When I first started reading Swordspoint, I was entranced by two aspects – the individuals (Alec, Richard, Diane) and the world. I found them utterly compelling. In writing this episode, though, I realized that those individuals lived in networks of community, and I wanted to explore how those communities functioned.
Kaab, of course, has always placed an explicit importance on family and her people. But Tess is no less a product of her own society – her own family, their history, and her home in Riverside. She lives in an established web of friendships, alliances, and sometimes painful old history.
And my new character, Esha – on the surface, she might seem much like Kaab, an exotic, brightly-dressed sword-wielding woman. But when you get to know her a little better, you learn that she is actually very different. Many years older, for one, with a mature woman’s understanding of how her world works. For Esha the sword dance is primarily a meditative devotion; she’ll fight if she has to, but it’s not her first instinct, it’s a last resort. She’s also entirely cut off from her own family – Esha has seen her world burned to the ground, and has rebuilt it. Now she lives and works in the demimonde, the half-world, and the people she’s met there have created a web of community that she relies on. Where Kaab is a wildfire, sometimes running out of control, Esha spins in place, the still center of her world.
All of which makes it all the more fascinating to me when members of one society come up against members of another. I’ve always loved first contact stories, and this episode holds a lot of that resonance. People from different worlds come up against each other, and sparks fly – sometimes for the good, sometimes not.
Esha and Diane are both women of power, in their own way, and it seems natural to me that they might recognize and respect that in each other, the ways in which they’ve both had to maneuver for power and respect in communities that don’t easily grant that to many women. Kaab and Tess have their own assumptions, ideas shaped by the different worlds they’ve grown up in, and when those assumptions finally come crashing up against each other – well. And as for Kaab and Diane – we’ll just have to wait and see what happens there.
There are other aspects of this section that I’d love to discuss – my own experience as a mother (and with my own mother) informed my bringing Honora back into the story (though Ellen actually drafted most of that particular scene, since she writes the tension between Honora and Diane so delightfully). My partner is a mathematician, and I’ve spent many years in the company of mathematicians, so it was a sheer delight writing the interaction between Micah and Dr. Goodell.
And Rafe – oh, poor Rafe. I didn’t actually like him all that much in season 1, I admit – I thought he was arrogant and self-centered. But now that he’s had some of that arrogance knocked out of him, now that he’s grown up a little, I just hope he can find some happiness going forward. It’s not going to be easy, though. Despite his connections at the university, his friendships with Micah and Kaab, there’s a way in which Rafe feels very alone to me right now. And Diane would be the first to tell you that alone is a very dangerous place to be.
Look to your community – look to your allies, if you want to survive.