Thursday, October 13, 2016

Baba Yaga Meets Narnia in T. Kingfisher's New Online Serial Novel 'Summer in Orcus'

When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…
Do you remember who T. Kingfisher is? It's the multi-talented, Hugo-award winning artist and writer Ursula Vernon, writing for older readers and adults under a different name, many of which are fairy tales. We have a review of one of her wonderful collections HERE.
Below: Fairy tale short story anthologies written by Vernon with covers also created by her.

And she's at it again.

This time she's taking her latest novel online and is publishing it in twice-weekly installments, for free.

Did I mention the novel is a Vernon-esque mash-up of Baba Yaga (complete with personable walking house) and Narnia? Vernon explains her inspiration for this in her introduction, which I am posting below because I can't think of a better way to get you reading it and supporting her.
When I was young and reading the Narnia books, I detested (as I was supposed to detest) Eustace Clarence Scrubb, who did not enter into the spirit of Narnia at all, who was sulky about grand adventures and had to be turned into a dragon in order to learn his lesson. 
I bitterly envied him being turned into a dragon. I would have given my eyeteeth to be a dragon. 
Years later I read Voyage of the Dawn Treader again and realized that Eustace got a pretty raw deal, although arguably not as raw as Susan, and that you really couldn’t win sometimes. And I had watched The Neverending Story about five hundred times and when I finally read the book, where the child story-teller’s creations are given life and come to him crying “Why have you done this to us?” I was deeply horrified. Artex in the Swamps of Sorrow had nothing on this for sheer awfulness. 
But these were adult understandings, and as I am often a children’s book author, I set out to write a portal fantasy for children. 
I couldn’t do it. 
I couldn’t get out of my own way. Narnia was too important to me. It mattered too much. I could not sanitize it. The terrible, fascinating darkness underneath the fantasy world would not go away. When I put myself in the shoes of my heroine, I knew enough to be afraid. 
There is a legacy in children’s books–I blame the Victorians–for books to reassure children that being a kid is just fantastic, that adulthood is nothing but taxes and hair loss, that being a kid is an idyllic innocence and only a very foolish child would want to grow up. 
Neverending Story interior illustration by Katie Vlietstra
Well, I was skeptical even then, and more skeptical now. And that, too, got in the way of my writing. So eventually I gave up on trying to write a proper children’s portal fantasy and wrote this book instead. 
Summer in Orcus is my portal fantasy. It is my response to Narnia and The Phantom Tollbooth and The Neverending Story, which I read (and watched) as a child, and to Abarat and Valente’s Fairyland, which I read as an adult.
Whatever age you are, I hope you find something worth having in Orcus.
So far there are six chapters and counting at the writing of this post. All we feel we can share at this point is that a smothered young girl named Summer has had her day unexpectedly interrupted by a walking house, that seems to like her and has somehow convinced Baba Yaga this little girl is worth her attention...

Summer in Orcus will be available in full when the serial has been run in full, early in 2017. Unlike some serial novels, this one is completely finished and edited and avid readers are in no danger of never finding out the end of the story. We are looking forward to the journey very much, and will likely be sad when we read 'The End'.
Frog Road: from the amazing imagination and talented fingers of Ursula Vernon

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