Today’s letter is X. There are plenty of books with X in the title, but I haven’t read most of them, so I’ll keep this short, stick to stories I have read, and mix it up.
X is for Xanth, the very silly universe of light fantasy novelist Piers Anthony. I’ve only read a few of these books, but it’s still going after many years. I’ll give you a link to the Wikipedia page, which lists the lot.
It’s full of puns - even the world’s name is resemble the name Piers Anthony. Xanth! Get it? The country is one where you have to show some signs of magical ability or off you go to Mundania. If you are a fannish type you will recognise the term as connected to “mundane”, not just a word for ordinary, everyday, but for non-fans, as Muggle in Harry Potter.
The puns and jokes are an integral part of the stories. One pun I liked when I read this years ago was the shoe tree. Here in Mundania a shoe tree is something you stick your shoes on when not wearing them to keep them in good condition. In Xanth, it’s an actual tree whose fruit grows into shoes, which you can pick, clean out and wear.
There are many creatures from our fantastical bestiaries, centaurs among them, and they aren’t, thank goodness, the kind you find in Harry Potter, who have no interest in what’s going on outside their tribes and even banish one of their kind for being too friendly with wizards.
The books are available on line, both in print and ebook, great for a light read.
Xenocide is the killing of non humans, which happens in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, far less cheerful than the Xanth series. The first book is military SF, but with a difference. The boys at Battle School are fighting the aliens from their computers. Spoiler, but not really, is that they think they are doing simulations. Not too much of a spoiler, because I figured it out very early in Ender’s Game, and I’m sure you will too. I read the original trilogy soon after the books came out, though there has been more since then. There was a film of it, which I haven’t seen. The hero, a young boy called Ender Wiggins, is horrified to learn what he has done - and the whole war was a mistake anyway - so he takes the final egg of the Hive Queen(the enemy were an insectoid race)and goes looking for a planet where her people can settle. He becomes a Speaker For The Dead, someone who is asked to speak at funerals, but also, in his case, he speaks for the race which has almost been wiped out.
The author’s political and social views are controversial, but there is no doubt that the Ender books are powerful writing.
These books are easily available on line.
So, who enjoyed Xena, Warrior Princess? I confess I have only seen the earlier seasons, but they were a lot of fun. I sort of lost interest when they started to get more serious, but the earlier episodes were hilarious.
Xena, played by Kiwi actress Lucy Lawless with an American accent, was a warrior woman who first appeared in the sister series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, as a villain! Then she got her own show and wandered a world of Greek mythology that looked suspiciously like New Zealand, with her faithful companion Gabrielle, doing good and encountering gods and monsters and whatnot, and eventually falling in love. They were considered gay icons before that happened and the actresses came here to Australia for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, gowned up and waving at their gay fans.
I have another admission to make: well before Xena appeared on the scene, I wrote three stories about a warrior woman called... Xanthia. My stories were having fun with the swords and sorcery genre, set in my own world. Two of them were published in a small magazine called Eye Of Newt, long gone, alas! I did commission a Xanthia painting from a local fantasy artist, Esther Mace, who had illustrated the published stories. It hangs in my lounge room, over the sofa, a treasured possession. I can’t share it without the artist’s permission and I haven’t a clue where she is now.
I haven’t been able to do anything else with these stories since Xena showed up. Female fighters are common in fantasy, but I can’t see anyone taking these now. I have re-used the universe, though.
So... have you got any favourite fantastical beings or worlds starting with X?