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Women Made of Chrome

“Jane Navio was a chrome-assed bitch … but she was right.” Up Against It, M. J. Locke

I wish there were more Jane Navios in fantasy. Oh, you see them in science fiction and horror, but not in fantasy. There is an unwritten code that women in fantasy novels must not be older than thirty, or they’re all the grandmotherly types over sixty, but rarely are there any in the forty to fifty range. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but since the 1990s, female characters over forty seem to have faded into the background scenery, and very few are protagonists.

Part of this is our current culture. I see it every time I go online. So-and-so actress is aging well, but only because she appears as if she is ten or twenty years younger. Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench are the exceptions to this rule. Both of these ladies have played chrome-assed bitches in their films. They don’t waffle or give long, righteous speeches about women and what they need. They wade right into a situation and get the job done.

The genre community talks about writing worlds that are a clearer reflection of the world in which we live, yet no one talks about the need for older protagonists. People don’t cease to exist after thirty, nor do they turn into fountains of knowledge and wisdom. Old bearded men, who guide young men, or ancient wise women, who are kind and giving, simply don’t exist in abundance in the real world. It’s easy become lost in the wonder of youth, but wonder does not automatically stop after a certain age. Even at fifty, I am still discovering new aspects of self and the world around me.

Like everyone else, older people like to see themselves reflected in the fiction they read. When I posed the question on Twitter one day, people were quick to mention George R.R. Martin’s Catelyn and Cersei as good examples of mature women in current literature, and I can’t disagree. Of the two, I’d say that Cersei falls closer to chrome than Catelyn. They are the biggest reasons I’ve stuck with the series as long as I have. Read More »

blogger-voltron

Attending LonCon 3? Well, have I got a deal for you! It’s called Blogger Voltron, and it’s going to rock.!

You’ll get to meet me, and Justin Landon of Staffer’s Book Review, and Ana Grilo & Thea James of The Book Smugglers, Jared Shurin and Anne Perry, too! In fact, pretty much every cool blogger will be there, and, as everyone knows, we run the show, so it’s best to keep us feeling good about ourselves and our parties. It might be your only opportunity to meet some of us before our heads expand to the size of interstellar asteroids after the Hugo ceremonies the following evening.

Blogger Voltron

When: 9:00pm (21:00), Saturday, August 16th
Where: Fan Village (Excel Centre)

And, if you attend (yes, you specifically), Justin has promised that each guest will have the opportunity to each sushi off of his flexed biceps. You wouldn’t want to deprive the science fiction and fantasy fan community of that pleasure, would you?

If you come to Blogger Voltron, be sure to come on over and say, “hi!” One of the things I’m most excited about is being able to meet and socialize with all of my awesome readers. This will be a great opportunity to share a drink, some laughs, and hang out with some of the most passionate folk in fandom. Hope to see you there!

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.

Read More »