The Daily Scroll was created for visitors who want to learn more about all three. It’s bursting with imaginative micro-articles, cartoons & passages from the writings of authors & artists.

Fantasizing,Fotos,Fridays offer pictures chosen to stimulate our imaginations, awaken inspiration & allow creativity free rein to invent theories or micro-stories based on what we see. Imagination-Exercising entries--which appear on whatever day they feel like--provide a few words as inspiration for our creativity. Both are fun!

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review of Mariah's Dream by Grace Bridges

Cover of "Mariah's Dream" (The Vortex of Éire, 1) by Grace Bridges

Mariah's Dream (The Vortex of Éire, 1) by Grace Bridges  (Author)
Paperback: 290 pages
Publisher: Splashdown Books (July 15, 2015)
Paperback 13.98; ebook 2.99

I became familiar with Kiwi author and publisher (Splashdown Press), Grace Bridges, almost a decade ago when I was invited to join the online authors group, Lost Genre Guild. I read extracts of Aqua-Synthesis (a series of interconnected SF stories) all written by LGG members including Grace.

She began writing a near-future SF novel titled Cyber-Dublin in about 2009-10. I read the manuscript before its publication and enjoyed it--chiefly because of her characters and one particularly cool setting near the ocean. I bought the paperback and I’m very glad that I did since it appears to be out of print. (Maybe there will be a revised edition?)

Grace sent me the antepenultimate (next to next to last   ;-D) pdf version of "Mariah’s Dream" well over a month ago. As much as I wanted to begin reading as soon as I opened the file, "life" intervened.

I began reading "Mariah's Dream" in the worst possible way--snatching five or ten minutes and spending half that time looking for where I'd left off. I have a Kindle and I read news and nonfiction online sometimes for hours but I'm old-fashioned when it comes to reading fiction. Quality fiction is best read offline in the comfy chair next to a reading lamp. And coffee. And chocolate. Or outside amidst the rustling shade of trees.

Was the paperback edition of "Mariah's Dream" out yet?

What happened next would Grace’s fault. This claim may be difficult to describe much less defend.

Five years ago I began reading "Cyber-Dublin". After reading just a few pages of it, I knew I could relax and let Grace's characters draw me along into their lives and even their thoughts. With Grace, I’m no longer part reader and part manuscript editor—a frame of mind authors have to battle whenever we read for pleasure. I can trust this author to tell an interesting story--free of plot gaps and sloppy characterization. 

I stopped reading (again) and opened Amazon-US. Mariah's Dream was out in paperback. For some reason, only one copy was available. I ordered it at once lest it escape me. When my c/o/p/y storyteller arrived I offered her the other comfy chair and settled in for what I already knew would be an absorbing character-driven story.



I read more fantasy than I do SF so when reading the latter I prefer stories set in the near-future like Mariah’s Dream. However, I tend to dislike dystopia. I get depressed enough without reading entire books where every scene is set against a dystopic background. Either the characters need to escape from their nightmare life or I need to escape from the book.

Mariah’s Dream appeals to me in spite of the dystopic environment thanks in part to several characters I’ll describe later. And thanks to a variety of settings featuring the Irish countryside, its ancient paths and stone works, quaint villages and, above all, scenes in which water is more than a stage setting. Grace “does” water very well probably because she’s enamored of it.  

To be clear, not every setting in Mariah's Dream made me wish I had a bayside cottage in Balmar. I blame the World Parliament for that not Grace. Well, mostly not Grace. 

This near-future version of Earth is about as dystopian as they get. Horrifying human-created settings lurk along Belfast/Bangor waterfronts, have taken up habitation in the suburbs, and poisoned the surrounding countryside of Ireland. The first few “Mariah” chapters each begin in places populated by people in the grip of terror, despair or rage--whether near city hall, downtown workplaces, or in outlying prison-farms. Haunting fear and hopelessness have invisible roles in nearly every scene.




How did everything get this way? In the recent past and for reasons unknown, members of the “World Parliament” sowed the soil of Ireland with the “termination gene".  The Irish and the peoples of other lands were not told the WP’s objective. The gene killed every plant and effectively prevented the germination of any remaining seeds. Sterile soil and mud replaced expanses of thriving green plants not just in Ireland but throughout Europe and beyond.

Forgive the understatement but whatever those in power expected, this wasn’t it.

“Mariah’s Dream” begins some time after this disastrous decision. Scientists may be working to develop terminator-resistant fertilizers. Agricultural workers held captive on experimental farms may be using these compounds and other methods to restore vital food crops. It’s not going well, as evidenced by strict food rationing.

Once this eco-disaster have been established as universally endemic, the author adds a new level of horror in the form of a plague which kills most of the surviving population and eventually adapts to natural forms of resistance in the survivors.  



I feel the graphic details of each plague death parallel previous and subsequent deaths too closely. I learned soon enough and more than enough about how this disease progresses so I began to skim paragraphs when I saw what might be a death scene developing. 
To be blunt, I wanted more about the human reactions and less about how much vomit or blood was on the ground.

And to be fair, we see the horrified reactions of new victims, the selfless efforts of others trying to ease their suffering, and cruelly drawn-out grief of friends from the first signs of infection until the last breath. 

Even when death is not an immediate concern to the characters, empty houses, abandoned cars and starving farm animals remind them, and the reader of the devastation since the sowing of the termination gene.

The one "good thing" you can say about a plague during a famine is, once it roars in, the spectre of famine seems less terrifying.

I've thought a lot about this plague--from back when I read scenes describing the first deaths to this moment. All I'll say for now is, read the book and see what you think. Maybe later we can discuss our theories in the Comments section or elsewhere. You were going to read "Mariah's Dream"anyway, right?



Two Irish women take turns as point-of-view characters and the chapter titles reflect this. For example Chapter 1 is, “Mariah, June 2079”. The next chapter features “Faith”. The name “Mariah” appears in the book title and in the title of the first chapter. That was enough to establish Mariah as a major character, perhaps the central character. Likewise her dream must be important to her--and to the reader.

Mariah’s chapters tend to be longer than Faith’s so we see more scenes through her adult eyes than we do from teenaged Faith’s point-of-view. Mariah also serves as narrator or journal keeper. I engaged with Mariah more than any other character, except one. Maybe this is an age thing--I’m older than most of the characters.

I had other reasons for not wanting to identify with Faith. She is the victim of bullying  many times in her life. Some scenes can be painful to read. For the most part, she gives into the wishes of the other person. 

At least until she doesn’t.

Finally, Faith's story takes place half a decade before Mariah’s initial chapter begins. Could any event from that long ago in Faith's life be essential to the plot? Even the “terminator disaster” occurred more recently than the events in Faith's story. When I began reading, I worried that Faith would turn up in the last chapter as a character even older than I am. Spoiler alert: she doesn't.

Sometimes I would forget this discrepancy in years between chapters, in spite of every chapter title reminding us of the year. This was confusing. Don't do this.

My attention perked up once Faith was a bit older and able to put all those negative experiences behind her. It was like the “Kick Me” sign had fallen off her back. She proved to be remarkably resilient. I became a fan.

Perhaps halfway through the book I began to feel that something odd was going on. “Something odd.” Oh, that helps. I told myself I was either imagining this something or I should have identified what it was by now. At least I had the sense to let it go and get back to the story.

As I wrote to a friend and fellow author, Mike Dunne,

“…as to what I'm going to say review-wise... I know some of it. Wow! This is good writing! So good that I'm managing to enjoy a dystopian near-future scenario!  The characters are richly developed and mostly very likeable--except the ones that aren't supposed to be. You already know how important good characterization is to me.

"But there's something else going on under the surface which I'd like to figure out real soon now. I mean before Grace provides the answer. I just hope it's not something devastating but then that's not Grace. (I hope.)”

"When you read Mariah’s Dream, take care that no one spoils the plot for you. I think, I hope, that you will enjoy being puzzled as much as I was."

Where was I? Oh, characters. My other human favorites were Darian and Peter—both because of their romantic attachments. You may enjoy getting to know Peter particularly in the way the author introduces him. Unlike Faith, I took an interest in Darian as soon as his character was introduced because of the cruelties he experienced.

I didn’t know what to make of Lzu until I realized that her emotional outbursts were just those of a young teen saying what she felt. I admired Naomi for her idealism and because she is so at one with her little bit of the world—almost to the point of being its mother. But Naomi is no barely human “nature goddess” incapable of making bad choices. When she makes a mistake, we can count on it to have repercussions.

My favorite character is Rufus, a stray dog, perhaps the last dog living anywhere in Ireland. Rufus is a sympathetic character from his first scene to his last. I wonder if Grace gave Rufus more scenes than she originally intended to. In the beginning, she uses him as an independent observer to actions that no human character witnesses--a plot device more than a character, introduced to aid readers.

Because of his unique role, Grace gives Rufus human skills like seeming to understand human speech. Even dog-lovers might be reluctant to claim that skill for their furry friends. In time, Rufus breaks out of this restrictive role. He finds a home with some characters in service to the plot, but Rufus develops into a (full) character in his own right. 

No question. Rufus is my favorite character. I was more invested in his welfare than anyone else.

The sheer number of characters in Mariah’s Dream would challenge the casts of some Russian novels. As the vendors say at sporting events, “Programs! Can’t tell the players without a program!” As soon as I finished reading the story, I went through Grace’s novel a second time, intending to gather up and write down every name I saw together with a couple of key words to remind me who they were. I was less than halfway through the book when I gave up on my cast of thousands list and switched to rereading the rest. I'm so glad I did this! I caught on to things the second time though that I hadn't noticed the first time. 

What's better than a good book? A good book that invites a second reading.



In lieu of discussing the plot.

I’m always fascinated by the fiddly details in survival stories which involve people grappling to gather the basic essentials of food and shelter. I cheer with them each time they make a discovery and hurt with them when a promising find turns out to be useless. Once the survivors secure the essentials needed to live, Grace refocuses the action on the slow acquisition of "creature comforts" sometimes discovered by accident, other times searching a likely place looking for a particular thing.

In the world of “Mariah's Dream” these moments are no Saturday afternoon treasure hunt meant for the amusement of neighborhood children. Most characters are still in potential deadly danger. Established characters do die, sometimes without much warning to friends or the reader.

Some of these searches subtly drive the plot in ways you may not expect.


I recommend Grace Bridge's "Mariah's Dream" (The Vortex of Eire, 1) to readers who enjoy near-future dystopia SF ; to those who are interested in Ireland's geography, history and customs; to those concerned about sustainable agriculture, world hunger, conservation and ecology. Recommended for adults and very mature young adults: violence, graphic images of deaths mostly from disease, gruesome imagery. Language and sexual situations sometimes drift into the US film industry's PG-13 range.

Mariah's Dream (The Vortex of Éire, 1) by Grace Bridges  (Author)
Paperback: 290 pages
Publisher: Splashdown Books (July 15, 2015) 

Mariah's Prologues 1-4: The Dog with No Name, Mothers of Belfast, Rue the Night, Strawberry Dreaming (The Vortex...Jul 16, 2015
by Grace Bridges

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Mythopoeic Awards: Winners & Finalists

2015 Mythopoeic Awards in Literature

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

      Winner !

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature--FINALISTS

Sarah Avery, Tales from Rugosa Coven (Dark Quest)

Stephanie Feldman, The Angel of Losses (Ecco)

Theodora Goss, Songs for Ophelia (Papaveria Press)

Joanne M. Harris, The Gospel of Loki (Gollancz)

Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key series, consisting of Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft; Vol. 2: Head Games; Vol. 3: Crown of Shadow; Vol.4: Keys to the Kingdom; Vol. 5: Clockworks; and Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega IDW Publishing


Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

 Winner !

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature--FINALISTS

Jonathan Auxier, The Night Gardener (Harry N. Abrams)

Merrie Haskell, The Castle Behind Thorns (Katherine Tegan Books)

Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones, The Islands of Chaldea (Greenwillow)

Robin LaFevers, His Fair Assassin series, consisting of Grave Mercy; Dark Triumph; and Mortal Heart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Natalie Lloyd, A Snicker of Magic (Scholastic)


Mythopoeic Scholarship Awards

Scholarship Awards: Inklings Studies

Winner !

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies--FINALISTS

Robert Boenig, C.S.Lewis and the Middle Ages (Kent State Univ. Press, 2012)

Monika B. Hilder, C.S. Lewis and gender series, consisting of The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (Peter Lang, 2012); The Gender Dance: Ironic Subversion in C. S. Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy (Peter Lang, 2013); and Surprised by the Feminine: A Rereading of C. S. Lewis and Gender (Peter Lang, 2013)

John Wm. Houghton, Janet Brennan Croft, Nancy Martsch, John D. Rateliff, and Robin Anne Reid, eds., Tolkien in the New Century: Essays in Honor of Tom Shippey (McFarland, 2014)

Christopher Tolkien, ed., Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, Together with Sellic Spell, by J. R. R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, 2014)


Mythopoeic Scholarship Awards

Scholarship Awards: Myth & Fantasy Studies

      Winner !

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies--FINALISTS

Brian Attebery, Stories About Stories: Fantasy and theRemaking of Myth (Oxford Univ. Press, 2014)

Daniel Gabelman, George MacDonald: Divine Carelessness andFairytale Levity (Baylor Univ. Press, 2013)

Sara Maitland, From the Forest: The Hidden Roots of ourFairy Tales (Counterpoint, 2012)

Michael Saler, As If: Modern Enchantment and the LiteraryPrehistory of Virtual Reality (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012)

Kristen Stirling, Peter Pan’s Shadows in the Modern LiteraryImagination (Routledge, 2012)