Monday, March 22, 2010

In My Mailbox [6]

Nothing came in my mailbox this week, but I did buy 3 new books!

  • Life as We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer

  • The Iron King - Julie Kagawa

  • Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side - Beth Fantaskey

I can't wait to read these! :)

And now I'm going to try really, really hard not to buy any more books for the next three weeks! I've been spending way too much money on books and not enough on school stuff...bad me. So that's the plan, anyway!

Has anybody read these books? If so, what did you think?!

More Random Thoughts, or Why Amelia Needs to Stop Going Off on Tangents

You know how it’s good to “never say never,” and Fievel and Tiger even sing a cute song about it in An American Tail…? Well, sometimes I think it is okay to “say never”: I’m never going to kick a kitten, I’m never going to slap a child, I’m never going to shoot someone, I’m never going to shoplift, I’m never going to stop believing in God, and I’m most likely never going to read George R.R. Martin.

So…okay, we’ve established that. So why is it that I still manage to get so worked up over a silly comment made by an author who will 1) never EVER outsell my favorite author, Mr. JRR Tolkien, and 2) never be read by me?

Maybe it’s because his view is something I seem to see a lot of these days. Why do authors hate good-and-evil stories? I don’t understand! I think the best stories out there – speaking in terms of fantasy – are the ones that follow the Hero’s Journey model, ones that traditionally have good-and-evil themes on an epic scale.

According to the Encyclopedia of Fantasy, characteristics of “heroic fantasy” include a scenario where the protagonist is reluctant to be a champion and is of low or humble origin, and frequently has royal ancestors or parents but does not know it. Through events usually beyond his control, he is thrust into positions of great responsibility where his mettle is tested in a number of spiritual and physical challenges. Although it shares many of the basic themes of Sword and Sorcery the term 'Heroic fantasy' is often used to avoid the garish overtones of the former. In my previous post, I mentioned that Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain are my favorite series, and one of the many reasons why is because of the themes that Alexander so effortlessly and poignantly weaves into his stories. Yes, his characters are flawed and dynamic, but more importantly they’re inspiring. Sure, everyone wants characters they can relate too, but don’t you want characters you can look up too, also? I sure do. Like I mentioned before, JRR Tolkien’s epic Middle Earth stories not only exemplify “heroic fantasy,” they also helped to boost a revival in the popularity of the subgenre. Frodo Baggins is certainly not a perfect character. He’s flawed – a little on the ignorant side, as a Hobbit he’s not really supposed to be one of the more ‘important’ species of Middle Earth, and as the story progresses, he even falls prey to the power of the Ring. But he’s still good. Does that make sense?

Now, though, new fantasy authors are apparently changing the trend. I’m all for shaking things up and everything, but I can’t help but wonder if all changes in literature are necessary and beneficial. Many new fantasy authors are trying to shed the traditional concept of heroes and even of good and evil (I’m taking bits of this from wiki too). Now, thanks to the like of Jacqueline Carey and George R.R. Martin (my dad has dubbed the latter the ‘Anti-Tolkien’), there is a blurring between ‘heroes’ and ‘villains.’

There was one quote that Martin made in particular that sparked this post…and now I look like such a doofus because I can’t find it to post on here (I’m writing in class right now). But why the blurring? Why does everything have to be so dadgum ambiguous? You know I have a tendency to be a little “over-the-top” I guess, but I find authors’ desire to blur good and evil and introduce ideas of relativism to be a little on the disturbing side. And besides, that’s not very “epic.” Most epic stories need some sort of grand struggle… I think you can tell that I’m a champion of heroic fantasy and its themes. There’s a grandness about them, there’s something inspirational as well as thought-provoking. It’s something I try to emulate when I write. But then again, I believe in right and wrong, and I like “good” protagonists and “bad” villains. Now please hear me – this is not an invitation for cardboard characters or blasé fairytale retellings (have you ever noticed that fairytales are very…like…there’s not a lot to them) but then again, there is nothing, nothing blasé about Tolkien’s works. If there was any power in wishful thinking, then I would wish for a return to the styles of Lloyd Alexander, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien: fantasy stories with heart.

I have to go, but I just wanted to toss yet some more thoughts out into the great blogosphere!

glimpse of my bookshelves

My bookshelves!

Most of my history books

Mythology/fantasy anthologies


Quote of the Week :)

"Innocence dwells with wisdom, but never with ignorance."
- William Blake
This quote is for all the 'eternal children' out there! I don't know the key to happiness or anything, but I like to think it has a little to do with keeping an inner childlike quality - in imagination, in compassion, in creativity, in excitement, in love.
Have a great week everybody!
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