Not a Sly Dog

IMPORTANT PREFACE TO POSTS HERE – Examine your own internalised misogyny and what is considered truly “fair” regardless of what’s between your legs, and how women and men get actual equal treatment. Also, it’ll stop you getting yelled at in the comments by an angry PMR. No one else has seemed to have liked it so far, and I doubt you want me to wear an avatar mocking and jeering at you. Felipe’s crimes must not be overlooked. On another note – Sookie’s suitor – the best of both worlds. I use puffy because it’s a remnant of my kids’ toddler speak. I consider speech artefacts to be part of my identity. Inspired by elbly.

I wanted to do a post about Sam, because I think he’s a big part of Sookie’s life, and obviously, she used the cluviel dor to save him. I’m also going to deal with Sam after Deadlocked because If I Had a Hammer was written after the latest book. So this gives us good perspective on Sam, and what’s happened with Sam. Now we know of course, why Sookie didn’t mention Eric in IHAH – he’s off, possibly canoodling with Freyda, and being a dick. Sookie doesn’t want to talk about vampire shit on her days off. And lest that this story is taken as indication that Eric is out for good because Sookie’s with Sam, well, riddle me this – would Eric ever be known to knock down a wall to extend a baby room? I’m betting not, particularly since he couldn’t give a shit if they all live or die, barring Sookie.

Now, one of the ideas floated is that because Sookie used the cluviel dor to save Sam, that means that she loves him. And so she does.

I have a funny story about that actually. My eldest son was trying to catch me with a moral dilemma just a couple of days ago. He does this to troll me – hoping I’ll give an answer I’m sensitive about, and he can wail like an overdramatic teenager that I don’t love him or something similar. He asked me if he was going to die, and my husband was going to die, who would I choose? Quick as a wink and without thought I said “You”. He was all “Oh my God! I am telling Dad! He’ll divorce you” and I was unfazed. I explained to him that if he asked his father, he’d get the same answer. He got the same answer from his father of course. There was much chagrin in the eldest Minty that I wouldn’t choose my husband over him. Although I did tell my husband that if he chose to save his horrible mother over me, it was time for a motherfuckin’ divorce…I’m still married. 😀

I should tell you that there is no reason why you should believe I named my son Oedipus. Because I would choose to save him does not mean I’m waiting for the day for him to knock his father off so that we can bone. It just means I’ve decided what is more important in my wants hierarchy. Who I sleep with is separate to who I put at the top of those I think it’s important to keep around in my life. It may shock you to hear that I love them both, but in different ways. Or maybe you were only reading Deadlocked for juicy fairy incest porn. Then…well…I’m sorry for you in more ways than one.

Sam is Sookie’s best friend, so what you think that means she feels nothing and is totally ambivalent on the idea that he’s going to die? That’s not the way it works. Sookie has done her fair share of saving people from imminent death – including Pam. She has yet to bone Pam or run off into the sunset with her – and I would totally be on board with a Pam love affair.

As it happens, the cluviel dor wasn’t wrapped up so tightly into “only the one you truly love” – Mr. Cataliades tells us it can be used for a lot of things – including yourself:

“You’ll need it if you’re attacked. And you will be attacked,” Mr. Cataliades said,
matter-of-factly. “You can use it for yourself, you know;
loving yourself is a legitimate trigger of its magic.

Deadlocked, p. 396

So unless you think Mr. Cataliades was aiming for Sookie to end up as a forever-alone masturbating fiend, then really, this is giving the cluviel dor too much weight on which love it’s used for. It’s not some secret indicator. I mean – shit – I didn’t want Sam to die, but it’s not going to mean I leave my husband for some pages. Sookie thought of using it for Miriam too – out of her love for Pam – and again, no Pam/Sookie love affair.

I don’t really feel like reiterating how many times Sookie has called Sam her “best friend”. It doesn’t matter how often it’s written on the page. No one fucking reads it. Not once did Sookie indicate that she has sexy feelings about Sam, and she kept calling him her best friend in her head and to his face. To anyone who asked about him. I just can’t be bothered to fight the fight for this – you can’t read, sorry for you. For those of you who don’t have the short story, further reiteration of friendship:

I wouldn’t do this for anyone but her, Sam thought, feeling ashamed that he was dragging his feet.
I could only be grateful I had such a friend.

If I Had a Hammer, Home Improvement, p. 42

That sure does make a whole lot less romance in context. Not doing it for anyone other than the woman who saved you from being dead doesn’t sound like unrequited love to me – just genuine gratitude for not being dead. If someone saved me from death, I’d be grateful too, and go above and beyond for them.

Sam also references Sookie’s interest of the bar too in this short story. I know that it probably doesn’t mean very much to other people, because Merlotte’s bar is seen as substandard – as is most of the stuff Sookie’s attached to, as opposed to tacky bars Eric loves. And that’s despite the fact that she’s his wife, and he hasn’t signed over half his ownership of the bar to her. But considering in the last book:

“Maybe you should let me go. I can work somewhere else, you know.”
“Do you want to?”
I couldn’t read the expression on his face, but at least it wasn’t relief.
“No, of course not.”
“Then you have a job. We’re a package deal.”

Dead Reckoning, p. 147

That problem doesn’t exist any more. Sookie has a job and an income in the bar for life. It’s hers. She doesn’t have to worry that if she gets attacked too much, she’ll be fired. Yes, she may have loaned Sam the money for the beer delivery, but now she has job security. And before you pooh-pooh this as her ‘share’ of the bar, since she loaned him money – the beer for the month would have been about $1,000 at most (which is the total cash flow of this real bar) Sam really did give her something of worth. This Louisiana bar – the cheapest up for sale right now costs $170,000 (it doesn’t include the land in the sale) – so Sam gave her a gift worth $56,100 – a third of the bar. Sam didn’t just give her repayment – he gave her a hell of a gift – an investment and job security. Makes a driveway look cheap as hell, if we’re going to be snobs about who’s given her more. And it certainly cost Sookie less – Sam didn’t get her beaten and staked for that.  But I’m sure it’ll be seen for the mercenary and shallow view it is when it’s not Eric winning, right? 😉

Does that mean she should cleave to the guy who’s given her the most crap? Paying Sookie’s bills once isn’t like this sort of investment – which lasts a lifetime. Hell, if Sam sells, Sookie will take away a huge chunk of change. The truth is that Sam’s prospects haven’t increased in any of the books – way back before From Dead to Worse, he was the person she wanted to see before she died:

So Eric and I were the most expendable.
I thought about Sam, wished I could call him and talk to him for just a minute.
But I wouldn’t drag him into this for the world, because that would mean his
sure death. I closed my eyes and said good-bye to him.

From Dead to Worse, p. 176

I entered the fandom pre-Dead and Gone – and this was hailed way back then as something that was a supposed epiphany that Sookie loved Sam. Nothing has changed, and any tiny indicator Sookie isn’t focused solely on Eric, and it means that Bill, Quinn and Sam are usually at the heart of any conspiracy theories you can ponder, while Eric is sainted as the long suffering forgotten suitor (who lets other women masturbate on his lap on his wife’s bed) and Sam is seen as the inevitable winner.

The real problem is that Eric just hasn’t been such a good guy as he is built up to be by the fandom. It’s not that Sam’s prospects are getting better, it’s that Eric continues to be unimpressive. So unimpressive now that I’m slightly pleased to see new Bill and Quinn fic in fanfic – there’s no longer the option of endless Eric. Sam only looks to be an option because every single book Eric reminds readers he can sometimes be a royal dick. I never lose heart because I never forget it, and don’t make excuses for him. It’s why I think Eric is a lucky son of a bitch – through a lot of serendipity, he’s the one.

In terms of a realistic relationship between Sookie and Sam – I just don’t see it happening. Sookie worked for Sam for years before the books, and he watched her get shunned by the townsfolk and never endeavoured to make her feel like she wasn’t alone in the world – she wasn’t an anomalous freak. Sam actually helped to create her connection with vampires. When they came out on television, she knew she wasn’t a lone freak, and thus was excited to meet one. Sookie wasn’t silly enough to go to Fangtasia, because she’s not like Dawn and the other silly girls who go there, but she knew she wasn’t the only person with a little something extra different. Sam let her live through that because he was too secretive about himself. He missed his chance before the books ever started. If they’d been friends and she knew he could shift before it, then he might be in with a chance.

And that’s one of the other primary problems with Sam. He’s worse than Eric at withholding information about himself. He’s dating Jannalynn for three weeks, and only then does he get around to telling Sookie. And that’s not all:

According to Amelia’s brain, tonight was the night – not the night Tray
asked Amelia to marry him, but the night Tray came out.

<snip>
“Brace yourself. Tonight’s the night,” he said.
I was so proud he’d told me, and he’d echoed my own
thoughts so closely, I couldn’t help but smile.

Dead and Gone, pp. 5-6

This would be akin to Eric keeping say, the problem of Victor and his impending killing, a secret right up until Bubba starts singing. This is not Sam sharing his every detail of his life with her – hell, Sookie had an idea of Eric’s wife Aude before Dead and Gone, a woman who’s been dead for a thousand years – whereas Sam didn’t tell her he’d been in the army for four years until after the Vegas takeover. If you think Eric is secretive, he’s got nothing on Sam.

That’s not a slight against Sam – it’s not because shifters are shifty and have world domination plans. It’s because they’re not pack – they never really have constant shifting companions. Alcide and other Weres have a pack – they’re used to talking about what they do with other werewolves. Sam and his mother didn’t tell Sam’s brothers and sisters. So Sam would go missing once a month with his mother and father, and the other kids were left out of it. Shifters – and particularly Sam – keep it from absolutely everybody. He’s been trained from birth by a woman who kept it so secret that the man she slept with for years had no freaking clue. That’s commitment to secrecy.

And that’s the whole point – why they would never work. Sam keeps too many secrets, never confides in Sookie about anything much unless prompted. They’re not important secrets – they’re just almost every detail about his life until the information is necessary – secrecy is Sam’s way of life. The fact that for many years, he could hide and fit in with regular humans makes it all the more difficult:

He felt more comfortable with a strange human, like me, or another
shifter, than he did with regular women. When he’d told me that,
he’d meant it as a compliment, or maybe just as a simple
statement; but it had hurt me a little, though my abnormality
had been borne in on me since I was very young.

Club Dead, p. 68

Unlike Eric and Sookie, Sam can pick and choose when he shifts and when he doesn’t. Ordinarily, he can be an ordinary man, and never have to shift until he gets out into the woods. No one ever suspects he’s anything other than a man who keeps to himself. Eric and Sookie, Bill and Pam haven’t had that luxury. They’ve been shut out of things for being a little weird – the vampires for being walking corpses, and Sookie for responding to things people didn’t say. Sam may be getting an idea now of the persecution Sookie and the vampires have faced, but he hasn’t had a long term experience of it. Sookie has experienced that feeling all her life. Sam is so oblivious he doesn’t see that his statement hurt her.

As I’ve discussed before, you need some sort of understanding that Sookie’s telepathy is not a gift, or you’ll be a hurtful partner all your life. The fact that Sam says something so callous and hurts her – well, that’s no good. It’s not like something you do deliberately to hurt Sookie, that you’ll apologise for – it’s all about never realising that your ‘normalness’ is a privilege you can’t see past. Taking people accepting you for granted is a problem from the start because it’s something you just can’t see.

So what was all the point of killing Sam, and having Jannalynn be the bad guy in this book if not to break them up and have some Sookie/Sam loving going on? Well the answer is really simple – it’s got to do with Sam’s trajectory.

One of the things that always makes me overlook continuity errors in CH’s work is that characters don’t stay the same. Jason isn’t the same Jason from Dead Until Dark. He went from someone angry with Sookie over Gran’s death through to someone who valued Sookie due to his werepanther transformation, through to someone who married a silly girl, but then grieved for her and their baby when she was murdered, and has now found someone new. Jason has deepened, has more responsibility than ever, has more depth than ever. It’s relatively rare to find an author who keeps track of such a huge cast, and changes them over time. Alan Ball is currently failing at it miserably, because none of the characters are changing – they’re all on repeat. Considering how little time Jason actually gets on the page, this is a feat – and Jason isn’t the only one – there’s all manner of auxiliary characters who change and live out lives we only see a snippet of.

Sam’s choice of girlfriend has been something he’s been in heavy denial about for ages. While at the same time being extremely disapproving of Sookie’s choices in men. How often has Sam cautioned her to avoid Bill, Alcide, Quinn and Eric? How many lectures has he given Sookie on avoiding bad choices? All throughout the last couple of books, Sam has disapproved of Sookie’s choices, and Sookie has held her tongue. Like here:

“I wish that you would find happiness with someone else,” he said. “I know, I know. It’s none of my business. Eric does seem to really care about you, and you deserve that.”
<snip>
I thought Jannalynn was equally inappropriate for Sam.
<snip>
But I didn’t say anything.
Dead in the Family, p. 107

Now, finally, Sam will shut the fuck up. None of Sookie’s boyfriends have tried to kill him. All the lectures he’s been throwing out at Sookie for years on who she should date, and Sam didn’t make any better choices that lead to wonderful outcomes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Sam, but his lectures were getting to be a bit much. It’s one thing to say your peace and have done with it, and another thing to go on and on and on every single time the subject is brought up.

I also think that he’ll have to assess what sort of woman he wants to date. Whether now that he’s out of the closet, he’ll still be trying for the nice guy image while keeping his wild side under wraps. I think dying, and coming back to life will give Sam a perspective on what’s really important. In If I Had a Hammer, Sam’s into Sookie’s friends, he doesn’t seem to be dating. It’s possible that he’ll take his mother up on the option of that pure shifter girl dating idea. Werewolves are a plain bad idea, particularly female werewolves who seem to get a chip on their shoulder about not being able to zoom up the ranks due to boobs.

I have the small hope too that Sam will learn to either trust Sookie’s decisions, or shut the fuck up about them. For all his lectures, it was him who screwed up. And I also think that it serves to demonstrate – similar to the Claude situation – that once you enter supernatural politics, your friends and family are fair game. Jannalynn used her relationship with Sam to try to manipulate Sookie to get her to some spot in the woods and kill her. It’s not just dating putting you in peril – it’s having people you care about being messed with. Unless you shuck all relationships, then that’s going to happen.

So I think that the focus on shifting Sam’s character along was really important. More than any other time in the novel, Sam has the potential now not to treat Sookie like his surrogate daughter, whom he must lecture on an hourly basis, but rather a partner – someone a little bit more equal. Sookie finally has a say, a stake, and an interest that can’t be taken away in the business she wants to be in. I’ve made it clear before that Sookie will never be a telepath for hire, and it’s boring to mindless parrot whatever people say in their heads – and now Sookie never has to worry too much about her future. She’d be a complete numbskull to want to spend more time with table ruining vampire fools or helping arseholes like Victor make more money for their money pit.

Sam and Sookie remain best friends – through this book and into the next short story. There’s not a hint of any other outcome, and really not every single plot line has to do with fucking romance between characters. Or potential romance between characters. For all of Sam’s ‘ordinariness’ he certainly doesn’t present as someone who can just slot in there as boyfriend at the last minute. Changing his outlook is all about creating someone who’s her best friend who won’t shut her down every five minutes when she discusses any man that isn’t him.

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