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1560Re: [mythsoc] MFA nominees, both adult and children's (long)

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  • Berni Phillips
    May 12, 2000
      Warning! This may be a rather long message and not of interest to
      non-committee members.

      Adult list first:

      A.S. Byatt, ELEMENTALS: I read the first two stories in here. I've never
      been able to warm to Byatt with the exception of the short story collection
      of hers that was on the ballot a few years ago. The title story from that
      was excellent; these didn't do anything for me.

      Peter S. Beagle, TAMSIN: I began to yield to the opinion that this was
      better suited to the children's list. Beagle captures the adolescent voice
      well but tries to put in too many English fantasy tropes.

      James P. Blaylock, THE RAINY SEASON: An intriguing fantasy idea, that a
      person's essence can be captured, in part or in whole, in a glass artifact.
      The whole thing was too difficult to explain, connected as it is with
      magical wells and all. I put this on my top five.

      Marion Zimmer Bradley, TRAITOR'S SUN: I loved Darkover in high school and
      college. I'm a lot older now and so are MZB and Adrienne Martine-Barnes.
      Even in their heyday, the Darkover books were not the sort of thing I'd
      consider for the MFA. They're fun reads but numinous-lite (to steal from
      Edith).

      Dave Duncan, THE GILDED CHAIN: A great, fun read but absolutely no sense of
      the numinous. I admired how the author had no hesitation over skipping over
      entire decades to get to the bits he wanted to tell. I'd read more in this
      series but not consider it for an award.

      Randy Lee Eickhoff, THE FEAST: Randy, indeed, were the ancient Irish. This
      was positively embarrassing to read. It needed a severe editing, both to
      cut down on the excessive amount of bouncing bubbies and to tighten it in
      general. The last segment is so much like a previous one that it severely
      undercut the book.

      Lisa Goldstein, DARK CITIES UNDERGROUND: One of Goldstein's better works,
      children's fantasy fiction entwined with Egyptian mythology.

      Phyllis Gotlieb, VIOLENT STARS: I read the first 100 pages, which seemed to
      be straight science fiction with no fantasy element or sense of the
      numinous.

      Elizabeth Hand, BLACK LIGHT: I was alternately repelled and bored by this.
      I'm appalled at the thought of parents who would allow their young daughter
      to attend parties where there's sex and drugs. The host being her godfather
      is no excuse. And the wonky house thing was so similar to Charles de Lint's
      and others' works.

      Elizabeth Haydon, RHAPSODY: ZZZZzzzzz... Oh, sorry! Yet another wish
      fulfillment fantasy by a female writer who also sings.

      Nina Kiriki Hoffman, A RED HEART OF MEMORIES: Not as much fun as her
      previous novel. I was unable to get into this.

      Graham Joyce, DARK SISTER: Okay, so it's darker than the Inklings and
      non-Christian. I find Joyce compelling, even if what he writes is somewhat
      repellant. At least I could get through this. (I couldn't make it very far
      into THE TOOTH FAIRY without feeling the need to take a shower.)

      Peg Kerr, THE WILD SWANS: I'm one of those who wishes she had stuck to just
      the straight fairy tale (no pun intended). Still, on a second reading, I
      had to admire how well she integrated the modern gay story. There are a
      number of parallels, some very tiny, between the stories if you're looking
      for them. A fine achievement, even if you don't approve of it. I think it
      should be on the final list.

      Stephen R. Lawhead, AVALON: I enjoyed this but it went downhill in the
      second half. As in Guy Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, my cynical radar engages
      when too many characters are reincarnations of Arthurian characters. (And
      what's a good Christian doing writing about reincarnation?) I thought it
      got worse and worse, the closer it got to the end. And, this man must
      really hate dogs, judging from the description of the pit bulls.

      Gregory Maguire, CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER: I enjoyed reading this,
      especially when he was talking about painting. It was an amusing angle to
      look at but I felt cheated at the end when he pulled a sudden switch on us.
      I also don't feel it's in any way fantasy other than using the basic pattern
      of the Cinderella story, which to me was just not enough.

      Yves Meynard, THE BOOK OF KNIGHTS: Not the sort of thing that particularly
      appeals to me, but I thought this was well done. The tone suggests the sort
      of thing that might have been written hundreds of years ago. I felt that
      the ending was *strongly* in the spirit of the Inklings and so voted for it.

      Pat Murphy, THERE AND BACK AGAIN: What a waste of Murphy's talent.

      Lawrence Watt-Evans, DRAGON WEATHER: I was prepared to enjoy reading this
      but he had some real ugly things too early in the book that made me turn
      aside and shudder.

      Connie Willis, MIRACLE AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES: I'm a big Willis
      booster, but I was surprised this was nominated. Most of these stories I
      had read when they were first published. At least one of them stayed with
      me. I was very much taken again by just how good the good ones were, and
      how the Inklings themselves probably would have enjoyed them. I'm probably
      the only person who voted for this but I stand by that. Even in March,
      these stories were touching.

      Gene Wolfe, ON BLUE'S WATERS: Sorry, I still have not recovered from the
      incredibly boring and paternalistic BOOK OF THE LONG SUN (in which Wolfe
      manages to not only engage in the trite woman as only madonna or whore but
      squeezes in a third stereotype, militant man-hating lesbian). I tried to
      read this, but I was in danger of severe tooth damage if I read more than 50
      pages.

      L.A. Taylor, THE FATHERGOD EXPERIMENT: This was the only one I could not
      lay my hands on. I read the discussion report of it by the Rivendale group
      and decided that there were not enough concrete positive comments about it
      to make it worth the time and money to track down.

      Children's Fiction

      David Almond, SKELLIG: Interesting, original, sensitive fantasy about a
      young boy who discovers a funny little winged man living in the garage.
      This Skellig helps take the little boy's mind off his very ill little
      sister. This is one of my top five.

      Franny Billingsley, THE FOLK KEEPER: Another very good one. Young woman
      masquerades as young boy to become the folk keeper, a person who keeps the
      nasty wee folk at bay at great risk to his own life and limb. Billingsley
      also throws in the selkies.

      Dia Calhon, FIREGOLD: This one was too cliched for me. Young boy is
      different and goes off to find others of his own kind. I've read too many
      similar things and there was nothing here to grab me.

      Susan Cooper, KING OF SHADOWS: Modern boy, acting in a Shakespeare play,
      goes back in time to play with the real Shakespeare. Pleasant but not
      Cooper's best--rather lightweight.

      Bruce Coville, SONG OF THE WANDERER: Another disappointment. I've loved a
      number of things Coville's written, but this sure wasn't one of them. All I
      could think of was that he was trying to make money by writing a fantasy
      about a girl and her unicorn friends. Bring back Jeremy Thatcher, dragon
      hatcher please! That had some life.

      Soinbhe Lally, A HIVE FOR THE HONEYBEE: It just like the movie ANTZ but
      with bees.

      Gerald Morris, THE SQUIRE, HIS KNIGHT, AND HIS LADY: I don't even remember
      this book. I know I read at least a hundred pages of it, perhaps the whole
      thing. What does that tell you?

      Donna Jo Napoli, CRAZY JACK: An interesting retelling of Jack and the
      beanstalk, aimed at a somewhat younger reader than most of the others on the
      list. I thought this was good enough for the final list.

      Tamora Pierce, THE CIRCLE OF MAGIC series: I liked this even though it was
      a series. Four different kids, all from different places with different
      powers, are thrown together because their magic is like the magic of the
      other kids-with-magic. It teeters on political correctness (you have a
      generic European girl, the pretty cheerleader type; a generic European girl,
      the fat and picked on type; a black girl, feisty and smart; and an Asian
      boy, the street urchin type) but doesn't fall into it because Pierce manages
      to round out the characters and make them equally intersting. This is
      something I could see buying for my nieces and nephews. I voted for it.

      J.K. Rowling, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN: What can I say?
      I'm a sucker for Harry Potter.

      Neal Shusterman, DOWNSIDERS: Not really fantasy, this book about the kids
      and grown-ups who live underneath New York (except, of course, for the bit
      about people living underneath New York City). The story and characters
      were very much like too many other things I've read.

      Jan Siegel, PROSPERO'S CHILDREN: Not out in the U.S. The last I heard,
      it's coming out here in October, not May.

      Jean Thesman, THE OTHER ONES: Another I can't remember even though I read
      it.

      Cynthia Voigt, KINGDOM series: I'm sorry, I do not believe that children's
      books should include a brutal gang rape of a young girl in the first
      chapter. No matter where the author goes from there, I can't go with her.

      Jane Yolen, TARTAN MAGIC series: Gee, it's nice to see that Jane's been
      able to put her time in Scotland to good use. I don't mean that to sound as
      snide as it probably does. Like CRAZY JACK, I'd say these are aimed at
      younger readers. As a result, the stories are much thinner. I did admire
      what Yolen did, though, and part of that was consciously to give kids a
      flavor of Scotland. She uses some dialect and includes a glossary at the
      back of each book.

      -- Berni
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