Tolkien, perhaps rightly in marketing terms, though with the insistent literalism that makes writers writers (which is to say: not artists), demanded, of Barbara Remington's cover art for Lord of the Rings, "What has it got to do with the story? Where is this place? Why a Lion and emus? And what is the thing in the foreground with the pink bulbs?"
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Boing Boing has a new addition to its family of wonderful podcasts! The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club podcast, started by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of sci-fi / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. Check out previous episodes here.
In this episode, Veronica and Tom speak with author Peter V. Brett about his Demon Cycle books, the grim world of dark fantasy, his old HP iPaq, and why he's so big in Germany.
Sword and Laser: Subscribe RSS | iTunes | Download this episode
Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam is the 40th (!) novel in the Discworld series. It's just come out in the UK (the US edition comes out in March) and it's a tremendous synthesis of everything that makes Pratchett one of the world's most delightful writers. It's a curious thing: a fantasy novel about modernity and reactionaries, a synthesis of technological optimism and a curious sort of romantic mysticism.
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It's the 40th anniversary of William Goldman's wonderful, brilliant, amazing novel The Princess Bride, and there's a gorgeous hardcover commemorative illustrated edition to celebrate. Tor.com is marking the occasion with a great excerpt from the book, including some of Michael Manomivibul's interior art:
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Tor.com has published an excerpt from The Land Across, a new novel from the incomparable, astounding Gene Wolfe, which comes out on Nov 26. It's a kafkaesque travelogue about magical realms and harsh borders, and on the strength of the excerpt, I want to shove it directly through my eyeballs and into my brain:
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Noelle Stevenson's "Nimona" is a great, lighthearted (but full-throated) serial fantasy webcomic about the complex relationship between heroes and villains. It's well into its ninth chapter, and is slated for collection in a graphic novel in 2015.
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Steven Brust and Skyler White's The Incrementalists is a spectacular new contemporary fantasy novel about an immortal cabal of dysfunctional do-gooders who use their subtle, near-wizardly powers of persuasion to alter the course of history, and change bodies by implanting their memories into the bodies of successors chosen from the population at large.
Though I'm new to Skyler White, I am a gigantic fan of Steven Brust, and this book was an absolute home-run for me. Thematically, it's close to The Sun, the Moon and the Stars -- to my mind, his great, neglected masterpiece -- in its philosophical depth, emotional range, and sense of deep, fabled magic. But the collaboration with White is extremely fruitful: the authors trade off writing from different points-of-view within chapters, providing a glimpse of the godhead-like group mind of the Incrementalists themselves. After the first couple of switches, I stopped trying to guess who was writing what -- it felt like a style that was neither Brust's, nor White's, but a superior hybrid of both.
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There's a new special-edition audiobook of Welcome to Bordertown, the YA reboot of the amazing, classic urban fantasy shared-world anthologies that practically invented the genre. The special edition includes lots of new material, such as Neil Gaiman's reading of his poem "The Song of the Song" and Steven Brust fronting a musical version of his "Run Back Across the Border" -- there's lots more, and its all available as a DRM-free MP3CD.
I grew up on the Bordertown books and was delighted to be asked to contribute a story: Shannon's Law.
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"Look at games like World of Warcraft, Diablo, Dungeons and Dragons, or the original Final Fantasy. In those games, gold is the money, and you often get gold not by doing an honest day's work, but by running around and beating people up and taking their gold. In other words, the entire world of modern fantasy role-playing is a subtle joke on gold's unsuitability as a medium of exchange.
" -Noah Smith
(via Making Light
This insightful essay comparing Tolkien's Middle Earth to Beowulf was written by my friend's seven-year-old daughter. Dad notes, "she came up with the contrasts on her own;" Mom adds, "Using the Seamus Heaney translation."
Templar is a beautifully executed historical thriller written by famed game designer Jordan Mechner (who created Prince of Persia) and drawn by Leuyen Pham and Alex Puvilland. As the title implies, the story is a conspiracy thriller about the treasure of the Knights Templar, an order of Crusaders who were persecuted by the King of France in the early 1300s; rounded up, tortured, accused of gross and sinful deeds, subjected to show-trials and put to death. The story of the Templars has been told many times, and there are umtpy-leven conspiracy theories about what became of the treasure the order looted during the Crusades. Mechner and co have created a smashing addition to the canon.
Templar is a fictional account of the lives of some of the (real) Templars who escaped the king's roundup; in this telling, they become badass ronins who wander the land, determined to clear the order's name and reclaim its treasure. What flows out of this is a classic caper story filled with glorious and horrible swordfights, skullduggery, torture, romance, banditry, piety, bravery and treachery. I came to this not knowing much about the Templars and caring about them even less, but found that once I picked the (massive) book up, I couldn't put it down. This is some great and exciting storytelling.
If this sounds familiar, it may be because you read the first third of it in 2010, published as Solomon's Thieves (Templar takes the story to some very good places that Solomon's Thieves can't get to). You also may be familiar with the team from the Prince of Persia graphic novel (I confess I didn't like that one very much -- but I love this).
Though this is thoroughly fictionalized, the team are careful to mark out the bits that are historically accurate (to the best of anyone's knowledge, anyway), and they include a sweet little biography suggesting further reading. This is a great comic for grownups, but it's also a great way to introduce younger readers to medieval history.
I've been reading and admiring Nathan Ballingrud's short fiction since 1992, when we were both students at the Clarion workshop. Now, some of his very best work has been collected in a moving, sorrowful volume called
North American Lake Monsters, from the wonderful Small Beer Press.
Ballingrud's work isn't like any other. These stories are full of sadness and sorrow, but they're not merely sad. Like Tom Waits, Ballingrud is an expert at teasing out every delicious shade and nuance, every fine gradation of misery and pain. It's a heady and fantastic cocktail mixed from roughnecks and down-and-outers and flawed people who find in their ordinary and terrible world monsters, magic, and the strange. Ballingrud's fantastic elements are never seen full on, but always out of the corner of your eye, and it makes them all the more haunting.
This slim volume traces the fine veins of unhappiness in a way that no other writer of science fiction or fantasy I know of can match. If you've ever enjoyed a long cry, or come out of a deep funk to discover the joy of the contrast of the light and the sun, then you know why these stories are so powerful and moving.
If you'd like to get a taste of what I'm talking about, Tor.com has a excerpt from the collection, a story called "The Monsters of Heaven," about a missing child, broken angels, and a marriage in great ruin.
North American Lake Monsters: Stories
This image shows fewer than 400 of the 1600+ dire wolf skulls found in the La Brea Tar Pits — natural seepages of asphalt that trapped thousands upon thousands of animals over centuries. Like most of you, I was familiar with what the tar pits were. But, until I visited last week, I hadn't really had a grasp of just how many animal remains have been found there. Seriously, the place is lousy with bones. As in, chunks of partially excavated asphalt look more like jumbles of bone held together with some hardened goop.
For the record, dire wolves really did exist, and they really were larger than modern wolves — but not as much larger as you might imagine from reading Game Of Thrones. There's a lot of overlap in the Bell Curves here, with the average dire wolf probably having been about the same size as the larger specimens of modern grey wolves.
Meanwhile, there are people trying to breed a dog that fits the fantasy of pet dire wolves — really big, really wolfy, and yet somehow well-behaved. It is not, however, terribly like the real-life dire wolf, in looks or genetics.
(click to embiggen)
Zack sez, "Photographer Allan Rosen-Ducat is reproducing 'The Land of Make Believe,' a popular illustrated map by Jaro Hess that combines more than 50 classic fairy tales, nursery rhymes and more that was highly popular around the time of the Great Depression. The company sells prints of the map, and recent advancements have let them print it on glass and other objects."
"The Land of Make Believe Map", A compilation of western society's most famous fairy tales.
Jaime sez, "In honor of Children's Book Week, I'm sharing a link about a book written by 8-year old Griffin Hehmeyer. His mom tells the story of how Griffin wrote a book, enlisted his friends and classmates for help editing and illustrating it, and eventually published it. The book serves as a model for children interested in creating literature of their own, practicing skills like story-telling, writing, empathy, collaboration, and persistence in the process."
The story was inspired by a make-believe game Griffin had been playing for several years with a good friend of his named Maya. In the game he was the king of the wolves, just like Makamom is in the book. Griffin says of the writing process, “When I first started this book, I had a hard time thinking of ideas. As I got closer to the ending it was easier to think of what to say.”
At the end of each chapter Griffin would read what he had written to his classmates and incorporate their feedback into the draft. When the draft was complete, Griffin and his teacher then spent another month reading through the book and correcting any errors before sending it to me. I think the editing process was the most frustrating part for Griffin, since he was impatient to be done. I had told him we’d print it out and get it bound, so he was excited to have a real book-like copy to enjoy.
By April I knew of the book's existence, but I hadn’t yet read any of it. When I received the completed draft, I was somewhat hesitant to undertake the reading such a large chunk of text written by an 8 year old – even if that 8 year old was my own son. To my surprise, however, the book turned out to be really good. As a colleague said when I shared a draft with him, “The book kept me reading it until the end, in one pass. It is a very interesting, clever, and engrossing story.” I also enjoyed watching my husband read the book to our other three children each night before bed. They laughed and gasped at all the right places, and begged their dada to continue reading well after lights out.
Making the Marakon Ways