Monday, November 11, 2019

BBC's His Dark Materials is here

BBC's TV adaption of Sir Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is here, with Episode 1 already shown and number two en route. Sadly I have not seen it as I have little free time of late and must reserve what I have for more essential activities such as reading and breathing. That been said, Pullman is fond of it and that is endorsement enough for me. (Yes, I have been rather critical of him of late, but His Dark Materials remains one of my favorite books, and if an author is satisfied with the TV/movie version of their book then it is usually faithful enough top pass muster with lifelong fans.)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

My father and I just finished Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

My father and I just finished Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip, the first of her three books of short stories.
Ah, what glorious adventures in uncharted realms we have seen! The ancient glittering wonder of the Ice Dragon that is the heart of Hoarsbreath Island, the music that is the legend and power of the Bards of Onon, the Lady of Skulls whose plants grow from the skulls of those who failed see the treasure in her tower, the trials of the Fellowship of the Dragon, and the layers of enchantments that break before the love of the Lion and Lark! McKillip has not lost her skill, as words and time bow before her as does the grass before the mighty wind of the storm.

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Force vs. the Federation

Ever do people make comparisons between the ships and technologies of Star Trek and Star Wars, yet I now make a different comparison – one which explains why I prefer the former over the latter. I can hear you saying: "What? But Star Trek is pure sci-fi, which you avoid almost as rule, while Star Wars is almost a Fantasy in space given the never ending battle between the Jedi and the dark side of the Force." 
A very good point, and I do like Star Wars very much as it is an exemplary tale, a true coming of age story and hero's journey complete with brilliantly complex characters both good and evil. Even mythologist Joseph Campbell acknowledged it as such; indeed, George Lucas credited Campbell's work as influencing his own. Who could forget the revelations and inner conflicts regarding and within Anakin and Luke Skywalker? The wisdom of their mutual mentors Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda (who are cultural icons on and above the level of most characters in literature, on par with Gandalf and Dumbledore)? Han Solo wrestling with self-identification, caught between his roguish past and his relationship with Luke and Princess Leia? As said, a stellar tale by all definitions and, better yet, the Force brings a spiritual element seldom seen in Sci-Fi and on a level rare even in many Fantasies. It is no secret that Masters Kenobi and Yoda (and the Jedi in general) are based off the ancient Samurai and their Zen spiritualism.
Which again begs the question, why do I prefer Trek to Wars. The answer is in their names, added by a famous quote from one Ben Kenobi: "For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire." In short, and as of the pitiful Sequel Trilogy, Star Wars amounts to a near-pessimistic tale as the Jedi are always on the verge of being wiped out by the dark side. All the wisdom and power of people like Yoda and Luke amounting to just barely enough to keep hope for better future alive while the Sith terrorize the Galaxy. Not exactly a cheerful, nor hopeful, story.

Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, however, is a different kettle of fish. Purely Sci-Fi and set in our own future and Galaxy rather than a long time ago in one far far away, it is not about war but rather exploration. About searching out the wonders of the universe even while trying to prevent interstellar wars and other similar catastrophes. About showing what humanity might develop into if it would learn from the lessons of the past, most specifically by ending violence; an ideal epitomized in the United Federation of Planets that, in the words of Captain James T. Kirk, is "a dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars." A reality that, unlike the Jedi Order, is not constantly on the verge of total collapse. 
This may sound simple, and it is, yet this is the key as to why I prefer Trek over Wars. Not only does Trek offer greater variety, as is natural being a TV series as opposed to movies, it explores themes Wars never touches. Lieutenant Commander Data is not beloved for his superhuman abilities that come with being an android so much as because he is Pinocchio: totally benign and desiring nothing so much as understand humanity, to be human. As Captain Picard once said of him, "In his quest to be more like us, he helped us to see what it means to be Human... his wonder, his curiosity about every facet of Human nature, allowed all of us to see the best parts of ourselves. He evolved, he embraced change because he always wanted to be better than he was." Frankly I could keep going, not just about Data but about basically everyone, and not just Next Generation but Deep Space Nine and Voyager too. So I will be brief and just add that wise sages are not lacking even if Jedi-style spiritualism is, as wisdom is often just a solid and true moral compass built of deep compassion and practical experience. As to mysticism, characters like Guinan fill that need quite nicely.

In final ending, while Star Wars may have more Tolkienesque elements, Star Trek truly follows the Spirit of Tolkien because it not only embraces, but empowers and delivers on hopes for betterment on an interpersonal as well as intergalactic scale. In Star Trek, the most powerful, most thought-provoking, most memorable moments often have nothing to do with war and, when it does, it is trying to prevent one from starting.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

I have just started A Crown of Swords

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started A Crown of Swords, Volume #7 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
As started in the Karaethon Cycle: "There can be no health in us, nor any good thing grow, for the land is one with the Dragon Reborn, and he is one with the land. Soul of fire, heart of stone, in pride he conquers, forcing the proud to yield. He calls upon the mountains to kneel, and the seas to give way, and the very skies to bow. Pray that the heart of stone remembers tears, and the soul of fire, love." Something I was already praying for, frankly and, in the meantime, a Red Foretelling (likely) misinterpreted promises an end to the fracturing of the Flame, but a divide between it and Rand. Hard to fear foes whose egos impede their wits, yet much blood will be shed before order supplants chaos. (In other note, rumor says that this series' glacial pace begins in this book. We shall soon see.)    

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

I have just finished Lord of Chaos

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished Lord of Chaos, Volume #6 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
As foretold by Min, the Wolf saved the Dragon Reborn from a black fate. As foretold by the Prophesies, "the unstained tower breaks and bends knee to the forgotten sign." Yet chaos truly rules as the world breaks further despite efforts to unite it as plans go awry and misunderstandings grow to entrenched hatreds. Yet amid ruin the Asha'man now stand, the One Man returns, and a new Flame of Tar Valon shines and rises to hopefully displace a Red. Yet amid victories the Forsaken stir, as do others from beyond the Aryth Ocean.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wisdom Quotes

Often have I said that wisdom is the bright core of the High Fantasy, a healthy mix of optimism regarding and faith in the human spirit coupled with a solid practicality which recognizes that all is never well with the world; that cruelty and downright evil do exist and do their worst more often then we may like. I call this the Spirit of Tolkien, who of course phrased this philosophy best: “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
That being said, though, I thought it might be nice to share some quotes from other sources. Quotes which espouse this wisdom in their own way.

"One of the biggest ways people get caught up with listening is when they hear something they don't agree with. Our gut response is to think, "Well that's wrong" and stop listening. The key to listening is not agreeing with what the other person is saying, but rather understanding why they feel the way they do. Part of listening is going deeper into the understanding of what they're feeling." - Mark Rosewater

"Sing yourself to where the singing comes from." - Seamus Heaney

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love." - Washington Irving

"When you choose the fight you must take the consequences, win or lose."
- Bain of Black Rock sept of the Shaarad Aiel

"Duty is heavy as a mountain, death is light as a feather."- Robert Jordan

"You can waste a perfectly good life trying to meet the standards of someone who thinks you’re not good enough because they can’t understand who you are." - Barbara Sher

"The hope is always here, always alive, but only your fierce caring can fan it into a fire to warm the world." - Merriman Lyon

"The only way was forward, whatever lay at the end." - Robert Jordan

"If you're really listening, if you're awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders." - Andrew Harvey

"Do you understand that you must always fail, as long as your goal is not truth, but guidance? That as long as you seek dragons around you, you will never become the dragon within you?" - Sarkhan Vol

Friday, October 4, 2019

My father and I just started Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

My father and I just started Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip, the first of her three books of short stories.
Of course with McKillip "short" is a relative term as each sentence feels like it carries the weight of centuries, words spoken from myths echoing across the ocean of potential and Faerie into the subconscious part of us where dragons sleep. A word-jeweler who crafts worlds as natural as blooming flowers and more ancient than the first tree whose roots dug deeper than any plant before it.