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What's a Jo Graham book?

I was doing a grant application recently and one of the questions stumped me. "What makes it a _____ book? How would a reader know your work out of all the books in the library?" So I put that question to you: What is a Jo Graham book? What makes it different? How would you guess a book was mine?


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2016 11:03 pm (UTC)
I think the central theme of your novels to me has always centered on the question of how do we rebuild. How do we repair and rebuild after the old world has been swept away, how do we find new hope and new dreams. Lydias, Gull, Alma are most directly trying to rebuild and heal their world and themselves. It's almost a different way of approaching post-apocalyptic, instead of reveling in the destruction it's pushing towards the hope and what will wake from the ashes, and how do we best tend it.

But Charmian and Elza are also part of that, of defending the society that is rebuilding, deciding what is most precious to carry forward.

Other things: complicated love and finding new ways to love multiple people, partnership/groups where everyone contributes something different, celebration of multiple archetypes taking on their full adult stature, duty and honor to self/chosen oaths taking precedence over romantic love.

TL/DR: Your novels are like that scene in X-Men 1 where Scott kneels next to Xavier after Xavier has been wounded and promises to take care of the school because that was what needed to carry on.
Sep. 23rd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Yes! That's an insight. It's a different take on post-apocalyptic. "Who will plow fields that are fallow and plant young olive trees?" Well, you. Because the world ends. And then begins again.

I see that's the thing that they're doing in The Order of the Air too -- none of them can yet imagine the post war world. Nobody can. There's a point where the wave is so close that you can't see the other side of it. But tending their olive groves is the best way to prepare for whatever lies on the other side.

Complicated love. Yes. Yes. Love is always complicated. Even though I think love rules over all.

I love that scene in X-Men. that.
Sep. 23rd, 2016 02:32 pm (UTC)
I have so many mixed feelings about the original X-men movies, because I love scenes like that, and I love Xavier/Magneto's complex relationship, but I hate that they sidelined and destroyed Scott and the Scott/Jean relationship to have Logan as the viewpoint character.

Because yes, Scott Summers hits every single bit of my lawful good not lawful stupid character/dutiful hero kink.

I hate most post-apocalyptic stuff because it ends up being disaster porn and an excuse for everyone to act on their worst nature. But your stuff is about how people can rise up and build anew, cherish what was good and then try to make it better. It's like Terry Pratchett's Nation in that respect.
Sep. 27th, 2016 01:38 pm (UTC)
I'm a Scott fan, and I feel like the ensemble doesn't work without him. He's the Cameron Mitchell of the group, and you've got to have him to make it work.

I hate most post-apocalyptic stuff because it ends up being disaster porn and an excuse for everyone to act on their worst nature.

Yes, that. That's the reason I hate new Battlestar Galactica. The original, corny as it sometimes was, was about how even apocalyptic disaster can be overcome if you rely on your friends, on teamwork, on family of choice, and faith. The new one killed every one of those things, including trust, respect for other viewpoints, and democratic process. In the old one, even when the Council made mistakes Adama abided by their decisions because he honestly believed that people had a right to vote for their fate, and he utterly refused to be a military dictator. Apollo (who was very Scott/Cameron) became the single father of his dead wife's son from a previous relationship and was a devoted father. That important relationship entirely disappeared. I could go on. But then I did go on. I wrote Black Ships!
Sep. 23rd, 2016 02:37 pm (UTC)
And also, because I forgot the first time I was writing: your characters.

I've said before that I need to see characters like Elza written well and celebrated, because I need to see characters who are not me, who would make decisions and live a life I would never choose in a million years, and I need to see them as good and honorable and empathetic characters that I can believe. Because literature should be about increasing the number of ways to be a valid and honored human being, and expanding the concept of what is needed and welcomed at the table of existence.
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Sep. 26th, 2016 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I try to write adult characters who take adult responsibility, who aren't forty year olds who act like teenagers.

One of the reasons I write is because I want stories about people like me. There aren't a lot of them, as you say. But I am a Jo Graham character, and I want stories that speak to my experience.

Sep. 22nd, 2016 09:11 pm (UTC)
Definitely something with 'rebuilding after the catastrophe' and 'trying to change the world to the better'. Family is important to the characters, whether biological or chosen. Much variation in sexuality and family constellations.
Sep. 26th, 2016 02:46 pm (UTC)
Definitely rebuilding after the catastrophe. Because someone always does.

That's one of the most enduring things my dad taught me. He said that through all of human history, through all wars and plagues and catastrophes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, diseases and ravages, there are always survivors. And they always rebuild. He said, "Be the survivor."
Sep. 24th, 2016 01:28 pm (UTC)
Well, your books make me really care about the characters and their struggles while also painting a very fascinating big picture spanning millenia.

They make me notice when I see something like this ( a program where people can bring their family heirlooms and have them evaluated)


that has a tobacco container that according to the familiy legend once belonged to Marshal Ney and I think when is Jo going to continue thestory I want to read how that came to be especially since the family legend says that he did not really want to part with it but had to. He gave it to some Marquis ( sorry I just cannot write French names from hearing) who gave it to a veterinarian who saved his life after he injured his leg.

This is how real your books are to me.

Sep. 27th, 2016 01:39 pm (UTC)
Oh that is fascinating! And you know, it might go in the story! Various bits that people found me have. In the next book there's a bit that comes from bwinter, who found it for me in the archives of a small town in Poland....
Sep. 26th, 2016 02:04 pm (UTC)
Characters in messy changing worlds struggling to figure out how to be true to themselves and others, building each other up. Unusual views of class/labor/gender/race/relationships.
Sep. 27th, 2016 01:44 pm (UTC)
Definitely the changing worlds, and definitely the unusual! That's the comment I get most often.
Sep. 27th, 2016 02:55 am (UTC)
I haven't read the Stargate books, but since they're constrained by outside influences, I'm not sure they should count as pure Jo Graham. The thing that hooks me is that the characters all have, whether they're aware of it or it's deeply buried in the subconscious, a sense of living in a world that is more than just the material one which can be measured by science.

That numinous quality, which isn't limited just to the Numinous World stories, is one of the things that I love about your books. Especially when it co-exists with otherwise fairly ordinary people like the characters in Order of the Air.
Sep. 27th, 2016 01:47 pm (UTC)
Definitely constrained by outside influences and also cowritten (most of them) but I think the Stargate books do reflect me as well. I think the Osprey plot line is very me.

Oh yes the numinous quality! There is more beneath the surface, magic around every corner, even if most of the time people aren't aware of it. That's as you say one of the big points in The Order of the Air -- these are ordinary people who have fairly ordinary lives, and yet it's there!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )