Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Use the Force. Trust your feelings.

One word for the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy: Pitiful.

It amounts to a bad remake of the original; Leia and Han leading the Rebellion against Imperials ruled by the Dark Side with Luke a Kenobi/Yoda blend, Kylo just another Anakin/Vader, and Rey a Luke figure right down to hearing Force voices & growing up on a destitute desert planet & saving BB-8 (the R2D2 equivalent with vital information that is hunted by Stormtroopers who themselves want to keep it from the rebels).
The Sequel Trilogy as any worthwhile sequel was supposed to be original, a new generation of Jedi trying to put the Republic back together and facing new, more unique, enemies in the process. I can see why Lucus and Hamill think little of it.

If this "was supposed to be" line sounds arrogant on my part, it is only because I hold Star Wars to the same standards as any work of literature. If a brilliant author writes something that is an inferior copy of the original – yes, David Eddings, I am referring to your The Mallorean and The Tamuli – then I do not read it. At this point it must be noted that the original Fantasy series' that preceded the aforesaid ones, Eddings' The Belgariad and The Elenium, are easily some of the most entertaining books I have ever read. I am not a laugh-out-loud sort of reader usually, yet these had be consistently howling. (Both are five-volume works, however, so if you have to choose then I recommend The Belgariad.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

George R.R. Martin funds scholarship for budding Fantasy worldbuilders

Naturally I disagree with GRRM on many things, but he is more than right in that “these days, the world [has] more need of wonder than ever before” and that the best epic fantasy “requires a memorable setting … a world both like and unlike our own, with its own rich history and geography and customs, its own beauties and terrors”.

Westeros and the lands across the Narrow Sea
Hence George R.R. Martin, an author (and master worldbuilder) whose skill I have never denied, is sponsoring a new annual scholarship at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle: https://www.clarionwest.org/ 
 A Worldbuilder Scholarship covering tuition & fees & lodging for a single student per year. "The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The winner will be selected each year in a blind judging to an applicant who demonstrates both financial need and a talent for worldbuilding and the creation of secondary universes." And my thanks, Mr. Martin, for once again acknowledging J.R.R. Tolkien as "a worldbuilder without peer".

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

My father and I just started Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

My father and I just started Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, book #2 of her Howl Series.
This tale taking place south of Ingary in the realm of Zanzib.

So supposedly this is supposed to be the Arabian Nights with a twist. Well, seeing as said book is famous for its twists, this can only mean a Jones Twist – the evolved, higher, form of an ordinary plot twist. Already we feel lost in a labyrinth that echoes with the benevolent laughter of Mistress of the Multiverse / Lady of Endless Surprises as she guides us helplessly along.

Monday, February 5, 2018

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

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

What can I say? A book with a setting, plot, and characters which all seem so simple, even simplistic, is really a breathtaking work of complex mastery that is impossible to predict and surprises at every turn. In other words, plain ordinary fare by Jones standards but with one of her best ever heart-stopping (in two senses) climaxes.

May you live happy ever after Sophie Hatter and Howl, Lettie Hatter and Sulaman, Martha Hatter and Michael, Fanny, Mrs. Fairfax, and of course Calcifer.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory."

I have always been the first advocate of Tolkien and his philosophies regarding the Fantasy genre as well as life itself. Yet it occurs to me that I have never compiled all these beautiful quotes in a single place so their full and united message can be viewed. Allow me to now correct that mistake (though, for the sake of brevity, only those which include or near enough paraphrase the word "escape" shall be utilized).

"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!" – J.R.R. Tolkien
"I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter." J.R.R. Tolkien

“It does seem that a fantasy, working out in its own terms, stretching you beyond the normal concerns of your own life, gains you a peculiar charge of energy which inexplicably enriches you. At least, this is my ideal of a fantasy, and I am always trying to write it.” Diana Wynne Jones
"Fantasy for me as a kid was real, and I had a fantasy about what life was, whether it was sort of wicked and dire, or wholly normal, or whatever. Anything really close to home is not, it seems to me, what a good book should be about." – Diana Wynne Jones
"It seems to me that humour is everybody's way of keeping sane and standing off from the situations so that they can see it intellectually, as well as emotionally, and I don't know whether you've noticed, but if somebody tells a joke, it's nearly always a mini fantasy." – Diana Wynne Jones

“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.  And while we're on the subject, I'd like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it's a bad thing. As if "escapist" fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.  If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with (and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.” Neil Gaiman

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. 
Stories of the sort I am describing…they cool us…hence the uneasiness which they arouse in those who, for whatever reason, wish to keep us wholly imprisoned in the immediate conflict. That perhaps is why people are so ready with the charge of 'escape'. I never wholly understood it until my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, "What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and hostile to, the idea of escape?" and gave the obvious answer: jailers.” – C.S. Lewis