Posted by: Mish | June 23, 2010

Peter Beagle’s Fantasy Worlds

To celebrate Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Day I’m turning back the clock. Long before I thought in terms of genres, writers, or other such adult notions, the Last Unicorn was one of my favourite films. The quest to find out what happened to the other unicorns captivated my imagination countless times.

the Fantasy Worlds of Peter BeagleWhile exploring the shelves of my favourite bookstore a few years ago, I came across the Fantasy Worlds of Peter Beagle. Three words immediately grabbed my attention, the Last Unicorn. Needless to say, I purchased the book then and there. I had heard of Peter Beagle before, but with so many other books to read hadn’t really paid him much attention. The mint condition 1978 edition was a gold mine and thoroughly enjoyable. After mentioning Beagle’s works here and there, I recently decided to share my fuller thoughts about them.

Peter Beagle wrote the screenplay for the 1982 animated film version of the Last Unicorn, which has an excellent cast. Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Tammy Grimes, Angela Lansbury, Tammy Grimes, and the classic horror icon, Christopher Lee gave voices to the colorful characters. The musical also features music written by Jimmy Webb and performed by America. The beautiful melodies and blend of soft rock and classical music well suit the fairie tale (title song further down). It’s a good soundtrack. I still watch the movie from time to time on the ancient VHS recording from Grandma. I’ve heard that scenes and lines were omitted when it was switched to DVD so I’m reluctant to buy a new copy. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

the Last Unicorn trailer

Also representative of my childhood is the Lord of the Rings, for which Peter Beagle co-wrote the screenplay. Does anyone remember the 1978 animated version these days? It’s dated and kind of cheesy, but it was fun to watch. Director-writer Peter Jackson attributes the movie to his reading J.R.R. Tolkien as a teenager, which later led to producing his own movie version of the trilogy. That the Fellowship of the Rings would be so well received in 2001 or create a resurgence in fantasy was beyond anyone’s guess.

LOTR, Frodo and Merlin:

Beagle’s numerous novels and short stories span genres, from fantasy to literary fiction to non-fiction. Among his handful of screenplays is an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation. A man of many talents, he is also a folk/filk musician. I would really like to take in some panel discussions, concerts, and jam sessions at a SF/F convention where he’s a guest of honor. I wanted to return this year to my first con, ConFusion, but couldn’t. Cons are phenomenally fun experiences anyway, but Beagle’s works were part of my fantastical childhood. Now that I’ve rediscovered them, they’re part of my fantastical adulthood too.

Peter Beagle and Phil Sigunick, “I See By My Outfit”

Last year, author Sharon Lee declared June 23rd Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Day. As she puts it:

“A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.”

I celebrate SF/F year round, but special days are nice. I had originally intended to share more than just blurbs about Lion’s Blood and Zulu Heart by Steven Barnes, but writing about long-time favourites can be as difficult as walking the Enneagram. I wanted to spend more time with them and I had these ramblings in the queue already.

Who or what are your favourite SF/F writers and works? Have the genres had any impact on your life?

Beagle at ConFusion, reminiscent of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf

America, “the Last Unicorn”

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