Where the Trains Turn November 19, 2014 Where the Trains Turn Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen His imagination runs wild. The Walk November 12, 2014 The Walk Dennis Etchison Creative differences can be brutal. Where the Lost Things Are November 5, 2014 Where the Lost Things Are Rudy Rucker and Terry Bisson Everything has to wind up somewhere. A Kiss with Teeth October 29, 2014 A Kiss with Teeth Max Gladstone Happy Halloween.
From The Blog
November 18, 2014
The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Histories in the Age of Netflix
Ada Palmer
November 17, 2014
In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist
Max Gladstone
November 14, 2014
An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!
Leah Schnelbach
November 13, 2014
Why Do We Reject Love as a Powerful Force in Interstellar?
Natalie Zutter
November 11, 2014
The Well-Lit Knight Rises: How 1960s Batman Shaped Our Bat-Thoughts Forever
Ryan Britt
Showing posts by: Mari Ness click to see Mari Ness's profile
Thu
Nov 20 2014 3:00pm

When the Internet Doesn’t Work With Your 1970s Plot: Down a Dark Hall

From the moment she arrives at the school, Kit Gordy is aware that something is wrong. No, more than wrong—outright evil. These claims could, I suppose, be dismissed as usual teenage angst. But as it turns out, Kit is quite right: The building, the school, and its purpose are all quite, quite evil.

That isn't actually the disturbing part of reading Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall (1974/2011) today.

[When updating your book for the Internet age causes all kinds of contrived plot problems in a book that already had contrived plot problems.]

Mon
Nov 17 2014 2:00pm

Freezing Powers: Once Upon a Time, “The Snow Queen” and “Smash the Mirror”

Once Upon a Time

Princesses! Pirates! Orphans! Thieves! Elegant yet snowy residences! Periodic reminders of the joys of comic books! A number of otherwise somewhat sensible people chasing after Mickey Mouse’s hat! Yes, it’s time once again to chat about ABC’s Once Upon A Time.

Disclaimer before the cut: When I announced that I would be missing one episode (last week’s “The Snow Queen”) because of the World Fantasy Convention, I was not aware that the very next episode would be a two hour episode (this week’s “Smash the Mirror”), meaning that this post is both a bit long yet less detailed than usual. You have been warned.

[In which Our Heroes and Villains still inexplicably refuse to just jet down to Disney World to solve their Hat Problem.]

Thu
Nov 13 2014 3:00pm

Rewriting After Three Decades: A Gift of Magic

A Gift of MagicLois Duncan’s A Gift of Magic is a revised 2012 edition of her 1971 novel of the same title. But instead of simply updating the book to reflect current computer, internet and cell phone usage (something she did for other reissues of her older novels), Duncan used this opportunity to make some fairly significant changes to the original text, changing not just the names of a few characters, but their ages.

The result is a switch from a book which, to be honest, I can barely remember in its original form (“Oh, yeah, the one with the psychic dancer, right?” Spoiler—WRONG.) to a stronger work.

[A dancer who isn’t psychic, her twin who is, and a sideplot of please do not ever do this in Gulf of Mexico waters, thanks.]

Thu
Nov 6 2014 3:00pm

Overcoming Silence: The Trumpet of the Swan

Trumpet of the Swan EB White

“...if I have to go to the ends of the earth to find a trumpet for our young son, I shall find it at last and bring it home to Louis.”

“Well, if I may make a suggestion,” said his wife, “don’t go to the ends of the earth, go to Billings, Montana. It’s nearer.”

Like Stuart Little and, to a much lesser extent, Wilbur the Pig, Louis the Trumpeter Swan has been born with a disability: unlike other Trumpeter Swans, he is mute. This, his mother notes wisely, is not a huge issue in his early years, especially since Louis has certain advantages: he may be mute, but he is also faster and stronger than other swans. As he ages, however, this becomes a problem: without a voice, he can’t communicate.

And so, he and his father turn to other solutions, including The Trumpet of the Swan.

[Also, slate scribbling.]

Mon
Nov 3 2014 3:30pm

Rock Trolls and Captain Guyliner: Once Upon a Time, Family Business

Once Upon a Time Family Business

True Love! Pirates! Trolls! Characters who almost never change outfits! Pointless quests! Hunts for hats! And some absolutely fabulous sets, darlings! Yes, it’s time once again for ABC’s Once Upon a Time, with “Family Business.”

[Chilly and spoilery below the cut.]

Thu
Oct 30 2014 2:00pm

Let’s Ruin Some Childhoods: Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web EB White

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is the story of two unlikely friends: a pig saved from early slaughter only to find himself being fattened up for Christmas, and a rather remarkable spider with a gift for spinning words. Also, a very mean rat, a wise old sheep, a goose very focused on her eggs, a determined girl, a bit where a lot of people fall down in the mud, and a Ferris wheel. Warm, funny, wonderful—at least, that’s how I remembered it.

And then someone on Twitter had to spoil all of these happy childhood memories in one tweet.

[Her tweet, and this post, are both very spoilery.]

Mon
Oct 27 2014 1:00pm

Emma Loves Pop Tarts. And Maybe Other Things. Once Upon a Time: “Breaking Glass”

Once Upon a Time: Breaking Glass

Princesses! True love! Large hulking snowmen! Men trapped in mirrors! Women trapped in terrible plot lines! A surprising interest in Pop Tarts! Yes, it’s time for ABC’s Once Upon a Time to mess with our childhood memories, or make us just wish we could build large hulking snowmen to smash our enemies, depending.

[Spoilers follow]

Thu
Oct 23 2014 10:00am

Look, This Mouse is a Jerk: Stuart Little

Stuart Little EB WhiteE.B. White was many things—a writer for The New Yorker, a stickler for certain elements of style, a poet, an essayist, and—according to James Thurber—someone very good at hiding from random visitors. He is perhaps best remembered, however, as a children’s writer, thanks to a set of three remarkable books featuring animal protagonists, starting with Stuart Little, a little book about a talking mouse that later spawned three films and became a classic of children’s literature.

Full disclosure: I hate it.

[And to explain why, I must spoil pretty much everything in it.]

Mon
Oct 20 2014 3:00pm

Enter the Mouse: Once Upon a Time, “The Apprentice”

Once Upon a Time The Apprentice

True Love! Magic with a price, if almost never an actual price tag attached to it that would let you know whether it’s a bargain or not! Bad puns! Extremely convoluted family relationships! A sexy pirate and the savior who gives him a cell phone! And now, a reindeer! Yes, it’s another fantastic episode of ABC-Disney’s Once Upon a Time.

Ahem.

[After the cut, the spoilers will no longer be hiding under a hat.]

Thu
Oct 16 2014 2:00pm

Witchcraft and Maggots: An Enemy at Green Knowe

An Enemy at Green Knowe LM BostonAll old houses, over time, gather some sort of magic, and none more so than Green Knowe, that old house, founded in Norman times, that turned into a refuge for ghosts, time travelers and gorillas alike.

This naturally makes it of great interest to those with an interest in magic—even if they might not be the sorts to use magic properly. Or honestly. Especially since Green Knowe has sheltered an evil magician before this, something that attracts the attention of An Enemy at Green Knowe.

[Gorilla ghost to the rescue!]

Mon
Oct 13 2014 2:00pm

A VERY Troubling Relationship with Ice Cream: Once Upon a Time, “Rocky Road”

Once Upon a Time Rocky Road

Ice! Cameras! ACTION! Plus plot holes! Magically contrived moments! Terrifying moments where ice cream is associated with—gasp—EVIL! Yes, it’s another wacky week with ABC’s Once Upon a Time, where every Disney character you’ve ever heard of turns out to be related to every other Disney character you’ve ever heard of and many you haven’t.

[Never take candy from strangers. Or, in this case, ice cream.]

Thu
Oct 9 2014 2:00pm

Fifty Years Later: Paddington Here and Now

Michael Bond Paddington Here and NowFifty years after his first appearance as a stowaway at Paddington Station, Paddington Bear had become firmly ensconced at 32 Windsor Gardens with the Brown family. As are, alas, the two Brown children, Jonathan and Judy, who, fifty years on, are still at school, creating a new definition of “slow learners.”

This would be less of a problem if the characters in the books did not continually refer to things happening “years ago,” leaving me with the impression that, yes, indeed, years have passed, years where Jonathan and Judy have been held back year after year, possibly because of their dealings with Paddington. But I digress—a lot—since Paddington Here and Now (2008) is not really about the Brown children, but rather about Paddington in the 21st century: computers, London Eye, and all.

[Proving that you can continue to make the same sorts of mistakes in the 21st century as you did in the 20th]

Mon
Oct 6 2014 1:00pm

Dear Show, Ice Cream is NOT Evil: Once Upon a Time, “White Out”

Once Upon a Time White Out

Some fairy tale characters get to live happily ever after. Others, alas, turn into products of the Walt Disney Company and thus, find themselves trapped for what might seem like near eternity on an ABC Sunday night show. That’s right, it’s time for the weekly update for Once Upon a Time, with season four, episode two, “White Out.”

[Very, very spoilery up through season four, episode two]

Thu
Oct 2 2014 3:00pm

Bearing the Child Role: Paddington Takes the Test

Paddington Takes the Test Michael BondIt says something that it took me four books to reach the first archetypal Paddington book in this reread. Whether that’s about me, or the mostly random process of picking which Paddington book to read, I don’t know.

But in any case, here we are, with Paddington Takes the Test (1979): finally, a classic Paddington book containing seven unrelated short stories about the little accident prone bear from Darkest Peru. How does it hold up against the Paddington books that were, if not exactly novels, at least leaning towards that direction?

[I’d say Paddington passes the test. Oh, come on. You knew that joke was coming.]

Mon
Sep 29 2014 11:45am

Let’s Get Cold Together: Once Upon a Time, “A Tale of Two Sisters”

Once Upon a Time Frozen

Princesses! Saviors! Princes! Sympathetic evil queens! Unsympathetic evil queens! Witches! A sexy pirate! A young actor looking increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of staying on this show! Magic! Time Travel! Distortions of every fairy tale and story you’ve ever know! Plot holes that no magic can fix! That’s right, it’s time once again for fairy tale Sundays, as the fourth season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time takes on Frozen.

[Extremely, extremely, spoilery. Did I mention spoilery? Because, SPOILERY.]

Thu
Sep 25 2014 4:00pm

A Financially Minded Bear: Paddington at Work

Paddington at Work Michael BondAt first glance, the title Paddington at Work (1966) might seem just a little misleading, and not just because it's rather difficult to imagine the accident prone bear from Darkest Peru managing to settle down to full time work.  No, the real issue is that as the book starts, Paddington is a passenger on a cruise ship, which is more or less the antithesis of work, something the bear continues to do for the first couple of chapters.

And it's a good thing the bear has a chance for a bit of a rest—even if it's the sort of rest interrupted by possible hallucinations, encounters with ship entertainers, and cries of “Bear Overboard!” Because for the rest of the book, Paddington is going to be focused on a new concern: money, making the title feel rather appropriate after all.

[Stock investments, Scotland Yard, antiques, and the difficulties of finding good help even in a world with a talking bears]

Thu
Sep 18 2014 2:00pm

Immigration and Bears: Paddington Abroad

Paddington Abroad Michael BondYou might think that a lengthy sea voyage across the Atlantic in a lifeboat with only a jar of marmalade might be enough to convince anyone, and especially a small and highly accident prone bear, to never ever leave home again. If so, you haven’t encountered Paddington Bear, who has never been on a real holiday before—only day trips, and who is very excited about the mere idea of travelling to France.

The real question, of course, is not whether Paddington will survive France, but whether France—not to mention the Tour de France—will survive him in Paddington Abroad.

[And whether or not Paddington has the correct papers.]

Thu
Sep 11 2014 10:30am

Please Look After This Bear: A Bear Called Paddington

Michael Bond A Bear Called Paddington“A bear? On Paddington station?” Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. “Don’t be silly, Henry. There can’t be!”

In general, I am inclined to agree with Mrs Brown: There can’t be a bear on Paddington Station. Then again, as I know all too well from personal experience, alas, Paddington Station can be a bewildering and terrifying place. Which means, I suppose, that if you are going to find a bear on a train station anywhere in the world, it might well be this one. Perhaps especially if the bear in question is—gasp—a stowaway from Darkest Peru, carefully tagged with “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Certainly, someone has to look after this bear, however polite he is, and equally certainly, those someones are going to be the first family that happen to encounter him, the Browns. And given the bewildering nature of Paddington Station, and the bear’s own apparent belief that most people are inherently good, it’s perhaps not surprising that the bear immediately takes up the first available invitation he gets to leave the place, and happily agrees to drop his incomprehensible name and instead become known as A Bear Called Paddington.

[Paddington Bear: making triumph out of disaster.]

Thu
Sep 4 2014 4:00pm

A Somewhat Disappointing Magic: Linnets and Valerians

Linnets and ValeriansBack when I chatted about A Little White Horse, I received a number of requests to reread Elizabeth Goudge’s other young adult book: Linnets and Valerians. It was—or so I thought—easily available from the library, and so I agreed. Alas, in this case “easily available from the library” turned out to be a bit of misinformation, and between that and August traveling I only got around to it now. Which is to say, here we are.

After she wrote A Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge had been considerably more organized and put together than I was in the above paragraph. She focused most of her attention on adult books, including one, The Rosemary Tree, which, if mostly ignored when it was first published 1956, garnered extensive critical praise and attention when it was extensively plagiarized and given a new setting by author Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen in 1993.

[That was a rather long intro, wasn’t it? Onwards to the book!]

Thu
Aug 28 2014 2:00pm

Time Travelling Through Your Earlier Books: The Stones of Green Knowe

Stones of Green Knowe LM BostonThe Stones of Green Knowe starts in the distant past, shortly after the death of William II, aka William Rufus, just decades after the Norman invastion, when the countryside is still using two languages: Anglo-Saxon (which author Lucy Boston, for simplicity’s sake, calls English) and French.

Osmund d’Aulneaux is building the great stone house that will eventually be known as Green Knowe on the estate he holds from his father-in-law. The house has several purposes: it will, of course, be more comfortable than the old wooden house the family currently uses; it will be more appropriate to their rank; it will prove that they are very stylish and up to date (a few paragraphs of the book are dedicated to discussing the most fashionable place to build a fireplace) and it will offer the higher ranking members of the d’Aulneaux family some privacy. Most of all, it will offer safety and security, not just to the family, but to the nearby villagers, who will be able to shelter inside when, not if, war returns. As Ormond bluntly explains, he does not expect peace. But he can expect this solid, carefully built stone house to survive.

As readers of the previous books in the series already know, it has.

[But if you haven’t read the previous books, this book will go ahead and introduce you to all of its characters anyway.]