Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gold After Gray – Part 2

He smiled a grin that was a little too straight, a little too white and a little too fake. His hair was platinum and gold swept straight back. The eyes were as blue as the Mediterranean. His nose was Roman, crooked enough to be strikingly handsome. His cheekbones, elegant chin and jaw line hinted at some noble breeding. The dark suit he wore clung to him cut in a style reminiscent of European aristocracy. It traced the length of his tall, lithe body and made anyone who looked upon him aware of tense muscles filled with a power that could be unleashed any minute. He was out of place here in this dingy diner surrounded by obese truck drivers and used up women. None of them would look at him twice, as if they dare not see a picture of pure human beauty and know that they would never see it again. These types of people would not trust a man like him. Like a woman who hates another woman who is more beautiful, or a man who covets the wealth and perfection of another, he was a nemesis. But he couldn’t blame them; if he ever let anyone really know him they wouldn’t trust him either. They didn’t have to look at him though, they all felt like they had seen him, met him, before. When he looked at someone, when he addressed them it was as if he were speaking to an old friend, and that is how they responded. All these people would love him, if he wanted them to. He would not have to ask, they would ask him if they could. If he spoke a kind word to them they would feel blessed, and everything they thought upon first seeing him would be vapor in the breeze. He could make these men kill each other and burn this diner to the ground if he just called them “pal.” He smiled a moment at the thought then turned his mind back to business. He had no time for games. He was working.

The waitress watched the smile vanish from his face and she felt as if someone had turned out the lights. She stood, slouching, tapping her pen on a green pad, waiting for him to give her his order, which she hadn’t asked to take.

“Black coffee please, dear.” He spoke slowly, deliberately the feint accent of the moneyed south escaping his lips as they parted to flash that brilliant, odd smile. The waitress, well past her prime, blushed and felt something akin to chemistry crackle between them.

“You got it hon’” She answered a little breathlessly. She hadn’t been in the mood to call a customer “hon’” in years. Decades of serving the slobs who passed through this greasy spoon had worn away her desire to please and left a dry splintered courtesy that consisted of saying little and hearing less. Today, right now, she felt like she was eighteen again and this handsome stranger offered a world of endless possibilities; she only wanted to serve him perfectly. She served him from the fresh pot that was in reserve, waiting for the pot of stale brew to be wasted on the other customers. He accepted the cup graciously; looking into her eyes he thanked her. The waitress felt like she might be melting.

“Hey!” One of the perspiring truckers was yelling. “Hey you!” She was standing still waiting for the stranger to acknowledge her again. “Hey bitch! Damn you I need a refill.” The waitress turned her head violently, dull red hair flashing and spinning. The look of wonder had faded from her face, she felt forty two again and her moment’s entrancement had faded. She trudged down to the end of the counter and filled the loud mouth’s coffee cup from the fresh pot she was still holding. Annoyed by the brash loudness, the handsome stranger turned his head, painted the smile on his face and nudged the extremely large, bearded man on the stool next to him. The gigantic trucker turned his head lazily and frowned at the stranger. His grunt of acknowledgment sounded like it was ripped from a snoring grizzly bear.

“Hey, buddy.” Said the stranger, still smiling. The trucker’s demeanor changed in an instant. His frown vanished and the grin that split the salt and pepper of his beard was massive, yellow and crooked. “Fine morning ain’t it” said the stranger speaking in colloquialisms to more easily relate to the man.

“Best I have ever seen.” Said the huge trucker, ready, willing, and able to please.

“That bastard down at the end, the one with the loudmouth, he sure is mighty rude ain’t he?” The trucker turned his head to stare; when he looked back his face was ruddy with anger.

“Yeah, mighty rude… the bastard.” He agreed.

“I say somebody ought to whoop his ass, don’t ya think?”

“Yes!” The trucker nodded emphatically.

“You are a mighty big fella, I bet you could give him a good ass whoopin’ huh? The rude bastard.”

“I’ll kill that rude bastard!” the trucker blurted out and lifted his four hundred pound frame from the bar stool with a slow intensity. He faltered, turned to look back at his new friend and when he saw the strangers glittering smile he charged down to the end of the diner. “I’ll kill you, you rude bastard! You deserve an ass whoopin!” He screamed and with a dive as graceful as a jumping whale he buried his smaller, but still quite large, opponent.

“Don’t kill him pal!” The stranger shouted to his monstrous champion, and then he sat silently sipping his coffee. It tasted terrible to him and a thin layer of grease floated on top splattered into the air by the unwashed grill. At the end of the diner the big man was winning easily, punishing the loudmouth for his rudeness. Every once in a while the behemoth was heard to say “Rude bastard!” Soon he grew too tired to keep hitting the man and instead just laid on him recovering his wind, taking five, before he could hoist himself up and stumble back to his bar stool. The patrons had gathered around the moaning victim, he was beat up but not too bad. The fat man’s soggy fists were heavy but soft. “Nice work, chief” commented the stranger. The fat trucker beamed, he would feel no happier if he had just hit the New Mexico megabucks.

He turned back to the waitress who was grinning stupidly.

“Anything odd happen in these parts in the past few days, hun?” He asked

“Hell yeah!” she answered, happy to have some information to offer the handsome stranger. “Just last night some poor guy got his head beat in with a tire iron down at the Gas n’ Go.” Having what he came for he tossed a few dollars onto the counter and walked out.

As the finger print smeared diner door closed behind him a white sedan with the insignia of the county Sheriff turned off the two lane highway and rumbled lazily into the sun-baked parking lot. No lights flashing, no sign that the disruption inside was any type of emergency. The stranger stopped and leaned against the hood of his black BMW, his elegant form blending in with the sleek lines of the expensive automobile. From his coat pocket he mechanically produced a pair of dark sunglasses and nonchalantly unfolded and placed them on his face. This he did while watching the Sheriff park and step out of the dusty Buick. He was unimpressed, this was another good ol’ boy bumpkin lawman; over fifty, slightly paunchy, with just a hint of a former bullish physique, a mane of graying hair and sagging jowls. The Sheriff reached into the car grabbed his stiff brown hat and virtually slammed it down onto his head. As he approached the stranger could not catch his eyes, the morning sun was bright and the lawman still wore his dark glasses. He had hoped to charm some information from the Sheriff, anything he knew about the incident at the Gas n’ Go, but as the aging lawman approached, a small pin prick of fear ignited in the stranger’s belly. As the Sheriff moved closer it bloomed into a nervous anxiety. Composing himself the stranger laughed away this strange feeling.

“Howdy, boss.” He began “Mighty big tussle in there, I thought that big bastard was gonna kill that poor fella.” The Approaching Sheriff turned his head to look at the Stranger, but kept walking toward the diner door. “I saw it all, chief, I sure wouldn’t mind making a statement.” The Sheriff turned his eyes back to the diner, he never stopped walking. The subdued feeling exploded again in the stranger’s belly. How weak and vulnerable he felt at that moment, his trick had failed, like it never had before. Often young children were immune, but never a full grown man, a man who should be full of doubt searching for anything to fill a gaping hole in his psyche, a man, like all men, searching for approval. He wanted nothing more than to leave this damned county in this god forsaken state, to be far away from this man who had the power to take apart everything that he was, the man whose eyes had looked at him, into him, and found him lacking. The stranger hated that feeling more than anything.

A short lived moment of insanity grasped him he wanted to take the revolver from under the seat of his car and rush into the diner, to kill that old bastard who would not succumb to him, to eradicate any danger he might pose and then use his trick to make every person in the diner claim they had done it themselves. But the men at the top would not like that at all, they would want to know why he had done it, and if they ever found out his trick had failed, even one time, their need of him might rapidly disappear. He was a valuable tool, more valuable than most, only a few were better than he. Yet his stock would crumble if there were more men like this small time Sheriff in the world, luckily in 30 years he had never met another. Trembling slightly he composed himself, nervously smoothed the front of his jacket, straightened his collar and slid gracefully into the seat of his car. The engine roared to life and he carefully maneuvered out of the parking lot turning into the barren New Mexico desert in search of Nobody.

I have an Ereader, Yes I do.

One bright day in Sunny San Diego PoseySessions and I walked into a Barnes & Noble and we walked out with a Nook. It was an amazing gift from the greatest gal ever. So I have an ereader (more like we have one, I think she uses it as much as me) so what, right? No! I have found this device to be a blessing, and sometimes a curse. One amazing thing about owning an ereader is the freedom it offers. I can get any book anytime I want and I can take it and a thousand others anywhere I go. It is also ergonomic. While opening a book and holding it in your hands is not the most physically demanding of activities, it can sometimes be annoying, especially with big bulky hardcovers, that refuse to lay flat or cooperate with our one handed attempts at holding them while multitasking. My nook lays flat anywhere, that is actually the first thing I realized I loved about it. I could set it on my lap and hold my bag of chi…err carrot sticks in one hand and double half calf soy milk mocha frap in the other, and never once have to contend with the pages slowly creeping shut on me. So I guess I fell in love with the lazy factor.

The amount of books I have on my nook is ridiculous, honestly I dont think I will ever read them all, even though I would love to do it someday. Along with books my nook is also home to a number of academic articles that, because the Nook reads .pdf, are easily accessible for studying on the go. Thanks to sites like Project Gutenberg I feel like I am never far away from thousands of (free) and enlightening books. After entertaining lectures, or reading the bibliography of a particularly good book I find myself browsing the Gutenberg library of public domain books in search of more and more information on whatever topic has caught my eye. Another amazing site is NetGalley where book reviewers big and small (me) have access to hundreds of ebook ARCs made available for review purposes. Between these two sites I will never run out of stuff to read.

However neat it may be, gathering thousands of books is not really a good thing. I have no sense of urgency or expenditure, and I am often lacking motivation to read or finish the books I have amassed. When I think of reading something on my Nook I often end up saying “I can read that anytime".” Whereas, having checked it out from a library, or more pressingly, spent money on it I am much more likely to read something. Every ebook I have paid for has been read to completion on the device. But the other few hundred remain unopened, so far.

I feel a little silly complaining about having too many books. So I will stop now. And instead focus on why I think the device, and to a lesser extent the Kindle (I have only spent a few minutes using one) are still lacking necessary features, or maybe feature. I first envisioned the Nook as a great way to further and assist my studies. I have spent many hours with my faced buried in articles from academic journals, sometimes printing over 100 pages of them in one sitting. I dreamt of easily highlighting and annotating my articles and then during discussions easily searching my notes for points. It did not happen this way. Highlighting and annotating on a Nook is an excruciating process that takes the reader out of the article and into a maze of menus and buttons. So much so that I refuse to do it. I manually (with a pen and paper!!!) write notes and page numbers to avoid having to manipulate the device. In next gen readers I would love to see easy touch screen highlighting that automatically popped up a little touch keypad where notes could be entered, and then a notes file generated where then entire ebook could be uploaded to a pc in highlighted and annotated form with a glossary of notes. Cross your fingers.

In the end I think ereaders are a wave of the future, not THE wave of the future. I do not see them easily replacing paper books. Their is a romanticism surrounding the bound book and I doubt it disappears rapidly. Only when every other aspect of society is paperless do I think we will see real physical books go the way of the buffalo. An ebook reader is a great investment just in terms convenience. When you consider the low prices of some of the great readers on the market they even make sense financially. Some of the best stories ever written, some of the most interesting philosophy, and some of mankind’s greatest observations are freely available in public domain. For the price of ten or twelve of those books in paper copies you could own your own ereader packed with hundreds of them for free. I know a lot of people are resistant to making the switch. But I don't think of it as an all or nothing change. My Nook has its place, as do the hundreds of physical books I have lining my bookshelves. The Nook merely compliments my reading and makes getting a book on demand so much easier. I downloaded a book while standing in the middle of times square, because I just couldn't wait! and for me, that's freedom.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gold After Gray - Short Story – Part 1

The spot on my shirt is blood; it once belonged to a man in a suit. The blood, that is, not the shirt. I beat him to death with a tire iron in the parking lot of a gas station in New Mexico. I watched as he pushed around the woman who was with him, I was going to walk away, until he hit her. That dark spot on my sleeve will probably be the first thing you notice about me, and the only thing. Most of my life no one I have met twice could remember my face, or put a name to it. It’s not quite like being invisible, but it is close. It never occurred to me until I was twenty two years old that I was a ghost, or a shadow, or whatever it is you want to call me. As a child things were not this way. I was not a remarkable child, never stood out at much of anything, but most faces looking back at me carried a spark of recognition. Parents, teachers, friends, and classmates all knew my name. It wasn’t until puberty that my identity just started sliding away, it was there but it couldn’t be grasped, like oil on water.

Soon I was the kid in the back of the class; I had to repeat my name every time the teacher had a whim to call on me for an answer. When my name was read for roll call it was like it was the first time, I was always the new kid. It started slow; most people still caught hold of me, all but the least astute. Gradually it became worse, by the time I graduated high school only the most observant, the sharpest, with the most organized minds could recognize my face. I attempted to go to college, but I began to resent being asked every day if I belonged in each class. Before long I felt like I didn’t. It became impossible to hold a job. I spent many long hours wondering what was going wrong with the world. Then I wondered what was wrong with me, what was my flaw, why did nobody care to know me, to be close to me, to learn my name. For a long time I struggled and when I found no answers I went home.

My mother slammed the door in my face.

The police officers who arrived after I refused to leave the doorstep escorted me off the property and asked me not to return. But I did. The next day I went back, my mother smiled when she opened the door and asked pleasantly, “can I help you?” No. The truth about what I was began to needle itself into my brain. At first I refused to listen to it, I laughed at myself. After returning every day for three weeks I could no longer hold back the tide of reality. I was nobody. There has never been a name for what I have become. Not a doppelganger, I can’t change my appearance. I don’t look like someone new every day. I look like myself, when I see my reflection in the mirror it is always the same. There is no fancy descriptor for my face, my hair or my skin. “Not quite” would be the preferred verbiage were someone to attempt to detail me to a sketch artist. “Not quite tall, or short” “Not quite blonde or brown” “Not quite heavy or thin” with gray eyes. The mean cloak of mediocrity has taken away everything that I am… or could have been.

So I began to wander and test the limits of my strangeness, for that is all I can call it. For a while I thought I might be a super hero blessed with a mighty power to use to fight crime and help those besieged by the criminal element. But I never have had much of an imagination, and the luster soon wore off that idea. What would the damsel in distress cry moments before she is ravaged by thugs, “Help me…uh, what’s his name again?” A proper super hero gets the credit; he is valiantly humble of course and hides behind his mask. But the world knows Batman saved the day. It does not work like that when you are your own alter ego.

So here I am, in a gas station in New Mexico buying a pack of cigarettes. The clerk asks me if I saw what happened to that guy outside. She did. She explains it to me, apparently some maniac bashed his head in with a tire iron. She left out the part where that maniac walked behind the station, washed his hands in the restroom, put his jacket on to cover the blood stain on his sleeve and is now handing over three one dollar bills.

My name is Elias Gray.

I am 38 years old.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes.

SpookHead

October is approaching with sureness and slowness, it shambles with a malevolent gait. It creeps ever closer and with it it brings frosty mornings, falling leaves and waves of ghosts and ghoulies. October is one of my favorite, and most hated months at the same time. I have a serious dislike of fall, I do not find the dying leaves pretty, for me they are merely a hideous reminder (along with the dropping mercury in my thermometer) that in the immortal words of the long dead Ned Stark, “Winter is Coming.” But, a small ray of sunshine penetrates the gray fall days. Halloween! Okay, let me be more clear. I am not a huge fan of the holiday itself, but I LOVE the aura that surrounds it. The creepy feelings and the television flooded with reruns of my favorite paranormal themed programming. So I tolerate October, and then vent my wrath on November when it comes around. November is gonna get it this year, I had a really great Summer and I'm extra resentful that it is fading away.

And to the matter at hand. Spookfest 2010. To celebrate October this year Mr.X is going to take you all on a roller coaster ride adventure through some of my favorite paranormal stuff, and I will be reading and reviewing a few new things! (new to me anyway) Starting with The Dead Boys, the review of which will kick off the event on October 1st. So stick around I am going to cover several books, some TV shows and at least one documentary.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lone Eagle – Walter L Hixson

What follows is a rough draft of a critical analysis for my history readings seminar.

0321093232 Charles Lindbergh will forever be remembered as the hero of one of America’s greatest victories, and the victim of one of its most noteworthy crimes. The life of Lindbergh was characterized by passion and zeal, and interrupted by crushing tragedy. In his biography of the great aviator Walter L. Hixson sets out to chronicles both the high and low points of the life of Charles Lindbergh. In a mere 160 pages Hixson lays out a story that stretches from a farm in Minnesota to the palaces of Europe; from St. Louis and the birth of a legend, to a whitewashed home in Southern New Jersey and a national catastrophe. Lindbergh captured the American imagination, not only with flight, but heroism itself. In this work Hixson attempts to reignite the larger than life legend that was Charles Lindbergh, to explain the way he gripped the hearts and minds of every American, and how he fell from grace.

Currently a professor in the history department at the University of Akron, Walter L Hixson is the author of several books including a biography of George F. Kennan and politically focused history works such as: Parting the Curtain; Propaganda, Culture, and the Cold War and Witness to Disintegration:

Provincial Life in the Last Year of the USSR. It comes then as no surprise the level of detail used by Hixson when delving into the political intrigue of Lindbergh’s life. Of much interest is Hixson’s recently published work The Myth of American Diplomacy, themes of which can be seen scattered throughout Lone Eagle. It is readily apparent that Hixson sympathized with Lindbergh, and from a quick glance at his other works it becomes apparent the two shared similar political ideals.

On a technical level Lone Eagle sometimes suffers from confusing word choice, poor syntax and sloppy editing. A glaring example of which can be seen in chapter five when in blatant redundancy Hixson writes “Instead of flying West, the Lindberghs would go north by the Great Circle Route. Instead of flying West, they would Fly North.”[1] On other occasions Hixson confuses groups or entities and speaks of them as if they were individuals leading the reader on a confusing backtracking expedition to sort out his train of thought.[2] Hixson is not a master of prose, but he makes up for a lack of technical writing skill with a strong grasp of ideas and their importance in the life of both Lindbergh and ordinary Americans.

Hixson does well at relating the different eras through which Lindbergh lived. He captures the spirit of the 1920s and the need for a great American hero, as well as the tense political years between the outbreak of WWII in Europe and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Hixson masterfully explains the American fascination with Lindbergh, how the aviator was vaulted into legend status, he encapsulates the collective consciousness of the United States and connects it the explosions of hero worship that surrounded Lindbergh after his New York to Paris flight. Hixson also succeeds in explaining the mind of Lindbergh as he is faced with challenge upon challenge stemming from his universal adulation and the death of his first child. Lone Eagle succeeds in conveying the importance of ideas in the life of Lindbergh; how those ideas drove him from the farm in Minnesota to Paris, Mexico City, the microphone at an anti-war rally and into the cockpit of a fighter plane flying over the Pacific theater.

It is readily apparent that Hixson identifies with his subject, and perhaps the author is infected with a bit of the hero worship which he so deftly explains to the reader. He writes of Lindbergh’s disillusionment with American society. He begs for the reader to understand, not condemn, Lindbergh’s decision to flee the United States. Considering the vein of Hixson’s previous work, it is clear that he sympathized to a large extent with Lindbergh’s feelings. Both apparently share a certain cynicism regarding American culture and exceptionalism. Hixson goes so far as to contend that the American identity prescribed to by most Americans is nothing short of Mythical. With such a jaded view of American society it calls into question Hixson’s description of Lindbergh’s life and thought process. The reader cannot be sure what part of his rendition is accurate and what part is a projection of his personal bias onto the life of an American hero.

Lindbergh largely gets a pass from Mr. Hixson for a number of controversial statements and ideas. The author often seeks to explain away many of Lindbergh’s less than politically correct personal traits. A statement about building “White ramparts” against the intrusion of the “pressing sea of the Yellow, Black, and Brown” is explained away by the author as a reaction to a minor incident in China years before. Hixson repeatedly attempts to sanitize Lindbergh’s ties to the Nazi party, dismissing or explaining away every argument presented against him. Hixson admits Lindbergh believed that democracy would fall, and even though he preferred fascism to take its place, referred to Hitler as a “great man” and found a “sense of decency” in the Third Reich, Hixson, time and again, claims that Lindbergh was not a fascist. It was merely the way the “compulsive energy of the Nazi regime mirrored Lindbergh’s own personality.” Hixson calls Lindbergh’s refusal to condemn Nazi atrocities “plain speaking.” He refuses to connect Lindbergh’s hatred of communism to anything other than a fierce patriotic sentiment, leaving out his admiration for fascism, the antithesis of communism.

While Lone Eagle does laudable job at relaying the factual details of the life of an American hero, the bias shown by its author bleeds across its pages and serves to discredit any objective statement it hopes to make about the mind of Charles Lindbergh. Hixson seeks to project a certain style of thinking onto Lindbergh, a series of opinions that strikingly resemble those of Hixson as published in his later works. A questionable bias coupled with subpar narrative skill make Lone Eagle a mediocre book, at best, for the investigation of the life of Lindbergh. The most relevant part of the book for any objective study into the subject of Charles Lindbergh is found in the sources, and the notes on those sources found in the back of the book. A reader would be better served by turning to these sources for their information, free of added bias. Hixson’s Lone Eagle was a poor entry into the category of Charles Lindbergh biographies.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Witch & Wizard – James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Witch-and-Wizard

I think it is safe to say James Patterson’s Witch & Wizard has an awesome cover. It was the cover that initially attracted me to the book. Upon mentioning it to PoseySessions she told me it was a YA dystopian novel, at which point I became even more interested. I looked around locally for a copy and didn't find one and had partially forgotten about it when one day last week my awesome lady handed me a copy out of the blue. I cracked it open immediately and almost let out a verbal wah wah waaaaaah of disappointment. The first few pages were bad, they read like a cheesy children’s story full of unimaginative clich├ęs and lame parodies. (Freida Halo? Lay-Z? Really?) But what did I expect from a writer who publishes a book on a nearly monthly basis, a writer who depends on writers like Charbonnet to write his first drafts for him, a writer who has admitted he is not a master of prose? I guess I expected more than the watered down and uninspired shell of a story that is the first few chapters.

With & Wizard improves dramatically as the book progresses, the final 2/3rds of the book encompasses a pretty good story. It is a solid page turner, but it is by no means a “good” book. The characters in the novel are horrendous, poorly imagined, poorly written and just all around unbelievable and impossible to identify with. I would never expect such levity from two kids about to be executed. The last I knew being ripped from one’s parents in the dead of night and told you were going to be killed was not an opportunity for sardonic humor. Yes it is a kids book, but even that does not excuse the atrocious and shallow style in which the book is written. It really feels like the cliff notes version of a pretty good book. The story is there, but the writing leaves too much to be desired.

Witch & Wizard was not a YA book, it landed solidly in Middle Grade territory, written for readers maybe 12 years old. Patterson is hammering a very young audience with complex political messages that are boiled down and presented in an uncomplicated way. Dystopia by its nature is political. Witch & Wizard deals with political messages that the target audience cannot understand. This book presents a young reader with a deep distrust of authority, community, adults and a burgeoning misanthropic sentiment. Sure its a neat fairy tale message, the likes of Peter Pan, to tell kids they can rule the world. Patterson, in this novel walks a fine line between enriching our children with a sense of individuality and empowerment, and propagandizing them.

In summation, Witch & Wizard is a decent page turner, a good story poorly told. But in the end it seems like the shell of a book that could have been great if filled with more substance. Patterson is not a good writer, and only a fair storyteller. The best reason for a child to read this book is for the motivational factor. A 12 year old aspiring writer can look at this and say to himself “if this guy can get rich writing like this, there is no reason I can’t as well.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Emotionally Invested

a-game-of-thrones eye_of_the_world way-of-kings Sometimes a series grips me so deeply that I lose a part of myself to it. Almost like a relationship I feel a strong emotional connection to the characters, the story, and even the author. And because I feel so strongly it happens that sometimes an author does something that disappoints, or even hurts my feelings a little bit. Such has been the case with two modern fantasy series. A Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time. Both are sweeping fantasy epics, both are insanely popular, and both are unfinished.

I came to the Wheel of Time when book 8 was just about to be published. I devoured them all quickly and was left waiting for more, then waiting, and waiting, and waiting. The remaining books dribbled out sometimes with years between them. Soon I became frustrated with Jordan, I questioned his choices, then I got angry, I condemned him, the pacing of the tale, the seemingly endless number unnecessary characters, the superfluous POVs all combined to turn me off the series that I loved. The straw that broke the camel’s back, he published a PREQUEL. I could not understand it, but I read it, and I loved it, one of my favorite books in the series. But it still annoyed me enough that I decided I was done with the series. Why, in the middle of this long drawn out affair, did he feel like the flow needed to be interrupted with a prequel? It was too much for me, I have not picked up a Wheel of Time book since.

When Robert Jordan got sick I made up with him, I visited his blog often to see how he was doing. I was really pulling for him, and still had decided I was not going to finish reading the series, but a big part of me wanted to know it was finished. Like a long departed girlfriend, I cared about the series once, and I wanted the best for it. But things did not work out the way I had hoped and Mr. Jordan passed away, I felt silly about the things I had said in frustration. I celebrated his accomplishments, and I hoped the series would be picked up and finished to his original notes. But I still had not planned on reading it, even less so now that I would never know if it was Jordan’s vision on the page or someone else’.

I have still been feeling some resentment towards Mr. George R.R. Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire series. In my opinion this is the best epic fantasy series I have ever read, and the fact that I am still waiting for another book is really hurting my feelings. Doesn't Mr. Martin understand how much I have invested into his characters!? What bothers me most about the way Martin is handling the series is the cavalier attitude he has towards his fans. He has not updated on the progress of a Dance With Dragons on his official update page since Jan. 1, 2008, and the last book was published in 2005. In his blog Martin once stated he does not understand his reader’s frustration, that statement made me feel like he was not connected to his fan base. In the meantime he has completed a handful of other projects, with no update on the progress of his half-decade awaited novel. In the end it is Martin’s prerogative to work on what he pleases, he could scrap the whole series now and would not have to justify it to me or anyone else. Yet there is a sense of anxiety when something you love is in the hands of someone else, and I keep finding myself taking out my frustration, as unjustified as it is, on the authors who created and love these stories as much as I do.

Enter Brandon Sanderson and The Stormlight Archive Series. I am sitting here with The Way of Kings on my Nook, chewing my fingernails in despair. Sanderson has stated this will be a 10 book affair published on a 2 books per 3 year schedule. That means by picking up this novel I am risking the same sort of attachment and a 15 year commitment. Am I the type of reader who can handle it? I would like to think I am, but I just do not know. One thing is certain, however, Sanderson is a fantastic fantasy writer. He has single handedly reignited my interest in the Wheel of Time, and in an ode to Mr. Jordan I will one day finish the series. It makes me happy to write that, like I have found closure.

I think I have erred in approaching these types of series. Instead of a whirlwind love affair, an involvement with epic fantasy is a lifetime commitment one that requires patience and understanding. It is important that a reader leave his sense of entitlement at the door in favor of respect, the author wants the best for his books as well. And a show of support will probably go a long way in making sure the stories you want to read are released in a timely manner. The best part of these series is not in the initial read through but the anticipation of the next plot twist, the entertaining discourse with fellow fans, and the lasting mark they make on the reader. A great thing about epic fantasy series, is one thing I have often condemned, they don’t end quickly, I am not left feeling a little sad that I have read all there is to read about my favorite characters. I feel like the frustration is a sign of how much I love a story, if I did not love it I would not care.

So Mr. Jordan, Mr. Martin, accept my apologies, please, and know I am a loyal fan. Mr. Sanderson, I am about to let you hook me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Easy A, Easily A+

easy_a There is a small part of me that groans when I see a preview for an action film, or a comedy and its followed by a PG-13 rating. It is not necessary for a film to be dirty to be funny, but something about going into an R rated film lets you know that anything can happen. In a PG-13 flick it is assumed from the get go that it just wont be as funny, because you know right off the bat that the sky isn't the limit. I had that, and a few other feelings about Easy A. It is a high school sex comedy, usually good for a few laughs, it is driven by a female lead, *groan* chick flick!? And it is rated PG-13, to me all those do not add up to a memorable, roll on the floor, side splitting comedy film. (Do not get me wrong, I enjoy films with female leads, its just an angsty high school sex romp seems to be a genre that is much more male driven.)

Readers, I was wrong. Easy A was one of the funniest films I have seen in probably 5 years. From start to finish I was caught in a belly laugh hurricane and could not escape. There is something special about this film, like a perfect comedic storm. Emma Stone is unflappable, she lets her acting chops shine in this role. She took the part seriously and it shows. Easy A is a lot like the film in which she first gained notoriety, Superbad, but funnier. While the film is anchored by Stone, the teenage cast surrounding her is nothing short of mediocre. The film really knocks it out of the park with the adults, Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are all wonderful. The adults are underutilized in a smart way. They break from what could have ended up an after school special type,up-its-own-butt comedy, filled with pretentious teenagers equating their problems to the severity of the Cold War, and without the flashes of Tucci and Clarkson at home, and Church at school Easy A would have been nowhere near as good as it was. But, the point is, they WERE there, and they all three are hilarious. I am praying for a Tucci – Church buddy comedy soon.

The themes in Easy A are pure high school. Reputation, gossip, promiscuity, all handled in a very thoughtful way. It shows us an empowered high school girl who has stepped out of the role of victim and has taken control of her own reputation. The film made a great statement about getting what we want, and how sometimes it is not what we think it will be. I was into this film from start to finish, despite the flashbacks to other movies, and the predictable ending. This is one to see, parents take your teen out and then talk to them about the movie. This is a great way to get a message across.

And on another note, now I try not to be too mean on this blog, but I just have to know: WHAT HAPPENED TO AMANDA BYNES!? I mean she is not fat, but her face looks like she is getting Botox everywhere, not just in the right places.This was seriously distracting for me, everytime she was on the screen I turned to PoseySessions and asked “what happened to her face!?”

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I love fantasy. I was about 8 years old when my dad read me The Hobbit, and around 12 when I finished my first read through The Lord of The Rings. Ever since I have sought out and enjoyed many fantasy series. In one year, I read 60 fantasy books, 40ish being my average. However, lately my fantasy reading has stalled, I have found very few new and worthwhile fantasy authors, and have read so much of the genres back catalogue over the past 15 years that I feel like I am caught up, waiting desperately for something new and exciting to come out. That feeling has dropped me out of the fantasy mainstream for the past couple of years, and I have instead been reading academic history and politics books in order to round out my education. It is rapidly approaching time for me to graduate college, and with a light semester upon us I have been searching high and low for new and interesting fantasy to read. Poseysessions introduced me to Brandon Sanderson and Elantris.

I will jump right in and say Ioved I Elantris, it was the best, and most original fantasy novel I have read since Michael Moorecock's tales of Elric of Melnibone. Sanderson writes with a dry narrative style that allows the stark reality of his world penetrate the reader imagination. Elantris is refreshingly free of flowery embellishment, or sappy emotional overtones. While the characters in the story suffer, it is a dignified, humble suffreing that shines through in Elantris. Along with a masterful use of the invisible style, Sanderson is a genius worldbuilder. Because Elantris is a standalone novel it made sense that Sanderson did not bog down the story with unneccesary details about the world. Arelon and Elantris are wonderfully portrayed, as theya re the focus of the story. The rest of Sanderson's world feels real and definite, each culture is explained well inasmuch as it affects the story at hand.

The Magic in the story is one of the biggest assets to the book. Sanderson created a magical system that is based in reason, yet remains mystical. The payoff regarding Elantrian magic is simple and that simplicity lends credit to Sanderson's imaginitive process. I thoroughly enjoyed Raoden's discovery , especially because Sanderson made the magic based in notions of science that allowed me to solve the problem regarding AonDor pages before the main character. This is consistent with Sanderson's view that magic in his books is always based in the natural laws of the worlds he creates. As a reader I appreciate the fact the there is no Deus Ex Machina in Elantris. It makes the reader (me) feel like Sanderson is an author who has faith in my ability to reason.

Elantris was not a book without its shortcomings. For a fantasy book I felt it suffered from a lack of action, especially a climbing story arc. The first 500 pages felt like a continuing arrangement of point counterpoint by the Sarene and Hrathen. The only point of view that seemed to have a rising storyling was Raoden's and even that was broken midway through the tale, only to be restored later on. The climax finally came in the last 10% of the book, yet it felt totally unconnected to the previous pages. Sanderson end-loaded the book, a huge chunk of the movement of the story happens after page 500. There are very few "carrots" for the reader in the first three quarters of the book, and without story movement, or action, the reader is left with (the very well written) political intrigue. Which was more than enough for this reader to fall in love with Elantris.

My final gripe with the book was the lack of character depth, while I did grow fond of Hrathen, Raoden, and Sarene, I felt the latter two lacked depth and cahracter development, there were both very one note. Hrathern, however, was extremely well written and developed, his inner struggle was a point on which the story hung for me, that along with the mystery beind him made constantly wonder how he would turn the tale.

Elantris was a good, bordering on great fantasy read, while I did have a few technical gripes with the story I felt myself slowing down my reading as I reached the end, soemthing that is common for me when nearing the end of a book I love. I just do not want it to be over. I wish Elantris was a series and not just a standalone novel. I am impressed that Sanderson fit so much lore and intrigue into a single volume, especially for a debut work. It speaks to Sanderson's place among the top tier talent of fantasy writers.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Part 2.

childwatchingtelevisionsilhouette_th While in part 1 of our fall television expose I focused on television comedy, the culmination will instead shine the spotlight on TV drama. A genre of television which I find very hit or miss. There are two types of TV Drama, the serialized and the single contained episode. Forgive me if I am not nailing the insider jargon. I have a huge problem watching serialized drama, and this is a personal thing, but I cannot watch, no matter how good it is, a single story broken up into one hour segments. In the past I have gotten around this problem by using my DVR and waiting for an entire season to end before watching. I have sat through full day marathons of both Heroes and Dexter. Shows like Law and Order that tell a story to completion in a single episode are even less appealing to me, I feel there is an inherent weakness in crafting a story arc that is over in 42 minutes. These shows try to remedy this by inserting storylines that span an entire season, but for the most part they are not really necessary to improve the drama, or keeping the viewers attention, and in the end just feel tacked on.

There are a ton of cheap TV dramas out there, a ton I just do not like. If I may offend a few more people, True Blood, Weeds, Californication, these are examples of cheap soap operas elevated to smut status by the privilege of airing on premium channels. Especially in True Blood, the acting is terrible and the stories are mainly a vehicle for the delivery of soft core vampire porn.

I have also come to the conclusion that any television drama that focuses on a police station, a court room, or a hospital is not much more than a rerun with new faces. Actually, there is one exception.

So which TV dramas don't suck?

House – Fox Mondays

house-md The one exception to the Police Station, Court Room, Hospital rule. House is the best television drama to take place in a hospital since, ummmm, MASH? Not because it is entirely original, no it is still a hospital, there are still a bunch of good looking doctors, and a fair amount of sexual tension, but House is jam packed with interesting characters, and INTERESTING medical story lines. To be honest, the title character is why we love this show. Hugh Laurie has knocked it out of the park with his portrayal of the cynical drug addled Greg House. As scene stealing as Laurie’s performances are he is surrounded by an amazing cast of actors. Season 7, which is rumored to be the final season, holds much in store for Greg House.

Dexter – Showtime Sundays

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Dexter, for me, has been the most consistently interesting drama on television. I picked up a copy of season 1 on DVD and was pleasantly surprised. Based on the books series by Jeff Lindsay, it follows the story of one Dexter Morgan, sociopath, serial killer, and forensic blood expert working for the Miami Police Department. Ok, SOME of the show takes place in a police department, but that is not the focus, so back off! Dexter is a great character, he is well thought out, and brought to the small screen with finesse by Michael C. Hall. The writing on the show is great. The viewer gets to the roots of this dark antihero, and learns to love this cold blooded killer. The twist is, although Dexter is a murderer, he only kills other bad guys. His access to police information, and years of training have turned him into an efficient killing machine. The show juxtaposes Dexter’s planning and stalking of his next victim with the police work focused on solving another murder, sometimes one Dexter himself is responsible for. The show is fresh, it strays away from many of the tropes of the mainstream crime drama. The gray area in Dexter’s world is wide and deep, with even the stolid good guys often wandering in and out of it.

One complaint I have with the show is the fact that besides Dexter (SPOILERISH) none of the cast seem to have a much of chance at survival. A couple of my favorites have been killed off, and his loudmouth sister is still around, that is definitely a downside. Despite that fact Dexter is still one of the most innovative dramas on TV right now. I highly recommend you tune in.

New Stuff

Boardwalk Empire – HBO

IT’S STEVE BUSCEMI!

No really it is, if you do not think this looks friggin’ fantastic then check your pulse! The cast alone is a home run, there are a lot of people in that trailer that you have seen before, whose names you might not recognize, but they are almost ALL great character actors. And Buscemi, it is about friggin’ time, this man can carry this series, heck he could carry anything, he is beyond talented, and oh so under appreciated. I am also uber excited to see Stephen Graham (Tommy from Snatch) as Al Capone, Michael Pitt (The Village) and Kelly Macdonald (Choke, No Country For Old Men). These and more great actors are cast in this period drama. From the trailer everything looks authentic and fantastic. I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

The Event – NBC

Let it be known JJ Abrams has never impressed me. I have seen maybe 2 episodes of lost, and Cloverfield, while not bad was only an “OK” in my book. The Event, however, is striking a chord with me. It hits on a lot of my interests, politics, spy drama, and mysterious happenings. The trailer is not getting me too excited, but the idea behind the series, coupled with Abrams reputations for doing good things (lots of people loved Lost, even though it was not my thing) have got me waiting patiently for this one.

Honorable Mentions

There are a handful of other shows of which I didn't write in this post, that I (will) try to watch.

Modern Family – a funny, slightly quirky sitcom airing on ABC. Entering its second season, the show is definitely worth catching up on if only to see Ed O’Neill back in a role as the patriarch of a slightly dysfunctional family.

Raising Hope and Running Wilde – Both new entries to the FOX lineup are worth trying out when they premiere after Glee on Tuesdays this Fall. Running Wilde stars Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame, and Raising Hope seems to be a comedy in the vein of My Name Is Earl.

Shit My Dad Says – Airing Thursday nights on CBS this has potential to be one of the funniest sitcoms ever, all be it a slim one. If you have read the Shit My Dad says tweets then you know this is not prime time network material. If CBS captures the spirit of the Shit His Dad Says this will be great, but it could also easily be another cookie cutter sitcom about an irascible father and a long suffering family. I will be tuning in to find out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Flashback - The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams



Friday Flashbacks are short reviews of books I have read previously to starting the Mind of Mr.X, they are dug out of memory and based on the lasting impression each book has made on me.

The Dragonbone Chair is the first book in the epic fantasy series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It follows the story of the young orphan Simon who struggles through his unfortunate life as an apprentice in the Castle Hayholt in the troubled land of Osten Ard. From it’s outset The Dragonbone Chair seems very similar to other stories in the genre, but as Simon leaves Castle Hayholt and journeys into the fantastic world created by Williams the reader soon realizes that he is immersed in a unique fantasy experience.

Tad Williams does epic fantasy well. Osten Ard is a land of racial tensions, political scheming, corruption, and religious persecution. What sets this story apart is not the narrative but the world through which Simon travels. The characters are well written and come to life on the page. While the book stumbles on many familiar fantasy tropes, there is plenty of uniqueness to keep the reader fixated on the story. The story weaves together multiple narrative threads throughout the book. Simon often seems bland and uninspired but the supporting characters carry him along extremely well. He is the vehicle through which this story is told. Williams has also created one of the finest fantasy villains of all time in the evil priest Pyrates; he is enigmatically wicked and aloof. It is William’s ability to present known characters to the fantasy reader in a new way that brings so much life to his storytelling.

While The Dragonbone Chair relies on many of the fantasy archetypes, Williams has successfully created a diverse and interesting world populated with characters the read will both love and hate. The fresh ideas brought by Williams to the series are more than enough to entice the reader to follow Simon on his journey to save Osten Ard from the perils of the Storm King.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thomas Jefferson – R.B. Bernstein

What follows is a rough draft of a critical review written for my history seminar.thomas-jefferson-richard-b-bernstein-paperback-cover-art

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Thomas Jefferson has been, and remains to this day, one of the most enigmatic figures in American history. A slew of biographers have tackled the tale of his life, attempting to tell the story of the man whose vision, perhaps more than anyone else, served to shape the United States of America. In his work, aptly titled Thomas Jefferson, R.B. Bernstein takes up the title of Jefferson biographer and attempts to do just that. His efforts have produced a short, concise, work encompassing much of the important moments of Jefferson’s political career.

Bernstein was a practicing attorney who turned historian in 1983, his focus is constitutional and law history. Bernstein is a prolific author, and along with this book has written several others on the founding of the United States and the drafting of the Constitution, including: Amending America, Are We to Be a Nation, and The Founding Fathers Reconsidered. Published in 2003 the timing and the tone of Thomas Jefferson fit well into post-9/11 America. In the prologue Bernstein relates the era of the American Revolution to that of America after September 11th. At first the comparison is off-putting, and reads like another cheap invocation of the tragedy. However, as the reader continues deeper into the book he realizes the connection Bernstein was trying to make and why it works.

Thomas Jefferson is a short book. In a field of study that has been typified by massive multivolume biographies it is a breath of fresh air to see a concise biography of one of America’s most enigmatic public servants. To achieve brevity Bernstein took a different tack with his book. It reads less like a biography and more like a primer in early American politics from the point of view of Jefferson. Chapter two specifically lacks much detail on the happenings of Jefferson’s life and instead focuses on pre-revolutionary war politics. Jefferson is invoked on occasion, but no more than he would be in the course of a normal investigation on the subject. The brief nature of Thomas Jefferson belies what the book has to say. Bernstein conveys a powerful message using sparse details of Jefferson’s life. The reader walks away from the book feeling fulfilled, and if nothing else understands how much the American scholarly society does not understand the man who was Thomas Jefferson.

While it is apparent that Bernstein was attempting to write a non-biased biography of Thomas Jefferson, a few key themes became clear in the book. Bernstein may have been leery of using the term hypocrite, but that is how Jefferson is portrayed in the work. Bernstein spends a lot of time bemoaning Jefferson’s seemingly split personality, his tendency to say multiple things on the same topic, to express a love for liberty, yet own slaves, or to preach the narrowness off the Constitution while grasping powers not granted in it. The picture painted of Jefferson in the book is not a flattering one. Bernstein speaks of him as a man of high minded ideals, yet in action he is a typical politician. Bernstein is not an apologist, he never seeks to explain Jefferson’s motives for his actions, only to relay and attempt to understand them. In the prologue Bernstein mentions the enigma that modern scholarship has made out of Thomas Jefferson. He attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the man by confronting Jefferson’s duality head on and laying it bare for the reader to understand. In this Bernstein succeeds in portraying Jefferson not as a mystery man, but a man consumed by opposing ideas. If, as according to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”[1] Thomas Jefferson, according to Bernstein’s portrayal, would own the finest intellect in American history.

Thomas Jefferson was a timely work. As in the American Revolution, post-9/11 America was briefly united against a common enemy, but as the dust cleared the great dichotomy of thought reappeared and the gap separating left from right spread even wider and deeper. Bernstein’s biography served to remind the reader that American politics has always been highly polarized, and ideas, whichever side they may be on are not the end all and be all of governance. Bernstein held up Thomas Jefferson as an ideal American, one of the greatest of our founding fathers, who also suffered many personal demons; like the country he helped to birth. Jefferson was a single man consumed by conflicting ideas, as the USA is a single country so divided. Bernstein’s portrait of the duality of Thomas Jefferson serves as a wakeup call to the reader. Arguably the greatest single supporter of American liberty and government himself struggled to reconcile the same ideas Americans squabble over today, and if the Union preserved then, so it shall preserve in the face of our current obstacles.

Thomas Jefferson was a well written, timely, and concise book. It managed to relate a large volume of information to the reader in an easily readable way. The narrative never bogged down in technical details, and rarely dragged or relayed information that the reader feels is not necessary. Due to its brevity the book leaves out many details of Jefferson’s life that may have been interesting to include, especially that of his childhood and his role as a father and husband. It is however understandable that the main focus of the book is on American politics as seen through the eyes of the third President of the United States, and in this Thomas Jefferson succeeds very well as a primer and a starting point for the study of both American History and the life of Thomas Jefferson.


[1] Esquire Magazine (March 1936)

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Mormon and the Mythical.

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It has recently come to my attention, that a number of writers who share a faith with myself ( I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or a Mormon, for short) are emerging as very popular, very successful writers of fantasy fiction. This has led to much discussion and debate between PoseySessions and myself as to what it is about the faith that may lend to the emergence of a “Mormon Fantasy” trend. It must first be noted that upon reading a non-religious fantasy story by any of these authors it will not be apparent that they A.) are Mormon or B.) Share a common faith. I read the first 2 books of the Runelords series by David Farland years ago, and was just recently informed that he was a member of the Church. There are no common themes, no singular way of dealing with religion, and no obvious influences of the faith upon the fantasy works of its member authors.

With all that being said, a growing number of LDS writers are gaining widespread followings in arena of “speculative fiction” (a term I do not really like applying to the Fantasy genre) Although authors like Orson Scott Card, Tracy Hickman and David Farland have been on the scene for a while, more recent writers to gain popularity include the likes of Stephanie Meyer, James Dashner, Brandon Mull and Brandon Sanderson.

I have read numerous speculations about Mormon fantasy writing recently, specifically some statements that LDS writers, especially female authors, write weak women characters. It seemed like an arbitrary statement to apply, so I began considering Fantasy by Mormon authors, I have turned contemplative in search of a single unifying theme among their works. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the fact that there was nothing that stood out. I have read hundreds of fantasy novels by dozens of authors, some much better than others, and the only thing that seems to group together LDS writers is the fact that of those that I have read, they are usually very good at what they do.

I have some personal feelings regarding the prevalence of Mormon fantasy writers, which I will gladly share, but I must first preface these statements by saying I mean no offense, and all of these statements are meant to be taken in the most benign way. It is important to remember that I am a member of the church, I identify with and trust its teachings, its leaders, and its doctrine.

1. The Scriptures - Along with the King James version of the Bible, the LDS Scriptures include The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I feel the scriptures play a large role in fostering a love of speculative fiction in the LDS community. The Book of Mormon tells another story, the story of Christ ministering to the peoples on the American continents. From the beginning of our religious education we are taught to accept what others believe, but also understand that there exists a story that goes beyond it. What is generally accepted in houses of worship around us is not the entire story. I feel this fosters in church members an ability to accept that just because something is prevalent that it should be considered the end all and be all of what can be said on a subject. This pushes Book of MormonMormons to think outside the box. Also, The Book of Mormon is an action packed affair. The stories are often so intriguing that they themselves could be the inspiration for a multitude of Fantasy stories. The Army of Helaman always comes to mind.

2. Teachings - I also feel that Mormons have a deeper understanding of their own cosmology; an intricate education in the order of their universe and the way in which they fit into it. The Mormon universe is highly regimented and detailed. No detail is spared when teaching young church members in primary, Sunday school and seminary. This education gets Mormons thinking at a young age of other worlds, other planes of existence, and the spiritual hierarchy. Nothing seems far fetched to an LDS child who has just been told of the multitude of other worlds, and the beings that exist before, after and around them.

3. Education – Education is a central focus in the Church. Young men and women are encouraged to take charge of their studies and find their own answers. Doctrine and Covenants states: “And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come" (D&C 130:18-19). In general the LDS population prides itself on education. It seems readily apparent that a focus on education would increase the number authors and readers in a population.

4. Support System – This is one that was brought to my attention by a good friend of mine, and was something I had not considered. It is like education, a general descriptor for success, not an explanation of why LDS writers often choose to write Fantasy. The Mormon family is more often than not a strong unit. In the LDS family there tends to be a “can do” attitude, this is an attitude that extends to the community itself. Writing is a non-traditional occupation, it is definitely a job which many parents my tell their children to give up, to focus on something more practical. It is more likely in the LDS community that a few more young writers may be supported in their decisions to pursue writing, hence leading to a larger number of writers in the population. (I think back to my cousin who is pursuing a graduate degree in music who plans to earn money by “composing really far out experimental music.” His parents did not agree with his career path, but they are supporting him 100% nonetheless.) Also, I am NOT saying this does not happen outside the LDS culture, I am merely contending it is slightly more prominent.

5. Depression – I will not attempt to dissect this, however, in recent studies the state of Utah has led the country in rates of depression among its citizens. I have no guess as to why it might be, and how, if at all it is related to the Church (but I am personally skeptical). But, as a person who went through a period of depression that lasted about 2 years I can say one thing for certain; I read more fantasy books in those 2 years than during any other period of my life. Fantasy is almost synonymous with escapism. The genre serves as a distraction from our problems, a way to escape to a mystical world where anything can happen, a freedom from earthly shackles. Fantasy novels were the unguent that allowed me to face the day. It only makes sense in an area with higher depression rates that fantasy fiction would be more prominent.

These are by no means hard and fast facts. These 5 factors merely make up my observations as a member of the Church, and a little bit of deliberation with a few other people who have insight; some of whom have studied under some of the listed writers at Brigham Young University. Take this for what it is, not a deep statement about Mormon superiority, but a musing of a barely active Mormon, and fairly active fantasy reader.

page image stolen from Aykanozener @ Deviant Art show some love, check it out.