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Stalker Demon Guy (maybe) Meets Clueless (certainly) Meets Joyce Carol Oates (thankfully): The Fantastic in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”

Where Are You Going, Where Have You BeenI love it when an author can make you start out a story by hating their main character, and in the end, make you pity, or even admire them. This is but one reason that I teach Joyce Carol Oates’ short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” in my class on the grotesque. [editor's note: you can find the full text of the story here] The other reason is that it falls into the realm of the fantastic and uncanny, and stirs up a whirl of debate during our short class hour. When I ask my students if Arnold Friend is a supernatural being or psychotic stalker, the class is usually split fifty-fifty. That’s some powerful fantastic at work.

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All you have to do is write it

Captain NemoBefore I began writing, I thought the hardest part of being a writer was coming up with the ideas. I didn't realized that all the work - turning the idea into something interesting for other people, thinking about character, and theme, and plot, oh, and actually writing it, all came after.

So I was particularly intrigued by the concept of Captain Nemo: The Fantastic Adventures of a Dark Genius, the latest novel from Kevin J. Anderson. In Anderson's book, André Nemo is a real person, and a friend of Jules Verne's. And all of the extraordinary adventure tales Verne writes are based on the actual adventures Nemo lives.

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Teaching in Breach

The City and The CityWhen I began the semester, it was Catherynne M. Valente’s book about a sexually transmitted city, Palimpsest, that I was worried about teaching. Well, worried is maybe too strong of a word, but there are some texts that require tighter classroom management than others, and I was prepared for Palimpsest to be one of those. Still, after explicating all the quaint sexual punning in The Canterbury Tales and teaching a law school seminar on the speech clause of the first amendment that included a lecture on the constitutional necessity of wearing g-strings and pasties while dancing nude, I was sure I could handle it. More importantly, the book was too perfect for the course – The Fantastic as Place – to leave it off the syllabus out of cowardice.

Palimpsest, as it turned out, wasn’t a problem. No, the book that almost broke my class was China Miéville’s The City and the City.

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Reading The Sword of Shannara: Chapters 31-35

The Sword of ShannaraThis week marks our last installment in our conversations about Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara.  You can find them all from the beginning here, and we'd encourage you to let us know what you thought of the book in the comments!


Dear Phil--

Congratulations! We did it! And some more of your predictions came true--Stenmin did get out and then back into the castle through a secret passage. Nice work! I kept thinking of our discussion of the predictability of the plot during these chapters as well. There was one moment in particular where Brooks completely tips his hand, deflating what could be a very climactic moment. This happens at the very end when Curzad Ohmsford tells Shea and Flick that someone is looking for them, and Flick says, “What can we do? We don’t even have the Elfstones to protect us anymore.” Instead of letting holding off until the last possible moment to reveal the surprise that Panamon has found the Elfstones and has survived, by having Flick say this, it plants the seed of this possibility in the reader’s mind, making the ending less exciting.

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Midweek Fiction: Holly Black, "The Dog King"

Holly Black is an absolutely tremendous writer. I've loved her fiction since reading Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, and she is also the creative force behind The Spiderwick Chronicles,  and the Eisner-nominated Good Neighbors series of graphic novels (which I also highly recommend). She has also edited a number of anthologies, including Welcome to Bordertown.

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