What’s New for the 28th of February: Fairy Tales, Americana Music and Other Matters

Once upon a time fairy tales were told to audiences of young and old alike. It is only in the last century that such tales were deemed fit only for small children, stripped of much of their original complexity, sensuality, and power to frighten and delight.― Terri Windling in her introduction to  Tanith Lee’s White as Snow novel

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I’ve heard too many folks in a given arts community, be it folk music, fantastic fiction or even graphic novels, bitterly lament the lack of  superb existing works by women. I say bullshit. And this edition, which samples but a few of the myraid reviews that we’ve done down the decades of artistic efforts by women, is evidence. Indeed, we live in a golden age of such writers with Emma Bull, Tanith Lee, Leona Wisoker, Jo Walton, Catherine Valente, Ursula Le Guin, Madeline L’Engle, Emma Bull,  Patricia Briggs, Gail Carriger,  Angela Carter, Kage Baker and Mary Gentle, to name but a few of the many we’ve reviewed who were active from the Sixties onward — or are still.

There of course editors such as Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, Paula Guran, and Sharon November and Thersa Nielson-Hyden to name but a few that come to mind right now as having been reviewed by us.

Graphic novels written by women that you’ll find reviewed here are, I admit, fewer than we’d like. Gail Simone and G. Willow Wilson should be read by everyone liking a good tale told well, and don’t stop there — delve into the graphic novels featuring the scripts of Denise Mina, Jane Yolen, Marjane Satrapi, Marjorie Liu, and Kaja Foglio, as these are worth seeking.

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Thomas the Rhymer gets the approval of Camille: ‘Ellen Kushner has taken Child Ballad #37 (upon which Steeleye’s version is based) and thoroughly fleshed it out into a most enjoyable and fascinating read. In one of those odd coincidences in life (or maybe not so odd), the afore-mentioned Maddy Prior is quoted on the back cover of this paperback, saying “A book to introduce those who know nothing of the ballads to their rich and deep content … and intrigue those already familiar with them.” I couldn’t agree with her more. Think of it, if you will, as your invitation to a most marvelous world you might not discover otherwise.’

Grey looks at The Wood Wife by Terri Windling: ‘Some writers give us stories that are like keys to the door of our cage. They let us escape out of a world that is mostly mundane, often confusing and troubling, into worlds of light and beauty. Because of them, we learn to hope for a better world. Then there are writers who give us stories that are like looking glasses, through which we can see our world with fresh, strangely clear vision. Because of them, we learn to love the world we have more fiercely. In her fairy tale The Wood Wife, Terri Windling gives us a story that begins like a key, but turns into a looking glass in our hands.’

Kestrell looks at am important female fantasy I overlooked: ‘While Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase series has remained popular since her death in 2004, perhaps becoming even more popular due to its vaguely steampunk and alternate Victorian timeline, Aiken’s short story collections have mostly fallen out of print, becoming ever more scarce as the original books from the 1970s and 1980s slowly disintegrate or disappear. Thus, the publication of The Monkey’s Wedding and Other Stories by Small Beer Press is doubly welcome, as it not only gathers many of Aiken’s early stories into a single collection, but helps to keep in print the stories of one of the best, but still sadly under appreciated, fantasy writers of the twentieth century.’

Michael looks at Holly Black and Ellen Kushner’s Welcome To Bordertown collection: ‘A generation ago, Terri Windling and Mark Alan Arnold introduced us to Bordertown, an abandoned American city sitting on the Border between the “real world” (The World) and Faerie (The Realm). A place where science and magic both worked, if equally unpredictably, it became a haven and a destination for runaways and outcasts of both worlds, a place where humans and the Fae (aka Truebloods) could mingle, do business, eke out a living, and find themselves. It was a place where anything could happen.’ Need I say that a goodly number of women writers are present throughout the course of these books?

Michael also looks at ubereditor Ellen Datlow’s Supernatural Noir where  ‘the gritty realism of noir embraces the nightmare imaginings of supernatural horror in order to offer up sixteen stories rich in style, shadows, and psychological complexity.’

Robert takes a look at what he hopes is the beginning of a new fantasy series by Tanya Huff, The Enchantment Emporium: ‘It’s coming on May Day, and the Aunties are all baking pies in preparation for the ritual, when the news comes that Allie’s Gran is dead, by way of a letter from Gran herself. She’s left Allie her business in Calgary — a small business, she writes, that has become crucial to the local community. It’s not until Allie gets to Calgary that she begins to realize just what community Gran means. And it’s in Calgary that things start to get really weird.’

Happily, Robert got his hands on the next installment, The Wild Ways: ‘The Wild Ways is the second of Tanya Huff’s stories of the Gales, this time centering on Allie’s cousin Charlie — Charlotte Marie Gale, an itinerant musician and a Wild Power. Charlie is happily settled in Calgary with her Cousin Allie. . . . Well, maybe not so happily — Charlie’s used to wandering, which she usually does through the Wood, but she’ll settle for a plane or train when necessary.’

Vonnie rounds out this section with a look at a novel by Patricia McKillip, who she says ‘ … uses the sea in many of her books, but in Something Rich and Strange the sea is not only the setting and a metaphor for mystery and magic and change — the sea is the subject. The book begins with protagonists Megan and Jonah (how is that for an apropos name?) experiencing a sea change after a long winter during which their lives had settled into a routine dependent on the shore. But the sea brings ambiguity, too. Just as the sea has the power to transform the people and things near it, the characters slowly realize that humanity has the power to overwhelm the sea, defeat it and kill the life in it. Moreover, man is doing so.’

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April considers this Japanese series: ‘The Leopard Mask marks the first of 100 planned volumes (with approximately 90 already in print) in Kaoru Kurimoto’s heroic fantasy series The Guin Saga. Originally published in Japanese, the series is being translated and published by Vertical, a small New York publishing house focused solely on bringing contemporary Japanese literature to English-speaking readers.’

Donna looked at an an intriguing undertaking from the Middle East by Marjane Satrapi: ‘When The Complete Persepolis showed up in the Green Man mailroom a while ago, I thought I’d give it a try. I was intrigued for at least two reasons: one, it’s a memoir (in that sense akin to The Man in the Sharkskin Suit); two, it’s formatted like a graphic novel. Actually, in that sense it reminded me of a piece I read in a recent issue of Harper’s Magazine, about a couple of American enlisted men trying to train a group of Iraqi irregulars. I am not sure I would have read that story if it had been straight narrative, but with pictures and text, it worked. So does Persepolis.’

One of our favorite fantasy authors made her own foray into graphic literature, with the expected result, as Robert reports: ‘Unlike many of my colleagues here at Green Man Review, my experience with the work of Jane Yolen has been limited, although I’m happy to report that what experience I have had has been very positive. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve turned into a comics freak, made it inevitable that I would jump at the chance to take a peek at her new book, Foiled, a graphic novel about a teenager who is an expert swordsman — among other things.’

Robert notes that women are heavily represented among mangaka, the creators of Japanese manga, and are among the most popular of Japanese comic artists. Take, for example, Kazuya Minekura, the creator of the wildly popular series Saiyuki: ‘Saiyuki is an adaptation of the Chinese story “Xi-You-Ji,” or “Journey to the West.” This is a classic quest adventure with a few twists: the story takes place in a time when the world is in harmony — in fact, it is known as “Shangri-La” — and when humans and demons (youkai) have co-existed peacefully for centuries. All of a sudden, the youkai begin to go insane, attacking and eating their human neighbors and then disappearing.’

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There’s a lot of crossover in Japan between manga and TV. Case in point: Saiyuki: ‘As seems to be inevitable, Kazuya Minekura’s popular manga series Saiyuki was adapated to an anime TV series. What is perhaps less usual is that the series ran for two seasons and was followed by two more TV series. After viewing the first two seasons, I can see that there is ample reason for that,’ Robert says.

Another example of that crossover, Robert reports, is the anime TV series adapted from Yun Kouga’s Loveless: ‘Yun Kouga’s Loveless has been a very successful manga series and a widely praised anime series, which was developed from the first four volumes of the manga. I’m warning you, whatever preconceptions you have about anime had best be jettisoned right now: this one is dense, layered, complex, edgy, and beautifully executed.’

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David looks at a member of the First Family of Americana Music: ‘Rosanne Cash is the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian. She has a brand new album out which is being strongly promoted. This disc, Blue Moons and Broken Hearts, is an anthology of her earlier work. It covers a variety of styles and sounds, as Rosanne searched for her own voice, but it also shows that there was always something there to work with. The liner notes talk about her first recording, for the German label Ariola, being a mistake. That record is not represented here. There are no mistakes on this anthology!’

Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle perform as Anna & Elizabeth, and Gary says their self-titled debut was one of his favorite Americana releases of 2015. ‘You just don’t hear this kind of singing much anymore, outside of Appalachia, and it is a joy to find such skill and empathy employed in the presentation of these old songs by these young musicians.’

Gary also enjoyed The Elina Duni Quartet’s Matanë Malit (Beyond The Mountain), which he calls ‘sublime.’ He explains: ‘This is a very special album, one that combines two forms of music that I appreciate immensely, Balkan folk music and jazz.’

Some of our favorite musicians here at the Green Man Review are named Thompson. Gary reviews Linda Thompson’s Versatile Heart: ‘It’s a smashing album in every way. The songwriting, playing and singing all show an already iconic singer at the very top of her game. And that’s saying a lot for the woman who sang on the original recordings of some of Richard Thompson’s best songs.’

Robert came up with something a little out of the ordinary: Anonymous 4’s Gloryland: ‘Gloryland is Anonymous 4’s second foray into traditional Anglo-American music, and with their usual scholarship and insight, they’ve brought out a near-perfect collection. The material is focused on imagery of the journey, and the presentation is arresting.’

Robert also brings us an album that is a favorite around here, String Sisters Live: ‘There seems to be something magical about the number “6” when you’re talking about fiddles. Maybe that many fiddlers reaches a kind of critical mass that sets off a chain reaction of some sort. At any rate, when the six fiddlers in question are six star-caliber women from across the Britanno-Nordic musical realm, what you wind up with is some really, really good music.’

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Now for your listening pleasure, the 2015 Førde Traditional and World Music Festival 25th Anniversary Sampler edition offers us up  the String Sisters playing ‘The Champagne Jig Goes To Columbia and Pat & Al’s Jig’ which they performed at that festival. Isn’t it simply amazing?


About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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