This is for the November 2012 Carnival of Aces. Here is the introduction.
One reaction some people have to asexuality is that, if we don’t experience sexual attraction, then our lives must lack passion and meaning. I like Elizabeth’s post about this.
Yet another reason I like asexual!Yang Guo is that the novel makes it clear that he doesn’t need sexual feelings to have a full life.
Obviously, there is that whole passionate romance with Xiaolongnü, but aside from that, Yang Guo would have a full and passionate life (even though he claims that wouldn’t want to live anymore if Xiaolongnü died).
First, his relationship with Xiaolongnü is not purely romantic. There is also the shifu/tuer relationship – Xiaolongnü was Yang Guo’s guardian for years. And even after the romance starts, the shifu/tuer relationship continues, at least in my reckoning.
Putting aside Xiaolongnü, Yang Guo still has a set of complicated and potent relationships with other people. There is Ouyang Feng, Hong Qigong, and Huang Yaoshi. Even though these are all older men who taught Yang Guo some martial arts, each relationship is different – Ouyang Feng accepts Yang Guo as an adopted son, in spite of the age difference Huang Yaoshi accepts him as an equal and close friend, and Hong Qigong … well, I don’t know how to describe it briefly, but all three of these relationships are very important to Yang Guo.
There is Yang Guo’s relationship with Huang Rong, and its evolution over the years, tied up with Huang Rong’s history with Yang Guo’s father.
And there is Guo Jing. This is actually the most intriguing relationship to me. It’s so complex, contradictory, frustrating … just like most intense relationships. Though Guo Jing is Yang Guo’s ‘uncle’ … I don’t think there is really a word in the English language which describes this relationship.
There is Lu Wushuang and Cheng Ying, who Yang Guo eventually accepts as his sisters.
There is Yang Guo’s father. Even though he died before Yang Guo was born – no, because he died before Yang Guo was born – Yang Guo is deeply attached to him, or how he imagines him, and his evolving ‘relationship’ with his father is an important part of how Yang Guo matures.
There is the giant eagle, who becomes Yang Guo’s best friend and spends more time with him than any other character (including Xiaolongnü). Notice that the title is The Giant Eagle and its Companion/Divine Eagle, Gallant Companion. That’s right – it is this relationship, not the romance, which is put into the title.
Heck, most novels which aren’t romances don’t grant their main characters so many rich and intense non-romantic relationships.
And there is martial arts. Yang Guo spends years and years honing his martial arts full-time – by ‘full-time’ I mean ‘at least 10 hours a day’. He spends 7 years by the ocean, having cut off most contact with other people, to practice sword-fighting. That is dedication. Eventually, he becomes the greatest sword-fighter in China. With that his life, he doesn’t need sexual feelings.
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The best word I can think of to describe Hong QiGong’s relationship with Yang Guo is ‘Inspirational’. The old nine-fingered beggar, by example, showed Yang Guo how to live with integrity; to be free, but responsible, to have fun and share fun with others, to do Good, but on your terms (rather than those of society).
In the first part of the story, Yang Guo mainly helps others out of a sense of loyalty towards those he sees as family. As he matures and suffers loss throughout the story, he grows to perform truly chivalrous deeds, deeds shaped by the model of a certain dog-beating, dragon-subduing, scorpion eating fellow….
That is a very good short description of their relationship.