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ACCOUNTS AND REFLECTIONS touching the Prince of Stories,
This review is from: Sandman TP Vol 06 Fables And Reflections (Sandman Collected Library) (Paperback)
HB: "How did you come to name this collection FABLES AND REFLECTIONS?"
NG: "Actually, I didn't. What I wanted to call it is ACCOUNTS AND REFLECTIONS, but nobody at DC would let me. My thinking was that the book contained a set of stories about different elements intersecting titled CONVERGENCE, and a set of historical tales titled DISTANT MIRRORS, and 'accounts' would represent both things being totalled up, or coming together; and ancient tales being recounted. But DC felt all that title would do is make readers think of chartered accountancy."
- interview with Neil Gaiman in THE SANDMAN COMPANION, by Hy Bender
All stories herein were written by Neil Gaiman (Wolfe only wrote the introduction which was added for their publication in book form). Each involves characters telling stories, from a phobic modern playwright to Orpheus himself. Often the entire story is part of a character's reminiscences, such as Lady Joanna's journals. Each (apart from possibly "Fear of Falling") also involves the spirit of a very distinct *place* (Fiddler's Green even makes an appearance).
As for the artists - SANDMAN's typical practice was to team up artists with Gaiman for short storylines like these to get used to working together before tackling major story arcs. McManus worked on most issues of A GAME OF YOU (which was published between the CONVERGENCE and DISTANT MIRRORS storylines). Later, Thompson and Locke drew BRIEF LIVES, while Talbot and Buckingham worked on WORLDS' END.
"Fear of Falling" (illustrator: Kent Williams) Rather than appearing in SANDMAN proper, this story appeared in VERTIGO PREVIEW #1, which launched DC's VERTIGO imprint in 1993. The narrator's phobia has mushroomed into a more general fear of success, which is driving him to the verge of pulling out of the off-Broadway production of his own play. But in his dreams, he finds himself climbing to meet Morpheus, and telling him the story of how his terrors stem from a childhood nightmare. And as in DREAM COUNTRY, the Prince of Stories can provide revelation, if not always justice or wisdom. For there is a third alternative to awakening from or dying in a falling dream...
"Orpheus" (illustrators: Bryan Talbot, Mark Buckingham) Gaiman's plans for SANDMAN SPECIAL #1 were scrapped in favour of providing the background of the Orpheus and Eurydice legend, after learning from bitter experience that many of his readers didn't know who Orpheus (Dream's son) was.
The remaining 7 stories (which appeared in SANDMAN proper) aren't grouped by publication order and story arc within the book, but I have taken the liberty of doing so here.
The four stories of DISTANT MIRRORS:
"Thermidor" (illustrators: Stan Woch, Dick Geordano) replaced the month of July in the calendar of revolutionary France, where Lady Joanna Constantine has accepted a commission to rescue Morpheus' son from Robespierre's tireless attempts to destroy *all* old stories and superstitions.
"August" (illustrators: Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch) is a day in the life of the emperor for whom that month is named, who because of a dream spends one day a year in the marketplace of Rome, disguised as a beggar, as taught by the young actor accompanying him.
"Three Septembers and a January" (illustrator: Shawn McManus) Septembers 1859, 1864, 1875, and January 8, 1880 in the life of Norton I, who declares himself first and only Emperor of the United States as a consequence of a challenge issued to Dream by his younger siblings that he couldn't keep Norton out of *all* their realms - Despair, Desire, and Delirium - before their eldest sister came for him. (The young newspaperman whom Norton helps with his first story is writing "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.")
During "Ramadan" (illustrator: P.Craig Russell), Haroun al-Raschid - troubled in his soul, despite his lordship of the greatest of the world's cities - summons the Dream-Lord to offer a bargain. (The story of one of Dream's treasures, last seen in his castle in SEASON OF MISTS.)
The three stories of CONVERGENCE:
"The Hunt" (illustrators: Duncan Eagleson, Vince Locke) A present-day grandfather tells his granddaughter this tale of a young man of "the People" who falls in love with a woman in a miniature carried by a wandering tinker. But among the tinker's stock is also a book, stolen from a librarian who is *most* anxious that Lord Morpheus not come to hear of the incident...
"Soft Places" (illustrator: John Watkiss) are those unexplored realms where boundaries are crossed and time becomes fluid, like the Desert of Lop in which a young Marco Polo has become separated from his father's caravan. Or is it his dream as an old man in prison, when he meets the Dream-King, just escaped from his own imprisonment?
In "The Parliament of Rooks" (illustrators: Jill Thompson, Vince Locke), Lyta Hall's son Daniel (whom she was last seen carrying back in THE DOLL'S HOUSE) is now a toddler who gets into *everything* - even Cain and Abel's little corner of the Dreaming, where three ancient storytellers find him a receptive audience. Thompson's "Li'l Endless" Hello-Kitty take on the Endless, accompanying Abel's simplified version of his own story, became a big hit. Eve's version of *her* own story is the theologian's version, which may be unfamiliar to readers apart from the simplified version told by CS Lewis as part of the backstory of the Witch. As for Cain, he begins with the title story (which is completed by his brother later).
The book concludes with "Biographies" - a warped little picture of each of the literary/artistic contributors, and some equally warped text accompanying each picture. :)