October 26, 2017
Fantasy world building is a continuous struggle to maintain the status quo and in this case, the status quo is the suspension of disbelief for the tenure of reading the book. What are these fantasy worlds like? Similar to earth? Not always, but this is seen as well.
“While science fiction worlds are more about speculation and “thought experiments”, fantasy worlds tend to focus on enchantment and the revival of mythical motifs.”
Writers like Tolkien immerse themselves in the time and space of these worlds and what’s important is that fantasy writers don’t do this for the sake of creating effect. Their story demands the parallel universe to be convincing and so maps are no exaggeration.
“As for space, the maps of Middle-earth are not there for decoration, but are an integral part of the experience of reading Tolkien’s work. His painstaking efforts to make the geography work realistically are legend. He even respected the phases of the moon within the chronology of The Lord of the Rings, as the characters move across his invented landscape. Tolkien also devised entire timelines and genealogies that showed his world unfolding in time. And his landscapes are inhabited by flora and fauna that is inventive and significant: from the golden mallorn trees in Lothlórien, to the awe-inspiring Oliphants.”
A long list of fantasy writers including the Bronte sisters, Ursula Le Guinn, JK Rowling and George R.R. Martin have been mentioned. What they all have in common is that they subcreators of universes that seem real by virtue of strong world-building skills. Worlds are not just lived in; they can be made.
Read Why build new worlds by Dimitra Fimi.
And look what I found just now….Creating Magical Worlds on the occasion of Harry Potter’s twentieth anniversary!
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October 19, 2017
Contingency is a big word, big because it has to do with chance and you can call chance many things: destiny, fate, probability, luck…..It’s something I think about a lot and I was delighted to have chanced upon this essay that looks at the nuances of chance. Michael Cohen talks about the odds of this essay being published and even the chances of the readers reading it. The same rules apply to the chances of winning a war or surviving an illness. Fiction has dealt with probabilities and this is perhaps why readers devote hours to strings of alphabets on a page– because of the import of destiny on the lives of characters in fiction. Anecdotes are full of how our own experiences influence the decisions we make and those roads we never take.
Even geology and life on earth is the story of what ifs. The story of the Burgess Shale fauna reflects how the asteroid that caused the Cretaceous Tertiary extinction facilitated a series of causations that ended up in human existence and world domination. Chances can be in favor of human existence but there is also the chance that our very existence as a community and as individuals is a precarious pose on a crumbling cliff.Read A Chance Conversation if you want to soak in more of such thoughts.
“We frequently speak of chance as being causative, an error that my gambling friends warn me against; there is no force operating more strongly on the coin to turn up heads after it has successively come up tails three times, four times, five times. Yet chance intervenes so often in what seems a mechanical thread of contingency that it affects all of us, however humble our circumstances.”
October 13, 2017
October 12, 2017
In A Lexicographer’s Memoir of Merriam-Webster in the Internet Age, Adrienne Raphel explains that the business of words to the ‘hyperverbal’ connoisseur is nothing short of magical. A lexicographer at Merriam Webster could spend months on detailing the occurrences of a word as taken for granted as ‘do’. The question is has the internet made dictionaries irrelevant?
Not really, though lexicographers are fast losing their jobs.
In her book, Word by Word, Stamper calls the Internet both ‘a vast ball of wax’ and ‘a double-edged sword’. Without the physical limitations of print, the online dictionary can hold a broader lexicon as well as longer definitions.
Dictionaries like Merriam Webster are finding ways to become more edgy and hip by including active comment threads, youtube videos and trending topics.
It would be a good idea to browse this essay if you want to know more about the book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper and to understand the scope of a dictionary in today’s digital world.
October 9, 2017
Sudharsan got a translated book that reads more like a fable- Tale of a Tamarind Tree by Sundara Ramaswamy. The story is set in a town that resembles Madurai and talks about how a town evolves around a large tamarind tree. The author has tried to convey the oral storytelling tradition, something that is now lost as are the trees around which they were told. The tamarind tree oversees everything- the people there as they play, work and grow older; it gives fruit over which people squabble and is ultimately cut down so that a park can be built instead. If Tamil literature interests you and you want to know more about this story, this review is a good one, though there will be spoilers!
Carrying on with the theme of Indian literature, Sunny surmised that he preferred this time to dabble in a book from India, a Hindi book called Godan by Premchand. Anyone who knows Hindi is familiar with Premchand as he is still the most popular writer in this language even though his work is quite dated. The story is what can be described as Bollywoodesque and vintage 70s. The characters have no gray and are definitely good or bad. There is no middle class as such, only the zamindar, landlord, and his fiefdom. Hori Mahato is a farmer. He is married and has two daughters and a son. The story revolves around Hori’s desire to own a cow and the problems that ensue. Other works written by Premchand were mentioned including Mazdoor and Nirmala.
Many books in regional languages including those by the renowned Perumal Murugan focus on the social problems that exist in village communities. Abhaya mentioned an English book in this context called Nectar in the Sieve by Kamala Markandaya. The story is based on a child bride who must deal with the travesties of drought and monsoon, the realities of any agrarian tragedy. Abhaya also mentioned Neem Ka Ped, a long-ago Indian television drama-series written by famous writer Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza where feudal hierarchy was depicted in pre- and post independent India. Have you seen it?
And with that, we come to the end of the BYOB Party in July 2017. Such a long list of book recommendations! What are you reading?