SOL Rising
Number 2, Summer 1987

Writer-In-Residence At SOL
Robert Hadji Interview: Conclusion
Mysterious Canada
Canadian Science Fiction
The Starr Chamber

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Writer-In-Residence at SOL

The Spaced Out Library is pleased to announce that Judith Merril is the official writer-in-residence from 1 May 1987 to 31 October 1987. The Writer-In-Residence program is funded by the Libraries and Community Information Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Culture.


As official writer-in-residence, Ms. Merril critiques manuscripts submitted by the public and offers advice relating to both writing and marketing to prospective writers. If sufficient demand exists she will organize writers' workshops. She has instituted a series of Tuesday night programs comprised of both author readings and panel presentations.


To date the program has been extremely popular, with approximately one manuscript per day being submitted. Ms. Merril says the average quality of the manuscripts is high and she is happy with the programming.

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Robert Hadji Interview: Conclusion

Second part of the edited transcript of an interview with Robert Hadji, 24 July, 1986. The interview dealt with the origins of science fiction as a genre. The Interview was conducted by Lorna Toolis, Head of the Spaced Out Library. The transcript was prepared by Michael Skeet. The interview was edited and corrected by Robert Hadji.


TOOLIS: Tolkein was really, I think, a lot of the impetus in the 1960s, and just when what you call the 'swan song' was taking place, he must have just been beginning to start writing The Lord of the Rings.


HADJI: Yes, he was puttering away on parts of it all through the 1920s and 1930s. The Depression is one of the things that brought the collapse. They say fantasy does well during hard times, which is interesting, because if there's one thing I've noticed in my bibliographic research in the genre, it's that the 1930s, the Depression was an appallingly lean period for fantasy. Horror was booming, particularly in England, and political thrillers, but damned little fantasy per se. Not like in the 1920s. Of course, high fantasy had not fully emerged yet, and 'lost race' was on its last legs.


But horror does well in hard, or rather, anxious times. The genre was becoming established as such. Not respectable, but certainly successful commercially. To some extent, modem horror fiction is descended from Machen by way of Poe—the rich vocabulary, sense of locale, a whiff of diabolism. Also the cruelty, the morbidity. I'm referring to actual horror fiction, as opposed to the gentler ghost story of the Victorian period; when the moral order broke down post-WWI, that form dwindled rapidly. In fact, the American ghost story virtually died out, except in regional survivals, collected by folklorists, or adapted by writers with an affinity for the material, such as Stephen Vincent Benet and Manly Wade Wellman. But yes, once that sense of a pervasive moral order broke down, while older writers like Edith Wharton carried on to the end of their lives, no younger authors followed in their footsteps. Russell Kirk is an exception, of course; he's also an anachronism, and knows it.


The swan-song of the American ghost story was sounded in the magazines like Scribners and Harpers in the teens. From what little I know of this—Jessica Amanda Salmonson has done a great deal of research in the area—a surprising number of the later writers were women. There was a very productive period, first two decades of this century, then a very marked dropping-off when we reach the 1920s—very sharp, very fast. In part because the old fiction magazines were dying off; superceded by the pulps. But I suspect there are more factors involved. It's a phenomenon that would probably benefit [from] closer study.


The rise of the pulps, of course—that's a story in itself. That reinforced the negative attitudes developing within the literary community, certainly towards horror.


TOOLIS: Do you think this is why the American attitude toward fantastic literature became so distinctly different from the European and British attitudes—because of the pulps?


HADJI: In large measure, yes, though I think that there has always been a broader, more generous acceptance of the fantastic overseas. There was an appreciation of the imagination, the serious ambition that underlies much fantastic fiction. Not to mention the literary craftsmanship. It was the difference between something like Robert Louis Stevenson's Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and a piece of sensational rubbish like Fergus Hume's The Gentleman Who Vanished. Now, both these would have been considered Shilling Shockers in commercial terms, but there's a world of difference in quality between the two. Serious purpose is not necessarily determined by subject matter, but by personal standards. And I think there had always been an awareness of this distinction, else writers like Chesterton and Ford Madox Ford wouldn't have written fantasies at all. Whereas, unfortunately, in America, the 'high road' of fantastic literature was a high road indeed, Hawthorne, James and such; when the literary establishment abandoned it, that left moody hacks to carry on… You rarely found major American writers handing supernatural material, after the teens—excepting sophisticated fantasy, at least while Cabell was fashionable. That fad died with the coming of the Depression though… Edward Lucas White was a rare exception, respected for his historical novels—but he also wrote the collection of stories, Lukundoo, a very famous collection of horror stories, based on his own nightmares. Leonard Cline's The Dark Chamber is another exception, but he was very much the odd man out—an American decadent. And the literary community dearly rejected 'decadence' in American letters during the 1920s, preferring Hemmingway to Huneker. Of course, the American idea of culture became too strongly imbued with rational positivism to seriously acknowledge spiritual powers—reducing them to cheap bogies on the newsstands. Odd, isn't it, for a people who take their religion so seriously? There's a real ambivalence there. Of course, the sophistication of the Jazz Age, the pervasive sense of irony—that was deadly for the supernatural tale, right there. And I suspect in the wake of WWI, the British incorporated a mordant irony into the supernatural tale, so that you find Georgian writers, such as L.P. Hartley and John Metcalfe writing these sophisticated, rather nasty stories. Of course, their war experience had put paid to the Victorian moral order for good and all. A Pandora's Box of malevolent sprits opened up, enjoying post-Freudian liberties. The 1920s is the period, both in England and America, when schlock horror as we understand it really comes into its own. The original 'nasties': Weird Tales in America, the Not-At-Night anthologies in England. Hitherto, that had been considered pretty much a penny-dreadful approach; it was vulgar. You found the occasional Victorian writer like Dick Donovan, who would take this route, but it was very consciously lurid, a bit past the edge of 'sensational' fiction; and most of the major ghost-story writers old not deal in such graphic horror—they wanted “to make your flesh creep,” without resorting to raw heads and bloody bones.


TOOLIS: Did you want to mention anything about [Jorge Luis] Borges and the European movement? They don't—at least, Borges doesn't seem to have any prejudice against the fantastic in literature.


HADJI: No, quite the contrary, he was fascinated by it. Borges was a true scholar; he edited a major anthology of fantastic literature; during the 1940s, in Buenos Aires. I've seen the Table of Contents; it's very impressive, in terms of its size and scope. He was a very perceptive critic, as well. He was one of the first to recognize Lovecraft's virtues and faults. So the man was quite comfortable with the genre—although he did not consider himself part of it, by any means. He did not consider himself a fantasist; he wrote fantastic 'fictions,' because he was intrigued with the notion that all literary constructs are, in a sense, artificial fancies of the writer. Within the genre, however, there is still a basic concern with plot, telling a good story; also establishing mood, an atmosphere, and maintaining it.


There's no sense of an invasion or disruption, and usually, within the fantasy world, the inhabitants are basically secure in their assumptions regarding the world in which they exist. That's where you really need the collusion of the reader in the fantasy, of course, because it's also up to the reader to accept this world which the characters, of course, fully accept because it's their reality. It's unusual to find a fantasy which will deviate from this; Guy Kay's recent Fionavar Trilogy is one of the rare cases I know where a writer has actually tried to introduce the sense of dislocation that one usually finds in dark fantasy, into a high fantasy. He is more successful at this than Donaldson; the psychology of his characters is more plausible. Better stylist, too.


TOOLIS: He also uses the Arthurian mythic characters with considerable effect.


HADJI: Yes. Well, of course, he has a very, good grounding in that material and an excellent knowledge of myth and epic, which helps a great deal in doing this sort of thing properly.


To digress yet again, it's interesting to note that many critical studies of the fantastic are mainly concerned with establishing literary terms, definitions for the fantastic. As if critics are discovering a science of literature, with weights and measurements. So cold, so passionless, and utterly divorced from the actual writing of fiction. But I must admit, I have my own terms, or at least a notion I favour. I think the fantastic in a broad sense offers another means of understanding reality. It's defined precisely by its difference from the analytical, in that the fantastic is essentially unreasonable. Given the actual chaos of reality, as it is rather than as it's perceived, the fantastic may be less logical, but more sensible. The Surrealists had a handle on this, at least in the beginning. The free play of the imagination is important; structure will follow, simply because language is the medium. This violation of reason is probably one of the key things that attracts me, personally, to the fantastic. Ironically a great deal of fantasy tries to pass itself off—as does a great deal of science fiction—as eminently reasonable and logical. And therefore real.


TOOLIS: Well, it is a technique, after all. If you can convince your reader that you're being reasonable in any one of those three groupings, you're halfway home.


HADJI: Yes. But it all works from a set of illusions, in the final analysis; so-called realist novels are created illusions as well, no matter how closely they try to duplicate what life is actually like. A skillful writer who is sufficiently aware, Proust for example, will try and incorporate all the different shadings, because he understands that life is variable, perceptions are variable, and—on top of that—human beings are variable; they're different people day to day. He tried to incorporate that into his novels.


Many literary figures have been writing personalized fantasy. They've simply become more conscious of it because of the literary credibility which has accrued to Magic Realism, particularly Marquez, and his amazing novel One Hundred Years of Solitude a work of genius. So now we have fantasy coming back into the [mainstream], not through the back door, but on a red carpet carrying a Nobel Prize, though it's not called fantasy; try metafiction, or fabulation or Magic Realism. It's a beginning, it’s opening doors and windows.


TOOLIS: So you feel that, in the next couple of decades, fantastic literature will again rejoin the fold, and leave the ghetto?


HADJI No, I don't know whether that will happen or not. There are so many entrenched interests within the ghetto, who probably could not survive, certainly could not prosper, outside the ghetto. Marketing considerations shape so much of what is published now, within the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. Publishers and readers alike have preconceptions, and expect these to be fulfilled. The product is supposed to be consistent in content more than quality. So, I don't know. You will find writers emerging within the genre however, who have greater ambitions, and when they realize they cannot change the genre; they may feel compelled to strike off into the wider world of literature in hopes, not so much of finding a safe haven, but perhaps of finding a certain acceptance, an audience that will be more appreciative of what they're doing. I find this the case with Thomas Disch and with John Crowley as well. This will be paralleled, I believe, by a growing use of the fantastic within the literary mainstream. But genre will remain as it is; it's the nature of the beast.


Relevant sources to supplement this discussion are:


Pierrot, Jean. The decadent.


Swattuck, Roger. The banquet years.


Scarborough, D. The supernatural in modern English fiction.

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Mysterious Canada

by John Robert Columbo

It has been a mysterious year for me. Perhaps what I should be saying is that it has been a mysterious year for me, for I am using the adjectival form of the noun mystery in a specific rather than in a general way. In the same vein, I am writing this column on 24 June 1987, so to date only six months of the year have passed. Thus so far it has been only a half-year of mysteries. And Canadian mysteries at that.


The Canadian mysteries that I have in mind are not those wonders that bedevil the homo politicus canadiensis—free trade, capital punishment, unemployment, regional disparity, senate reform, survival, ad nauseum—but bona-fide Canadan mysteries. For the last six months I have been working on the manuscript of a book to be called Mysterious Canada: a guide to strange sights and peculiar places. It will be published next Spring by Doubleday Canada. It will be a bulky book, illustrated with a hundred or so black-and-white photographs, maps, portraits, and drawings.


The new book will for the first time survey the entire range of mysterious Canadiana—from native myth and legend to the glitches of high-tech…from the Grey Ladies and the Fire Ships of the Maritimes to the Sasquatches and Ogopogos of the West Coast…from artifacts like the Manitou Stone to sightings of UFOs…from Spiritualism to Canadian SETI. Although I have been researching such matters for the last ten years, the writing will take me to the end of this year to complete. Mysteries abound and wondering about them never ceases. In my files are between six and seven hundred mysteries. I hope there will be precisely 666 mysteries in the finished book.


The problem is that most Canadians (and especially science fiction fans) are ignorant of and indifferent to their indigenous fantastic tradition. We would scoff at the person who before he steps out of his apartment in Victoria, BC, checks the daily weather report for London, England. But we read books and magazines and watch movies and television that tell us more about life in California than about life in Canada. Our imaginative lives are conducted as if the latter had more effect on us than the former. In the same way we regard Canadian history, society, culture, art and entertainment as dull as ditchwater. We do this principally because we—the Puritans and pussycats that we are—shut our eyes to the juicy morsels.


Mysteries are among the juicy morsels. Here are some "Believe It Or Not!"-like descriptions of our mysteries. Every one of them is the subject of a longish entry in my manuscript:


  • The most famous haunting of the 19th century occurred in Nova Scotia; it provided the paradigm for the most famous haunting in the 20th century; I have in mind the Great Amherst Mystery and Borley Rectory, "The Most Haunted House in England."
  • The celebrated crystal skull, an archaeological artifact and curative cult object dubbed the Skull of Doom, has resided since 1967 in Kitchener, Ontario.
  • The modern Spiritualist movement was begun by two Upper Canadian girls in 1848; it was concluded with Harry Houdini's debunking of an Ontario-born medium in Boston; it was resurrected in Toronto in the 1970s with a landmark experiment in psychokinesis involving the non-existent Philip of Diddington Manor's spirit.
  • Sightings of Ogopogo predate sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.
  • A man named Albert Ostman wrote a long, gripping, and ultimately puzzling account of being abducted and held captive by a curious Sasquatch.
  • The most famous mystery ship that ever sailed the Seven Seas, the May Celeste—renamed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the Marie Celeste—was designed and built at Spencer's Island, N.S.
  • There is a UFO Lancing Pad in St. Paul, AB, and the Department of Transport operated a flying-saucer tracking station near Ottawa in the early 1950s.
  • More "spirit-photographs" of physical mediums in the act of producing ectoplasms were taken by Dr. T. Glen Hamilton in Winnipeg than were taken anywhere else in the world.
  • The pioneer author Susanna Moodie experimented with automatic writing and flirted with Spiritualism.
  • A farmer and self-described inventor in Beauport, Que., is the only person in the world to construct the "Tesla-Scope" which, based on the secret, unpatented discovery of Nikolai Tesla, permits the operator to communicate with the inhabitants of Venus!
  • More UFOs are reported by Canadians than any other people on a per capita basis. One researcher has a computerized print-out of over 2000 sightings reported in Canada.


These are only a few of the 666 or so mysteries I have on hand. So I have more than enough mysteries to fill a curio cabinet if not a couple of bulky books. But I am always on the alert for more. Any rears who want to share their strange or supernatural experiences or knowledge of fringe disciplines or artifacts of power, please write or phone or otherwise communicate.

One knock for yes. Two for no.


John Robert Colombo is publishing two books this year. One is a collection of poems called Off Earth (Hounslow Press). The other, called Colombo's New Canadian Quotations (Hurtig Publishers) includes 4600 quotations by Canadians about everything under the sun, including science, fiction, pseudo-science, and science fiction.

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Canadian Science Fiction
What’s Been Happening Lo These Past 18 Months

by Robert J. Sawyer

Margaret Atwood’s much-lauded 1986 novel The Handmaid's Tale won the first Arthur C. Clarke Award for best SF book published in England. It was a runner-up for the Beat Novel Nebula Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America.


The Perfect Circus, a first novel by Frederick Biro, was recently published by Seal/Bantam. It had been short-listed for the $50,000 Seal Books First Novel Award.


Farewell Tour, a short story collection by Virgil Burnett (The Porcupine's Quill, 1987) contains two fantasies, "A Masked Ball" and "Fallowfields."


Chancier Davis's "The Aristocrat" is in Jerry Pournelle's The Imperial Stars. Vol 1: The Stars at War (Baen Books, November 1986). The story was first published in the October 1949 issue of Astounding.


Charles de Lint's Yarrow was published in September 1986 by Ace. His fantasy novella Ascian in Rose appeared in March 1987 from Axolotl.


In June 1986, Ballantine/Del Rey released The Master of Norriya by Wayland Drew, the concluding novel of his "Erthring Cycle." In September 1986, the Science Fiction Book Club released The Erthring Cycle, containing the entire trilogy in a single volume.


Augustine Funnell had a novelette in the August 1986 F&SF and short stories in the Spring 1987 Night Cry and the June 1987 F&SF.


Leslie Gadallah's Cat's Pawn was published by Ballantine in March 1987.


Count Zero by 1985 Hugo Winner William Gibson was published last year in hardcover by Arbor House, after being serialized in Isaac Acimov's Science Fiction Magazine beginning in January 1986. It's a 1987 Hugo nominee, and was both a Nebula finalist and a Science Fiction Book Club selection. The paperback, from Ace, was released in March 1987. In April 1986, Arbor House published Burning Chrome: The Collected Short Stories of William Gibson. A novelette from that collection, “The Winter Market,” (first published in Interzone Spring 1986) is a current Hugo Nominee. Gibson has contracted to write the screenplay for the third Alien film.


Phyllis Gotlieb and Doug Barbour are editing Tesseracts Squared an anthology of Canadian SF, for Porcepic Books.


Terence M. Green has one book on the stands and another about to be published. His collection of ten short stories, The Woman Who Is the Midnight Wind was issued in March 1987 by Pottersfield Press of Nova Scotia. Terry's first science fiction novel, Barking Dogs, is scheduled for February 1988 publication from St. Martin's Press. It's based on a shorter work of the same name, first published in the May 1984 F&SF and reprinted in the Midnight Wind collection. Terry has just finished writing his second novel, Children of the Rainbow On the short story front, Terry's "Point Zero" appeared in the May 1986 F&SF (it's also in Midnight Wind). His short story "Room 1786," first published in the November 1982 Leisure Ways will be reprinted for a second time in a Prentice-Hall anthology designed for the school market.Terry has a short story collaboration with Andrew Weiner called "Twenty-two steps to the Apocalypse" forthcoming in IAsfm. His interview with Andrew is slated for the November 1987 Books in Canada.


TSR Hobbies has bought exclusive rights to an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons world called The Forgotten Realms created by Ed Greenwood. TSR .will be publishing books and modules based on it and Ed will be writing a series of novels for TSR set in that universe.


T. S. Huff's first novel, a fantasy called Child of the Grove, will be published by DAW in May 1988. Her short story "What Little Girls Are Made Of" appeared in October 1986 in Tor's Magic in Ithcar 3, edited by Andre Norton and Robert Adams. "Third Time Lucky" appeared in the November 1986 Amazing Stories. "And Who is Joah?" is scheduled for the November 1987 Amazing Stories. Also forthcoming in that magazine is "The Chase is On." a space opera novella.


Guy Gavriel Kay's The Wandering Fire, book 2 of "The Fionavar Tapestry," was published in hardcover by Arbor House in 1986. Book 3, The Darkest Road, was released in October 1986 by Collins in Canada and Arbor House in the U. S. All three Fionavar volumes have had Science Fiction Book Club editions.


Crawford Killian's Lifter was released by Ace in June 1986. His The Fall of the Republic will be published by Del Rey in September 1987.


Donald Kingsbury's The Moon Goddess and the Son was published in hardcover by Baen in December 1986.


The late Edward Llewellyn's last novel, Word-Bringer, was published by DAW in June 1986.


Gwendolyn MacEwen's Afterworlds, just published by McClelland and Stewart, is a collection of lyrical poems, five of which belong to the realm of fantastic literature: "The Death of the Loch Ness Monster," "Thunderbirds," "Manitou Poem," "Past and Future Ghosts," and "Halley's Comet, 1986."


Fiona Patton has made her first sale, a short story, to Borderland, a Canadian dark fantasy magazine. It's called "Roses at Midnight" and will be in issue 6.


Spider Robinson's third Callahan book, Callahan's Secret, was published in June 1986 by Berkley. He had a story in the mid-December 1986 Analog. The Robinson family recently moved from Halifax to Vancouver.


A new "Imaro" story by Charles Saunders appears in Weird Book 22. He recently finished the screenplay for Storm Rebels, a fantasy film being shot in Argentina and has another script in the works for Canada's Salter Street Films.


Robert J. Sawyer wrote and narrated three one-hour radio documentaries about science fiction for the CBC series Ideas. The programs were first broadcast in January 1986 and were repeated in November 1986. Rob's story "Uphill Climb" was published in the March 1987 Amazing Stories. In April 1987, Story Cards, a Washington, D.C., publisher specializing in greeting cards containing short works of fiction, reprinted his "If I'm Here, Imagine Where They Sent My Luggage," originally published in the 14 January 1981 Village Voice. Rob has been commissioned to write the entry on Science Fiction for the second edition of The Canadian Encyclopedia. He will interview Terence M. Green in Books in Canada early next year. Rob's story "Golden Fleece" will appear in Amazing Stories in the summer of 1988.


Last year, Eva Seidner interviewed Stephen King for Maclean's.


S.M. Stirling and Shirley Meier co-authored The Sharpest Edge,.published by Signet in March 1986. Steve's third novel, Marching Through Georgia will be released by Baen Books in the Fall of 1988. Shirley has a story called "Trave" in Magic in Ithcar 4, Norton and Adams, editors, to be released this June by Tor. She's also sold a story called "Peacock Eyes" to Andre Norton's Tales From Out of the WitchWorld.


Karen Wehrstein has sold a story called "I Have Seen the Enemy" to Borderland.


Andrew Weiner's first novel, Station Gehenna will be published this fall by Beaverbooks as part of the "Isaac Asimov Presents" series. Station Gehenna is based on a shorter work of the same name originally published in F&SF, April 1982. Andrew has also been busy writing short stories. His "Going Native" appeared in the Winter 1985/86 Night Cry. "The Investigation" was in the Spring 1986 Borderland. "The Band from Planet Zoom" graced the July issue of IAsfm. "This Time Next Year" was on the stands this time last year, in the August 1986 issue of Rod Sterling's The Twilight Zone Magazine. The novelette "The News from D Street" was published in IAsfm’s September 1986, "Waves" was in the same magazine's March 1987 issue, and "Rider" in its July 1987 issue. "Going to Meet the Alien" was in F&SF's September 1987 issue. Forthcoming are "Fake-Out" in Amazing Stories and "The Alien in the Lake" in IAsfm. Two of Andrew's short stories, "Going Native" and the 1984 "Distant Signals" were produced as episodes of the syndicated American TV series Tales from the Darkside (Laurel Productions). Both were first broadcast in 1986.


Robert Charles Wilson's fast novel, A Hidden Place, was published by Bantam Spectra in November 1986. Rob had short stories in the January 1986, July 1986, and April 1987 F&SF.


Robert J. Sawyer is a Toronto freelance writer and an active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America. John Robert Colombo calls him "the Boswell of Canadian SF."

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The Starr Chamber

Book reviews by Jane Starr


Donaldson, Stephen R. The Mirror of Her Dreams. New York: Ballantine, 1986. (Mordant's need; bk. 1) 642 pp.


Hambly, Barbara. The Silent Tower. New York: Ballantine, 1986. 369 pp.


Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Darkest Road. New York: Arbor House, 1986. (The Fionavar Tapestry; bk. 3) 420 pp.


This column features two beginnings and an ending. It also points up what has become a major problem in contemporary fantasy: the multi-volume novel. It seems as if everyone does them, but no-one claims to like them, except maybe the publishers (after all, two or more books make more money than one, even a fat one) and one sometimes suspects that an author has been encouraged to pad a story in order to make it long enough to split. It does seem unfair to the reader, though, forced to wait months or even years for the next installment, while the heroes hang in dire peril. The wait is most excruciating in the case of a really good series, where the reader really wants to know what happens next. In the case of a mediocre or poor story, the wait could work against the publisher, as a reader might simply not bother with later volumes which he or she might have read had they been available with the first. And what if the author dies without finishing the story? The publisher then must find someone else to finish the story, or let it drop. It would be better to have all the books in hand before publishing the first, and then to issue them all at once or close together. Thus the publisher gets the benefit of selling two (or more) books and the reader gets the whole story at once.


The Mirror of Her Dreams is part one of two, and it’s a very fat book. The librarian who got it for me said, "I think I should warn you, it doesn't have an ending. In over 600 pages there ought to be an ending." She was right. Not even a pause in the action. Mordant is a land in turmoil, caught between aggressive neighbours and ruled by a king who'd rather play hop-board (checkers) than govern. The Congery of Imagers, a group of wizards who use mirrors to perform magic (the only thing mirrors are used for in Mordant) create a mirror picturing a champion whom they wish to translate through the mirror to save Mordant. To fetch him they send their most expendable member, an inept apprentice named Geraden. However, what he finds on the other side of the mirror is not the chosen champion, but Terisa Morgan, a poor little rich girl so unsure of her own existence that she lives in an apartment panelled with mirrors. Geraden, assuming that anyone who can live with that many mirrors and stay sane must be a powerful Imager, convinces Terisa to return with him to Mordant. There she is caught in palace intrigue and in the thrall of Master Eremis, an Imager whose masterful manner and powerful sexual attraction overwhelm her, blinding her to his untrustworthiness. She's irritatingly obtuse, at times inspiring an overwhelming desire to throttle her, but over the course of the story she does learn to assert herself a bit. Geraden also improves, becoming slightly less inept, although neither has much common sense. It's a long book, and it seems longer. It's all too possible to put down and one never feels any rush to pick it up again. Not a really bad book, just mediocre.


The Silent Tower is also the first book of a series, has no ending and brings a woman from our world (well, California, slightly into the future) into another, in this case the Empire of Ferryth. In Ferryth the Industrial Revolution is just beginning and belief in magic fading. Caris, a young sasenna (sort of soldier, sees a wizard murdered by a shadowy figure that disappears into the Void. The dying wizard's last words lead Caris and his grandfather, the Archmage, to Antryg Windrose, a mad renegade wizard, imprisoned in the Silent Tower, which nullifies all magic within its walls. The Archmage disappears and Caris, blaming Antryg, follows him through the Void to California and back. On their return, they discover Joanna Sheraton, a computer programmer, has also been brought to Ferryth, for reasons and by persons unknown. The three must find out what is threatening the two worlds and why, and how the Darkmage, supposedly long dead, fits in. The characters are excellent. Antryg has an engaging Doctor Who-ish lunacy, and one suspects that he “is but mad north-northwest.” Joanna is intelligent and self-reliant enough to be interesting, without being a know-it-all, and anyone with a desk job will sympathize with her as she trudges across Ferryth with Antryg and Caris. Caris, the human weapon, could be wooden, but isn't, as his fears and uncertainties make him real. Ferryth as a world also seems real and interesting. The plot is involving, and that makes the non-ending all the more frustrating, although it does occur at a logical hiatus point. Highly recommended, but it might be better to buy it now and save reading it until the other parts are available.


Last, but far from least, the end of a frustrating wait, the end of a trilogy. The Darkest Road is the final volume in the Fionavar Tapestry, a stunning, involving, moving fantasy. Fionavar is a world with depth, a rich history and mythology and culture. Readers of the two previous volumes (The Summer Tree and The Wandering Fire will find this one fully up to their high standards, as it weaves the threads of the others together into an ending both tragic and triumphant. It is impossible to describe it without revealing too much, but at the end one is left with images: the eternal triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, Diarmuid fighting a battle that should have been Arthur's, the Wild Hunt, Imraith-Nimphais, the four surviving Torontonians, and most of all, Darien, who must choose for everyone the Dark or the Light. This is a superb book and a worthy ending.

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