4thofeleven: (Default)
I admit, I’ve always sort of liked Herod.

I mean, yes, yes, ruthless murderous bastard, but from a narrative point of view I can’t help but respect someone who, on hearing about a prophesy, decides the best way to deal with it is to immediately murder anyone who even slightly resembles a Chosen One… So many stories could have been improved with a Herod around at the right time.
4thofeleven: (Default)
Found while looking up something unrelated on Wikipedia:

"Animalia Paradoxa are the mythical, magical or otherwise suspect animals included in early editions of Carl Linnaeus' seminal work Systema Naturae under the wastebasket taxon of Paradoxa."

Included in this category are Hydra, Satyrs, Phoenix, Dragons and Manticores.

I kind of want to see something like this in a fantasy setting - some poor bastard trying hard to scientifically categorise a magical world before giving up in frustration on encountering a Chimera or something and eventually just lumping almost everything into a 'miscellaneous' category...
4thofeleven: (Default)
Because everyone else is doing it.

Leave me a comment saying "Boom-cha" and I will respond by asking you five questions that satisfy my curiosity. Update your journal with the answers to the questions, including this in the post.

Questions by [livejournal.com profile] sunnyskywalker

1. What do you think happened to Talia Winters? Did they really dissect her like Bester said, or was he just trying to rile them?

I always thought dissecting Talia seemed a bit of a waste of resources – even if Talia 2.0 couldn’t access Talia’s telekinetic powers, presumably she still has the ability and the priority should have been on getting it to work again so the Corps could study a living subject and telekinesis in action.

Then again, the alternate personality might not have been designed for long-term operation and might have shut down on its own – considering Talia 2.0’s subtle reaction to being exposed is to pull a weapon on Lyta in front of a half-dozen witnesses while bellowing Psi-Corps slogans, one kind of gets the impression it was a rush job and perhaps not too smart when left unattended.

Anyway, I’m an optimist, and I prefer to think that Talia survived somehow and was eventually restored. Bester might not even have been intentionally lying – he is somewhat out of the loop when it comes to some of the internal conspiracies in the Corps. Maybe Talia was transferred over to Bureau 13 with death and dissection as a cover story.

And I have – admittedly slim – evidence to support the theory that she was restored. Sleeping in Light, when everyone toasts to absent friends, Talia isn’t one of the dead characters named. Granted, neither is Lyta, but nobody was really close to her except Zack, and he’s not there. So I say, that proves it, obviously she wasn’t named because as of 2281, she’s not dead!

And I refuse to listen to any arguments to the contrary.

2. Tell me your thoughts on orcs, of any brand.

I’ve always had an affection for orcs, going back to when I was a kid and I used to collect Warhammer model soldiers. In the Warhammer game system, the Orc and Goblin army was one of the most unreliable, with special rules to represent the tendencies of orcs to fight among themselves rather than the enemy, the unreliability of most orc weapons, and the generally uncontrollable nature of an orc horde – Orc wizards sometimes overloaded their brains with too much magic and exploded, some of their special unit moved a random amount each turn. Fun army, very characterful, not very effective, but more fun to play than the disciplined, organised ranks of an elf or dwarf army.

One of the things I like about orcs is that they tend to fit into the pseudo-dark ages society most fantasy worlds are permanently stuck in a lot better than chivalrous knights or refined elves. Why’s Gorbad the Stabber the boss? Because he’s got an army of orcs behind him who beat the crap out of anyone who disagrees. What have you got to say to that, Mr. Rightful Heir, True King, Last of Your Ancient Line? Why are we at war with this kingdom? Are we reclaiming our ancestral lands? Are we fighting a last heroic stand against the forces of evil? No, but our soldiers are getting restless and they’ve got shiny things we want. It’s a bit more honest to just admit you rule by strength of arms and brutality, and more true to how most noble dynasties originally rose to power…

3. How did you get into vexillology? Was it just too cool a word?

Flags and coats of arms are one of those things I’ve always been interested in. Unfortunately, most countries to have gained independence in the last few decades have picked terrible flags. Bosnia’s flag seems to have been designed primarily to communicate “We really want EU membership!”. Kosovo stuck a map of their country on the flag, which seems to be missing the point of a flag as an iconic representation of the country. Montenegro just went with their coat of arms on a coloured background, which again seems to be missing the point of having a flag – a mistake a fair number of US State flags have also made. Eritrea just hurts my eyes to look at – I think it’s the red and green right next to each other. Turkmenistan stuck a strip of carpet on their flag, which, well, A-plus for creativity, minus several million for aesthetics, yes?

On the plus side, East Timor came up with a very nice and distinctive design, and most of the former Soviet Republics came up with interesting flags.

And, no, I’m not a fan of Australia’s current flag – looks like a colonial flag, and too similar to New Zealand. Unfortunately, I suspect an Australian Republic flag would be much worse; I’d like to see the Eureka flag chosen, but that’s probably got too much political baggage.

4. Besides Kirk and Spock, who learns Spock Prime's identity? Sarek? The Admiralty? No one?

I assume the Federation was kind of hush-hush about what happened in general – nobody wants to know they’re living in an alternate timeline, and you don’t want other governments trying to work out how to send their ships back in time – or how to make contact with their
counterparts in alternate realities.

I imagine Spock Prime would tell as few people as possible – he probably doesn’t want to be pestered every other week with Starfleet demands for information on future events. Sarek probably knows – hmm, and maybe Pike too. Spock was very loyal to the guy in the prime timeline, it makes sense that if he was going to contact anyone in Starfleet, it’d be him.

5. What is the coolest translation you've done in Greek?

One of the most fun was when we were assigned a passage from Aristophanes’ The Clouds. The point of the exercise, as the teacher explained afterwards, was to check how confident you were at translating when the correct translation produced sentences like “And then he took the flea and dipped its feet in wax. And so it had Persian slippers on its feet!” – the sort of result that makes it very easy to assume you must have screwed up somewhere…
4thofeleven: (Default)
I have to say, I was pretty disappointed with this book. I haven’t read much Gaiman, but there’s a fair amount of overlap between fans of his work and fans of things I’m into, and Anansi Boys has gotten pretty much universally good reviews, so I was rather looking forward to it when I saw it on the assigned reading list this semester.

Here’s the problems I had. One, race. A lot of reviews make a big deal out of how the book handles race, and to be fair, it is nice to see a fantasy narrative where the protagonist is a black man of Caribbean ancestry. It’s also kind of clever that Gaiman doesn’t mention character’s race unless they’re white. On the other hand, I’m not sure if it’s necessarily praiseworthy to have written a book with an almost entirely black cast in which it seems most readers completely missed that aspect on their first reading. The book seems to almost go out of its way to avoid racial issues – a particularly bizarre example is the British police officer of Ethiopian and Korean ancestry who feels there’s a distance between her and the other officers she works with… because she focuses mainly on computer crimes.

I also found it a little dubious that the scenes in Britain were all in a fairly realistic London, while the scenes in the Caribbean are set on a fictitious island, the people of which are played mainly for laughs.

Two, storytelling. I felt the narrative rather wasted its concepts. Early on, it raises the idea of storytelling and who controls stories through the myth of Anansi stealing control of stories and by doing so turning stories of brute strength into stories of tricksters. Except this isn’t really a trickster story, rather it’s the story of the ordinary man who discovers he’s a prince and through overcoming adversity grows into his power – which is, if anything, the complete opposite of trickster stories which are about the proud trickster acquiring things or power that he has no innate right to, and often ending up humbled as much as his enemies in the process. Anansi himself ends up almost a footnote in the story, and really, the story wouldn’t have changed much if the protagonist had instead found out his father was really a Jedi Knight.

Three, and most importantly, the issues I had with the role of women in the story. This is pretty much the main reason I ended the book with a negative impression. The other two issues aren’t really problems so much as missed potential and the book is well written and generally entertaining. But there’s one bit that I felt was so badly handled that it completely threw off my enjoyment of the rest of the book. See, the main character, Charlie, has a brother Spider. Spider’s much more in tune with his semi-divine nature, to the point that people believe things he says just because he said them. So, at one point, Charlie’s too hung-over to go to work, and Spider decided to impersonate him for the day so he doesn’t get in trouble – said impersonation consisting entirely of walking up to people and saying confidently “I’m Charlie.” Now, Charlie has a fiancé, Rosie. You see where this is going, right?

So, yeah, Rosie sleeps with Spider thinking he’s Charlie. Just in case this wasn’t dubious enough, it’s already been established that Rosie and Charlie aren’t sleeping together; she’s intending to save it for when they’re married. So just in case it wasn’t bad enough that she wouldn’t have consented to sleep with Spider if she’d known who he was, she apparently wouldn’t have normally consented to sleep with him even if he was who he claimed to be!

Not only does the narrative not seem to realise this is a rape scenario, it doesn’t seem to recognise that there’s anything dubious about the situation at all – or when it does, the main focus is on how humiliated Charlie feels. And then, just in case the whole scenario wasn’t leaving a bad enough taste in my mouth as it was, it then goes on to have Rosie come to the realisation she never really loved Charlie in the first place, and then gets together with Spider, with an epilogue detailing that they’re happily married.

Throw in the fact that this otherwise light-hearted, vaguely Douglas Adams-esque novel also features bizarrely mood-breaking scenes where a woman is murdered or where two female characters are locked in a meat locker for at least a day by the murderer while he decides how best to dispose of the bodies… throw in that the only goddess in the story is the main villain, yet is still characterised as primarily a scavenger, a subordinate to a male figure who has power in his own right, and, well, like I said, the whole thing left a very bad taste in my mouth.

Anyone else read the book and felt the same? I was a little surprised not to be able to find a single review or discussion that mentioned these issues even in passing.
4thofeleven: (Default)
Doing a unit on Fantasy narratives this semester – which, so far, consists mainly of sitting around Tuesday mornings discussing Lord of the Rings. It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it!

Haven't actually re-read Tolkien for many years, so it was fun to revisit it. Thoughts, in no particular order:

Read more... )
4thofeleven: (Default)
So, look, have I just sat through too many lectures in mythology or fantasy units about Joseph bloody Cambell, or does his 'monomyth' basically boil down to "The Hero goes somewhere and does something. Other characters will aid or hinder him." Because every time his work comes up, I end up beling less impressed at how many different myths and legends follow his scheme, and more baffled as to how a story could possibly *not* follow his system.

(Admittedly, it can be interesting to take the generic 'quest' story, and see how various traditions treat it - but I suspect you'd end up with more subversions than straight examples. Hell, Gilgamesh, the oldest written story, subverts the 'universal' quest narrative, by having the hero fail to attain immortality and return home empty handed and chastised for his arrogance!)

4thofeleven: (Default)
You have, I suppose, heard the stories of how the first Orcs came into the world? How they were once Elves, broken and twisted by evil forces into a corrupted mockery of their former selves? It is a lie; the truth is that it is the Elves who are the twisted offspring of the Orcish race.

Is the truth not obvious? The Elves are the decadent children of a lost kingdom of Orcs, who in the first days of the world were corrupted and deceived, and came to value not the honest Orcish virtues of strength of body and will, but instead the false merits of beauty of form. They became obsessed with physical luxuries, and became ruled by hierarchies in which the most attractive of their number became rulers.

In the end, the Orcs cast them out, and unwilling to exert themselves with mundane labours rather than the creation of enchanted trinkets and baubles, their numbers diminished – until they found others who they could control, who were similarly likely to confuse fairness of body with fairness of spirit.

Now the Elves live as parasites on the civilizations of Men and Dwarf, taking food and raw materials as tribute – for they produce none of their own, preferring the unspoiled and unproductive beauty of their forest glades for the ugly functionality of farmland or mines. In return, they occasionally deign to share some of their luxuries with the other races. And all the time, they spread their lies about their ancient Orcish kindred. For they know that Men and Dwarves would no longer be bewitched by their beauty if they knew the truth…


4thofeleven: (Default)
David Newgreen

September 2017

24 252627282930


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 04:32 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios