Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thrice-Told Tales: Rex quondam, Rexque futurus.

Here lies Arthur; King who was, King who will be.
--The Once and Future King

One of my favorite takes on the Arthurian legend is  Gerald Morris's Squire's Tales series. Over the course of ten books, readers are introduced to a new perspective on characters ranging from Gawain and Lancelot to side characters like Enid, Sir Kai, Culwich, and Gaheris. In fact, when I took classic literature in college, I recognized several of the more obscure legends from these books. The author has also created several  memorable and realistic side characters, ranging from Gawain's squire Terrance to orphaned Sarah. The last book, Legend of the King, is a tearjerker of the highest degree, because I know all the characters.

Another interesting series is Mary Stewart's Arthurian quartet. It attempts to take a more historically accurate stance on history--the first novel opens with twelve-year-old Merlin, a bastard, living in Roman ruins and eventually traveling to join Ambrose's army.  Some of the sexual scenes are too detailed for young readers, though it doesn't go far beyond saying two characters are naked in a bed, if I remember correctly.

Finally, the Dark is Rising series brings the Arthurian legends full circle, when the once and future king returns to lead the ancient forces of Light to victory over the Dark. The first two books focus more on the modern day, but the Arthurian element strengthens in latter books with the introduction of Bran.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

As one of my summer jobs, I have been typing up articles for a local newspaper, including two pieces about local county fairs. While browsing through exhibit categories, I had a crazy idea...
There should be a fandom fair!
It would basically be like a con, but with more contests, and all fandom-themed. Instead of just  "knitted items", there'd be a whole category for Fourth Doctor scarves,  Jayne's hat, Star Trek sweaters. And cosplay contests and fanart competitions, maybe even carnival rides with names like "Spinning TARDIS" or "Starfighter Jets..."
Wouldn't that be great?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Time Warrior

 "Brigadier, a straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting."
--The Third Doctor
Since I have FINALLY finished all the classic episodes, I decided to begin browsing again, starting with Sarah Jane Smith's first episode "The Time Warrior"
Oh, I have missed the leisurely pace of four-parters. We have a whole episode before Sarah Jane enters the TARDIS, giving us time to set up the medieval portion and characters. The buildup to the reveal of the first Sontaran ever...
And Sarah Jane does well for her first time out She comes to the conclusion the Doctor is working for Irongron and proceeds to prose and lead a commando raid to capture him. Afterwards, she helps him whip up some stinkbombs and poison the cooking. Really, she's quite the badass already.

St George against the dragon

So, last year I LOVED the moment when a little girl asked Matt Smith about the Weeping Angels and he was all “Don’t worry, because I’m here to fight them off." Goodness knows how many times I’ve reblogged it, but it was gorgeous. And as I was watching some clips from this year’s Nerd HQ panel, and this little girl stands up, clinging to the speaker’s legs, and the speaker goes. “She wants to know why you quit."  ME TOO! 
Matt Smith is so good with kids, both in and out of character—just look up the story of the twelve-year old who sat outside his house—and that little girl was so adorable.  And just for a minute, I thought—what if those two girls were the same? 
Odds are against it, of course, but the difference between the two questions sparked an interest in my mind. And then I considered last night’s dream, which ended with the recognition of the Doctor’s death. 
But in so many ways, in so many ways, the Doctor is the knight in shining armor, the one who saves us from the monsters. One beautiful example of this shown in fanfic is in They Say by Lyricwritesprose , but the concept is clear in G.K. Chesterton as well:
The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. 
And in my dream last night,  after it was all over—when the Cybermen had left an equal number of corpses, when my rage at his failure to appear had burned to bitter ashes—I though He was the only reason I’d even tried.  And I had done well; we just didn’t have any weapons. 
It was like the moment in The Tale of Despereaux when the hero demands the knight reveal his identity….
He slowly took the armor off his head and revealed….nothing, no one. The suit of armor was empty.
"No, oh no," said Despereaux.  "There is no knight in shining armor; it’s all make-believe, like happily ever after."
I know that’s not the case, but….my Doctor.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thrice-Told Tales: East of the sun, west of the Moon

“East of the sun and west of the moon.' As unfathomable as the words were, I realized I must figure them out, reason it through. For I would go to this impossible land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon. From the moment the sleigh had vanished from sight and I could no longer hear the silver bells I knew that I would go after the stranger that had been the white bear to make right the terrible wrong I had done him.... "--East, by Edith Pattou*
The next section of Thrice-Told Tales focuses on stories without a strict canon--folktales and legends, with no definite form. Today's post focuses on the old tale, primarily associated with Scandinavia, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon."
The youngest daughter of a large and rather poor family is taken away by an enchanted white bear in exchange for providing for her family. Unknown to her, the white bear is cursed; only by living with him for a year and a day without seeing his true face can she break the spell.  Of course, the condition is broken; the bear is whisked away by the troll queen, only able to tell her that he is going to a land "east of the sun, west of the moon."
East by Edith Pattou is the first version of this story I've found, and one of my favorites. All the characters are well-developed, with reasonable flaws that support the events, making them more plausible. Another version, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, adds the unique twist of making this reoccurring event--the troll queen has had dozens, perhaps hundreds, of mortal lovers she has toyed with in this fashion.
Finally, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, by Jackie Moore sets the story around the turn of the last century, with the daughter of a refugee going with the bear. I generally like modernized fairy tales, but the ending wasn't satisfying to me, though others might like it.

*image from The Golden Compass

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dragonwitch Blog Tour: Sneak Peak & Giveaway

 As a passionate fan of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Tales of Goldstone Wood series, I jumped at the chance to be part of the online release tour for her newest book,  Dragonwitch.  The tour, lasting from July 14-16, covers several sites each day, with giveaways, special previews, and interviews at each site. Today's stops include:

Dragonwitch, book five in the series,  further explores the mysterious character mentioned earlier. Firstborn of Death-in-Life, once a Faerie queen,  part of her story has been told in Starflower, where the famed Maid Starflower meets her in the Dragonwitch's ruined desmaine, but there is more to be revealed.  The tale of the Brothers Ashuin, namesakes of the famed Ashuin Lantern, will finally be told, as well as introducing new characters.

A Sneak Peak of Dragonwitch....
A sudden pounding at her door startled Leta to her feet. Did those fool soldiers think she might hide her former teacher in her own chambers? Drawing herself to her full height, she strode to the door and flung it wide, demanding as she did so, "What cause have you to . . . oh."A child, brown and wide-eyed, crouched before her, hands wringing. Leta could almost remember having seen this humble scrubber-boy before, hard at work in various corners of the castle. She had never spoken to him. "Lights above us!" she said, taking in the terror in that face. The boy looked as though he had seen a ghost. "What is the matter?""Allees-tar," the boy said, his eyes pleading to be understood.Leta shook her head. "Say again?"The boy chewed his lip, his eyes darting up and down the corridor. Then he reached out and took Leta's hand in both of his and spoke urgently. "Allees-tar.""Alistair?"The boy nodded.A coldness took hold of Leta at the mention of her betrothed's name. "What about him?"But the boy did not notice her icy voice or stance. He repeated the name and tugged at Leta, motioning and signing for her to follow. There was no understanding the child. Leta shook her head, her teeth grinding. "He must be summoning me. A first time for everything under the sun!"She grabbed her cloak, for it was far too cold to wander the castle corridors without one. Best to get the encounter over with as soon as possible, she decided. She followed the boy to Alistair's room. At the door, she pushed ahead and entered first so as not to seem dragged like a dog. She must retain at least some form of dignity.Then she saw the state in which her betrothed lay."Alistair!" She hastened to his side, leaning over him on the bed. Her mouth gaped, and she grabbed the one candle and held it closer for a better look. She saw the boiling, smelled the poison.One side of her mind said: SCREAM!
It's as well you aren't afraid of blood, her practical side responded.
RUN! roared the panicking Leta.
Someone's got to take care of this. And you want something to distract you. It might as well be you.SCREAM, dragons eat you!But, as usual, practical Leta won the day.She turned to Mouse. There was only a slight tremor in her voice when she spoke. "Fetch fresh water and some bandages." Then she shook her head. "How silly of me. You don't understand, do you? Stay with him, and I'll fetch them myself."
Oh...I'm intrigued already. How many times has the practical side of myself noticed logical points while the rest of me is having an emotional crisis....admittedly, not over a poisoned man, but still...

One of my favorite things about the Tales of Goldstone Wood is the skilled blending of traditional fairy-tale motifs and new approaches. For example, the idea of a beautiful maiden threatened by a fearsome dragon is a common one, but Heartless takes a fresh, deeper approach by  coupling the external threat with a threat to the heroine's mind and soul.  The characters are all well-written, fleshed out in startling detail.  I feel I know them all--to the point of wanting to slap some of them when they're being especially stubborn or foolish!
If you haven't read any of the books before, don't worry--although each novel adds fresh insight to the character,  they can be read in any order without confusion (with the except of Veiled Rose and Moonblood. Read Veiled Rose first).  I have previously posted reviews of Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood and Starflower with only minor spoilers for the curious.
There's also another book on the way: Shadow Hand will release sometime in the spring of 2014. I can't wait!
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Contest runs through the 16th, so stop back by the author's blog on the 17th to see the winner.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thrice-Told Tales: We're all stories in the End

"My dear Elinor, you were obviously born into the wrong story,” said Dustfinger at last.
 I read a short story once in which the protagonist realizes he's fictional after another character points out that people in books never read books.  While that may be an interesting observation, it's no longer true in the world of modern fiction--or metafiction, as the case may be.
Metafiction is a device that involves characters who acknowledge the roles and tropes of storytelling to various degrees. It also can be invoked by setting stories inside each other.

One of the better-known examples of metafiction is The Princess Bride, both the film and book versions. The book is even more of a mindscrew than the movie, as the narrator elaborates on how his father used to read the book to him as a child, and the struggles he went through to abridge the book and so on. The movie is set up in a similar fashion, with the grandfather interjecting occasional comments such as "she doesn't get eaten by the shark at this time."  If you haven't seen the movie, I won't spoil it for you--just go and see it!

Another story with metafictional elements is the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke.  The first novel,  Inkworld,  has been adapted into a mediocre film, but the books are better.  Meggie lives with her bookbinder father when a strange man named Dustfinger  appears outside their home, warning them about someone named Capricon.  It turns out that Meggie's dad can read characters out of books, but at a cost--something--or someone--from our world must return to replace them. Not only does each chapter open with  quotes, but there are several shout-outs to other works, such as main characters exchanging notes in in Elvish runes.

Finally, the Thursday Next series is one of the most hilarious books I've ever read. The main character develops the ability to jump in and out of fictional realms, from Jane Eyre to Great Expectations, but  that's just the beginning. There are also dodos, Neanderthals,  time travel, and maps of the Bookworld, with tons of shoutouts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wolf of Tebron giveway

Hey, are you interested in fairy tale retellings? Charlie and Me is giving away a copy of The Wolf of Tebron. Stop by and check it out!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Regeneration and Graduation

I graduate from college less than four days before the Eleventh Doctor regenerates in the Christmas special, and I don't know which I'll shed more tears over.
I watched my first episode of Doctor Who (The Eleventh Hour) over Labor Day Weekend 2010. My roommates had gone home, I didn't have much homework to work on, and I thought I'd give the show a try. From his first words "Can I have an apple?" I was hooked. Who was this daft, impossible stranger in a bow tie, with a box that was bigger on the inside?  In the next episode, "The Beast Below," Amy revealed the most important part: "Very old and very kind and the very very last...you couldn't just stand there and watch children cry."   I finished the fifth season by the end of break, and completed NuWho by the end of October, as well as the first two seasons of the Sarah Jane Adventures.
Matt Smith is my Doctor.  Not only is he the first Doctor I watched, but his whole character and interactions captured my imagination. He was like Gandalf, a wild wizard that we only caught snapshots of.  He was a modern myth, like Odin the wanderer or Odysseus, seeking home.  His whole life was so much bigger and grander than mine, yet he still considered everyone to be important.
Part of the reason "Angels Take Manhattan" hit me so hard was because the Ponds were my companions, just as Eleven is my Doctor. And watching them leave was a foretaste of the goodbyes waiting for me at graduation.  I've watched that episode over and over--I've even dreamed of seeing them in the Christmas special, happy but unable to see him again.
In a way, it's appropriate that he'll regenerate days after my graduation. When I first watched The Eleventh Hour, I was a lonely, bewildered freshmen, still dizzy from orientation with no idea what I'd gotten myself into.  Maybe I wasn't walking into trees, but some of the cafeteria meals were as rubbish as apples and beans. I had met some people, but I had no idea which friendships would last.  And this Christmas, we'll both step into new stages of our lives.
My life after graduation is one big blank: jobs, housing, friends. It absolutely terrifies me.  Likewise, the idea of Matt Smith being replaced gives me cold shivers; I still don't like Clara, so how can I adjust to a new Doctor? Change may be the only constant, but that doesn't mean I'm used to it.  
I suppose the only thing left to say is,  Thank you, Matt Smith. Thank you for introducing me to a wonderful, amazing show, with fifty years of history to reveal in. Thank you for your amazing range of performances, from the daftness of "Closing Time" to the heartbreak of "Angels Take Manhattan," the wild see-saw of  "The Big Bang" and the development of a relationship with River.  Oh, Moffat frequently drove me crazy with his cliffhangers, but you were amazing, both on-screen and off.  I love the clip from Comic-Con where a little girl asks about the Weeping Angels and you said "Don't worry, I'll fight them off." That attitude--the mixture of seriousness and concern--is what makes you brilliant.
I'll miss you.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013


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