Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’
Reading Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon instead of Ecrites. I should probably start soon.
200. This is my 200th posting on this blog. I have a fairly decent web following and one hopes that all of you continue to be entertained by my random musings on all things literary and some things not. Happy 200 Blog!
I’ve been enjoying a fair bit of drama this past year: Ben Jonson, Ibsen, Stoppard, and largely thanks to Erin. She has helped renew my interest and love for these works of fiction. Based on her recommendations, Chekhov will be consumed these next few months.
The Steel Remains Richard Morgan
He primarily writes science fiction, a particularly freaky science fiction in which consciousness is transplanted in the near future through technology, rendering bodies and genetics a consumer item. This is his first forray into fantasy and I am eager for this old world sword and sorcery tale.
Philip Roth: Novels and Other Narratives 1986-1991
I read the first of Roth’s Zuckerman Bound Trilogy, “The Ghost Writer” early in the summer and I’ve been a fan of Roth ever since. He writes on the subject of writing and what it is to be an author in the most brilliant fashion. Figured since I have one Library of America collection from him, I might as well start in on the others. Only three more to go.
Spent a fair bit of money today, but sometimes you need to treat yourself to a world of fiction and today felt like such a day, especially after the lousy week I’ve been having. Getting over a serious cough/cold, a family death, and tons and tons of work. Ugh, life is harsh, but at least I have good friends and good books. Cheers.
Charles De Lint is a Canadian Science-Fiction/Fantasy author, Urban Fantasy is his primary genre to be more specific. I’ve been aware of his work for a number of years and I know many people that enjoy his work. Recently I picked up a few of his short story collections. De Lint sets the majority of his works in a ficionalized city that mirrors Ottawa, similiar street names, places, etc.
It’s hard to explain what his stories are like, but imagine if your fairy tale books started to step outside of their stories and enter our own world.
“The Newford Stories” an anthology of three of his short story collections all set in Newford. (Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and the Horn, & Moonlight and Vines) has already become an instant fantasy favorite of mine and I’ve only read the first two stories in the collection.
Let me share a bit of trippiness with you, my devoted blog readers. The first story centers around a young woman named Ellen Brady who has some anxiousness with her ability to see beings and things of another (faery, nether-esque) world. She refers to a short story collection that discusses the possibility of some people having the power of seeing into other realms and other beings from those places. The following takes place between a young girl and a wizard. (Keep in mind that these are characters in a short story that the Ellen references).
(Bramley Dapple, a Wizard/Professor talking to Jilly Coppercorn, former student and friend, about the existance of his servant, a beastly goblin named Goon who just happens to be serving them both tea.)
“So…anything we can imagine can exist?” she asked finally.
Bramley shook his head. “It’s not imagining. It’s knowing that it exists–without one smidgen of doubt.”
“Yes, but someone had to think him up for him to….” She hesitated as Goon’s scowl deepened.” That is…”
Bramley continued to shake his head. “There is some semblence of order to things,” he admitted, “For if the world was simply everyone’s different conceptual universe mixed up together, we’d have nothing but chaos. It all relies on will, you see–to observe the changes, at any rate. Or the differences. The anomalies. Like Goon–oh, do stop scowling,” he added to the goblin.
“The world as we have it,” he went on to Jilly,”is here mostly because of habit. We’ve all agreed that certain tings exist–we’re taught as impressionable infants that this is a table and this is what it looks like, that’ a tree out the window there, a dog looks and sounds just so.At the same time we’re informed that Goon and his like don’t exist, so we don’t–or can’t–see them.”
“They’re not made up?” Jilly asked.
This was too much for Goon. He set the tray down and gave her leg a pinch. Jilly jumped away from him, trying to back deeper into the chair as the goblin grinned, revealing two roows of decidedly nasty-looking teeth.
“Rather impolite,” Bramley said, “but I suppose you do get the point?”
Jilly nodded quickly. Still grinning, Goon set about pouring their teas.
“So,” Jilly asked, “how can someone..how can I see things as they really are?”
“Well, it’s not that simple,” the wizard told her. “first you have to know what it is, that you’re looking for–before you can find it, you see.”
– Uncle Dobbin’s Parrot FairS – Dreams Underfoot – Charles De Lint
Ok, so this is in a book that Ellen Brady, (the main character of “Uncle Dobbin’s Parrot FairS”, the first short story in De Lint’s collection) is reading, entitled How to Make the wind Blow by Christy Riddell.
The second story in De Lint’s collection is centered around Goon, Jilly, & Bramley and Bramley at various points refers to Riddell’s short story collection. So how trippy is that.
De Lint crafts a story in which his character refers to a book and characters within that book which in turn become the characters of his second short story who refer to the author of the book that they’re supposedly set inside of as a real person. Stories within stories referring to other stories. All kinds of meta-fun.
Worth checking out if you have some cash or a library card.
I’m having quite the discussion about Frederik Pohl’s commentary on the difficulty of research and writing with science fiction as opposed to fantasy, with my friend Shawn (Web Druid), over at the Terry Brooks Forum, feel free to follow along at this link.
I was casually reading the news this morning and I stumbled onto this article over at CNN.com/entertainment: Arthur C. Clarke’s last vision. It goes on to discuss the last collaborative work that Arthur C. Clarke engaged in with his fellow contemporary writer, Frederik Pohl. Clarke’s last novel is not my main focus in writing this particular posting, it’s the offhand commentary he makes.
Pohl said the type of work he and Clarke did was different from much of what is written today. He said that rather than delving into difficult subjects like astronomy, math and physics, young writers sometimes turn to an easier route by writing fantasy.
“Science fiction is sometimes a little hard,” Pohl said. “Fantasy is like eating an ice cream cone. You don’t have to think a bit.”
This is the type of commentary I’d expect from someone who does not read genre fiction to make. For someone who writes in genre fiction and writes in a genre which is consistently having to defend itself from critics who make derogatory claims similar to the one Pohl is making about fantasy, well I’m flabbergasted. Pohl has obviously not read the works of George R.R. Martin, or Steven Erikson or Terry Brooks. These are fantasy works that have casts of characters that span pages, that include the most complex of story lines. Genre fiction is much like any other type of fiction or literature, it has the same capacity for greatness as well as insignificance. There are writers who have the ability to push the limits of a genre into the epic and the grand, and those who simply reinforce tired stereotypes and/or common plots of a predictable nature.
A writer of your stature Mr. Pohl would do better to promote reading period, regardless of literary genre or type. I expect much better than this way of thinking Mr. Pohl, maybe you have spent a bit too much time in the science fiction section, I urge you to take a stroll down the fantasy aisle, there is plenty of “hard thinking” available, if one only looks in the right places.
I’ve only walked away from a book in disgust once in my life. Stephen R. Donaldson’s fantasy novel, “Lord Foul’s Bane” the first in a trilogy entitled, “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The Unbeliever”. This was an odd reaction as I am very much desensitized to most types of violence and horror/gore. Yet, Donaldson’s novel puts the reader in a harsh position. The protagonist of the novel is a modern day leper, spurned and hated by society. When a series of fantastical events occur, Thomas Covenant finds himself in a world where his body has been restored. Pretty standard fantasy so far, a little odd with establishing a character who is a leper. In chapter four a rape takes place, the rape of a very young girl and I had to physically put down the book and walk away from it, not as a result of his writing or descriptions, but simply my disgust at the character. I did return to the novel at some point a few weeks after and finished this series. A side note, this scene has great significance and Donaldson does not treat the subject lightly, due punishment and restitution is handed out further on in the series.
I recently picked up Iain Banks’s novel, “The Wasp Factory”, and I’ve had a similar reaction. The main character is a teenage boy who at the age of seventeen, has already murdered three family members. This is a young man who as a form of entertainment kills small animals with dynamite. There is a particular scene in which Banks’s character, Frank sets fire to an entire field along with the many rabbit inhabitants using a make shift flame thrower.
“The first dazed rabbits came out; two of them bleeding at the nose, looking otherwise unharmed but staggering almost falling. I squeezed the plastic bottle and sent a jet of petrol out of it, over the wick of the lighter, held a few centimeters out from the nozzle by an aluminum tent-peg. The petrol burst into flame as it flew over the wick in the tiny steel cup, roared through the air and fell brightly on and around the two rabbits. They took flame and blazed, running and stumbling and falling. I looked round for more as the first two flamed near the centre of the Grounds, finally collapsing into the grass, stiff-limbed but twitching, crackling to the breeze. A tiny lick of flame flickered round the mouth of the ‘thrower; I blew it out. Another, smaller rabbit appeared. I caught it with the jet of flame and it zipped off out of range, heading for the water by the side of the hill the savage buck had attacked me on. I dug into the War Bag, dew out the air-pistol, cocked it and fired it in one movement. The shot missed and the rabbit trailed a thread of smoke round the hill.
The fire was out everywhere; the grass too young and moist to catch. Not that I’d have cared if it had gone up. I considered setting the whin bushes alight, but the flowers always looked cheerful when they came out, and the bushes smelled better fresh than burned, so I didn’t. I decided I’d caused enough mayhem for one day. The catapult was avenged, the buck – or what it meant, its spirit maybe – soiled and degraded, taught a hard lesson, and I felt good. If the rifle was all right and hadn’t got sand inside the sights or anywhere else awkward to clean, it would almost have been worth it. The Defense budget would stand buying another catapult tomorrow; my crossbow would just have to wait another week or so. With that lovely sated feeling inside me, I packed the War Bag and went wearily home, thinking what had happened over in my mind, trying to figure out the whys and wherefores, see what lessons were to be learned, what signs to be read in it all. On the way I passed the rabbit I thought had escaped, lying just before the sparkling clean water of the stream; blackened and contorted, locked into a weird, twisted crouch, its dead dry eyes staring up at me as I passed by, accusatory. I kicked it into the water.”
Banks, Iain. The Wasp Factory. Abacus. London: Abacus, 1984.
While I am not particularly enjoying the character, the writing is impressive and I think what happens is that the author is doing too good a job of what he’s supposed to do as a writer. I am inside the mind of a psychotic child who has some very serious mental issues and I am not enjoying what I see, and maybe this is the point. I do not think that Banks is writing in a purposefully gratuitous way, yet a novel like this is something that I have to come back to a few days at a time as the mindset of this character is just too insidious for me to finish all the way through without some breaks or lighter reads in between.
So this raises some interesting questions in my mind.I know some would argue that it is dangerous to provide a sense of sympathy for this type of character, yet I would counter it’s more dangerous to forget that such individuals exist in our society. Maybe this is the point of Banks’s character, to frighten, to make us reflect that such individuals are out there and that they are capable of such destruction and horror, and that we need to do more for them, to help these people out.
Regardless, I’m enjoying the novel, it’s just something that I’m having to take my time with. I’ve read for a few days and now I’m going to give myself a few more to read something lighter and not so dark.