Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I was listening to an old Firefly Talk podcast, and the question of the week was, "What is your favorite moment between Simon and River?" Lots of people had written in, and some of the scenes mentioned actually brought tears to my eyes.

Brief background:
River was a brilliant child sent to an Alliance Academy where they did unknown experiments and enhancements on and to her. She's psychic and strange. Simon is her older brother, a brilliant surgeon who gave up everything to rescue her and go on the run from the Alliance.

Some of those favorite scenes:

River: "You came for me, and found me broken. You gave up everything you had."
Simon: "Meme. [Chinese for sister] Everything I have is right here."

River has displayed her psychic abilities and been called a witch, dragged away to be burned. After failing to reason with the townsfolk, Simon climbs up on the platform, wraps his arms around her, and says, "Light it."

Simon sitting over his newly rescued sister as she drifts off to sleep, his thumb slowly stroking her hand, the expression on his face full of love and pain.

(Simon's been shot, is weakening)
Simon: "I'm sorry. I hate to leave."
River (sobbing): "No. No, Simon. You take care of me. You've always taken care of me." (Gathers herself, calms, and turns to face the room where the deadly Reavers await them.) "My turn."

Regular readers know I am a Firefly/Serenity obsessive, and I love everything about the show. But I have to admit, nothing about it touches me as much as the relationship between Simon and River. And I can't figure out why.

It may be because of the depth of my feelings for my own brother. With us, the relationship is reversed, as I'm the oldest. And he's not as brilliant as River.

Okay, I'm not as brilliant as Simon, either.

He's also not damaged like River, and neither one of us has been tested. But I believe the depth of our love for each other would take us to the same place, if one or the other of us was that threatened. (Andy, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. :) )

My parents divorced when we were very young, which meant, despite the three-year age difference, that my brother was the strongest male influence in my life until I met my husband. I've always had a lot of admiration and respect for him, and he SAYS he has the same for me. Luckily, we live thousands of miles apart so I can't test the limits of it. But that might help explain why the brother/sister relationship is so much more compelling to me than any romantic relationship, even though I'm a romance writer!

That got me to thinking. I have, amazingly, not written many books that feature a strong brother/sister relationship. None of my published work even have brothers in them, I don't think. I have a book with a brother and sister whose relationship develops into a strong one, and the third book in that series, only partly written, will have some elements of that. One book I'm shopping around now has a heroine motivated by the death of her brother, but he's been gone a long time, so his influence is only historical.

Ah, but then there's my superhero book. I don't plot very far ahead when I write. I like to see where the story takes me, and my subconscious does a lot of the work. So I'm writing, and this character shows up, and I know he's going to be important to the heroine, but he seems very intensely interested in the heroine's best friend. And suddenly, out of the middle of nowhere, it hit me--he's the brother!

That's all I'll say. It was a wonderful moment, and in the car, thinking about writing a brother/sister worthy of the tears in my eyes over Simon's willingness to sacrifice, I realized this book will be really awesome to write. I've put it aside to catch up on other things, and I'm almost there.

So what am I doing here, for Pete's sake??????


Erica Orloff said...

Hi Natalie:
LOVE the Simon/River relationship. ADORE Serenity. And I usually hate sci fi (I know . . . gasp!) but it's all about the characters. And also all the Buddhist themes that creep in.

I nearly always, always have brother/sister relationships. The Roofer is all about Tom as the sacrifical lamb and it was the most gut-wrenching book to write. There is a scene in which he and Ava (the sister) go on the subway from Hell's Kitchen, criss-cross the city and go to Lincoln Center to see what normal people look like, almost like an anthropology experiment, because they KNOW their family is so utterly dysfunctional.

Yet those kind of bonds are irresistable to write about.


Natalie Damschroder said...

Yes, definitely all about the characters. :) I used to be more into SF than I am now, and I don't watch any other SF shows. It was the stuff that made it hard to market (as Joss-the-King says, it's a sci fi/western/thriller/paranormal/adventure/humor series) that made me love it so much.

It's probably too personal to ask, but do you have a brother/sister relationship that inspires you to write them into most of your books? Or did you always want one?

I didn't mention that I always wished I'd had a big brother, in a vague, "what if" kind of way.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Natalie:
I don't, alas. But there are a lot of complicated familial relationships. I am very close with my second (or he might be third--I can never understand those things) cousin, who is like my brother. He's one of my best friends and godfather to my son--was just visiting me for ten days. I have ANOTHER first cousin (male) who I grew up aspiring to be like--also close. He was very, very brilliant, political, etc. His father was murdered--and my father was there--during a barfight. Very long Hell's Kitchen story . . . they went to "defend" their name from someone trashtalking, and the guy pulled a knife and punctured his lung and he died on the sidewalk--with my father still fighting and not even realizing it happened. I think the fact that I still HAD my dad, and he didn't . . . eventually just sort of blew up in all our lives decades later and we're now estranged and I believe always will be. Granted he's now pushing 50, has a doctorate, I believe . . . but some things are just too much.

And while all that sounds awful, and is, you can see why I always say truth is stranger than fiction, and why complex familial relationaships . . . to me, they're like the elephant's graveyard of fiction. Joss W. clearly gets that it's compelling and not hollow when you have that to identify with.


Karmela Johnson said...

I've seen SERENITY but have yet to see the FIREFLY DVDs. Gotta get cracking on that. The scenes you describe are just wonderful.

I hope that when my son and daughter grow up (they're 5 & 3 right now respectively), they remain as close as they are right now.

And speaking of siblings, last week's TIME magazine just did a huge spread on siblings and their influence on our lives. It said that more than our parents, and even our peers, close-in-age siblings are truly the major influencers in our lives. Our relationship with them is what teaches us how to interact with friends and boyfriends/husbands.

Erica Orloff said...

That was a GREAT article! Loved about how it really determines how we settle conflicts.


Natalie Damschroder said...

Wow, Erica. No wonder you write such wonderful books. You have so much to draw on! Can't say I envy it, of course. What a horrible story about your uncle.

Karm, yes, you MUST watch Firefly. I command you. :)

I'm in the middle of that article now, and trying to figure out how to get my husband to read it. LOL

Typing Slave said...

I don't know what you're doing here, man. Same thing I am.

I have a great relationship with my sister, but not so much with my brother. I'd be more inclined to write sister books.

Is the brother a superhero too?

Natalie Damschroder said...

Not so far, but I don't know him very well yet. :)