Posts tagged ‘fantasy’
This is one of Campbell’s earlier books (first published 2010) and already his gifts for drawing warm characters and laying out a story so it flows towards and immerses the reader are well developed.
Seeing this unexpected review appear on my Facebook news feed this morning makes my week (much more than yesterday’s after-supper lawn mowing), brings back a ton of nostalgia, and makes me wonder once again whether I made a very bad decision pulling it away from the agent who had my typewritten manuscript for the book in the 1980s.
The reviewer mentions that the book was inspired by the mountains of Glacier National Park Montana where I worked two summers as a hotel bellman. Those of you who have read my blogs for years also know that it was also inspired by a famous statue called “The Sun Singer” which I saw at Allerton Park, Illinois when I was (I think) in junior high school.
The novel is a bit earlier than the reviewer knows. I wrote it in the 1980s, got it accepted by a small but influential agent, and then waited for almost a year with no word. She liked the novel, but her small agency had also taken on a novel that turned out to be as huge then as The Game of Thrones is now. (I refuse to mention the title of the book or its sequels.) She said my wait would be an even longer one, so I took the manuscript back.
Was that a mistake? I guess I’ll never know. She might have found a publisher when she finally got around to actively shopping it, or she might not. The fact that an agent liked it led me to believe I could find a publisher who liked it. That took 24 years. I was gratified by the fact the book’s 2004 first edition was a “Foreword Reviews” book-of-the-year finalist but less than pleased that my publisher was iUniverse, a vanity press. But I would always wonder if the book might have received a wider audience in less time if I’d left it with that agent.
Later, several small traditional publishers wanted it, and this led to the 2010 edition. That publisher and I ultimately had a contractual disagreement, and that led to the current (2015) Kindle edition.
It’s interesting to me that several passages in the novel that happened more or less simultaneously were typeset by iUniverse in side-by-side columns. Nobody else has been able to do that since, including several other prospective publishers. I grew up in a letterpress-evolving-to-offset printing world where those columns wouldn’t have been a problem. “Progress” into a print-on-demand/Kindle world has taken away an option for small-press authors.
Nonetheless, this weird history of the novel doesn’t take away my gratitude that a reviewer found and liked the book after all these years. With a bit of luck, maybe my first novel will find a few more readers.
“In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that consciousness, mind, or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of mind.” – Wikipedia
Yes, I believe everything has consciousness from the tree behind my house, to the hummingbird sitting in the tree, to the rocks lying at the base of the tree. Nothing else makes sense to me. Long before I heard the Huna phrase “there is nothing that is not God,” I saw the view outside my window as “God’s thoughts.”
Rather than focus here on a philosophical discussion for which nobody that I know of can prove one way or the other, I’ll just say that my view of the world has played hell (figuratively speaking) with the placement of my books and stories into one genre or another.
So, I tend to say that I write magical realism because that covers just about everything I want to do without having to argue about whether or not a thinking rock is a fantasy or realism. I consider thinking rocks to be real, but the publisher usually doesn’t. But magical realism, well, that’s another kettle of fish, isn’t it? I believe the landscape is, in fact, magical. So, if I place my books in the magical realism genre, I can say what realism won’t allow me to say.
Someday down the road, all of us will probably have to re-define what’s real and what isn’t real. As of now, in spite of what Quantum physics is telling us, we’re still trapped in a nuts and bolts version of reality insofar as publishers, governments, and news organizations are concerned. Basically, saying that I write magical realism has kept me out of the asylum because people who think trees are conscious are usually placed on the shortlist for shock treatments and straight jackets.
Since I think we create our own reality, it’s natural for my characters to have the same belief. My beliefs about this are quite literal. Most people see the matter as figurative, having more to do with attitudes about what’s happening rather than causing what’s happening. Here’s the good news. If I say all this in a story, I’m not picked up by the Feds and put in a home. Call it my artistic license.
I say what I’m writing is true. Publishers and most of my readers think it’s fantasy or magic. I’m okay with that because I know that once a reader reads it, s/he can’t unread it (so to speak). There will always be that nagging idea in readers’ minds that just maybe the stuff is real. Yes, it is. But there’s no rush to believe it. One day you will.
Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction by Farah Mendlesohn and Michael Levy won the 2018 Mythopoeic Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies. When Sandra Lindow, Levy’s widow, accepted the award for her late husband (who died last year), she said, “He would be particularly pleased to receive this recognition because historically children’s fantasy has been undervalued. A good part of his career was dedicated to reading and researching those books that provide both high-quality entertainment and emotional education for children and young adults.”
With the exception of R. J. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which also captured the attention of adult readers, children’s fantasy is often written off as “just kids’ stuff” while fairy tales have received a great deal of scholarly analysis. I hope this award will help draw attention to this book as well as its subject.
“Fantasy has been an important and much-loved part of children’s literature for hundreds of years, yet relatively little has been written about it. Children’s Fantasy Literature traces the development of the tradition of the children’s fantastic – fictions specifically written for children and fictions appropriated by them – from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, examining the work of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling and others from across the English-speaking world. The volume considers changing views on both the nature of the child and on the appropriateness of fantasy for the child reader, the role of children’s fantasy literature in helping to develop the imagination, and its complex interactions with issues of class, politics, and gender. The text analyses hundreds of works of fiction, placing each in its appropriate context within the tradition of fantasy literature.”
Children’s Literature Association Quarterly Review
“Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction is an immense work in scope and scholarship. As befits its authors, Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn – two prominent figures in the world of children’s literature criticism – this latest work is a far-reaching feat that grasps the tenuous strings of the inception of both fantasy and children’s literature and weaves them from the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries into a tremendous narrative tapestry.” – Joli Barham McClelland
From the Introduction
“The aim of this book is to bring together two traditions of criticism, that of the literature of the fantasic, and that of children’s literature. In addition, the book aims ti situate children’s fantasy in the context of changing ideas of childhood across three centuries; and perhaps most crucially, to consider the effect which the extension of childhood has had upon the writing and publishing of children’s fiction.”
The research and writing of this book comprise an ambitious project that will lead to greater understanding of the genre and–with luck–more respect.
“The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” was my favorite novel of 2017. I don’t yet know what this year’s favorite book will be, but I’m happy to see that book two in the Athena Club series, “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman” is a well-written and wondrous sequel. It does not disappoint.
Like book one, it is highly literate, carefully written, and intensely readable. As with the first book in the series, we find a smorgasbord of of myths and literary characters here, including Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Doctor Moreau.
I know from Goss’ Facebook page and blog that she Hungarian-born author knows her locations well, and enhances her knowledge of them through yearly travels. This adds a great amount of depth to her books and does the fact that she teaches and researches fairy tales at the college level.
The members of the Athena Club leave London in this story and travel far afield to uncover the nasty projects coming from the rogue members of the alchemist society. One might quibble here that alchemists don’t normally engage in the Frankenstein horrors portrayed in the books, but that’s a small matter. The prospective mix-ups and horrors of travel add to the fun.
Since the novel itself is being written by one of the members of the Athena Club, we see frequent conversations outside the narrative by members of the club as they more or less discuss how they are being portrayed. This is a clever device and provides interesting depth to the story. I do think that it’s used overly much and represents a distraction after a while.
Goss definitely knows what she’s doing here and, when all is said and done, that makes for an exciting story with a lot of overlap with other genres that many of her readers know well. Highly recommended!
Mark Tompkins’ The Last Days of Magic is a mixture of the historical record of the 1300s and an imagined prospective history based on legends. The history focuses on Richard II’s designs on Ireland and on the Catholic Church’s designs on unifying Christianity by driving out magic, pagans, and others who did not follow the dictates of Rome.
The book contains a wealth of history about the real power players of the era. It also contains a wealth of myth and legends about the opposing magical forces in Ireland. If you’re interested in the history of the times, this is not “alternative history” because–by the end of the novel–what happens is what history gave us. If you’re interested in the wealth of magical beings that opposed the English and the power of the Catholic church, the author has taken great pains to remain true to the stories about the Morrigna, Nephlim, Sidhe, witches and others who were presumed to be active in Ireland at the time.
Here’s the problem: The book is confined by history, so there is little suspense here because we know–or can Google–the historical outcome: Ireland is lost to Richard II. While it’s interesting to imagine what the Morrigna, Sidhe and others were doing to keep Ireland as it was, we know they will fail. This kills the suspense.
The book is not cohesive because there were so many players involved. This adds multiple characters and points of view. As Brown did in The Da Vinci Code, Tompkins has included a modern day prologue/epilogue that suggests that the magical bloodline continues into the modern era. While this is hopeful if you like magic more than the organized church, it lends nothing real to the story line. Interesting, yes, but otherwise it has little active association with the events of the 1300s.
The book is interesting for those of us who believe in magic. Otherwise, it’s standard history with a “what if” approach to what the opposition in Ireland might have been doing when the English and the Vatican invaded.
Malcolm R. Campbell is he author of novels filled with magic including Sarabande, Conjure Woman’s Cat, and Eulalie and Washerwoman
Imagine “monsters” from science fiction and horror classics written by H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Robert Lewis Stevenson working together with Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Inspector Lestrade to track down the killers in a string of gory London murders.
Odds are, the resulting story would be a chaotic, unbelievable mess. Or, if the muses were kind and the odds were defied, the resulting story would be a breathtaking and expertly plotted Victorian-era fantasy in which the plots, characters and themes of fictional legends fit together in a believable, wondrous harmony.
Theodora Goss’ muses were kind.
The protagonists of legend believed they could create evolved humans out of bits and pieces of the dead. They failed. The evil scientists in Goss’ story have similar ideas. “The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” has been assembled from the remains of its legendary predecessors, yet unlike the “monsters” of yore, it is strikingly beautiful, functions elegantly with the well-focused skills of its creator, and contains a radiant soul.
Readers familiar with the original stories will enjoy references to even the smallest of details. For everyone else, no footnotes are required because the story stands on its own.
The plot is complicated and compelling and the pace is rapid and perfectly synchronized with a dash of humor. As a writer, I wonder how Goss created a novel that is better than the works from which it takes it themes. I suspect her precision as a poet and short story writer, her love of fairy tales and folklore, and her long-term research into the “monsters” of literature are factors. But those factors are only bits and pieces of the author’s craft, imagination and creative spirit.
Rather than analyse how Goss turned an accident waiting to happen into one of the best novels of the year, I’m willing to write it off and say: “It must be magic.”
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, folklore and magical realism short stories and novels.