Next week I will be in Saratoga Springs, NY with a whole host of companions from the SF/F not-so-hive mind, attending the World Fantasy Convention.
Special note: WINTERWODE will be having its official release party at the convention on Saturday (07 Nov.) at 6:00 p.m., with snacks, drinks, door prizes, the lot… and I will be signing copies of this newest Book of the Wode. Stay tuned for more info and, if you can, come say hullo!
And I was pondering how best to honour a Favoured Outlaw. Some time ago I wrote Some Musings about a few of the reasons Robin Hood always lurks in the collective unconscious, and I could certainly ponder further upon that, but…
Well, it seemed that to list some creative retellings of Robin’s many faces would be a far more fitting tribute. I certainly cannot list them all — nor would I choose to, in some cases 😉 — but here are some of the prose examples that have, over the years, lain very close to my heart.
Top of my list now, but at first I was hesitant to read them. Not because of the quality of writing (duh, it’s Parke Godwin), but due to the unexpected time frame. Robin Hood circa 1066 ACE? But I was young and foolish. Because why not? and yes!–Godwin took the Saxon/Norman conflict and put it where it truly belonged, with an amazing surround and strong, well-rounded characterisations… which meant, of course, they break your heart in all the right places.
Last of the Greenwood by Sharon Whitby
This one has all but disappeared, which is a shame. (Even the verrry dated cover that really doesn’t do the story justice is my old battered copy scanned in–couldn’t find it online.) I discovered Last of the Greenwood years ago whilst first researching the rest of the then-trilogy begun in Greenwode… and the dark mysticism in it was familiar, compelling… and reassuring, particularly to a young writer trying her own wierd new take on a warhorse of a legend.
The Sheriff of Nottingham by Richard Kluger
Told from the titular P.o.V., this was a refreshing take. An anti-hero, certainly, but not a shallow villain with no story of his own.
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
Robin is, in this book, a minor–and nicely ambiguous–character, but the Wood is the true wonder; a character in its own right, dark and magical and not-quite-friendly.
In all these examples, the prose runs from brilliant to sublime. Beautiful and evocative writing.
Of course, I also must mention the ones that lie closest to my heart.
If I didn’t care about my own characters, didn’t love and hate and suffer with them… believe in them… even more than I cherish these other examples? There would be little point to living, loving, and suffering with Robyn Hode and his covenant of the Shire Wode.
So to the spirit of Robin and his band, in all their many incarnations — I salute you!
LAST WEEK I spent some time talking to the delightful, extraordinarily nice people of the WROTE podcast about the new release of Winterwode, writing life, subtext and research and many thought-y things. Hey, they didn’t even threaten me with duct tape!
As I said, Vance, Angel and Baz were very nice folks… and very patient interviewers. 😉 Check it out! WROTE podcast with J Tullos Hennig
Off to Sasquan next week (19-23 Aug) for some immersion therapy with like-minded Speculative geeks. DSP Publications will have a table chok full o’ books, and yours truly will either be there or be sitting upon various panels and programming. Like:
Legends and Lore of the Pacific Northwest–the Rapid Fire Reading with Broad Universe–a belly dance workshop (yes, in my other, less mild-mannered ego I like to shimmy to odd-metre dumbek music)—a kaffee klatsch and a reading and a signing–and spending some lovely research hours at the Gonzaga library.
Come say hullo!
Well, at the con, not the library. I might growl if you disturb me in the stacks. 😉
I’m sharing the news and the cover goodness not only online, but this weekend as a guest author at BritishFest 2 in Council Bluffs Iowa. Pics to come later. Because, cover. ——>>
It is beautiful, isn’t it?
Shobana Appavu is a goddess of all things art.
You can find more info on Winterwode by clicking on the amazing cover art —–>>>>
This week I’m away to Denver and the Historical Novel Society conference! There will be book signings, a broadsword workshop, a costume pageant, and overall indulgence in the world of things historically geeky. Looking forward to it! http://hns-conference.org/
Hope to see some of you there. If you’re in Denver, let me know.
And here’s a lovely 12th century archer, just to get us all in the mood. 😉
Next week, 12-14 June, I’m off to Anglicon, a British media convention at the Seattle Airport Doubletree Hilton. I’m heading a few panels and will be in the dealer’s room with the Wode books and various Robin Hood goodies, accompanied by a glass of wine and Amazing Spouse.
Click the logo for more info and, if you’re in the area, come say hullo!
HERE’S THE PLAN: to pull out a book from my tight-packed bookshelves and share it. Qualifications? It has to be one I’ve read over and over again, one that has inspired my own writing, and one that gave me a lasting experience of some sort. There are so many older books that are just too damned good to be buried in the mosh pit of publishing fashions and frenzies. So I’m going to pull them out and have another dance with them. And hopefully encourage others to do the same.
In my own pantheon of The Three Marys, there is one whose Historical Fiction was greatly instrumental in prompting me to plunge into the writing of said genre. Mary Renault didn’t need to adopt the detached, oft-pontificating tone in which historical fiction can sometimes indulge. Her works possessed a profound gift–the storyteller’s art in motion. Her characters were real, passionate, often deeply flawed… and you were right in there with them.
My choice for today, out of many excellent novels, had to be The King Must Die. This cover image is from my bookshelves and the mass market edition circa 1979, but the original date is 1958, and my first read was from the public library. The King Must Die was my introduction to Ms Renault’s works–I think I read it when I was eleven or twelve. (We didn’t have or read ‘YA’ when I was of that age–we read books!) Already more comfortable with mythological and speculative worlds than any contemporary reality, I’d not yet realised how fascinating history was–no doubt in consequence of the dry dates and statistics to which public school curriculum rendered it.
This book began to change all that for me. A retelling of the myth of Theseus, it had an undeniable and firm grasp upon the historical personalities and realities that birth legends. It was that seemingly effortless mix that truly comes only with serious application of craft. Gritty and sometimes unpleasant, yet nonetheless magical in every sense, the novel makes an impassioned appeal for both the fantastic and the historic–together. It was bildungsroman (woot!) at its finest, warts and all, with an oft-unreliable narrator as hero, displaying both the arrogance and virtues of a deeply-inculturated young man. Not much is shied away from or glossed into comfortable platitudes. You root for Theseus, as well as long to give him a good spanking. 😉
It takes little guesswork to hazard that The King Must Die is responsible for my plunge into a lifelong fascination with Sacrifice and Sacred Kingships from all cultures. It also made it difficult for me to be satisfied with a lot of first person narrative. It’s a form that not many can achieve with the same effortless grace as Mary Renault. (Or my inaugural Retro Rec author, Mary Stewart, for that matter.)
Recently, I heard a writer at a convention recommend Mary Renault–with the caveat, however, that ‘she is old-fashioned’. I was rather appalled at anyone attempting excuses for someone who had more talent in one nib finger than most writers possess in their entire repertoire… but, after all, we all say a lot of silly things when we’re baby writers. Though I truly don’t think I had the brass to assume myself able to take a mammoth with a BB gun. 😉 Not with prose that glides like this:
The Great Court was empty under the moon. Tier upon tier rose the pillared balconies, dimly glowing. Lamps flickered behind curtains of Eastern stuff. The pots of lilies and of flowering lemon trees shed a sweet heavy scent. A cat slipped from shadow to shadow, and a Cretan who looked as if his errand were the same. Then all was silent. The great horns upon the roof-coping reared up as if they would gore the stars.
I stretched out my hands palm downward and held them over the earth. “Father Poseidon, Horse Father, Lord of Bulls, I am in your hand, whenever you call me. That is agreed between us. But as you have owned me, give me this one things first. Make me a bull-leaper.”
No question in my heart, I would encourage everyone to read The King Must Die. Or any of Mary Renault’s books. And come on, I read it at the age of eleven; surely it isn’t that insurmountable an experience. If it is, indeed, ‘old-fashioned’, then bloody DAMN but we need more ‘old fashioned’ in this world.