FAQ Friday: Joel

Question mark in a blue bubble. Repeating icon for the frequently asked questions in the Daughters of Zeus series a young adult greek mythology retelling by Kaitlin Bevis

So this is a spoilerific post. If you haven’t read Daughter of Earth and Sky, continue at your own risk.

I’ve seen several emails from readers praising all things Hades and wondering why she was ever remotely tempted by Joel. The answer to this is actually fairly messed up.

Charm.

Well applied charm works by rationalizing the foreign thoughts and impulses into something the victim wants to do. Several times during Daughter of Earth and Sky Persephone had thought patterns like this.

“I could do my run at three instead,” he suggested. “We could run together.”

“Do you have time for that? With college about to start and everything?” I didn’t want to sound too reluctant, but I really enjoyed the solitude my runs provided.

“For you, I’ll make time.” He gave me an easy grin. “Just not right now. I should head out. Do you need help getting to your car? Or can you drive? I could take you home . . . ”

I laughed at his hesitation. I lived a bit outside of town, and gas wasn’t cheap. “I’m fine. I’m meeting someone later, so I should stick around.”

“Great.” He sounded relieved. He met my eyes. “Are we on for tomorrow?”

“Sure!” I needed to practice being human before school started, and Joel was about as normal as a human could get.

And just like that she’s running with Joel daily. Here’s another example.

 

“Sorry, Joel.” I brushed the grass off my legs. “I should probably be going.”

He caught my eye. “Aw come on, how long does it take to drink a smoothie?”

I found myself smiling. “Fine.”

And here’s another example.

I felt a pang of guilt flash through me when I saw Joel waiting for me at the bridge. Melissa was right. I was leading him on. I wasn’t sure how it had happened. We’d progressed from our daily jog, to a daily jog and smoothie. Then to a daily jog, smoothie, and occasional dinner. Now it was a daily jog, smoothie, occasional dinner, and occasional movie. We weren’t going out, and I had no interest in dating anyone other than Hades, but every time Joel suggested something and looked at me with those big blue eyes, I found myself agreeing. It was just so easy to be normal around him. For those short bits of time, I could forget about Hades and Thanatos and the Underworld.

“I gotta say, I liked your other outfit better.” Joel motioned to my Disney princess running shirt and pink shorts.

I laughed nervously. I hadn’t switched into different running clothes because Hades had made that comment, but because the way Joel looked at me sometimes made me want to wear a shapeless sweat suit. But this was Georgia. Sweating to death was a distinct possibility.

Joel grinned at me, and I forgot all about that. He was too nice to lead on. I needed to end this.

“You ready?” Joel asked, eyes searching mine.

“Yup!” We could talk after the run.

I ran faster than I ever had, beating Joel and my goal. I collapsed on the grass when I finished my third mile, grinning like an idiot.

“You’re in a good mood,” he noted.

I pushed myself up on my hands. “Hanging out with Aphrodite, running with you, it’s weird, but . . . ” I struggled to explain it. “I feel like I get to be me again, for just a few minutes. It’s really nice.”

“Who else have you been?” He sat beside me, eyes lingering appreciatively on my legs. He caught my reproachful look and gave me an impish smile. “You can tell me anything you know. I won’t tell anyone.”

And suddenly I wanted to tell him. Not everything, but Joel was so easy to talk to, I bet he’d understand what I was going through better than most of the gods.

And one more…

He met my eyes, leaned closer, and I knew he was going to kiss me. I thought of stopping him. I shouldn’t have led him on this long. But . . .

I let him kiss me, releasing him from the charm that would compel him to forget this conversation. His lips on mine were warm and eager. Completely different from a kiss from Hades. Hades was always fighting a battle with himself, trying to hold back. Joel had no such reservations.

My stomach turned at the thought of Hades, and I pushed Joel away. This was wrong. I didn’t want to do this. Why was I doing this? I knew it was just kissing, but I didn’t want to kiss anyone else. I just wanted Hades.

“What’s wrong?” Joel’s bright blue eyes searched my face.

I stared at him wondering that myself. What was wrong? Joel was a perfectly nice guy, and I liked him before. 

See. Aside from a passing mention in the first book, Persephone didn’t willingly give Joel the time of day a single time during the entire book. He spent the entire book slowly forcing her trust, forcing a relationship, and working with Thanatos and Aphrodite to isolate her from everyone else she could turn to. It’s pretty messed up.

 

FAQ Friday: Why Joel?

Question mark in a blue bubble. Repeating icon for the frequently asked questions in the Daughters of Zeus series a young adult greek mythology retelling by Kaitlin Bevis

A reader asked why Persephone would have ever bothered with Joel when she had Hades. 

Spoilers ahead.

She was charmed. If you go back and read Daughter of Earth and Sky a second time, keeping an eye out for charm, you’ll notice Persephone’s thoughts shift every time she meets either Joel’s or Aphrodite’s eyes. It’s subtle, but well-crafted charm is supposed to feel like it’s your idea. The problem is, up until this book, we don’t see charm applied with expertise. We see charm used through brute force, which works but is obvious, even to the person being charmed. Zeus and Aphrodite are good at charm.

Here’s an example:

“I could do my run at three instead,” he (Joel) suggested. “We could run together.”

“Do you have time for that? With college about to start and everything?” I didn’t want to sound too reluctant, but I really enjoyed the solitude my runs provided.

“For you, I’ll make time.” He gave me an easy grin. “Just not right now. I should head out. Do you need help getting to your car? Or can you drive? I could take you home . . . ”

I laughed at his hesitation. I lived a bit outside of town, and gas wasn’t cheap. “I’m fine. I’m meeting someone later, so I should stick around.”

“Great.” He sounded relieved. He met my eyes. “Are we on for tomorrow?”

“Sure!” I needed to practice being human before school started, and Joel was about as normal as a human could get.

See how she shifts from not wanting to give up her private runs to actively looking forward to running with him? That’s how charm is supposed to work. And that’s why “Joel” stood a chance. Mind control.

For Real Friday: Manipulation

“You think you changed?” Poseidon laughed, and moved toward me, the filtered lights making the sea god look like he was moving in stop motion. “Why? Because you rebelled against Zeus?”

“I was created to be loyal to him,” I pointed out. “So…yeah. I’d say I’ve got some experience with change.”

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“No, he created you to have to be obedient to him.”

I tilted my head, not sure what he was getting at with the distinction and he laughed again.

“It never occurred to you to wonder why he didn’t bother to make you want to obey?” Smug, self-satisfaction permeated the sea god’s voice.

Where was Poseidon going with this? “Because he was a heartless bastard that didn’t care what I wanted? Why bother with the extra effort of–“

“What? Ensuring you wouldn’t spend every waking moment of your life trying to find a way around how he’d made you? You think that would be more work?” He smirked and shook his head as though astounded by my stupidity. “He gave you a personality, Aphrodite. He didn’t even have to bother with that. You were disposable to him; he could have made you an empty shell. Do you actually think the personality that you got was an accident?”

“I–” I broke off, drawing back. I hadn’t thought of that. “What?” I shook my head, trying to dispel the horrible suspicion forming there. “Stop it.”

“He liked a challenge.” The colored strobe lights glittered against Poseidon’s teeth. “Even when he had a sure thing. Unquestioning compliance would have bored Zeus, and you–“

“Stop!” I stepped away from Poseidon, back coming up against the shield, but he bridged the distance, his words filling in blanks I didn’t want filled.

Poseidon gripped my arm so hard I saw stars. “You’re nothing but Zeus’ plaything. You haven’t changed, Aphrodite.” He gave me a rough shake and I cried out in pain. “You did exactly what you were designed to do. He just never anticipated losing, and, don’t flatter yourself, you had nothing to do with that, either. He lost because he didn’t see Demeter’s sacrifice coming.”

“I said stop it!” I tried to pull my arm free, my shriek surprising even me. It wasn’t until clarity dawned in Poseidon’s expression that I realized how befuddled he’d looked before. He let me go so fast I stumbled into the shield that surrounded us. “Aphrodite, I’m–“

“Don’t!” I backpedaled to the side and away from him in a futile attempt find a weak spot in his shield, my breath coming in sharp gasps. “You’re–” I tried to say ‘wrong,’ but the word wouldn’t form. No, no! I wouldn’t believe him! I tried again. “Everything you just said is– You’re just–“

Poseidon lowered the shield and I fell backward, crashing to the floor. “That wasn’t about you. I–“

“You’re scum!” I scrambled to my feet, cradling my arm. The people near me stopped dancing. “Persephone was right about you. You’re nothing but slime.” I turned and stumbled out of the club, shoving past people until I could break into a run. When I reached the door to my suite, I stopped, realizing I didn’t have a key.

“Come on!” I slammed against the door over and over again. He was wrong. Poseidon was wrong; there was nothing more to it. He didn’t know what he was talking about. He’d never been in my head. He didn’t know what it was like day in and day out fighting every instinct Zeus had given me.

But I was letting Zeus define me. I let the things he’d done control my reactions. He pushed left so I moved right. In the end, everything I did still led back to him.

“No!”

“Aphrodite?” A hand touched my shoulder.

I jumped with a shriek, backing into the door with enough force to hurt, hand poised on the knob like I had any prayer of opening it. When I registered Adonis standing there, I went limp against the door, hand to my chest, struggling to draw breath into my lungs. “Don’t do that.”

“Are you okay?” Adonis’ gaze latched on to my arm, which was fast turning into a mottled purple mess, and he hissed. “Did Poseidon do that? Why isn’t it healing?”

“I can’t–” I gasped again. “I can’t breathe.”

“Here.” Adonis unlocked the door and reached for me, but I jerked away from him.

“Don’t!” I stumbled into the room. “Oh gods, he’s right,” I realized, voice breaking. I stepped out of my shoes, moving on autopilot into dark the room, stopping when I reached the half-wall that separated the kitchen and dining room. “He’s absolutely right. He could have made me love him.”

“What? Aphrodite, what happened back there? What did Poseidon do?” Adonis followed me, stopping just short of the kitchen wall. “Hang on.” He flipped a switch and light flooded the suite. “Did he–“

“Zeus could have made me love him.” The flat of my hands pressed against the countertop. I stood hunched over, elbows locked, hair falling in my face as I stared down at the matte, white surface breathing hard. “He could have just made me.”

“That would have been horrible.” The confusion in Adonis’ voice would have been comic under any different circumstances. “But I don’t see what–“

“I could have been happy.” A sob worked its way up my throat.

~@~

Manipulation plays a pretty big part in the Persephone trilogy. The most overt example is charm, but its there in other ways. Demeter doesn’t have charm and can’t even lie, yet she still manipulates Persephone into thinking she’s heard one fact over another.

Charm, mind-control, and the like have been in fiction for as long as we’ve been telling stories, and as I’ve said so many times before, to learn a societies fears, read their fiction. Mind control is a pretty interesting case of this though because on the one hand we’re afraid of it and on the other hand there’s this air of inevitability behind it. Manipulation is a part of life. We like to call it socialization even. It’s not always a bad thing. If humans didn’t react to things in the predictable ways they did, culture and society wouldn’t exist.

Because it’s sometimes benevolent, you might not think of it as mind control, but it fits every aspect of what we’ve created in fiction. Here’s a tongue in cheek article that goes into it more than I particularly want to, but in summary….

We’re socialized from a very young age into accepting certain rules and standards as right and wrong. I’m not just talking about morals, if someone looks into your eyes in passing for more than five seconds, your social response is to be creeped the frick out. That’s not an instinct you’re born with. We’ve been socialized to react that way.

On the darker side, politicians play on emotions to gain your vote. Stories, real and otherwise, are framed in such a way that they control how you sympathize with the people within them. Language is power and make no mistake it is deftly wielded. I mean, market research exists. The purpose of that is solely to determine how to best manipulate people into wanting a product or to keep watching a show or to feel a certain way toward a certain thing. It is so well known that we play on peoples emotions and manipulate their thinking that no one really thinks about it, its a given.

So what makes manipulation and mind control so much more frightening in fiction? Personalization. Unless you’re talking overt mind-slaves like POD people, large scale mind control in fiction just doesn’t have the same kick to it as that creepy guy behind the secure door in the prison who somehow talks people into blowing their own brains out just by talking to them. Knowing the Master hypnotized everyone into voting for Saxon is somehow not as terrifying as Ella, a girl who *has* to follow orders being ordered to be happy (not act happy, BE happy).  There’s something sinister about the personalization of manipulation. That’s why gas-lighting someone is pretty universally considered a reprehensible thing, but the existence of commercials…not so much.

What do you think makes mind control scary and why is it different than the subtle and not so subtle ways we’re already controlled?

Way Back Wednesday: Mind Control

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Charm, compulsion or some variation of mind control, has been around since the days of bards. The list of shows or books or movies that used mind control as a plot device when I was growing up are endless. My version of charm could literally have been inspired by any show ever. It’s that huge of a plot device in modern culture, and for good reason. It’s terrifying. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you want to know what a society fears, look at their stories. We don’t like losing control. We don’t like being made to do something. And deep down, we’re a little afraid that we might not realize we’re being manipulated into doing something that goes against our best interests.

Aladdin

The earliest memory I have of mind manipulation as a plot device is Aladdin. In retrospect, Jafar’s ability to hypnotize people didn’t bother me nearly enough as a child. But I guess it helps that he had some pretty severe limits. It’s heavily implied his powers only work on the weak willed as we never see Aladdin or Jasmine controlled in the way the Sultan was. And the Sultan could break free if something was shocking enough.

Vampire Diaries

The books, not the series. It’s worth noting the series’ way of portraying compulsion with the pupils widening and such happened well after Persephone was written. Not suggesting they copied me, like I said, mind control is a pretty standard trope and even the eyes widening is fairly common place, just pointing out that I didn’t lift charm that overtly. The book version of compulsion was subtler, but it was there and it was pretty cool, though like Jafar, there were some hefty limits so it wasn’t as scary as it could have been.

Star Wars

These are not the droids you’re looking for.

Ella Enchanted

The book, not the movie which should have been named something else with a tagline that proclaimed it was inspired by the novel Ella Enchanted, not that it was in any way, shape, or form, a film version of the book because the book and the movie had nothing in common with the book except the name and even thinking about the movie gets me so angry, which is a shame because if the movie had been named something else, I’d probably love it. *deep breath* Sorry for the run-on. But good lord, that movie…

Anyway, the Ogres in Ella Enchanted had hypnotic voices and could literally convince their food (people) to cook themselves.

There are more exampled. Hundreds upon thousands of them. What ways have you seen charm used in popular culture?