Today’s Mind Meld was suggested by Orbit’s publicist. [Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

The movie The Princess Bride is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. Next year, by the way, the William Goldman novel that inspired it will turn 40, another landmark to be celebrated by fans worldwide.

So, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How has The Princess Bride influenced today’s fantasy writers?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the New York Times, USA Today and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the immensely popular Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden series, and the Outcast Season series.

The Princess Bride was the first movie I’d seen that was able to take fantasy, give it a gorgeous look and feel, add a snarky, humorous edge and NOT fall over into broad comedy … the jokes were razor sharp, the acting was brilliant, the fencing was Old Hollywood fantastic. And let’s face it, who among us hasn’t said, “Have fun storming the castle!” or, “Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!” … or, my personal favorite, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya …”

In fact, I think Inigo Montoya formed the basis of what I wanted in a character — someone with a tragic past, a sense of humor, a wicked talent for mayhem, and the ability, when the moment of truth came, to shed all of that and convey the fury and passion inside.

It was a watershed for much that came after its release — suddenly, writers in fantasy felt free of the old constraints. Fantasy could be epic without being humorless, and it could be funny without falling into slapstick. It set a solid middle course that allowed fantasy to be seen as thrilling, funny and romantic all at the same time — a feat that Joss Whedon would repeat years later for the paranormal genre.

It’s quite simply my favorite fantasy movie of all time. So excuse me, but I need to go watch it again …
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MIND MELD: A Look at Genre Reviews

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Book reviews have been as contentious since the days of mimeographed fanzines. In the age of the Internet and an explosion of blogs, Amazon, and more, reviews are more important than ever. But what makes reading and trusting a review worth it?

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What does a good review of a piece of genre work do well? Where do reviewers fall down on the job? How can reviewers improve their craft for the benefit of readers, writers and fans?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Weather Warden series. She was born at White Sands Missile Range, which people who know her say explains a lot. She has been an accountant, a professional musician, and an insurance investigator, and still carries on a secret identity in the corporate world. She and her husband, fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas with their iguanas, Popeye and Darwin; a mali uromastyx named (appropriately) O’Malley; and a leopard tortoise named Shelley (for the poet, of course).

Most often where reviewers go astray for me is when they forget their core mission. I’ve read a lot of reviews that were more about the reviewer’s wickedly sharp language skills than about what they were critiquing … it becomes form over substance, and while it may be entertaining, it isn’t informative, and it doesn’t help the reader decide whether or not the book (or film, or music) would be right for their needs.

Every book (or film, or concert, or album) is a personal experience, so it’s fine to talk about how the work moved you, and why. But please, reviewers, if you consistently have a burning, fiery hatred for what you’re seeing in the genre (or medium) you’re reviewing, maybe you’re just burned out, or the style has moved past you …(it does this for writers, too, you’re hardly alone). Rather than just become the surly curmudgeon, find another thing to be passionate about — in another genre maybe. You’ll feel better, and so will your readers.

And on the flip side, if you love everything you read/see/hear, maybe you’re not quite critical *enough.* Being a critic isn’t about making friends, it’s about telling the truth even when it’s a harsh truth. Don’t be faint-hearted. You won’t last long if you are.

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REVIEW: Carpe Corpus by Rachel Caine

REVIEW SUMMARY: While Carpe Corpus is the sixth installment in the Morganville Vampire series and I have not read any previous books, the story and characters immediately engaged my attention. While not a superhuman vampire slayer, teenage protagonist and brainiac Claire Danvers helps fill the void left by Buffy Summers.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Under the rule of the evil vampire Bishop, the tense peace between vampires and humans in the small college town of Morganiville, Texas, has been broken. An underground resistance is brewing led by the town’s former vampire leader Amelie, but all protagonist Claire Danvers can think of is the fate of her boyfriend Shane, who Bishop holds prisoner. Claire risks everything to rescue Shane from Bishop’s grasp and set the town of Morganville to rights.

MY REVIEW

PROS: A prolific writer, Rachel Caine easily filled this newbie in on what’s up with Morganville without an infodump even though I had not read the previous five novels in this series. This tightly paced story grabbed my attention right away, and I especially enjoyed both main character Claire Danvers and the enigmatic Myrnin.

CONS: If I had to pick a con for this novel, I’d say Claire’s Goth sidekick Eve seemed a little predictable.

BOTTOM LINE: I read this book in preparation for a fun interview with Rachel Caine for SF Signal in June. I would definitely recommend this novel to other readers interested in reading a Young Adult novel with a Buffy vibe.

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