Archive for the ‘Thinky Thoughts’ Category

A friend linked to this article, which suggests that fantasy films, shiny and pleasing to look at as they may be, can have a deleterious effect on the imagination.

Instead of my imagination being engaged in a unique relationship with the imagination of the author, everything is provided for me by the intermediary–the film director. My imagination is unnecessary, for every detail down to the last scale on the dragon’s back is served up on the big screen larger, more completely and vividly than I ever could have imagined myself.

If this is so, then films of children’s fantasy stories, while very entertaining, may be counterproductive. If they stifle the imagination, then in the long run we will have a population that continues to have a great appetite for entertainment, but little agility of imagination.

Mr Darcy?!

Mr Darcy?!

Is the author on to something?  His argument is persuasive.  I know that my experience of the films he mentions (the Harry Potter movies, the Narnia films, and Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings fanfic) has been: “Hmm.  That is not at all how I pictured it.”  I’ve started avoiding movies based on books I enjoy, because the things the film gets wrong (from my point of view) start to supercede the images I have in my own mind, and then I start imagining the movie versions while I read and it just makes me crabby. (For instance, when I first read Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy was a blond. I know! Every single film version makes him dark-haired, but in my mind, he was definitely an icy blond with a pointy nose–Malfoy-esque, actually.  But now that I’ve watched umpty-bajillion film versions of the story, I have trouble reaching for that image, and am left with an actor stand-in instead.)  Possibly this is a.) not a problem most people have and b.) not the point the author of the article was making.

But is he right?  And I wonder: do animated movies have the same stultifying effect?  (Drawn animation, I mean, not CG.)  Because a drawing, or a painting, requires interpretation for our brains to make sense of it, which would be more work for the imagination, I should think.  (Less realistic/naturalistic = more work for the imagination?  Does stop motion count?  If you have to make your imagination work to believe that a man in a suit is a monster stomping on Tokyo, is that better than having a lovingly-rendered CG monsters?  I have no concrete data here.)



Read Full Post »

The Viking Prince loves robots. Loves them. It kinda doesn’t matter what the story is about, so long as there are robots in it: Pacific Rim, Big Hero 6, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (which has both Ultron and Vision, plus assorted bad guys’ mechas), Voltron, Transformers, I’m not kidding. So when the movie Earth to Echo, featuring an adorable little robot from outer space, showed up on Netflix, of course we had to watch it.

echo_picThe movie was decent. In it, the kids have to help the little robot, who crash-landed on our planet, evade shady government agents and get back to its ship so that it can go home. Of course this requires all manner of crazy, definitely not parentally-approved, shenanigans, including but not limited to riding their bikes into the desert at night, stealing the shady government agents’ truck, and getting into a car chase with said truck. (The kids, I should add, are about 13.)

All of which got me thinking about the virtue of prudence.

Now, Prudence is not how most people imagine her: a fussy-faced old maid with her iron hair pulled back in a tight bun and her grey dress buttoned up to her pointy chin, scowling and shaking her bony finger at you whenever you think about doing something fun. Yes, she wants you to eat your vegetables (carrots are good for your eyes!) and brush your teeth (cavities are no fun, and dentist visits are expensive), but if you need to steal (borrow! with every intention of giving it back!) a truck to save the space robot from the shady government agents, then by God grab the keys.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis defines prudence this way:

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the ‘virtues’. In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are ‘good’, it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of ‘prudence’ about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single- minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim….

Right action at the right time, that’s Prudence.

Of course that means if the apparently-crazy-by-worldly-standards path, the slim-chance-but-also-the-only-chance path, is the best path, then you must take it. Prudence doesn’t mean hanging back and not taking risks.

Jumping off a cliff to escape angry natives? Prudent!

Jumping off a cliff to escape angry natives? Prudent!

Dressing your giant in a holocaust cloak and lighting him on fire to intimidate the guards? Totally prudent!

Dressing your giant in a holocaust cloak and lighting him on fire to intimidate the guards? Totally prudent!

A diminutive psychic ninja locking herself in with space zombies in order to save her crew?  The prudent-est!

A diminutive psychic ninja locking herself in with space zombies in order to save her crew? The prudent-est!

Or, take another view.

I knew a dude whose philosophy of life was basically this: do what makes the best story.

Now, we could spend a lot of time hammering out the details of this philosophy, the ethics and morality and what makes a story “good”, but the basic premise is actually a pretty good starting point. Our lives are stories we are given to write. We’re handed the basic setup: home, family, place of birth, social status, and so on. But from there it’s up to us.

And what does make the best story? Think of your favorite tales, the ones that speak to your soul, the ones you return to again and again. Do they contain marvels, adventures, strange sights and interesting characters, risk-taking and romance, courage and daring deeds? Or do they contain … I don’t know. Lots of television watching, commuting, maybe a 401K and a well-diversified stock portfolio.* (And if the latter, what are you doing at this blog?)

All the virtues are interconnected; prudence requires courage: the courage to stand up for one’s convictions, to jump off a cliff if necessary, even just the courage to say hello to that attractive someone and see what happens next. The kids in Earth to Echo displayed magnificent prudence (and courage, and love, and other virtues too), doing what was right and necessary to save their newfound alien friend. And maybe kids are better at prudence, true prudence, because life has not yet battered over-caution and self-preservation-above-all-else into their souls? Part of that whole “be like little children” thing.

We are given only one life, one story to live–all the more reason to take risks, to be bold, to make it a tale of romance and brotherhood and battling against evil, doing the right thing even when it is hard and dangerous and terrifying.

You know, prudently. 😀

*Not knocking a well-diversified stock portfolio, BTW. Just hinting that if your stock portfolio is the focus of your story, you might want to diversify your life a bit too.

**P.S. I just want you to know I had to watch bits of The Princess Bride, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Serenity to get the screencaptures I wanted for this post. The things I do for you people! 😀

Read Full Post »

Good Heavens!

So overnight the blog rather … exploded.  A very mild explosion, as these things go: an average post here has about five views; the very excitingly popular ones have sixty.  My Sad Puppies cartoon has three hundred and counting!  Welcome to all newcomers, and thank you for stopping by.  Also thank you for the extremely positive response, showing that my fears of negative reprisals for speaking up were baseless and vain, and for those who shared the cartoon (I’m guessing mostly on the Facebook?), thank you for that too.  I am honored by your company.  *raises a glass* *or actually a teacup* *it’s six a.m. here*

Read Full Post »

About a million years ago I was the political cartoonist for my college newspaper.  Possibly I was not the best person for the job, because I’m not terribly political, nor fond of being controversial, but it was a fun gig while it lasted.  Today I was moved to draw my first political cartoon in 15 years.sp_comic

I’ve been a silent bystander in the ongoing battle in the field of SF/F, a reader and a fan of John C Wright, Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, and (lately) Brad Torgersen. I’ve read the blogs regarding Sad Puppies since SP2 last year, but I did nothing, I said nothing.  No more.

People I respect, as artists in a field I love and as human beings, are being maligned, tarred and feathered, vomited-upon by liars who accuse these good folk of the very pettiness and hatred of which the accusers themselves are guilty.  I chose to stand aside until now, because I am shy, because I feared reprisal and because really I am nobody.  I am not brave.  I am not a luminary in the field of fantastic literature; I’m a sketch card artist, a mom, and an indie author with one novel and two short stories to my name.

But I am angry now.  Who are the bad guys?  The ones who speak openly about their goals, who desire change–beneficial change!–in a field calcified by its own politics, who avow those desires in public forums and answer ad hominem attacks with cool logic?  Or the ones who vomit hatred, lies, and baseless accusations against the aforementioned?

No more. I may be nobody, but I choose to remain silent no longer.

Read Full Post »

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

It can be no coincidence that the rising of Christ from the tomb corresponds to the greening of nature after the long winter, and even here where winter’s average temperatures are in the mid-50s, the new blossoms springing to life after a season of grey and brown are a delight to the eyes.

After a long hiatus (much more than a season) I am getting back into gardening, in my haphazard and ramshackle way, mostly by guess and by gosh, with frantic googlings when things start to go wrong (what are those teeny tiny red things, and why are they killing my tomatoes?  I have yet to bring a tomato to successful fruition), and this year I am putting in roses.  A popular fantasy author put some flings against roses into the mouth of one of his characters, and I was a little indignant on the poor roses’ behalf.  Is it their fault they are so extravagantly lovely that man has deemed them the best symbol of eternal devotion?  But never mind him.  This year at last our poor drab home will be adorned with roses, roses everywhere I can put them.  I am thinking of climbing roses around the east and west windows, like the cottage in Robin McKinley’s Beauty–although mine are probably not going to grow with supernatural speed and fecundity, alas.

“What do roses do?” the Viking Prince asked.

“What do roses do?” I echoed back at him, as is my (probably quite irritating from his point of view) habit.

He gave it due thought.  “I think they just sit there,” he said.

“Well, yes,” I admitted. “But they also look beautiful…”

“And smell good!”

“And feed the bees…”

“With their nectar! And butterflies!”

“And they glorify God with their loveliness.”  Kind of sententious, I know, but hey, it’s true! God, having made roses, presumably loves them, and the roses, in their plant-y way, love him back.  And do not the green hills, adorned with new blossoms (even the humble dandelions), appear a kind of shout of joy made visible?

And shall we not in this joyful Eastertide (another favorite hymn!) imitate the burgeoning nature around us and glorify God with our best beauties: whether we are magnificent roses, humble dandelions, or prickly blackberries.  Let the joy of God spring forth in our hearts, softening the wintry soil and shooting forth new growth.

As the hymn says:

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Hymn “Now the Green Blade Riseth” is copyright John M.C. Crum. I found the full words here.

Read Full Post »

Winter Weather

So Dallas got hit with winter this week. Now, those of you from more … how shall I put this? More varied or robust climes might garner some amusement at what we here in the Dallas area call “winter,” where iced-over bridges or a couple of inches of snow literally shut the city down. (In our defense, the Metroplex–which sounds like something from which you would want to escape in a dystopian sci fi novel–has a lot of bridges, and it takes you at least twenty minutes to drive anywhere when conditions are clear. So if the roads are packed with people who, in the words of a friend, “Have to Google ‘how to drive in icy conditions’,” fuggeddaboudit.) We’ve had a mild winter up till now, because Winter in this area is a slacker who is content to hang out in a t-shirt and board shorts most of the time, and just now looked at his calendar and noticed, “Oh, holy crap, dude, February’s almost over! Better give ’em some winter!”

Snowpocalypse 2015!

Snowpocalypse 2015!

That same friend who made the Google remark also noted, over some delicious hot cocoa, that no matter where you live or what you are supposed to be doing, there’s something about February that makes us humans want to curl up inside (with a cup of hot cocoa!) and do low-key, not-get-much-work-done sorts of activities. Knit. Stare at the fire. Mend things. Oh, our modern world wants us to get out there and get stuff done, but the weather and our natures resist it.

I wonder if it is some essential quality of February, or of us–or both? At least in the Christian world, February means Lent, and Lent means waiting for Easter, waiting for the Resurrection, just as in the natural world it means the tail end of Winter, which means waiting for Spring. I wonder if this time of year is just naturally a fallow time, a waiting time, and trying to resist the waiting-ness of it is a fruitless (ha! literally, because it is winter) proposition, if maybe it’s on purpose that now is a quiet time, a dig in deep and rest time, and if so, what does that mean in a practical way for our lives?

For myself, I know that the requirements of modern life and the requirements of inner life seem all too often to be in conflict–and does it look that way because it is, Polemarchus? I have more or less unplugged myself from online interactions this Lent, and now with the snow outside my window I want only to finish my novel (only one and a half chapters to go!*), snuggle with my loved ones, and wait for spring.

*For certain values of “one and a half”. And “only,” for that matter, at my usual rate of slow.**

**And after I finished typing this post, I realized I had hit one of those “need to slow down and figure out what’s next” points in the story, which usually means letting it sit for a day or thirty.  So I guess now really is one of those fallow times.

Read Full Post »

Warning: Spoilers for Arrow seasons 1 & 2

As a lifelong geek, when I became a mother I didn’t have access to many good examples of motherhood in the stories I enjoyed. Most of the moms in stories are absent (died in childbirth is a popular one), clueless, or vaguely benevolent (and then murdered by bandits or demons or time travelling killer robots, probably). And mainstream media is probably not much better. (I say “probably” because I frankly don’t know.) You’ve got the psycho Mommy Dearest types, or the Heroically Dying of Cancer moms … what else? I’m sure I don’t know.

Sometimes the moms don't even get names!  Sleeping Beauty's mom is "the Queen"

Sometimes the moms don’t even get names! Sleeping Beauty’s mom is “the Queen”

My own mother is an amazing woman (hi, Ma!) who raised me under challenging circumstances while building a business from the ground up, and it goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that I admire her extremely. However, she’s a milder and probably kinder person than I am, and since I was a kid when she was dealing with some of her particular challenges, it’s safe to say I wasn’t really paying attention to how she did it.

So what’s a geek mom with a yen for stories to do? Who do you model yourself after? Because one thing stories do is get into our hearts and souls and show us how to be.

(Side note: I am a Catholic, and that means I should probably be modelling myself after Mary, mother of Jesus–but I admit I find her baffling and inaccessible, because other than storing things up in her heart and having that same heart pierced by a sword also, I’m not really sure what she did or how her example is useful in the day-to-day trenches of motherhood. Further note that this is a problem with me and not at all a problem with Mary.)

Enter Arrow‘s Moira Queen.

Mom of the Year?

Mom of the Year?

When the show began, I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention to Oliver’s (i.e. the Green Arrow’s) mother. She seemed like she was going to be Evil Mom, or maybe Ruthless Businesswoman First and Mom Second, neither of which are tropes that interest me. As the series progressed, however (and the writing improved), I began to take notice.

The first thing that attracted me to Mrs Queen was her courage. In the Season 1 episode The Odyssey, the Hood–Arrow–Vigilante guy–confronts her in her office; she pretends terror and helplessness–and then grabs a gun and shoots him. (Of course, she doesn’t know she’s shooting her own son, but hey. Nobody is perfect!) Now, we could talk about the difference between moral courage and physical courage–but the fact is, Moira has both.

That doesn’t mean she’s perfect. This is a woman with a history of making seriously bad decisions. To list a few: she had an affair with (ewwww!) Malcolm Merlyn, bore his child, and lied about said child’s parentage. She collaborated on “The Undertaking,” and was complicit in the earthquake device’s completion and implementation. She betrayed a colleague to save her own skin (and her kids’). She made shady business deals. She was way too comfortable telling lies. Some of these acts are mistakes, and some of them are deliberate decisions–and either way, her moral compass definitely does not point True North.

Don't mess with moms, that's all I'm saying.

Don’t mess with moms, that’s all I’m saying.

However, her flaws are part of what draw me to her. (I admit, I have a Thing for ruthless and amoral characters; f’rinstance, my favorite characters on Heroes were Nathan Petrelli and Adam Monroe.) After all, I am a flawed creature too–horribly imperfect. The Blessed Virgin can show us perfection within purely human parameters, but characters like Moira show us how to be great in spite of our brokenness.

Because Moira is great. When the revenge-bent, psychotic murderer Slade kidnaps the entire Queen family and demands that Oliver choose whom Slade shall kill, his mother or his sister, Oliver is horrified, but Moira steps forward with magnificent courage and volunteers, thus saving her daughter from death and her son from a cruel and impossible choice. Unhesitating, unflinching, she lays down her life for her children. Even Slade admires her. (Not that the admiration of Slade is something to be desired!)

Moira doesn’t jump off rooftops or punch bad guys in the face, but she is a hero nonetheless: an imperfect mother who is willing to sacrifice herself (and anyone else too, but like I said, she is not perfect!) for the good of her children. Although kidnapping, assassination, and bribery are probably not good things to be involved in, a geek mom like me can still be inspired by her example of selfless love.

Also, she's gorgeous.  Seriously, I hope I look half this good when my kid(s) are grown.

Also, she’s gorgeous. Seriously, I hope I look half this good when my kid(s) are grown.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »