Author Archives: Greg R. Fishbone

Where Evil Lives

When I saw the infographic below, I knew I had to pass it along to the followers of Mixed Up Files. Movoto has created a visual comparison of “evil villain lairs” from popular culture that really got me thinking about the places in our books where villains can chill out, and where heroes might find themselves deep behind enemy lines.

Some of the lairs below are massive and imposing, but it’s not size alone that makes a great home for villainy. Malfoy Manor (shown below) is a great Gothic castle of infamy, but Lucius Malfoy was only ever a minion at best, and Draco was more of a bully with aspirations of minionhood. Meanwhile Lord Voldemort, the real villain of the Harry Potter series, lived for a while under another man’s turban, in the dreams of a young boy, in the pages of an old diary, and in a bunch of other random objects. Voldemort was terrifying precisely because he did not care where or how he had to live as long as he could find some way to prolong his life and plot his return to power.

Now look at Mordor and Isengard from Middle Earth. These are some tall, imposing structures! This creates an amazing contrast with our primary heroes, the Hobbits, who tend to be short, barefoot homebodies. The Baggins family Hobbit-hole is an inward-looking place of quiet introspection, while the Eye of Mordor is constantly looking outward in every direction. Coincidence? There are no coincidences in well-plotted fiction.

We also see this kind of contrast in the Jolly Roger from Peter Pan, which is the polar opposite of the lair of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. The Jolly Roger is a mobile weapons platform built in a real shipyard and staffed by actual pirates, while the Lost Boys have an underground clubhouse they built themselves. The mismatch in lairs follows other mismatches in the story–Pan vs. Hook, boy vs. man, wooden swords vs. metal blades, youth vs. experience, fairness vs. cheating, playfulness vs. deadly revenge–all giving Hook and his crew every possible advantage. When the poor villain just can’t catch a break, we readers celebrate his defeat.

The villain’s impregnable lair can usually be infiltrated by a scarecrow, a cowardly lion, and a tin woodsman. Guards can be tricked or overcome. Sometimes the entire place can come crashing down at the hands of a seemingly outmatched hero.

The message for the villains is, enjoy your evil lair but don’t get too comfortable!

Villain Lairs

Villain Lairs

What are some of your favorite villain lairs from middle grade fiction? Put your suggestions in the comments below!

Diversity Baby Needs You

weneeddiversebooks

Diversity Baby was born on April 2nd, so she’s no April Fool.

Diversity Baby knows is curious about her world and all the people in it.

Diversity Baby comes from a family of readers.

Diversity Baby’s bookshelf has plenty of space for new books.

Diversity Baby needs to experience many viewpoints.

Diversity Baby needs to know that she can be a hero.

Diversity Baby needs to know that everyone can be a hero.

Diversity Baby was about one month old when the BEA’s annual BookCon announced its lineup of featured authors, all of the same race and gender, and the Internet exploded with calls for change.

Diversity Baby doesn’t know about Tumblr, Twitter, or trending hashtags, but she would have been proud of the effort that many thousands of people expended to bring more voices to the books she will grow up with.

Diversity Baby also didn’t attend the annual New England Society of Book Writers and Illustrators conference that happened during the weekend of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign.

Diversity Baby would have heard, from editors at the conference, that decades of effort have been slowly turning the tide in favor of diversity.

Diversity Baby would have heard anecdotal evidence that major booksellers are no longer rejecting books with minority characters featured prominently on the cover.

Diversity Baby would have heard that the marketing departments, the last holdouts at many major publishing houses, have finally come around.

Diversity Baby would have heard that diverse books are now being seen as a big plus within the industry, and that editors are searching for new and original voices.

Diversity Baby will be about two months old when BookCon happens, now including a new panel of diverse authors from the #weneeddiversebooks movement–including Grace Lin, Matt de la Peña and Jacqueline Woodson.

Diversity Baby needs diverse books.

Diversity Baby needs diverse voices.

Every baby is a Diversity Baby.

Greg R. Fishbone is the proud father of Diversity Baby and her big sister, Diversity Girl. Greg writes galactic fiction for young readers and has a new webcomic at http://gfishbone.com/septina

Happy Pi Day!

I’ve decided there’s not enough math in my life.

As an author, I deal in words, artwork, character development, and plotlines–but I’m rarely if ever called on to solve a quadratic equation. Perhaps once a year, when I hit that one line item on the income tax form where you have to solve for x2+3x-7 and put the result in Box 32, and even then I use a program that does the heavy lifting for me.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Back in elementary school, I loved math. I loved math even more than I loved writing stories. I gave myself bonus questions to solve because it was such a disappointment when my homework assignments ended. Math and I were best buds until 7th grade, when math, completely unprovoked, suddenly started to punch me in the face on a regular basis. Algebra. Geometry. Trig. Calculus. Math jabbed me with blow after blow until I gave up the fight and enrolled in law school, where math is statutorily barred from the building.

But every once in a while, I miss my old friendship with math. Especially at this time of year. March 14th–3.14–is also known as Pi Day, when the date resembles history’s most famous transcendental number.

I’d love to review all the dozens of pi-themed novels on my bookshelf, but the closest thing I have is Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, and that book doesn’t actually contain much math, unless you count Pi’s calculation of a safe circumference around a waterlogged tiger. Likewise, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen both have a lot less math (and more Nazis) than you would imagine from their titles.

Instead, celebrate Pi Day by checking out the middle grade “Do the Math” series by Wendy Lichtman. For older readers there are math-focused YA characters in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, younger readers will enjoy Jon Scieszka’s Math Curse, and adults can bake pies with a circumference-to-radius ratio of 3.14159 (hint: think round). If you have any additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

I like pumpkin.

I’m frankly surprised that more authors haven’t turned to math for inspiration. For example, consider the fact that pi is non-terminating and non-repeating. That means it never ends and never repeats itself. If we could make a book accomplish that same feat, it would literally be impossible to put down. Ever.

If you can’t get enough of this year’s Pi Day festivities, you can start preparing for Tau Day–named for a constant with the value of roughly 6.28–coming up on June 28th. And get excited for 2015, just one year away, when we will celebrate 3/14/15 9:26:54, both AM and PM, the only two moments in an entire century represented by pi’s first ten digits.