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Wendy C. Darling (Atlanta, GA United States)

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Fellini Satyricon (Widescreen) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Fellini Satyricon (Widescreen) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Martin Potter
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 48.98
13 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satire of the Satyr, March 16 2004
Some movies you just have to see -- forget about plot synopses or snippets of dialogue, you just have to see it to understand. For these movies, there's no way to answer that most natural and inevitable of questions: What's it about? Satyricon is one of these movies.
I've been a fan of Satyricon for about four years, when I first took it out of the public library. I'd heard it was weird and had also seem some stills in movie books like LIFE Goes to the Movies. Something about freaks, absurdity, ancient Rome, I gathered. Maybe that was actually as much as I needed to know since that's what it all boils down to, at its essence.
I probably would have had more of an idea what to expect that first if I'd simply known about the director, Federico Fellini. At that time, I didn't, and so when I first sat down with Satyricon it struck me not just as an anomaly but as a major shock. Sure, I'd heard of Fellini, but this? This was Fellini? Why hadn't anyone told me? They should have shown this movie to me while I was in the crib, it was so cool.
Later on, through watching another great and bizarre film of his, Roma, I figured out what some of the Fellini motifs were and how strongly his personality and taste come through, but at the time, it was a bit of a mind-blower. This guy had survived making this film? Nobody put him in an insane asylum? He was considered great? Certainly I thought he was great, watching the movie, but I tend not to give fellow humans that much credit.
Knowing a bit more about Fellini at this point, I can say that while Satyricon isn't the anomaly I once thought -- Roma is pretty similar and I've heard other of his films also follow along in a similar style -- it is certainly in a class of its own. What's it about? Again, I can't say really, but pressed to the wall with a gun to my head, I'd squeal and saying it's a crazy experience, a vicarious exploration of insanity, of dreams, of an absurd adventure by a blond-haired poet who just wants to get his boy lover back and be done with it all. That summary doesn't really express any of it, but it's the best I can do and there it is.
Perhaps giving a little background would help. First of all, Fellini didn't make the story up, although the film is certainly a product of his imagination and he did make up a few scenes. The plot, such as it is, springs from that most bizarre and unprecedented of ancient works, Satyricon by Petronius. Nobody actually knows much about the author and this is his only work, but what can be said is that it's a book very different from what most people would expect of an ancient book. You can actually get a hint of this by its very title, which is a pun on satyr (from the Greek saturos) and satire (from the Latin satira), meaning that it's an attack on human vice or folly and a depiction of some serious depravity. Did I mention that this was written around the time of the reign of Nero?
Again, having read the original book -- had to having seen the movie -- I can say that it's nothing like any ancient work I've ever run into except possibly the poetry of Catullus, which is hysterically coarse at times. It's simply not ponderous. It doesn't dwell on gods or philosophy or sublime human comedy. No, instead, the book just creates its own territories and definitions. People have tried to analyze it -- the fragments that are left, now that several sections have been missing for ages -- and the general conclusion, so I've read, is that the novel, like the movie, is something far afield from the norm, a twisted tale of such originality as to make analysis within normal frames of reference irrelevant.
The question resurfaces: What's it about? A few scenes may help to convey a sense of its atmosphere at least, if not the plot, since the plot is rather secondary. Picture this: Our hero (well, anti-hero really) Encolpio ends up on a mission to collect a hermaphroditic god(ess) from a hidden temple. He and his companions show up in a cave where they find the god(ess) pale and weak, lying in a pool surrounded by worshippers seeking to be healed. They steal the god(ess), throwing the deity into a cart and fleeing across the desert. Unfortunately the god(ess) is weak and needs water. The god(ess) dies and for that, there is a punishment.
Encolpio and friends end up in another town (where he ends up in a battle with a man wearing a bull mask... don't ask) and although Encolpio is basically rewarded by getting to bed an insatiable woman, he is embarrassed before a crowd of hundreds when he can't get it up. He's been made impotent! To make things better, he's sent to a special treatment facility where he's put in a room filled with dozens of extremely exotic prostitutes who proceed to try just about everything to get a rise out of him. They pin him down and flog him. There's something about a giant swinging canopy with bevies of girls on it but even thought I've seen the film a half dozen times, I can't remember the specifics, nor do I remember if the "cure" was successful. It's besides the point.
I do remember more, though. I know an Roman couple lives in home built into the base of a cliff. They end up committing suicide by slitting their wrists. Later Encolpio and friends run around inside their house and find an African slave girl who speaks in clicks and squawks. There's another big section with a huge ship on rough seas; they capture a giant creature that looks like an ancient depiction of a whale. There's a theater of the absurd, a gallery of freaks, a hysterically fake earthquake, a massively disgusting feast, and oh, it's all in dubbed Italian (at the time, the Italians dubbed over everything, even Italian) with the subtitles making some sense but not all that much since really you use your eyes to understand. Ah, why do I bother trying to explain? What does it add up to? What does it mean? What's it about? Go and see it -- that way you'll find out.

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5.0 out of 5 stars The Sound of Heaven, March 16 2004
This review is from: Vespertine (Audio CD)
For those of us who strain to imagine what heaven sounds like, Vespertine likely serves as a very close approximation. It's not just the heavenly choirs that create the effect -- although they do back her vocals throughout almost every track -- but the purely sublime sounds she produces, the sweetness of her melodies, the sincerity and vision and passion of her lyrics, and a voice that sounds at once childish and timeless, like a fairy or a goddess or, yes, an angel come to reveal herself and bless us with light and magic and happiness.
Depending on your familiarity with Björk, you might think, "Björk? An angel? Maybe a pixie, maybe an elf but... an angel?" Her earlier albums were certainly more pop, although they were a unique sort of pop that wasn't anything like Top 40, full of increasingly electronic and electrical passions. If anything, Vespertine reaches back to a sound akin to her first solo album, Debut, only with a breadth of vision and a perspective no doubt borne of a decade's worth of growing up, both musically and mentally. Gone are the direct lines of songs like "Aeroplane" or "Venus As A Boy." Instead there are beautiful songs whose meaning doesn't quite come across in the lyrics, although the words speak to the soul:
how do i master
the perfect day
six glasses of water
seven phonecalls
if you leave it alone
it might just happen
it's not up to you
well, it never really was...
The sound of the album is lush, lovingly haunted by angelic choirs of joy, harps and music boxes, electronic forest sounds, fairy voices. Above and below and through it all, Björk pours out bucketloads of tenderness, whispered confessions, joyous exclamations, and sweet dreams. With a voice ranging from a whisper to a call across teh miles, she's an oracle speaking to us all, channelling what sound like divine currents of the human condition, the part of the condition that is clearsighted and feeling, the condition that loves, the condition that hopes for happiness.
it's not meant to be a strife
it's not meant to be a struggle uphill
you're trying too hardv surrender
give yourself in
you're trying too hard
you're trying too hard
it's not meant to be a strife
it's not meant to be a struggle uphill
to enjoy
it's not meant to be a strife
it's not meant to be a struggle uphill
it's warmer now: lean into it
unfold in a generous way
Vespertine is filled with lovesongs, although they are hardly standard ballads. Instead, her songs speak from heart to heart, mind to mind, soul to soul. They are almost mythical in the stories they tell and the lyrics are poetry. In "A Hidden Place," she sings of a love she loves in secret and would like to keep in secret, hiding herself in his hair. "Cocoon" is another story altogether, the story of a girl lost in the wonder and joy of love, the repleteness of finding the boy to complete her:
who would have known
that a boy like him
possessed of magical sensitivity
would approach a girl like me
who carresses
his head in a bosom
Other songs espouse a hopeful, optimistic, forgiving view of the world. They seem to admonish the listener -- and yes, Björk does seem to be speaking directly to the listener at times -- to give up on bitterness and pessimism and press onward into the world, where somewhere there is goodness. We must stop trying so hard and simply let things happen, let things go, open ourselves to possibility. She will heal us, she absolves us, she kisses us with her voice, the magic of her sound, the angel choirs and harps. She has discover a goddess and passes on the blessing to the world.
i tumble down on my knees
fill the mouth with snow
the way
i wish
to melt into you
No other Björk album has as much poetry in the lyrics as this one. You can almost imagining the lyrics appearing on a page, shot down straight from heaven by a divine poet. Not everything makes sense and much of the lyrics are open to interpretation. Some songs seem to be made up of fragments, while even the more coherent songs are sprinkled with asides and oddities.
a train of pearls, cabin by cabin
is shot precisely across an ocean
from a mouth
from a
from a mouth of a girl like me
to a boy
to a boy
to a boy
There is Björk speaking in her own private language of impressions and of course bits of Icelandic. She doesn't mind if she's not clear and straightforward, because she's expressed herself and in the end, Björk's greatest strength is her ability to express a creative gift unique in this world. We are very lucky to be able to share it and thus hear the sound of heaven.

by Ellen Kushner
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but not my cup of tea, March 16 2004
I first heard about Swordspoint through I'm quite a regular at Amazon, not just buying things but just looking up stuff and finding more stuff to read. One of my favorite features is My Recommendations, which given how many things I've rated or reviewed, are actually pretty accurate.
So one day when Amazon realized I had a penchant for reading fantasy books with queer characters (gee, how would it guess?!), out popped a message on a page saying "Hey, you might like to read Swordspoint!" (Or something similar, think it was worded differently.) So I checked out the description, read the reviews and thought, "Huh, that does sound interesting!" and you know, ordered it. (Boy, Amazon makes it too easy!)
Swordspoint turned out not to be exactly what I had expected. Having just come off of reading Lynn Flewelling's delightful, outstanding Nightrunner series, I was I guess expecting something a little racier or filled with heart-pounding action or some magic or something really scary. Instead I found the book to be just what it says on the back cover, a "melodrama of manners."
There's a well-drawn relationship between a professional swordsman and a mysterious noble scholar who's abandoned his privilege for a death wish, and that was fun, but then there was another half to the story with nobles plotting and scheming, politics and politenesses and callings cards -- which to me was not so fun. I loved the bits with dashing Richard St Vier and drunken bitter Alec, but every time I'd really start to get into them, the chapter would end and I'd have to slog through a scene of some noblelady or nobleman's blathering or covering up some secret or plotting to knock off a rival. To me, patient and literate as I am, those bits just were boring and dry.
It reminded me of some lost 18th or 19th century novel, only twist being that the two main heroes are gay lovers and everybody's okay with that. It's true that in the Nightrunner series, there's a similar situation (a regular spies, swords and sorcery book, only with gay lovers), but for me Swordspoint didn't have the overall story I enjoy so I wasn't nearly as satisfied. I will say, however, that if you like a book with a lot of intrigue and intricate plot and old-fashioned literary language, Swordspoint is probably a book you'd enjoy.
If there was one thing that made my disappointment a little less with this book, it came at the end, where in the edition I have, Kushner has included three additional stories set in the Swordspoint world. I actually enjoyed these stories more than the actual novel! I think it was the fact that in the stories, all the frilly "melodrama of manners" stuff was cut out and only the good bits were there. The stories also had a higher proportion of sexual spice to them. And in "The Death of the Duke," Kushner creates a magical tale depicting the final weeks of Alec, as an old man returned to the nameless city, setting of Swordspoint, and dying amid his memories of Richard St Vier -- what a wonderful tribute!

Sime~Gen: The Unity Trilogy
Sime~Gen: The Unity Trilogy
by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Edition: Paperback
12 used & new from CDN$ 43.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Symbiosis Out of Balance, March 16 2004
The Unity Trilogy is a book that landed in my lap -- nearly literally! I swear, I showed up one night for the writers' group I'm in and my friend Alan was there with a white box. "Hey, remember how I mentioned we could maybe use you as a proofreader?" he asked, before handing over the box. Inside were three manuscripts, since it was a trilogy being republished as an omnibus by Meisha Merlin. A couple of weeks later, I went to start proofing and boom, I was totally hooked by the first page!
So what is Sime~Gen about?
Let see... Set some centuries in the future, Sime~Gen has the human race divided (through either evolution or genetic manipulation, nobody knows) into two groups: Simes and Gens. Both groups basically look the same, but there is one big difference which dominates all goings-on between them: Simes have tentacles on their arms and need selyn to survive, while Gens don't have tentacles and produce selyn. Selyn isn't any type of bodily fluid but an invisible life force almost like chi, which builds up naturally in Gens but whose absence in Simes will kill them if they go more than a month.
Ever since the mutation divided the species, Simes and Gens have understandably been at war. In Sime-controlled territories, Gens are raised in pens like animals and bought and sold like they're food - stripped of their selyn and tossed away. In Gen-dominated territories, by contrast, there is a saying that "The only good Sime is a dead Sime." And what makes it scary is that Gens can have Sime children and vice versa - nobody knows until they hit puberty. If Gens have Sime children, they kill them, and when Simes have them, they can of course kill them or sell them to Gen dealers.
This is the basic set up of the trilogy and the plot, as it develop, involves efforts on part of Simes and Gens to overcome all the prejudice and enmity and achieve unity. After all, if Simes kill all the Gens, they'll die, and it's already a given than Gens can't kill all the Simes.
None of this is explained in boring history lessons, but laid out in the stories of individuals. In House of Zeor the story centers of a Gen named Hugh Valleroy, who goes on a dangerous, secret assignment into Sime territory in order to rescue an important Gen official who also happens to be his girlfriend. (Yes, this sounds cheesy and it sort of is.) Hugh doesn't infiltrate Sime territory on his own, however, but instead is paired up with Klyd Farris, head of the titular House of Zeor. Even though Hugh has actually grown up as a Sime sympathizer (who expected he'd "changeover" at puberty), he's never been to Sime territory and arrives completely unprepared for what he finds.
House of Zeor is a "householding" which, running again most prevailing laws and attitudes, is a community where Simes and Gens live in harmony. Harmony is achieved by a special kind of Sime called a Channel. Unlike regular Simes, Channels don't need to kill Gens to get the selyn they need. Channels have two "selyn transport systems" and can collect selyn from dozens of Gens, just like milking cows almost, and then go to Simes, who then take the selyn - instead of killing Gens. Channels also have selyn needs of their own, of course, and for that reason, and because they're just so important to householdings, each Channel has a Companion. Companions, Hugh learns, are Gens who produce an extraordinarily large quantity of selyn and are able to give their selyn freely to serve the appetite of the Channel. Little does Hugh know that he's natural Companion material - for Klyd, the head channel of House of Zeor!
There's an awful lot of plot over the course of these three books. House of Zeor is a dive into the world of Simes and Gens and follows the story of Hugh and Klyd, while the middle book, Ambrov Keon, takes place in another part of the world. It centers on another householding, Keon, starting with the arrival of Risa Tigue, a "junct" (killing) Sime who stumbles upon a householding and learns she is a Channel. Risa has a lot to learn and although she fights it, she ends up being a big part of bringing her corner of the world towards unity. The final book, Zelerod's Doom, brings Hugh and Klyd together with the cast of of Ambrov Keon for a battle that eventually achieves the beginning of what gets to be called Unity - the day Simes and Gens begin to forge a truce. This story gets deeper into some of the relationships, in particular Hugh and Klyd's, and reveals a race struggling to figure out what they are about and how they can survive.
One thing I'll say about these books is that although I did enjoy them quite a lot, the writing style, plotting and other bits of it can get to sounding cheesy. It certainly isn't the sort of rich descriptive narrative I'm used to reading (Storm Constantine, Ursula Le Guin). Instead, it's more the kind of writing you'd find in a Star Trek book, which makes a lot of sense since the authors are huge Star Trek fans and have, in fact, written Star Trek novels. This doesn't stop the books from being enjoyable, but I think it is something that needs to be noted, in case a reader is expecting great literature.
Since reading Sime~Gen I have found myself wanting to read more and luckily, there is more to read, not only more books, which Meisha Merlin will be publishing over the next few years, but whole novels already online and a huge load of fan fiction, which the authors are OK with and even host on their own web site. I am so glad Alan handed me that white box!

Trysts: A Triskaidecollection of Queer and Weird Stories
Trysts: A Triskaidecollection of Queer and Weird Stories
by Steve Berman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.78
21 used & new from CDN$ 6.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Found it, bought it, read it, liked it!, March 16 2004
I found this book when I happened to meet Steve Berman at DragonCon back in 2002 and during a chat he skillfully talked me into buying it :)
Trysts is a cool little book. Steve has labeled it "a triskaidecollection of queer and weird stories" (yes, that's 13 stories) and I think that description fits pretty well.
Some of the stories reminded me of Twilight Zone plotlines gone horribly, horribly wrong (and that's saying something!), while others were almost traditional horror stories like I grew up reading in those big Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. Sure, they were "queer and weird" (and I don't think Twilight Zone would have gay men and lust in the middle of most stories) but Steve certainly has a handle on the basics of horror!
One of the main themes, maybe even the theme of the story collection seems to be that of a character or a group of them stepping away from normal life (either willingly or by accident) and getting sucked into situations or whole worlds which are just scary -- painful, corrupt, wrong, immoral, or just not part of the normal world, instead belonging to a dark side of life, from which the characters can't escape.
One story, "Cries Beneath the Plaster," has an artist seeing his own creations (and past misdeeds) coming after him in revenge. Several of the stories take place in a nameless city where large sections have somehow changed, so they are now "Fallen" areas where people live in madness, magic, corruption, and are just generally no longer living the safe, happy lives they were before.
My favorite story in the book is "Path of Corruption." Reminding very much of Storm Constantine's stories, "Path" tells the story of a young gay college student in New Orleans who step by step abandons his safety and propriety to join up with a male prostitute. And it's not just that he ends up basically living in a whorehouse, but that the man he's with, the men in the house, aren't just ordinary whores but more like a cult. The story ends with a shattering scene of whores carrying out a ritual half-way between an H.P. Lovecraft story and something in Storm's Grigori series!
This is a great short story collection and one I'd strongly recommend to people looking for horror and dark fantasy with some queer content and/or sex mixed in. Go out and hook up with Trysts!

Shadow Man
Shadow Man
by Melissa Scott
Edition: Paperback
8 used & new from CDN$ 3.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Genders, One Humanity, Feb. 19 2004
This review is from: Shadow Man (Paperback)
At 18, Warreven was presented with an offer most men would have gladly accepted: Marriage to the only child of the Most Important Man on the planet Hara. The problem was, Warreven wasn't "most men." In fact, he wasn't a man at all, but a herm or, as Haran slang went, a "halving." And Temelathe's only child, Tendelathe, was a man.
For the Most Important Man, Warreven's sex was a non-issue: Warreven would simply classify himself as a woman and become Tendelathe's wife. This was a common arrangement, as herms did not live their lives as herms, but as men or women. It was up to them to choose. Warren would not choose, however; while he would willingly have married his long-time friend, he refused to be forced into declaring himself female. He was comfortable living as a man and that's how he wanted it to stay. He refused the offer. The decision ultimately changed his life.
The story point is one of the keystones in Melissa Scott's 1995 novel Shadow Man, a book which explores human gender and what life might be like if things were not as "simple" as we (perhaps wrongly) view them today.
The planet Hara, where Warreven, the Most Important Man and his son live is one of countless human colonies founded at a point in the future when humans have mastered faster-than-light (FTL) travel and have spread across the galaxy. As the story opens, Hara is in the process of slowly but surely being re-connected with the colonial network, after a few hundred years' separation.
The reason Hara was cut off is the same reason it's now so different from other human colonies. FTL travel, as boundary-breaking as it was, was in large part made possible by the development of specialized drugs, which prevented the side effects of the travel, keeping humans healthy and sane. However, these drugs themselves had a major side effect, one which no one had expected or even noticed under it was too late: The drugs affected human DNA and caused a large upswing (as high as 25%) in intersex births. There were no longer men and women, but men, women... and several other sexes. This discovery was so shocking and devastating to the human space colonization movement that all FTL travel was put on hold. Chaos erupted, arguments ensued, and it was during this time that the group making its way to the planet known as Hara were cut off.
People on hara developed the same genetic"abnormalities" as the rest of those who had taken FTL drugs. Not only their children, but their children's children, and on down the line, were born into one of five gender categories: woman, fem, herm, men, or man. The crucial difference on Hara, as opposed to within the human colonization effort and humanity as a whole (the "Concord"), was that the people on Hara chose to deny that this change had occurred. Almost all Concord humans had finally embraced the sexual differences and all the new sexual orientations and identities that came with it. They "moved on " with the change and re-started FTL travel. Harans were different. Fiercely traditional, they clung to concepts of men and women, and those who did not fit those categories were, officially, made to fit.
Despite the decision he made at 18, Warreven has made a good life for himself. He's got a job as something like an attorney, part of a three-person team. One of his partners is a man, the other a herm, like himself, only more politically outspoken (having fought a court battle to have legal status as "herm," not one sex or the other). Their firm often handles cases involving the "odd-bodied," those Harans who do not conform to Haran sexual standards. Warren is a skilled negotiator, and thanks to his continuing friendship with the Most Important Man (who still talks wistfully of his would-have-been "daughter-in-law"), he has a comfortable life. In his off time, Warreven's life isn't quite the savory life of a lawyer, however. He enjoys going to "wrangwys" bars, where fems, herms and mems mix amongst themselves, along with men and women who come to experiment in ways which are, officially, either forbidden or strongly frowned upon. In these bars, "wrangwys" become "trade"; Warreven has been "trade" himself.
In Shadow Man, we see Warreven's life change from something mostly stable and secure, where he is happy to remain within the status quo, to one in which his entire life is turned upside down and Hara is on the verge of a minor revolution. The story takes off when one day Warreven meets an offworlder named Tatian. The offworlder has come on an assignment from one of the big pharmaceutical companies trading with Hara, and at first he's strictly business. But after he meets Warreven and is introduced to Haran's rather different social set-up, he can't seem to get himself untangled from a budding revolution among society's oppressed. He finds himself encouraging Warreven and eventually assisting him. It's hard for him to believe the "odd-bodied" have allowed themselves to be oppressed at all, and even harder for him as he watches Warreven struggle with his role in the new revolution, especially when things get out of control, with attacks on bars, beatings, and riot police.
One of the things Scott does in Shadow Man is set up an allegory for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement, and one of the things that makes the book work is that this allegory isn't done in a heavy-handed way, but one that makes you understand the nature of social movements and those caught in the crossfire. Warreven doesn't want to be a revolutionary. He doesn't want to be a hero. He doesn't really want to be a herm -- not the way humans on Concord are herms. He doesn't know what any of that is about. However, the way events unfold, he has no choice, morally, but to press on and become a revolutionary, become a hero, and eventually, to become a herm. Change has to start somewhere and it just so happens that it starts with him.
Shadow Man is a wonderful, thought-provoking book which, although somewhat dissatisfying in the fact that it doesn't tie up the book's conflicts in a neat bow, makes you wonder about the nature of being human and being part of society, whether accepted or not.

Storm Constantine's Wraeththu Mythos 'Breeding Discontent'
Storm Constantine's Wraeththu Mythos 'Breeding Discontent'
by Wendy Darling
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.13
16 used & new from CDN$ 15.13

5.0 out of 5 stars From the author (one of them anyway), Jan. 27 2004
Breeding Discontent is a novel written by me and my friend Bridgette Parker, both fans of author Storm Constantine's Wraeththu universe. We wanted to explore new territory -- and the result is a novel edited by Storm Constantine herself, who, finding this "new territory," decided it was worth exploring -- and publishing through her press. Since publication, this book has received a lot of positive praise from fans of the Wraeththu novels, as well as praise from people who picked it up not knowing a thing about it. I've had a lot of people say they found this story very moving and that they identified strongly with the characters, especialy the central character, Lisia. As an author, I really can't ask for more than that people give it a chance -- hopefully you like the "territory" too!
P.S. Discount my 5-star rating, I wouldn't enter a rating except Amazon forces you to if you want to comment. Not that I don't think it's worth 5 stars though :)

The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure: The First Book of the Wraeththu Histories
The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure: The First Book of the Wraeththu Histories
by Storm Constantine
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 3.67

5.0 out of 5 stars Different than "The Original" but just as magical, June 25 2003
Unlike some of the others who've posted reviews here so far, I didn't read the original Wraeththu trilogy as a teenager, but rather as an adult. I think this at least in part explains why my reaction to Wraiths of Will and Pleasure is so very different than theirs. While those reviewers (seemingly making their comments from within a rosy cloud of linger adolescent nostalgia) express disappointment and a feeling that the "magic" is gone, I on the other hand feel that Storm Constantine has breathed life into the series and written a novel which although different from the original, is a wonderful complement and furthermore surely the beginning of yet another wonderful trilogy. If Hollywood came out with Labyrinth II and souped it up with overdone special effects, a David Bowie clone, and a director to replace Jim Henson, I'd be outraged, but with Wraiths, I feel we've all been blessed by a writer at the top of her form.
In looking at Wraiths, some have voiced complaints about the narrative and the way it uses the third person rather than the first person of the original trilogy. To me it seems like these readers have completely missed the point! Wraiths is the first volume in a new trilogy that presents the history of the Wraeththu, not the diaries of the Wraeththu elite (i.e. Pell, Swift and Cal). In presenting this history, the book employs the third person to show a more complete picture of the Wraeththu world. Set in a time period which stretches the length of a good deal of the original trilogy, Wraiths offers perspectives on those events covered within the first-person narrative -- perspectives which illuminate the previously "definitive" version. We learn that things are not always what they seem and that one har's perspective on events may be very limited; for example, Swift's view of Seel certainly differs from Seel's view of Swift and Pell knows much more about the Kamagrian than Cal ever imagined! The use of the third person also allows Constantine to create a complex storyline with multiple interweaving threads, bringing in the experiences and perspectives of para and parazha in a way that could hardly be achieved by using nothing but first person!
As for those complaints about Wraiths lacking the "magic" of the original books, I have to say I disagree with that as well. It's true that Wraiths is different than those books, but then again I think that's inevitable as Constantine's evolved as a person and a writer since then. I also think that again, the shift in feeling is quite appropriate given that this new trilogy is a history not the musings of individual hara. As a history, Wraiths sets before us a world without the distortion of all the fuzzy (although very seductive) gauze of the original books. To me, it's as if Enchantments, Bewitchments and Fulfilments are stories told from within a dream, the Wraeththu world PART of it, but in Wraiths we have the actual, solid world that has materialized over the years. For this we have to thank Storm's continuously growing imagination and talents, plus the energies of its many fans as well as practitioners of "dehara" magic. For me, Wraiths IS magical and involving and has lots of energy. It's not like George Lucas and Star Wars -- nothing like it!
Now, to stop simply defending the aspects I've seen criticized, let me go on to the parts of the book I loved. First off, it might not be some people's cup of tea, but I was blown away by the first chapter which features -- not to reveal spoilers -- a death and a birth. Absolutely gripping stuff that is really profound and signals a change from was Wraeththu WAS to what it becomes from that point forward. After that, the interweaving storylines were fascinating and I loved seeing the way the characters came together, interacted and then developed their personalities and relationships over the course of the book. There are some new characters like the child Lileem as well as old characters like Ulaume, Flick and Seel who we see a lot more of, and in each of these characters we see different aspects of the tapestry of Wraeththu. We also get a whole cast of characters in the "dehara," a god/goddess system Flick discovers and which exists as a product of the collective Wraeththu soul -- and can be very powerful, once hara know how to access it. There are lots of fun, juicy scenes in the book, like Flick and Ulaume going to a party at Forever which takes a serious left turn. And Seel's scenes certainly contain some major shocks!
There is more I could say but for now I'd like to say that as part of the Wraeththu fan community (it's gotten quite large online), what I've heard from pretty much everyone is an embrace of this book and lots of grateful, happy cheering. We're not nodding sycophants either (unlike say Anne Rice who think every book of hers is a masterpiece), but people who see pretty clearly and even though we see something different feel it's very, very good. I'm very excited about where this new trilogy is going and am eager to see where this all leads!

Bending the Landscape: Original Gay and Lesbian Writing, Volume I: Science Fiction
Bending the Landscape: Original Gay and Lesbian Writing, Volume I: Science Fiction
by Nicola Griffith
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from CDN$ 27.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skillfully Subverting Genres, May 3 2003
Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, is the first of a three-part series of "original gay and lesbian writing" edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel (not very coincidentally, a participant in Outworlders, a local Atlanta GLBTQ sci fi / fantasy fan group and the parent group to a book group I belong to.) After choosing Storm Constantine's The Sign for the Sacred as our group's first fantasy selection, we turned to Bending as a book that would cover science fiction but also appeal to a variety of tastes. Also playing into the selection was the fact that the book had been awarded a number of extremely prestigious awards and Stephen Pagel would possibly come to our meeting to discuss it (which he did!)
When I started on Bending, I really didn't quite know what to expect; most of my affection for science fiction comes not from books but from movies and television, so I really didn't know how much of it I would enjoy. I soon discovered that my wariness was unfounded, for not only did I enjoy the science fiction, but the designation "science fiction" didn't really cover what I was reading -- I found a lot of what I considered "fantasy" as well. I also discovered that Griffith and Pagel made some truly excellent story selections.
Bending features stories which, so Pagel told us himself, cover the full spectrum of science fiction -- everything from futuristic private eye stories to time travel escapades to stories of alien worlds to explorations of cyber consciousness and gender identity. Clearly, this was not a book simply thrown together or with the lowest common denominator in mind. Instead, it's a book in which writers of all sexual orientations explore situations that explore one of science fiction's enduring themes, "the Alien, the Not-Self, the Other," with the "other" a lesbian or gay man (interpreted, so the book's introduction admits, "liberally.")
There were a lot of stories in Bending that I loved and several which actually reminded me strongly of Storm's stories. For example, "The City in Morning" by Carrie Richardson reads like a chapter from a lost Storm Constantine novel. "On Vacation" is a subtly hilarious tale of aliens living on earth a la Men In Black. Far and away my favorite story, which I must have reread a dozen time the day I first read it, was the beautiful, elegant and sweetly heart-rending "Silent Passion" by Kathleen O'Malley. Set in A.C. Crispin's StarBridge universe, to which O'Malley has contributed two books), the story is one I summed up to a friend as featuring "giant gay, signing, alien crane-creatures" and their interaction with gay human couple, whose relationship turns a new corner when the narrator is finally able to move beyond the pain of human intolerance. It's a beautiful, life - and love-affirming story which I doubt I will ever forget and which I plan to lead me on to O'Malley's two StarBridge novels, which, so Pagel tells me, feature these same amazing crane-aliens.
Knowing there are two more Bending anthologies (fantasy and horror), I am sure I have many more great tales ahead of me.

The Oracle Lips
The Oracle Lips
by Storm Constantine
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 58.25
11 used & new from CDN$ 29.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Wondrous Visions, May 3 2003
This review is from: The Oracle Lips (Hardcover)
I'd set my sights on The Oracle Lips once I realized I had at long last read all of Storm's novels (but for the unfindable Aleph, alas). Having read a few of Storm's stories beforehand (the short Three Heralds of the Storm chapbook, "Paragenesis" in The Crow anthology and several posted to her web site), I had some idea of what to expect, but at the same time, I started out my reading curious what other strange new worlds and characters I might discover.
One of the things which surprised me was the fact that not all the worlds and characters were new. A half a dozen stories were directly related to novels I had already read! Three of the book's 24 selections are tales of Grigori. "Heir to a Tendency" is a peek at the exploits of one Peverel Othman, years before his fateful appearance at Little Moor -- an arrival described in another story appearing, "A Change of Season." Written for an anthology and with the twins in Little Moor being not Grigori but something else, "A Change of Season" is essentially a draft version of the first chapter of Stalking Tender Prey. The book's third Grigori story, "The Feet, They Dance," is a lyrical story of a museum curator who falls into the sort of "remembered life" experiences that come up so often in the third book of Grigori, Stealing Sacred Fire. Any reader and fan of Grigori cannot afford to miss these stories.
Other Storm novels also have relatives appearing. "Blue Flame of the Candle" is an exotic Magravandias tale of temple idols and mysterious strangers. (It also reminded me strangely of an E.M. Forster novel set in a cross between ancient Mesopotamia and Southeast Asia.) A Wraeththu story Storm once had on her web site, "By the River If Only, in the Land of Might Have Been," also makes an appearance, offering a poignant glimpse at what it means when a people loses touch with its roots and wander unquestioningly in darkness and confusion. And finally, just to tantalize me, there's a story set (so Storm's intro note explains) on the same world as Aleph, the (for me) impossible-to-find sequel to The Monstrous Regiment. "God Be With You" is a bitter account of how religious fanaticism and "born again" zeal can split apart families and turn friends into enemies.
Beyond these jaunts into more familiar territory, however, are many more virgin journeys where Storm has created people and places out of nothing and presents them for the length of a short story. Included within this are stories from various genres, from Storm's own brand of science fiction (where space is much more scary and grim than exciting and glamorous), dark fairy tales, fantasies, and strange (but wonderful) unclassifiables like "The Oracle Lips" (a Moebius strip of a story) to "Of a Cat, but Her Skin," a tale of one woman's liberation.
I found my favorite stories split among all the genres. One of the most dearly enjoyed was "The Vitreous Suzerain," the story that opens the anthology. This is one of Storm's forays into science fiction, with a new governor arriving on one of his empire's conquered planets and discovering there is much more to the planet's inhabitants (and more satisfaction to be had) than he or his fellows ever suspected. For me, this story captured my conception of an inter-species encounter far better than any episode of Star Trek.
Other favorites of mine were two dark fairy tales ("Sweet Bruising Skin" and "Remedy of the Bane"), another sci-fi tale ("As It Flows Into the Sea," very much a Twilight Zone episode set in outer space), Storm's fantasy-parody "The Deliveress," a story ("Return to Gehenna") that was like a one-chapter Thin Air, and just about every other story in the book. I made a good choice with this book!

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