The Innocent Sleep

The Riverside Shakespeare

Still it cried "Sleep no more!" to all the house.
"Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more."

- Macbeth II.ii.54-56

I love Shakespeare. Truly, deeply, tattoo the words on my skin, love. And the reason I love Shakespeare so much is his language. So if you were to tell me that my favorite theatrical production of Macbeth would be one in which I heard fewer than ten lines spoken, I would have thought you mad.

Then I attended Punchdrunk's performance of Sleep No More

Type: 
Author: 
Media: 

Coming into her own

Mistborn: The Final EmpireHaving just turned twenty, I felt a bit unnerved at the prospect of the "teen" section of the library not having anything useful for me. (This awkward feeling perhaps deserves a post of its own.) Fortunately, I remembered that Brandon Sanderson (who took over the Wheel of Time from Robert Jordan) had some original works of his own. Which brought me to Mistborn: The Final Empire.

Type: 
Media: 

Falling Down the Wrong Rabbit Hole: The Fantastic in Kanai Mieko’s “Rabbits”

Rabbits, Crabs, Etc.There are few stories that can render my students practically speechless the way that Kanai’s surreal, Alice in Wonderland tale gone wrong can. At first told from the viewpoint of a nameless “frame” narrator who struggles with writing, the story slowly descends into the realm of psychological madness once he/she encounters a rabbit. Not just any rabbit, mind you, but a human bunny, a girl named Lily who wears real rabbit fur from head to toe and a rabbit head, complete with pink glass eyes. Lily leads the narrator back to her dilapidated house, which the narrator describes as “rabbit hutch” since “the floor had wall-to-wall carpet of rabbit fur and on the walls were nailed fresh rabbit pelts” (4). Lily says there must be a reason that she ended up in such a state, and so begins to tell her story to the narrator, and to us.

Type: 
Media: 

If Turkish Delight isn't your thing...

The Turkish Delight that Edmund sells out his siblings for in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is quite possibly one of the most famous specific food-related moments in fantasy and science fiction.  Growing up, I thought it seemed like the world's most wonderful food, and just like Edmund, I would have done a lot just to get a taste.

Turkish DelightThen, when I was in grad school, I had the chance to try some at an end-of-semester party in one of my classes.  It was a huge disappointment.  I think I had been imagining something like baklava (which, incidentally, I would betray almost anyone for), and it ended up being this weird, tasteless, candied jelly that was covered in dry powdered sugar.  Not awesome.  Maybe I just got a bad batch, but my dreams of a fantastic food worth turning evil to get were totally shattered.

Fortunately for me, fantasy and science fiction fans seem to be a culinarily creative bunch, and with a bit of looking, I've found quite a few food-related products with a fantasy/scifi theme...

Type: 
Author: 

Power Heirarchies, Sex, and Gender Roles: Challenging the Comfortable in Lev Grossman's The Magicians

In this essay, Elizabeth Simons examines some of the traditional, comfortable structures of power in children's literature--including Harry Potter and The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe--and argues that Lev Grossman's The Magicians challenges many of these structures.  She also notes, however, that gender stereotypes seem particularly difficult to rewrite, even in a novel like Grossman's.


Ever since the Grimm brothers revised their tales for children, removing sexual content and adding heavy-handed moralizing, children’s literature has carried with it the promise of safety and comfort, and many of the popular works for children today still play off these ideas.  The MagiciansThe first book in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, for instance, exudes comfort from its very dedication: Lewis, in addressing his goddaughter Lucy Barfield, refers to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a “fairy tale,” to be taken “down from some upper shelf,” an image that puts the story in the context of a warm tale, as from a parent to a child (vii).  Indeed, he tells her that he has written the story for her, and he reassures her that regardless of her interest in the book or her enjoyment of it, and regardless of his own as he ages and as his mind and body deteriorate, he “shall still be [her] affectionate Godfather” (vii).  The rest of the story maintains this same comfortable feel by drawing on familiar aspects of storytelling and by reinforcing comfortable structures.  Another popular children’s series, Harry Potter, offers similar comfort through similar structural techniques. Jack Zipes compares the series to a fairy tale, citing the books’ “absolute conformance to popular audience expectations” as the biggest reason for their “phenomenality” (176).  Even more important is the comfort given in Harry Potter’s underlying message: “In a world in which we are uncertain of our roles and uncertain about our capacity to defeat evil, the Harry Potter novels arrive and inform us . . . that if we all pull together and trust one another and follow the lead of the chosen one, evil will be overcome” (Zipes 182). Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, which is, in many ways, an homage to Rowling’s and Lewis’ works, moves away from the child audience, placing their fantasy stories in an adult context instead.  Grossman’s novel causes his readers to address unsettling issues by casting off several comfortable structures; specifically, The Magicians challenges traditional power hierarchies and directly addresses sexual desire.  Still, despite the way in which the novel undercuts the safety and comfort of the Narnia and Harry Potter stories, it nevertheless adheres to the same familiar gender stereotypes that shape those worlds.  The existence of these gender stereotypes in a novel as progressive as The Magicians demonstrates how such stereotypes are particularly persistent within the fantasy literature genre.

Type: 
Media: 

Pages

Subscribe to Fantasy Matters RSS