Is today International Fairy Day?

I keep seeing this, as well as references to some mysterious “official fairy day web site.” Trying to track down its origins, I have come to the conclusion that “international fairy day” may have been an invention of fantasy artist Jessica Galbreth. For those who love such things, her book, The Enchanted World of Jessica Galbreth, is a classic:

But if you visit her web site, thevintageangel.com, you’ll see no fairies in evidence, only angels, and this statement: “In 2010, Jessica retired her old body of work, feeling it no longer fit with who she was.  As a Christian, she set out to shine her light with a new body of angel and inspirational art.”

Whether Galbreth did or didn’t invent an “international fairy day” in conjunction with her earlier, presumably pagan-themed work, Midsummer and the summer solstice have always been devoted to the fair folk. Many Northern cultures have celebrated the summer solstice under various names: St. John’s Day, Midsummer Eve, Litha, and others. In Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark especially, it is marked by festivities surrounding June 21, the longest day in the year. However, the celebration itself may take place any time between June 19 and June 25, so I’m happy to see I’m not behind-hand in noting this important event.

What does any of this have to do with fairies? Wiccans claim that the summer solstice is one of the days in the year when the veil between the spirit world and the human world is at its thinnest. It’s the day the fairies come out to play. http://wiccansage.hubpages.com/hub/Celebrating-the-Summer-Solstice-A-Fairy-Ritual-for-Midsummer

Here’s a link to history.com’s list of summer solstice celebrations worldwide: http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/summer-solstice-traditions

My own favorite summer solstice tradition is to re-read William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

In Act II, sc. 1, the mischievous fairy Puck arrives. He questions another fairy: “How now, spirit? Whither wander you?”

The response gives the perfect picture of the fairy life:

Over hill, over dale,

Thorough bush, thorough brier,

Over park, over pale,

Thorough flood, thorough fire,

I do wander everywhere,

Swifter than the moon’s sphere;

And I serve the fairy queen,

To dew her orbs upon the green.

The cowslips tall her pensioners be:

In their gold coats spots you see;

Those be rubies, fairy favours,

In those freckles live their savours:

I must go seek some dewdrops here

And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

Wherever it comes from, happy Fairy Day!

Midsummer_Night's_Dream_Henry_Fuseli

Henry Fuseli, 1796 (engraver, J. P. Simon). “Midsummer Nights Dream Act IV Scene I–A wood – Titiania [i.e., Titania], queen of the fairies, Bottom, fairies attending & etc.” housed in Library of Congress. Source: Wikimedia Commons. This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

Ishiguro, Murikami, and the Uses of Fantasy

Fantasy is an enduring genre with multitudes of fans, yet many literary types dismiss it. Why? To be honest, a lot of fantasy suffers from a problem that afflicts much speculative fiction (science fiction, dystopian fiction. . .a loose term). Unfortunately, a lot of fantasy is not well-written, or not particularly well-written. Many fans of speculative fiction are in it for the ideas or the plot, or both–not for the writing.

I’m reminded of the comment a friend of mine makes about tomatoes. When you bite into one, too often the reaction is merely meh. But when you bite into a good one–heaven! Poorly written fantasy: meh. When you bite into beautifully written fantasy–heaven!

Here’s an interesting post about this very topic, and from one of the masters of speculative fiction, Kazuo Ishiguro. (Wait a second. Let me rephrase that. One of the masterly writers of our time, in any genre.):

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150605-why-do-people-hate-fantasy

Ishiguro has just published a work of unblushing fantasy, The Buried Giant. His speculative-fiction novel, Never Let Me Go, skirted the boundaries of science fiction, but this new novel places itself squarely in the realm of fantasy.

Great literary fantasy may have come into its own in these early decades of the 21st century. I’m thinking especially of Haruki Murakami’s massive 2011 novel 1Q84.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some love it, or at least admire it, such as Charles Baxter of The New York Review of Books, who invented a whole new term, “Unrealism,” to describe the flavor of speculative fiction that it employs:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/dec/08/behind-murakamis-mirror/

Michael Dirda, of The Washington Post, calls Murikami “a brilliant practitioner of serious, yet irresistibly engaging, literary fantasy” and claimed he couldn’t put the book down:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/michael-dirda-reviews-1q84-by-haruki-murakami/2011/10/14/gIQAyyzwyL_story.html.

NPR’s Alan Cheuse loved it:

http://www.npr.org/2011/10/17/141434063/book-review-1q84

But plenty of respected reviewers disliked or even hated it. Janet Maslin, of The New York Times, panned it, calling anyone who reads every page of the massive thing a “sucker”:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/books/1q84-by-haruki-murakami-review.html?_r=0

The Guardian didn’t like it much, either, calling it an over-hyped “bleak fairy tale”:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/oct/16/1q84-haruki-murakami-review

Allen Barra, the reviewer at The Atlantic, called it “disappointing” and “a flop”:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/12/how-murakamis-1q84-became-2011s-biggest-literary-letdown/250119/

In his BBC interview, Kazuo Ishiguro enters the debate about literary fantasy. He notes that “Most genre boundaries. . .were created by the book industry.” These artificial marketing distinctions, he thinks, account for much of the “sheer prejudice” against fantasy that he has experienced over the publication of The Buried Giant. He concludes with this statement: “I’m against all kinds of imagination police.”

What do you think? Were the imagination police at work on Murikami’s 1Q84? Are they at work, as Ishiguro charges, on his new novel, The Buried Giant? James Wood of The New Yorker despises it (but seems to despise other Ishiguro novels too):

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/the-uses-of-oblivion

Yet Wood claims to admire Ishiguro’s attempt: “Tastes differ, and Ishiguro is welcome to his Arthurian chain metal. (You can’t help admiring a writer who so courageously pleases himself, who writes so eccentrically against the norms.)” Wood goes on to enumerate novelists whom he thinks could have pulled such a story off, so perhaps he isn’t a perpetrator of the “sheer prejudice” that Ishiguro decries. Perhaps he just dislikes Ishiguro. (Wood loves William Golding’s matchless The Inheritors, so maybe I forgive him his snark at Ishiguro’s expense. Maybe.)

Ishiguro, for his part, claims he was just trying to tell a story, and that the fantasy setting came about almost by accident. He says he was actually trying to write a story that could resurrect “societal memory” and noted that such a story could have been set in Rwanda, or Northern Ireland during the Troubles, or Kosovo. For my own part, I’m thinking Ishiguro has nailed what fantasy is and does. “Societal memory” is exactly what fantasy is all about.

I haven’t read The Buried Giant yet, but now I’m eager to do so. More later. Stay tuned!

 

The Intergalactic Nemesis

It’s a bird. . .it’s a plane. . .it’s a radio program. . .it’s a comic book. A LARGE comic book. Uhhh. . .what is it, actually?

The Intergalactic Nemesis is a stage production created by a group calling itself The Robot Planet. I saw this production last year at Durham, NC’s Carolina Theater, and since then, The Intergalactic Nemesis appears to be going strong.

BookOnePosterLayoutSmall

So what is this strange experience like? You go into a theater and take your seat. Hovering above the stage is a gigantic screen. Below, onstage, four or five enormous radio-style stand-up microphones are situated, with voice actors stationed at them. To one side stands a truly ingenious audio-effects specialist.

The show begins. Gigantic comic book panels are projected onto the gigantic screen, while the voice actors act out (duh) all the voices. Meanwhile, the special effects person does her amazing, remarkable thing. It’s a trip.

Content? The play (if that’s what you’d call it) is titled The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth. It’s all about giant bugs attacking the earth, and the end of all humanity, except that one man stands between us and Bug-a-geddon, mild-mannered librarian Timmy Menendez. . .well. . . the plot is murky. But it’s a ton of fun.

The audience is fun, too. I might have been the only one present who was not wearing a cape. Or some other Zygonian-appropriate attire. I was also one of the oldest people in the theater. A friend of mine knew I would love this. . .thing. . . and took me to it. Ahhh, there’s no nerd like an old nerd.

See for yourself: http://www.theintergalacticnemesis.com/

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