Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking for something to do? Because that’s what I like and this is my chapbook which captures that spirit of fun and terror and the comfort of a good fun book. This is the first in a series of chapbooks containing poetry and flash fiction and short stories with themes ranging from those mentioned above to deeper explorations of humanity. But honestly the themes mentioned already are all about that too.
Now is the perfect time for lighthearted science fiction.
Ordinarily, I’ll pick out a few short stories, poems, or essays from collections like these and share my thoughts about them. There were so many funny themes covered here that I thought it was best to allow other readers to discover them for yourselves without spoilers, especially since the later entries often referenced earlier ones. All you need to know is that this is heavily based on science, science fiction, fantasy, and mythology. Start at the beginning, relax, and enjoy.
This is the sort of young adult science fiction that easily crosses over into adult audiences. The humour in it is tongue-in-cheek and does rely on a certain amount of understanding of the types of scientific concepts generally taught in high school, but it explains most of them well enough to appeal to preteens who haven’t taken Biology yet or older adults who might have last thought about the Paleozoic era half a century ago. In other words, don’t spend too much time thinking about whether you’re “Young Adult” enough for this collection. If you’re interested, there will almost certainly be something here that appeals to you.
Some of my favourite sections were the ones that relied on puns and jokes. Yes, there were the usual quips about what bears do in the woods, but that was the only the beginning of the many reasons to laugh while reading this collection. Honestly, what could be better than finding the humour in speculative fiction no matter which branch of it the narrator happens to be visiting at the moment? I sure can’t think of many things.
Be sure to read the author’s explanations of why he wrote select pieces of this collection. The explanations are all located at the very end, and it was really interesting to read their backstories.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Everything published here was first written about twenty years ago, and Mr. Waddell’s writing style has evolved quite a bit since then. If you want to follow along as he shares that journey, The Ursus Versus the perfect place to start.
Someone, or possibly more than one person, keeps finding this blog by searching for creepy Christmas poems.
If they ever read this post, I hope they know it was written in direct response to the multiple queries that have popped up in my analytics.
I more or less stopped celebrating Christmas years ago when I moved far away from home, deconverted from my childhood religion, accepted a job in an industry that was always busy and stressful in December, and found myself overwhelmed by the sentimentality and consumerism of secular Christmas.
Now I sound like a grumpy character at the beginning of a Christmas movie who is about to learn a valuable life lesson, but that’s honestly not how I think about this holiday at all.
I enjoy the lights, food, and music that is traditionally shared now, and I cheer for everyone who finds meaning in the other aspects of Christmas (and/or any other winter holiday) as well.
I simply know what my limits are. Luckily, those limits include creepy Christmas poems when new readers show up here looking for them. Here are some poems that celebrate Christmas without a single ounce of sentimentality.
I blog about my favourite authors, well-known and otherwise, so often that I had to do a little thinking to come up with some new recommendations for today’s prompt. As usual, this list is going to be a little eclectic.
Chesya Burke. The only book I’ve read from her so far was Let’s Play White, but it impressed me so much that I’ve added her to the list of authors I want to read everything from in the future. She does a wonderful job of capturing a moment and then expanding it to show how a few minutes truly can change everything for a character.
Jason Arnopp. He wrote the delightfully scary, “A Sincere Warning About the Entity In Your Home.” While I’ve seriously cut back on how much horror I read, he’s still at the top of the list when people who like that genre want some fresh, new names.
Mary Oliver. So many of the people I know never read poetry. I’ve sadly lost nearly all of my interest in the genre, but I still enjoy Mary’s practical, down-to-earth approach to the subject. Her work is a wonderful introduction to poetry for people who have never gotten into it, and our world is a sadder place now that she’s no longer part of it.
Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.
Blurb: A raven appears on a cold winter’s night. An old woman helps a stranger find his way home. A young girl encounters a bad-tempered dwarf. Enter within, where magic is found alongside the ordinary, and things aren’t always what they seem. Where curiosity leads to a nightmare. Where ashes have the power to transform. And where stolen mortals are doomed to be forever lost in the forest.
This is a collection of ten short stories that are all firmly rooted in the fantasy genre. One of the coolest things Joy did with them was to briefly explain where her ideas for them came from after the conclusion of each story. I always enjoy learning where writers find inspiration for their work, so I was excited to have a sentence or two of explanation before beginning the next tale.
The most effective way I’ve found to review anthologies like this one is to pick about three of the stories in them that most accurately represent the over-arching themes and writing style in my opinion, describe their plots in a spoiler-free sentence or two, and then share my impressions of them. If any of these mini-reviews grab your attention, I’d heartily recommend checking out the whole book.
The Forest of the Others
Grace’s father and younger brother had wandered into a mysterious, forbidden forest and never come home again in “The Forest of the Others.” Three years after their disappearances, Grace ignored her mother’s warning to stay away from those trees and went into the forest to see if she could find out what happen to them.
I sure would have liked to see better communication between Grace and her mom. These woods were such an irresistible place in this universe that I think Grace would have still gone into them even if her mother had been more clear about how dangerous they were. It felt a little odd to me for someone who had already lost two relatives to what should have been an innocuous patch of land to be so vague about what she thought happened to them or why Grace should never break this rule.
This is something I’m saying as someone who loved everything else about this story. The dialogue was fresh and crisp. Grace’s character development was handled wonderfully. Her experiences in the woods made me shudder, although I’ll leave it up to future readers to discover why. The world-building was really nicely done, too, especially when it came to the mixture of emotions Grace had about the forest she wasn’t supposed to visit. All I needed was for Grace to know exactly why that area was forbidden before she decided to break that rule anyway.
Stranger at the Crossroads
Some of the tales in this collection were so short and filled with plot twists that I need to be pretty careful what I say about them for fear of wandering into spoiler territory. “Stranger at the Crossroads” was one of them. In it, a woman who was walking down the road with her donkey met a stranger who wasn’t at all what he appeared to be.
Does this sound like a mystery or possibly something from the horror genre? Well, it wasn’t. The main character was such a brave and kind soul that her reaction to the unnerving stranger at the crossroads was as pleasantly surprising as it was creative. I enjoyed this entire anthology, but I must say that she was my favourite character of them all. I couldn’t have asked for a better protagonist on that particular day and in that specific time and place.
An Unlikely Friendship
In “An Unlikely Friendship,” a young girl named Meg met a grumpy dwarf in the middle of the woods one day while she was out searching for edible plants to feed her family. Meg’s friendship with Nev, the dwarf, was unexpected but a nice distraction from the grinding poverty she, her widowed mother, and two older sisters had struggled with for years. Yes, this story was one of the ones mentioned in the blurb!
Meg’s personality was nicely written. She’d been taught to be kind to everyone she met. That’s a common trope in the fantasy and fairy tale genres, so I won’t go into much detail about it here. What was refreshing about this particular take on that lesson was how Meg reacted when it appeared that her kindness was not only going to be taken for granted but could very well lead her into a worse predicament than she’d been in when she was only poor and hungry.
This is the sort of twist to a genre that makes me want to come back for more.
My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time.
Most of these genres are still things I like to read at least occasionally. With that being said, I do not read the older ones as often as I once did.
Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales
The first genres I ever fell in love with were nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
My uncle had a book of fairy tales that he left behind when he went off to college. I read that collection every time I visited my grandmother’s house, and it made me yearn for more stories about dragons, royalty, and people who were rewarded for the good things they did when they thought no one was paying attention.
The tales in my uncle’s collection were the sorts of things you’d see in a Disney movie. They were missing the dark endings that they’d often originally had.
A few years later, I began stumbling across fairy tales that didn’t always end happily ever after. For example, the original version of “The Little Mermaid” ended with the main character’s death instead of her wedding.
I did go back to preferring the more cheerful spins on these stories after a while, but I appreciated having those glimpses into what had happened to them before they were cleaned up for modern audiences.
30 Books in a Month
As I’ve mentioned here before, I was homeschooled for the first several years of my education. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to read after my lessons were finished. There were times when Wyoming was far too snowy and cold of a place for a child to be wandering around outside in, so I read the entire afternoon and evening away on some of those wintry days.
All of this reading time had an interesting effect on me once I started public school and people who weren’t my parents or siblings began noticing my habits.
My fourth grade teacher once gave us an assignment to read three books a month. We were supposed to turn in little slips of paper with the title and author of what we read to her so she could keep track of them for us.
Reader, I didn’t finish three books that month. I read thirty of them.
Those three slips of paper we’d been given were almost immediately replaced by notes from my mother listing everything else I’d read after I fulfilled the original requirements.
When our teacher announced the number of books each student had read that month a few weeks later, most of my classmates were in the single digits. It was pretty funny to see how they gasped when they realized I’d quietly blown everyone out of the water.
A Passion for Poetry
I no longer remember which genres I read during that thirty-book month, but I do remember the genre I became obsessed with shortly after that: poetry.
My fifth grade teacher did a unit on the many different types of poems out there, and I took to this topic immediately. A lot of the stuff she had us read reminded me of the nursery rhymes I’d loved a few years earlier.
Shel Silverstein was the first poet I loved, but I quickly moved on to poets who wrote for adult audiences like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.
The thought of compressing what could be an entire story into a few short lines impressed me. I was always excited to find poets who could create strong imagery of what they were describing to the audience while using as few words as possible.
There was about a decade there when poetry was regularly part of what I read for fun. For a long period of time after that, I still returned to it regularly when I needed a break from other genres.
I’m slowly losing interest in this genre, and that makes me a little sad. I wish I could find the same thrill in it I did twenty years ago.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
My interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres has always been intertwined with the other things I’ve read. Long before I entered high school they became genres I returned to over and over again.
While I do take breaks from science fiction and fantasy to recharge sometimes, those feelings have remained constant to this day. No other genre has managed to keep me coming back for more for as long or as consistently as these two have.
There is something so interesting about taking a modern trend and extrapolating it to some distant future where robots really do run the world or when climate change has altered our planet so much that future generations can no longer imagine what life was like in a cooler, more stable climate.
I’ve come to prefer hopeful speculative fiction over the darker, apocalyptic stuff, but I think I’ll continue reading some sort of sci-fi or fantasy for many years to come.
Leaning Towards Nonfiction
Over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more interested in nonfiction than I ever was before. My favourite high school English teacher used to talk about how much she enjoyed reading about things that really happened.
I didn’t understand why she’d say that at the time, but now I relish the opportunity to read books about history, astronomy, archeology, ecology, medicine, the biographies or autobiographies of people who have accomplished all sorts of things, and many other topics.
We live in a world that is filled with more information than any one person can digest in a lifetime. I accept the fact that I can’t learn everything, but I also want to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in this lifetime.
How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.
Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl There are two things I really like to read on rainy days: poetry about stormy weather and humorous books. Why does my brain work this way? I have no idea, but it has strong opinions on this topic that I’m going to honour. This week I’m going to be… Read More
Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Poetry was one of my favourite things in high school. I took a long break from it once I became an adult, but I’ve recently felt the urge to read it again. I thought I’d dive back into this genre by revisiting some of the poets… Read More
I like to read short blogs so write short blogs, prob 300 words max. Do you think it can be too short? — Eliza Hope (@elizahope228) July 3, 2017 Eliza tweeted this to me last week in response to Why I Don’t Agree with Padding Out Blog Posts. I thought it would make a great… Read More