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Showing posts by: karin l kross click to see karin l kross's profile
Fri
Mar 14 2014 11:00am

Terry Pratchett Discworld Raising Steam

“A tree can not find out, as it were, how to blossom, until comes blossom-time. A social growth cannot find out the use of steam engines, until comes steam-engine-time.”

So wrote Charles Fort in Lo!, coining a phrase that historians and SF&F writers love. Well, steam-engine time has come for the Discworld, whether the History Monks like it or not. In Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett takes his turtle-borne world full tilt into its own industrial revolution.

[A review]

Fri
Feb 7 2014 2:00pm

Elric

As I write this, I’m listening to the Hawkwind album The Chronicle of the Black Sword, their 1985 concept album based on the Elric saga. To be honest, it’s not at all the sort of thing I usually listen to—proggy, guitar-heavy space-rock with some vaguely Jean-Michel Jarré-sounding synthesizers to liven things up. But this album—one of the more obvious examples of the many, many works that owe their existence to Elric—seemed like a suitable accompaniment to an attempt to round up my thoughts on the Elric reread.

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Fri
Feb 7 2014 2:00pm

Welcome to the final post of the Elric Reread, in which I’ve been revisiting one of my all-time favorite fantasy series: Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post talks about the last book in the series, The White Wolf’s Son, republished last year in the UK as Son of the Wolf. Because the Gollancz editions are meant to be definitive, we’ll use that title.

With Son of the Wolf, Michael Moorcock concludes the Elric saga and what may be one of the most audacious examples of canon welding in existence. Here is the von Bek family, reluctant English time-traveler Oswald Bastable, the Chevalier St Odhran and Renyard the Fox of The City in the Autumn Stars, an alternate version of Dorian Hawkmoon and the Dark Empire of Granbretan from the Runestaff books, Prince Lobkowitz and Una Persson from the Cornelius books (amongst others), Lt. Fromental from the Pyat quartet, Erekosë, the sole Champion who remembers all his other incarnations, and of course Elric himself. Even Michael Moorcock and his wife Linda put in an appearance, chatting with Una Persson on the porch of their Texas Hill Country home.

[Read More]

Mon
Feb 3 2014 11:00am

A Darkling Sea James L Cambias When it comes to stories about contact between alien races, you have Star Trek's Prime Directive of non-interference on one hand, and willingness of the Culture of Iain M. Banks to apply a little force to help a civilization on the road to what it considers the right path. Somewhere in between lies the dilemma facing the three species colliding in James L. Cambias's A Darkling Sea.

Ilmatar is a moon covered in a kilometer-thick layer of ice that conceals, as some scientists have proposed for Europa, a deep ocean. Deep beneath the ice, Hitode Station hosts a team of humans who are examining the native flora and fauna while under strict orders not to interfere with the native sentients. The Ilmatarans are hard-shelled creatures that rely on sound and taste to perceive their lightless submarine world, and their civilization is both highly sophisticated and occasionally savage; scientists and intellectuals are treated with respect, but young Ilmatarans are scarcely considered sentient until they are taught to communicate—at one point, a teacher casually dispatches one that he deems too ill-formed to succeed.

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Fri
Jan 24 2014 2:00pm

Welcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series: Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post talks about The Skrayling Tree, published last year in the UK as Destiny’s Brother. Because the Gollancz editions are meant to be definitive, we’ll use that title.

Back when I first started reading Michael Moorcock, I was living in San Antonio, TX. I was profoundly surprised to learn that Moorcock had a home not at all far away, near the town of Bastrop in the Hill Country. (Today he divides his time between that home, London, and Paris.) At the time, it seemed strange to me that someone I thought of as a particularly British writer should have relocated to the heart of Texas. Years later, I experienced a similar surprise and dislocation when I picked up Destiny’s Brother—which, when originally published as The Skrayling Tree, was subtitled “The Albino in America.” Because if there’s one thing I never expected from Moorcock, it was that one of his books would make me regret having largely skipped American literature and never read any Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

[Read More]

Fri
Jan 10 2014 2:00pm

Michael Moorcock Elric Daughter of Dreams the Dreamthief's DaughterWelcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series: Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post talks about The Dreamthief’s Daughter, published last year in the UK as Daughter of Dreams. Because the Gollancz editions are meant to be definitive, we’ll use that title in this piece.

In the Introduction that appears in each volume of the Gollancz Michael Moorcock Collection, Moorcock writes of the Moonbeam Roads trilogy:

I also wrote a new Elric/Eternal Champion sequence, beginning with Daughter of Dreams, which brought the fantasy worlds of Hawkmoon, Bastable and Co. in line with my realistic and autobiographical stories, another attempt to unify all my fiction, and also offer a way in which disparate genres could be reunited, through notions developed from the multiverse and the Eternal Champion, as one giant novel.

[Read More]

Fri
Dec 20 2013 2:00pm

Elric Michael Moorcock The Making of a Sorcerer

Welcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series: Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post talks about Elric in the comic book world, and about Moorcock’s own comics in particular.

Elric appeared in comic book form as far back as 1972, in a guest appearance in Conan the Barbarian, drawn by the great Barry Windsor-Smith. All of the original novels have been adapted into comics form as well, the best by far being P. Craig Russell’s gorgeous adaptation of Stormbringer. Recently, Chris Roberson has taken on Elric and the Eternal Champion mythos in his series Elric: The Balance Lost—an ambitious multi-Champion story in which Roberson’s reach somewhat exceeds his grasp, and which unfortunately isn’t very well served by the art.

Key to the Elric saga, however, are the comics that Michael Moorcock himself has penned: Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse and Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer.

[Read More]

Fri
Dec 6 2013 2:00pm

Michael Moorcock Elric at the End of TimeWelcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series: Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post mostly discusses the novella “Elric at the End of Time,” originally published in 1981.

Outside of what we’ve treated as the core novels of the Elric saga, Michael Moorcock has also written a number of short stories and novellas about Elric. “The Last Enchantment,” written in 1962, was originally intended as the final Elric story, but was put aside in favor of the stories that eventually made up Stormbringer and wasn’t published until 1978. “A Portrait in Ivory” was written in 2007 for the Logorrhea anthology, inspired by the word “insouciant.” 2008 saw the publication of “Black Petals” in Weird Tales, and it was followed in 2010 by a sequel, “Red Pearls,” in the Swords and Dark Magic anthology.

[Read More]

Tue
Nov 26 2013 3:00pm

Did you catch the Doctor Who anniversary special? The one with all the classic Doctors in? No, I don’t mean Peter Davison’s delightful “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot”—I mean Big Finish’s “The Light at the End”, an excellent two-hour audio drama featuring all of the first eight Doctors. Yes, all eight. It turns out that William Russell, Frazier Hines, and Tim Treloar do very convincing versions of One, Two, and Three respectively—and of course Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann are all there, along with some of their most beloved companions.

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Fri
Nov 8 2013 2:00pm

Michael Moorcock the Metatemporal DetectiveAmongst Elric’s varied antecedents, you will find Fritz Leiber, Mervyn Peake, and various world mythologies. You might not expect to find in that list the stories of a famous British private detective, whose adventures have entertained many since first appearing in the late nineteenth century, and whose rogues’ gallery includes a master criminal from whom Elric borrows more than a few characteristics.

I’m talking about Sexton Blake, of course, and his enemy Zenith the Albino. Who did you think I meant?

[Read More]

Fri
Nov 1 2013 5:00pm

Curtsies and Conspiracies Gail CarrigerIt’s a delight to return to the elegant steampunk world of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, the YA prequels to her Parasol Protectorate novels. Sophronia Temminnick, now fifteen, is excelling at her studies at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School for Girls—indeed, at her six-month review, she receives the highest marks ever achieved at the school.

Academic accomplishment is all well and good, but afterward, Sophronia has a host of new trials. Her schoolmates shun her—including her closest friend Dimity (who still faints dead away at the sight of blood)—and her arch-rival Monique de Pelouse hates her as much as ever.

[Read More]

Fri
Nov 1 2013 12:00pm

Carpet People Terry Pratchett There’s a famous science fiction trope named in the Turkey City Lexicon as “The Jar of Tang.” You know this sort of thing: the story where the heroes are slogging across an orange desert, only to encounter a slick transparent barrier and—you guessed it, they’re microorganisms in a jar of Tang.

You can identify a genuine Jar of Tang story with a simple test: does the story have any impact at all if you simply drop the characters in a mundane, twist-free setting, or does the story’s entire impact derive from that (rather cheap) reveal?

[Read More]

Fri
Oct 18 2013 1:00pm

Welcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today we get to the big one: Stormbringer.

Stormbringer is the culmination of Elric’s story, but it’s also one of the earliest-written Elric tales, originally published in four parts in 1964. At the time Science Fantasy, the magazine that had been publishing the Elric stories, was about to fold. So Moorcock decided this would be a good time to “finish the series with a bit of a bang,” as he wrote in 2008, and thus bring Elric’s story to an end—though, of course, he and Elric were far from done with one another.

[Read More]

Fri
Oct 4 2013 1:00pm

Michael Moorcock The Bane of the Black Sword Elric SagaWelcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post discusses The Bane of the Black Sword.

As we advance further in Elric’s own timeline toward his doom, we now step back in the writing of the stories to the early 1960s. The four stories in The Bane of the Black Sword were originally published shortly after “The Dreaming City” and “While the Gods Laugh,” which you’ll recall from The Weird of the White Wolf, and they are much more of a piece with those early Moorcock works than with The Revenge of the Rose.

[Read More]

Mon
Sep 23 2013 11:30am

The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood banned books Mrs. Gilbert was one of those cool English teachers. You know the kind. She told us about wanting to go to Woodstock and not being allowed by her parents because she was too young. She taught us to enjoy Shakespeare by encouraging us to figure out all the filthy jokes in Romeo and Juliet—“the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads?” and “thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit!”—a surefire way to the hearts and minds of a bunch of ninth-grade honors students who fancied themselves to be filthy-minded. She’s the one who gave me an A on my Elric fanfiction when I had the temerity to hand it in for a writing assignment. And she’s the one who suggested that I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

[Read more]

Fri
Sep 20 2013 1:00pm

Michael Moorcock Elric The Revenge of the RoseWelcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series: Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post discusses The Revenge of the Rose, published in 1991.

As with The Fortress of the Pearl, this is where reading the novels according to Elric’s own chronology gets a bit strange, because The Revenge of the Rose is a radically different book from the ones on either side of it in the series. In his introduction to the 2010 volume Swords and Roses, Moorcock writes that he was driven by a need to feel “as ambitious about that book as I had felt in 1961 when I began the series and was one of the very few producing this kind of fantasy.” To this end, he sends Elric on a quest across the Multiverse in search of a rosewood box that contains the soul of his father, Sadric.

[Read More]

Fri
Sep 6 2013 1:00pm

Michael Moorcock Elric The Sleeping SorceressWelcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post discusses The Sleeping Sorceress, originally published in 1972. DAW, for reasons best known to themselves, renamed the book The Vanishing Tower, which may be the title that you recognize.

When I sat down to reread The Sleeping Sorceress for this week’s installment, I knew that I had fond memories of having read it as The Vanishing Tower back in 1989, and I’m quite sure that I enjoyed it when the Del Rey reissue came out in 2008, though perhaps I didn’t read it all that closely at the time. Now it seems to combine some of the more frustrating excesses of the Elric saga with what are, by comparison to the rest of the series, fairly conventional fantasy plots.

[Read More]

Fri
Aug 23 2013 1:00pm

Elric The Weird of the White Wolf Michael Moorcock

Welcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post discusses The Weird of the White Wolf, published in 1977.

We are, as I and other writers at Tor have observed, well steeped nowadays in dark, brutal cinematic visions of what it means to be an heroic character. Superman lays waste to a city to save it; Batman must become the city’s scapegoat and descend into hell before redeeming himself with an act of self-immolation. Audiences and critics are, understandably, starting to chafe at these tropes; this may make the Elric saga, and The Weird of the White Wolf in particular, a bit of a hard sell these days.

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Fri
Aug 9 2013 5:00pm

Dead Pig Collector Warren Ellis In comics and prose, Warren Ellis excels at the procedural—Transmetropolitan followed Spider Jerusalem’s (admittedly often unorthodox) journalism, Planetary followed the exploits of superpowered investigators of the strange, and his previous novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, were detective/police procedurals. In the novella Dead Pig Collector (excerpt here), he approaches the business of murder and body disposal from the other side of the law, in what might be called a criminal procedural and which Ellis himself describes as “a love story about the efficient disposal of corpses. Sort of.”

[Read more]

Fri
Aug 9 2013 1:00pm

Welcome back to the Elric Reread, in which I revisit one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga. You can find all the posts in the series here. Today’s post discusses The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, published in 1976.

The Sailor on the Seas of Fate has never really been my favorite Elric book. Where The Fortress of the Pearl stands quite well on its own and in the continuity, Sailor is a little more awkward; it’s as if you can see more of the welding marks in its insertion into Elric’s continuity between the origin story of Elric of Melniboné and his downfall of The Weird of the White Wolf; where that book actually feels like a cohesive work, despite being composed of short stories published months, even years apart, Sailor feels disjointed, its structure forced. However, even a comparatively underwhelming Elric book has more going for it than your usual high fantasy offering.

[Read more]