"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Reckless Form of Magic

In Chapter 10 of Eolyn, the young maga tells her tutor Ghemena of a dream she had in which Akmael was slain on the battlefield.  Eolyn, frightened by the dream and concerned for her friend's future, wonders whether it might have been a vision, but the older witch scoffs at her, insisting it was only a dream.

"Divination is a reckless form of magic," Ghemena reminds her ward, and though the words do little to quiet Eolyn's fears, she accepts the older woman's teaching for the time being. 

Ghemena's truism reflects more than personal conviction.  The tradition of the Magas and Mages of Moisehén rejects outright any form of prophecy or divination.  Even though certain cultures, such as the Syrnte, practice divination with some dexterity, for a maga like Ghemena this sort of magic is at best an idle curiosity and at worst a tool that destroys hope and opportunity by undercutting faith in our own choices and the power of self-determination.

In addition to honoring the teachings of her predecessors, Ghemena may have some very personal reasons for her vehement rejection of divination.  Although these reasons are never fully revealed in the novel, they are hinted at in various places, including the scene we get to listen to today, an audio recording of Chapter 44 that has been kindly donated by friend and fellow author David Hunter.

This scene features the wizard Tzeremond, top advisor to Akmael's father Kedehen, and the man who oversaw the brutal purging of the Magas and the establishment of an exclusively male-centered tradition of magic.  Depending on your interpretation of the history behind the War of the Magas, Tzeremond -- and Kedehen along with him -- can be seen as extraordinarily cruel and calculating, or simply pragmatic albeit rather misguided.  I will have to let you read the novel (if you haven't already) to decide for yourself. 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this wonderful reading.  And many thanks to David for providing it.

While you're out visiting blogs this week, may I suggest you also stop by Heroines of Fantasy, where we have a wonderful guest post by Jodie Meadows, author of Incarnate, on the Vilification of Wool.

Also, lately Amazon has been offering a great price on the beautiful hardcover edition of EolynI encourage you to take advantage of the sale while it lasts.  The glossy book jacket features original cover art by Jesse Smolover, and the acid-free pages carry an epic adventure that will live in your memory and grace your bookshelf for a lifetime.  Already have your copy?  Then it's time to start thinking about gifts. 

And what better gift to give than magic? 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great week!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Feminism and Fantasy

Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, in reference to criticisms of The Lord of the Rings

Over at Heroines of Fantasy this week, our guest is Athena Andreadis, prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction, and author of the blog Starship Reckless.

I will be honest: Andreadis’ guest post is difficult to understand, but thought-provoking in its own way. Before you read it (or after), I would suggest visiting the blogs of Leo Grin and Joe Abercrombie. This because what Andreadis writes is essentially a criticism of the argument between Grin and Abercrombie, so to get a more-or-less full picture of the conflict, you may need to read all three posts.

Andreadis’ thought-provoking post on Heroines of Fantasy has had me. . .well, provoked in my thought.

Her primary criticism of Grin and Abercrombie focuses on the utter lack of women authors mentioned in their debate. A fair enough point, though I can’t help but think, with all due respect to Grin and Abercrombie, that in the end they are just a couple of guys (in the same way that I am just one gal), and that perhaps these two blog posts are not entirely representative of the full spectrum of dialogue on contemporary fantasy fiction.

But what really does not sit right with me is how Andreadis uses her displeasure with Grin and Abercrombie as a point of departure to discredit male writers of fantasy across the board. In her guest post, Andreadis portrays male fantasy authors as universally misogynistic, and argues that men offer little of interest to the genre as a whole. Her list of authors producing “bland [sexist] gruel” includes well-known and much admired names like J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, both of whom have produced novels that in my humble opinion deserve a somewhat more complimentary qualifier than “bland [sexist] gruel”.
So I don’t think I can follow Andreadis down this particular road, though her commentary does have me thinking about women writers, women protagonists and feminism in the context of fantasy in general.

Having worked as a scientist for more than twenty years, and taught a few of my own courses on women and science, I am not new to feminist discourse. The different schools of feminist thought provide some very powerful tools to help decipher the social constructs that characterize our culture and history. Unfortunately, a feminist analysis of any discipline is an immense topic that cannot be squeezed into a single blog post, and feminism in fantasy is no exception.

Still, as I’ve ventured into the professional world of fantastic literature, I’ve noticed on the one hand, that certain barriers that exist for women in science are also faced by women in fantasy. That if you ask a reader to mention his or her favorite authors, women will almost invariably be in the minority. That stories featuring female protagonists are often perceived as “girl stories”, while stories featuring male protagonists are acceptable reading for everyone.

So it would seem, from this and other less anecdotal evidence, that sexism is alive and well in the field, and that those of us who boast feminist sensibilities have our work cut out for us.

On the other hand, I have had the pleasure of reading a rich variety of fantasy stories about women, written by both women and men. I have met and interacted with a long string of fantasy authors and editors, men and women, who are invariably excited about female protagonists and the crafting of ever more complex roles for the women in our stories.  I've noticed that on the blog Heroines of Fantasy, which often has an overtly feminist tone, our most consistent and enthusiastic commentators have been men.

And when I explore the topic of feminism in fantasy literature, I come across compelling quotes like this one from scholar Elyce Rae Helford:

Science fiction and fantasy serve as important vehicles for feminist thought, particularly as bridges between theory and practice. No other genres so actively invite representations of the ultimate goals of feminism: worlds free of sexism, worlds in which women's contributions (to science) are recognized and valued, worlds in which the diversity of women's desire and sexuality is honored, and worlds that move beyond gender.

So which is it?

Fantasy as a traditionally misogynistic endeavor where only the boys can play, or

Fantasy as the genre that actively promotes the goals of feminism like no other?

At this point in my journey with fantasy, I would say, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I often claim to write in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. That’s probably a little egotistical on my part, but these are two authors among many (including many women) whose work I greatly admire and try to emulate, albeit through a strong manifestation of my own voice and vision.

I know, just like every other woman who has read Tolkien, that his reknowned epic is characterized by a glaring absence of prominent female characters. And while Martin’s world has more to offer in terms of women players, I – like many other readers – have had my complaints about the way he writes his women.

But does that mean I must then denigrate these and other male authors who have committed similar “crimes” as writers of hopelessly bland sexist gruel?

Or can I respect and learn from their legacy, even as I forge a new future for the women of my own stories?

I have, of course, already answered these questions for myself.

Now I invite you to answer them as well.

You may also wish to see my previous post on Women, Epic Fantasy and George R.R. Martin.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sir Drostan and the Tiger

It's been a very long time since I've posted a new audio recording from Eolyn, so I thought I'd give everyone a treat this week -- including myself, because I really enjoy doing audio recordings!

This scene is from the Battle of Aerunden, which takes place toward the end of the novel.  I'm very proud of the battle sequence, described in Publishers Weekly as 'vigorously told'.  This particular excerpt focuses on a minor character, Sir Drostan, a mage warrior and loyal knight of the King.  So you won't see much of Eolyn or Akmael in this scene, but I think you will enjoy it nonetheless.

In other news, author Kim Vandervort is up this week on Heroines of Fantasy, where she invites us to talk about how our tastes in fantasy have changed with the seasons of our lives.  Please stop by to visit and join the discussion. 

Now on to our feature presentation:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hugo Award Nominations

We've entered the season of nominations for this year's Hugo and Nebula Awards.  In order to nominate, you must be registered as a supporting or attending member of WorldCon by no later than January 31, 2012.  The deadline for award nominations is March 11, 2012.  Please visit the WorldCon webpage for more information about registration and the nomination process.

Several Hadley Rille Books titles and artists, including EOLYN, are eligible this year for nominations. If you are a member of WorldCon and would like to consider Hadley Rille titles for nomination, you can contact editor Eric T. Reynolds for a free pdf copy of the title(s) that interest you.  More information, including a complete list of eligible titles and artists, can be found at Eric T. Reynolds livejournal blog.

In other news, author DelSheree Gladden has finished reading EOLYN and posted her review this past weekend.  "Eolyn was a beautiful story," she writes, "one I highly recommend." To read the full review, please visit Gladden's blog The Edible Bookshelf

Last but not least, anyone up for a fun discussion should visit Heroines of Fantasy this week, where we are talking about the rules of magic, the foundations of magic, and magic as the "essential face of fantasy".  Please stop by to read everyone's thoughts and share your own.  Looking forward to seeing you there.  

Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I took a little break between Christmas and now.  I had an enjoyable holiday with family and friends; I hope all of you did as well.

I have some very exciting things going on elsewhere on the internet this week, so rather than keep you here, I'd like to direct you to a couple other places.

Author Delsheree Gladden has posted an interview with me on her blog The Edible Bookshelf.  Delsheree asked a lot of thought-provoking questions about Eolyn, and I had a fun time answering them.  Please stop by to read, comment and ask questions of your own.  Here's the link:

Interview with Karin Rita Gastreich on The Edible Bookshelf

Also, my blog Heroines of Fantasy, with authors Terri Lynne-DeFino and Kim Vandervort, is off to a very active start for 2012 with a discussion about gods and religion in fantasy fiction.  Please join us; it's been great fun, and we'd love to hear your thoughts and insights.  Here's the link for that:

Of Gods and Prophecy 

Today, the blog for Eolyn topped 10,000 hits. A very nice way to start the New Year. Thank you, all my regular and occasional visitors, and all the new people who have discovered this page in recent weeks, for your interest in Eolyn's journey, and in following my journey with her.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!