Rock Stars, Bloggers, and Hidden Magic: The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wind in His Heart Charles de Lint-smallI met Charles de Lint when he was an unpublished author in the early 80s. We both hung out at the best bookstore in town, the much-missed House of Speculative Fiction in downtown Ottawa. There was a big fuss about his first novel, The Riddle of The Wren (1984), plucked out of the slush at Ace Books by legendary editor Terri Windling, but it was the bestselling Moonheart (Ace, 1984) that made us realize that Charles wasn’t just a local boy who done good — he was a major artist embarking on an extraordinary career.

71 books later, Charles is one of the most revered writers in fantasy. He’s been enormously kind to us over the years, even contributing a terrific story to the very first issue of Black Gate.  I asked Charles to tell us a bit about his latest book, and he was generous enough to send me this yesterday.

I’m excited to get back to writing for adults. It took me three years to write my new novel, The Wind in His Heart, pretty much double the time I’d normally take to complete a book, but this 545-page story was tricky to put together. It’s about a young man who works at a trading post and is the sole supporter in his family yet longs to go and explore the world; a rock star hiding from fame out in the desert; a teenage girl from an abusive family who gets tossed out of her dad’s car in the middle of the desert, and a blogger trying to come to terms with the suicide of her best friend. The story is about how their lives collide, and how they deal with their past and future. Many of my readers have been asking if it’s a Newford book, and the short answer is no, but it does have some Newford threads and connections.

This is a major new novel from one of the most important writers at work today. When word broke in our offices that it was arriving this month, there was frenzy to settle who would have the privilege of reading it first (Zeta Moore won; she’ll be reviewing it for us in a few weeks.)

The Wind in His Heart will be published by Triskell Press on September 19, 2017. It is 545 pages, priced at $7.99 for the digital edition. Read an excerpt in the Autumn issue of Faerie Magazine, and learn more at Charles’ website. And check out all our coverage of his previous books here.


Charles de Lint and The Little Country

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

The Little CountryIn talking about portal fantasies last time, I was moved to reread one of the more unusual examples of the sub-genre, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country (1991).

The book is in a very real sense two books, but it isn’t a simple play-within-a-play, story-within-a-story thing: Each book is being read by the protagonist of the other. The now-overused self-referential concept known as “meta” wasn’t so common when The Little Country was written, but it might have been invented to describe the novel. The book is extremely self-aware, something which even the protagonists are forced to recognize.

The two stories do run parallel to one another, but this isn’t a case of success in one world reflecting or depending on success in the other world, as we see in King and Straub’s The Talisman, for example. The characters don’t overlap, the settings aren’t the same, though you might say that the outcomes are. There is a physical object common to both worlds, a standing stone with an opening through which objects and people can pass. Both worlds have the tradition that passing through the stone nine times at moonrise effects some magical change – entrance into the land of the faerie, a cure for sickness or barrenness, etc.

In the thread which most resembles our world, Janey Little, a twenty-something traditional musician, finds a book in her grandfather’s attic – a one-of-a-kind hitherto unknown work left in her grandfather’s keeping by the author, an old and eccentric friend. The book is called “The Little Country.”

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Vintage Treasures: Charles de Lint’s Wolf Moon, and a Tale of Roving Booksellers

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Wolf Moon Charles de Lint-smallIt pays to know excellent booksellers.

On Tuesday, Rich Warren, co-owner of Starfarer’s Despatch, posted a pic of Charles de Lint’s 1988 Signet paperback Wolf Moon on Facebook and later this brief review:

What a blast. Just finished this one this morning. A tale sympathetic to the Werewolf, and told from his point of view. I know there are De Lint fans who enjoy his urban fantasy (Newford) more but the great writing is still present in these older fantasies.

My comment was concise, but completely heartfelt: “I need this book! Rich, sell me one!”

I meant it, too. Wolf Moon was reprinted in 2004, with a generic urban fantasy cover, but the 1988 paperback original, which boasts a fabulous cover by Dean Morrissey, showing a werewolf relaxing in The Inn of the Yellow Tinker, is much harder to come by.

Three days later, I returned from my business trip to Las Vegas. I drove straight from the airport to the Westin hotel in Lombard, Illinois, and arrived shortly before the Dealer’s Room closed at Windy City Pulp and Paper, one of my favorite local cons (the write-up I did on last year’s is here). I wasn’t in the room five minutes before I heard a friendly voice calling my name: Arin Komins, Rich’s wife and the other half of the splendid enterprise that is Starfarer’s Despatch.

“We have a book for you,” Arin said. We found Rich and, sure enough, he pulled a beautiful, unread copy of Wolf Moon out of his backpack.

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A Circle of Cats by Charles de Lint and Charles Vess

Monday, September 24th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

a-circle-of-catsIt’s always a pleasure when two creators I admire collaborate. Case in point: A Circle of Cats, a Charles de Lint short story gorgeously illustrated by Charles Vess.

Although it’s very short (48 pages, at least half of which is full-color artwork), A Circle of Cats is a complete and satisfying tale. It tells the story of Lillian, a 12-year-old orphan who lives on the edge of a vast and very old wood with her aunt. One day, after all her chores are done, Lillian chases a deer into a part of the woods she’s never explored before. Falling asleep at the foot of a great gnarled tree, she disturbs a snake that strikes her three times.

As she lays dying, a circle of cats forms around her, for Lillian has found their ancient gathering place. The cats decide to intervene, and when Lillian awakens, she finds herself in the body of a kitten.

What Lillian finds as she explores the woods as a cat, and the strange creatures she meets, form the bulk of the tale. But as night arrives and her elderly aunt begins a desperate search deeper and deeper into the woods for her, Lillian’s efforts to find a way to return to human form become more determined. Ultimately, she learns that getting what she wants will require help from friends she didn’t know she had, and an unusual sacrifice.

Fans of de Lint and Vess’s earlier collaboration, the massive illustrated fantasy Seven Wild Sisters (Subterranean Press, May 2002), will find both the setting and some of the characters familiar, including Aunt Lillian, The Apple Tree Man, and The Father of Cats. De Lint and Vess also collaborated on Medicine Road (Tachyon Publications, June 2009), featuring the further adventures of the red-haired Dillard twins, Laurel and Bess, from Seven Wild Sisters.

While it is primarily intended for young readers, A Circle of Cats is still a fine introduction to Charles de Lint’s fiction, as it has all the hallmarks of his work, including fascinating characters, magical settings, and a story richly suffused in myth. Vess, the artist behind The Book of Ballads and three books with Neil Gaiman (Instructions, Blueberry Girl, and the illustrated version of Stardust), delivers his usual excellent artwork.

A Circle of Cats was published in hardcover by Viking Juvenile in June, 2003. It is 48 pages in full color, with a cover price of $16.99.


Charles de Lint’s Promises to Keep

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

promises-to-keepPromises to Keep
Charles de Lint
Tachyon (192 pp, $14.95, Paperback May 2011) 
Reviewed by Elizabeth Cady

Charles de Lint has become one of the big names in the worlds of Urban and Mythic Fantasy, and for good reason. At its best, his stories are beautifully crafted. They capture both the wonder of the everyday and the sheer strangeness of the otherworld that can intrude into our own. A key aspect of his work has been his creation of Newford, a fictional North American city. De Lint has, over the last twenty years, filled this city with a cast of characters that have by now become familiar friends to his readers.

Jilly Coppercorn is one of those characters, and she is central to many of his novels and short stories. In Promises to Keep, one of the latest entries into the Newford series, we learn more of Jilly’s troubled history. We know from her previous appearances that Jilly is a survivor of sexual abuse and a recovering addict, that she lived for a time on the street, and that she escaped that life to become an artist. Promises takes us back to that fragile time in Jilly’s life when she first escaped heroin and forced prostitution and began the long process of healing.

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A Review of Jack the Giant Killer, by Charles de Lint

Monday, September 13th, 2010 | Posted by Isabel Pelech

jackJack the Giant Killer, by Charles de Lint
Ace (202 pages, hardcover, November 1987)

Charles de Lint’s Jack the Giant Killer is an urban fantasy novel, but it feels more accurate to call it an urban fairy tale. It’s set in Ottawa and makes frequent references to streets and landmarks; I have a feeling I’d get even more out of it if I were the least bit familiar with the city. Fortunately, geographic familiarity is not required to enjoy this story.

Jacky Rowan has just been through a moderately poor breakup. Her boyfriend stormed out after declaring her a predictable, boring shut-in. Partly because of his accusations, partly because of feeling empty and numb, she cuts off her waist-length hair, goes drinking, and then wanders down to a park, reflecting on her life and whether or not it means anything.

She has a distinct impression of someone watching her from the blacked-out windows of one house, but before she has time to reflect on that, she witnesses what appears to be a biker gang chasing down what looks like a small man.

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Criminals, Invading Armies, and a Dragon Hoard: The Six Kingdoms Novels by Bruce Fergusson

Thursday, February 1st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shadow of His Wings Bruce Fergusson-small The Mace of Souls-small Pass on the Cup of Dreams-small

Two weeks ago I bought a small collection of 90s paperbacks online. There wasn’t anything particularly valuable in the set, but there were several books that I didn’t recognize, and that’s always makes me curious. One was John Deakins’s 1990 novel Barrow, which I talked about here. And another was The Mace of Souls by Bruce Fergusson.

I didn’t recognize the name Fergusson. But after a little digging I discovered The Mace of Souls is the middle book in a fantasy trilogy. This shouldn’t have been surprising (statistically 90% of all titles published in the 90s were the middle book of a fantasy trilogy), but it was. I had to track down the other two volumes, and it turns out there’s an interesting story behind it all.

Bruce Fergusson’s debut novel was The Shadow of His Wings, published in hardcover by Arbor House in 1987 and reprinted in paperback in March 1988 by Avon. It was nominated for the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the Crawford Award for Best First Fantasy Novel. I found this fascinating reference in Orson Scott Card’s essay “The State of Amazing, Astounding, Fantastic Fiction in the Twenty-First Century,” in the 2008 Nebula Awards Showcase.

Trilogies and series dominate, but the exciting thing, for me, is the way that the current crop of fantasy writers steal from every source and make it work… I remember back in 1988, when I read Bruce Fergusson’s seminal In the Shadow of His Wings, thinking this is fantasy as the most serious world-creating sci-fi writers would do it. Fergusson himself didn’t follow up, but the method thrives, as Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Kate Elliot, Brandon Sanderson, and Lynn Flewelling have created masterpieces of thoroughly created worlds that, instead of imitating Tolkien’s choices, imitate his method of creation.

Card was incorrect about Fergusson’s follow-up, however… there are two more novels in the series, and more in the pipeline.

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Vintage Treasures: The Folk of the Air by Peter S. Beagle

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Folk of the Air-small The Folk of the Air-back-small

Peter S. Beagle burst on the scene in 1960 with A Fine and Private Place, the tale of a man quietly living in a cemetery for decades. Written while he was still a teenager, the novel established Beagle immediately as a major American fantasist. He followed it with The Last Unicorn (1968), which placed fifth in the 1987 Locus Poll for All-Time Best Fantasy Novel, sold more than five million copies, and was made into a popular animated film by Rankin/Bass in 1982.

In 1969 Beagle wrote one of his most popular short stories, “Lila the Werewolf” (first published in Guabi #1, and in Terry Carr’s New Worlds of Fantasy #3), featuring the character Sam Farrell. Two decades later Farrell returned in Beagle’s third novel The Folk of the Air, which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and was called “Peter Beagle’s Silmarillion” in the Mythopoeic Society review.

The publication of The Folk of the Air is an Event, no doubt about it… it is easily the best new fantasy novel I read last year… The main character is Joe Farrell, who first appeared as the hero of a short story called “Lila the Werewolf” (which may be found in the omnibus volume The Fantasy Worlds of Peter S. Beagle). It’s several years after “Lila”, and Farrell is making his first visit in a long time to his old stomping grounds in Avicenna, California…

If The Folk of the Air had been published five years ago, it would by now be seen as a foundation stone in the currently flourishing subgenre of contemporary urban fantasy — books like Moonheart by Charles de Lint, Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy, and Brisingamen by Diana Paxson… Beagle has captured the style of the subgenre perfectly. From the beginning, where the sense of something magical and uncanny is in the air nearly from the start, long before the supernatural actually rears its head, to the end, which features a bang-up magical battle between two of the principal characters while the others look on in dazed wonder, this book has everything to capture the interest of fantasy readers who like a magical tale in the here and now.

The book has held up very well over the decades (SF Reviews recently called it “top-drawer, comparable to the best of Tim Powers”), although Beagle has reportedly been working on a revised edition, to be called Avicenna, for some time. Whatever the case, the book has been out of print in the US since the 1988 Del Rey paperback, pictured above. I found this copy at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show here in Chicago earlier this year, where I paid $2 for it. It is 375 pages, with a cover price of $4.50. The cover is by Romas. There is no digital edition. See our previous coverage of Peter Beagle here.


Vintage Treasures: Sword & Sorceress, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Monday, November 20th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword & Sorceress Anthologies-small

Sword and Sorcery has a rich history of anthology series. Lin Carter’s seminal Flashing Swords and Andy Offutt’s Swords Against Darkness are probably the most famous examples, but in terms of longevity and influence on the field I think they’re both eclipsed by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress anthologies. The first one appeared from DAW Books in 1984, and there’s been a new volume every year since, with a single three-year gap between 2004-07. Last year’s Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress, edited by Elisabeth Waters, was #31.

The series is critical to the history of the field for more than its longevity, however. Unlike Carter and Offutt, who invited established authors to fill their pages, Bradley and her fellow editors opened their volumes up to submissions, and the results were pretty extraordinary. Numerous young writers who would go on to great things, many of them women, were discovered or promoted very early in their career in the pages of S&S, including Emma Bull, Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Roberson, Diana L. Paxson, Laurell K. Hamilton, Phyllis Ann Karr, Rachel Pollack, Vera Nazarian, Deborah J. Ross, Elizabeth Moon, Janet Fox, Laura J. Underwood, Rosemary Edghill, Syne Mitchell, Devon Monk, Carrie Vaughn, and many, many others. You could make a pretty compelling case that Sword & Sorceress (together with its sister publication, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine) dramatically remade modern fantasy, and may be the single greatest influence on 21st Century American fantasy so far.

The first volumes of S&S came out just as I entered grad school and my reading time dropped precipitously. So I missed out on al the excitement, but it’s not too late to catch up. I found the above collection of the first nine volumes (plus VIII and XV) in great shape on eBay, and bought it for $20, about two bucks per book — about half the original cover price. That’s a heck of a bargain for a lot of great reading.

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November/December Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Now on Sale

Monday, November 13th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction November December 2017-smallThe star-studded November/December issue of F&SF contains some pretty big names, including a huge novella from Marc Laidlaw, a short story by Larry Niven, and a story by Kate Wilhelm who, at 89, has been absent from the pages of F&SF for too long (her last published short story, “The Fullness Of Time,” appeared in 2012). C. D. Lewis at Tangent Online gives an enthusiastic review to the issue.

Marc Laidlaw’s 19,000-word novella “Stillborne” continues a series depicting the fantasy adventures of Gorlen the bard and Spar, the gargoyle whose hand he was cursed to exchange with his own. Like the prior installment from Fantasy & Science Fiction’s [May-June] 2014 issue, “Sillborne” is set in the company of religious leaders whose values and priorities are calculated to entertain… Humor is definitely the story’s greatest strength, and it is on display best when Laidlaw pens conversation between Gorlen and his rediscovered lover…

“Attachments” by Kate Wilhelm follows a woman who finds freeing herself from a haunting ghost as much a problem as freeing herself from a controlling, abusive ex. Disturbingly, some of the ghosts have motives like those of her ex…

Larry Niven’s “By the Red Giant’s Light” is a short story about two characters who spend what turns out to be more than an ordinary human lifetime responding to a danger to the last human (albeit rather modified) in the solar system. It’s set at a time the Sun’s expanding diameter has engulfed Mercury’s orbit. The initial hook — the difficulty of telling the human from the robot from their exteriors — gets us into the story’s heart, which is the human’s plea for help against an asteroid due to destroy Pluto and, with it, the last intelligent life in the solar system… solid SF, worth reading, and [it] reminds us why we’ve loved Niven for decades.

Read C.D.’s complete review here.

If (like me) you’re intrigued by Marc Laidlaw’s tale of Gorlen the bard and Spar, editor C.C. Finley tips us off that there are more to be had.

Gorlen debuted in the October 1995 issue of F&SF with “Dankden” and has returned six times since, most recently with the cover story “Rooksnight” (May/June 2014). Marc Laidlaw tells us this new adventure may not be the conclusion of Gorlen and Spar’s story, but it is certainly a conclusion.

Gorlen and Spar have also appeared in Lightspeed, beginning with the September 2013 issue.

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