An open letter to Nyxnissa so Dasheem

Dear Nyx*

Truly you are one of the most brutal women in fiction. No – scratch that – you are one of the most brutal people in fiction.

The fact that you are a woman has an impact, I guess, because for all the Ripleys and River Tams, seeing women kick butt is still a bit exceptional. And of course, you don’t just kick butt. You actively seek out mercenary jobs that are likely to involve very large amounts of death and gore. You may not always relish inflicting pain, but neither do you beat yourself up about it. I think this is one of the things that makes you seem quite so brutal. Other violent actors tend to fall into two categories: the mindless thug, usually a lackey; or the somewhat tragic hero, forced to violence by circumstances.** You fit neither mould. By no means a thug, if not exactly burdened by overthinking situations, you’re such as heck no lackey. And while it might be difficult for you to change your circumstances now, with all your skills being tied up in your bel dame training, you both chose that life originally and are making no attempt to change things anyway. Quite to the contrary – you’re working as hard as you can, or can be bothered, to get back in with bel dames, so you can continue on with your violent lifestyle legitimately rather than taking shadow jobs. You are good at this job (as witnessed by the fact that you’re still alive, fourteen or so years after being kicked out of the bel dames and still pursuing the mercenary scene), so why not keep doing it while it keeps doing it?

A psychologist or psychiatrist would no doubt have a field day analysing and investigating you. Upbringing? One of a litter born to a woman who made her living, as far as I can tell, bearing children for Nasheen – men for the ongoing war with Chenja, women to keep society still running. Not a whole lot of familial love going on there I imagine, although you do seem to have felt some affection for your siblings at various points. Work history? Joined the bel dames to be trained as a government assassin. Jobs including finding boys who don’t want to go to the front and making them go; stopping people who are trying to do nasty, nasty things with biological weapons, sometimes involving the bodies of dead soldiers. Plus assassinations when they’re required. Oh, and the odd black job on the side… like carrying illegal bug tech in your womb… I mean, What the hell, lady?? Then you’re kicked out and you go on the market as a freelancer. Sure, why not.

Plus, your planet relies on bug tech. That’s surely enough to send anyone over the edge… although obviously you’re used to it, so the idea of bugs as medicine and bugs as furniture-producers and bug juice as fuel isn’t strange to you in the least. But it’s sure strange to me and it’s one of the more off-putting sides of your story. That and the lots of death as people try to kill you and you kill them back.

And it must be said that you’re not just brutal in your work, you’re also brutal in your relationships. You don’t really seem to believe in friendship. Perhaps it’s just too annoying and too much of a demand on your energy. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that you have good working relationships – your crew in Infidel, Suha and Eshe, are fine and seem generally committed to you, but let’s be honest here – they’re not exactly a top quality crew. A kid and an addict? What does that say about you? And what happened to your crew from God’s War? Yeh, maybe it’s best not to talk about that. Maybe a bit too raw still, since they’re all gone a long, long way away from you, for a variety of reasons but all at least partly because you are dangerous and unpleasant to be around.

So… why then do I keep reading? Why am I so excited that Rapture has been published so I can maybe get some closure? Hmm, perhaps that’s exactly the reason. Perhaps I’m hoping for some redemption for you, although what that would look like I don’t know and now that I write that, actually perhaps redemption would be a betrayal of everything you’ve stood for. You sure can’t be sent off to pasture, to grow bugs or something. I can’t imagine there will be marriage or a steady partnership in your future, and definitely no babies. Restoration to the bel dames perhaps? Going on a killing spree and killing all of the bel dames? Now that would be interesting. Maybe you could be responsible for stopping the war with Chenja! – although that would leave you totally at a loss. Maybe that would be appropriate.

Perhaps you will die. That would make a brutal sort of sense.

I keep reading your stories because for all you’re brutal, you’re also magnetic. Your brutality is part of that magnetism – and I might have done you a disservice in describing you as brutal all the time, because it’s not like you go around randomly kicking puppies or cuffing children or belting your crew. You only use violence where it’s necessary… if sometimes you’re a bit enthusiastic. But you are also a good boss, or try to be; you’re loyal, even if sometimes that comes across (sorry) a bit brutally – especially when it comes to being patriotic. And you’re unpredictable, which is an entertaining trait in a character (it can be damn terrifying in a real friend, though).

So… thanks. Thanks for keeping on trying even when it’s really hard. Thanks for keeping on. And thanks, Kameron Hurley, for this amazing character. I can’t imagine she was easy to write, and I imagine she was also pretty hard to sell to a publisher – bug tech! irredeemably tough chick! – so thanks, too, Night Shade Books. You rock.

With respect

Alex

 

*Nyx is a character created by Kameron Hurley, featured in God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture.

** Yes, this is a generalisation. It’s my letter, go away.

One response

  1. […] the second of the Bel Dame Apocrypha novels, Infidel, I was unable to write a review as such, so I wrote an open letter to the main character, Nynissa so Dasheem, instead. And now the series has finished, and… well. It wasn’t an […]

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