Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Shelf Collects League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in Hardcover

 The wait is over! Five years after Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill first brought their famous League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series to the trans-Atlantic partnership of Top Shelf (US) & Knockabout (UK), we're officially opening pre-orders for our most requested item: the collected "Century"!
This 256-page hardcover, scheduled to stores in July 2014, will collect all three installments of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. III: Century. Spanning the League's adventures in 1910, 1969, and 2009, this metafictional epic sees Mina Murray and her dwindling allies race across time to prevent an apocalyptic conspiracy, while the world they once knew crumbles around them. Woven throughout, of course, are countless colorful characters from 100 years of British popular culture, from Marxist opera to reality television, pulp fiction to experimental film, and even a touch of rock 'n' roll.
Discover the saga CBR called "arguably one of the greatest comics of all time"!
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century - HARDCOVER
by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
-- 256-page full-color hardcover with dust jacket
-- 6 5/8" x 10 3/8"
-- ISBN 978-1-60309-329-3
-- Diamond order code: MAY14-1615
-- For mature readers (18+)
-- $29.95 (US)
-- Co-published by Top Shelf Productions (US) and Knockabout Comics (UK)
-- Pre-order now for release in July!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Introducing My Youngest to D&D

This past week my youngest daughter, Little Rodan, asked me if I would run a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for her.  I was a little surprised, because I have been running a GURPS campaign for her on and off for a while now, but she had kind of gotten bored with it.  So I dug out my old 2nd Ed AD&D books and we made up a character.
I had done the same for her older sister Gamera Rose when she had been that age.  That game had been challenging because Gamera wanted to play a Magic User.  That probably won’t mean anything to a non-gamer, but First-Level Mages in AD&D only get four hit points and can only use one spell — per day — and that one they have to choose in advance.  The reasoning was that as they advance in levels, Mages eventually become hellaciously powerful, and so the rules have them start out relatively weak in order to balance things out.  (At least, that’s how things worked in Old School D&D; I don’t know how things have changed in the current incarnation).  
This is irritating enough in a regular game in which the Mage is playing with three or more other player characters of different character classes who can cover for her until she advances in rank; but in the cases of my daughters’s games, there was only one player.  In Gamera’s game I introduced an NPC fighter to help keep her from getting killed by the first kobold or cranky housecat she encountered.  (Yes, I know, DNPCs are the Devil, but in single-player games they are a necessary evil.
Fortunately, Rodan wanted to be a Fighter, which is a good choice for a single-player campaign.  A multi-class character would be more versatile, but I figured for her first D&D game I would keep things simpler.  She made her character an Elf Ranger and named him (yes, she decided her character would be a boy) Lionheart.
In her first game, she encountered a hungry wolf, but instead of fighting it gave the wolf the rabbit she had just killed for dinner and it left her alone.  I hadn’t expected her to find a non-violent resolution for that encounter, but I was pleased that she did so.  She also fought a small group of kobolds, (my favorite nuisance monster) and a belligerent bullywug.  She wound up getting the most XP in that session for the encounter where she didn’t fight.
In the second session I let her go shopping in a village and buy some more equipment.  She also bought a cat.  Pets are tricky to handle in games because it’s so easy for the player (and the DM) to forget about them, but so far Rodan has been good about taking care of the cat and being aware of it.
I had her investigate an old abandoned tavern on the outside of the village reported to be haunted which was actually being used as a hideout for a group of goblins.  Then, because she had asked when she’d get the chance to actually go down into the dungeon, I let her discover a secret door in the tavern’s cellar leading to a small complex of rooms with a handful of monsters.  I did a quick web-search for Random Dungeon Generators, not for the dungeon itself, but to call up a pool of 1st-Level threats to populate it with.
One of the threats I pulled out of the Random Dungeon was a 1st Level Drow fighter.  Building off that and the Giant Spider I also lifted, I decided that a Drow Priestess had stashed some magical stuff in this mini-dungeon some time ago and left a few guardians to protect it.  Rodan successfully defeated all the guardians and took the treasure, which means that without knowing it, she has gained a deadly enemy.  I love it when the plots write themselves.
The first couple sessions were a little rocky, because I had forgotten a lot of things about how AD&D plays.  I’ve gotten so used to how things work in GURPS that I had to look up things like Initiative and Saving Throws.  And I have to admit, I fudged some of the dice rolls.  Yes, many gamers will regard that as blasphemous, but since Rodan’s character is the only one in this campaign, I feel justified in giving her a li’l plot protection.
One of the fun parts about gaming with Rodan, is that her mother often kibbitzes the game and offers her advice.  My wife and I played D&D together in high school, and so she has plenty of experience to offer Rodan.
Rodan has also expressed interest in joining a Party of Adventurers.  I’m a little more ambivalent about that, since it will mean more work for me:  not only will I have to make up these other characters, I’ll also have to keep track of them and roll for them during combat.  I know from experience running solo games with my wife that fighting myself gets boring pretty quickly.  But on the other hand, joining a band of other Adventurers will allow Rodan’s character to face more formidable monsters and to advance in levels more quickly.
I’ll have to come up with something good for our next game.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Danni DJ Williams Poet writes well.

She writes about love, isolation, hurt, hope and all the sorts of things you experience in life, but does so with a great deal of individuality and expertise.  She is one of the few poets living who I read, as I avoid most living poets to avoid dealing with potentially absorbing their words or style in my mind...  

Her name is DJ Williams.

Remember her.  She'll be making waves in the future.  Hell she is a tsunami right now.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Jeffrey Catherine Jones: What an amazing talent

I was speaking to someone about the painter Jeffrey Catherine Jones and I realized that I am still, even 3 years since her passing, missing her.  Yes she has both male and female names, it is a result of her transgender surgery and transition.  I am not going to go into her personal and private life here, but it is a part of knowing her to know why that oddity exists.  She was a friend of mine, and I adored her, and her work.  So just in memory of her work, and my memory of her being a sweet human... enjoy all of these paintings by her, all of course copyright Jeffrey Catherine Jones or the owner of those works.  Click to see the pics in larger view.

For more information about her go to:
 Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Thursday, April 24, 2014

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy: That Hideous Strength (part 2)

Jane and Mark Studdock are a recently-married couple living in the small college town of Edgestow. Mark has recently gained a fellowship at the local Bracton Colleges and has an opportunity to join a prestigious think-tank, the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments. Jane has been trying to pursue her own academic career, but has been troubled lately by disturbing dreams. On the advice of a former mentor, she decides to visit someone who might be able to help her.

Neither one realizes it, but both Mark and Jane will soon find themselves on opposite sides of a secret war for the soul of England.

Jane visits the Manor of St. Anne’s-on-the-Hill in hopes that they might help her about her dreams, but her first meeting with Miss Grace Ironwood is not encouraging. Miss Ironwood is a severe, intimidating woman. To Jane’s annoyance, she does not regard her dreams as a problem that needs curing. It’s not that she doesn't take them seriously, (a fear which has kept Jane from discussing her dreams with her husband); Miss Ironwood is convinced that Jane is a clairvoyant and that her dreams are extremely important. She wants Jane to put her talents to the service of her group and that the fate of humanity may depend upon it.
This is all too much for Jane. She doesn't want to get mixed up with vague conspiracies, she just wants the dreams to stop.

Mark, in the meantime, has gone to the town of Belbury, where the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments, or the N.I.C.E., is headquartered. His friend, if you want to call him that, Lord Feverstone has arranged a meeting with Wither, the Deputy Director of the N.I.C.E.

The organization’s ostensible purpose is to put the money and resources of Government into the service of Science, and to put the disciplines of Science into the administration of Government. In many respects it sounds like a Charter School experiment placed on a governmental scale. It’s public face is a popular writer of science named Jules, whom most critics take to be a caricature of H.G. Wells. Jules has little to do with the story, though, and Mark quickly learns that he is largely a figurehead.

Mark has always longed to be an Insider, and much of his academic career has been devoted to getting into the In Crowd. At Bracton, this was a party in the faculty calling themselves the “Progressive Element”, but Mark’s acquaintance with Feverstone has revealed secret workings that he had been unaware of, and the lure of being one of the Elect Few who are In The Know is a powerful one.

He meets with Wither, a vague sort of man with a frustrating talent for speaking without saying anything definite. Mark assumes that he is going to be offered a job with the N.I.C.E., but although Wither soothes him with flattery and platitudes, he never says anything specific.

Mark is also introduced to “Fairy” Hardcastle, the tough-talking, cigar-smoking head of the N.I.C.E.’s private Gestapo, that is, security force. Lewis never calls her a lesbian, but he certainly intends her as a mannish, and therefore unnatural woman. Come to think of it, the forbidding Grace Ironwood with her austere manner and her masculine profession (we later find that she really is a doctor, which Lewis would have probably considered a male field) also has mannish qualities, but the Fairy typifies the worst in masculinity: she is crude, vulgar and sadistic and runs her department like a bully. Mark finds himself uncomfortable in her presence, but is impressed by her worldly and knowing attitude and flattered that she seems to be taking an interest in him.

He runs into another Bracton professor, William Hingest. “Bill the Blizzard”, as he’s known behind his back, is one of the few top-notch scientists on the faculty, a chemist with a high reputation among his peers. He’s considered one of the Progressive Element by virtue of being an atheist, although he has little use for academic politics. He too is being recruited by the N.I.C.E., but having looked around the place has decided to return to Bracton. He strongly recommends that Mark do the same.

Hingest is an interesting character, although he sadly gets little time in the story. Some Christians like to say that even atheists believe in something, which atheists regard as condescending and sanctimonious. Which it is. But Hingest at any rate does believe in something: he believes in scientific integrity. He’s seen enough of the N.I.C.E. to realize that these people are only interested in Science as window dressing for their greater agenda, and he wants nothing to do with it.

Mark still isn't sure he wants to join the N.I.C.E. No one will tell him what his job there is supposed to be, or even if he has a job; but they’re plying him with drink and pumping him on what great prospects he has with them. It’s assumed that he’ll spend the night at the Institute, and then that he’ll stay there for a day or two, or more. He finds that Feverstone has done him the favor of burning his bridges behind him at Bracton, which briefly causes him to panic; but the people at the Institute do a masterful job of keeping him off balance, alternating between flattering his ego and ambition, and quietly threatening him with the consequences of leaving. Every step of the way, it becomes easier for him to move forward and more difficult to move back. And so he takes the path of least resistance.

Jane is having problems at home. Her neighbors, her old tutor Dr. Dimble and his wife, have been evicted from their house. It belonged to the college and was part of the sale of land to the N.I.C.E. For the time being, Dr. Dimble can crash at the college, but his wife has to find a place to live. Ivy Maggs, the woman who comes in couple times a week to do cleaning at the Studdock home, has also been displaced, and Jane is having trouble finding a replacement.

A lot of people have been kicked out of their homes. The N.I.C.E. has bought Bragdon Wood, part of the Bracton property, ostensibly to build a new facility there. But the Wood is too marshy to build on. So the Institute is going to divert the river running through Edgestow in order to drain the Wood. A lots of the Edgestow residents are outraged, including members of the College who had voted for the sale, but by the time anyone realizes what is going down, it’s too late to stop it.

Jane has another dream, this time about a group of men stopping a car in the middle of the night and beating its driver to death. The next day she learns that Bill Hingest has been found dead and realizes that it was he whom she saw murdered.

She runs into Camille Dennison, a woman she had met at St. Anne’s, and her husband, who had been a close friend of Mark’s during their undergraduate days. They’re a nice, friendly couple with the rare talent of being able to correct each other without being annoying about it; and Jane takes an immediate liking to them. She wonders why Mark dropped Dennison in favor of his more recent crop of friends who strike her as being back-biting and unpleasant. The truth of the matter is that as Mark became more interested in climbing the greasy pole of faculty politics, he saw Dennison as more of a rival than a friend.

The Dennisons are part of the St. Anne’s group, a small community which has gathered around their leader, a Mr. Fisher-King. Readers with a background in Arthurian Romance will recognize the Fisher-King as a character from the Grail Legend, a king with an unhealing wound which can only be cured by the Holy Grail. Mr. Fisher-King is actually Ransom, from the previous books, who had changed his name for reasons that are somewhat contrived, but largely irrelevant.

They would like Jane to come and speak with Mr. Fisher-King, but they stress that this must be her own decision. This is a big difference between the St. Anne’s group and the N.I.C.E.: the one insists that Jane choose freely, the other uses mind-games and manipulation to force Mark to stay.

Jane’s dream of Hingest’s murder has convinced her that her dreams really are clairvoyant; and the good vibes she gets from the Dennisons do much to counter the earlier negative impression she got from Miss Ironwood. She decides to give St. Anne’s another visit.

Mark is still unsure what his position at the N.I.C.E. is, which is exactly how they like it. Since he’s a sociologist, he’s plopped in the Institute’s sociology department, although Fairy assures him that it’s only temporary and that there are bigger things in store for him. He is given the assignment of writing propaganda pieces. The N.I.C.E. needs to raze a village near Edgestow as part of its project to divert the river, and so Mark is directed to come up with talking points about how the village is unsanitary and unsightly and how better off people will be once the improvements have been installed. Next he is told to work on a series of articles and Letters to the Editor for the popular press to rehabilitate Alcasan, a French scientist who was recently guillotined for murdering his wife. This was the man Jane saw decapitated in her very first dream. Mark doesn't understand why the Institute is interested in Alcasan’s reputation and begins to have doubts about the N.I.C.E.’s politics
“Is it Left or Right papers that are going to print all this rot about Alcasan?” 
“Both, honey, both,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Don’t you understand anything? Isn't it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the N.I.C.E. is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us – to refute the enemy slanders. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.”
Finally Mark is assigned to write a couple pieces about a riot in Edgestow which hasn't happened yet.. With the displacement of the local population due to the N.I.C.E.’s extreme landscaping and the influx of workers who have come in to tear down the buildings and such, clashes are inevitable, and so the N.I.C.E. are going to engineer a riot in the next day or two that they can use to the Institute’s advantage. Mark is shocked by this, but the fact that they are trusting him with this information makes him feel like he’s part of their inner circle, and he agrees.

There is one hitch, though. In one of his meeting with Wither, it is strongly suggested that Mark bring his wife to Belbury. Mark can’t see Jane being happy with things there and so he kind of brushes off Wither’s hints and is dismayed to learn that his casual refusal has angered Wither. He little realizes that Jane is the real reason the N.I.C.E. cares about him at all;. They know about her dreams and want to use Mark as a tool to get their hands on her.

NEXT:  The Pendragon; Riot in Edgestow, and the Saracen’s Head.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Piers Morgan and The American Revolution

The Header for the show for host Piers Morgan.
To hear some of the television critics of Piers Morgan, his only flaw as an interviewer was being a bad interviewer.  It wasn't that he was a flawed human, just not good at these sort of jobs.  He seemed to not listen to guests, and the guests when able to speak, didn't seem to be making an impact on Morgan who seemed to be simply waiting for them to stop talking, before making a new, unrelated comment, or a political statement that was neither for nor against the guest, but Morgan's own views.  The standard for the time slot on CNN when it was occupied by Larry King, was perhaps not hard hitting interviews, but a chat between friends.  Perhaps Larry King grew forgetful or lacked the interest in making a guest uncomfortable, but he was always interested in the conversation.  Morgan never seemed interested in the guest outside how he might use them for further points on his political chalk board.

The Announcement of the Stamp Act
Obviously with the title of this article I believe that Morgan was more than a bad interviewer, but rather, a person who had no connection with the audience who the show was primarily aimed at, the US audience.  The Americans watching grew less enchanted with Morgan with every utterance against the American ways of doing things, right or wrong.  And it is in that that I believe you see that he was not even, perhaps interested in winning the argument he made, so much as using his podium for however long it was offered, to show is disgust and disdain for the US.

Particularly for Morgan was his out spoken and strident conversation on the show about guns in America.  Now, FYI I am not an American who likes guns.  I don't claim never to have fired a gun, but I am not interested in doing so again, and I believe the gun debate on both sides of the battle lines is generally feeding upon the frenzy and not reality.  However, most Americans accept that there will be guns in the United States.  So both sides are arguing the limits therein rather than the legality of ownership or sale.  Citizens in the United States have long debated the issues of gun rights, with advocacy groups on both sides trying to score protections or limits on the use and ownership of types of guns rather than all of them.

All pics taken from Public domain or Fair use sources

However, Piers Morgan doesn't agree with ownership of guns, and believes Americans are wrong for allowing it.  As such he is massively out of step with common thought in the United States.  But we tolerate people with different ideas, even accept that they are part of free speech.  The problem isn't that Americans disagree with Morgan on the subject, it is that he seemed to refuse to see any truth in any view, outside of his own experience.

Valley Forge was to test the American will.
When I get into disagreements with people over issues that I am moved by, such as Abortion, I do not get angry, I simply move on.   You cannot change a person by yelling at them.  Nor do you make your point better by going on for hours saying the same thing.  Morgan could have gained by doing so regarding guns. Piers Morgan didn't make every episode of his show about guns, but every time he espoused a view that was out of step, people were reminded of the times he did make it about that.

Washington crossing the Delaware River while standing in a boat which might be dangerous, you know.
Beyond that, there is one great issue with his views for the show he was hosting.  Americans know that guns and the fear of the overarching state are part of the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights.  Rightly or wrongly, Americans believe, commonly, that the gun, whether pistol, rifle or otherwise, saved them from incursions from foreign powers, and from domestic invasions of privacy.   The United Kingdom last fought a battle against a foreign opponent on its soil centuries ago.   As such they might have a disconnect between their homeland being threatened and the weapons used to do that.  The state, the all powerful state that monopolizes violence in the UK does so from the top down.  Rights and freedoms were granted from the Crown and the governmental state, not from the citizens fighting to achieve it. 

The United States was born in revolution, and it is upon that backdrop that Piers Morgan fails.  He comes from a different culture, where freedoms are not an expectation but a grant.  The Americans who hold guns dear do not love the state, they do not love the idea of big governments and powerful armies.  The believe themselves to be the backbone of the American people.  And the freedoms they believe in, to them, flow from the gun.  Do I agree?  It doesn't matter.  Piers Morgan was telling a country that is fully armed that they were wrong and foolish to own guns.   The American people, however flawed, saw the debate as being our former master telling us we shouldn't be arming ourselves, it might lead to independent thinking.

I'll be called a Libertarian for this, by some, but they should know, my political voting record has seen more votes for Democrats than Republicans, and more third party than either of those, and almost none were cast in a one party ballot.   My point here is to say CNN's audience was rubbed wrong, repeatedly.  I didn't care for his imperious nature, but didn't, honestly, have an issue with his anti-gun fetish.  I knew, however, that he would hang himself with his own noose by saying what he did.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy: That Hideous Strength (part 1)

The title is taken from a line by the 16th Century poet Sir David Lyndsay (no relation, as far as I know, to the author of A Voyage to Arcturus):
The shadow of that hyddeous strength
Sax myle and more it is of length.
The  word “strength” here is used in its original meaning of a stronghold or a fortress and refers to the Tower of Babel, that dreadful monument to pride which according to some traditions was the citadel of the first world-conquering despot.

Each of the volumes of C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy is its own animal; each written in a different style and evoking a different theme. Out of the Silent Planet was an admitted and unashamed pastiche of the scientific romances of H.G. Wells. Perelandra, on the other hand, drew it’s inspiration from medieval fantasies. Lewis’s third book, That Hideous Strength, is literally more down-to-earth, set in the most mundane location imaginable: a small university town.

Which is why Lewis subtitles his book “A Modern Fairy-Tale.”
If you ask why – intending to write about magicians, devils, pantomime animals, and planetary angels – I nevertheless begin with such hum-drum scenes and persons, I reply that I am following the traditional fairy-tale. We do not always notice its method, because the cottages, castles, woodcutters and petty kings with which a fairy tale opens have become for us as remote as the witches and ogres to which it proceeds. But they were not remote at all to the men who made and first enjoyed the stories.
But Lewis’s real inspiration here is not the Brothers Grimm, but his friend Charles Williams, who perhaps is best-known today for his connection with the Inkings, a circle of Christian writers which included by Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but who was a highly-regarded poet in his day and the author of fantasy novels which brought magic into the modern age. Lewis tries to adopt a style similar to Williams’s in this book and the theme of magic encroaching on the mundane 20th Century is one that Williams liked to use.

Mark and Jane Studdock are a not-exactly-happily-married couple. They’re not exactly un-happily-married, but their relationship, after less than a year of marriage, is already showing strains. Mark has just gained a fellowship at Bracton, a small college in the town of Edgestow and Jane is trying to finish her dissertation for her Master’s Degree from an neighboring woman’s college.

The relationship between Jane and Mark form an important subplot in the book and is both one of the novel’s strengths and its weaknesses. It’s a strength in that it gives the work an emotional grounding that the previous, more fantastical novels lacked. It’s a weakness in that Lewis’s experience with marriage was almost entirely academic and based on his observations of his married friends.

In the movie adaptation of William Nicholson’s play Shadowlands, based on the relationship between Lewis and the American poet Joy Gresham, a friend teases him that he’s a writer of children’s books who has never had children and a lecturer on marriage who has never known a wife. There’s some truth to that gibe. Lewis did not marry until very late in his life and spent most of his time in the almost exclusively male company of his Oxford colleagues.

The novel begins with Jane bitterly quoting words from the Anglican marriage service and musing on how little the liturgical ideal matches the reality. I suppose it’s appropriate that Lewis starts with words from the liturgy, because he never strays far from church orthodoxy as his characters discuss marriage. The service also contains the words “Love, Honor and Obey”, and part of Jane’s subplot is how she comes to terms with the command “Wives, submit your husbands.” This is one of several things modern readers find annoying with this book.

But St. Paul’s admonition has a flip side which is often overlooked. As wives are obliged to defer to their husbands, Paul also requires husbands to be deserving of that deference. It’s not a perfectly balanced reciprocation, perhaps, but then neither is it an entirely one-way street either. This is a lesson Mark needs to learn. He has been preoccupied with his own career and climbing the greasy pole of faculty politics at Bracton and had been frankly taking his wife for granted.

Unfortunately, although we see Mark and Jane grappling with their relationship separately, and in conversations with others, we rarely see them talking to each other. Granted, this is a big part of their problem; but since we don’t actually see them working things out, their eventual reconciliation rings a little hollow.

Jane has been suffering from disturbing dreams. She has one of a man in a prison cell receiving a visitor who unscrews his head and carries it off, and about a sleeper buried underground. They bother her, but she doesn't know what they mean.

She winds up describing her dream to her neighbors, Dr. Dimble and his wife. Dr. Dimble had been her tutor when she had been an undergraduate, and she had remained a close friend. Lewis had a great affection for his own tutor when he was a young man, and tutors in his stories are always good people. Dr. Dimble thinks her dreams are significant, but doesn't seem to think she needs a psychiatrist. “I’m not going to give you any advice. But if you do decide to go to anyone about that dream, I wish you would first consider going to someone whose address Margery or I will give you.”

With his fellowship, Mark has become a full-fledged member of the “Progressive Element” at Bracton College, a faction that seeks to modernize the college and opposes the calcified policies of the faculty’s Old Guard.

Lewis, ever the Medievalist, was no fan of Progress. To a large extent, I suppose, this was due to his traditionalist religious beliefs, but I suspect his love for old things, especially the old Norse sagas, which preceded his conversion to Christianity has something to do with it as well. And perhaps, although he rarely speaks of them, his experiences in the trenches, where the promise of 20th Century science quickly turned to more efficient ways of killing.

In any case, I think that Lewis’s rejection of Modernity is only partially a reactionary dislike of Change; he is also reacting to an attitude prevalent in his era and still common today, although under a different name, about Progress as a Sacred Thing. After all, You Can’t Fight Progress. His friend J.R.R. Tolkien touched on something similar once when he drew a distinction between the Scientific Theory of Evolution, which is, he said, about Change, and the Popular Myth of Evolution, which is about Improvement. When, in one of the Narnia books, the corrupt governor of a distant island defended his policy of permitting the slave trade, he did so on the grounds that it was “Progress”. Prince Caspian replies that he has seen the same in an egg. “In Narnia we call it ‘going bad.’”

But back to Bracton. The college is considering selling a piece of property known as Bragdon Wood to the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, or the N.I.C.E.; a kind of think tank ostensibly devoted to applying the latest in Science to Government and Social Planning.
The N.I.C.E. was the first-fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world. It was to be free from almost all the tiresome restraints – “red tape” was the word its supporters used – which have hitherto hampered research in this country.
I have to say, Lewis does a lovely job with the names in this book, and the N.I.C.E. is wickedly ironic. Conservatives no doubt would call the N.I.C.E. an example of Evil Big Government, but Lewis is rather vague about this. The line about “red tape” suggests the opposite to me, and the Institute's supporters sound to me very much like some of the present-day boosters of Charter Schools. As the story progresses we see the N.I.C.E. establishing its own parallel government which winds up absorbing the existing government of the city.

At the moment, the N.I.C.E. wants to buy Bragdon Wood, a small wooded parcel of land enclosed by and old wall with legendary connections to the time of King Arthur, for a new facility and it is looking to create a partnership with the college. This of course is too great an opportunity to pass up, and the Progressive Faction rigs the order of business at the College Meeting to ensure that it goes through.

At one point we have a bit where Lewis unexpectedly indulges in a bit of the prophecy which Science Fiction is supposed to provide. A couple professors are discussing the benefits which a partnership with the N.I.C.E. will bring to the college. One describes an “Analytical Notice-Board” which will compile and display all the research done by various departments in real-time, sounding very much like a localized version of the Internet. Then another administrator puts it all in perspective by gushing about the new up-to-date toilets the N.I.C.E. plans to install.

After the meeting, Mark is introduced to another of the college fellows: Lord Feverstone, who turns out to be our slimy friend from Out of the Silent Planet, Dick Devine. He has done well for himself since his trip to Malacandra and has somehow acquired a title. Mark has always considered the Progressive Element to be the “Inner Circle” of the college and his ambition had been to join it; but in talking to Feverstone, he realizes that the faculty administrators he had jealously sought to join were themselves minor players. Feverstone he confides that he has been watching Mark’s career with interest and would like to recruit him for the N.I.C.E.

Mark has always wanted to be an insider, and this is his chance. At Feverstone’s urging, he agrees to visit the N.I.C.E. headquarters to speak with its director. At the same time, Jane makes up her mind to see the person the Dimbles have recommended about her dreams.

Without realizing it, they are choosing sides in a cosmic conflict.

NEXT:  Belbury and St. Anne's

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ukraine, The End, Global Climate Change, Bombs

First the Crimean crisis, then the Eastern Ukraine crisis, we have to worry about.  Beyond that you've heard that there are wars and you've heard the rumors of wars.  You've seen images from scientists showing melting icebergs and glaciers and you've been told the earth will become too hot to be the beautiful, nuturing place we once knew.  Species extinctions, food shortages and overpopulation all threaten to destroy humanity or the world in which it lives.  And then we might see terrorists use nuclear weapons, for whatever insane reason, and all of our perceived normals will go straight to hell.   Or have you heard about all the resistant strains of bacteria that we'll be killed by, because we've foolishly use antibiotics for any thing.  Birth defects are rising in areas from polluted ground water, and the world has floating patches of garbage upon the surface of our oceans.  It is thought by some scientists that numerous ocean going species collapse, combined with global climate change could cause food riots, and since most of the Third World that is, poor, people of the world live in equatorial or at least nearly equatorial regions, the human toll from the catastrophe will be far in excess of anything since the era of the plagues, such as Black Death and the like.  And then again, you haven't done your homework yet, you still have that huge pimple...

It might well be true that the world has always had events, crisis, and disasters.  It is also true to say, we've never likely known about them nearly as well as we do now.  Science fiction, fantasy and all forms of speculative writing have considered every possible disaster, that we know of, and usually long before it was known by the general populace to be possible.   There are critiques from outside of speculative fiction who just considered the entire of the genre to be weird or childish fantasy but that is clearly not true.   Great minds have for centuries used such writing to produce considerations of the world at present, through the lens of an outsider, or by placing the narrator inside an event that could threaten the world.  The imagined disasters in these works can help us understand the present, but showing the reader how the writer of that day would imagine people responding to the disaster, if in the future.  But some other ways of understanding the present better is by seeing how the current reader sees all the things they cherish being lost, and what would they do to stop that.   Science fiction and fantasy fiction allow the reader to put the question to themselves, "What if this happened to me?".   

There are many more Apocalyptical Crisis books than the images included in this piece show.  The reader is invited to search for the crisis and then look into the fiction.   Raw data does not always speak to the mind, but fiction often does.

The eight books shown are (in no particular order):

On The Beach by Nevil Shute which follows the events of a world that has been poisoned by a nuclear conflict, and radiation that is going to kill that world.

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin is about a "future" civilization on a world that seems familiar, and we learn more and more that sometimes events can destroy the future, and make it seem more like the past.

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett is a story about a world destroyed by a massive nuclear conflict.  In the former United States the return to normal is slow, and is only in the third generation since the bombs fell.  Technology is seen as evil, and religion has found greater adherents.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank is another nuclear war story, but with a specific focus upon a small town in Florida, and seeing the recovery in the early days of the events.  The title comes from the Bible, "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come."

The Last Man by Mary Shelley is not about a nuclear disaster.  It was written in 1826 about a plague that devastates the earth, and follows a group of people trying to find their way to other humans, in Europe, before the end can destroy them all.

The Postman by David Brin follows a man who discovers a uniform from a long lost era of America, a postal uniform.  The story is about how humans would at first break into small groups, tribes, and be led by warlords, but there is hope that in the future a greater idea of nation will be restored.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin follows a man who can dream reality into a better world, but, the problem for that world then becomes, what worse could happen that the new world does not consider. Much more speculative and more fantastical than the others on the list, there is still scenario after scenario of worlds in crisis, and how remaking the wheel and facing old threats that have modernized or evolved shows that normal might be difficult, but it can always get worse.

Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle show earth society, particularly the US society, after a huge comet strikes the earth.  Millions have died, law and order are gone, the world is a disaster area, and people are only now realizing that they have to do something or they will die.    

Friday, April 11, 2014

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy: Perelandra (part 2)

Christian Doctrine is never far from the surface in Lewis’s writings, and Perelandra is, I think, the most overtly religious of his Space Trilogy. It imagines the planet Venus, or Perelandra in the Old Solar tongue, as an unfallen Paradise, a second Eden. Dr. Elwin Ransom has been sent to Perelandra by the Oyarsa of Malacandra, the angelic spirit which rules the planet Mars, in order to foil an attack on that planet by the Dark Archon of Tellus. Ransom has met Perelandra’s equivalent of Eve; and where there’s Eve, you just know a Serpent is going to show up.

Weston, the belligerent physicist from Out of the Silent Planet, has rebuilt his spaceship and has now arrived on Venus. When we saw him last he was a pompous materialist, a caricature of the Late-Victorian Scientist, much like Professor Challenger from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, only without the more endearing foibles. Since then, Weston has had what one might call a religious experience. He has come to believe in a Higher Power; in fact, he claims that he has been in contact with this Power. But the Power he now believes in is not what Ransom would exactly call God.
“How far does it go? Would you still obey the Life-Force if you found it prompting you to murder me?” 
“Or sell England to the Germans?” 
“Or to print lies as serious research in a scientific periodical?” 
“God help you!: said Ransom.
I've always found this a significant exchange. The old Weston, caricature though he was, still possessed a certain code of morality. He embarked on his original trip to Mars not for wealth (unlike his avaricious partner Devine) or even fame, but rather to benefit humanity. Although he was willing to hand Ransom over to the (supposedly) blood-thirsty sorns, he felt some scruples about it – not because of any qualms about murder, but because he felt that an educated man like Ransom was more valuable than a common illiterate plebe. Even Oyarsa, in passing judgment upon the Earthmen, perceived that Weston was not “broken” like Devine, an amoral creature driven by solely by greed, but merely “bent”; possessing at least some sense of ethics.

But now he has renounced what moral code he previously had. Ransom’s questions in that passage are an ironic escalation in seriousness. Most of us would consider murder a greater crime than lying, but the old Weston, the scientific materialist, regarded Science – real Science, not the fuzzy humanities crap that Ransom studied – as a Supreme Calling. That he would now gladly murder an acquaintance is unsurprising; that he would betray his country more disturbing, (keep in mind, this novel was written during the Second World War); but that he would debase his own profession by peddling falsehood in journals dedicated to the discovery of scientific Truth shows how far he has fallen.

Ransom desperately tries to find some point of common ground in order to persuade Weston to see reason, but this only makes Weston angry. He replies with a rant that to me recalls some of the teachings of Ayn Rand. I don’t know if Lewis read any Rand; he was more likely referencing the popular view of Nietzsche, but I’m not familiar enough with him to say for sure.
“Idiot,” said Weston. His voice was almost a howl and he had risen to his feet. “Idiot,” he repeated. “Can you understand nothing? Will you always try to press everything back into the miserable framework of your old jargon about self and self-sacrifice? That is the old accursed dualism in another form. There is no possible distinction in concrete thought between me and the universe. In so far as I am the conductor of the central forward pressure of the universe, I am it. Do you see, you timid, scruple-mongering fool? I am the Universe. I, Weston, am your God and your Devil. I call that Force into me completely . . . .”
Weston gets his wish. At this terrible blasphemy, his body convulses and he becomes possessed by his Higher Power, the Bent Oyarsa of Earth. Lewis never directly identifies this being as Satan, but that’s who it is, and now he sets out to corrupt this world’s Eve as he did the one on ours.

Maleldil, the Ruling Entity of the Cosmos, (spoiler alert: Maleldil is really Aslan), has given the first Man and Woman of Perelandra only one command. You might remember that in Eden it was something about trees and fruit. In this case the command involves the Fixed Land. Most of the islands of Perelandra are floating masses of dense vegetation, but there are solid islands in the great planet-wide ocean. The Man and the Woman are permitted to visit the Fixed Lands, but not to settle and stay there.

Why? It seems pretty arbitrary to Ransom too; but since that is Maleldil’s command, Weston devotes his energies to persuading The Green Lady, this world’s Eve, to defy the command and spend a night on the Fixed Land. Ransom finds himself at a disadvantage. He can’t very well tell her that Weston is Bad or Evil or even Untrustworthy because the Lady has no frame of reference to understand what these things mean. And, she greatly desires to gain wisdom, to “grow older” as she puts it. Ransom must marshal the best counter-arguments he can.

This debate, which Lewis tells us continues off and on over the course of several days, forms the core of the novel; and in it, Lewis recasts just about every argument ever made on the subjects of Disobedience and Free Will. Ransom frequently finds himself in over his head. Fortunately, the Green Lady has a short attention span and tends to get bored when Weston and Ransom’s wrangling get too academic. Well, that’s probably unfair. The fact is that the World is so wonderful and new to the Lady that Theology is really low on her priority list of things to explore and discover.

It is when the Lady wanders off and leaves Ransom and Weston alone that the horror begins. Many critics have held that John Milton, when writing Paradise Lost was “of the Devil’s camp without knowing it.” Milton’s Lucifer is suave and charismatic and compelling, much more interesting that the stiff, uptight angels. Lewis disagrees, and portrays the Tempter here as someone who can be intelligent and charming when it suits him, but who regards these qualities merely as tools.

When he’s alone with Ransom, he doesn't bother with philosophical sophistries or cunning persuasion; he doesn't even bother with human posture. The personality he had displayed before goes off like a light switch, and although Ransom can’t put his finger on exactly what is wrong, Weston no longer seems human at all. He says nothing to Ransom except to simply call his name from time to time, and when Ransom replies, the Un-Man, (as Ransom now thinks of him), simply says: “Nothing.” The Un-Man does that all night – unlike Ransom, it doesn't need to sleep. “Ransom… Ransom …” “What the Hell do you want?” “Nothing.”

In another, disturbing passage, Ransom comes across a small, mutilated frog-like creature. He realizes that the Un-Man has done this, and has left a trail of maimed amphibians all along the beach. He’s mutilating frogs for no real reason at all – not even for fun. He’s just doing it – literally – for the Hell of it. Ransom attempts to put the creature out of its misery, but the poor thing proves dreadfully hard to kill and he winds up torturing it even more in his efforts to end its suffering.

This, Lewis says, is the nature of Evil. It’s not the grand, tragic Lucifer defying Heaven in blank verse; it is a bratty little kid doing petty, pointless, mean stuff just to be annoying.

As the daytime debates with Weston drag on, Lewis finds himself despairing. The Lady has not succumbed to the Tempter’s persuasive arguments –yet. But can she hold out forever? Can Ransom hold out running interference and trying to counter Westons’s arguments? Is it fair that Ransom alone bear the responsibility of battling the Prince of Darkness?

Does this battle solely exist on a moral, philosophical plane? What if an elephant had stepped on the Serpent in the Garden of Eden? Is Ransom expected to take on Weston physically? Ransom at first rejects this idea, but as he argues with himself and second-guesses himself through the night he keeps coming back to it. His own experiences during the First World War were so different from his boyhood notions of battle that he has a dubious opinion of his own courage. “When did I ever win a fight in my life?” On top of that, he is a middle-aged, sedentary academic, hardly up to punching out Satan.

Then again, so is Weston.

As he argues with himself a Voice comes to him in the night, telling him “It is not for nothing you were named Ransom.” This boggles him. He’s a philologist and he knows the derivation of his name, (it’s “Ranolf’s Son” and has nothing to do with the English word "ransom”) The thought that all of this, even a thing as trivial as his name, is a part of something which had been foreseen and planned for centuries or more in advance gives him a deeper sense of the gravity of the whole situation. The Voice adds “My name also is Ransom.”

Ransom makes the decision and steels himself to act. The Tempter can only continue his campaign as long as it has the use of Weston’s body. So Ransom must kill Weston.

I always found this direction a peculiar one, that I’m not entirely comfortable with. But keep in mind, Lewis wrote this novel during World War Two, in which British soldiers really were physically taking arms to battle the Forces of Evil, which probably had a profound influence on his thinking. In any case, Ransom confronts the Un-Man. When he realizes that Ransom seriously means to harm him, the Un-Man flees.

There follows an epic chase and running battle which takes the two across the ocean to the Fixed Land. At one point, Weston’s own personality comes to the surface – or is it only another mind-game by the Un-Man? Ransom cannot tell – and gibbers nihilistic despair about the nature of reality. It gives a glimpse of Lewis’s view of damnation; not the horrific tortures of Dante, but a loss of self. Lewis’s Hell is a diabolical melting pot in which individuals lose their identities to merge with their Master. In a similar way, in his book The Screwtape Letters, Lewis has a demon describe the souls of the damned as delicacies to be devoured.

Finally, deep in a cavern beneath the Fixed Land, Ransom and the Un-Man have their final confrontation. Ransom bashes his Enemy’s face in with a rock: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, here goes – I mean, Amen.”

Now that it’s dead, Weston’s body no longer seems inhuman. The evil force animating it is gone. Ransom casts the body into a volcanic crevice to bury it and then, feeling an obligation to commemorate the passing of what once had been a great man, he carves a memorial inscription. “That was a tomfool thing to do,” he admits when he has finished it, “But there ought to be some record.”

Ransom emerges from the caverns and meets the Oyarsa of Malacandra and his Perelandrian equivalent. Here we get another of Lewis’s idée fixes: that gender is something that transcends biology. Although the eldila are angelic beings without sex in the biological sense, they nevertheless have qualities, the one of masculinity and the other of femininity. This also comes out of his theme that the ancient legends of gods and goddesses are kind of racial memories of the Cosmic Order: The god Mars is an echo of the Oyarsa of Malacandra; the goddess Venus an echo of Perelandra.

He also meets again the Green Lady, who has finally been reunited with the King, this world’s Adam. Whereas on Malacandra, the sentient races are subordinate to a ruling Oyarsa, on this world rulership is being handed over to the King and the Queen – as should have happened on Earth had things not gone wrong. The King, whose name is Tor, comes off not nearly as interesting as the Lady, but then again we see very little of him. It does strike Ransom as somewhat unfair that she had to resist temptation and he didn't have to do anything, but Tor had his own struggles. In a secret place, he was shown what was happening with his Lady. It occurs to me that perhaps Tor’s temptation was to intervene in his Lady’s temptation and prevent her from deciding on her own, but Lewis does not specifically say this.

Ransom witnesses the great ceremony crowning Tor and Tindril the King and Queen of their world. It is only now that Ransom notices that his heel is bleeding where Weston bit it during their battle. But it is now time for him to return home. Another white casket-like box has been prepared for him in which he will be carried back to Earth.

At their parting, Tindril unconsciously echoes what Weston said during his brief moment of lucidity during the earlier battle. He said life was like a rind one was sinking through, and past that rind was oblivion. The Lady also compares life to the thick rind of a fruit, but beyond that skin lies sweetness.

With that, and with the blessings of the King, Ransom is carried off back to his home.

NEXT:  We visit the strangest planet of all, Earth, which lies under the shadow of That Hideous Strength. Have a NICE day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cancers are Gone

Hi, this is my last cancer update, well I hope so.  If cancer comes back then I'll be back telling you then I am fuckered for good.  There are different kinds of cancer.  Some are in your body, some are in your state of mind.  I had both.  Neither were invited, but both were horribly destructive and both caused me to lose almost a year of productivity and a great deal of hope and optimism.

Back in November I learned I had cancer in my body.   Most of my year prior however had been hell, and truly, the year before sucked badly as well.  I had unrelenting bloody diarrhea, pain, a fall in February 2013 that did terrible things to my hips, back and tailbone, I had migraines daily, my mom died in October of 2012, and other things happened.   But cancer was the real problem.  I could say losing my mom was worse, because of course no one wants to face death of a loved one, but she had alzheimer's and she was 86, and death, for almost everyone except the holy, is inevitable.

Beyond my health, and bodily cancer I learned of a different kind.  Following my taking back a project that had lingered for two years unworked on, a former business partner fired me from a different book the day before exploratory surgery, for cancer.  He didn't know I had cancer, my doctors thought I had a different kind (colon cancer) than the one I eventually was found to have (lymphoma), and my world was filled with angst, pain, and fear over dying.  I wasn't really in a mood to be fired so I referred to the event as being fired the day before cancer surgery, which it technically was.   But I no longer think it matters.  The real issue was working with someone who made many plans and never accomplished any of them.  I gave him more than one chance too, and for that I was the fool.  Burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice ...

People have actually accused me of lying about having had cancer.  But they were wrong, and foolish.  I've come to terms with being called a liar about having cancer, because I know the truth, and so do the people who treated me. If anyone wants to make their accusations public I will sue for libel, and win, handedly.  I could, in fact, reproduce one of the letters from one of the people, here, and shame them, but I'll just keep it, in case.  It is a sad commentary that I have to do that, actually.

I was going to have a comic and two books done for Spring Con, which happens in May.  However, having a staph infection arise from the chemo, and that followed by radiation, my body didn't allow me the energy to complete my work portion of one of the projects.  And the partner in one of the others didn't complete his work, and quit.   That left one more, a more complicated project and both writers on the book took too much time, and I particularly got bogged down, so in the next month I'll finish my work and we'll send it to the artist.  I usually am ahead of the game, but in this case cancer kicked my ass.

I was interviewed by someone for a poetry and arts journal that didn't get a chance to start like it was supposed to do so.  So I am was allowed/encouraged/told to post it on my blogs and use it as I would.  Here is the LINK

As a creative person I hope to return to my past of constant work, and constant projects, but the thing about cancer, and the treatment, and how life throws feces at you, you cannot plan for it, it just happens.   So I have to be content to just be alive, and really, that ain't so bad.

I've begun to post rerun interviews over at LIFE AFTER COMICS and they are coming out about one per week.  Sure you could just look them up, but here you get them laid upon the table for your pleasure of reading as you will.   I had offered a similar situation to someone but they were confused thinking I was asking for compensation.  I just was offering free use, as are these for the forum LIFE AFTER COMICS.   I like Defiant 1, he is a very moral and interesting fellow.  I hope you stop by and show the site some love.

My work can be purchased in person at SPRING CON of course.  Or through the email.  Whatever you want.  Or hell use Amazon.  It doesn't matter to me.

You can find me here at Poplitiko of course but also at:

My short fiction blog
My poetry blog
I post at this comic book forum

Special Thanks go to a number of people.

Jason and Stacy Moser
Chuck Dixon
JM Hunter
Paul Ewert
The Staff at Buffalo Hospital
The Virginia Piper Cancer Inst. at Buffalo Hospital

And of course all of my family and friends.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy: Perelandra (part 1)

Erich von Däniken speculated that the stories in ancient myth and legend about gods angels and miracles were actually distorted accounts of space aliens. C.S. Lewis anticipated this idea and inverted it. In Lewis’s cosmos, space aliens are actually angels.

Elwin Ransom, a mild-mannered professor of philology, knows about these heavenly beings first-hand, having been taken to the planet Malacandra (known to terrestrial astronomers as Mars), by a pair of unscrupulous scientists, and having met Oyarsa, the ruling intelligence of that planet. He has learned that each planet has its own such planetary genius, but the Oyarsa of Earth rebelled against Maleldil, who rules over all, and waged war against his fellows. As a result, Earth has been quarantined from the rest of the Solar System.

At the end of Out of the Silent Planet, Oyarsa hints to Ransom that great changes will be coming to the Solar System in the near future and the long “Sitzkrieg” of Thulcandra, the Silent Planet (as Earth is called), may be coming to an end. Perelandra begins with Ransom preparing for another journey into space, this time as an agent for the divine eldila.

In some of our previous looks at Old-School Science Fiction, I’ve invoked the Nebular Hypothesis, the theory that the sun and planets coalesced out of a great cloud of interstellar gas which is the basis of our current understanding of the origin of the Solar System. When the theory was first proposed, it was assumed that the outer parts of the cloud would have coalesced first, and that therefore the outer planets are older than the ones closer to the Sun. We’ve seen how this assumption colored the depiction of the planets in science fiction for much of the 20th Century: Mars was usually presented as an ancient, dying world, such as perhaps Earth will be in several million years; and Venus as a young, primeval world, similar to what Earth was like in prehistoric times. Pulp writers portraying Venus were often tempted to forest it with Paleozoic jungles inhabited with antediluvian monsters.

C.S. Lewis, drawing on some of these ideas for his Space Trilogy, followed the tradition of making Venus, or Perelandra as he called it, a young planet; but he went past the Antediluvian, all the way to the Edenic.
Lewis’s Perelandra is an unfallen world, a sinless paradise. The dark archon of our world wants to change that. Hitherto, he has been unable to cross the orbit of Earth’s Moon, due to the cosmic interdiction of Maleldil; but Weston’s space ship has changed everything. The quarantine has been broken and the terrestrial forces of Darkness are about to stage an assault on Perelandra, to corrupt it as Earth has been corrupted. Oyarsa has recruited Ransom to go to Venus to prevent this from happening.

Lewis used the writings of H.G. Wells, particularly The First Men in the Moon, as his inspiration for Out of the Silent Planet, but Perelandra draws more from fantastic literature of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. As Lewis himself later put it, “I took a hero to Mars once in a space-ship, but when I knew better I had angels convey him to Venus". It’s typical of Lewis that he found angels to be more believable than Weston’s technobabble.

Arriving on Perelandra, he finds it covered completely with water, which seemed a plausible conjecture before the Mariner space probes gave us a better look at Venus. The oceans of the planet are sweet, which both symbolizes the world’s uncorrupted state and on a more prosaic level makes sense assuming that the planet is several million years younger than Earth. Ransom encounters floating islands, composed of densely-matted vegetation, upon which trees grow and animals dwell. Lewis does a wonderful job of describing the strange, lush world that Ransom finds.

It is on one of these islands that Ransom, anticipating James T. Kirk, meets a green-skinned space babe. She is the Eve of this Paradise, this world’s First Woman. Ransom is able to speak with her, because the language he learned on Malacandra turns out to be a lingua franca of the Solar System, (and the fact that he already knew “Old Solar” was the reason he was chosen for the mission); but he is puzzled that, apart from the color of her skin, the Lady seems perfectly human. Human-looking aliens in science fiction are usually explained by things like Parallel Evolution, or a Common Ancestry from a Precursor Race, or Cheap Make-Up Budgets, or in many cases Lazy Writers. Lewis, naturally, gives a reason fitting with his theology: the natives of Perelandra have a human form because that is the form Maleldil assumed when he became a mortal on Earth.

It occurs to me in this reading that the color of the Lady’s skin might be symbolic both of her innocence and of the unfallen nature of her world, full of life and potential. I hadn’t thought of it before simply because, well, green-skinned aliens are something of a cliché. But I think it might be significant here, if for no other reason the comparison with Ransom’s own skin. He was carried to Perelandra in a box of a translucent material; as a result, half of his body has a bad sunburn from the solar radiation and the other half remains British pasty white. The Lady calls him Piebald Man because of his half-and-half appearance, which she found amusing when she first saw him; but this appearance might also signify Ransom’s own imperfect nature: good intentions mixed with uncertainty and doubt; the desire to do what’s right conflicting with sinful impulses.

Sex does not seem to be one of those impulses. He arrived on Perelandra naked, and the Lady is naked as well; but he is so self-conscious about his own appearance – he is, after all, no Adonis: a sedentary, middle-aged college professor with a ludicrous sunburn to boot; and she, despite her peculiar coloring, is overwhelmingly beautiful – that desire does not come into the picture.

We do not learn until the very end of the story that the Lady’s name in Tinidril. It’s possible that, being this world’s first woman and newly-created, she has not yet felt a need to take a name or to be given one. In any case, Ransom thinks of her as The Lady, and as she is this world’s Eve, I suppose she cannot avoid being an Archetype. She is innocent, but not unintelligent, and has a great desire to learn. She and Ransom have several conversations in which he learns as much from her as she from him.

But eventually, you know the Serpent is going to show up.

NEXT:   Enter Weston; a Belief in Higher Powers; the Terror of the Un-Man and Moral Conflict

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ALADDIN 3477 Movie News


MACOMB TOWNSHIP, MI-- Kaleidoscope Koi Entertainment has just announced actor/filmmaker Erik Steele in the lead role of the forthcoming Aladdin 3477 movie, set to shoot this summer. T
he live-action feature film is based on the classic Arabian Nights tale, set 1,500 years in the future and is written and directed by renown Artist Matt BuschThe epic sci-fi adventure isn't a musical like Disney’s Aladdin, nor is it animated, but said to look more like Star Wars and set in futuristic Asia. Preliminary filming for background plates have already been shot in India, Thailand, the Kingdom of Cambodia, China, and Switzerland. 

Well over 10,000 applicants from around the world submitted to the Aladdin 3477 casting call this past January, with a large percentage of actors hoping to nab the title role. While Busch set out to cast an unknown as everyone's favorite charming thief, Erik Steele has paid his dues working in many aspects of the entertainment industry on both sides of the camera. Busch elaborates, "Erik is one of those creative talents that should have been a household name years ago, so we're incredibly lucky to have him now before the rest of the world discovers this guy. He's a wonderful artist, actor, filmmaker, and even has solid chops as a stand-up comedian."

Fans of Disney's Aladdin might have been expecting an actor with a clone resemblance of the beloved cartoon, but Producer Lin Zy claims that this version has evolved, literally from the past. "We all love the Disney version, but there is no point in trying to duplicate that masterpiece in any way. Our movie takes place in a different time, in different places, with different cultural settings. Most people don't even realize that the original Aladdin story takes place in China, so we're drawing more from the original source material and expanding from there." It would seem that the new generation is ready for a new Aladdin, as the movie's Facebook page has already surpassed 10,000 "likes", impressive for any independent film, let alone one that hasn't even begun principle photography yet.

Though Aladdin 3477 is an independently financed film, the scope of the film is incredibly large. Busch claims that the shift in budget was easy to avoid hiring name actors and instead spend money on equipment, elaborate sets, and hundreds of costumes. That's not to say that the actors in the film don't have street creed. Christi Perovski, who plays opposite Steele in the role of Princess Kamala, can be seen in movies like Drew Barrymore's Whip It and Real Steel with Hugh Jackman. James Polony plays one of Aladdin's accomplices, and previously been in films like Red Dawn and A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas. Sareeya McNally portrays a cyborg aid to the princess, and has already been in movies like Ides of March and Transformers 3.

"At the end of the day, this movie has nothing to do with names." comments Busch. "We're all aiming to make a great movie with a wonderful story that audiences will love. The goal is to create something timeless, so that's where we're putting the focus." Kaleidoscope Koi Entertainment has recently moved into a 4,500 square foot facility in Clinton Township, Michigan, where production offices are set up and construction on sets have already begun. Aladdin 3477 begins shooting this May with an expected release in 2015.

You can find out more about Aladdin 3477 at the official site: www.Aladdin3477.com

The official Aladdin 3477 Facebook page is: www.Facebook.com/Aladdin3477