The latest reviews and mentions of Tachyon titles and authors from around the web.
Photo: Rina Weisman
At SUPPORT PETER S, BEAGLE, Beagle writes about Ursuka K. Le Guin.
It takes the shiny off everything. Everything. Including the pure shameless pride of being declared a Damon Knight Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. All of it.
I’m a good writer. I know that perfectly well, after some sixty years of doing whatever it is I do, and then doing it over. But I’m not shuffling my feet, looking down and mumbling shyly when I say that on my best day, with the wind at my back and the fish biting, I couldn’t have carried Ursula K. LeGuin’s spare gym socks. I know that equally well. Sharing a great honor with her won’t ever change that.
I didn’t know her well. She lived in Portland, and I’ve been all over northern California in the last half-century, with six years out for the Seattle area. We hadn’t yet met when I followed her by a week into the Clarion West workshop (1972, was it?), to be greeted by a note saying, “Welcome, Unicorn! Make the little kobolds work their tails off!) Mostly we ran into each other at various conventions, grabbing coffee where we could. I do like to recall a serious conversation, initiated by me in increasing alarm at having become known more and more, in the intervening years, as the Unicorn Guy. Meanwhile, Ursula’s recently-published Earthsea novels had, as far as I was concerned, put paid to dragons as literary figures: I felt – and still feel – that dragons should be off-limits to all other writers, no matter how gifted or inventive they might be. But I was younger then, and had the chutzpah to offer to trade my unicorns even-up for her dragons. “Unicorns are really easy to housebreak. They always ask to go outside.” I remember that I was even willing to throw in a utility infielder, if she insisted.
Ursula’s response: “Do you know how impossible it is to keep dragons off the curtains? And they’re absolute hell on carpets!” We never did make the deal, but not for my lack of trying. As I say, I was younger then.
In my introduction to the 2017 Tachyon anthology THE NEW VOICES OF FANTASY, I wrote:
“Years ago, knowing that I was scheduled to speak at the annual meeting of [SFWA]…Ursula LeGuin, wisest of us all, warned me as follows: ‘Remember that most of your audience will be drunk by the time you get up to speak, and remember always that all of us feel, to one degree or another, that mainstream fiction has been stealing our ideas – and even our classic cliches – for generations, and selling them back to us as Magic Realism. Tell them that, loudly and repeatedly, and the ones who can still stand up will be buying you drinks all night. And never forget that this is a small, highly incestuous group, and a lot of people have been married to, or sleeping. with other members of the group – so watch what you say.‘”
There’s nothing I can say about her now that isn’t all over the Internet today, and won’t be providing endless exhausting doctorates, seminars, fellowships and festivals tomorrow, and in the years to come. She was the master. She still is. She lived as full and honorable a life as anyone could have, and she got her work done. But I don’t believe for a minute that she ever thought she’d gotten her work done. The truly great ones never do. There’s always more.
This was my first time reading anything by Peter S. Beagle. Judging from the stories in this book, I would say he has versatile writing skills, a good sense of humor, and an obsession with unicorns (I guess when The Last Unicorn is your biggest hit, why not milk it?…not that there are any stories about milking unicorns).
Anyway, this collection offers a wide variety of fantasy stories from folktales to visiting worlds created in previous novels to steampunk(ish…he admits he doesn’t really understand the genre) to urban. No matter the sub-genre his narration has a light touch either in a “isn’t this a folksy charming tale” way, lightly mocking narration, or some combination of the two.
Overall, this is well worth reading as a fun sampler of fantasy sub-genres, and I’m glad to have found an entertaining author I hadn’t read before.
THE EMERALD CITY BOOK REVIEW enjoys the collection.
His first collection in some years, it includes uncollected work along with several stories previously unpublished in print, and many of them are dazzling. The title comes from the breezily inventive “The Way It Works Out and All,” in which Beagle himself appears as a character along with fellow fantasy author Avram Davidson, who’s discovered a way into the mysterious “plumbing” behind the ordinary world. I love this image, and it could be taken as a metaphor for the uncertain and sometimes dangerous ways the author has to tread in bringing the gifts of the imaginative world to us. Beagle casts himself as being more reluctant in this endeavor than his intrepid friend, yet I suspect he’s no less of an adventurer at heart.
For more info on THE OVERNEATH, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story