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December 2004
 
Book Reviews
Charles de Lint
Elizabeth Hand
Michelle West
James Sallis
Chris Moriarty
 
Columns
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Plumage from Pegasus
Off On a Tangent: F&SF Style
 
Film
Kathi Maio
Lucius Shepard
 
Science
Gregory Benford
Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty
 
Coming Attractions
F&SF Bibliography: 1949-1999
Index of Title, Month and Page sorted by Author

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Books To Look For
by Charles de Lint

Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice: The Mythic Journeys Art Exhibition, edited by Karen Shaffer,
Mythic Imagination Institute, 2004, $19.95.

A FEW WEEKS ago (as I write this at the beginning of July), it was my pleasure to attend the Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta, GA. The conference was centered around the mythic arts and the theme, for this first of what one hopes will be many such gatherings, was a celebration of Joseph Campbell's centenary.

(Is it just me, or is it weird to celebrate how old someone would have been if they hadn't died? But I digress.)

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect before arriving. It was certainly a worthy idea—bringing together, in such a fashion, the practitioners of various creative arts working in media that range from oral storytelling and poetry through music, literature, performance and visual art, as well as the scholarly study of all of the above.

And the lineup was stellar:

Poets such as Robert Bly, Carolyn Dunn, and Michael Meade.

Scholars such as John and Caitlin Matthews, Robert Walter (Executive Director of the Joseph Campbell Foundation), James Hillman, Heinz Insu Fenkl, and Jean Shinoda Bolen.

Filmmakers included Michael Tobias, Eric Saperston, and Phil Coustineau.

There were artists from within our field (Wendy and Brian Froud, Alan Lee) and from outside it (Mara Friedman, Stu Jenks, Nancy Warren).

Authors were also represented from our field (Jane Yolen, Guy Gavriel Kay, Terri Windling) and beyond (Joyce Carol Oates, Gerald McDermott).

Musicians included Janis Ian (who also writes sf/f short stories), Cosy Sheridan (who presented her contemporary retelling of the Persephone story, as can be heard on her recent CD, The Pomegranate Seed), the Paul Winter Consort's Eugene Friesen, and Ulla Suokko (who gave a workshop on the healing and transformational power of music).

There were professors and teachers, puppeteers, Website and game designers, African drummers and electronica DJs, ritualists and therapists, priests, rabbis, and theologians. We even had Scott Livengood, the CEO of the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Foundation (who knew that their business plan was based on The Hero with a Thousand Faces?).

And that's just touching the surface.

What went on? There were presentations and concerts, conversations both formal and at the bar, films, storytelling, and workshops. It was like the World Fantasy Convention, Wiscon, and the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts melded with a music and film festival, tempered with a New Age workshop (in the best sense of the term), and then seasoned with some of the non-costumed elements of a Ren Faire.

Now normally I wouldn't be going on at such length about a conference that has already taken place. There are other venues for such reviews. But I believe Mythic Journeys was, and could continue to be, an important driving force for our field, not the least for how it can bring together such seemingly disparate approaches to mythology and then show us its relevance to modern lives and our creative spirits.

You might have missed this first conference. I wanted to let you know it exists, so that those of you who feel it might enrich your lives will be on the lookout for the next one.

If you're interested in going a little deeper into what went on over its week's run, complete recordings of all the sessions are available at: http://www.conferencerecording.com/newevents/myj24.htm

Mind you, unless you're rolling in money, I'd recommend you convince your local library to buy them—which would have the added benefit of also making them available to a large number of people who might never have heard of this sort of thing before, but could be intrigued by the Joseph Campbell connection to explore it. (After all, Campbell's The Power of Myth is a popular rerun on PBS—so more people will have seen it than would have ever, say, picked up a book of mythic fiction.)

And now, before you flip to some other portion of the magazine in exasperation, I do have a book to discuss that's related to all of the above.

At the nearby DeFoor Center in Atlanta (which has, off the gallery, one of the most interesting used and new book stores you'll ever find), was an art exhibition accompanying the conference. Curated by Karen Shaffer and Charles Vess, it presented a wide array of mythic art: paintings, sculptures, and even an amazing installation by photographer Stu Jenks that would take this whole column to describe. You can get a hint of it in this photo: http://www.stujenks.com/gallery/circles-spirals/defoorcairn.html

But happily I don't have to describe the rest of the artwork since all the work that was on display in the gallery is also reprinted in a catalog edited by Shaffer. Here you'll find work by the artists mentioned above as well as others. Ari Berk provides an introduction and there are brief bios and artist statements.

The work is varied in medium and the artists' approach to myth, all of it visually rich and inspiring. There are reproductions of pastels by Virginia Lee, bronzes by Roxanne Swentzell, fabric work by Huichol and Tepehuano artists, photographs by Viggo Mortensen, silkscreens by Mayumi Oda, and so much more.

Many of the artists were on hand for opening night, and some of them were available for tours in the gallery through the week that the conference ran.

If you'd like to see examples and read a bit more about the exhibit, go to: http://www.mythicjourneys.org/passages/newsletterp6.html

And if you'd like to order a copy of the book, you can do so at: http://www.mythicjourneys.org/bookstore.php

* * *

The Charnel Prince, by Greg Keyes,
Del Rey, 2004, $23.95.

Every week some new sequel, part of a series, or volume X of a trilogy hits the bookstores. It makes for a bewildering array that's impossible to keep up with, and difficult to consider for this or any review column. That's mostly because we can't expect readers to have kept up with all the previous volumes and it's difficult to discuss such books without citing all the characters and storylines that have carried over from previous volumes.

One could simply concentrate on the first books, but like anything that is produced in serial form, the opening salvo is often the most interesting. It's whether or not the writer can maintain a reader's interest level in subsequent books that's more telling, especially for those of us on a limited budget who can't simply try everything.

So my practice for this column has been to review a particular series or trilogy occasionally as the books come out to see whether the author has followed through on the promise shown in the first volume.

The Charnel Prince isn't a book you can just jump into, but rather than waste column space reiterating the necessary elements from the previous book, let me simply direct you to my column in the March 2003 issue where I had a look at the first volume of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. You can also find that column on the net at: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2003/cdl0303.htm

Most of the characters (at least the ones that didn't die) are back in the second volume of the series. Happily, they've learned and grown from their previous experiences, so the would-be monk Stephen Dariage and the guileless knight Sir Neil MeqVren are neither as naive as once they were, Princess Anne learns humility and comes to accept her destiny, and the flashy swordsman Cazio Pachiamadia de Chiovatio (who reminds me, in a good way, of Inigo Montoya from William Goldman's The Princess Bride) learns true responsibility.

Only the forest ranger Aspar White is relatively unchanged. He remains as pragmatic and efficient as he was when we first met him, though even he has come to set friendship and love above duty.

Keyes's plotlines remain as complex as before, interweaving the disparate storylines of the above with those of new characters such as the fascinating Leovigild Ackenzal, a mild-manned and skilled composer who inadvertently becomes a hero, with all the problems that can entail.

And the sense of wonder one hopes for but so rarely finds in recent fantasy novels is still present, rich and evocative. I loved the moment when it's explained why the world of myth is coming to such dangerous life.

Like the first book, The Charnel Prince has a satisfying conclusion, although with stronger threads leading to the third volume. If this is going to be a trilogy, Keyes has beaten the second-volume slump that affects so many of them because this book is as strong as, if not stronger than, The Briar King.

Definitely a series to follow.

* * *

Witching Hour: The Art of Larry MacDougall,
Cartouche Press, 2003, $26.95.

I just have room to mention quickly another book I picked up while in Atlanta, this one a collection of the art of Larry MacDougall. I wasn't familiar with his work before, but it's charming and painterly. If you'd like a touchstone, I'd guess he's been inspired by both Brian Froud and Jeff Jones, although it's also obvious that he certainly brings his own vision to the drawing board.

If you believe that every picture tells a story, then there are a lot of stories being told here and I, for one, would like to know how they play out. But that's one of the strengths of good art: it makes us use our own imaginations.

To sample his work, check out his Website at: www.underhillstudio.com

If you have a look around after you've visited the gallery, you'll find a link that will take you to the publisher's Website where you can order the book.

* * *

Material to be considered for review in this column should be sent to Charles de Lint, P.O. Box 9480, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1G 3V2.

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