Sunday, July 31, 2011

Accio Contests! My HP Fanfiction Entry

Today is the day that I reveal my secret guilty pleasure for the blogosphere to see. You see, I've signed up (not being able to stop myself) for Lisa Galek's Accio Contasts! Harry Potter fanfiction contest. Here are the rules:

1. Write a bit of fanfiction of no more than 750 words.
2. It must involve characters from the Harry Potter books.
3. It must have something to do with birthdays.

And because my husband thinks he's very clever and that fanfiction is a joke he's issued me an additional challenge. I have to include the words "heaving" and "turgid" in a nonsexual context. "A real writer could do it," says he. Well, FINE. I will.

I've read my fair share of Harry Potter fanfiction but never written any before. So this will be a challenge. And I'm opting to write it about my secret guilty pleasure character pairing: Snape and Hermione. Sigh. I know. Don't remind me about Snape's fate. That's what Alternate Universe fanfiction is for, don't you know. I can just ignore the bits of the books I didn't like and create a special HP universe where things turn out MY WAY.

Here's the thing. I don't buy the whole Hermione and Ron relationship. It's stupid. I'm a rather smart person and extremely bookish so I've always identified most with Hermione's character. And I just flat out DON'T BELIEVE that she could really fall in love with anyone as stupid as Ron Weasley. Yes, I know he has his good qualities but I don't think that you can legitimately claim that intelligence is one of them. I once had a short lived relationship with someone who was pretty dumb. I mean, his spelling and skill with words in general was abysmal. When I was a teenager I didn't care so much, though it did bother me a bit. In hindsight, I know that I could never have a lasting and satisfying relationship with someone who was so far beneath me in intelligence. It may sound petty, but can you imagine having conversations with that person for the rest of your life and having to constantly explain what you mean because he only has maybe half your vocabulary? *shudder* I ended up marrying someone smarter than myself who only helps me improve my own intelligence. It's a good thing. I think Hermione deserves the same.

So, here goes my first attempt at Snape/Hermione fanfic.

Born Again

"I regret it."
Pierce of fangs. Gushing of blood. Pain beyond comprehension. Swish of a departing black cloak. Mission... failed.
Green eyes. Her eyes? Am I dead now? No. His eyes, so like hers. One last chance. 
" Take... it...."
I feel the end coming.

I open my eyes to the glaring white of a scrubbed-clean hospital room. I’ve been in enough of them in my time. The smell is unmistakable. My sight is blurred and coming into focus only gradually. I decide to explore my situation with my sense of touch instead. I flex my fingers. All there. My head and face, intact. My neck... turgid and painful. I remember that is where the snake’s fangs sank into my exposed flesh. The memory makes me shudder.

“Professor Snape? Sir?”

I freeze at the sound of that voice, the last voice I expected, or indeed hoped, to hear ever again. A thousand suspicions grip me. “Where am I?” It is still difficult to see.

“Oh, professor!” that voice again, this time I feel the form that goes with it grip me in an excited embrace. “You’re awake!”

“Kindly release me, Miss Granger!” I shout instead of crying out in pain from her touch. “And immediately tell me where I am and what my situation is.”

“I’m so sorry! I wasn’t thinking.”

“A not uncommon circumstance.”

“Um... you’re at St. Mungo’s.” I could almost hear the flush in her voice, could imagine her nervously pushing her bushy hair behind her ear. Why could I remember her so vividly. “You were brought here after... after Harry killed Voldemort. It’s been weeks now. This is the first time you’ve woken.”

“The Dark Lord is... dead?”


Then I had not failed. Potter had done what was required. For the first time in years, in a whole lifetime, I could not maintain my practiced control. Heaving sobs wracked my battered body. Granger remained blessedly silent until they subsided. And suddenly I felt... lighter. Could it be real? Was my burden truly gone?

When I opened my eyes again my surroundings were clearer. And there was Granger, looking anxious, looking as if she hadn’t slept in days...

“How long have you been here?”

“A few days now. They thought they were losing you and they called me here. I’ve been keeping watch over you.”


“Well, I was the one who went back to the shack to retrieve your body and I brought you to St. Mungo’s. I guess since you don’t have any family they thought I was the closest thing to your next of kin.” I said nothing so she went on, trying to fill the silence. “I just knew that you couldn’t be dead, not completely. After everything became clear, after Harry told us your role in everything...”

She said this with an anxious look, as if expecting me to lash out at her. I nodded. How much did she know? How much had Potter told her after I had emptied my memories into him? Those memories that I had suffered for so many long years...

“I just knew you would have had a plan. You and Dumbledore had worked out so many details together. You must have assumed when you killed him,” another fearful look, but I remained impassive, “that you were the new master of the Elder Wand and that Voldemort would want to kill you. You must have tried to prepare yourself for it. The Healers found several strains of anti-venom in your blood. That’s what saved you. Still, you were dead for a few minutes. We were afraid you wouldn’t come back. ”

I looked into Miss Granger’s... Hermione’s eyes. Somehow knowing that she shared my past, that she had witnessed my loss of control, that she alone had cared about my fate, made her the closest thing to a confidant that I still possessed.

“Hermione,” I said. She gave me a shy yet eager smile. “It’s all over. It’s done.”

“Yes, sir,” she said. “It’s all over.”

I almost laughed. I felt a bit whimsical. “Today is my birthday,” I told her. She looked confused. “I’ve been reborn.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thoughts on... Titles

Titles have always given me trouble which is why I tend to just refer to the stuff I write by such vague terms as "my WIP", "my story", or "my other story". Part of me spends the whole time desperately hoping that by the time I'm done writing I'll be able to find a good title. Because titles are pretty important, you know?

The title is often the first impression one gets for a given book. And as much as we tell ourselves not to make judgements based on first impressions, we just can't help it. And gosh darnit, I want to have a good title!

Recently my husband pointed me in the direction of a couple of blog posts about titles written by sci fi author Mike Flynn. Entitlement Part I Entitlement Part II In these posts not only does he give his thoughts on titles, but also the thoughts and favorites of several of his author friends. He lists a few properties that he thinks a title should have:

1.  Arresting

A title should catch your eye, causing you to pause and wonder.

2. Suggestive

A title should give some idea of where the narrative is heading or at least indicate that something interesting will be happening. Playing on metaphor and symbolism or invoking atmosphere are a good way to hint at what is to come without revealing too much.

3. Challenging

You can also catch a reader's attention with a title that challenges him. Perhaps a title that works on multiple levels or one where the meaning only becomes apparent after reading the story. Though be careful not to tip over into pretentiousness.

4. Rhythm

A title can also attract readers by having a good beat or flow. Alliteration is often a fun way of accomplishing this.

I read those posts about two weeks ago and I guess subliminally they must have been working on me all this time since yesterday I managed to come up with a title for my current WIP. And I really like it. I'm calling it a working title for now, but I think it will probably end up as the finished title. Here it is:

The First Day

So what do you think? Does my title fulfill any of the above criteria? Does it sound intriguing to you? How do you find your titles? Is it difficult or easy for you?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Talkin' 'bout My Inspiration

I've decided to join another blogfest last minute. Today is the Inspiration Blogfest from Summer Ross at My Inner Fairy. She invites us to...

  •  On July 18th post one inspiring prompt. You can use a writing prompt or a photo prompt.
  • Go around and comment on each others prompts

        Every one will have some great inspiration to write from

It should be no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I get a lot of my inspiration from ancient history and in particular the monuments that have been left behind by millennia past. Here are some images that recently game me inspiration in my world-building.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Quote of the Week

Since I missed last week, this time I will post three related quotes. The first is an observation by Greek Hecataeus of Abdera which is found in Diodorus' Bibliotheca historica. Hecataeus traveled throughout Egypt and also spent 15 years living in Alexandria from 320 to 305 B.C.E.

"The natives attribute very little value to the time spent in this life. But they attach the greatest possible significance to the time after death in which one is preserved in the memory through recollections of virtue. They call the dwellings of the living 'temporary abodes' because we only spend a short time in them. The tombs of the dead they call 'eternal houses' because the dead spend infinite time in Hades. Accordingly they give very little thought to the equipment of their houses, whereas the effort they put into the tombs can never be high enough."

A similar Egyptian testimony is found in this quote from an inscription in Theban tomb 131:

I erected for myself a magnificent tomb
in my city of eternity.
I equipped most lavishly the site of my rock tomb
in the desert of eternity.
May my name endure on it
in the mouths of the living,
while the memory of me is good among men
after years that are to come.
A trifle only of life is this world,
[but] eternity is in the realm of the dead.
Praised by god is the noble
who acts for himself with a view to the future
and seeks with his heart to find salvation for himself,
the burial of his corpse, and the revival of his name,
and who is mindful of eternity.

Such a vivid inscription I need hardly comment on. All too clear is the emphasis on eternity in the afterlife, the idea that this life is but the beginning. Egyptian tombs were not graves but houses. Life did not end with death. One was alive as long as his name was remembered, thus the emphasis on the permanence of stone tombs and monuments. And though Hecataeus refers to "Hades", the Egyptian afterlife was not truly a place of the dead, but a place of the living. The inscription from Theban tomb 50 which is known as the "Harper's Song" contains the following hopeful verse about the afterlife:

I have heard these songs that are in the tombs of the forefathers and what they tell to glorify the here-and-now and to belittle the afterlife.
Why is suchlike done to the land of eternity?
[...] Our people rest in it since earliest primordial time,
and those who will be in infinite years,
they all come to that place. There is no remaining in Egypt. [...]
The time that one spends on earth is only a dream. But
"Welcome, safe and sound!"
one says to him who has reached the West.*

All quotations were found in Jan Assmann's The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs.

*("The West" is one way Egyptians referred to the underworld, as in, the place where the sun set and died to be reborn again in the morning.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Voyage on the Oceans of Fantasy

I came somewhat late, as a reader, to the fantasy genre. In grade school I had, unfortunately, bought into the notion that Fantasy was for geeks and I was a very self conscious adolescent. I didn't want anyone to think I was even less cool than I already was. So although I had read and loved all of the Chronicles of Narnia as a child (no self respecting Christian home would be complete without them even if all other media with "magic" is utterly rejected) and though I had voraciously consumed (in the privacy of my bed room while no one was watching) a short story by Ursula Le Guin that I found in the back of my English book one year, I was careful not to delve into the genre too deeply for fear of being "uncool".

When I was 16 I was caught off guard by an acquaintance who told riddles. They were very clever and I asked him where they came from. "The Hobbit", he told me. I was irrevocably lost to the ranks of the "cool". I could no longer deny my curiosity as it pulled me toward tales of magic and made up worlds. I checked out The Hobbit from the library. I read it quietly in my room. It was good, but not as good as I expected. Still, my appetite was whetted and I knew there were more that followed it. I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring from the library and I was never the same again.The chapter "Shadows of the Past" was a point of no return for me. I'd never read anything like it and I wanted more.

Oh how I cursed myself for not getting the other two books at the same time! How I cursed our house out in the country and the need to get a ride from my parents to the library. When I finally had access to the library again, I didn't make the same mistake twice. I took both The Two Towers and The Return of the King. It was an experience that transformed me and made me into the fantasy reader and writer that I am today.

Back then, I wanted to read more fantasy, but I had no idea where to start after reading The Lord of the Rings. I didn't know anything about the genre. And it wasn't until several years later, when I met my future husband who is a fantasy reader as well, that I was finally able to get into it. He introduced me to many fantasy authors and many new books and series. Still, the more I read the more I continually become aware of how much I still don't know about the deep waters of modern fantasy. And in particular, about its origins and development.

But as a fantasy writer it's important for me to know as much about my genre as possible. Every writer should know what has come before them, what has been done too much and what hasn't been explored enough. And so, as a reader and as a writer, I have decided to made a grand expedition into the turbulent waters of the modern fantasy genre to explore its far reaches and become better acquainted with its currents.

I'm going to start at the beginning (roughly) and travel decade by decade reading as many of the well known and influential fantasy offerings as I can (without prolonging the journey too much) until I reach the present day. And along the way I will blog about my reading experiences and how I think the genre was influenced, for better or worse, by the books I am reading. I will be focusing in particular on how the genre has changed and developed over the last century plus and whether or not the changes were good. (Spoiler: I'll probably think they're bad. I'm a traditionalist.) But I will try to maintain as objective an outlook as possible along the way.

My reading list begins in the 19th century at what is (arguably) the beginning of the modern fantasy genre. Works before this time and before these authors were tended to either be new fairy tales (like John Ruskin's The King of the Golden River), parodies or satires (like Gulliver's Travels) or written as children's stories (like Alice in Wonderland). My selections will not fall into those categories. I will try to cover ever sub-genre as they develop. The first stage of the journey will cover:

George MacDonald~ Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women (1858)

William Morris~ The Wood Beyond the World (1894)
                          The Well at the World's End (1896)

I would sincerely appreciate any suggestions for authors and books that a true fantasy devotee must read. I have done some research, but I'm sure there will be plenty that I miss. Particularly any from those early years in the 19th century that I'm not aware of. I'll report my findings soon!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Progress Report of a Cute and Delusional Writer

I keep saying to myself "it's just one of those weeks", but really, it's just one of those lives. I'm not sure why a mother of four is ever expecting her life to quiet down and become less busy. Probably because she's delusional. Also, apparently, cute. At least, according to Deniz Bevan of The Girdle of Melian who passed this award on to me...

This award asks you to list 5 books, movies or TV shows you've experienced in the last year.

TV show: Farscape. My husband and I just finished watching all four seasons together and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the wrap-up miniseries, The Peacekeeper Wars.

Movie: Ghostbusters. For years my husband was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, whenever I reminded him that I'd never seen this movie. Finally he brought it home from the library for us to watch together. It was quite good.

Book: The Wise Man's Fear. I was really looking forward to this as I had really loved The Name of the Wind, the first book in this trilogy. But this one was just a major disappointment. It'll take something special in the third book to make me like this series again.

TV show: Castle. I'm not normally a fan of murder mysteries, but we gave this a try because.. well, because of Nathan Fillion. And we were totally surprised, in the best possible way, by the greatness of this show. Can't wait for the show to return in the fall.

Book: The Westing Game. I just reread this kids book yesterday on a whim and it is still as good as I remember it. A really clever murder mystery/ puzzle game.

And I'm passing this award on to Rebecca Kiel, Stephanie Thornton, Michelle Gregory, and Jeanmarie Anaya.

ROW 80 Progress Report

I've made some important strides forward with my world-building this week. My world-building notebook is considerably fuller and I've worked out some of the geographical logistics that were giving me trouble for the story I intend to start writing this week. I intend to dive into the writing of that story tomorrow (1500 words a day for 5 days a week is the goal). It's a story with a "cast of thousands" so today I need to establish a few more of the secondary characters so I don't get stalled on names and such while writing. I think I'll be ready for tomorrow. Beginnings are always the hardest part for me so... *fingers crossed*

I'm really excited to get into it though. This story takes place at the effective beginning of history for the world I'm creating and it's the story that leads to everything else. It opens up the world and with any luck, you'll be able to read it before the year is out. All I need to do is manage to carve out some serious writing time without distractions. Sigh. I am delusional.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Round of Words in 80 Days: My Goals

I like goals. Goals are helpful. But inflexible deadlines with strict rules only cause me to panic. NaNoWriMo would never work for me. A novel in a month? I've got four kids to look after, people! But I want, maybe I even need, something to help give me motivation. A Round of Words in 80 Days is a writing challenge for people with busy lives. (Me!) It allows you to make your own goals to suit your needs and to change and adapt them as you go along if you need to. It is, in other words, the perfect writing kick in the butt for me.

The current round began on Monday, July 4. (You're welcome to join in whenever you want though. This challenge is nothing if not flexible.) And this, three days late, is my post stating my writing goals for the next 80 days.

July 4-10: Essential world-building, nothing too in depth. Just the foundational material I need to write my story.

My regular may now be saying, "Wait a minute, haven't you done, like, a ton of world-building? You talked our ears off all April about it!"

Yes, yes I have done a lot of world-building. Here's the thing... I was world-building a specific part of my fantasy world in preparation for a specific story. It's the story closest to my heart, the one that I hope will be my masterpiece. And for that reason, I've decided not to write it yet. Because I want it to be good but I don't have nearly enough practice yet. So despite all the research and world-building and outlining and character development I've put into that story already, I've made the tough decision to shelve it for now and work on a different tale.

This new story will be set in the same world but earlier in that world's history than my other planned story and should provide some interesting, though not essential, background for when I get back to that story. But it starts in a different region of the world in different circumstances so a little more world-building is necessary before I can begin. I'm a planner and plotter. I need to have my ducks in a row before I can delve into my creative side.

July 11- September 22- Write a frelling book. 

My goal is to write 1500 words a day for 5 days a week (Monday-Friday) during this period. If I can manage that I'll come out to about 80,000 words. Honestly, I'm not sure if this story will even need that many or if it will end up being on the shorter novel side, but better to shoot high than fall short. Weekends I'll reserve for continued research and world-building.

Hopefully by September 22, I'll have a finished manuscript. (Trivia: September 22nd is Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' birthday.) My goal for the rest of the year will be to polish it and get it ready for self publication for the Christmas season.

How about you? Do concrete goals help you stay motivated or do they just hold you back?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Today I'm entering the Something Wicked Blogfest hosted by the fabulous group blog Wicked and Tricksy. This is a blogfest for those of us who love speculative fiction of any kind. To participate you should write a post about the following:

1. Name 3 of your favorite spec-fic stories (books, movies, tv shows, anything goes!)
2. Tell us why YOU love spec-fic – what plot line, character type, story trope, setting, time, place is your absolute favorite.
3. Take a guess if you can: where do you see spec-fic stories going in the next two, five, ten years? What will be popular and how will the sub-genres have changed?

The great thing about this blogfest is that it is open for signups until July 10th and there are 4 boxes full of amazing gifts that will go to four winners. There's really no downside! (I'm looking at the first box, myself.)

Naming just three of my favorite spec fic stories is going to be HARD. But to make it easier on myself I'm going to consider series as one story. (Cheating? Maybe, but otherwise the choice might give me a panic attack.) I'm going to combine point number 1 and point number 2 but stating what my favorite aspects of each story are.

It's easy to see why these books should be lumped together. They are one story unfolding over the course of seven novels and J. K. Rowling manages an impressive fluidity between them. The story of Harry Potter, when broken down to its basic parts, isn't really very original. It's full of familiar things. Wizards casting spells. A school for training magic users. An evil "Dark Lord" bent on world domination and elimination of "impurity". The "Chosen One", the only person who possesses the power to defeat the enemy. And of course, the Chosen One's faithful sidekicks. None of this hasn't been done before in many ways. Which is why the Harry Potter books are the perfect example of "it's not what you've got, it's how you use it."

Because despite the ordinary ingredients, Rowling still manages to measure and mix until she's put together a fresh, unique, powerful and compelling story experience. Not only that, but she also manages with a skillfull hand to dole out the experience in just the right amounts. A little bit of back story here, a little bit of action here, a little bit of comedy here, just the right amount of moving the overall story arc forward in each book. It's pure, masterful storytelling at its best.

My Harry Potter Favorites:

1. Plot Line

I'm a huge sucker for back story so Half Blood Prince was my favorite of the 7 books. I really enjoyed all the scenes where Dumbledore revealed Voldemort's history and told Harry the details of the Horcruxes.

2. Character

Snape. It's gotta be Snape. I was just so impressed by the way Rowling managed to play on the question of his loyalty right from the beginning until the very end, slowly revealing the extent of his involvement in the overall story. The complexity of her characterization of him and the way she could make him act like such an evil bastard and still get us to sympathize with him in the end... I want to write like that.

3. Setting

The Wizarding World. I bow to Rowling's world building skills. The way the Wizarding World exists and operates inside our own is just amazing. All the little details she inserts from Bertie Bot's Every Favor Beans to the very unique entrance into St. Mungo's make the setting come alive and feel completely real and completely plausible. Can any of us really be sure there's no Ministry of Magic?

4. Other

The Magic System in Harry Potter isn't the most complex or unique, but it's fun and interesting. It has rules and limitations, it needs to be learned and it has a good and a bad side. It facilitates wondrous things like flying sports and teleportation but it also allows horrors like Horcruxes and killing curses. And surely I'm not the only one who has waved a magic wand and cried "Accio chocolate!"

I had to choose between The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion for this spot, but it really wasn't a hard choice. (Some of you may be thinking, "What? LOTR isn't your favorite?" Shocking, I know, but that spot is reserved for something else.) I love The Lord of the Rings. It was the book that got me seriously into the fantasy genre. It was unlike anything I had ever read before and absolutely swept me away. But even more than LOTR, The Silmarillion is a book after my own heart.

I have always had a passion for history and for mythology and The Sil reads like a mythological history of Tolkien's secondary world, Arda. Like the northern mythologies from which Tolkien was inspired, it is chock full of fascinating peoples, gods, creatures and places. The War of Wrath between. the Elves and the Dark Lord Morgoth is the main story but other adventures that tie into the War are also present. The Sil tells about the creation of the world, the awakening of the Elves and the establishment of their kingdoms. After the conclusion of the War of Wrath, there is also the history of the Men of Numenor (ancestors of the Men of Gondor in LOTR) and a brief retelling of the War of the Ring as well. The book is so full of the history of Arda that sometimes it is hard to keep names of people and places straight, but the effort is worth it to get an unparalleled glimpse of the big picture that Tolkien envisioned. There was never a more ambitious fantasy world.

1. Favorite Plot Line

This is a tough one. I think I'd have to go with the story of Beren and Luthien. I'm normally not that much of a romantic, but there's just something about a man being willing to walk into the Dark Lord's stronghold to try and steal his most precious possession just so he can marry the woman he loves that I can't resist. And of course, the great thing about this version of that motif is that the love interest doesn't stay at home waiting for him to complete his quest, she goes after him, saves him from certain death and is the one who magics the Dark Lord asleep with her voice so that they can take a Silmaril from him. I'm not normally one to say this, but girl power!

2. Favorite Character

Another tough decision. In The Sil, characterization is not a focus. It's more of a history than a narrative. What is a focus is the Elven culture. And Tolkien's Elves are unique and fascinating. There is no more well developed (especially if you read the material in the History of Middle-earth series) fantasy race. Elves are not very popular right now. People always tend to consider them overdone. But Tolkien's Elves are always fresh, the perfect mix of like and unlike humanity. Honorable Elf mentions: Feanor, Maedhros, Finrod, Fingolfin, Luthien.

3. Favorite Setting

The city of Gondolin. There is a special allure to the hidden city motif. Gondolin is hidden away in the mountains, far from the prying eyes of Morgoth's spies. There Turgon and his people bide their time until they can contribute to the overthrow of Morgoth, but they are eventually betrayed by one of their own, the king's own nephew. The Fall of Gondolin is a particularly poignant story in The Sil, full of valiant acts of self sacrifice so that some of the people of the city might survive.

4. Miscellaneous Favorite

The languages. Tolkien developed two distinct Elven languages for his world, Quenya and Sindarin. Being a linguist himself, he was able to establish grammatical rules and quite a large vocabulary for each. For instance, I can tell you that an informal greeting in Quenya would be "Suilanyel" or I can compliment your hair in Sindarin by saying "I finneg bain." It's just one of the things that makes Arda so real.

The Dune series including the books Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and God Emperor of Dune is without a doubt my favorite story of all. The books tell the story of Paul Atreides and his son Leto II over the course of thousands of years. And, oddly enough given my preferences, the books are science fiction, not fantasy, taking place on a faraway planet called Arrakis or Dune at a time in the distant future. However, what makes these books so interesting is that instead of proposing that humanity has advanced and evolved into an enlightened society (like in Star Trek), civilization has actually regressed into a feudal society run by an Emperor and his armies, a transportation guild that controls space travel, and a trading association that oversees all economic activity. In the midst of this there are the noble houses, lords of planets, among them the Atreides.

But it also proposes advances to humans themselves. There are Mentats, human computers, using logic and information to make brilliant deductions in order to advice their employers. There are the Bene Gesserit who have access to ancestral memories and have a breeding program in place in order to bring about the perfect human. There are the Guild Navigators who are able to use the spice Melange in order to "see" a pathway through the stars to guide the guild space ships. Melange is at the center of the story, the mysterious substance only found on Arrakis that grants extended life and, in the right person, prophetic abilities.

1. Favorite Plot Line

The Kwisatz Haderach and the Golden Path. Paul is the perfect human, the Kwisatz Haderach, that the Bene Gesserit have been trying to create. As such, he can see into both past and future and with his power can either doom humanity to bloodshed and violence or lead them onto the Golden Path which will ultimately save them from destruction. But Paul fails because he falls in love. Where Paul fails, Leto becomes his heir and is the only one strong enough the make the sacrifice necessary to carry humanity onto the Golden Path. That sacrifice is a dehumanizing one and is made all the more tragic because humanity does not realize or appreciate what Leto is doing for them. It breaks my heart every time.

2. Favorite Character

There are so many great characters. The books thrive on characterization. Leto II is, of course a favorite, as well as Paul. But I think it's also important to point out the strong female characters. Jessica, Paul's mother and a Bene Gesserit, who chooses to give into her lover's wishes instead of the instructions of her order and changes the world forever. Chani, Paul's companion and lover, the Fremen Sayadinna who both gives strength to Paul and keeps him from making the sacrifice the Golden Path demands. Alia Atreides, a victim of the circumstances of her birth, driven made by the voices in her head. Irulan the princess that Paul marries for the throne, denied his love and the privilege of bearing his heir, she still cares for his children when he is gone. Honestly, I could go on and on about the characters of Dune.

3. Favorite Setting

The desert of Arrakis. The Fremen are trying desperately to change their dry planet into a lush paradise, and yet there still remains something special and elusive about the desert. When the desert is gone, the Fremen soul goes with it.

4. Other

There is a lot of philosophy in the books. Each character has a unique and well established world view and the plot explores many philosophical themes often relating to politics and religion as well as the nature of humanity. It makes for a very heady and rich reading experience.

Where is Speculative Fiction going in the future?

I can't speak for all spec fic, epic fantasy is my real passion. And I'm not sure I want to think about where it will go. All I know is where I hope it will go. I desperately want a return to tradition in epic fantasy and by that I mean a resurgence of the motifs and themes that come from our mythological past. Fantasy is the child of mythology.

I want authors to stop striving for realism in a genre that was meant to bring to life our desires. Believability, yes. Realism, no. I hope authors will remember that fantasy is about exploring the wonder of our imaginations, not wallowing in the darkness of our souls. I want fantasy to return to the magic of its childhood. Cynical middle age doesn't suit it. Fantasy has often been accused of being for children and maybe it is. But it is for the child in all of us, for our lost innocence. It is meant to glorify good, not evil. It is meant to be the light in the darkness. I hope that someday people will tire of the darkness and strive once more for the light and the magic and the wonder.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Quote of the Week

Man, I just can't  seem to get my blogging/writing act together lately. For that I am sorry, my dear readers. I continually sit down to write a post only to be constantly interrupted or unable to focus. There are a few different series of posts I have planned for the upcoming months (one of which might run indefinitely) which I hope will be intriguing and thought provoking.I will try to get some of that started next week. (fingers crossed) Until then, here's the quote of the week.

Today is my 9th anniversary. Nine years of marriage to the most wonderful man in the world. So, in honor of the occasion, here is an Ancient Egyptian love poem. I am quoting it from the book The Literature of Ancient Egypt, translation by Vincent A. Tobin.

Your love has merged completely with my body
As [... mingled] with water, 
As a drug to which resin has been added, 
As when milk is mixed with [water].

Make haste to see your beloved, 
Like a horse in the open field,
Like a falcon [diving down] to its reeds,

For heaven has bestowed its love
Like the course of an arrow [...],
Like the swiftness of a falcon.