Thursday, May 7, 2009

10 Books A Day: #19

13 Phantasms And Other Stories...James P. Blaylock...Ace

The Man in the Moon...James P. Blaylock...Subterranean Press

All The Bells On Earth...James P. Blaylock...Ace

The Knights of the Cornerstone...James P. Blaylock...Ace

Night Relics...James P. Blaylock...Ace

Land of Dreams...James P. Blaylock...Arbor House

The Last Coin...James P. Blaylock...Ace

The Rainy Season...James P. Blaylock...Ace

Winter Tides...James P. Blaylock...Ace

Pilot Light..."William Ashbless"(James P. Blaylock & Tim Powers)...Subterranean Press

Blaylock is a writer born, living, and teaching in California. He was mentored by Philip K. Dick, and sometimes has collaborated on works with his good friend and fellow author Tim Powers, with whom he has created the fictional poet and adventurer, William Ashbless. The Man in the Moon is the first draft of Blaylock's book The Elfin Ship, which editor Lester Del Rey convinced him to re-write and lengthen. The last third of this version is very different from what was published first (not worse, but different plot-wise). It is very worthwhile for me to have this edition of one of my favorite books; not just for the story, but for the commentaries, the bonus of the reprint of the first of the Langdon St. Ives stories (his steampunk scientist character), and the fact that it is only one of a thousand numbered copies signed by Blaylock and Powers. Pilot Light has a bonus in that it is illustrated by Gahan Wilson.

What I like about Blaylock's work, whether it is in the more whimsical "Balumnian" books or in the "magic realism" stories that take place ostensibly in our world, is the sense all his heroes have of the wonder and marvel of things, of sometimes quite ordinary things. Characters might just as easily enjoy a cellar full of marbles as a pirate treasure, or think that someone who takes a Pogo Possum book can't be all bad. It is the sense of wonder for wonder's sake, and not for any money or power that might come from it, that marks a hero in Blaylock's books, as someone who has "all the right instincts", be it for a good used bookstore, a marvellous machine, an aquarium of exotic fish, or a fantastic gumbo with a cold glass of tea. Going on a journey with Blaylock you might find the incredible secret of the little old lady down the street, or the seemingly hokey lodge might turn out to really harbor an ancient treasure, or a common gimcrack item hold mystical powers. What seems ordinary might have a fantastic side, and legends might hide startling truths in plain sight in the mundane world, all revealed to blundering innocents whose only resources to deal with it all are those "right instincts". It seems to me a perfect analogy for our own existence.

1 comment:

AlanDP said...

Sad to say, but the only one I've read is "The Elfin Ship."