Not one iota of difference

I saw mundane detachable sleeves today! I was staring at them through the whole class.

If that wasn’t random enough, have a lot of random wisdom culled from various classes these last few days.

From the History of Philosophy: Metaphysics and Epistemology class:

Each language has a great work proving this vulgar tongue is worthy of great literature, a work which both showcases the beauty already present in the tongue and raises it to new heights. The example given was Rene Descartes’ work in French, but I thought of a few others: Homer for Greek; Jerome’s Vulgate for Latin; Dante’s Divina Commedia for Italian; Luther’s Bible for German; Beowulf for Old English, Chaucer for Middle English, Shakespeare for Modern. I’m not coming up with anything for Spanish, though. 

(Oh, and speaking of the Vulgate, in the Humanities class this morning the professor handed around his Greek NT for us to look at, and Olivia and I went and looked at the beginning of Revelation, after looking at the genealogy in Matthew.)

From the Advanced Fiction Workshop:

Thoughts on hearing about a man who lost all his limbs and was powerless even to commit suicide:

We will all suffer in this life. If we were to put such people “out of their misery” because they can’t bear it, where do we stop? We’ve all had rough days where we think we can’t bear it, but most of us are able to soldier through. You do get out of it eventually. While there’s life there’s hope.

And consider this. We can’t give anyone a perfectly happy life free from all sickness, sorrow, or other trouble. What we do get to do is choose how we respond to pain, whether we let it get us down (and turn us into villains), or turn it into beautiful heroism, or be mediocre — a mix of good and bad responses at different times.

From the Humanities class:

“When did Christianity become distinct from a Jewish sect?” Oh, I dunno, could be about the time Christ claimed to be God and the Pharisees picked up stones to throw at him. . .

In Imperial Roman religions, deities represented powers, impersonal, distant from humanity, and were worshipped rather impersonally (except maybe by their priest(esse)s?).

Ancient astronomers thought the planets were living beings, hence their being named after deities. Mater Terra’s atmosphere was her breath, the magma coursing through her was her blood, the earth was her flesh.

The cults of Dionysus, Isis, and Mithra were similar in accident to Christianity: the former, for example, had a death and resurrection, a mortal woman impregnated by a god, a ritual meal including wine; Isis was a kindly mother of a divine son who saw him killed and brought back to life; Mithraism also emphasized rebirth and resurrection, self-discipline, and celebrated the unconquered sun on December 25th. But a crucial difference between those and Christianity was that no one ever claimed that Zeus and Semele or Dionysus, Isis and Osiris, or Mithra, ever actually walked the earth. In Greek and Roman myths, when the gods came to earth, though they might appear to be men, they were never actually men in essence. Christianity not only claims that God appeared in history, it says He became man without ever losing an iota of His divine nature.

(By the way, the textbook rather skims over the Arian heresy and doesn’t even mention Athanasius, and calls the heretics “some dissenting Eastern churchmen”.)

The professor will say things like that which we fully agree with, and then he’ll go and say of the New Testament that “For a document supposedly transmitted directly from God, we have to remember that it was put together by a lot of scholars, from a lot of incomplete manuscripts,” and nod at us. We don’t complain when our textbooks are put together by a lot of scholars — I doubt we’d notice if they were put together by a lot of ghosts — so shouldn’t that make it more reliable, if it were to change anything? 

And to continue the thoroughly random theme of this post, here’s a bit from last semester. This is one illustration among many of how Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War could have been hilarious in spots, except he was too busy being a man of facts and science.

“The next day the Syracusans began operations at an earlier hour, but with the same plan of attack by land and sea. A great part of the day the rivals spent as before, confronting and skirmishing with each other; until at last Ariston, son of Pyrrhicus, a Corinthian, the ablest helmsman in the Syracusan service, persuaded their naval commanders to send to the officials in the city, and tell them to move the sale market as quickly as they could down to the sea, and oblige every one to bring whatever eatables he had and sell them there, thus enabling the commanders to land the crews and dine at once close to the ships, and shortly afterwards, the selfsame day, to attack the Athenians again when they were not expecting it.

In compliance with this advice a messenger was sent and the market got ready, upon which the Syracusans suddenly backed water and withdrew to the town, and at once landed and took their dinner upon the spot; while the Athenians, supposing that they had returned to the town because they felt they were beaten, disembarked at their leisure and set about getting their dinners and about their other occupations, under the idea that they done with fighting for that day.”

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“The use of theological terms to which they attached no doctrinal significance”

A short story involving time-travel with the idea of changing history for the better (but better according to whom? exits with sinister chuckle) is in the works for the Advanced Fiction Workshop. I have to start early because once again an irresistible idea involves lots of new research (one area in which historical fiction writers have it harder than those who do fantasy or some other more normal genre) — this time, however, an era much better documented than the 11th century. 1348 and the Black Plague! How exciting!

Anyway, I was going to talk about something else. I’m not going to call it “language”. The more often people use the term “language” as a euphemism for swearing, the harder it is to say you’re studying language without shocking people unnecessarily. Language is a perfectly good and decent thing on its own, and generally indispensable if we want to communicate anything. I’m using a lot of language myself right now. Swearing should be called bad language, because it is: a sub-category of language which is bad, whether inherently so or because it’s used improperly.

Nota bene: In this post when I talk about swearing I don’t mean things like the f-word. I go to a secular college, trust me, I’ve heard those words. They’re the kind of words which are inherently bad. (If you don’t believe me that things like words and shapes can be somehow wrong in themselves, read the Father Brown story The Wrong Shape.) There is no right use of such words. I hate hearing them, I disapprove when people speak them, if the situation allows I may even ask (without it really being a question) that the speaker have a little respect for those of us in the room who don’t like to hear such words. What I do mean by the term swearing, for the purposes of this post, are words which do have a good use, and which when used wrongly become swear words: words of the kind where their use as a curse is wrong partly because of the speaker’s attitude, and partly because he’s expressing and maybe even espousing bad theology. Chesterton says, I think in one of the essays in The Apostle and the Wild Ducks, although I could be wrong, that “I have known some people of very modern views driven by their distress to the use of theological terms to which they attached no doctrinal significance”. That is the kind of language I do mean.

I’ve come across three main views on swearing in literature: the secular view that anything goes, sometimes with the provision that it should have a point (such as being realistic), sometimes not; the view among Christians that no swearing should ever come up in a book, no matter how mild, even “gosh”; and the view among Christians that bad characters, and unsaved ones, don’t limit their faults to murder (for example), but may occasionally swear, and so to be honest about their state, we may let them swear where the occasion calls for it.

The second and third views have good arguments for each side. The Lady Bibliophile did a blog series a few years ago, in four parts: onetwothree, and four. From another point of view, an historical fiction authour wrote one here. Since I’d like to start some discussion with this post, if my readers were to go read those posts and then tell me which side you come down on, if you’ve decided at all, that would be helpful.

The thing is, I’ve been working on Just Outlaws a bit, because of spending an evening in the company of (among others) someone who strongly reminded me of one of the Merry Men. Since this book begins with a former seminary student ending up living with a lot of outlaws, most of whom are justly outlawed for various crimes, a lot of the characters in the cast are not the kind you’d want your small children being near: murderers, thieves, arsonists, blackmailers, hired assassins, and worse. But they are also human: they have inside jokes, they look out for one another, those who have families try to take care of them from a distance by sending them the money they acquire through their, um, “borrowing a little from those who can afford it”.

I show them stealing. I have to, to set up their characters and place in life, to juxtapose it to the mostly innocent protagonist who’s been thrown into their world and is definitely out of his depth. Stealing is bad, certainly on a par with swearing but often worse. I don’t think most Christian audiences would refuse to read a book in which the (as yet) non-Christian characters steal. We don’t expect unbelievers to have the same moral codes we do, though we are pleasantly surprised in the cases where they turn out to. But many of those same Christian audiences would insist that inserting a swear word is a line not to be crossed. This seems a bit inconsistent, though as I don’t yet know my position on the issue, I won’t go beyond that.

It is in character for the outlaws to swear. They have absolutely no reason to refrain from expressing anger or surprise in that way. And not only because they’re not Christians; I know quite a few people who aren’t Christians and who don’t swear. But a man who’s got a murder in his past isn’t likely to have many qualms about letting out a bad word or two. It’s part of their fallen state. By the end of the book, many of the outlaws do become Christians, and those who aren’t split off to form a separate group. The former category stops swearing, among other things, because one thing about men touched by grace is that they can change.

The question is, do I show them swearing? Are you all right with reading them swearing? Obviously I’m not saying they’re right in doing so: the swearing is there, but I’m not saying it’s good, just as the stealing is there, but I’m not commending it. (I happen to believe that those who have to use swear words to emphasize something are displaying their lack of knowledge, their limited vocabulary and command of the language, not that they’re being creative or forceful or fresh or imaginative. Choosing the first lowest-common-denominator word that comes to mind is not being any of those things, it’s being uneducated and unintelligent.) But I still don’t know.

So give me your thoughts, please! Whether you’re commenting as readers only, or as writers, or as both, you’re welcome to pipe up.

 

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G for Joel

We had rehearsal last night! Before that we had supper, which involved shenanigans concerning Mozart and a can of pineapple, and before that Olivia had her first ever college class. We did a lot of grinning at each other and writing notes, I must confess. It’s a Humanities class, and the professor (who’s one of the better Philosophy teachers here) stressed the importance of a liberal education, which made us both happy.

He said, “Take a few moments to introduce yourselves to at least one or two of your colleagues and exchange contact information, because some of us may be pretty close to telepathy, but we aren’t all, and if you miss a class or something. . .” et cetera. Olivia and I wondered why the telepathy comment — I haven’t told him about our communication-without-words, so did he notice? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

He also said something, about our assignment for next time on early Christianity, about the breadth of Christianity now and how it’s so hard to count “the number of branches who spring up one week and are gone the next” (Olivia and I privately said “we call those heresies”), so Olivia boldly decided that she will ask next time “How do we define Christianity?” A home-schooled kid in a liberal arts class asking to start by defining terms! She’ll probably do all right. And if she should happen to miss a day, she exchanged contact information with the person to her left — a really long time ago.

The advanced fiction workshop, my afternoon class, looks challenging and fun, and the teacher of that one has much better ideas about stories and their value than the teacher of the infamous workshop a year ago. But it will be a lot of work, not so much writing my own stories probably, but reading and commenting on everyone else’s. There’s a lot of people in the class. With that and the not necessarily long but thick reading for Philosophy, and my self-imposed reading for the Independent Study (if we get a snow day tomorrow I’m reading Gibbon), and that I want to play in the Humanities class, it’s going to be a busy semester, even though I’m barely full time.

For a couple of hours after four LauraLee and I got out music and organized it and made the necessary copies and set up the room for rehearsal. The band had just been in it and left everything in the wrong order. At six I went over to the little cafeteria, where Olivia and Cole and Joel and David had been for a while. JP was elsewhere. A lot happened, but it would take far too much time to write down; suffice it to say that everyone was acting perfectly in character and being quintessentially themselves. Which means Olivia was dispensing napkins and good advice to those in need (and mixing up people’s names just like a proper mother), Joel was simultaneously calling David a cave man and looking out for his physical welfare, Cole was trying to be nice to everybody, and I was casually insulting Joel and apparently being terrifying (although I have no idea why anybody would be scared of me). And David was earning the title of cave man by opening a jar of pineapple on the edge of something concrete, in the absence of a civilized can-opener. He was also proving himself unchanged by going around asking girls if they happened to be carrying can-openers, and acting as if the response “Why would I be? No,” was stranger than his question. Kayla joined us for the last quarter hour or so, and was regaled with terrifying tales about Bacco.

Dr Rieppel couldn’t find his baton, and sent me to pick his coat pocket, in his office, for his phone, and sundry people who shouldn’t have been missing music were missing it. But otherwise it went all right, and was a lot of fun. Joel, seemingly, was asking for Mozart’s 40th symphony very insistently, and Dr Rieppel was giving him a hard time about it, keeping up the joke from the Farandole, for example, about starting at “L, for Joelllll.” “I’ll play a whole season of 40’s if you’ll get off my back!”

A section in the Mozart called for repetition, which Dr Rieppel said to leave out after the first time through the part. The next time through, some people played the repeats and some didn’t, so he called a halt. “No repeats. Kein wiederholt! Nee! Nix! Never gloria Patri world without end, no repeats! Got that?”

They went at it again. Presently something started sounding off, and a while later Dr Rieppel called another halt. “Somebody’s off somewhere.”

People started whispering among sections, trying to figure out who had gone wrong and where. The second violins were sixteen measures behind, and weren’t sure where things had gone wrong. Finally someone made the discovery that all parts except the second violins had two small repeats, which they hadn’t been doing because of Dr Rieppel’s veto of any and all repeats. The second violins were the only section that hadn’t been off.

“No repeats except for those two,” Dr Rieppel said. “Didn’t you hear me? I told you in four different languages, none of which I can speak, to do just those two repeats, and did any of you pay attention? All right, let’s try this again. We will get the beginning right once, we owe Mozart that much.”

When LauraLee and I were printing things earlier in the day, I set my set of keys on top of the part that lifts for the original to go under it to be copied, whatever it’s called. We finished printing things and she pushed it up to make copies of a part (Mozart, I think?), and the keys slid off and fell behind the copier against the wall.

“Sorry,” she said. “I should have noticed they were there.”

“And I shouldn’t have left them on that part in the first place,” I said, bending down to retrieve them. They were caught in a mess of tangled cords, and I was thinking more about ancient cobwebs than my immediate surroundings, so when I leaned over a small thing roughly cube-shaped, I didn’t notice. But then a weird buzzing noise started, just as I picked up the keys, and I jumped back in a fright because I knew that sound. The small square thing was a shredder, of the automatic variety, and evidently very sensitive. I hadn’t been touching it, but it was grabbing for my shirt and anything else within reach. (Fortunately no actual damage occurred.)

That will really get your heart rate going,” LauraLee said.

Another odd occurrence occurred. LauraLee was downloading and sending to the printer various files of parts from a computer in one room, and I was in the other sorting the parts when they came out and paper-clipping them. One set, for the Dvorak Romance I think, had the first and second violin parts, but what began to worry me after about the sixth time I came across it was the multiplicity of “Solo-violine” parts. Were we going to have to have three sections of violinists? I stuck my head in the other room to ask LauraLee after the ninth one, and she said no, that was just her assuming the file only had first and second parts in it, we only needed one solo violin for our sole solo violinist, and that was a lesson to her to read the whole file in future.

And then for some reason the solo violin part was still on the piano at the end of rehearsal? The story will probably continue next week.

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Rambling about the way historians see things — also known as, We’re Weird

Merry Christmas, or Happy Epiphany, or whatever the proper greeting for today is. (For some people, like my mother, it’s Happy Birthday, but one can’t just go around wishing all and sundry a happy birthday all the time.) My sister and I finally brought the magi to their destination, and turned the manger up so the Christ Child is sitting up, because at two years old he should really be able to support himself. (We are weird, you know, and were separated for too long.)

Anyway. I’ve got a few pages of things I have to cut from the revised version of Of the North. I got to talk to someone from Kingdom Pen about my plot (gunpowder, treason, &), and it was very helpful. When someone new to your story looks at your synopsis, he gets to see its weak points where they really are; I’m so close to the story, and have been for so long, that I can imagine all sorts of problems but never know how close my perception is to reality. So instead of picking at the likelihood of certain inciting incidents, which was what I was afraid of, he pointed out places where AEschild’s goals were hard to see, and where the plot was slowing down unnecessarily. Part of the change I have to make is cutting scenes I’ve already written. I’m wishing I’d had the advice before I started rewriting, to save the pain later, but too late. A few of the cut scenes are ones where the Protestant AEschild was visiting churches after being returned to the modern world, which, now that she’s Catholic, are rather out of character.

It was very helpful, anyway, and I’m glad Kingdom Pen exists and is doing this kind of thing. I would have taken the opportunity to talk to Hope, except that up until the last minute I thought I’d be asking for advice on The Colour of Life, and it would hardly be fair to her, since she’s entered the contest too.

Several times during the course of the conversation, the Kingdom Pen guy referred to AEschild’s travelling back to the 11th century A. D. as going to “the ancient time”. No offence meant to him, of course, but that made me want to laugh. I hadn’t realized quite how much time I’d spent researching the era — I wasn’t thinking of it as ancient at all, but quite familiar. “Ancient” was for Greece and Rome. I didn’t notice that until he called the Anglo-Saxon era ancient. It’s a new way of looking at things which is probably good for me.

I think people who bury themselves in a distant era tend to have a view of history which is split down the middle and two different things at once, and both are good to hold, especially together.

On one hand, if you know the 16th century like the back of your hand, you’ll be able to laugh at people who say something that happened 50 years ago is so old. Or that something has been around long enough to be a tradition because it started three whole decades ago. In the grand scheme of things, since we’re dealing with a framework of 6,000 to 10,000 years here, we know that 50 is but as a watch in the night. A familiarity with things that happened a millenium or two ago helps give us a better perspective on the shortness of an individual life.

The other thing is an emphasis on precision which other people often find annoying, but it’s important to get the facts right as well as the interpretation of them — you may have an interpretation which is as logical as you can make it, but if it’s based on something someone handed you which turns out not to be the case at all, you’re stuck. This means we insist on the right dates for things. No, Martin Luther could not have posted his Theses in 1492 — he was still a little boy. We even pounce on slips of the tongue — don’t accidentally tell us that Columbus went sailing in 1942. If anyone is so ignorant or confused or misled as to say, for example, “The church of the 18th century practiced circumcision” or “Machiavelli and Dante were contemporaries, isn’t it interesting how the same situation produced two such different views of life?” we will jump on him. People alive today know how silly it would be for someone in the future to write about Jane Austen’s Regency novels being set in the early 1900’s. We know how unjust it would be to HRM Elizabeth II to say she took the throne in 1837. And that’s only a difference of a century in both cases — but look how much difference that century makes. Machiavelli and Dante were only about two hundred years apart. At the same time that we know a half-century is not a long time, we know that it’s important not to get something half a century too early or too late. Precision matters, because what is a name and a date and a place for us now was once a human’s home.

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Gaudete, Gaudete, Christus est natus!

(Ex Maria virgine: gaudete!)

Merry Christmas again! I’m listening to music for the first time since last Monday, and it’s making me remember how much I miss orchestra. And I’m not even a musician! How will I bear leaving for Canada or Scotland or wherever?

Writing accomplishments of last year:

I dove into the work of rewriting Of the North and got approximately 52,000 words into it, got to know the main character quite a bit better (it was comical how she exploded out of the story once I found out how much more extroverted and optimistic she is, goodness), and made some changes which took quite a bit of dithering over first. The document of Notes for it is some 6,600 words.

Wrote, sent to beta readers, revised, and submitted a retelling of Snow White to the final Rooglewood Press contest (these days I usually type contest as “concert” by accident the first time through). The first draft was about 12k, the one I submitted was 14,766 words.

Wrote numerous papers, some researched. After researching for novels, a teacher’s letting you off with only asking for two sources “so as not to give you too much work” is funny. Some were quite forgettable, but others, like the one on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ particular style’s resemblance to Anglo-Saxon verse, or why theistic evolution is so philosophically unsatisfying, or how Augustine of Hippo’s view of history may be summed up in the word eucatastrophe, were lots of fun. Unfortunately those kinds of assignments are rare, but when they do come, I’m reminded of the charm of the academic life. Unfortunately more often than not it’s more like following the Gleam, and the common paper assignments are much less exciting.

I began Just Outlaws (I’m so glad I had that idea for the title), the ‘prelude’ to Rose-Tinted Arrows, a brand-new story idea which came last year, and which so far also contains a few things that really happened last year, in disguise.

I survived three writing workshops, one of them fair to middling, one of them rather fun, and one of them — well, you know. It has spurred me to state more clearly why I believe certain kinds of writing are good or bad, and has been unexpectedly helpful in the way a gadfly is. (I didn’t think I’d be comparing the teacher with Socrates, but there you go. I still prefer Socrates.) With so much of my writing being to order this year, it’s hard to calculate a total word count, as some of the things I cared so little for that I deleted them as soon as the grades came in, and others are scattered all over various documents and e-mails because of the way printing them works. But an estimate is probably close to 90,000 words total, if you count the papers.

Reading accomplishments: I haven’t kept track of how many books I’ve read. The usual Chesterton, of course, and I re-read the Lord of the Rings, and I don’t know how many times Pendragon’s Heir, especially during the spring semester (which I’m only slowly realizing in retrospect was actually a bad semester for everything except grades, but not knowing that till afterward makes things a lot easier). I got from the library, and my grandfather bought for me for Christmas, Liturgy, Architecture, and Sacred Places in Anglo-Saxon England, which is good, and not such dry reading as you might fear. The Girl Who Drank the Moon was a new discovery, and very good. War of Loyalties and Ten Thousand Thorns were published. Of course I read more than that, but those stand out the most in memory.

SCAdian accomplishments: well, if you count being able to drive to events without getting lost, we’re making progress in that area. Also I hand-sewed my blue cyrtel and did the eyelets on Wynnie’s bliaut by hand. And we’re both getting better at dancing. It’s always fine for the parts where we’re partnered with each other, because we’ve spent so many years not bumping into each other that we’re pretty good at it. But a few steps later and we’re with other people we can’t communicate with as quickly, and things are likely to get confusing. For one thing, Olivia is used to me forgetting which is right and which is left at moments where a distinction is most important, and she compensates. Not everyone can do that with a lefty at the drop of a hat.

In the more grown-up side of things, I have a job. I love working for the orchestra and I’m going to miss it when I leave. I’ve learned quite a lot about certain pieces of music from listening to people play them over and over again and iron out the trouble-spots (and then we all hold our breath during the performance when the trouble spots come up). There’s something exciting about seeing lots of artists get in the same room and work on different parts of the same thing at the same time. Writers don’t really get to do that. People who in person grate on each other (David and Joel) can work together to make beautiful music, and I love seeing that. It doesn’t come across on recordings, but when you’re in the room when the whole orchestra starts tuning up together, it’s lovely. The expectation and potential all together. . . oh, I will most definitely miss it.

Setting goals for the year sounds pretty easy: read good books, hopefully write some good books, go to SCA events. And then you look at the possible story ideas, plus ones you don’t know about yet, and despair. But I do have an Advanced Fiction workshop next semester, so maybe that will clear some of the shorter ones out.

Stories either in progress or floating around as ideas:

Of the North — revision in progress

Rose-Tinted Arrows — needing revision

Just Outlaws — begun, vague ideas on where the plot’s going

Wind Age — hibernating

Roman story idea — I’m beginning to begin to work on it; will do more once school starts (yay for being able to do writing research and plot development for college credit!). Rome is so warm. It’s such a difference from the cold humid England my stories spend so much time in. It’s actually practical for people to wear short sleeves in December there.

A futuristic story I’m quite loving the idea of, but haven’t started writing yet — I told Jenny about it when I first got it, but I don’t think anyone else, and it hasn’t gone anywhere yet. It’s a bit weird, as I go, so I don’t really want to talk about it until I have something to show for it which will hopefully make sense of the whole thing. It’s getting more convoluted and confusing the more I think about it.

Story set just after the Norman Conquest, begun a while ago and dropped. Characters and plot were both being troublesome.

Helen’s — this I really want to get back to soon.

Realistic modern story with large musical family which still sounds fun, but I haven’t done anything on it in a while.

Now that I’ve dabbled in the era for The Colour of Life, I want to do some kind of Russian-fairy-tale retelling set in 1917. You’ve got the death of the old world and a bloody birth of a new one, which would be a great setting for a sort of reverse Cinderella, and with the Winter Ball it could be so fairytaley. . . oi. I keep telling myself it’s too modern an era for me.

On the opposite end of eras, I’ve been drawn to Roman Britain, not necessarily to write about, as so many people have done that, but to spend some time in, at least. Perhaps that could be reading books set in it, or, you know, actually visiting the time. . . But I like the contrast of tame and wild cultures, and a land that’s already ancient, with a new and rather young empire overtaking it, an empire which is in antiquity from our point of view.

So hopefully this year will see some of those ideas become reality. I’d also like to finish revising Of the North, and work a bit more on one or other of Algernon’s stories, and leave room open for new ideas that I don’t know about yet, but will certainly jump on me. I will also be graduating, Deo volente, which means making a decision about grad school and acting on it. Our group is hosting the Crown Tourney in May, and Wynnie and I certainly plan to be involved with that. Otherwise I don’t know. It’s a little hard to plan your future out when you have to keep track of so many variables.

Posted in Books, Fiction, Of the North, Ordinary life, Reading, Rose-Tinted Arrows, SCA, Writing | Tagged | 3 Comments

December Wrap-up

Merry Christmas!

I have returned from the paths of the dead (not that any of the Dead who inhabited the actual Paths died by anything so dull as a cold), at least temporarily, with just enough wit to turn in The Colour of Life, even if it’s not as polished as I was hoping it would be, and maybe enough time for a blog post. Eh, maybe. This will be a long one, as so much happened this month.

Reading:

The last bits of things for school. . . I really don’t remember already.

So far on vacation I’ve read The Hobbit, and bits of the Lost Tales. I wish the Arkenstone were a Silmaril, because it would fit so well with it being the one that whoever-it-was took down the volcano with him, but this reading I came across a line that said the dwarves had dug it up and cut and faceted it, which I doubt a Silmaril would need even after years of being part of some agglomerate of volcanic rock.

We got a couple of library books last week, Olivia and I. I picked up one, The Silver Gate, on a whim for its cover, which was similar in style to the last good book we found that way, and the blurb which was a bit pro-life in regard to disabled people — even though it was fantasy. My concern was that if anything it would be too preachy. The first chapter went into great detail about a peasant’s life being sheer misery. Brown rags to wear, mud to live in, dry bread to eat, no freedom of their own time or resources, the lot. And then the entire village is sitting in a church around a fire on the floor, as if they haven’t got houses to warm up in, and we’re told the roof is thatched but no mention of a chimney. There’s problems of all practical kinds with that. And as if that’s not enough, someone suggests throwing a “changeling” in the fire. In a church. Ugh. Well, then the priest comes in and he’s fat and hypocritical and the stereotypical bad priest, and that’s the first chapter.

Then onward, however, the settings are different and the sun comes out a bit and the main characters go on a quest. The story wasn’t a bad one, but I think it needed another draft or two for the skill of the writing to be on a level with the skill of the story’s bones.

Also — and this isn’t peculiar to this story, but something I’ve noticed lately — it’s not very convincing to portray life as absolutely horrible and not in the least worth living for and no one has any reason to live (except the bad guys, who, of course, are putting all these other people in pain for the enjoyment of it), if you stop there. If people don’t have a reason to live, they’ll die. Giving us a list of things that make their lives miserable doesn’t help us suspend disbelief at their continued existence. We need to see why they keep living. Obviously, they do keep living — wherefore there must be a reason. The picture is incomplete without that reason. So show us their hope. Exodus goes on at length about the misfortunes of Israel, in the early chapters, but doesn’t forget to tell us that they cried to a God who heard them and cared about them.

The other library book I read was Searching for Dragons, which is the sequel to Dealing With Dragons, which we got from the library a few years ago and enjoyed, but not enough to do more (such as buying it, or looking for more books in case it were a series). It’s fantasy, lighthearted and witty, with a happy married couple (a pair of giants who aren’t the brightest in the book, but get along well), among other things. It’s a good book for curling up with when you’re coming down with a cold and not feeling up to tackling “The City of God Against Pagans” in an almost 700-page tome.

The best book discovered this year would probably be The Girl Who Drank the Moon, also fantasy, which I’ve talked about a bit here.

Writing:

Beyond school, and revising TCoL to send it in (done!), nothing.

SCA:

On the first weekend of the month Olivia and I went to a group meeting, and on our way home didn’t get pulled over — it was the people behind us. But they were so close the policeman couldn’t have got between us and them if he’d wanted to, so we got off the road just to be sure, wondering why this always happens when we’re on our way home from something SCAdian. But eventually he remembered us long enough to stop talking to the guys behind us and say we could go.

There was SCAdian caroling at school a bit later in the month, and we went and froze, and someone stepped on my hem while we were dancing on a concrete sidewalk, and I fell over, but wasn’t seriously hurt.

If there was anything else I’ve forgotten, which is probably to be expected.

Life:

Dad and I observed this morning that it’s a weird feeling not to want to take a nap immediately after breakfast. So far I haven’t had one at all today, which I’m not used to. No nosebleeds since bedtime last night. Dad felt well enough to go to town and replenish our sinking stores — mainly milk and tissues. Probably tomorrow it’s going to come round and hit us again, but that’s okay, because the entire church is down so all services are canceled.

The cold began at least a week ago, and last weekend one family which makes up a third to half the choir was stuck with it, which worried us a bit about our planned Festival of Nine Lessons and Innumerable Carols. But the necessary members made it, and we had no visitors, so on the whole it was as well as can be expected.

School finished, of course. We went caroling during finals week, at all the old folks’ homes, and made perfectly harmless little old men break down in tears. Also we had a concert, which I’ve written about here at length.

I keep wanting this to be a writing and philosophy and history blog, and a place where all three can come together into an exciting story, the kind I’d want to read, but it seems that I’ve been writing the most about music and my adventures.

Do stay healthy if you can, and keep an eye out for seven swans in the tub tomorrow!

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“Bring me flesh and bring me wine!”

Merry Christmas!

For those without the context (it’s Good King Wenceslas), it was somewhat unnerving to hear my sister bellowing out that line, and only that line, at random times in the days leading up to Christmas.

I was going to write a post for the feast of Stephen, but on Christmas Day I came down with a sore throat, slept through most of the next day (read the Hobbit, though), and am only just beginning to feel human again. When I’m not coughing so hard my lungs threaten to abandon me. You don’t realize what it takes to stand up until you can’t do it without hacking and hacking, and then when you do manage it, it’s a cause for celebration.

The Colour of Life lingers unfinished and unsubmitted. That was another thing I was going to do on the day of two turtledoves, but I didn’t. I’ve only got two scenes to make more dramatic, so I still cherish hopes of getting it in on time.

Another thing to add to the conflict: my mother and sister just left for New Hampshire for a week and a half, leaving me and my father to take care of the animals. Which means doing outside chores in below-zero weather, with coughs.

Maybe you’ll see another post from me this week, and maybe not. TCoL is of course my first priority, outside of chores, this week.

But I am on holiday and have plenty of time to get better before I need to go back to school. I still haven’t started the City of God. . .

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