: about a year ago I unsubscribed from PC because I had missed two months when my son was born, and haven't had the time to catch up, or listen to new episodes. But the Metacast brought me back, and this story was a great thing to come back to.
Also, I listened to this while driving in an unfamiliar city, so the story was, appropriately enough, broken by Mrs Waze giving directions and warning me about hazards reported ahead. These constantly threw me out of the story, but it was still a great listen. I managed to persevere without multiple suicides and thoroughly enjoyed the story. I'm familiar with some of the author's works, and was happy to hear that this one is in no way, form or fashion inferior to any of them.
That's all the commenting I'm willing to do on my phone, I'll probably add more stuff later.
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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2015, 06:03:01 PM »

When I first saw a draft of this story in crit group, my initial reaction was: "Wow, that was a great story." That's still my reaction, though I've read it several times, now.  And the narration added another layer of depth to an already well-layered story.  So, great job, all around, to everyone involved in the PodCastle production.

I think the story's central theme points to a real problem -- the erasure of marginalized people in history has real consequences in the present. I've seen that most clearly in religious discussions, wherein the "fact" that it "was not the practice of the early church to ordain women" has been used to lock women out of leadership roles in the present day. Archeology effectively rebutting this claim, along with evidence that the text of the Bible itself was altered to place male names into certain leadership roles in later manuscripts, was an important part of opening ordination to women in many Protestant denominations.
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2015, 11:08:32 AM »

Makeisha is badass.  If she weren't living in the future, and also weren't imaginary, I'd want to hang out with her all the time.  Wise beyond her years, super skilled in a wide variety of vocations, super knowledgeable about random crap in history that I know nothing about.  It might take some getting used to, suddenly having her go from super focused to dazed and distant, but if you understand what she goes through on those trips it's easy to understand why she reacts that way.  (And I'd wish for her to be President, having wisdom of many lifetimes and a detailed memory of various periods of history in vivid detail.  Although I'd wish for her to be President, I wouldn't wish that on her, I think that being President would suck, even though she'd be awesome at it)

I thought it was a super fun speculative element with both its up and downsides, typical of the best superheroes.  I would happily subscribe to a Makeisha in Time comic book series.  This should be a thing that happens.

One thing that I love about this particular story (and much of Rachael's work in general, but this story in particular) is that it has it all.  It brings the feels.  There is plenty of stuff happening to keep the attention.  It has a protagonist that is unbelievably powerful in some ways but still has challenges that she has difficulty surmounting.  There's fun speculative premise.  And there's themes that are relevant to everyday life.   It's all there.

I was afraid that the story was going to end with Makeisha committed suicide from her main life to try to escape to the future which was a logical if highly risky progression from her backwards jumps.  If she had done this I would hate the story forever.  Sooooo...  I'm glad she found another way to move in the forward direction.

I haven't made a focused effort to decide what I'm going to nominate for Hugos this year.  The only one I'm sure of is Ken Liu's The Clockwork Soldier.  But this one is certainly a contender.
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2015, 08:03:19 AM »

Overall I liked this story, but I have a little issue with the ending (or with how other people (Dave) seem to have understood it).
I think that when Makeisha pulled the future towards her she probably died. Or fell off the edge of the universe, which amounts to the same thing.
We see no evidence that in her past lives she jumps even further back. When she jumps back, she's there for the whole business, until she dies. So there is no reason to support the theory that when she dies in the "present" she will jump forward to her body in the future.
When she pulls towards the future she's basically doing what she did for the entire second part of the story, she's killing herself over and over again to try and live "in the moment". Why? Well, the reason that she gives is because she wants a "normal" life, and constantly getting interrupted by 40 years as a warlord can get in the way of that. But that didn't work for her either, she still couldn't seem to fit in.
So, she tries to change the way people perceive history, specifically POC and women in history. That is an admirable pursuit and I was totally rooting for her, but that didn't work either. And when she's finally had enough of it, she tries the last thing she can think of: suicide. For real this time.
Pulling the future towards her isn't some kind of hopeful escape into a better tomorrow, it's the only way she can think of to actually end it. She's lost her sense of self, her sense of reality, her faith in humanity and everything else people generally have to live for.
The thing is, she has committed suicide hundreds (thousands?) of times in the past, it never ends anything for her. It just causes even more confusion. Who's to say that if she commits suicide in the "present" she won't come to herself in the future? She doesn't want that.
And she definitely can't control these jumps, otherwise she would have avoided them altogether in her pursuit of a normal life.
No. I think that when she pulled the future towards her, she was racing towards the end of the universe, the Big Crunch or Big Freeze or whatever our universe has in store for us. She wanted to end it, and she did.
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2015, 08:52:51 AM »

I think I preferred this in audio to when I read it in the Crit Group. And it was pretty damned good then. Smiley

It makes you want to find out how many of your own preconceptions are based on doctored historical evidence.
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2015, 09:58:02 AM »

Overall I liked this story, but I have a little issue with the ending (or with how other people (Dave) seem to have understood it).
I think that when Makeisha pulled the future towards her she probably died. Or fell off the edge of the universe, which amounts to the same thing.
We see no evidence that in her past lives she jumps even further back. When she jumps back, she's there for the whole business, until she dies. So there is no reason to support the theory that when she dies in the "present" she will jump forward to her body in the future.
When she pulls towards the future she's basically doing what she did for the entire second part of the story, she's killing herself over and over again to try and live "in the moment". Why? Well, the reason that she gives is because she wants a "normal" life, and constantly getting interrupted by 40 years as a warlord can get in the way of that. But that didn't work for her either, she still couldn't seem to fit in.
So, she tries to change the way people perceive history, specifically POC and women in history. That is an admirable pursuit and I was totally rooting for her, but that didn't work either. And when she's finally had enough of it, she tries the last thing she can think of: suicide. For real this time.
Pulling the future towards her isn't some kind of hopeful escape into a better tomorrow, it's the only way she can think of to actually end it. She's lost her sense of self, her sense of reality, her faith in humanity and everything else people generally have to live for.
The thing is, she has committed suicide hundreds (thousands?) of times in the past, it never ends anything for her. It just causes even more confusion. Who's to say that if she commits suicide in the "present" she won't come to herself in the future? She doesn't want that.
And she definitely can't control these jumps, otherwise she would have avoided them altogether in her pursuit of a normal life.
No. I think that when she pulled the future towards her, she was racing towards the end of the universe, the Big Crunch or Big Freeze or whatever our universe has in store for us. She wanted to end it, and she did.

I, uh... don't see any textual evidence for that position.

I mean, it's perfectly logical, but it would also be within the logic of this story to say that by pulling the future towards her she was going to disappear from our stupid racist/sexist era and reappear in a future where we don't treat people like that anymore. Or it could mean that she was applying her time-and-reality-bending ability to force the world to become less stupid. Or maybe pulling the future towards her is a metaphor for rededicating herself to her cause (ie. she "bent reality" in the same way that all of us bend reality, by applying her will to it through action).

Or maybe it was just a poetic way to end the story and had no literal truth. Not everything in a narrative is narrative.

Saying "Makeisha killed herself" is about as logical as me saying "so, Luke has a psychotic break at the end of the last Star Wars movie, because he's seeing ghosts, so obviously his occasional delusions of voices have gotten bad enough that he's in real trouble now." You can sloppily glue real world logic onto speculative fiction all you want, but if it runs counter to the logic established in the fiction, you're talking nonsense.
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« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2015, 10:14:53 AM »

I'm with ElectricPaladin on this one.  She even considered suicide near the end as a means to travel to the future and rejected that path.  If she had committed suicide I'd hate the story forever.

I read it as her jumping forward to find a future where the problems she's been dealing with don't exist, or maybe even choosing a branching path in the timeline that leads specifically to that. 

Has she shown that level of directed control before?  Nope.  That's why it's the climax of the story, she has found a new facet of her abilities.  For all her life her time travel has been like a reflexive twitch of a muscle that only she has--when she's in a certain mindset that muscle twitches and she moves--like an extra appendage that only exists in the time spectrum that kicks off against a wall and knocks her into history.  At the end of the story she has gained enough experience, and has the purpose and the drive to choose to flex that muscle on purpose and to try to direct where it propels her. 
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« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2015, 10:20:18 AM »

RE: Max's suicide interpretation

Quote
But no. No. The self-murders were never for herself. Not once. Makeisha is resilient. She is resourceful, and she has been bending the fourth dimension all her life, whether anyone recognizes it or not.

A woman who has been pushed her whole life will eventually learn to push back.

Makeisha reaches forward into the air. With skillful fingers that have killed and healed and mastered the cello, she pulls the future toward her.

She has not returned.

- See more at: http://crossedgenres.com/magazine/020-makeisha-in-time/

I think the ending specifically refutes suicide as an option. Suicide was only done to try to minimize the impact of her jumps on the people around her in the Present. The "has" in the last line implies Makeisha's agency. "Will not return" or "Can not return" would remove agency and support Max's interpretation.

The last line can also be nicely metaphorical. Either in the "you can never go home" sense where the world changes and you can never return to a previous point. Or it's a metaphorical call to action and she becomes a warrior in the present taking action to right wrongs instead of a passive historian.
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« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2015, 12:21:11 PM »

I, uh... don't see any textual evidence for that position.

I mean, it's perfectly logical, but it would also be within the logic of this story to say that by pulling the future towards her she was going to disappear from our stupid racist/sexist era and reappear in a future where we don't treat people like that anymore.

So, based on this interpretation she suddenly has powers that she never exhibited before (Unblinking's climax) and can now control what she has been unable to control for (30? 40? 50?) years.
That doesn't jive with how I see here character developing.

Throughout the story she is slowly losing her sense of "self". She doesn't know who she is, because she so many people. She could try to be the sum of those people, but her "canonical" self is broken, it has no sense of continuity due to the frequent jumps. The past lives are more real to her because they had a beginning, middle and end. With no temporal discontinuities in between. Whereas her present self, her canonical self, cannot finish a sentence without getting lost in time.
So, she tries to not be the sum of her past lives but instead just "this" life, the canonical one. She does that by killing the past lives as soon as possible, before she can forget what she was doing in the canonical life.
So at this point in her life she has put aside her sum-of-lives approach and is trying to live just this one life.
Quote
All of it – the self-imposed silence, the suicides, the banishing of her fantastic past to the basement of her brain – these are the price of a normal life, of friendships and a marriage and a steady job. Mundane though it is, Makeisha reminds herself that this life is different from the other ones. Irreplaceable. Real.
That fails as well. Why? Because even though she is trying to live just the one life, the past lives are still a huge part of her. And you can't repress such a large portion of your life without consequences. You are the sum of all your experiences, if you decide that a lot of those don't matter, aren't important, are less important than who you think you are now, then you lose a large chunk of who you are.
Quote
Still, she misses the past, where she has lived most of her life.
And then, suddenly her past lives, which she has tried so hard to repress, surface in such a way as to negate her existence.
Quote
When she gave up time travel, she never thought she had surrendered her legacy, too.
So she tries to prove to herself (and to the world) that her past lives existed, they mattered.
She leaves messages that constantly get misinterpreted, attributed to others, lost or forgotten. She invests so much time and effort into proving that her past lives happened, that they mattered, that they are a part of herself that she loses touch with her present life, the one that used to be irreplaceable, real.
Quote
She is fading from the present. She forgets to eat between jumps, loses weight.
Her present self, the one she used to think was the real one, is fading, just like her past lives.
Quote
Makeisha wonders how many decades or centuries until this signature is also altered or lost or purposely erased, but she touches pen to paper anyway.
She no longer knows who she is or when she is.
Quote
Perhaps it is not the past that is yanking her away. Perhaps the present is crowding her out. And perhaps she has finally come to agree with the sentiment.
So what are her options? She could try to kill herself
Quote
But no. No. The self-murders were never for herself. Not once.
That is a very difficult line.
First of all, the "never for herself" part. She thought that she was doing it to have a normal life.  If she wasn't doing it for herself, then who was she doing it for? The other people in her life? That seems like a lot of effort to appear to being normal, and it never even worked. And why would she care what other people thought about her if not for her own well being? Therefore I propose that she was doing this for herself, but the self that she was doing this for no longer exists (or never existed).
Second, why is this here? It seems very strange. "Oh no, I don't think I belong here anymore, what should I do with myself? I'll kill myself. No. I've never killed myself for myself before". How is not doing it for herself a reason not to kill herself? Therefore I propose that she needs to do something for herself. For her self. Only... she has no idea who that self is anymore. Perhaps she never did.

So, here she is, the shattered remains of her self identity lying in pieces around her, marked off by crossed out sections in history books. She needs to do something for herself, for her own good. She needs to somehow assert her identity to herself. The past never seemed to work, and neither did the present.
So what does she do? She pushes herself into the future. Why does she do that? Why does she use some previously untried power? Because she has nothing left to lose. She has lost herself in the past and present, and has nothing to look forward to in the (mundanely reached) future. She needs to perform some act that is hers, and hers alone. So she tries to jump to the future.
Does she succeed? We don't know. I think she did not. There was nothing in the story to support the fact that she could willingly jump anywhen, let alone to the future. Of course, she has not returned. Which means that she clearly left the present.
Did she not return because she doesn't want to? Or because she can't? We don't know. But I think that she can't return, because she is lost to time. She hardly seemed to be in the proper frame of mind to control some sort of ephemeral power that she has never been able to control before. And to control it so well that she can willingly find a place in time where racism and sexism no longer exist. She had a lot of push and drive to be gone, but not a lot of "oomph" to actually be able to control it. That's why I think that she was successful enough to push herself out of the present, but not successful enough to actually land anywhen.
And somewhere, inside her, she knew that that would be the result. She spent her entire life trying to find out who she is, and she finally found an answer: she is a person who can bend the fourth dimension. And that is all she is. So now she is lost, in the fourth dimension.
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« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2015, 07:33:02 AM »

So, here she is, the shattered remains of her self identity lying in pieces around her, marked off by crossed out sections in history books. She needs to do something for herself, for her own good. She needs to somehow assert her identity to herself. The past never seemed to work, and neither did the present.
So what does she do? She pushes herself into the future. Why does she do that? Why does she use some previously untried power? Because she has nothing left to lose. She has lost herself in the past and present, and has nothing to look forward to in the (mundanely reached) future. She needs to perform some act that is hers, and hers alone. So she tries to jump to the future.
Does she succeed? We don't know. I think she did not. There was nothing in the story to support the fact that she could willingly jump anywhen, let alone to the future. Of course, she has not returned. Which means that she clearly left the present.
Did she not return because she doesn't want to? Or because she can't? We don't know. But I think that she can't return, because she is lost to time. She hardly seemed to be in the proper frame of mind to control some sort of ephemeral power that she has never been able to control before. And to control it so well that she can willingly find a place in time where racism and sexism no longer exist. She had a lot of push and drive to be gone, but not a lot of "oomph" to actually be able to control it. That's why I think that she was successful enough to push herself out of the present, but not successful enough to actually land anywhen.
And somewhere, inside her, she knew that that would be the result. She spent her entire life trying to find out who she is, and she finally found an answer: she is a person who can bend the fourth dimension. And that is all she is. So now she is lost, in the fourth dimension.

This is closer to where I am on this story. Makeisha is a fundamentally tragic character, and the most tragic thing is that the author didn't seem to realize it. Here we have a woman who is blessed with the ability to live dozens of lives, yet she never seems to mature past the mentality of living for other people's praise and recognition. She becomes a feudal warlord and Viking pillager in order to make her mark on history (that is, she literally becomes a murderous bastard in service to the very modern and trendy goal of recognizing women and people of color in history), and ends up a bitter and disappointed divorcee, because she's allowed her happiness to be held hostage by the people around her. Her many past lives have given her no sense of perspective. I don't know where she ended up going at the end, but it's clear that wherever and whenever it is, she won't be happy.
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2015, 09:45:41 AM »

This is closer to where I am on this story. Makeisha is a fundamentally tragic character, and the most tragic thing is that the author didn't seem to realize it. Here we have a woman who is blessed with the ability to live dozens of lives, yet she never seems to mature past the mentality of living for other people's praise and recognition. She becomes a feudal warlord and Viking pillager in order to make her mark on history (that is, she literally becomes a murderous bastard in service to the very modern and trendy goal of recognizing women and people of color in history), and ends up a bitter and disappointed divorcee, because she's allowed her happiness to be held hostage by the people around her. Her many past lives have given her no sense of perspective. I don't know where she ended up going at the end, but it's clear that wherever and whenever it is, she won't be happy.

It's probably worth pointing out that this piece echoes a lot of the ideas that Kameron Hurley discusses in her essay "We Have Always Fought" (which PodCastle ran as a special episode a few months ago).  The central thesis of both pieces is that marginalized groups get erased from history by the people who write the chronicles.  Saying that Makeisha is tragic because she can't be happy with her own knowledge of her accomplishments misses the point that this is a personalized story about a systemic problem.  Makeisha represents a very real longing that many people have to be recognized as players in the tapestry of civilization, and it belittles that longing to say that she's tragic because she can't get over it and be happy for herself.
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« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2015, 11:55:00 AM »

This is closer to where I am on this story. Makeisha is a fundamentally tragic character, and the most tragic thing is that the author didn't seem to realize it. Here we have a woman who is blessed with the ability to live dozens of lives, yet she never seems to mature past the mentality of living for other people's praise and recognition. She becomes a feudal warlord and Viking pillager in order to make her mark on history (that is, she literally becomes a murderous bastard in service to the very modern and trendy goal of recognizing women and people of color in history), and ends up a bitter and disappointed divorcee, because she's allowed her happiness to be held hostage by the people around her. Her many past lives have given her no sense of perspective. I don't know where she ended up going at the end, but it's clear that wherever and whenever it is, she won't be happy.

It's probably worth pointing out that this piece echoes a lot of the ideas that Kameron Hurley discusses in her essay "We Have Always Fought" (which PodCastle ran as a special episode a few months ago).  The central thesis of both pieces is that marginalized groups get erased from history by the people who write the chronicles.  Saying that Makeisha is tragic because she can't be happy with her own knowledge of her accomplishments misses the point that this is a personalized story about a systemic problem.  Makeisha represents a very real longing that many people have to be recognized as players in the tapestry of civilization, and it belittles that longing to say that she's tragic because she can't get over it and be happy for herself.

I'm well aware of what the central thesis was. Even without the intro, the story was far from subtle. But I disagree that this was a personal story about a systemic problem; there was nothing personal about it. Makeisha was not treated as a person, but rather as a poster-child for The Central Thesis. She is not allowed a single thought or sentiment apart from The Central Thesis (case in point: she takes umbrage at her pirate queen persona being called a whore, but she isn't fazed for one second that she was a murderer and thief). Her experiences are not allowed to change her at all. Despite living dozens of lifetimes as a ruler, warrior, artist, etc. in the distant past, she emerges from it all with the same ultra-modern mindset she started with, because she is not a person; she is the embodiment of The Central Thesis.

I get that The Central Thesis is an important issue, and needs to be addressed in real life. But as presented in the story, it wasn't an idea that uplifted or inspired, but only destroyed. Makeisha's endless persuit of righting a legitimate wrong cost her friendships, a marriage, and even turned her into a murderer, until she eventually abandoned her friends and family in selfish pursuit of a world where that wrong had been righted. Am I belittling that longing? In her case, yes. It needed to be belittled, because it had grown so large by the end that it consumed her.
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« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2015, 12:15:30 PM »

First of all, the "never for herself" part. She thought that she was doing it to have a normal life.  If she wasn't doing it for herself, then who was she doing it for? The other people in her life? That seems like a lot of effort to appear to being normal, and it never even worked. And why would she care what other people thought about her if not for her own well being? Therefore I propose that she was doing this for herself, but the self that she was doing this for no longer exists (or never existed).
Second, why is this here? It seems very strange. "Oh no, I don't think I belong here anymore, what should I do with myself? I'll kill myself. No. I've never killed myself for myself before".

The examples she gave did seem fairly selfless to me--she was trying to be there for her husband and for her friends and she knew if she lived a lifetime in the past that she would be unable to do so. 


How is not doing it for herself a reason not to kill herself?


That's a reasonable question.  I don't know that I have a super meaningful answer, but it felt right to me, although I guess for me personally her choice to not commit suicide in the present is because rather than a route from one life to another it's a route from the known into certain death.


Did she not return because she doesn't want to? Or because she can't? We don't know. But I think that she can't return, because she is lost to time. She hardly seemed to be in the proper frame of mind to control some sort of ephemeral power that she has never been able to control before. And to control it so well that she can willingly find a place in time where racism and sexism no longer exist. She had a lot of push and drive to be gone, but not a lot of "oomph" to actually be able to control it. That's why I think that she was successful enough to push herself out of the present, but not successful enough to actually land anywhen.

I don't really disagree with any of that.  I think her survival is uncertain at best.  She might be lost, she might be dead.  While I think she in that moment was trying to flex that muscle that she'd only reflexively twitched before, that doesn't mean this movement isn't dangerous.  She was probably in the wrong frame of mind to ease her way into the movement.


But...  I wouldn't call what she did suicide.  It was bold, rash, probably even unwise to jump blindly without feeling her way along first.  To me the difference between suicide and what she did was the difference of cutting your wrists and charging into the wilderness with just a knife.  The latter might get you killed, it might be unwise, but it's not the same thing as suicide.
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« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2015, 12:27:36 PM »

I'm well aware of what the central thesis was. Even without the intro, the story was far from subtle. But I disagree that this was a personal story about a systemic problem; there was nothing personal about it. Makeisha was not treated as a person, but rather as a poster-child for The Central Thesis. She is not allowed a single thought or sentiment apart from The Central Thesis (case in point: she takes umbrage at her pirate queen persona being called a whore, but she isn't fazed for one second that she was a murderer and thief). Her experiences are not allowed to change her at all. Despite living dozens of lifetimes as a ruler, warrior, artist, etc. in the distant past, she emerges from it all with the same ultra-modern mindset she started with, because she is not a person; she is the embodiment of The Central Thesis.

I get that The Central Thesis is an important issue, and needs to be addressed in real life. But as presented in the story, it wasn't an idea that uplifted or inspired, but only destroyed. Makeisha's endless persuit of righting a legitimate wrong cost her friendships, a marriage, and even turned her into a murderer, until she eventually abandoned her friends and family in selfish pursuit of a world where that wrong had been righted. Am I belittling that longing? In her case, yes. It needed to be belittled, because it had grown so large by the end that it consumed her.

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until she eventually abandoned her friends and family in selfish pursuit of a world where that wrong had been righted.

Abandoned is a strong word.  They could understand her the way she was.  I don't blame them, being on the other end of that would be hard, especially when you don't understand what's happening.  The marriage in particular was ill-advised to begin with unless she could find a way to tell him about her other lives and make him believe--she would be living a lie the rest of her life if she stuck in that.

Selfish is also a strong word.  She is not the only one who has to live with the way the world is now--she is going to great effort to make the world into what she sees as a better place for everyone in it.  Of course she wants to live in that better world, but I think it's a stretch to call someone selfish because they want to make the world a better place for everyone and then live in it themselves.

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Am I belittling that longing? In her case, yes. It needed to be belittled, because it had grown so large by the end that it consumed her.

I don't disagree that her longing consumed her, and that much of her story is tragic.  But that doesn't mean that her longing is meaningless.  Far from it.  She could've been happier if she'd just been able to shrug it off and live without focusing on it, no doubt.  But history is often made by people who get angry about what they see all around them and push to change.  Whether they succeed or not, their longing for a better world is not meaningless.  It can be tragic, it can glorious, it can be right or it can be wrong (for some definition of right and wrong that varies from person to person) it can be all kinds of things, but not meaningless.   I don't buy that.

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« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2015, 10:34:00 AM »

Although I liked the setting and the point of the story, I thought the writing was a bit distant and made it difficult to follow this as prose. The view of history the characters have was bit confusing, as if in that world postcolonial theory and constructivism didn't exist, but I might be personally biased.
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