Meet Betsy Dornbusch.
Betsy Dornbusch is the author of several fantasy short stories, novellas, and five novels, including the BOOKS OF THE SEVEN EYES trilogy and THE SILVER SCAR. She likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, and the Denver Broncos. Betsy and her family split their time between Boulder and Grand Lake, Colorado.
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The Guest Post
The Power of Mirrors
I cried during Wonder Woman.
I’m not really a movie person. Except Star Wars, medieval, and select superhero shows, I rarely watch films. I don’t get that feeling of connection from them, not in the way books reach me. I never anticipated watching middle-aged women warriors with grey hair and crows’ feet through my tears.
I like antique mirrors. Unlike regular doors and real windows, old mirrors are windows into the past. I wonder who looked in them. I wonder what they saw. I like looking at myself in the antique mirror over my dressing table. I think I look better reflected there than in any other mirror I own.
Indulge me a quick story. Some years ago I parked my car at the grocery store. A young guy was getting carts nearby. It was a pretty day and I had the windows down, blasting Oingo Boingo into the world.
Cart-Guy stared at me. “You’re listening to Oingo Boingo?”
I was surprised. Guys didn’t notice me much, unless I got in their way. “Sure. I really like them. Do you?”
“Yeah.” Cart-Guy gave me another once over, brows lifted. “Huh. Cool.”
And I waddled my thirty-four-year-old, nine-months-pregnant body into the store.
I write mirrors. In my trilogy Books of the Seven Eyes, a character is basically an actual mirror showing the health of the soul. Some see him as beautiful. Some curl their lip with distaste. Some see him differently depending on how they react to the horrible situations I put them in.
I was never a big Alien fan and I was too young to identify with Sarah Conner. But when I sat in Wonder Woman at the age of fifty and I saw those bad ass ladies appear on horseback, I realized I saw myself. I’d never seen characters on film like me as I am now, not since I was in high school or college. Somehow I’d slipped into invisibility: in the world and in stories and on film. And I was surprised when I did see myself. Do I really look that old?
I was becoming invisible to myself.
Of course we can recognize and identify with traits in characters who don’t look like us. But to ignore that it’s easier to identify with characters who resemble our age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion is like ignoring the power of active verbs. When you don’t see yourself in stories it’s easy to quit seeing yourself at all. Even when you’re right there in front of you.
In my latest book, The Silver Scar, the characters dream their way into a silver graveyard with silver sand that heals wounds.
If you pay attention, you can see the mirrors in a cemetery. Your reflection is engraved into every stone. Find a grave with your birthday. Then memorize the death day.
Do you think you will forget when that date passes next time?
The main two characters of The Silver Scar are gay men. One is a soldier. One is a criminal. They have violence and victimization in common, along with a budding love affair and matching silver scars from a blood pact.
It would have been easier to depict them as a man and a woman in a budding affair. With the book taking on religion and a crisis of faith, the last thing I thought it needed was gay characters. But thankfully, the story knew better. There aren’t enough gay men in commercial fiction. Most are destined to sit in side-character territory, or be cannon fodder. I don’t want gay people to look at themselves in the mirror and see cannon fodder.
Worse, I don’t want them to see nothing.
If I can forget to see myself as I am–me, with my whiteness and privilege and love affair of mirrors–think what people see in the mirror if they never see themselves in a story.
Seven billion souls live on our planet. Every single one of us has a reflection. We owe it to our art, to ourselves, to show as many of those reflections as possible.
Reflection is a right. It is everywhere, and it belongs to all of us.
My review for The Silver Scar coming soon!