Michaeline: Stakes

An artificial hand with gears inside

Stakes can be deceptive: the biggest things turn out to be little, and the little things become the most important. (Wellcome Images Via Wikimedia Commons)

(Pant, pant) Sorry, I’m late. I was up very late last night, and early this morning, too, with a trilogy of first-person mysteries. I’m going to talk about some general spoilers, so I won’t name the series, but if you’ve read it, you may recognize the main character.

But first, stakes. In fantasy and space opera, the stakes are often of the highest category: the whole world is in danger, and only one person can save it. Or possibly the fate of the universe.

But these super-huge stakes can feel impersonal. We should care, yes, of course, there’s no arguing with that. But let’s face it, we don’t KNOW those other people in the world, and our caring can have a vague, fuzzy quality of, “yes, yes, on the whole, it would be nice if we could all get along and people weren’t dying over there – but there’s nothing *I* can do about it. And I’m glad Superhero X is saving the day, but maybe I’ll just close the book for now and google ‘what’s for dinner.’”

More powerful stakes have faces and the sort of eternal connection to the hero that most of us can relate to – a sibling, a spouse, a pet.

Perhaps the most powerful stakes of all are about ourselves. Continue reading