tough travels


Tough travelling feature has moved to the Fantasy Hive.
This month the theme is mothers.

Many of the mothers in fantasy (and science fiction) genres, especially in older books, tend to be absent, no matter if they’ve treated their kids well or badly.

Snow White’s mother
Is a prime example of them. As far we know, she was a good and kind mother, a good queen, and a good wife. But we never see her nor do we even know her name. The same goes for Cinderella’s mother, even though in some versions she was a good witch who tried to protect her daughter even after death.

The evil stepmother
Is the other side of the coin in many fairy tales. The fairy tale heroines are plagued by terrible stepmothers who can be also witches or sorceresses (such as Snow White’s stepmother) or not (such as Cinderella’s stepmother). They treat the heroine badly while treating their own daughters well, if they have offspring of their own.

However, these days we do have mother figures who aren’t so absent:
Briar Wilks by Cherie Priest
She’s a single mother because her husband is (presumed) dead. People hated her husband, Levitictus Blue, and so she and their teenaged son Zeke are friendless. When Zeke goes in to the zombie-infested Seattle to look for his father who is rumored to still be alive, Briar goes after him.

Toby Daye by Seanan McGuire
Although Toby has a teenaged daughter, she’s not in her life anymore, so we don’t really see Toby as a mother much. However, when Toby thinks about her daughter, she’s loving and sad. When she has to, she does everything she can to protect her daughter.

Amandine by Seanan McGuire
Toby’s mother is, in a word, terrible. Amandine is a very high-born elf and she hardly deigns to even notice Toby, except when Amandine wants something from Toby. That’s because Toby’s father is a human and therefore she’s merely a changeling half-breed.

Ista by Lois McMaster Bujold
In “the Curse of Chalion” Ista isn’t a prominent figure even though her children are. That’s because Ista is under a curse. However, she’s trying to protect her kids. Unfortunately, for years people have been assuming that she’s mad and treating her so. In “Paladin of Souls” Ista get her own life going. While she’s still a mother, her kids are grown and have their own lives.

Nanny Ogg by Terry Prachett
She’s the mother and grandmother of a whole clan of Oggs. We mostly see her commanding her offspring, their spouses and kids imperiously.

Carina Mitela by Alison Morton
Carina was originally just a girl who grew up is US. However, when she found her real birthright as a Roma Novan citizen, she moved there and even married a Roma Novan man. She’s an officer in the elite Praetorian Guard Special Forces but in the second book she’s also a mother. When she has to go undercover to expose a plot, her family’s well-being is one of the most important factors in that decision. She also has an awesome grandmother, Aurelia, who heads her whole politically powerful family.

However, I think that the most memorable mothers are from comics:
Martha Kent
Perhaps the epitome of “good mother”, she raised Superman, together with Jonathan. She clearly has a very firm sense of morals, and is an understanding and caring mother.

May Parker
Even though May doesn’t have kids of her own, she (and Ben) raised young Peter after his parents died. She’s still around and looking after him even when he’s now an adult.

And I couldn’t end this list without:

Joyce Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Before she knew that Buffy was the Slayer, she had hard time with Buffy’s mysterious comings and goings. However, when she did learn about Buffy’s destiny, she supported her.

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Tough travelling feature has moved to the Fantasy Hive.
This month the theme is shapeshifters: “Shapeshifting is frequent among both WERES and MAGIC USERS. The usual form taken is that of a wolf, but lions, eagles, serpents, owls and cats are common too. In all cases the Rule is that the Shapeshifter cannot stay too long in ANIMAL form without actually becoming that animal and losing touch with her/his human thoughts.”
– The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

Most shapeshifters that I’ve come across can shift into only one form, for example:
Wolves
Werewolves are probably the most common shapeshifters. For example, Kitty from Carrie Vaughn’s urban fantasy series.

Bears
For example, Beorn by J. R. R. Tolkien. He’s suspicious of the twelve dwarves but ends up helping them.

Dragons
I think that all shapeshifting dragons I’ve come across are in fact dragons who can change into a humanoid form, not the other way around. The Dragonlance universe has several of them and so has the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman.

Elves
Most elves can appear to be human so that humans don’t notice them. For example, Toby Daye by Seanan McGuire.

But there a few creatures which can change their shape into more forms:
Various gods and tricksters
Most, if not all, mythologies have shapeshifters. Perhaps the best known is Loki from the Norse myths who goes so far that he even bears a foal when he’s a female horse. Odin is another one who likes to change his shape frequently. So is Zeus and many of the other Greek (and Roman) gods.

Dracula
He can change into a wolf, a bat, and even mist.

The D&D Druids
They can take the forms of most animals a few times a day (depending on the level). However, I must confess that the only druid character in fiction I can think of is Jaheira from the Baldur’s Gate games. Surely there must be more than that? (yes, I’m currently playing a high-level druid in a table-top campaign :))

Kandra
Kandra are creatures who can take on the appearance of another, human or animal, by digesting their flesh and bones. They appear in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson.

Changelings
In Star Trek: DS9 we have an entire species of beings who can take pretty much any form they want. Odo, of course, is the most prominent such character in the show.

Marvel comics are also pretty full of shapeshifters.
Most of them are superpowered people who change into their powered form and back to their normal selves. For example, the Hulk, She-Hulk, Colossus, or Wolfsbane (Marvel’s werewolf).
However, they also have the Skrulls, a species which can shapeshift to any person.
Perhaps the most known Marvel shapechanger currently is Mystique who can take the form of any person.

Tough travelling feature has moved to the Fantasy Hive.
I fully intended to follow the tough travelling meme to the Hive but because of Christmas and New Year it just slipped my mind. But I guess better late than never:

This month the theme is elves:

“Elves claim to have been the first people in Fantasyland. They are called the Elder Race. They did not, they claim, evolve like humans, but sprang into being just as they are now.
“The Elves’ claim is borne out to some extent by the well attested fact that their flesh is less gross and substantial than that of humans.
“In looks, Elves are taller and more slender than any humans, and very beautiful. Most of them appear youthful.
“All Elves feel themselves superior to humans and make it very clear that they do not operate by human rules. This is true, in that many of them can do some MAGIC.
“If you meet Elves, expect to have to listen for hours while they tell you how great numbers of their race have become so wearied with the thinning of the old golden wonders that they have all departed, departed into the West. This is correct; many Elves have indeed gone West, to Minnesota and thence to California, where they have great fun wearing punk clothes and riding motorbikes.”

– The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

Elves are some of my favorite fantasy species (or races as the case might be). While most of them are magical and either immortal or long-lived, compered to humans at least, not all of them share the other characteristics mentioned above.

The Wolfriders by Wendy and Richard Pini
Cutter and his small tribe have come a long way in the comic Elfquest. The Wolfriders can bond with their wolfs and are small and light enough to ride them. They have innate magic and live mostly in forests. However, the world has several other tribes, too. Most of the comics are now available for free at: http://elfquest.com/read/digitalEQ.html

The Dragaerans by Steven Brust
Ah, the Dragareans! Another long-lived race with strong magical talent, they are the rulers of their planet. They have 17 Houses and most Dragerans have personality traits associated with their house. For example, the members of the house of Dragon tend to be militaristic, arrogant, and aggressive. Members of the house of Jhereg are also members of the Jhereg criminal organization etc.

Elves by Tolkien
Probably the most copied version these days. Tall immortals with powerful magic who (usually) disdain the company of other races.

Elves by Seanan McGuire
In this world, there are a lot of different races of elves, or fairies as they are rather called. Most fairies are tall, magical, and at least somewhat superior to humans and especially towards halfbloods or changlings. The main character Toby Daye is a changeling with a human father and a Daoine Sidhe mother.

Elves in the Runequest role-playing game
These elves are probably the weirdest ones. They live in forests because they’re plants. They’re not mammals: they grow from seeds. Some have leaves or vines instead of hair.

Dark elves by various
A very common variant are the dark elves in fiction and also in various gaming universes. R. A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden made the drow popular for Forgotten Realms readers. They’re all evil, except for Drizzt, of course, live underground and worship the Spider Queen Lolth. The Marvel universe has their own version both in comics and in the second Thor movie. Also, the second Hellboy movie had dark elves as the major antagonists.

Seelie and the Unseelie courts by various
These two courts are found in many legends and fairy tales. In modern times, lots of authors have written about them, too. One of the most memorable to me are Elizabeth Bear’s two duologies in the Promethean Age books: “Blood and Iron” and “Whiskey and Water” and “Ink and Steel” and “Hell and Earth”.

And because I live in Finland I just have to mention
Elves that work for Santa Claus/Father Christmas
Another quite common variant. They’re mostly engaged in two activities: spying on children (and sometimes adults) to know if they’re naughty or nice and building toys (and other gifts).

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is mentors!

A Mentor will be at your service until around halfway through the tour of Fantasyland, when you will unaccountably lose him. Before that he will guide you, tell you what to do in the face of strange customs, and even sometimes instruct you in how to perform minor MAGICS. The Tough Guide suggests that the mentor will be several hundred years old, probably with a long white beard, which will give him the right to be bossy, smug, tiresomely philosophical and infuriatingly secretive about all-important facts.

As Archtypes go, a mentor to the main character is pretty old and they can be found in many, many movies, books, comics, and pretty much in every format stories are told.

Merlin
While Merlin didn’t teach magic to young Arthur, he does teach the boy a lot of things. And keeps secrets, as well.

Gandalf
He also doesn’t teach magic. Rather he gives moral guidance and steers the Fellowship to the right road.

Athena
She takes on various guises in different tales to lead the hero for a little while or tell him something important and then vanishes.

Granny Weatherwax
Another mentor who doesn’t teach magic, as such, but rather imparts headology.

Miss Havisham by Jasper Fford
In the Thursday Next, miss Havisham (yes, from Dickens) is an older and more experienced agent and she takes Thursday under her wing.

Comics have a lot of these types:
Professor Charles Xavier
Perhaps the most iconic of the comics mentor types, Xavier gathers young mutants and teaches them to use their powers. He also teaches them want peaceful co-existence with humans.

The Ancient One
A very powerful and old magician, mentor to Dr. Strange.

Wolverine
Perhaps surprisingly the former lone wolf Logan has been the teacher and guide for several younger mutants: Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Jubilee, and others.

Batman
Another character who is also a loner but who has taught a lot of people.

Stick
Daredevil’s mentor.

And I couldn’t end this list without one of my favorite mentors ever: Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Enterprise-D and E.

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is minions!

Minions of the DARK LORD can be male or female, though he tends to favour males (who seem to be more susceptible to the Evil One’s wiles). They can take many forms: BAD KINGS, ENCHANTRESSES, HIGH PRIESTS, EUNUCHS, DUKES, REGENTS or WITCHES. Additionally, there are the non-human minions, such as ORCS, TROLLS, GOBLINS and random OTHER PEOPLES . . . not to mention MUTANT NASTIES, carefully selected MONSTERS, UNDEAD, and DEMONS.

Minions are, indeed, a big part of sf&f books and comics so I’m listing only a few of my favorites:

Orcs by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first people who come to my mind when talking about minions are the orcs, servants of Sauron.

The Naturi by Jocelynne Drake
They are rather bloodthirsty creatures, the origin of the myths about elves and fairies. They need human organs to do magic, so they kill a lot of humans.

Dragons by Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman
That’s right, even dragons can be minions. In the Dragonlance world Takhisis, the goddess of evil, rules evil dragons and even corrupts some of the good ones.

Dragons by Naomi Novik
In her fantasy series based on Napoleonic wars, but with dragons, Napoleon has huge armies of men and dragons.

Guardians by N. K. Jemisin
Guardians are the fist of the Empire who keep the orogenes in line and also train the orogenes to control their magical abilities.

Nazis
The ultimate minion group who are used in many books, comics, and movies. Especially those set during WWII (most recently the Wonder Woman movie) but also modern-day Nazis are used, especially in Marvel comics.

Comics:
Marauders
The servants of Mr. Sinister, Marauders are super-powered people usually hounding the X-Men. They include Scalphunter, Vertigo, and Malice.

Hand ninjas
Part of the mysterious Hand organization. They usually work in huge hordes, attacking a hero, such as Wolverine or Daredevil, as a group.

The Brood
Alien monsters who are hatched inside a human. When hatched from a mutant, they get that mutant’s powers.

Doombots
Victor von Doom rules a whole country of Latveria but he had also built an army of robots who look like him.

Parademons
Darkseid’s monstrous shock troopers who fly with rocket pack and have powerful weapons.

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is dragons!

The Tough Guide advises that Dragons are ‘very large scaly beings with wings and long spiky tails, capable of breathing fire through their mouths. They can be almost any colour or combination of colours, though green, red and black are preferred. They are always very old. Most of them seem to have flown to Fantasyland aeons ago across the void. This migration was almost certainly to get away from our world, where people would insist that they were dangerous monsters that had to be exterminated. Dragons, as all Fantasyland knows, are no such thing.’ Or are they?

Dragons are some of my favorite fantastic creatures and I love reading about them, no matter if they’re evil or good, sentient or mindless monsters, or animals which need to be controlled. It would take far too long to list them all but here are some of my favorites:

Temeraire and his friends by Naomi Novik
The Temeraire books are set during the Napoleonic wars. Temeraire and his friends are huge dragons. They each have their own personality.

Smaug by J. R. R. Tolkien
The evil, gold hoarding dragon was wonderfully brought to life in the Hobbit movies.

Silvara from the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
One of the few good dragons in the series.

Mnementh by Anne McCaffrey
The bronze dragon which has bonded with F’lar. McCaffrey has lot of interesting dragons and their riders.

The Dragons of Order by Genevieve Cogman
There are quite a few dragons in Secret Library series. One of them is my favorite but I’m not going to spoil things for anyone who hasn’t read the series.

Swamp dragons in Discworld
Poor little swamp dragons are often in danger of exploding because of their fire producing anatomy.

Lockheed in the Marvel Universe
Kitty Pryde has a great pet dragon!

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is strongholds:

The Tough Guide offers information on various kinds of fantasy strongholds. For example, you might be looking for CASTLES, complete with ‘frowning battlements, slit windows and multiple defensible spiral stairways inside’ and which ‘occasionally adorn the heights for pictorial effect’. Or perhaps TOWERS, which ‘stand alone in WASTE AREAS and almost always belong to wizards.’ Towers are often ‘several storeys high, round, doorless, virtually windowless, and composed of smooth blocks of masonry that make them very hard to climb. The Rule is that there is also a strong no-entry SPELL, often backed up by a guardian DEMON.’

Strongholds are indeed a staple of both sf and fantasy. Here a few my favorites:

Asgard
The home of the Norse deities and heroes in myths and Marvel universe.

Olympus mountain
The home of the Greek deities.

Camelot
The castle of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

Sherwood forest
The home of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

The invisible, multi-dimensional Library by Genevieve Cogman
Only very specific people can get inside the Library and from very specific doors.

City and Castle of Amber by Roger Zelazny
Amber is the home for the royal family of Amber and it sits in one of the two real worlds. All other worlds are just reflections of the two true cities.

Lothlórien by J. R. R. Tolkien
The well-guarded forest which is the home of elves and their rulers Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn.

Menzoberranzan by R. A. Salvatore
One of the most forbidden, and exciting for some adventurers, is the underground dark elven city of Menzoberranzan where the first good dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden was born. He also managed to escape the clutches of his evil matriarch mother, Malice.

From comics:
Baxter Building from Marvel
The Fantastic Four have had a couple of other bases but the most familiar to me is the Baxter Building. Even though they had tenant living on the lower floors, the upper floors were heavily secured against intruders.

The Watchtower from DC
Justice League’s Moon base might seem impenetrable at first glance, especially that on, you know, the Moon. Or in some stories a floating space station.

Blue Mountain by Wendy and Ricard Pini
The ancient glider elves lived in the Blue Mountain for thousands of years until the Wolfriders came to unite them with the other elves. It’s a whole mountain and the elves live in caves near the peak.

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