Subvert all the expectations

Maman, the spider, with Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica behind

I came across this well-worn but still valid piece of writ­ing advice on Twit­ter yes­ter­day:

If you plan on sub­vert­ing [expec­ta­tions], you need to sub­vert with the goal of some­thing BETTER.

And now today, on CBC’s Sun­day Edi­tion, they’re talk­ing about Robert Mun­sch’s game-chang­ing book The Paper Bag Princess, which came out in that long-ago era of 1980 and sub­vert­ed all the expec­ta­tions about what a fairy tale should be.

I remem­ber dis­cov­er­ing (or per­haps re-dis­cov­er­ing) The Paper Bag Princess in my twen­ties. As a young man who had heard a mil­lion fairy tales with the “and then they got mar­ried” hap­pi­ly-ever-after end­ing, it was a very dif­fer­ent end­ing than I was expect­ing: the princess does­n’t mar­ry the prince, not even after res­cu­ing him from the drag­on.

It was a dif­fer­ent kind of end­ing, but still a hap­py end­ing. Maybe not so hap­py for the prince, but then he did noth­ing to earn a hap­py end­ing. It sub­vert­ed the trope and made a new, bet­ter thing from it.

So go: sub­vert the expec­ta­tions. Sub­vert all the expec­ta­tions. Make it bet­ter.

Head­er image: Maman, across the street from Notre-Dame Cathe­dral Basil­i­ca, in Ottawa.

Books I enjoyed in 2019

A bookmark painted by Hallie Bateman

Over on Twit­ter, Rose­mary Mosco asked about books read and loved in the past year. I took a look at my list, and here are some of the high­lights of the year so far, in no dis­cernible order:

  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amar el-Mohtar and Max Glad­stone (reviewed here)
  • Peace by Gene Wolfe (Quite a nov­el, and slat­ed for a re-read some­time in the next few years)
  • The City in the Mid­dle of the Night by Char­lie Jane Anders (a first-con­tact nov­el unlike any­thing I’ve read before)
  • The Iron Drag­on’s Moth­er by Michael Swan­wick (a fit­ting cap­stone to a fre­quent­ly aston­ish­ing fan­ta­sy tril­o­gy)
  • Son of a Trick­ster and Trick­ster Drift by Eden Robin­son (reviewed here; I can­not wait for vol­ume 3 or the CBC series)
  • The Infi­nite Black­top by Sara Gran (the 3rd book in the Claire Dewitt series; absolute­ly worth it)
  • Get in Trou­ble, by Kel­ly Link (re-read; reviewed here)

How was your year in read­ing?

Catch-22

I’m watch­ing the first episode of George Clooney’s adap­ta­tion of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and I’m real­iz­ing I need to reread the book.

2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Hugo Award logo — a stylized rocketship

The 2019 Hugo awards, to pre­sent­ed at World­Con, rec­og­nize excel­lence in spec­u­la­tive fic­tion. Con­grat­u­la­tions and good luck to all the final­ists. I’ve only read a few of the works on the list, and I’m read­ing a cou­ple more.

2019 Hugo and Retro Hugo award final­ists announced

(The Retro Hugos this year are for works that would have been eli­gi­ble 75 years ago, in 1944, but no World­Con was held that year.)

Hugo Award” and The Hugo Award Logo are ser­vice marks of the World Sci­ence Fic­tion Soci­ety, an unin­cor­po­rat­ed lit­er­ary soci­ety.

The Tao of Pratchett

Over on Tor.com, a dis­cus­sion of Sir Ter­ry Pratch­et­t’s works, and how there’s more to them—far more—than just sil­ly puns and goofy char­ac­ters.

Ter­ry Pratch­ett is best known for his incom­pe­tent wiz­ards, drag­on-wield­ing police­men, and anthro­po­mor­phic per­son­i­fi­ca­tions who SPEAK LIKE THIS. And we love him for it. Once we’re done chuck­ling at Nan­ny Ogg’s not-so-sub­tle innu­en­dos and the song about the knob on the end of the wizard’s staff, how­ev­er, there’s so much more going on beneath the sur­face of a Pratch­ett nov­el.

Read the whole arti­cle; it’s worth it.

Today’s library haul

I can’t decide which one I want to read first. I real­ly like Join Scalz­i’s writ­ing; I loved Son of a Trick­ster and I’m look­ing for­ward to read­ing more of Eden Robin­son’s prose; but man, Sara Gran’s last nov­el end­ed on such a cliffhang­er, so I’m lean­ing towards The Infi­nite Black­top.

Review: Son of a Trickster

Son of a Trickster

I read Eden Robin­son’s Son of a Trick­ster this week­end.

It’s the sto­ry of six­teen-year-old Jared, who’s doing his best, try­ing to bal­ance bak­ing weed cook­ies, car­ing for his elder­ly neigh­bours, keep­ing his dad from los­ing his home, keep­ing his aggres­sive mom off his case, and gen­er­al­ly just try­ing to not fail grade ten.

It’s not real help­ful that he’s start­ed hear­ing crows talk­ing to him.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Review: Son of a Trick­ster”

The game’s afoot

My copy of Good Omens, signed in Dec. 2009 by Neil Gaiman

A quick quote for Throw­back Thurs­day:

God does not play dice with the uni­verse; He plays an inef­fa­ble game of His own devis­ing, which might be com­pared, from the per­spec­tive of any of the oth­er play­ers, to being involved in an obscure and com­plex ver­sion of pok­er in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infi­nite stakes, with a Deal­er who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

From Good Omens, by Ter­ry Pratch­ett and Neil Gaiman