Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing-Wax

As per request, here is a (probably partial) list of fantasy authors I enjoy. A little sci-fi may work its way in there; maybe some others, too. In fact, this may expand to fiction in general. Without further adieu:

The standards, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Need I say more? I especially love Lewis’s concept of ‘the Shadowlands’. Tolkien is … Tolkien. Myth, legend, language, and a grand plot that covers possibly every major theme you can think of.
World Fantasy Award winner Patricia McKillip. This lady has been in the business for more than twenty years, but her best work, in my opinion, is one of her earliest: the Riddle-Master Trilogy. First published in the seventies, the three books – the Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind – plunge the reader into a world with all the depth and lore of Tolkien’s. She has a unique gift for writing with color, richness, and familiarity that can portray both the sweep of an epic and the individual struggles of her very human characters. I remember being reluctant to read the last few pages, not wanting the novel to end … and then the plot twist at the end completely floored me. A completely satisfying read.
Robin McKinley’s forte is rewriting classic fairy tales in novel form, freshening them with realistic characters, new settings, and occasionally new endings. She’s actually written two different renditions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – Beauty and Rose Daughter. Other works include Spindle’s End and the Outlaws of Sherwood. What got me started, though, was her truly original fantasy, the Blue Sword (which was a Newbury Honor Book), and its prequel, the Hero and the Crown.
There’s no fantasy about Josepha Sherman – she’s the expert on Spock! However, she does deserve an mention in this list, partly because I really enjoyed Vulcan’s Forge.
Orson Scott Card. I’m not quite sure what to say here. There’s no doubt that he can write, and Ender’s Game and the following books are standard sci-fi fodder. But I’ve never felt a real connection to his characters, nor his universe – somehow, they’re very impersonal, although they do bring up difficult ethical questions that get the reader thinking. I think a year ago I wrote (ranted) about Xenocide in one of my posts. Card does have some great short stories. Here’s the link: http://www.xanga.com/ArinElspeth/485469525/the-future-grayscale.html

I admit that I’ve only read one book by Ray Bradbury, the Martian Chronicles, but this collection of snapshots has color, vibrance, and more than a little subtle commentary on human nature.
Shakespeare. Especially Hamlet. I’d read it before I chose it for one of my AP Lit and Comp books, but I liked it better each time I reread it. Aside from a plot filled with intrigue and tragedy, Shakespeare has left enough room for his readers to flesh out the characters for themselves, and thus enter more deeply into the plot.
Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen’s masterwork. Although not heavy on visual description, she more than makes up for it with a stream of sparkling wit and insightful observations, letting her characters conflict with each other and themselves in the politest terms imaginable.

I’m sure I’ll list more in the future, but this overwhelming temptation to read has been gnawing at my consciousness for quite some time. I think I’ll give in.

To continue the random quote that I selected as a title:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

-Lewis Carroll


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