Now, before we get started, allow me to be clear: grimdark is great! It has its place in the fantasy spectrum, and many works that fall under the grimdark or gritty heading are classics. Obviously, we here at Tor.com love our Abercrombie and Martin—which, really, they need to also be a vaudeville team—but sometimes we want a fantasy that’s more optimistic. Just a little, guys! C’mon, we’re not asking for much...
Artist Sarah Allegra (check out her prints in the background!) captured this historic moment, and we are so happy she did. George R.R. Martin vs. Peter S. Beagle! Unicorn vs. Direwolf! Which magical plushie will prevail?
Edit: On Facebook, Francesco Caspani pointed out: “You have to know that in Altieri's translation for Mondadori (Italian Editor for aSoIaF), the direwolf in the first scene was killed by the ”horn“ of an unicorn, and not by an antler.”
Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, while sometimes categorized as YA, is generally hailed as a story for all ages. As much as I love the book, I didn’t read it until I was in college, so my initial introduction into Beagle’s world (like many fans my age, I suspect) came courtesy of the 1982 Rankin/Bass animated movie of the same name.
While I can’t speak to the experience of reading the novel as a child, I certainly believe that a story as beautifully crafted and enduring as this one will resonate with readers of various ages and experience. I’d argue that the movie also has plenty to recommend it to adult fantasy fans, and is far more advanced in its themes than the vast majority of animated children’s entertainment. And while it stays very true to the book in many ways, the film manages to foreground certain elements of the original story that give it a very powerful, very unique appeal for children. Don’t get me wrong: it’s kind of a strange film, but therein lies its magic. It speaks to younger viewers in a manner that very few films ever do.
I’m honestly not sure what I can say about The Last Unicorn that hasn’t been said before—folks were proclaiming the book a classic almost as soon as it was published, and certainly before I was born. Ursula K. Le Guin has paid tribute to Peter S. Beagle’s “particular magic,” Madeleine L’Engle described him as “one of my favorite writers,” and countless other readers, writers, and reviewers have heaped such a formidable mountain of praise at his door that it almost seems futile to approach, from down in the valley, and try to carve out some new flourish or clamber conveniently onto some hitherto unexplored perspective.
But even great monuments have their road signs, billboards, and tourist brochures, their aggressively fluorescent arrows pointing helpfully toward sites that really shouldn’t be missed. So consider this post a roadside marker, a glossy pamphlet, a helpful map to a well-worn path that’s much-travelled for a reason: the world of The Last Unicorn is always worth visiting, and revisiting, even if you think you’ve seen it all before.
Written by Marc Cushman & Jake Jacobs and Peter S. Beagle
Directed by Les Landau Season 3, Episode 23
Production episode 40273-171
Original air date: May 14, 1990
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is given the singular honor of escorting Ambassador Sarek to a conference with the Legarans, a first contact that Sarek has worked on for 93 years. His staff — Ki Mendrossen, a human, and a Vulcan named Sakkath — beam aboard first, warning the captain that the ambassador will require rest and that Picard should forego the usual ceremonial stuff that ships do when ambassadors come on board. Picard is disappointed, but agrees.
Sarek materializes and insists upon seeing the conference room despite the attempts by his wife — a human woman named Perrin — and his staff to get him to rest. La Forge and Wes are getting the room ready for the Legarans, who have very specific requirements.
Congratulations to the two winners of the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement: Peter S. Beagle and Angélica Gorodischer!
Peter S. Beagle is a New York born author. He is perhaps best known for this fantasy tale, The Last Unicorn, which he also wrote the screenplay for when it became a film in 1982. Other notable works include A Fine and Private Place, Tamsin and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Sarek.” Beagle is currently working on a sequel to The Last Unicorn.
Angélica Gorodischer was born in Buenos Aires, and is know for her short fiction is the science fiction, fantasy, and crime genres. In the English speaking world, one her best known works is Kalpa Imperial, translated in 2003 by Ursula K. Le Guin. She is know for writing about differences in power among men and women. She has organized international conferences for female writes in Rosario, Argentina, where she lives.
Themes of family and friendship predominate in master fantasist Peter S. Beagle’s newest collection of short stories, Sleight of Hand. Including three originals, the text of a podcast story from The Green Man Review, and other narratives that have come from the pen of Beagle over the last three years, Sleight of Hand is a strong collection by an author whose skill has only improved with time.
The collection opens with an all new, previously unpublished Schmendrick tale. “The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon” uses the tale within a tale construction to explore the nature of marriage in the world of The Last Unicorn. Set before the events of Beagle’s seminal work, Schmendrick is wandering the world, aimlessly and haplessly. A chance encounter with two children leads to a dinner and tale trading between Schmendrick and the children’s single mother. Though this tale features favorite Beagle characters, it is probably the least exceptional of the collection. It feels as aimless as its main character is. However, though its direction is unclear, it certainly possesses an emotive force in its portrayal of loss, loneliness, and the uplifting effect of a momentary acquaintance.
If there’s anything science fiction readers, watchers, gamers, and otakus enjoy more than their particular hobbies, it’s getting together to talk with like minded people. Doing so on Tor.com is great, as is doing it in person.
What follows is a list of some of the events that will happen over the month of November. It in no means tries to be comprehensive, (and I skipped Steamcon II since we already talked about it in depth here) but I do try for geographical and thematic variety. Feel free to add events near you, large or small, in the comments.
As I mentioned in a previous post, when I started reading urban fantasy, it meant something a little different than most people take it to mean these days. As a result, my recommendations don’t always show up on most folks’ lists.
I’ve recently received a bunch of short fiction collections from Subterranean Press, including a re-issue of Thomas Ligotti’s Songs of a Dead Dreamer. Originally published in 1985, expanded in 1989, and now revised for 2010, this is a book for anyone who likes quiet, supernatural horror. That’s over-simplifying the book, however.
If you’ve read Ligotti, you’re likely already excited, so I’ll just mention that this is the first of four reprints that will eventually comprise the definitive editions of Ligotti’s work. For those new to Ligotti, his style of quiet, bleak horror is not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t scare with blood and gore, but rather its terror comes from an oppressive and dense style more akin to Henry James* or Bruno Schulz. While I like blood and guts horror, it’s writing like Ligotti (which is a misnomer as there is no one who writes like Ligotti) that sticks with me over time.
While YBF9 is still available as a print-on demand edition, and you can buy your very own print copy at our store, we’re posting segments of the anthology on Tor.com, for your reading pleasure. Each of these segments feature three or four stories from the anthology, and are available to all registered users of Tor.com. It’s a great way to sample some of the content in the book before deciding to part with your hard-earned cash, or of simply getting a shorter does of wonder and the fantastical.
Segment number seven features the following stories:
While YBF9 is still available as a print-on demand edition, and you can buy your very own print copy at our store, we’re posting segments of the anthology on Tor.com, for your reading pleasure. Each of these segments feature three or four stories from the anthology, and are available to all registered users of Tor.com. It’s a great way to sample some of the content in the book before deciding to part with your hard-earned cash, or of simply getting a shorter dose of wonder and the fantastical.
Segment number three features the following stories:
This highly anticipated release also marks something we’re particularly proud of: Tor.com’s debut as a publishing entity, distinct from Tor Books and as a separate imprint under our shared corporate overlords at Macmillan.
YBF 9 is available only as a print-on-demand book, in keeping with our mission of always exploring alternative forms of publishing. Similar to the launch of the Tor.com Store, this title is one of our various publishing projects that seek to experiment with the available alternatives to publishing’s traditional sales, distribution, and delivery mechanisms.
Year’s Best Fantasy 9 is available in the Tor.com Store, of course, as well as via online retailers such as Amazon, B&N, and more. As you’d expect with multiple Hugo Award-nominated (and recent winner) editors like David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, the Table of Contents for YBF 9 is impressive (and I’m not just saying that because there’s a Tor.com story in there, which you can read in its entirety here); see for yourselves:
Peter S. Beagle, acclaimed author of The Last Unicorn and Tamsin, is making a plea for his fans to help him out of some financial difficulty by signing up for his new year-long project, 52/50, in which “I’m writing 52 original poems or song lyrics, one per week, for a whole year.”
Peter S. Beagle says:
If you’ve ever read and enjoyed one of my books or stories, or seen and enjoyed one of the films that I scripted, I’d like to ask a favor of you. It’s simple, really—if at all possible, within the next month please do one of the following things.