Everyone’s A Winner
by Anne Marvin
I’ve just started digging into Elle Boca’s latest Weeia novel, Gypsies, Tramps and Weeia. Fortunately for readers everywhere, this series is getting better with each installment. This most recent offering starts with a bang and hasn’t let up. Anyway, the bang that opens this novel got me thinking–and you know what that means!
As the book begins, Danni, our kick-ass protagonist, is preparing to take her field exam to progress to the next level as a Weeia Marshall. As we learn later, Danni has her share of detractors who don’t believe that she belongs at the Academy. In fact, her unpopularity with certain factions has led someone to play a cruel prank, sending a note saying the exam had been pushed back by two hours. Luckily, Danni has some good friends among the student body (and the faculty, as it turns out), and she arrives to the exam late, but nonetheless able to pass with flying colors. Her victory is clouded, however, by the malevolence of her peers and the desire of some to succeed based on her failure. For this faction – you know the type, they exist in truth as well as fantasy – someone has to lose in order for someone else to win.
Truth In Fantasy – click to enlarge
I take issue with this zero sum view of winning, as does Elle Boca, if the characters she writes are any reflection of her life philosophy (which I believe they are, as I’ve written before). And I’ve been thinking about these very concepts since I just saw a great quote on Twitter that said, “I don’t believe in competition. I want us all to win.”
Before I get a slew of irate comments and emails about the fallacy of giving all participants participation awards and the annihilation of merit-based promotion, not to mention the equality of everyone, let me say I hear you and I don’t necessarily disagree. It’s foolish and delusional to insist that there are no such things as winners and losers in this world, Little League trophies for showing up to the contrary. But that isn’t what I’m talking about. Clearly, we can’t all win at everything.
What we’re talking about here is the ugly underbelly of competition, the one Ms. Boca illuminates with the fraudulent note intended to ensure Danni failed her test, leaving more slots and better assignments for others. That kind of competitiveness depends on the fallacy of insufficiency–that there is not enough–of anything–to go around. Of course, there are a limited number of Americans who will be our nation’s President, and as each election cycle teaches us, many who want the job. And, as we know from 50 years of Super Bowl games, not every team’s members will get one of those coveted rings, which always makes me a little sad, as they seem to mean so much to those folks. And as I watched my family and friends watching the Super Bowl, they were focused on the winners and their platitudes (“I’m just grateful to have played; I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” do these guys read off the same script?!), while my eyes were on the team that didn’t win and feeling sorry for their loss.
One of my favorite museums in Washington, DC, is called the Newseum, a museum of news. They have a gallery where all of the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs ever taken are displayed. They are all arresting, but one that particularly caught my eye was a photo of the 1992 Nigerian women’s track and field team, after the 4×100 meter race. While all the other photographers were training their lenses on the winning American team, one photographer captured the moment when the Nigerian women realized they had won the bronze–third place–medal. Their incandescent happiness was infectious and the photo is a joy to behold. No losers there.
When I was in graduate school, I studied for my PhD comprehensive exams with two fellow students. The experience of studying together created an incredible bond, despite the fierce competition between us. In the end, when the exams were graded, each of us had passed, which was a relief, but on top of that, each of us had “won” in a way: one of us had the highest scores on an individual question; one had the highest score from the first reader; while the last of us received the highest score from the second reader. We all had a claim to fame, and it made the shared success that much sweeter.
That’s what I want, for everyone to win. In Elle Boca’s book, Danni has a similar attitude, and she’s dismayed when others don’t share her generous view of the world. I feel her pain. Why can’t we all be happy for each other’s wins, big and small? Why does someone need to lose for someone else to win? Does it count if we win on the backs of our fellows? Not to me. I want the world to celebrate my successes, as I celebrate everyone else’s. And yes, I will take off my rose-colored glasses very soon. But the world is so lovely when it’s blushing. Just ask Danni.
Anne Marvin, reader and host, Truthinfantasy.com
*This article was first published on Anne Marvin’s website. She graciously allowed us to share it here. Congratulations to her on the revamped look of Truth In Fantasy. To read the original and more of her articles visit her website at http://www.truthinfantasy.com/blog/everyonesawinner/
In December 18, 2014, after reading Unelmoija: The Mindreader, Anne Marvin, who writes her opinions about fantasy fiction at TruthinFantasy.com, was inspired to write a post. In it, she explores some of the ideas from the book, especially the concept of Weeia as superhumans living hidden among humans.
I especially appreciated her words of praise about Unelmoija: The Mindreader: “Ms. Boca has created a very interesting world and I’m enjoying the unfolding of the story and the development of the characters.” Thank you, Anne!
With her permission here’s a copy:
Click to enlarge
The Pretenders Sing-Along
I’ve just finished the second book in Elle Boca’s intriguing Unelmoija series, The Mindshifter. Ms. Boca has created a very interesting world and I’m enjoying the unfolding of the story and the development of the characters. As always, my favorite parts of the book involve the deeper themes I’m inspired to contemplate, in this case a variation on the Harry Potter syndrome: the idea that one day we could wake up and find out that we aren’t who we thought we were and that our whole reality has been turned on its head. What would that mean for us? How would we react? And what aspects of our character determine the direction we take upon learning that we are, in fact, more than we feared, and maybe even as much as we’d secretly hoped?
In Ms. Boca’s world, there are individuals go through life not realizing the truth of their identity, and then find out as young adults about their special status as part of the Weeia race. I don’t know about you, but I would have given almost anything to learn that I was extraordinary (in a literal way) when I was growing up (and maybe even after I was grown up). Doesn’t everyone secretly, or not so secretly, yearn to discover how and why he or she is special or unique? Don’t we all want to be exceptional? How great would it be to find out that instead of being Joe Sixpack or Jane Winespritzer, we were actually part of an exclusive club of superhumans?
This situation is similar to a common theme of childhood, one that I remember pondering a great deal when I was young: What if my parents weren’t really my parents and I found out that I was secretly switched at birth and I wasn’t who I thought I was? What if I were really a princess, or a queen, or a fairy (and yes, I had a very active imagination and spent way too much time reading). This would explain, to my childish way of thinking, why I felt so out of place in my family. It would explain my feelings of exclusion and difference. And, as an added bonus, it would also mean that my mother, with whom, as you know, I had such a difficult relationship, wasn’t really my mother. Which was good news in my book. It would have also meant that my beloved father wasn’t related to me, either, but in true kid-like fashion, I tended to gloss over that part of the logical sequence.
Not only that, but if we woke up one day and someone told us we were part of a secret world, it would clarify so many baffling facts—well, at least for me, but maybe you all are more normal than I am. Instead of feeling like a freak or someone who sees life from the outside in, as I did for so many years, especially from my early teens into my late twenties, I could think of myself as part of an ultra-covert, super cool, in-crowd of people like me who I didn’t even know about, but with whom I now belonged.
And if that were true, then I would also be able to validate my secretly-nurtured, barely acknowledged and rarely shared conviction that I really am singular and extraordinary and worthy. That all the rejection and dejection I’ve experienced was just the necessary tempering of the metal to make it stronger before it emerges into the world ready to fulfill its function. Wouldn’t that be something?
And as I write this I realize anew how much I used to yearn for the kind of legitimization that anonymous Weeia in Ms. Boca’s world received upon learning of their previously unknown heritage in the Unelmoija world. I so wanted something or someone outside of myself to tell me that I was more than I feared I was. But here is where truth and fantasy diverge. Beyond the fact that no one in the real world is going to tell us that we are members of a secret race of superhumans (beyond White Supremacists, or other misguided haters, of course), we don’t, in fact, need that to happen.
We are all special and unique and valuable. By virtue of being garden-variety humans, rather than a superhumans, we are part of the club, a member of the in-group. We all get to participate in the privileges and responsibilities of being human. Just plain human. That we don’t feel this way is a tragedy of epic proportions, generated by incompetent parenting as well as the constant comparisons we make about ourselves while being forced to watch artificially enhanced people pretend to be perfect on TV, in the movies and on social media. Sadly, as we strive for a perfection that doesn’t exist in reality, we enter a vicious cycle of inadequacy and self-hatred, leading back to our secret desire to get a letter from Hogwarts telling us that our lives to date have been just the warm up—that the real thing is starting soon, and it will be so much more, so much better than what we have.
Don’t believe it. It isn’t true. Because I’m special. So special. Just ask Chrissie Hynde.
To read the original post go to: http://www.truthinfantasy.com/blog/the-pretenders-sing-along