Tag Archives: novels

“Hail Satan Gaiman” Or “Sympathy for the Devil”

Neil ****ing Gaiman.

Whimsical genius behind countless best-selling novels and comic books. Creative cadre to such literary giants as Terry Pratchett and Alan Moore. Champion of the plight of Syrian refugees. Perhaps one of the great authors of this time, with tales and yarns extending from the worlds of realism to science fiction to fantasy.

In many respects, a modern-day C.S. Lewis, with his ability to make the magical and divine seem every much as real and accessible as anything in the waking world.

Shame some folks don’t see it that way.

Specifically “One Million Moms”, which has created a petition for FOX to cancel Gaiman’s upcoming Lucifer TV series.

Now for the unaware, Lucifer is a comic book series spin-off of Gaiman’s fantastical masterpiece Sandman. Dealing largely with themes of free will and fate, the series sees its titular character abdicate his infernal throne and become a beach-bum in Australia.

The series has been loosely (but still earnestly) adapted by FOX, with the show’s premier airing at this year’s ComicCon and a three minute trailer released for the public at large. Continue reading

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In Defence of Feminine Strength (Re: In Defense of the Warrior-Princess)

When I initially read Gordon’s response to the post I wrote last week, I asked myself, should I be offended?

You see, my original post was one of my more personal pieces, where I touched on my struggle with self-acceptance (as a rather sensitive person) in a culture highly influenced by what I described as the warrior-princess/damsel binary.

As a child, I believed that I needed to become emotionless in order to be strong, and masculine in order to be taken seriously. That’s why I find characters who are feminine and strong, like those often played by Zooey Deschanel, an encouraging presence in films and TV shows.

So, you can probably see why, being the sensitive person that I am, Gordon’s closing statement came off as a wee bit hurtful:

Deschanel states that “we can be powerful in our own way, our own feminine way” [emphasis added].

No you ****ing can’t.

From what I know of Gordon, he seems like a pretty good guy, so I’m going to act under the assumption that he was not writing an attack on my personal character, but rather a critique of the concept of feminine strength as represented by Deschanel. That critique is what I will be responding to in the points below. If you don’t watch New Girl, then be aware, there are spoilers below.

1. The Critique Begins with Flawed Logic

I have to thank one of our most faithful commenters, Rosie, for pointing out the “strawman argument” made in Gordon’s critique. In “In Defense of the Warrior-Princess” Gordon describes traditionally feminine characteristics using words like “submissive” and “weak”, words that neither I, nor Deschanel used to describe femininity. Using these sort of terms creates a false dichotomy between my argument and his.

He also claims that Deschanel plays “ditzy, emotional, pathologically neurotic” characters “who don’t need no man to help them”. He includes a crying gif of Jessica Day, the character Deschanel plays in New Girl as evidence.

This isolated gif ignores the wider context of the show, where every single character deals with their day-to-day life in a “ditzy, emotional, pathologically neurotic” sort of way.

It also ignores how New Girl is not at all about being the kind of person “who don’t need no man”. Instead, this show demonstrates how relationships lead to personal growth. It also shows how every person sits somewhere on a spectrum between sensitive and stoic, and how both of these traits are essential to becoming a healthy individual. Continue reading

Not Strictly Literary: 6 Unexpected Subjects You Learn About in English

I’m currently in the last year of my English undergraduate degree. Well, kinda. I will probably have to do an extra semester to finish off my credits completely, but after next semester I will have finally finished all my English requirements.

Like many students, I kind of fell into my major. In my first year of full time studies I was seriously considering a degree in economics, or anthropology. Until I took a class in those subjects and quickly changed my mind. Once I started figuring out what kind of classes I actually liked, I started talking about doing my degree in Sociology, Political Science, or Environmental Ethics. Then, when I transferred to UVic, I decided I would take their writing program. Well I thought I was decided, until I was invited to join the English Honours program. That invitation totally went to my head and I dropped everything in order to pursue that (very structured) program.

Because of the number of required English classes (and because I blew many of my elective classes during first year), I’ve been taking pretty-well only English classes for the last two years. During that time, I began to ask myself if I had made the best choice. After all, English is really just reading books, isn’t it? Couldn’t I do that in my own time?

Ah, reading for fun/relaxation. Can’t wait until I get to do that again.

Now that I’m getting close to the end of my degree, I’m able to look back and be thankful for (almost) all of the English classes I needed to take. Yes, I still feel like there are a million others I wish I could have taken, but I think I would have felt that way regardless of my major. There are more fantastic courses out there than what you can possibly fit into one undergraduate degree.

Getting close to the end has also allowed me to reflect on the many English courses I have taken and realize just how broad a range of subjects they actually address. I’ve included a few examples below.

Linguistics

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One of the texts we are translating for our final project.

I’m currently finishing off a class on Middle English that I did not want to take. Not at all. I’m required to take a class in early English literature, so I chose this class after a friend recommended the professor. I was then pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fantastic class. It was also not at all what I was expecting.

English has evolved considerably since the 12th century, so it’s hardly surprising that trying to read Middle English texts is like reading an entirely different language.

At the beginning of the class our professor touched on many of the other languages that have influenced the formation of the English language. Then, as the class progressed, a lot of the work we did in class involved translating various works. The translation process required a basic understanding of how to parse language, something I had almost no experience with. Like many English speakers, sentence structure is something I know intuitively, not something I’ve intentionally learned. However, if my experience in Quebec this summer taught me anything, it’s that knowing how to break down language is key to learning a new one. So I’m hopeful that the linguistic skills I’ve been struggling to learn in this class will help me with my future language learning goals. Continue reading

Guilt in The Congo and the Koprulu Sector

Fairly spoilery.
                                                                                                                                                                      

No matter the medium, there have always been dominant themes in literature. Whether it be the theme of adulthood in About a Boy or the exploration of childhood in Calvin and Hobbes, writers have long voiced their opinions in their work, stating their viewpoints on universal experience. This can clearly be seen in the real time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the novel The Poisonwood Bible. Though [literally] worlds apart in format and subject matter,  the two are bound together beneath the overarching theme of guilt.

Wings of Liberty‘s Jim Raynor is a man haunted by the ghosts of his past. The sector’s current tyrant, Emperor Mengsk, rules with an iron fist and sits proudly upon his throne due to the former-marshal’s aid in the first war. This despot betrayed Raynor’s love, Sarah Kerrigan, by ordering her to place a device on the capital planet which would lure in the voracious Zerg like moths to a flame, and then abandoning her to them. The Zerg would later transform Kerrigan into a creature known far and wide as the Queen of Blades, a malicious killing machine who would later terrorize the sector and kill Raynor’s closest Protoss ally and friend.

Four years later Raynor is taking steps to topple the government he helped establish. His band of rebels is working to right the wrong that is the Terran Dominion, but even in spite of this the loss of Kerrigan and his guilt over her abandonment remain. These feelings are exacerbated when his old friend Tychus Findlay walks back into his life. Years earlier Tychus took the blame for both of them and was incarcerated for nine years. His reappearance in Raynor’s life brings back countless memories of the good ol’ days, and Raynor is forced to constantly defend his friend against the suspicions and accusations of his crew.

As victories accumulate an opportunity arises, a chance to reclaim the Queen of Blades and restore Sarah Kerrigan to her former self arises. However, the source of the offer is Mengsk’s son, bringing him dangerously close to the man he wants dead. The gripping conclusion of the first chapter of the StarCraft II trilogy involves Raynor having to choose between two regrets, two immense sources of guilt, and his decision holds the fate of their world in its hands.

The Poisonwood Bible is the story of the Prices, a Baptist family who moves from Georgia to the unfamiliar wilds of the Congo. Narrated by the five women of the family, the tale is seen and told through the eyes of Orleanna, wife of preacher Nathan Price, and their daughters, Rachel, the eldest, Leah and Adah, the diametric twins, and Ruth May, the youngest. Originally planning on only staying for a year, their missionary tenure in the village of Kilanga is set awry by political upsets, many of which are caused by their own government.

The Prices do not adjust well to life in Africa, and the strain of life in an unfamiliar land is evident in their interactions with one another. While guilt is not present in their lives from the get-go, things take a sharp downhill turn once Nathan Price begins to force Christianity upon the villagers in a manner which borders on antagonistic. Their lives are placed in danger when political unrest begins to encroach on the borders of their existence in Kilanga and natural disasters such as a drought and the resulting famine cause many of them to wish they had never travelled to the Congo in the first place. Guilt’s immense weight finally falls, however, at the death of one of the Price daughters. None of the narrators are exempt from this event, and all are bowed beneath its burden as they move on with their lives, never quite leaving the past behind them.

The second wave of guilt is felt only by some, and it directly involves the once-hopeful nation of the Congo. America’s desire for cheap diamonds and cobalt leads to a scheme that will put the leader they want in charge of the country, a plan which will overthrow the newly-elected Patrice Lumumba, voice of the Congolese. Western guilt lies leaden on the shoulders of most (but not all) of the Price women, the actions of the Belgians in the colonial era and the actions of their own American countrymen in the post-colonial. Lives and hopes lost at the hands of their Western brethren force them to reconsider who they are as people, and to try their best to come to some sort of reconciliation.

Jim Raynor and Orleanna Price both have lines which, while appearing simple on the surface, speak volumes about who they are and what they’ve done with their lives. Facing his final decision Raynor says, “We are who we choose to be,” a line almost stupidly simple at first glance. In it, however, these seven words manage to encompass his decision to turn away from a life of crime to become a marshal, and then a rebel freedom fighter, a path Tychus looks upon scornfully. These words contain within them his choice to set aside revenge for closure, to save lives instead of sit back, and, finally, his decision to choose between what appears just and what could be redemption.

Orleanna, in the first few pages of the book, tells the reader, “One has only a life of one’s own.” This straightforward statement means more and more as the narrative progresses, yet from the beginning it reveals that she does not really feel needed or loved, and thus has only herself as company. As the novel goes on Orleanna makes her own pivotal decision, one that directly affects her remaining daughters and their lives to come. Opting to set aside her weak-willed self and to put on strength and intensity, she becomes a woman motivated by the eventual safety of what family she has left.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and The Poisonwood Bible both feature protagonists who are riddled with guilt and yet seek freedom from it, who are forced to face it and move on, and who make their largest decisions in the midst of disaster, panic, and betrayal. Both have lived lives full of regrets, yet firmly choose to make one less mistake, for the sake of others and not for themselves.

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. New York: Harper Flamingo, 1998. Print.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. V 1.0.1.16195. 31 July 2010. Blizzard Entertainment. 31 July 2010.