V. E. Schwab Interview

V. E. Schwab Interview

For this week’s episode of the Writers of Fantasy Podcast, I got to talk to Victoria Schwab, aka V.E. Schwab. She is an American fantasy author best known for her 2013 novel Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and her children’s and young adult fiction.

We had a really good, long talk about world building, characters, writing, and gender issues in science fiction and fantasy. Listen here, and there are some key quotes! Check it out!

[Listen here]

On The Near Witch and How a Writer changes

I started out when I was quite young, and I wrote my first book when I was nineteen. The Near Witch was the second book I’d ever written, and I was twenty-one! And I’m now thirty! There’s some growth that happens, I’ve not got thirteen books published, and obviously you grow and change as a person.

I get asked often ‘do you go back and look at your previous work and think of things you would do differently?’ The honest truth is that I kind of look at each and every one of my books as a time capsule of who I was and what I was capable of doing. So, I never want to change any of them, as The Near Witch is a capsule of who I was in college and what I was studying and what excited me.

Whereas The Shades of Magic series and The Monsters of Verity series are just as much time capsules of who I was and what I was going through while doing a Masters Degree on depictions of monstrosity. And I was travelling a lot. So, they’re precious to me in different ways.

Monsters and Villains

Certainly with something like Vicious, which is about villains, and villainy. About the arbitrary labels that we apply to heroes and villains. It’s a book about personal vendettas, and who is a hero and who is a villain. Is it determined by where they fall on opposite sides of this argument? In that book, specifically, I wanted to play with the idea [of villains].

I sat down and thought ‘wouldn’t it be a fun challenge to write a book without heroes?’ Could I write a book without heroes and make the reader strongly root for one of the villains? It was a craft exercise in learning it’s not what our characters do, it’s not what we do as people, but why we do it. Motivation Vs action.

Sometimes I do sit down and think. There’s always a seed. I gather ingredients for a story until I have enough to make a meal. But I think there’s always that one ingredient that’s the core, bonding thing.

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The Lie of the Land – Doctor Who Review

I want to start by saying I enjoyed this episode a lot. It was very well written, the dialogue, for the most part, was snappy, natural, and drew me in. The cinematography and direction really brought out the best in Capaldi and Mackie as they delivered some of the most emotional scenes this series.

Having said that, there is something that worries me tremendously. It’s a concern I had right from the moment I saw the trailer and read the synopsis.

It Never Happened

Cast your minds back to 2007 and the series 3 finale, Last of the Time Lords. The Master took over the world and the Doctor was locked in a cage for a year while Martha Jones walked the earth. But then, at the end, it was all erased. It never happened. Nobody but the Doctor and his friends could remember the events of the whole episode. And people got angry.

When you erase an entire episode’s meaning and importance for the world its set in, it feels a bit like a cheat. You set up high stakes and your characters must face the challenges not only of ending the horrors, but dealing with the aftermath. To take that away can often feel like a let down.

I was somewhat miffed at Last of the Time Lords, but it had a few saving graces. Firstly, I thought it was a very good episode on its own. But more than that, the lasting effects on a personal level for the Doctor, Martha and Martha’s family were felt long after the episode ended. The events may have been forgotten for most, but they stayed with the main characters. I was eventually okay with that

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Thin Ice – Doctor Who Review

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Thin Ice – Doctor Who Review

There’s a monster living under the Thames, and it’s eating people.

An ice covered river, street urchins, and the Doctor in a top hat – this episode has it all.

A definite improvement on last week, resolution-wise, but somewhat lacking in a grand climax. There are some wonderful moments, and once again the spark between the Doctor and Bill is the star of the show.

“Slavery is still a thing”

The episode opens with Bill addressing something that people have been talking about especially since The Shakespeare Code. The fact that the history of Britain is less than kind to non-white people. The Doctor takes a moment to acknowledge the horrors of slavery, a haunted look passing over his face, before moving on. It wasn’t much, but somewhat better than the 10th Doctors ‘Just walk like you own the place’ attitude.

A little later, Bill comments on the fact that Regency England is a lot more black than they show in the films. The Doctor’s “So was Jesus” response was pretty much perfect. The episode then introduces us to a group of street urchins of various skintones and despite some initial setbacks – namely the death of one of them – the Doctor and Bill soon forge a friendship with them.

When, somewhere towards the third act, the Doctor and Bill confront a racist aristocrat, it should come as no surprise that it does not end well. This is a good bit of build up and pay off from writer Sarah Dollard – having established more of a healthy relationship between the Doctor and diversity, when he is faced with a truly awful man, he reacts accordingly.

Punching racists is nothing new for the Doctor. Fans of the Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee – may remember his fondness for Venusian Akido. Though he would often seek a diplomatic solution, he wasn’t beyond dealing out the occasional chop to the neck.

In this instance, with the Doctor very much choosing to side with the marginalised against the upper crust, it is very much a case of the Doctor’s true qualities coming through. As the Seventh Doctor once said, ‘You can judge a man by the quality of his enemies’.

[Continue Reading]

Rebel Genius by Mike DiMartino – Review

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Rebel Genius by Mike DiMartino – Review

I am a great fan of Mike DiMartino’s work on Avatar the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra. His book, Rebel Genius, is a solo effort and I approached it with great expectations. Will it live up to those standards? Can Rebel Genius mark the beginning of a new, great young adult series?

The Background

dimartinoIt is difficult to approach this book without making reference to DiMartino’s creative history. His background writing for Avatar and Legend of Korra went hand in hand with his working relationship with Bryan Konietzko.

Between the two of them they developed an incredible world, deep and complex characters, and some unbelievable visuals.

I had often wondered what each member of team ‘Bryke’ brought to the table in Avatar, so this solo effort appealed to me as the chance to see just that.

I will try to treat this book on its own merits rather than making continuous references back to Avatar. But that is difficult for one so familiar with them, and so I will limit my commentary on that. After all, DiMartino has seemingly gone out of his way to distance Rebel Genius from Avatar in a few instances.

Where Avatar was based mostly on near and far eastern culture, history and mythology, Rebel Genius is much more of a Renaissance-inspired world. Moreover, the magical system is less based on martial arts and more on artistic talent and imagination.

That being said, there are still some similarities. There is an evil overlord, much like Fire Lord Ozai; there is a suppression of certain magical abilities, and there is a ‘villain’ who may or may not turn good in the end.

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Avatar: North and South – Part 1 Review

North and South 1.pngThe Avatar the Last Airbender comics are back with North and South Part 1! This review will not contain spoilers, so feel free to read on if you haven’t yet had chance to pick it up.

With the new Legend of Korra comics being pushed back to 2017, many fans will be filling the void as they wait with the Avatar comics. This is not going to be difficult as North and South is already shaping up to be an intriguing and complex installment that fans can pour over for months.

While Avatar Aang deals with the problems in the Fire Nation, as explored in Smoke and Shadow, Katara and Sokka head home to the South Pole to see how the Water Tribes are getting along. They are met with some surprises as their home is no longer quite how they remember it, and their father has a new position of authority. But these changes do not go unchallenged, and cultural clashes are already brewing, foreshadowing much of what we saw in Legend of Korra book 2.

The artwork has taken a massive step forward over the last few volumes, and this installment is no exception. The Gurihiru artists have outdone themselves once again, managing to realise what might have, in less adept hands, have been a very bland landscape into something dazzling, filled with depth and detail.

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