The cruel, hot summer
led into the long, hard fall,
becoming the dark, killing winter
until spring replenished us all.

Coda to Bill Willingham's Fables -- The Mean Seasons

'Yes, Majesty, I know we have an agreement, but. . . . Kit is not a party. . . . I'll discuss it with him, but I think he's going to read the Accord the same way I do. . . . Yes, of course he's responsible for the Wood, but it's not the Wood itself that's having a problem here, now is it? Alright, alright -- I'll discuss it with him. We'll talk again. Damn! Kit, Titania says some blonde bimbo and a bunch of bears -- her description, not mine -- are trying to stage a revolution at the Court and she insists that it's your responsibility because the Wood spans the Border . . . . It must be serious -- she called me 'Storm Lord.' Damn! Again? Nobody ever calls me on this thing. Hello? Oppressor? Who's an oppressor? What are you talking about? Annie! Are you oppressed?'

'No, sir, but I'm late. Excuse me, sir.'

'Look -- who are you? Are you the blonde bimbo I just heard about? What do you mean, the proletariat is rising? Listen, get one thing clear right now. . . .'

'What's going on?'

'She hung up on me. Kit, we've got a problem. Here, hold on a minute, I have to make a phone call. Titania? They've threatened the House -- calling for revolt among the kitchen staff and the Annies. Stop laughing -- they've never met Mrs. Ware or Iain -- they have no idea. Well, yes, it might be fun to watch, but I'm not going to let it get that far. . . . No, Majesty. Let me remind you -- the House and everyone in it is mine, and you don't screw around with what's mine. We're on our way. Pix -- can you get into a cell phone? And, like, go from phone to phone?'

'I think so -- the network here is wireless. But I'm supposed to meet Paidreg -- oh, there he is.'

'I have an idea. Paidreg, sorry, but I need Pix for something.'

'Are we going to fight?'

'No, Pix, not if I can avoid it. Paidreg. . . .'

'Take me with -- I want to fight too.'

'We're not going to fight -- it's more of a special ops kind of thing.'

'Cool! Like the Dirty Dozen! I'm coming.'

'Kit, have you been showing them war movies again? Alright, alright! I don't have time to argue -- just don't get in the way.'

###

'Robin, I'd no idea you could control storms like that.'

'I didn't either until I did it. I've never really called one up deliberately before.'

'Well, you were pretty angry -- I've never seen you that angry.'

'Once.'

'But that was . . . oh, right -- that time. But three storms at once? And all right on target. They were very nicely coordinated.'

'Why thank you. But it was stupid of them to split their forces like that. How did you get all the squirrels and foxes to cooperate? I didn't think that was possible.'

'Magic word -- 'food'. And I showed them where.'

'And I didn't know there were that many skunks in the wood -- or that much underbrush. Hah! I certainly don't envy them getting back to their camp all soaking wet to find that -- Oh, there's my phone again. Pix? What's up? I thought you were already out of there.'

You have to email me to a computer. I don't know how to get out of a phone.

'Can you get out of a computer?'

Yes. Miss Liath finally showed me how. But you have to turn your computer on.

'I'm on my way. And Pix, you did very well. Getting them to attack each other was sheer genius.'

That was Paidreg's idea. It helped that it was raining so hard -- I don't think they could see who they were fighting. Wait -- you can just email me to Paidreg -- we were supposed to get together anyway.

'OK, but join us I the Pub -- my treat. I think we're entitled to a little celebration.'

What if the larger-than-life characters who inhabited the stories we read as children -- tall tales and fairy tales alike -- moved among us? What if they had lives outside the boundaries of their original stories, forging new tales among the skyscrapers of New York City, the dazzle of Las Vegas, or the sands of Arabia? In his award-winning Fables series, Bill Willingham explores this possibility with verve, plucking a variety of fictional characters from their original milieu and setting them loose on new adventures set against the backdrop of a war with an unknown (at first) Adversary. And so we have the Big Bad Wolf as a gumshoe detective, Boy Blue as a dashing hero, Snow White as a capable bureaucrat, the three pigs as rebellious leaders and so much more.

Across twelve collections, one novel and various spin-offs, Willingham consistently delivers clever plotting, engaging characters and a world that's all his, for all that he's borrowed the bits and pieces. Fables is a glorious treat for anyone who ever wondered what happened after they turned the page on a fairy tale.

Fables opens with Legends in Exile, a murder mystery of sorts that skillfully sets the scene for the entire series, introducing readers to Fabletown and its more famous denizens.

In volume two, Animal Farm (the Orwell reference is very apt!), readers get to meet the less than human Fables upstate at the titular farm, where all is not as idyllic as everyone would like.

Storybook Love brings together four short stories that illustrate the ambition, talent and deceit that some Fables are capable of. The stories may not be all that much about love, but they're excellent character pieces for Bigby Wolf and Jack.

March of the Wooden Soldiers brings the Fables' conflict with The Adversary front and center, gives Boy Blue a chance to shine (in a flashback), exposes Prince Charming's political ambitions and reveals a rather interesting pregnancy.

The Mean Seasons another collection of shorts, allows Cinderella and Bigby to shine while Prince Charming discovers being in charge isn't quite as much fun as he thought it would be.

Boy Blue takes another star turn in Homelands, which also explores why and how The Adversary came to power.

Arabian Nights (And Days) explores the world of the Arabic Fables, seemingly untouched by The Adversary.

1001 Nights of Snowfall is a side-story set outside the main continuity set again in the lands of the Arabic Fables. Snowfall features Snow White playing the role of Scheherazade, spinning tales for the Sultan, in hopes of gaining his support against The Adversary.

Wolves continues with Mowgli still in search of the wayward Bigby. And once found, Bigby's made an offer he really can't refuse: perform a task for Prince Charming and gain permission to rejoin his family.

Sons of Empire blends the main Adversary storyline with a series of character-based shorts, including one focusing on Santa Claus. Hansel (yes, that Hansel) makes an appearance in the main story, establishing himself as perhaps the most . . . disturbing character Willingham has introduced yet.

The Good Prince sees the title character rise above his tortured past and humble present to rally the Fables to his side as the inevitable showdown with The Adversary looms.

It's not often GMR reviews a standalone issue of a running comic, but we did just that with Fables Issue 75, since it was just too good to wait for the next collection for a look-see.

War and Pieces brings an end to the war with The Adversary, bringing both joy and sadness to those who survive.

The Dark Ages shows the aftermath of the war, proving conclusively that winning isn't everything.

Peter and Max marks Bill Willingham's first foray into a novel-length Fables prose work, exploring the rather wild backgrounds of Peter (as in Piper) and Bo Peep.

Fables also has a companion series, Jack of Fables, featuring Jack, who, though exiled, is still up to all his old tricks.

Jack comes back into the fold, sort of, in a mini-series within the larger series: The Great Fables Crossover, which finds the Fables distracted from their current woes by a god who wants to erase their universe and start over with a clean slate.

With Fables, The Deluxe Edition: Book One, the first ten issues (volumes one and two above) get not only a reprint, but a facelift.

And lastly, we would be remiss if we did not pay tribute to James Jean, the talent behind each marvelous cover for Fables. Fans of Jean -- and Fables will definitely want to track down a copy of Fables Covers -- The Art of James Jean, which contains not only all the covers, but an afterward from Willingham and some other goodies!

 

 

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Series Reading

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Words and Music

Kage Baker reading her The Empress of Mars novella

A reading from Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn

Peter S. Beagle reading 'The Fifth Season', 'Marty and the Messenger', 'Mr. McCaslin', 'None But A Harper (Ibid.)', 'The Rock in the Park' and 'The Stickball Witch'

Excerpts from Peter S. Beagle's forthcoming novels, Here Be Dragons and Summerlong

Elizabeth Bear reads The Chains that You Refuse

Black 47's 'Liverpool Fantasy'

An excerpt from Paul Brandon's The Wild Reel novel

Tunes from Paul Brandon's old group, Rambling House and his new group, Sunas

Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's The War for The Oaks movie trailer

Nicholas Burbridge's 'Open House'

Cats Laughing's 'For It All'

Charles de Lint performing his 'Sam's Song'

Gaelic Storm's 'Kiss Me'

Christopher Golden's 'The Deal'

The opening chapter of The Weaver and The Factory Maid, the first novel in Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballad series.

An excerpt from Deborah Grabien's Rock & Roll Never Forgets -- A JP Kinkaid Mystery

'The Oak King March' (featuring Will Harmon and Zina Lee on fiddles and Pete Strickler on bouzouki), composed in honour of Peter S. Beagle

'The Winter Queen Reel' (played by Roger Landres), composed in honour of Jane Yolen

Chuck Lipsig on 'Star of Munster' variations

McDermott's 2 Hours' 'Fox on the Run'

Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice', plus a reading of 'Solstice' by Stevenson herself.

An excerpt from James Stoddard's 'The High House'

Tinker's Own performing 'The Tinker's Black Kettle', a jig by Charles de Lint from The Little Country

A Vasen tune for your enjoyment

Cathrynne Valente's 'The Surgeon's Wife'

Cathrynne Valente reading a selection titled 'The Tea Maid and The Tailor' from The Orphan's Tales

Robin Williamson's 'Five Denials on Merlin's Grave'

Interviews

Kage Baker

Peter S. Beagle

Steven Brust

Emma Bull and Emma Bull & Will Shetterly on the War for the Oaks screenplay

Tom Canty

Glen Cook

Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant of YBFH

Charles de Lint in 1998 and 2006

Gardner Dozois

Brian, Wendy and Toby Froud

Neil Gaiman in 2004 and 2005

William Gibson

Christopher Golden

James Hetley

Michael Kaluta

Patricia McKillip

James Stoddard

Catherynne Valente

Gordon Van Gelder

Charles Vess

Terri Windling

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