felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Dear Mr. Pullman,

If you want me to believe that the race of witches in your novel has never even heard of angels, don't name their leader - and the one asking about the angels - Serafina. Thank you.

-- [livejournal.com profile] felis_ultharus
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I've been doing a fair bit of historical research -- not for my poor, neglected website, though I have all the material I need to read for my next entry gathering dust on my desk, awaiting a time of motivation.

No, I've been researching medieval Europe for the second novel I have going, especially those details that most fantasy writers just don't care, and just crib off other writers, who cribbed off other writers, who cribbed off other writers, who stole them from either J.R.R. Tolkien or Gary Gygax. It's about time the whole inbred fantasy genre got some fresh blood.

On that note, I've gone back to the history books for my setting, back to the medieval sources for my monsters, and back to medieval and Roman stories about witches for my spells. I'm reading an excruciatingly-detailed 19th-century history text on crime in medieval England right now.

Meanwhile, I'm returning to material I'd forgotten since undergrad history. I'd forgotten that spaces between words and small letters only really came into popular use in the court of Charlemagne, in the 700s AD.

Think about it -- up until then, all letters were written in all-caps shouting, which strikes me as very rude. No wonder there were so many wars back then.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So [livejournal.com profile] montrealais is off in Europe for a couple of months. Even though I said goodbye to him yesterday -- and even though his mother called this morning -- I still kept turning down the sound on the computer's speaker, as if I was worried I'd wake him up.

I finished version six of my novel on Sunday, exactly on deadline. Still not perfect -- the last page continues to give me trouble, and there's moments throughout that give me trouble. But I think the change in tone was the last huge altered. Plot-wise, much less is different since last version.

I'm determined not to even look at it for a month. I've made that promise before, and failed, but I'm starting to draft something completely different. Medieval fantasy specifically. I've done so much research into the middle ages -- and how fantasy novels get the middle ages wrong -- that I might as well use it for something besides D&D games and historical research.

I'm also thoroughly addicted to Full Metal Alchemist, which has now replaced Evangelion as my all-time favourite anime. Thanks to the miracle fan-scanned translations, I have now read every issue of the manga out in Japan, and thanks to streaming video, I've seen all nine episodes for the second series out in Japan.

If anyone wants to compare the two anime series, the gory, horrific scene where the boys try (and fail) to bring their dead mother back to life is a good benchmark.

The scene in the first anime has good atmosphere, but is overplayed. The same scene in the second series (which starts seven minutes in, and includes unskippable commercials) is closer to the manga.

But it's interesting -- like comparing two different theatre companies doing Hamlet. Only with more bleeding children. And magic circles. Though it might be interesting to see a version of Hamlet where he brings Gertrude back from the dead and winds up with a cybernetic arm and leg. I'd pay to see that.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a book that often gets called "Harry Potter for adults" -- which seems like a vague insult directed at the many adult Potter fans.

But it's easy to see why the comparison gets made. Both are a mix of comic and dark, both centre on magicians in Britain, both are crammed with plot twists, and Jonathan Strange was published in time to ride the wave of Harry Potter popularity.

Overall, I'm with most people who compared both books -- Jonathan Strange is the better work overall in terms of craft, but with some reservations. And even though I think Susanna Clarke is the better writer, I still like Rowling better because she seems to understand things Clarke doesn't.

Review continues, now with spoilers! )

On a totally different note, Vandana Shiva was on The Current this morning. I first heard about her through David Suzuki's writings -- she's a quantum physicist, an environmental activist, a feminist, and an anti-globalization activist, and I've always been a fan of hers.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finally finished The Dark is Rising series, one of those Harry Potter precursors that have been returning to the limelight in the reflected glory of its famous progeny.

(I read one book of it when I was a kid, and enjoyed that. My sister and [livejournal.com profile] infinitecomplex got me the whole series for my birthday.)

It's a good series overall, and generally got better. The first entry is a bit lacklustre, but her writing improves throughout.

Review continues )

Right now, I'm reading a book called Reinventing the Sacred, which is one biologist's attempt to refute reductionism and recuperate concepts like free will in scientific terms. It's rather disappointing so far, I'm afraid.

However, it is impossible to hate a book that includes the sentence, "I will try to show that a tiger is both epistemologically and ontologically emergent with respect to physics."
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Reading and enjoying the second book of The Dark is Rising series has got me thinking about fantasy lit, and about its weird place in the canon -- as far as English literature courses are concerned, the stuff does not exist.

(Even science-fiction has begun to break through the barrier of "canon," but fantasy has been cast into the outer darkness along with erotica and a few other despised genres.)

This is strange, because the fantasy novel is now almost 250 years old. It can be traced back to a man named Horace Walpole -- son of Britain's famous (or infamous) first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

The story of the first fantasy novel )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I felt really good this last week, better than I have in a decade, with no real reason for it. Maybe it's just that the novel's going well -- I think most people are giving up on me ever finishing the thing, but it's so much better in this version than any of the others I've shown to people that I think the progress exceeds all previous progress combined.

It's been quiet, lately -- just writing and reading mostly. I really think that one day archaeologists are going to unearth Anglo-Saxon slash fanfic around Beowulf and Wiglaf from some Sutton-Hoo-esque barrow.

I did get my gift my [livejournal.com profile] jc2004 and [livejournal.com profile] infinitecomplex, which would be the complete Dark Is Rising sequence. Thank you -- I hadn't read the rest of the series yet ^_^
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Things have been quiet. I've been slowly going over my novel, excising this, re-writing that in preparation for the big re-write when I get feedback.

I've also been doing a fair bit of research for the website, which has involved reading up on a number of fairly obscure political figures, such as British Radical Henry Du Pré Labouchère, and Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Sparrow David Thompson, who served two years before he died at lunch with Queen Victoria.

(For some reason, the ice cream shop around the corner from my house has a very random counterfeit bill on display, with Thompson's face on it.)

I also finished The Farthest Shore -- the last of the original Earthsea trilogy. It's gorgeous -- LeGuin writes the best fantasy I've ever read in English. She gets that sense of beautiful longing that Tolkien is always trying for.

There was a brief kerfuffle awhile back when she said that she didn't think J.K. Rowling was that good a writer. I like Rowling a lot, but it is clear that LeGuin is the better of the two -- she manages to pull off the same themes way back in 1972 that Rowling explores in the Potter series with much better grace and poetry and psychological realism, and does it in 600 rather than 3000+ pages.

'Course, I'm biased toward LeGuin because her gay character wanders in on page six of her third book, where he's announced in plain English. No subtext, no interviews after the book was written -- right there, a newly-introduced character falls in love with another man.

Funny how she was able to do that without the controversy Dumbledore aroused. Was it because fantasy novels weren't yet on the mainstream radar, or because the religious right was not as well-organized back in the pre-Reagan days?
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Still getting gradually caught up on friends-list reading. I'm not all the way there yet.

I woke up with that usual, post-finished-version sinking feeling of thinking it was going to be terrible and I'll never be a writer. I'm so manic-depressive just after finishing one of these things.

I did finish Tombs of Atuan, too, yesterday. Great, but not quite as brilliant as Wizard of Earthsea. Very little happens in Atuan -- it's more a psychological portrait of a priestess and a wizard -- which is okay for a change, but I don't know if I'd want to read a whole series like that.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm doing a fair bit better today than I was yesterday (see f-locked entry). My flu already seems to have peaked -- I probably shouldn't have gone to work yesterday -- and a good night's sleep and some gunpowder tea have worked wonders. I might be able to handle socializing tonight.

One thing about having lived that kind of poverty is it really does make you appreciate little things like warm tea and warmer blankets. It may have killed a perfect sense of routine in me, and made me have trouble seeing the point of things like equity and RRSPs, credit ratings and real estate. It's probably why I have such a hard time conceiving of property.

But it's also a good thing because learning the stupidity of accumulating stuff is a very good lesson to get early on. Half the people I interact with on a daily basis seem eaten by the things they believe themselves to own.

I've been getting rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff I've packratted away the last month, and it feels good. What feels even better is that last night, after a long nap that took the edge off a growing nausea, I finished the latest draft of the novel. Now it'll require a couple of weeks of editing, and then go back into my editors' hands, if they're still willing.

I'm also reading The Tombs of Atuan -- the sequel to my favourite fantasy novel, A Wizard of Earthsea. That's been my favourite now for more than half my life, and I've read it three times, but only now am I getting to the sequel.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
A quiet day in the office. As always when I work on Saturdays, I'm listening to CBC, and contemplating campaigning for a memorial statue dedicated to the victims of Brent Bambury's Go.

I'm reading Children of Húrin right now. You have to admire J.R.R. Tolkien -- I hope I have the stamina to keep writing thirty-four years after my death.

As a fantasy novel overall, it's okay so far, but the racism has really astonished me. Not that it's there -- anyone who's read Lord of the Rings as an adult can't miss it -- but as the book was ghostwritten by his son in 2007 from his father's manuscripts, you'd think someone would've pointed out during the editing process that parts of it read like British National Party propaganda.

It's not even just a moral issue but also an artistic one -- it really detracts from the unfolding of a story to predict how good a person is going to be by how pale they are (dark skin = evil, dark hair but white = imperfect or unstable, blond = good).

On the other hand, the way some of the scenes are written, I have to wonder if Christopher Tolkien is playing to a slash-writing audience. I may post some of these another day.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I develop weird obsessions -- usually they don't last more than a week or so, but for awhile someting, almost always something obscure, obsesses me and I feel driven to find out all I can. The stranger and more obscure, the better.

These obsessions have been everything from Norse funeral customs, to Medieval bestiaries, to Bible translation, to lost gay language Polari. It's not always historical or literary, however. Very weird pop culture mutations get me every time.

This week, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] montrealais, it's baby names. And more than anything else, it's the name Raistlin.

The final revenge of Raistlin )


felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

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