Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Remembering Earthsea and The Annals of the Western Shore.

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin.

She was one of the best. I remember first reading The Earthsea Cycle in elementary school, hearing Ogion of Re Albi say “To hear, one must be silent.” And I still remembered those words when I took the series up for a second and third time. While the rest of my generation went to Hogwarts with Harry, (after I left Tolkien's Middle-earth) I traveled by ship to the School of Roke with Ged.

She was the first fantasy author I read who dealt, philosophically, with death and inner balance. "Death and life are the same thing-like the two sides of my hand, the palm and the back. And still the palm and the back are not the same...They can be neither separated, nor mixed." That quote comforted me when my grandparents died.

And Dragons, because no one, but nobody, does Dragons like Ursula K. Le Guin. Because, in the Archipelago, a dragonlord it is not someone with a mastery of dragons but rather one whom the dragons will speak with. "People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within."

I owe her my own Fantasy series, the one I wrote and am still in the process of editing. Without Earthsea it would never have existed.

And I cannot forget The Annals of the Western Shore even if most have never heard of it. It is not Earthsea and is drastically different save in that it is also a quiet yet masterfully written fantasy where the great enemy and greater heroes are ordinary people, most without mystical power and knowledge. Rather, the power lies in the art of story, "To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well." It was such a powerful experience walking blind with Orrec Caspro, writing one's way into secret rooms with Memer Galva, and wandering to freedom with Gavir. As acclaimed Fantasy author Jo Walton (writer of The Thessaly Trilogy) once said, they are "like a retelling of an old fairytale."

"I always wondered why the makers leave housekeeping and cooking out of their tales. Isn't it what all the great wars and battles are fought for so that at day's end a family may eat together in a peaceful house?" - Ursula K. Le Guin

“I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning." - Ursula K. Le Guin

Rest in peace, dragonlord. May you dance on the other wind.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Old as the hills of Britain

As we all know, Fantasy literature was born out of the countless folktales, myths, and legends that populate our own often mysterious world – tales which continue to inspire today and remain among the greatest and most evocative of stories.
“This is the mythosphere. It's made up of all the stories, theories and beliefs, legends, myths and hopes, that are generated here on Earth. As you can see, it's constantly growing and moving as people invent new tales to tell or find new things to believe.” - Diana Wynne Jones
As Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm collected Germanic folktales in the 19th century, they realized that many were similar to stories told in distant parts of the world. The brothers Grimm wondered whether plot similarities indicated a shared ancestry thousands of years old.
"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My father and I just started Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

My father and I just started Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, book #1 of her Howl Series.

We have never watched the movie, but are ready for another Jones roller-coaster ride of total surprises. After Tolkien, she is the best the Mistress of the Multiverse and Lady of Endless Surprises.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

My father and I just finished Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen

My father and I just finished Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen.

OK, so the book is short...yet not a page is not packed with plot and it appears that we owe the Harry Potter series to it; indeed, it is almost like an outline to Rowling's grand work. Still, a charming little read and full of heart to say nothing of a surprisingly unique and intense climax, it was most enjoyable. A speck of gold is no less chemically pure as a bar, after all.

Try hard and fare well to Henry/Thornmallow, Will, Tansy, Gorse, and Magisters Hickory, Briar Rose, & Dr. Morning Glory. Wizard's Hall is safe again not due to Punctuality, Practicality, and Personality, but rather perseverance.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Artist vs. the Art

Normally I do not post articles written by others, but this speaks to a broader and critical issue and so an exception will be made.
The issue/question: What do you do when an artist you love turns out not to be the person you thought they were?

The this case the artist is Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of the widely viewed Fantasy classic The Mists of Avalon. To start, I have never read the book, but goodness knows I have heard it – indeed, from middle to high school it was a constant part of the conversation; a by all accounts stellar work that retold the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the women. Now I love King Arthur and most of my Fantasies have female protagonists, so it must be understood that the only reason I did not pick it up was because it erred a little far on the romantic side for my taste.

I digress, though. The relevant (and linked) article The Book That Made Me a Feminist Was Written by an Abuser – details a struggle we all go through at least some point: What do you do when an artist you love turns out not to be the person you thought they were?
In this case, in 2014, Moira Greyland, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, told the world that her mother had sexually abused her and many other children for more than a decade. The author of a judged masterwork that empowered women guilty of one of humanity's most heinous crimes. 

The article tells how one fan dealt with it. But, for myself, I can only use this as an opportunity to state what I have done in similar circumstances. In short, I strongly believe in separating the artist from the art. For if the measure of greatness is creating something with a life of its own, so a truly great book should be able stand on its own and apart from the author. A conclusion which the writer of the above article eventually came to as well: "So I can keep Morgaine [the main protagonist] — what she has meant to me, what she has become in my personal mythology — while I reject Bradley."

Sadly and at the day's end, if we go through history and disown the art and literature it has gifted us with because the artists were flawed or dishonorable, we will be left with very little. So it comes to the choice of which is more important to us, the artist or the art. I chose the thing which will endure long after the artist's bones have turned to dust: the art.

"A good story is a good story no matter who wrote it." - Anne McCaffrey