introduction etc (was DWJ in Israeli newspaper)

Ika blake at
Sat Feb 14 07:32:33 EST 2004

Ven wrote:

> The thing about "Magic and fire and blood and
> dark castles", as well as spaceships, unearthly
> creatures and sacrifice is that I love books with
> these elements more than any others, all else
> being equal. They seem to provide the best
> narrative framework for an author to express that
> emotional complexity and precision. I would like
> to say why I think this is but  I'm going to have
> to think about it some more .....

I've just read a book by Geoff Ryman called 'Was', which has an afterword
on the relationship between fantasy and realism:

"I am a fantasy writer who fell in love with realism. Because I am a
fantasy writer, I am particularly aware that every work of fiction,
however realistic, is a fantasy. It happens in a world that is an
alternative to this one."

Maybe fantasy is a good framework for (emotional) realism because it's
more upfront about the assumptions it's making? It has to be, because it
can't rely on readers knowing that "that's the way of the world" (which

Elise wrote:

> if
> you'd
> like to share your first
> DWJ or most recent DWJ and describe some of your
> favorite scenes, moments,
> aspects or characters, we could view it in light
> of initiation.

Do you know, I can't remember my first DWJ? Presumably there was a time
before I'd read any, but I seem to have expunged that period from my
memory... The most recent first read was, um, The Merlin Conspiracy (which
I read quite a while before it came out, having cleverly supplied myself
with a girlfriend who reviews children's books and got an advance copy),
and I have a whole theory about how it explains why DWJ hasn't been able
to write a sequel to Charmed Life (briefly: the relationship between magic
and government is much more vexed in MC and I suspect she would find it
difficult to return to the set-up in Chrestomanci's world).

The most recent re-read is Archer's Goon (because I wanted to besot over
the Goon/Awful relationship: DWJ has an awful lot of cross-generational
romances for a children's writer [even if you don't count Christopher
Chant/Tacroy <g>]). Oh, and I reread The Homeward Bounders just before
that, which was gruelling; I find that one quite tough and don't read it
very often.

I don't know about favourites, because each book gains so much from being
read in the light of the others, so I find it hard to think of them in
isolation or 'competition' with each other... I'm always very surprised to
see how many people list Fire & Hemlock as a favourite (wot no
Chrestomanci?), so I suppose at least I know it's not *my* favourite.
Although - the moment when Polly leaves her dad's flat in Bristol because
she has to play along with the fantasy that she's only there for a visit
is just stunning: one of the things that no other writer *would* do, let
alone *could* do as well as that.

Favourite characters: oh, The DWJ Boy (Cat Chant, Gair, Luke) and The DWJ
Selfish Boy (Archer makes me wriggle with delight; Howl is one of the
wonders of the worlds and a great spectator sport, though I'm not sure I'd
enjoy being in the same room as him). I kind of like sorting the
characters into types and watching how they evolve throughout the books -
like, Grundo and Roddy's relationship in MC seems to me to be a rewrite or
reconfiguration of Gwendolen & Cat's in CL, so each casts light on the
other in interesting ways. (And my gf, who was recently sulking over how
Janet gets pulled out of her family in CL, decided that Vivian's
experiences in Tale of Time City were a rewrite of *that* motif and
cheered up.)

Favourite aspect: actually, something Minnow just said:

> It's possible that the thing that would make DWJ feel most that she had
> done a good job is being told that reading her work has helped to make
> someone who has been a child facing terrible things in real life (and
> having to deal with profoundly flawed adults) aware that he or she is *not
> alone*, that there are other children who have had horrors of an
> *ordinary*
> but terrible kind...

That 'ordinary but terrible' combination is crucial for me. She neither
pulls her punches nor over-purples them (can you purple a punch? Oh well),
either of which is something that drives me up the wall in fiction - using
terrible events to up the emotional ante in a sort of pornographic way,
without facing the mundane and unpretty consequences (okay, sometimes I
like a good melodrama, but it has to be sort of "out" as melodrama, not
posing as realistic). I have the feeling that people (both children and
adults) who already know that bad things happen will get more comfort from
DWJ than from most children's writers, who keep the bad things at a

and Ven wrote:

> I'd like to add a request for your other
> favourite authors (apart from Antonia Forest!)
> because I like those kind of posts too.

I usually answer "Dennis Cooper and Diana Wynne Jones", because I think
the juxtaposition is funny, but I do like Dennis Cooper a lot. Um,
otherwise, a fairly arbitrary selection of the YA writers I read: Anne
Fine, Cynthia Voigt (she's another writer where you can have fun watching
the development of a "type": her Butch Girl develops from the holy-fool
type Hildy in Tell Me If The Lovers Are Losers through the awkward
outsider Rosamund in Izzy Willy-Nilly to the just fabulous Mikey in the
Bad Girls series), Jenny Pausacker (one for the Australians on the list!),
and I've just become completely addicted to another Australian, Jaclyn
Moriarty (have read both her books three times in the last three months).

Eep! And this is long now, so I shall stop. Thanks to everyone for being
so friendly! - Jon, I'm just finding my copy of the OED to balance on, but
I think all I have in my pocket is a button...

Love, Ika
"There are some bad people on the rise" - Moz
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list