Friday, January 29, 2010

Why I am not angry at John Scalzi today

People keep sending me the link to John Scalzi's blog entry mentioning Joan of Arc, wondering how pissed I am, and whether I am going to say something to him: "Did you see? He called her crazy. Aren't you upset?"

I did see, as I'm a regular reader of Whatever. No, I'm not upset, and even if I were: Speaking of crazy, how does starting an internet slap fight with John Scalzi sound? Do you guys want me to get burned at the stake, too?

Let me explain. The following is the relevant text from the post:

"(Actually, if you’re going to give me a teenage hero, give me Joan of Arc. There’s an achiever for you: Kicks English tail and saves France, despite suffering from profound schizophrenia (Shaw argues that the voices were an expression of the “Evolutionary Appetite,” but in truth, there’s no reason they couldn’t be both). Thank God she wasn’t born in the 20th century; they would have medicated her ass into catatonia, and then the Germans would have been able to roll right over the French forces at the start of WWII! Hmmmmm.)"

The thing people seem to think I should be upset about is that rather than saying Joan's voices were from God, Scalzi writes that Joan suffered from profound schizophrenia. Here's the thing. When I am wearing my Catholic hat, I believe that Joan is a saint, one of God's best beloved, and hardest used. I believe in the divine origin of her voices, and that what she accomplished was nothing short of miraculous. When I am wearing my scholar hat, I believe that Joan's experience of her voices was that they were divine in origin, that she was an incredibly brave and articulate young woman, and that what she accomplished was nothing short of miraculous.

Had Scalzi been writing a paper for a course I taught, I would have evaluated his claim for the origin of her voices in the context of the evidence I am sure he would have provided, and made a marginal note about the peril inherent in attempting to diagnose anything at a distance of nearly 600 years and without direct access to the patient. However, he wasn't writing a scholarly article about the origin of Joan's voices, but rather making an incidental point where he used her as an example of a teenage hero, a characterization I have no problem with.

So, no. I am not pissed at John Scalzi today. In fact, Mr. Scalzi, if that "hmmmm" at the end of the text I quoted is the sound of a storyteller contemplating an idea and you are thinking of writing an alternate history Joan of Arc story, well, I'm part of the Clarion blob you met at WorldCon. I have one pro and one semi-pro short story sale. I've won awards for my academic writing, can read Middle French and Latin, and my dissertation opens with a chapter on Joan of Arc. I've read her trial transcripts enough times to be able to tell you all of the lines Shaw stole from the lady in question. If you want a research consultant, drop me a line.

Otherwise, thanks for calling her a hero. I agree.


  1. Oooh, that gave me pleasure-shivers.

  2. Kat, I think we have to get married. Not only do we share a name, and Arthuriana, and love of swords, but I adore Joan of Arc and she has been my hero since I was six. Come on, I live near, maybe, given that I'm already hitched. WHATEVER. IT'S DESTINY.

    --Cat Valente

  3. Cat - who am I to fight destiny? Utah, or wherever, here we come.