Originally I was going to end this chapter with Koruval’s realization that his children were alive, but eventually determined that we really needed a Coda not just on the old family dynamic of Tama, Zhiro, and Koruval, but the new family dynamic of Kali and Mizha.
I was listening to a radio special that commemorated the 10-year anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the radio show itself was one of the more depressing and infuriating pieces of content I’ve listened to in a while (I wish I could recommend it, because I love Buffy and both Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman are interviewed in the special, but when the interview questions themselves start from a negative place, we melancholy writers cannot help but take the answers to a point where life is not worth living and we’re all screwed) there was one comment that stood out to me. It was an observation that female characters are almost always isolated from other women. They have male friends, but very rarely female ones.
That made me think about how commonly women are portrayed in conflict with other women. Often if you do have two, it’s The Good One vs The Other Girl. Frequently one of them will the tough, kick-butt, takes what she wants Strong Female Character, and the other will be the innocent, passive, Pure Girl. If the tough chick is “the good one” she’ll be portrayed as hyper-independent and focused on Important Matters as a contrast to a weak, vapid, shallow girly-girl. If the Pure Girl is “the good one” she’ll be portrayed as being elevated by her pure goodness above the wicked and toxic manipulations of her merciless counter-part. Two options, and no “winning” choice.
From the first imaginings of these two characters, I wanted Mizha and Kali to be an exploration of contrasts in harmony. Kali is blunt, severe, focused, pragmatic, and would rather tackle a problem (literally) than talk about it. Mizha is tactful, compromising, a dreamer, and would prefer to pretend there is no problem, there never was a problem, and there never will be a problem. They are, essentially, the Strong Female Character and the Pure Girl, except rounded out to be real people with strengths and weaknesses. Even if those strengths and weaknesses are not readily apparent. Kali has a gentleness and a brittle vulnerability under her coarse presentation. Mizha has a resilience and cold will beneath her gentle demeanor. And rather than have these two personalities at each others throats, I wanted to explore how much they can benefit from each other. That not only can these two opposites get along, they can be friends and family. Everyone has ways they can grow. Sometimes it takes an opposite to learn what an alternative even looks like.