ljlee: Queen Artesia! (artesia)
[personal profile] ljlee
Here are the lines from a scene in Artesia Afield, the second volume in the epic fantasy comic book series Artesia written and drawn by Mike Smylie. The titular heroine, Artesia, is a highland captain and sorceress who is leading a host against an ancient empire. In this scene she walks through the camp she commands, talking to her ghosts who are her internal voices. [livejournal.com profile] fairladyz2005 and I were talking a lot about ruling queens in ancient East Asia, and I thought the lines in this scene (which reads like an R-rated musical number) are a good encapsulation of the ambition, vanity, and complexity of a powerful woman.

What Do I Want

* I put Artesia's lines in bold, her ghosts' in normal typeset, and her bannerman's in italics. I've taken some liberties with punctuation, removing ellipses for the most part.

What do I want?
I want silk and fur, gold and silver.
I want wealth beyond measure.
I want to make my mother smile.
I want to make my teachers proud.
I want to be shameless, and cruel, and beautiful!
I want flowers to bloom as I pass.
I want to sing so that the world dragon itself stops to listen.
I want to dance with stags and griffins.
I want women in awe and envy lining up to warm my bed and my thighs,
And raising their daughters in my image.
I want wolves to eat from my hand.
Lord Miklos! How fares your banner?
We are well rested. We're finally getting used to your march pace. Do you desire a consort for what's left of the night?
Ah, my thanks, Lord Miklos... but I cannot play favorites, or risk stirring jealousy. But if you wish it, I can be yours again, and soon.
Then know I am eager, Captain.
I want him to be smitten.
I want brave men to grow hard with lust at the sight of me,
And for the weak to piss themselves at the mere mention of my name.
I want love.
I want stars to fall weeping from the sky when I die
And mountains to uproot themselves in anguish.
I want armies at my back,
Banners above my head,
And the bodies of my enemies before me.
I want to live a life that will shake the heavens.
I want to be a queen.

I can't be the only one who thought of Alanis Morissette's All I Really Want or Meredith Brooks' I Need. It's a good reminder of the multitudes of conflicting desires of, and demands on, women. (As for conflict, I just can't imagine most mothers smiling at their daughter having a string of lovers and a body count to rival typhoid fever.)

If you've noticed the large areas of overlap between the above and classic Mary Sue traits, you might also be interested in the feminist critique of the concept of Mary Sue. Basically it comes down to the quality of the writing, I think. Good writing recognizes self-serving power fantasy and explores the consequences of that, while bad writing confuses fantasy with morality ("it must be good if I want it") and so is shallow and disingenuous.


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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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