Posted by midiguru on June 20, 2009
Elves, centaurs, dragons, trolls, witches, hippogriffs, and other creatures even more fantastical throng through Michael Swanwick’s The Dragons of Babel. But it isn’t what you’re thinking. Swanwick has taken classic fantasy and mythology and done a cheerfully brutal mash-up with the seamier elements of our own modern world. There’s plenty of technology (from cigarette lighters to subway trains with electrical third rails), explicit sex, and casual profanity, not to mention overt references to actual historical figures like Mozart and Flaubert.
The first 2/3 of the novel seems almost picaresque — young Will is wandering through the world without much direction, falling in with whoever he meets, getting into trouble, falling in love, and so on. But Swanwick has a deeper design. Eventually the story is revealed as a modern expression of one of the timeless fantasy themes.
I’m not even going to tell you which theme, because that would spoil it. This book is a winner. If you’re looking for something fresh in the fantasy genre, you won’t want to miss it.
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Posted by midiguru on April 11, 2009
As part of my continuing survey of fantasy literature, this week I had a go at Graham Joyce’s novel The Tooth Fairy.
I made it to page 65. By that point, there was no discernible plot, and the one fantasy element (the Tooth Fairy himself) was both arbitrary and disagreeable. The Tooth Fairy wears heavy boots and cuts a child’s arm open on broken glass, for no detectable reason. On page 65, I found myself reading a scene in which three little boys are masturbating (complete with a discussion of the colors of the tissues involved). This was the third appearance of penises in the book, one of them having been the Tooth Fairy’s own.
I have no idea why anyone would have written this book. It having been written, I have no idea why anyone (Tor, no less) would have published it. I shall make a point of reading nothing else by Graham Joyce, ever again. Enough is enough.
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Posted by midiguru on April 7, 2009
Browsing in Netflix, I spotted a miniseries called Tin Man, a re-imagining of, you guessed it, The Wizard of Oz. It’s nothing whatever like Gregory Maguire’s wonderful novel Wicked — but both of them prove that, against all odds, Frank Baum’s goofy story has entered the realm of Living Myth, right alongside Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, and Frankenstein.
A case could be made that major creative works like these ought to move into the public domain a lot sooner. We’d have more stories like this to ooh and ahh over. But that’s a debate for another time.
Tin Man is pretty good. Not great — the special FX are TV quality, not movie quality, and the acting ditto (though Richard Dreyfuss turns in a great performance as Mystic Man.) There are way too many group hugs in the third and final segment of the story, and the plot makes about as much sense as the plot of the average fantasy or sci-fi movie, which is to say, no sense at all. But the action and complications keep the story moving, and the visual design is good.
Above all, if you know the source material (and who doesn’t?), you’ll appreciate the tricky changes wrought on it. All of the essential elements are in place — a tornado, a little dog, a hot-air balloon, a bunch of short people, a goofy guy with floppy limbs and no brain, Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on February 7, 2009
Prowling around Netflix, I stumbled on a blurb for Mirrormask. Written by Neil Gaiman, so I knew I had to see it.
Wow! Jaw-droppingly good. So good I watched it Friday night, and then again Saturday night. Visually stunning, conceptually stunning, and a solid story to boot. Also fine acting and superior music.
If you like modern fantasy, this movie will blow your socks off and curl your toes.
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Posted by midiguru on January 30, 2009
It’s been a long while since I read much fantasy or science fiction. Bad attitude is mainly to blame. But this week I’ve developed a serious craving to renew my familiarity with the Dark Arts. Ordered a stack of novels online, mainly classics that I missed the first time around (not having been born yet).
While waiting for them to arrive, I finished organizing my existing collection. It had been in storage for a few years. When I moved into this house I got it out and put it on shelves, but higgledy-piggledy. So now it’s more or less alphabetized.
Aside: I gave away a lot of books last year. Terrible idea. Never give away books! Kept a lot, though. Kept the Philip Dick, the Sheri Tepper, Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on January 26, 2009
I’ve been thinking about (sketching, actually) a rewrite of a fantasy novel I wrote a couple of years ago. At the time, my agent wasn’t interested in marketing it, and I trust his judgment. I think I’ve figured out how to make the story a whole lot stronger.
Last night, though, I fell to reading the column by Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick in the latest issue of the SFWA Bulletin. At the risk of oversimplifying, their message amounts to this: Read the rest of this entry »
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