Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Today's Wisdom from J.R.R. Tolkien

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories, 1939

Monday, March 19, 2018

Crossroads of Darkover Author Interview: Jane M. H. Bigelow

Coming in May, an all-new Darkover anthology featuring tales of decisions, turning points, love lost and found, all in the beloved world of the Bloody Sun. Stories by Jenna Rhodes, Pat MacEwen, Gabrielle Harbowy, Evey Brett, Rosemary and India Edghill, Diana L. Paxson, and more!

Order yours today at: iBookKindleKoboNook

Table of Contents is here.

Deborah J. Ross: What about Darkover drew you in?
Jane M. H. Bigelow: The spaciousness of Darkover, and its variety, drew me in. There are multiple cultures (too often fictional worlds seem to be monocultural) and history that goes on for centuries. There are several intelligent species on the planet. After all these years, there are still unexplored corners of this world.

DJR: What do you see as the future of Darkover?
JMHB: I think its future lies in exploring the variety of cultures and attitudes, both on Darkover and in the wider universe.

DJR: What book would you recommend for someone new to Darkover?
JMHB: That would depend so much on the person! For a medieval history nut, something from Ages of Chaos or the Hundred Kingdoms; maybe Stormqueen. For someone interested more in cultural clash, one of the Hastur novels. 

DJR: What inspired your story in Crossroads of Darkover?
JMHB: I wanted to tell more of the adventures of Duvin, my amiable though not clever tourist, and Ginevra, a young woman of minor Darkovan nobility. At the end of "Duvin's Grand Tour", they had just acknowledged their love for each other. Ginevra had accepted Duvin's proposal, and they'd won Ginevra's brother's extremely grudging acceptance of the idea. Well, he'd put away his sword.

So, I set out to answer a few questions, such as, "Where will they live? How will Duvin support them? How can he convince the Terran bureaucracy to let him stay on indefinitely? What will he say to his family, who have some control over his inheritance?" Many of these questions remain unanswered, because of the aunts. Oh, those aunts! Duvin and Ginevra each have at least one, both of the bossy variety. My husband suggested that I title the story, "A Plague of Aunts." Like so many stories, especially those I set on Darkover, it didn't go quite as I planned.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Remembering Mary

My friend and fellow writer, Mary Rosenblum, died in a plane crash on Sunday, March 11. Like everyone else who knew her or knew of her, I was stunned by the news. She was so active, so intensely alive, that it’s still hard to wrap my mind around a world without her in it. She touched so many people’s lives, both personally and through her work. Everyone who knew her has Mary Stories. Here are a few of mine.

I met Mary near the beginning of our literary careers. Here’s her version of that encounter, from her introduction to Ink Dance: Essays on the Writing Life
Deborah Ross introduced herself to  me at the first Science Fiction conference I ever attended in Portland, way back in, hmmm, must have been 1989, right after I’d started selling my short stories and showing up in the reviews as a ‘hot new writer.’  The ‘new’ part was certainly true and I was so flattered when this established author introduced herself and had clearly heard of me.  We’ve been good friends ever since, through the ups and downs of our personal lives and our careers.

Mary and I used to joke that we were 2/3 of the Reed College Alumni Society of Science Fiction Writers, the other 1/3 being David Eddings. That’s changed over the years as more Reedies have ventured into the genre, but was worth a giggle or two.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Mary, taken around 1999. Often she appears solemn or sad, but she also had a great sense of humor. I love how happy and relaxed she looks.

I visited with Mary sporadically over the decades that followed, often using Orycon or my college reunions as an excuse to fly to Portland and see her, and also my best friend (more about that later).

On these visits, Mary and I cooked together, for some loose value of “messed about in the kitchen.” Mary made the most amazing sourdough biscuits, the kind that are all tangy and crusty and crowded together in a pan. When I asked her for the recipe, she said: Deborah, I’m almost embarrassed to give you the recipe for the sourdough biscuits. I warm some milk, add starter and flour until it’s the consistency of cake batter. Let it set overnight or all day. Mix 1 ½ tsp yeast and 1 T sugar into the starter and give it 15 minutes to dissolve. Mix 1 c. flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt, and dump into the sponge. Mix, and then knead in flour until the dough is solid enough to cut, but not too heavy. Cut into rounds and bake at 400 until done, about 20 minutes. Is this vague enough for you? I’m afraid I do bread stuff by feel, not by measure. If you pour boiling water into a pan in the oven before you put in the biscuits, you’ll get that crisp woodstove crust.

Now you too can enjoy Mary Biscuits, although ice cubes work even better than boiling water, as they do eventually boil at 400 degrees.

Another food-related memory is watching Mary make ricotta cheese from her goat milk. Whatever she did, whether it was farming or goat management or dog training or elk hunting or aviation, she approached it fearlessly and with enormous gusto. As a consequence, she was very good at many things.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Short Book Reviews: An Extraordinary Ghost Story from Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)

It’s been wonderful to watch Seanan McGuire mature as a writer. For someone so prolific, her work is consistently entertaining and more and more rises to the truly memorable. Her outstanding novella, Every Heart a Doorway, won multiple awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula. Her innovative, deeply moving ghost story, Sparrow Hill Road, is just as good, although in a different way. 

She begins the with legend of Rose Marshall, the Prom Date ghost, the Girl in the Diner, a hitch hiking spirit who is drawn to people soon to be involved in fatal accidents, and who sometimes manages to prevent their deaths. She’s no ordinary ghost but a psychopomp, who guides the spirits of those she cannot save to the next stage of their journeys. 

The story proceeds like a chambered nautilus, sometimes spiraling back on itself, jumping back and forth in time to weave together the threads of the story until we come to the crux of Rose’s ghosthood, how she died, and who killed her. Absorbing, wise, funny, and tragic, all in all a superbly executed ghostly tale.

The usual disclaimer: This review is in response to a complimentary review copy and contains nothing but my own demented opinions.