Posts Categorized: Art

The Melancholy of Mechagirl features fantasy-inspired short fiction by Valente about Japan, including the Hugo Award-nominated novella Silently and Very Fast and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time,’ both of which were originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine. She described ‘The Melancholy of Mechagirl’ as ‘a philosophical confessional poem about anime and giant robots.’ Fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a popular anime, will recognize the name. You can read it in Issue 26 of Mythic Delirium. Valente lived in Japan for a number of years, and the people and stories of the country are deeply rooted in much of her fiction. She discussed her relationship with Japanese culture in a 2006 interview with Bookslut:

How did living in Japan affect your writing and your life?

Oh, that’s a big question! I think Yume no Hon is probably one long answer to it, but I’ll give it a shot here.

Japan was very hard for me — my husband, a naval officer, was gone for 19 out of the 25 months we lived there. I was alone in an extremely alien culture, unable to speak the language, without friends or family. I lived alone with my dog and wrote. It was as close to a garret as you can get in the 21st century. I had never experienced loneliness like that before, and I’ll probably be processing it for awhile yet.

However, I came to interact with Japanese culture on my own terms, relatively stripped of the assumptions fostered stateside by anime and other memetic exports. I found my own way to loving it, and though it is a hard-won love, I won’t lose it soon. I lived like a hermit for a year and a half — if you don’t come out of that with some kind of zen, you go crazy.

So instead I wrote. And a lot of what I wrote in that time involves Japanese culture, because that was what I lived with every day. I wrote a novel about a lonely woman slowly losing her mind — not a very subtle allegory, I’ll admit — and another about the Shinto creation myth, and quite a lot of poetry. As a white woman living there, my relationship to Shinto was divided at best — I felt very strongly about it, and traveled all over to visit shrines, yet I always felt like an outsider, which is perhaps appropriate. The gaze of the outsider is part of all of my work, I think.

Part of me will probably always be in Japan, but it will be awhile before I write another Japanese novel. There are always new worlds to devour.

She speaks further about Japan, and particularly the Shinto religion, in an interview with Clarkesworld:

The mythology of Japan will always be with me—the Shinto faith, the syncretic culture, the jungle right up close to the urban sprawl. Some part of me will always be there, always looking for fox-statues in the forest, watching the jellyfish suck at the sides of boats in the harbor. I will never stop being fascinated by it, and processing what it means in relation to me and my work and my internal landscape. It was a hermitage, and I learned all the things good hermits are supposed to learn: how to be alone, how to quiet demons, how to sweep the halls and keep the wolves at the door.

Japanese history and mythology is rife with many stories and themes that resonate through the Fantasy genre. It’s wonderful to see authors like Valente, and collections like this in particular, celebrate a facet of myth and Fantasy that isn’t so beaten to death as the Euro-American stuff, particularly faux-Medieval England. Since learning as a kid that a lot of videogames came from Japan, I’ve been mildly obsessed ever since. This is right up my alley.

And, good golly, that cover art. I said that Joey Hi-Fi should take home an Inky Tentacle for his cover for The Lowest Heaven. He’s not eligible, so, damnit, let’s give the award to The Melancholy of Mechagirl, shall we? Artist Yuko Shimizu certainly deserves some applause for her body of work. Absolutely stunning stuff.

The Melancholy of Mechagirl will be released on July 16th, 2013 by VIZ Media LLC. It is currently available for preorder.

The Black Irix by Terry Brooks

Shea Ohmsford has had quite enough of quests. A year after surviving a harrowing odyssey, he is still plagued by troubling memories and dreams. A mysterious trafficker in spells and potions provides a restorative nostrum for the stricken Shea . . . along with a warning: Shea will break his vow to never again leave Shady Vale. And then the potion-maker’s prophecy comes to pass.

A thief, adventurer, and notoriously charismatic rogue, Panamon Creel unexpectedly appears in the Vale with a request for his long-time friend, Shea—journey into the untamed Northland, infiltrate the stronghold of a sinister dealer in stolen goods, and capture a precious artifact: the sacred Black Irix. Creel wishes to return this treasure to its rightful owners. Shea cannot refuse such a just cause. But what lies behind the black castle walls they must breach? And will this quest truly be their last?

This sounds kind of fun. Especially for Brooks fans who have stuck it out with his novels, through all the ups-and-downs, since his 35-year-old debut, The Sword of Shannara, which ‘The Black Irix’ is a direct sequel to. As Brooks returns to fan-favourites to tell a series of short stories set in his Shannara world, the Four Lands, it has been an enjoyable opportunity to rejoin old characters who Brooks hasn’t written of in years. Panamon Creel is one of the high points of The Sword of Shannara, and revisiting him on a crazy adventure is something fans have looked forward to for years. And this adventure seems kinda crazy. I mean, Creel’s decision to enlist Shea Ohmsford who, even after the end of The Sword of Shannara, is still a fairly typical and inexperienced inn-keeper’s son, is questionable, but the dynamic between Creel and Ohmsford has always been fun.

It’s also interesting to see that Brooks is exploring an area that is often left untouched by Fantasy writers: the repercussions, especially emotional, of untrained civilians (esentially) being thrust into dangerous, traumatic experiences. Myke Cole recently wrote a terrific essay on PTSD, and I think it’s encouraging to see someone like Brooks set a story in the uncomfortable aftermath of his hero’s ‘victory.’ It’s also somewhat amusing to see, after all the criticisms of Brooks’ first novel, that post-Sword of Shannara Shea Ohmsford suffers from something of the same ailment that eventually led Frodo Baggins to seek the Undying Lands at the end of Lord of the Rings. I guess Brooks just can’t get away from that story, no matter how hard he tries.

In all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the first two volumes in Brooks’ Paladins of Shannara collection, particularly ‘The Weapon Master’s Choice,’ and look to ‘The Black Irix’ with some excitement and disappointment. I’ll be sorry to see Brooks leave this concept behind. It’s been nice to revisit old friends from my youth.

Acts of Caine by Matthew Stover

Orbit Books announced today that Matthew Stover’s Acts of Caine novels, beginning with Heroes Die, will be arriving, as eBooks only, in the UK for the first time. They say,

All four books in the Acts of Caine series – HEROES DIE, BLADE OF TYSHALLE, CAINE BLACK KNIFE and CAINE’S LAW – will be released digitally in the UK & ANZ on 27th May 2013.

This is good news for reading in the UK. I’ve not read the series (SHAME ON ME!), but they come highly recommended and the ebay prices for the earlier novels are, well.. outrageous. I should really sell my copies. Releases like this, eBook only, are a great way for out-of-print books to come back into circulation and find a new audience among those who previously couldn’t find (or afford) to read them. It’s also one of those fun times to think about the fact that publishers continue to try to convince the world that eBook publishing costs are similar to hardcopy publishing and distribution costs. The novels are already available as eBooks in the US and Canada.

But, can we please talk about these covers for a moment. I mean, I’m fairly certain that I’m being very specifically trolled by the art department at Orbit Books UK. Four hooded, bodiless men staring pensively menacingly at the reader, daring them to read what, underneath, must only be the most bro-tastic, grimdark, grimy, gritty, dudebro novels in the world? WTF. But, well, with a lineage like this, can I really expect any less?

Cover Art for The Very Best of Tad Williams Art by Kerem Beyit

If you’re read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m something of an unabashed Tad Williams fanboy. He’s best known for his long (long, long, long) fiction, like Memory, Sorrow and Thorn or Otherland, multi-volume epics that would make most other authors weep at their length, but it’s often overlooked that some of his most finely crafted and powerful fiction is actually found among his shorter works. If this collection, coming from Tachyon, is, indeed, the ‘very best’ of his work, readers are in for a treat. The art on the cover is by Kerem Beyit, and is just lovely.