A long ramble: Regency fantasy, book recommendations, etc.

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Mon Sep 3 13:25:00 EDT 2001



Came back after the week end to find well over 60 list messages to trawl
through.  Just as well I wasn't too busy today...

To start with Regency:

Fantasy in a Regency setting:  How about "Heroine of the Universe" by Tanith
Lee?  Not a book I like very much, but I cite it to show that such work is being
done.

Regency Fantasy as such: I think "Sorcery and Cecelia" by Wrede and Stevermer
fits the definition pretty exactly.  I finally managed to obtain a copy a few
weeks ago, and I loved it.

One thing that bothers me about some fantasy series.  They often cover
centuries, or even millennia, of their world's history, and yet the world seems
technologically stuck in the early middle ages, with no explanation as to why.
Sometimes I think it may be merely because the writers are romanticising the
period.  Science Fiction writers don't seem to have this trouble, but then they
are used to writing in a genre large sections of which are concerned mainly with
technological progress.

Book recommendations.

I'm one of those readers who can go through the recommendations of a significant
proportion of list members without encountering an author I've heard of :-)  I
haven't been saving them, I must confess, but occasionally they (if repeated
enough) lodge in my mind - for example, a couple of weeks ago I bought a book by
Lois McMaster Bujold, simply because she gets mentioned on this list, and
enjoyed it very well.  (I can't remember the title, but it was of the SF
sub-genre that Margaret Weiss calls "Galactic Fantasy")

I will second almost everything everyone has said about McKillip.  I haven't
read very many of her books yet; I first encountered her in the Riddle Master
trilogy, which is excellent.  One point of disagreement, though - I don't find
it particularly intellectually taxing to read.  It is a series I can just switch
off and coast through, only to switch back on and realise that I'm thinking in
riddles :-)

My own favourites, in no particular order, some of which I've mentioned before
but not for ages:

Claudia J Edwards, "Bright and Shining Tiger".  I bought this merely to be
polite in a junk shop who had moved a lot of junk to allow me to get at their
books, none of which I wanted.  The cover shrieked "pulp genre fantasy" but it's
actually a good story set in a very well-constructed world.  The plot is
romance-within-marriage-of-convenience, and it is the best of its kind I know
(er... that's "I ken" not "I wit").

Clifford D Simak.  Mainly SF, but most of his books stray a little into fantasy.
"Way Station" and "Time is the Simplest Thing" stand head and shoulders above
his other work, but I also like "The Goblin Reservation" and "Catface" =
"Mastodonia".

Simak is responsible for one of those great fantasy ideas that I read and think
"Why has no-one else done that?" - in "Destiny Doll", the tour (to use the TG
term) has been trying to find a race of centaurs who may hold a quest object.
When they encounter them, the centaurs are absorbed in... a polo match.  Yay!

Tanith Lee.  Three books I would again cite as masterpieces, standing head and
shoulders above the rest of her work.  "The Silver Metal Lover", "Drinking
Sapphire Wine" and "When the Lights Go Out".  ("Drinking Sapphire Wine" was
originally published as two novellas, "Don't Bite the Sun" and "Drinking
Sapphire Wine".  This may be the "Biting the Sun" that Sophie mentioned).  Of
the rest of her work, she tends to dark fantasy; her children's books are IMO
better than her adult books.

Julian May.  Her eight (nine in some editions) books in the "Galactic Millieu"
series are all good reads.  Her "Rampart Worlds" series promises to be good as
well, but so far I've only read the first one, "Perseus Spur".

Alan Dean Foster, whose SF I recommend, but not his fantasy.  Very readable.  I
don't think it would stand up to hard-science scrutiny, but it's still good SF.

Sylvia Engdahl.  "Heritage of the Star" = "This star shall abide".  SF;
excellent book; the first of a trilogy.  The others are good, but not that good.

An author we discussed a few months ago, who deserves a mention: Charles de
Lint.  Different people have different favourites, but mine are "The Little
Country" and "Someplace to be Flying".  I don't like "Memory and Dream", but I
seem to be in a minority about that.

And finally, one plug that I made a week ago, but I'll make it again, since it
is recommendations you want... "The Little Broomstick" by Mary Stewart.  One of
(to my knowledge) three works of children's fantasy that she wrote, and one of
her best books, IMO.

Urban Fantasy:

This is a difficult subject - we had a long discussion of it a few months back.

The definition as fantasy set in (something resembling) our modern world is one
I've encountered before, and probably not an uncommon one, but I don't like it,
because I don't think much of that sort of fantasy really is urban, and I think
that fantasy can be urban without being modern.

To me, "Urban" means "to do with cities".  We finally settled on two competing
definitions last time - "Fantasy of, rather than merely in, a city", favoured by
me, and "Fantasy which contrasts magic and modern city life as light and
darkness" (I think) favoured by Mr and Mrs Proffitt (who will no doubt pop up
with a far better statement of their definition).

Examples of my sort of urban fantasy: "Downtown" by [still can't remember the
two authors], "Sleepside Story" by Greg Bear (short story).  Example of Jacob
and Melissa's sort: "Jack of Kinrowan" by Charles de Lint.  (And that's the only
CdL which I think fits that definition, BTW).  Examples that fit both:  "City of
the Iron Fish" by Simon Ings; "Rats and Gargoyles" by Mary Gentle.

I suppose all of those are recommendations - I think they're worth reading.  A
word of warning about City of the Iron Fish, though.  Purely a matter of taste,
but it had too many homosexual and paedophiliac love scenes for me to really
like it.

Something I'd like to see in the <urban fantasy - contrasts> line: something
based on 19th century slums.  Like Jamie came from in Homeward Bounders, only
worse.  Like where Mitt and Milda lived in downtown Holand would be better...

Music:

I generally read in silence.  If I do have music on, it's something I know well
enough that it doesn't distract me from the book.

I have been reading DWJ since before my musical taste was at all well-formed, so
practically anything I listen to, I might have listened to at some point while
reading DWJ.

For what it's worth, my favourite composers:  Sibelius, Bartok, Nielsen,
Copland, Kate Bush.

I think that just about covers everything.  I'm going home now, anyway...

Philip.

PS Imagine a universe in which Georgette Heyer had chosen to tackle the
Arthurian legends...




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