What’s Making Me Happy: June 2016

I have no trouble at all choosing what’s making me happiest. My new novel Nightmare Lullaby is now available in print as well as on Kindle, so all those who have yet to join the E-Book Revolution, including my own parents, have a chance to read it. I’m very proud of my first novel, Atterwald, and I’m firmly convinced everyone with a taste for fantasy should read it. But Nightmare Lullaby, dare I say it, is an even better book, a step forward, and its existence delights me beyond expression.

Among other things making me smile this month:

The Mary Sue.

I spend more time rifling through favorite websites like Goodreads, LibraryThing, and TV Tropes than is good for me, but this site is special to me because it cares about what I care about, namely cool women doing cool stuff in the areas of speculative-fiction print, film, and television as well as real-life science, technology, and the arts. I single it out this month because of a post last week from author Rachel Dunne, in which she expresses a yearning for more “nontriarchies” — that is, worlds that lack prescribed gender roles — in science fiction and fantasy. As I read it, I saw my own preferences and desires in her words and felt a little less alone (as, ideally, all good reading makes us feel). So glad more than one of us wants to see both male and female characters freed from the constraints of oft-repeated gender-based conflict! No more battles of the sexes, please, or at least fewer such battles! Now, if only other writers would heed our pleas.

Updraft.

Fran Wilde’s debut novel offers just such a “nontriarchy,” a world in which both men and women occupy various roles in society and no one’s competence is questioned because of his/her gender. I moved this new YA fantasy to the top rung of my To-Read ladder after I read an review on Tor.com that described it as an ideal book for fans of legendary anime film director Hayao Miyazaki.The description is dead-on, as I found in it interesting and pleasing echoes of one of my favorites of his films, Nausicaa and the Valley of Wind. First, it’s set in a society in which people are divided into “towers” and navigate the skies on manufactured wings, and this world is regularly threatened by monstrous creatures nobody quite understands. Second, its heroine, Kirit, who like the titular Nausicaa knows how to read the wind, discovers the true nature of the threat and takes responsibility for doing something about it. Kirit is that rare YA fantasy heroine whose story does not revolve around romance, and in fact does not even include it; she has too many vital things on her mind to worry about whether this or that or the other cute boy likes her. The YA fantasy genre could do with a few more like her.

Children of Earth and Sky.

I first discovered Guy Gavriel Kay when I stumbled across A Song for Arbonne among the bargain books at Books-a-Million. I was just getting into fantasy at the time but I was already an avid reader of historical fiction, so I happily entered a world clearly modeled after medieval France, with its troubadours and courtly customs — only it wasn’t quite France. I got my first taste of historical fantasy, in which the past is not quite our past but the magical and supernatural elements are muted, if present at all. Since then I’ve read some of Kay’s more overtly fantastical works, The Fionavar Tapestry, in which a quartet of college students are transported into a world that includes unicorns, vampires, gryphons, and King Arthur, and Tigana, in which freedom fighters are pitted against invading sorcerers in a country that looks a little like the fragmented Italy of yore. But my favorite work of his, thus far, has been The Lions of Al-Rassan, which like A Song for Arbonne discards supernatural elements as it tells a story of the bond forged by three protagonists of different faiths in a quasi-medieval Spain.

Imagine my glee when I learned his new book, Children of Earth and Sky, would be set in the same pseudo-Europe as Lions, with the same religious conflicts, only on a grander scale. I’m only halfway into it, so I can’t say too much in terms of plot, but so far I’m relishing the political wheeling and dealing and the efforts of basically decent characters to retain their basic decency as they’re caught up in the underhanded goings-on. Sometimes fantasy that reads like historical fiction is just what I’m hungry for, and Kay delivers.

The Tony Awards.

It occurs to me that since I started this blog, I’ve not yet had occasion to express my love for Broadway musicals. I grew up listening to my parents’ Original Broadway Cast albums of everything from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim to Bock & Harnick. I still have strong memories of hearing Damn Yankees and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and A Little Night Music when I went down for naps. Every year I take advantage of YouTube and iTunes to learn as much as possible about the new musicals. Is it any wonder that the Tony Awards are appointment television each year, far more anticipated than the Oscars?

This year, Tony Award evening, 6/12, followed a very bleak day, which began with a brutal hate crime in Orlando, FL. There was talk of postponing the ceremony, and when it proceeded as usual, we all tuned in with Orlando very much on our minds. Yet as it turned out, we could have found no better or more satisfying contrast to the bigotry-motivated nightmare of that morning than the joyous, open-hearted diversity of the Broadway community, on full display at the Tonys — nominees of color in every category, women as creative forces behind two of the year’s Best Musical nominees (Waitress and Bright Star), and an unmistakable aura of love throughout. Plus, there wasn’t a single musical moment I didn’t enjoy. The singing and dancing of the marvelous diva Audra McDonald makes everything just a little better; I liked seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber nominated for a fun project (School of Rock) rather than a super-serious one; and I learned how effectively the Battle of Yorktown might be fought without the use of prop guns. (Skeptical of the use of very contemporary musical styles to tell a historical story, and not a fan of rap or hip-hop, I was taken by surprise by Hamilton, as I imagine a lot of people were.) That night, I feel, Broadway represented the best of America.

I’ll let Broadway have the last word.

 

 

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