Welcome back to our Star Wars coloring book club, where Kiri at Star Wars Anonymous and I color the same image every month to compare and contrast.
I have complicated feelings about Darth Maul. How could such a cool character only get two lines in The Phantom Menace? Why did The Clone Wars essentially replace him with his brother, Savage Opress, only to bring him back to life in a dumb way that is now canon? Why is he from Dathomir, instead of the Zabrak homeworld of Iridonia? Why did they bring him into Solo at all?
Yet despite all these questionable story decisions, I still have a fondness for the Sith apprentice with the awesome double-bladed lightsaber. He has plenty of great storylines that have been told in books and on TV, and great actors behind his portrayal.
I had fun with this picture. I didn’t have any grand plan for it, I just chose colors as I went along, starting with Maul’s portrait and working outward.
In fact, I have reached the point where I need to sharpen my pencils again. I discovered that the four colors I use the most are: jade green, aqua green, red, and golden yellow. Obviously, I used several of those here.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the novels I’ve been reading recently.
The Hate U Give
I read this one for Banned Book Week back at the end of September. I just wanted to give it another mention because it deserves it. Aside from the relevant topics of police shootings and race relations, I really loved the depiction of Starr’s family. Starr’s parents are not perfect people, but they are good parents. Her family life can be messy, but it is loving, and I think that’s a great thing to show in a YA novel. Also, I really want to know Starr’s reaction to her favorite player LeBron moving to her hometown Los Angeles!
Don’t you just love a book that gets you to root for the sociopath? After loving Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series, I picked up another of her books and was blown away. If ADSoM had a weakness, it was the villains, and this series avoids that neatly by having all the characters be villains!
Well, that might be overstating it a bit, but I love a good “grey” character, and this book is full of them. It centers on Victor and Eli, who were college roommates studying EOs: people with ExtraOrdinary abilities caused by near death experiences. Ten years later, Victor is out of prison and going after Eli. I loved the way the story unfolded in both time periods, picking up a strong supporting cast.
It was also a great read for the Halloween season, having some of the same themes as Frankenstein. Plus it starts and ends with the characters digging up bodies in a graveyard. Can’t ask for better atmosphere than that!
I read this in anticipation of the sequel Vengeful, which is out now, so check back soon for my thoughts on that one.
Into the Bright Unknown
A solid conclusion to the Gold Seer trilogy, a YA historical fantasy series. After an Oregon Trail scenario in the first book, and a more standard conflict with the main villain in the second book, this one switches it up with a heist story.
While I appreciate the effort to show the contributions of women and minorities to American history, I did find it a bit funny that these books were apparently trying for the title of most woke series ever. Some examples:
Only the villains own slaves. Even the closest thing we have to grey characters, some prospectors, make sure to mention that they are from Ohio and therefore abolitionist.
A villain deliberately misgenders our protagonist Lee as an insult.
The male lead asks for affirmative consent before kissing Lee.
A random white male bank clerk in California is sexist, then a few pages later also racist.
Lee is rebuked several times for playing white savior
This kind of black-and-white morality is a not quite subtle enough for me, but I think it serves YA fiction well. Overall, I’d recommend the series to anyone who likes YA light fantasy and the Wild West.
The Rose Legacy
Jessica Day George
This book is for all those little girls (or former little girls) who are horse crazy! It’s a charming light fantasy, middle grades story of an intrepid girl and her horse companion who get involved in secret plots affecting the whole kingdom. I didn’t find it quite as strong as the author’s other books, but still enjoyable.
The opening of the book reminded me of a favorite, The Blue Sword. As an orphan, Anthea has been bounced around between family and now goes to join relatives past the wall in the north of the kingdom, where there are rumors of secret magic things (like horses). The story has some interesting twists, and the characters are pretty good, especially one that reminded me of Mrs. Coulter from The Golden Compass. The ending could have been tighter, but there will be a sequel coming next year.
The Potion Diaries
You may have seen this one under a previous title, Madly. This cute fantasy adventure would be a great beach read, a fun mix of princes, puzzles, and pharmaceuticals. I liked the magic and the characters were fun, but ultimately it was on the forgettable side.
Reading the wonderful and wild Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore a few months ago got me thinking about alternate dimensions–specifically, about their use in stories. The concept appears across a range of speculative fiction, including both sci-fi and fantasy stories, and across a variety of media. It can be an interesting way to explore the age-old question “What if?” as well as the idea that even the smallest events or decisions can change the course of lives.
So here’s my list of some favorite parallel universes in fiction. I wanted to tend more towards the idea of multiverses, so I haven’t included any stories where there are only two dimensions, such as Star Trek’s mirror universe, the world of Fauxlivia and Walternate in Fringe, and the Light/Dark worlds of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The Flash (CW)
After scientist Barry Allen was gifted with super speed during an accident with Central City’s particle accelerator, he became the superhero known as the Flash. Barry can do some pretty crazy stuff with his speed powers, including traveling through time and opening portals into other dimensions. The breaches between dimensions weren’t originally intentional, more of a side effect of Barry trying to fix something else he’d done unintentionally. (This kind of stuff happens to Barry a lot.)
The Flash probably comes the closest on my list to a true multiverse idea. Barry Allen’s world is Earth One, the centerpoint or juncture of the multiverse. There are theoretically an infinite number of worlds comprising every possible existence (though about 50 are known in the show), each vibrating at a different frequency so they don’t normally interact.
Accordingly, some worlds have “doppelgangers” of our main characters; the Barry Allen of Earth Two, for example, is also a scientist but is not a meta-human and has no powers. There are also worlds where there is no Barry Allen.
This TV show was originally a spin-off of Arrow, and later crossed over with Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow as well. Together, the Arrowverse has been able to do some really fun stuff with dimensional travel, including an obligatory visit to a dimension where the Nazis won WWII.
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
I wrote in praise of this series a little while back, and one of the things I liked about it is the world building. The main character, Kell, is a magician who can travel between worlds: there are four total, and each has a version of London (Black, White, Red, and Grey). In fact, each has a specific tavern in a specific spot in the city, which serves as a kind centerpoint, but that’s about where the similarity between the worlds ends. Our world is ostensibly that of “Grey” London, the home of Lila Bard, which is ruled by the Prince Regent (later George IV) and has no magic. Black London, however, was basically destroyed by magic, and White London still feels the effects of this, struggling to hold onto what power they can, which manifests in major societal and political upheavals.
Red London, Kell’s London, does still have magic, and Kell is their ambassador to White and Grey, being one of the ancient line of Antari, who can do blood magic to cross worlds. Antari are few and far between, and are distinguished by a single black-filled eye (the color black is closely associated with magic in general in this series). They draw magic seals with their blood, speak a phrase in the language of magic, and use a token from the other world to cross over (leaving us to wonder how the first Antari got their tokens, but that’s really not important to the story). They can also travel between two points in the same world, but when crossing worlds always travel to the same geographic point they left in the last world.
These four worlds are parallel in time, but not civilizations or events. Because so few people are able to travel between worlds, and transporting objects is forbidden, even the cultural exchange is extremely limited. There are no doppelgangers here, and while a world may die like Black London, there is no evidence that new ones are ever created.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This series, sometimes thought of as the “anti-Narnia,” begins with hints of alternate dimensions in The Golden Compass, but it’s not until the second book, The Subtle Knife, that the idea begins to really be explored. This cosmos is also theoretically a multiverse, which concept the characters refer to as the Barnard-Stokes Theorem. Just as in ADSoM, the two main characters, Lyra and Will, come from two different universes.
There are several ways of crossing between universes, the most prominent being the titular Subtle Knife. Will becomes the owner of this double-edged blade, one side of which can cut a window between worlds. However, this power is not without price: the children eventually discover that each piece of inter-dimensional fabric that is cut off becomes a Spectre that menaces adults (kids are safe).
Several worlds are visited in the course of the story. Will’s world appears to be our world, and Lyra’s is relatively similar (they both even have an Oxford University). Some are completely different, such as the world of the mulefa, animals that have evolved to use wheels, or the land of the dead. The story does not present any doppelgangers, either because they don’t exist or because the chances of actually meeting one in the multiverse would be slim.
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
Nine Princes in Amber has one of my favorite openings of any novel ever: our protagonist wakes in a medical facility (presumably in our world) with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there, only the vague sense that he was injured and is now being kept incapacitated. He eventually remembers that he is Corwin, Prince of Amber, the one true world; all other worlds are simply shadows of Amber.
The royal family of Amber can manipulate the Shadows, essentially creating whole worlds where they can live like kings, or disappear into obscurity. They speak of “adding” and “subtracting” things as they travel through various realities on the way to Amber. With such mathematical language, it make sense that Amber turns out to be only one anchoring pole of reality, that of order; the world of Chaos is its opposite pole, with the Shadows existing between them. The royals also have a special set of cards, trumps with their own portraits, that allow them to communicate across worlds.
The parallel universes are the backdrop for a grand political struggle among the royal family, taking place over generations. Corwin in particular has spent a lot of time in the Shadows, but eventually makes his way back to Amber to fight for the crown. One interesting detail is that different universes can apparently have different laws of physics; some have different color skies, for example. Also, gunpowder does not ignite in Amber, which results in a lot of sword fighting in the books.
My favorite authors of Japanese manga are a group of 4 women collectively known as CLAMP. Over their prolific career they have produced dozens of stories, most of which crossover to form a loose universe. Nowhere is that so evident than in the two series XXXholic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (which directly crossover, but can be read separately). In the CLAMPverse, crossing between dimensions requires such great magical power that only few can do such a thing; one of these is Yuuko the Dimensional Witch, who runs a magical store where wishes can be granted for a price. A group of travelers comes to her asking to be given the power to journey between dimensions, not just once but many times (they all have their own reasons for this quest), and she gives them white Mokona.
What is Mokona exactly? “Mokona is Mokona!” the creature helpfully cries. Mokona (a version of character originally created for Magic Knight Rayearth) has the power to take the group between dimensions by kind of sucking them into a giant whirlwind in its mouth. It’s catchphrase when traveling is “Mokona Modoki mo doki doki!” which loosely means “Mokona is getting excited, too!”
The number of dimensions in the CLAMPverse is unknown, but it seems to be many, if not infinite. We see several dozen of the throughout the course of the story. We also meet versions of many, many characters found in CLAMP’s other works, most importantly Cardcaptor Sakura (my all-time favorite manga). Each version of the character we meet is different, living in under different circumstances, but they each have the same soul and therefore have many things in common, often having similar personalities, characteristics, preferences, and mannerisms. For example, Tomoyo (first seen as a schoolgirl in CCS), is a princess in one world and the president of a toy company in another, but is always polite and caring.
Honorable Mention: Sliders
I would include this 1990s TV show on my list, except that I haven’t seen enough of it to really count myself a fan. It follows the adventures of a group of travelers “sliding” between universes to try to get to back to their home dimension. The show also has a multiverse concept; because some universes are more technologically advanced than others, it also lets the show occasionally explore time travel-type scenarios as well.
If it’s November, that means it’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I love participating in NaNo even though I rarely “win” by writing 50,000 words; it’s just a good excuse to make writing a priority for a month.
This month I’m working toward finishing two drafts I have started, one a YA folklore retelling Ash and Team(read some excerpts here) and one a fantasy adventure The Gladiator and the Goddess that was my first NaNo win.
This is my 6th year. I started in 2013, when I wrote not even 6,000 words. I finally won in 2016! I’ve also participated in Camp NaNo during April and July over the years (which I prefer because you have “cabins” and can set your own goals).
2. Are you a planner, pantser, or plantser?
A planner! I outline nearly everything I write, even blog posts. Of course, I don’t know everything ahead of time (there are always twists and surprises in the process), but I usually know what will happen in all the key scenes before I write. For me, the story comes first in my head, and then I interpret it onto the page in writing.
3. If you are a planner/plantser, what are the first story elements that you flesh out?
Whatever plot points happen to have come into my head. I guess I don’t really do it intentionally at first, I just kind of daydream about the story until I see some scenes and conversations taking shape.
4. NaNo Forums? Do you use them?
Nope. Time spent on the forums is time not spent writing.
5. Writing Buddies? Do you prefer to write socially or alone?
I generally like to be alone but around people; I write in Panera and libraries a lot. But I find being with other writers does help my productivity.
6. Do you diligently write 1,667 words a day, or do you write in spurts?
Definitely spurts. I don’t have time to dedicate every day, and I hate having to stop and start. Once I get going, I want to keep going.
7. Do you have a writing totem?
No, I didn’t know this was a thing. Maybe I’ll get one now!
8. Do you go to kick-off, write-in, or wrap-up parties?
Not typically. I did make an effort two years ago to break out of my comfort zone and attend some write-ins. It was really great for my productivity and word count, so hopefully I can find some near me again this year.
9. When writing, are you an analog (handwritten) or digital writer? Does the same apply to when you’re taking notes or brainstorming?
Almost all digital. Even my notes are in Google Docs files. I just like the ease of editing so much.
10. Share your NaNo username (if you feel comfortable doing so) so that others can connect with you on the NaNo site!
Meimei21 (feel free to add me as a writing buddy)
Anybody else writing this month? How’s it going so far? Feel free to participate in this tag!
Kiri and I will be back soon with our Star Wars coloring book. In the meantime, have a picture of the most famous dark elf ever.
In college I went through a summer where I read every Forgotten Realms book by R.A. Salvatore featuring his most famous creation, the drow Drizzt Do’Urden. I blame my husband for getting me hooked (he lent me all of them). You can clearly tell this is Drizzt because he is dual-wielding scimitars.
I haven’t kept up with the Drizzt books from the past 10 years or so, though Salvatore is still writing about him. I kind of lost interest after a dozen plus novels. But Drizzt still has a special place in my heart.