Monday, March 28, 2011

When The Castle Stops Moving

If you don't mind (and if you do, well that's just too bad), I'd like to take a break from bitching about thesis and snarking about movies to mourn the passing of a legend of Fantasy writer who greatly influenced both my reading material and my career choice as a kid.

Diana Wynne Jones

Author of a bajillion fantasy stories for kids, her more famous works include the Crestomanci series, the Dark Lord of Derkholm, and the Howl's Moving Castle series.

That's right, Miyazaki fans. No this:

Without this:

Jones's books were always full of likable characters, adventures, magic and suitable evil villains. What I always liked best about them were two things: first, that they never talked down to their reader. Jones may have been writing books primarily meant for kids but she talked to them, well like kids, but not like they were stupid or needed to have their hand held or something. She didn't patronize. Bad things happened, characters died, complex issues arose and such. For tiny little bookworm me, it was a refreshing alternative.

But none of her books had *gasp* the perfect boy!

The second thing I loved about her books were the characters. They may have been magicians and witches and people swept up in high magic and whatnot, but they were always very, I think "normal" is the word I'm looking for. They were very sensible Brits. Like, "just because there's all this whimsy and somesuch doesn't mean we all have to go to pieces. Let's magic up some tea or something" they were relatable and realistic. Just because Howl was an all-powerful sorcerer didn't mean he couldn't also be a whiny brat and Sophie may have been swept up in all kinds of magical craziness but she remains a strong, down-to-earth character who, unlike a lot of characters in fantasy novels, retains her frickin common sense. Her novel the Dark Lord of Derkholm was all about how fantasy people were pretty much regular and put on "show tours" for us tourist normies. She played with a lot of fantasy cliches, poking fun and playing up at the same time. She could be wickedly funny and created fantastic, inventive worlds.

Diana Wynne Jones made me love fantasy, and realize that I wanted to create worlds and characters that people would love and come back to again and again like I did to hers. I owe a lot of what I read and write even now to her books that I read in my formative years and it is for that and the knowledge that there will be no more new worlds to see or new adventures for Howl and Sophie that I mourn her passing.

"If you take myth and folklore, and these things that speak in symbols, they can be interpreted in so many ways that although the actual image is clear enough, the interpretation is infinitely blurred, a sort of enormous rainbow of every possible colour you could imagine." -Diana Wynne Jones


  1. SC,

    This is a moving and fitting tribute to such an influential author in your life. Beautifully done! I can totally relate, having grown up immersed in books, to your fond memories of the joy her work brought to you. The beauty of authors is that they never really pass on. Her legacy lives in her books and in the many readers such as yourself that she has inspired. Dianna Wynne Jones will be around for many years to come.

  2. Aw, man. Fuckin LOVED Dark Lord of Derkholm. Sorry to hear she's gone.

  3. Dammit, here I was reading BBC like a n00b while this shit was around? Damn you, neighbor going to college unloading your unwanted books on poor defenseless me!

  4. Paul: Thanks :) it's bittersweet going back to the books, because they'll always be there, but she won't write anymore :(

    Noli: For reals, I dog-eared that thing

    Simon: Woe and such :p


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