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November 26th, 2014

06:55 am: Superversive Blog: The Goal of the Superversive

Subversive Literary Movement

 

Any new venture needs a mission statement. So, what are the goals of the Superversive Literary Movement?

Well…let me tell you a brief story.

As a child, I distained Cliffsnotes. I insisted on actually reading the book. I would like to instill the same virtue in my children. But recently, I made my first exception.

My daughter had to read Steinbeck’s The Pearl for class. We read it together. She read part. I read part. The writing was just gorgeous. The life of the people involved drawn so lovingly. The dreams the young man had for his baby son were so poignant, so touching.

Worried about what kind of book this  might be, I read the end first. It looked okay. So, we read the book together.

Turns out, I had missed something—the part where the baby got shot.

Not a happy story.

Next, she brought home Of Mice and Men. We started it together. What a gorgeous and beautifully writing—the descriptions of nature, the interaction between the two characters. A man named George, who could be off doing well on his own, is taking care of a big and simple man named Lennie, who accidentally kills the mice he loves because of his awkward big strength. In George, despite his gruff manner and his bad language, we see a glimpse of what is best in the human spirit, a glimpse of light in a benighted world.

The scene of the two camping out and discussing their hopes of someday owning their own little farm, where Lennie could tend rabbits, was so touching and hopeful, so filled with pathos and sorrow, and so beautifully written. Steinbeck is clearly one of the great masters of word use.

But I remembered The Pearl.  I glanced ahead, but this time, I looked more carefully.

On the next to last page, while discussing how their hoped-for little farm with rabbits is almost within their grasp, George presses a pistol against the back of Lennie’s head and shoots.

Now, in the story, he does it with a terribly heavy heart. He does it for “a good reason”—Lennie accidentally killed someone, but…

That doesn’t make it better.

I sat there holding the remains of my heart, which Steinbeck had just ripped out and stamped on. The devotion of this good man George had led to nothing. All their golden hopes turned to dross, sand.

And it wasn’t just the end. The book was full of examples of “the ends justify the means” type of thinking – such as a man killing four of nine puppies, so that the other five will have a chance.

Very realistic? Check. Very down to earth? Check. Very “the way of the world”? Check.

Why give a book like this to children to read? What are we trying to teach them? That life is difficult and meaningless? That sometimes its okay to kill something we love for a “good reason”? That life is pointless? That dreams and hopes are a sham? That no matter how you try, you cannot improve upon your circumstance, so it’s better not to even hope? (That was what The Pearl was about.)

What possible good is such a message doing our children?

Maybe if a child grew up in posh circumstances and had never seen hardship—maybe then, there would be a good reason for letting them know that “out there” it can get hard.

But this was my daughter—whose youth resembles that of Hansel and Gretel, and not the fun parts about candy houses and witches. There are many things she needs in life—but pathos-filled reminders of how harsh life can be is not one of them.

The book was also full of cursing. I’m not sure I would have noticed, but my daughter kept complaining.

I closed the book and refused to read any more of it. I told her we’d find the answers online. She ended up getting help with it from her brother (who had been forced to read the book at school the previous year) and from a friend.

I’ve seen some of the other books on the school curriculum. Many of them are like this. In the name of “realism,” these works preach hopelessness and darkness.

They are lies!

So, you might ask, why does it matter if our children are being fed lies? They’re just stories, right?

What do stories matter?

Stores teach us about how the world is. They teach us despair, or they teach us hope. In particular, they teach us about the nature of hope and when it is appropriate to have it.

So why is hope—that fragile, little flutter at the bottom of Pandora’s jar—so important?

Because hope needs to be hoped before miracles can be requested.

In life, some things will go badly. True. Some things will go well. But what about everything in between? What about those moments when hope, trust, dare I say, faith, is required to make the difference between a dark ending and a happy one?

If we have been taught that hope and dreams are a pointless fantasy, a waste of time, we might never take the step of faith necessary to turn a dark ending into a joyful one.

Think I am being unrealistic, and my head’s in the clouds? Let me give a few examples.

Example One:

I heard a story on the radio the other day. A woman named Trisha is dying of cancer. She has an eight year old son named Wesley and no one else. No close friends. No relatives. No hope for her son.

Trisha met another Trisha…the angel who ministered to her in the hospital in the form of her nurse. When the news came that her illness was terminal, Trisha worked up the courage to do something astonishing. She asked her nurse: “When I die, will you take my son?”

The nurse went home and spoke to her husband and her four children. They said yes. They not only agreed to take Wesley, they took both Wesley and Trisha into their home, caring for them both as Trisha’s illness grows worse.

What if Trisha, laying in her bed in pain, had not had the faith, the hope, to ask her nurse this question? What would have become of her little boy?

If Trish believed the “realism” preached by Steinbeck and other “realists”, she would never have had the courage to ask her nurse for help.

Example Two:

Don Ritchie is an Australian who lives across from a famous suicide spot, a cliff known as The Gap. At least once a week, someone comes to commit suicide there.

Don and his wife keep an eye out the window. If they see someone at the edge, Don strolls out there. He smiles and talks to them. He offers them a cup of tea.

Sometimes, they come in for tea. Sometimes, they just go home. On a few occasions, he’s had to hold someone, while his wife called the police. Sometimes, the person jumps anyway.

Don and his wife figure they’ve saved around a hundred and sixty lives.

What if Don had believed that hopes and dreams are dross, and he never walked out there? What if he had spent the years standing in his living room, shaking his head and cursing the fact that he bought a house in such an unlucky place?

There are people living lives, perhaps children born who would not have been, merely because Don did not give up on those caught by despair.

Example Three:

Andrea Pauline was a student at the University of Colorado. She traveled to Uganda to study microfinancing for a semester. While she was there, she discovered that some of the local orphan children were being abused.

Andrea refused to leave the country until the government did something. She received death threats. She would not back down.

The government of Uganda took the forty-some children away from their caretakers—and gave them to Andrea. She and her sister now run an orphanage in Uganda called Musana (Sunshine). They have over a hundred children. (Matthew West was inspired by her story to write the song Do Somethinghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8 )

What if Andrea had believed the things preached by Of Mice and Men and The Pearl?

What if she had come home to America and cried into her pillow over the sad plight of those children back in Africa? What if she pent her time putting plaintive posts on Facebook about how the sad state of the world and how blue it made her feel?

Over a hundred children, living a better life, because one teenage girl refused to give up hope.

This is what the Superversive Literary Movement is for—to whisper to the future Trisha’s, Don’s, and Andrea’s that miracles are possible.

That hope is not a cheat.

The goal of the Superversive is to bring hope, where there is no hope; to bring courage, where without courage, hope would never be manifested.

The goal of the Superversive is to be light to a benighted world.

The goal of the Superversive is: 

To tell the truth.

 

 

 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 25th, 2014

03:13 pm: Live Chat now!

Okay Folks,

We are now love at Bitten by Books, come by any time this afternoon or tonight! (And get a chance to win a $75 Amazon gift certificate!)

Come by for a minute and just say hi, or join in and chat all night.

To join in the fun, click here:

Bitten by Books Online Chat with L. Jagi Lamplighter

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 19th, 2014

08:06 am: The Superversive Blog — Guest Blog: A Light In the Darkness

Subversive Literary Movement

This utterly beautiful essay (It made me cry…twice) was written by 16 year old author, April Freeman. For more beautiful things written by April, visit her blog: Lost In La La Land.

April

 

When I was quite young, my mom read my brothers and I The Tale of Despereaux. It is one of those stories that you remember loving, and though you may not remember exactly why or how the plot went, it still sticks with you. I think Despereaux could be considered a surperversive book, that is the opposite of subversive as explained by The Superversive Literary Movement. But it’s not just the book I want to talk about today.

There is a scene in which the little mouse hero has been banished to the dungeon by the Mouse Council, one of the members being his father. They banished Despereaux because he loved the Princess, broke the law by showing himself to her, a human, and would not denounce her. So he is cast down the steps of the dungeon and walks on, to what would be his death. He finds comfort from the crushing darkness and despair around him by reciting to himself the story he had read hundreds of times in the castle library. He tells himself the story of the brave knight, because he wants to be brave for his beloved Princess Pea.

What Despereaux does not know is that the jailer, Gregory, heard him. He picked up the mouse, and in that act saved him from the dungeon rats that would have eagerly eaten him. Gregory had never saved any of the mice before, and when Despereaux asks why Gregory would save him, the old jailer replies, “Because you, mouse, can tell Gregory a story. Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.

Reading this book again, many years later and further on in my journey as a writer, this passage rings very true for me. For what else is a good book, than light in the darkness? A beacon of hope, a way of adventure and discovery, a way to be lifted out of ourselves and see the world from someone else’s eyes. A world in all its joys and evil, and where light can prevails over darkness. This is what a good book can do.

We should write stories that not only lift our readers out of their mundane routines of life, sweeping them away into a new world filled with new people, experiences, and struggles. But give them something good, something they can think about and remember. Give them light to see the world in different, better, ways.

It is one thing to enjoy a decent book and then be done with it, much as you would enjoy cotton candy and then move on to the next thing. But if you had a good, wholesome meal, it would not only taste just as good as the cotton candy, or even better, it would give you more to chew on and leave you satisfied for longer. Maybe you’d even remember it years later as that “One dinner Grandma cooked.” And this is how we should write, and how to write in a superversive way.

But it’s not only about the good and the light. To have a story you must have conflict, so there must be struggle and darkness. The light must have darkness to fight against. For that is the reality of the world. There is always much darkness, and people are often weighed down by it. So we as writers must bring light and hope, to help lift their burdens and make it through another day. Especially to those who feel overwhelmed by the darkness.

How many times, when you are outside at night, do you pause to look at the stars and became lost in their vastness and beauty? I do almost every night. I crane my neck and stare.  And the longer I stare, the more immense and limitless it becomes. It gives me a sense of childlike wonder and meekness. It lifts me out of myself and makes me realized just how small and fleeting my little existences is, compered to everything else.  And I smile in joy and awe, because I know I am not alone and I am part of something bigger than myself.

This is the kind of feeling we’d like to give our readers.

However, this frightens some people, because they only focus on the darkness surrounding the light. They only see the void and the hopelessness. They never truly look, because they can only see the darkness and not the beauty of this messy universe. And when you no longer look for the light, you start to cave in on yourself and sink. Just as when St. Peter focused only on the waves around him, he began to sink.

In The Tale of Despereaux, there is another character, a rat named Roscuro. Being a rat, he has grown accustomed to the darkness and learned to enjoy torturing prisoners. But he also has a fascination with light, which is unheard of for a rat. He struggles with his conflict until finally he ventures upstairs and is dazzled by the beauty of the light. Though after an unfortunate incident involving soup, a queen’s death, and a look filled with hatred from the Princess Pea, Rosocuro’s heart is broken. Sadly, some hearts that break aren’t put back together properly and heal crooked and lopsided. And so was the fate of Rosocuro, when he swears to seek revenge on the Princess.

The story comes to a climax in the deepest, darkest part of the dungeon, where no hope can survive and no light touches. The rat has succeeded in dragging the fair Princess there, with the help of a servant maid, Miggey Sow. At the final confrontation where our small hero has found his way out of the dungeon, then back in again to save the Princess, Despereaux points his sword-like needle at Rosocuro and threatens the rat with it. But while Despereaux  is contemplating whether killing the rat would really make the darkness go away, Rosocuro smells something on Despereaux. The other rats standing and watching suggest tears or mouse blood, but then Rosouro realizes it’s soup.

The smell of soup brings back the memory of the light, the laughter, the joy, and everything wonderful about that day, before he fell into the Queen’s soup bowl and gave her a heart attack. He begins to cry and admits the reason he really brought the Princess to the dungeon was so that he might have some light.

One thing you must remember, is that the King had outlawed soup after the Queen’s death. Despereaux only had the smell of it on him because the cook, who hates mice, had shared it with him. This remarkable interaction came about because the cook was illegality making soup, for the Princess had just gone missing, and in terrible times like those, soup helps. Cook was so releaved that the little footsteps she heard where that of a little mouse, instead of the King’s guards coming to take her away, that she not only let the mouse live, but shared the soup with him. She said, “Oh, these are dark days. And I’m kidding myself. There ain’t no point in making soup unless others eat it. Soup needs another mouth to taste it, another heart to be warmed by it.”

The soup reminded Rosocuro of the light he so loved, and how he can never again have it, because he was a rat. Disgusted with himself, he agrees with almost everyone else saying that he should die. All is resolved by a very brave act of the Princess. Here I will again quote the book, for what happens next is best put in the words of the author.

“Gor!” shouted Mig, waving her knife, “I’ll kill him.”

“No, wait,” said the princess. “Rosocuro,” she said to the rat.

“What?” he said. Tears were falling out of his eyes and creeping down his whiskers and dripping onto the dungeon floor.

And then the princess took a deep breath and put a hand on her heart. I think, reader, that she was feeling the same thing that Despereaux had felt when he was faced with his father begging him for forgiveness. That is, Pea was aware suddenly of how fragile her heart was, how much darkness was inside it, fighting always, with the light. She did not like the rat. She would never like the rat, but she knew what she must do to save her own heart. And so, here are the words that the princess spoke to her enemy.

She said, “Roscuro, would you like some soup?”

And so Roscuro leads them out of the Dungeon, and they all eat soup. The story is about bravery, light, forgiveness, and soup. Miggery Sow is reunited with her father who had sold her when she was young but repented of it everyday after, the Princess Pea and Despereaux become great friends, and soup was once again allowed in the kingdom. At the very end, there is a last passage where the author is talking to us, much as a story teller might talk to the children scattered at her feet, listening to the tale. It says:

Do you remember when Despereaux was in the jailers’s hand, whispering a story in the old man’s ear? I would like it very much if you thought of me as a mouse telling you a story, with my the whole of my heart, whispering it in your ear in order to save myself from the darkness, and to save you from the darkness, too. “Stories are light,” Gregory the jailer told Despereaux. Reader, I hope you have found some light here.

Most of us aren’t looking for an earth-shattering, life-rocking outcomes when we pick up a book, but sometimes that is exactly what we get. Sometimes on a smaller scale, and sometimes without even realizing it at first. Most readers just want to be entertained, which of course we should do. But even as we do this, we want to entertain them with something wholesome, something good, something filled with light, because even entertainment can be a sort of light.

Remember to offer the light, but don’t force it upon them. Writing in a pious, preachy, or lecturing way is very annoying and gets in the way of the story. People want a story, not a sermon.

I am not the best authority on how exactly to write a superversive story, for I am only just starting, but I know what one looks like when I see it. It must be heroic, it must be uplifting, it must be light. It should be filled with the things everyone forgets to notice, like the way leaves change in the fall, the innocent play of a child, the moments of goodhearted laughter among friends, watching how an ant crawls across the ground, or how lovely the stars are at night.

So what can we do for those who are burdened and consistently being pushed on by the darkness, or for those who have forgotten to look for the light? We lift them up, we show them hope, we help them see that even though there is much darkness, there is also much light. And we do this by telling them stories. Stories of struggle and light, stories that are wholesome and surperversive and filled with wonder. With great skill and care, we writers bring these stories to anyone who will listen. But let us not only bring them stories, let us bring them light in their darkness!                                                                  

 

Comments

Also, dear readers, if any of you woud like to write a review of a book you feel has Superversive qualities, to appear here as a guest blog, let me know. (You don't have to be as brilliant a writer as April. Even an ordinary book review will do.)

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 18th, 2014

10:01 am: A Thank You to the Evil League of Evil

I realize me signal boosting the Evil League of Evil is a bit like a dingy trying to draw attention to the ginormous aircraft carrier that is pulling it, but…I cannot think of another way to express my thanks.

In case anyone missed the cause, on October 22nd, the Evil League of Evil blogged about my newest book. The book reached some of the Amazon Bestseller's Lists. So did the first book. — AND they are still there! So, a thank you is due.

Normally, when I post a Signal Boost, it is not a recommendation. It is just me doing a favor for another author. 

These, however, are recommendations. I've read all of these books…or am reading them. I recommend them all.

 

hard-magic

HARD MAGIC by Larry Correia

This is just a delightfully fun book. I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the early stories in the Wild Card series, only better. I loved Wild Cards, but the quality was spotty because the authors changed. This has the same mood but maintains the quality across the story. It reminds me of the parts of Grapes of Wrath that I liked crossed with superheroes. (The story is so much fun, that I joined a Hard Magic game with some friends. I'm playing a Weatherman (girl?) named Belle Weather.)

I've recommended this series to several people and most of them have really enjoyed it and are now big Correia fans.

 

witchfindercoverfinal

WITCHFINDER by Sarah A. Hoyt

If you are ever in the mood for a fantasy novel crossed with a Regency romance, this is the book for you! A delightfully fun story done in the style of a Regency but with lots of magical action and a character from modern earth to boot. Ladies, how can you resist a duke named Seraphim! Particularly, when he's noble, misunderstood, bearing up under the heavy weight of duty, rescuing persecuted wizards, and falling-in-love! And there's a trip to fairyland! If I had any complaints about this book, it would be that I would have liked it to be longer. (Full disclosure, includes a sub-plot of elf-boy on elf-boy romance)

 

OBS_2500

One Bright Star To Guide Them by John C. Wright

This is possibly my favorite thing of everything John has written. Certainly, one of my favorites. Many people compare it to Narnia, but really it was meant to be a sequel to a whole genre of children's books where magical things came into the life of children and then left again. (Narnia, The Dark Is Rising Series, Carbonel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and many others.) In particular, the characters in this story are not meant to be grown up versions of Lewis's characters.

In this story, a man is leaving work when he comes upon the talking cat who had been his animal companion during the magical adventure of his childhood. Now, decades later, the cat wants him to do one last thing. But Tom has a life, a job! As the story goes on, we are granted a glimpse of the otherworld and the adventure that young Tommy and his friends underwent, and it is among the most magical and wondrous of stories! (I have seen people ask for that story to be written. Beautiful as it is, I think something would be lost if it were seen up close. It is partially that we are seeing it through the nostalgia of time that makes it so beautiful.)

A really lovely and uplifting story.

Throne of bones

A THRONE OF BONES by Vox Day

I have not yet finished this one. It is quite long, and I have a minimum of reading time. But I am at least half way through and am quite enjoying it. Who would not enjoy seeing Romans fight goblins!

In a world where ancient Rome is surrounded by goblins, dwarves, and elves, churchmen quarrel while gladiators battle goblins and dwarves steal from dragon's hoards. There are charming barbarians who have come to the civilized world to seek help against the wolf-men, and huge battle scenes between armies of humans and non-humas. And a really good portrayal of an elf girl watching some sorcerers try to bind up a dragon. The writing style is cool and intellectual with a great deal of care taken to the depicting of the world at large, reminding me a bit of John's writing. So far, very intriging!

 

 

 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 17th, 2014

09:12 am: Caption This!

You know the drill:

Piotr Naskreck

photo by Piotr Naskreck

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 13th, 2014

01:59 pm:

Mab f

Hey Folks,

Mab Boreal here. You know me—the Northeast Wind who works for Prospero Inc. as a company gumshoe.

It has come to my attention that many of you are woefully uninformed about dragons. More innocent tourists get eaten every day. Yeah, they blame on natural disasters, terrorists and outbreaks of disease, but we all know its dragons.

Well, not all of it. There are a lot of other nasties out there. But dragons eat more and more people every year.

So, my assistant and I have headed out on a special world tour. We’re checking out the dragons in each part of the world and giving you a few pointers on how to avoid a fiery, roasted death.

Without further ado, today’s report from the Dragon World Tour!

0614-seadragon

Name: Sea Drake

Description:   And no, I don’t mean a sea-going duck. And no, I don’t mean one of those kooky, leafy undersea horsey-things either.

A sea drake is a water dragon. One who lives in the ocean, probably eating fisherman when he can’t get yacht owners. Sometimes they look like dragons with flippers. Sometimes, they look like long snaky serpents. Sea drakes are also called Cetuses. Cetoi?

It is a matter of debate whether Jormungander is a sea drake. Other debated sea drakes include the Loch Ness Monster and Leviathan.

Basically, a sea drake is a sea monster, only classier and more dragony. But I guess the classiness doesn’t really matter once the thing starts chowing down on your ship.

These guys were big stuff back in the age of the Greeks. Folks were always tying up maidens and leaving them for sea drakes to eat, so that the drake would not terrorize their shipping. Or because they mouthed off and offended the gods, and Poseiden sent one of his fishy dragony companions to munch on them. This would go on for a while until, invariably, some hero like Perseus would come along, slice the thing’s head off—or turn it to stone, and muck-up the whole system.

Of course, I bet Andromeda was pretty pleased. That lunch meats look would not have looked good on her. Probably would not have gotten a constellation and a galaxy named after her, either, had she been in the stomach of a sea monster.

For that matter, Cetus might have missed out on its constellation as well, had that nosey Perseus guy not interfered.

Where To Find It: Under water…usually in oceans.

However, Miss Miranda, her brothers, and I fought one in Hell. It was inside a giant kronosaur. Guess it had been eaten for lunch. Nothing beats being swallowed by a monster and then having to fight another monster while in its stomach.

Oh wait.

Almost anything beats that.

Frequency: Used to be really common. Not so much any more, except in the middle of the Pacific where those miles and miles of plastic bags are. They hang out in that stuff.

Danger Level:  Pretty peepin’ dangerous, unless you are on land. I recommend staying at least fifty feet away from any shoreline. Make that lake shorelines, too, just in case.

Mab’s Eye View: Sea drakes are pretty mean customers, but they’re actually quite pretty from a distance. If you could catch sight of one from a plane, you might get a nice photo as a souvenir—that is if a Roc doesn’t eat your plane, it you survive the gremlins, and if the Orbis Suleimani does not come and erase your memory if it gets out that you’ve seen one.

I’d tell your friends the picture was photoshopped, if I were you…just to be safe.

Leafy_Seadragon_Phycodurus_eques_2500px_PLW_edit

Kooky, underwater, leafy thing.

Comments

 

 

 

 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 12th, 2014

09:54 am: Superversive Blog: Christian Magic — Part Two

Subversive Literary Movement

 

lion-of-judah-1-2-1

In Part One, Deeper Magic From Before the Dawn of Time, I discussed the philosophy, the idea, of Christian Magic. In this second part, I want to give some practical examples.

First, the definition: Christian Magic is when objects or ideas from the Judeo-Christian tradition appear in the story as part of the magic. By magic here, I mean specifically “a mood of mystery and wonder,” and not “the occult” per se.

Also, I am differentiating between this use of Christian ideas and stories that have a pious nature. By pious, I mean a kind of assumption that Christian and holy things are good but everything else is bad. In case not everyone understands what I mean by the term pious, as applied to writing, here is an example from the work of fanfiction, Hogwarts School of Prayers and Miracles:

“Tell me how to get to this heaven place!” Harry cried wistfully, clapping his hands together. Sometimes the wisdom of the little ones is really amazing. We think we grownups know it all; but then God speaks through the mouths of little ones; and shows us how we are all mortals struggling along the path of life. Humility.

 This is a superb example of what Christian Magic is not.

Pious stories do not feel magical. There is no mystery, no wonder. Instead, the basic assumption is that everyone (who matters) already agrees with the premise, so things “we” agree with are praised and everything else is trashed.

In stories of Christian Magic, on the other hand, the Christianity is introduced in the same mood and manner as the rest of the magic.

And now, some examples:

First, I will include, yet again, the quote from C. S. Lewis about deeper magic from before the dawn of time. Yes, we just read it in part one, but it’s that good…

"It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." (Aslan, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.)

At this point, perhaps you are asking, is there Christian Magic, outside of Narnia? The answer is yes—even if no one else does it quite so well.

An early example of Christian Magic comes from the book Dracula. We now think of it as par for the course that crosses drive back vampires. So much so, that many vampire stories have to take time to establish that crosses do not affect vampires, if they don’t want readers to assume they will. But when the matter came up in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, it was new. (Or rather, it was an old folk lore idea brought to light in a new way.)

In Dracula, crucifixes, not crosses, drive back vampires—much to the dismay of the Protestant main characters. Holy wafers are also used to keep vampires at bay, and holy ground is considered important. These things are introduced into the story as if they are natural and part of the same background as the vampires, flocks of bats, and other elements of the story. They are not handled with hands wistfully clapped together or cooing over the amazing wisdom of the one who lays the holy wafers around the newly-risen vampire.

Holy ground also played into the movie Highlander, adding just a hint of Christian Magic there. ( By the TV show, holy ground was interpreted to mean any kind of holy ground—Indian burial grounds, etc., making it merely spiritual magic rather than Christian magic—but in the movie, the scenes involving holy ground were in churches.)

Another great example of Christian magic comes from The Dresden Files. This ongoing series includes such Christian elements as swords made from the nails of the cross, the cursed silver coins used to pay Judas for betraying Jesus, and the noose Judas used to hang himself. Also, I believe the latest book introduced the Spear of Longinus. The series also includes priests, churches whose holy ground protects from various evils, and angels.

Yet all these things are introduced in exactly the same mood as the vampires, fairies, talking skulls, fire magic, and the rest of the things that Harry Dresden encounters. The author weaves them all together so seamlessly and expertly that those who do not care for Christianity seldom object or possibly even notice.

But these elements are there.

Some readers even believe that Butcher is superversive–that the big bad Outside may turn out to be the devil and that Michael and Uriel will be proven right in the end. But the agnosticism of the character Harry allows the author to introduce these elements as easily as he introduces Odin or Temple Fu dogs. If he has a “true meaning”, it is not yet visible to his many adoring readers.

As a young person, I remember enjoying one of Katherine Kurtz Deryni books very much. I think it was Saint Camber. The thing I remember most was that this was the book where I first came upon the concept of wards. In particular, protective wards maintained by angels who were called to stand watch in the four directions. I still remember how amazed I was because it was the first time I had seen Christianity and magic portrayed as not inimitable to each other.

I had wanted to describe a great Christian Magic bit that comes up more than once in my husband’s new, up-coming novel, Somewhither. However, he tells me that this bit is a secret until it comes onstage in the story. So, after the book is published, I will write a post about it.

A few final examples:

I am sure there are many other great examples of Christian magic out there, but I cannot recall them off hand. I hope, dear readers, that, as you come upon hints of Christian Magic in the books you read, you will let me know. For now, however, we are reduced to examples from books that most of you probably have not read.

My apologies.

From Prospero In Hell.

In this scene, the King of all Djinn is burning a chamber holding holy relics collected over the years by the magician Prospero. One of the items is a wheel made by the carpenter, Joshua Ben Joseph. Caurus is one of Prospero’s airy servants.

A loud snapping-crackle behind me caused me to whirl about. The table in the Holy Chamber was aflame. To my horror, the tent made by St. Paul and St. Peter’s fishing net ignited. In a single instant, the fire consumed the two thousand-year-old relics that had once belonged to the most holy men who ever trod the Earth. Helpless, I saw the tongues of fire began licking the Savior’s wheel.

Unable to watch, I turned away and ran the rest of the distance to the Weapons Chamber. Behind me, to my great joy, I heard Caurus’s voice.

“Look!” he shouted, amazed, “The God of the Bloody Cross is more powerful than the Lord of Djinn!”

“Arrgghhh!” The cry of Iblis al-Shaitan shook the room, followed by a burst of heat worse than any that had come before. Caurus screamed. Turning again, I saw the Fire-King reeling back, clutching the simple cart wheel. No matter how he tried to burn it, the wood remained untouched.

(A brief aside, I have often wondered why we don’t hear more about wooden objects made by Jesus when he was a carpenter. Did they sell these, too, back in the middle ages when they were selling all those other relics?

Also, as proof that this is not a pious treatment of the material, in the next scene, they use that same wheel to hold down the top of the vessel in which they have trapped the djinn king. )

From Prospero In Hell

A fallen angel speaks of his memories of Heaven:

“Imagine you went to live in a house that looked a great deal like your father’s mansion, only nothing was ever quite right. The doors would not close properly. The well did not work. The servants were rude. The walls were moldy. The halls smelled of rotting fruit, and no matter how many logs you put on the fire, you were always cold.

“Nor can you ever grow used to this new house, precisely because it reminds you so much of your old home. You cannot see the blighted rose without recalling the beauty of your old gardens. You cannot walk the corridors without its layout bringing to mind the house you loved. You cannot look through the dingy windows at the overcast sky without remembering the glorious skies above the mansion of your youth. Everything you see makes you heartsick for the original, of which this current place is but a dark reflection. That is what it is like to remember heaven and dwell on earth.”

 

From Prospero Regained,

The main character’s brother is questioning to Hermes, who has explained that as Christ came to mankind, a different Savior came to visit the gods.

My brother was not so forbearing. He frowned severely, “But how can Our Divine Father approve of you? You are a pagan god, a devil! Does not your very existence violate the First Commandment?”

The Swift God snorted. “You are lucky, Twice-Pope, that you amuse me, or you would be but a cinder now. We divine beings who serve the All Highest are forbidden from inciting mortals to worship us. This is why, since our conversion—which came your Savior visited you—we no longer have priests and keep up temples on the earth. But that was ever a small part of our nature. We have our tasks to perform, our spheres of influence to oversee, such as my duties as a messenger.”

The previous examples had hints of Christianity. This, however, is an actual example of what I truly mean by Christian Magic—the Christianity is providing the magic. This scene takes place in the throne room of the demon queen Lilith.

“Is that so? Then, have you not heard,” he opened his mouth: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

Everything within the sound of his voice suddenly seemed tawdry and hollow, as if its true nature had been revealed and found wanting. The chamber became so flimsy that, for a tiny instant, for a fraction of a split second, I saw right through it….

That’s the best example of what I mean that I have, but here’s one final example from the yet unpublished Rachel and the Technicolor Dreamland—an encounter between the main character and the Lion of Judah.

Out there before her now, invisible behind the fog, lay the memorial gardens with its many shrines, where offerings could be made to numerous gods. Rachel wished, not for the first time since she came to school, that her family had chosen a household god—someone she could pray to for guidance, for strength. She wished recklessly that some deity would manifest, as in the tales of old, and offer her comfort in return for loyalty.

No figure appeared amidst thunder and lighting. The only moving thing visible on the lawn below was Kitten Fabian’s familiar, padding its way across the damp grass. The little Comfort Lion, a golden-maned lion the size of a house cat, stopped and turned its head. Its golden eyes seemed to stare straight up at Rachel. It was probably a coincidence, but an eerie horripilation ran across Rachel’s body.

She thought back three seconds. In her memory, the Lion was gigantic—bigger than elephants, bigger than houses, bigger than trees. It looked down from the sky, its expression reminding Rachel of Mistletoe, when he sat watching a hole from which he expected a mouse to emerge.

There was no mistaking it. Its great golden eyes were focused directly upon Rachel.

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 5th, 2014

08:00 am: Superversive Literary Blog — Hearing from the Opposition

Ordinarily, I would consider Ulysses by James Joyce the opposite of everything Superversive stands for. However, a reader contacted me and asked if I would consider a guest blog from an alternate point of view. 

So, here, without further ado, is Gabriel Mamola discussing James Joyces Ulysses from a Superverisve point of view:

 

This is not how you draw a straight line:

Joyce blog

 

Nor is it a very good circle. What it is, however, is a decent celtic knot, a pattern characteristic for its complexity and its, well, its celtic-ness. And let it here stand as a metaphor for another piece of work notable for these same characteristics: James Joyce’s Ulysses.

My intention in writing this guest blog is to present a slight apologia for a book that has been so successfully appropriated by mainstream (read: worthless) academia as to appear to be something close to its foundational text. I am not interested in delving into the reasons for this here. I am instead interested in presenting Ulysses as a super-versive text and offering a few simple but novel ways of thinking about the book that may perhaps allow a reader to circumvent the sterile cloud of academic jargon that surrounds it, as well as offering a few assurances that Ulysses is indeed a book worth the investment it requires.

So, thirteen (superversive) ways of looking at Ulysses. (Not really. I only have four, five if you count the whole celtic knot, complexity-as-a-peculiarly-celtic-artistic-ideal thing above. But I digress.)

1. Ulysses is a deeply moral book.

While Leopold Bloom (the hero of the novel, for those who have not yet read it) is touted by the currently established amoral literati for being the paragon of modern, shlubby, slightly perverse anti-heroism, this is an outright misrepresentation. The actions for which the narrative itself calls us to praise Mr. Bloom include:

            Forgiving a man who has gravely insulted him to his face and in front of others. 

           Raising alms for a recent widow who has no other means of support.

           Doing an honest day’s work.

            Refusing to think of himself as a victim (and refusing to act like one).

            Being an attentive and loving father.

            Admonishing a hateful hypocrite.

            Helping a blind man cross a busy street.

            Empathizing with EVERYONE, especially women trapped in difficult situations beyond their control.

            Taking care of a self-destructive young man undergoing an emotional and spiritual crisis while undergoing his own emotional and spiritual crisis.

            Forgiving his unfaithful wife by never losing sight of why he fell in love with her in the first place.

Granted that these are little things. But they are also the work of one man in one day who is not even going out of his way to be kind and empathetic. While certainly not the “classical” hero, and while certainly not perfect, Leopold Bloom is a good man, and one whose virtues are only visible in the day-to-day humdrum of life. But speaking of classicism…

2. Ulysses is nonetheless a very classical book.

Joyce’s inspiration for Ulysses came not from desire to mock Homer but from a desire to enter into the epic tradition in the way that he (Joyce) felt his talents and artistic calling warranted. In seeking to present a (not really so) ordinary Dublin man as a new Odysseus, Joyce was working within what he saw as a tradition of “all-round” or fully three dimensional characters like Odysseus who are admixtures of dubious motives and unmistakable heroism. The “sordid” details of everyday life included in Ulysses are as much Joyce’s tribute to Homer’s ancient realism as they are a humorous subversion of literary norms in the comic tradition of Swift or Carroll.

But Joyce liked him some Virgil too. Indeed, Joyce’s career was a self-conscious attempt to follow the Virgilian Poetic Vocation followed also by Dante, Spenser and Milton, in which a man cuts his teeth writing his Pastorals (Eclogues/Georgics, Lycidas, Shepheardes Calendar, Dubliners/Portrait) before moving on to his Epic (Aeneid, Paradise Lost, Fairie Queene, Ulysses). This is a pattern, interestingly enough, that Tolkien himself accidentally followed with his epic Rings trilogy coming after the simpler, more pastoral Hobbit.

As for the philosophical foundation of the book, it is Aristotelian and Thomistic (in its own peculiar way), which leads me to my next point which is that…

3. Ulysses is a very ordered book.

John C. Wright recently wrote a blog-post in defense of the craftsmanship and artistry of Ayn Rand. Much of what he said in defense of Atlas Shrugged (which I have not read) could very easily be applied to Ulysses  through a switcheroo of the names and gender-specific pronouns. I (sort of) quote:

“I am aghast that even those who disliked the book would dismiss its craftsmanship. There is no one who has even ATTEMPTED anything this ambitious and universal since Milton tried to marry Moses and Homer in his PARADISE LOST.

[James Joyce] is the only novelist I have ever heard of who invented [his] own theory of aesthetic principles and then wrote a huge and hugely successful novel according to those principles without any smallest deviation from them.

There is an old saying. “Even Homer nods” which means even the greatest of poets makes lapses in craftsmanship. The saying is not true in this case. [He] makes no lapses, that is, not a single page has a word [he] does not intend to be there for a reason [he] could no doubt articulate. This reader or that may not care for what [he] is trying to articulate, but even a bored or hostile reader, if [he] is honest must be astonished at the precision of a book like a vast garden of many acres without a leaf or a grass blade out of place.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Make that garden Dublin on June 16th, 1904, and every leaf or blade of grass a cobblestone or newspaper and there you go.

As for those aesthetic principles that Joyce developed? Well, they are the same ones the T. S. Eliot would use and further develop for his little poem The Waste Land. (http://people.virginia.edu/~jdk3t/eliotulysses.htm)

But, ultimately, what I really want to say is that…

4. Ulysses is a very good book.

So sure, modern life sucks. And I will be the first to defend the value of so-called “escapist” or genre literature as a real and effective antidote to it or weapon against it. But it is not the ONLY weapon. There is also transformation, transmutation, the alchemy of art to work upon base materials. Joyce is a master alchemist and Ulysses is his masterwork and magnum opus both.

Now, to conclude, I will say that to call Ulysses a novel is slightly misleading. If you sit down with the book expecting Little Dorrit, you are going to be disappointed. And yes, it can be quite obscure. But no one thinks any less of you for looking up damned obscure13th century Florentines, so don’t be embarrassed for consulting Wikipedia while reading Ulysses.

For if you give to the book the same attention you would give to The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost, you will be rewarded in like fashion, as you will receive both entertainment and edification proportionate to the effort spent appreciating and learning from what Joyce has accomplished.

Comments

 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

November 4th, 2014

11:32 am: Signal Boost Tuesday

Signal boost for an author who was kind enough to boost me.

unquietgravecover-final-front-for-Goodreads

Katherine Lampe is an author and musician based in Paonia, Colorado, home of fruit and coal. She learned to read from mythology texts, and has wanted to write fantasy since reading The Hobbit in second grade. With an English teacher for a mother and a Historian and Minister for a father, she has always been fascinated with comparative religions and non-standard systems of thought; her father once threw her out of Sunday School class for challenging the accepted interpretation of the Expulsion from Eden. For fifteen years, she was the host and producer of the Celtic music radio show, "Whiskey in the Jar," on KVNF-FM in Paonia. A professional Tarot reader and Iconoclast, she specializes in urban fantasy with a blatant Contemporary Pagan slant.

You can see all her works here.

 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

11:32 am: Signal Boost Tuesday

Signal boost for an author who was kind enough to boost me.

unquietgravecover-final-front-for-Goodreads

Katherine Lampe is an author and musician based in Paonia, Colorado, home of fruit and coal. She learned to read from mythology texts, and has wanted to write fantasy since reading The Hobbit in second grade. With an English teacher for a mother and a Historian and Minister for a father, she has always been fascinated with comparative religions and non-standard systems of thought; her father once threw her out of Sunday School class for challenging the accepted interpretation of the Expulsion from Eden. For fifteen years, she was the host and producer of the Celtic music radio show, "Whiskey in the Jar," on KVNF-FM in Paonia. A professional Tarot reader and Iconoclast, she specializes in urban fantasy with a blatant Contemporary Pagan slant.

You can see all her works here.

Two of her books, The Unquiet Grave and The Parting Glass, have just been added to KDP select. Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can currently borrow them for free.

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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