A Dalek Carol

A Dalek Carol

Merry Christmas!

This instalment of the Dalek Game is of course for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and is one of the earlier Daleks I drew, although I decided to wait until it was more festively appropriate (if not seasonally – it is warm and rainy here).

I am fond of A Christmas Carol. My mother used to read it aloud to us, and I still remember the delight of picking it up for myself and discovering it is broken into verses instead of chapters, and the further delight of discovering that great peculiar British Christmas tradition (one of so many) of Christmas ghost stories. The only movie I have ever liked of it, however, is the Muppet Christmas Carol.

Everyone has mocked me for this, and I felt lonely in my conviction. A few years ago, however, I finally purchased Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. It took a while, because on the one hand it was Christmas stories, but on the other it was Connie Willis. Miracle has some lovely stories (my favourite is the riff on Christmas newsletters, “Newsletter”), but the highlight for me are her list of “Twelve Terrific Things to Read” and “And Twelve to Watch”, in which she states, and I quote:

“My two favourites are The Muppets’ and Mr Magoo’s. Not only are they the most literarily faithful (okay, okay, the Muppet one has two Marleys, but it also has Charles Dickens as a character – and Rizzo the Rat), but they’re the most fun. And they have wonderful scores.” 

So maybe now they will believe me.

Internet access and posting may be erratic for a week or two. I’ll do what I can. In the meantime, I am off to read Luke (as Connie Willis says, “This one’s got everything you could ask for in a story: adventure, excitement, love, betrayal, special effects. Good guys, bad guys, narrow escapes, reversals, mysterious strangers, and a great chase scene” ), and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and A Visit from Saint Nicholas and draw with my nephews, and eat – I wish you all just as merry and happy!

The Adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Daleks

Robin Hood and his Merry Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for my battered, much-read copy of The Adventures of Robin Hood & his Merry Outlaws, which was “retold from the old ballads by J. Walker McSpadden and Charles Wilson, with illustrations by Howard Pyle and T.H. (Thomas Heath) Robinson”.

I am not sure if it is the illustrations, the adventures or the chapter titles I love most – “How Robin Hood turned butcher and entered the Sheriff’s service”, “How the Sheriff lost three good servants and found them again”, “How the Bishop went Outlaw-Hunting”. But this book was my first Robin Hood, and its witty Robin and brave Marian, playful (but inclined to nunnery-burning) John, battles in kitchens and marvellously archaic stylings are the Robin Hood tales my younger sister and I played in our subtropical garden in the few years we lived in Brisbane growing up, with swords my father made us and bows and arrows of bamboo and twigs, with arrowheads cut from palm bark, and a Sherwood Forest of tunnels through yellow and white jasmine. It helped that we lived two suburbs away from Sherwood, with its arboretum and Robin Hood bookstore (long gone).

The death of Robin is one of the scenes I read when I feel like breaking my own heart (also: the end of Prydain and Judy in Seven Little Australians), because, seriously, from Marian’s death abroad when “they had been married but five years”, and the death of Richard, who “came not again, and would never need his Royal Guard more” to the final arrow and “So died the body of  Robin Hood…” there is nothing happy there. I’m a little bit choked up now. And I don’t believe it, really. Robin Hood can’t die.

Those years coloured all my Robin Hoods – although McSpadden and Wilson’s version strives to be so anchored in time and place, I read and played it out in Brisbane. In my mind, Robin Hood shifts about and shows up in unlikely places, as he should! In Arthur’s Britain in The Sword in the Stone (Robin playing with Marian’s hair as they sit in the forest!), in the great battle in Ivanhoe, in the post-Child-ballad forests of The Last Unicorn (and that scene is so beautifully written – whenever I read of the passing of those larger-than-life shadows through the forest I want to run after them too, shouting “Wait for me, Mr Hood! Wait for me!”), always foiling the Sheriff in 1066 and all that. Of the movies… oh, the gold lame is remarkable in the Errol Flynn version, and Alan Rickman is… Alan Rickman in the Kevin Costner version, and Men in Tights is hysterical, and the end credits were gorgeous in the Crowe/Blanchett version (I would have liked the movie a great deal if the order of some scenes had been rearranged), and although The Court Jester isn’t exactly Robin Hood I think Danny Kaye got it. But it is Disney’s animated fox Robin, quick and clever and charming and daring, and oddly (perfectly) against a backdrop of Roger Miller songs (the soundtrack of much of my childhood) who captured what I love most – that surreal, sweet, wild, quicksilver, allusive dream of Sherwood.


A Dalek for Summer

A Dalek for Summer

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Eva Ibbotson’s charming A Song for Summer.

I knew of Eva Ibbotson first for her fantasies, like The Secret of Platform 13, which has already been a Dalek. I loved her for her non-fantasy fiction. Of these, A Song for Summer was the first, and the worst, and my favourite.

Saying it is not the best Ibbotson novel does not, of course, mean it is a bad novel! The fact it is an Ibbotson novel elevates it above many others. It simply means that you should read it first, and love it, before you read those. The characters in this go through a little more, and grow up a little more, and are a little more bruised and wiser by the end (in that it is like I Capture the Castle, which I love a little closer to the end of the story with each passing year).

But it is an Ibbotson novel – a fairytale set between the wars, about the domestically inclined daughter-and-niece of militant suffragettes, seeking her fortune and employment as a housemistress in an eccentric English boarding school in Switzerland, populated by paralysed tortoises, mysterious musical gardeners, Marxist theatre troupes, and featuring war, intrigue, daring escapes, missed understandings, missed connections, love, loss, patience, boarding schools, evacuees, violins…

Intriguingly, Eva Ibbotson’s non-fantasy fiction seems to come in pairs – adult and children’s/YA. This is the adult parallel to The Dragonfly Pool, as Journey to the River Sea is the counterpart to the ethereal, Amazonian A Company of Swans. All are complete, perfect fairytales without fairies, fantasy without magic, hard without bitterness, enchanting without being too sweet.

In other news: I have finished the first, enormous, amorphous manuscript of the work-in-progress! That’s… about all that has happened in the last month and a half.

Illustration Friday: Separated

Illustration Friday: Separated

A little pen and ink design to go around an initial letter – possibly the O in Once upon a time. Two little people separated by trees, distance, opinion and ideas. Joined, of course, by fairytales.

Rapunzel’s Dalek

Rapunzel's Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale.

I love retellings and reimaginings, and would have gone a very long way out of my way to read Shannon Hale after she wrote a novel of The Goose Girl, which is one of my favourite fairytales (I am currently trying to straighten out a mangled short-story attempt at combining it with a Natalie Merchant song). Rapunzel’s Revenge was marvellous – a wonderful wild-west fairytale – lively and dangerous and fun, beautifully drawn and useful for getting the most unlikely people interested in comics

I have, best intentions notwithstanding, tried not to like Rapunzel in the past. First, it does not have the brightest hero – when my father first told the story to me, and the prince reached the tower and saw Rapunzel, my father said, “And what do you think he did?”, so I answered, “Went to the hardware store and bought a ladder.”

Second, it is so often held up as an example of the passive heroine (Catherynne M Valente has a strange-lovely version of the princess-waiting-to-be-rescued type in the Orphan Tales), and modern retellings tend to play up the action in consequence (whether with lassos or frying pans). But taking it apart recently (as I do with fairytales from time to time – it’s a fun game, I’ll introduce you sometime) I finally realised that it is much more of a Tam Lin story than anything else, and that Rapunzel has always been one of those characters who Goes Out and Does Something. On foot. In the wilderness. With twins.

Also, it makes an excellent play for staging in a tree house.

In other news: Yesterday I posted a subtly Doctor Who and Firefly flavoured wedding invitation I designed for friends.

A Wedding Invitation

Wedding invitation

(View it larger here)

This is my illustration for the invitation to the wedding of the lovely Nicky Strickland and the slightly more elusive Damon Cavalchini. The commission was quite simple: lighthouse, mermaid, two Daleks and a Firefly reference. I drew it in pen and ink and coloured it on the (old!) computer – the colours are quite flat since it was to be printed on textured paper.

Here are the original thumbnail sketches (with bonus thumbnail!) if such things amuse you:

His Dalek Materials

His Dalek Materials

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I really want the Weeping Angel fabric.

The shop in this picture is named for Abram’s Drapers in Miles, one of many Lebanese-founded drapers, tailors and haberdashers that exist – or used to exist – across the Darling Downs. I miss those shops – offcuts and ribbons and bolts of dusty old fabric, stacks of hats, hooks full of zippers, boots, lace motifs, stork-handled scissors and tatting bobbins. One in Dalby still had the hand-cranked cage on wires which once delivered change to the counting-room at the back of the store. I remember that even in the late ’90s in Brisbane there was still a haberdashery counter in Myer department stores in Brisbane.

Ace Drapers in Roma, however, was alarming – odd helpful assistants looming out of the ancient gloom between the shelves, and vanishing up the box-crowded sweeping stairs to prowl through the upper floors and return with what you desired.

His Dark Materials is not about fabric, but I have not yet forgiven Philip Pullman for killing off my favourite character.