Monday, July 27, 2009

Why I Read Sci-fi &Fantasy


   I've read several books these 22 years... classics, nonfiction, religious, poetry, romance, and quite a few SF/ Fantasy books. I've noticed that I tend to have "phases," wherein I tend to obsess about a certain author or genre. In my childhood I had an L.M. Montgomery phase, a Laura Ingalls Wilder phase, a Louisa May Alcott phase, and so on. About two years ago I had a Russian author phase (and was consequently depressed after immersing myself in Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov, and Dostoevsky short works), and right before that, a Sophie Kinsella phase (which made me ultra-happy and ultra-prone to shopping! Hahaha). More recent phases were the Jane Austen, Philip Yancey, Soren Kierkegaard, and C.S. Lewis phases.

   I'm in a sci-fi/ fantasy reading spree right now. 

   This blessed three-day weekend allowed me the opportunity to devour Frank Herbert's first three Dune novels (Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune) as well as the first novel of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. (Am now reading the second novel in the series, A Clash of Kings, but sadly I have to put it away now to prepare lesson plans, create tests and do m.a. papers.)

   Before Dune, I read Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, the sequel to his phenomenal Ender's Game. And around five years ago, Tata and I completed his Alvin Maker series, which was top-notch as well! In high school we had the Dragonlance series, which I MUST re-read. In the words of C.S. Lewis, "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once."

   I will always go back to reading sci-fi and fantasy. I have many reasons, but Terry Pratchet says it best in his essay "When Children Read Fantasy":

   ...I'm now becoming perceived as a young people's writer. Teachers and librarians say, "Your books are really popular among children who don't read." I think this is a compliment; I just wish they'd put it another way.

The aforesaid school librarians tell me that what the children read for fun, what they'll actually spend their money on, are fantasy, science fiction and horror and, while they offer up a prayer of thanks that the kids are reading anything in this electronic age, this worries them.

It shouldn't.

Not long ago I talked to a teacher who, having invited me to talk at her school, was having a bit of trouble with the head teacher who thought that fantasy was morally suspect, irrelevant to the world of the nineties, and escapist.

Morally suspect? Shorn of its trappings, most fantasy would find approval in a Victorian household. The morality of fantasy and horror is, by and large, the strict morality of the fairy tale. The vampire is slain, the alien is blown out of the airlock, the evil Dark Lord is vanquished and, perhaps at some loss, the Good triumph -- not because they are better armed, but because Providence is on their side. Let there be goblin hordes, let there be terrible environmental threats, let there be giant mutated slugs if you really must, but let there also be Hope. It may be a grim, thin hope, an Arthurian sword at sunset, but let us know that we do not live in vain.

Classical written fantasy might introduce children to the occult, but in a healthier way than might otherwise be the case in our strange society. If you're told about vampires, it's a good thing to be told about stakes at the same time.

As for escapism, I'm quite happy about the word. There's nothing wrong with escapism. The key points of consideration, though, are what you're escaping from, and where you're escaping to....

... Here's to fantasy as the proper diet for the growing soul. All human life is there -- a moral code, a sense of order and, sometimes, great big green things with teeth. There are other books to read and I hope children who start with fantasy go on to read them. I did. But everyone has to start somewhere.

One of the great popular novelists of the early part of this century was G.K. Chesterton. Writing at a time when fairy tales were under attack for pretty much the same reason as books can now be covertly banned in some schools because they have the word 'witch' in the title, he said: "The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons. But children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed."

 (For the complete essay, click here)

R. Scott Baker's article talks about fantasy and escapism:

Fantasy is the celebration of what we no longer are: individuals certain of our meaningfulness in a meaningful world. The wish-fulfillment that distinguishes fantasy from other genres is not to be the all-conquering hero, but to live in a meaningful world. The fact that such worlds are enchanted worlds, worlds steeped in magic, simply demonstrates the severity of our contemporary crisis. 'Magic' is a degraded category in our society; if you believe in magic in this world, you are an irrational flake. And yet magic is all we have in our attempt to recover some vicarious sense of meaningfulness. If fantasy primarily looks back, primarily celebrates those values rendered irrelevant by post-industrial society, it is because our future only holds the promise of a more trenchant nihilism. One may have faith otherwise, but by definition such faith is not rational. Faith, remember, is belief without reasons. 

Reading fantasy represents the attempt to give meaning to one's life by forgetting, for a time, the world that one lives in. In the escape offered by fantasy one glimpses the profound dimensions of our modern dilemma. Fantasy is the primary expression of a terrible socio-historical truth: the fundamental implication of our scientific culture is that life is meaningless. 

If so many religious groups are up in arms about Harry Potter, it is because they see in it a competitor--and rightly so. Fantasy novels can be construed as necessary supplements to the Holy Bible. In a culture antagonistic to meaning, the bald assertion that life is meaningful is not enough. We crave examples.

(For the complete article, go here.)

   I would not go so far as to say that fantasy/sci-fi novels are the only books out there worth reading, but I would definitely agree that they ARE worthwhile. :) Of course, we must always keep in mind the need to keep a balanced reading diet. 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Aranel, a Lord of the Rings fanfic - FanFiction.Net
I'm not usually a reader of fanfic, but this is too good to ignore. And no, I'm not just saying this because this was written by my incredibly talented twin sister, Tata... hahaha but honestly I'm just so amazed that she could write this well. And to think that she was only a junior in high school when she wrote this??!!

I'd forgotten about this piece of work and stumbled across it by accident. Tata! Go write your best-selling novel. NOW! :)

Aside: This is the link to the seventh chapter (my favorite), but you can easily read the first chapters from this page by clicking on the scrollbar, upper right.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Of Coffee, Books, and other mundane things

  mun·dane  adj.  
  1. Of, relating to, or typical of this world; secular.
  2. Relating to, characteristic of, or concerned with commonplaces; ordinary.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   To start of, let me just say that I'm extremely happy and content with my life at the moment. :) And since I've noticed that the happier I am, the more shallow I tend to be, this will consequently be a "shallow" post full of the mundane trivial things that make up my everyday life. 

   My teaching job is a dream. :) It tends to be hectic at times, and downright depressing during its low points, but really, at the end of the day there's no better feeling than knowing that you've made a difference in a person's life, even in some small way ... like successfully teaching students how to sing the pentatonic scale with hand signs, all by themselves. Or improving a student's wrist movement that has been impeding his piano playing technique. Or being present to witness a 4-year-old tell me his life's goal: "Pag big boy na ako, magiging 'OCTOPUS' Prime na ako at lalabanan ko si Megatron!" Or making sure that the sophomore class memorized the locations and capitals of all the countries in Asia. I always look forward to throwing myself on my soft bed with an aching body after a hard day of honest work.

   I'm happy to say that I finally found the solution to my "coffee" problem, and only wish I'd discovered it sooner as I could have saved myself several months of "tongue-ache." :) All hail the wonder that is DECAF COFFEE!

   I'm rather concerned with my ever growing TBR (to-be-read) pile. All my bookshelves are filled to overflowing capacity, so that I still have a box of books with nowhere to put them. My only comfort is the thought that, sooner or later, I WILL read them all  in this lifetime. And hopefully, I can pass them on to my children and even my grandchildren. :)

   I am now a NUTELLA addict!! (For those of you who are not familiar with this choco-hazelnut spread, this stuff is the heart of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.) Skyflakes + Nutella = Food for the gods.

   My favorite TV channel is now TCM (Turner Classic Movies), where last week I watched Marlon Brando on "Mutiny on The Bounty."  (Incidentally, a remake was done in 1984, starring Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Liam Neeson and Daniel Day Lewis. Talk about a DREAM CAST!!) 

   It's official, my new celebrity crush is Marlon Brando. Watch the youtube clip of him delivering Antony's speech ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, LEND ME YOUR EARS!") and you'll have a crush on him too!

   Oh glorious day. How wonderful it is to be alive! :)



Saturday, July 4, 2009

What is that? --> A Belated Father's Day Tribute


May we always honor our parents and give them the kindness and love that they have unceasingly given us.
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