Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Elizabeth's Misfits by Arthur Freeman

There are two things that really appeal to me about genre fantasy: magic and history. The attraction to magic is well understood, I think, a symptom of that affliction shared by all fans of fantastic literature. Anyone that reads fantasy, SF or horror knows it, the warm rum of the mysterious, the otherworldly, the macabre, the uncanny and the outré.

The attraction of history is a more specific appeal, more intellectual than emotional. The typical fantasy occurs in some version of western Europe around 1300, before the invention of guns or movable type, but after the discovery of steel, but even those interested in more exotic settings – ancient China or medieval Japan, for example, or Native American or African cultures – have a similar almost documentary approach to the setting.

There's a degree of implied erudition in these worlds, a commitment to a sort of pseudo-historical veracity, although this diminishes the further one departs from real history: John M Ford's The Dragon Waiting, for example, a highly fantastical but recognisable version of fourteenth century England, has more of that erudite quality than, say, Moorcock's The Stealer of Souls set in the entirely made-up Young Kingdoms, despite the latter's pseudo-historical trappings.

As a rule, the historical and magical elements seem to act in inverse proportion: the more history you want, the less magic you can insert; conversely, the more magical the world, the less historically accurate it will be.

Thus, it follows that history is just fantasy with the magic turned down to zero, and perhaps this explains the appeal of books such as Elizabeth's Misfits.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The pile, she grows.

Something I try and avoid is piling up too many books in the "too read" pile. I am basically a childish type, who bristles under the yoke of authority: that's why I never got on with the idea of canon - regardless of any politically tinged rhetoric about dead white men and critical shibboleths, it's more of a matter of "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me".

With The Pile, the "you" in that statement becomes me. I become my own oppressor! How ironic!

So, here's the pile, as it stands:

The problem is that there are just too many books I want to read and they are too readily available. Everywhere I go I seem to be falling over good books begging to be acquired! Where do they all come from? Well, for some classic "boring crap about me", hit the link!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Caterer

 I have to admit that despite considering myself pretty well-read, I hadn't heard of Jeff Lint before I read Steve Aylett's excellent biography, Lint. Since then, I've read everything by or about Lint I can get my hands on. Many of the novels remain out of print and hard to get hold of: the translated Welsh edition of Doomed & Confident is Lint novel that remains  print, and the strange effect that some covers of early Lint editions have on modern computer screens has hampered their distribution through ebay and amazon sellers, and many charity shops refuse to accept them on the basis that they are “full of eels”.

For this reason, I am very happy to see the recent reprint of issue three of The Caterer, the comic Lint created for Pearl comics in the 70s.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Is this a joke?

"Kapow! Comic books are no longer just kiddy lit."

People joke about it, but it's been a while since I saw one in the wild! (via A&L Daily, which really should know better!)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Night's Black Agents by Daniel Ogden

Witches and magicians have been with us since the beginning of literature. In this book, Daniel Ogden identifies the first western depiction of a witch as Circe, a kind of a siren who tempts Odysseus's men to her island and then transforms them into pigs. Pigs had only use in the ancient world, food, and so its pretty clear what she's got in mind. On top of this, though, she Hermes warns Odysseus to not to embrace her, or he'll be enslaved by her forever.

Despite all this, she seems a less threatening figure than our present idea of a witch. In fact, after Odysseus gives her a good talking to, she becomes rather accommodating, telling him how to find the entrance to the underworld so he can chat with Tiresias and provides other aid before saying goodbye.