The Best Fantasy Maps in Books


The link below is to an article that takes a look at some of the best fantasy maps in books. The list of course includes the map for George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’

For more visit:
https://bookriot.com/best-fantasy-maps/

‘I couldn’t escape. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to’: confusing messages about consent in young adult fantasy fiction


Unsplash/Travis Grossen, CC BY

Elizabeth Little, Deakin University and Kristine Moruzi, Deakin University

Sexual consent and young people have been in the news lately, from an online petition detailing thousands of high schoolers’ recollections of sexual assault and rape to calls for better school-based education.

What young people read is another important form of sexual education. Young adult (YA) fiction has a unique role to play in representing sexual relationships, but a number of popular YA fantasy novels send confusing and potentially harmful messages about sex and consent. Often, these are not addressed, such as when Shalia in the Reign the Earth series (2018-2020) is forced to consummate her marriage.

‘I didn’t feel love, or lust, or heat. I felt frightened … panicked beneath him.’

Rather than echo the “bodice ripper” content of some adult fantasy novels (where sex usually begins with domination), books for young readers can be an opportunity to unpack what consent is and isn’t.

Some books in the young adult fantasy genre echo the ‘bodice rippers’ of yesteryear.
Unsplash/Hanna Postova, CC BY



Read more:
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Characters young people relate to

Research shows young people use YA fiction as a source of sex education. Teens turn to novels to learn through the actions of characters they relate to. They identify with what is happening on the page and learn without having to seek advice or information from adults or peers.

Studies have also shown representations of sexual intimacy provide a behavioural script for young readers. These scripts are then put to use during their own sexual encounters. In one study, researchers heard from girls who used episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to learn new “date moves”.

Book cover: Twilight

Goodreads

Because sex is a natural area of interest for readers, realist YA fiction engages with questions of sexual consent in clear ways. YA fantasy — the genre that includes the Twilight series and The Hunger Games — can omit some important aspects of this.

Psychologists have characterised schoolgirl Bella’s relationship with vampire Edward in Twilight as a template for violence and abuse, concerned fans may model real-life relationships on the narrative. Jealous Edward isolates Bella from her friends, family and potential love rivals, even sabotaging her car to prevent her escape from him.

Fantasy fiction is often set in a different time or place, but it still reflects contemporary concerns.

In many of these novels, the female character’s ability to say “yes” is denied to her. In Shelby Mahurin’s Serpent and Dove (2019), the female protagonist is forced into marriage. Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely (2019) gains inspiration from Beauty and the Beast, with the female protagonist captured and unable to consent to her relationship. Neither novel discusses how consent is compromised.




Read more:
Friday essay: why YA gothic fiction is booming – and girl monsters are on the rise


‘Too shy to say the words’

In Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince series (2018-2019), Prince Cardan physically and emotionally abuses orphan girl Jude during their relationship. Her consent to intimacy is mired in domestic violence.

book cover: The Cruel Prince

Goodreads

When they do have sex, she does not verbally consent. Jude is “too shy to say the words” and just “kisses him instead”. This example of sexual consent contradicts models of positive consent as an “enthusiastic yes” or the viral video many young people are shown depicting consent as similar to offering someone a cup of tea.

Sarah J. Maas’ popular series, A Court Of Thorns and Roses (2015-2021) begins with a romantic relationship between Feyre and Tamlin in a magical kingdom. The series has sold over six million copies.

Yet, in the first book, a serious violation of consent occurs. When Tamlin attempts to kiss Feyre, she tells him to “let go”, but instead he embeds his claws in a wall behind her head. When she pushes him away, he “grabs [her] hands and bites [her] neck”.


Goodreads

Feyre’s reaction to Tamlin is confusing as well. While she tells him to stop, she also describes her feelings of sexual arousal. She “couldn’t escape” from Tamlin but “wasn’t entirely sure [she] wanted to”. To Feyre’s fury, the next morning Tamlin says he “can’t be held accountable” for her bruises. But by the next paragraph all is forgiven.

The descriptions of physical pleasure also suggest verbal consent in not the only thing in play. Is she saying no, when she really means yes?




Read more:
Relationships and sex education is now mandatory in English schools – Australia should do the same


Explicit consent

Of course, some YA fantasy texts address consent explicitly. Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn (2020) features clear conversations of consent. When Nick asks if he can kiss Bree, she responds “Oh”. He then clarifies “Oh, ‘no’, or oh, ‘yes’?”.


Goodreads

Some books have questionable consent but call it out on the page. In Jodi McAlister’s Valentine series, male faerie Finn uses his powers to enter Pearl’s dreams and lead her into sexual fantasies. When she realises what he’s done, she orders him “out of [her] head”, and they discuss his inappropriate behaviour.

Ambiguous scenes in YA fantasy can provide an opportunity for parents, teachers and young people to discuss consent and sexual intimacy. How are the characters consenting to intimacy? Is there an aspect of consent missing? What would be a better way for these characters to gain consent from each other? Care should be taken not to glorify taking advantage of these ambiguities in an intimate setting.

Classrooms can also be a place to confront the taboos of sexuality by analysing sexual interactions and unpacking how consent is given. Equipping teachers to facilitate conversations around trust, sex and consent could further the conversation.




Read more:
Let’s make it mandatory to teach respectful relationships in every Australian school


The Conversation


Elizabeth Little, PhD Candidate, Deakin University and Kristine Moruzi, Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication & Creative Arts, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2020 World Fantasy Awards Winners


The links below are to articles reporting on the winners of the 2020 World Fantasy Awards.

For more visit:
https://lithub.com/here-are-the-winners-of-the-2020-world-fantasy-awards/
https://bookriot.com/2020-world-fantasy-awards/

2020 Sir Julius Vogel Awards Winners


The link below is to an article reporting on the 2020 winners of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for New Zealand Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/08/03/154572/nz-sir-julius-vogel-awards-2020-winners-announced/

Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy from the 2010s


The link below is to an article that considers some of the best science fiction and fantasy reads from the 2010s.

For more visit:
https://bookmarks.reviews/10-sci-fi-and-fantasy-must-reads-from-the-2010s/

The Fantastical and Fictional World of Westeros


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the world of Westeros and the ‘canon’ of literature available to read concerning it.

For more visit:
https://www.cnet.com/news/game-of-thrones-finale-season-8-winds-of-winter-books-a-song-of-ice-and-fire/

2018 Hugo Awards


The links below are to articles reporting on the 2018 Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/20/hugo-awards-women-nk-jemisin-wins-best-novel
https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/here-are-the-2018-hugo-award-winners

Friday essay: why YA gothic fiction is booming – and girl monsters are on the rise



File 20180716 44094 11ep7nw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Zoey Deutch in the film Vampire Academy (2014).
Angry Films, Kintop Pictures, Preger Entertainment

Michelle Smith, Monash University

An 18-year-old girl prepares to die to enable the birth of her half-vampire baby. Her spine is broken in the process, and the fanged baby begins to gnaw its way through her stomach before the girl’s husband performs a vampiric Cesarean section. This is a crucial moment in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novel series, published from 2005 to 2008.

Meyer’s books heralded a new, and continuing, wave of Gothic fiction for Young Adult readers, which revisits familiar literary Gothic conventions: ancient, ruined buildings and monstrous supernatural figures like the vampire, werewolf, ghost and witch.

The Gothic romances of the 18th century, such as the novels of Ann Radcliffe, and the enduringly popular Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), sought to recreate feelings of terror and horror for an audience of adult readers. Today, however, most Gothic fiction is being published for, and read by, young people. Surprisingly, it has proved to be the ideal genre for exploring the grotesque and frightening aspects of coming of age, and metaphorically representing pressing social issues such as racism and gender inequality.




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The phenomenally popular YA genre, targeted at readers between 12 and 18 years old, evolved from realist novels of the 1960s. These books were preoccupied with the struggles of adolescence set against a backdrop of social issues. Now, though, the genre often looks to the supernatural. Beyond Twilight, some of the most popular YA Gothic series also focus on the “lives” of vampires who are protagonists rather than foes.

Richelle Mead’s six-book Vampire Academy (2007-2010), now adapted into a TV series, is about a teenage girl who is a Dhampir (half-human, half-vampire). She becomes entangled in a forbidden romance with her instructor as St Vladimir’s Academy, while learning how to defeat evil vampires named Strigoi.

Ashley Lyn Blair in Vampire Academy: The Officially Unofficial Fan Series (2016).
idmb

The YA Gothic revival has also embraced a wide range of supernatural entities. Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles, a cross-media franchise that includes the Infernal Devices and Mortal Instruments novel series, charges angel-blooded humans with the task of protecting regular humans from a range of supernatural beings.

The Nephilim, or Shadowhunters, are busy controlling demons, warlocks, werewolves, faeries and vampires, but critically, it is their part-supernatural status that enables them to serve as protectors.

Clare has said that she did not write her series for young adults (and indeed almost half of the readership of YA fiction might be adults). Nevertheless, her teenage protagonists have resonated with readers of the same age.

The Gothic, and its newer sub-genres like paranormal romance, have a unique resonance with teenagers. They are poised in a transitional space between childhood and adulthood, neither quite embodying the stage they are leaving behind nor fully the thing that they are in the process of becoming. It is unsurprising, then, that they have eagerly embraced the Gothic’s themes of the liminal and the monstrous, as well as its fixation on romance and sex.

Another significant element of the current YA Gothic revival is the emergence of the girl monster. In earlier manifestions of the “female Gothic”, first published in the 18th century by women writers, female protagonists were often courageous, but simultaneously passive and victimised. The plots of the female Gothic reflected the comparative powerlessness of women at the time and their fears about their vulnerability and entrapment within domestic roles and patriarchal society.

In contemporary YA Gothic, girl monsters, who can constitute a threat to others and themselves, disrupt the plotline of male monster and female victim.

Why now?

The most obvious catalyst for the embrace of Gothic conventions in literature for young people is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Its popularity signalled a warm embrace of fantasy fiction that confronted the eternal dilemma of the battle between good and evil, charging a child – and later teenage protagonist – with the ability to save the world. While Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was not necessarily Gothic, the Potter phenomenon opened the way for the publication of numerous titles that embraced the possibilities of young protagonists with supernatural abilities.




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Most significantly, Meyer’s Twilight series about human Bella Swan and “sparkling” vampire Edward Cullen, combined this staple figure of Gothic fiction with the teen romance novel. The Twilight novels were bestsellers internationally and the saga was voted into the number one position in Australian book chain Angus & Robertson’s Top 100 Books poll of 2010. The Twilight universe expanded from books into a highly successful film series.

Robert Pattinson and Cam Gigandet in Twilight (2008)
Summit Entertainment, Temple Hill Entertainment, Maverick Films.

The Gothic has had several major periods of popularity since its first appearance in 18th-century England, with Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (1764). In each subsequent revival of Gothic fiction, the genre has been reworked and reinvented to address current cultural concerns.

In particular, the monsters that haunt the pages of Gothic novels are transformed with shifting fears and anxieties. In her influential book Our Vampires, Ourselves Nina Auerbach explains that “every age embraces the vampire it needs”, and this comment can be extend to Gothic monsters more generally.

Contemporary YA fiction blurs the line between good and evil. In Gothic novels of the 19th century, monsters were usually wholly “Othered”. A Victorian-era vampire such as Stoker’s Dracula, for instance was depicted as evil, foreign, and frighteningly different to the British human.

Gary Oldman as Count Dracula in the 1992 film version of the Bram Stoker novel. Contemporary monsters are no longer set in opposition to the human.
American Zoetrope, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Osiris Films

But contemporary monsters are no longer necessarily imagined as racially different or set in opposition to the human. Moreover, they are often represented sympathetically, especially in stories told from their perspective.

These include the iZombie comic series, in which the protagonist must eat brains on a monthly basis to survive, and Claudia Gray’s Evernight series, in which the reader is not even aware that the girl protagonist is a vampire for half of the first book. Indeed, as Anna Jackson explains in New Directions in Children’s Gothic, “the monsters have become the heroes” in contemporary children’s Gothic.

The passive heroine

Most Gothic novels for young people contain a romance plot. This is often because the protagonists’ age places them in the transitional zone for entering adulthood, which is demarcated by sexual experience.




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In a typical YA Gothic novel, such as Twilight, a plot in which a human or monstrous girl protagonist falls for a boy who is not her “type” can dissolve the boundaries between monster and human. These monstrous love interests range from traditional Gothic ones – vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts and witches – to newer figures such as fallen angels and faeries. The key challenge to be overcome in these novels is the barriers posed to love by supernatural monstrosity, including the physical dangers to humans, as well as social discrimination about “cross-species” love.

In one of few major studies of teen romance fiction, published almost 30 years ago, Linda Christian-Smith described these novels as a “site of ideological struggles for young women’s hearts and minds”. In particular, she refers to teen romance fiction’s emphasis on heteronormative coupling and motherhood. Little has changed with respect to depictions of sexuality since, despite the YA Gothic’s embrace of diverse human-monster relationships.

Most romances in the genre are heterosexual. They do often emphasise the heroine’s agency through her supernatural abilities and ability to choose between men or move between relationships. However, the human heroines of the Twilight series and Lauren Kate’s Fallen series, in which the heroine becomes drawn to a boy who is a fallen angel, are comparatively indecisive and continue to need rescuing.

Tellingly, Joss Whedon, the creator of the TV series Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), has described Twilight’s Bella as lacking empowerment, overly fixated on her romantic options, and “completely passive”.

Kristen Stewart (Bella) and Robert Pattinson (Edward) in Twilight (2008). Bella has been described as a completely passive heroine.
Summit Entertainment, Temple Hill Entertainment, Maverick Films.

Novels with passive human heroines allow the reader to use the fantasy of romance as a temporary escape from real-world gender inequality. Yet they also reinforce its reality for female readers.

The girl monster

Supernatural heroines, however, are often able to breach the confines of traditional femininity and become extraordinary in ways that Twilight’s Bella and other human characters cannot. In a number of YA Gothic novels, such as Mead’s Vampire Academy, the protagonists disrupt expectations of feminine behaviour because of their unique, and often poorly understood, supernatural abilities. These special powers become the focus of anxieties about the girls’ coming of age, as they pursue romances that place their broader communities under threat.

The Vampire Academy series was sufficiently popular in 2010 for three of its six titles to sell between 300,000 and half a million copies in hardcover in the US alone, according to Publishers Weekly. However, unlike the Twilight series, on which it likely attempted to capitalise, its protagonist, Rose, is half-vampire, half-human and a monster in her own right. Rose shares a close bond with vampire Lissa, and is driven to break the Academy’s rules in order to save her friend when she is kidnapped, highlighting that girls are also capable of protecting and rescuing people they love.

Ashley Lyn Blair (Lissa) and Jennifer Studnicki (Rose) in Vampire Academy: The Officially Unofficial Fan Series (2016).
idmb

Vampire Academy positions Rose as a sexual object, particularly in the eyes of a privileged type of vampire (Moroi), who find Dhampir women especially attractive because of racial differences. Rose enjoys her sexuality and dresses to take advantage of it, but this sexuality operates within her definition as a strong young woman:

First they saw my body and the dress. Testosterone took over as pure male lust shone out of their faces. Then they seemed to realize it was me and promptly turned terrified. Cool.

Rose is able to reject unwelcome advances and possesses the physical strength and skills to stand up for herself, suggesting a fantasy of empowerment and equality.

Lissa, meanwhile, thwarts what amounts to an attempted gang rape of a drugged girl. A group of male Moroi students attempt to take advantage of a female feeder (person who permits their blood to be sucked) at a party, “doing a sort of group feeding, taking turns biting her and making gross suggestions. High and oblivious, she let them”.

The supernatural female protagonists in YA gothic novels are responsible for their own safety and protection, yet they also have a responsibility to keep others safe.
These heroines have some romantic and sexual agency in a way that can be considered progressive. However, their desire is also framed as disruptive and dangerous and there is an obsessive fixation on the pursuit of romance above the girl’s own development, education and safety.

In other words, the superficially radical potential of girl heroines with superhuman physical strength, mind-reading abilities, and the potential to kill can merely be a decorative smokescreen for the reinforcement of traditional feminine values.

The good and monstrous within

The recent proliferation of Gothic YA novels is skewed toward a female readership with a focus on girl protagonists, and significant emphasis on their quest for romance. Nevertheless, there are a number of series with boy heroes. For example, Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (the first book of which was recently filmed by director Tim Burton), focuses on a 16-year-old human boy, Jacob.

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield (Jacob) and Georgia Pemberton in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Twentieth Century Fox, Chernin Entertainment, TSG Entertainment.

Jacob has inherited an ability that makes him uniquely able to help the supernatural peculiar children of the title, who are threatened by creatures named hollowgasts who are driven to murder peculiar children in order to feed upon their souls. For Jacob, his transition to adulthood is less about romance and more about self-discovery, connections with his ancestors, and finding a way to negotiate his new-found abilities and responsibilities.

In The Gothic Child, Maria Georgieva suggests that the traditional Gothic novel is preoccupied with “the growth and transformation of the child, the crisis of adolescence and the sometimes painful transition into adulthood”. She is referring to the child’s potential to grow into the hero, heroine or villain.

However, the recent surge in YA Gothic fiction takes this fascination with the darker aspects of childhood in a different direction. The girl heroine, in learning to manage the physical and emotional shifts of her development and more complex relationships in romance, can both be a threat and a saviour to others.

The fuzziness of her nature reflects both the liminal status of the teenager and new cultural understandings of the monster, who now more often resembles the typical American teen than an undead Romanian count.

The ConversationInstead of contemplating a child’s potential to head towards either good or evil, recent Gothic YA acknowledges the possibility of both the good and the monstrous residing in one person.

Michelle Smith, Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

2018 Hugo Award Nominees


The link below is to an article reporting on the nominees for the 2018 Hugo Awards for the best Sci-Fi/Fantasy fiction.

For more visit:
https://bookriot.com/2018/04/02/2018-hugo-award-nominees/