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Today’s guest is io9.com editor-in-chief and award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders. Her recently released fantasy/science fiction novel All the Birds in the Sky has been garnering fantastic reviews, and I’m looking forward to reading it myself—especially after being completely enchanted by what I did read when I took a peek at the first chapter! She’s also written the Lambda Literary Award-winning fiction novel The Choir Boy and numerous short stories, including the compelling Hugo Award-winning novelette “Six Months, Three Days” (which can be read online!).

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders

Yoda Was Wrong: Anger Leads to EVERYTHING GOOD
By Charlie Jane Anders


Yoda is my homie and he’s usually right about almost everything. I mean, he made some mistakes in the prequels and stuff, and he clearly has some major blindspots. The Jedi were more or less dismantled on his watch, going from a force to be reckoned with to two old guys, one of whom was a guy who had the cunning notion of disguising himself by changing his first name to “Ben.” Where was I? Oh yeah, Yoda—generally right about stuff, mostly.

But there’s one thing I especially disagree with, among Yoda’s teachings. And that’s when Yoda says that fear leads to anger and anger leads to hate and hate leads to the Dark Side—like there’s just one glide path of emotion. Like, fear can’t occasionally just lead to crushing up a xanax and sprinkling it on a gingerbread man, and then watching Bridezillas reruns until you pass out.

And as an author of speculative fiction, who is constantly groping towards emotional truth and story-telling inspiration, anger leads to everything good. If there’s a single emotion that can bring as much juicy goodness as anger, I don’t know what it is.

Dex-Starr knows what time it is.

The main benefits of anger are in story creation, character development, worldbuilding. But really, there are so many benefits, and we could be here all day listing them.

Like take story creation—the most interesting story ideas often start off with being pissed off about something. Like Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes, who was pissed about getting a big tax audit and ended up writing “The Sunmakers,” a whole story set in the future on Pluto, where people are literally taxed to death.

It’s kind of a cliche to say that the best comedy comes out of anger, but it’s totally true nonetheless. Just imagine if Yoda had said, “anger leads to hilarious stand-up.”

But then there’s the role of anger in creating memorable characters. A character who feels passionate about things is often way more interesting than someone who is totally mellow and lets everything slide. A hero (or villain) who is pissed off, and wants to do something about it, is almost always a recipe for an interesting time. And when you know what makes your hero angry, you also know what she loves and wants to protect, and what she really wants. Getting a handle on that anger is the first step towards opening up all the other emotions, from tenderness to sadness.

And then there’s worldbuilding. Any world with deep roots will have injustice and mistreatment in its past. You don’t build a great towering society without screwing someone over—usually, lots of people, in fact. Find out who’s angry at your fictional society, and you’re halfway to figuring out how things really work, and how they got that way.

You can fake all sorts of things in your writing. Handwavium is the most valuable substance in the universe. But you can’t fake passion—you have to make it real, on the page, and infuse your story and your characters with it, no matter what. You can’t count on joy, or sunshine and light, or kindness. But anger will always be your best friend.

Suck it, Yoda.

Charlie Jane Anders
Photo Credit: Tristan Crane
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS is the editor-in-chief of io9.com, the extraordinarily popular Gawker Media site devoted to science fiction and fantasy. Her debut novel, the mainstream Choir Boy, won the 2006 Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Edmund White Award. Her Tor.com story “Six Months, Three Days” won the 2013 Hugo Award and was subsequently picked up for development into a NBC television series. She has also had fiction published by McSweeney’s, Lightspeed, and ZYZZYVA. Her journalism has appeared in Salon, the Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, and many other outlets.