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Underrated Fantasy Series

 

A Reddit Member put up a poll for readers’ choice of underrated fantasy novels/series. The list is long. I looked it over, kept lookCurse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurtsing, and found only a handful of ones that I’ve read. I haven’t heard of about 3/4 of the authors, and even more of the series. Check out the list:

R/Fantasy’s Official Underrated and Underread fantasy results thread!

Of the top five series listed, I’ve read one novel, the first of Janny Wurts War of Light and Dark series, Curse of the Mistwraith. I found it excellent, but never got back to the others in the series.

Check this list out, especially if you like the fantasy genre.

(Part of the reason I added this post was so I could find the link later to try something new, as if I don’t have enough to read…)

Great Science Fiction/Fantasy Authors

 

Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardIt’s no secret that I love good (and bad, I have to admit) science fiction and fantasy stories. Today I came across a list of authors (41) who have had at least 3 Hugo nominated novels. I haven’t read something by all of the authors, but definitely by most of them. This is a list any sf/f reader will appreciate.

Authors with at Least 3 Hugo-nominated Novels

Jody Lynn Nye Answers My Myth Questions

 

As part of the Myth-Quoted give away I’ve had this week (winner to be announced Monday or Tuesday), I asked Jody Lynn Nye some questions about her involvement with Robert Asprin’s Myth World. Here’s her replies.

Q: How did you con or talk your way into joining Asprin and eventually being allowed to take over the Myth  World Series?
A:  I made Bob an offer he couldn’t refuse. No, but seriously, folks. 
I began to work with Bob while he was suffering from a bad bout of writer’s block. It can be fatal for a writer’s career to become stuck while also on deadline and with other contracts looming. (In fact, he had just found out he was on the New York Times Bestseller List for Phule’s Company.) My husband was one of Bob’s best friends and had worked with him on other business matters. Bill thought it would be a good thing for Bob to get away from his other series for a while and work with a collaborator on something new and unrelated. He chose me because I also write humor and Bob and I have gotten along famously since we met. The punning alone would have driven normal listeners mad. But to collaborate
We wrote about our first experience in the introduction to one of our books. First we circled one another nervously, yowling war cries. Claws were extended and hissing threats issued. Bob literally gave me the “I have a rep to protect” speech. I retorted that so did I have a rep to protect. 
Thereafter, we just settled in to the stimulating exercise of plotting out a book. The result was License Invoked, a contemporary fantasy set in New Orleans about spies, magic and rock’n’roll. We had such a good time that when Bob finished the original twelve-book Donning-Starblaze contract for the Myth-Adventures, he asked me to collaborate with him on new Myths. He felt that I understood the characters and the basic tenets of the universe. Plus, I could sling puns with the best of them. I have a gift for literary mimicry, so I was able to write in a style that so approximated Bob’s that it is difficult for readers to guess who wrote what. And I’ll never tell. He trusted me with his baby. I will always do my best to repay that trust.
We wrote six Myth novels and an anthology together before he passed away in 2008. The publisher approached me to continue the series. I felt I could do it. I wanted to do it. My husband was Bob’s literary executor, so there was no problem getting permission from the estate.
Q: How difficult is it to stay true to Myth and yet expand it to fit your vision?
A:  No trouble, really. I do respect the universe and the characters (who have since moved into my head. The scaly green guy is a particularly demanding tenant). Bob had always left plenty of scope for expansion. I have never and will never approach the edges of possibility. At the moment the characters are still working out their position in the newly revamped M.Y.T.H., Inc. since Skeeve rejoined it. That makes for some interesting conflict. Bob always wrote strong female characters, so I see plot lines involving Bunny, Tananda, Massha and others. Bob left several elements unresolved, such as Robin and the boys. There are many places I can go with future books. I’ve got two books fully plotted that will follow the one on which I am currently working, and many more ideas.
Q: Todd McCaffrey was allowed to create new time settings and characters for Pern. How difficult is it for you to keep with the characters created by Asprin?
A:  I find it a little difficult to get inside Guido’s head sometimes. Bob wrote him from the point of view of a guy who had been in the military. Bob did a stint in the infantry. I have never served. I know people I can ask for perspective, but it’s different than living it. I’m not as uninhibited as Tananda, but I will move outside my comfort zone to get her point of view. I don’t have a problem with the others.
Q: What character or aspect of Myth is the most fun for you to write?
A:  I enjoy throwing Skeeve into a situation that confuses him. His perspective, as the perpetual innocent who in spite of evidence to the contrary believes the best about others, is a great jumping-off point for playing on absurdity. He does have a good heart, and he believes in the win-win scenario. In the end, he always finds a solution that is true to him. I love looking for those twists.
Q: Do you have more Myth Manuscripts coming in the future?
A:  I’m working on one at the moment. It should be going in to the publisher soon.
Please visit my websites at www.jodynye.com and www.mythadventures.net for updates.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to say a few words! I really appreciate it. 
 
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Thank you, Jody! I’m looking forward to Myth-Quoted.

Win a Copy of M.Y.T.H. Quoted by Jody Lynn Nye

 
Jody Lynn Nye
A CAMPAIGN OF MYTH-INFORMATION….
Since it was founded, M.Y.T.H. Inc. has dealt with all manner of vile and evil creatures. But not even a magician of Skeeve’s caliber is prepared to face the most duplicitous monsters of all: politicians. Emo Weavil and his cousin Wilmer Weavil-Scuttil have been running for governor of the island of Bokromi—for five years. Their magickal mudslinging (literal and otherwise) strategies continue to postpone the election leaving the realm in a state of leaderless chaos.
Jody Lynn Nye is the author of over 40 books and 100 short stories. Myth-Quoted is Nye’s latest work in Robert Asprin’s “Myth Adventures” universe. She co-wrote a number of “Myth Adventures” with Asprin before continuing the series by herself after his 2008 death. The well-loved pun and humor-filled adventure series is in very capable hands and readers — both old and new to the series — are in for another fun ride with Myth-Quoted.
(above information from the publisher)
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It’s been over 20 years since I read Another Fine Myth. My brother knew I’d like it – and he was right. (Of course I got him hooked on Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, so it may have been pay back). Over the years I’ve read more and bought even more of the Myth books (no, I still haven’t read them all). When I’m wandering in a bookstore or volunteer at the library and one of the series books shows up on the shelves, I recommend it to anyone who is checking out the fantasy books.
If you haven’t read any of this magical series, now is your chance. If you have already found and love Myth, this is your chance as well. You can win a copy of Myth-Quoted here just by adding a comment here on the blog. Make sure your email address is included in the registration information or that there is some way to contact you if you win. Contest is open to U.S. and Canada residents. Entries are accepted through January 31.Update – Contest extended through February 1. I appear to have the comments moderation set up wrong. Sorry…


 
 

Watch This Space

 

Publishers stumble upon my review website, Jandy’s Books, and offer books for review. I accept some of them, but not all by any means. I have my normal pleasure reading to do as well. I’ve also been offered support for author interviews and other marketing strategies that I politely turn down. For almost 15 years this has been a hobby site for me. (Hmmm, that’s half my daughter’s life. Odd to think of it in those terms.)

This week I had an offer I can’t pass up. Jody Lynn Nye took over Robert Asprin’s M.Y.T.H. World before he died. Her newest one is MYTH Quoted. This is one of those charming humorous fantasy series with puns, word play, and pratfalls to keep the reader chuckling or laughing out loud. I quickly agreed to read a copy of the new one for review. I haven’t read a M.Y.T.H. book in a while although I often recommend them when I see other people interested.

I was also offered the option of an interview or Q&A session and a give away. So…

In the next couple days, you should be seeing that. Watch for a MYTH Quoted contest and enjoy the M.Y.T.H. world with me. If it goes well, perhaps I’ll accept other offers.

Dracula – Coursera Essay

 

Dracula by Bram StokerWe read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for our third selection. Here is my essay:

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Bram Stoker has infused his novel Dracula with shadows to add in the buildup of the horror of the story. One image he uses extremely well is that of mist and fog.An image of mist and low clouds or fog immediately brings stealth and cover to mind. When the men go looking for the vampire, they encounter mist many times in their search. The mist is a representation of their quest. A foggy mind struggles to get a clear vision or to think clearly. Stoker uses this imagery to increase the frightening mood.

Mist can seep in through small cracks. Dracula changes into mist when he slips into a building to feed on a human. This adds another sense of creepiness; the reader can remember the times he has seen fog roil through an open door.

When they return to Transylvania, the men know the Count is using the fog and weather to cover the ship carrying his coffin. It is a powerful tool for Dracula. Each time Stoker uses it, another layer of despair is added to his tale.

The mist also works with the religious theme Stoker uses throughout Dracula. Mist covers things like a shroud or veil does. The characters each learn to carry a crucifix to keep the vampire away. Mina Harker is a godly woman, praying all the time the men are hunting the vampire. Religion is the light to dispel the mist. In the Christian Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:16 states “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” When they destroy Count Dracula, the mist dissipates, along with the darkness that surrounds them.

Mist and fog add to the eerieness of Bram Stoker’s novel. He uses it effectively, even in the end when it disappears with the Count.

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Through the Looking Glass – Coursera Essay

 
Our second week of the Coursera class focused on Lewis Carroll’s work. Here is my essay.
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Lewis Carroll’s famous stories can be read as delightful children’s tales. Carroll was also canny enough to write them for adult appreciation, with symbolism throughout. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice finds herself talking to flowers in the garden. After her initial shock, Alice has a conversation. Flowers have meanings that add a layer to the story.The Tiger Lily is the first to speak to Alice. The symbolism for tiger lilies is pride and wealth. The flower’s tone is superior – “We can talk,” said the Tiger-lily: “when there’s anybody worth talking to.” The Tiger Lily retains a haughty attitude throughout the conversation with Alice and the other flowers.Symbolism for roses is found in their colors. The Rose mentions that Alice is the right color, so it is probably pink or peach. Pink roses depict gratitude, appreciation, and admiration. Peach roses mean togetherness or closing of a deal. Alice’s Rose tends towards appreciation but is more direct. Yet Rose graces Alice with comments of “that’s not your fault” when it observes Alice isn’t a proper flower.

Daisies symbolize innocence and loyal beauty. Innocence portrays the idea of young children. These Daisies start all talking at once when they join in. They try to outdo each other in their knowledge and shouts just as children will. It takes the authoritative Tiger Lily and Alice’s threats to make them quiet down.

Two other flowers make brief appearances. Violet was hiding. Violets’ symbolism is of faithfulness and modesty. This Violet is rude, yet quickly retreats when Tiger Lily speaks harshly. Larkspur stands for levity or lightness. Larkspur warns Alice that the queen is coming. With the warning, it adds the fun sounds of the Queen: “I hear her footstep, thump, thump…”

The levels of Carroll’s novels appeal to all. Even the gardener can appreciate his work, using the symbols of the flowers to speak.

 

Works cited:

http://www.teleflora.com/about-flowers/flower-meaning.asp
http://www.theflowerexpert.com/content/aboutflowers/flower-meanings
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/flowers-meanings/———————————————————–

Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Coursera Essay

 

I hope Aravis meant it. After her request I decided to post the short essays I’ve been writing for the Coursera science fiction and fantasy class. The first week we read a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales grouped together in an edition from the late 1800’s called Household Stories, available free through the Open Library.

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Ignoring Cultural DifferencesEurope, including Germany, was comprised of many small political regions during the 18th and 19th centuries. There were culture clashes on all sides. It is easy to develop an “us vs them” attitude. The city states and communication limitations fostered that mindset. Some of the Grimms’ stories address the differences by ignoring them in some animal stories.

“Bremen Town Musicians” is a good example of “people” working together. They have something in common – they are old and in danger of being killed. The ass offers to help others who aren’t any threat to him. But the next three, the cat, the cock, and the dog, are enemies. Dogs chase cats, cats eat birds, and cocks strike out at anything that threatens them. When this group has an opportunity to improve their lives, they work together. They trick the robbers by their wits to trick, attack, and repel the men.

“Old Sultan” is another story of unlikely animals working together. When Sultan thinks he was about to die, the dog visits his friend the wolf. Their first trick uses each of their own natures as they work together. The wolf “steals” the baby – expected for a wolf. Sultan rescues the baby. That is part of the nature of a trusted family pet. After the wolf and dog’s misunderstanding about the sheep, the wolf challenges the dog. He brings a boar as his second for a duel. The dog brings a cat – again, different natures working together. The wolf surrenders after the cat chases away the boar. The wolf and dog become friends again despite their nature.

Although these types of stories are not common in the Household Tales, they are not common in real life as well. The stories illustrate that people can overcome their culture and prejudices to come together.

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There are many morals throughout the Fairy Tales. This is the theme I chose for my essay.

Studying Science Fiction and Fantasy

 
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Alice in Wonderland
and Through the Looking Glass
Dracula
Frankenstein
The Invisible Man and The Island of Dr. Moreau
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s and Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories
Princess of Mars and Herland
The Martian Chronicles
The Left Hand of Darkness
Little Brother

That is a short list of Who’s Who in fantasy and science fiction over the past 300 years or so. That is also the syllabus for the Coursera Science Fiction and Fantasy online course I’m taking right now. It is taught by Eric S. Rabkin, a professor of literature at the University of Michigan. All the Coursera classes are free and taught through respected universities.

First, I have to admit I’m out of the study habit. No, I’m not getting a grade or college credit for this course. Even so, I want to pass on the pass/fail scale. It means reading a novel (or the equivalent) each week. I have read most of these books. But a few are new to me. Although I know the basic story, I hadn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ve read The Invisible Man, but not The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. I’d read all of the Poe short stories assigned, but hadn’t read any of Hawthorne’s short stories before this – only his novels. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland is the only novel in the group that has never crossed my SF radar at all. I also haven’t read anything by Cory Doctorow, let alone Little Brother.

There is the challenge of a novel a week – plus a short essay, plus judging four (or more) essays by other students. There are also discussion forums and video lectures that are posted after we submit our essays. Silly me, I still want to read other things as well.

I quickly gave up on And the Ladies of the Club by Helen Hoover Santmyer. It’s 1000 plus pages, and is the book by real life book club is discussing next week. I still listen to books in the car and at work, so have kept up my mysteries. I still read a romance novel for a while before bedtime as well. So yes, I’m still getting a lot read.

It is very interesting, though, to re-read these books in a different light. Now I have to evaluate them – or some aspect of them. I’m reading them with a different mind set. I knew when I read Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness the first time that I missed a lot. This time through, though, I’m seeing other interesting things. For example, it is written from the point of view of two outsiders who are trying to work together by the end of the book. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that is a different perspective and puts the book in a whole new light. Will my essay next week be about that? Who knows, because I’ve discovered other things as well. Re-reading a classic or loved novel is always enlightening. It’s even more so when you concentrate on the subtleties you missed the first time.

I’ve enjoyed the challenge. I’m also looking forward to reading books I don’t have to think about, just enjoy.

If you need a school fix without the challenge of the classroom, check out Coursera. The classes are free and range over more than 100 topics.

Locus Awards Nominations

 

Locus, the magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy field, has announced their nominations for the Locus awards. I’ve actually read two of the novels on the list – wow! Check out the nominations.

Locus Award FinalistsThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

From the Fantasy Novel category, I’ve read the excellent Among Others by Jo Walton. From the First Novel category, I’ve read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – a book I highly recommend.

Of course there are other books on the list I want to get to. Sigh, once again – so many books, so little time…

Further Education

 

Have you heard of Coursera yet? This is from their website:

We offer high quality courses from the top universities, for free to everyone. We currently host courses from Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Pennsylvania. We are changing the face of education globally, and we invite you to join us.

One of my coworkers pointed it out to me, including a 4 week class on the current state of healthcare. That class tempted me. Then I looked over the curriculum. I found the class I have wanted for a while.

Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World

 Ten weeks, starting in July, I get to immerse myself into a wonderful genre. The timing is great for me as well – between book club meetings. August is our month to choose books for the following year, so that gives me some extra reading time. (OK, we’re reading And Ladies of the Club in September – but I can get it in there, I’m sure.)

I wish I knew the reading list for the class. I’ve already read the two mentioned, and look forward to discussing The Left Hand of Darkness. I wonder what else we’ll be reading. Expect to hear more once I start the course.