Poor, Down-trodden Teratologists

7:15 PM Anis Widayanti 0 Comments

Taylor - by email - asked this recently:

"I have a question that has been rankling at me for a bit as I've become immersed in Monster Blood Tattoo, and it is this: In a world as monster-ridden and monster-phobic as the Half-Continent, why do people tend to have a negative view of lazhars, skolds, scourges, and any kinds of terotologists? I realize people might be a bit afraid of them due to their powers, but, for example, why does Felicitine refuse to allow Europe to stay at the Harefoot Dig? Or why, when Europe comes to see Rossamund at Winstermill, do most people "habitually disapprove of her trade"? It always seems that people are disdainful of those who have altered themselves for the protection of the Half-Continent, and in a land where showing the slightest bit of sympathy for monsters gets a person exiled or worse, this seems a bit narrow-minded of the population. What do you think?"

To which I responded:

I think you have hit the nail firmly on the head - people are inconsistent, and no less so in the Half-Continent. I found this very tension an excellent vehicle to quietly explore this inconsistency, which is essentially: people do not want the problem but neither are they happy about the solution.

What-is-more, while we certainly have Madam Felicitine being snobbish, Master Billetus is not; Madam Oubliette has established an entire wayhouse for the patronage and support of the teratologist (albeit because they are generally not wanted in the towns). There I go again: Why are they not wanted in the towns when they do such a service? Teratologists with their much-needed yet dangerous powers are seen as the "necessary evil", like a rat catcher or a garbage collector. They kill the monsters but have to have contact with them in order to do so, placing them in a kind of half-way status.

Skolds will receive the best reception (indeed in some parts of the H-c they are truly revered), then pistolleers, laggards, lurksmen, peltrymen, tractors - your more unaltered types; followed by scourges (who, while appreciated for their efforts are mistrusted for the deadly power of their chemistry and that they look so odd wrapped so completely in their fascins) and then falsemen (no one likes to think that the person they are talking to knows what they are thinking).

Of lahzars, the disapproval goes much deeper, for there continues a rigourous debate as to what exactly they are - some hold that through the surgeries they have become a kind of gudgeon - and no one likes gudgeons - something other, whose capacities make them hard to control, place them outside the existing caste system, therefore upsetting the status quo, and very few in the H-c appreciate this (especially those of the higher situations, or with aspirations of social climbing).

So what we find in the Half-Continent is a lot of ignorance riddled with rumour; add to this "classists" snobbery - like Felicitine with her airs and graces - and the fact that a large proportion of the population are naivines (ie: never seen a monster) - and I reckon such inconsistency is valid (and a bit fun too - for me at least).

And never fear, there are those who are indeed fans of the lahzars - the obsequines, some of whom you might meet in Book 3.

Thank you Taylor!

... to this I might add (more in response to the query from Ben Bryddia) that the strange status lahzars have - the position of needful and powerful outsider - is an excellent mechanism for women to improve their lot in the commonly more patriarchal H-c / Haacobin society; hence there being a greater proportion of girl-lahzars. Never-the-less there are still plenty of boy ones too (the black-eyed wit, the Boanerges, the Knave of Diamonds - all in Book 2), it is just that they have not become the focus of my tale yet.

A question to the lady readers (if I may): how would you feel about changing your eyes by becoming a leer?

Breakfast = Vita Brits [TM] with Milo [TM] sprinkled on it and a cup of free-trade tea.