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Turning thirty

I spent my thirtieth birthday today with the worst cold I’ve had in recent memory, so not much to report there. It’s shaping up to be a beautiful autumn in the Yukon at least – sunny days and beautiful fall colours.

I was at Edmonton Expo last weekend. It was my first time going to a comic book convention; I attended some panels and saw two of the Doctors, but spent most of the time just wandering around looking at costumes and the artwork on display at the tables. I highly recommend going to a sketch duel if you have the chance. But the real highlight was walking away with some beautiful prints from artists (and sisters) Sabtastic and Stingraych. Go check out their work, they’re both amazing.

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Martha Wells wrote something called The Fall of Ile-Rien and it’s my big obsession now. The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, The Gate of Gods – remember those titles. I check in on r/fantasy on Reddit pretty regularly and it’s choked with discussions about the same fantasy series that are all by guys with beards and are all unfinished and now I’m wondering why they’re not talking about this, which is a complete trilogy with a satisfying ending and is pretty much perfect.

I mean this has wizards who dress in tuxedos or flower print dresses in a 1920s-ish kind of central Europe and there are sentient magical spheres and culture clashes with matriarchal tropical island people and there are airships, so many airships, and war and adventure and romance and portals between different dimensions and giant ruins from long-dead ancient civilizations, and it’s all just beautifully rendered and evocative and imaginative. But it’s not just the world(s), which are intricate and detailed and feel alive, but after reading so many books lately where the characters are all kind of nondescript reflections of each other, Martha Wells breathes life and personality into everyone; her characters are so well-formed and complex and distinct whether good or bad and watching them interact is a huge pleasure. But mainly there are sorcerers flying around in zeppelins and that’s exactly what I needed in my life right now.

So, The Fall of Ile-Rien: you should read it. I’m leaving everything vague because I really do want people to go in blind and enjoy it fresh. It’s all the good parts you remembered about 90s fantasy including the zeppelins. It is distilled excellence and me blabbering too much about it would ruin it. So just go and read it.

Treachery, sweet treachery

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What to say about The Traitor Baru Cormorant? Just before publication in 2015, it seemed like a concentrated effort to torpedo the book occurred over several prominent SFF review sites and blogs; then shortly after publication came all the counter-arguments and effusive praise, and then it abruptly dropped off my RSS feed. Now it’s three years on with its sequel set for publication in October, and I’ve finally read it.

Seth Dickinson creates a secondary world custom-built for postcolonial theory, or at least that’s how things appear in the first few chapters. The Masquerade, a Granbretanean-style maritime “imperial republic” modelled after the British Empire but where everyone wears masks because masks are cool, conquers Baru Cormorant’s homeland of Taranoke by using paper money. She’s picked up by their schools, educated, and goes out into the world as an imperial accountant in the far-off northern nation of Aurdwynn. Continue Reading »

The Scrapheap

I’ve been trying to release at least one blog post a month, but that’s proven an elusive goal in July. Two things conspired against me:

  • I’m building a cabin this summer, which takes up a lot of free time.
  • We’ve had a genuine heat wave this past month in the Yukon, which means I just haven’t been online all that much while I enjoy the outdoors.

So here’s a painting instead that captures my current mood:

The Scrapheap

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On his blog Morphosis, Adam Roberts wrote about fantasy literature’s preoccupation with physical violence. His article covers a lot of ground, but I’m extrapolating on two small parts of it:

  1. How some fantasy (increasingly more of it) portrays killing others without compunction or emotional repercussions as heroic.
  2. How authors use the shock of physical and sexual violence as a shortcut to make the imagined world become relevant to the real one. The common reaction of “things just got real” to a text when the story takes a dark turn is probably the basest example of how the trick operates.

Continue Reading »

Snippets for May

Yet another jumble of notions for the month.

Comics

I’ve been burning my way through past episodes of The TradeWaiters, a podcast where a group of Canadian web comic artists get together to comic books. The hosts really get into the more technical aspects of draftsmanship, paneling, page and character design, colouring, and lettering, which have all helped deepen my appreciation for the mechanics of visual storytelling. I just don’t linger on the art when I’m reading comics, something I always feel is a bit of a disservice to the time and effort that goes into producing these works, since I can get through something that took years to create in a matter of hours. My thoughts on that are starting to change—the strength of comics is imparting a huge amount of narrative information in a small amount of space, and getting so much meaning at a glance is exactly what makes the medium uniquely powerful for storytelling when in the right hands. Continue Reading »

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From Kate Beaton – Hark, a Vagrant!

We remember the internet being a lot more fun a decade ago. Why did our attitude change, and what major milestones did internet culture experience between now and the time we first logged on?

Download the Podcast (archive.org page)

Marie’s blog

Source of our theme song