Elizabeth Bear and Katherine Addison have a new joint effort out this September. You might recognise Katherine Addison as the author of The Goblin Emperor, and you might also remember that she’s also written as Sarah Monette—making Bear and Addison the same team as the ones responsible for A Companion to Wolves and its sequels.
Their new work isn’t a Viking-influenced vision of the frozen north, but a long novella about fifteen-year-old Christopher Marlowe and the murder of a scholar: The Cobbler’s Boy.
Most times, when someone complains that they just don’t like stories with politics, or with a message, what they mean is they don’t like stories with messages or politics that disturb or confront their own assumptions about how the world is, or could be, or ought to be. This is worth remembering the next time you’re tempted to assert that Reader A only likes Work Z because it contains a fashionable or approved political message, while you, Reader B, value a good story, thank you, without all that political crap. Guess what? Those good stories you love are crammed full of that political crap–it’s just the politics are different.
My point, aside from remarking that both Tolkien and Le Guin are arguing that escape means hope, and hope is one of the great virtues of fantasy, is what Tolkien says at the end of the passage: they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. Because I think that’s exactly it. The denigration of “escapism” comes from an implicit belief that it is brave and necessary and heroic to face “reality,” where “reality” is grim and dark and nihilistic (“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” as that tremendous pessimist Thomas Hobbes puts it), and that if you turn away from that “reality,” you are a deserter and therefore a coward.
There are a number of fallacies here, as Tolkien notes. One is the claim to the exclusive right to define “reality.” Second, if this is an accurate definition of “reality,” it is a fallacy to believe that it is even possible to desert from the front lines by anything short of suicide. Even if your consumption of fiction takes you away from “reality” for an hour or two, you’re always going to have to come back. Clearly, if we accept this definition of “reality,” “escapism” can only be the most tremendous blessing fiction has to offer.
I arrived back at my regular address to find that in my absence some review copies had piled up inside my front door:
I’m no kind of professional photographer, that’s for sure.
That’s Will Elliott’s THE PILGRIMS (Tor US, first published by JFB in the UK); Karl Schroeder’s LOCKSTEP (Tor); Katherine Addison’s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR (Tor); Ramona Wheeler’s THREE PRINCES (Tor), of which I already have a copy that I haven’t had a chance to read yet; Glen Cook’s WORKING GOD’S MISCHIEF (Tor), the fourth book in a series which no doubt I’d be more interested in reading if I’d read, or even had, the first three; Deborah J. Ross’s THE HEIR OF KHORED (DAW); Jane Lindskold’s ARTEMIS AWAKENING (Tor), and Tor’s publicity department must really want me to read this one, since this is the second copy I’ve received; Paul Park’s ALL THOSE VANISHED ENGINES (Tor); E.C. Ambrose’s ELISHA MAGUS (DAW); Joshua Palmatier’s SHATTERING THE LEY (DAW); and Ben Hatke’s ZITA THE SPACEGIRL, LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL, and THE RETURN OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL (First Second Books).
I’m open to bids and recommendations (from this and from the previous review copy posts) on what I should read in the interstices of my already-contracted reading and reviewing.
This is a book about survival, and betrayal, and friendship, and power, and strength. And it’s a marvellously welcoming, readable one. A book you pick up and read when you’re tired and sad, and all unexpected it’s like being wrapped up in a comforting warm fuzzy blanket of glorious worldbuilding and shiny prose and decent people doing the best they know how.
I really love this book. Give me more. More like this.
Review copy from Tor. I am to review it for Tor.com. This is an amazing book. I mean seriously bloody wonderful: excellent politics, nice quiet interpersonal stuff, such a wonderful compelling protagonist. GO PREORDER IT NOW.
Katherine Addison is the new pen-name for Sarah Monette. For those of us familiar with Monette’s other writing, I feel I should add that The Goblin Emperor‘s protagonist is much more likeable than many of the characters in The Doctrine of Labyrinths, and while the world-building is just as marvellously baroque the overall tone is much less noirish, much more optimistic.
ALSO IT IS BRILLIANT GO PREORDER IT SERIOUSLY CAPSLOCK EXCLAMATIONS OF JOY.