Featured (Anti-)Heroine: Rynn Jacobs

Today is October 31 and that means one very important thing. No, not Halloween; today is the birthday of one of my favourite (anti-)heroines of all time, Rynn Jacobs. And that, you may be surprised to know, is despite the fact that up until about half a year ago, I hadn’t even heard of her.

Rynn Jacobs was created by the American author Laird Koenig as the protagonist of Mr Koenig’s 1974 novel, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. A movie based very closely on this book (thanks, no doubt, to the fact that Mr Koenig himself wrote the screenplay), was produced in 1976 and it stars the extremely talented Jodie Foster as the titular little girl. A version of the story for the stage also exists. The image which you can see at the beginning of this post is from a German lobby card for the film. It is not the whole lobby card; unfortunately the lobby card is slightly larger than my scanner.😥

I only decided to watch The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane after I stumbled upon it on Amazon Prime earlier this year. Although I was familiar with the title of the film, I only had a very vague notion of what it was about. However, within the first minute, I was hooked and by the end of it, it was one of my favourite films of all time. Not long after this, I managed to get a copy of the original novel (see the image below) and I ended up loving it as well. To give a brief summary of the plot, Rynn Jacobs is a young, but highly intelligent and fiercely independent girl, who lives a rather secluded life with her father, a successful poet. Although still a child, Rynn dearly wants to live her life as she pleases, well away from the expectations and pressures of society. However, some unfortunate events conspire to put this desire at risk…

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane has been described as a horror story, simply because the story involves a number of deaths, but I think horror is not the best way to describe it. For me, it is more of a suspense story, and that suspense is created by the serious struggles Rynn faces in trying to maintain her unusual lifestyle. Incidentally, the Rynn from the book and the one from the film differ slightly. The book version of Rynn is darker, as some of her actions could be seen as downright malicious (even though those actions are born solely out of a powerful survival instinct). The film version of Rynn, on the other hand, is a lot more sympathetic; only one of her actions (the very last, in fact) could be described as being somewhat malicious. But in either case, I find Rynn to be a fascinating character. I greatly admire the strong will she has to live her life as she chooses, even when taking into consideration the extreme lengths she goes to in order to protect her independence.

There is one last thing I would like to add to this post and that is about Rynn’s name (which, as far as I can tell, is of Gaelic origin). I think it’s absolutely magnificent! It is nice and short and very pleasant-sounding. Had I known of it prior to seeing The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, I most certainly would have used it as the name for one of my characters, but having seen the film, Rynn will always be the little girl who lives down the lane to me.😊

Featured Heroine: Podkayne (AKA Poddy) Fries

Podkayne is the titular character from the novel Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein, one of the great science fiction writers of the 20th Century. While possibly not one of Mr Heinlein’s more famous works (such as Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Land), Podkayne of Mars is reasonably well-known, although perhaps not entirely for positive reasons. But I will get into that later. First of all, let me give you some brief information about Podkayne of Mars.

Podkayne of Mars was first published as a serialized story, beginning in 1962 and finishing in 1963 and in 1963 it was also published as a novel. It is the story of Podkayne Fries (known as Poddy to her friends), a human girl born and raised on Mars, who dreams of one day becoming the captain of a starship. Therefore, she is quite excited when her great-uncle, an influential politician, invites her and her brother Clark to travel with him to an important conference on the Moon, which Podkayne has never been to. This all seems very straightforward, but unbeknownst to Podkayne, her great-uncle’s position means her great-uncle has some dangerous enemies…

I rather like the character of Podkayne. She is a determined and confident young woman, with a bit of dry wit thrown in. In a word, she is quite sassy. As for her physical appearance, she describes herself as being pretty rather than beautiful; she has pale blond wavy hair and a short nose, along with long legs and a 90cm bust. However, some readers seem somewhat miffed that halfway through the story, Podkayne abruptly abandons her dream of becoming a captain in favour of a more motherly-type career. Of course it is easy to perceive this as a rather backward development, but you have to consider this story was written in the early 1960s, by a man who at that time was in his mid-fifties. I personally do not feel that there is anything particularly wrong with a girl (or a boy, for that matter) deciding that they prefer nurturing over adventuring. After all, the genre of science fiction is practically filled to the brim with adventurers, so I find it refreshing when a story focuses on something a bit different. And in the case of Podkayne of Mars, Podkayne’s change of mind ties in quite cleverly to the climax of the plot, where Podkayne makes a fateful choice. Incidentally, there are two different endings to this novel. Both are quite dark, but I think the original ending, the one preferred by Robert A. Heinlein, is the more impactful one.

At this point I want to point out that although I found Podkayne of Mars an enjoyable read, I do not count it as one of my favourite books. And that is because of Podkayne’s little brother, Clark. As much as I liked Podkayne, I could not stand Clark. He is shown to be a highly intelligent boy, but unfortunately he is also a borderline sociopath, and as a result he brought too much negativity into the story. But at least the implication at the end of the novel seems to be that he will at least contemplate reforming his awful behaviour.

There have been quite a number of editions of Podkayne of Mars over the years and their covers are quite varied. The ones that feature a depiction of Podkayne (which are most of them) range from the quaint to the erotic. The edition I have (see the scan at the beginning of this post) was published by Ace Books in 2010 and it has a rather nice cover by one Scott Grimando. However, I think my favourite cover is the one by Matt Stawicki for a 2004 edition (see the image below), also published by Ace Books. Matt Stawicki’s illustration was recently available on his website as a print, but that is no longer the case and this is a bit of a shame. I would really like to own this print one day.

Well, that’s about it for this post on Podkayne Fries, other than to say that I am currently working on a piece of tribute art of her. Hopefully it will be ready very soon!

New Tribute Art: Dejah Thoris

Time for another piece of tribute art. This one is of the very lovely (and very naked) Dejah Thoris, the titular heroine from A Princess of Mars.

A Princess of Mars was one of several stories written a century ago by Edgar Rice Burroughs about the adventures of John Carter, an earthman on the red planet. Dejah is Carter’s love interest and is a perennial favourite amongst pin-up artists. I myself have been dying to draw her ever since I first read A Princess of Mars, a few years ago.😁

New Tribute Art: Pool of Tears

As no doubt many will realise, this illustration is a tribute to Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s story Alice in Wonderland (which, incidentally, I read for the very first time this year!). The title comes from the second chapter of the book, The Pool of Tears, in which a weeping Alice creates an impossibly large pool solely with her tears. In my illustration, Alice has only just started weeping, so that’s why the pool is still quite shallow.😋

Tribute Art: “The Witches of Karres”

One of my recent pastime activities is reading vintage novels, particularly sci-fi and fantasy novels, and when I find one I want to read, I try to get an edition with a cover that I really like. (Side note: I think one of the great things about speculative fiction is its covers, which not only serve to draw you in, but are also able to get your imagination going). However, there are times when the covers I come across are not particularly appealing. And then there are covers which do the story a disservice by not being truly representative of the work (which, of course, you can only find out by reading the whole book). In either of these cases, I tend to find myself imagining what a good cover would be, but I don’t normally go ahead and make one. In fact, the only time I recall actually making a mock cover was last year, when I made one for Terry Brook’s Running with the Demon (one of my favourite books of all time). Now I’ve done a second mock cover, only this time I have taken things a step further and made that mock cover appear as if it was an actual book.

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