Monday, May 9, 2011

Siren Calls from the City of Angels


For this week's Mythopoeic Monday, I'm going to put my fellow ramblers in touch with a great resource person: Nick Owchar.  Or, as I like to call him, the Reason for the L.A. Times to Exist.  Nick is the Deputy Books Editor at the US's second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper.  He also often reports on things that matter to mythopoets, such as Star Wars.  But once a month is when he does his truest and best work.  Flying his standard high, he writes The Siren's Call. I have not been the first in the blogosphere to recognize Owlchar's work: the late, great blog The Cimmerian commented on his attentions to Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith on more than one occasion.  If you are a book person, you know how seriously our genre works are taken by the literati.  They ignore such popular (sneer) works of escapism (double sneer) except for when they are compelled to pay attention, and they resort to mockery.  This in spite of the fact that they cannot hold a candle to writers such as Tolkien or Lewis in their discursive writing, let alone in their powers of invention.  Thus Owchar is a rare bird to begin with, but his position in the high places of American media makes his work even more important.  While the first reason to bring him to your attention is because I believe you stand to benefit from his work as I have, secondly I do so because we need to support such work for the good of the mythopoeic community as both sub-creators and consumers.

Siren, The Louvre

Nick in 2009

Nick before the Siren got hold of him.

The Siren's Call is dedicated to fiction that fits into the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, magical realism, and to non-fiction works that treat of mythic matters.  Oh, and also mysteries and graphic novels and travel books and the classics of Western literature.  See what I mean?  All over the place, like a real mythopoet.  For example, last month's column covered books on the chupacabra, the monster of Gévaudan (a similar beast in France), and the kraken.  Great stuff if you were working on creating your own real monster for your adventure or putting together a cryptozoological hoax as a mystery to be solved.  Both the mythic and the science angles are covered.  Also, Owchar has you covered this month on land and on sea.  For readers of our interests, Nick will turn you on to new novels to entertain and new sources to research. 

NOAA scientists aboard the G. Gordon examining a giant squid off the coast of Louisiana.  Photo by Smithsonian.

Now, I wish today's post could be all sunshine, and rainbows, and monstrous women singing you to your doom, but this gem of a column is not getting its due at the paper.  Not only is the Siren's Call monthly only (an outrage!  Make Siren's Call weekly!  Give Owlchar a limo!  A raise!), but it is accessed from the Books page only and it seems past months of the column are only being displayed from so far back.  If this is not the case, then the way to find them is unfriendly as to render them practically non-existent.  (Don't make me do the syllogistic thing and show you what this says about the Times' existence!)  In the course of Googling like crazy for today's blog, I did run across this Archive.  I have no idea how to navigate there, otherwise.  So first order of business, and the one that will require the least from the L.A. Times, is to give each one of these features (most importantly, Siren's Call) their own landing page off off the main Books page for all the previous months.  This would be an easy way to make the columns more visible and more useful to their audience.

In sum, get hold of the L.A. Times online or at the news-stand and make The Siren's Call a part of your mythopoeic diet.  I hope you will also look for ways to make our influence more visible in the market place so that providers like the L.A. Times get the message that we are customers worth reaching and that people like Nick Owchar are to be given the resources to meet our demand and the rewards for doing so well.

Just a parting reminder for any Lakers' fans.


  1. Just stumbled on this from NPR:

  2. Neat! I didn't even know about the Siren Calls til now. You've given me a lot of new stuff to read.

    I just wish the LA Times navigation was a little more intuitive to locate archived columns.

  3. Thanks, Sarah! This post got lots of hits, so I can't help but hope that some day we're going to go over to take a look at The Siren's Call and be (almost) as blown away by the site as we are the excellent content.