FYI: Amy H. Sturgis Interview–Read It! [JAB]

HogPro All-Pro Amy H. Sturgis, seen frequently in these pages under her blogline AHS, proves to be a delightful interviewee on Tim O’Shea’s blog. In the space of a relatively short and lively discussion, she carries us from 1813 and the world of Tecumseh to the uncharted future of C.S Lewis’ Science Fiction with a delightful interlude in the 1845 world of Emilie Flygare-Carlén and her The Magic Goblet, a book which Sturgis had to literally reconstruct from pieces. And yes, dear Rowling purists, there is a substantive central section dealing with subjects Hogwartish.

It is written compactly enough to satisfy those who want only the gist and want it right now, yet it is filled with a great variety of links to transport those who wish to dawdle more leisurely into a myriad of details about each of the various topics introduced.

I highly recommend it to all!…Aw shucks, stop reading my drivel and go read Amy’s fascinating interview!


  1. Thank you for the very kind “shout out”! I really appreciate it.

  2. Arabella Figg says

    I thought a good deal of what Dr. Sturgis said about Emilie Flygare-Carlén and how The Magic Goblet was recieved shadowed Rowling and her Harry Potter books.

    This was a fascinating interview and I want to reread it and perhaps check on some of Dr. Sturgis’ books. I agree with her about L’Engle, who had a terrible time getting her first book published because it began with an offscreen death.

    I’d also be interested in what she, as a writer about fantasy based on traditional elements, has to say about postmodern twists on traditional fairytales (see earlier post) and how that may impact traditional storytelling, especially for children.

    Kitties only care about tradition if it tastes good…

  3. Yours
    Odd Sverre Hove
    (Bergen, Norway)

  4. Oshove: Thank you for your kind words re: “Harry is a Hobbit,” and thanks also for passing it on to others! I greatly appreciate it. Sometimes I think I need to do a new, updated version of the essay to cover the complete series and update it through Deathly Hallows. At any rate, I think the comparison holds firm.

    Arabella Figg: Thank you for your kind words re: my interview. I agree completely with the comparison you drew between Flygare-Carlen and her novels and Rowling and the Harry Potter series. Knowing more about the author, her experiences, and her setting sheds new light on the meaning of the books.

    I hadn’t commented on your fascinating post (thank you for sharing it!), as I still haven’t gotten to see Enchanted. (I opted for Sweeney Todd the last time I made it to the theater, and I must say, I wasn’t at all disappointed. Potter fans – those who don’t mind characters sometimes breaking into song or slitting each others’ throats – will enjoy, I think, the telling Snape-Wormtail parallel in the performances by Rickman and Spall, and the wonderful performance by Bellatrix – I mean, Bonham Carter!) Enchanted is on my Netflix queue, however, despite the fact I’ve often been frustrated at the “Disney-fication,” or sterilization, of the great fairytales, which I think has played into many misconceptions about the genre and its audience. But Enchanted does sound like fun.

    I have, however, seen Stardust, which is mentioned in the article to which you linked, and is based on a novel by one of my very favorite living authors (and one I suspect would be called postmodern), Neil Gaiman. (For the record, besides Rowling and Gaiman, my other favorite living authors are Lois McMaster Bujold, Mary Doria Russell, and Connie Willis. Alas, most of my favorites are dead: that’s another peril of being a historian!) If I were recommending Gaiman to the uninitiated, however, I would suggest beginning with the brilliant Neverwhere.

    I digress. In terms of postmodernism, I’ve found the most succinct and helpful definition to be one I heard from Reason‘s Nick Gillespie, namely that postmodernism is skepticism of any meta-narrative. In that sense, I think it’s a good thing, as I think a healthy dose of skepticism is a fine weapon to have in our arsenal. As J.K. Rowling said at Carnegie Hall, always question authority. I have an abiding faith that the good stuff – the beautiful stuff – survives such questioning.

    I recently came across a very illuminating example of this while reading some of H.P. Lovecraft’s letters to Fritz Leiber. (I quite adore Lovecraft’s work, incidentally, and I’ve written comparisons of his mythos to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth cycle.) Lovecraft was an atheistic materialist, so he came at writing from a completely different angle than Tolkien, who believed that myths could show us glimpses of big-T Truth, and that we create stories because we are made in the image of the Creator, and it is in our nature, just as it is in God’s nature to make True Stories.

    Lovecraft did not buy into any of this; in fact, he was somewhat cynical in his disbelief. Yet he wrote remarkable mythic works, and he explained it by saying that he had the need to believe, and in the absence of religious faith, he found creation, and so made the mythic kind of stories that he craved. This tells me that fairy-stories, or myths, are so inherent in the fabric of our nature, that we’re going to get to them, one way or another. Not science, not skepticism, not secularism, not simple old Gen-X cynicism will stop us from discovering, rediscovering, and/or creating the kind of stories we’ve needed for centuries (the ones Tolkien would say give us fantasy, escape, recovery, and consolation).

  5. Arabella Figg says

    Dr. Sturgis, thanks for your kind words. After this, I really do look forward to your comments on the Postmodern Fairytale post!

    Yes, about Disneyfied fairy tales–this is exactly my point. How will a child react to Anderson’s The Little Mermaid’s poignant and spiritual ending after being introduced to the story with the Diz flick? Will he/she reject the sad but true ending for the fake happy one? (This needs to be carried over to the Fairytales thread.)

    I adore Bujold’s highly and philosophically entertaining Miles, and Connie Willis—to say nothing of the dog!—though the ending of Passages leaves me scratching my head. Doria Russell’s splendid The Sparrow and Children of God were so wrenching I haven’t read her others. I missed Stardust (reviews were iffy) and will check out Gaiman (I’m currently reading The Little White Horse, so praised earlier at HogPro). For an unusually thoughtful Christian SF/fantasy writer, try Brenda W. Clough’s highly-praised How Like a God and its sequel, Doors of Death and Life.

    Definitely a pithy definition of postmodernism. About skepticism–in A Circle of Quiet, L’Engle advised that we all need a good crap detector. Yes! I agree with you; as we explore, T-truth will out (whether we accept it or not). Unfortunately, too many Christians are taught to be excisional thinkers (avoid and deplore anything uncomfortable) rather than critical thinkers (examine the uncomfortable for truth).

    As to creating good stories if we’re not given them, I think of Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning (the edition including his later speeches).

    Curious Black hopes he finds a T-treat in everything…

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