Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Hanging the Moon


Waiting on a Bright Moon by Neon Yang - Art by Ann VanderMeer

With the Eclipse just a few days off (sign-by-sign scopes for you here) I thought it would be fun to explore lunar cycles in Fantasy Fiction. I've used these cycles of the moon in all of my novels, as markers of time, signals for powerful events, prophesy, worldbuilding, enhancements of magic... and, I'm not alone.

As we explore other Fantasy, you'll quickly see how authors utilize these luminary events, going back to Bram Stocker's Dracula

There was a bright full moon, with heavy black, driving clouds, which threw the whole scene into a fleeting diorama of light and shade as they sailed across. ... Whatever my expectation was, it was not disappointed, for there, on our favourite seat, the silver light of the moon struck a half-reclining figure, snowy white. - Dracula Chapter 8, page 78

Diaries of an Urban Panther

Carrying on the tradition, we this these 'bright full moons' in our very own Amanda Arista's Diaries of an Urban Panther, and a plethora of other Urban Fantasies like Patricia Briggs' Moon Called.

The Wise Man's Fear

And then, there's The Man Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, particularly the story within the story about a boy who falls in love with the moon. You'll find that gem in book #2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles.

From Goodreads:

There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.

My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.


The Left Hand of Darkness

Of Course, I must mention Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness. It's a different paced story, compared with a lot of contemporary Fantasy/SF, but the moon in her world holds sway over shifting gender, and not just identity but physicality too. 

I can't imagine what puberty in Gethen would be like.

Avatar the Last Airbender

Day of the Black Sun

In the genre of graphic novels and shows, Avatar - the Last Airbender offers up an entire mythos around Eclipses. These powerhouse lunations, which occur in cycles of two-four a year, can affect a bender depending on their element. 

For example, solar eclipses have no enhancing effect on waterbending but the full moon, lunar eclipses do. Those solar eclipses that are neutral for waters render the firebender powerless... but only for the eight-minute pass of exact conjunction. Interessting!

The Gathering of the Lost

The Wall of Night Series

And last but very special to me, an all-time favorite, our own Helen Lowe's Wall of Night series. As a writer, she pays attention to the moon, using its cycles to mark time, support the worldbuilding and add cooling colors and texture to the scenes. 

For example, I love the way this passage situates the reader, and Malian, in time.

... above her head a full moon was rising, white and luminous over the tower’s crown. Malian frowned, remembering the quarter moon over Jaransor. “Where am I?” she whispered.The Heir Of Night: (p. 398). 

And from The Gathering of the Lost, this example highlights the festivals and ritual celebrations in the storyworld, adding credibility, and stunning visuals to the culture.

“Don’t you celebrate Summer’s Eve on the River? The festival honors Imuln in her aspect of Maiden and is always held on the first new moon of summer..." - The Gathering Of The Lost (p. 168). 

Finally, we see the moon in one of her most ancient roles, as a prophetic symbol instilling hope, for some, fear for others. 

“Imuln! Great Imuln!” The rest of the fort’s defenders were pointing at the sky. “Imuln’s moon rises to our aid!” Carick steadied himself—and saw the horned sliver, pale and new, lifting above the black rim of the hills. The crescent on Jehane Mor’s brow blazed in answer and a cry of dismay ran through the horde. But the beast-men forged on, their jaws stretched wide to rip... the fort apart. The moon overhead floated higher, casting a pale silver track to Carick’s feet. - The Gathering Of The Lost (p. 258). 



Now it's your turn. What Fantasy novel do you cherish that hangs the moon? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.


* * *

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 AKWilder.com site or just drop a comment to chat. See you there!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

We are all stories in the end...

 2021: Year of Forced Introspection

I am writing another book. Yes, it has magic. Yes, it has snark. Yes, it is also about the people you consider family. Do I have a brand to uphold? Yes. Will you ever see it? Maybe. 

It is technically the ninth novel I have written as professional author with people outside of myself editing and conceptualizing right along with me. Nine books professionally, and it still hasn't gotten any easier. 

So like I do when I'm supposed to be doing #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I'm thinking of a million ways to distract myself. And since this is the year of forced introspection, I thought I would go back to the beginning. Like human evolution beginning, because in a time heavy with false narrative, we need to know why we are susceptible to them and our responsibility to use narratives
properly because story telling is a powerful tool. 

Lisa Cron, author of WIRED FOR STORY and STORY GENIUS, is probably way better at explaining all this, but basically, just like food and sex, stories are key to our survival as humans. Food tastes good, Sex feels good, story entertains us, but all three evolved that way because they were key factors in keeping us alive. Food nourished our bodies, sex secured a lineage and children, but stories taught us how to survival on our own. 

The human brain has developed in such a way that once it is keyed into a story and hit the pause button of reality, it is searching for meaning, for a lesson, for a heart, that it can hold on to and take back into reality and make reality safer/better/stronger. In fact, our brains actually activate in the same manor as what is happening in the story, it is so deeply invested. We actually are FEELING what the hero feels when we are lost in a good story.

We as humans are all searching out how to survive this crazy world, and books/movies/comics allow us to gain the wisdom and experiences of a thousands lives find the answers to it all. 

Wow, that got heavy really fast. 

So, as a story teller, I take the art of storytelling very seriously. Knowing how humans work and feel and struggle. I want to honor the time and trust that a reader gives to me. I want to help them on their journey, give them something entertaining that their brains can chew on as well. 

But I am also a human on a journey. I am still actively
journeying myself and I think the one thing that keeps me writing all these novels is that I still have questions about how people survive in this world. I still have experiences that I need to figure out for myself. I am still seeking ways to help make my own reality safer/better/stronger. Ways that I can be safer/better/stronger.

Even when life gets too hectic, I am always writing, I am always structuring my experiences through character and plot and setting. I am always trying to find a way to articulate what I am learning about life, what struggles have come, and what lessons I have learned so that someday, I can pass that along to someone else. And yes, it always has a little magic in it. 

Nine novels. Nine major questions. And I am still curious. 

Until next time, Keep Calm and Make it a Good Story. 

Amanda Arista

Author, www.amandaarista.com


Monday, November 1, 2021

Magic In Fantasy: The Magic Next Door


Well, I was going to focus on the magic of Halloweenbut I have posted on that topic before, albeit a (relatively) Long Blogging Gal Ago: 

All Hallows Eve

Besides which, I figure there'll be very many mighty fine posts on the Halloween topic currently out there in the blogging wilds. Not to mention, that if anyone is looking for Books That Go Bump In The Night, right here on Supernatural Underground is a great place to startso do check out the excellent authors and reads featured in the sidebar.

So I've decided to hone in on one of my favorite types of magic'the magic next door', alternatively known as 'the magic of the everyday.' 

Of course, the real magic of this brand of fantasy lies in the juxtaposition of the magic with the everyday, usually in what is very recognizably our world. The juxtaposition lies at the heart of urban fantasy and its (almost identical) twin, paranormal fantasy, and is also a vital ingredient of magic realism.

Arguably, though, it can be found in almost every type of Fantasy, to a greater or lesser degree. So even the most famous secondary world fantasies may have a grounding in everyday or 'next door' magic. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, for example, begins (and ends) with the wardrobeand the everyday realities of the four children in the strange house, and the game of hide and seek that leads Lucy to hide in the wardrobe, underlines the magic that follows.

Bag End

Similarly, in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the magnitude of subsequent events are juxtaposed with the story's 'everyday' beginnings in the Shire, which is very much a society-next-door. The novel follows a transition, too: from the everyday to the epic; from the Shire to Bree. Much in the same way Lucy, and then her three siblings, transition through the wardrobe.

Today, though, I'm going to focus on three books where the magic is juxtaposed with an everyday that feels very like this world throughout, albeit always told 'slant.'

The Harry Potter Series: The Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling (1997)

I don't think it's possible to discuss the magic next door and its juxtaposition with the everyday, and not feature Harry Potterparticularly Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which is where the magic and the worldbuilding for the series are both established.

No world could be more ordinary than Privet Drive, but from the outset and the baby Harry's arrival there, readers know that far-from-everyday elements are in play. The initial glimpse of 'something more' is cemented with the gradual intrusion of magic into the young Harry's life, until his magical invitation to attend Hogwarts is confirmedand Hagrid introduces him to the magical world juxtaposing the one we all know. 

This introduction begins with the wonders of Diagon Alley, from the Leaky Cauldon to Gringotts Goblin Bank, and shopping for back-to-school supplies that includes wands, cauldrons, and owls. And magical juxtapositions would have to go a long way to beat Platform 9 3/4, which while located in the very real King's Cross Station, is accessed by running fil tilt at a brick wall. 

En route to Platform 9 3/4

The juxtapositions of the real-world-as we-know-it and magic don't stop when Harry and his friends reach the magical Hogwarts School, but are cemented by the familiar school round of lessons, albeit on magical topics, being sorted into school houses, and sports teamsthe very magical quidditch, played on broomsticks.

You already know all this, of course, but since Harry Potter is the quintessence of "the magic next door", it absolutely must be part of this post. :-)

Sunshine by Robin McKinley (2003)

Sunshine is a vampire novel, set in what is recognizably this world—only it's a post-apocalyptic this-world in which, following the Voodoo Wars,  humanity must contend with vampires and demons, and where sorcery has become part of everyday life. 

Enter Rae Seddon, aka Sunshine, who works as a baker and is distinguished chiefly for her cinnamon-scrolls-of-awesome—until the evening she is kidnapped by vampires and clearly intended to be the dinner for a powerful, and very hungry, captive vampire: Constantine.

Yet Sunshine survives the night and subsequently escapes with Constantine, an event that opens the door onto her own unique power, which centers on channeling sunlight, i.e her nickname is a clue. It also highlights that Constantine is more than just your average vampire. 

The story evolves from that point, centered on the cafe, Sunshine's home, and the way the forces aligning against Constantine—and now Sunshine—intrude into both, with her allies including a biker wizard, SOF (Special Other Forces) officers with demon powers, and a mentor who is also a powerful medium.

In short, the supernatural is everywhere but it is Sunshine herself who has shut awareness of it out of her life—and therein lies the unfolding of the tale...

The River Midnight by Lilian Nattel (1998)

In July, I discussed the magic realism of Joanne Harris's Chocolat—and Lilian Nattel's The River Midnight occupies a similar space in the Fantasy spectrum. The magic is a delicate presence, but one that enchants the reader as much as the story's characters and historical setting.

The River Midnight is set in a shetl, a small town with a large, or predominantly Jewish population, in 1890s Poland. The foreground of the story comprises the intertwined lives of its inhabitants, particularly four women who were childhood friends, but have grown apart.

Although containing multiple point-of-view threads, the story centers on Misha, the shetl's midwife and a free and independent spirit. Yet beneath the everyday surface of this particular shetl (the imaginary Blaszka), the reader encounters angels and demons, chiefly in the form of the enigmatic Director and the Traveler. And then there's Misha's own maternal heritage of witchcraft...

If this is the warp of The River Midnight 's magic, the weft is Blaszka's everyday encounters with the supernatural, from ghosts to secret transformations into creatures as seemingly odd as tree frogs—and the life of the village itself, with its flaws, richness of characters and traditions, and warmth of community.

The century is turning, change the juggernaut striding in its wake, and time is a trickster. Yet there's enough magical presence in the story to give destiny a nudge: in short, the telling thereof is magical and mysterious, as well as real.


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

October 1: The Magic of SF-nal Worlds


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