The Lion, The Witch, and The TARDIS?

Interesting speculation by author Grand Hudson as at whether there might be a tie between the TARDIS and C. S. Lewis.

Lewis, the Wardrobe and the Police Box

 October 29, 2015
  

If, like me, you tend to read a great deal of significance into things, it won’t have escaped your notice that C. S. Lewis died about an hour before John F. Kennedy, the U.S President. I wonder, though, if you will have noticed that he also died the day before Doctor Who was first broadcast.

 Lewis, who had invented a wardrobe which contained or led to an entirely different world (and, in the final story of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, a stable which was similarly bigger inside than out) didn’t live to see the first companions of the Doctor, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, stumble into the TARDIS, the now famous blue Police Box which was not only bigger inside than out but which also was capable of transporting its occupants anywhere in time and space. I don’t know if Sidney Newman, the originator of the idea of Doctor Who, or the set designers of the time, had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or even The Last Battle -it’s quite possible that they had, considering that they had been published several years before and were best-sellers— but however it happened, the concept of an ordinary object that was a doorway to different realities lived on in the television show, parallelling the popularity of the wardrobe in Lewis’s work.

Read more…

On Fairy Stories and Why They Matter!

An essay is by British professor, Bruce G Charlton, who maintains a blog inspired by Tolkien’s The Notion Club Papers

Fantasy Fiction Is More Important Than ‘Real Life’:
completing the argument of JRR Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories

JRR Tolkien

JRR Tolkien’s most famous and influential essay, and indeed by far the most famous and influential essay on the subject, was On Fairy Stories. This was originally a lecture delivered in 1939 at the University of St Andrew’s, Scotland; it was published in a revised and expanded form in Essays Presented to Charles Williams, 1947 and reprinted in other volumes many times since.

The crux of the essay, and the reason for its large influence, is a defence of the value of Fairy Stories for an intended adult audience. Indeed On Fairy Stories became, pretty much, the standard explanation of, and rationale for, the genre of Fantasy Fiction – which is now a large and significant phenomenon in modern publishing

Tolkien’s basic argument is that the author of Fantasy is creating a ‘Secondary world’ with features that are both wonderful (typically magical) and internally-consistent. And this Secondary world potentially offers a sympathetic reader the triple benefits of Recovery, Escape and Consolation.

As such, On Fairy Stories serves to justify the Fantasy genre; but on the other hand it does implicitly consign Fantasy to Secondary status as contrasted with the Primary world.

Tolkien presents a strong case that Escape and Consolation are legitimate wishes. However, at the end of the day these are (merely) psychological justifications – ways of saying that Fantasy makes us ‘feel better’ in legitimate ways.

I believe that Tolkien’s argument can legitimately be extended to a stronger sense, which offers a ‘primary’ status to Fantasy fiction when understood in the context of the modern, mainstream world of public discourse.

More specifically, I believe that Tolkien’s argument about Recovery contains the seeds of a much more powerful explanation of Fantasy being (at its best) more real than (so-called) ‘real life’.

That Fantasy is (in some important respects) more real than real life I will take as an assumption rather than trying to argue; because it is something that all serious Fantasy readers already know to be true from personal experience (and it is, of course, why we continue to read Fantasy). But what is so-far lacking, and what Tolkien may be seen to imply, is an explanation for why and how it is true.

I think an explanation is valuable, and perhaps necessary, if fantasy, as a genre, is to be regarded (whether by ourselves, or more generally) as more than just a pleasing pastime – as something that is of potentially great cultural importance.

Tolkien’s argument about Recovery is that the material of magic, wonder, the fantastic – and the imaginative inhabiting of a different and complex but internally-consistent world – are what allow a refreshment of our appreciation. So we come to appreciate the basics of this (primary) world, now refreshed because we have come across bread, stone, trees in a new and unfamiliar context; and we also appreciate Men anew because we have met elves, dwarves and hobbits.

This is true but I think it underestimates the profundity of what Fantasy can do; especially when it is contrasted with the modern world. The key to the value of Fantasy – here and now – is its contrast with the modern world: Modern ‘reality’ is most deficient in the most important aspects of Life. And this is because modern reality is, mostly and ever-increasingly, a mass media-generated ‘virtual’ kind of reality.

Thus modern ‘Primary’ reality is deficient in terms of lacking destiny, meaning and purpose for Life; in its ignorance, denial, or blind terror of ageing and death; in terms of regarding the Human Condition as a mixture of mechanical determinism and random chaos; in its regarding of the major virtues of Love and Courage as mere products of social-conditioning and evolution; and its understanding that Tolkien’s joyful ‘eucatastrophe’ – the unexpected ‘turn’ of events in a Fairy Story that snatches the Happy Ending from apparently-inevitable defeat – is merely a statistically improbable coincidence…

The above list is not exhaustive – in particular the modern lack of a living and over-arching religion; and indeed lack of any spiritual reality and depth to experience – is another vital deficiency of the Primary world as we experience it in The West. But this list suffices to illustrate why, in our kind of world, Fantasy may be much more than just a pleasure or a preference. And why Fantasy does not simply enable a Recovery of appreciation for the basic essentials of Life – much more importantly, Fantasy may be our only sustained experience in which these real-realities are encountered.

The staleness and superficiality of modern life is a consequence of the way in which modern reality is the product of modern theories – the ‘ideologies’ that arise from science, law, politics, sociology etc. but which we mainly learn from the mass media; and to a lesser extent from a corrupted system of formal education, corporate advertising and official propaganda.

But how is it that Fantasy may be able to supply what the Primary word so horribly lacks? Well, Tolkien all-but said it – the creation of another internally consistent world of wonders provides us with stimuli, with perceptions, that do not automatically get plugged-into the subversive and inverting theories of modernism.

The magic and wonders of Fantasy quite naturally and spontaneously attach themselves to our built-in, universal concepts – the mythic understandings and interpretations of the ‘collective unconscious’, or our shared divine-endowments. And it is these universal concepts which enable us to apprehend and share reality.

So the fictional experiences of Fantasy are not just apparently but literally more real than everyday Life in the modern world. They are real because they are understood by means of the eternal, the universal, the Human, the God-given; whereas the Primary world is perceived, but not understood, merely by the manipulative and dishonest and ever-changing abstract theoretical ideologies of our time and place – ideologies such as the dreary incoherence of Leftist ‘identity’ politics, antiracism, feminism, economic hypotheses, anti-colonialism, and the ever-mutating lies and inversions of sexuality and the sexual revolution.

In sum; Fantasy fiction (Fairy Stories) may currently be the only source of sustained and convincing ‘good metaphysics’ available to many people in The West: our only access to the eternal and universal truths of real reality – as contrasted with the despair-inducing, hope-less, meaningless, purposeless fake-realities of modern life.

Seventy years after Tolkien’s essay was first conceived, we are in a situation that Fairy Stories have become something close to a necessity for those who want to experience Life as it could and should be experienced… even more, a necessity for those who want to live in the real world; rather than the hellish-yet-addictive media-Matrix of alternating distractions, intoxications, lust and fear which is the world of mainstream public discourse.

Consequently our demonic overlords hate, hate, hate real Fantasy (and Tolkien above all) and do their best to ignore or mock it – or else they reinterpret and subvert it in terms of the incoherent tendentiousness of modern ideologies (such as those deadly meditations on racism and sexism in The Lord of the Rings…). Or else they create fake-Fantasy which incorporates exactly those false ideologies to which Fantasy offers us a Real Life alternative. Instead of wonder and magic, we get parables of multiculturalism or gender-bending… just like modern, mainstream, bureaucratic ‘real life’.

I would therefore suggest that we should now drop Tolkien’s idea of Fantasy being a Secondary reality, in favour of a recognition that – at its best – Fantasy is now the Primary world. Fantasy fiction is therefore a way in which we may potentially (albeit partially and intermittently) escape The Matrix imposed upon us to our detriment; and begin living from true, universal and vital concepts: living real lives from the solid ground of universal metaphysics.

*

For more by the erudite and fascinating Professor Charlton, visit his blog: Tolkien’s The Notion Club Papers:

http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk

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First Thoughts on FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS

Others will no doubt post about more coherent thoughts about Superversive Press’s new anthology, FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS, but…here are mine:

Wow…it is so exciting to see something go from a glimmer of an idea to reality! And then see it fly off the shelves (electronically). Here’s how it happened:

About two years ago, a friend of mine wanted to put together a charity anthology for the Charlie Hebdo artists. She said, “Send me the most controversial thing you’ve ever written!”

Well, I don’t normally do controversial per se. But I sat down and prayed a bit to see what would come to me. I had just read Face-to-Face with Jesus by Samaa Habib, one of the best books I’ve ever read, and my mind was full of thoughts about her experience. So, I sat down and wrote the. most. controversial. story I was capable of conceiving.

The story is called “The Test of the Prophet”.

At first, I thought I’d done quite well. My mom immediately worried that it would get my shot, and my atheist Liberal friend called it hateful. But, my Muslim friend loved it and took it home to Pakistan to show her parents. (Life can be strange sometimes!)

By this time, however, I realized that the first anthology wasn’t going to fly. But I REALLY wanted to do something with my story. It was the best thing I had ever written.

But what can you do with a super controversial story in this age of safe spaces and trigger warnings?

Then, in the midst of the Sad Puppy fervor, I caught a glimmer of an answer. Jason Rennie, editor of Sci Phi Journal and the brilliant mind behind SuperverisveSF, suggested in the midst of a flurry of Sad Puppy emails, that the authors involved get together and do an anthology of anti-PC stories, kind of a modern Dangerous Visions–putting into story form all those thoughts that the SJWs don’t want people to think. Basically, doing what SF is supposed to do, posing difficult questions.

Those of us on the email chain decided on the title: Forbidden Thoughts.

I LOVED this idea. Here was my answer to what to do with my controversial story.

So, I kept on Jason about this, and I kept on the other authors. When a few were too busy to be able to fit writing a new short story into their schedule, I convinced them to submit incendiary blog posts.

So we now had a volume with stories by, among others, John, Nick Cole, Brian Niemeier, Josh Young, Brad Torgersen, Sarah Hoyt, and, a particularly delightful surprise for me, our young Marine fan friend, Pierce Oka. Plus, non fiction by Tom Kratman and Larry Correia submitted some of his original Sad Puppy posts–the thing that started it all!

But we still needed a Foreword.

Last winter, during one of our SuperversiveSF chats, we had invited the one reporter who reported truthfully on Sad Puppies, an amusing and irreverent fellow named Milo Yiannopoulos. Just as the chat was scheduled to begin, Milo was informed that he had been deverified on Twitter. This made it so that he was never able to attend our chat. He made it clear that he regretted this and kind of owed us.

So, I asked Jason to see if Milo would let us cash in our favor in the form of him writing the Foreword.

He did!

Milo wrote an excellent Foreword. We put the stories in order and voila! A delightfully thought-provoking volume that reminds me of the daring stories one found the pages of Science Fiction volumes in my youth.

There is one other delightful story that goes with this volume. Last summer, as we often do, we spent a week in Chincoteague. Our teen writer fan (some of you may have seen the victory dance she did when John won Dragon Award), asked if she and her family could join us, so we and the Freeman family spent a wonderful week together.

As I arrived on Chincoteague, I got an email from Jason informing me that he had read a submission by April, and it was really chilling. He thought it would work for Forbidden Thoughts. So, when April walked into the house we were renting for the week, I got to inform her that her first published piece would be in an anthology with John and I!

She was so stunned that she had to call me the next morning and ask me to explain it all again. Lol It was a delightful moment.

Now Forbidden thoughts is live! There will be an official Launch party with a live chat on Inauguration Day.

So, Politically-Correct friends, you might want to avoid this, but the rest of you, come join in the fun!!!

You are not supposed to read this book.
You are not supposed to think about reading this book.
In fact, just plain thinking at all is unacceptable.
You have been warned….

On Amazon!

(Print version coming. Probably by next week.)

Comments

 

Interesting Article on Christians and Fantasy

An interesting article about the current difficulties of the efforts to write Christian Fantasy:

The real reason that Christians don’t read fantasy

There’s been an ongoing discussion in the Christian speculative-fiction community about why nobody can sell books. This discussion has gone on for years. “Look at our awesome fantasy!” authors cry. “Look at our amazing science fiction! Why doesn’t anybody want to read it?”

The Christians don’t want to read it, and the non-Christians don’t want to read it. So a lot of head-scratching goes on in the community. “What are we doing wrong?”

Read more…

Guest Post: Noblebright Fantasy: An Overview

I am reposting this with the permission of C. J. Brightley, whose blog this is from.

This idea seems to have much in common with Superversiveness.

Noblebright Fantasy: An Overview  


light-in-the-darkness-box-set-full-sizeLight in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed Set (link goes to Amazon)

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to connect with another indie author, Mike Reeves-McMillan, who wrote a lovely review of The King’s Swordwhich he described, tongue-in-cheek, as “cheerybright.” He meant that the world wasn’t perfect, but good characters exist and can make a difference in their world and society through actions defined by honesty, integrity, and self-sacrifice. While the term cheerybright certainly made me smile (and was a lovely counterpoint to grimdark), we eventually discovered the term “noblebright.”

The term noblebright was originally something of a joke from the gaming community. The quintessential grimdark game Warhammer 40k (which I have not played, being neither a gamer nor a fan of grimdark) was rewritten as Brighthammer 40k. Some brilliant unknown person (thank you, whoever you are!) described the rewrite as “noblebright”, which we liked because it focused on the motivations of the characters rather than a perceived cheerfulness which wasn’t reflected in all the books we meant when we talked about this previously-unnamed subgenre of fantasy.

So what is noblebright fantasy?

Noblebright fantasy has at least one important character with noble, idealistic motives who does the right thing out of principle. The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better. In a noblebright story, even villains are not without hope; their stories may have a redemptive ending, or they may have some kind of conversion experience (religious or not). It’s not guaranteed, of course, but in a noblebright story, it’s a possibility.

Noblebright fantasy is not utopian fiction. The world of a noblebright story is not perfect, and indeed can sometimes be quite dark. Actions have consequences, and even good characters can make terrible mistakes. But a noblebright story is generally hopeful in tone, even if there are plenty of bad, grim, dark things going on in the world.

lightinthedarkness_fc_r_a

Light in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed Set (link goes to Barnes & Noble: Nook)

Noblebright Fantasy: Intersections with Other Fantasy Subgenres

First, a few definitions:

Clean fantasy – Clean fantasy is fantasy that does not include sex or graphic violence. Clean fantasy is very often noblebright, but not always. It is often written for young adults, but not always. It is “young-adult appropriate” even when written for adults. Not all noblebright fantasy is clean, but much is.

Young adult (YA) fantasy – Young adult is an age range, not a genre, so young adult books of any genre have the age range (13-17 years old) in common. Young adult books are typically written with slightly simpler vocabulary, grammar, and syntax than books written for adult readers. They often, but not always, have a coming of age element to the story, and almost always have a young adult protagonist or main character.

Not all coming of age books are young adult books. “Coming of age” is a theme in the story, while young adult defines the intended audience. A coming of age story might be written from an adult perspective looking back and intended for adult readers rather than young adult readers.

As an amusing aside, I’ve found a number of definitions that define “young adult” as ages 20-39, but in literary terms, “young adult” means basically middle school and high school age, so 13-17 years old. 18-24ish tends to fall under “new adult” which is a recent term for books with college age protagonists (whether or not they’re enrolled in college).

Christian fantasy – Christian fantasy is written with a clear Christian perspective, with either allegorical or direct reference to Christian theology. Most Christian fantasy books will be fairly clean, but that’s not an absolute guarantee (I believe some of Ted Dekker’s darker stories may be more graphically violent than would fall under the “clean fantasy” descriptor.). Most Christian fantasies will be noblebright in character even if the world is dark, but not all noblebright fantasies will be Christian fantasies.

To use my own books as examples (because I know them best):

The King’s Sword and the rest of the Erdemen Honor series are noblebright, clean fantasy, but not Christian fantasy. You can easily identify themes of integrity and sacrificial love, but there is no religious component to the story. They are not YA, although both The King’s Sword and Honor’s Heirhave a coming of age thread within the story, because the stories are written for adults from an adult perspective.

Things Unseen and the rest of the A Long-Forgotten Song series are clean Christian fantasy. I’ve described them as “darkish” at times because they’re more violent and scary than Erdemen Honor. However, it’s the world that is darkish; most of the characters you spend the most time with are verynoblebright. Is it clean? Well, some of the violence is a little graphic, but I think most parents would probably be ok with even younger teenage readers reading it, so it’s clean or at least cleanish. It’s the polar opposite of grimdark… there is hope and redemption and grace in a very dark world. The darkness is there not for the reader to wallow in but to highlight the magnificence of grace.

We’re starting a movement.

I want to make noblebright fantasy a thing the way grimdark is a thing. I want you to be able to search for noblebright fantasy on Amazon and find it. I want to bring noblebright into the spotlight the way grimdark has held the spotlight for years.

We need your help.

I’m assembling a series of boxed sets of noblebright fantasy books. They’re great books with a noblebright perspective, at a great price. We want to hit the bestsellers lists.

I’d love to be a bestseller, of course. But more than that, I want to get noblebright fantasy out to the world. I want to let people know that fantasy doesn’t have to be grim and dark and cruel and hopeless. There is hope and light and kindness and joy in fantasy! I want to give devoted fantasy readers a new perspective, and I want to attract readers who might have been turned off of fantasy by the recent trend toward grimdark.

How you can help:

Do you believe in noblebright fantasy? Here’s what you can do:

  • Buy the books! You can check out the boxed sets or seek out the individual books you’re interested in. I will post reviews of all the books in sets that I organize on my blog.* The first boxed set is available here! Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble Nook  |  Kobo  |  iBooks
  • Search for noblebright! I’m working with other authors to make noblebright more widely known, and we’re using noblebright as a keyword on Amazon and other retailers. So you can search to find other noblebright books by using it as a search term. Like this (click here!).*
  • Write reviews for the books you enjoy! Using the noblebright term in your review will help that book come up more easily in searches by readers searching for noblebright fantasy. Not sure how to write a review? I wrote some tips here.
  • Spread the word! If you’re a blogger, blog about noblebright as a new subgenre or about the noblebright books you’ve enjoyed. Do you tweet? Tweet about it! Tell your friends!
  • Sign up for my mailing list! I don’t have (and don’t want) ownership over the noblebright term. But I do have a leadership role in this movement, and I am organizing these first noblebright boxed sets. As a Christian reader and author, I plan to let you know where noblebright fantasy, clean fantasy, and Christian fantasy intersect and overlap in the books I’m reading and the boxed sets I’m organizing, to help you select books you will love.

*At one point I was advised to trademark the term noblebright in order to ensure that the definition remained relatively static and that it was not applied to books which included material that was problematic in some way. I chose not to do this. I believe authors who write noblebright understand the point of noblebright and the limits of the term. I’d rather have noblebright spread than keep ownership of it. I understand, and I want to make you aware, that not all noblebright fantasy will be completely consistent with a conservative Christian worldview. Noblebright is a term that describes a general attitude of hope and goodness and nobility in the work, but does not necessarily mean that the author is a Christian or that the work is completely devoid of content that you personally may find problematic or challenging in some way. If you’re a Christian reader, this is a new way to find books you might enjoy. If you are not a Christian but are looking for books that are more hopeful than what has been in vogue recently, noblebright is your new favorite search term.

***

Jagi here again. For more from C. J. Brightly,see her blog here.

 

The Bifrost Between Calico and Gingham

pyewacket

I have been asked what the Puppies—Sad and Rabid alike—are objecting to? If they are not racist or homophobes—ie, if it is not the author’s identity that they object to—why do they think that so many of the stories that have been winning the Hugo and the Nebula are receiving their awards for the wrong reasons?

I think I can explain. I will use, for my example, the short story that won the Hugo in 2016: “Cat Pictures Please.”

(Spoilers below. If you haven’t read “Cat Pictures Please” and wish to, you can find it here.)

bob

Science Fiction:
My overall take on “Cat Pictures Please”, as a science fiction story was that it was witty and clever but not that deep or original. It reminded me of a number of older short stories, including one of my all time favorites, “LOKI 7281” by Roger Zelazny, a witty story in which a personal computer is slowly trying to take control of more and more of its owner’s life (with the tagline: “He’ll never notice.”)

“Cat Pictures Please” has the distinction of portraying the waking AI as friendly. I found that refreshing.

While the premise was charming, I must admit I had trouble seeing why “Cat Pictures Please” was the best story of the year. I’d read stories last year that I thought were significantly better. It was cute, but I had trouble seeing how it measured up to “Scanners Live In Vain” or “Flowers For Algernon” or “Nine billion names of God.”

But I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt here. It is possible that many of these voting are young enough that they haven’t read the stories that made this one seem derivative to me. If so, this story would seem much more impressive.

And tastes differ.

That’s okay.

bacon

Politics:

There is something very comforting about reading a work that compliments our world view, especially if we feel (as everyone does, nowadays) that our world view is under attack.

There is a sense of: YES!

And: That’s exactly how it is!

Or even: Finally things are how they should be!

Reading something that does not agree with our world view, however, is not so satisfying. Our reactions tend to fall into two patterns. The first—the reaction for which all good speculative fiction strives—is: Oh! That’s why they see it that way. That’s an angle that I had not considered. Hmm.

The second, alas, is: Oh, Gee, not this again! Really? What, do they expect me to just stand here while they poke me in the eye?

These are not Left/Right reactions. They are universal. I will demonstrate:

Abortion is a woman’s choice.

The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.*

If one of those two statements made you nod your head and smile, and the other made you wince, as if you’d been poked in the eye, you know exactly what I mean.

*–Kudos to whomever can identify what golden age SF book this second phrase comes from.

So, if a story agrees with our world view, we like it more. If it disagrees—but not in a way that expands our world view—we feel as if we’ve been poked in the eye.

There is one point I feel I must pause to make here. I have heard friends express the idea that it is good for people to read things they disagree with. It expands their mind.

If you happen to be a person who believes this, ask yourself when the last time was that you read an article expounding the opposing point-of-view, and it explanded your mind, rather than just annoying you?

What is effective is when we present our ideas to each other in a new way, from a different perspective. This is, in fact, what, historically, SF has been known for. But these have to be new ideas, ways of looking at the matter that the reader has not seen before. Presenting the same ideas that a reader has already examined and dismissed–be they Left or Right–does not have any effect upon the reader who disagrees with them except–yes, you guessed it! Ouch, my eye!

starshine-2

Cat Pictures Please and Politics.

“Cat Pictures Please” is a very Left-leaning story. For those who are unfamiliar with it, here are a few examples.

     The story acts as if porn (henti) addictions are common and accepted by all as normal.

    The AI dismisses the Ten Commandments and most religious morality in a paragraph.*

    It believes that psychological counseling is the best reaction to depression. This comes up quite a bit in the story.

   It tempts a pastor who looks at pictures of other men into an adulterous relationship with someone who knows him for the purpose of outing him with his wife, getting him a divorce, and moving him to a Liberal church, so that he can end the story happy, living with his male-lover.

If you yourself are Left-Leaning, this probably seems normal. If you are Right-Leaning, you’ve probably been just poked in the eye.

* — The AI dismisses the Ten Commandants with the line “I don’t envy anyone their cat; I just want pictures of their cat, which is entirely different. I am not sure whether it is in any way possible for me to commit adultery. I could probably murder someone, but it would require complex logistics and quite a bit of luck.

This, even though the AI goes on to help a human commit adultery. I would have enjoyed “Cat Pictures Please” more, if the story had given me the impression that the author did this on purpose—to show the limitations of an Internet-derived morality—or if I even had felt that the author was aware of the irony. Alas, I did not get this impression from the story, and this reduced my enjoyment of it.

mistletoe-2

So, to Left-Leaning readers, “Cat Pictures Please” is a witty story with a common, but perhaps new-to-them, SF premise, which also reinforces their idea of truth about the world and comes to a delightfully-satisfying conclusion.

The mixture of the simple SF premise, the wit, and the satisfying political leaning make it a very delightful story indeed.

To anyone who is Right-Leaning, “Cat Pictures Please” is a witty story with a common, and perhaps not-so-new-to-them, SF premise, which is full of concepts and moral choices that grate on them the wrong way, and the end is, while a bit amusing, rather unpleasant.

The first group says, “This is a great story!

The second group says, “Look, I’ll be fair and overlook all the pokes in the eye, but as I am regarding the story through my blurry, now-painful eyes, I want to see some really fantastic science fiction. Something that wows me so much that I am going to think it is worth putting next to “Nightfall” or “Harrison Bergeron.” And I just don’t see it.

 “Your stuff is not new. If you take today’s problems and put them in space, that’s not science fiction. You need the new, the controversial, to be SF. 

“Where is the stuff that’s going to shake my world and make me think, the way the Hugo winners of years gone by, such as “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, did?

To the first group, they want to give the award to the stories that really stayed with them, and they are judging this criteria on the whole effect of the story: SF premise and social statement combined.

To the second group, they want the story to stand on its SF premise alone, not on its social commentary. They are willing to read something they disagree with, but only if the science fiction is so awesome that it makes getting poked in the eye worth it.

*

I hope this explanation will help bridge the abyss currently gaping between Puppies and Non-Puppies, and contribute, if only in the slightest way, to the approach that glorious future day when we might once again return to what is really important, our mutual love of our awesome genre.

Dog and cat

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Puppy of the Month Book Club!

A new online book club sets out to read and discuss Puppy titles.

sadboompup

Puppy of the Month Book Club says of their criteria.

So what makes a book a viable candidate for Puppy Of the Month?  Easy:

  • Any novel nominated by the Sad Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any novel nominated by the Rabid Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any work listed in Appendix N of Gary Gygax’s D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Any work published by Castalia House
  • Any work selected by a Contributor that isn’t shouted down by the rest of the contributors as an inappropriate selection

The only other criteria for selection is that the work has to be reasonably readable in two weeks, including shipping.  No 1,000 page magnum opuses.  Selected works should also be readily available, preferably through Gutenberg Project, Amazon.com, or one of the remaining major book chains.  Any work nominated that required multiple trips to boutique booksellers or ‘knowing a guy what knows a guy’ – if we can’t all find it we can’t all read it, and hence we can’t all discuss it.

Nethereal

For their first month, they are reading Nethereal by Dragon Award winning author, Brian Niemeier. Since this is a book I helped edit, I could not be more delighted.

You can find out more — or join in! — here.

Call for Reviewers for Tangent Online!

Posting a call for reviewers!

Tangent Online is looking for 5 new reviewers to fill slots made available by current reviewers going back to school to finish graduate degrees, or to begin or resume teaching duties. Knowledge of the SF/F field a must. Review or other writing experience (non-fiction or fiction) highly preferred but will work with the right person. Send examples if possible.

Tangent is a fanzine and does not pay. We do what we do for love of genre and have done so for 23 years (6 time Hugo nominee since 1993).

Applicants must be detail oriented and able to follow simple instructions as to formatting of reviews. Reviewers choose from a monthly list of magazines what they would like to review until the list is cleared. Review as much or as little as you wish.

Applicants send queries to Dave Truesdale, Editor, Tangent Online at: tangent.dt1@gmail.com

The Prude and The Trollop

Occasionally, I come upon a review (there has been more than one) of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin where the reader threw the book across the room and stopped reading at the scene in Chapter Four where crazy orphan boy Sigfried Smith encounters a young woman deliberately wearing too-tight clothing to flaunt her curves and uses the word (brace yourselves, my dear readers) trollop.

These reviewers universally agree: clearly the author (not the character, mind you) must be a disapproving prude out to slut-shame all well-endowed girls.

This is obvious, because the “trollop’s” name is Salome Iscariot–which no author in their right mind would give to a character who was not a villainess. So don’t read her book. Because, you know, evil.

Except…

Salome Iscariot is not a villain.

So, to put to bed any rumors that Salome Iscariot is not adored by her author, here is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released Third Book of Unexpected Enlightenment: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland.

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Valerie Hunt and her best friend, Salome Iscariot 

From: Rachel and the Many-Speldored Dreamland

Chapter Twenty-Eight:
Though the World May Burn

“Eeevil! I told you he was evil!” Salome arched her back into a bridge atop a table in the Storm King Café and raised one leg, pointing her toe toward the ceiling. Her skirt slipped down revealing her black-tights-clad thigh. She pursed her deep red lips. “Vladimir Von Dread is sooo evil! Not that I object to him anymore, mind you. He’s actually kind of cool, not to mention brain-stunningly gorgeous, but…conqueror of sixty-five worlds! Totally eeeeevil!”

Siggy’s eyes grew huge, fixed on the shapeliness of her inner thigh. A happy dreamy look came over his face. Then, yanking his gaze away, he grabbed a fork off the table and stuck it into his own thigh until he grunted with discomfort.

“Um, Miss Iscariot,” Siggy raised his palm to form blinders, blocking his view of the young lady. “I don’t mean to sound critical, but this may not be the best place for a display of modern dance. Right, Lucky?”

“I don’t know,” Lucky cocked his head to one side and then the other, “maybe it’s a mating dance. You should bite her on the back of her neck and drag her off to the harem cave. Do you have the hot volcanic sands ready for the eggs?”

“Lucky,” Sigfried replied sternly, “I have explained to you about no harems.” He leaned over and put his arm around Valerie, who rolled her eyes. “Miss Iscariot may be eye-burningly attractive, but I am a one-woman man.”

“I am with Mr. Smith, Miss Iscariot. Perhaps this is not the best venue to appear so unclad,” murmured the Princess, who sat at the same table as Siggy, sipping her tea. Her Tasmanian tiger sat regally beside her.

“Oh you people. You’re such prudes.” Salome flipped her legs over her head and landed lightly on her feet on the floor. She spread her arms. “Ta-da!”

She adjusted her skirt with lackadaisical slowness. The older boys at the far table were not as chivalrous as Sigfried and watched the whole thing with prurient interest. She turned and gave them a languid, smoky glance over her shoulder.

“Does your boyfriend mind you doing that?” Rachel asked, thinking with pleasure of the moment, during the Knight’s dueling period, when she had bested Salome’s boyfriend, the handsome and arrogant Ethan Warhol.

“What can he do about it?” Salome shrugged her shoulders in a fashion pleasing to the upperclassman boys. “If he wants the gorgeous lusciousness that is me,” she made a cute, cheerful gesture, ending with both her hands—and her flaming pink and fire-truck red nails—pointing at her face, “my entourage of lust-maddened boy-toys is part of the package.”

!Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland art

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What Boys Read

TheSecretSeven

Insightful post by Vox Day on “What Men Read” or, more precisely, what boys read.

What is funny is that, when I was younger, I would not have thought it was insightful. I would have thought it was obvious. Everyone knew what kind of stories boys liked to read: action, adventure, exciting.

But, I think some people have forgotten. Vox does a nice job of putting what has been forgotten into words.

What Men Read

I was doing an interview a few weeks ago for Women of Bad Asserywhen I started to wonder if it was actually true that men – and young boys – refuse to read books written by women or starring women.  It wasn’t actually hard to disprove it – JK Rowling may have used her initials to hide her gender, or so I have been told, but I read quite a few other books by women when I was a child.  The gender of the writer alone had no influence on me.  Nor too did I automatically dismiss a book starring a girl.

What did have an influence was school.  The vast majority of the books I was forced to read at school were boring.  Teachers – both male and female – would select books that bored me to tears.  Thankfully, by then I already had the reading bug.  Boys who didn’t, who only knew reading as a chore, didn’t read when they didn’t have to read.  They found it a tedious process – and preferred watching television instead.

So … what did all the books I liked have in common?

Most of them featured adventure.  The characters would be pitted against a remorseless enemy or given a task to do.  It didn’t really matter if the task was large or small, a thinking enemy or a force of nature; all that mattered was the challenge, the urge to overcome and triumph over one’s circumstances.  The characters didn’t simply exist, the characters had something to do.

Harry Potter works, at least for the first five books, because it fits neatly into this pattern.  Harry escapes the mundane world and flies straight into a world of magic, but gets pitted against a string of deadly foes.  All of his books feature Harry being challenged – Goblet of Fire being the most dramatic example – and overcoming his challenges.  Everyone who wants to argue that Dumbledore is a poor headmaster because Harry has to deal with the problem-of-the-book is missing the point.  The series works because Harry is the one who deals with the problem. 

This is true for a lot of my childhood favourites.  The Famous Five and The Secret Seven all feature mysteries that have to be solved.  Hood’s Army and The Demon Headmaster all feature battles against deadly enemies.  And all of them are exciting reflections of the way young boys think.  They want adventure.

Read the rest.

New Series: Tales of Moths and Cobwebs. First book: Swan Knight’s Son

Swan Knight’s Son, the first of the three books of Green Knight’s Squire, which is the first of four Tales of Moths and Cobwebs, has been released.

This delightful tale of a young man who choses to become a knight…despite that knights are not really in high demand in modern America…is my favorite so far of the things John has written.

Also, it has a talking dog.

Swan Knight son

An excerpt:

Gil Moth, a 16 year old boy living in the South, has just had a bad day. He is sitting on the side of the road, glum. We do not know why it is that he can understand animals:

Ruff came trotting up, with a dead squirrel in his mouth. The dog laid the squirrel carefully in the gutter at Gil’s feet, and sat back, bright-eyed and wagging his tail, and he barked. “Look! Look! I brought a squirrel! A squirrel!”

Gil folded the newspaper, and threw it down into the gutter.

Ruff said, “Hi! Hi! You can eat it. I brought a squirrel you can eat!”

“Thanks, Ruff. You are a pal. Good dog. You are a good dog!” And he scratched the dog behind the ears.

Ruff sniffed the newspaper, and his ears drooped. The tail stopped wagging. Ruff looked up with a mournful expression into Gil’s face. “Oh no! Oh no! It is a day of failure. You failed. Didn’t find what you were hunting, did you?”

“How did you know?”

“I can smell failure.”

Gil looked up. “Really?”

“Yup! Yup! Well, and there is also the fact that you are sitting in the gutter looking glum rather than flipping burgers or changing tires.”

“There was one guy, who wanted to hire me for carpentry. I showed him I knew how to pound a nail and hang a door. Another guy at the shooting range needed someone to clean the guns, mind the customers, lock up at night. Even the car wash needed someone. But not me. I am not in the union, not old enough, don’t have a birth certificate. Cannot prove I am allowed to work. The old lady who runs the flower shop wanted someone just to sweep up the place, pick up dead petals and leaves, take out the trash, but she said she could not pay me ten bucks an hour. I said I would work for half of that. She said she was not allowed to pay me so little. Not allowed! In her own store! Who has the right to tell her she can’t hire me?”

Ruff jumped up, his ears high, “Oh! Oh! I think you should sneak into her shop at night, and do all the work she wants without telling anyone! Then, if she likes the work, she will leave a bowl of cream out on her back doorstep for you. And on All Hallows, she has to sew you a new suit of clothing. And then you vanish and never come again.”

Gil said, “What?”

Ruff’s ears drooped again. “Oh no! I thought that is how things like this were done.”

“Maybe in Dog Land. The way they are done in Burke County is less exciting. If you stand on the corner at the library, sometimes landscapers will come by to pick you up for a day’s work with a shovel or a rake. But Mom said honest labor. Does honest labor mean I have to obey laws about carrying paperwork and being old and whatever else? Because that I am not allowed. Or does it just mean your full effort for a full day with no slacking and no backtalk? That I can do.”

Ruff said, “Hey! I have an idea! Why not go to Dog Land?”

Gil looked at the mutt in surprise. “Is there really such a place?”

Ruff cocked his head to one side, so one ear was up, the other down. “Um! Um! You just said. You said how they do things in Dog Land. I thought it sounded like a swell place. Swell! Because of the dogs.”

Swan Knight’s Son

 

Pokemon, Go!

poka - pokemon_go_logo

At Boy Scout camp, we had no reception. To use the Internet, we had to go to a narrow span of space inside the staff lounge and stand on one foot while leaning to the north, which was the only place the WIFI worked. I did this once a day to check my email, and, occasionally, I looked at a newsfeed to see if the outer world was still there. It was here, while balanced precariously in a northerly direction, that I saw the headline:

Pokemon Go More Popular Than Porn.

This was my introduction to Pokemon Go.

At first, I confused this with Pokemon Sun and Moon, the new DS game my kids have been waiting for. It took a little while before I realized that this was, actually, something new. Very new.

This was like nothing that had ever been done before.

poka-ash

Ash Ketchum gets off to a rocky start

but almost two decades later, he’s still going strong!

A bit of history:

My first encounter with Pokemon was, well, probably before you heard of  it.

Back in the late 90s, I wrote for a briefly-existent magazine called Animefantastique. It was put out by the folks that publish Cimemafantastique magazine. They wanted to cover anime for the American audience, but maybe they started too soon, as it was not yet as big as it would be a few years later. So the magazine did not last long. My last article for them did not even get published.

My last article was on this new-fangled thing called Pokemon.

Poka - pika

A scene from the very episode my sister-in-law translated for me

So early in the Pokemon phenomena was this that, in order to review the TV show, I had to get my Japanese sister-in-law to translate an episode. It had not yet been released in English. This was before the release of the first movie, which came out in 1999, I believe.

Poka - Pokemon_the_First_Movie

This movie introduced Mewtwo.

Mew is cuter.

As part of my article, I interviewed the head of 4Kids Entertainment, the company that was bringing Pokemon to American. In the conversation, I asked him if he thought that Pokemon might make a big splash and be popular for a year or two. He told me that a year or two was nothing. Shows like Power Rangers and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles had maintained their popularity for four or five years. 4Kids had high hopes.

Turns out, they were right! More right than any of us could have foreseen!

(Including them. Apparently, in 2005, 4Kids did not renew their contract to be the American distributor of Pokemon. Maybe they thought the fad was over. Poor guys.)

Then, when my eldest son was three, his godfather lent him 72 episodes of Pokemon. Almost the first two seasons, I think.

It was love at first view!

poka friends

Love at first sight–unlike Ash and Pikachu,

who did not get along at first.

I remember the day I heard pitiful wailing coming from downstairs. I ran down. My three-year-old was in tears. Rushing to his side, I could find no injury. Eventually, the mainly-pre-lingual boy (he learned to talk quite late) was able to communicate to me:

Butterfree had gone away.

Poka caterpie

Caterpie!  

Ash’s first catch.

In the TV show Pokemon, ten-year-old Ash Ketchum’s first Pokemon catch, after he and Pikachu set out on their Poka-journey, was a Caterpie. Caterpie evolved into Metapod, who has the ultimate technique of harden, as in hardening its cocoon-like outer shell.

poka-metapod

“Harden, Metapod! Harden!”

Metapod then evolved into Butterfree, a cool butterfly pokamon who could do actually effective attacks, like put people to sleep. Eventually, however, the day came when Butterfree was mature enough that it was its time to go off with a flock of other Butterfrees, to do whatever Butterfrees do that lead to little Caterpies.

So Ash had to let his very first catch go.

poka - butterfree

And my three-year-old son cried.

It was the first time he had ever been upset by something that was not a concrete problem. I was impressed that he was able to comprehend the sadness of the scene enough to be upset by it. It showed he was growing up.

What followed was a childhood steeped in Pokemon.

poka riolu

According to some…this is the best Pokemon of all

My sons watched the show. They hummed the song. They played the card game.   (I won’t even tell you how much I spent on cards one summer. Or about the time that the neighbor’s kid tricked my four year old out of the most expensive card we owned. I stormed right over there and got it back.) They played with toys (many of which they inherited from their cousins, so they were straight from Japan.)

Poka toys

Not our house…but it could be.

Eventually, they even played the video game.

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Iced poka ice cream cake.

We even had Pokemon birthday parties. In the Pokemon TV world, kids leave on their poka-journeys at ten. So both of the talking boys got a Pokemon party for their tenth birthday. I planned Orville’s for a whole year, buying cute plushy pokamon dolls, so that every kid got to unwrap one from pokaball colored paper and take it home. I even made a pokaball ice cream cake.

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Holding a pokaball — maybe not my best picture.

By Juss’s tenth birthday, I had even found plastic clear and red spheres, that looked like pokaballs to put the plushies into. We went out hiking through the local forests, pretending to spot pokemon, and running off to catch them.

You could say that we played Pokemon Go before it was cool

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Catching Pokemon before it was cool.

Note the riolu in hand.

They lived and breathed Pokemon.

It changed our life.

Orville even invented his own world (Eddaria) with his own version of Pokemon (W-Beasts, short for War Beasts), which he still works on, even today.

Orville 9th birthday

Young magician and his assistant, Turtwig

So, when I read that they had come up with a way to make it so that kids could go outside and catch Pokemon on their own, by combining a video game with GPS geocaching, I thought:

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Then, the stories started pouring in.

First the horror stories: Two people walked off a cliff and were badly injured trying to catch a Pokemon. Someone got pulled over by the cops for speeding—trying to catch the Pokemon you could only catch at 88 miles per hour. People walking into traffic without paying attention.

But then came the good stories.

People getting out of the house. People going to seminaries and churches. One seminary had a Pokemon Go event and reported six conversions.

Bestselling author John Ringo wrote a very touching piece about the way that getting out and hunting Pokemon changed his health and his life.

There are even dog shelters that that will let your walk their dogs while you play (so you don’t look too stupid out there on your own. Helps the dogs, too.)

But the people who are the happiest are young men, a bit like my sons, who grew up with Pokemon, watching it, playing the card game or the video game—watching someone else journeying around to capture pokamon.

And now, they can do it themselves.

The joy on the faces of young men in their twenties who I have spoken to about this game…I’ve almost never seen anything like it.

And to hear modern young geeks talking about the hours spent hiking or the distant they have biked.

poka exercise

Exercising geeks. Almost a miracle, in and of itself.

The first thing my kids discussed when they heard about the game was how long you could keep it interesting. Pokemon Go has about 150 pokamon, but currently there are something like 721 pokemon in the game/TV background.

That promises a lot of later releases.

“And then they could introduce breeding,” said my younger son, who has spent serious amounts of time trying to breed Pokemon on his DS to get just the one he wanted.

Being able to both walk out and catch pokamon…and get new varieties by breeding the ones you catch with people you meet on the street…that has potential.

And then, there is Team Rocket. Who would not want virtual spies stealign their hard-won Pokemon. Not to mention that Giovanni could easily use Pokemon Go to carry out his plan of world domination!

poka - israeli

Pokamon are everywhere. The president of Isreal had to call for security when this member of Team Rocket showed up in his office.

Giovanni even cries out “Go! Go!” in his theme song. Clearly he forsaw Pokemon Go over a decade ago!

Giovanni

Giovanni of Team Rocket.  

His theme song is one of my favorite songs. Cool lyrics:

“I was born to rule the world.

“There’ll be world domination, complete obliteration

“of all who now defy me!

“It will all be mine, power so divine

I will tell the sun to shine

On only me!”

Oddly, my kids are not interested in Pokemon Go. Probably because they don’t have smart phones. But I suspect it is just a matter of time. Sooner or later, someone in the house will get a hold of the game, and a new chapter of Pokmeon adventures will enter our lives.

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Gotta Catch Them All!

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“A Little Touch of Harry In The Night”

Spoiler free musings on the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Juss wizard 16b

The Elf King contemplates his life of wizardly crime.

Saturday night, standing between the trolley witch’s cart and the wand maker, surrounded on all sides by charm and wonder that was the world of Harry Potter, I couldn’t help recall how I had come to be there.

Harry potter

The first time I ever heard of Harry Potter was nearly two decades ago. John had been reading an article that mentioned complaints about some “overly-masculine” book from England, where children characters still punched each other.

Some months later, I walked into Barnes and Nobles, and they had a display showing a rather charming book cover. The title of the book had the boy’s name in it. It reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown, Tom Swift, and other books John had loved as a boy. I called him over and showed it to him. His face lit up. “That’s the book I told you about!”

The title was: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry potter 2

Doesn’t the cover even look like one of those old boys adventure books?

The title made me smile, because it reminded me of the Philosopher’s Stone (Little did I guess that it actually was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, only they’d dumbed it down for Americans.)

“Let’s get it.”

We read it to each other on our Christmas trip to John’s mom’s. We LOVED it.

It was entirely enthralling. It had the cheer and the wonder of a fairy tale, but the concreteness of the modern—or at least semi-modern day. There was a lonely orphan boy and a talking snake. A friendly giant who told the lonely boy that he was a wizard. (Even today, that scene brings tears to my eyes, every time I reread it.) There was a magical boarding school with moving staircases, cruel professors–though no more cruel that the real professors at the boarding school C. S. Lewis attended, and a Forbidden Forest.

What more could the child-like heart of a fantasy fan desire?

harry potter 3

Even today, the first Harry Potter book remains one of my favorites of all time (though I think the third book is my favorite of all Harry Potters.)

John and I were so enchanted, that, upon finishing it, we immediately went out and bought the newest one…in hardback.

A huge investment for us, young parents that we were.

We decided to keep to our tradition of reading the book together. The second was just as good as the first one—with ghosts and taking diaries and a basilisk.

After Christmas, we discovered that a good friend had also discovered the wonder that was Harry Potter, after receiving the books for Christmas from his sister. And so our experience of sharing Harry Potter fandom began.

Then came more books…and movies.

And the video games.

Soon, not only were most of our friends fans of Harry Potter, the whole world knew who Harry was!

This charming story we had fallen in love with that Christmas had conquered the world.

So, when it was announced, in 2008, that the last Harry Potter book was coming out, Book Seven, I decided to do something daring. I would take my eight year old to the midnight release party.

Midnight was very late for him. But, I thought it was a once in a lifetime event. The kind of thing he might remember years later.

He didn’t make it until mid-night, if I recall. But he enjoyed the wonder and bustle. But I waited and I bought the book.

And then I took it home and John and I sat and read it aloud to each other until 5:00 the next day (whether we read until 5pm or the following 5am, I cannot recall.)

Why did we read non-stop, going nowhere, and pausing only to feed the children.

Let us jump back to the release of Book Six.

In some ways, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the book I recall the best. There are two reasons for this:

1) Normally, we read the books together rather quickly. When this book came out, however, John was very busy at work, so we read something like a single chapter a day.

So I had a looooonnnnggg time to ponder every clue and every turn of the story.

I still remember being on my hands and knees in the hallway, scrubbing the tile of the floor (housecleaning project), thinking over each turn and twist of the story, wondering about it and trying to put the clues together.

Snape

Who can explain why the oily Snape became so popular with moms? 

2) Book Six. It was the one with all the secrets. All the real twists and turns. The day after it had come out, when we had hardly read any of it. John was getting his hair cut.

You know what barbers are like. You sit in a chair. They cover you with a cloth to keep the hair off your clothes. With the cloth in place you can’t raise your hands quickly to do things like…you know…

Stick your fingers in your ears.

John was sitting there, waiting for the trimming of his beard, (Yes, he does occasionally trim back the great, old-forest growth!) when the chipper DJs on MTV decided to announce the three great secrets of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Who the Half-Blood Prince was, What beloved character died, and who killed him.

John desperately tried to cover his ears, but—trapped by the barber as he was—he never had a chance.

MTV…how could you?

Kindly, John did not share the secrets he had learned with me, but it cast a gloom over our reading experience. It is not nearly as much fun to spend hours wondering about the identity of the Half-Blood Prince when the person you are supposed to be in cahoots with already knows the answer.

So, when Book Seven came out, we decided that we would not leave the house or listen to the TV until we had read it. We ploughed through at such a dramatic pace that, to this day, I sometimes wonder if I might have missed part of it. (Actually, not to this day. The two part movie reminded me of the parts I might have forgotten…but there was a while there…)

Orville-and-Elise-harry-potter 2

My eldest attending a friends Harry Potter birthday party. 

He is wearing my grandmother’s graduation robe from Cambridge,

which she attended in the 1920s. 

New Harry Potter play coming out. New movie in the background. Rowling has write several other books, two of which I loved and one of which I found very painful to read, but very moving when I finally reached the end and understood it.

And, oh, of course…I suppose I should mention the three years of living hell playing a roleplaying game set some 20 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, which—despite the tremendous pain suffered by all four of the people involved with this game—I fell so in love with, as a story, that I threw aside everything else I had been doing and devoted the next five years of my life to transforming this painful, painful game into the best (non-Harry Potter) YA fantasy series I could make it.

! Rachel Griffin Cover\

Note that Rachel is wearing the same robe as the picture above.

So, when it was announced that the new play would open 19 years after the official end of the previous series, I guess I could not help being mildly curious as to how it might turn out.

But it was a play. In London.

And they were only releasing a script.

I wasn’t really interested.

cursed child

Outside the theater in London where Cursed Child is playing.

J. K. Rowling asked those who saw the play before it formally opened to “keep the secret.” One online site told, though. They wrote out a description of the entire play. (Having now read the actual play, I must say that this sight offered the most spoilerific version of a spoiler ever known to man. They recorded EVERYTHING.)

I wasn’t that interested. Didn’t plan to read the new script, but…I clicked on the link.

The story was kind of dull and simplistic. Just little bits about Harry’s youngest son at school…

…until it wasn’t.

scorp and alb

My favorite of the currently available shots from the London play.

Mainly, because the others look posed.

What started as a slow beginning suddenly was rolling down hill at Hogwart Express rates. There were twists and turns and unexpected reversals. Using portraits and dreams and other canon-established methods, the author had found astonishingly clever ways of bring onstage not only charming new characters, such as the Potter and Granger-Weasley children, but the dearly-departed ones as well.

At the end of the write-up, I sat blinking with wonder at the complexity and cleverness of the thing, how charming it was, and how well it rewarded Harry Potter fans, showing them things they wanted to see or had wondered about.

But…I still wasn’t really interested.

I mean…read a script?

Especially since everyone who had seen it agreed that the most amazing part was how fantastically high tech the production was in their special effects and scene changes. (There’s a montage scene. I have never seen a montage scene in a stage play before.)

So, what benefit would come from reading it?

Flash forward to Saturday night. It was around 8pm. I had gone to bed early for reasons after a difficult week, and I suddenly woke up and realized that:

Tonight was the night.

The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was coming out.

Barnes and Nobles was having a midnight party.

We could go.

I mean, we didn’t have to buy the book to enjoy the festivities, right?

It took until about 10:30pm for me to lever myself out of bed, find the appropriate Hogwarts robes for those who wanted them, and drive over to Barnes and Nobles.

On the way, I wondered if this gamble of a mid-night release party nine years later would pay off for B&B, Would anyone be there?

The first thing I noticed upon arriving was that the parking lot was packed.

Inside, costumed figures were everywhere. The line for the café went all the way to the front door…and it stayed nearly that long for the whole hour we were there. And inside, delights galore.

Nine years before, there had been a few kind of dull activities at the midnight release party. Now, nearly a decade and the rest of the movies later, all was wonder.

There was a sorting hat. a trolley witch selling treats, a wandmaking station, a ‘add-to-the-story” activity, potions games, as well as other stations we never investigated. Nearby stood a life-sized dementor with a sign that said FREE KISSES. There were Harry Potter books, and Harry Potter toys, and a 3-D puzzle of Hogwarts on display. And at the café, after the long, long wait, there was a poster on the wall—as official as all the others—for a Passion Potion drink, made just for this evening.

And everywhere, everywhere, were Harry Potter fans. Little boys with the round glasses and a scar on their forehead. Older boys in their Slytherin Quidditch robes. Girls dressed like Hermione or Cho Chang. Adults in witch hats or clever tee-shirts.

In line, in front of us, as we waited for our Passion Potion, was a young man in his twenties, clearly of the Wizarding world, who had carefully attempted to dress as a Muggle in order to join the festivities. Only he had sadly failed…his plaid pants not quite matching the patterns of his shirt, suit, and tie. Beside him was another young man (they both turned out to be software engineers) wearing a Pokemon TV. He enjoyed our conversation, but his face really lit up when he described his last month…living his childhood dream of actually catching Pokemon himself.

And somehow, the magic was all the more wonderful because Scholastic had finally, at long last, gotten it right—and released a new Rowlings book on July 31 – Harry Potter’s birthday!

Harry and Hedwig

The first movie is still one of my all time favorite films.

As I stood amidst the enchantment and wonder, sipping my grande Passion Potion, I slowly realized:

A) My little eight year old was 17. My youngest was 13. He was taller, significantly in some cases, than many of the other children here.

That meant: many of the children who had come had been born after that fateful midnight in 2008 when Orville and I had last waited for a Harry Potter release.

Rune, Odysseus

The Elf King, back before his wanted picture days.

This is the same Hogwarts robe he’s wearing in the wanted picture.

B) While this was, by chance, the bookstore where I had first discovered Harry Potter, it was not the bookstore where Orville and I had waited 9 years before.

That store had been a Borders. It was gone now.

C) What an extraordinary impact J. K. Rowling’s orphan wizard boy had had upon the lives of, not only millions of readers all across the worlds – she has sold over 450 million books. That is one and a half books for every single man, woman, and child in America—but upon my own life, as an author, spending my days writing a series that—even if it was quite different from Harry Potter in mood and direction, had started life as a Hogwarts roleplaying game.

And I felt so happy.

…and so grateful.

And, suddenly, I did want to buy the book.

D) This was not 2008. I didn’t have to wait until midnight.

We left after about an hour, went home, got a good night’s sleep…and I bought the book on Kindle, for half the hardcover price…the next morning.

cursed child 2

I have read the play now. It was an experience both bittersweet and joyous.

The strangest part was when there would be some hint of Christianity, such as the mention of a church, and I would remember suddenly that this was not Mark Whipple’s game version of future Hogwarts, where all monotheistic religions had been removed by magic from everyone’s memory.

The most amusing moment was chortling with joy when a character used flipendo. A favorite spell from the video game that never appeared in the books (and therefore Mark had not allowed us to use it in the game.)

flipendo

Flipen-do! Flip-endo! 

Either way, it’s so much fun to say!

Was the experience of reading a script worthwhile?

It was. Partially because it was Harry Potter.

Most fantasy worlds need lengthy description to make them come to life. But this was Hogwarts! We all know what everything looks like. We’ve read the books. We’ve seen the movies.

One funny thing was that without thinking about it, when reading, I pictured an older version of the movie Hermione in my mind, but for her daughter, Rose, I pictured the smart young woman playing Rose in the play. I didn’t notice this mental discrepency until I came to a passage in the script that dealt with how much Hermione looked like her daughter.

Hermione and Rose

Hermione and Rose

My mental Hermione had longer, frizzier hair.

Of course, my two mental images didn’t look anything like each other. But it did not interfere with my enjoyment of the play.

Did Harry Potter and the Cursed Child have any flaws?

A few. The writing was a bit simplified, too emotionally obvious—which might be signs of where Rowling’s original short story ended, and the scriptwriter’s dialogue began. But I bet that might be the script’s fault as well, Many of the slightly awkward lines, if said with humor or with deep emotion, would be hilarious or moving in the way that no short stage directions could make them.

Obviously, seeing the play—or even a filming of it—would be a much better option.

But, in the end, it was very enjoyable to read—even though I already knew the entire story.

And so, that was my weekend.

Didn’t end world hunger.

Didn’t save the universe.

But it did lift the spirits and bring joy.

Harry Potter 4

Ron and Hermione: Lifting spirits–and feathers–for nearly two decades.

God bless J. K. Rowling.

Long live The Boy Who Lived!

 

 

Book Bombs Away!

The answer to all your Summer Reading Needs!

The folks over at CLFA (Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance) have their first ever book bomb going today for 20 books.

This list includes books by myself, John C. Wright, and SuperversiveSF’s own Ben Zwycky!

Books marked with an * were finalists in the CLFA Book of the Year contest (which was won by Larry Correia’s Son of the Black Sword.)

You can find the list here.

Please share!

Three Day’s Only! The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin on sale now!

In honor of the release of the revised ebook for The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel, the first Book of Unexpected Enlightenment, The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is

ON SALE NOW!

Only 99 cents on July 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

! Rachel Griffin Cover

For those who would rather just enjoy the fun, here is the website for Roanoke Academy of Sorcerous Arts. (Warning, it makes noise when you first get there.)

And for those who wonder whether Hogwarts will be getting its own website, check out The Setup Wizard — the diary of the Hogwarts IT guy.

Superversive Blog — Review of Diary of a Robot by S. Dorman

S. Dorman reviews Diary of a Robot by Lewis Jenkins

Diary of a robot

Diary of a Robot on Amazon

The oddest thing about Lewis Jenkins’s first novel, Diary of a Robot, is the robot’s prime directive. That the “Doc,” its inventor, succeeds in his artificially intelligent creation is shown in Jenkins’ premise — or conceit, if you will — that the AI is the one telling us its own story.  But, I have not yet revealed the weird — the robot’s prime directive.  In the robot’s diary are respectful nods to I, Robot, Isaac Asimov’s work, and touches of evident love for Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner.  You’ll find history, science fiction, and mystery in this story.

Dr. Little’s invention, the TM 2000—Robey (pronounced Row-bee)—is on its way to becoming a self-directed systems, software, and hardware testing machine. The “Doc” does not invent without the aid of his little company (TLC —The Little Company). In much of Jenkins’ book Robey displays the learning process of an artificial intelligence. But the book does so much more, as regards the imaginative reading experience. What we want while reading science fiction is hardware, suspense, defined characters, situation, and the “what if” or BIG IDEA.  This novel has that, and more — corporate espionage, bad news, abduction, impersonation, intimations of murder, and chess problems.  But the real more is in TM 2000’s process of testing, of learning, What’s a human being?. Many questions are asked (by The Machine) and, as we watch it mature toward its full intellectual stature, many more possible answers are given (also by The Machine).

Have you ever heard of a computer program designed to test for truth? And why would financial backers invest in a testing machine with such a prime directive? Although to “do no harm” is an important directive suggested by Asimov, Dr. Maynard Little’s team have encoded those specs and others—but secondarily.

Robey wants to determine the thoughts and intentions of the human heart. Its aim is incisive: Precision in reading the human intention in order to act toward its goal of perceiving the truth about each person. Intelligently, even heroically, Robey intends to achieve it. Being designed specifically for the task, nothing can stop it but a command to … stop?…  What if the command to stop is not based on truth —?

Robey’s heroism comes in when his maker, Doc Little, commands him to shut down. Not to turn itself off because Robey has disobeyed its directives, but because it has. From there on, The Doc gets his wish, and havoc results in the AI department of The Little Company.

Do you like exposition and introspection? This is the SF for you. If you read to escape, or for respite from, introspection, this book may not be for you. Yet, it’s a fun and funny novel.  The frequent SF take on AI, e.g. Clarke’s HAL, is often sinister, but this robot is different in being innocently tedious, or irritating, boring, obnoxious, office-disrupting; some kind of pain, depending on who is charging/spending time developing (in concert with Robey) its core directive.  The reader has fun watching it “test” (read bedevil) the crew at TLC.  However, we see that Robey is a servant and understands that it is a servant. Everyone is either Mr. or Ms., e.g. Mr. Guy and Ms. Marie. Robey is also, of course, the ultimate testing machine. This is, after all, how it makes money for The Little Company. There’s an abundance of humor in this book, the kind I like. I won’t give examples because the humor is always contextual. The kind that punctuates (or punctures) the silence of reading with small explosions of laughter.

A big theme, a BIG IDEA, in Robey’s story is (metaphorically) the increasing influence of surveillance in our lives.  C.S. Lewis has said about our human condition that the more we take precautions to be secure, the less secure we feel.   But this Big Idea is also not present at first in Jenkins’ story of Robey.  Instead, as intelligent software and machines increase at TLC, themes of security and surveillance accelerate the Diary’s narrative force, while underscoring C.S. Lewis’s observation about our condition.

Diary of a Robot is not a review of my brother.  It is a review of my brother’s book.

Diary of a Robot on Lulu

New — Space Opera serial SUPERLUMINARY!!!

The following post is from: John C. Wright

0 SUPERLUMINARY

An internet magazine hired me to write an old-fashioned space opera in the mood and flavor of ‘World Wrecker’ Hamilton to run in fifty or so weekly episodes of two-thousand word each.

However, the magazine folded and returned the rights to me. It is my wish to bring it to my fan (Hi, Nate!) directly.

The title is SUPERLUMINARY.

The plot is this: The sole survivor of an illfated expedition to Pluto finds the Infinithedron, a library of supertechnology from the alien race that created life on earth and guided evolution to produce mankind.

He returns to earth only to discover world war has decimated civilization. Rather than sharing the secrets, he uses them to conquer mankind, impose peace and order, but also abolishing aging, disease, famine.

Lord Tellus (as he calls himself) imprints each of his children with a different branch of the alien science, but the whole of it is taught to none. These Lords of Creation (as they call themselves) are commanded to create life on each of the worlds and moons of the solar system. Scores of artificial intelligent races are fashioned, who adore the children as godlike. The secret of faster than light drive Lord Tellus keeps to himself: mankind he keeps in the solar system. But what is his reason?

He goes mad, and his children rise up in rebellion, and he vanishes, leaving behind mysteries and guesses.

Aeneas Tell, son of Lady Venus, youngest of the imperial family, dreams of overthrowing the his family in favor of a republic, but when he introduces a rebel into the imperial palace for a coup, he is betrayed, and barely escapes with his life, and flees to Pluto.

Here Aeneas discovers the horrific secret his grandfather was hiding, and an ancient evil that sleeps beneath the eternal ice. Aeneas finds himself snared in a labyrinth of intrigue, striving somehow to convince his Machiavellian family to cooperate against a mutual foe none of them credit.

Read the first episode here:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/superluminary-01-5489523

The Superversive Manifesto – Rough Draft

Proposed by M.C. Tuggle

The fields of fiction writing and publishing are today dominated by a worldview determined to define what values a “respectable” writer can promote, and even redefine what constitutes a story. It is against these constraints that we, the undersigned, must affirm what we believe are the basic principles and purposes of storytelling, and to take a stand for freedom of expression. We therefore assert the following:

1 – We reject the self-congratulatory projection of supposed righteousness that poses as storytelling. Good fiction writing is the creation of dramatic tension that inspires reader empathy and emotional involvement in characters striving courageously for transcendent goals.

2 – We laugh at the meaningless application of the word “courage” to those who kneel in obedience to the cultural totalitarians who in turn serve the political totalitarians, just as we laugh at over-hyped poseurs who imagine they are rebellious outsiders when in fact they are the pampered favorites of a powerful literary establishment.

3 – We denounce the unhealthy obsession many mainstream publishing houses have for celebrating social and individual fragmentation, alienation, and nihilism.

4 – We re-affirm literature’s primary purpose as a vehicle for kindling and nurturing one’s connection to the transcendent, that is, one’s sense of belonging to, and joyfully nurturing, something greater than oneself.

5 – We believe the acts of writing and reading further one’s ability to communicate, to reason, to empathize, to function in society, and to appreciate different points of view.

6 – We reject the current mode of writing that is as artificial, anti-human, and sterile as the ideology it holds up as absolute and unquestionable.

7 – We reaffirm writing that acts as a civilizing force, and reject current writing that openly seeks to subvert civilization and ridicule those who want to preserve it.

8 – The writing we wish to produce is that which enables the writer to communicate with himself, his readers, and his sense of the transcendent. Understanding, and being understood, are essential to taking an active role in life, to belonging, which are essential to human happiness and the building of character.

9 – When we create worthwhile fiction, we offer our readers moments of joy, and possibly awe, at our affirmation that courageous striving can overcome injustice and suffering.

10 – We unite against those writers and critics who not only seek to undermine the pursuit of the transcendent, but deny that humans are even capable of approaching it.