Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Tale of Tail

I received a delightful note in the post the other day from David and Beth Cooper-Pentewyns, owners of the Plum Wine and Piffle Gallery, announcing a new exhibit, entitled “The Catgirls of Caledon,” by Miss Tasha Sandalwood. (And, believe me, Caledon has a great many Catgirls, for reasons that remain obscure to me.) The Cooper-Pentewyns went on to say: “The artist has been intrigued by our catgirls and her photos are lively and show an appreciation of the special qualities of the cat girl.

Plum Wine and Piffle Gallery 004

The exhibition is in the upper gallery.

Plum Wine and Piffle Gallery 001

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Meanwhile, in the lower gallery, pictures by Mr. and Mrs. Cooper-Pentewyn are displayed.

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The exhibit and the gallery are both charming and worth dropping in on.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SF Plots Editors Don't Want

Via Magda Kamenev, “10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories that Editors are Tired of Seeing” on

Zombies, sure. Too many Walking Dead and World War Z wanna-bes out there. Parallel universes, fine. Also a lot of Fringe fans still writing fanfic. Time travel, ditto Doctor Who. Faux Steampunk, yeah, annoying. Fairytale retellings… I’ve read 'em, I wrote one, they’re fun, but I can see how they can tire an editor quickly. Mermaids, though? Tween fans of Ariel writing mermaid stories? But fine. Revenge stories, “edgy” stories, yeah, I’ve waded through too many for my taste. Pregnancy horror? Isn’t the alien baby bursting out of the belly a metaphor for the all-consuming nature of children and, if so, how can we have too many of those?

But what caught my attention was Number Ten on the list, “Pun/twist ending.” You see, as a youngster of around 15, eons ago, I was a subscriber to Asimov’s and, God help me, enjoyed the occasional story, often by Isaac Asimov himself, that was nothing more than a long setup to a groaner of an ending. Naturally, I wrote one and submitted it to the magazine. Equally naturally, the story was rejected. I rather expected that - I have a big ego, but not that big - and I was happy with a hand-written note by the editor, George Scithers, or at least one of his minions. However, I was mildly taken aback by the content of the note, which said the story was being rejected as it was “contrived.” Contrived? ConTRIVED? Come on, George, that’s the nature of the beast. They’re all contrived.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Victorian Fantasy: "The Water of the Wondrous Isles"

It seems as though it’s been quite a while since I’ve written one of these Journal entries… By gum, it has been a while - since about this time last month, in fact. While I’ve been idle, my alter ego has been busy, but with matters too trivial to write about.

But here we are again, another month and another meeting of the Victorian Fantasy discussion group. This month’s selection is the 1897 novel The Water of the Wondrous Isles, by William Morris, the noted artist. Having read the book several months back, for a meeting of the group that had to be cancelled, the story was not exactly fresh in my mind. I was hoping for a large turnout to conceal that fact but, alas, this was not to be.

The book describes the adventures of a young heroine named Birdalone. Kidnapped by a witch and raised in a forest, she encounters a magical godmother, makes her escape from the witch in a boat that magically travels the titular isles, and meets a variety of people including three women who have been taken from their loves. Eventually she meets the boyfriends, falls in love with one, gets one killed, takes leave of the kingdom, works in a trade, meets more men, people are partnered up, and all live… well, if not happily ever after, at least satisfactorily.

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 001

As one can see from the photograph above, the reading room had plenty of seating available. Nonetheless, we had an interesting discussion as always, remarking on Morris’ writing style (which had an almost fable-like cadence to it, hearkening back to medieval quest literature - and, of course, Birdalone’s journey is very much a quest), his intense and somewhat unseemly liking for his main character, and why the young lady spends the first part of the book unclothed.

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I listen to the wisdom of others (no, seriously!)

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Dame Kghia Gherardi

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A clean-shaven Sir JJ Drinkwater and Miss Ellie Mink

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Miss Lacey Brenner

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Mr. OldeSoul Eldemar...

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 007
…and his wife, Mrs. (Cassie) Eldemar

Alas, next month is the final meeting for the group, a wrap-up session in which we discuss our favorite (and least favorite?) works, and perhaps even consider what might come next.