I just finished reading Walking to Mercury. I found it harder than The Fifth Sacred Thing, because it’s closer to reality– Fifth Sacred Thing is in some respects a far more realistic utopian fantasy than most of them, but it’s still a utopian fantasy. I was able to appreciate that here was a vision of utopia that didn’t ignore the fact that not everybody is going to get along, and not everybody is going to have the same vision, while still maintaining an awareness that this was unlikely to ever come too far into my reality, and some parts (like the bees) were just plain fantasy.
Walking to Mercury isn’t like that. It’s real– it’s set in a time that really happened, nothing in it is particularly implausible (What about that bit where they imply Home Front’s terrorist attack was actually a false flag operation by the DOJ, you ask? Sadly, I don’t find that implausible in the slightest.), and the protest at the end seems to be based on something Starhawk actually lived through, since she’s written elsewhere about having protested nuclear wars. I found it very hard to cope with as a result, and it took me a few months of patiently working my way through a few chapters at a time, especially the beginning where the experience of being young and in a world that doesn’t fit is described in such detail.
Because it’s realistic, it leaves a stronger impression– and I’m more interested in that world than in the one described in Fifth Sacred Thing. I observed to my partner that the problem with reading Starhawk’s books is that it makes me want to have a vision, and got the response “Careful what you ask for, you may get it.” To which I answered “That would be why I call it a problem.” I’ve asked the gods for wisdom before, and usually I end up with the universe crashing down on my head. Because life experience is how one gains wisdom, and if you ask for something vague you’re likely to get it in the most life-altering possible way. And I’ve also been at conventions and listened to people who work closely with individual gods talk about the ways that makes their lives… uncomfortable. I think it’s best summed up in The Curse of Chalion, actually, which is a fantasy book, but a well-researched one: “You are the tool. You are not the work. Expect to be valued accordingly.”
So I do not have the kind of hubris it would take to sit before the altar and ask for a vision. But Walking to Mercury is still enough to make me want one– to want to see the world that cleanly, to have some vibration deep in my bones that this is what I am meant to be doing. Which renders it powerful writing.