It’s not the usual point in a draft for me to submerge. Normally it’s the last quarter of a book that comes out in a white heat. This time, a full third of the book wants my complete and total attention, mostly, I suspect, because of the speeder race. I also suspect that HOOD, while partly a tongue-in-cheek Robin Hood in Space2, is also about grief, and trauma, and survivor guilt.
I mean, plenty of my work centers on those issues anyway. Write what you know, right?
One of the more fascinating things about Robin Hood is how the legend changes. Taking it solely from the 1800s, Robin Hood has changed from Ivanhoe‘s cheerful patriotic fellow through a tights-clad, smirking mustachioed Errol Flynn to a somewhat smoldering3 combat veteran, with a detour through Disney4 and ending up somewhere between Russell Crowe’s constipated expression and Jonas Armstrong’s cocky but utterly forgettable second-fiddle to Richard Armitage’s tormented Guy of Gisbourne.
It’s the latest that gave me the kernel of HOOD, really. I know, it’s obvious, but I didn’t realize it while the seed was sprouting below conscious level. Robbing the rich to feed the poor is particularly germane to our current times, and it’s a great and worthy cause. But…it’s never as simple in implementation. Resistance is a business all its own, with all a business’s pitfalls.
Consequently, Alan-a-dale and Marian have taken center stage. Both work at different ends of resistance, Marah by using her social position to shield who she can and Al by somewhat more direct action. No doubt many will find Al’s methods reprehensible but more worthy, seeing in Marah’s choices a certain abnegation of responsibility.
I’m not so sure. Both, to my mind, are equally brave.
Robin, Guy, Friar Tuck, Little John–in HOOD they’re all veterans, and they return to a changed world. Plenty of my friends have. “Undeclared” wars and “police actions” are brutal, unholy euphemisms and leave only shattered bodies and minds in their wake. Once you’ve survived such a thing, how can you ever return? How do you find the way back to those left at “home”? How do you find your way towards a peacetime self, once you’ve had to do terrible things to survive?
Sometimes I think I write about nothing else because I’m trying to find the way to do so myself. I’ve often thought, in the black bleakness of 3am, why bother surviving if it makes me feel like this?
I keep writing because I can’t stop, but it’s also largely (I suspect) to push that question away. Answering it seems beyond my faint powers, but that’s no reason not to attempt doing so. Anything less than utter dedication to the attempt is spitting in the face of the great good luck that allows me to still draw breath.
One of the best treatments of Robin Hood I ever read was Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood, which was the first time the actual logistics of a band of forest outlaws intruded upon my young consciousness in the form of Robin’s blisters from digging privy ditches. Retreating to the woods to harry the oppressor requires iron will, craftiness, and an undying commitment to sanitation so half (or more) of your small force doesn’t succumb to parasites and sickness. Along with Jennifer Roberson’s Lady of the Forest, which centers on Marian’s position as a Saxon noblewoman faced with Norman invaders and institutional misogyny, Outlaws showed me that the real story wasn’t with Robin’s derring-do or Errol Flynn exploits.
Of course, myths survive because they are protean; they change their shape to suit our needs and deep desires. Right now, at this particular point in history and time, Robin Hood is a complex story about trauma, responsibility, the misuse of power, revolution and its habit of eating its young, and more–at least to me.
And of course, I’ve tossed in lightsabers, land speeders, faster-than-light travel and communications, Will Scarlet as a synthetic a la Aliens, generation ships, dualistic religion, the fact that human nature destroys the best ideological edifice, and more. Every writer is a magpie.
In any case, the first season is about to take me in its jaws and gallop for the finish line. I’m sure my version of Robin Hood says more about me and my current historical moment than anything else…
…but any story told by any human being is the same. We are fixed in time and space for a few brief moments, and we do what we can to mark the occasion.
See you in a bit, chickadees.