Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Modern Fantasy Worlds

I'm still fixing the first third of the book. I've done the major chopping and am almost done with writing a new scene that was needed to replace some cut scenes. Then I'll probably go back to the beginning to read through and make sure it all flows and fix a few details that I've changed to make everything work. And then from there I hope to move forward. I was pretty productive yesterday, getting some housework done, taking care of a bunch of to-do list items that had been lingering (I finally ordered some new ballet tights) and getting the writing done.

I've also been reading a lot, trying to work my way through the Nebula Awards ballot (guess what my weekend plans are!). I made it through three books in the past week. Most of them weren't my cup of tea, but there was one that I found intriguing, a teen fantasy called A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty.

It's kind of hard to describe the plot in a way that makes sense without giving too much away. It actually took me a little while to settle into the world because I was having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. I sometimes call these the "I'll have what she's having" books, otherwise known as the "obviously someone has access to the GOOD drugs" books, but it did finally all click into something rather lovely.

There are two parallel stories going on. One takes place in some other fantasy world, and this was the part I had a little trouble figuring out at first. It seems like a quaint European farming village in a world with magic-like stuff going on, so I was picturing your standard fantasy Ye Olde village. But then the technology level seemed wrong, and I kept upping my estimate of the analogous timeframe until I realized that it was essentially a "modern" fantasy world with cars, televisions and teenagers who wear jeans. It still felt like a fantasy world and still had a lot of that "Ye Olde" quality to it. I guess an analogy might be the original Willie Wonka movie, which was set more or less in the contemporary world of that time, with all the right technology, but there was still that timeless fairy tale quality. At any rate, the main character in this world is a teenage boy who's driven to find his father, who went missing about a year earlier. Some people in town believe he was attacked by a nasty Color (there are attacks by various flying Colors that these people have to deal with. Just go with it), while others think he ran off with the schoolteacher who disappeared that same night.

Meanwhile, in Cambridge, England, in our world, there's a teenaged girl living with her mother after they both ran away from her jetsetting father. One day, she notices a little corner of white sticking out of a broken parking meter and pulls out a little piece of paper that says "I am being held against my will." Thinking it's a joke and feeling whimsical, she writes back, pretending she's addressing a parking meter. Then in the other world, the boy finds this piece of paper sticking out of a sculpture. His world has heard of ours and he's even studied it in school, though there's been no contact for centuries. The two start corresponding, but she doesn't really believe him and thinks it's just some local person making up all this fantasy stuff.

This book goes from "what the huh?" to really very charming. I'm assuming there's a sequel coming because the end seemed to really kick off the real story in earnest. It certainly kept me guessing, and there were some fun twists. Once I got the other world in my head, I rather liked this quirky, quaint, but still modern place. I guess it's like when an American visits a historic European village and finds it a little jarring that there are modern people living ordinary, modern lives in this medieval setting. It's like a storybook fantasy world has kept progressing with time, just as our world has, and that got me started imagining how other fantasy worlds might have developed. What would a "modern" Narnia look like? (Ignore for a moment that Narnia ended while still in a medieval phase -- I generally try to ignore that book, anyway.)

Oh, just checked Amazon. The sequel comes out next week.

Anyway, one of my favorite things about the fantasy world was the really messed-up weather. It's described as "Seasons drift across the Kingdom, moving on whenever they get bored." That's pretty much been this winter for us, with the 80-degree day followed by the ice storm the next day, and then back to warm and sunny. That explains so much about Texas weather. It's not a constant stream of fronts. It's seasons drifting around, getting bored and moving on. I wish we could keep some of that going in the summer. It would be nice in July if a little bit of fall or even mild winter would drift in for a few days.

No comments: