Category Archives: Reading

2017 Mythopoeic Awards

From File 770, the Mythopoeic Awards

Personally glad to see the award go to McKillip’s Kingfisher. Great story!   –Cathypl

The Mythopoeic Society has announced the winners of the 2017 Mythopoeic Awards.

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

  • Patricia A. McKillip, Kingfisher (Ace, 2016)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • Adam Gidwitz, The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and their Holy Dog (Dutton, 2016)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

  • Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies

  • Richard Firth Green, Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016)

Alexei Kondratiev Award

  • Brittani Ivan, “Countries of the Mind: The Mundane, the Fantastic, and Reality in the Landscapes of Diana Wynne Jones’s Hexwood and Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Series”.

Municipal Fantasy

Adventures in literary taxonomy

On defining a new subgenre

Some years back, I attended a panel on urban fantasy at ConCept. The panelists discussed the urban aspect, and they discussed the fantasy aspect, and when they were finished, there were still ten minutes left on the schedule. And they said, well, it looks like we’ve discussed both components implied by the name, I guess we can leave early!

And I realized… no, there’s a third component. There’s urban, and there’s fantasy… and there’s the space between them. An enforced separation between the modern world – the urban environment – and the magic.*  They’ve developed separately over the years (which is typically shown as leading to a certain degree of stagnation in the magic). The magic is hidden from the science and technology, and so it does not advance while they do.

This is what characterizes – or has characterized – the vast majority of works of urban fantasy over the years: the Masquerade, the Veil, the Cover-up, the Blindness. Magic exists, in the background, but the general population has no idea. The good guys lie, and erase memories, and their biggest danger is the general public finding out that they exist. When there’s an epic battle between good and evil, the forces of good also have to ensure that it’s wiped from the record. There is magic, and there are muggles; they know about us, but we don’t know about them. They may benefit from our progress, but we remain forever unaware.

But what if this weren’t so?

In the early 18th century, Girolamo Saccheri revolutionized mathematics by taking one of the fundamental axioms of geometry, and examining what would be implied by its opposite.** What happens if we apply that principle to urban fantasy? What if the supernatural magical paranormal fantastical elements, and modern society… are NOT forcibly separated?

Let’s start by examining the justifications for the separation. One common excuse is that people would panic. As per Agent K,  we’re “dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.” But panic doesn’t last. We very quickly accept massive changes in the world as “the new normal”. That’s why the phrase “new normal” exists.

And we’re clever monkeys, we are; when we know that something is real, we adapt. And we begin to use it. We exploit it. We make allowances for it. We take it apart to see how it works, and we tinker with it to see what else we can make it do. As per Phil Foglio (who was paraphrasing a line misattributed to Larry Niven, which was itself an inversion of Arthur C. Clarke), “any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from technology”.

Another rationalization is that humanity is too dangerous for the supernatural: magical creatures would be harmed, hunted down, enslaved, exterminated. And, granted, when you look at human history, that’s not so difficult to believe. But in general, we’re past the age of the pogrom. If you’re an intelligent race living secretly among modern humanity, you know how to hire lawyers and PR firms. You can lobby for legislation.

If we undo those justifications… if we assume their opposite… we get fantasy where magic has openly come back into the modern world, or been revealed to the general public to have been here all along. Or, alternately, magic has openly been around long enough that an equivalent to our modern technological society has developed. And, perhaps most importantly, that magic is an issue of public policy.

I propose that this subgenre be called: “MUNICIPAL FANTASY”.

“What’s the difference between ‘municipal’ and ‘urban’?”, you might be wondering. “Don’t they mean essentially the same thing?” And in a way, they do, but synonyms are never exact. They both refer to cities… but ‘urban’ is a general feeling, an environment, a mood. ‘Municipal’, conversely, implies more of a system, with regulations and public services. ‘Urban wildlife’ is raccoons eating your garbage and ‘urban legends’ are just stories you heard about a friend of a friend of a friend, but “municipal wildlife” feels like the raccoons are only eating the garbage because it’s their job, and “municipal legends” feels the story won’t be told outside city limits.

So, now that we’ve begun to establish what municipal fantasy is, let’s see if we can refine our definition. A good way to start is by examining pre-existing works and assessing whether or not this new label applies to them. At this point, I’d like to remind you that ultimately taxonomy is arbitrary, and that literary taxonomy is even more so: it’s tough to use a dichotomous key when there’s no physical entity!

Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: When Buffy goes out to kill vampires, all she needs is a stake. The world in general has no idea what she’s doing, or that vampires exist. Urban fantasy.

Laurell Hamilton’s “Anita Blake”: When Anita goes out to kill vampires, she needs a warrant. And instead of avoiding the police, she has to coordinate with them. Municipal fantasy.

Jim Butcher’s “Harry Dresden”: openly a wizard, but most people have never heard of him and nobody believes this is real. Urban fantasy.

Mike Carey’s “Felix Castor”: openly a freelance exorcist, and the existence of ghosts and demons became undeniable by the general public at some point about the year 2000 – no one’s quite sure when, but Parliament has started debating what to do about zombies. Municipal.

Seanan McGuire’s “October ‘Toby’ Daye”: she’s a private investigator who’s magically transformed into a koi and abandoned in a pond for 17 years (not a spoiler; it happens in the prologue to the first novel). When she’s rescued, her life is ruined, because even when she goes back to her husband and daughter, she can’t tell them that there’s any such thing as magic.  Urban.

Ben Aaronovich’s “Rivers of London” and Paul Cornell’s “Shadow Police” are both about the branches of British law enforcement that deal with magical things, and in both cases there’s a substantial bureaucracy, but in both cases it’s secret to the general public. Same in Harry Potter with the secret Ministry of Magic, and the hidden departments in Mur Lafferty’s “Shambling Guides”. All urban.

Charlene Harris’s True Blood novels: vampires have “come out of the coffin”, and now there’s arguments over their legal rights. Municipal.

Mercedes Lackey’s SERRAted Edge: elves are driving race cars and rescuing abused children, but elvishness is secret. Urban.

Holly Lisle’s “Devil’s Point” books, where God announces publicly that demons will be allowed to take physical form within the borders of North Carolina, and land surveyors use this to settle disputes about where precisely the borders of North Carolina are (if the demon takes three steps to the left, it is forcibly discorporated; therefore, the border is two steps to the left), and even if individual demons try to pass as human, that demons exist is now a known and publicly accepted fact. Municipal.

And then there’s Ilona Andrews’ “Kate Daniels” series, and Wen Spencer’s “Tinker”, and Andrew Swann’s “Dragons of the Cuyahoga”, and Geoff Landis’s short “Elemental”, and the Shadowrun RPG and associated novels…. all municipal.

A particularly intriguing phenomenon happens when a series starts as urban fantasy, and then transitions into municipal. This happens in Jim Hines’ “Magic Ex Libris” , for instance – in the first book, “Libriomancer”, magic is a tightly-kept secret and the general public has no idea, but by the time they hit book 4, “Revisionary”, they’ve blown the masquerade to bits and have to deal with the consequences that they can no longer hide. This is also what happens in Charlie Stross’s “Laundry” novels: as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN progresses, and the stars are right, eventually, the incidents become too big and too involved, and there are too many witnesses… and too much stuff gets uploaded to the internet. And you can’t mindwipe everyone who has access to Twitter and Youtube. Carrie Vaughan’s “Kitty Norville” series begins with Kitty revealing magic to the world.

What all these works I’ve cited thus far have in common is that they’re municipal fantasy of the first type: set in our world (or what was, until recently, our world), with magic. The second type is, as I’ve already mentioned, a world where magic has been around from the very beginning – and yet, people haven’t let it stop them from developing technology. There’s been actual progress. Max Gladstone’s magnificent “Craft” sequence (a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Series) is an excellent example of this type of municipal fantasy, one of the strongest I’ve found: magic corporations and contracts and loans, and urban planning that takes into account the presence of gods, and a police force that uses golems, and water purification plants powered by deals with otherworldly entities and a global economic system based on souls and commodified worship. Or Robin McKinley’s “Sunshine”, about a world several years after the “Voodoo Wars”, but there’s still TV and motorcycles and the Internet and license plates and blood tests to detect if someone is magical and electric fences and vampires and shapeshifters and the fact that nobody’s yet figured out a proper ward to keep mice out of your house.

This does raise the question, though, of what counts as “equivalent to our modern society”? What about Felix Gilman’s Ararat, China Miéville’s Bas-Lag, Graydon Saunders’s Commonweal, Poul Anderson’s “Operation Chaos”, Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy”, Dave van Domelen’s “Academy of Superheroes”? What do we need for a setting to be recognizably modern? Bureaucracy? Mass production? Labor unions? Printing? Telecommunications? Evidence-based medicine? Peer-reviewed journals? Fiat currency? Representative government? Do any of Steven Brust’s “Dragaera” novels fit the description? What about Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld”? Melissa Scott’s “Five Twelfths of Heaven”? Alter S. Reiss’s “Recalled to Service”? The term “gaslamp fantasy” has been used to describe mid-to-late-19th-century-equivalent societies with magic (certainly Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell” would be better described as “gaslamp” than “municipal”, for one… although it rather antedates the gaslamp era!); where does ‘gaslamp” end and “municipal” begin? And what counts as “magic”, anyway? And how much detail do you need?

All these are questions for other essays, and perhaps other essayists. Which works of municipal fantasy do you think I’ve omitted?

 

 

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* at this point, you might say “well, wait, that’s not always the case, I can think of works of urban fantasy where that definition doesn’t apply”; that’s the whole point of this essay. I’m arguing that although such works may have been called ‘urban fantasy’, they should not be.

** yes, I’m aware that ‘revolutionizing mathematics’ was not at all what Saccheri had intended, that he was horrified by his results, that he denied them, and that consequently they went largely ignored for another 150 years. That’s not the point.

 

 

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Bibliography for this essay. Sort of.

Voting Opens for Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF Readers’ Choice Award

Voting Opens for Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF Readers’ Choice Award

Today Baen Books released The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF, Vol. 3, edited by David Afsharirad, and started taking votes for the third annual Year’s Best Military and Adventure Science Fiction Readers’ Choice Award. The public will pick one of the 15 short stories in the anthology as the award-winner:

  • ”Cadet Cruise” by David Drake
  • “Tethers” by William Ledbetter
  • “Unlinkage” by Eric Del Carlo
  • “Not in Vain” by Kacey Ezell
  • “Between Nine and Eleven” by Adam Roberts
  • “Sephine and the Leviathan” by Jack Schouten
  • “The Good Food” by Michael Ezell
  • “If I Could Give this Time Machine Zero Stars, I Would” by James Wesley Rogers
  • “Wise Child” by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
  • “Starhome” by Michael Z. Williamson
  • “The Art of Failure” by Robert Dawson
  • “The Last Tank Commander” by Allen Stroud
  • “One Giant Leap” by Jay Werkheiser
  • “The Immortals: Anchorage” by David Adams
  • “Backup Man” by Paul Di Filippo

Registration with Baen Ebooks is required to vote. Alternatively, people may send a postcard or letter with the name of their favorite story from this volume and its author to Baen Books Year’s Best Award, P.O. Box 1188, Wake Forest, NC 27587. Voting closes August 31, 2017.

The winning story will be announced at Dragoncon in Atlanta, held over Labor Day Weekend 2017, and at Baen.com. The author will receive an inscribed plaque and a $500 prize.

Where the Deep Ones Are

HP Lovecraft’s story, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, retold in a parody of Where the Wild Things Are.

“The Deep Ones croaked their terrible croaks and smacked their terrible lips and rolled their terrible eyes and waved their terrible flippers” Renowned Mythos aficionado Ken Hite retells H P Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” in this parody of classic children’s literature.

After greedily yelling for more fish, young Bobby is sent to his bedroom without any supper at all. But Bobby escapes when the Manuxet River runs right through his room, carrying an old boat that takes him to a magical town full of fish and slimier things … the town of Innsmouth. Will Bobby join the wild rumpus under the sea, and be crowned the most Deep One of all?

Where the Deep Ones Are features 32 pages of full-color illustration by Andy Hopp, and is sure to be a hit with the newest generation of Lovecraft fans and their parents. The first in the Mini Mythos series.

2017 Locus Award Finalists

The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2017 Locus Awards.

The awards will be presented at Locus Awards Weekend in Seattle, June 23-25.

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

  • Company Town, Madeline Ashby (Tor)
  • The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Saga)
  • Take Back the Sky, Greg Bear (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Visitor, C.J. Cherryh (DAW)
  • Babylon’s Ashes, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Death’s End, Cixin Liu (Tor; Head of Zeus)
  • After Atlas, Emma Newman (Roc)
  • Central Station, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon)
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (Doubleday; Fleet)
  • Last Year, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)

FANTASY NOVEL

  • All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
  • Summerlong, Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon)
  • City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
  • The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay (NAL; Viking Canada; Hodder & Stoughton)
  • The Wall of Storms, Ken Liu (Saga; Head of Zeus)
  • The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville (Del Rey; Picador)
  • The Winged Histories, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
  • The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
  • Necessity, Jo Walton (Tor)

HORROR NOVEL

  • The Brotherhood of the Wheel, R.S. Belcher (Tor)
  • Fellside, M.R. Carey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Fireman, Joe Hill (Morrow)
  • Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones (Morrow)
  • The Fisherman, John Langan (Word Horde)
  • Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Dunne)
  • HEX, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor; Hodder & Stoughton)
  • The Family Plot, Cherie Priest (Tor)
  • Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff (Harper)
  • Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, Paul Tremblay (Morrow)

YOUNG ADULT BOOK

  • Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo (Holt)
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin)
  • Lois Lane: Double Down, Gwenda Bond (Switch)
  • Truthwitch, Susan Dennard (Tor Teen; Tor UK)
  • Poisoned Blade, Kate Elliott (Little, Brown)
  • Burning Midnight, Will McIntosh (Delacorte; Macmillan)
  • Goldenhand, Garth Nix (Harper; Allen & Unwin; Hot Key)
  • Revenger, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Orbit US ’17)
  • This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab (Titan; Greenwillow)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)

FIRST NOVEL

  • The Reader, Traci Chee (Putnam)
  • Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis Chen (Dunne)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig (Greenwillow; Hot Key)
  • Roses and Rot, Kat Howard (Saga)
  • Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Infomocracy, Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)
  • Vigil, Angela Slatter (Jo Fletcher

Continue reading 2017 Locus Award Finalists

Library Book Sale 2017

More than 100,000 books and periodicals for $3 or less

Open to the public
from Saturday, May 20th to Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Click here for more information and map.

ATTENTION, NEW LOCATION FOR 2017!

This year, our Annual Book Sale will be held at:
l’Aréna Martin-Brodeur,
5300, boulevard Robert, Montréal (St-Léonard)
(next to St-Léonard library)

The bulk of the books and magazines on sale come from Montréal public libraries. Most documents on sale are in French, but we usually showcase between 12,000 and 15,000 English books. We may also have foreign language books, and a few audio tapes, CDs, CD-ROMs, and DVDs.

WHEN ODIN MET SANDMAN

In his book Norse Mythology, author Neil Gaiman breathes new life into some old, familiar characters

In his new work of fiction, Neil Gaiman traces the Norse myths from the beginning of the world to the final battle that ends the world. Gaiman includes the story of Odin, who was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World.
Norse Mythology has been resurgent in popular culture these past few years, not least because Thor and Loki appeared in several blockbuster Marvel movies. But books focusing on the original myths are still far from a surefire bet for a publisher.

Unless, of course, the author of the book in question is Neil Gaiman. Gaiman well deserves his status as one of a handful of authors who could publish literally anything and a few hundred thousand people would rush out and buy it. Partly, that’s because Gaiman is a brilliant writer and performs wonders with archetypes. In Norse Mythology, he takes characters that are twodimensional in myth (Odin is wise but cruel, Loki is tricky but sadistic, Thor is bellicose but dim-witted) and makes them complex and captivating. Mostly though, it’s because Gaiman has built a fiercely loyal following, as willing to read a book about a boy raised by ghosts (The Graveyard Book) as one about a magical London beneath the streets of the mundane one (Neverwhere).

There are political undertones in Norse Mythology if you want them. Odin builds a wall to protect Asgard (well, actually it’s built by a giant, whom Thor kills once the work is largely done).

But for the most part these stories hold remarkably true to ancient texts such as the Volospa, the Prose Edda, and the Volsunga Saga. This book’s more modern ancestor is Roger Lancelyn Green’s 1960 collection Myths of the Norsemen (which Gaiman read as a child), and both Green and Gaiman trace the Norse myths from the beginning of the world to Ragnorak, the final battle that ends the world.

Green was a member of the Oxford literary group the Inklings, whose other members include C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In many ways Norse Mythology plays a similar role in understanding the Gaiman canon as the Silmarillion does in understanding Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings universe. The Norse gods are everywhere in Gaiman’s other works: one of the key characters in American Gods (which will première as a television show on Starz in April) is a god named Mr. Wednesday, who, it is quickly revealed, is actually Odin. Loki appears several times in the Sandman graphic novels, often while trying to trick Odin and Thor. Core themes that animate many of Gaiman’s stories are present in these myths. For instance, Gaiman likes to write about parallel worlds, with particular focus on the edges where the magical seeps into the mundane. In Norse Mythology the nine worlds are connected by Yggdrasil, the world-tree, and the gods flit between them with relative ease. In Gaiman’s other books the portals are more commonplace — e.g. bricked up doors, sewer grates, a wall on the edge of town — but the fascination with hopping between worlds is always there. Many of his characters seem modelled from gods in Norse myth: they are flawed, self-interested and wholly relatable.

Norse Mythology itself is 15 distinct stories covering everything from how Thor got his hammer (Loki tricked some dwarfs into making it) to how Fenrir, the wolf who will swallow the world, learned to hate the gods (they shackled him up, laughed when he couldn’t escape, then left him to rot). Gaiman adds some subtle modern twists to the stories, such as a feminist undertone in the depiction of goddesses as more autonomous and powerful compared with their typical role of overly sexualized bit-players. On several occasions gods try to marry Freya off without asking her first: At one point Thor’s hammer is stolen and he agrees to marry her to the thief in exchange for its safe return. When Freya finds out she says: “Do you think I’m that foolish? That disposable? That I’m someone who would actually marry an ogre just to get you out of trouble?” In another story Hymir, the mighty king of the giants who owns a cauldron three miles deep, is easily controlled by his wife. Despite his bombast she brings him up short with sardonic comments like “Are you finished breaking things?”

There are limits, though, in that most of the stories focus on Thor or Loki, and female characters are typically mentioned in relation to a male protagonist (e.g. wife, daughter, sister). This is the reality of the surviving myths, as many that focused on female gods were lost and those that did survive tend not to feature them. There are broader flaws in the myths as well, which we tend to accept as an inheritance.

It is unclear why Odin, who knows that Fenrir will try to destroy the world, simply chains him instead of killing him. It is unclear why Loki, typically several steps ahead when other gods try to trap him, turns himself into a salmon and waits nearby, resulting in his capture and imprisonment. These oddities, though bothersome, are possibly explained by parts of stories lost to time and certainly no failing of Gaiman’s. Ultimately, this is a careful and rather lovely retelling of stories that have underpinned Western literature since at least the 13th century. The prose is lively, the details are vivid, and the characters — well, there’s a reason we’re still retelling their stories after 800 years.

In Norse Mythology, he takes characters that are two dimensional in myth and makes them complex and captivating.

Sci-Fi Bridge Offers 4 free ebooks

Plus chance to win more!

Thanks to Leybl for pointing us to this resource!

http://www.scifibridge.com/

The site is not clear on details, but apparently according to Leybl’s source, SCI-Fi Bridge is a weekly Sci-Fi newsletter recommending different books from both indie and traditional sci-fi authors, usually at a discount. There will be author interviews, fun stories, excerpts, and behind the scenes articles.

From their FB page:

Sci-Fi Bridge is a brand-new platform dedicated to bringing you the best in #Scifi books from around the world. To celebrate our launch, we’re excited to bring you the 1st of 4 massive book #giveaways! All who enter will receive 4 FREE ebooks, plus the chance for 5 winners to receive 20+ #ebooks from #Scifi authors from every background. 1 lucky Grand Prize Winner will also receive a package of 17 SIGNED BOOKS, including full series by Jay Allan, Jamie Mcfarlane, Steve Konkoly, Myke Cole and more! Enter here: www.scifibridge.com