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Re: 1998 Fantasy Books

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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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