Sunday Notes

virgilio-dias-universitc3a1ria-2011-o-s-t-60-x-60The Bears and I have been going through a period when everything seems to have been crumbling around us.  Or rather, this morning, within us, as just to add insult to injury I seem to have chipped a back tooth.  I’m sure you all know what I mean because most of us go through patches like this at some time or another.  Anyway, I am feeling very ashamed because I have let it disrupt my routine and I have been neither writing here nor visiting you all to leave comments on your posts.  I’m also feeling very stupid because I know that when things start to go awry there is actually nothing better than a good routine for keeping me steady and nothing more important than writing for sorting my head out.  So, this week, even though life is nothing like returned to an even keel, I am going to try and settle myself back in front of the computer for at least part of the day.

Where books are concerned I have got no further than re-reading the Garth Nix trilogy, Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorson in preparation for the forthcoming Clariel, which is due out in October.  I loved this series when it was first published and introduced it to many children and students of varying ages.  For me, at least, Nix has done nothing to touch it in the intervening years and so I hope this prelude to the earlier trilogy will see him back on form.  I am a little wary in as much as it is set six hundred years prior to Sabriel and I always thought that one of that book’s strengths was that it read as if it was set now, just in a world rather different to our own.  Nevertheless, Clariel is high up on my list of must reads for the autumn, when the nights begin to draw in and reading around a fire is a cheery way of spending an evening.

I think it’s interesting just how many fantasy writers have difficulty breaking away from the fictional world that has made their name and with which their readers have probably identified very strongly.  Robin Hobb, for example, tried to create a new setting in her Soldier Son trilogy but soon came back to the world of Fitz and the Fool that established her (in that persona at least) in the minds of the reading public.  I love her work but I managed to read only as far as half way through the second book in that trilogy before giving up on it.

Trudi Canavan had what I thought was a very interesting second stab at world building in Priestess of the White but the series eventually petered out before she too went back to her original creation, the world of The Magician’s Guild with which she made her name.

I know that some authors do manage to establish a second or even a third fantasy world, but even when that is the case you almost invariably find that readers identify with one in particular to the exclusion of the others.  How would J K Rowling’s fans take it, I wonder, if instead of changing genres she had tried her hand at a different form of fantasy?  I think I might have cried, “Treason!” and had her incarcerated in Azkaban forthwith.


23 thoughts on “Sunday Notes

  1. As I’ve been trawling through the old classic writers in search of horror stories over the last few months, I’ve really become aware of how so many of them routinely wrote in a variety of genres, styles, lengths etc etc, and how in contrast present-day writers seem to get stuck in a box, endlessly being expected to repeat the book that made their name. I’m sure you’re right about Rowling – I haven’t even managed to bring myself to read her crime novels yet. And yet I’ll happily read Conan Doyle’s crime, historical fiction, sci-fi etc…

    Hope things settle down for you soon, Alex. 🙂

    1. Thanks FF. I read Rowling as Robert Galbraith before the news broke and so I still think of it as being by Galbraith. It’s interesting that I haven’t made the transference.

  2. Tell me about it! These things do come in waves, it seems, and they are hugely tiresome. I send love and hugs and hope you are back on form very very soon. And that in the meantime, you do everything for yourself that you need to and give yourself permission to rest and relax as much as possible.

    1. You got spammed Susan. I don’t know why. Thanks for your good wishes. Equilibrium is exactly the right word; that is precisely what I need. Also, learning to say ‘No’ might not be a bad idea, either.

  3. Tooth problems are the proverbial last straw, especially on a weekend. I hope that this week brings better things to you & the bears.

    1. This is the third time I’ve broken a tooth at the weekend, Lisa. I’m sure I’ve done it on other days of the week as well, but somehow they don’t stay so firmly in the memory.

  4. Poor you. I hope The Bears have been taking appropriate care of you. I think some of the reasons fantasy writers return to certain worlds is because of the publishers too. I heard Terry Brooks talk once and he thought his Sword of Shannara books was only going to be three but the publisher asked him to keep going and now of course he doesn’t write anything else it seems which is a shame really.

    1. I hadn’t thought about the publishers’ involvement, Stefanie, but I’m sure you’re right. It is amazing how many crime writers start out with excellent one offs but very soon begin a series and I’m sure that’s publishing pressure as well.

  5. It’s interesting to me that FictionFan mentions Arthur Conan Doyle, because I was just getting ready to comment on my own inability to read anything of his except the complete Sherlock Holmes (which I have read and re-read numerous times). And I can’t tell you just how disillusioned I was at about the age of eighteen to find out that he had written some material about spiritualism, and considered himself a serious spiritualist! It was too grim for words, considering how heavily he (and I, thereby) had invested in that dispeller of all mysteries, Sherlock Holmes. As to your personal difficulties and the lack of routine, I have to say that while there are times when I feel haunted by routine and stubborn and uncooperative with it, if something takes it away willy-nilly, I resent the new (until it too becomes a routine, then so and on and so forth, until a new routine establishes itself). So, I think I understand where you’re coming from. Here’s hoping that the writing gets you back in good form!

    1. Every time I think I’ve got the space to get back to a routine, SO, something comes along to disturb it. Here’s hoping tomorrow will be better. Ah, tut then I’d forgotten, tomorrow the gas man cometh! Thursday perhaps?

  6. Poor you! I hope there is a let-up. My family’s been in the midst of that kind of maelstrom for-damn-ever (it seems like), and it just gets exhausting.

    That’s an interesting point about authors and their fictional worlds! I haven’t yet read NK Jemisin’s second series of books after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I think they maybe are set in another fictional world? Maybe? I’ll give credit to Diana Wynne Jones on this: Many of her books are set in fictional worlds (as well as many that are set in our world + magic), and they always feel fresh and interesting, and I would be hard-pressed to name a preference for one world over another.

  7. I hope things are going better for you this week! I don’t read a lot of fantasy so can’t contribute much to this discussion, but you’ve reminded me that I’ve been meaning to give Robin Hobb’s books a try. Am I right in thinking that Assassin’s Apprentice is the best place to start?

    1. Yes, Helen. It is possible to read them out of order, but definitely not advisable. Oh how I envy you having the pleasure of reading them for the first time.

  8. Oh I hope things are back to something like normal soon. Have a good rest in the meantime. I can’t comment on fantasy fiction because I don’t read it, my brain doesn’t work in the right way for it.

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