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.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

My father and I just finished The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Two years ago, April 24 2017 to be exact, I wrote about how the Mystery genre was a cousin to the Fantastic, with with Sci-Fi being Fantasy's only closer relative; a sibling, presumably. Hence it seems appropriate to post that my father and I just finished The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A book with twists, turns, and a climax worthy of many a Fantasy book! A fact which was doubly entertaining seeing how this book, alone I believe among the Sherlock Holmes novels, features the consulting detective of 221B Baker Street and his friend Dr. Watson trying to prove that the supernatural is NOT the guilty party, but rather as evil and as cunning a mind as can be found. Truly we have seen less clever dark wizards.
Beyond that Holmes does not disappoint! Such a splendid character, wise yet proud and with a wry humor coupled with great heart! It does without saying that this will not be our last journey with him, though whether those journeys are noted here on Stars Uncounted is something a I doubt. The Hound of the Baskervilles has a connection to Fantasy, thus giving a place here, but the rest I doubt.

The Secret Commonwealth (Re-post: Sir Philip Pullman vs. Lyra Silvertongue)

As the day has finally come, and as I have nothing more to say on the matter, I will simply re-post my words (with a few adjustments) from March 19th:

The Book of Dust was like a myth, like a fabled mist-shrouded castle one endlessly walks towards yet never reaches nor even sees clearly. For over a decade nearly all we heard was that Sir Philip Pullman was "working on it," this message updated/rephrased every few years or so. We heard that he hoped for it to come out in 2016, yet the year passed without a word. Then, in 2017 after over a decade of agonized waiting, we learned that The Book of Dust would be not one book but three that that the first volume, La Belle Sauvage, would be coming out that year.
We all exploded with joy. Both when we heard the news and doubly so when we finally got our hands on the book that had been the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (And did we ever find rain.)

Now The Secret Commonwealth, volume two of The Book of Dust series has come.

Why all the solemnity as opposed to excitement? Because...
I NEVER thought I would EVER even THINK about saying this, but I am not sure that I will be able to read this. Not sure that I will be able to continue with The Book of Dust 😭


Frankly, I cannot picture Lyra as ANY kind of cynic. Remember, that we did NOT, actually, leave her at the end of The Amber Spyglass but rather in the mini-sequel Lyra's Oxford – which took place two years later. How could five years have changed her so much? Yes, I know and recall full well how His Dark Materials ended and have visited the wooden bench at the back of the Oxford Botanic Garden. But I also recall Lyra's Oxford and how it ended. How we saw that Lyra had grown into a mature young woman who was still the Lyra Silvertongue we love. Older yes, matured as I said, clearly grown-up from the wild girl we knew and tempered by the heartbreak she endured, yet she was nobody who Pan of all entities would call a pessimist. Hence my belief that it is Pullman, rather than Lyra, who changed 🙁 That Pullman gradually lost touch with her because I do not see how five years could have so changed the young woman we left at the end of the appropriately named Lyra's Oxford.
Recall how when La Belle Sauvage came out Sir Philip Pullman said that the collective Book of Dust series could be 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.” Recall how 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 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.
Recall how I previously posted about an article which revealed that, tragically, the great Philip Pullman is descending into a very dark, cynical, place and I, for one, have 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. And how that selfsame article noted that "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."

"I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,"
says Philip Pullman. "I’m just trying to stop
myself going mad."
Hence I believe that, grievously, Sir Philip Pullman is dragging Lyra Silvertongue down with him 😔 As a writer of an as-yet unpublished yet complete Fantasy series – while I am not fool enough to compare myself or work with Pullman – I do know what it means to truly create a living world with heartfelt characters. I learned during my writing that the mind of an author is linked with those of their characters and the world they live, but also that that link can be broken. Broken or warped if the mind of an author changes. As stated above, Pullman himself said "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.” Now look that the link (here it is again) that I provided above and read the extract from The Secret Commonwealth. Add that with the also aforesaid plot-line inconsistencies of La Belle Sauvage with His Dark Materials, and I see an author whose mind is in a very different place from where it was when he wrote Lyra's Oxford. I see that, over the over ten years it has taken him to finally produce The Book of Dust, his mind has fundamentally changed from the man who wrote Lyra into existence. He, by his own words, is "perhaps more cynical, closer to despair" and hence The Book of Dust reflects that altered state of mind; reflects and projects it onto Lyra, thus resulting in a distorted reflection of her.

"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." – Philip Pullman  

THIS is the Philip Pullman who wrote His Dark Materials
and Lyra the Beloved. THIS is a man whom I think would look
upon his older self with concern.
I know all this may sound dramatic, but Lyra has a very special place my heart. She was the first and only book character whose sacrifice tormented my dreams for days literately. I could not even look at the books for years without feeling a deep stab of grief. And I say all this with confidence because, as any passionate reader knows, the bond, the link, between the minds of reader and book-character is no less great and heartfelt that that between character and author. Like the author, we laugh and cheer and cry with them, knowing then as friends so close that they may as well be extended family. (On that note, if by small chance that I am proved wrong by
The Secret Commonwealth then I will gladly and indeed with the greatest joy eat my words.)
Finally, for all those who read this and want to throw that tired retort "We all get more cynical as we get older" line at me, then permit me to quickly nip that dark and thorny rose in the bud:

"For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more--remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men's hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words." - J.R.R. Tolkien

"Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us." - Stephen Colbert

"A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future." - Sydney J. Harris

"Cynicism isn't smarter, it's only safer. There's nothing fluffy about optimism." - Jewel Kitcher

"The greater part of the truth is always hidden, in regions out of the reach of cynicism." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Magic Story

Fantasy games with deep lore behind them are not uncommon, as what is great Fantasy without a rich, complex, and compelling universe? Not worth the time in my view, and the sophisticated, book-worthy story is what I love about so many games. RuneScape, Golden Sun (which has my heart in a way few books even do), Fire Emblem, Radiant Historia, Suikoden Tierkreis and a couple others. 

Yet the justly and globally popular card game Magic: the Gathering has done more. They have actually written the story, easily a novel's worth or more of text, which is why I am making a post out of this. I am going to read it all. A major endeavor, to be sure, to say nothing of the fact that I already have Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time to tackle but well worth it to explore and the wonders and do battle across the Multiverse. (How quickly I finish, though, is another matter entirely 😅)

A toast to the planeswalkers Gideon Jura, Nissa Revane, Jace Beleren, Chandra Nalaar, Liliana Vess (the not entirely trustworthy necromancer), Ajani Goldmane, Teferi. and Kaya.

Monday, September 16, 2019

My father and I just finished reading Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell

My father and I just finished reading Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell.

Do not let the tittle fool you, for it is written in an irony that becomes plain as the story evolves. Speaking of story, Haskell has for the third time proven that while she not as skilled as Jones or McKillip, she is equally incapable of writing an ordinary tale. So join the lame-footed Princess of Alder Brook as kidnapping blends with running away with two friends and would-be dragon slayers. Only what they find is the Wild Hunt, a marvelous pair of metal horses, and dark sorcerer. But mostly a reality about Dragons, themselves, and that love is most keenly felt when shown from all parties. As the Hunter says, “ignorance does not make the wrong choice into the right one”, and such choices can make a terrible tangle when other kinds of trouble comes; but unraveling tangles both personal and mystical is what Merrie Haskell does best.

Cheers to Most Illustrious Princess Matilda of Alder Brook, Judith, Parz, Sir Hermanus, Father Ropertus, and Curschin.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Earthsea TV Series

Lookfar approaches the Dragon of Pendor
His Dark Materials. The Wheel of Time. The Lord of the Rings. Now Earthsea. One thing we owe GRRM, the popularity of HBO's Game of Thrones broke the barrier between the Fantastic and TV Series.
 
But Earthsea is special. The characters are non-white, the landscape is an archipelago, and the emphasis is on understanding nature and human nature rather than possessing power over them. Ursula K. Le Guin was a master, so let us pray to Segoy and the freed soul of Erreth-Akbe that the TV Series will be worthy of her.

"When it rained Ogion would not even say the spell that every weather-worker knows, to send the storm aside. In a land where sorcerers come thick, like Gont or the Enlades, you may see a raincloud blundering slowly from side to side and place to place as one spell shunts it on to the next, till at last it is buffeted out over the sea where it can rain in peace. But Ogion let the rain fall where it would." – The Wizard of Earthsea

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The red ship draws nearer...

The editing of the Fantasy series I wrote is now finished. All that remains to be done is formatting along with the sadly many and varied other little tasks required before sending it out to a publisher. That and several related logistical decisions. But the lion's share of labor is complete.