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.

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