The Bramble

Escaping the Matrix: On “Nanette”

I spend a lot of time referring to movies and analyzing them in part because they are so accessible. Movies take a much shorter amount of time to consume than books or television shows, and often are more widely viewed. And in the science fiction community, there are few movies more widely viewed than The Matrix.

But the story of the Matrix is a story of speaking truth to power, and it’s a sort of insidious one. The morals of the first movie are very different from the morals of the series when taken as a whole. Most people are only familiar with the first of the films, but very few stuck through the mess that was the second film to find out the ending. Despite this it is, arguably, one of the greatest metaphors for systems of hegemony in our world that exists.

I began to compose this blogpost in my head after watching Nanette late one weeknight. The Netflix original begins as a comedy routine and becomes something more. It is a clear example of speaking truth to power, of the raw perseverance and loss that such a path requires. Hannah Gadsby thoroughly examines the illusion of choice in one memorable moment in this show, when she says: “There’s only been two options for a little girl to grow up into, a virgin or a whore. We’re always given a choice.”

nanette.jpg

At what point does a choice within a system that allows only two outcomes cease to become a choice?

In the Matrix, Neo is given two options. The blue pill allows him to live compliantly in the system set up to contain him. The red pill, however, requires awareness, requires the loss of safety for freedom.

(If I speak nicely, if I am quiet and soft and sweet, then I can stay safely in this role that society has created for me and never need question. But if I become aware, if I speak out, if I take up space, if I am myself, I give up my safety.)

The safety of the blue pill is an illusion. We know that, in the Matrix, the blue pill means that our bodies are being farmed for energy, for meat, for whatever our overlords require. The things that ruin us happen at a whim, and it’s not ours. We have no control over them.

But there is no safety in freedom, either. Less of it. Now the machines target you. Now they fight against you. We know, because the Matrix tells us, that we are a danger to the system. Our existence, once we have swallowed this red pill, becomes a threat. That’s a good thing, though, right? If we are a threat, we can change, we can resist.

The reason the Matrix is so insidious as a narrative, however, is that if you watch that third movie, there was never any hope at all.

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Neo was nearly all-powerful in the first movie. How could he lose? But he does, he loses everything. He was a product of the Matrix all along. All of the red pill society is wiped out, to start again at some predetermined time, when the Matrix decides it needs to release the pressure of those rebellious members of its population. The Chosen One was an illusion. He could never lead those like him to a new life. The only path for those taking the red pill was to die.

There is a disturbing trend, amongst holders of power, to point to freedom and say that it looks a certain way. There have been many writers who discussed the nature of power and the many flavors it can take, but there is only one narrative where certain kinds of power are concerned. Absolutist systems construct choice on their terms. The dichotomy is a loaded one. As in the Matrix, there is no safety in it even when you are being told otherwise.

In Nanette, we learn the truth of that choice for those who cannot fit into either option is violence, but if you’ve been paying attention you should realize that the truth of that choice is always violence, no matter who you are. Whether it’s the violence against the “pure” woman who submits entirely to her partner, who is quiet and demure and voiceless even if he beats her, or the violence of the “sullied” woman whose rape and abuse are justified by her choices, the choice is merely how you want to negotiate your own subjugation. Whether it’s the option of living life as a withered shell addicted to dreams of possibility or as a starving, dirty refugee in the bowels of the world, your options aren’t glorious. As long as the Matrix exists, you have to live with its power over you.

And that’s a lie.

Oh it may be true for individuals. It may be true for Neo. But one day, the Matrix crumbles. One day, the machines fail. It may not be forever. It may not be soon. But all things end. As Ursula Le Guin said so memorably:

Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.

Those who hold power would like for you to believe that there are only two options: to submit, and to be ostracized. But we can change the options on the table. Indeed, change is the only constant. Until you believe that, there is no hope.

Once you believe that, there is no chance of failure.


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Three stories about dogs

I recently read “Mother, Watch Over Me,” over on Mythic Delirium’s website and I enjoyed it immensely. It made me realize that I have a special spot in my heart for dog stories, so here are three free stories sourced on the internet with main characters who are dogs. They are heartbreaking, as might be imagined, so enjoy!

Mothers, Watch Over Me – Maria Haskins

“Even in the dream, Maya knows her pup is dying.”

A dog who weaves baskets and a race against time across a post-apocalyptic landscape. This story is hopeful and tragic all at once.

Sun Dogs – Brooke Bolander

Witness the final moments of Laika, the first dog in space. Be prepared to weep. This story is a bitter indictment of the cruelty of mankind and a loving epitaph for a brave soul.

“In the real world, the catch-men had taken everything. In dreams, they are fooled as easily as rabbits.”

This Chance Planet – Elizabeth Bear

I was early for my train. As I waited, my friend the ovcharka trotted up and sat down beside me. Her black-tipped, amber coat was shedding out in huge wooly chunks, leaving her sleek guard hairs lying close side by side. She looked up at me and dog-laughed, tongue lolling.

If you need something uplifting after that read, consider this lovely tale about a woman and an unlikely alliance. This, my friends, is how women become witches.

I hope you enjoy these three stories, because they’re some of my favorites! If you’re looking for more dog stories, I would recommend Kij Johnson’s “At the Mouth of the River of Bees” and the rest of that eponymous collection. It’s not free, but it’s worth the download.

Until next week!


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The Lady Astronaut and an expert class in writing

Friends, I have just finished The Calculating Stars, and it blew me away. I would compare this book most closely in voice and style to A Natural History of Dragons, but with a depth of urgency that, for all my love of Brennan’s work, exceeds that series. Buckle up, my friends. This is going to be a long ride.

[Spoilers for The Lady Astronaut of Mars and for The Calculating Stars]

Continue reading “The Lady Astronaut and an expert class in writing”

And now we return to your regularly scheduled programming

Friends, I am so glad to be home! Metaphorically, I mean. I missed my blog a lot.

Housekeeping! If you missed my blog tour, here are all the stops along the way. Take a moment to get caught up, if you care to. My favorite stop was the last one, which involved a playlist! Plus a really long, in depth interview that answers all of your Creation Saga questions.

And of course, you can now buy the first two volumes of the Creation Saga. I’ll be diving into the third and last volume soon, but I’m taking a break to explore other projects. It’s outlined, so the roadmap is there. But I realized once I finished Daughter of Madness and got it out in the world that I was burnt like crispy toast. I needed a break to regroup. So minus the blog tour and edits to APM, I haven’t been writing much for the months of June and July except when I get inspiration. Got to let the well fill back up, as it were.

Speaking of APM, that goes on submission in the next couple of weeks. Traditionally published processes are a little less transparent for various reasons, so I probably won’t mention it on here again for a while, but it is something taking up some of my brain space.

So yeah, break is a relative word that just means I slowed down for the summer, as we all like to do. What have I been doing instead? Well, I managed some river time recently, I have accrued my fair share of mosquito bites (15 at last count), I actually cooked dinner once, and I’ve been gardening a lot. Also continuing aerial silks and gym classes. So I’m staying busy with hobbies that help me relax and replenish for the first time in….oh, I guess a year. It has been a really rough year for me in a lot of ways which I won’t go into on this blog, and this is the first time I have felt like I could breathe for a long time. There are still things I would like to fix and change, and still projects to be working on, but I’m taking some time to be still.

That also means I get time to read! Just the past few weeks I’ve finished TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, IRON AND MAGIC, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, and some other fun reads. I also slammed through VIOLET EVERGARDEN on Netflix, to my tear ducts’ dismay. I have not sobbed so hard and so consistently for a while. It was like YOUR LIE IN APRIL with guns, and the animation was excellent.

With that, I hope you enjoy a lovely river picture. Until next week!


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Hey folks! It’s the last stop on the tour and the last day to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of both books in The Creation Saga!

This interview with BooksChatter was crazy fun. Bonus features include a YouTube playlist and some cute cat photos. Enjoy, and tune back in Friday since we’ll be resuming regular posts over here.


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First, we have a post on writing and when to push through a draft for all of you who follow for writing advice. Check that out over on Writers and Authors.

Next we have an interview over on T’s Stuff where I talk about why Daughter of Madness is awesome and once more admonish readers to leave a review. So, you know, maybe take a moment to leave a review?

Hope you enjoy!


Want to support this blog? Buy books, make a Paypal donation, or subscribe to my Patreon.

We took a break from the blog tour this week for the holiday, but I wanted to take a minute to remind everyone that the final blog stop is coming up and that means our giveaway for two signed books is coming to a close. You have ten days to get on that, and you can enter at any tour stop.

In other giveaway news, my Instafreebie excerpt is part of a Group Giveaway featuring women kicking ass, so you should take a minute to check that out.

Last note: the blog resumes its regular posting schedule on Friday, July 20th. So look forward to some fun articles at that time.

Catch you on the flip side!


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