The ghost of Jacob Marley visits Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843); Illustration by Arthur Rackham (1915)
It’s that time of year when I pull out my copy of A Christmas Carol and keep it in the kitchen to read while I’m making holiday treats. Part of the reason why I love this book is because it’s full of illustrations by Arthur Rackham. There’s Ol’ Marley with his chain of keys, padlocks, ledgers and heavy purses, Scrooge in his nightshirt, and Tiny Tim with his crutch. So, as I started to leaf through the book yesterday while my seven-layer bars baked, I wondered why don’t we illustrate novels anymore?
The only contemporary ones I can think of are The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay, but I’m sure there must be more. Does anyone know of a contemporary illustrated novel by a female author?
And why are illustrated novels so rare when the market for graphic novels seems to be growing? Speculative fiction (SF) should be chock-full of novels ripe for illustrating. Are illustrated novels considered childish and unsophisticated? The examples above are somewhat oriented toward children, but these are not picture books nor books for young readers. Is it just too expensive to produce them? Surely cost can’t be the issue when you consider the ebook option.
I’ve certainly got more questions than answers. Let me know what you think. This is a topic we’ll explore further.
Did you hear Ursula Le Guin’s acceptance speech at the 2014 National Book Awards last night? She’s so inspiring. She gives a shout out to science fiction writers and points out that their works have been ignored for too long by many awards programs. She aims a pen (or maybe a sword) at the commodification of writing and publishing, and she asks writers to think about their role in demanding fair compensation for their work without forsaking their freedom.
Below are the finalists in SF categories. Voting is open from Nov. 17th-24th, so go do your literary duty. Which titles did you enjoy this year?
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North. NOTE: “Claire North” and “Kate Griffin” are two pen names of author Catherine Webb
Apolonia – Jamie McGuire
California — Edan Lepucki (a write-in nominee)
Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8) — Patricia Briggs
The Witch With No Name (The Hollows, #13) — Kim Harrison
The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) — Deborah Harkness
Up From the Grave (Night Huntress #7) — Jeaniene Frost
Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, #7) — Ilona Andrews. NOTE: “Ilona Andrews” is the pen name of the married duo Ilona Gordon and her spouse Andrew Gordon
The Winter People — Jennifer McMahon
Prince Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles #11) — Anne Rice
I am including titles from the general fiction category that meet the criteria for SF according to me. The two original nominees have made it to the final round.
Stone Mattress — Margaret Atwood
Station Eleven — Emily St. John Mandel (and you can read my review here)
Finally, in Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy there was a big shuffle of the nominees with three new titles making it to the final round.
YA-Science Fiction and Fantasy
Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) — Laini Taylor
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3) — Marissa Meyer
Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3) — Tahereh Mafi
Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3) — Sarah J. Maas
The One (The Selection, #3) — Kiera Cass
City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6) — Cassandra Clare (a write-in nominee)
Four: A Divergent Story Collection — Veronica Roth (a write-in nominee)
Silver Shadows (Bloodlines #5) — Richelle Mead (a write-in nominee)
“A beautifully haunting post-apocalyptic pre-utopia”
That’s my descriptor for Station Eleven a speculative fiction (SF) novel among the nominees for the National Book Awards this year. Many have described this novel as a dystopia because it’s set in a tragic future after civilization’s collapse due to a deadly pandemic influenza, but I think we should all read more carefully. This is a sheep in wolf’s clothing–a utopian novel in disguise and in the making. Impressive, Ms. Mandel. Congratulations!
Station Eleven describes the nasty fall out of the pandemic with reasonable and horrifying plausibility. How could it be otherwise in a world where 95% of the world’s population is gone in weeks and the survivors are scrambling about in dangerous and very empty lands? Yet author Emily St. John Mandel does it so lightly and skillfully, I believed her band of characters living in the future North America are probably better off in some ways than if the flu had not happened. The characters who are central to the story in the pre-flu world but did not survive are merely devices who left art and some insights to the survivors we follow in the world 15 years later. Continue reading