Dalek of the Pigeons

Dalek of the Pigeons

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Megan Lindholm’s Wizard of the Pigeons, one of the earlier urban fantasy (in the older sense of that term) books which I read, not including that odd twilight world of children’s and YA novels which hadn’t been separated out by genre yet. I am not sure if this was the book that won me over to it – I do remember being charmed by it, and sad, and the shifting nature of the world peculiar to the sort of urban fantasy I like. I was already won over to Lindholm’s writing by reason of her also being Robin Hobb, whose Farseer books I bought purely on the basis of a John Howe cover, and even convinced my little sister (inveterate non-fiction and Grisham reader) to read.

In other news: The year is off to a promising, undead start with January’s calendar illustration, impressive temperatures, lots of coffee, watching The Mousetrap with my mother, testing centrifugal forces in a playground with my cousins, and a house thinly coated in chalk-and-ink dust.

I Planted Daleks

I planted Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is really for the Lifeline Bookfest, where I bought Richard St. Barbe Baker‘s autobiography, I Planted Trees. Several years ago. And haven’t read it yet.

I am certain it will be compelling and life-altering because most books I buy at the Lifeline Bookfest are (my criteria: pretty spine, not my genre, never heard of it and/or don’t read that subject; don’t even bother trying to fight for the Pratchett books, there is blood in the aisles there).

I am not allowed to go to the Bookfest again until I buy more bookcases and have more time to read things not-for-illustration. So you should all go. It’s amazing. Enormous exhibition halls full of old, beautiful, mouldering, dog-eared, out-of-print, rare, too-common, dusty, inscribed books. Money raised goes to support services including a crisis line and post-disaster support.

The next Brisbane Bookfest is from 19 to 28 January at the Convention Centre. Take a cut lunch and a backpack.

LIfeline Bookfest

Daleks at Play

Daleks at Play

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for An Almanac of Words at Play by Willard R. Espy which I must have acquired somewhere second-hand, perhaps at a Lifeline booksale. It is a collection of light poetry, word games, literary games, amusing letters – charming, esoteric, veering between the heavily educated and the extremely flippant.

I am not a very keen player of board games. I am, rather, fond of parlour games and word play, and this book has a place in my heart for introducing me to several and to the idea of more. We make up games over coffee or while driving (witness the Daleks), add to them, integrate them into dinner parties. The game I remember most from this book, at the moment, is a game of rhyming couplets, where you are given a famous line and have to add to it. Of everything in the book, I probably remember this because of the example:

“I’ll take you home again Kathleen,
That last martini turned you green.”

In other news: I have put up the last instalment of the American Sketchbook. I am in the throes of drawing a comic and designing (other people’s) wedding invitations, but after that more (non-Dalek) posts will arrive. And this beautifully written, beautifully printed book has arrived, and will get a post of its own soon!

The Name of the Dalek

The Name of the Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose (and of course for this BBC video). The Name of the Rose was the first Eco I read, after a very dim memory of a select few scenes of the movie viewed once in class. I fell in love with it, and although I don’t have the clearest memory of its individual parts now, I still have great affection for the sum of the novel, which bore me through several more of Eco’s works to discover the impossible, wrathful, byzantine takedown that is Foucault’s Pendulum. I have even attempted to read The Name of the Rose in German. Well, I have acquired it in German. In truth, the English was translated from Italian and a fair proportion of the words weren’t even in my dictionary, so the experience of reading it in German was (along with Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, possibly the only time those books have been compared*) comparable to Vizzini’s seamanship :”Move that thing and – that other thing!”.

*Or not. Turns out there are connections.

In other news: Part 2 of the American Sketchbook is up: Illuxcon, New York and Colorado. The table of contents for the upcoming Fablecroft anthology One Small Step has been released, including stories by many wonderful authors and my “Ella and the Flame”. And I finished inking a largeish project last night, so rewarded myself by catching up on the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which is just fun (perfect, perfect Lydia).

A Dalek in Her Hand

A Dalek in Her Hand

And I’m back! Not with a World Fantasy Award – that was deservedly won by the very stylish John Coulthart, and contended by the enchanting Julie Dillon, the jaw-dropping Jon Foster and the darkly luminous John Picacio (whom I met!).

But I have returned with a sketchbook and Daleks!

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand. I remember very little of this book, except that my mother read it out loud to my family, and by the end of the opening we were all in tears.

In other news: Midnight and Moonshine (with my cover) has been successfully launched! And you can get a copy signed by the authors until 8 December 2012.

Dalekriders of Pern

Dalekriders of Pern

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, and was a special commission. It’s been a while since I read these!

In other news: Road-testing an iPad. Jury remains out. Also rereading Our Mutual Friend, and that is going very well. And trying to get my affairs in order before going to North America, which – argh. Affairs had been allowed to lapse. But I’m getting there!


Dalek in the Mist

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Hope Mirrlees’ rich and strange novel Lud-in-the-Mist. It is mysterious and thoughtful and marvellous, but never uncomfortably odd – that is, it doesn’t have the sort of oddness which throws me out of a book into the cold. Its colours shift, but they are warm. Its figures cast shadows, but all of them are lovely. It is literate and poetic without being dissatisfying. I have not retained the plot as clearly as an impression of – oh, of The Princess and the Goblin combined with “The Goblin Market” and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

In other news: I have sold a short story, hurrah, more details to follow in time – sometimes I get to be a writer, after all! I am indulging in far too many Heyer novels – comfort re-reading, but I have started criticising things as being “nothing out of the common way” or saying that I am “quite out of charity” with the man who MAULED my trees, so maybe I should pull back. Mostly I am trying not to FREAK OUT about leaving the country in TWO AND A HALF WEEKS. I am trying to conduct myself like a seasoned world-traveller, with few physical requirements and a delightfully carefree attitude to long-distance travel, but in truth I haven’t been out of the country in four years, and my base state wasn’t quite so perpetually overwhelmed then, and basically I am spending a lot of time freezing and thinking this. And then lying rigid on the floor, drumming my heels and doing this. So that’s going well.

Our Mutual Dalek

Our Mutual Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for my very favourite Dickens novel, Our Mutual Friend, my appreciation for which I have previously expressed. I still love it. It is excessively elaborate, indulgent, melodramatic, neat, funny, and odd. After an intensive course of Heyer rereads, which has left me criticising things by saying they are “nothing out of the common way”, I am about to read Our Mutual Friend again, for its skilled taxidermists and harmless pieces of dinner furniture, Red Riding Hood references, reversals of fortune and very satisfying ending. And then I will probably watch the miniseries again, for all that and Paul McGann.

American Daleks

American Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Neil Gaiman’s remarkable novel American Gods, a road-trip, murder-mystery, missing-identity, conspiracy, hustling, stranger-comes-to-a-small-town, Götterdämmerung of a fantasy. For me, it’s a pair with Diana Wynne Jones’ Eight Days of Luke – the grown-up, explicit, visceral, wry, partially-unrecommendable-in-certain-circles elder sibling of a novel with many of the same themes (as Stardust pairs with Howl’s Moving Castle). And in my head it is more than one book and world, as fits a cross-country novel in such a broad country – cold isolation of an ex-con walking by train tracks, hot southern funeral parlours, sweat and loss of hotel rooms, the baroque horror of a carousel…

In other news: A month and a half until I go to America! A little freaked out. Reminding myself that all I need is a passport, credit card and the will to eat my way across a continent.

Little Daleks (and giveaway)

Little Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book containing one of those scenes which sear themselves into my memory – the death of the bird when the girls are allowed to do as they please on their holidays and forget to take care of it. It was scarring and awful scene, because it was such an obvious, inevitable, unexpected, Lord of the Flies thing to happen. To many readers the book seems to be a hoops-and-bonnets fantasy. But while it taught me to do my chores (as What Katy Did taught me to give explanations for rules), and while I like Little Women much more than Lord of the Flies, and can forgive it a great deal for the collapsing bed and “Rodrigo! Save me!”, I cannot quite consider the novel without that memory, or consider the March girls aside from that momentous, careless cruelty.

An element of gritty reality underlies the charm (the teasing, the burned hair, the lost love). It is absent from (best-beloved) near-contemporary What Katy Did (1872 to Little Women’s 1868-9), for all its squabbles and games, and from the Little House Books (published in the 1930s recollecting the 1870s) where consequences come from outside forces and the best intentions of human effort seem to dissipate in locusts, blizzards, sickness and fire. Absent too from Anne of Green Gables’ cringing embarrassments (1908), and from Seven Little Australians (1894) which contains larger tragedies but which (in spite of laundering) most helpless animals survive. 

This, too, is the reason that I did not care for the latest Pride and Prejudice movie as Pride and Prejudice. P&P is about veneers, manners, appearances and trying to live and love through and in spite of them (oh, that one beautiful sentence about Lizzie and her aunt not talking as they leave Pemberley). The movie showed mud and pigs and sweat and pores, and the fantasy of muslin and carriages and plumes suspended above all that. And I still think, as I said when the first promotional pictures came out, that for Pride and Prejudice it is a very good Little Women! (And for the record: best Lizzie = Jennifer Ehle (that smile!), best Darcy = Laurence Olivier (spoiled boy), best Mrs Bennett = Alex Kingston (darling), best Mr Collins = Nitin Ganatra (no life without wife)).

In other news: Giveaway! Rowena Cory Daniells interviewed me on art and writing, and there is a chance to get a Dalek drawing of your very own.