Sunday, January 28, 2024

I just started Rhapsody, book one of Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of Ages

I just started Rhapsody, book one of Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of Ages.

Time travel, Time Editors, and mysteries abound as Gwydion finds himself on the Island of Serendair centuries before war and the sea take it. Placed there, I and he hope, to save a young lady whom only I suspect is the book's namesake. This series has been sitting on my bookshelf for ages and by the looks of things it will be a wild ride across the waves of Time. Let the harmony begin.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Official Book Review: The Fury, Book Two of David Doersch's Chronicles of the Raven

I have finished The Fury, Book Two of David Doersch's Chronicles of the Raven and, as the author requested, now give it an Official Book Review.

Fulfilling the promise Book One made, The Fury reveals the Chronicles of the Raven as a Fantasy of consistent, incredible, expanding and intricately detailed depth as old intrigues come to fruition or wither depending while revealing layers that were only hinted at and others utterly unexpected as the world of Hortus and story itself reaches beyond the borders of Daffyd. A story that is now far more than a Celtic Fantasy about the women and men of Green Mount and Lachland protecting their homes from the savage Barbárs hordes, the Church of the Five, and the blood-magicking Angor shamans. Powers far greater are now at play as ancient, forgotten legends come to life, and one of Doersch's great qualities is that he forces to reader to be as keen-eyed as the best of archers to gain full understanding.

But understanding or not – and the Five know many of the characters themselves are in the not category – the Autumn Equinox is nigh and now the fate of the world depends upon the Raven Corvus Corax and his friends ascending and matching the ancient call: The battle cry goes out as swords are drawn… "Protect the Tor!" In other words, Book Three will open with a literally earth-shaking battle.

(P.S. If you, dear reader, are an author/publisher and reading this review makes you want to ask me for a review too then PLEASE read my Contact Me? page.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Monday, January 15, 2024

How Fantasy builds empathy

"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

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life." – Friedrich Schiller

"Everything you can imagine is real." – Pablo Picasso

"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

With these quotes do I begin to answer the question of how does speculative fiction build empathy? The simplest answer being the question: how can it not? The article “Literature as more than a window: building readers' empathy and social capacity through exposure to diverse literature” by Sharon Colvin states, quite accurately, that "that nonfiction stories, such as the news, present an obligation to act and that this sense of responsibility lowered empathy. Fiction, on the other hand, is a safe, non-threatening place to approach new people and social situations. These indirect interactions cause less anxiety than personal contact; it is more a cognitive experience that can prepare people for personal contact." Now combine that with the findings outlined in the "Why Kids Can Learn More From Tales of Fantasy Than Realism” by Deena Skolnick Weisberg article: "At the start of the study, published in 2015 in Cognitive Development, children knew less about words from the fantastical books, perhaps because these words were somewhat more challenging. But we found that children’s lexical knowledge caught up over the course of the intervention and, at the post-test, they knew as much about these words as they did about the words from the realistic stories. That is, children gained more knowledge from the fantastical stories than from the realistic ones." Thus does the answer reveal itself, for in speculative fiction one is freed from all earthly obligations and taken on a journey with the protagonists, privy to all their deepest thoughts and feeling from the heights of joy and triumph to agonies the likes of which most of us will never suffer. 

Golden Sun
Yet by being in the mind of the characters we do suffer them, just as we cry with joy when they succeed. Is it not said that to truly understand someone you have to put on their shoes and walk around in them? Well, Fantasy does exactly speculative fiction does exactly that, and in a manner that fires the imagination by taking the reader to unknown lands. To again quote Tolkien, "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." My point precisely, for the reader feels that joy and sorrow.

Furthermore, speculative fiction lets readers explore different cultures in addition the to learning about Dragons and whatnot. As Sharon Colvin wrote, "Researchers found when white elementary school children read short stories about multiethnic characters, their attitudes toward African Americans were more effectively improved than when they interacted with a group of African American children. The stories seemed to provide a safe place for children to explore the idea of different cultures." Of course, entirely made-up worlds that are the setting of many Fantasies do not have African Americans per se seeing as these worlds host neither Africa nor America, but, and here is the key, Fantasy is grounded in reality, each world and character created from the mind of an author that has been shaped by real-world experiences and/or drawn from a solid knowledge of history. 

Yet the very fact that it is Fantasy provides a degree of separation between otherwise similar situations, a separation that becomes escapism and allows Fantasy authors to employ various metaphors and situations to explore real-world issues even while riding Dragons and marshaling Wizard-armies to battle the Dark Lord. In short, many made-up cultures and races in Fantasy and Sci-Fi are made to strongly resemble real-world cultures. To use an example from my own reading, in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books the dark-skinned Shin'a'in (translation: People of the Plains) resemble the Bedouins in lifestyle; they are nomadic, living in tents, and they are predominantly herders and horse-breeders, living in Clans and seeking spiritual leadership from their Shamans. To now quote Mercedes Lackey, "I try to keep my world as solid and real as possible; people deal with stubborn pumps, bugs in the porridge, and love-lives that refuse to become untangled, right along with invading armies and evil magicians. And I try to make all of my characters, even the ‘evil magicians,’ something more than flat stereotypes. Even evil magicians get up in the night and look for cookies, sometimes."

How does speculative fiction build empathy? Because, in short, it lets readers escape the world they live in for one filled with new people and places that range from magical to mundane, wondrous to wicked, where they can make new friends and foes in abundance. In sum, as said George R.R. Martin (loathe as I am to quote him), "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Quote of the month

"The young must grow old,
Whilst old ones grow older,
And cowards will shrink,
As the bold grow bolder.
Courage may blossom in quiet hearts,
For who can tell where bravery starts?
Truth is a song, oft lying unsung,
Some mother bird, protecting her young,
Those who lay down their lives for friends,
The echo rolls onward, it seldom ends.
Who never turned and ran, but stayed?
This is a warrior born, not made!
Living in peace, aye many a season,
Calm in life and sound in reason,
'Til evil arrives, a wicked horde,
Driving a warrior to pick up his sword,
The challenger rings then, straight and fair,
Justice is with us, beware. Beware!"

- Brian Jacques

Monday, January 1, 2024

I have started The Fury, Book Two of David Doersch's Chronicles of the Raven

At the author's request I have started The Fury, Book Two of David Doersch's Chronicles of the Raven.

The gathering storm has broken into a fury, for the Barbárs hordes and their sadistic Angor blood-shaman allies are not defeated yet upon the Green Mount while multi-pronged plots as well as these same foes threaten Lachland. Thus it is a race against the proverbial clock, for the Autumn Equinox approaches and Fel's servants must be stopped ere far more than Daffyd falls. Corvus Corax, Princess Darienne, Captain Zach, and Mama Warad and her three votaries certainly have their work cut out for them.

The battle cry goes out as swords are drawn… "Protect the Tor!"