Category: Nanolomo

Resident Alien of Nano

Well, it was bound to happen – missed days of both blogging and of words and of Nanolomo. This is partly a function of the missing days being my work days (and a dance teaching evening as well) – but also partly laziness. The words I can feel… kind of ok about, because they don’t have to be an everyday thing, but I wonder how I could have better managed the posts and reviews. Planning and scheduling I think would have been the way. Since I can schedule posts after all, I could have done a few ahead of time and that way made the whole process easier.

Once I would have felt bad about not having perfectly completed the month, and just thrown in the towel, not have bothered with continuing to post for the rest of the month. These days, I figure perfection is a touch over-rated. So, back onto the wagon for me, and hopefully with more foreplanning for next week’s work days.

At any rate, the Nano website reckons I just need to write 1700 words daily anyway to hit the goal on time, but I’d still rather catch up tomorrow. Perhaps though I can manage just a double hit rather than a triple – 5100 words in a single day is a rather lot! Doable, but may be not sensible. 😉

Am still enjoying the process of discovering the characters, new ones especially. I have a feeling I might have to add another fight into the final act, but I wonder if that might be contorting the plot into being something it isn’t. Well, still got some time before I get to that point.

So to back-track a bit on the planned meme (and really, I might just grab things from it as the mood takes me), and perhaps to save me a bit of typing, I’ll talk about one of my favourite quotes.

Wherever I am on this earth, I am and shall always be a resident alien.
– Quentin Crisp

Actually, sod talking about it, I’m just going to let it stand as it is. 😉

So You Want To Be a Wizard by Diane Duane cover

Nanolomo: So You Want To be a Wizard by Diane Duane

So You Want To Be a Wizard by Diane Duane cover

This is another of those significant books published in the year of my birth. Though really it isn’t just the one book, but also Duane’s whole Young Wizards series.
The story: Nita Callahan, hiding out in the library from the local bullies, finds a book titled ‘So You Want To Be a Wizard.’ Intrigued, she takes it home, and quickly discovers it is in fact a manual for how to become a wizard. Her adventures lead her to a new friend and equally new wizard, Kit Rodriguez, an alien pinpoint of light (nicknamed Fred), and the introduction of the series villain, often known as the Lone Power.

This series has gotten to me in ways Harry Potter never really could have. I thoroughly enjoyed the Potter books, but for the most part the characters felt relatively safe. What I think Duane has down is the rather serious choices and decisions that wizards have to make. Wizardry doesn’t exist in a separate, parallel world, but rather wizards act as guardians of a sort to the places they occupy. There is a deep sense of connectedness with everything that goes on, not a new-age hippy kind of way, but a sense that choice and action has an affect and reaction. Duane touches on the spiritual as well; I just loved the idea that what wizardry is about is slowly down entropy (the physical as well as the metaphysical). The end will come, sure, but there is still time for good things in the universe too. My favourite of the series is probably the second, Deep Wizardry, where our protagonists had to make some pretty frightening choices. And the Lone Power makes also for a pretty compelling villain too. If you’re after thoughtful YA fantasy, the Young Wizards books are pretty bloody good.

PS – I had to do a bit of hunting to find this cover, and I wanted this one in particular because it was the one on the edition I first read. 🙂

Galax Arena by Gillian Rubestein

Nanolomo: Galax Arena by Gillian Rubinstein

Another Australian book, this time, what was one of my first forays into science fiction, and also perhaps one of the darker books I encountered. Not dark just because of the theme of its plot – children kidnapped into space to perform high-risk gymnastics so their adrenalin rush would be transmuted to their alien audience – but because of the rather eye-opening social dynamics between the children and teens who had been abducted. You had your three Australian kids – Peter, Joella (the narrator), and Liane – encountering African and Latin American street kids who already know that harsh realities of life, and who aren’t at all sympathetic to our protagonists, who naturally have little understanding of them at first. Throw this into the mix of the gymnastics games (the Galax Arena of the title), where acts are performed without nets, rife with competitiveness, and you have what was an incredibly engrossing story that I read several times growing up.

Being a fairly sheltered child, it was one of the first books I’d encountered characters who were willing to hurt each other if that’s what it took for their own survival, and also, sometimes, taking pleasure in that pain. By the time I’d read it, I’d seen a film adaptation of Lord of the Flies (would only read the book some years later), and it was clear Rubinstein was riffing on some of that, but these children weren’t so much left to their own devices, but also goaded and encouraged to compete by a trainer who remains one of the nastiest characters I can remember reading; Hythe was all charm and tenderness, but also ready for a slap and censure and taunting. The violence of the story as well I remember shocking me too. There was a distinct lack of comfort in the novel – there were moments of it, but it was not a comfortable read overall. And I think at some point in a reader’s life that is inevitable. Galax Arena was definitely that book for me.

The Complete Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

Nanolomo: The Complete Adenvtures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

I’m not sure how well-known outside of Australia these stories – and art work, especially – are. Even if you didn’t read, or had read to you, the stories of the gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, their friends Ragged Blossom, and Mr Lizard, and those dastardly Banksia men, if you’re Aussie, you know the image of a gumnut baby well. These you can see on the cover here, whose dress and life is based on the gumnuts produced by the eucalyptus tree.

Taking an educated guess, I’d say the illustrator and author of these stories, May Gibbs, was trying to create a kind of Australian fairy in that very Victorian/Edwardian vision of what a fairy was (certainly not the darker Celtic Fae, but rather a kind of sweet creature who hopped from flower to flower). It would be an interesting question to explore – the creation of Australian folklore and tales in the absence of one that immigrant Australia could call its own. How indeed do the gumnut babies sit along side the Aboriginal Australian dreamtime legends and storytelling – not uncomfortably, but Gibbs was certainly, and not surprisingly, employing a more English tradition in her depiction of the Australian bush and Australian nature.

And I think that is good thing. Being blessed with a gift for illustration and wonderful detail (I don’t have a copy of the book on hand but I remember the pictures of both the Australian bush and under water scenes, with clever detail that uses the minutiae of nature in creative ways) though, Gibbs saved it from being merely twee and sweet and gave us something quite beautiful. For me personally, I think it gave a connection back to Australia (as a child, I was brought up in Jakarta) that I think was vital, for it only became a lived experience when was 9.

The stories themselves… I think there was something a little deeper in them than most of the other children’s books I read. There was adventure, but there was emotional connection, and fear, and friendship too. But really, I’d give these to someone just for Gibb’s lovely illustrations. 🙂

And who else is writing for Nanolomo? Click to find out!

Mog in the Dark by Judith Kerr

Nanolomo: Mog in the Dark

Mog sat in the dark and thought dark thoughts.
It strikes me as interesting that one of my favourite books as when I wasn’t even 10 was published the year I was born (1983 – which additionally is when another favourite, So You Want To Be a Wizard, was also published – that’s coming later this month).

But that’s by the by.
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