Appreciation: Locke’s death-offering

WHM explains why he finds the death-offering in The Lies of Locke Lamora so satisfying yet haunting.

**Appreciations Disclaimer: an Appreciation is not a review, nor a summary, nor a fan letter, nor a critical essay (although it may contain traces of each). There are major spoilers ahead.**

Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora often gets described as a heist novel. It is that. But it’s something more: it’s a story of loss. For all the awesome-ness (and there is plenty), the key through thread (one that bleeds and blurs into Red Seas Under Red Skies and when held more consciously in mind deepens the reading experience of that story) is Locke’s rage against the powerful, channeled by his mentor Chains, who has equipped him with the skills and crew to do something about it.

The something about it mutates along the way when the mysterious Gray King arrives on the scene and takes over the Camorran underworld.

“But you could have settled for simple theft,” said Locke. “I would have given it all to keep Calo and Galdo and Bug alive. I would have given it all, had you put it to me like that!” (482)

Locke’s fierce loyalty to his friends is sometimes a liability — but it’s also a part of why we love him even though he is a rogue and a cad and sometimes an idiot. That loyalty isn’t enough, though. It’s loyalty to his crew AND to what his crew is devoted to, what their mentor Chains had trained them to and the values he instilled in them (see page 89 for one example).

Convincing the Spider (Camorr’s spy master) to sink the Gray King’s escape ship filled with money that had been stolen from the nobility (much of it by Locke and his crew) was not just a means of seeking revenge on him. As Dona Vorchenza (the Spider) explains:

“Whichever, darling,” said Lorenzo. “Forty-five thousand crowns, plus whatever Barsavi’s fortune came to. That’s a great deal of money to put out of everyone’s grasp, forever.”

“Yes,” said Doña Vorchenza. “And he told us why he was doing it while he stood there. Damn me for a fool.”

“I fear,” said Doña Sofia, “I speak for the rest of us when I say we don’t follow.”

“The Thorn [Locke] said he was a priest of the Thirteenth,” she said. “The heresy of the Nameless Thirteenth, the Crooked Warden, the god of thieves and malefactors. ‘For propriety’s sake,’ he said. ‘For propriety’s sake.’ He said that on purpose.”

She laughed again, biting down on her knuckles to contain herself.

“Oh, gods. Anatolius killed three of his friends. So don’t you see? There was no danger on that ship; he didn’t want it sunk to save Camorr. It was a death-offering, Stephen, a death-offering.” (495)

And it’s a suitable death offering, made up of the coin of both the peers and the underworld. Thousands of crowns sunk to the bottom of the bay. Not just stolen and recirculated. Gone. Out of reach.

See, the Gentlemen Bastards aren’t just thieves and con artists. They’re agents of the Crooked Warden. And when they die — when Caldo and Galdo and Bug (dammit, why did it also have to be Bug?) are brazenly murdered — there must be a price paid. That that offering is what it is in the context of The Lies of Locke Lamora never fails to fill me with a certain righteous satisfaction. But, of course, also a hollow one. And a haunted one. Locke feels the same. He falls to pieces (in the next book) because of that feeling. Even so — it’s a worthy offering. And it’s what elevates the novel beyond just another cool heist story.

A brief report on the 4th Street Fantasy writers seminar

WHM reports on the 4th St. Fantasy writers seminar and why storytelling is more than just craft and desire.

Although I wasn’t able to arrange my life so to be able to attend the Fourth St Fanatasy convention (because I found out about it just a few weeks ago), I did manage to make the Writers Seminar, which was held last Friday. The topic was storytelling and the seminar featured professional puppeteer and fiction writer Mary Robinette Kowal, actor and storyteller Oneal Isaac, editor Beth Meacham and fiction writer (and volunteer storyteller) Scott Lynch. The panel was ably moderated by writer and digital content strategist Karen Anderson.

I will admit that I had some concerns about the make-up of the panel and the format. It seemed a little hodgepodge in terms of the backgrounds of the participants, and each panelist got 30 minutes to do a formal(ish) presentation. I, personally, wanted to get straight to the discussion and the Q&A (and after lunch we did have an excellent Q&A session).

I was wrong to have such concerns.

I think that too often aspiring writers get focused on the nuts and bolts or, conversely, on the abstract dreams. What made this panel excellent was how the participants brought their various backgrounds and areas of expertise in to the conversation and demonstrated that vibrant personality, life experience and a strong point of view are the key energies behind successful storytelling.

For example: I have heard Mary Robinette speak about puppetry and how a knowledge of its principles can apply to fiction writing, but it’s one thing to read a blog post (or listen to a podcast) and quite another to see her demonstrate it and play off of the energies of the other panelist and the audience.

For example: Oneal Isaac talked about the power of storytelling but did so by telling stories — both his own and classics from the storytelling tradition.

For example: It’s one thing to know intellectually that editors are on the side of the authors, but that they also have commercial concerns to deal with. It’s quite another to hear that expressed by Beth Meacham with such heart and candor and within the context of the other panelist affirm and elaborate on what they discuss.

For example: All of us fanpersons think that it’s totally cool that Scott Lynch is a volunteer firefighter. It’s not cool. It’s dangerous and difficult and heartwrenching and Scott used stories from his time as a firefighter to demonstrate why he writes developed characters and why he puts developed characters through the wringer (or on the anvil).

I took a ton of notes. But they can’t really do justice to the seminar, especially since so much of what I learned came out of the stories that were told and how they were told and how the panelists interacted with each other and the audience. So I may pull a couple of things out and post them here, but less as a report and more as developed reactions/musings.

For now, let me say, yes, it was just a writing seminar. But I walked away* with the conviction that telling stories is more than just a matter of craft or desire: good storytelling is about passion, personality, point of view and love.

*also sad that I had to leave and couldn’t stay and vowing to be back next year for the whole thing.