Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Children’s Book, Fantasy

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson used the penname Lewis Carroll to write. He was an English writer, mathematician and photographer. After writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he next wrote Through the Looking Glass with Alice as protagonist again.

A young girl called Alice follows a talking rabbit down a hole that leads to a magical land that Alice calls Wonderland. Here she meets weird characters. Mostly they are talking animals and crazy looking and behaving humans. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland comprises of all the events Alice endeavors there.

Lewis Carroll must have been high when he wrote this book. The narration is good for storytelling for kids or picturization; not for reading to self. Alice is always either growing tall or short, talking nonsense. Was there a necessity to write this book? Reading this book is a great agony. ‘As soon as she had made out the proper way of nursing it (which was to twist it up into a sort of knot, and then keep tight hold of its right ear and left foot, so as to prevent its undoing itself), she carried it out into the open air.’ This is how handling a baby of unknown species described in the story. What kind of sick mind would do this? It is only when the Mad Hatter appears, that the story starts to make some sense. By the end of the story, you will sure of one thing: one of the 3 people – Lewis Carroll, Alice and her sister – were high. Or all were high indeed. When you finish the book, if you are my kind of a reader who doesn’t quit a book just because it is boring, you will let out a sigh of relief.

Don’t bother reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund

The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy.
Imprint: Readomania
ISBN: 9789385854156

The Lively Library & Unlikely Romance is an appreciable debut novella by Niranjan Navalgund, an author and a chess player from India.

Nayan, an arbiter in the chess tournaments, is now looking after a library that his father has left behind. It was Nayan’s father’s last wish to reopen the library which was very special for him. Why was it special for his father? Nayan doesn’t know. In absence of humans in the immediate surroundings, the books of the library come to life. They have their own world in which they are equipped with all the counterparts of human world. These books fall in love and get married too. Like humans, they too face curses. And they have their own gods too. Pakshi and Helmine are the cursed divine entities of this lively library. While the books are going about their day-to-day lives, they get to know of an upcoming danger. What is that danger? How did they get to know about it? What will they do to protect themselves from this unknown danger? Read the Lively Library & Unlikely Romance to decode the codes of this book world.

For a novella, The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance does good with the brief descriptions and scenes. But as a reader, I felt that the concept of this book, though beautiful, got wasted without the elaboration into grandeur. This concept honestly had such potential. A grand fantasy world got shrunk to a tiny segment. The author could have built on each chapter with more details to cater to the imagination of the readers. I am disheartened by the shortness of this life of the lively library. The calculations in between the narration distracts the flow. And the curses could have been explained in detail too. It is such a loss to the readers! Nevertheless, whatever is narrated is enough to give you a peek into the lively library as the book also has illustrations to aid to your imagination.

Secrets of Zynpagua - Search of Soulmates by Ilika Ranjan

Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates by Ilika Ranjan (Secrets of Zynpagua #2)

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction.
Imprint: Partridge India
ISBN: 9781482886672

Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates is the second book in the Secrets of Zynpagua series by Ilika Ranjan. The first book, Secrets of Zynpagua: Return of the Princess, garnered great reviews and the third book, Secrets of Zynpagua: Birth of Mystery Child, is out now and is up for grabs. Ilika Ranjan is not only a children’s book author. Her first book was a fiction about corporate life called “Puppet on the Fast Track.”

Search of Soulmates starts with Anika, the princess of Zynpagua, getting a premonition that Zynpagua is going to be under a threat again soon. Her premonition turns true when Drudan, the evil scientist, returns with the support of magic of a mermaid to rule of Zynpagua and also rule over the Earth. The demon planets help the evil to reduce the goodness blessed by the good planets and everything falls into place for Drudan and his mermaid. But Anika, with the equipped with the teachings of Venus, fights Drudan, mermaid and their army of evil people and disgusting sea worms, with the support of her mother Sussaina, brother Vivian, Lady Carol – the queen of kingdom of clouds, her grandson Leo, a snake Romeo and a tortoise Mootu along with a flock of magical rainbow birds and peregrine falcons. Femina, who was turned into stone, comes back to life thanks to Anika’s uncle Frederick. To know how an eleven year old princess Anika fights evil, how Femina comes to life and whether they win or lose, read Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates.

Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates is a good sequel to the first book, but needs heavy editing to be done. Apart from that, the story is good enough to cater to children’s imagination. It is a good progress in the Indian scenario for children’s books. It is also an attempt to have both religion and science in one place. Children will definitely enjoy this second book in the series.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction, Classic
ISBN: 978-0-553-21271-6
Imprint: Bantam Classic

Abraham Stoker, an Irish novelist known to the world as Bram Stoker, wrote short stories too. He is famous for his work Dracula, which was first named as The Undead.

The story is set in and written in 19th century. Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from England, goes to Transylvania to meet his client Count Dracula regarding new properties bought for the Count. Since the start of the journey until he reaches the castle, Harker is spooked by the strange things that transpire and the driver controlling the wolves. Once in the castle, the strange behaviour and looks of the old Count Dracula make him nervous. What scare him further are the ghosts that try to feed on him and his house arrest by the Count. While Harker is struggling to escape from Transylvania, his fiancée, Wilhelmina Murray also known as Mina, worries of not hearing properly from him in England. She spends her time with her friend Lucy Westenra in Whitby. Lucy starts behaving strangely at night after being found on lonely ground alone with tow marks on her neck. Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur Holmwood also known as Lord Godalming, and his two friends, Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris who are also in love with Lucy, are worried about continuously failing health of Lucy. Dr. Seward also faces the issue of handling Renfield, a loon. Distraught by this, Dr. Seward invites his professor and friend, Abraham Van Helsing, from Amsterdam to come see Lucy. Van Helsing takes a look at Lucy and understands the reason to be a vampire. He tries to save her and succeeds to even do so, but fails when she throws caution into air. Dead Lucy turns into a vampire, but eventually gets killed. Things take a bad turn when the rescued and married Jonathan Harker sees a young Count Dracula in England. Mina and Jonathan form a team with the other four men to put an end to the haunting in England.

Dracula is written in the diary form. The day-to-day happenings are written in each person’s diary. Each and every minute detail is elaborately explained. Just like other novels written in this format, the story by Bram Stoker too bores the readers every now and then. Skip a few paragraphs and you will still be able to understand what’s going on. The reader will be desperate to finish the book. The only best part, from a movie buff point of view, is you get the origin of Dr. Van Helsing in this book. But we should applaud Bram Stoker for coming up with a vampire story back when people were still not into paranormal fantasy erotica.

Read this classic only if you have nothing better to do.

Loose Strings by Dr. Dale A Grove

Loose Strings by Dr. Dale A Grove

Review by Shwetha H S

What would have happened if many of our eminent scientists had not died or deviated from their scientific aims in their lives? Humanity would have technologically developed, but not sure for good or bad. In another universe, a world called Regnus is highly developed, so developed that its citizens are at the dead end of any kind of technological development because they have exhausted themselves in every possibility. To stay as the most developed world of theirs as well as neighbouring universes, the History Security Officers are assigned the tasks of distracting scientists of different worlds and hindering them from reaching their goals. On one such mission, Regnus’ History Security Officer Rakena meets Dr. Wolfe Sterling, who is trying to save science on Earth. What happens to the history science on Earth? Does Rakena succeed in altering Earth’s scientific history? Will Dr. Wolfe Sterling resist the alien beauty’s ventures?

Loose Strings has a good storyline with multiple time travelling and travelling between universes, complex ideas of physics which you don’t need to understand in depth to enjoy the story. Since all the characters are humans and similar to humans, the reader doesn’t have to think about the complexities of the alien anatomy. But the problem is there are so many characters; even the supporting characters have their own supporting characters and storylines. The story is fast paced, but there are times when there are abrupt shifts from one scene to another, or a character doing something which wasn’t actually necessary or called for. But the only point that becomes difficult to accept is the element of God in the Sci-Fi novel. It almost becomes like preaching Christianity to the readers with the help of aliens. Dr. Dale A Grove lets the readers down when he starts talking about God.

Except for the God part, the novel must be for its unique time travel and multiverse travel story. Sci-Fi lovers will enjoy this if they ignore the sudden inclusion of the Almighty.

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Review by Shwetha H S

It has been years since Prince Charming rescued Princess Snow White. Don’t you want to know what she has been up to? David Meredith tells you what our naive princess has been up to in her happily ever after in a life after marrying Prince Charming in this story based on the fairy tale by Grimm brothers. Hang in there because this is not just a mere extension of a fairy tale.

Snow White is not a princess anymore. She is a queen now. With her husband, King Charming dead and her daughter Raven’s wedding nearing, Queen Snow White is indifferent to everything is lost without her loving husband. In a bid to get out of the depression, the Queen decides to take a stroll in her own castle and absentmindedly ends up in her tormenting but dead stepmother Lady Arglist’s chamber. There she finds the famed Mirror on the Wall. Contrary to the popular belief, or our understanding from the original Snow White tale, the mirror is not an ally of the villain and is just a reflector of truth.

The mirror shows and tells Snow White what she has been denying for all those years and tries to make her see the light. It makes Snow White realise when and why she actually started hating her stepmother, the strength she had to brace against Lady Arglist’s abuses, the helpless determination to escape from her tormentor, how she was saved by her dwarves and her prince, how her husband made a lady out of a girl, how her husband helped her in the matters of court, how she had found the long lost courage to stand for herself in the absence of her husband against usurpers, love and devotion of her husband displayed vividly on the verge of her death and escape from it, and love and admiration of her Raven proven when King Charming dies unexpectedly. Through all this, the mirror makes Queen Snow White understand that she and her husband lived wonderful years together, she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, her daughter and her kingdom, and she was no more and damsel in distress.

Through this story based on a fairy tale, the author David Meredith conveys the message that girls should stop acting damsel in distress and waiting for their Prince Charming, and instead should stand tall and charm their way to their life goals. This is a story worth reading because it tells you what happens after the mythical “happily-ever-after” and even Snow White had a life like us.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

Review by Shwetha H S

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander is one of the books that’s part of Harry Potter’s curriculum in Hogwarts. Though this book claims to be an encyclopaedia about magical animals, it turns out to be a mere catalogue, all the magical animals in alphabetical order. It is a commendable effort to come up with seventy-five species of magical animals, but the descriptions don’t cater much to the reader’s imagination regarding the physical appearances of certain animals. Considering this book to be part of Hogwarts’ curriculum, how can students rely on this book? At some places the description is just splendid, but for rest we have to just keep calm. Unsure about how the animals are meant to be, now the reader has to rely on the movie version of this book. But, the way categorisation of beasts is done and how each animal or beast is different from the other, makes us appreciate the mesmerising world of Harry Potter and other witches and wizards. Of course, now Muggles too.

The Rise of Hastinapur by Sharath Komarraju

The Rise of Hastinapur by Sharath Komarraju (Hastinapur, #2)

Review by Shwetha H S

Following the events that occurred by the death of Vichitraveerya in the Book #1 of Hastinapur series, The Winds of Hastinapur by Sharath Komarraju, The Rise of Hastinapur starts with Amba who becomes a priestess, then takes you to Pritha, the princess of Kunti, and at last Gandhari, the princess of Gandhar. Devavrata is now renowned as Bhishma, and Satyavati is not mentioned much in here, but Ganga is still there. And you get to meet Shakuni, the prince of Gandhar and younger brother of Gandhari. Hastinapur has grown to be a juggernaut and so does the number of people scheming for the downfall of Hastinapur and Bhishma.

This book, more than the first one, leaves you wondering if Bhishma was truly a visionary or just a happy-go-lucky chap for the time being. More than men, he has women scheming against him and he has no idea like ever. The celestials are present as usual and they play their role whenever necessary. There are lust-filled, power- hungry people everywhere who may or may not be truly brave. As the story continues, it is easier now to see these characters from Mahabharata to be more realistic than magical as they are told to be. Of course, magic is there due to the Celestials, but this retelling doesn’t have magic for everything; like magic to bring shoot arrows and burn people.

As the story moves forward, there are more and more characters brought in. I am sure there are more to come. Why? Because this is Mahabharata! There are numerous characters meant to be in it. But for now, the royal ladies are paving the path to where they go and lay the foundation to one of the epics that mankind has ever witnessed (ahem, read). So, brace yourselves people. Sharath Komarraju is here to stay narrating his version of Mahabharata.

The Winds of Hastinapur by Sharath Komarraju

The Winds of Hastinapur by Sharath Komarraju (Hastinapur, #1)

Review by Shwetha H S

We grew up listening to tales of Mahabharata and sub-stories related to this epic. Many of us must have even watched the telecast of B R Chopra’s and Ravi Chopra’s Mahabharat and its many re-telecasts. The epic is etched on our minds so well that we can’t imagine anybody else for all the characters apart from those who portrayed them. But Sharath Komarraju manages to cast away those familiar images and instil new ones in their places through his first book in this Hastinapur series, which is a retelling of Mahabharata, called The Winds of Hastinapur. You certainly won’t think of Mukesh Khanna when you think of Devavrata while reading this story.

The Hastinapur series is not only about Mahabharata, but about women of Mahabharata. True to being the first in the series, The Winds of Hastinapur tells you where and why a path was paved for this epic. There is a great man at the beginning of every epic and behind every great (replacing successful) man, there is a woman. And that woman is none other than Ganga, and many other women who were the Lady of the River before her. Then came Satyavati followed by Amba and her sisters. The story in the first book mainly revolves around the age-old concept, you know what they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Well, this applies only for Ganga here. Satyavati is more of “I am the woman.” Amba arrives towards the end of the story and that makes me guess it is from her the next story starts.

There are men too in this story. Apart from many celestials and sages, we have many kings here. Out of them, Shantanu and Devavrata, who goes on to be known as Bhishma. You will take pity on both the men as the story moves ahead.

From what is depicted of this epic in sculptures and paintings on ancient architectures, we already know that men were brave and women were sensual. But imagine them to be making out with each other? Oh, they were more human than divine. Or did divine blood too crave for intercourse? This retelling is more realistic than completely magical; like babies popping out of nowhere. Nonetheless, this retelling of Mahabharata is worth reading and it keeps you waiting for the next book is the series, The Rise of Hastinapur.

Guest Post: Fantasies, Mary Sues, and Finding New Ways to Tell Old Stories by J M Frey

I love SF/F, but about a decade ago, back before my academic studies kept me from being the voracious reader I used to be (and back before YA became a thing – yes, I’m that old), I was finding that I was getting exhausted with it. It was the same thing over, and over, and over again.

I mean, I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but just look at all those white men. I can’t tell them apart from far away. It’s the same with video game protagonists lately. Two decades ago there was more diversity. Now it’s all vaguely tanned, scruffy brunette soldier guys.

So much in media – and especially in SF/F – we see female characters who are simply not complexly written. The character exists to be the pursued love interest a.k.a the princess in the tower, with very little deep-down characterization and motivation beyond Looking Pretty For The Hero. Or, they exist only for the sake of a plot point – if they come to harm, it’s to further the hero’s emotional journey or to spur him to action. If they step out of this mould, it’s because they’re crazy, or rebellious, or crazy villains (because only the crazy ones wouldn’t desire to please the hero, right?).

This is all my very long way of saying – as a woman reading the classic epic fantasy novels of my youth, it left a faintly bitter taste in my mouth whenever the heroes met a female character. These books told me, time and again, that I as a woman was only good for those things. And as a woman, I had no right to any further development, or complex desires.

It’s exhausting. It’s no fun being told you are worthless.

(As an aside – thank god and praise be to the wonderful and diverse YA writers who populate the shelves now. I wish I’d had you around when I was a teenager.)

As I was contemplating whether I really wanted to write a fantasy book in the classic tradition – or how I ever could –  the buzz for this new TV show started to fill the air: Game of Thrones. I’d never heard of George R.R. Martin, or read his books, prior to the series coming out. But it sounded right up my alley, so I watched.

It gave me a lot of ideas about how I’d like to build my fantasy world, and what sorts of characters to create to inhabit it, but mostly what it really sparked in me was a kind of low-level resentment. It wasn’t aimed at the show, but at the guy friend I was watching it with. We had an argument about intended audience, and I couldn’t get him to understand how much it sucks to not be the center, to not be the target or the intended. I mean, I literally couldn’t get him to understand that Game of Thrones, while not horrible, was not made for me, but for people like him: White. Male. Straight.

I was so angry I went off to my office and wrote a scene where a female character yells at the hero of a standard fantasy series just to get all the frustration out in the open. The next morning I reread it and thought: “I think there’s something in this. This frustration at always being on the edge. This awareness that you are present but forced to be silent.”

And I really liked the idea of a main character that was that self aware. Who could yell back at the book. I wrote my MA thesis on Mary Sue fan fiction, and why Mary Sues are important to fandom and are an important stage in the evolution of a writer.

Mary Sues are the first literary impulse of children who have grown out of elastic imaginative play on the jungle gym, shouting “I’m a Ninja Turtle and you’re a G.I. Joe, and I’m a special girl turtle because turtles can be girls too!”

At the risk of generalizing, I would even say that Mary Sues are the way we all enter fandom. We enter that world of play by imagining ourselves there. As children we do it by running around the yard with toy lightsabers and My Little Ponies.

Then as fannish youths, we make up elaborate stories – sometimes only in our own heads – about what we would do if we were friends with (or romantic interests to) the heroes we adore. I know as a teenager I so desperately wanted to be a Sailor Scout that I carried around a glass jewel that I had fallen off a chandelier in the hopes that it would turn out to be a Power Crystal if I just wished hard enough.

Later, if this sort of fannishness leads us to fanfiction and we choose to write, then we develop those imagination games into our first tentative written words. So it makes sense that the first literary impulse should be to include ourselves – or rather, an idealized version of ourselves, because we all would prefer to be our idealized selves – into the worlds that we love. It absolutely makes sense that overwhelmingly new fanfiction author’s first works are Mary Sue fic.

It is only later that, as writers, we develop the skills and ability to tell stories about characters who are not ourselves. We learn by writing other people’s well-rounded original fictional characters. Then still later, if the fanfiction author decides to move to profic (and many don’t, preferring to keep writing a beloved hobby), then we use those skills we honed to create our own well-rounded original fictional characters.

And I think this is a lot of why Mary Sues are derided; they remind readers of our own first, embarrassing, coltish forays into story-telling.  It’s a knee-jerk reaction to want to distance yourself from something mortifying that you did by mocking it.

But I think we need to stop coming down so hard on Mary Sues. They are important.  You don’t yell at a child for failing to colour within the lines. We shouldn’t yell at writers about Mary Sues.

Meta Sues – Mary Sues written with a conscious and deliberate hand, by an author aware of all that a Mary Sue is and utilizing the powers of the trope to bend the narrative of their tale in interesting ways – are fascinating.

Like taking Selfies, consciously writing Meta Mary Sues is an intensely, defiantly feminist act.

It is a way of saying I am here, and I am worth celebrating. And as aware, mature writers consciously choosing to write Mary Sues, we are forcing space for ourselves and people like us in media texts and literary traditions that otherwise marginalize or silence voices like ours. We are deliberately making space for ourselves and people like us.

And it occurred to me then that this was the perfect way to marry that academic discourse with my love of fantasy. So I created Lucy Piper, a Meta Sue.

This is not, of course, the only way to write a feminist novel. It is simply the way I chose to write one, and why. And so dismissing Pip as simply a Mary Sue in the pejorative sense is missing the point.

I laboured to create a strongly written female character (as opposed to a strong violent female character), with motivations and desires that yeah, sometimes are at odds with themselves, like they are in real life. She’s not violent, she can’t fight back.

Yes, she is harmed for the sake of the plot. Yes, she is, in fact, rescued.  If you’re going to write a novel about those tropes, you must first enact them. The book features sexual assault, yes, but not for titillation. It exists to be confronted, starkly, and discussed. If I had left it out, I feel like it  would have been a glaring error, because it would have been an obvious avoidance of the typical fate of female characters in fantasy. Worse, it would have been cowardly.

Pip is a highly intelligent woman, too. I gave another character my childhood nervous stutter, but I gave Pip my current speech patterns. She, like my friends and I, speaks in essays and academic discourse. This is how PhD candidates communicate. And anyone who says that Pip’s rants and outbursts are contrived and awkward clearly hasn’t spent any time in a university grad lounge during happy hour. 😉

Pip’s strength comes from embracing the tropes that fantasy literature imposes on her simply because she is a woman, and using them to her own advantage and power. Pip is a strong female character because of her wit, her intellect, and from that very thing that makes all female fantasy readers powerful – her fannishness. There is power in being a fangirl, and there is a complexity there to, in loving the problematic.

Also, Pip is not white. I wanted to write a story that not only was different than what was normally told, but points out why diversity in the types of characters included is important. That not only contains this diversity, but also discusses it. I wanted to write a book that makes the readers intensely aware that it is a book. And yet still be entertaining. I hope I’ve succeeded.

And that brings us to Forsyth.

Like the rest of my oeuvre, I made a point of choosing the least likely narrator I could for the story.  I love to tell stories from a perspective that is just on the rim of the action. History is written by the victors, they say, which has always made me wonder how the losers would tell it. Or the victor’s personal assistant or dog-walker. How is the same tale told when it’s being related by someone who isn’t in the center of it? Someone who isn’t the hero?

For me, for the personal choices I made, and for the way that I wanted to approach a feminist fantasy novel (not the only way, but the way that I prefer to approach it) it had to be first person from the POV of this outsider, because then we had access to his personal thoughts on the action.

Forsyth is a Mary Sue, too. And that is feminist as well.

Forsyth is a genuinely good man who’s just never had a break. He is whip-smart, but he’s been overshadowed by his hero big brother his whole life. He is physically normal, and he feels, intensely, the pressure to be an alpha-hero man’s man. He is, in essence, the geek everyman.

Compared to his fantasy-hero-brother he could even be derided for being “girly”, though that might be a narrow, patriarchical view of a male character whose power lies in realms outside of violence and upholding toxic masculinity ideas of what it means to be “a man”. I personally believe that it’s misogynistic to declare that a man is not allowed to enjoy things that have been coded as traditionally feminine, like reading and dancing.

Even when, especially when, Pip falls into the trap of deriding traditionally female pursuits as girlie herself. Pip is not written to be the perfect feminist (for there is, unfortunately, no such thing, no matter how hard I may try), and she has to spend part of the book learning what that means, even as she teaches it to Forsyth.

Forsyth finds his own power through being a geek. He doesn’t transform into a muscle-bound sword-waving hero. Instead he finds his own heroism in his own strengths, in his own way. He doesn’t transform so much as finally begins to fill his own skin. He is the fact-gathering, body-conscious, socially anxious nerdboy that we all know and love, and that is the source of his heroism and power.

His other strength is in how he doesn’t see the women around him as lesser, especially the women of colour.

And of course, it was also important to me to fashion Forsyth as being human. Characters are allowed to have sexual thoughts and attractions – Forsyth muses often on how desirable he finds Pip. Human beings desire. That’s normal. We look at each other and think, yeah, I’d like to jump that. Yum. Sex, and sexual desire, is allowed.

But his strength of character comes from how he handles those desires. He doesn’t force them on Pip. He doesn’t feel entitled to have her just because he wants her. He doesn’t moan about friendzones. He asks.

He is, I suppose, like any good Mary Sue (Marty Stu?) the idealized version of a geek everyman. And not so unrealistic for all that – I know Forsyth Turns IRL. They exist. But he is, in many ways, also my perfect fantasy book boyfriend. I will admit to have maybe making him a little too romantic. 😀

The Accidental Turn Series was not created to attack the works of Tolkien, Jordan, Brooks, or Martin, but rather to converse with them. These great classic fantasy books, they gave us what it means to write modern western fantasy, and what it means to be a fantasy writer. With each generation, it’s the artist’s responsibility to enter into a dialogue with what came before. That’s how you get expressionism and cubism out of the work of the romantics. This is my reply to what came before me. This is the next phrase in the dialogue. The next evolution of the genre. Ambitious? Probably. But you might as well shoot for the moon, right?

I hope the book will really resonate with readers like me, readers who love fantasy books but are frustrated at never seeing themselves in the books (or, if they are, as villains, exotic “others”, or savages). I mean, it’s no wonder the weird kids always fall in love with monsters, and bad guys, and mutant characters – it’s the only place we see ourselves.

My two main heroes – Pip and the narrator character Forsyth – start the book damaged by the demands of what their respective gender roles force on them in the world of Fantasy. They are the Mary Sues, the stand in for the readers. But by the end, they find power in that very Mary Suishness that they inhabit. They find the power in doing their best to be feminist, being outside of the norm, and being fans.


J.M. Frey is a voice actor, SF/F author, cosplayer, and fanthropologist. The Untold Tale, book one of the Accidental Turn series, is now available from all major online and IRL retailers. | @scifrey