Magpie Monday

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” Here are some shiny, crisp things that caught my eye recently:

♦ Irene Gallo curated an awesome autumnal gallery, Picturing Autumn, An Equinox Celebration, last week (sadly, the last of her “odes to the season” series), saying of the new season, “It’s a complicated and beautiful season—mixing a desperate need to soak in the last bits of sunlight, an ostentatious display of color, and the warmth of the coming holidays with a sense of loss and decay, foreboding…and magic. The spirits come out in fall and we transition from being outdoor people into an introspective, interior mindset.” So many wonderful pieces of art! I spent a long time trying to decide on a favorite or two, and even then I wanted to share all of them. Please go look at the gallery!

The first of my two favorites is Melisande (1895) by the Austrian painter Marianne Stokes (1855-1927). Gallo points out the detail in the arms, which is lovely, but I also love the expression and pose of the young woman, a kind of wistful resignation, and the way her gown has fallen into the water. I can tell myself a story about her.

The second is The Faun (1923) by Carlos Schwabe (1866-1926), a German Symbolist painter. This painting always grips me, something about the light and the faun’s contained energy, about the posture which is both sacred and profane, the irresistible  curvature of the horns. I am tantalized and afraid at the same time.

♦ The Reading Spot.

I might have put this link under “Writers’ Corner,” but Theodora Goss’s post on Boy Wizards—contrasting Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series— is as much about reading those books as it is about writing them. Three things I thought most interesting about the post: first, the notion that Harry Potter is so popular because readers want the wish fulfillment of being Harry (I guess I’m always contrary because when I first read A Wizard of Earthsea I wanted to be Ged, who has it much harder than Harry; I never wanted to be Harry); second, the contrast between Le Guin and Rowling as writers, because I happen to agree with it; and, third, the reaction to Tehanu, which many readers didn’t like but I loved—contrariness, again?—for passages like this one, where Tenar asks Moss about women’s power:

“Oh, well, dearie, a woman’s a different thing entirely. Who knows where a woman begins and ends? Listen, mistress, I have roots, I have roots deeper than this island. Deeper than the sea, older than the raising of the lands. I go back into the dark.” Moss’s eyes shone with a weird brightness in their red rims and her voice sang like an instrument. “I go back into the dark! Before the moon I was. No one knows, no one knows, no one can say what I am, what a woman is, a woman of power, a woman’s power, deeper than the roots of trees, deeper than the roots of islands, older than the Making, older than the moon. Who dares ask questions of the dark? Who’ll ask the dark its name?” (52)

(Also, read the comments—they’re interesting, too.) The Earthsea series continues to sell well (it’s a year older than me!), as does Harry Potter, but I wonder if 40-odd years from now Harry Potter will continue to sell as well. No one knows, no one knows.

Flavorwire has 10 underrated books everyone should readStranger Things Happen, Kelly Link‘s first collection of short stories, is on that list. I had no idea anyone considered it underrated, but you should all stop what you’re doing and go read it now. It. Is. Phenomenal. Some of my all-time favorite short stories are in this collection, like “The Specialist’s Hat” (which you can read online here for free), “Travels with the Snow Queen,” “Louise’s Ghost,” and “The Girl Detective” (which you can listen to here). If you like your editions limited, check out the upcoming Subterranean Press edition of Stranger Things Happen.

This past week AlphaBooks, an alphabetical tumblr exploration of fictional characters curated by Ben Towle, moved to the R’s. I liked the energy of Andrew Neal‘s R is for Robert Neville from I Am Legend, but how could I not share with you R is for Red Riding Hood by Marc Basile? I couldn’t, so here it is:

R is for Red Riding Hood by Marc Basile

Andrew Liptak has a brief history of the vampire novel at Kirkus Reviews. Given the history is “brief,” he’s left out a lot of very fine vampire novels. Off the top of my head, I’d throw in The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas and Agyar by Steven Brust, for starters. What fanger works would you add?

I know you need your weekly online reading fix, and here it is (and you’ll thank me for it—these are some tasty bits—er, I might have just mixed metaphors there):

Elephants of the Platte by Thomas Israel Hopkins from Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 25

Rising, Falling by Leah Thomas at Daily Science Fiction

Mortless by Henry Szabranski at Daily Science Fiction

Fool’s Gold by Frank Dutkiewicz at Daily Science Fiction

Old Friends by Shane Wilwand at Daily Science Fiction

Said the Princess by Dani Atkinson at Daily Science Fiction

Eve and Adam (excerpt) by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate at

My friend Russell Hinson has started serializing a novel online, Edward & Amelia vs The Vampire King. Welcome to the Wilderlands explains what he’s doing, and he’s already posted a Prologue, One: A Strange Saturday, and Two: Laughing Jack. I hope you’ll give Edward & Amelia vs The Vampire King a look.

Here’s something that evokes my friend Will Ludwigsen’s Postcard Stories after a fashion: Erin Morgenstern’s flax-golden tales. The official description reads, “Each flax-golden tale consists of a photograph by Carey Farrell accompanied by an original ten-sentence short story by Erin Morgenstern.” These ten-sentence stories are weird and wonderful, and I urge you to read them. Here’s  a list of all the flax-golden tales to date, and new tales are posted each Friday.

Need more short fiction? Check out LitReactor’s guide to Short Fantasy Fiction, which includes a list of the top fantasy short-story writers (with links to online stories) and online short-story venues. announced Magic & Good Madness: A Neil Gaiman Reread, “an ongoing feature on the site which will explore different facets of the author’s ever-expanding body of work, from his major novels and comics (including Sandman) to lesser known work and individual stories, presented in no particular order.” First up in the NGR is American Gods; you can read the first two chapters here, followed by a discussion of those two chapters. For the musical minded, NGR also produced an American Gods Mix Tape for chapters 1 and 2, with the video for each song quoted or referenced in those chapters along with a contextual discussion of each track.

♦ The Book Nook.

Bookshelf Porn describes this spot as “the perfect reading nook.” Who am I to disagree?

Check out the 35 most amazing libraries in the world. They are truly spectacular! (Thanks to Sylvia for the link.)

This bookshelf is 27 feet tall! A fine size—one I could use—but where’s the ladder? Click to embiggen.

♦ She Blinded Me … with Science!

Natural, Social, Mortuary, Domestic, and Weird Sciences

33 meticulous cleaning tricks for the OCD person inside you. I use a lot of these tricks myself, so I can assure you they work, and I’m looking forward to trying some of the others.

Why are some animals translucent? And how exactly does biological transparency work? 

Global warming could awaken the Arctic’s ancient forests. “Fear not, till Birnam wood / Do come to Dunsinane.”

Electron microscope photographs of Pop-Tarts and Oreos resemble tasty alien landscapes. That’s a blueberry up above at 19x magnification.

Procrastinating by watching this video about procrastination is a surprisingly good use of your time.

The oddest ways people died in Victorian times.

♦ The Ninth Art.

Hot damn! The first issue of Hellboy in Hell is available for pre-ordering! The variant cover, by Mike Mignola, is below, and at the link you can see the standard cover (also by Mignola). I’m entranced by the mouth in the belly of that demon….

In a recent interview, George R.R. Martin said he’d like to write Doctor Strange for Marvel Comics. I could get behind that, moreso because I think the best Doctor Strange stories have been as Martin describes here:

I’d separate him off from the rest of the Marvel universe and not make him part of a team. He doesn’t really fit any of that stuff, he’s a guy that shouldn’t even be known to the rest of the heroes, living on the edge of the Marvel Universe protecting the world and our dimension and plane from dangers and forces out there that the other characters like Spider-Man and The Avengers don’t even dream exist. He’s our wall against Cthulhu and the Old-Ones and the dread Dormammu. That’s when Doctor Strange was at his best, Stan Lee and Ditko were [writing] him in just that manner.

Check out the video of the Martin interview here. (I’m glad I found a Doctor Strange story this week, as recently on the interwebs I came across the jpeg you see above of this wonderful Paul Smith illustration of the good Doctor and was happy to have an occasion to use it.)

Tansy Rayner Roberts continues her Where the Wonder Women Are series with Misty Knight (and Colleen Wing).

Aitor Iñaki Eraña made a short comic titled Batman: The Tailor, which is quite fine. Here’s a sneak peek, but check out the full piece by clicking the ink above. (Via)

A ton of good advice from Dylan Meconis in How Not to Write Comics Criticism. I’m amazed—even after 20 years of comics’ “credibility” as a medium, thanks to Miller, Moore, Gaiman, and many more—how often I read articles where the writer does exactly what Meconis points out. I get, as Meconis suggests, that reporters might not be that “into” comics, that they might be writing about comics just because they’ve been assigned to it, but since when is that an excuse to produce crappy journalism? Do some research, for cryin’ out loud.

Juan Santapau’s The Secret Knots is back with “Everything You Can Think.” Here’s a little teaser, but please click through and read the entire comic (it goes decidedly darker):

LitReactor on Getting Superheroines Right (meaning Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and Black Widow in The Avengers, and not Catwoman or Elektra).

Though it was a close call with Kevin Steele’s Scarecrow, I really liked best this week Luc Latulippe‘s redesign of Firestar for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe REDUXE Edition (click to embiggen):

A comic-book cover I’m in love with this week: The Unwritten #44 by Yuko Shimizu. All kinds of good. Click to embiggen. Via.

The Unwritten #44 by Yuko Shimizu

♦ Viewers’ Paradise.

Big news this week: a new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Looking good.

If you like musicals, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, etc., this First Look at Les Misérables will excite you. One of the intriguing choices that director Tom Hooper’s made for this film version is to have the actors sing live on set as opposed to lip-syncing to songs they’ve previously recorded (apparently, on-set singing is rare). Via.

I think Cameron and Daniel in particular will appreciate this tumblr, FILMography, where Christopher Moloney takes pictures of black-and-white film stills matched up in front of their New York City locations. Below is an example with The Dark Knight Rises.

♦ Les Contes des Fées.

Terri Windling on Fairy Tales—as always, Windling is must reading.

Little Red Riding Hood Does Over the Big Bad Wolf by Wendy O’Malley, a runner-up in the Brothers Grimm story-writing competition held by the New Zealand Listener (via).

Philip Pullman talks about the challenge of retelling Grimms’ fairy tales in The Guardian.  Grimm Tales: For Young and Old, his collection of 50 retellings of classic Grimm fairy tales, debuts this month in the UK and in November in the US. Here’s a teaser from the article:

But my interest has always been in how the tales worked as stories. So I decided to retell the best and most interesting of them, clearing out of the way anything that would prevent them from running freely. I didn’t want to put them in modern settings, or produce personal interpretations or compose poetic variations on the originals; I just wanted to produce a version that was as clear as water. My guiding question has been: “How would I tell this story myself, if I’d heard it told by someone else and wanted to pass it on?”

I loved Cheong-ah Hwang‘s cover for the UK version of Grimm Tales (seen above) so much I had to order a copy of the book. Her paper sculptures are amazing. If you’d like to see more of her work (and I know you would), check out her website by clicking her name above and also look at her flickr account. Below is Distraction, another of Hwang’s Little Red Riding Hood lovely paper sculptures (I own a print of this piece—marvelous stuff).

♦ Writers’ Corner.

Joe Hiland, the fiction editor for the Indiana Review, gives some candid advice about three types of stories unlikes to make it beyond the slush pile. He also shares other reasons why stories are commonly rejected (and, thus, what you can do to raise the chances of your submission). If you write literary realism, definitely give that link a look; even if you don’t write literary realism, give that link a look. Via.

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, shares her work space in BookRiot’s “Write Place, Write Time series.” Caroline, you’ll find this link of particular interest, I think.

Good writing is in the details, so in that spirit here’s 55 phrases to get you started understanding diner lingo. You never know when you might need this information. I’ll have two cackle fruits, wreck ’em and wax ’em, with a mystery in the alley and a shingle with a shimmy & a shake.

Speaking of details, find out about jus prime noctis and be in the know!

LitReactor’s Storyville takes us to Narrative Hooks.

The Atlantic featured ten writing rules from Zadie Smith. The two rules I need to follow most are numbers 8 and 10. What about you? Via.

Your visual writing prompt for this week comes courtesy of Sutured Infection (click to embiggen). Where are these women off to? Or running from?

Damien Walter claims that the weird deserves recognition as a major literary movement. I’m all for it. Here’s a teaser:

The picture that emerged at Weird Council was of the weird as a counterpart to many of the intellectual and cultural movements of the 20th century. More than once the comparison was made between the weird, with its refusal to depict reality as contiguous and rational, and the shift in the visual arts from representation to abstraction. The weird’s obsession with what might be called the “fourth dimension” through metaphors of hyperspace, multi-dimensionality and time-travel mirrors the emergence of scientific concepts such as relativity and quantum theory. In an overarching sense, the weird shares the subjectivity and uncertainty prioritised by postmodern philosophy. The reality the weird describes is as immutable and unknowable as the reality of the postmodern world.

Full Stop has started a new series, Teaching in the Margins, which “seeks to further explore the implications of this reality, the ways the writing happening now is influenced and influences the teaching of reading and writing. Further, at a cultural and historical moment when funding for arts nonprofits is increasingly being cut and university presidents are dethroned for not moving fast enough, the question is no longer should the way artists and educators operate change, but how?” The first interview is with Michael Joyce.

♦ A few weeks ago, I discovered “No One But You” by Aoife O’Donovan, Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan, and Edgar Meyer (this song is part of The Goat Road Sessions). Each time I hear it, my heart breaks.

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