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Re: 1998 Fantasy Books

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  • Berni Phillips
    ... I d like to echo what Ellie said here, both in her enthusiasm for the new McKillip and to emphasize that what ends up on the
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 6, 1998
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      Eleanor Farrell wrote:
      >
      > The Mythopoeic Society presents four awards each year, for fantasy
      > literature (children's and adult) and scholarship (Inklings and general).
      > Anyone in the Society can nominate books and/or serve on the committees
      > that select the winners; check the info on our web site for details:
      >
      > http://www.mythsoc.org/awards.html
      >
      > Now's the time that "us regulars" start snooping around for
      > nomination-worthy books, so I thought this might be a good list topic. What
      > did you read this year (published in 1998) that you thought was outstanding
      > fantasy?
      >
      > I'll start with Patricia A. McKillip's new book, _Song for the Basilisk_,
      > which is one of the best novels I've read recently.

      <the rest snipped for brevity>

      I'd like to echo what Ellie said here, both in her enthusiasm for the
      new McKillip and to emphasize that what ends up on the Mythopoeic
      Fantasy Award nomination list depends on what members nominate. If you
      never nominate anything, there's no use complaining about the winners or
      other nominees. While only committee members can vote, any society
      member can nominate--and I believe any society member who wishes to can
      join the committee.

      At this point, the McKillip is still the fore runner in my mind, but
      other things I think belong on the list are Diana Wynne Jones' latest,
      _Dark Lord of Derkholm_, and Robin McKinley's _Rose Daughter_.

      Yes, the McKinley was a finalist last year for the *children's* award,
      but I feel it was misplaced on that list and deserves a second chance on
      the adult list. The paperback edition would make it automatically
      eligible if it had not been a finalist. The children's award was split
      off from the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in order to give books for younger
      readers a better chance. It's hard for a picture book or YA to compete
      with the complexity of a novel intended for adults. Similarly, I feel
      that _Rose Daughter_ is not for children and was unsuitable for the
      children's award; it should have been placed on the adult list last
      year. I don't think it got a fair chance, being in the wrong place.
      The rules for eligibility were written before the MFA was split into
      adult fiction and children's fiction. It is time to revisit the rules.
      If you have read this book and think it should be nominated for the
      adult MFA, please nominate it.

      Berni
    • Matthew Winslow
      ... I haven t read it yet, but the McKillip is definitely going on my nomination list. (My in-laws bought me a copy for Christmas when they were visiting in
      Message 2 of 9 , Dec 6, 1998
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        On Mon, 7 Dec 1998, Eleanor Farrell wrote:

        > I'll start with Patricia A. McKillip's new book, _Song for the Basilisk_,
        > which is one of the best novels I've read recently. If you read and like
        > McKillip, this book fits nicely into her usual elegant style and succinct
        > story plotting. But although a short book (a compliment!! I mean compared
        > with these endless bookend series...), it has the breadth of her earlier
        > classics like _The Forgotten Beasts of Eld_ and the Riddle-master trilogy,
        > in that the world is a bit wider than the author usually creates and the
        > events somewhat broader. I think it's the best book McKillip has written in
        > many years.
        >
        > OK, guys, how about you? Plug your favorites!

        I haven't read it yet, but the McKillip is definitely going on my
        nomination list. (My in-laws bought me a copy for Christmas when they
        were visiting in September and my tyrannical wife is making me wait till
        *then* to open it.)

        I just got done reading RE Klein's "The History of Our World Beyond the
        Wave" and it's going on my nomination list. This book hasn't gotten much
        press, but I think it fits the criterion of being in the tradition of the
        Inklings. (Ellie, I'm going to do a short review of it as soon as I get a
        chance.)

        Overall, though, this felt like a slim year for nomination-worthy titles.
        I culled this year's "Locus" and came up with only about 10 possibilities
        -- and three of those were by one author (Sean Stewart). Did this feel
        like a thin yeart to others?

        I just received the latest issue of Locus with the forthcoming books list,
        and next year looks to be thin also. There's a new Gaiman or two, but
        that's about all that stands out in my mind.

        Matthew Winslow mwinslow@...
        members.theglobe.com
        "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading
        them." - Joseph Brodsky
      • Matthew Winslow
        ... At times I think we should just make McKillip the default winner. Seriously, though, I ve put a bit of thought into this whole McKillip thing because
        Message 3 of 9 , Dec 7, 1998
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          On Mon, 7 Dec 1998, David Lenander wrote:

          > Has any other current fantasy genre writer been more consistently good?

          At times I think we should just make McKillip the default winner. <g>

          Seriously, though, I've put a bit of thought into this whole McKillip
          thing because my wife is *not* a McKillip fan. I started reading The Book
          of Atrix Wolfe to her and she stopped me after about three chapters. We
          made it through Forgotten Beasts of Eld and I thought it was wonderful and
          she thought it was "OK". I think McKillip is so enjoyable to me because of
          <cliche warning> the wonderful lyricalness of her writing. She and Beagle
          both use the cliches of the genre, but make those cliches seem new and
          beautiful -- like that cereal commercial, "discovering them again for the
          very first time."

          As to consistent authors, Crowley gets better in my eyes, but he is just
          right on the edge of fantasy -- especially with the Aegypt tetralogy. I
          could see nominating Little, Big were I in the Society back then. (Sorry,
          I'm only 28, so I was, um, 12 when it came out), but even though I think
          the Aegypt tetralogy is excellent, it'll probably never get nominated by
          me.

          > Pam Dean's Rosemary & Juniper book won't make my final list, though I enjoyed
          > reading it.

          Could you elaborate on what you liked about it? I made it through, but my
          feelings were in line with what Berni felt -- Dean's representation of
          adolescents was waaaay to unreal to be believable at all. It worked in Tam
          Lin (barely), but not here.

          Matthew Winslow mwinslow@...
          http://members.theglobe.com/mithlond
          "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading
          them." - Joseph Brodsky
        • David Lenander
          Responding to the message of ... . . . ... Well, the new Gaiman collection (out last month) is
          Message 4 of 9 , Dec 7, 1998
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            Responding to the message of
            <Pine.LNX.3.96.981207013937.31726D-100000@...>
            from mythsoc@onelist.com:
            >
            > From: Matthew Winslow <mwinslow@...>
            . . .
            > I just received the latest issue of Locus with the forthcoming books list,
            > and next year looks to be thin also. There's a new Gaiman or two, but
            > that's about all that stands out in my mind.

            Well, the new Gaiman collection (out last month) is looking very fine. I've
            only read the first few stories, but I'd put it on at least the preliminary
            nominations. I'd say it's superior to the novel from last year.

            As to "best in years" for the new McKillip, (which people keep saying about
            every new McKillip), I don't know how she can keep getting better towards some
            previous hight point year unless there's been a decline. I don't think that
            there ever was. It is true that no single book has haunted me or impressed me
            (more in retrospect and rereading than on first reading) more than FORGOTTEN
            BEASTS, which I DID vote for when it was a finalist for the MFA in the 70s, but
            I am not sure that WINTER ROSE or STEPPING FROM THE SHADOWS or really any of her
            books have represented to me a falling off in her abilities and talents. She's
            writing different books, and a few (MOON & THE FACE, perhaps) haven't impressed
            me greatly, but I am not sure this is because the books were any less worthy.
            In many respects WINTER ROSE is as fine a book as she has done. The success of
            FORGOTTEN BEASTS was partly because she attempted less. McKillip has grown
            considerably as a writer, and she attempts things that are sometimes beyond
            ??her strengths? But they are perhaps beyond any writer's strengths. Or maybe
            she's simply passed beyond the ken of this reader, maybe permanently, or perhaps
            in time I might come to understand what she's done. Any new book from her
            probably belongs almost automatically on at least the preliminary list. Has any
            other current fantasy genre writer been more consistently good?

            On the children's list, I'm interested in reading THE KEY TO THE INDIAN, it will
            be interesting to see if Banks can dig herself out of the hole she tumbled into:
            this looks to be some form of apology or attempt to redeem the problems of her
            earlier book(s) with handling Native American Indian material. Her last book,
            the Mystery of the Cupboard was her best book so far, but she largely avoided
            the Amerindian difficulties by retreating to Victorian/Edwardian England.

            Pam Dean's Rosemary & Juniper book won't make my final list, though I enjoyed
            reading it.

            David Lenander, Library Manager I
            Bio-Medical Library Access Services work: (612)626-3375
            Circulation, Core Collections & Reserve Desks home: (651)292-8887
            Diehl Hall/505 Essex SE fax: (612)626-2454
            University of Minnesota
            Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

            e-mail: d-lena@...
            web-page: http://www.tc.umn.edu/nlhome/m391/d-lena/BirdnBab.html
          • Matthew Winslow
            ... Oh, not despair for the award or anything , just despair on finding more than a few for the nomination list. ... I loved this book (and Willis in
            Message 5 of 9 , Dec 10, 1998
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              On Fri, 11 Dec 1998, Eleanor Farrell wrote:

              > Matt,
              >
              > I see (or make!) this comment every year.... but always find at least a
              > couple of gems on the fantasy shelves. So, don't despair! One reason for

              Oh, not despair for the award or anything <g>, just despair on finding
              more than a few for the nomination list.

              > _To Say Nothing of the Dog_ by Connie Willis

              I loved this book (and Willis in general), but it just didn't feel like a
              book "written in the spirit of the Inklings" (or whatever the phrase is).
              _Darwinia_, though, felt a lot like it to me -- even though it is
              technically science fiction.

              Has anyone read -- or even been able to find a copy of -- Joe Lansdale's
              _The Boar_? It sounds like a good book, but it's from a small publisher
              and is well over $25 -- and it's only about 130 pages or so. I'd love to
              put it on the nomination list, but I'd feel bad if it were one of those
              books no one could find.

              Matthew Winslow mwinslow@...
              http://www.firinn.org/~mwinslow/
              "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading
              them." - Joseph Brodsky
            • Eleanor Farrell
              David Lenander wrote: On the children s list, I m interested in reading THE KEY TO THE INDIAN, it will be interesting to see if Banks can dig herself out of
              Message 6 of 9 , Dec 11, 1998
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                David Lenander wrote:

                On the children's list, I'm interested in reading THE KEY TO THE INDIAN, it
                will
                be interesting to see if Banks can dig herself out of the hole she tumbled
                into:
                this looks to be some form of apology or attempt to redeem the problems of her
                earlier book(s) with handling Native American Indian material. Her last book,
                the Mystery of the Cupboard was her best book so far, but she largely avoided
                the Amerindian difficulties by retreating to Victorian/Edwardian England.

                David, your comments are intriguing, how about more info here for those of
                us who don't know who "Banks" is or know anything about her books?

                Thanks,

                Ellie

                ********************************************************************************
                *
                Eleanor M. Farrell
                P.O. Box 320486
                San Francisco, CA 94132-0486
                E-mail: emfarrell@...

                Editor, Mythprint (Mythopoeic Society newsletter)
                Mythopoeic Society web site: http://www.mythsoc.org
                ********************************************************************************
                *
              • Eleanor Farrell
                Matthew Winslow wrote: Overall, though, this felt like a slim year for nomination-worthy titles. I culled this year s Locus and came up with only about 10
                Message 7 of 9 , Dec 11, 1998
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                  Matthew Winslow wrote:

                  Overall, though, this felt like a slim year for nomination-worthy titles.
                  I culled this year's "Locus" and came up with only about 10 possibilities
                  -- and three of those were by one author (Sean Stewart). Did this feel
                  like a thin yeart to others?

                  I just received the latest issue of Locus with the forthcoming books list,
                  and next year looks to be thin also. There's a new Gaiman or two, but
                  that's about all that stands out in my mind.

                  ------
                  Matt,

                  I see (or make!) this comment every year.... but always find at least a
                  couple of gems on the fantasy shelves. So, don't despair! One reason for
                  encouraging as many people as possible to nominate books is that we're more
                  likely not to overlook something obscure and maybe wonderful.... I haven't
                  yet seen the Locus "best of" list (hmm, I guess it's not out yet, but is
                  always a good place to check! Might be the February issue...) but offhand I
                  can think of at least a handful of books (which I have read) worth
                  nominating:

                  _Song for the Basilisk_ by Patricia A. McKillip
                  _To Say Nothing of the Dog_ by Connie Willis
                  _Stardust_ by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess

                  And now, thanks to Trish and Joe and yourself and others, I have more of
                  these to check out in the next few months!

                  Ellie

                  ********************************************************************************
                  *
                  Eleanor M. Farrell
                  P.O. Box 320486
                  San Francisco, CA 94132-0486
                  E-mail: emfarrell@...

                  Editor, Mythprint (Mythopoeic Society newsletter)
                  Mythopoeic Society web site: http://www.mythsoc.org
                  ********************************************************************************
                  *
                • David Lenander
                  Responding to the message from Eleanor Farrell ... Lynne Reid Banks has written a number of children s books, including a number of
                  Message 8 of 9 , Dec 11, 1998
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                    Responding to the message
                    from Eleanor Farrell <emfarrell@...>
                    >
                    > David, your comments are intriguing, how about more info here for those of
                    > us who don't know who "Banks" is or know anything about her books?

                    Lynne Reid Banks has written a number of children's books, including a number of
                    fantasies. Far and away her most popular and commercially successful is the
                    series beginning with *The Indian in the Cupboard*. The sequels include:
                    *Return of the Indian* *Secret of the Indian* and *Mystery of the Cupboard* and
                    the new *Key to the Indian*. She's been criticized as misusing the Native
                    American material that she employed as background for the character Little Bear.
                    I think that the first book was written rather thoughtlessly regarding this, so
                    Little Bear speaks in a sort of "Movie Injun" broken English, but clearly she's
                    been trying to improve things, since. The new book is apparently focusing much
                    more directly on Little Bear, so my guess is that she's trying to "make up" for
                    the first book. Rather as P.L. Travers rewrote portions of one of the Mary
                    Poppins books to address a supposedly racist portrayal of an African family.
                    Indian in the Cupboard was made into a major film a couple of years ago, though
                    I seem to recall that it incorporated elements from the second book, too. Aside
                    from the criticism that the books include insensitive portrayals of Native
                    American Indians, the books are in many respects very well written, and have
                    been much praised and become quite popular. Lois Kuznets discussed at least the
                    first in her MSA-award book *When Toys Come Alive*.

                    To be honest, I've not read the first book (But I saw the MOVIE!), but I have
                    read the three sequels and have been very impressed with the increasingly
                    interesting things that Banks has done in these books, especially with
                    *Mystery*, where she develops the rudimentary idea of the magical key and
                    cupboard in logical but previously unexpected ways, and experiments with Telling
                    the Grown-ups the Truth about the magic, which seems odd in the 4th book of a
                    series that hadn't previously done this. On the other hand, I think that I
                    found *Mystery* easier to like partly because she was avoiding the "Little Bear"
                    material, which has always made me uneasy.

                    Incidentally, we do not have a dearth of books to consider on the children's
                    side. Laura forwarded a list of--I don't know, more than 100, I think-- in the
                    Once UPon a Time that came yesterday. Well known authors with new books include
                    Banks, T.A. Barron, Nina Bawden, Francesca Lia Block, Bruce Coville, Jane Louise
                    Curry (anyone heard from her in a while?), Roald Dahl, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean
                    (Juniper, etc. as a Y.A.?), Cynthia DeFelice, Peter Dickinson (!), Martin
                    Gardner, Alan Garner (!!), Brian Jacques, Diana Wynne Jones, Ellen Kindt
                    McKenzie, Robin McKinley, Gregory Maguire, Margaret Mahy (!), Donna Jo Napoli,
                    Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Gary Paulsen, Tamora Pierce, Daniel Pinkwater (!),
                    Philip Pullman, Cynthia Rylant, Jon Scieszka, William Sleator, Sherwood Smith,
                    Nancy Springer, J.R.R. Tolkien (!), Vivian Vande Velde, Jane Yolen and Paul
                    Zindell. These are just the ones that ring a bell with me. A book getting a
                    LOT of attention will be J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone*,
                    and I've seen very positive comments about Michael Cadnum's *In a Dark Wood*,
                    though Ellie doesn't seem to have thought too much of it, in the latest
                    MYTHPRINT. 3 I've read from Laura's list: Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's *In the
                    Stone Circle* (historical time travel/ghosts in Wales), Ellen Kindt McKenzie's
                    *Golden Band of Eddris* and Eva Ibbotson's *Secret of Platform 13* probably
                    won't make my final ballot, though I guess I can't rule out the McKenzie at this
                    point. Laura hasn't read all of these, either. But she does focus on the
                    Dalkey, Jones, Virginia Layefsky, Napoli, Rowling and Springer books as
                    especially worth looking at. And her review of Rylant's book in the same issue
                    made me wonder why she'd left it off this short list, it sounds very
                    interesting.

                    Laura's also promised us a second list of more picture books. I hope to post
                    her list on the Once UPon a TIme web-site, but I'm not sure how soon.




                    David Lenander, Library Manager I
                    Bio-Medical Library Access Services work: (612)626-3375
                    Circulation, Core Collections & Reserve Desks home: (651)292-8887
                    Diehl Hall/505 Essex SE fax: (612)626-2454
                    University of Minnesota
                    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

                    e-mail: d-lena@...
                    web-page: http://www.tc.umn.edu/nlhome/m391/d-lena/BirdnBab.html
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