A Tour of Worlds 2018 — the Dregs of the Galaxy

Not every world is worth a visit, is it? Each one of you has been fleeced by a flim-flam fraud! But I shan’t do that! Instead, I shall now warn you of the worlds that may not be worth your time! Yes, I admit it! Not every earth is worth a gander! My friends, you may want to do yourself a favor and not favor these worlds with your own tours. Find another place to set your feet and your imaginations! So what did I find so reprehensible about them? For the most part they’re competent. I was lucky this year! Let me tell you, not every year greets me with such a fine selection! But… well, now, shall we begin the tour?

***

My friends, observe the fantasy world of The Ratastrophe Catastrophe by the daring David Lee Stone! Now, the prose in fact tells a story, and the concept is one that I wanted to read about! It’s a take on the Pied Piper of Hamelin, about what happens when all the children are gone. Right up this carny’s alley! I would delight if all the children were gone! Well, except you, my dear. How could I make my living without people like you? But this world! My tall, tall hat has indeed absorbed many a retold fairy tale and enjoyed it! Alas, when I wasn’t sure who the protagonist was, it makes it hard. As I stroll the world, who am I strolling with? Whom shall I cheer, and whom shall I boo? I wanted to enjoy this world far more than I did. Alas. Alas again for good measure.

***

As I held the world of Glint by ace Ann Coburn, I see the text on the cover: “Two worlds. Two girls. Two desperate quests.” And the concept is just that! In the “real world” Ellie searches for her missing brother. In a fantasy world she created, Argent searches for a stolen dragon hatchling. According to the book, the two stories are meant to come together. This carny loves weaving disparate stories together, combining them in unexpected and delightful ways! But what happened, my dumplings? Alas, the stories remained two stories! Two fine novels told here, one a roller coaster and the other a tilt-a-whirl. Both fine on their own, but the combination left me wondering what they were doing together in one unholy amalgamation. It was like gluing two men together and claiming they were Siamese twins, when in fact they were merely two men glued together. In other words, don’t visit the freak show until we get a better replacement. But for this tour of two earths? Alas and alack, for both worlds held my attention, but not at the same time.

***

Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales by jaunty Justin Richards drew me in with just the name. This is actually a little collection of little worlds, each bound in its own little hardcover book. What a delicious concept! Fairy tales that Time Lords tell!

And the worlds I got felt like little snippets of stories set in somewhat-stylized fairy tale worlds, but certainly not fairy tales Time Lords would tell. And while most of them are competent short stories I didn’t mind visiting, they were not what I was expecting at all. I would rather have seen each world explored a little more rather than getting this smattering collection of variable qualities. Alas, not every world is worth your visit, is it?

***

Shadowbahn by stunning Steve Erickson took me to a world where the World Trade Center suddenly appears whole in the Badlands of South Dakota. Why are they there? What happened? And who is the shadowy figure that appears in the upper floors of the building?

The format of the novel also drew me in – short, punchy chapters of poetic prose made for a fast read. But folks, pretty words and a stunning set-up do not a good world make! It all amounted to much sound and much fury but little conclusion. It is a literary stunner, to be sure, and that may make it worth your visit, but I found myself as unfulfilled as when I sampled the borscht-flavored cotton candy.

***

Perhaps you’ve visited the worlds of the alluring Lois Lowry before. Certainly, the world she tours you through in The Giver is a masterpiece. I mean the book version of the world. Listen kid, the moving pictures are all fine, but why don’t you try reading on occasion? You might find your brain a little less stunted and a little more wondrous.

Well, I toured the rest of her visits to the world of the Giver as I walked through Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. Each takes us to a different corner of the world to see other villages. Each introduces us to interesting characters. And indeed, had I not toured The Giver before I toured these corners of the world, I would have enjoyed them. As it was, they were disappointments, only in comparison. But alas, I surveyed the sparkling gemstone of that world first before coming to these not-as-stunning vistas. Son in particular saddened me; the first half of that visit arrests the attention like a tragedy on the Midway, but the second half feels like a totally different creature entirely. So, sure, spend some time with those visits to the world of the Giver, but be prepared for a visit not as well put together.

***

Well, you’ve heard the glittering and the garish of my travels this year! But many fine worlds lay between those two extremes, ladies and gentlemen! Return with two bits and a bit more attention and I shall regale you with worlds designed for younger folks to tour, from the young at heart to the young at adulting, and I shall tell you more!

A Tour of Worlds 2018: The Best of the Cosmos

My dears, my dears! New worlds glimmer with glitter and gold and tales untold, but come now, come now! I have traveled the worlds this last year, a tour into earths known only by the freakish minds that created them, and I have survived to tell the tale! Now, by my tall, tall hat, come, and I shall regale you with summaries of these worlds created by others you can tour yourself! Perhaps they will be worth your time. Perhaps they will trigger in you a desire to ignite your own worlds, stories unsung except by the brains in your pretty, pretty heads! Today I shall select five, and only five, of the many worlds I toured this last year. And today I shall bring you the best of them, the worlds I most enjoyed or most enthralled or imprisoned me!

But I come not alone! Do you see this rapturous beauty beside me? She toured the cosmos herself, though we visited few worlds together. Every time we toured together, though, well! Sparks flew! My tall, tall hat and her wicked, wicked smile together make quite a combination! May I introduce to you the harmonious Helen Mast!

No relation.

Just my wife.

I see the jealousy on your face, sir, and right you are to feel that way! But enough of me. Let me take you on a tour of the best worlds I visited this last year, and let Helen do the same!

***

Observe The Half-Made World, created by the fascinating Felix Gilman! You see, the uncreated part of his world is indeed a feature! His weavings of words and characters both malevolent and charming won this jaded carny over. In this world, creation isn’t done yet, it’s not settled, and when a desperate criminal kidnaps a doctor and her mental patient to escape into the uncreated wilderness, wonder ensues. A steampunk western encounters Miyazaki in this world of demons, six-shooters, and gears. This world is not for the young – oh no! – but for you fine ladies and gentlemen, I would recommend a tour if you don’t mind some grit beneath your fingernails.

***

Evertaster by amazing Adam Glendon Sidwell introduced me to a different world, where chefs control the workings behind the scenes in today’s societies. They search for the great recipe with the perfect ingredients that will finally create peace. Eleven-year-old Guster Johnsonville’s legendary palate might finally lead them to the secret… if that same palate doesn’t starve him to death first! Ladies and gentlemen, this story is so ludicrous and so over-the-top creative that I found myself immersed in the world. Do yourself a favor and taste it yourself!

***

Believarexic by jolly J. J. Johnson took me to a world more frightening than most. She took me here. To this world. Yes, kid, the one you’re standing on. Trust me, it’s scarier than you know. What made the book so terrifying? Well, let me tell you. You see, this book is an autobiographical novel about when Ms. Johnson was fifteen and checked herself into a hospital to treat an eating disorder. The intensity of the prose hits harder than a carny’s fist. It begins in broken poetry, as Johnson can’t keep her thoughts together. As treatments work, the book collapses into standard prose that is no less powerful. Tour if you can handle a world as intense as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that will leave you angry, sobbing, triumphant, and glad you visited.

***

Come, tour the arid world of The Last Namsara, cobbled together by clever Kristen Ciccarelli. Dragons eat stories, and if you tell one old enough, the dragon will come down on you and destroy all you love. At least, that’s what Asha was always told. She’s dedicated herself to destroying every dragon, and now she’s found the First Dragon. Ah, but there’s so much more afoot. This world drew me in with its unique setting, and the characters held my attention. This YA world is well worth your time. I hope I can visit the world again.

***

Be happy you don’t live in the world of Anti-Hero by jocose Jonathan Wood. (And what a fine first name he has. You know he must be a fantastic entertainer with a name like that. I’m sure he has a tall, tall hat, perhaps even taller than mine, were that possible!) Though this is the third chronicle of this world and I had never visited before, Wood’s writing kept me up-to-date and moving along. Seldom do I find someone who creates a world that looks so much like our own who’s so willing to destroy it. But creative doomsdays kept my attention on this tour, and it’ll keep yours, too. Plus the macabre sense of humor. Look this world up, folks, it’s worth your time.

***

Ah, but that’s the tour so far, folks! Come back next week, and I’ll tell you more of my cosmic wanderings! It’s worth the price of two bits and your attention, believe me! Worlds a-plenty, many worth your visit, but next time I’ll tell you the ones that most wasted my time so you don’t suffer the tragedies I must for your good! Yes, I’m always thinking of you, the innocent, the bystander, and those who create worlds of your own!

***

My love, you are too kind, far too kind. That tall, tall hat could grace no finer brow. But, my dear gentlefolk, we must step aside, if we are to glimpse the worlds I visited this past year. For the magic of these worlds must be savored quietly, away from the rush of the Midway and the noise of the crowd. Swirled and tasted as a fine wine.

My travels were fewer than those of my convivial husband. The sweep of my gown holds fewer worlds. Those I chose, though, were in turns mysterious, fanciful, intriguing, and powerful. I pray you may find them to be so as well. That perhaps you will chose to indulge in one or two after our tour has come to an end.

***

I entered a Radiant world, dark and chill. Their world, like ours, is fueled by magic. It is their currency, their joy, the very heartbeat of life. Their great floating towers are held aloft by the magic of their citizens and powered by the light within them. By the light within Radiants like Shai. But Shai is a ghost now, and the only one who can see her is Xhea. And Xhea is so dark. No magic flows within her, no light. And so the world beneath the towers is dark indeed. How can such light survive in the dark? How can the two exist side by side? And which is really the greater magic? Over the course of three books, Radiant, Defiant, and Towers Fall, Shai and Xhea must learn how to weave the magic of light together with the dark. To remake the magic of their world.

***

If you are ready to leave that world for another, I invite you to Lundinor. Hidden away, yes, but not so very far from where you now stand. In fact, there may be among you some Uncommoner who has already taken the glove. Of course, this was my first visit. And I found that while many things seemed familiar, indeed all was not as it seemed. Using a belt as an elevator is a little precarious, and travel by suitcase can be a bit jarring at first. Once you have adjusted to the….quirks of this Uncommoner city, however, I think you will find it to be quite charming and perhaps a little mysterious. You see, two young people, Ivy and Seb, have stumbled into an old family secret. A mystery really. And The Crooked Sixpence they carry is evidence that a sinister group, thought long vanished, has returned. With help from some of the oddest places (who would have thought a bell or a button could be so useful?) they must unravel the mystery of January 5, 1969, Twelfth Night, before the Dirge does.

***

Now, my dear gentlefolk, I have a question for you. If you could send your loved one on a journey, not a trip or a vacation mind you, but a journey; if you could somehow leave them some small piece of yourself, a connection to your life or an extension of your passion that would endure beyond your days with them, would you? Could you? What could you possibly leave that time could not destroy or strangers misconstrue? Where could you send them to find the same magic you so loved in life? Well, for Gee (George) Keane, it was a camera and some seashells. Oh, I see your doubt. But I have here ten authors who would prove that the Click of a camera and a walk along the beach collecting (or in this case perhaps returning) seashells is all it takes. All it takes to capture the magic of the life of someone you loved and pass it on.

***

But, if that is not to your liking, there are plenty of other ways to create magic. If my travels have taught me anything, it is that. So we’ll tuck that one away and perhaps indulge in the world of Wildings. Theirs is a world of soaring songs and swirling spells. There is joy in music and privilege in wielding the magic that comes with it. But Rivka must practice her song spells in earnest and not just for herself. She must find a way to use this privilege to find Arik. Arik, no longer her brother but a Wilding, sent away because his music sparked no magic. His songs carried no spells. But her brother still at heart, magic or no, if only she can make others see.

***

Finally, a warning. A warning offered by this last world we tour together tonight. For not all magic is good. Not all enchantments can be trusted. Indeed, not every story should be told. Unfortunately for young Oli, sometimes this must be learned the hard way, for he had little warning. And tales told in the dark can be so alluring. But beware what happens when you reach the end of the story. Beware the dark corners of the attic that hold less light than you see. Beware the creatures that dwell there urging you on. For they love nothing more than a good story. It is their food, their warmth, their breath. But take heed; learn from young Oli. There is no small price to pay when you Tell the Story to its End. For what happens when the magic of the story is over? What will sate the creature’s thirst for more?
***

Oh, but do not be too alarmed. Remember these are but worlds to be visited. Once you have had your fill, seen the sights, and sampled the lovely intricacies of one world, you may always return again to this one. And we will be waiting here for you, ready to wrap you in the safety of home. Ready to charm you with further curiosities and lead you on the next beguiling excursion.

Rejected Worlds

Get outta there. You don’t want those.

Come up here. Look, kid. New, shiny worlds. Fresh for the taking. Don’t you want one of these? Think of the possibilities. Take one blank world, and what will you create?

Those? Those’re rejected worlds. Some writer came in, bought the world, populated it with her best people and plots, poured ink and pixels into an empty landscape to manufacture a wonder.

And look what happened.

She trots it out to meet the world, the real world, not one she created… and no one’s buyin’. I see a lotta them in the shop. They come back, toss away the little earth they spent so long creatin’, and try to leave in a huff. Most of them want a different world, and yeah, if they can pay, I sell them another world. Continue reading “Rejected Worlds”

One Earth: Slightly Used

Course you’re not the only one buying worlds! Why, plenty of fancy, big-name people buy worlds! We’re all looking for a new one, after all! Why, look here, it’s the incorrigible Anne Clare, the Neat-O Naptime Author.

Yes, kid. Neat-O.

Get away from me, kid. You bother me.

Well, enough from me. Read the words of another satisfied customer who buys worlds! Or maybe one specific world. One that’s… slightly used. I’ll let Anne take it away.

***

Hey buddy, you look lost. What outfit are you with—you one of the new guys from the 36th?

Ah. Oh no. He got you too, huh?

Well, welcome. Settle in. Yeah, I know, it’s muddy. You’ll get used to it. Continue reading “One Earth: Slightly Used”

Blank Worlds

Well, kid, you’re back. Naw, it’s fine. If you’re willin’ to pay. Here, let me put down my cigarette and show off the wares.

They sure are something, ain’t they? All those little worlds, blank and just waitin’ for someone to take them home.

Sure, sure, it’ll take lots of time. But every world’s a little different. Maybe a few hours to rough out something nice and small. Or maybe decades. Depends on the size of the idea you want to plant on this nice new little earth I sell you.

What the hey, kid? You got a lot o’ chutzpah, comin’ in here, thinkin’ you can buy an new earth and just watch it! Continue reading “Blank Worlds”