art-by-li-shuxing

Each illustration is a portal into another world, a still life of a fantasy universe.

Sometimes an image is so arresting, you can’t help but stop and stare. I first discovered the artwork of Li Shuxing, a Chinese videogame concept artist and illustrator from Shanghai, through the image above. It’s enchanting, a whole fantasy world, with great depth and sorrow, perseverance and human courage, encapsulated in one image. The best paintings tell a story, and this image, replacing the long-in-the-tooth Smaug-style dragon with a traditional Chinese serpent, has a thousand stories to tell.

Then, I started digging around the Internet for more of Li Shuxing’s work, and found that each of his illustrations was a portal into another world, a still life of a fantasy universe. I couldn’t help but be lost in the details. Read More »

Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 336 - Buy: Book/eBook
Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Tell if you’ve heard this one before:

A young, perky college student — a little lost as they search for a purpose in their terrifying maturation from youth to adulthood — is whisked away to a fantasy world, thrust into the middle of a crisis that, if they’re not complicit in finding a solution, will be disastrous for their newfound friends. By leveraging their otherworldly knowledge (and modern technology/understanding of medicine/science), they’re able to triumph over the bad guys and restore peace to the troubled fantasy land.

Got it?

You might be thinking of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, or Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, or Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. You wouldn’t be wrong, all of these are popular examples of “portal fantasy.” Unlike protagonists in traditional epic fantasies, who at least understand most of the overarching societal values and some of the physical/metaphysical rules of the world, portal fantasies allow the author to cast a character who has no more understanding of the laws and societies of the fantasy land than the reader themselves (and often less, if the protagonist isn’t an avid fantasy fan who’s probably seen it all before). Over the course of the novel, the reader discovers the world, magic, etc. at the same rate as the protagonist. It’s a tried-and-true formula, but therein lies the issue with most portal fantasy: we have seen it all before. Read More »

gene-wolfe-retrospective

Author’s Note:

This piece is meant to be a broad-ranging retrospective on the work of Gene Wolfe, one of the most significant authors of speculative fiction. As I imply in the essay below I think it is quite impossible to “spoil” a Gene Wolfe novel (each work is just too protean), but I do discuss both his plots and possible interpretations of several puzzles his books present. So if you haven’t read the books in question, you’ve been warned.

A good essay, like any good story, needs solid bones.

A good essay, like any good story, needs solid bones. It needs a foundation, a structure, a framework on which the subject can hang. When I sit down to write about a genre, or a story, or an author’s work I always start with that core: I try to find some central tenet, a grain of sand small and indivisible, some immutable truth inherent to the work around which my analysis can accrete. But trying to sift the work of Gene Wolfe – one of my favorite authors – I find that each grain becomes as mutable, as multifaceted, as slippery as his work itself. And maybe it is that slipperiness, that coy teasing play, that is itself the heart of Wolfe’s writing. Perhaps that is as good a place to start as any.

Gene Wolfe – as he has stated time and again – sets out to write books which can deliver a different kind of enjoyment each time they are read or re-read. He engineers his work from the very start to operate on multiple levels, to manipulate the reader using different levers.

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imagined-realms-by-julie-dillon

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Julie Dillon’s artwork. In fact, when it came time to redesign A Dribble of Ink earlier this year, I knew I wanted to feature some gorgeous fantasy-inspired art in the header, and Julie, with her warm, colourful style, and ability to imbue her art with an otherworldliness without losing its grounded sense of wonder and emotion, was the perfect choice for the project. Luck was with me, and now A Dribble of Ink is graced with a beautiful original piece of Dillon’s artwork.

Dillon’s star is rising, perhaps most evidently by her nominations for the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards. In 2013, she became the first woman to be nominated in the Best Professional Artist category since Rowena Morrill in 1986 (1986! 28 years!).

Earlier this month, Julie Dillon launched a Kickstarter campaign for Imagined Realms: Book 1, which Dillon describes as “the first in a series of annual art books that I am illustrating and self-publishing.” Each annual volume of Imagined Realms will contain 10 exclusive illustrations, a pretty exciting proposition for Dillon’s growing legion of fans.

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jurassic-world-teaser-poster

This teaser poster for Jurassic World, revealed today at San Diego Comic-Con, is a beautiful throwback to the original Jurassic Park, featuring the iconic Jurassic Park Tour Vehicle, and a theme park under construction. Full of dystopian symbology — ruined car, city/urban environment overrun by jungle/plant life — this poster is more than just a pretty bit of imagery, there’s a lot there to confirm the rumours that Jurassic World will feature a rundown, seen-better-days version of the Jurassic Park originally imagined by John Hammond in the original film/novel. The dino-nest in the vehicle’s wheel well suggests the decay and rampant dinoism has been going on for a long time. Read More »