The last two reading recs have been shorter stuff, so I thought I’d change it up a bit with Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw.
Now, to preface this: I loved dragons as a kid. Devoured everything to do with dragons. (This was how I ran across Dragon’s Egg, coincidentally.) But I got a bit burnt out on dragons as an adult: when you’ve read 100 dragon stories, you’ve read them all. So it goes.
Then a couple years ago I ran across mention of Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw, and I was baffled by its description: a Victorian novel in the style of Anthony Trollope, set in a world populated by dragons. Yes, this is (as many others have described it) Pride and Prejudice with dragons.1 Even though I had left behind my years of incessant consumption of all things dragon related, I could not resist this unique story.
Reading is an important part of a child’s development. A good deal of essential brain development occurs in the first three years of an infant’s life, well before even learning to read. In recognition of this fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents begin reading to infants from birth: “reading, as well as talking and singing, is viewed as important in increasing the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives.”
So what books should parents read to babies? For newborns, it does not seem to matter what you read to them, so long as you are reading something. They “understand the emotion in the words that are being read to them very, very early” but not the content: at this point “it starts with the parent’s enjoyment and then becomes a shared enjoyment” of reading. So, for the science-fiction and fantasy lover, start your newborn on whatever captures your imagination, whether it is A Game of Thrones or a Star Wars expanded universe novel (I understand the Thrawn trilogy is essential for the true Star Wars fan).
But after a few months, when you notice your baby’s starting to respond to the meaning of the words, you will have to make a switch from Red Wedding twists to something a bit more age appropriate. But what could possibly be age appropriate for a baby and also keep you entertained?
Here are some of the books I grew up on that helped to foster a love of fantastical things, and that I would return to again as an adult.
During undergrad, my film professor said that were she trapped on a desert island, the two films she would want to have with her were Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The woman had impeccable tastes and inspired in me a deep love for horror and the macabre. While I am not sure about films, I have often thought about the books I would want with me on a desert island. The following, in no particular order, are some of my essential desert island books.
I discovered Hyperion late in high school when I had just started to really read book with depth, and what depth this book has! Simmons weaves the structure of The Canterbury Tales and the poetry of John Keats into a masterful scifi epic. A book one can read over and over, each new visit to Hyperion reveals nuances and references previously missed. It is a scifi epic that has something for everyone: a father worried deeply for his daughter’s health, a military man battleworn and weary, a forlorn poet in search of his muse, a detective searching for the answer to a complicated mystery.
Even though each traveler’s tale is different than the last—sometimes moving into what seems to be an entirely different genre—the shifts never feel awkward or disjointed. Simmons’ skill in storytelling shines here as each character spins a separate tale which gradually interweave and coalesce into a complete, interconnected whole.
Having recently met with my cover artist to discuss the cover for my next work, which should be released sometime this month (follow me on Amazon for e-mail notifications of new releases), I wanted to write a post on the topic of cover art.
A few months ago, I ran across an interesting article in which the author collected the cover art of bestsellers throughout recent years (2000-2012) and compared them side by side. He found a number of interesting trends, such as white covers were popular in the beginning of this time period, then in 2008 black covers flooded the charts (mostly comprised of the hugely popular Twilight series). At the end of this span, he observed that overall the trend in cover art has seemed to move towards “bright saturated hues.”
This got me thinking of the trends that I have noticed in science-fiction and fantasy covers, specifically, what appears to be a move away from the grandiose, scene-setting covers of old and towards simpler, more abstract covers which focus on the title and author text.
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
― Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II
“What’s in a name,” indeed.
There are two main methods for naming characters. One is the name of significance. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet argues that names are interchangeable and do not ultimately affect the nature of what is named. This runs contrary to the method of naming for significance.
An example of this is in the 2003 film Oldboy, which I saw for the first time last week. The main character of Oldboy is named Oh Dae-su and, in an interview with director Park Chan-wook, Park stated “I named Oh Dae-su in Oldboy to remind the viewer of Oedipus. I was thinking of Greek myth or the classics.” In this case, Park deliberately uses the name to refer to the themes of incest, shame, and predestination from the myth of Oedipus. These same themes run through Oldboy, building upon one another as the film’s mysteries unfold. To me, the best part of this naming is that it is not an in-your-face reference, demanding attention from the viewer. Even as someone quite familiar with the myth of Oedipus, I did not realize the connection until I read up on the film afterwards.