Profile: Children’s Literature, Fantasy, Fairyland
After Action Report:
Catherynne M. Valente is a sleeper nod for the title of my favorite author. She combines the vocabulary of China Meiville with the storytelling sensibilities of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pulman’s eye for children’s adventure. And in my previous review of her Fairyland series, I compared her favorably to L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis and Lewis Carol. But what I think most impresses me about her work is the credit she gives her young readers. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland is a much darker work than its prequel and deals with the consequences of actions and taking responsibility. Somehow, Valente is able to approach these topics with seriousness in an absurd world, and more impressively, never comes off as preachy.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There picks up a year after September’s departure from Fairyland in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. We gloss quickly over some of the mundane events of her life in Nebraska during World War II before flying off to Fairyland again. This time the trip is colored more by the events of the real world. Magic is being rationed and the wonder of the place is starting to evaporate. September discovers that she is indirectly responsible for the problems, as it is her own shadow who is siphoning off both the shadows and magic of Fairyland to fuel the glorious revels of Fairyland Below. Feeling responsible for this turn of events, September sets off to put things to rights, even though she doesn’t really know how.
My friend Crystal over at Geek Outsider was kind enough to ask for my thoughts on the recent media coverage of Star Trek’s progressive legacy. So I whipped up this little Op-Ed (basically just an excuse for me to be exceedingly contrarian) that ended up being equal parts criticism and justification. Here’s a quick look…
This week’s Star Trek hype started me thinking. How does a series that we in the Geek community so singularly associate with progressiveness become what it is today? It’s shockingly easy to criticize later iterations of Trek for their failure to live up to the original’s legacy of equality. But maybe we’re coming at this from the wrong direction. Maybe it isn’t about what Star Trek became. Maybe the question should be, ‘what was Star Trek in the first place?’ And to answer that, we need a little context.
For starters, what does ‘progressive’ mean anyway? Is it just being politically liberal? Does it have to do with technological progress? Is it about being ‘edgy?’ What made The Original Series (TOS) progressive? There isn’t a quick and easy answer to any of these questions, but they lie at the core of what TOS was and why it remains iconic today. These are also questions that have very different responses today than they did in the 1960s. And that is my argument in a nutshell.
Now don’t get me wrong. My argument isn’t that TOS isn’t progressive, just that it was progressive in the context of the 1960s. It’s not that the ideals of TOS aren’t progressive anymore; it’s that the forefront of being progressive has changed. So when The Next Generation (TNG) tried to capitalize on the progressive success of TOS by featuring, among others, a blind, black helmsman and a female chief of security, it didn’t manage to resonate the same way that Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura or George Takei’s Sulu did.
You can read the rest of the article over at Geek Outsider. It’s also a pretty great place for getting some alternative perspectives on SF, fantasy and comic culture.
Profile: Fantasy, Weird Fiction
Summary: From goodreads.com, “Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse—a voyage permitted only to those who’ve always believed there’s another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important—a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.”
Profile: Children’s Literature, Fantasy
Summary: From the back of the book, “The signpost before her now was made of pale wind-bleached wood and towered above her. On the easterly arm, someone had carved in deep elegant letters: To lose your way. On the northerly arm, pointed up to the tops of the cliffs, it said: To lose your life. On the southerly arm, pointing out to see, it said: To lose your mind. And on the westerly arm, pointing up to a little headland and a dwindling of the golden beach, it said: To lose your heart.
September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn’t you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one twelve-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.”