Nebula Awards OT

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Wed May 15 14:17:15 EDT 2002

On Wed, 15 May 2002 09:27:59 -0600, rohina at wrote:

>> On the others:  _The Tower at Stony Wood_ is probably my favorite of
>> McKillip's recent novels (the ones that are appearing, like little 
>> jewels,in small-sized hardcover).  As I told Hallie privately, my 
>> great sorrow is
>> that I'm no longer connecting emotionally with her books like I 
>> used to.
>> She's writing what she wants, and she's doing it beautifully, but 
>> that's all
>> they are to me.  It's sad.  This is still a very good book, though 
>> I have
>> been arguing with my SFWA friend about whether this is Rapunzel 
>> (her theory)
>> or the Lady of Shalott (mine).  
>I think it is both. There are also elements of the Scottish/Irish story
>of the seal wife.

I agree--I think the selkie part is actually my favorite, though I *love*
the image of the dragon's tower.  That was brilliant.  What we've really
been arguing over is "which of these stories, if any, did she have in mind?"
Not really the sort of thing we can ever discover, short of writing to her
and asking.  (I could do this, but I'm too shy.)  Basically someone told my
friend that McKillip was doing this in (sort of) the same way Robin McKinley
writes retellings of fairytales.  Calling it an argument is kind of's more an impassioned discussion because we're really trying to
figure out, if this is the case, just what fairy tale _Song for the
Basilisk_ was supposed to be.

>I am curious about your comment about emotional connection, because I
>found this book utterly absorbing. Did you think it was souless?

Not at all.  The problem is with me, not the book.

With McKillip's earlier work--not just Riddlemaster, but also _Forgotten
Beasts of Eld_, _Fool's Run_, even the Cygnet books--I felt an immediate and
powerful connection to the characters.  What happened to them, happened to
me, in a way.  I still feel that way about these books.  (There's also a
short story whose title I've forgotten, in McKinley's collection _Imaginary
Lands_, that I just loved.)

Starting with _Atrix Wolfe_ and continuing through the later ones--meaning
_Winter Rose_, _Song for the Basilisk_, _Tower at Stony Wood_ and _Ombria in
Shadow_--I haven't felt the slightest emotional connection with the
characters.  I still think the language is extraordinary, the images are
beautiful, and I love the plots and the ideas.  I can always find something
new in re-reading them, though since I don't own all of them, I haven't read
them *all* repeatedly.  It's not that I don't like them any more.  It's that
something is missing; something I used to get from reading her books doesn't
happen any more.

I don't actually know why this is.  My guess is that, as she moved further
away from the standard images of fantasy, my tastes somehow diverged from
what she was writing.  I can hardly criticize *her* for that; it's my firm
belief that she is writing exactly what she always wanted to write, and
satisfying her intended audience.  It's just that I'm not in that audience
any more.

Melissa Proffitt
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