Monday, July 29, 2019

Reader's Report: "The Gossamer Mage" by Julie Czerneda

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"The world, the magic, the mystery, not to mention a cast of very real characters  -- distinctive and original, THE GOSSAMER MAGE wove a spell that kept me reading well past 'lights-out.' "

~ Gemmell Award-winner, Helen Lowe


When you're asked to read a fellow author's work with a view to a cover blurb, it's a pretty big deal. Firstly, because it's an honour to be asked. Secondly, because you have to feel you can make the time to do the work and the reading justice. And thirdly  hauntingly!  because there's always that secret fear that even if you've enjoyed every other book by the particular author, what if you don't like this one?

As the quote featured above tells you, however, this third fear did not come to pass with The Gossamer Mage by Canadian author, Julie Czerneda. In fact, I would say it was quite the opposite  and although the quote does encapsulate my opinion of The Gossamer Mage, which is about to be released on 6 August, I would like to expand on it a little today.

I've said that I found the book "distinctive and original", and since those are pretty big words for any work of Fantasy, which is so deeply grounded in myth, fairytale, legend, and history, I'd like to focus on what made me feel that way about The Gossamer Mage.

This is a book by Julie Czerneda I'm talking about, so of course the worldbuilding is going to be masterly and the characters interesting. As a reader, I also had a reasonable expectation that I could rely on the plot to hold together. In my view, though, it's the magic system that binds all these elements into a cohesive whole and lifts The Gossamer Mage into that category of the distinctive and fresh.

If I were to play devil's advocate to myself, I could then point to elements of the magic system that one might find in other stories. For example, Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea may have cemented the importance of equilibrium to the magic of the Archipelago, but many fantasy stories deal with the ideas of the need for limitations on magic and a cost being exacted by its use. The price (or prices, because there is more than one depending on who in the society wields the magic) exacted in The Gossamer Mage is not one I have encountered before, however, and I particularly liked the way it pervaded every aspect of the magic and the world. I thought the magic system was very well thought through in that respect.

As the pen on the cover suggests, the magic practiced by the male mages, and in a different form by the Hold Daughters and their Designates – yes, this is a gender-differentiated magic system, but no, not in the way one might necessarily expect – is one based on language. And in the case of the mages, the spellcasting is written. Again, one could point to the poets of Daniel Abraham's Long Price quartet, or Blake Charlton's Spellwright trilogy, for broadly similar concepts of magic – but the way the concept of written intentions works in The Gossamer Mage, and the way in which it ends being bound into a far larger notion of magic, bearing both on the protagonists within this story and their world, is distinct unto itself.

And I really liked the way what I thought was the story, exactly like the magic system, opened out into something far larger.

Sometimes, too (if not always) – and just to answer my own devil's advocate – what makes a story unique and fresh is not the individual elements but the way they are put together into a new pattern. In this case, I really like the way Julie has woven the elements of The Gossamer Mage's magic system together in a way that imbues her characters and the world---and into a tale with an overall, indefinable sort of something...

For me, The Gossamer Mage worked. When I reached the end and closed the (e-)cover, I felt satisfied. I also felt that I had never read a fantasy quite like it. (And, dear readers, let me assure you that I have read a LOT of Fantasy over the years. :-) )

If you are not already a Julie Czerneda reader and still wondering whether this is the Fantasy for you, then I would say that if you enjoy the work of Ursula Le Guin, or like Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, and/or either of the works mentioned above---Daniel Abraham's Long Price quartet, or Blake Charlton's Spellwright trilogy---then you will probably enjoy The Gossamer Mage.

As noted in several other posts regarding Julie Czerneda's work, we are friends-in-writing, having met at NZ's Natcon in 2009 and remained in touch since. I read an electronic advance copy of The Gossamer Mage manuscript, which is published by DAW books.

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About The Author: Julie Czerneda:

For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s written fantasy too, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Having completed her Clan Chronicles series with To Guard Against the Dark, Julie’s latest SF novel is Search Image, Book #1 of her new SF series, The Web Shifter’s Library, bringing back her beloved character Esen the Dear Little Blob. Julie’s edited/co-edited numerous  award-winning anthologies of SF/F, including SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, but nothing prepared her for the sheer joy of opening her Clan Chronicles to fans of the series to produce Tales from Plexis, out December 2018. What’s coming next? Her new fantasy standalone, The Gossamer Mage, out August 2019, and so much more. Visit: www.czerneda.com. She is also on Twitter: @julieczerneda

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The author quote and review for The Gossamer Mage were cross-posted by Supernatural Underground author, Helen Lowe, from her "...on Anything, Really" blog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Print to Screen - Do They Get it Right?

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina show has surprising
differences to the comic book.
The recent explosion of SFF titles developed into films is exciting for us readers and writers alike. How glorious is it to see the genre we love splashed across the screen, larger than life? 

Unless they haven't gotten it right.

Tom Bombadilo's Godberry, the River's Daughter.
The wave of Fantasy adaptations started with Tolkien's LOTR and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter almost twenty years ago and moved on to properties like Charline Harris's True Blood and Stephenie Myer's Twilight, both released in 2008. 

They were followed quickly by L. J. Smiths The Vampire Diaries in 2009 which brought us to a peak in the realm of VampLit. 

But readers of our genre tend to be sticklers for authenticity. Keeping to the 'spirit of the book' isn't always enough. 

For example, a strong character from LOTR was omitted from the film adaptation.  (I've mentioned this before so you can tell I'm one of those reacting.) The enigmatic Tom Bombadil is nowhere to be seen. In this interview, Peter Jackson explains why:

AICN: Will you be including Tom Bombadil? The Ralph Bakshi production cut it out, as did the BBC radio drama.

PJ: At this point in time Bombadil is out. The main reason is not just time or pace, but one of simple narrative focus ... the Bombadil sequence has so little to do with Sauron or the Ring, it is difficult to justify the screen time. It simply doesn't give us any vital new information. A very simplest rule of thumb that I use in movie storytelling is to try and further the story with each new scene. 

I wonder what Tolkien would say about that!

In other adaptations, readers had trouble adjusting to a dark-haired, slightly tragic Elena Gilbert of the TVD series. After all, L. J. Smith made a big deal in the books about her long blond hair, blue eyes and snarky attitude. A reader elaborates:

...it became immediately obvious that TV Elena was more of a mild-mannered doormat instead of an ice queen with a sacred, sworn duty to ensnare the hot new student. - Read more...

An interview with TVD creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson explained that actor Nina Dobrev was perfect for the parts of Elena and her doppelganger Katherine (who isn't a doppelganger in the books BTW) and the gal just wasn't blond. They also found the book Elena too unsympathetic and decided to write her a different way. 

Some readers still haven't forgiven them.

In 2011, episode one of Game of Thrones appeared and yes, the first five seasons are drawn heavily from the books because they were already written. HBO had direct material. But... seasons six, seven, and eight aren’t based so specifically on Martin's next books. Regrets? 

GRRM himself says he wishes the show had found time to include Lady Stoneheart. "I can't imagine how different the show would be with her in it."



From Marvel and DC Comics' The Avengers, I Zombie, Umbrella Academy, Aquaman, to Terry Brook's Netflix release of the Sword of Shannara, print versions differ from the scripts. 

Apparently, there are four major reasons why this happens: 

1. Time
2. money
3. technology
4. storytelling. 

After all, it is an adaptation, not a direct translation.

In iZombie, our main character in the show has a change of name, location, occupation, origins, memory, friends and enemies from her comic book counterpart. In many ways, it's a completely different story, but a good one, on both platforms.

How about you? Have any pet peeves from print to screen adaptations? Favourites? I'd love to hear about them.

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Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out in 2020 - The Bone Throwers. 

Also, check her urban fantasy out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment Series

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

High Fives from Amanda: Getting Burnt

I thought this month I would get SUPER honest. 

I'm exhausted. Even after a vacation, I'm exhausted.   So this month, I thought I'd five you a few pointers on how to avoid that other burn that happens during the summer time: Writer Burn Out.

Burn out is a warning you might be losing passion. You are running out of energy to actively sustain your love of something. If losing passion is not an option, then you need to heed the warning. And this isn't just for writing- this can be for a job that you are passionate about or, frankly, life in general. 


Here are my five tips for dealing with burnout. 
  

1). Negotiate a successful failure- If you really can't finish, what can you finish? If you can't do the edits on the whole thing, can you finish the edits on the first 15? the first 30? Thirty pages edited is more than nothing, and you'll be sane enough to edit another day. This is when having SMART goals comes in really handy. 

2). It is okay to suck. Leave your perfect Alice Hoffman and Steven King and Jim Butcher at the door. Accept that somedays it is okay to just suck. Just tell the story. Just get the words on the page because, very much like #1, it is easier to edit a page with words than a page without words. For me, sometimes this looks like (insert emotional beat here). 

3). Explore other creative outlets- the more physical the better. Sometimes you just have to get out of the 'writing brain' and use some other hemisphere. Work in a garden. Color-coordinate your bookshelves. Reorganize your living space. Clean everything. Honestly, sometimes just cleaning off my desk is enough to get me back in a writing mood. Mostly because I hate cleaning, and I tell myself, "Look Arista, it is either cleaning or writing, so pick one."

4. Sleep and Relax. When you are facing burnout, sometimes binging Netflix is TOTALLY OKAY. Its okay to watch five seasons of a TV show in a weekend. You are a) potentially angering your muse so much that she will start to saturate your brain with better ideas than this drivel and b) resting and releasing the tension that burnout causes. It is a powerful thing to just put your phone down, put the book down, and allow yourself to go to sleep at the same time as your kids. Try it. Ten hours of sleep is LIFE-CHANGING. 


5. Worry about yourself and yourself only. This one takes a few different faces. - Get off social media. When you are burnt out, the last thing you need to see is some peppy author with a three book deal. What she didn't post was the years that it took to get there- you're only seeing the snapshot and you don't need to see that right now. Stop comparing your journey to others journeys. There are others like it, but this one is yours.- Assess motivations for writing. Do you need to adjust your goals? Are you being too hard on yourself and that is causing burn-out? Is what you are doing today really advancing those goals or is it just busy work? If you stopped writing, what would happen? That last one is hard, but if its a scary thought- you're world without writing- then at least you know the passion is still there. - Eat better, drink water, and exercise with a purpose. Like throw yourself into taking care of YOU. Do that 10 step face cleansing. Try that three day juicing thing. Walk your dog. But do it for you. 

Not trying to be preachy with this, but I know. I've been there. So forgive yourself for the bad days and know that with a little sleep, some hydration, and maybe a walk around the block, it will be better tomorrow. 

If you have a Top Five list you'd like me to cultivate, please let me know in the comments below or at @pantherista

In the meantime, give yourself a high five!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: Katharine Kerr's "Daggerspell" and Love At First Meeting

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Introduction: #YOR #RIFF

As recapped last month, I've dedicated 2019 as my Year of Romance (#YOR) here on Supernatural Underground, specifically Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF). Because it's love after all, that helps make our crazy old world go around (in addition to physics, that is! ;-) )

Also last month, I let you in on my sekret plan to alternate older Fantasy works with more recent titles. So since last month's title was a 2010 publication, which counts as recent by my book, given I started with Tolkien in the mid-1950s :-), this month I'm heading back to 1988, when Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell launched her wonderful Deverry series (or sequence of series, as it turned out.)

And because the #YOR #RIFF posts are building up now, I'll start listing the links to the preceding posts at the end of each installment. Now  onward to Daggerspell and the fateful "love at first meeting" between Jill and Rhodry.
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Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell: Jill, Rhodry, and Love At First Meeting
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Love at first sight is one of the great traditions of romantic love and Jill and Rhodry come close, being strongly attracted from their first meeting. I also said their meeting was "fateful" and that is also true, since fate, or wyrd, is one of the prime drivers in Katharine Kerr's tale of the Celtic world of Deverry.

In particular, the spirits and wyrds of four central characters are tied together through a succession of lives, because of initial tragic events. The first of the four is the sorcerer, Nevyn, who has sworn an oath not to rest until the old wrongs are righted. This has rendered him undying until the oath is fulfilled, so he is the only one of the four not to die and continually be reborn. The other three were originally Brangwen and Gerraent, a brother and sister, and Blaen, a friend to Geraint and in love with Brangwen. Nevyn was Brangwen's original betrothed before circumstances and his own youthful pride forced them apart.

In the story's present time, they are Jill (originally Brangwen), her father Cullyn, a "silver dagger" or mercenary soldier (originally Gerraent), and Rhodry (originally Blaen), who is heir to his mother's small kingdom (part of the wider kingdom of Deverry.) I say originally because they have all been through many lives between the original events and the present, some of which are also woven into Daggerspell


When it comes to romance, though, there are several time-honored aspects at play in the story. In addition to "love at first sight" and the "fated love" angle, there are also two triangles, in various permutations depending on how the reincarnated lives play out: Nevyn-Brangwen-Blaen; and Brangwen-Gerraent-Blaen. 

In terms of Jill and Rhodry's love, however, which is central to Daggerspell and the first Deverry quartet, another important aspect of that is "unequal love", i.e. Rhodry is a minor prince and Jill is a silver dagger's daughter, one who carries a silver dagger in her own right. Silver daggers are almost-but-not-quite outcasts, so that puts Cullyn and Jill at the bottom of the social order. 

Jill and Rhodry meet under exceptional circumstances, however, the sort that breaks down social barriers during the crisis. Part of that crisis, too, is a rebellion based on sorcery (called 'dweomer' in the Deverry world) and where Jill turns out to have a vital part of play  all of which conspires to throw Jill and Rhodry closer together, despite Nevyn and Cullyn's best endeavors otherwise.

And here's a wee excerpt from that first meeting:

"Jill turned to Cullyn and gave him a smile that made her beauty as delicate and glowing as that of any court lady. Rhodry's heart sank. It was cursed unfair of the gods to give a lass like this a father who happened to be the best swordsman in the whole wide kingdom of Deverry."


Overall, Daggerspell is a fantasy read I recommend, but if you like romance (#RIFF) to be as much part of your Fantasy reading as adventure and battles and magic, then I think you'll find a lot to enjoy as the Year of Romance (#YOR) rocks on. 

See you all again next month. :-)

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List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone  "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed  "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven  "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail."

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Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.