Saturday, January 19, 2019

Invictus

In 1875 (the Victorian era), the English poet William Ernest Henley wrote the poem Invictus. Many decades later and while incarcerated at the Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela recited the poem to other prisoners and was empowered by its message of self-mastery.

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
 

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
 

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."


I now post about it because the verse perfectly captures one of of the key elements that is also in many ways the very heart of Fantasy literature and the Spirit of Tolkien: to never give up; to keep fighting even the battle is uphill, bitterly painful and seemingly hopeless. To stand tall even when you comprehend how small you are compared to the vastness that threatens to destroy you and all you want to do is lie down. To recognize that the human heart is made of a steel brighter and more enduring even than mithril and that, as Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her Earthsea books, “it is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.”

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Dark Is Rising...music?

So apparently a singer named Julia Ecklar set the small rhyming prophecies used in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence to music in a song that won the 1997 Pegasus Award for Best Sorcery Song. (Don't ask how this somehow slipped by me these past 13 years or so because I have not the faintest notion 😅):


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Rumors of the Wheel

Naturally I have been aware of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time for a most of my life, and had long sworn not to read it for reasons of excessive length (even by my standards) and a glacial pace. That being the case, though, I would often browse through random volumes while in bookstores and in doing so noted Jordan's skill (for creating a world that rivals Middle-earth in scale and gaining such fame is no small feat). I viewed the series as a tragedy of Fantasy: an author who let his world swallow the story he was trying to tell at the story's expense given the glacial reputation.

However, as my interest in The Wheel of Time grew I began to research it, looking at once for an excuse to read it as well as validation for my vow not to touch it. Paradoxical, I know, but such is the nature of the human mind at times. The six key rumors I found are as follows:
  • That the first book, The Eye of the World, was a near-cope of Tolkien (as that was required to get published way back when).
  • That Jordan really diverges and becomes his own writer story-wise in book #2, The Great Hunt.
  • That the glacial pace does not start until book seven, A Crown of Swords, making the first half the series exemplary to the highest definition of the word.
  • The the glacial pace was made far worse by the fact that each book took years for Jordan to write, making readers tear their hair out over getting slow book after slow book afters eons waiting.
  • That, now that all the books of out, the rumored glacial pace is not half so bad because, rather than waiting years, readers can move strait from book to book.
  • That the final three books written posthumously by Jordan's chosen successor, Brandon Sanderson, are masterful with the last book, A Memory of Light, being one long heart-stopping climax.
Naturally I cannot as yet speak to rumors 3-6 but, being in the middle of The Great Hunt, I can report as to how accurate the first two rumors are. To start, The Eye of the World is not a Tolkien-imitation once one gets past the first quarter of the book. As was said, back in the day everyone wanted a second LOTR so some
Tolkien-imitation was required if one wanted to get published, but Jordan story became a unique one swiftly into the first book. And as to the second rumor regarding The Great Hunt, I confirm it. Book #1 was excellent and unique, but now the story is taking off in truly startling directions. Needless to say the final two rumors were pivotal in my decision to finally pick up The Wheel of Time
Meanwhile, and as the Aes Sedai say, the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Sir Philip Pullman

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, so it is only proper that that today's knights should wield them! Much less one of the Fantasy genre's greatest, the author of the beloved His Dark Materials trilogy.



Congratulations to Sir Philip Pullman, whose Lyra teaches that children can be every bit as wise and loving as adults (and at times often more so).

"Lyra just came to me entire and complete, I didn’t consciously make her up with a list of attributes. But I had been a teacher for about 12 years working with children of her age and there were lots of Lyras - in every classroom in the country there is a Lyra or two. Or three. She’s a very ordinary child and that’s the point about her. If she’s unusual it’s in her capacity to feel affection, which she does very readily and very warmly." - Sir Philip Pullman

Granted that I have some concerns regarding the new knight and the path he is treading with The Book of Dust, but there are few British authors – and authors in general, for that matter – more deserving of this honor. Long live Sir Philip Pullman! Long live Lyra Belacqua/Silvertongueand her dæmon Pantalaimon (Pan)!! 

"If you want to write anything that works, you have to go with the grain of your talent, not against it. If your talent is inert and sullen in the face of business or politics...but takes fire at the thought of ghosts and vampires and witches and demons then feed the flames, feed the flames.” - Sir Philip Pullman

“Children are not less intelligent than adults; what they are is less informed.” - Sir Philip Pullman

“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book. - Sir Philip Pullman

Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's Eve

As 2018 rolls away I think it is only fitting to look back on this year's accomplishments:
  • Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen.
  • The Howl Series by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Eye of the World, book #1 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
  • The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
  • The Cygnet Duology by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill
  • The Dark Is Rising and Greenwitch by Susan Cooper
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Healer's Keep by Victoria Hanley
  • La Belle Sauvage, Volume #1 of The Book of Dust trilogy by Sir Philip Pullman
 
(Somehow I do not think that this list will be as long next year, courtesy of the extraordinary length of The Wheel of Time. Frankly, I expect to finish the series in 2020.)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

My father and I just finished Greenwich

My father and I just finished Greenwich, book #3 of the The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper.

Lovely to see the Drew children again as we return to Cornwall to tack back something of the Light that was stolen by the Dark and the neutral Wild Magic. Lovely to see that sometimes a little kindness can do what great magics cannot, so a special salute to Jane.

Monday, December 24, 2018