Alternative Title: The Episode with Dragons in It.
Marie and I survey classic (and not-so-classic) Middle Grade and YA literature that include dragons. Special mention goes to Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons, and we also brainstorm the next YA dragon epic that is sure to be a mega-bestseller.
From John Smith, A Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles (1624):
A savage we slew and buried, the poorer sort took him up again and eat him, and so did diverse one another boiled and stewed with roots and herbs. And one among the rest did kill his wife, powdered her and had eaten part of her before it was known; for which he was executed as he well deserved: now whether she was better roasted, boiled or carbonado’ed I know not; but such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of.
So now we know that John Smith thought cannibalism was hilarious.
My last post about young writing projects turned my mind towards thinking about another small obsession of mine: maps. Historical maps, speculative maps, fantasy maps. There’s something about maps that fired my imagination as a child and still does today.
Maps are fascinating artefacts. For all their claims to representing the real world, they’re just as surely artistic endeavours that result from a series of choices made on the part of the cartographer; choices like naming and colour and notation. Like writing, maps embed narratives, can suggest stories. A medieval mappa mundi marries geography and chronology in a weird symbolic system that takes whole scholarly monographs to sort out. The map on an overleaf in a fantasy novel is an enticement and a promise and a one-glance summary. Maps can do all sorts of things.
I have a feeling every long-time fantasy reader has one. Usually, it’s the high school magnum opus epic fantasy novel with dragons and wish fulfillment. Sometimes, the urge to write a book comes earlier. In my case, it came when I was twelve. I still have the old notebook somewhere containing 250 pages of pencil scribbles and drawings of landscapes and swords. The only oddity was that I wrote a historical novel. “Historical” in the loosest sense, of course; I didn’t even have access to the internet at the time and the closest thing at hand was a set of out-of-date encyclopaedias from the 1970s. Oh, and what I gleaned from the terrible historical novels I binged on, which seemed to use the same source.
I dropped by the used bookstore yesterday and found two editions of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Beginning Place side by side. An old one:
And a recent reprint:
The back cover blurbs seem to describe completely different books. Indeed, these don’t look like the same book at all. I stood there in bemusement at how greatly marketing and design trends in publishing have shifted over the years.
This probably reveals a lot about my own marketing non-savvy, but while the second cover is more technically accomplished…I prefer the unassuming quietude of the older cover.