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Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law–
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed–

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal’d within the iron hills?

No more? A monster then, a dream,
A discord. Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match’d with him.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton, has been described as “Pride and Prejudice of the dragon world”, but I think this does the book a disservice.

Pride and Prejudice, in my opinion, dragged a little.  Tooth and Claw does not.  At all.  From the very first scene, I was dying to find out what happened next, and how the various intricacies of the plots would work themselves out.

The book does share some similarity of style with the classics, but it lacks the thing that irritates me most about those books.  Jane Austen, along with most of the other famous authors of the period, writes assuming a level of basic knowledge about the society in which the characters live.  That’s fair enough – and modern authors do it too – but now that society has changed, I can’t help but feel there are little nuances of meaning which escape me.  Little jokes, which, if only I knew more about the society they lived in, I would find hilarious.

Tooth and Claw is set in another world.  Jo Walton goes through the world-building process that readers of fantasy and science fiction will be familiar with.  Her dragon society is not just human society with dragon characters, but involves new rules for what is “normal” – such as eating the remains of your parents after they die, culling the weak, and so on.  Sure, there are some things which stay the same – like the distinction between the gentry and the poor folk – but it’s all explained.

One of the interesting things was the effect that biology has on their marriage practices.  Maiden dragons are gold.  If they get too close to an unmarried male dragon who loves them, then they blush pink (later to turn red when they’ve laid their first clutch of eggs).  This means that everyone can tell if you’ve been alone with a male.  A maiden who blushes before she has become betrothed is considered spoiled.  It leads to some fine predicaments for two of the characters.  If you wanted to, you could read all sorts of political messages into that.

Tooth and Claw doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It has a kind of dry wit spread throughout which made it very good reading.  For example, the scenes have headings, and throughout the book there are a great number which are called “A confession”, “A proposal”, “A second confession”, “Two deaths and a third proposal” and so on.  Near the end there is one which is titled “The narrator is forced to confess to having lost count of both proposals and confessions”.

I would recommend this book for people who like the style of classic novels, people who like dry wit, people who like dragons, and people who are any combination of the above.

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Apparently I have been tagged in a thing.  How exciting!

Here’s how it works:

1.  Give credit to the person who tagged you.

That would be Matt Williams, whose blog contains vast quantities of posts about science fiction, advances in technology, books, and movies.  Not to mention his own fiction, which is an exciting read.

2. Explain the rules.

Ok, so I’ve done two of them now.  You should keep reading to find the rest.   There are four.

3. Answer the ten questions about your current WIP.

I would point out at this point that in the post I was tagged from there were only nine questions…  Also, “Work In Progress” may be too strong a phrase.  “Work Only Just Commenced” would be a closer description.

  1. What is the working title of your book?
    The Three
  2. What genre does the book fall under?
    Fantasy Adventure
  3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?
    Hum.  Well, the three main characters are identical, so it would have to be someone with a good repertoire.  Perhaps Kyle Schmid – clean-shaven and looking young.
  4. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    Three young men, physically identical but otherwise wildly different, must find each other and unite to save the kingdom.
  5. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    In an ideal world, represented.  We’ll see.
  6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
    Come back in a few years and I might be able to tell you the answer to that.  Alternatively, if you can provide me with a time machine and a few days to experiment, I’ll be sure to let you know.
  7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
    I would like to compare it to anything by David Eddings, but I think that might be insulting to Mr Eddings.
  8. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
    Weirdly, Harry Potter.  I’m not quite sure how that happened.  They really have very little in common.
  9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
    The book is about balance – good and evil, male and female, magic and science.

4. Tag five other people and link to their blogs so we can hop over and meet them.

Ok, five people…  Hmmm.

Rosie Oliver (because I want to know if there are any more sequels to CAT coming)

David Higgins (yes we are related)

Sieni Madison

Miriam Joy

Kari Fay

So there we are.  I hope you’ve all had fun.

I don’t think there’s enough fiction on this blog, given its title.  It’s got plenty of ideas, but not much in the way of stories.  So I’ve decided to start “Friday Fiction”.  Every Friday I will post something fictional.  It could be a short scene, or a longer story, or something else entirely.

I doubt this is a new idea, but I’m hoping that the public commitment will force me to actually get some of the ideas into a state I’m happy to share.  Feel free to prod me with sticks if it gets to Friday evening and I haven’t posted anything fictional.

Here’s this week’s offering.

 

Amelia sighed and scratched her nose.  Was there really a point to this?  Still, Grams insisted, and it was always easier to give Grams what she wanted.  Her eyes stayed shut.

She listened to the sounds around her.  A bird trilled, loud and clear.  The wind rustled the leaves.  An insect buzzed.  In the distance a car crawled past, its engine purring.  The sun, gently warm on her face, tinted the inside of her eyelids red.

Her body wanted to droop, her arms heavy in her lap.  The ground cradled her legs, crossed in front of her.

Grams was moving around in the house, humming quietly.  It sounded like she was baking.  Amelia breathed in deeply, and the scent of peaches filled her nose.

Something about it bothered her, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

Something rustled the undergrowth behind her.  A bird.  She could almost see it, each hop rustling the leaves under the magnolia bush.

She sighed again, and fought the urge to glance at her watch.

Grams’ voice came from nowhere, making Amelia jump.

“What did you hear?”

Amelia opened her eyes and looked at the kindly face of her grandmother.  There was a slight twinkle in her eye, as usual, but she seemed serious.  Amelia had a sudden sense of how old Grams looked.  Surely she hadn’t had that many wrinkles last week?

She described the bird, the leaves, the insects.  She mentioned the car.  Grams was nodding approvingly, but seemed to be waiting for something.

“Nothing else?” she asked.

Amelia hesitated.

“Are we having peach pie tonight?”

Grams smiled, and turned back towards the house.

“Come and see.”

Amelia scrambled to her feet and shook out her legs.  Been sitting still too long, she thought, and skipped a few steps to catch up with Grams.  They entered the house together.  Amelia frowned.  Something was off, something different.

She followed Grams to the kitchen.  There was a mixing bowl and spoons, and a pie dish, just like she had been expecting.  But there was no half-made pastry sitting in the bowl.  No pie-fillings.

And there, on the counter, an unopened tin of peaches.

Well, this was supposed to be a reward for anyone who answered my challenge, but I decided not to wait and just post it.  Mainly because I had too much fun writing it!

So here we go:

Sithar looked down on the blue-green jewel and sneered.  These puny hoo-mans would never know what hit them.  They couldn’t even fly unaided, they had to make machines to take them to the skies.

He looked around at his nest-mates, satisfied to see them arrayed perfectly to either side.  It was time for the assault to begin.

Raising his snout he shot flame towards the sky, using the momentum to hurl him out of their stable orbit and towards the planet below.  He knew without looking that his nest-mates were following, eager for the kill.

As the flight of dragons entered low earth orbit, they were suddenly assaulted by thousands of tiny particles.  Metal, ceramic, plastic, even some excrement, ye gads these hoo-mans were disgusting!

The constant barrage was having an effect on the team.  Wings became tattered despite being tucked safely away.  Their sensitive eyes and snouts were filled with high velocity grit.

Abort!

The call went out telepathically, far too late.  Sithar opened his mouth to shoot forth flame and it was immediately filled with sharp, fast-flying debris.  He tumbled, out of control, flame spouting in all directions.

The world below spun on its axis, unaware.

Dragon in orbit as SpaceX launch opens new era 

The actual article is about the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket with it’s Dragon cargo capsule, but that’s no fun.  I’m thinking actual dragons, in orbit around the Earth.  Possibly they are alien dragons, come to take over the world.  Or are they peaceful explorers?

So here’s a challenge for you – write a piece of fiction, 200 words or less, involving alien dragons.  Answers in the comments please!

(I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…)

Clarke’s Law, named after Arthur C Clarke, states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

We’ve all read stories where the people with magic turned out to be using high tech gizmos.  What if it was the other way around?  All technology is actually run by magic, and there is a huge conspiracy among scientists to keep it a secret.

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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