Sunday, October 26, 2014

A picture is worth...

Discovered this little graphic the other day. It's not the best of quality, but it does a good job of epitomizing the things that genre fiction can do without us even realizing it. It reminds us that sometimes we don't notice symbolism, but it's there.

We are human; symbols mean things to us, even if we're not aware of it. And this graphic points it out more succinctly than I think I could ever do.

I don't know who created this, but kudos, because you Get It.

Until Next Time...
Symbolically Yours,

Monday, October 13, 2014

'Tis the Season

Every year I try to read 52 short stories, i.e., one per week. This works out well for many reasons. First of all, I love the short form. Second, it helps support the short form industry. And third, it allows me to read per season. Sometimes I'm in the middle of a long novel when a particular season rolls around, like the Halloween season coming up on us, and I don't want to abandon the novel I'm reading to read a more seasonally appropriate novel. The short story, thus, solves all my problems.

This year, I'm going to reread some great H.P. Lovecraft short stories.

During Lovecraft's times and prior, the distinction between science fiction and horror was not as sharp as it sometimes is today. For instance, many consider Shelly's Frankenstein as a horror novel, but among genre readers, it is actually the first distinct science fiction novel. By Lovecraft's time, though, these types of stories were referred to as Fantastic Tales or Tales of the Fantastic, and many times combined elements of horror and science fiction. What we call fantasy today was called S&S for Sword & Sorcery, which also border-lined into horror.

What made Lovecraft's tales of the fantastic unique though was that Lovecraft was an atheist, while the traditional monsters of the day were always in some ways tied into occultism, demons, or Satan worship. So how did this atheist author address that little gap? Well, his monsters were creatures escaped from other dimensions, gaps between parallel universes, or escapees from the Eternal Void. All could be summoned, contacted, or accidently released if an individual - any individual - had the arcane knowledge to do so. A person didn't have to have magic power or be the seventh son of a seventh son to do so.

So to wrap up here... In the mood for some horror as these leaves turn color, a chill nips in the air, and the traditional icons of Halloween pop up all around you? Turn to the short form, read a few of tales of other-worldly beings, and you'll be all set. Remember don't stare too deeply into The Abyss because it will stare back.

Until Next Time...
Cthulhuly Yours,

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Banned Books and Irony

We are constantly hearing about various books being banned across the United States and other countries. Usually in the United States, it's a small group of people from the Christian persuasion who find a book offensive, pornographic, blasphemous, etc. etc. For example, the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman is offensive to Catholics who then attempted to have it removed from various schools and libraries around the country (they even picketed outside movie theaters when the first book, "The Golden Compass," was made into a movie). It didn't help that Pullman admitted he intended for it to be offensive.

An attempt to ban a book by a group of small group is nothing new. 

But what is new is the (so far successful) attempt of books being banned for being "too Christian." Yes, you read that right. A small group of atheist in California successfully lobbied and compelled a local school to remove books from its library shelves for being overtly Christian. One of those books is "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Bloom. The book is an autobiography about how a families faith helped them survive the Holocaust. It does not preach or try to convert, and does not insist that the reader believe in God. It simply tells the story of a family who believe in God and how that belief affected how they treated and viewed both their fellow prisoners and their captors.

Maybe your first reaction is - Good! Maybe you're thinking, "It's about time those over zealous Christians know how it feels."
Maybe you aren't thinking those things. Maybe, like me, you're thinking of that old cliché: "Two Wrongs don't make a Right."

Banning a book because of the ideas it contains is bad. Period. Your opinion of those ideas is irrelevant. You have the right to free speech, you have the right to express your opinion, and people have the right to disagree with you.

You do not have the right to NOT be offended. If that sentence looks odd to you, then read it again and think about it. Just because you don't like something, doesn't mean you have the right to deny other people access to that material. Just because something offends you, be you a Christian or an atheist, a Jew or a Muslim, does not mean you have some moral right to prevent others from sampling the pool of ideas that make humans thinking creatures.

Freedom of speech exists to protect unpopular speech. Some of the world's greatest ideas and mankind's greatest steps forward started out as an unpopular ideas. But freedom of speech applies both ways, speech that comforts you and speech that offends you.

Sometimes Freedom is messy - Get used to it.

Until Next Time...
Messily Yours,

Monday, October 6, 2014

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this book, with many calling this the weakest of the five published thus far. I disagree with that assessment, but can understand it. It's the publication dates that matter and mold a lot of opinions.

Book Three: A Storm of Swords was published in 2000, and left the readers in quite a pivotal point in the story. So five years later, here comes the next book in the series, A Feast for Crows. Fans flocked  (pun sort of intended) to stores and online, they feverishly read the book, only to be shocked that there wasn't one bit of story about some of their favorite characters whose lives hung in the balance from the ending of A Storm of Swords. Imagine the indignation, the frustration. Five years, and not a word.

*****This paragraph contains minor spoilers:
But to those fans in an uproar, Martin threw them a bone… at the end of Book Four, he semi-promised them the rest of the story within a year, give or take. He also explained why the story was published this way. Basically, there was so much story to tell he split it in two and instead of telling half the story of each of the characters, he choose to tell the entire story for half the characters and would follow up with the entire story for the other half. Many fans thought he picked the "weaker" story lines for Book Four as a way of guaranteeing the sales of Book Five, which may be true, but I disagree that the storylines were weaker. I feel that Arya, Brie, Jaime, and Cersei are just as strong and just as compelling stories as the others characters.
*****Spoilers end here

No big deal, though, the fans had waited five years, they got a bit of the story to whet their appetites, and although they were not happy about it, they could wait another year with a minimum of grumbling.

So…. the first year passed, the second year passed, jokes began to emerge – the most memorable of which was: "Is Winter Coming?"

Third year, fourth, etc.

A Dance with Dragons (2011) was released. So not only did fans have to wait six years for the story to continue, they had waited a grand total of eleven years to find out the fates of characters they hadn't read since 2000.

That makes it a little easier to understand the belief that Feast of Crows is the weakest of the books to date, but in a general overall view, and when read back to back, it neatly fits into the plot gears and does much to propel the plot forward.

Until Next Time...
Feastly Yours,