Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Great War that forged a Great Writer

I have always abstained from commenting on current real-world events here on Stars Uncounted but, today, I think I can make an exception. For a hundred years ago this day all quiet fell upon the western front as the armistice that ended the World War I was declared. 

A war that saw the service of a man who expressed admiration for his wife's willingness to marry a man with no job, little money, and no prospects except the likelihood of being killed in it. A man whose relatives were shocked when he elected not to immediately volunteer for the British Army, and who later recalled that "in those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage." But he did join, later writing that "Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my wife then ... it was like a death."

Today I pay tribute to the end of the First World War the only way possible on a Fantasy blog: by recognizing and paying homage to the particular service of the man I have described above. A man who fought in the trenches on the Western Front, most notably in the Battle of the Somme. A second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers named John Ronald Reuel Tolkien who, while recovering from an injury, began to work on what he called The Book of Lost Tales, beginning with The Fall of Gondolin.

One has heard (at length) my praises of the author of The Lord of the Rings before, so today I will simply leave one to contemplate on how Tolkien's experiences of the true horror of war influenced his writings. With that in mind, let us look at these now familiar quotes of his again.
  • "Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?...If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!"
  • “I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
  • “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”

And here are three that are new, the last perhaps the most poignant: 
  • "The most improper job of any man ... is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity."
  • "The greater part of the truth is always hidden, in regions out of the reach of cynicism."
  • "One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead."

Saturday, November 3, 2018

RuneScape Fishing level 99

Today I accomplished one of those rare decade long goals: I reached Fishing level 99 in RuneScape. It may seem petty/minor, but I put as much heart into this game as I do my books. Long hours and many years of dedication to anything always bear fruit in the end; or, in this case, fish.

Also and ironically, I gained that final level in the sunken remains of old Tutorial Island šŸ¤£

Thursday, November 1, 2018

His Darker Mental State

To start, some reassuring news about BBC's upcoming  adaptation of His Dark Materials, straight from the mouth of Philip Pullman himself: "I’ve seen the scripts at every stage. I’ve made copious notes and comments and these have all been followed up. My function is to nudge it back on course if I think it’s going in the wrong direction. I think they will get it right, because they’ve got more time than the film-makers had."

"I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,"
says Philip Pullman. "I’m just trying to stop
myself going mad."
However, while the BBC-related news may be reassuring, but the article from which it comes is overall  anything but. Sadly, it looks as though Pullman is giving in to a rampant cynicism that was absent in His Dark Materials yet is seriously affecting The Book of Dust. Recall now that he even confirmed such and directly it could have called "His Darker Materials" and that, as an author, "I’ve got older and perhaps more cynical, closer to despair...It is a darker book, I don’t deny that, but that’s the story that came to me and wanted to be told.”
Honestly, I thought that La Belle Sauvage made little contextual sense seeing as the political/general situation was nowhere near that bad in The Golden Compass. If it was then Lyra would have been kidnapped or killed years ago while running wild around Oxford. Indeed, the impression in was not that the world was falling apart, nor was Lord Asriel a wanted man to the same degree. Recall that he was able to walk into and out of Oxford in The Golden Compass without the same life-threatening hassle as in La Belle Sauvage.

Why am I saying this now as opposed to before? Because this articles reveals to me more fully that, tragically, the great Philip Pullman is descending into a very dark, cynical, place and I, for one, has always viewed cynicism as merely a more sophisticated form of surrender; for cynics still fight for what they believe in – but they no longer truly believe. 

Yet a cynic is something the Lyra Silvertongue I and so many others know and love could never be...unless Pullman, as he seems to indicate, means to drag her down with him: "Pullman is famously an atheist, although he explores myth, legend and magic in all his writing and will do so particularly in the next book [of Dust], which sees Lyra losing her sense of magic as an adult and will be called The Secret Commonwealth."
Alas for the great Philip Pullman!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I just finished playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (Erika's path)

I just finished playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (Erika's path).
As always, it is an utter joy to play these games: a bookworthy storyline with real, fleshed out, unique and compelling characters who all unite makes for dialogue no less compelling than the tactical battles that makes Fire Emblem a standout.
In this case, having the main princess and prince characters be siblings was a nice change and, between the Renais Royals and Innes & Tana of Frelia, this game explored brother- sister relationships as no Fire Emblem games have thus far. (Naturally the themes of Dragons, friendship, and peace were the same, but they never get old).

Peace and prosperity to you, Erika, Ephram, Innes, Tana, Lady L'Arachel, Lute, Colm & Neimi, Gerik, Marisa the Crimson Flash, Joshua, Saleh, Myrrth, Duessel the Obsidian, Dozla, Rennac, Vanessa, Ewan, Comag, and Lyon the tragic.
(I will, of course, see you all again; when I follow Ephram's path).

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My father and I just finished reading The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

My father and I just finished reading The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell.

While not possessing the skill of Jones or McKillip, Haskell has for the second time proven their equal in imagination crafting a story that at first seems simple, yet soon evolves into a great mystery and then puzzle. A puzzle which is a delight to attempt to solve. This story took the whole the cursed princess archetype to new levels: 12 Romanian princesses to be exact, and a curse that combines worn-out slippers, sleeping death, and a young herbalist's apprentice determined to conquer mystery and war one remedy at a time.  

A toast (of Alethe) to you, Reveka, and farewell! And farewell to Princesses Otilia and Lacrimora, Didina and Adina, Brother Cosmin, Mihas, Armas, Marjit, Konstantin, and Dragos.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm

"A wanderer and a cursed child. Spells and magic. And dragons, of course."
Welcome back to the world of Alagaƫsia!

Such delightful news indeed to announce that Christopher Paolini is returning the wondrous world of his The Inheritance Cycle, international bestseller and the first great Fantasy series I read on my own in the 6th grade (my father having read The Lord of the Rings to me the year before)! Of course, Inheritance fans have long known that we would get to return to AlagaĆ«sia – that Paolini was writing some sort of "Book Five" – but we never knew what form it would take.

Now we do: a new series no less if the Tales from Alagaƫsia - Volume 1 is any implication, and The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm looks like a truly wondrous book. Honestly, I would say more to express my excitement as my love for this series is second to none save The Lord of the Rings itself, yet cannot without violating my blog law of never writing spoilers! But oh, to see Eragon and Saphira again!! So here is the link, and my only grief is that I will now be able to start it once it comes out at the year's end, for I will of course still be reading Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. (Ironic, is it not? Forced away from true dragons by the Dragon Reborn.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Top 40 Fantasy Book Blogs (#36)

At Lake CuiviƩnen by Ted Nasmith
"The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords." - J.R.R. Tolkien

As one can see by the badge now gracing the right column, it is my great honor and greater pleasure to announce that Stars Uncounted - Ian's Fantasy Bookshelf is now counted among the Top 40 Fantasy Book Blogs! This is an acknowledgement/award that I never expected to receive for the simple reason that I never believed this blog worthy of such; indeed, one of my family had to convince me to put my name forward and, even when I did, my hopes were not exactly high.
The lesson: that I guess I should listen to my own advice about always having faith in one's abilities so long as one puts their whole heart into it.

I must also, therefore, extend deep thanks to my friends who for years had urged me to create a Fantasy blog until I at last did so on Thursday, May 19, 2016.

So, with that out of the way, let the journey continue! To terra incognita!