Birthday Reviews: Peter S. Beagle’s “King Pelles the Sure”

Friday, April 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Lisa Snelling

Cover by Lisa Snelling

Peter S. Beagle was born on April 20, 1939.

Beagle received the Nebula Award and Hugo Award for his novelette “Two Hearts,” set in the same world as his classic novel The Last Unicorn. He received the Mythopoeic Award in 1987 for his novel The Folk of the Air and in 2000 for the novel Tamsin.  His collection The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche and Other Odd Acquaintances received the Grand Priz de l’Imaginaire and his story “El Regalo” received the WSFA Small Press Award. He has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award seven times, and in 2011 received their Lifetime Achievement Award. In about a month, Beagle will be inducted as a SFWA Grand Master at the 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

“King Pellas the Sure” was first published in the chapbook Strange Roads, which contained three original stories by Beagle. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer included the story in Year’s Best Fantasy 9 and Rich Horton included it in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2009 Edition. Beagle has included the story in two of his own collections, We Never Talk About My Brother and Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. Beagle.

“King Pelles the Sure,” focuses on the monarch of an infinitesimal kingdom who yearns for the glory that he sees warrior kings attaining. Despite the protestations of his Grand Vizier, who has already seen what war really does, as opposed to the glorification of war that is the stuff of bards and legend, King Pelles insists that they arrange to be invaded by one of their neighbors.

In this strangely manufactured war, Beagle’s story recalls the 1955 Leonard Wibberley novel The Mouse That Roared, although Beagle’s story is much less satirical than Wibberly’s. After the war begins, King Pelles finds that no matter what his intentions, once the dogs of war have been loosed, they can not be effectively reined in. The tale could have been a trite fairy tale, but the manner in which Beagle teaches Pelles a variety of lessons makes it a memorable fable.

Reviewed in its original publication in the collection Strange Roads, by Peter S. Beagle, DreamHaven, 2008.

Read More »

Peter S. Beagle will be the Next SFWA Grand Master

Thursday, January 25th, 2018 | Posted by Rich Horton

Peter S Beagle Grand Master-small

Is it OK to post now on the other significant SF news from Tuesday (happier news)? Because it does seem worthwhile to mention that Peter Beagle has been named the latest SFWA Grand Master.

I confess — somewhat bewilderedly — that I had not thought of him when I speculated on who the next GM might be. (I believe that’s because early in his career he was not a “core genre writer,” in that he didn’t publish in the magazines. (Yes, Fantasy & Science Fiction published “Come Lady Death,” but as a reprint.) That’s not a good reason, it’s just what I think must have made me forget him.) But on seeing the announcement, I thought, well, of course! Peter Beagle IS a Grand Master, and this is an award he eminently deserves.

I (with many other fans, to be sure) absolutely adore The Last Unicorn. And his other fiction is quite marvelous as well. I’ve used a few of his stories in my books.

Read More »

Fantasy as Something Brighter: Peter S. Beagle’s The Overneath and Jane Yolen’s The Emerald Circus

Thursday, December 21st, 2017 | Posted by Steve Case

The Overneath-small The Emerald Circus-small

The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon Publications, 336 pages, $15.95 in trade paperback, November 14, 2017)
The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen (Tachyon Publications, 288 pages, $15.95 in trade paperback, $9.99 digital, November 14, 2017)

In 1900 Frank L. Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, arguably the first truly American fairy tale. Now, a century and counting along the Yellow Brick Road, what can be said about the current state of the fairy tale in America? We seem deep in the wilds of dystopias like Hunger Games and its darker cousin, The Walking Dead, captivated by the grim fantasies of American Gods and Game of Thrones. Is this the new reality for the American fable, for literary fantasy that aspires to be anything more than a Disney retelling?

Against this darker background, a pair of recent collections from San Francisco’s Tachyon Publications attempts to reestablish or at least reconfirm fantasy as something brighter, if no less compelling. The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle and The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen (both published November 2017) together provide a sample of American fantasy by two of its most enduring and cherished voices. Beagle and Yolen are both giants, with hundreds of publications and dozens of awards between them. They have won the highest accolades in the fields, and both now write from positions of something like legend. But do the unicorns of Beagle or the Arthurian retellings of Yolen have anything to give readers who have come to expect a heavy dose of grim realism or even grimmer apocalypse in their high fantasy?

Read More »

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.

Future Treasures: The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman

Friday, August 4th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The New Voices of Fantasy-smallAside from the usual crop of Best of the Year books, I’ve been disappointed with this year’s reprint anthologies. So I’m intrigued and hopeful about The New Voices of Fantasy, a very promising reprint anthology with a Table of Contents that reads like a Who’s Who of the best new voices in the genre — including Amal El-Mohtar, Sofia Samatar, Sarah Pinsker, Max Gladstone, Hannu Rajaniemi, Maria Dahvana Headley, Ursula Vernon, and many others. Kirkus Reviews calls it “Stellar… proves not only that fantasy is alive and well, but that it will be for years to come.”

The contents include Alyssa Wong’s Nebula and World Fantasy Award winner “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” Ursula Vernon’s Nebula Award winner “Jackalope Wives,” and Usman T. Malik’s British Fantasy Award Award winner “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn.” It also contains an original story by Eugene Fischer. Here’s the description.

What would you do if a tornado wanted you to be its Valentine? Or if a haunted spacesuit banged on your door? When is the ideal time to turn into a tiger? Would you post a supernatural portal on Craigslist?

In these nineteen stories, the enfants terribles of fantasy have arrived. The New Voices of Fantasy captures some of the fastest-rising talents of the last five years, including Sofia Samatar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Usman T. Malik, Brooke Bolander, E. Lily Yu, Ben Loory, Ursula Vernon, and more. Their tales were hand-picked by the legendary Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (The Treasury of the Fantastic).

So go ahead and join the Communist revolution of the honeybees. The new kids got your back.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Read More »

Something Terrifying and Wonderful: In Calabria, by Peter S. Beagle

Saturday, March 4th, 2017 | Posted by Steve Case

In Calabria Peter Beagle-smallPeter S. Beagle has, by dint of his enduring classic The Last Unicorn, become the patron saint of these creatures among fantasy authors. But more than this, Beagle has become to fantasy writing a sort of patron saint of the longing that unicorns (when exhumed from the candied, polychromatic encrustations of the popular imagination) have come to embody. Beagle has resurrected the unicorn as a symbol to be reverenced, whether in his early novel or, as I have argued recently in another review, in the person of Lioness in his recent Summerlong. Unicorns represent the quiet desperation for a touch of otherworldliness, of the desire for something beyond or above or even just beside to press up against our daily lives. It is this longing for visitation that runs through his latest work, the short book In Calabria, and plays out on the confines of a rustic farm and in the life of a single isolated farmer.

Claudio Bianchi is an old man. He lives alone on a hillside farm in Calabria, the region of Italy forming the mountainous toes of the country’s famous boot outline. Calabria is scenic and slow, off the beaten path. Beagle plays into the timelessness of the place. His protagonist is timeless and isolated as well: solitary, cranky, and proud of the tiny, half-ruined farm he cultivates in the same manner his ancestors did a hundred years before. Beagle, who has had his share of trouble lately and perhaps longs for the sort of escape Bianchi’s life represents, sets a stage of idyllic isolation in rustic Mediterranean splendor. “The universe and Claudio Bianchi had agreed long ago to leave one another alone,” we are told early on in the story. “And if he had any complaints, he made sure that neither the universe nor he himself ever knew of them.”

It is not, however, this isolation and timelessness alone that draws a unicorn to Bianchi’s farm to give birth. Rather, Beagle leads the reader to understand it is Bianchi’s crusty humility and his compassion for and amiable companionship with the animals that share his land. It may also be because Bianchi is a poet. His reputation as such among his neighbors is something of a puzzle, as he never shares his poems or publishes them. He simply takes pleasure in fitting words together, in working them the way he works the soil, and leaves them hidden in the drawers of his desk. For perhaps all these reasons, a unicorn appears in Calabria and chooses a hollow in view of Bianchi’s back window to give birth to her young. “I am past visitations,” Bianchi asks the pregnant unicorn when it first arrives. “What do you want with me?”

Read More »

Future Treasures: In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

Friday, February 3rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

In Calabria Peter Beagle-smallPeter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn and The Folk of the Air, is one of the finest writers we have, and a new Beagle novella is a major event.

In Calabria, the tale of a lonely farmer in Italy’s scenic Calabria who finds himself a worldwide sensation when his farm becomes a haven for a host of unicorns, is a highly-anticipated return to the subject that made him famous. It’s available in trade paperback from Tachyon on Valentines’ Day.

Claudio Bianchi has lived alone for many years on a hillside in Southern Italy’s scenic Calabria. Set in his ways and suspicious of outsiders, Claudio has always resisted change, preferring farming and writing poetry. But one chilly morning, as though from a dream, an impossible visitor appears at the farm. When Claudio comes to her aid, an act of kindness throws his world into chaos. Suddenly he must stave off inquisitive onlookers, invasive media, and even more sinister influences.

Lyrical, gripping, and wise, In Calabria confirms Peter S. Beagle’s continuing legacy as one of fantasy’s most legendary authors.

Our previous coverage of Peter Beagle includes:

Future Treasures: Summerlong
The Mystery of Peter S. Beagle’s I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons
How to Support Peter S. Beagle with The Last Unicorn Blu-ray by Ryan Harvey
The Secret History of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle

In Calabria will be published by Tachyon Publications on February 14, 2017. It is 176 pages, priced at $19.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition.

Future Treasures: Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Sunday, August 7th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Summerlong Peter S Beagle-small Summerlong Peter S Beagle-back-small

A new novel by Peter S. Beagle is a major publishing event. His last novel, I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons (2007), mysteriously never appeared in print, but The Last Unicorn (1968) was ranked the #5 All-Time Best Fantasy Novel in the 1987 Locus Poll. The Folk of the Air (1986) and Tamsin (1999) both won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and The Innkeeper’s Song (1993) won the Locus Award. He’s won virtually every accolade our field has to offer, including the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards.

His long-anticipated new novel Summerlong, a bittersweet tale of passion, enchantment, and the nature of fate, arrives next month. Kirkus Reviews calls it “A beautifully detailed fantasy,” and comic writer Kurt Busiek (Astro City, The Avengers) says it is “An urban myth for adults… a book of magic, wondrous, tragic and unending.”

Our previous coverage of Peter Beagle includes Ryan Harvey’s 2011 article “How to Support Peter S. Beagle with The Last Unicorn Blu-ray,” and our 2010 post on The Secret History of Fantasy.

Summerlong will be published by Tachyon Publications on September 13, 2016. It is 240 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback. The cover is by Magdalena Korzeniewska. Read the full details, including an excerpt, at the Tachyon website.

The Mystery of Peter S. Beagle’s I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

I'm Afraid You've Got Dragons-smallPeter Beagle is one of the finest living fantasy writers. His 1968 novel The Last Unicorn has long been considered a classic, and The Innkeeper’s Song (1993) and Tamsin (1999) were both nominated for the World Fantasy Award. His 2007 novel I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons isn’t as well known as some of his others, but it has its fans. It’s currently ranked at 3.88 (out of 5) at Goodreads, and it has five stars at Beagle has drummed up a lot of interest in it over the years by reading chapters at various conventions (you can watch him do a public reading of the first chapter here).

I’ve been dying to get my hands on a copy myself. But that’s proven to be fairly tricky because, as it turns out, the book doesn’t exist.

I’m sure this has frustrated more than a few Beagle collectors, because it can take a while to figure this out. Even the Internet Speculative Fiction Database thinks this book exists. And, as far as I know, Amazon and Goodreads aren’t generally in the habit of listing books that don’t exist. But trust me. This ain’t a book.

The closest I’ve come to finding an explanation is this brief note at the bottom of an excerpt from the novel at Green Man Review, quoting a defunct section of Beagle’s website:

The story was originally supposed to be a 40,000 word novella, no longer. But it grew. The first draft came in at more than twice that: nearly 90,000 words… I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons was originally contracted to Firebird Books, and announced for a Summer 2007 release — but completion of the final draft was delayed as the manuscript insisted on growing, and because of time lost to unavoidable family issues, so the book was rescheduled for Summer 2008. Before it could be turned in, however, a serious business conflict came up between Peter and Penguin USA over the 40th Anniversary Edition of The Last Unicorn. This ultimately led Peter to conclude that after many years of association with Penguin imprints it was time to move on. Since Firebird was a Penguin imprint, that meant pulling I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons.

Read More »

Fantasy Magazine April 2011 Arrives — Including Peter S. Beagle, Jonathan L. Howard, and Carrie Vaughn

Sunday, April 10th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

fantasy-april2011The April issue of Fantasy magazine, issue 49, has been posted online.

New content is posted weekly at the magazine’s website. There’s plenty to interest Black Gate readers this month, including Kat Howard’s tribute to Choose Your Own Adventure books, the short story “Choose Your Own Adventure” (also available as a podcast) — in which the stakes are literally life and death. In an accompanying non-fiction piece Molly Tanzer talks to Ellen Kushner about her experiences creating the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and Matt Staggs, Jeremiah Tolbert, Esther Inglis-Arkell and others about their experiences reading them.

This issue also includes a reprint by Peter S. Beagle, “The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon;” “House of Gears” by Jonathan L. Howard, author of the Kyth the Taker stories in Black Gate, “The Beautiful Corridor” (BG 13) and “The Shuttered Temple” (BG 15); short story “A Hunter’s Ode to His Bait” by Carrie Vaughn; an interview with N. K. Jemisin; Author Profiles; and articles by Genevieve Valentine and Helen Pilinovsky.

These features will all appear online as the month unfolds; you can also purchase the entire issue immediately as an eBook for just $2.99.

Fantasy is edited by John Joseph Adams and published by Sean Wallace. Their webmaster is Jeremiah Tolbert, whose story “Groob’s Stupid Grubs” appears in Black Gate 15. The cover artist is Max Bertolini.

We last profiled Fantasy in March with issue 48.

  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2018 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.