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Essa moça sabe desenhar sim senhor.

steampunk_siblingsShe’s Brazilian, and her blog is in Portuguese, but that shouldn’t deter you from a visit.   Google Translate is kind to her site, but the real pleasure is in her drawings.   By turns whimsical, fantastic, and sensual, Cynthia França wields a pencil like Logen Ninefingers can wield a sword, and it cuts just as deeply.  I wasn’t able to determine if Miss França has ever published any of her drawings professionally, or if anyone had ever tapped her to illustrate a book.  There were several drawings on her site that seemed to come from a fictional source; Soccertown kids, all appropriately named,  a set of drawings entitled Les Reines D’Autobus, but I was frustrated by my total ignorance of Brazilian popular culture.

Since reading L. Sprague De Camp’s planetary romances of the Viagens Interplanetárias in my earliest adolescence, Brazil has always seemed like a mythical country in its own right.  I don’t mean to disparage the tremendous challenges faced by the average Brazilian in navigating the real world, but when I visited there, I felt more like I was living inside a legend than I have anywhere else.  There has to be some compensation for living in a country where there is so much poverty and injustice, and oddly, there is.  Nature is exuberant there, beyond anything we know in North America away from the redwood groves on the West Coast.  Taking the bus from Santos on the coast to São Paulo was like dreaming with my eyes open.   Music, better music than you can pay to hear in most venues, wafts out of the windows and down to the street.

Because of this I’m surprised Brazil hasn’t produced more fantasy literature.  Some of the tales of the bandeirantes, with which Brazilian schoolchildren are as familiarrachel_leah as American children used to be with the stories of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, definitely had a mythopoetic flavor to them.  Miss França has a fantastic side to her as well.  In her online portfolio there are drawings of Conan, Dejah Thoris, and Desire of the Endless, as well as numerous sketches from what Miss França refers to as her “pocket mythology”.  I learned that the phrase Portuguese would use for the Endless is os Perpétuos.  From one Gaiman fan to another Gaiman fan, I salute you.

Miss França also has produced an occasional series of sketches of Biblical women.  You should really go see these, because they are not likely to see the light of day between the pages of your Zondervan Purpose Oriented Planner Bible.  Mary and Martha are here, as are Herodias and a slightly older Salomé, three of David’s wives, Jezebel and her daughter Athalia.  Even though Miss França appears to have a soft spot for the bad girls, there are plenty of good girls; Ruth and Orpah are here, as are the three daughters of Job.  My favorite, however, is the sketch of Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob.  Miss França takes the liberty of depicting Leah not as strictly plain, but just frank and transparent as opposed to Rachel’s smoldering and mysterious glamour.

Now, I know I have maybe thirty two nanoWarhols of artistic critical influence, but I would dearly love to see Miss França exercise her considerable talents somewhere where she could be more widely appreciated.


The National Public Radio folks have decided to ask their listener base to help them select the greatest works of imaginative fiction.   Their list contains a lot of surprises, but the finalists were selected by the ubiquitous expert panel, and they are inviting fantasy and science fiction fans to vote on which of these 200 or so works are their favorites.

Here is the list.  My choices are in bold:
The Acts Of Caine Series, by Matthew Woodring Stover
The Algebraist, by Iain M. Banks
Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers
Armor, by John Steakley
The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson
Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard
Beggars In Spain, by Nancy Kress
The Belgariad, by David Eddings
The Black Company Series, by Glen Cook
The Black Jewels Series, by Anne Bishop
The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Bridge Of Birds, by Barry Hughart
The Callahan’s Series, by Spider Robinson
A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, by Robert Heinlein
Cat’s Cradle , by Kurt Vonnegut
The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
The Change Series, by S.M. Stirling
Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
Children Of God, by Mary Doria Russell
The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, by Stephen R. Donaldson
The City And The City, by China Mieville
City And The Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
The Coldfire Trilogy, by C.S. Friedman
The Commonwealth Saga, by Peter F. Hamilton
The Company Wars, by C.J. Cherryh
The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
Contact, by Carl Sagan
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
The Day of Triffids, by John Wyndham
Deathbird Stories, by Harlan Ellison
The Deed of Paksennarion Trilogy, by Elizabeth Moon
The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester
The Deverry Cycle, by Katharine Kerr
Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany
The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
The Difference Engine, by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling
The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
Don’t Bite The Sun, by Tanith Lee
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
Dreamsnake, by Vonda McIntyre
The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
Earth, by David Brin
Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart
The Eisenhorn Omnibus, by Dan Abnett
The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Eon, by Greg Bear
The Eyes Of The Dragon, by Stephen King
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
The Faded Sun Trilogy, by C.J. Cherryh
Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser Series, by Fritz Leiber
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
The Female Man, by Joanna Russ
The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy, by Guy Gavriel Kay
A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
The First Law Trilogy, by Joe Abercrombie
Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
The Foreigner Series, by C.J. Cherryh
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
The Gaea Trilogy, by John Varley
The Gap Series, by Stephen R. Donaldson
The Gate To Women’s Country, by Sheri S. Tepper
Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
The Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway
The Gormenghast Triology, by Mervyn Peake
Grass, by Sheri S. Tepper
Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End of The World, by Haruki Murakami
The Heechee Saga, by Frederik Pohl
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Hollows Series, by Kim Harrison
House Of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski
The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
The Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
The Incarnations Of Immortality Series, by Piers Anthony
The Inheritance Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
Kindred, by Octavia Butler
The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
Kraken, by China Mieville
The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
Last Call, by Tim Powers
The Last Coin, by James P. Blaylock
The Last Herald Mage Trilogy, by Mercedes Lackey
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
The Lathe Of Heaven, by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
The Lensman Series, by E.E. Smith
The Liaden Universe Series, by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
The Lies Of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
Lilith’s Brood, by Octavia Butler
Little, Big, by John Crowley
The Liveship Traders Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
Lord Of Light, by Roger Zelazny
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord Valentine’s Castle, by Robert Silverberg
Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Lud-in-the-Mist, by Hope Mirrlees
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
The Man In The High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
The Manifold Trilogy, by Stephen Baxter
The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
Memory And Dream, by Charles de Lint
Memory, Sorrow, And Thorn Trilogy, by Tad Williams
Mindkiller, by Spider Robinson
The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
Mordant’s Need, by Stephen Donaldson
More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon
The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
The Naked Sun, by Isaac Asimov
The Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy, by Robert J. Sawyer
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The Newsflesh Triology, by Mira Grant
The Night’s Dawn Trilogy, by Peter F. Hamilton
Novels Of The Company, by Kage Baker
Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith
The Number Of The Beast, by Robert Heinlein
Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
On Basilisk Station, by David Weber
The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
Oryx And Crake, by Margaret Atwood
The Otherland Tetralogy, by Tad Williams
The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
Parable Of The Sower, by Octavia Butler
The Passage, by Justin Cronin
Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson
Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
The Prestige, by Christopher Priest
The Pride Of Chanur, by C.J. Cherryh
The Prince Of Nothing Trilogy, by R. Scott Bakker
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge
Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
Replay, by Ken Grimwood
Revelation Space, by Alistair Reynolds
Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban
The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
Ringworld, by Larry Niven
The Riverworld Series, by Philip Jose Farmer
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
The Saga Of Pliocene Exile, by Julian May
The Saga Of Recluce, by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
The Sarantine Mosaic Series, by Guy Gavriel Kay
A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick
The Scar, by China Mieville
The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
The Shattered Chain Trilogy, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Sirens Of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
The Snow Queen, by Joan D. Vinge
Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
Song for the Basilisk, by Patricia McKillip
A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
The Stainless Steel Rat Books, by Harry Harrison
Stand On Zanzibar, by John Brunner
The Stand, by Stephen King
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
Stations Of The Tide, by Michael Swanwick
Steel Beach, by John Varley
Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
The Swordspoint Trilogy, by Ellen Kushner
The Tales of Alvin Maker, by Orson Scott Card
The Temeraire Series, by Naomi Novik
The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
Tigana , by Guy Gavriel Kay
Time Enough For Love, by Robert Heinlein
The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
To Say Nothing Of The Dog, by Connie Willis
The Troy Trilogy, by David Gemmell
Ubik, by Philip K. Dick
The Uplift Saga, by David Brin
The Valdemar Series, by Mercedes Lackey
VALIS, by Philip K. Dick
Venus On The Half-Shell, by Kilgore Trout/Philip Jose Farmer
The Vlad Taltos Series, by Steven Brust
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Vurt Trilogy, by Jeff Noon
The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
Watchmen, by Alan Moore
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak
We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
World War Z, by Max Brooks
The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Edison
The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon
1632, by Eric Flint
1984, by George Orwell
2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

I was glad to see both Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen and Gaiman’s Sandman series in such august company.   Both Earth Abides (Stewart) and Lord of Light (Zelazny) are close to perfect works of science-fiction.  Unfortunately, Stewart never wrote another book, and Zelazny fell off precipitously after LOL.  Amber wasn’t nearly as good.

I am not surprised that A Voyage To Arcturus didn’t make it onto this list.  It is very poorly written and hard to parse, but it does have a sticking power that many better works lack.  I was surprised to see that nothing by Lord Dunsany made the cut, nor was James Cabell represented, nor George Macdonald, nor Jack Vance.  In the mean time, you can amuse yourselves identifying the pictures off to the right.


The title is from DH Lawrence – oh, the things you find on the Internet:

Some considerable time ago, I commented on something that I had gleaned from a reading of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods; that is, that America was a poor place for mythology, that we lacked the deep psychic topsoil that nourished our European forebears.  I remember reading somewhere about a Finnish poet who lived in a house where his family had lived and farmed for the past 900 years.  I can only the imagine the poetry that would emerge from such an intimate congress between soil and DNA.

America has poets, quite good ones, but the American story has yet to be told, really.  Some works have come damned close:  The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, The Magnificent Ambersons, On The Road, these spring to mind immediately as coming close to American mythopoeia.  But DH Lawrence seems to intimate that we still have to atone for our sins:

When you are actually in America, America hurts, because it has a powerful disintegrative influence upon the white psyche. It is full of grinning, unappeased aboriginal demons, too, ghosts, and it persecutes the white men, like some Eumenides, until the white men give up their absolute whiteness. America is tense with latent violence and resistance. The very common sense of white Americans has a tinge of helplessness in it, and deep fear of what might be if they were not common-sensical.

[W]hen one comes to America, one finds that there is always a certain slightly devilish resistance in the American landscape, and a certain slightly bitter resistance in the white man’s heart. Hawthorne gives this. But Cooper glosses it over.  The American landscape has never been at one with the white man. Never. And white men have probably never felt so bitter anywhere, as here in America, where the very landscape, in its very beauty, seems a bit devilish and grinning, opposed to us.

Moralists have always wondered helplessly why Poe’s ‘morbid’ tales need have been written. They need to be written because old things need to die and disintegrate, because the old white psyche has to be gradually broken down before anything else can come to pass.

So there you have  it;  the strength of the hills is not in us because they are not yet our hills, except by legal fiction [I use this term consciously].  America bestrides the earth like a colossus, and appears immeasurably strong – the last superpower and all of that, but the strength is the waning strength of modernism and abstraction.   I fear this strength will fail in the crucible, that it will be a brittle strength.

I wonder how this strength compares with the imaginative fecundity of Latin American letters, where the fantastic and the real rub cheek to jowl (and not only imaginative fecundity – it doesn’t take any prescience to predict what are the comparative futures of two societies where the average age of one is 38 and increasing, and the average age of the other is 22 and dropping).  The dominant myth of Iberian America is one of mixture and synthesis, whereas the predominant myth north of the Rio Grande is replacement and surveying.

Note – My knowledge of South African history is next to nil.  I have been informed that when the first European settlers, the ancestors of the Voortrekkers, arrived in the Cape Colony, the land was empty.   The Bantu had not yet arrived.  Nobody took South Africa away from anybody.  Everybody just collided, sort of. Steve, if you can add anything to this, I would be extremely grateful.


The news that Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman were collaborating on a short film called Death And Me , and that the film had just recently moved out of  limbo and into active production sparked a controversy in our family as to which actress should portray Gaiman’s perky little Goth-girl Grim Reaper:

I always thought that Selma Blair would be the perfect choice.  She’s dark-haired, slender, puckishly beautiful, and has experience in the fantasy/horror genre (Scream 2, Hellboy).   My children were aghast.  “Dad, you do know she’s almost forty, don’t you?”  It was to no avail that I tried to point out that Gaiman’s fictional character was a good deal older than forty.  Indeed, forty centuries would probably be a better measure.   It didn’t matter.  Death should have no wrinkles.

My son wanted to see Thora Birch (Ghost World, American Beauty) take on the part.  Miss Birch is an impressive actress and I think she could bring both what my son calls “indie cred” and old-fashioned sex appeal to the part,  but a large part of Death’s cachet is her appearance of waifish vulnerability.  Miss Birch can certainly do vulnerable, but waifish she is not.

My daughter stood up for current Disney Channel queen Demi Lovato.  Demi is dark, slender and very pretty, but she doesn’t have a hint of mystery about her.   I was surprised that she didn’t mention  fellow Disney protegée Selena Gomez.  Selena has the same coloring as Miss Lovato, but she looks more like she could have a mysterious side.  Of course, here we are talking about very young women with no track record outside the tightly programmed Disney teen market environment, but then former “Diz kids” like Reese Witherspoon and Hayden Panetierre have emerged from that environment and have established themselves well in the larger world.

Finally, this past week, I was able to catch a movie I had been wanting to see for some time; 500 Days Of Summer. The movie didn’t really live up to its hype.  As a chronicle of post-modern relationships among the angsty twenty-something Belle and Sebastian set, I have seen better, but I thought the female lead, Zooey Deschanel, despite the obvious Glass family reference, deserved to be on any short list to play Gaiman’s heroine.

Anybody else with me?

CURRENTLY READING

Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake

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