Nemeses, Frenemies, and Kinda Creepy Social Workers: the Antagonists of Daily Life

When I have frustrations I can’t resolve, and don’t know what to do with, I put them into story. In story they can be fixed, or at least examined in a cathartic way. I suspect that’s true of many story-tellers.

The antagonists in Hoshi and the Red City Circuit are less epic evils and more the irritants of daily life, which somehow feel more epic when they are happening to us. Martin Ho, Hoshi’s ex-co-worker “nemesis,” is a composite of a number of co-workers I’ve had. I feel a little bad about that, because some of Martin’s antagonistic traits come from otherwise awesome people I really liked–but my guess is that if I were to appear in their books I, too, might be a bit of an antagonist. I do try to make it up to them by the end.

As far as Luzzie Vai, the best I can guess is that my love and need for antiheroes needed somewhere to go, and since Hoshi, despite her grit, is not an antihero, Luzzie sprang up as her equal and her opposite. I’ve had plenty of frenemies, people I don’t want to like because I don’t trust them, or they are simply awful, but I still have to deal with them. So I find something I can respect about them in order to accomplish what needs to be done–and make sure I’ve got a plan for when that knife lands in the small of my back.

Luzzie and Martin, like Hoshi, are Operators, and they represent choices about disability identity that don’t sit well with me. Luzzie encourages people to hide their disability, to avoid disclosure, which often comes at great cost in health and wellbeing. The drug he pedals is my fictional metaphor for “passing.” Martin is an elitist, the one who feels his difference makes him superior, and he should be given gifts for simply existing. His sense of entitlement is something few us can afford, and can harm our fight for civil rights.

Mai Chandra though–Mai is a direct consequence of my awful experiences with the vocational rehabilitation system in the US, including with an abusive rehabilitation counselor. Fiction can call out reality in ways that reality won’t allow, particularly from disempowered voices. I wish Mai didn’t exist. But she does; some antagonists of daily life can become life-threatening to those of us in vulnerable positions.

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