Friday, October 15, 2021

Love in the Time of Pandemics

Emere Necromancer by Iga Oliwiak on Art Station

Fantasy Fiction fulfils a variety of purposes. It can entertain and inspire us, stimulate and awaken us. It can also teach, offering examples of how we, as a species, respond to life-threatening conflict and challenges.

It's best not to let the elements of fantasy fool you. Most writers of this genre are constantly exploreing real-world issues in contemporary ways.

Take pandemics, for example.

In the current state of the world, it's a good time to look at SF/Fantasy stories with contagions at their core. I'm particularly interested today in books that explore how disease influences our core relationships. Here are a few favorite examples.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

In this novel, zombie boy meets rebel girl and the very act awakens the cure. Here 'zombies' are those afflicted with a disease, one that threatens the entire human population.

First as his (zombie boy's) captive, then his reluctant guest, Julie (rebel girl) is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn't want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight. 

This book is a great read that doesn't shy away from a unique combination of humor, horror and human behavior in a time of dystopia.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

In David Arnold's The Electric Kingdom, the world is toast. It's not clear right away why, but the story hints toward a lab, a spill, a terrible mistake. 

This full-blown dystopia is on my 'must read' list. I loved the voices, the storytelling, the weaving of the different POVs... Two were in 3rd person and one in 1st. Very clever. 

The environment and stress of survival make for a grim backdrop -- the pandemic has basically won after all -- but there are these kids, with big hearts and so much hope. It shows how much that, no matter what happens, we reset and keep on living. 

While we can...

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

There are few obvious elements of fantasy in this novel but I included it for variety, and excellent storytelling. The mystery had me guessing right up to the end!

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

You might also like Kang's Toxic for a stronger Fantasy perspective.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

This story is thought-provoking, getting inside your head and staying there long after you put it down.

Set in the days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

If you want to experience the death throes of a civilization on the brink, and still feel the warmth and resistance of love, this is it.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

This book is creepy, on the edge of horror for sure, with a story that centres on an epidemic that forces a severe social distancing... one more extreme than ever imagined.  

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. . . but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children's trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Netflix has turned this into a series and Malerman's Bird Box #2 came out in 2020. 

Now it's your turn. What's your favorite pandemic novel. I'd love to hear about it in the comments.


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Kim Falconer, writing YA Fantasy as A K Wilder, is the author of Crown of Bonesbook #1 in the Amassia Series. The sequel, Curse of Shadowsis due for release in June 2022.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

You can Throw the Bones, read your monthly horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the site or just drop a comment to chat. See you there!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Magic In Fantasy: The Magic Of SF-nal Worlds


Hello October! The month in which our northern hemisphere peeps are definitely in autumn and looking forward to Halloween, while here in the south the new green of spring is everywhere and the days are definitely longer, but there’s still snow on the mountains.
All in all it sounds rather magical, whether looking forward to the eeriness of Samhein or the bonfires of Beltane—which brings me to my theme of magic in fantasy fiction.
The unifying theme of this month’s trio is the Magic of Fantasies that take place in worlds that are SF-nal in premise. Enjoy!

Magic In Fantasy: The Magic Of SF-nal Worlds

I like to start with an older book, so first off the blocks is a 1989 Locus nominee for Best First Novel:

The Gate Of Ivory by Doris Egan

The Gate of Ivory is one of those wonderful works where the premise of the worldbuilding is SF-nal, but the tale itself is pure fantasy.
The heroine, Theo (Theodora), finds herself stranded on the planet called Ivory, where magic is real and assassination a fact of everyday life. Her fortunes become entangled with that of sorcerer, Ran Cormallon, and the internal and external struggles of the Cormallon clan. As you may suspect from the synopsis, The Gate of Ivory is fantasy with romantic elements.
I have always loved Theo’s “voice” and her character, who is smart, stubborn, and definitely not a
pushover. Her entry into the magic of Ivory is through the tarot, but the in addition to fully fledged sorcery, magic ranges from touchstones that capture memories, to formal, sorcerous duels.
There is also a great backstory, involving space travel and genetic manipulation, as to why Ivory is the only known world where magic is real, and a logical rationale to how its magic works.
Above all, though, it’s a fun and adventurous, as well as a magical fantasy, and one that I believe still reads well in 2021, thirty-two years after first publication.


Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning also has a SF-nal setting, in this case a post-climate change world in which Dinétah, the Diné or Navajo nation, has survived but is now, by an act of traditional magic, walled off from the rest of the USA. Within its walls, the traditional gods, but also the monsters of the Diné have woken to life.
The protagonist, Maggie Hoskie, is a monster hunter, with the ability to draw on family powers that enhance her ability to go toe-to-toe with monsters and demons. As well as her trusty double-barrel shotgun  and seven-inch Böker knife, Maggie must also use traditional magic to overcome her mythic and supernatural opponents.

Maggie is feisty, savvy, and tough enough to punch well above her weight, especially when fighting monsters involves negotiating the machinations of gods such as Coyote and Neizgháni, the Monster Slayer. She also has a worldweariness that I felt was a really believable characteristic with someone whose dayjob is not only fighting monsters, but dealing with the consequences of their rampages.
The story is imbued with the magic and medicine, as well as the monsters, of Diné legend, as well as being tale-spinning in the tradition of both Buffy and Mad Max’s Furiosa.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Last year, I discussed the worldbuilding in Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, which was published as “space fantasy.” Effectively, the world is one of an interplanetary empire spanning a 10,000-year period, but the story is not only one swashbuckling fantasy, in which cavaliers duel with rapiers and broadswords, but imbued by its magic system, which is entirely necromancy.
Harrow the Ninth, published 2020, is the second instalment and follows the necromancer, Harrow (Harrowhark) who has ascended to lyctorhood. Although the story takes place in space, rather than on Gideon’s ruined planet, it’s still fantasy and necromancy is still the raison d’être of the story.
Where Gideon was extroverted, Harrow is an introvert par excellence, a natural circumstance compounded by necromantic plots-within-plots. The magic of Harrow the Ninth also delves into dream magic and the alternate realm of The River, which is both an astral plane and afterlife, inhabited by ghosts. The ghosts include the dead from
Gideon and also revenant spirits of necromantically destroyed planets, bent on a vengeance quest…
Harrow the Ninth, perhaps reflecting the character of Harrow, is more complex and arcane than Gideon, but if you love bones and skeletons, corpses and ghosts, and the magic of the tomb, whether locked or unlocked, you’ll still be hooked.


Previous Posts In The “Magic In Fantasy” Year:

January 1: Happy New Year – Ushering In A Year of Friends, Fellow Authors, & Magic Systems

January 5: An Interview with AK Wilder – Talking Magic In Her New-Out Crown Of Bones (AMASSIA #1)

February 1: An Interview with T Frohock – Talking Magic In A Song With Teeth & The LOS NEFILIM Series

March 1: An Interview with Courtney Schafer – Talking Magic In The "Shattered Sigil" Series

April 1: An Interview with Kristin Cashore –Talking Magic In Winterkeep & The "Graceling Realm" Series
May 1: An Interview With Lee Murray – Talking Magic, the Supernatural & Horror

June 1: An Interview With Amanda Arista – Talking Magic In the MERCI LANARD & DIARIES OF AN URBAN PANTHER Series

July 1: The Magic of Magic In Fantasy -- & A Solstice Shift

August 1: More Magic In Fantasy: Lighting The Spark

September 1:  Drawing On Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth


About The Author:

Helen Lowe's 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 tweets @helenl0we