Posts tagged fantasy
Writing by: Alex DeCampi
Art by: Christine Larsen, Tim Durning, Cassandra James
Valentine is a French soldier in 1812, stumbling through a blizzard in Russia with a fellow fighter when they come across an injured couple and attempt to help them. The stranger gives Valentine a package and demands that he deliver it, no matter the cost. They are attacked by a huge, red eyed army and Valentine is shot down while escaping, his last memory being of a beautiful woman dragging him in to the water as his body bleeds out. And thus begins his crazy journey through a world wrought with dangerous demons and monsters, delicate magic, newly discovered origins and mystical lands.
Valentine was originally a digital only book, and free to read on Comixology. Well, it’s still free to read, which is incredible. Now you can also get it in print, as a collection. It’s a really well written story, encompassing both a war setting and a fantasy element. These two are sewn together nicely and the action flows smoothly so there is never a dull moment. The art is very pretty, vibrantly colored and expressive, the many creatures well drawn to feel like brand new monsters we haven’t seen before. The whole story has a sort of dreamy vibe in the way that Valentine is never completely sure what is real and what is being conjured for his mind.
This book is an enjoyable and fresh read and well worth purchasing in print, even if only to support the creators so they can continue to write more of it. I would love to see what new adventures await Valentine in his search to find his purpose in the world, reconnect with his lost love and battle the evil forces trying to harness his power for devious means. Valentine, Vol. 1: The Ice Death is available now from Image.
Writing by: Brian K. Vaughan
Art by: Fiona Staples
Saga Vol. 1 collects #1-6 of the ongoing series. I am genuinely baffled as to how this series went unnoticed by me until now. I decided to review the TP, as I prefer to read new stories in big chunks rather than small issues at a time, and was immediately enraptured with it. I mean I LOVED it. I’ve since been given the ‘oh, yeah, you haven’t read that??’ several times from comic reading friends, so I feel like a bad collector now for missing this one. I shall amend that mistake here and now. I plan to pick this up in my local shop today and read the next two issues that are available digitally, while I wait impatiently for another TP to be published.
For those who are new to Saga, I’ll give you the gist. Alana and Marko are very different creatures from different planets whose respective species are at war with each other. In fact, it’s seen as a traitorous crime against both sides that they have fallen in love and begun a new family together. Saga opens with an intense child birth scene in which it’s very apparent that these two prior soldiers care for each deeply and despise the spreading war between their homelands; it’s also very apparent that their new family will not be accepted by authorities and that they must, literally, run for their lives. Their relationship is tumultuous but incredibly supportive, the new parents are terrified and powerful all at once. They are prepared to do anything necessary to protect their new family from the many forces who challenge it’s existence, including their own stubborn dispositions.
First off, the story. Amazing. Brilliant. Exciting and so different. The addition of narration from the child’s point of view is incredibly creative and gives the story an extra layer of intrigue. Is she grown as she narrates? Who is she? Where is she now? This story never stops for air, it just rolls along at a perfect speed, constantly introducing new, awesome creatures and worlds. Alana and Marko can never get too comfortable, their quest for survival and freedom will not be won without plenty of pain and hardship along the way.
Next, the artwork of Fiona Staples. If you consider yourself a semi-knowledgeable comics reader, you have seen and heard her name before. her style is so pretty, so easy to fall in to. It’s instantly recognizable as she works wonders with lines and shadows, somehow managing to create great depth in the panels without ever making any stroke too heavy or hard. She excels at facial expressions; it’s always very clear what the character is feeling, regardless of what is being said. This art style is absolutely perfect for this story, opening up beautiful fantasy worlds in equal clarity and detail as the words of Brian K. Vaughan do.
Saga is one of the most innovative, quality pieces of comic book work I’ve read in years and if you are not reading this, you are missing out on a real diamond of a creation. This book has adventure, romance, fantasy, sci-fi and violence and it’s all brought together in a polished, wonderfully illustrated gift box of a publication. Buy it and read it, right now.
Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Song, Peter S. Beagle // by Prof. Jenn
This book was a personal favorite of mine as a young, Fantasy-obsessed geeklet and recently I revisited it. I was not disappointed! Many of you nerd-babes may know Peter Beagle from his stunning Last Unicorn, but this lesser-known book is a Fantasy masterpiece.
I know, I know—them’s strong words, particularly coming from a geek who reads LOTR almost yearly. There are many reasons for my statement, but the main two elements of literature that make this the best Fantasy I’ve (re) read in a long time are: character (and POV), and the way the Fantasy world (and its magic) is built.
The book uses a short-chapter construction, with each chapter titled with the POV character’s name. What this does is makes the intense emotional journeys and tense action sequences easier to bear. If the entire novel were told from the perspective of, say, Lal (or Nyateneri or good lord Tikat), the reader would be exhausted emotionally and wouldn’t be able to take the huge dramatic builds in each action scene. By chopping the action up into small (yet tautly constructed) chunks, each from a different character’s perspective, we get a kaleidoscopic view of the story, and insights beyond what we’d get with 3rd-person limited POV. This structure also gives us a clearer view of each character (we get their inner life as well as other characters’ opinions/observations of them), without getting lost in info dumps. The lack of info dumps/exposition doesn’t lose a reader—actually, it makes the characters that much more realistic, and puts the reader there in the world with them.
The other thing that’s so gripping about the way these characters reveal themselves to the reader (and is actually the same reason why I found Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind so great—hey, I wonder if he was inspired by this book?), is that each character is telling the story right to the reader, as though s/he is in an inn, listening over red ale. The characters refer to the fact that they’re recounting what happened, years later, and even go so far as to address the reader directly: a couple characters ask “do you understand what I mean?” and stop the reader from interrupting them. One character even threatens to dunk the reader’s head in their soup if they continue laughing at them. This tone makes the story compelling in that it sounds like real people talking. It makes you want to know what happens next that much more.
This is, of course, why the world of The Innkeeper’s Song is so complete: the characters explain what happened, but as though the reader is also a tenant of the world, has heard the legends before, and is merely there to relay their eyewitness account. Far from confusing the reader, or not having enough background detail to easily picture the world, two things are happening with this multiple-realistic-POV technique: 1) we get certain events reiterated without seeming repetitive, and 2) the people and surroundings are so realistic that even the magic and foreign-sounding terms are readily understandable, because there is so much context.
Any of you multilingual nerds will know that long before one becomes fluent in a different language, one can understand it pretty well by gist, and context. Sure, there are creatures that aren’t from Earth, but a reader can readily get what (for example) a rock-targ is, or a shikri, from not only the sound of the names, but all the characters’ reactions to/knowledge of them. This is the way a Fantasy novel should be—it should plunge you into the world without using the dreaded info dump, but not in such a “Viking swimming lesson” way as to confuse or lose the reader. This is a fine line to tread, and Beagle is a master at it.
It’s my theory also that the main reason that the magic is so realistic (!) in this book is that the two magic-users in the story aren’t ever a chapter-heading. In other words, we are never in either of the wizards’ heads, never in their POV, but only observing the magic from outside the magic-user. This way, the actual process of it is a mystery, and the one who actually practices it are sort of like an old-school ninja-movie sensei, like Mr. Miyagi, who is simultaneously the master of life’s secrets, and also kind of a kook. The other is the classic over-egotistical, disgruntled, powerful “sith apprentice”. So we have the perspective of students, learning about what they do but rightly not understanding completely. This is a way to get lots of information across about the fantasy world, without becoming Basil Exposition.
Also, there is one point in the story at which I always, but always, have to reach for a tissue. Even when I know it’s coming.
I also hear that Beagle has written/is writing a sequel, or at least will be visiting the world (hopefully the characters?) in the future.
I highly recommend The Innkeeper’s Song, especially for those of you that get sick of uber-noble Aragorn types and would enjoy a Fantasy in which someone uses the word “goatfucking.” J
Dawn of the Dragonslayer tells the story of Will (Richard McWilliams), a shepherd’s son whose land is ravaged by a dragon. After his flock is destroyed he takes his father’s advice to look for a better life. He is encouraged to approach Baron Sterling (Ian Cullen) to cash in a debt owed to his father.
Under the impression that he is meant to be a bondsman training to be a knight, his thoughts of a better life are extinguished when he recognizes that the Baron is suffering a financial windfall. He is initially sent away until he reveals a sealed document from his father. The Baron reluctantly agrees to employ him, but the Baron’s servants immediately delegate the less tasteful jobs to Will.
Although the experience wasn’t quite what he expected, he took note of the Baron’s lovely daughter, Kate (Nicola Posener). As sparks start between them, a young nobleman named Rogan (Philip Brodie) arrives with a request for Kate’s hand.
During these deliciously awkward moments, the dragon migrates to the Baron’s lands. The Baron, hungry for glory and gold leaves with Rogan to take down the monster. While they are away, Kate reveals a book that helps Will learn the lessons of a knight. Before he is ready to avenge his homeland, the dragon attacks the castle and Will manages to wound it.
Through faith in himself and his feelings for Kate, he sets off to finish what had started on his farm.
I have to admit that even though I had a bit of a setback*, I was a little hesitant to watch an independent film about dragons. I’m one of those people that loves the idea of being immersed in a movie, and if the budget isn’t high there are areas that tend to be shaved down.
I KICKED MYSELF once I started watching it. The special effects and underscoring were incredibly impressive. The dragon itself looked phenomenal and the magical moments were accentuated without distracting you from the actors, and their performances were compelling.
Richard McWilliams and Nicola Posener have a chemistry on screen that feels naïve but intense. The romance novel nerd in me squeed when there were slight facial clues of the character’s developing feelings. It was very well played in a training montage. Yes… That’s right. A montage. As Kate and Will are learning the ways of the Knight, there are stolen glances and tender moments.
One of my favorite characters is Lady Spriggs (Maggie Daniels), Kate’s Aunt who initially appears to be a minor character. When the Baron leaves to battle the dragon, however, she steps into a far more inspirational role to Will than the Baron could ever be.
As of right now, Dawn of the Dragonslayer is only available through UK distribution, and they are currently speaking with US distributors. If you “like” their facebook fanpage they can keep you abreast with the latest updates.
* Back in September, we posted an official press release for Dawn of the Dragonslayer’s World Premiere at Bleedfest 2011. In October, I managed to get my hands on a copy of the movie. Frankly, I love dragons. Can’t get enough of them. It was just my luck that the weekend I planned to watch it and write a review, Connecticut would have a freak snowstorm and leave 94% of the state without power for a week and a half. Guess which percentage I was a part of?
But there is still great news! Dawn of the Dragonslayer was awarded Best Fantasy Film at Bleedfest 2011!
Editor’s Note: This article was written as a collaboration between Kristen McHugh and Stephanie Wooten. We apologize for the length but we hope you enjoy the read and can provide your thoughts on this matter as well. Kristen did an amazing job putting together our hodge-podge of ideas so at the very least it deserves a read because of Kristen’s awesome writing skills. Thanks!
Warning: If you’ve never seen Torchwood or been on the internet with Torchwood fans. . . you know the drill.
Let’s begin at the beginning: Stephanie and I came to Torchwood in different ways. I came into it from the BBC America premiere, as an avid Whovian. Stephanie stumbled into the TW: CoE panel at SDCC 2008, already familiar with Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who, but not aware of how much darker its spin-off was, or would become.
No, this is not another rant about Ianto. Well, it is a little bit. Creators have the right to determine what happens and what’s at stake in their universes. Taking the whims of fandom into account is a recipe for disaster and can shred the creative vision faster than a piranha shreds a steak.
And yet. . . creating successful television for the long-term necessitates knowing your audience, persuading them to invest in each season and getting them to tell their friends. If you’ve got a finite story to tell, then you know how long you’re hoping they invest. If you haven’t got a set endpoint for the narrative, the trick is keeping it both fresh and familiar.
Russell T. Davies would be right if he said that Torchwood: Children of Earth was the most successful series of TW to date. He’d also be guilty of profound disingenuousness if he ascribed that purely to the TW: CoE narrative. The format helped to keep the audience hooked. It’s a lot easier to keep an audience interested for five straight days than it is to keep them coming back each week over three months. There’s data on all TW series to date, but – check out one of only TWO negative reviews: Ginia Bellafante apparently JUST HATES GEEKY THINGS. Here’s also a link to nielsen data.
To give CoE credit: it was brilliant storytelling. Tightly-paced, relentlessly tense narrative full of moral complexity and a lot of living in shades of grey, rather than black and white. That doesn’t mean Davies didn’t break his fanbase, and I know a number of people who won’t be back for Miracle Day.
Much has been made of the Jack/Ianto fangirls/shippers and how they represent the, “Broken (fan)base,” of Torchwood. The thing is, while they’ve been the most vocal, they’re not alone in being broken. Some of us just have slightly different rationales for why investing in Miracle Day seems risky.
This is what Stephanie and I decided to hash out: Why did we feel betrayed by Russell T. Davies? What could have been done differently to keep from alienating fans? Should it have been done differently?
Via twitter, email and text, we’ve given a lot of thought to this. What we’ve concluded is pretty simple: Davies keeps killing off the people we’re supposed to be invested in, but never lets us mourn. This is a bad practice in a period of downturn in the fortunes of genre programming in general. Outside of Syfy, (which has axed BSG/Caprica/SGA) there’s not a lot of sci-fi & fantasy genre programming on the air at the moment. Yes, we have Supernatural, Fringe, True Blood, & Game of Thrones (not counting the few remaining SyFy original programs) but when one considers the large number of television stations and countless hours of programming, it seems to be a pretty small number in comparison to the number of criminal procedurals and/or reality shows. Only a few genre-related pilots were picked up by the networks. Outside of premium or dedicated cable channels, Doctor Who is the only consistently performing or growing show in the genre category. As geeks, we’d like to see more quality genre programming and we’d like it to last more than a few episodes.
Returning to TW, yes, people die in real life. Yes, characters die in fiction. However, there is something to be said for acknowledging that a character not only means something to the people in-universe, but to the audience. RTD hasn’t given his audience that chance as seems clear in multiple interviews.
Stephanie and I both have two huge sticking points, beyond Davies’ tendency to gloss over the value of the audience when speaking to the press.
1. In-universe grief is where?
2. When the only way to raise the stakes is killing characters, how hard are you really trying?
There are times when a senseless death that comes out of nowhere works in a narrative. Joss Whedon is a master of this. Joyce Summers’ (Kristine Sutherland) death led to one of the most powerful examinations of mortality in a universe where death and risk was a constant. “The Body” is starkly powerful, and I (Kristen) have had a similar experience in real life. That episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer devastated me. Just as it devastated the characters and the audience.
Mini-spoiler alert: If you have not seen Serenity or later seasons of Buffy, skip the next paragraph.
Tara Maclay’s (Amber Benson) death is another example of BtVS dealing with the aftermath of a senseless and unintended death. The metaphor may not have been perfectly executed but Willow’s extreme anger at the world over the loss of a loved one is a common reaction to death (see: Xander punching the wall in “The Body”). Hoban “Wash” Washburne’s (Alan Tudyk) death in Serenity further illustrates that it is entirely possible to kill a beloved character for absolutely no reason and have it work.
DeKalb, IL- Science Fiction and Fantasy professionals Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, and Catherynne M. Valente will be premiering a new monthly podcast called the SF Squeecast on June 30, 2011.
In every SF Squeecast episode, our contributors (and occasional guests) will each bring SF works that make them happy — both new discoveries and old favorites — for group discussion. Other elements in the podcast include an irreverent question and answer segment and the occasional topical discussion over a virtual cup of tea.
The SF Squeecast combines humor, passion, and professional experience in the SF field into a never-ending convention panel discussion of “don’t miss this” science fiction and fantasy works in all formats. Our regular contributors include two-time Hugo Award-winning and Theodore Sturgeon Award-winning author Elizabeth Bear (The Jenny Casey Trilogy, The Jacob’s Ladder Trilogy), Hugo-nominated New York Times Bestselling television, comic book, and prose writer Paul Cornell (Doctor Who- “Human Nature,” Action Comics), Campbell Award-winning, Hugo-nominated New York Times Bestselling author and musician Seanan McGuire (October Daye series, Feed as Mira Grant), Hugo-nominated editor and curator Lynne M. Thomas (Chicks Dig Time Lords, Whedonistas), and Hugo-nominated, Tiptree and Andre Norton Award-winning New York Times Bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente (Palimpsest, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making).
For more information about the SF Squeecast, please visit http://sfsqueecast.com or email us at email@example.com
Cross-posted from The Carnival of the Random
If you click through, you’ll see the review of Game of Thrones from NYT’s Ginia Bellafante. I take issue with the entire slant of the review, since there is no substantive discussion of the series itself, and it plays more as a, “Oh this is such crap and it’s been tarted up to attract female viewers for the sex, but it’s macho crap and I don’t like it.” The troubling thing, is that as a reviewer, you’re supposed to review the material. Not intent, (unless a creator has told you what that is,) and what you think of the material. I get that Ms. Bellafante dislikes Game of Thrones, I just don’t really know why. I also feel like she’s attempted to bolster her view of it as, “Boy fiction,” by making a sweeping statement about what women do and don’t want from their entertainment. In fact, while I find it refreshing that she acknowledges women are interested in seeing sex onscreen (read more on my thoughts on that topic here), it’s disturbing that she doesn’t think women are interested in genre storytelling. Has Ms. Bellafante met the internet? I don’t think so. She also, clearly – did not do the research.
Lots of people, and lots of different types of people, read the NYT. If you say that no woman would ever want to watch something because women don’t like that genre, it will come back to bite you.
It has definitely bitten Ms. Bellafante.
When the link to the review came across my twitterfeed last night, via @cleolinda, my initial reaction to the tweet, “Women don’t like fantasy,” was, “LOLWUT,” because it was an obviously ridiculous statement.
After reading the review, I was incensed enough to email the NYT, post on my twitter and FB, and in the morning – all hell had broken loose.
I want to be clear – I don’t speak for all women. However, I can tell you that nearly ALL of the women I know, online and IRL, love genre storytelling. Comics, movies, television and books – give us fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, and we’re happy.
My question for the NYT, specifically Ginia Bellafante, is this: How is fiction gendered at all? A story is a story. Authors may be gendered, characters may be gendered, but story is neutral. That Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are male, doesn’t make me feel less interested in their stories. That Bella Swan is female, doesn’t make me more interested in hers. Do I want to see strong female characters? Yes, which is why I’m probably going to watch and enjoy Game of Thrones. Do I care if there’s sex or not? Only if it is integral to the story. If that’s where relationships go, that’s where they go. People have sex, even fictional people have sex.
Except when they don’t.
I suppose what I want the New York Times to acknowledge is this – women aren’t one thing. You can’t pander to us, and you can’t allow the publication of misogynistic statements, (even when they’re made by a woman,) without expecting backlash.
Given that the Times’ editors also allowed a heavily-misogynistic and rape-culture sympathetic article on the brutal gang-rape of a child to slip through their net, this gaffe, while minor in comparison, still represents an overall failure in journalism.
If no one Ms. Bellafante knows, would rather read The Hobbit, than Lorrie Moore, I’d say she ought to cultivate a wider circle of friends. I, and most of the women I know, would be just as open to reading Tolkien, Straub, Cherie Priest, E. Annie Proulx, or any of a hundred authors.
Stories aren’t gendered, but this review was certainly not neutral when it comes to what women want. That’s a really entitled and insulting way to address your audience, no matter what publication you are. I’m hoping the NYT sees fit to reach out to their readers, and maybe open up some space for women who disagree with Ms. Bellafante’s characterizations.
In the meantime, for more wonderful responses to this privileged fiasco, please go here for a great aggregated post with plenty of links to what women who love science fiction, fantasy, horror, and who are definitely, (defiantly, based on Ms. Bellafante’s review,) excited about Game of Thrones.
Any of you who are writers (or readers!) should stop my my friend Jason’s online ‘zine, The Project For a New Mythology. This issue, it’s all about the REMIX! That is, take any of the work you like and riff on it! Make sure you let me know if you riff on mine, so I can get all psyched. ~Jenn
Earlier this morning on Geeky Pleasures, I posted the following press release. Click the clip below or you will be a wee bit lost on this topic.
Not receiving any feedback, I asked the following question on Twitter:
Do you see it as geeks/nerds choosing what they actually like without mainstream telling them what is or is not cool or do you think it is profit grab?
Do you like this idea or does it bother you?
Do you think these are awards are filled with irony due to popularity factor and as geeks and nerds we shouldn’t care about that?
What other issues do you see with this, if any?
What do you think?