Year of Daleks

Year of Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, which reached me through the general enthusiasm of ladies-who-bookclub. Actually, a vague memory surfaces that it might have been passed to me by a magistrate with whom I was doing work experience. The novel created, for me, a curious looking-glass sensation, like going to a country where they speak your language but the geography and idioms and supermarkets are different and they don’t have newsagencies. It was much like that moment when, with the trepidation of the SF reader given chick-lit, you are reading Karen Joy Fowler and realise hang on, wait a minute, she’s one of us! Only in reverse.

Because the middle ages and black death and all their accoutrements are native language to fantasy readers, but this was historical/literary, and it… wasn’t my world. It was an alienating feeling – going into what felt familiar with the best will in the world, and finding unfamiliar ground. Or, in the end, ground that followed the shape of another genre, the endings of which never clicked with me.

So I cannot offer a useful commentary of the book at all. I dare say it was very good – it was certainly popular with people whose taste I respect. Probably I should read it again, with a decade of broadened tastes. But it was historical, which is a genre that often makes me feel cheated of reading histories, and literary fiction, which often makes me feel cheated of a satisfying conclusion. And then I found Connie Willis‘ Doomsday Book, and it was Just Right, and I was home.

The Dalek of the Dawn Treader

The Dalek Of The Dawn Treader

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and most particularly for Reepicheep (the bold, the indomitable, the vain, the… always reminded me very slightly of Hercule Poirot?) Dawn Treader is not my favourite of the Chronicles of Narnia, and yet it has so many of my favourite scenes – falling into the painting, Lucy in Caspian’s tunic, Eustace crying to the moon, Goldwater, the lily sea. And it does have one of my favourite first lines, out of so many: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Each of the novels has so much its own feel – the odd, mannered Edwardian fantasy and fresh discovery of The Magician’s Nephew, the childlike, wish-fulfilment, occasionally dark, myth-steeped allegory of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the untouched-by our world, desert-city-mountain, 1001-nights pursuit of The Horse and his Boy, the midnight, lost-heir, cloak-and-dagger battles (and that taste of adult loss) of Prince Caspian, the salt-air and white-sails episodic quest (within quest) Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the death, betrayal and depression of The Silver Chair, the sweeping, contained, final beginning of The Last Battle. And Pauline Baynes’ illustrations catch each style with such perfect, consistent flexibility.

This is how I most like series, I think. Linked, locked into each other, yet each complete and Its Own Story. Diana Wynne Jones did this as well, although in a more extreme fashion across fewer books. It satisfies my desire for more story, while not ruining my memory of an already-perfect tale.

Storybook Dalek

Storybook Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Fables Vol 3: Storybook Lovewhich, just – I love. I admire the concept and execution of Fables generally, and beyond that I frequently adore (or loathe, or both!) the characters, and those two things aren’t always sides of the same coin. But of course, this also means this drawing is for The Princess Bride, and therefore also for Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and for Mark Knopfler, and all good things. And for initial capitals in fairytale books, with which I filled far too many pages of old sketchbooks.

In other news: All I’ve been able to manage about the World Fantasy Award ballot (after many tweets of congratulations) is “meep!”

And just today, Ticonderoga Publications announced Midnight and Moonshine , a collection of intertwined stories – cold and cruelly beautiful – by awesome fellow-present-and-past nominees Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter. And I did the cover :)

The Dalek, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Dalek, The Witch and the Wardrobe

This instalment of the Dalek Game is obviously for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and of course for Pauline Baynes’ illustrations which are Narnia for me, and whose White Witch (so elegant) is the one true Jadis, no matter how magnificent Tilda Swinton was.

Narnia infused my childhood – they are among the earliest books I remember reading (and being read, and reading aloud every year). For me they are the standard of wonder, the true quality of fairytale and fantasy – almost tangible, utterly ethereal, the best of the mundane and the least trammelled by the dullness of the world. Through the door and into the woods, through the desert and over the sea, forests and hunts, high romance and low loving adventure, “once upon a time” and all stories (they begin, after all, when Sherlock Holmes was living in Baker Street and the Bastables were digging for treasure in Lewisham Road), and always. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, which gained the third foothold in my heart, they were almost within reach, and unlike The Chronicles of Prydain (which I learned to love between Tolkien and Lewis) they never ended. They barely even began.

And here is a bonus drawing – originally for a card, with a touch of greenery added for current purposes:

Queen Susan

One Was Dalek

One Was Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Maurice Sendak’s best book, One Was Johnny. I’m a fan of Alligators All Around and A Hole is to Digetc (and this one, of course) but this counting rhyme of an antisocial reader with too many unexpected guests was my first and remains my favourite.

It also explains a lot about Daleks.

In other news: Hello, I am still here! I have had a lot of speed-reading to do for upcoming jobs, and other things which shall be revealed… Also, I finished reading through my Large Amorphous Manuscript and breaking it into scenes, preparatory to editing it, AND I have almost finished a short story. I have not seen much sunshine.

Every Dalek’s Just So So Special

Every Dalek's Just So So Special

This rare coloured instalment of the Dalek Game is for Robert Shearman’s short story collection Everyone’s Just So So Special (being read here by the Dalek) and was particularly commissioned by the Lair (Angela Slatter and Lisa Hannett) for their interview with the author, which you may (and should) read here: The Lair’s Just So So Special or here: The Lair’s Just So So [So] Special.

I do not know if either Robert Shearman or, indeed, a red Dalek owns this table cloth and crockery pattern, but one of them should.

The Invisible Dalek

The Invisible Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for H G Wells’ The Invisible Man, the only Wells I have read the whole way through (made it up on Verne).

In related news, apparently Tesla invented the Daleks, as well as everything else.

In other news:  Sue Bursztynski has been hosting a series of excellent behind-the-scenes posts on the stories in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear. They aren’t tagged, but they start on 30 June, and you can work forward from there. It’s a sort of director’s commentary, with input from the authors and both the editors, and I’ve loved reading them! The post on my story, “Kindling”, is here, and has pictures: Kathleen Jennings Kindles

The Complete Daleks of the New Yorker

The Complete Daleks of the New Yorker

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, because I love it. There is such a wonderful survey of styles and eras (the dresses of the 30s, the cell phones of the 80s), such sly odd wit, such artists as Addams (of the Family) and de Seve. I like sitting down with a cup of tea and spending a few quiet minutes flipping through it.

(If you don’t recognise this incarnation, the Dalek is based on Eustace Tilley, from the first cover of the New Yorker).

The Girl with No Daleks

The Girl With No Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Angela Slatter’s dark enchanting fairytale short stories collected in The Girl with No Hands, and other tales.

I love fairytale retellings, reworkings, reimaginings – old stories turned out and new stories recognisably true in the context of the old, rules which shift and change but are always the rules of that world. And the colours of fairytales! Sky blue, raven black, dresses of peacock feathers, skin with the sheen of flowers…

More myths and legends, new and re-embroidered, are to come soon from Angela and Lisa

In other news: In addition to recent cover art activities, I have begun to take a… well, neither closer nor frank & fearless, but at least A Look at the LAM (Large Amorphous Manuscript). Which is, of course, full of fairytales.

The Muddle-headed Dalek

The Muddle-headed Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Ruth Parks’ The Muddle-headed Wombat, an Australian classic of which I retain a great fondness but very dim memories (although I do remember Wombat’s bicycle). Wombats are more southern creatures – I have never seen a wild one, and so (like the platypus and Tasmanian devil) I find them appealing but exotic. I’ve seen a koala in the wild in a tree at my year 10 graduation, and all the other usual suspects have been through our garden or house at some point – bats and possums, numbats, wallabies, kangaroos, paddymelons, goannas, echidnas…

In other news: Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze (cover art and Dalek versionwon the Andre Norton award at the Nebulas! Next week’s Dalek may be delayed due to convention attendance. Tansy Rayner Roberts interviewed me for the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot! And the cryptic references I make in that are to this: Subterranean Press’ limited 10th anniversary edition of Kelly Link’s collection Stranger Things Happen has been announced! And here is the front cover (it is a wrap-around image, but all shall be disclosed in time):