Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

That’s me… sort of

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I am going to have Josh write all my bios from now on:

An orphan that has seen her fair share of tragedy has arisen from the ashes of solitude and emerged as one of the finest designers and illustrators America has ever seen.  Rachel Arnold Sager, designer by day and illustrator by night, is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.  She works for a full service advertising agency, Elias/Savion Advertising, where she is responsible for layout and creative contributions for annual reports, billboards, and identities.  In her spare time she takes on enormous projects like 52ills and writing 300 page novels.  When she’s not being creative Rachel snuggles with her adorable dog Poli, named after the best Steeler ever.

*To be clear: I am not actually an orphan and I have never been on fire. The rest is totally true.

What’s in a name?

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

flower-rose_5xv.jpgJosh and I had a funny conversation the other day.

I have known for a while that Josh is not a particularly huge fan of the fantasy genre, and we tried to figure out exactly which parts turned him off. Is it the magic? I ask. No. Weird powers? No. The creatures? No, those are cool. The differing social structures, maybe? No.

“None of those,” he admits. “I think it’s mainly the names.”

The names?

His complaint is that you’re beebopping along in a story. You’re happy and familiar with the current characters, and then you’re being introduced to some new characters and of course none of them are named George or Bob or Roger or Amanda — they’re each an Aragorn or Akbar or Severus. I’ve heard this complaint before, and I’m somewhat guilty of the same thing. My brain’ll gloss over something if I deem it too bizarre or unpronounceable.

Actually, a group of us were all reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series in high school, and one of them asked how I pronouced one of the words. It was an important word, one I’d seen hundreds of times on the page, but even deep into the fourth book, I was at a loss — my brain had been pronouncing it something close to ‘blah’ in my head for months.

Josh read and enjoyed The Sum of David, but hated many of the names. Bear he could handle. Thor was not common, but doable. But Holder, Jameela, and Tanece? I believe his words were “Those are stupid. No one can remember that!”

And Calemadestes, a name and character of which I’m particularly proud? Totally made him want to strangle someone.

Meanwhile, if and when we get a pet in the future, we already have a name picked out: Polly. Which is short for Polamalu. Go figure.

The Problem with Fantasy

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

p-p-z.jpgI’m not a voracious reader, by any means. I usually have a magazine (design! science!) or some kind of fantasy novel in my Bag Lady bags. I’m trying to read more, however, with a focus in the genre I’d like to be published in one day.

I just finished up two classic fantasy novels and found them both underwhelming. Granted, one was published in 1970 and the other was translated from German, but one was also a Newbery Medal winner, and both were made into movies. The writing is fine, the stories are interesting, the lands fantastic. The characters? Generally Meh.

Which is a shame. The cool thing about Fantasy is you get to make everything up. The possible pitfall is that you have to make everything up. You have to set the ground rules of a world, a society, whatever.

Those bonus perimeters include the characters, and can allow for some great added drama — for instance, Pride and Prejudice would have been a different book if Elizabeth were a vampire or fairy or… zombie?

But while the unique aspect of a SF/F setting can be a roller-coaster ride, it shouldn’t be the only engaging aspect of a story, with the characters you’re supposed to care about simply being shuffled around. I’ve never connected emotionally with a mountain, coastline or swamp; but give me a character I can love or hate or root for and I’m yours. Speaking as someone who’s created some different environments, I know it’s challenging to keep that world from becoming it’s own entity, and perhaps in some cases that is appropriate, but after seeing it crash in spectacular fashion (or am I the only one who thinks so?) I have a hearty interest in making sure I did not, will not, make the same mistake.

Do What You Wish

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

neverendingstory.jpgMichael Ende’s The Neverending Story

I’ve been told not to re-watch The Neverending Story as an adult since they are dated so badly it strips the magic out of them; but I have to say the book made me want to give them another go.

As far as plots go, it’s not the most exciting — at no point was I gnawing my nails, worried about whether Bastian was going to survive, get home or stop hurting his friends — and the story maker in me did a mental eye-roll every time a new character knew who Bastian was, was familiar with his life story and knew what he needed to do in order to get him to the next stage of his adventure. When things finally did start to get good, the climax was grazed over and we went back to traveling with Bastian who was, let’s face it, not a strong and/or weak enough protagonist.

Despite its flaws, however, it was a nice little read. It was very imaginative, and had the feel of several fairy tales all strung together. The bountiful characters were all wonderfully vivid: Morla, the giant mountain turtle; the lion Grograman, the Colorful Walking Death, who turned to stone each night so that the glowing night forest of Perilin could be born out of his desert; clever Xayide, who animated her empty armored trolls to do her bidding; the Silver City of Armaganth, which floated on a lake of tears and was constructed of the most precious silver filigree; Yor, the blind and silent picture miner; Dame Eyola, who continually produced delicious fruit from her person from within the Change House; and of course the adventurer Atreyu and the luckdragon, Falkor.

In the end, I was happy for young Bastian Balthazar Bux and his transformation, especially since I’ve got a special place in my heart for the modern-child-goes-to-fantasy-realm tale anyway. It’s not a crazy emotional investment, but all in all, worth the read.