It’s in your head now, isn’t it. Sorry.
But actually I’m talking about the things I love in stories: subtle magic, tea, sleight of hand, labyrinths, drugs, queerity, deceit, love as war, found family, gardening, seduction.
What’s subtle magic? It’s a pretty wide umbrella – think of anything from Kathe Koja’s Under the Poppy books or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels which have no magic but feel magical, to Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea books, which are about a magician and has talking dragons. I’m not overly interested in the kind of mages throwing spells in battle stuff that sometimes gets tossed my way because I say I like fantasy.
Tea’s easy. I love tea, but what I mean by tea is more the salon, the tea-room, the empty bar, gin and glass and porcelain. It’s the connections made and the battle lines drawn over polite sips. This actually ties in with deceit, legerdemain and seduction. All are facets of the same prism.
Labyrinths have always fascinated me. Whether we’re talking mazes that could lead you out of this reality and into another, or House of Leaves, or meditative religious labyrinths designed to centre the mind and spirit, they turn up in all my writing thought processes (even if they’re not always overtly in the story.)
Queerity is my word for the people and spaces between the norm. It includes genderqueer, but also the idea of houses as identities, of cities as characters, stories as maps, human bodies as novels and paintings. Queerity and drugs often go hand in hand in my work. Think Tanith Lee and Clive Barker.
Love as war. Self-explanatory, I think. Ellen Kushner does it beautifully in her Swordspoint books, though she might not call it by the same name.
Found family and gardening are the same thing. Community, socialism, gifting, friendship, family structure. I don’t see enough of this currently in the SFF I read, but I have stumbled over it here and there in small doses.
Someone on twitter pointed out that my list of loves sounds a lot like my first book. Which made me happy. I wasn’t doing promo, but it was good to see that what I love does come through in what I write. I need to hold onto the things I love and share them with the like-minded.
So what’s on your list?