There’s this moment, when you’re sure you’re about to die, and then you’re born. It’s terrifying. Right now, I’m a stranger to myself. There’s echos of who I was and a sort of call towards who I am. And I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts, shape myself towards them. — The Thirteenth Doctor in ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth‘
It is early November, which means the weather has lost whatever warmth early Autumn had. All the Russian design fireplaces in Kinrowan Hall are on for the season, to the gratitude of everyone here. The Kitchen is preparing a classic Autumn evening meal of beet and tomato salad with sour cream, beef stew with mushrooms, American-style biscuits, and a dark chocolate raspberry tart with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
I can hear the wind-driven sleet hitting on the windows, so I’ll limit my wandering to the inside of Kinrowan Hall, but first I think I’ll sit down in the Kitchen, get some breakfast — a bacon cheddar bap and a big mug of Darjeeling tea with cream will do — and watch what’s going on there.
I see a book Reynard reviewed, Big Book of Bacon, is now sitting on Mrs. Ware’s corner desk. I think he got it from her so it’s come full circle. And I see several bottles of our Kinrowan Special Reserve Pear Cider on her desk with a note from our Steward that they’re to be packaged up and sent to Riverrun Farm in appreciation for their providing honey for our ciser (half cider, half mead) bottling this year.
Hmmm… I spot a copy of Sleeping Hedgehog that has a loving look at a recent book, Children’s Games in Street and Playground by Ioan Opie, the British folklorist who we’ve reviewed here. Been meaning to read our copy of that work.
Oh, I do have a link for you — Time magazine under the capable editorship of N.K. Jemisen, the first author to have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years, for all three novels in a trilogy, has stitched together the best one hundred fantasy novels of all time. It’s already been attacked by conservatives as being anti-white male, so you know it’ll be interesting.
Ahhhh, I see they’re discussing how many American style buttermilk biscuits they’ll need with that beef stew for the eventide meal. And I see one of my Several Annies, Rebekah, is being asked by Mrs. Ware if she’d like to join her staff when she gets done with her Estate, errr, Library apprenticeship in two years. She’s the one who introduced us to wonderful Jewish baked treats. Oh, and I see that someone has been mushroom hunting, so the beef stew will have these tasty morels in it. Barrowhill beef is always a treat no matter how it’s used.
Now let’s get started with this edition…
Cat really loved Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, Book One of the Teixcalaanli Empire series: ‘To say more about this not-a-space opera would spoil it. The improbable friendship that forms between our Ambassador and her Imperial liaison is still intact at the end of this first book, but I’m sure it’ll be tested in the second. It’s a wonderful novel that’s a great start of a hopefully long series. The setting, the characters and even the story feel fresh, quite unlike the usual riff on interstellar empires. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many of the characters are women and they are quite capable at what they do.’
He next has a collection with an an interesting premise: ‘Now we can add to the list of great Sf and fantasy pub tales this Larry Niven collection, The Draco Tavern, which collects all of the previously printed Draco Tavern tales, with a few new pieces thrown in for a bit of value added like all the extras we get on DVDs these days.‘
Chris has a lovely book for us, The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition: ‘Saga Press has released Ursula LeGuin’s collected Earthsea works, beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. This collection includes the original trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971 ) and The Farthest Shore (1972), as well as the novels in which LeGuin revisited the trilogy, Tehanu (1990) and The Other Wind (2001), which conclude the saga many years after the events of the originals. Also included are Tales from Earthsea, LeGuin’s 2001 collection, and four other stories, including the never before published “Daughter of Odren.” Her illuminating essay, “Earthsea Revisioned,” which she delivered as a lecture in Oxford in 1992, is also here, along with an introduction from the author. In short, this giant of a volume includes everything you need to know about Earthsea, and it’s a delight to see it all collected in one place.’
Robert takes us through Roger Zelazny’s last novel,Lord Demon: ‘Roger Zelazny is one of the few writers in any genre that I think honestly deserves the sobriquet “visionary.” My first contact with Zelazny was “A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1963 with the best cover I had ever seen. It is still a brilliant and haunting story. By the time “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” won the Nebula award in 1965, Zelazny was a major noise in the genre.’
He goes on to look at another book that might leave you scratching your head, Gene Wolfe’s Castleview: ‘I think one thing the reader must keep firmly in mind when reading anything by Gene Wolfe is that Wolfe likes to play with your head — and he seems to have developed an admirable store of ways to do it.’
Warner looks a classic: ‘Robert Jordan’s The Eye of The World (30th Anniversary Edition) brings an impressive new copy of a classic volume of fantasy to readers. Like many anniversary editions, this volume includes not only the classic book but also a number of little details that make it a good get. As with any book new or old, the question of quality overall remains.‘
Next he has another great story for us: ‘Christopher Paolini is known for having started the Eragon series when he was quite young, and falling into a startling amount of success with it. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars represents not only his first novel targeted towards adults, but a shift to science fiction from what was previously a well-known fantasy author. The result is strikingly different from his previous work, a risky wndeavor for a man with a existing fan base.’
He finishes off our reviews with a collection from a master storyteller: ‘Jane Yolen’s The Midnight Circus is an appropriately titled collection of down of her darker stories, featuring sad endings. Disturbing implications, and utter beauty. While almost all qualify as dark, other genre’s they might be seen as range a gamut of genre’s, and more than one deals with the perils of actual historical events, albeit often in a somewhat fantastical way.’
Denise digs into Chocolats Passion’s Dark Chocolate Skulls; she says it’s a tribute to Day of the Dead, but we have a feeling her review has more to do with delicious chocolate. ‘I’ll try my best to keep the last two bites for later…but I make no promises. They’re here, they’ll have to understand my willpower is nonexistent. Their lives are forfeit.’
Remember rhubarb? That huge tropical-leafed plant in your grandmother’s garden with red, red stems, and you chew the stems and your mouth goes dry for the next three days? Jennifer reviews Red Ass Rhubarb wine and gives us a recipe for dark chocolate mousse to eat with it.
Robert brings us a look at a film that’s more than a little appropriate for the Day of the Dead — a romantic comedy featuring zombies: ‘I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies when I had gone to see something else, and thought “Cute, but probably not something I’ll want to see.” Well, I was looking to kill a couple of hours and discovered that it was at my favorite theater — 15 minutes away, cheap admission for early shows. So I went.’
And another film that’s more than a little fantastic. Says Robert: ‘The films of Guillermo del Toro have often dealt with innocence in a corrupt world; sometimes the innocence is found in surprising places, as in Hellboy, in which a demon becomes a savior. He also plays with the idea of redemption through transformation in such a way that the concept becomes almost Wagnerian in scope. And in Pan’s Labyrinth, he hinges these ultimately profound themes on a child’s belief in fairy tales.’
Cat has some horror for us in a DC series: ‘Gotham By Midnight centers around Precinct Thirteen, the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force. It’s just a handful of personnel — a Catholic sister and a forensics expert, both consultants, a GCPD Lieutenant, and of course, Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre. But this is not The Spectre as traditionally depicted in flowing robes and such with a hooded cloak. No, this is a much horrifying Spectre — one that lives just within the skin of Corrigan who himself is far less handsome than he was in the DC Showcase I previously reviewed. Of course, this is Corrigan in the dark nights of Gotham City, not the sunny vistas of Los Angeles.’
Deborah really loved this recording: ‘Okay, I’m in love. Electric sitar! Bliss! No, seriously. Not hyperbole: it’s love. I’m replaying one of my happiest discoveries in a season of catch-as-catch-can, the Strangelings CD, Season of the Witch. And yes, that’s Donovan’s classic song, as redolent of the 1960s as anything short of “Purple Haze” could possibly be. The first three songs on the CD are covers, and they all work. Hoo.’
Gary tells us about a new record from an old soul, Felix Hatfield’s False God: ‘Hatfield is a remnant of the “old weird” Northwest, and his music – lyrics, delivery, arrangements and all – has that rough around the edges feel to it.’
Gereg says of a CD he reviewed before the artist passed on that ‘Let’s start with the obvious. David Bowie is a genius. Musician, composer, actor, and mime, his versatility is always impressive. He defined — and very nearly created — glitter rock; he was the first white man inducted into the Soul Hall of Fame; he narrated a superb version of Peter and the Wolf; his film performances have ranged from Pontius Pilate to the Goblin King to the most alienated alien in cinematic history.’ So now you’ll need to read his review of David Bowie: Rare and Unseen to see why it left him rather underwhelmed.
Kage and Kathleen have a look at Jethro Tull’s Live at Montreux 2003. ‘Montreux is no longer just about jazz. However, if you like jazz but are in the dark about rock and roll… . no, there is no Jethro in Jethro Tull — the group was named long ago for an 18th century agronomist. Even if you are totally befuddled about rock, you may well recognize Ian Anderson, the lead singer, lead writer and — well, leader: he’s the cold-eyed Scottish flautist who has been fronting the band (mostly standing on one foot) for the last 40 years.’
Lars has an in-depth look at two recent British folk recordings: ‘Both bands have fairly recently released new albums. Steeleye’s ”Est’d 1969” came in time for their 50th anniversary tour last autumn. Fairport’s ”Shuffle and Go” was released early this year, to be sold at the group’s traditional British winter tour. These albums show to illustrate how the bands have moved in different directions.’
Robert starts off with something traditional, more or less: ‘When our Editor and Publisher (also known as “the Chief”) first broached the idea of my reviewing a Blazin’ Fiddles release, I was hesitant. “A whole orchestra?” said I. “Of fiddles?” (Well, that’s what he said it was.) Somehow I knew it wasn’t going to be Henry Mancini.’
He then brings us something a little off the beaten track — Down the Track’s Landscapes (see what we did there?): ‘There is, in the history of “classical” music a — call it a “genre” — of what is known as “program music” going all the way back to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (at least), and including works by such luminaries as Richard Strauss (who can forget Also Sprach Zarathustra?), Hector Berlioz, and even Beethoven (Symphony No. 6, the “Pasorale”, with a really spectacular summer storm). It was with that in mind that I approached a new album by Down the Track, Landscapes.’
And he goes even farther afield with D1V1N1T1’s Terra Divina: ‘I’ve encountered several collaborations between Canadian musician Tim Clément and other artists. . . . Clément’s latest effort is a collaboration with Ben Watson; calling themselves D1V1N1T1, the two have created Terra Divina, which they describe as “a balanced exploration of what the external world offers our soul and the introspective space of our individual acquiescence.”‘
As we bid October farewell, we don’t leave behind holidays. In fact, one is upon us this very day. Día de Muertos (more commonly known in the US as Dia de los Muertos), the Mexican All Saint’s Day/Day of the Dead, is a celebration of our loved ones who have passed away. Remembering them, celebrating them, and gathering together is a beautiful way to recognize those who have come before us. While the pandemic may make large gatherings difficult, it’s easy to have a bit of a celebration by yourself. Me? I’ll be thinking about friends and family that I love but are no longer here, enjoying the beautiful colors of marigolds, lighting a candle or two, and perhaps making a toast with some tequila. May you and yours – both here and on other planes – have a lovely start to this month.
Now let’s have some music to finish out this edition. It’s Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell performing ‘The Pipes Lament’, a tune written by her, which was recorded at the Shoreditch Church, London on the 15th of June a decade, should do nicely. Tickell, by the way, connects indirectly to Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel as smallpiper Janey Little in the novel lists Northumbrian Bill Pigg as one of her inspirations to become a musician, something that Tickell also adknowledges.