Pixel Scroll 1/15/16 By Grabthar’s Hammer, You Shall Be Scrolled!

Schedule note: There will not be a Scroll on January 16 – I will be away at a meeting and won’t have time to prepare one. I’ll still moderate comments, since I can do that by using my Kindle to check in periodically.

(1) DOWN THESE MEAN FOOTPATHS. Peter McLean, author of Drake, explains some of his work in a post at Black Gate, “On Writing Modern Noir Fantasy”.

A Noir world.

So what’s that? Noir needs to be dark, by definition, but I don’t think it has to be tied to any particular time period. The classic Hollywood Noir is set in LA or New York in the 1940s but it can work equally well in the backstreets of ancient Rome or the mean cantinas of Mos Eisley, or even in modern South London for that matter.

Noir implies bitter, cynical black-and-white men in hats and beautiful, dangerous women with secrets to hide, but it doesn’t have to be that either. You could have a hard-bitten battle-scarred female veteran of an alien war as your main character and still be writing Noir.

It’s about the feel and the vibe rather than the place or even the people who occupy that place. Noir is about dark thoughts and dark motives, deep introspection followed by double-crosses in back alleys and brief moments of sudden, brutal violence.

But there is a certain aesthetic as well, and I think that’s important. To understand the visual motif you only have to look at how the old movies play with light and shadow, the half-seen faces and the way sunbeams stream through the slats of a blind into the air of a smoky room.

(2) LISTEN IN. Leah Schnelbach of Tor.com was there for – “Race, Publishing, and H.P. Lovecraft: A Conversation With Daniel José Older and Victor LaValle”.

Earlier this week, a large and enthusiastic crowd packed Greenlight Bookstore in defiance of freezing temperature and threats of snow. Greenlight hosted a launch party for Midnight Taxi Tango, Daniel José Older’s second novel in the Bone Street Rumba series. But rather than the usual reading-and-wine-soaked-light-conversation that is the centerpiece of most literary events, this party soon became a lively and wide-ranging conversation about race, publishing, and the true legacy of H.P. Lovecraft. Older’s reading was fantastic, but it was his discussion with Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver and the forthcoming The Ballad of Black Tom, that turned the event into one of the best literary nights I’ve ever attended.

(3) FREAKY FRIDAY. Washington Post writer Peter Marks reports the Disney Theatrical Group and Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia are producing a musical version of Freaky Friday, which will receive its premiere this fall. The musical will be composed by Tom Kitt with lyrics by Brian Yorkey.

In a deal that rockets Signature Theatre into a whole new producing orbit, the Arlington company will team up this fall with the Walt Disney Co. to present a world-premiere musical version of “Freaky Friday,” with a score by the Pulitzer Prize-winning team behind “Next to Normal.”

(4) BEAR NECESSITIES. Adam Rowe’s “The Taxonomy of Crazy Fantasy Art: A Visual History of 1970s Polar Bear-Drawn Sleighs” at the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog, a glorious post idea in its own right, includes this insightful quote —

As one blogger at the Ragged Claws Network puts it, “Chaykin’s attempt to supply Urlik Skarsol’s polar bear team with a semi-plausible harness […] actually diminishes rather than enhances Frazetta’s gloriously silly original concept by drawing undue attention to the mundane question of how, exactly, the fantasy hero’s cool mode of transportation could be made to work in the real world and whether Chaykin’s design is, in fact, a viable solution.”

(5) NOT HAPPY DAYS. Geek Art Gallery shows what forces would have been awakened if these new heroes and villains had met while attending Star Wars High School.

(6) YODA YOU CAN TALK LIKE. Infogram by Grammarly.

Star-Wars-Grammar-By-Yoda

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Alan Baumler.]

307 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/15/16 By Grabthar’s Hammer, You Shall Be Scrolled!

  1. Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World has a galactic economy of generation ships shuttling between worlds, as I recall, generally not coming to sticky ends. And there’s a generation ship in one of Iain M Banks’ books that has lasted long enough to get an FTL drive retro-fitted; can’t recall which one, now.

    As to good dragons, there’s a movie possibly based on The Dragon and the George in which Sean Connery voices the dragon, which again I have forgotten the title of. Though considering the scam that the dragon and the knight have going, perhaps “good” is a little positive spin.

  2. Good dragons: am I remembering a baby dragon who attaches himself rather fondly to Cat in Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones?

  3. Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World has a galactic economy of generation ships shuttling between worlds

    They’re not exactly generation ships, the original passengers and crew expect to be alive and in good health when they arrive at their target system. They do start raising a generation of children a few years before arrival to give a larger population base.

  4. @Jack Lint
    Trogdor is a great dragon, but not a good dragon I would say.

    For good dragons, has anyone mentioned the dragons from Laurence Yep’s series ( Dragon of the Lost Sea, etc…)? Shimmer is both a good and great dragon.

  5. Didn’t get to do Arisia this year, as I have only just received my first paycheck from my new job which finally went permanent at the end of the year.

    However, I’m considering Boskone and definitely doing Readercon, because that’s close to me. So any MA people who are going to those, I’m in for a meetup!

    I’m also possibly maybe considering going to Worldcon in 2017, because Helsinki + Worldcon = excellent reason to travel for the first time since my last Real Job.

    Arisia next year is a definitely want to go con!

    Thank you also for the comparisons between The Goblin Emperor and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Purchasing Long Way now. I was holding off, but the comparisons helped. Because I loved TGE!

    The other thing that I’m working on this weekend is sorting my longlist into categories and figuring out what I haven’t read. Like Related Work.

    Thanks Filers!

  6. Has anone read Hellspark by Janet Kagan? Anothe SF adventure all about interpersonal dynamics.

  7. Hampus Eckerman

    I do think we should have dragon bracket

    Sounds like a good idea to me

    @Beth in MA
    I’ve rolled over my Arisia membership so I should be there next year. I used to attend Boskone and Readercon when I lived in the area. I occasionally manage to make it back to MA combining cons with visiting family and friends for a couple weeks when health permits.

  8. @Vasha: I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of everything Janet Kagan wrote (tragically not very much). HELLSPARK is fantastic. So is her _Mirabile_ and her Star Trek novel (_Uhura’s Song_).

  9. Reading all the dragon recs, I’m thinking about the ways in which a text which has a single dragon that is an antagonist or obstacle (depending on the dragon?) for the protagonist in a traditional quest motif plot (which draws on european-pre-christian germanic and syncretic christian ideas of the dragon, i.e. evil/satanic/etc — a lot of medieval saints did dragon clearing out, not just St. George, and Tolkien’s dragons in the SILM as well as Smaug are in this tradition), and a text which has dragons in larger numbers (often sentient, even if variously alien to the human characters) which shifts from the satanic/evil dragons to dragons as one of multiple fantasy races/species, and shows much more complex interactions between dragons and humans.

    There are some fascinating novels with those sorts of dragons by some of my favorite authors.

    I like those dragons best. In fact, so much I wrote some fantasy/dragon sestinas a few years ago (never got accepted for publication, so what the heck, here they are).

    A Dragon’s Tale: Introduction

    Stories and songs are built of blood and fire,
    brave men with long swords claiming virgins
    for their own after victory. The evil snakes
    lie dead on mounds of jewels. No duennas
    are needed to guard heroines from the story’s hero.
    The tongues and pricks of men are smooth.

    Do not go out at night, fear the dark, smooth
    talking men warn girls clustered near the evening fire.
    Stories of wolf and dragon, all monsters, make the hero
    who fights them loom large in the eyes of virgins.
    Old and wrinkled, quiet in the back, the duennas
    whisper and laugh among themselves, voices like snakes

    low and sinuous after years of hearing men boast. Snakes
    do not terrify them, cast skins shining like jewels. Smooth
    skinned girls are dressed and displayed, guarded by duennas.
    Their jewels and eyes shine and flicker, prizes gilded by fire,
    as they are cast to be nameless players when needed: virgins
    demanded by the dragon in order to be killed by the hero.

    The stories are told, the names are lost but the male is hero
    and the evil takes the form of snakes.
    Pythons, draco, medusa, all snakes, all virgins
    themselves by choice. Lovely, lithe and smooth,
    they move through the world and stories like fire.
    Monsters are our own duennas.

    We tell a different story, we duennas
    relegated to the back of the hall. No long-sworded hero
    far from home fighting evil winged in fire:
    we drape the weight of jeweled snakes
    around our necks, feel the flex of muscle and flick of tongues smooth
    against our skin, claim those males who prey on virgins

    for our own. We can eat males, virgins
    and not, who are lost in the woods, frightened of the dark, needing duennas
    to reassure them of their heroism. A smooth
    promise is made never to tell what noises a hero
    makes. Loops and snarls of writhing snakes
    leave marks to be read in the light of the fire.

    There are many tales of virgins and many tales of a hero
    that are told by duennas quiet as snakes
    in the smooth darkness, hidden behind the fire.

    A Dragon’s Tale: Birth

    In bubbles of air blown by fire,
    smooth walls curve like a wave
    poised to fall. The pulse of heat
    like blood in veins, magma before eruptions,
    flows heavier than water, gold
    and starblood shrouded in night.

    Stories told in the dark of night
    speak of theft, see protection in a fire,
    but flames of red and gold
    can wipe away life. No wave
    of water can stop the eruptions
    that blast ash and rubble into heat,

    killing the breathing green. Such heat
    challenges the rule of night,
    wraps moonfire in threads from eruptions.
    The older and hotter the fire,
    the higher we can fly, wings like a wave
    of flame, breath sparking gold

    in blue air, then in black. Above, noonfire like gold
    fills the spaces around the world with heat
    and light that weave through space. A wave
    of bodies crests, crossing into night.
    Lovers wrapped in fire,
    leap from cliffs, glide through eruptions

    of blazing stone jetting high, eruptions
    that slow and fade to black, holding gold
    deep within, warm with inner fire.
    Birthing comes from breathing heat,
    deep in the womb of night
    below the earth. New life rises in a wave

    to greet the dawnfire, a wave
    that breaks free of stony eruptions
    to rise shrieking into night
    to claim its own, thirsty for the blood of gold,
    the liquid flame that carries heat
    deep into the guts of fire.

    In our stories, waves of red and gold
    lava flung from eruptions carry the earth’s heat
    from the night into the bodies of fire.

  10. @Beth in MA
    If the weather cooperates and the flight doesn’t get cancelled, I will be at Boskone. We can have a Beth meetup!

  11. Too-easy mystery gripes: I encourage anyone feels this way to avoid The Algebraist at all costs, one of the worst offenders I’ve ever encountered. It all but spells out the solution in chapter 2, then wants you to believe that among trillions upon trillions of sentient beings across I forget how many centuries, no one has ever managed to figure it out.

    I have a personal rule about never going to see a movie when I’ve figured out the twist after seeing the trailer or just reading a brief description of the premise. I’ve broken this rule twice and regretted it both times (The Village and Avatar).

  12. I added the thematic table of contents to the short story volume. If a story is in the volume but not in this new toc, it just means I haven’t read it yet and don’t know where to place it. Or it didn’t fit into the existing categories and I didn’t want to make a category for just one story. It doesn’t mean it is not worth reading.

    When doing this, I realized that H. Bedford-Jones and Dorothy Quick are the only two writers (again, that I have read so far) whose stories consistently have female protagonists or strong secondary characters who are women. Bedford-Jones’ women usually kick ass. “Emerald of Isis” and “The Angry Amethyst” really stand out for this reason. The protagonists in Quick’s Patchwork Quilt novelettes are what I, as a guy in 2016, assume to be more typical of a 1940s woman and her expected roles and concerns. I thought Quick’s novelette, “Two for a Bargain,” was pretty good. Maybe it could be described as Emo Kylo Ren’s journey to the dark side, as a woman in colonial Massachusetts.

    EPUB
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2Q8-08mD2rFc0V2X2V2bF9iUkE/view?usp=sharing

    Kindle
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2Q8-08mD2rFQUtmTDdHTkVtbWM/view?usp=sharing

  13. > “Smaug the Golden vs all comers at the end?”

    Hm. I would personally expect Smaug to be in at least the Final Eight, and would probably predict a Final Four of Smaug, Errol, Yevaud, and Temeraire.

    However, bear in mind my bracket predictive skills are notably TERRIBLE, so for all I know it would end up being Ruth, Falkor, Mayland Long, and Maur, all of whom I would suspect are very popular ones.

    Heart’s Blood might have a shot of getting in the mix, but I think the classic sci-fi crowd would lean toward Ruth. Similarly, I think the historical fantasy fiction crowd is going to lean towards Temeraire over, say, Selendra. Tintaglia could have a decent chance of going far, I think.

    Eustace Scrubb probably isn’t popular enough as a character. Jim Eckert, while not unknown, may be a little too obscure these days for the necessary broad appeal, and the same probably goes for Morkeleb, Shimmer, Skysong, Gleep, and Lorn. Fafnir is going to suffer here from not being in the SFF genre tradition, and Trogdor may have similar issues. Katla is going to have a following from Sweden, but may have difficulty getting traction elsewhere.

    Norbert, Lockheed, Toothless, and Orma (assuming Seraphina herself is disqualified for only being a half-dragon) are not from obscure series, but I can’t see them beating out more famous dragons. If Seraphina is allowed in, I think she has a better shot of getting further.

    And of course, a number have been mentioned I’m not that familiar with, such as Tecwyn, Morning Bright, Alduin, Spyro, Horatio Heavyside Dragon, Worzel the Velantian, Idris, Hasai, The Soup Dragon, and the tattoo on Kendall’s lower left arm, among many others. And it’s never wise to underestimate the unfamiliar …

  14. Robinareid–wow!

    Sestinas are a great form for dragons–so sinuous–and that first poem takes full advantage of that 🙂
    The second makes me wonder whether planets seem like eggs from a certain point of view.

    I would like to see a dragon bracket just because I would like to see a list of people’s favorite dragon books. Some of these dragons I don’t even recognize.

  15. Maur. That’s the one I was forgetting. Since Hero and the Crown is one of my favorite books – and one I reread often – I’m not surprised my brain was a little noisy. I think I got confused trying to remember good dragons. For the record, my favorite is Mayland Long, and I also have a dragon tattoo, although not on my arm.

    I don’t know what makes people able or unable to read grimdark or horror. I can read some horror, but it has to predictably end optimistically or I can’t tolerate it. I also can’t watch scary movies, even if I know it will all turn out well. There’s something about the knife edge of suspense, either in the moment or in the denouement that I find intolerable on pretty much every level. I can’t read grimdark at all and, while I like hardboiled, I don’t like most noir, because of the hopelessness.

    @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little – Anyway, he likes it bunches and he thinks the writing is better than many things we’ve read together recently and I just wish we could do more chapters sooner because IT IS SO GOOD.

    We also read to one another, sometimes successfully (The Hobbit) and sometimes not (The Magician’s Land). I think Ancillary Justice would be a perfect next choice, because I’d love to hear that dialogue aloud instead of in my head. I’m not sure either one of us could do the one chapter a week thing, though, since we’re not good at self denial.

  16. nickpheas

    I do think we should have dragon bracket

    Smaug the Golden vs all comers at the end?

    I’ll see your Smaug and raise you Jörmungandr. Your call.

  17. @ Jack Lint

    Did anyone else grow up with My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett?

    Oooh! Me! Me! I didn’t encounter the later volumes until I was a bit past the target age, but I read the first one at exactly the right time.

  18. My brain is somewhat hazy at the moment, due to one of those headaches you get which can’t decide whether to stay or go, so please forgive me if someone has already mentioned Zelazny’s take on the relationship between George and the dragon. It’s one of my favourites.

    Congratulations to RedWombat for the gig; the real one, that is. At one point I was nodding approvingly at Ursa Major, before I realised there was a missing ul…

  19. @Cat: Sestinas are a great form for dragons–so sinuous–and that first poem takes full advantage of that 🙂

    Yessssss, they are! Some years ago, I stumbled across a group bonding exercise for an engineering program that had the new students writing sestinas–and I thought, heck, I should do that in my creative writing class the first day! And we did. And I wrote along with them and became hooked on the form, so much so I haven’t done anything that wasn’t a sestina for a while. I have a partially completed one or two based on Hampus’ (sorry if I am misremembering whose used the phrase) “drift store” because what a lovely evocative image that was! But it hasn’t come together yet.

    The second makes me wonder whether planets seem like eggs from a certain point of view.

    I think Diane Duane’s myth of the dragon migration in her Tale of the Five was an influence on this one–and so, yes, the idea of planets looking like eggs rings beautifully true.

    Thank you!

    @Heather Rose Jones: (re: dragon sestinas)

    Oooooh! Those are lovely. (I have a weakness for formal poetic meters.)

    Thank you! I was a sort of free verse type (mostly because I suck at rhyme and the standard English meters) until I discovered the sestina (which for those who are interested is based on a medieval French form which has been done a whole lot in English.

    It’s hard to get published these days though at least in print journals because so many have line lengths which are well below the 39 line sestina sigh.

  20. Eh… apologies for the duplicate post, I originally put this in the wrong thread:

    With regard to Generation Ship novels that dont’ suck, I read The Forever Watch by David Ramirez about a year and a half ago and really enjoyed it. I think it deserved to be more widely appreciated.

  21. This is from way last page, but yes, Mary Frances, it was Green Smoke, and it was a truly lovely dragon who spoke like a toff and related all kinds of adventures and personal friendships he’d had over his very long life. I thought the title was something like that and then I thought, no, that was the Anya Seton time travel book. But that one is Green Darkness, and this one is Green Smoke.

    Anyway, I really loved Green Smoke when I was a child and just establishing my reading preferences.

    And speaking of which… I am reading Uprooted and not loving it as much as everyone else but I’m not sure why. While at the doctor’s office, I started Ink and Bone, which moved quite quickly and I enjoyed a lot for the first hundred pages, but I haven’t been moved to finish. I’m a little disappointed that after a front note that talked about girls, all the action is with boys. Or one specific boy. I like him and the Oliver Twisty feel of it, as well as the ambiguity of who’s good and who’s bad, but now that we’ve got to the library I’m not loving it as much. But maybe that gets better… And The Fifth Season is up next, which might be very soon if I don’t go back to Uprooted and/or Ink and Bone. I think I have to try Uprooted again, though, if for no other reason than to articulate why it didn’t seem to be pulling me in.

  22. @robinareid, I forgot to say thank you for the sestinas. I have an inability to grasp any sort of formal meter (it’s probably the dyslexia), but I like it when I encounter it, even if I can’t explain how it’s different from free verse.

    Also forgotten: Thank you, @von Dimpleheimer. The categories make the whole thing easier for me.

    @Bigelow T – I am reading Uprooted and not loving it as much as everyone else but I’m not sure why.

    You’re not alone. I liked it well enough, but was not at all enchanted by Uprooted.

  23. I have just read volumes 1, 2 and 3 of Martin Davies Mrs Hudson Sherlock Holmes’s spin off straight through; they are fun, they are witty and they are immensely appealing in their rejection of the cheap laughs available from caricaturing human beings. Martin Davies obviously knows and loves the canon, since otherwise he couldn’t write these stories.

    There is one additional character, Flotsam, a young girl rescued from the horrors of Victorian London for the poor, and she fits in perfectly since there would undoubtedly have been a maid at 221B. We see these stories through her eyes, looking back in old age at how the maid became a distinguished scientist.

    Of course, they are not science fiction but what the hell; there are times when we need books to lift our spirits and remind ourselves of the kindness which people are capable of, whilst providing us with puzzles to satisfy that part of our brains which delights in them. Thoroughly recommended for anyone looking for that, though so far there have been no dragons…

  24. @BigelowT: re Novik’s _Uprooted_.

    I enjoyed it, but having read an excellently done critical review by Foz Meadows, I am thinking I need to look a bit more critically at it because of some of the tropes that appear. Link to review . Note detailed spoilers, and discussion of romanticizing abusive behavior.

  25. @Cheryl S: thank you! When I teach lit and creative writing, my take is that free verse is one in which there is a form, but it’s not a traditional one and is determined by the individual poet (decisions about where to break a line is a formal decision) whereas the traditional forms have just been around for a long time! (I think Frost was a bit unfair in his characterization of free verse as “playing tennis without a net.”)

    Students often struggle with the sestina form (and think theirs is awful but love their classmates’ ones–which makes for some fascinating discussion).

  26. NON-DRAGONS:

    @Kyra: Cool, I’m bookmarking your City of Blades review for after I read it. I read the first part and I don’t believe you have spoilers, but I’d rather save the rest for post-reading, since I know I’m going to read it. But I will return to read your review!

    @JJ: Oh groovy, The Forever Watch is on my “look into this, it sounds cool” list (as usual, not the lists’s real name). I’ll note your rec.

    ObSFReading: I started The Last Witness by K.J. Parker late last night and it kept me up super late, finishing it. It was very good! But I hated the 99%-no-quotation-marks (and a couple of typos annoyed me). Seriously, I know that’s a stylistic thing authors occasionally trot out, but it’s really just freaking annoying to me as a reader, and it feels pretentious. There’s a convention to making things readable; use it, please, authors. I get that this was very “person telling something to someone else,” but that is no excuse IMHO. /grumble Also, it was especially eye-rolling when there were a very, very few quotation marks in the book; at least be consistent!

    Regardless, it was very good, with a few gotchas that worked well for me. I expected to run into a few (due to the setup), but they didn’t happen when I thought, so they took me by surprise, yay. BTW this was my first Tor.com novella from their new novella line.

  27. DRAGONS:

    @Hampus Eckerman: I wonder, would Meredith vote for ALL THE DRAGONS? 😉

    @James Davis Nicoll: Yes, I mentioned Lockheed.

    @Kyra:

    And of course, a number have been mentioned I’m not that familiar with, such as Tecwyn, Morning Bright, Alduin, Spyro, Horatio Heavyside Dragon, Worzel the Velantian, Idris, Hasai, The Soup Dragon, and the tattoo on Kendall’s lower left arm, among many others. And it’s never wise to underestimate the unfamiliar …

    LOL, I could post a photo, if that would help.

    @Cat: Yeah, I haven’t heard of a lot of the dragons mentioned in this thread! I’m apparently woefully under-dragon-read. Still, I bet a I’ll be pretty familiar with at least some of the finalists, if this happens.

    @j-grizz: OMG PUFF! Thanks for remembering Puff!!!

    @Cheryl S.: Dueling dragon tattoos at 20 paces. 😉

  28. A friend at work recommended And Again based on the audiobook. The setup sounds interesting and I like that there are four narrators, presumably one each for the main characters. I’m reading some fairly mixed reviews, but still, a personal rec weighs heavily against that.

    Anyone here read or listened to it and have general (non-spoilery, please) thoughts on it? I’m tempted to try to squeeze in more new books by just getting the audiobook (I have lots of Audible credits anyway), even though I nearly always prefer reading, then listening some time later as a way to “re-read” a book.

    BTW this is the same friend who rec’d The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August to me (which is on my list to buy).

  29. @robinareid
    Thanks for the link to Foz Meadows. I had mixed feeling throughout Uprooted. Foz Meadows does a good job articulating many of my problems with the book as well as so many reviews of it which didn’t mention the various rape attempts among other abusive behavior. These are things I’d like and use content notes for. The problem is many authors and even more readers don’t see what’s there – what they’ve written/read until someone pulls the parts out & lines them up.

    I don’t have the patience to copy/type up parts of books/stories to make my points so I don’t make a good critical reviewer. Just content notes which other readers will disagree with as they didn’t see it. When I was able to watch TV I drove my husband and some friends crazy as I’d pause & replay scenes and explain why they were sexist/racist/abusive/etc. It does kill the mood. LOL

  30. Tasha Turner: Speaking as a reader of Uprooted, I couldn’t reconcile the rape attempt by one character whose devotion to his mother drives many events in the story. But that’s just me, I can’t say that’s unrealistic — in today’s world, it seems every criminal has a mother saying on TV what a sweet child he was.

  31. Ha! I have just identified a “generation ship” story I read as a kid but was never able to find again… I guess the library’s copy must have disappeared. “The Star Seekers” by Milton Lesser, 1953. Now to find a copy.

  32. Sadly, having personally known a rapist who took devoted care of his mother, that didn’t even twitch an eyelash for me.

  33. Just read: Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand. It’s the story of what became of one psychedelic-folk band who spent the summer of 1971 at an old rural manor. It all circles around the absence of Julian Blake, the band’s guitarist and songwriter (without him, there was no band). Julian was the kind of magnetic personality, with his beauty, unique music, and secret mysticism, who in memory would be the central figue of a particular golden moment of youth. It helps if such memory figures die young. Julian did even better than that: he disappeared into mysterious ancient magic.

    The key to the mystery, at least according to Julian, lies in the distinction Mircea Eliade drew between sacred and profane time. Julian was always seeking sacred time. Wylding Hall was a good place to seek it, because there were a lot of people in the nearby village who still remembered the midwinter rite of hunting the wren. It seems that Julian’s music was extraordinary enough to open up that power even in midsummer. It ate him whole, apparently, but that’s what he wanted.

    We see the events through the recollections of the other band members, who only experienced the magic in forms that emphatically excluded them, and were terrifying. Except when making music, that is; then they could reach a sacred moment.

    It is a nostalgic story; none of the people interviewed felt like their lives lived up to the possibilities they could glimpse that one summer when they were 18 or 19. And none of them seem to have found a way to incorporate the sacred into their lives. (The author doesn’t suggest that such power is gone from the world, though, even if this village forgot the wren rite.)

    There was a lot to like about this book, from its evocation of a bygone time to its circling around a sacred mystery. I like what Will, the only member of the band who’s really interested in folk music, says about it (folk for me has always been a social and participatory activity, and yes, occasionally suggesting the sacred):

    People talk about carrying the torch , but I always think of that man they found in the ice up in the Alps. He’d been under the snow for 1,200 years, and when they discovered him, he was still wearing his clothes, a cloak of woven grass and a bearskin cap, and in his pocket they found a little bag of grass and tinder and a bit of dead coal. That was the live spark he’d been carrying, the bright ember he kept in his pocket to start a fire whenever he stopped.

    You’d have to be so careful, more careful than we can even imagine, to keep that one spark alive. Because that’s what kept you alive, in the cold and the dark.

    Folk music is like that. And by folk I mean whatever music it is that you love, whatever music it is that sustains you. It’s the spark that keeps us alive in the cold and night, the fire we all gather in front of so we know we’re not alone in the dark.

  34. @Mike: To me it seemed a pretty common outcome of the whole “Madonna/whore” outlook, seen often even nowadays.

  35. @Mike Glyer
    Abusing women while revering/being devoted to another isn’t unusual per se. Children love their abusive parents. Parents love, adore, and make excuses/don’t see the bad things their kids do. I’ve seen it happen all too frequently.

    But it didn’t ring true in the story for me. It’s also the minority of women who are abused. So it’s frustrating to see it in so many books. Especially written by women who clearly are trying to write stories about amazing women overcoming some adversity.

  36. @vonD: I like the thematic grouping idea! One could easily be just “Pew Pew!” Seems really useful for compare and contrast purposes, and also for skipping of themes you can’t even with.

    Speaking of things you can’t even, did anyone else read Foz’ Meadows post about how very much she DID NOT WANT “Uprooted”? It’s a perspective I hadn’t heard with all the YAY AWESOME. Content Note: May harsh your squee about “Uprooted”.
    https://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/uprooted-abuse-ragequitting/

    Which is why I recommended “Bryony and Roses” instead.

    @Peace said: I sometimes wonder if people whose lives have been touched by real grimness tend to have less of a taste for grimdark.
    to which I say “Oh hell yes, you are SO correct.” Much like suburban teenagers whose biggest problem is that they don’t have the latest iPhone really love post-apocalyptic fiction. Basically, when you have enough of that shit IRL, you don’t want it in your reading for pleasure.

    Congrats to Our Wombat for next year’s GoH-ness! Can someone make her a Crimson Marsupial (TM me, but am signing it over to her) costume? Or is her in normal clothes automatically a Crimson Marsupial? I hear she knows this Kingfisher person — maybe Ursula could get ’em in as a Guest of GoH?

  37. Mike Glyer

    Tasha Turner: Speaking as a reader of Uprooted, I couldn’t reconcile the rape attempt by one character whose devotion to his mother drives many events in the story. But that’s just me, I can’t say that’s unrealistic — in today’s world, it seems every criminal has a mother saying on TV what a sweet child he was.

    I saw it as someone who was abusing their station trying to take what they felt they were entitled to as a matter of course, without much emotion behind it. aside from not being familiar with being told no. That he loved his mother had little to do with it, aside from her presence also being something he was told he could not have and refused to listen to. That he couldn’t accept being denied was a consistent character trait rather than something I couldn’t reconcile personally.

  38. Vasha

    Thank you for your review; since I actually did spend time with a psychedelic folk band in a Manor House out on the moor…

  39. Just finished the new Bujold, Gentleman Jolie and the Red Queen. It was a very gentle and kind novel that just focused on the characters as they reached a point in their lives where they were just past the halfway point. Reflections on morality, relationships, happiness, career vs satisfaction, and reinvention. Especially if permission is Required to change ones life.

    I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  40. I do think we should have dragon bracket.

    I’d await with trepidation the inevitable accusations of crowd sourcing a dragon slate in anticipation of a best dragon ever award someday being awarded by popular vote, and prolonged, unproductive discussions as to whether the accusations are valid but with (probably) no one’s livelihood in the present even conceivably depending on winning such an award, I suppose we could get away with that one.

    Maybe some other creature brackets would be fun too. Animal protagonist. Animal companion (to a human/alien protagonist). Canine, feline, and/or murine? Or, going back to humans (or aliens, legendary creatures), pairings (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser final against the winner of everyone else?)

Comments are closed.