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The Will and children (Saga meta)

(Can we pretend someone requested I talk a bunch about Saga for the talking meme? Because if we do, then look, a talking meme post!)

So I've been rereading Saga from the beginning, and I'm noticing things I didn't the first time. I actually have a whole bunch of observations, but it's late, so one long one is all you get. Spoilers through #24 (the most recent issue) under the cut.

You know the flashback scene in #23, I think, where The Will and The Stalk get in a fight in the middle of having sex? Where she says she wants kids and he's like, "We're killers! We can't raise kids!"

Turns out, the question of children is central to The Will's character development from the very beginning. It turns up at the end of his very first scene, when the unicorn lady commissions him to kill Alana and Marko and bring back Hazel and The Will responds, "What kind of asshole would bring a child into worlds like these?"

MUCH more interestingly to me and my Will/Stalk feelings, though, is when he gets in trouble trying to get Slave Girl (later Sophie) out of Sextillion. He's on the phone with The Stalk. She's just died, but he doesn't know that yet, and he's trying to convince her to help him:

I know you're pissed, but hear me out. I need your help with a girl. Not like that. This is a Slave Girl. A young one. Too young, I mean. Anyway, I thought maybe I could, you know, help her. I thought me and you could both--

And then Prince Robot IV gets on the line and tells The Will that The Stalk is dead, and that's the end of that dream.

AND YET. He rescues the girl anyway, with Gwendolyn's help - why? Because he has a soft heart for innocent things, like animals and slave girls? (Don't forget he offered to drown Hazel after killing her parents, if the unicorn lady wanted him to.) To honor The Stalk's memory? What about how in The Will's dream, dream!Stalk tells dream!Slave Girl that "I escapd monsters a lot like these ones when I was just about your age" - was that even true, or just part of the dream?

Whether it's one or all or none of those, The Will has had strong feelings about children and the proper care thereof since before The Stalk - that's what the fight was about in #23, because of reservations he already had. Because remember, this is how that fight goes, starting mid-coitus:

STALK: Oh, god, I want to have your babies.

WILL: What, now?

STALK: Oh, calm down. I was just lost in the moment. Like that time I told you to stick it in my spinnaret.

WILL: So you didn't mean it? About wanting to have fuckin' kids?

STALK: Not with a bore like you.

WILL: I'm serious. You really want to be a, a mother?

STALK: Someday maybe. Why not?

WILL: You remember what we do for a living, right?

STALK: Unlike you, I'm more than my fucking job description.

I can't help but wonder if his reservations have something to do with his other backstory component, his as-of-yet still unexplored history with his sister Sophie, aka The Brand. (Who introduced him to The Stalk, by the way. I'm never getting over that. BRAND/STALK, YO.) When he calls The Stalk for help, he describes Slave Girl to her, expecting her to care, but when he eventually names the girl, he names her after his sister. What kind of childhood did they have? How did they both end up Freelancers? Why is The Brand his emergency contact of last resort, and why hadn't they spoken since before he started shaving his head?

I think with Gwendolyn and The Brand teaming up to save The Will, we're very likely to get a bunch more info on that sibling backstory, and I suspect that The Will's hangups about children - both his need to protect them and his conviction that he and The Stalk shouldn't have them - are going to be more complicated than any single thing I've suggested, probably some mixture of childhood badness and innate inclination.

Or, you know, he just has a conscience in this one thing and recognizes better than The Stalk does that assassins do not make for a good home life. But that's not very interesting, character-wise.

I think probably this all fits into some larger theme Saga is developing about children being affected by war. Saga is very much a story about how war destroys people, but I hadn't realized until I started typing up this post how often that destruction is happening to children, specifically, or happening to adults from the perspective of their parents. Just off-hand we have Slave Girl/Sophie (sold to buy the freedom of a relative accused of a war crime), Heist's son who committed suicide due to war trauma, Marko whose parents raised him on bloodlust, Prince Robot's infant son (although that so far seems to be more of a class thing rather that specifically war-related? I haven't gotten that far yet in the reread), and of course Hazel.

Maybe the real point is how much Saga is about family and family relationships, even as it develops dozens of different ties between members of its ensemble cast. Alana didn't fall out of the sky into the plot; she has a dad she dislikes and a step-mom she loathes. The Will has a sister. Marko's family is right in the mix. Gwendolyn got out of fighting in the war because her father was a vice minister.

IDK. I may be making too much out of this, but families in SF are so rare that to encounter such a number of them in a single story feels quite novel.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comment here or there. (comment count unavailable DW replies)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 15th, 2014 01:04 pm (UTC)

(idek when that will be. probably I'll be back in the States before Vol. 4 is in Bangkok bookstores...)
Dec. 15th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
Noooo. It's so good! But this does mean that if you read the last volume right before I see you next, you will have FRESH SQUEE to share. :DDD
Dec. 15th, 2014 05:03 pm (UTC)
I don't really have much to add to this, except to agree with everything. I've only read the trades, so I'm through vol. 3. War and its effects on children (and other living things) is definitely the story. I'd add ghost!babysitter Izabel to the list of kids bearing the mark of war -- going through eternity with a visible war wound isn't even a subtle nod to the horrors therein, and bless 'em for being willing to go there. Another example is the baby planet/egg whose birth/hatching is greeted by missile strike. Sort of like Hazel, it's born into battle, and what's more innocent than a newborn?

The Will's unexpected scruples about children was absolutely surprising, though most welcome.

This is tangential to your main point, but purported non-combatant Gwendolyn has been the most dangerous loose canon in the story. She attacks without much thought, and the fallout is enormous. There must be some point in there about non-soldiers being the worst kinds of hawks.
Dec. 15th, 2014 07:09 pm (UTC)
I'd been thinking of children in relationship with their parents, but otherwise yes, Izabel's a great example as well.

At first I thought The Will's feelings about children were of a piece with his feelings about animals - he's so very upset that unicorn lady had him kill her giant beastie - but then those conversations with The Stalk start to suggest that something more complicated is going on, especially in conjunction with his apparent total willingness, in the abstract, to kill children as part of a job.

I have really mixed feelings about Gwendolyn, from a Doylist perspective. When push comes to shove, she seems perpetually incompetent, and not even just when it comes to violence - her first attempt to free Slave Girl in order to get The Will to work with her fails utterly. Then, as you say, there's the loose cannon element, which results in Heist's death, among other things.

Then there's her bizarre declaration at the end of volume three that she loves The Will, which seems to be corroborated with a conversation in the volume you haven't read yet. And for that matter her quest for revenge on Alana and Marko for leaving her, even though she clearly wasn't in love with Marko anymore (if she ever had been), also grates on me.

The only coherent picture I can get of Gwendolyn is of kind of an arrogant brat who's never encountered the harsh wide world before and has to be disabused of all her notions that she understands or can control it.

Uh, apparently I had more about Saga I wanted to say? So you got a long reply. :)

EDIT: And I just realized you said you hadn't read the 4th volume, so I took some stuff out that you wouldn't know about yet. :)

Edited at 2014-12-15 07:13 pm (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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