Tag Archives: fantasy

Richard Adams, 1920-2016

I’m currently reading Watership Down, correcting a long-held error in judgment. My list of such errors is too long to ever be recorded, but this one will be corrected soon. Today, we learn of the author’s death, which took place Christmas Eve. Richard Adams was 96 years old. His daughter says he had been sick for a while and died peacefully. The BBC reports:

Describing Christmas Eve a “rather a magical night”, she said: “It’s the night that traditionally the animals and birds can talk.
“It was absolutely typical of Dad that he would choose such a night on which to leave this world.”

Steampunk Fantasy Set in Chattanooga

“Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1914. Tanna Cravens boards an airship bound for a colony in Fairyland… But a magical frontier ruled like the Old South isn’t the best home for a woman ahead of her time.”

Author Eric Slade noticed, like many others, that Britain seems to be the home for great, Earth-bound fantasy. If any wardrobe is going to open into a land of witches, winter, and satyrs, it will be in Hertfordshire or Kent, not in Hamilton County, Tennessee.

So Slade asked, “What if we had doorways, portals and fairies here? That was my initial inspiration for the world, something that was uniquely part of the American South.

In case you’re thinking “Fairyland” is an oddly quaint name, Slade may have taken it directly from the Fairyland area on Lookout Mountain, which borders Chattanooga on the southwest.

Author Sued, Internet Mocks

“Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Unholy Night (among other titles), is being sued by Hachette Book Group for breach of contract,” reports Locus Online this week. Hachette says they agreed to publish two new books from Grahame-Smith after publishing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in 2010, and they did receive one manuscript, but the second one, after some months delay, was, according to The Guardian, “too short and substandard, ‘in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public domain work’ (unnamed, but presumably 1897’s Dracula).”

As a result, Twitter users are running with their own ideas for .

More examples:

In Which Sin Is Like Smoke

Imagine a world in which sin is visible,” writes Hannah Beckerman in her review of Dan Vyleta’s fantasy novel, Smoke.

In which anger, lust, envy and avarice erupt in plumes of smoke and the clothes of the sinful are stained in dark soot. In which London is a city of vice, inhabited only by degenerates, its air polluted not with diesel but with transgression, its sewers running with the soot of sinners.

Fine Storytelling in Stoddard’s Evenmere

David Randall gives James Stoddard’s  Evenmere trilogy high praise, saying he ought to be famous for them by now. “Stoddard . . . makes a nifty apologia for the fantasy genre, as a necessary mediation that allows us to perceive the divine story through the protective articulation of another level of story.”

Stoddard’s books are good, simply as well-written fantasy. But their theological dimension lends them real depth. The High House is a representation of the universe, its architecture the Divine Architecture. Some parts of the allegory are straightforward: For example, the long, empty corridors between inhabited parts of Evenmere echo the distances of the stars. More subtle is the way meaning emerges from the fabric of Evenmere, in glimpses of the divine amid the prosaic:

The bare corridor continued only a brief time before ending at the base of a wide stair, which ascended to a gallery leading to the left, its end lost in the darkness. The steps were gray marble, and monks were carved upon the balusters, their mouths wide as if in song, their faces all turned toward the top of the stair. (High House)

‘Mary Sue the Barbarian’

Patheos Public Square has published an article by me. You can read it here.

It is Christians, after all, who (almost alone in our present age) recognize that “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Our confessions declare that we are not good people but evil people, saved not by our golden deeds and noble aspirations, but by the work of Someone Else. To look into our own hearts, recognize the evil there, and mine that material for dramatic ore ought to be no problem for us. We’ve seen our sin (presumably) and repented it. We are under no further illusions about our essential goodness. When a story calls for a monster, we ought to have plenty of models at hand. We ought to have Legions.

Kickstarter: The Wingfeather Saga

Yesterday, Andrew Peterson posted a big announcement about his fantasy series, The Wingfeather Saga. He has formed a production company and is asking for crowdfunding for an animated series.

“Most of you probably don’t know this,” he said, “but when I was in high school I had every intention of either going into animation or penciling Batman comics. I’ve always loved illustration, but am a total hack when it comes to drawing (which, thankfully, led to a music career).”

So Peterson isn’t drawing the shows himself, but “I would really love to see the Wingfeather Saga play itself out in a different format that might just get Janner’s story into many more kids’ imaginations.”

Right now, he has 68% of his requested funding. That’s impressive for twenty-some hours.

Rudolph Isn’t Dangerous

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One Christmas Eve, a heavy fog covered the earth. From pole to equator, a blanket of cloud laid over everything. Santa stood on the four floor balcony of his Arctic mansion and said, “If I don’t find a piercing light to cut through this fog, I may give naughty children nice presents and nice children the coal.” He could think of only one solution.

Dr. Richard Mouw says the stories of Rudolph and Frosty “aren’t dangerous tales. To be sure, they can function as reinforcements of the commercialization of what should be seen as a holy season. But so can the perfectly orthodox carols that play over the speaker systems at Macy’s.”

These stories can be the type of fantasy that points us to the truth.

Fantasy Dressed Up as Sci-Fi

Author John C. Wright argues against the ‘It Ain’t Gunna Happen’ camp of science fiction with his own Space Princess camp. One side says we will never find intelligent life on other planets or build our own colonies there. The other side says, not only is there intelligent life out there, but the women are remarkably hot and need to be rescued by noble earthmen.

One side says, “Psionics is just magic wearing a lab coat.” The other side says, “Without psionics, there is no way to speak and understand the space princess when you first meet her. Learning a new space-language without psionic aid involves many long and boring sessions with philologists and translators and grammarians, which is all hogwash and humbug. Space Princesses can read minds just enough so that you can talk to them. That is settled.”

You can see where this is going.

Is this kind of argument having assumed your conclusions really that different from the supposedly serious argument put forward in this Canadian propoganda, which says Science is a political value we must all support?

S.D. Smith’s Warrior Rabbits

S. D. Smith’s second book of rabbits with swords is being released on Monday. The Black Star of Kingston promises to be as stirring as The Green Ember, as this review states, “It’s a heroic story, demonstrating what happens when an ordinary individual (Like Fleck the miner) follows his convictions and rises to what can only be called heroism.”

Another reader says it’s “jam-packed with harrowing adventure, startling courage, and the luscious vocabulary we all love in Smith’s stories.”

Of The Green Ember, Smith says, “Personified animals make big, dangerous themes easier to digest for younger kids. This story is a bit of a throwback to a time when storytellers were more eager to ennoble virtue, while at the same time it’s just a fun tale.”

I’m sure it is.

S.A. Hunt Blends Genres Naturally

Fantasy author S.A. Hunt is interviewed here on his path as an indie writer.

“With Outlaw King, I was intentionally trying to write a straight-faced fantasy, but as usual my old love, horror, came sneaking in the back door and put its two cents’ worth in. . . . And to me, an engaging fantasy is a story that can effectively leverage well-written horror elements: the Jabberwocky of Alice in Wonderland, the Others of G.R.R. Martin’s books, the totemic Taheen of King’s Dark Tower books and his iconic Man in Black. When a fantasy story has an antagonist that’s almost prohibitively dark and monstrous, a fresh weird monster you love to hate, it really ups the stakes. Weirdness is what gives the creative world its addictive edge, I think.”

He talks about the fact that he chose self-publishing like most people, with the clueless hope for wild success, and he continues to struggle now. “It’s strange. I’ve felt like I was trapped in this bulletproof bubble for the first two years or so, hermetically sealed off from the world, screaming silently for someone to notice me…and now I get the occasional comment from other indie authors to the effect of, ‘You’re an inspiration to the rest of us indies,’ or ‘Thanks to you, I’ve decided to finally push myself and write that book I’ve been wanting to write,’ both of which are something I have a lot of trouble internalizing, but they feel incredible to hear.”

Hunt says the interview went long, so he posted several more questions on his site.

‘Werewolf Cop,’ by Andrew Klavan

He parked in a little neighborhood near the service road. He sat behind the wheel with his eyes shut, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. He told himself that this would pass. He’d track Abend down. He’d “confront” the dagger, whatever that meant. After that, he’d be free to turn himself in or die or… do something to make this stop. Meanwhile, though…. The guilt and horror were like thrashing, ravenous animals in him. Guilt and horror – and grief too. Because he’d lost something precious, something he’d barely known he had: he’d lost his sense of himself as a good person. Even death wouldn’t restore that. Nothing word.

As you know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, I’m a confirmed fanboy when it comes to Andrew Klavan. I discovered him after he’d become a conservative, but before he became a Christian. I consider him one of the foremost thriller writers – and one of the best prose stylists – of our time.

Still, although I’ve praised all the books he’s written since then (specifically since the Weiss-Bishop novels, which I consider unparalleled) I’ve honestly thought he’s been kind of treading water, not quite sure where to go with his art.

Who’d have thought he’d hit his next home run with a horror-fantasy book? But Werewolf Cop, in spite of its William Castle title, is an amazing reading experience. Klavan has moved in on Dean Koontz’s turf, and done the genre proud.

Zach Adams is the hero of the book and the titular werewolf cop. He’s a Texas native relocated to New York City, where he works for a shadowy government police agency called “Extraordinary Crimes.” Along with his partner, “Broadway Joe” Goulart, he’s become a legend and a sort of a celebrity. He has a beautiful wife and a family he loves. But his life isn’t as great as people think it is. He’s worried about his partner, who has come under suspicion for corruption. He’s afraid of being blackmailed by a woman over a mistake he made. And he’s got the murder of a gangster by a mysterious, almost legendary European criminal to solve.

And that’s before he gets mauled by a werewolf.

I could quibble a little about the fantasy element in this story – werewolves here are pure Universal Pictures, rather than the genuine folklore article. But Klavan mines that old movie scenario for amazing psychological – and spiritual – insights. I was riveted from the first page to the last, and deeply moved at the same time.

You should be cautioned – there’s rough language, as in all Klavan’s books, and the gore element is what you’d expect in a werewolf story.

But if you can handle that, and wish to see old material raised to new levels, Werewolf Cop has my highest recommendation.

‘The Name of the Wind,’ by Patrick Rothfuss

Over Christmas someone suggested I read Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, first installment in the Kingkiller Chronicles, saying that all the young fantasy fans are talking about it these days.

They could be talking of worse things.

The Name of the Wind is a fantasy, of a refreshingly original sort. It’s similar to the Harry Potter books, but more mature in orientation.

The hero is Kvothe, literally a legend in his own time. World famous as a musician, a warrior, and a magician, he has retired from the world when we meet him in this book, keeping an inn in a remote town. When the character called the Chronicler encounters him, he doesn’t recognize him at first. But when he does, he manages to persuade Kvothe to tell him his life’s story so that he can write it down. Three days are reserved for the project, and each day’s narrative forms the text of one book in the series.

Kvothe tells us of his childhood as a traveling player, the tragedy that takes his family away, his years as a beggar, and at last his acceptance at the University, the greatest learning institution in a world where magic and technology are just poles on a single continuum.

There he makes friends and enemies, reconnects with the love of his life, breaks many rules, and begins to acquire the reputation that will make him the greatest figure of his time.

Fascinating, well written, and well-charactered, The Name of the Wind is very good reading. The author may take the story in ways I don’t like in the future, but for now I liked what I read.

Generally suitable for teens and up.

‘One Bright Star to Guide Them,’ by John C. Wright

“Innocence and faith are the weapons children bring to bear against open evils; wisdom is required to deal with evils better disguised.”

You might be tempted, on the basis of its description, to think John C. Wright’s novella, One Bright Star to Guide Them, is simple Narnia fanfic. A story of four adults, who were once children who entered a magical land peopled by magicians and talking animals.

But it’s more than that. This story is a transposition of Narnia. Author Wright moves the whole concept onto a different level. It’s a meditation on the most terrible line in all the Narnia books – “Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia.” Thomas, the protagonist, is summoned to take up a new fight against a revived evil. But when he contacts his childhood companions, he finds that – for one reason or another – they are not willing to join him. So he has to test his faith alone, except for the help of their old guide, a mystical kitten called Tybalt.

One Bright Star to Guide Them is a quick read, but entirely worthy of the material that inspired it. Beautiful in places. Highly recommended.