Send Diana Wynne Jones well-wishes

According to Ansible, Diana Wynne Jones has chosen to stop chemotherapy treatment for cancer; her doctors fear that she has only months left to live. A semi-official fansite says that e-mails to meredithxyz at googlemail dot com will be printed and sent to Ms. Jones regularly. If her books have been important to you, now would be a good time to tell her so.

I sent her a short note telling her that Deep Secret, one of her adult fantasy novels, is one of my favorite books in the world. It’s got complex and sympathetic characterization, it’s funny [*], it has some great magic, and it pulls off a remarkable transition from farcical to mythic that shouldn’t work but does. Also a lot of it is set at a SFF convention, which leads to things like people thinking a centaur is someone with a really good hall costume.

[*] I have heard that the scene with Nick at breakfast is a lovingly-observed portrait of Neil Gaiman in the morning, but cannot confirm this out of personal knowledge. Anyone who could, it’s in chapter 11.

My other favorite of her books is The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which is an affectionate parody of what rec.arts.sf. called Extruded Fantasy Product, generically-medievaloid epic fantasy that is full of clichés and unexamined worldbuilding tropes. It’s done as an A-Z guide for readers who are about to tour Fantasyland. I’m not sure how well it would hold up now, as it was written in 1996 and I don’t read much epic fantasy these days, but every time I open up a new fantasy book and see a map, I am automatically reminded of the Guide:

Map. See Introduction for description. We must emphasize again here that no Tour is complete without a Map. Further, you must not expect to be let off from visiting every damn place shown on it.

Jones is a prolific writer with a long career, and I’ve only scratched the surface of her work. She is also well-known for Howl’s Moving Castle (from which a movie was recently made by Hayao Miyazaki), the Chrestomanci series, and the Tam Lin novel Fire and Hemlock. Her most recent book is Enchanted Glass. She is extremely influential in the YA fantasy genre and in a whole generation of fantasy writers. If you’ve read and liked her books, do consider dropping her a line saying so. (If you haven’t, now would be a lovely time to start! Or consider sending a note to your favorite living author telling them what their books have meant to you. I’m reliably told that no author dislikes hearing “I really love your books,” even when there’s no external reason for saying so at that time.)


Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at her LiveJournal and booklog.

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