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SFF Author: Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear fantasy author(1971- )
Elizabeth Bear
was born in Hartford, Connecticut. She studied English and Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, but did not graduate. She has worked as a technical writer, a stable hand, a reporter, and in various office jobs. Though she sold a few stories to small-press publications in the ’90s, she only began writing seriously in 2001, and has produced numerous novels and short stories since. She won the John W. Campbell award for best new writer in 2005 and the Locus best first novel award in 2006. Here’s Elizabeth Bear’s website.


CLICK HERE FOR MORE STORIES BY ELIZABETH BEAR.



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Elizabeth Bear is a literary philanderer

Please join me in welcoming to Elizabeth Bear, who’s on a blog tour to promote her newest book, Karen Memory, a unique blend of steampunk and Wild West excitement which I definitely enjoyed. Today, she’s here to talk about the pros and cons of strict adherence to writing in one style or genre, and to ask whether readers enjoy or dislike when an author swerves from an established path. She’s also got a copy of Karen Memory to give away to one random commenter.

Hello there.


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Blood and Iron: Creativity and Imagination

Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear may have given her novel a rather generic title, but within the covers of the book is a story of intrigue, politics, family relations, romance, mystery and magic, as well as one of the best depictions of Faerie I’ve read in a long time. If you love fantasy, but are sick of boring Tolkien knock-offs, then Blood and Iron should fix you up nicely. Reminiscent of several other original fantasists, (Patricia McKillip and Jan Siegel spring to mind) this is an interesting take on the world of Faerie and its relationship to our own world.


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Ink and Steel: Rewards for the patient reader

Ink and Steel by Elizabeth Bear

A blend of history and fantasy is what typifies Elizabeth Bear’s body of work, as does her reliance on folklore and literary references to craft her tales. The more you know about her favoured subject matter, whether it be Shakespeare, Elizabethan England, Faerie, or Arthurian legend, the better you’ll be able to enjoy her books, for Bear doesn’t suffer fools and seldom slows down to explain precisely what’s going on. Ink and Steel requires your utmost attention if you’re to follow it,


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Undertow: Mediocre

Undertow by Elizabeth Bear

Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest (1976) is a (novella extended into a) novel that features an alien planet invaded by humanity and exploited for its resources, the natives forced into labor. An open allegory regarding the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, it is a compact novel that remains focused on three main points throughout: corporate/political greed, respect for traditional cultures, and the need to find reconciliation between the two. Elizabeth Bear’s 2007 Undertow is precisely the same story,


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New Amsterdam: Forensic sorcery

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear

New Amsterdam is billed as “the hardcover debut” from Elizabeth Bear, who had been winning awards for her short stories and novels before this work was published in 2007. Though not exactly described as such, New Amsterdam is a compilation of six short stories, each connected to and increasingly dependent upon the others as the overarching plot progresses. While each story is ostensibly a mystery which requires investigation and the use of forensic sorcery in order to arrive at each solution,


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Seven for a Secret: Skillful blend of alternate history, fantasy, macabre

Seven for a Secret by Elizabeth Bear

In 1938, in an alternate London occupied by the conquering German-Prussian empire, the ancient vampire Sebastien, attended by his ‘court’ of servants, awaits the death of his lover, the venerable sorceress, Abigail Irene. One night, however, two teenage girls — cadets in one of the empire’s schools and each a seventh daughter — pique the vampire’s curiosity. Sebastien and Abigail Irene begin to investigate the girls’ backgrounds and the school’s true activities, even as the girls progress toward an unorthodox graduation that will transform them into the empire’s ultimate stormtroopers. 


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The White City: It’s all very civilized and decadent

The White City by Elizabeth Bear

The vampire-detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa and his small ‘court’ visit the White City of Moscow on two occasions, in 1897 and 1903, both before and after his sojourn in an alternative America. On both occasions, someone closely linked to a politically-active young artist, Irina Stephanova, is murdered. As the mysteries in both 1897 and 1903 unfold, Sebastien confronts a much older entity inhabiting Moscow and, ultimately, the mystery of his own forgotten past.

The White City is the third book by Elizabeth Bear featuring Sebastien,


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Ad Eternum: This newest chapter is a treat

Ad Eternum by Elizabeth Bear

In 1962, vampire-detective Sebastien, having adopted the name ‘Jack Prior,’ returns from Europe to New Amsterdam, arriving not by airship but airplane. As he attempts to re-establish himself in the new world, he makes the acquaintance of a clique of sorcerers who invite him to join them in an ambitious endeavor. But old — indeed, ancient — habits die hard, and Sebastien must chart the course of his eternal voyage while buffeted by public protests against vampires and the sudden return of someone powerful from his past.


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Dust: Traditional fantasy + space opera = great story

Dust by Elizabeth Bear

While Dust is categorized as science fiction, there were actually a lot of familiar fantasy elements in the book, which I found a little bit surprising but quite enjoyable. For example, a number of medieval concepts are employed in the novel, such as a ruling family of nobles; politics regarding bloodlines, successors and inheritances; knights; castles; swords as the preferred choice of weaponry; chivalry; and so on. Then there’s the story, which features a servant girl who discovers she’s someone important, a couple of quests including one to prevent a war between the House of Rule and Engine,


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A Companion to Wolves: Monette + Bear = richly crafted fantasy

A Companion to Wolves by Elizabeth Bear

When I first started A Companion to Wolves I thought it was just going to be another run-of-the-mill fantasy. I mean you had humans who bonded telepathically with wolves, trolls and wyverns for enemies, and Norse culture/mythology as a major influence in the naming of characters, places, and things, the northern setting, and the religion (Othinn, Ragnarok, Freya, etc.).

Of course I should have known better. While I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading any Elizabeth Bear, I have read and enjoyed Ms.


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An Apprentice to Elves: A primer in in-depth worldbuilding

An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette

An Apprentice to Elves, the third installment of the ISKRYNE series, is a book that depends on its thick world-building. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette have created realistic cultures that take some cues from Norse and Roman history and dramatized a cultural conflict between them, at the same time as developing relationships and characters rooted in these cultures. Most of the narrative is set in the Northlands,


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All the Windwracked Stars: Norse mythology + apocalyptic SF

All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear

All the Windwracked Stars is the first book in the EDDA OF BURDENS trilogy by fantasy and SF author Elizabeth Bear. The novel is a very original blend of fantasy, science fiction, steampunk and mythology, and while it has some weaknesses, its originality sets it apart in a genre that’s all too often filled with cookie-cutter material.

Surprisingly, All the Windwracked Stars actually begins with Ragnarok, the final battle between the Children of the Light and the Tarnished.


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By the Mountain Bound: Greg loves it. Stefan doesn’t.

By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear

The Einherjar and the Waelcyrge are the immortal Children of the Light that were born of the sea when the world was created. For five hundred years, they were charged with protecting the human race and preparing for the war that would one day come. As they anticipated the glory of fighting with honor, it never occurred to them that the final battle would be with each other.

This series, the EDDA OF BURDENS, seems to have gotten somewhat mixed reviews.


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The Sea Thy Mistress: Brings Norse mythology to life

The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear

The Sea Thy Mistress is the third book of the The Edda of Burdens, which I believe, is a trilogy. It picks up after the ending of the first book, All the Windwracked Stars. (The events in book 2, By the Mountain Bound, are the actual beginning of the story.)

Fifty years after Muire has ascended to become the Bearer of Burdens — a goddess that is one with the Wyrm that dwells in the ocean — she gives birth to a son.


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Bone and Jewel Creatures: A lovely trifle

Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear appeared on the scene in 2004 as if she were Athena, sprung fully formed from Zeus’s forehead to be a major player in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Her first project was the science fiction thriller Jenny Casey space opera series beginning with Hammered, but in short order books by Bear began appearing at least every six months. In 2005, she won the John W. Campbell award for Best New Author; in 2008 the Hugo for Best Short Story (“Tideline”);


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Book of Iron: A charming story full of wonderful creatures

Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

The novella Book of Iron is Elizabeth Bear’s prequel to her novella Bone and Jewel Creatures about Bijou the artificer. Bijou creates beautiful jeweled creatures by animating bones. I haven’t read Bone and Jewel Creatures but Terry and Stefan loved it, and the publisher promises that Book of Iron can stand alone, so there was no way I was passing on my review copy to Terry without reading it first.


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Range of Ghosts: Best fantasy novel I’ve read all year

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

This review turned out a bit rambly, but I’m too lazy to self-edit today, so I’m going to cut to the chase and place my overall opinion right up front for anyone who doesn’t feel like reading over a thousand words of enthusiastic rambling:

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear is the best fantasy novel I’ve read all year, and you should read it too.

The setting of Range of Ghosts is a fantasy version of a place that vaguely resembles Central Asia around the time of the dissolution of the Mongol Empire.


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THE ETERNAL SKY: I liked it. I admired it. And yet…

THE ETERNAL SKY by Elizabeth Bear

Sometimes the whole feels less than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, you just wonder if you should have read a book (or three) at a different time. Sometimes you step back from your thoughts about a book (or three) and think, “Ingrate. What more did you need?” You feel, I don’t know, “churlish.” Like when that other person who is so smart and deep and beautiful and cute (which is different from beautiful) and witty and likes all the same music and read those same books and all in all just so great,


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Shattered Pillars: Still fantastic

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear’s entire ETERNAL SKY trilogy is now sitting in a neat row on my bookshelf. I adored the first book and consumed the second one so quickly it went by in a blur of semi-divine horses and cool but unpronounceable names. Before I read Steles of the Sky (released on April 10th), it’s worth pausing to reconsider the middle book in what might be one of my favorite fantasy series in recent years.

In Shattered Pillars,


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Steles of the Sky: As it was in the Beginning

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

First, a confession: I’ve mostly given up on epic fantasy as a genre. I keep circling back to it because I remember the sense of soaring escape it gave me in eighth grade, but the story about intrepid heroes banding together to save the world from evil has long since lost its shine for me. The series I’ve slogged through recently — including the Hugo-nominated one, which rhymes with Peel of Lime — would only be useful to me if I needed to prop open a door on a breezy day,


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The Stone in the Skull: Wonderful start to a new series

The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

With The Stone in the Skull (2017), Elizabeth Bear returns to the world of her ETERNAL SKY trilogy with the opening book in another series, this one entitled THE LOTUS KINGDOMS. I only gave the first trilogy a 3.5, but recognized that score as being more than a little “churlish” as I put it, since the series was “So smart. So deep. So beautiful … [with] Complex, realistic characters … Big ideas.


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The Red-Stained Wings: Bear wields a keen eye

The Red-Stained Wings by Elizabeth Bear

Second books of a trilogy all too often suffer from BBS (Bridge Book Syndrome), and truth be told, Elizabeth Bear’s The Red-Stained Wings (2019) did at times evince several of the symptoms, including a sense of wheel-spinning and the occasional lagging of pace. Luckily, Bear was mostly able to keep the condition in check thanks to the host of remedies she has readily available in her writerly pharmacopeia, including rich characterization, fervent imagination, and vivid,


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Karen Memory: A purely fun mashup of steampunk and Weird West

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

If — like me — you find steampunk to be a problematic genre, take heart: Elizabeth Bear has created the cure, and it is called Karen Memory. This is a rollicking good story, full of period-appropriate details and flights of fancy, nefarious plots, honest romance, and women who say things like “I gotta get to my sewing machine” and mean it as a call to arms.

Our heroine is Karen Memery, a “seamstress” who works in Madame Damnable’s Hôtel Mon Cherie,


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Stone Mad: Spirits, steampunk, and science

Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear instantly charmed me with her 2015 novel Karen Memory, in which a young “seamstress” battles against greed and corruption with the aid of her friends, a U.S. Marshal, and a hulking ambulatory sewing machine. The first follow-up tale, Stone Mad (2018), is a slight novella jam-packed with action, adventure, folklore, and romantic strife.

Karen Memery and her brilliant girlfriend, Priya, are treating themselves to a top-notch dinner at the Rain City Riverside Hotel,


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The Origin of Storms: Wraps up a good trilogy in mostly strong fashion

The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Origin of Storms (2022) is Elizabeth Bear’s mostly satisfying conclusion to her generally excellent LOTUS KINGDOM’s trilogy, continuing the prior books’ strengths of strong characterization and sharp social commentary. Spoilers to follow for books one (The Stone in the Skull)  and two (The Red-Stained Wings).

After the events of the first two books, Rajni Mrithuri is now the Dowager Empress,


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Ancestral Night: Asks interesting and relevant questions

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

Haimey Dz grew up in an all-female community that she thinks of as a cult. After a bad experience involving a girlfriend, Haimey leaves her home, joins the Synarche, finds a business partner, has her body adjusted a bit (has her feet turned into another pair of hands), and starts a rescue and salvaging business.

Now Haimey and her partner, along with Singer, the sentient AI that drives the ship, travel through space, finding distressed or wrecked spaceships and either saving them or, if it’s too late,


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Machine: Should have been more exciting

Machine by Elizabeth Bear

Dr. Jens and her alien colleagues rescue spaceships that are in trouble. After answering a distress call, they discover an old ship in which all of the human crewmembers are in cryogenic storage. Their only caretaker is an oddly sexy robot who was given instructions to build the cryogenic storage containers for the crew long ago.

When Dr. Jens and her colleagues get back to their own ship and get ready to thaw out some of the frozen humans, they discover that their own trusty shipmind,


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SHORTS: Vernon, Sloan, Parker, Poe, Wood, Bear

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (2014, free at Apex Magazine, podcast available)

Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” is the winner of this year’s Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award for short story and deservedly so. It certainly has my vote. It isn’t clear where the story is set. All we know is that on the outskirts of town lies a desert,


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SHORTS: Shepard, de Bodard, Bear, Jemisin, Parker, Holland

Our weekly exploration of free short fiction available on the internet. This week’s theme, just for fun, is stories dealing with dragons. 

The Man Who Painted The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard (1984, free online at Baen.com (sample from the Bestiary anthology), originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, also collected in The Dragon Griaule). 1985 Hugo and 1984 Nebula nominee (novelette), 1985 World Fantasy Award nominee (novella)

In 19th century South America, “in a world separated from this one by the thinnest margin of possibility,” a 6,000 foot long,


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SHORTS: Yap, Lee, Bear, Jemisin, Okorafor

SHORTS: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few more Locus-nominated stories we’ve read that we wanted you to know about.

“How to Swallow the Moon” by Isabel Yap (2018, free at Uncanny magazine, $3.03 Kindle magazine issue). 2019 Locus award nominee (novelette).

“How to Swallow the Moon,” a Locus-nominated novelette by Isabel Yap, follows the cadence and arc of a traditional fairy tale — a village periodically plies a dangerous supernatural being with strictly-cloistered maidens,


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SHORTS: Roanhorse, Liu, Lee, Goss, Kingfisher, Bear

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week’s post reviews several more of the current crop of Locus Award nominees in the short fiction categories.

“A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy” by Rebecca Roanhorse (2019, anthologized in The Mythic Dream, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe). 2020 Locus award finalist (short story).

In the future, people’s memories can be stored and preserved even after they’ve died, and other people can inject them like drugs.


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Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams assembles a wide variety of apocalypse-related fiction in Wastelands. some of which are older than I am, while others are more recent. What you end up with is a diverse anthology covering topics such as religion, war, and exploration while containing horror, comedy, and a sense of wonder.

The majority of the stories are easy to get into. Some stories are more subtle than others. Overall, Wastelands is an enjoyable read and the selection seems balanced.


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Fast Ships, Black Sails: Pirates and adventure!

Fast Ships, Black Sails edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer

I was never a big fan of pirates (ninjas, on the other hand…) but nonetheless, the very word evokes adventure and the high seas. Fast Ships, Black Sails doesn’t really stray far from that expectation and delivers eighteen stories marked with action, treachery, and a sense of wonder.

A good chunk of the stories revolve around traditional concepts of a pirate, with only a few exceptions, such as “Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear & 


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METAtropolis: It’s just maybe something that sucks a little less

METAtropolis edited by John Scalzi

It’s not a utopia. It’s just maybe something that sucks a little less.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it turns out that all those eco-freaks were right all along. We humans destroyed the planet and now we’ve got to live with the mess we’ve made. Many world governments, including the U.S., have been essentially dismantled and large, mostly independent and self-governing city-states have taken their place.

Under the direction of John Scalzi,


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Wings of Fire: I thought I didn’t like dragons

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon

I don’t like dragons.

This is probably not the first sentence you’d expect to find in a review of Wings of Fire, an anthology devoted exclusively to dragon stories, but I thought it best to get it out of the way right from the start.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with dragons. They’re just terribly overused, one of those tired genre mainstays that people who typically don’t read a lot of fantasy will expect in a fantasy novel because they were practically unavoidable for a long time.


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Sympathy for the Devil: A collection of bedtime stories

Sympathy for the Devil edited by Tim Pratt

Please allow me to introduce Sympathy for the Devil, a fine new anthology filled entirely with short stories about the devil… who is, as we all know, a man of style and taste. However, you won’t just find the smooth-talking stealer of souls here. In addition to that famous version of His Grand Infernal Majesty, you’ll also find funny devils, monstrous devils, abstract devils and strangely realistic ones. Devils scary and not-so-scary, devils who are after children’s souls and others going after old men.


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Supernatural Noir: A Datlow anthology

Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow

Ellen Datlow suggests in her introduction to Supernatural Noir that noir fiction and supernatural fiction, with its roots in the gothic, have a lot in common. The main character in each tends to be a hard-living guy, usually down to his last flask of scotch, haunted by a sexy dame whose middle name is trouble. So it seemed natural to her to combine the two genres for an original anthology.

Despite my general rule that any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow is one I want to read,


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Twenty-First Century Science Fiction: Packed full of excellent SF stories

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is packed full of excellent science fiction stories. I’ve been reading anthologies lately, partly to improve my own short story writing, and this is the best I’ve found so far. It contains stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. ValenteJohn Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal,


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Magic City: Recent Spells: A solid urban fantasy anthology

Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran

Things you should know:
1. This is a reprint anthology. If you read a lot of anthologies in the field, you will probably have read some of these before. I had read three, though two of them were among the best ones, and I enjoyed reading them again.
2. It still has some worthwhile stuff in it, especially if you’re a fan of the big names in urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs) and haven’t read these stories before.


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Old Venus: An over-long, narrowly-themed anthology

Old Venus by Gardner Dozois & George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s themed anthologies are some of the most popular on the market these days. Soliciting the genre’s best-known mainstream writers, selecting highly familiar themes, and letting the length run to 500+ pages, RoguesWarriorsDangerous WomenSongs of the Dying EarthOld Mars,


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World Fantasy Convention 2011: Day Two

I’m reporting about Day 2 today. Read about Day One here.

There were lots of interesting panels today, and it was frustrating to try to boil them down into the ones I wanted to see.

My first choice was “Retelling Old Stories: The New Fairy Tales.” I’ve got all the modern fairy tale collections edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow and many other rewritings, so I was eager to hear this discussion, and it didn’t disappoint. The first question addressed by the panel was the obvious one: why rewrite fairy tales?


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Next SFF Author: Greg Bear
Previous SFF Author: Peter S. Beagle

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