Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spanner R4: Looking Back So Far: The Women with No Name

While I'm continuing to ready Spanner Chapter 22 for its wild week ahead, I thought I'd look back at the new Fourth Revision plot threads that shocked even their author by popping into existence. My ever-perverse muse threw the first of these into Chapter 12 and proceeded to retrofit it into the beginning of Chapter 10. Three women moved next door to Shira and told her they didn't have names. By the end of Chapter 19, three major female characters, including Shira's major love interest, had ditched their names.

They call themselves "anonymous beauties" or "nameless beauties". It started with a sudden inspiration while I was idly reading through books at a local thrift store one day. One happened to be a novel called The Bride Stripped Bare, written as an anonymous diary of a woman's anonymous secret life of adultery. It was even written to be published anonymously, though the novelist's identity (Nikki Gemmell) eventually came out. The concept behind it is that anonymity in sexual matters is liberating and allows for greater authenticity. The author quotes Virginia Woolf, who described anonymity as a "refuge" for female authors:
Anonymity runs in their blood. The desire to be veiled still possesses them.
And so my muse latched onto the idea and threw it into the final version of Spanner. Being the compulsive thinker I am, naturally this intriguing notion that had now wormed its way into my labor of love got me thinking. So of course I got to arguing with Woolf: I took the idea of clothes as masks from Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, developed it further, nad concluded that names are masks too; then I countered Mrs. Woolf's assertion that women want to be veiled by saying that names themselves are the veils, wrapping people in social roles as surely as clothes do. Out of the original inspiration and the idea of names as masks or veils, the anonymous beauties burst into the plot of Spanner

To remain free individuals, these women rely on a kind of trick. In place of names, they use a list of descriptive terms they believe accurately describe themselves which add up to their complete characterization. In authorial terms, they've replaced their names with their character profiles. The beauty of this is that since they no longer identify with names, they're no longer vulnerable to either the siren song of Egoism (which is about deifying the ego and then sacrificing one's self to this ego-god in order to become it) or the name-magic that certain superpowered villains such as Byron Scofield use and government control ultimately relies on. In the case of the major characters who went nameless, the ones formerly known as Leila Shelley, Amanda Currie, and Lucie Stenbeck, they used a kind of cheat: Leila and Lucie had Shira's formidable lawyer cousin Angela Coyne use an intellectual-property loophole to detach themselves from their names; Amanda simply let a celebrity-stalker look-alike steal her identity and replace her in the social role contained in her name. The Asian woman (I need better descriptives for her than that in Revision 4.1) next door to Shira may or may not have been originally named Anemone Izumi, but she used Shira's trick of using multiple names before she went nameless, though how she went nameless remains a mystery.

Namelessness in Spanner represents one of two opposites: either removing the veil of name and social role in order to live an life of freedom lived without masks, or being stripped of one's identity as the sign of slavery, i.e. complete lack of freedom. The anonymous beauties, including the three major characters who stripped off their names in Chapters 13, 16, and 19, are the former. I'll deal with the latter in Book 2 when our heroines leave the school world behind and take their fight directly to the Corporate and Syndicate patriarchs. Bobbzilla the Klown may be too macho to own sex slaves; but the Russian mobster Vasily "the Rodfather" Rodchenko, left-wing terrorist Bram's brother and mortal enemy, not only owns sex slaves but has them soft-plastinated alive into necrophiliac sex dolls. This is related to the Corporate mania for polygamy. Against the patriarchs who rob women in their power of their identity, the anonymous beauties take a feminist stance in protecting their personal identities by getting rid of their names and abandoning their social identities. Freedom for them requires authenticity, and they reason that they cannot be authentic as long as they remain veiled by the social identities contained within their names.

Once Scofield starts seriously using his name magic in Book 2, expect more major female characters and even a few males to go nameless just like the nameless women who live next door to Shira. But before I plot that out, I still have those last two chapters of Book 1 and a final full-book edit to finish...

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