Ian, Ibbotson, Ingalls

Putting together today’s post was a bit of a challenge; there just aren’t that many I authors out there, and when you limit it to women authors of speculative fiction, the number dwindles further. (Yes, I am aware that Q and X will also be difficult. Stay tuned to see my approach, which will either be brilliant or a brilliant failure.) Today’s authors include Janis Ian, Eva Ibbotson, and Rachel Ingalls. I would also have included Sue Isles, but I couldn’t find any of her books locally.

“The Djinn” by Janis Ian

Janis Ian is known far and wide as a singer and songwriter, but she has also written science fiction. Indeed, some of her songs are SFnal, and there is an entire book of stories based on her songs (Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian).

“The Djinn” is about a fairly ordinary man — boring job, small apartment, no prospects, no girlfriend — who finds a djinn in a a container of sun-dried tomatoes. He wishes for all the predictable stuff and winds up with more than he bargained for, as is usually the way with such tales. It’s a fun story, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Find Janis Ian online at www.janisian.com.

Dial-a-Ghost by Eva Ibbotson

Ibbotson writes what would primarily be characterized as middle-grade fiction, including such favorites as Which Witch? and The Dragonfly Pool. In Dial-a-Ghost, we start with the Wilkinsons, a family of ghosts dating from the Second World War, when a bomb fell on their house. After briefly haunting a knickers shop, they discover the Dial-a-Ghost business, which exists to help connect ghosts with people who want their homes haunted. At the same time, Dial-a-Ghost is trying to find a home for the Shriekers, a pair of nasty ghosts who exist solely to hurt children. When their paperwork is mixed up, sending them to the wrong abodes, it’s a delightful surprise for Oliver Smith, an orphaned boy who was convinced a ghost would kill him. (Oliver, by the by, is an orphan who loves the orphanage he was raised in, but has inherited the Snodde-Brittle family mansion, much to the disgust of his cousins who had wanted it for themselves. Why, yes, it was a cousin who told him ghost stories meant to scare him.)

This is a delightful read. If you like reading kids’ books — or if you buy for kids (roughly 8-12), definitely check out Ibbotson’s work. Humor and fantasy, and kids being kids and forming friendships as they do all add up to enjoyable books. Sadly, Ibbotson died last year, so there will be no new books.

For more on Eva Ibbotson, see Wikipedia’s entry on her.

Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

Dorothy hears voices on the radio — voices that talk directly to her, telling her that things will be all right, that she’ll have another child; voices that give her news items no one else hears; voices that no one else hears. Perhaps she’s having a nervous breakdown. Her family life isn’t the best.

Then things get stranger. Aquarius the Monsterman, who prefers to be called Larry, shows up on her doorstep. Instead of calling the police, she takes him in and befriends him.

I wondered, as I’m sure I was meant to, whether Larry was real, or only as real as the voices on the radio — if the announcements Dotty heard about him were simply delusional. Still, I loved the touches of humanity, his vegetarianism, her purchase of bags full of avocados. All the while Dotty and Larry build their relationship, other relationships go on around them — Dorothy and her husband Fred, Dorothy and her friend Estelle, Estelle’s relationships with her two lovers, Estelle’s disintegrating control of her teenagers. It’s in all of these relationships that this story finds its heart.

The novel is short, easy to read in an evening, but it will stay with you far longer than that. I saw the ending coming, and I had to keep reading to see everyone’s role in getting there. I noticed that the local library has a couple of novellas by Ingalls on the shelf; I may pick those up the next time I visit.

Unfortunately, Rachel Ingalls does not have a Website, and her Wikipedia entry is just a stub. If you want to know more about her, I can’t point you anywhere definitive. However, if you want to read very human writing that explores some odd what-ifs, read her work.

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