Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Hobbit as Life Coach, and a Return to Dracula

I was six years old when I discovered the world of fantasy fiction, and it came in two flavors: horror, in the form of a televised version of Dracula (based on certain costumes and sets, I think it was this one), and adventure, in the form of the animated television movie The Hobbit.

Someone gave me a record, which came with a read-along version of the story illustrated with stills from the film, so I would sit by the record player -- sometimes for hours, playing it over and over again -- and relive the adventures of Bilbo and friends until the music was stuck in my head, particularly the ballad / theme song:

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.

Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.

The chances, the changes are all yours to make.

The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

The greatest adventure is there if you're bold.

Let go of the moment that life makes you hold.

To measure the meaning can make you delay;

It's time you stop thinkin' and wasting the day.

The man who's a dreamer and never takes leave

Who thinks of a world that is just make-believe

Will never know passion, will never know pain.

Who sits by the window will one day see rain.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.

Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.

The chances, the changes are all yours to make.

The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.

lyrics by Jules Bass

Spending time with my brother's family this week, I thought about how much time has passed, and how the eldest niece's creativity and interests in reading, storytelling, and art has grown. She, too, was six when she encountered The Hobbit. (Good thing I had the book, because she read it after watching the film. She's eleven now, almost twelve, and I don't think I've given her a book she hasn't devoured.)

After another incident of poor behavior this afternoon, she and I and my sister-in-law had a lengthy discussion about how her choices have consequences. She chooses how to respond, how to speak to people, how many friends she will have. She chooses. The mold of her life is in her hands to break.

The Hobbit as life coach. Who knew?

But, no, I will not be introducing any horror into her literary or viewing diet. She can choose to do that when she's, oh, thirty-five, and no longer afraid of the dark. She had nightmares after watching The Mummy ("I didn't sleep for a week!"), but The Lord of the Rings (FOTR, TT, ROTK) seems to be okay. After all, what're a few nasty orcs and some Ringwraiths?

Speaking of horror, due to the proliferation of teenybopper vampire tales in print and on film -- anybody else nauseated by the current cute-and-lovable-vampire cult? -- I purchased an annotated copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and a slim volume of the short story / novella by Polidori, The Vampyre. If there must be blood-drinking in fiction, I need not be in pain when I read it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Yep, I was right. But I wish I wasn't.

I wanted to see Avatar at first, but the trailers told me I'd be in for a sermon. Well, according to an article on Yahoo! Movies, the film is full of political messages. I'm already full up on all the political and social agendas in movies and television shows. Why stand in line and pay for another helping?

Why does a story have to be mucked up and turned into a megaphone?

Edit: After reading all the sickeningly glowing reviews at IMDB, I started in on the "Hated It" reviews. Even more reason not to plunk down perfectly good, hard-earned cash.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In Christmas Past

This may become a traditional Christmas post for me, this being the second year the following poem has appeared on the blog. It's a compact memoir of all my childhood Christmases, and a wish for a constant remembrance of what makes tough times good.

In Christmas past, I used to wait
wide-eyed in the dark,
willing daylight to arrive--
or the first chimes of midnight--
but always, always, I fell asleep,
and did not hear the whispered consult
or see the huddled adults
conjure piles of wrapped treasure
beneath a tinseled tree.

Then came the years the gifts were few--
maybe only one--
but popcorn, cocoa, carols,
reading in the Book of Luke,
warmed the coldest winter holiday,
reminding us by frail candlelight
that even the brightest star
blooms suspended in chill space,
unseen without the dark.

c. 2007, Keanan Brand

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What's the Real Message? Questions and a Rant

Anybody else notice the product placement, or the political or social agendas in TV shows?

For instance, the Ford vehicles in Fringe, and the way the cell phone feature was highlighted in a recent episode: It was about as subtle as a car commercial, but at least the feature play a small role in the storyline (Agent Dunham calling the neighbors to check on her niece).

What about the "green" solutions or products i.e. an organic insulation for buildings, part of the evidence in a recent case on CSI: NY? Cool stuff, sure, but it has the delicacy of a "Go Green" commercial.

Or the homosexual / lesbian character and/or storyline in almost every show? This has been going on for several years, but now it seems to be more and more prevalent. Now, it's not the token black guy on the show (as during past decades), but the token homosexual. Not only a backhand to people of that persuasion, but also an in-your-face to the viewers who just want to enjoy a good story without a particular social agenda being shoved at them.

In other words, who's the preacher, and what's the sermon?

And what's with all the casual sex -- people hopping into bed with people they don't really know, almost an "I'm a guy, you're a girl, let's have sex" kind of attitude? And they're doing so without many consequences (pregnancy, disease, etcetera). Definitely not the real world.


By the way, I know the difference between soap opera and space opera, and I don't want all that soap in my space. I'm talking Stargate Universe, not personal hygiene.

Speaking of SGU, here's the "SF show checklist" that Lieutenant Bubba mentioned in a recent phone call:

Aliens inhabiting bodies. Check.

Aliens inhabiting ship. Check.

Characters switching bodies but retaining their own consciousness. Check.

Time loop/warp/anomaly. Check.

(Faster than) speed of light travel. Check.

Teleportation or some other kind of Star Trek movement of matter from one place to another. Check.

While that last one is central to the whole Stargate story, the one about sharing bodies is from an earlier SG storyline. However, in this new incarnation of SG, the stones are casually used, overused, and abused, compared to their previous treatment, in which uncertain and ugly consequences could arise from their use.

Conversation for another time: When it comes to time travel (no pun intended), thermal dynamics is the wrench in the works. All other elements of theory--mathematics, physics, and so on--can be reversed, but not that booger, that same thing that tweaks the tail of evolutionary theory, as well (but that, too, is a topic for another time).


And the new global and politically correct religion of "global warming" is bogus. I've been trying to tell people that for a few years now, but have made no converts, only spoken to others who have done their research and remember their basic high school science well enough to know our government and certain "scientists" are trying to feed them a steaming helping of horse dollops.

I encourage everyone to compare facts about climate truth v. climate panic i.e. "global warming". Anybody else remember the cooling hysteria from two or three decades ago, when we were being told that the earth was going to experience another catastrophic ice age? Not until Western Civ back in college did I learn the truth about global climate changes, which are like the seasons of the year -- sometimes cooler, sometimes warmer -- and events in history can be traced to such changes (diseases, currents, population growth or decrease, crop success or decline, and so on). Mankind has little actual impact, and can do nothing to stop the cycle.

So all this current stuff? Truth to tell, we're actually going through another cooling period. But hold on to your global warming stats. In another decade or so, they'll probably be back in style.

This is a brief rant. Feel free to weigh in.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Of Possible Interest to Fellow Writers

"What's in a Name?" at A Word's Worth, discussing the meaning of names

"Coping with rejection" at Jade's Journal, about the aftermath of a non-accepted story

"Avoiding the Predictable" over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, about how the amount of interesting material in a story really depends on the writer, not necessarily the subject matter

"The Magic in Fantasy that Pervades Everything" and "The Nature of Magic, in Le Guin and Tolkien", pretty self-explanatory titles for two recent articles over at Creeping Past Dragons

"Fiddlers Five (or Three)" about how even the best writers can produce less than stellar work, to be found at Do You Write Under Your Own Name?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No Hurry

So, discussions for Phase 3 of the Marcher Lord Select Premise Contest are up over at The Anomaly. Dragon's Rook made it past the second round, but it's definitely not a favorite for the third round.

From some of the comments discussing the contest entries, I gather that many of the readers who are casting votes are not readers of fantasy or science fiction or both, which makes me scratch my head and wonder why they're participating. It'd make as much sense as me wandering over to cast a vote in a romance novel competition: "This whole girl-meets-boy scenario isn't my thing, but I guess I'll vote for that entry over there. At least all the words are spelled right."

And then there are some snarky comments, and some over-the-top praises, and at least two predictions about different novels each being the final winner.


To tell the truth, last week I almost asked the contest administrator to remove my novel from the contest. There's something a little juvenile and needy about the whole thing, as if I'm jumping up and down and shouting, "Look at me! Look at me! Pick me, pick me, pretty please, pick me."

I guess I'm of the mind that, if the writing's any good, it'll be noticed. Eventually. What's the rush?

This from a writer who spent about fifteen years, from merest hint of an idea to full-blown novel, writing the darn thing.

But, really, what's the rush?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Thanks, all of those who voted for Dragon's Rook to advance to Round 3 in the Marcher Lord Select contest. (see post below for links and information)

I read over the material I submitted for the next two steps in the contest, and am dismayed that I let some editorial issues slip past me (repetitious phrasing, bland word choices), but am trying to let go of that. Just gonna "let it ride" and be content with whatever outcome.

Haven't written a word of fiction since Monday's mad dash to the NaNo finish line. My brain is a bit mushy at the moment. I need to let it set, like a bowl of Jell-O, so it'll be ready to tackle Thieves' Honor again. Episode 11 wasn't finished before November hit me, so that's the next priority.

As for the day job, things are heating up as we're on a headlong rush toward basketball season. Our first games begin on Saturday, so we're prepping the concession stand and the gym, inventorying and replacing game equipment, setting up a new procedure for the scorebooks, and so on. What's great, though, is all the (uncomplaining) participation by the staff. If only they'd work this willingly throughout the rest of the year!

I'm also in charge of the annual fine arts and photography exhibits, which are put on display at a local bank, an historical location with a giant wall dedicated to the artistic endeavors of the community. Our art exhibit comes down on Friday, and I have to immediately prepare the photography exhibit / contest for display and judging in January.

(stage whisper) By the way, just in case you didn't know it yet, Christmas is coming.