Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’
I’m sure you grew up reading Jane Yolen. I know I did. Maybe your mother read you her children’s rhyming books when you were a child. Maybe you read those books to your children. Even if you don’t know her name, you know her work. From young children rhyming books such as An Invitation to the Butterfly Ball to books for young readers, to books for older readers. When I was a preteen, I read a book whose scenes still haunt me, more than twenty years later. That book? By Jane Yolen.
A novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author, Jane Yolen has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three and the grandmother of six, Yolen lives in Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.
Many of her titles have recently become available as e-books through Open Road media. Mrs. Yolen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her books, how publishing has changed, and if she’s got a particular pet. Read on for the answers!
Little Red Reviewer: Although many readers (including you and I) are still quite fond of physical books, e-books are making quite the inroads. I find e-books convenient for books that have been out of print for a long time and are have now become available as e-books. What do you think might be the next leap in “book technology”?
Jane Yolen: Possibly a return to physical books (which I prefer) with parts that move, imbedded movie bits, music chips. Or possibly surround-books with movie screens in the middle of which the reader sits to be immersed in the sound and movement of the book. I don’t expect to see these myself at my age.
published Sept 1st, 2015
where I got it: purchased new
Demane is a demi-god stuck on earth, and the safest place for him to be is a guard that travels with a caravan. He can disappear if he needs to, he can hide is godly powers as medical field training, and the two teenage boys who follow him around assume his bottomless bag is some kind of magic trick that he will of course explain one day. Or not. He can only hide who he is for so long.
From the blurb on the back, I expected the story to take place more in the Wildeeps, that dangerous swamp that caravans must cross on their way to profit. Not a spoiler, the majority of the book takes place the night before the caravan and assorted guards leave for their trip. The owners of the caravan stock up on what will be needed for the trip, while Demane, the Captain, and all the other road brothers spend the night as they wish, some find solace in drink, others get their frustrations out in the fighting ring, others head for the brothels. It’s an evening of characterization, i guess you could say.
I imagine The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps will be getting a lot of attention because of the language used. Much of that attention will be polarizing, because you are either going to find the dialog and prose innovative and unique, or you are going to bounce off of it, hard. I bounced, and it wasn’t fun. Many of the characters speak in patois and or very contemporary style slang, which feels strange in a fantasy story.Demane struggles with the local language, often reverting to his native tongue when he doesn’t know the local words for things (it’s kind of funny in his case, because he’s using very technical, almost futuristic terms, which none of his caravan brothers would understand anyways). Because he struggles with the language, the owner of the caravan assumes Demane is stupid, which couldn’t be further from the truth. it’s pretty obvious the caravan owner looks down on Demane.
But back to the author’s language choices for dialog, let me give you some examples of the dialog in The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps:
published in 2005
where I got it: purchased used
Hard to believe I haven’t read any Brandon Sanderson, isn’t it? His name has been a buzzword for quite a while now, I’ve seen more than a few Sanderson read-alongs pop up, the dude is like, everywhere. One afternoon at my local indie bookshop, I asked “got any Sanderson that isn’t in the middle of a series?”, and I came home with a copy of Elantris.
We open with some history of the world, where the god-like citizens of Elantris never wanted for anything, and kept everyone safe. Their magic suffused everything, allowing Elantrians to glow and magical creatures to wander the world. Then something horrible happened, there was a short war, and now the grand city of Elantris sits abandoned. Only those who have no one else to go, those who have been afflicted with the horrifying Shaod disease now live in Elantris.
In nearby Kae, Prince Raoden awaits the arrival of his fiance Sarene. By the time she arrives, the King has already announced the Prince has died of a wasting disease. Sarene can’t go home, so she sticks around, and learns as much as she can about her new family. Also, when can she stop wearing black to mourn a husband she never met? She’s not the only one new to the court. There’s a religious war brewing, and Hrathen, a high priest of Fjordell is on a mission to convert the citizens of Arelon before they can be viewed as heretics.
Bone Swans, stories by C.S.E. Cooney
published July 2015
where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Mythic Delirium Books!)
Gene Wolfe wrote the introduction to Bone Swans, and describes her writing style simply as “pure Cooney”. He then offers a challenge to any reader of this collection: to define “pure Cooney”.
The tl;dr version of this review is my answer to Mr. Wolfe’s challenge:
Claire Cooney’s writing style is lyrical, playful, poetic, and gleeful. It reflects the pure joy she gets from the act of storytelling. You know that look on a child’s face when they’re telling you a new joke they’ve learned? they get this “boy are you gonna love this!” look on their face? You almost don’t want to hear the end of the joke, because you want that child to be that happy forever. that look on their face? That moment is what Cooney writes. You don’t want the story to end, because you don’t want that feeling of gleefulness to end. To sweeten the deal, she writes prose that begs to be read outloud, offers up word plays and alliterations, and her metaphors shamelessly flirt with the literal. This is prose that would tap out it’s own rhythm if given a set of drums or a page of staff paper. The greatest trick Cooney ever played is convincing the world that storytelling like this is easy.
However, these are not gleeful or happy stories. Yes, they are poetic, playful, and witty and darkly humorous, but they are not happy. These are stories of revenge, human sacrifice, a side of fairy tales even darker than Grimm’s, and the damn fucking creepiest version of an afterlife (if that’s even what it was) that I have ever seen. Cooney seems to return over and over to a theme of “you can’t escape what you are”. How does someone who oozes joyfulness write this dark, disturbing violence? Let me show you:
I had so much I wanted to stay about The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad that I couldn’t possibly jam it all into one blog post. Last week I talked about a few of my favorite stories in the anthology, and today I’m going to talk about a few more. With over 24 stories in the anthology, it was easy to have a very long list of favorites. I took the list of stories I really enjoyed, and cut it in half. Because I need to leave you something to discover on your own, don’t I?
Here are my thoughts on yet more of my favorites out of The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4.
Single Entry, by Celeste Rita Baker – Written in dialect, it was all I could do not to read this entire story out-loud. You can feel the energy of the carnival in the rhythm of the words, hear people singing and cheering. Dressed as the planet Earth, the protagonist is a single entry in the carnival. But where is the music coming from? How does their costume swell and shrink to fit through every door and fill every plaza? Momentarily so big people can see themselves and their homes on the planetary surface, the walking dancing planet loses steam and shrinks back down to human size. And then keeps shrinking. Just a beautiful story to read, it feels like a song whose time signature changes as time flows.
The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov – I’m not sure how much I enjoyed reading this gory, grisly story, but i certainly won’t ever forget it. In a bakehouse, a loved one is prepared to be fed to the gods. His family strips his body, dries his bones, makes him into meal. A death rite combines with a coming of age rite, wrapped in a story of love both romantic and familial. That this story is really a love sonnet makes swallowing the subject matter a very strange experience.
Pepe by Tang Fei – Pepe and her brother are at an amusement park. But they aren’t real children. Created with springs inside, Pepe, her brother, and all their siblings were created to tell stories. But oh, the stories they tell! They were born many years ago, and in the time since, their siblings have been destroyed. Such a dichotomy in this story, Pepe and her brother are lightheartedly enjoying the amusement park, the rides, the lights, the laughter of children. But her brother dwells on their dark past, the memories of watching the other storytelling children pulled out of crowds and forced to talk, forced to expose their identities. Remember the movie AI: Artificial Intelligence? this story feels a little like that, but completely from the kids points of view. They never asked for this life, they were never given a choice. They were designed and programmed, and are now locked in a life they wouldn’t choose for themselves. But Pepe’s brother has one last choice to make, one last opportunity for freedom.
published Aug 25, 2015
where I got it: receive review copy from the publisher (thanks Apex!)
Quick! how many anthology series can you count on one hand! Some of you probably need both hands and a foot. If you’re looking for a new anthology (or just want to read some compelling and fun fiction), allow me to introduce you to the Apex Books of World SF Volume 4, which showcase speculative fiction from around the globe. Lavie Tidhar edited the first three volumes, and he’s passed the reigns to Mahvesh Murad. I’ve read and reviewed the first and third volumes of this series (and I’ve got Vol 2 around here somewhere), and Lavie, I gotta tell you, Mahvesh put one helluva book together. You better make sure you’ve contracted her for at least three more of these! In more than 24 stories, this volume takes us from Pakistan to Israel to Mexico to Iceland to Bangladesh to Uganda to Singapore to Kenya and beyond.
Reading science fiction from elsewhere feels a little like reading mythology from elsewhere. Mythology doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does speculative fiction. Both are affected by current and previous cultural mores, ecology, weather, local resources, politics, rivals, etc. Well, so is any kind of story telling, and science fiction is just another type of story to tell. And like mythology, people everywhere use fantastic fiction to explain something that seems like magic to the uninitiated. I used the term fantastic fiction because these stories bleed through and beyond the assumed limitations of science and even speculative fiction – in this collection you’ll find magical realism, mythology retellings, the languages of artificial intelligences, mourning practices, experimenting scientists, families torn apart, and more. A handful of these stores are available online, if you want a sample:
The Good Matter by Nene Ormes (at Io9)
Six Things We Found During the Autopsy by Kuzhali Manickavel (Apex Magazine issue 76)
The Four Generations of Chang E by Zen Cho
My absolute favorites in this anthology were Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith by Shimon Adaf and The Four Generations of Chang E, by Zen Cho. Here are my thoughts on those and a number of others. I’ve split this review into two parts, because I just had so much I wanted to say!
Setting up Home by Sabrina Huang – a very quick and very effective story in which an amnesiac man’s empty apartment slowly fills up with furniture, gifts, and household items. It’s quite magical actually. The final item is accompanied by a note from his father, explaining how this final gift should be “used”. There is a lack of overt context and background, but you’ll figure out what’s going on pretty quickly. I do wonder though, how the man will react when he figures out what’s happened.
In Her Head, In Her Eyes, by Yukimi Ogawa – young Hase is a servant girl at the compound of wealthy indigo dyers. She does her job, but everyone treats her cruelly. She claims to be from a mythical island, and here to learn about patterns, that she’s been tasked with bringing home as many patters as she can. What makes Hase so weird is that she wears a metal helmet that she never takes off. It covers her face, and can’t be pulled or pried off. Hase also seems to love being teased and treated badly, as to her, this is just another pattern. What’s really on her home island? When someone finally does she her face, that’s when the story really gets weird. Hase certainly did learn something from her time with the indigo dyers, and it’s not what anyone expected.
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, by Bradley P. Beaulieu (UK Title is Twelve Kings)
published Sept 1 2015
where I got it: received review copies from the author & publisher
(Hey, did you know I recently interviewed Bradley P. Beaulieu? And that I’m hosting a give away of Twelve Kings of Sharakhai? Click here for more info!)
If you like your fantasies complex and your worldbuilding done right, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is for you. With the sprawl of a doorstopper tome jammed into less than 600 pages, Twelves Kings offers an unexpected epic fantasy with compelling characters who at first blush seem like your standard cookie-cutter characters, but quickly let you know they are nothing of the sort.
Did the cover art get your attention? It sure got mine. This is one of those instances where the cover artist got the details right. That sprawling, overflowing, dusty metropolis with a towering seat of power designed to be intimidating and in your sight at all times? A young armed woman, dressed to blend in? If you like what you see in that cover art, you’re going to like what you find in the pages. Sharakhai is more than just a city, it’s a center of unimaginable power. Once upon a time, the leaders of twelve tribes made an unholy contract with the desert gods, granting themselves immortality and getting an army of undead protectors thrown in for good measure. No longer tribal leaders, but immortal Kings, the Kings rule with an iron first. Their take their blood sacrifices on holy nights, and forbid the populace from questioning anything. That cover art makes me want to cosplay Çeda.
Something that really drew me into Twelve Kings was the scale of the potential. Let me unpack that a little. Our story most certainly revolves around Çeda, but there is so much more happening around her that she’s not even aware of. Emre has a whole independent life away from her (and why shouldn’t he?), her mother practically erased their past, there are international politics that may or may not have anything to do with Çeda. The story is about her, but this world that Beaulieu has created is so much larger than just one young woman’s story.
And let’s talk about her story, a bit, shall we? At a very young age, Çeda learned to keep her mouth shut about what her mother did. She knew to tell no one about the Adichara petal harvests, never to breathe a word about how her mother put the petals under her tongue on sacred nights. Even speaking of the flowers could be a death sentence. It was rumored the King of Whispers heard all, and when her mother was killed for her transgressions, Çeda tried to start a new life. In Sharakhai, silence can often be your only weapon. Çeda’s mother knew that better than most.