Last weekend at Cleveland Concoction I was fortunate enough to be on panels with some interesting authors. My favorite panel was “Best Fantasy Worlds” — because I find the complexities of worldbuilding endlessly fascinating.
The fantasy worlds that we remember tend to be carefully crafted, with lots of attention paid to how its characters — not just the main character — live, work, and travel in them. Some of the treasured fantasy worlds mentioned in the panel were Middle Earth, Narnia, Hogwarts, Discworld, Camelot, Oz, and Earthsea.
I kept thinking about this after the panel, so here are a few other worlds that are special for me:
- Riverworld. Created by Philip José Farmer, the first book is To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It’s a fictional planet with a long river valley where every human being who ever lived is resurrected, young and healthy again. In the novels, historical figures interact as they travel and try to find out why they’ve been returned to life.
- Amber. From The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny. In the series there are two true worlds, Amber and the Courts of Chaos. Parallel worlds (including Earth), which are only shadows of the two true worlds, lie between them.
- The world of the Silence Leigh trilogy by Melissa Scott, beginning with Five-Twelfths of Heaven. It feels like science fiction but there’s clearly magic, as Silence, who is a pilot, discovers when she attempts to become the first female magus. There’s also a brilliant system of space travel, and an Empire that relegates women to second-class status that Silence must struggle against. This is a multilayered world, beautifully done. I am seeing online that parts of the original series may have been rewritten, so I’ll clarify that I’m referring to the original books.
- The world of the Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde. These are very funny fantasy novels based in an alternate England which is so closely interwoven with literature that characters can jump into and out of books. There’s a bureaucratic entity called “Jurisfiction” that makes sure the plots of all the novels continue operating properly even after multiple readings. This is a very well-done world, filled with literary allusions and a lot of humor.
If I went downstairs and began looking through my books I could come up with many more, but I’d better stop there. I’m pretty sure most of us have our own favorites. In fact, I think that’s half the pleasure of talking to other readers — sharing our favorite fictional worlds.
San Antonio is full of little touches of art. Here are a few examples I saw as we wandered around the River Walk and the Alamo area.
The first two were New Deal-era projects. The artist, Ethel Wilson Harris, was supervisor of the Arts and Crafts division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in San Antonio in 1939. These mosaics were completed in 1941.
More tiles decorated the trolley station columns at East Commerce street near Alamo Plaza. There are a total of 44 tiles by artist Ann Adams, completed in 2000.
Another mosaic was tucked away in a little alcove on the River Walk. I haven’t been able to find the name of the artist.
There are a lot more of these, if you’re ever in San Antonio and want to explore. Here are a couple of links to further info:
I’ve been driving past this collection of equipment since December, wanting to take a picture. Finally here are a couple of images. Here are a bunch of boom lifts (I think) stored for winter at a local company.
And below, here they all are waiting for their chance to escape. 😉
“If you wrote this as fiction,” my husband said, “People wouldn’t believe it.”
After the beginning credits of Lion, there’s a caption telling the viewer the movie is based on a true story. That knowledge colors everything you see thereafter.
Five year old Saroo gets on a decommissioned train and falls asleep, ending up thousands of kilometers away from his family in the huge city of Kolkata, where he doesn’t even speak the language. He manages to survive on his own among Kolkata’s many street children until he’s placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a loving Australian couple.
Years later he becomes obsessed with finding the mother and brother he remembers from so long ago. Using modern technology (Google Earth) and scattered memories, he tries to find his birth family.
Lion is a feast for the eyes, beautifully photographed, showing us a glimpse into the lives led by Kolkata’s thousands of street children. I held my breath for Saroo several times as he narrowly escaped some of the terrifying dangers lying in wait for these children.
Lion shows us the love of both of Saroo’s mothers — the birth mother and the adoptive one. With strong performances that are full of heart, this movie makes us feel the incalculable depth of love in a true family.
The movie is based on “The Long Journey Home” by Saroo Brierley. It’s a fantastic movie, definitely award-worthy.
Here’s more about Lion on IMDb.
My short story, “Daughter of the Righ”, has been reprinted in the January-March issue of the web-based magazine Lorelei Signal. This online magazine is dedicated to publishing fantasy stories about complex female characters.
“Daughter of the Righ” is set in the same world as my Color Mage novels — but about 20 years earlier, so no spoilers! In the story, young Hira Noh must escape a betrothal to the Collared Lord who killed her best friend — an event in her early life that eventually led to her becoming the strong, unusual character she is in Sword of Jashan.
Here’s a link to Lorelei Signal. Enjoy!
Aisholpan, 13-year-old daughter of a nomadic Kazakh family, wants to be an eagle huntress. It’s against the traditions of her people for a woman to hunt with the eagles, but she’s determined to compete in the Golden Eagle Festival. She has the unswerving support of her father, who helps her find and train a bird of her own.
The Eagle Huntress is a beautifully-filmed documentary. It’s filled with stunning aerial views of the mountains Aisholpan’s family lives in, and dramatic footage of the eagle’s flight. (I could have watched that all day.) The documentary also gives us an outlook on how the family lives – their day-to-day routine, their home, how foreign yet familiar their lifestyle is. I understood and sympathized with their support for a beloved daughter.
Aisholpan herself is amazing, a strong young woman and a great hero for the girls-can-do-anything message the movie promotes.
Much of the story is devoted to the physical challenges Aisholpan had to face, from climbing down steep cliffs to retrieve her eaglet, to hunting in minus-40-degree temperatures. The film crew had to struggle with the same unforgiving environment. I found this interview with director Otto Bell that describes what they had to go through.
The Eagle Huntress has a simple message — “Girls Can Do Anything” — which seems to be directed at a younger audience. In spite of the tremendous challenges the movie shows us, the storyline lacks complexity, making this a light viewing experience. But it’s still well worth watching for adults, because it feels like a glimpse into another world.
Here’s a link to the movie’s website.
The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is an outdoor event with gorgeous handcrafted silk lanterns on steel frames, brilliantly lit. We were lucky enough to go on a (relatively) warm evening in December, so we were happy to wander around and not feel too cold.
Some of the figures were cartoonish animals I’m assuming were designed to appeal to kids. I didn’t care much for those, but there was quite a bit of variety, and several designs I really liked.
The pièce de résistance was this beautiful dragon. (Everyone knows I’m a fan of dragons.) In this interview in Columbus Underground, the event manager said the dragon was built in the park, taking six artisans almost a week to complete.
There was also a display of traditional dragons made out of little glass bottles filled with colored water:
Downtown Delaware, Ohio merchants will be having an Open House on Saturday, December 10 to promote local businesses during the Christmas season.
If you’re there, stop into local cheese-and-fine-food shop The Greater Gouda and say hi! Owner Terri-Lynne Smiles, who’s also an author, will be hosting a book signing with a half-dozen local authors, including me.
The Holiday Open House is December 10 from 11 am to 3 pm. The book signing will be from 1 pm to 3 pm at the Greater Gouda. I’ll have copies of both novels and two anthologies available for signing.
Last week I posted my Magna Carta I, a look at what elements I enjoy in a novel. Here’s my take on the Magna Carta II, a corresponding list of things that bore me in a novel. If they’re bad enough, these factors can make me roll my eyes, skip sections, or possibly even make me stop reading.
The lists are called “Magna Cartas” because they’re to be used as a sort of master list of Dos and Don’ts of novel-writing as I prepare for NaNoWriMo in a few days. Credit for this idea goes to Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, in his book No Plot? No Problem!.
My Magna Carta II:
- Openings that try to pull me into the book in a manipulative way. For example, a first sentence like: “Harry’s fingers slipped as he dangled from the cliff edge.”
- Long prologues, especially in italics.
- Bad grammar and spelling!
- Long passages of exposition or worldbuilding.
- Exhaustive character descriptions. I don’t want to hear about the planes of the face, the aquiline nose, the shape of the eyes, etc. At least, not at length.
- Ranting about real-world politics, religion, etc at the expense of story.
- Stereotypical villains that aren’t real.
- Main characters who don’t seem three-dimensional.
- Battle scenes that detail every troop movement and tactic. *closes book*
- Too much action at the expense of dialogue and characterization. Rushing around here and there.
- Starting the novel with a lengthy passage about the character’s ordinary day.
- Lack of relatable characters. (I want to like at least one of the characters.)
These are a lot of things, and a Nanowrimo novel by its nature might be prey to some of these. After all, the Nanowrimo novel is a rush product that hasn’t been rewritten or edited. Sometimes there hasn’t even been much in the way of prior planning for the novel. So, my first draft might end up with some of these problems. Still, they’re things for me to keep in mind and try to avoid as I write. A goal to strive for!
Here’s a link to my post on my Magna Carta I.
Good luck on Nanowrimo!
** Featured image is by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash **