Thursday, June 19, 2008


I am feeling crabby, which is -- I hope -- a sign that I am getting ready to write, since my crabbiness is directed at what I'm reading.

Elizabeth Bear is the GoH at Fourth Street Fantasy Con this coming weekend. So I thought I should read something of hers. I picked a fantasy, Blood and Iron. It begins in New York City, and then are Irish elves. The sidhe, the big scary guys, who show up in one fantasy after another.

What do Irish elves have to do with New York? Yes, there are plenty of Irish in the city, but there are plenty of other kinds of people. How about Caribbean magic, African American magic, Indian subcontinent magic, Norse magic for the Norwegians who used to live in Brooklyn? I don't know if they have moved on. Eastern European Jewish magic? I. B. Singer lived in New York and wrote about Jewish magic, though he wrote it for the vanished Jewish communities of Europe.

The Bear novel moved to Irish fairyland, and then the heroine needed to get a kelpie shoed. So she went to Wayland the Smith, who had set up shop among the Irish.

Wayland comes from Germanic mythology. There is a deeply disturbing poem about him -- or his cognate Volund -- in the Poetic Edda.

At that point, I put the book down. I don't buy Irish fairies in New York. I am very tired of Irish fairies anywhere, though I might consider them in a story set in Ireland. I do not buy Wayland in the Irish fairyland.

I have friends who think highly of Elizabeth Bear's work, and they review for places like Locus and Publisher's Weekly. But this book made me crabby.

I then moved on to a Charles Stross novel and got crabby again. Like many SF writers, Stross seems to think violence is entertaining. I do not. It is a horrific part of life for many people, but not me -- except that I don't go out alone at night, and I am nervous in unfamiliar American cities; and the institutionalized violence of American life influences my life in a multitude of ways.

America would be a far more pleasant and beautiful place if the money spent on prisons and weapons systems was spent on our people and cities and environment. We might have national health care. I might not have to worry about sickness and old age.

I am willing to read about real violence, because it is real and needs to be recognized, but I don't want to read about violence for fun.

So I put the Stross book down. He's a good writer, and I may have quit too soon. Just as I may have quit the Bear book too soon. Since they are good writers, they may have gone on to play all kinds of tricks with their cliches -- run changes on them, tied knots in their tails. Stories can be retold well. Old ideas can be re-examined. But I didn't get that far.

You see what I mean about crabby.


Blogger delagar said...

I haven't been able to finish a Bear or Stross book either, though I keep hearing they're both good. Stross's women irk me.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

I read a great novel once about Irish Faeries in Minneapolis, one of whom was a black man. But I see how it can get old.

My only encounter with Woland was in Bulgakov, so I guess I'd wonder what he was doing out of St. Petersburg . . .

3:58 PM  
Blogger Charlie Stross said...

Out of curiousity -- which of my books did you bounce off? (Just asking, for reference purposes.)

5:20 PM  

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