A Few of My Favorite Things, Fantasy, Part II

I had a reader ask me about my series “A Few of My Favorite Things.” Particularly, about my love of fantasy.

“It’s not just plain old Tolkien,” they said.

“Well, it is,” I said. “But I try to say something new. Everybody knows you should read Tolkien.”

So, here it is again: some fantasy novels that are not Tolkien and that you might not have read yet.

Afar by Leila del Luca and Kit SeatonAfar by Leila del Duca and Kit Seaton

For those of you who like graphic novels (I’m usually not one of them), you can pick up Afar. I enjoyed reading this short graphic novel with beautiful artwork. It’s about astral projections, which I was all about. I do wish the book was longer. Because I wanted more astral projections. I wanted to explore the worlds the main character Boetema visited. This would be great for someone who likes fantasy and graphic novels, and wants a quick read. You are welcome to pick up this graphic novel and get entranced…for much too short a period of time.

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

I don’t know why I didn’t get on this bandwagon earlier, but I did this past January. The Witcher series is a popular video game here in the United States. I first heard about it when reading an article comparing Skyrim to one of The Witcher‘s installations. My brother and my partner also tried their hand at reading the books that inspired the game. It took me several more months to decide to interlibrary loan the first novel in the series (there are short strories proceeding it). It’s an old school fantasy with a good dose of humor; and I want to know what happens with this Child Surprise and Geralt-who-sleeps-with-everyone. This is a good novel for those of us who like old school high fantasies, a la Tolkien.

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wellscloud roads by martha wells

I don’t understand why everyone hasn’t read Martha Wells’s Books of the Raksura. I don’t understand why it’s not famous like Wheel of Time or Mistborn. Perhaps because it is so unlike anything else, it’s hard to compare it to anything to drum up such a large readership. The down low is: the story follows a bunch of shapeshifters (one shape is humanoid form, the other is that bat-slash-lizard thing on the cover to the right) on their journey to find a new home, now that their original home seems to be cursed. Who would I recommend this to? Everyone. It’s really good. It plays on several fantasy tropes as well as gender roles, so it’s all around fun.

“Professor C”

Musing over an empty glass because I had drank all my water and didn’t presume to ask for or go get more, I was sitting on a packed, screened porch with a dozen people who self-identified as “writers” in the middle of the Midwestern United States. As someone who writes fiction, I somewhat self-identify as such. But it always seems pretentious to say “I’m a writer” or “they were writers” – so let’s just call a possum a possum: they were college professors. (And that one chef.)

“I hate going around hearing ‘Professor H,* Professor H,'” said the man sitting next to me. “I just want to go someplace once and be called Carl.”

“Have your students call you that,” I said.

“No, the whole German* department requires our students call them ‘Professor so-and-so,'” he replied. “Otherwise the students get too forward with the female professors.”

***

During grad school, I wanted to make small talk with the one professor I truly admired at the program. So, I asked, “Shauna, did you get time to relax over break? Or did you have to write the entire time?”

My professor gave me a strange look, though she eventually answered.

I think that looked stemmed from wondering why I can called her “Shauna,” and not “Professor Jones.”

***

In the first class of my undergraduate education, my professor asked the class to call her “Ms. O’Neale.” Calling someone “Doctor” or “Professor” sounded too stuffy.

I found that the rest of my professors followed similar – or even more informal patterns. 90% preferred their first names. The others preferred a Ms. or Mr.; one preferred more of a nickname.

***

Now, I will stand in front of classes as the instructor or co-instructor. And the primary teaching faculty will introduce me as “Professor Ciota.” I don’t correct them. Sometimes, I try the moniker on for size. It has a minor thrill to it for a moment.

But I really don’t want to go around being called “Professor Ciota.” “Ms. Ciota” is fine from time to time – it feels more like me. But I really am “Rebecca,” first and foremost. So why shouldn’t students call me by my name?

Like the professor during my first undergraduate class, I find “Professor” too stuffy, too pretentious. I don’t see education as including a “Sage on the Stage” – like a “Professor” or a “Doctor.” (Though, I do think appropriate amounts of either experience or education should be required for professorships.) I want students and faculty to learn alongside each other. Learning is a discussion, not a lecture.

Yes, I want the students (and my colleagues) to respect me and my value as an instructor and scholar. But I don’t particularly care for a constant reminder that I am some lofty being that my students have to crane their necks to loo up to. I want to be alongside them, watching them learn and steering them when appropriate.

I’d rather just be “Rebecca.”

*Names and departments have been changed.