Thursday, May 8, 2008

Genre Block: Fantasy

As an avid fantasy reader, who's fallen behind on her fantasy reading, this was a great workshop to get a heads up on whats out there that I need to catch up on.

The speakers include: Susan Fichtelberg, the children’s librarian from Woodbridge Public Library. She’s also an author the author of Encountering Enchantment: A Guide to Speculative Fiction for Teens, published by Libraries Unlimited. She also contributed to the Continuum Encyclopedia of Young Adult Literature.

Bonnie Kunzel, who is a youth services and adolescent literacy consultant for the New Jersey state library.

Finally, we had Author Elizabeth Haydon, who’s works include Rhapsody, The Assassin King, and The Thief Queen’s Daughter.

One of the points brought up is that readers of fantasy don’t care how old the protagonist is. Adults read Harry Potter, kids read Lord of the Rings.

Some of the books covered were:

The Smoke Thief is the first of the new series about a race that can turn from human to dragon. The smoke thief is the first book, and it combines romance, adventure, and mystery.

The women of the underworld series by Kelly Armstrong has strong women that are supernatural creatures like werewolves and demons.

This is a long standing theme with many writers like Kelly Armstrong.

Jim Buitcher’s Dresden Files, is like Sam Spade if he was a wizard. Mystery and magic mixed together. Fantasy Film Noir. A very weird but excellent mix.

One of my favorites is the Thursday Next series, which is a mix of fantasy, sci-fi and detective stories. A world where if you have the original copy of a book you can enter it and change the book. Literary detectives have to keep this from happening, and Thursday Next is one of these detectives. There’s a spin off series to this called the Nursery Crimes series.

The Tales of the Ortori are set in an alternate world based on ancient Japan. This series is by Lian Hearn. This is a fantasy series that appeals very heavily to fans of anime and manga.

Heir to Seven Waters by Juliet Marillier is a fantasy series for teens and adults based on the fairy tale, the seven swans. Her YA series that starts with Wildwood Dancing, is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses with vampires.

Terry Pratchett writes the Diskworld series, a fantasy series that is full of bizarre humor and satire. He is called “The fantasy worlds Douglas Adams” and it’s a well earned title. For folks that loved Hitchhikers Guide for the Galaxy, this is the series to grab.

Sarah Zettel’s series that starts with The Sword of the Deceiver is about an outcast lighthouse keeper’s daughter who is recruited to save an alternate world and finds her own power.

After the review of the fantasy series, Elizabeth Haydon spoke. She talked about librarians. “You folks were the internet before there was an internet” she said. Librarians, Miss Haydon says, are a guardianship of all human knowledge.

The value of librarians is reflected in her books, where a dragon in the next book she is about to publish, the dragon is a librarian.

No one really knows where the fantasy genre is going exactly. Hollywood is obviously using a lot of fantasy, with the Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter. It’s wonderful, but can backfire and turn readers off of the genre. Subtle fantasy stories are coming out now, mixing more elements into fantasy.

Women too have been changing the genre as well. Many of the changes in fantasy are being created by women. Everyone from Mary Shelly to J.K Rowling, have made huge leaps in the genre.

She spoke about how many realistic fiction like “A Day No Pigs Would Die.”, are sad books that seem to reinforce the idea that life is hard. Fantasy helps to give kids a way to suspend disbelief. She spoke on fables, myths, and fairy tales, and the fact that they are a vital part of literary history. They teach kids to hope, to try and be bigger than they are. Sci-fi was what inspired scientists to try for the space, and get there.

“Fantasy fosters inspiration” She said.

She spoke about not writing to teach, but writing to tell a story. But she says she gets much feedback that she inspires them to see something different, or better themselves. She looks for the people that are most in need of the release and fun of fantasy. Soldiers, inmates, etc, all enjoy her work and find it inspiring. She spoke about being humbled by the idea her work can change lives.

Good messages, one could say morals, show up in an author’s work almost on their own. Things come into an authors work when they write with an open heart, she says. She calls it “Channeling”.

Elizabeth Haydon is a very powerful speaker, who talks about giving people the ability to dream and to hope through reading and fantasy. I’ve never personally thought of fantasy exactly in that way, but when she spoke of that idea it became very clear. A funny, and very caring woman, having heard her I am really eager to get a hold of her work.

You can find more information on Bonnie Kunzel at

Elizabeth Haydon’s website is at

Susan Fichtelberg’s site can be found at

-Sarah "The Dyslexic Librarian" Hodge-wetherbe, Springfield Public Library

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