I love portal fantasies. It’s a wonderfully flexible subgenre that seems to be experiencing a well-deserved revival of interest lately. Some of the best classic children’s books are portal tales, pure escapism at its finest. Rereading them as an adult will have an added subtext, intended or otherwise. The Alice books are particularly noteworthy in this respect.
Portal stories written directly with an adult readership in mind are usually more cynical, or at least, they aim to be more cynical. Whether they succeed is a matter of opinion.
Escape to Princess is a portal fantasy. It’s my story of an adult fantasy, not adult as in “having sex in it” but as in “written to appeal to grown-ups”, and also in the sense of “contains many swear words”. Modern life is full of strains and hardships, and E2P is my small escape, as the title plainly says. It represents a promise that magic and mystery can be a part of your grown-up life if you choose them. While it pokes fun at a few common genre conventions, it’s done affectionately, born of the idea that fantasy can be a necessary component of adulthood.
At the bottom line, E2P is a very simple light-hearted tale. You can play it through in just a few minutes and discover one of four possible endings, all base on your escapist fantasy of choice. Find the edited and updated version of this game on Philome.la where it previously appeared, and on Itch.io.
On most work days, I liven up my commute by listening to podcasts. They’re easy to listen to, because I can drift in and out of focus without too much trouble, and put together whatever I miss from context. Listening to audio fiction isn’t so easy. I need to focus on every word, or the thread of the plot is lost, and my enjoyment of the words themselves is lessened. I listen to short fiction on audio only rarely, and then only to very short things, twenty minutes or less. Still, I’ve found some remarkable stories online. These are three of them.
That hilariously short attention span aside, and ignoring for a second that sometimes depression prevents me from focusing on anything interesting, I like listening to short stories on audio on my phone. While waiting for the bus, on my commute, on lunch breaks, on the line at the supermarket… wherever I can squeeze in those twenty minutes of peace.
My fall’s reading has been not nearly so prolific as the summer or spring had been. Since Icon wrapped up in October, I still haven’t finished the small pile of graphic novels sitting on my shelf, gazing at me, forlorn. NaNoWriMo happened and I was focused on trying to break barriers in my own writing and, frankly, November had been a rough month for everyone.
It’s a good thing I started out with Lumberjanes, then. This comics series, bound up in four-issue trade paperbacks, hovers somewhere between young adult and middle grade. Though nominally a fantasy adventure book, it’s a little more unrestrained in its fantastical exploration than I’m used to seeing in YA. The art style is vibrant and compelling, but the human figures are stylized enough that the age of the protagonists stays ambiguous. The summer camp environment and the bright and cheery atmosphere give it an overall middle grade vibe.
The Cloud Roads is the first installment of Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura series, a vivid and imaginative secondary world fantasy populated by a wealth of strange and fascinating creatures. Primary attention is given to the Raksura, a species of reptilian shapeshifters with a curious insectile social structure. This book is driven by worldbuilding, and as such, it must introduce a point-of-view that can ease the reader into the rich vitality of the setting, one piece at a time. Moon’s backstory as it is given is far from original, but as a vagabond traveler orphaned at a young age, he serves the book’s needs perfectly.
A well-rounded review requires revealing to the reader some things that the protagonist himself is initially ignorant of. Moon begins the story as a solitary being, camouflaged among strangers and unable to answer even the simplest questions about what he is or where he came from. The only others of his kind who he knew are long-dead. He does know a few things about himself, some of which he reveals to the readers, and others which he holds back. But the first turn of the plot is stated in the very beginning of chapter one, before doubling back to expose the transition in full.
I’ve been obsessed with mermaids since I first watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid when I was six years old. Reportedly, after the movie I menaced my father with complex natural science questions like ‘what do mermaids eat?’ Fairy tales never really stopped having an appeal for me, even as a teenager when I grew frustrated with their simplistic and formulaic nature. It’s a good thing, too, because studying fairy tales taught me more about writing than almost anything else. To this very day, there are some words that, if I see them on a book cover, will spark an immediate interest: “dragon”, for example. Or “mermaid”.
I have two new games out on my philome.la page!
- Escape to Princess is a light-hearted humorous adventure where you escape your dreary life… to become a princess. Just as advertised. This twine is built in the form of a story with multiple choices. Your previous choices are highlighted and you can scroll back up to see them at any time. Content note: the game is humorous but does contain some strong language, if that’s not your cup of tea.
- Why Aren’t You Happy? is a game where you play a dragon who is trying to keep its princess happy. Give gifts to improve her mood, but remember that the cost comes straight out of your hoard. The game has three settings that determine how many game days pass before your tenure as a princess-minder receives its judgment.
One of the delightful things that happened at Olamot Con 2016 is that I happened upon a copy of the first Rat Queens TPB at one of the stands. The name rang a bell, so I flipped through it and eventually surrendered to temptation and took it home with me. This title has been vaguely on my radar for a while, but the scarcity of comic book stores and my general disengagement with the medium produced an obstacle of availability. What am I gonna say, there is so much entertainment media out there, you have to work hard to catch and keep readers’ attention.
Conventions, however, exist to circumvent the barriers that make mass media vastly more available for consumption than more niche markets, and I took full advantage of this fact. I bought the first two TPBs, covering Rat Queens #1-#10, and a full story arc with a satisfying conclusion. Frankly, that’s already more than most comics can boast.