War for the Oaks
directed by Will Shetterly
(promotional trailer)

Emma Bull's 1987 novel, War for the Oaks, was the first novel to convince me that someone other than Charles de Lint could write strong, evocative fantasy in a contemporary urban setting. The realization that de Lint wasn't just a literary aberration set me exploring a path I might not otherwise have discovered -- a path I'm still following and see no signs of leaving any time soon.

So I was delighted to hear that there was some consideration of capturing the story on film. As much as I love the written medium, I also enjoy seeing new and different interpretations of the work. Sadly, that option appears lost in cinematography limbo.

However, the 11-minute trailer promoting the work, directed by Emma's husband, fellow writer Will Shetterly, and featuring Emma herself in a prominent cameo role, is still available with the right connections. I recently had a chance to view it.

Obviously a low-budget effort, the trailer employs a handful of amateur performers to populate Minneapolis, the site of Emma's burgeoning faerie war between the Seelie and Unseelie courts. It looks very much like a local band of SCAdians or RPG enthusiasts gone wild on film.

And that's probably what makes it work. It's a spirited lot of enthusiasts filling the roles of the phouka, the brownie, the oakmen, the musicians and Eddi McCandry, the mortal rock 'n' roll heroine swept up in events beyond human ken. And everyone filling those roles, major or minor, seems to be having a hell of a lot of fun playing along.

The music -- by John Sjogren and Marta & Morton, plus Emma's own bands, the Flash Girls and Cats Laughing -- is an additional treat.

Those 11 minutes won't make much sense to someone who hasn't read the book. But for fans, it's a pleasant peek into the mind of the novel's creator -- a chance to see her own vision of how the characters should look and act.

Besides that, it's made me want to read the book again. Something more for the stack.

[ by Tom Knapp ]