content by

Kat Howard

Fiction and Excerpts [2]

Fiction and Excerpts [2]

Changing the Boundaries of Magic

If you read traditional fairy tales, you are likely to come away with some very specific ideas about when and where it is possible for magic to exist. At least you will if you were a reader like I was, looking for clues as to where magic might be found. Magic occurred once upon a time. To find it, the characters went into the woods. That was just the way of things. It’s so much the way of things there’s even a musical about it. There were rules for the way stories were told.

I have always loved fairy tales, but that specificity of time and setting made them seem like stories from a world that was gone. Not now. Not here. If this world had ever been a place of magic, it no longer was. I could accept that, but honestly, it made me a little sad.

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An Unkindness of Magicians

There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City, diminishing the city’s magicians’ power…

In New York City, magic controls everything, but the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

An Unkindness of Magicians is a new fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard—available September 26th from Saga Press.

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On the Edges of a Haunting: Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall

When writing a post on Elizabeth Hand’s writing for a series called “That Was Awesome,” there’s a certain temptation to shortcut the entire thing, and simply list her bibliography. Because, really, if you want to read a writer who knows how to do awesome—from the creepy that hides on the edges of the page to the numinous that bursts across it—you should be reading Elizabeth Hand.

Instead of just pointing you in her general direction, though, I’m going to talk specifically about one of her more recent books, Wylding Hall. It is definitely awesome—and recently nominated for both the Locus and Shirley Jackson awards, so you don’t have to take my word for it.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Roses and Rot

What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Kat Howard’s debut novel Roses and Rot is available May 17th from Saga Press.

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Rules, Trust, and NaNoWriMo

I used to be a big jerk about National Novel Writing Month.

I didn’t really think about it one way or another until I started writing seriously, but then, I was Very Grumpy about it. Real writers wrote all the time! Often in daily wordcounts that were more than the NaNo requirement! And 50K words isn’t a novel anyway! NaNo was clearly not for real writers. I was very snarky about it.

I want to be clear that I no longer feel like this.

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Rereading Bordertown: The Essential Bordertown

Welcome back to the final post in the Rereading Bordertown series. This entry covers the last of the original Bordertown books, the anthology The Essential Bordertown, edited by Terri Windling and Delia Sherman.

The original set of books kept the Border open for twelve years. Borderland, the first anthology, was published in 1986, and The Essential Bordertown was published in 1998. That twelve-year run is almost as long as the thirteen years between The Essential Bordertown and this year’s Welcome to Bordertown (eds. Holly Black and Ellen Kushner). I point this out because even in an ongoing set of stories, twelve years is a long time. The world changed, and Bordertown changed with it, and those changes meant Bordertown looked different just before the Border closed as it did when it first opened.

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Rereading Bordertown

Welcome to the Bordertown reread. Today’s post looks at the second of the anthologies published in this shared world, Bordertown. Unlike Borderland, which I read for the first time just before starting this series of posts, I’ve read Bordertown before, many times.  I don’t remember exactly if it was this book or Elsewhere that was my way into Bordertown, but I do remember that once I got there, I never wanted to leave.

“There’s always been places that called to people.” So says Orient, in “Danceland,” the novella by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly that opens Bordertown, the second of the anthologies set in the shared world of the Borderlands. Bordertown, the city on the edge of the Borderlands, that half-magic place between the Elflands and the World, is one of the places that calls to people. The kind of people it calls to, and what they become when they arrive there, is what Bordertown is about.

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Even Between-Places Have Between-Places: Nevernever

Welcome back to the Bordertown reread. The topic of today’s post is one of my favorite volumes in the series, the second of Will Shetterly’s Bordertown novels, Nevernever. As the copyright page points out, certain parts of this novel appeared in substantially different form as “Danceland” in Bordertown and as “Nevernever” in Life on the Border. So even if this is your first time through the books, if you’re reading them in order of publication, you’ve seen bits and pieces of this story before.

“Substantially different form” is correct – important parts of the events described in the two shorter works are completely new in Nevernever. Even when they remain faithful to their earlier incarnations, you see the story from a different perspective, and that idea—that even when you think you know how a story is told, that you know the ending and how to get there, sometimes there are pieces of the story that you haven’t quite seen—is an important one here. And if you’re rereading, like I am, part of that experience is almost always made up of noticing things for the first time. Stories change and make themselves different, depending on who you are when you read them.

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Rereading Bordertown: Life on the Border

This is another post that isn’t quite what it says on the label. The anthology, Life on the Border, is the other Bordertown book I hadn’t managed to get my hands on during my initial encounters with the series. So this wasn’t a reread for me, but a first read.

You can see things differently, without the haze of nostalgia. As a refugee from Minneapolis (the winters, people), I laughed a little to see it described as one of the hotspots for today’s youth culture in the introduction. There are things that change between writing and reading. It wasn’t Prince I saw play “Purple Rain” at First Ave., but Amanda Palmer. But that shift in perspective doesn’t make things less, it just makes things different. And my laugh was an ironic one because, while it wasn’t a Bordertown book that sent me to Minneapolis in the first place, the choice to move there was influenced by a book by one of the Bordertown writers.

The thing that allows for nostalgia in the first place is change. The recognition that you are different, and the past is not a thing that can be gone back to. Contemplating change is an excellent thing to be doing when reading Life on the Border, even if you are reading it for the first time.

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“We get so strange across the Border”: Elsewhere

Welcome back to the Bordertown reread. On the agenda for the day is the first of the novels set in the shared world of Bordertown, Will Shetterly’s Elsewhere. Elsewhere is the story of Wolfboy, whom we met in “Danceland,” the novella by Shetterly and Emma Bull that opens the anthology Bordertown. Except the Wolfboy we meet in Elsewhere isn’t Wolfboy yet, he’s just Ron, and he’s just made his way across the Border.

Confused now? Excellent. Let’s begin.

“You get a second chance in Bordertown. You should think about what that means, and what you want.” So Mickey, the owner of Elsewhere Books, tells Wolfboy (when Wolfboy is still Ron) on the train into Bordertown. Ron is not particularly good at listening. And he needs a second chance, and a third one, and many others, because he’s really good at saying something wrong, or snarky, or mean at the worst possible moment. We’ve read “Danceland.” We know exactly how much trouble Ron’s mouth gets him into.

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Rereading the Border: Borderland

Welcome to the Bordertown reread, where I’ll be looking at each of the four original Bordertown anthologies, and the three novels set in that space between the Elflands and the World.

Or at least that’s what this will be most of the time.

Borderland, the first anthology in this shared world, was published in 1986, and was not the first Bordertown book I read. In fact, I had never been able to locate a copy until recently, so this isn’t a reread, but a first read.

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Recognizing Home

When I was in second grade, I received the Narnia books for Christmas. My parents’ room had a walk-in closet, and I remember sitting in that closet, my back pressed against the wall, my eyes squeezed shut, trying to will myself into Narnia. It didn’t work.

Yet even if it had, even if snow had crunched under my hands, and bark prickled against my back, I knew I wouldn’t have stayed in Narnia forever. That was how the story worked—you went, you had adventures, you returned. I imagined myself adventuring in Narnia, but not living there. I never thought about living in any of the places I imagined myself into as a child. Wondrous as they were to visit, they didn’t seem the sorts of places that might be home.

If I could have gotten to Bordertown, I would have stayed.

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