literally spell-binding

February 11, 2020

I’ve loved fairy tales, folklore, and myth since I was a child, and then studied myth and folklore at university — so when I discovered fantasy (an entire genre full of fiction and art rooted in ancient, magical stories!) I knew I’d found my aesthetic home: the field I wanted to work in, and the professional community I wanted to be a part of.

As with myths and folk tales, a good fantasy novel is literally spell-binding, using language to conjure up whole new worlds, or to invest our own modern world with magic. To me, the particular pleasure of good fantasy comes from its unbroken link to the world’s oldest stories, expressed through an author’s skilful manipulation of mythic archetypes, story patterns, and symbols. And those are powerful things.

Terri Windling
Interview with ActuSF

it seemed like magic

February 11, 2020

N K Jemisin’s writing process often begins with dreams: imagery vivid enough to hang on into wakefulness. She does not so much mine them for insight as treat them as portals to hidden worlds. Her tendency is to interrogate what she sees with if/then questions, until her field of vision widens enough for her to glimpse a landscape that can hold a narrative. The inspiration for her début novel, “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (2010), was a dream vision of two gods. One had dark-as-night hair that contained a starry cosmos of infinite depth; the other, in a child’s body, manipulated planets like toys. From these images, Jemisin spun out a four-hundred-page story about an empire that enslaves its deities. The book established her as a prominent new voice…

… Jemisin finished “The Fifth Season.” The story defied easy literary categorization. It was sweeping but intimate, multilayered but simply told. It could be read as an environmental parable, or as a study of repression, or as a meditation on race, or as a mother’s post-apocalyptic quest. Jemisin wove in magical elements, but she systematized them so thoroughly that they felt like scientific principles — laws of an alternative nature. She evoked advanced technology, but made it so esoteric that it seemed like magic. (Most of her imagined machines were made of crystal. At some point, the inhabitants of the Stillness eschewed metallurgy; the word “rust” even became an expletive.)

Raffi Khatchadourian
N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds

Sensible Question –

February 8, 2020

I read voraciously and widely. Mythic matter and folklore made up much of that reading – retellings of the old stories (Mallory, White, Briggs), anecdotal collections and historical investigations of the stories’ backgrounds – and then I stumbled upon the Tolkien books, which took me back to Lord Dunsany, William Morris, James Branch Cabell, E.R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake and the like. I was in heaven when Lin Carter began the Sign of the Unicorn imprint for Ballantine, and scoured the other publishers for similar good finds, delighting when I discovered someone like Thomas Burnett Swann, who still remains a favourite. This was before there was such a thing as a fantasy genre, when you’d be lucky to have one fantasy book published in a month, little say the hundreds per year we have now.

Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint: A Life of Stories
Terri Windling

a strange thing happened

February 6, 2020

“I wonder what you would say to me, Maria dear, if you could talk?”

She glanced casually at Maria’s serene little face. Then a strange thing happened. There was a shift in the air, a shimmer, and something changed. Was it Maria’s face, or was it the world itself? For the briefest moment, Maria’s (Doll) features became fluid with expression, and Heloise heard a voice, as clear as a bell, and yet inside her head, answering promptly:

“I would say, I love you.”

Heloise froze.

“Oh, Maria, dearest,” she whispered with all her heart. “I love you too.”

Cassandra Golds
The Museum of Mary Child

I squatted on the wet straw and stretched out my hand. I was now within the field of force of his golden eyes. He growled at the back of his throat, lowered his head, sank on to his forepaws, snarled, showed me his red gullet, his yellow teeth. I never moved. He snuffed the air, as if to smell my fear; he could not.

Slowly, slowly he began to drag his heavy, gleaming weight across the floor towards me.

A tremendous throbbing, as of the engine that makes the earth turn, filled the little room; he had begun to purr. . . .

He dragged himself closer and closer to me, until I felt the harsh velvet of his head against my hand, then a tongue, abrasive as sandpaper. “He will lick the skin off me!”

And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shiny hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur.

Angela Carter
The Tiger’s Bride

in our garden

February 1, 2020

And so the one in our garden continued its growth peacefully, as did thousands like it in neglected spots all over the world. It was some little time later that the first one picked up its roots and walked.

John Wyndham
The Day of the Triffids

the forest people

February 1, 2020

There’s a well-known illustration by Arthur Rackham in which the forest people, or fairies or sprites or goblins or whatever they are — the things that live in the roots of trees—are clambering up to get a view at the fabulous Man who is strolling through their forest. Even the trees themselves are watching, as the fairy folk hold up their young so they can see this strange monstrosity in a frock coat, with a stovepipe hat and spats.

Unsettling Wonder
The King in Kensington Gardens

Best fed by reality

February 1, 2020

I write fantasy because it’s there. I have no other excuse for sitting down for several hours a day indulging my imagination. Daydreaming. Thinking up imaginary people, impossible places. Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps.  It must be fed; it cannot be ignored. Making it tell the same tale over and over again makes it thin and whining; its scales begin to fall off; its fiery breath becomes a trickle of smoke. It is best fed by reality, an odd diet for something non-existent; there are few details of daily life and its broad range of emotional context that can’t be transformed into food for the imagination. It must be visited constantly, or else it begins to become restless and emit strange bellows at embarrassing moments; ignoring it only makes it grow larger and noisier. Content, it dreams awake, and spins the fabric of tales. There is really nothing to be done with such imagery except to use it: in writing, in art. Those who fear the imagination condemn it: something childish, they say, something monsterish, misbegotten. Not all of us dream awake. But those of us who do have no choice.

Terri Windling
Patti Perret
Faces of Fantasy

master the tales

January 30, 2020

Fairy tales shaped me. I have since “put them away.” That is, the adult is a mostly rational creature, aware that fairy tales are not “real” but are a fantasy, an entertaining escape from the problems of the real world. As a man, I make such tales an object of my attention and maintain an analytical control over them: I read them. I interpret them; they don’t interpret me. I, placing them within my memory and my experience exactly where I wish them to be. Fairy tales dwell within the adult.

Walter Wangerin, Jr
Hans Christian Andersen: Shaping the Child’s Universe