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Picturing a World

Hokusai fantasy drawing

This picture of a mythological subject by Katsushika Hokusai is one of 103 drawings recently acquired by the British Museum. They were preparatory sketches for a book that was never published. In a way, they fit into Jeanette's Parisian art world, because the set was acquired by Henri Verver (1854–1942), a jeweler and early collector of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. What struck me immediately, though, was how the image relates to a Japanese word, komorebi for those dawn sunbeams radiating through trees on a misty morning. Or, for that matter, to comic books—ka-pow!
 

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Gurney on imaginative fiction

Blog post alert: Author-illustrator James Gurney has posted a Q&A on his world of Dinotopia well worth reading. He makes the point, for instance, that fully illustrated books are immersive and provide triggers to deepen the reader's involvement in imagining that world. One answer to a question, however, startled me.
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Katharine Cameron

I'm reading The Fairest of Them All by Maria Tater (2020), and naturally the first thing I did was look at all the pictures. The blue-and-white vase in this one caught my eye because I have a friend who is an expert on blue-and-white china. It amuses us both to come across it in odd contexts—in this case, a picture of Snow White's stepmother by Katharine Cameron from Louey Chisholm's In Fairyland (1904). That date for a children's book puts it squarely in my character Mattie's world, and Cameron just might be someone for Amy Richardson to know if I decide to follow Amy's story.

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Flyaway

Kathleen Jennings is the first to say that her new short novel, Flyaway, is not for everyone. But if you are a fantasy-fiction aficionado, yes. If you keep an eye on the arts Down Under, yes. If you are a fan of illustrated books and especially Jennings' own silhouettes, yes. If you are interested in how to adapt traditional European folklore to modern settings in the rest of the world, yes. And if you want to observe a skillful unfolding of one plot (the gothic story) that at the same time explores a quite different center of emotion (a damaged yet potent friendship), yes.

 

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Eeyore huts in Epping Forest

Blog post alert: Escape to Epping Forest! Admire the Eeyore huts built by local inhabitants. No point except it's lovely (and, of course, just might inspire a story). Via Spitalfields Life (and thank you).

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Jennings’ Undine Love

Kathleen Jennings, 2020 illus. for "Undine Love"

A post, Undine Love: Reprint, new art, at Kathleen Jennings' blog took me to the reprint of her story, "Undine Love," in full at Tor. What a treat—both the story and the silhouettes! They are a reminder that updating a fairy tale or folkloric motif can be a great way to begin a story of your own. The backbone of plot comes essentially ready-made, leaving you free to work on other aspects of composition—setting, character, dialogue, incidents (as opposed to the underlying structure). The talent to illustrate would be a big bonus—and might just affect the tone and finished piece. Wish I had the talent and the training!

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Disparities

Good news! Bookstores are reopening in Massachusetts. Shopping in one of my favorites, the Bookloft, requires an appointment; but the store has a good website. For summer reading, I have just ordered a Martin Walker mystery and a boxed set of N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth Trilogy.
 
Bad news: I have also just read an article about disparities in pay between white and black authors. Good grief. Jemisin, who is black, was given advances of just $25,000 for each volume of the trilogy—each one of which won the Hugo Award for Fiction (the third also won the Nebula Award).

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Pockets

For my current fantasy story, I was wondering where a character might hide an amulet. Quick research on clothes turned up a delightful Victoria and Albert Museum post on the history of pockets from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Among its illustrations are three photographs of this doll—"Lady Clapham"—showing her in different layers of clothing. Surely, she herself can suggest a story for children, the motive or crucial clue in a mystery, or one of those novels that involve researching the contents of a trunk. Her pocket, by the way, is tied to her waist.

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Shelter in place

I was searching the McClung Collection of the Knox County (Tennessee) Public Library for a totally different historic image when I ran across this house plan from 1901 (Mattie might know someone back in Ohio who built just such a house). House plans are wonderful aids to imagining places in fiction, and local libraries like the Knoxville can be unexpectedly rich sources of images.
 
In this case, however, what struck me was how useful the image was for carrying out Natasha Pulley's exercise in starting a fantasy story. Remember? It has three parts: List five impossible things. Choose one and list questions related to "If this is true, what else must be true?" Think about those particulars, then write a paragraph.

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Book and illustration (7): Little Grey Men

No, the Little Grey Men involved do not include Michael Bloomberg. They are gnomes invented in the 1940's by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote stories as B.B. and illustrated them under his own name. A post on Nature, gnomes, and the power of story at Terri Windling's blog, Myth and Moor, put me onto his novel for children, The Little Grey Men. Actually, I had already recently encountered the book in Philip Pullman's Daemon Voices, which handsomely reproduces one of the illustrations (p. 256).
 
Pullman says of "B.B.": "In some ways he was a limited writer, but the honesty and passion with which he talks about wild things and wild places suffuses his best passages with a love of landscape, and specifically the English landscape, that is irresistible." True!

 

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