Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Witch World -- Andre Norton

Fantasy is timeless because the worlds created have their own reality. It is escapism at its best.

Witch World was the first volume of the Witch World series that launched several generations of teen and preteen readers into the genre of fantasy fiction. And yes, I was one of those teens. There were other fantasy novels around, but many of those were difficult to read, or aimed at adult audiences.

Witch World stories were classified as ‘juveniles’ because they didn’t contain graphic sex, objectionable language or abusive violence, and they often revolved around coming-of-age journeys. However, these novels have much broader appeal. I’ve reread my copies through the years with as much enjoyment as the first time.

Simone Tregarth is a man marked for death in the mid-20th century. The ex-colonel fell afoul of what seems to be a criminal organization. Norton leaves this a little nebulous because it doesn’t matter except that Tregarth is a hunted man, a former warrior seeking escape. However, Norton points out that Tregarth is of ancient Cornish descent, invoking times of King Arthur and Celtic magic. A stranger who considers himself a scientist, an explorer, and an experimenter promises Tregarth escape. He leads Tregarth to the Seige Perilous, a stone as old as Stonehenge, rumored to have the ability to “judge a man, determine his worth, and then deliver him to his fate.” At dawn, the Seige Perilous delivers Tregarth to Witch World, a journey with no return.

Witch World does not have the technology of Tregarth’s homeworld, but magic is abundant. There are witches, magic, telepathy, and an ongoing war between good and evil.

His first act in this strange land saves the life of a witch, who remains unnamed until the last page. She takes him to Estcarp, the “threatened, perhaps doomed” home of the witches. Of course, Tregarth doesn’t speak the language, giving the reader an excellent opportunity to learn along with him. Here we meet witches, who only keep their power while virginal, and the dwarf guardsman Koris the Misshapen. There are other races in this world: the men called Falconers; the seafaring Sulcarmen, and about the evil coming from the lands of Karsten and Alizon. We also learn of the gates, portals that deliver people from other times and places, the price of magic, and of choices between right and wrong. WITCH WORLD serves as the reader’s gate to numerous other books in this amazing, well-crafted world.

The thirty-two books of the Witch World are available used from online booksellers, but I’ve discovered them to few and far between in local used bookstores. Probably a testament to readers loving their books so much they don’t want to part with them.

Sadly, Andre Norton died in 2005 at the age of 94. The list of her published books displays her impressive accomplishment.

Witch World by Andre Norton, Copyright 1963, many editions. Mine is from ACE Science Fiction.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Unique Situations

This month’s topic is about unique situations occurring in the writing process. For me, this might include unique things that happen within the actual writing of a story.

Thinking through my initial ideas is where I usually come up with situations for my stories. A few times during the writing process I have stalled out and had to rethink a  story's events to find a new avenue, but I'm a plotter, so most ideas come int the prewriting process. Most often my unique situations involve either the setting or the characters. This, I am sure, is part of the process of writing in the science fiction and fantasy genre, which led me to use it in other genres, too.

For instance, when I thought up Home World Aginfeld, it was the setting that formed a unique situation. I didn’t initially come up with the plot or idea behind it until I first wondered how foreign planets could be inhabited. The action in this story takes place on a distant planet where the people have lived in huge habitats for a thousand years because the first settlers need places to live as they began the process of bio-forming the planet. Yet after all that time indoors, the population became leery of leaving their secure habitats. Once started, another unique situation occurred. The story starts out on a misogynistic world where a woman commits a burglary. The main female character doesn't start the story but was misidentified as the culprit which led to her capture and a death sentence in the now feudal type society of Aginfeld. The real burglar turned out to be her sister.

Most of my research for bio-forming at that time showed only possibilities. With the current interest in inhabiting Mars, more scientific information is now available, but it is still only probabilities, no promises.

In Crewkin it was the characters. I imagined companies raising groups of genetically altered children isolated together to form crews for spaceships spending years in space. The for-profit companies no longer saw these crews as people, but merely tools. The story revolves around one ‘Crewkin’ member who didn’t want to follow the company dictates and sets out to find a new life.

The focus in the Black Angel Series was also focused on a character. The main character survives a massive overdose of a drug known to destroy minds. Her mind divided into six different personalities. Much later in the writing process, I discovered a symbiotic organism had invaded the character to evoke this change.

In the fantasy Aegis Series, it is also the characters who are unique. This is a world where the ‘magic’ certain characters perform is not hocus-pocus trickery but mental abilities.

Stories set in historical or contemporary realities can also have unique changes. These often happen during the writing process where readers expect difficulties. While creating these, unique ideas can form that change the planned plotline. This happened to my writing quite often in Constantine’s Legacy. I’ve discovered it is part of the enjoyment and diversion in writing.

A.J. Maguire
Connie Vines
Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Beverley Bateman
Helena Fairfax
Dr. Bob Rich 
Diane Bator

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Mind to Mind Invasion in Progress

Woman Reading a Book by John Salatas

Novels act as invasions. If the story is compelling the writer invades the reader's mind. I know my mind has been invaded many times. Some reading has left permanent thought and outlook changes.

When I don't want to put a story down, when I keep reading despite the call of chores or tiredness, I know my mind has been invaded. I don't care. The reality in the story is so compelling I just cannot stop reading.

This can happen in non-fiction, too. Some personal essays and biographies are compelling reads. Compelling as in I must keep reading.

I suppose such a read is like taking a vacation. I escape my own life and reality for short periods.

This type of mind invasion lets the reader come away with the similar benefits of a far more expensive vacation. It allows a reader to let go of their problems for a while. At the end of the story, this makes the reader happier or more satisfied while calming and satisfying the mind. Now, not all books are calming, but finishing even a story full of horrific misdeeds and situations, leaves a reader glad of what they might consider their own boring life or overwhelming busy day-to-day.

So read! Help keep your mind active and healthy. Let a writer fill your mind with meeting new characters, learning about how similar we are even when very different, going to different places and times. Learning, understanding, and a growing knowledge of humanity comes with the experience.