SETTING FOR UNSETTLING FICTION

Hi Readers,

There is a curtain shades advertisement in my country whose tagline is “Setting is everything”. I guess this stands apt to our topic for this month. We human beings need setting for everything. We need setting to propose, to celebrate, to mourn, to read, to write and to eat! I sometimes wonder if we would like a setting to die, if at all we knew the date of our death. I guess we all are pretty dramatic.

When it comes to books, they are a wonderful medium that take us to a completely different world. They take us to warzone, they take us to the North Pole, they take us on a chartered flight, they take us to Buckingham Palace, they take us to the lion’s den and also to the witch’s land. Book is very powerful and the story we are about to read is ought to be set in a perfect place.. because that is where the reader is going to travel.

There are plenty of my favorite settings. Almost every book gives me a unique experience with its setting and ambiance. If you’ve read the book “Room” by Emma Donoghue, you would instantly know what I mean. It’s a novel set up in a small room. I could feel the walls of the room closing in while I was reading that book. Setting up an entire book in a small room setup takes courage. I cheer the author. And, I must say its one of the best novels I’ve read.

On contrary, “Alice in Wonderland” is another by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is an entirely different set up. A magical world, amazing fictional place with peculiar creatures, the setting is rich and makes the reader dive right into this setting, while reading. “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg is another such fictional story which is set up in a train and equally enthusiastic. That’s one of my favorite book I’ve read in my childhood.

“We the Living” by Ayn Rand is set up in Russia with details of the critical times where communism was prevailing. It’s an amazing book and it entirely turns ones perspective around.

Setting especially plays an important role in thriller, horror and  mystery genres. If you’ve read any of Stephen King’s books, you’ll know what I mean. “IT”, “Pet Sematary”, “The Stand” are few of my favorites from Stephen King with breathtaking settings. The author Dan Brown, too, picks crazy settings for his novels like the setting in his novels “The Lost Symbol”, “Inferno”, and “The Da Vinci Code”. “The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins is one of my favorite classic mystery novels with a beautiful setting. Agatha Christie is also another author of mystery novels who writes her novels in great settings.

The author’s uniqueness is revealed in such setting and in the detailing he writes about it without missing the tiniest of the things. As a reader, I imagine the place where the story is taking place by closing my eyes and putting all the pieces of the details written by the author, together behind my closed eyes. And bam, I can see myself standing right in the middle of the scene literally watching the characters talking to each other clearly unaware of me looking at them. That’s why I love reading books so much.

Purely because I read so many books, I’ve been to wine yards in Italy, been on Atlantic Ocean in a huge ship, flew in a Boeing carrying missiles during the war time, walked on the pastures of Scotland and believe it or not, I’ve been there in Antarctica, too!

Short Bio:

The Little Island World That Began My Love of Writing

The year was 2006. I sat at my desk, my hour-long lunch break feeling all too short.

I held my breath, the entire scene on the page unfolding in full colour in my mind:

A dying man with a shark bite being regretfully yet angrily suffocated by another man to end his long and painful suffering. I know full-well that what is happening is immoral and wrong, and yet the moment is laid out in such a way that I fully understood why it needed to happen. I felt the sadness and rising panic of the character telling their story.

The little alarm I set to mark the end of my lunch bleeped, and I’m yanked out of this beautifully written world, back to a hum-drum existence that won’t ever be as colourful or meaningful as the one inside of this book.

By the time I had finished reading The Beach by Alex Garland, I knew that I wanted to write novels.

Like many authors, I had written little stories, poems and plays my entire life. However, the absolute need to write and publish an entire novel had never struck me until I read that book.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@ScoutDawson) will know that I talk about Alex Garland a lot when chatter of favourite authors or books arises.

He is perhaps better known for his cinematic work, such as writing the screenplays for 28 Days Later, Ex-Machina and Annihilation, but I know him best for The Beach, my hands-down favourite book of all time.

The world and characters that Garland is capable of creating is breathtaking. I had read plenty of books before The Beach, of course, but it opened up an entirely new world of what a novel could be, making it stick in my mind like cement.

He is very much a fast-paced, no-nonsense writer; he puts exactly the image he intended in the reader’s head, and it’s something I appreciate about his work a lot. His works are very visual and cinematic – something which I can only attribute to his background in film – and rendering his words as pictures in your mind is never difficult.

His use of language is descriptive and beautiful, sometimes graphic and nightmarish. However, it never strays into the danger-zone of flowery or pretentious, and he will remain one of my favourite authors for that reason among many.

He also knows how to create people who are so real that it almost feels invasive at times.

He knows how to slink into your head and pull out the guilty pleasures and intrusive thoughts that you try to push away and places them into the lives of his characters.

We have all read (and left) one-star reviews on a book stating “the characters were horrible people”, as if the only way to write a good book is to have flawless, likeable Mary-Sue tropes with perfect hair and a winning smile.

Garland is never afraid to put a paranoid schizophrenic in the main role, or create a female who is neither weak nor cartoonishly strong. He’s not scared to make the villain a bit soft and almost pitiful.

He’s not afraid to write a book that unequivocally convinces you that this never happens in real life, but who says it couldn’t?

I took my hat off to that bravery long ago, and it has most definitely worked its way into my own writing ever since.

My first attempt at a novel in 2006, fresh after finishing The Beach was terrible (as most first novels are), but I was in love.

I will always attribute Alex Garland’s works for sparking that fire, which has done nothing but blossom ever since.

Randy Attwood Sale | July 18 – 21

For the next four days the books of Randy Attwood are on sale for 99 cents; one title each day. Check out the details below…

Tortured Truths, by Randy Attwood - CoverMystery Novel Tortured Truths by Randy Attwood is 99 cents on July 18

Once a journalist, always a journalist.” Until the Hezbollah get a hold of you and show you just what a coward you are. Philip McGuire was already a burnt-out foreign correspondent before the Hezbollah kidnapped him in Beirut and, under torture by exposing the nerves of his hand, got him to give the layout of the Marine compound he had visited. They blow it up, killing those 237 soldiers. Then why release Philip, whose psyche is now blown to smithereens with guilt?

The hand gets repaired. Philip quits journalism and returns to his college town to buy and run a bar and try to repair his psyche. A brash Hispanic journalism student teaches him to love again and she starts his healing process. But local drug plots and the young journalist’s prying bring him full cycle right back to the hands of the Hezbollah. But this time he just might be able to sort out all the double-crosses.

First in a series novels about Philip McGuire. His years as a foreign correspondent provide the experience — college professors provide the knowledge — to solve various mysteries brought to him in his bar.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Heart Chants, by Randy Attwood - CoverSupernatural Thriller Heart Chants by Randy Attwood is 99 cents on July 19

Phillip McGuire gave up journalism to own and run a bar in Lawrence, Kansas. He’s happy with his new house in the country. But something is missing.

When two Navajo female students go missing from Haskell Indian college, he agrees to shelter a third. Then a mysterious beautiful Chinese woman stumbles into his life. And all the while, Coyote is working on the largest sandpainting ever created and advancing his plan to reopen the gates to the Navajo’s Holy People.

Just how burnt-out is Phillip when he knows it is up to him to sniff out the truth?

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Satirical novel Spill: Take That Big Oil! by Randy Attwood is 99 cents on July 20

Veteran Kansas journalist, editor, publisher, and columnist, John Marshall, whose reporting specialty is politics, has this to say about SPILL, by Randy Attwood:

“Think all politicians are creeps, the rules are locked in against you and the world is forever in the grip of big politics and Bigger Oil? Think again. Attwood has.

SPILL is a what-if adventure, starting with a couple of insurgent citizens who con the establishment and get rich along the way. In Attwood’s world, all the old clichés are real and the system is rigged from the start – until it’s un-rigged by good guys bad to the bone – the funny bone.

From page one to the end, SPILL enlightens, amuses and instructs us that, one day, someone just might game the system – and get away with it. Attwood, brilliantly, shows us how.”

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blow Up The Roses, by Randy Attwood - CoverMurder mystery Blow Up the Roses by Randy Attwood is 99 cents on July 21

How much pain, horror and anguish can one cul d’sac endure?

Why is so much murder, mystery and sexual brutality condensed among the few duplex homes built so close together on the Elm Street cul d’sac?

The answers lie within the language of flowers; and the language of flowers can be brutally frank.

Of course, if you speak it, it can also save your life.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Fiction about Extraterrestrials Makes Me Appreciate “Being Human”

I heard a lot about UFOs, aliens and extraterrestrial beings when I was a child. Those were the times when a news story came up reporting a flying saucer spotted hovering over some city or flights vanishing mysteriously into space, etc, etc. I found these stories very interesting. Of course, I never thought we, the human are the only living beings in this huge universe. I totally believed there is life on other planets, far away from planet Earth and may be far more advanced than we are.

The first book I read about extraterrestrial beings was Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh. The book has special species which are super intelligent and math genius. This was overwhelming, scary and also very interesting. I also read a lot of other books that included UFOs and aliens in their plot like The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, The Hercules Text by Jack McDevitt, 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney, Communion by Whitley Stieber, and many more. But the book that left a long lasting impression in my mind, memory and imagination is The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Elon Musk said in an interview that this was the book that increased his enthusiasm in outer space and exploring it. After all, the details in the book are so beautiful, that it took me on a wild ride into the space that I’ve never been in, just by reading it.

There are also plenty of movies related to extraterrestrials. The first such movie that totally impressed me was Independence Day. It felt so real and this movie gives me goosebumps even today. There are plenty of other movies too, Species I, II & III, Star Trek and it’s sequels, Star Wars and it’s sequels, The War of the Worlds, The X-Files, Men In Black, Avatar and plenty of others. I like all the movies. But what surprises me is most of the times, the extraterrestrials are pictured as dangerous beings with weird bodies. I really wish to watch a movie with a very beautiful alien who is also very friendly. I know there are few but they are not enough, I guess.

The craft of writing a fiction that involves UFOs or extraterrestrials is pretty challenging. Nobody ever saw them, they simply seem to be a myth. Writing about something that exists is one thing, and writing about something that is a pure myth is a completely different story. But, the advantage is, since no one knows how it is and what it is, a writer can go wild with his imagination and bring about a creature that is purely created by the author. He can also make the readers believe what he wrote by giving plenty of details that no one ever can prove existing, but still find interesting.

Last but not the least these imaginary extraterrestrial beings always scare me. I like the thought that they are very smart than us but I really wish they share their knowledge to make this world a better place. I love my planet earth, I love the beautiful oceans, mountains, plateaus, trees, animals and birds on this planet, I love being human and being able to appreciate this lovely earth and the beings existing on it. It wouldn’t matter to me if any aliens existed as long as my earth is safe. I will choose to be born on earth a hundred times over any other planet. I love and cherish “Being Human”!

 

 

Book Flashbacks That Bring Back Beautiful Memories

I remember falling asleep to my mother’s wonderful voice while she read ‘Hattie and the Fox’ by Mem Fox. Books are the best things that happened to me. I’m glad my mom introduced me to a plenty of reading. There were not many things to do those days… no mobiles to play games, no Youtube and no Internet! Most of the times it was just television and even that was restricted. We could watch TV only for a couple of hours and not more than that. We’d get to watch a movie on Sunday and that’s about it. Amidst all this, my favorite thing to do was reading. I’d pick a book, stick my head into it and fly away into an imaginary world without a ticket. I’d get to know plenty of things by reading books.

I can’t tell you how much I fell in love with ‘The Polar Express’ by Chris Van Allsburg. I’m sure most of the 80s and 90s kids know about this amazing book. I never knew what snow is like. But after reading this book, I added visiting North Pole to my bucket list. The way the author beautifully takes me through the wonderful journey after I board the Polar Express is magical. The train took me through dense forests and huge mountains. I still read this book now and then whenever I miss my childhood.

Matilda is particularly my favorite and I must say I blame it on this book for turning into a book worm. I liked how smart Matilda is at such a young age and how she always stood up for herself and for Miss Honey. I must say, at some point, I believed reading books would land me magical powers. So silly of me! This is a wonderful book for kids even today. I totally recommend this one to my daughter.

Michael Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse’ is another favorite book of mine. I liked the way the author described how it was like during the World War not in a human point of view but in a horse’s point of view. I literally cried when Topthorn dies of heart failure. This is the book that inspired me to read more and more historic fiction in the later part of my life.

It would be a huge mistake if I forget to mention my favorite book, the Bible which had so many wonderful stories, about David and Goliath, Jacob, King Solomon, Jesus and his miracles and much more. And the picture Bible gifted to me by my aunt is still my favorite.

The best thing about the books I read during my childhood was the beautiful cover pages. They are so alluring and I could not take my eyes off of the books when I see them in a book store or a library. The illustrations are mesmerizing. Especially the illustrations from the books Matilda, Hansel and Gretel, The Tale of Peter Rabbit are wonderful. The illustrations from the book took me into a dream world from where I never wanted to come back.

I was so obsessed with books and stories, I still, am! I read books daily before going to bed. I used to bring home books from my school library. Let me tell you a secret, I used to hide the story books in my school textbooks and secretly read during my class hours. I read books sitting on the terrace, in the portico, under the bed, hiding in the attic, and almost everywhere.

These books ignited the imagination in my mind, made me believe in fairies, these beautiful stories told me that there could be dragons but at the same time, we could slay them if we are brave enough. I understood various cultures at a very young age through these books. I grew my passion for art only through reading books. I started believing in magic and learnt many values through the morals of these wonderful stories. I bet you all have your own favorite childhood storybooks. Tonight I’m going to dust off some of my favorite books, sit and read at least two of them and rekindle those magical days.

FATHER: A girl’s first love and a boy’s first hero!

My father used to be very strict. He talks less, smiles rarely, loves unconditionally and forgives thoroughly. I’m fortunate to have a father like him. He is my role model, my hero. I felt fathers were kind of underrated until recently. The Father’s Day helped, I guess. Still most of the kids don’t talk to their fathers as openly as they talk to their mothers. I wondered why.

Over the times, we’ve been seeing many fathers.. some around us, some on the TV, some in the movies we watch and some in the books we read. Father is the one person whom we look upto, the one person who takes our responsibilities. He is the one who not only gives life to us, but also, plays a huge role in making us into the person who we are today. Father is the one who protects us from this world when we are young and also, slowly teaches us how to fight this world while growing up. Even as a child, we are taught to kneel down in prayer and call out for “Father who art in Heaven”. We secretly hope for our Heavenly Father to take care of us, to protect us, to provide us our daily bread and to deliver us from evil.

Personally being a book worm, I found a father or more in each and every story. There are some impressive fathers in some movies and TV shows. I guess many of us look up to those fictional father characters at some point or the other. The most impressive fictional father figures from my point of view are, Christopher Gardner from The Pursuit of Hapyness, Mufasa from The Lion King, Bryan Mills from Taken, Vito Corleone from The Godfather, Solomon Vandy from Blood Diamond, and Ethan Webb and W. F. Gerald from The Only Living Boy in New York.

There are some amazing fathers in bible, too. Joseph for example, didn’t abandon his pregnant wife. He stood as a rock and protected Mary and Jesus. David, too, was an incredible father.

Being a father is about responsibility and immense love. Not everyone becomes a great father but I believe the effort to be a fine father in itself is a great achievement. We must appreciate all such fathers. On the occasion of the Father’s Day, I salute all those wonderful fathers who did their best at being a good father, all those fathers who didn’t run away from responsibilities, those fathers who worked day and night to provide for their families and those fathers who sacrificed a lot in order to make sure that their kids succeeded.

Mythology in Modern Guise

I grew up reading and watching about all the religions in my country and the folklore especially I used to watch on TV was mesmerizing. I hail from India and that being said, I’m sure you all understand what mythology means to me. India is a country of so many religions, so many stories, so many gods and goddesses and so many evils (rakshasas). There are plenty of books like Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bhagavadgita, etc. Just like kids from western countries read fairytales to go to bed, Indian kids listen to the stories of Rama, Krishna, Sita, Shiva, Vishnu, Saraswati, Hanuman and more millions of gods while going to bed. Living in a secular country like India, I am aware of almost all the festivals that are celebrated in India by every religion including, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_festivals_in_India). There are hundreds of rituals for every occasion and there are hundreds of methods to perform each of those rituals.

We all know how the generations are changing and how well we’re attracted towards latest trends, fashion, gadgets, aliens, and a lot more. I always used to feel that we are growing distant from our roots, stopped believing in our faiths and beliefs and giving less importance to our folklore and rituals. The mythological stories I used read or those I used to hear from my grandmother were not plain religious stories but stories with a moral, a hidden message, a hero, a heroine and a villain and last but not the least supporting characters. They were complete. I craved for my offspring to learn similar stories and experience the magic I felt during my childhood.

In the recent times, I observed a huge difference in the current generation. I noticed that they are drawn towards fairytales, magic, Hogwarts, folklore, and a lot more. While the western countries were going crazy over this genre, I was worried for my own country India. I was worried that the great mythological stories of my culture and its rituals might be buried deep down the various other genres. That’s when I came across ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ by Amish Tripathi.

I read the book and I was overwhelmed. I’m glad Indian authors are exploring the mythology under the modern lens and putting it forward for the latest generations to read with perfect combination of mythology and current scenarios. If you want to read more such Indian mythological stories in modern guise, take a look at the list. If you are a complete stranger to Indian mythology, don’t worry at all, here is a list where you can explore your options and get to know various stories . Here is another list for your reference.

Most of the Indian authors are willing to bring forward our old myths in an exciting new cover. Few of my favorite such authors are, Ashwin Sanghi, Amish Tripathi, Anand Neelakantan, Devdutt Pattanaik, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

I believe mythology helps us believe in wonders, second chances, magic, forgiveness, and a lot more. Also, we ought to know our roots first and then branch out to other parts of the world.

Please share your views with me. I’m available at https://www.facebook.com/madhuri.palaji.522, https://twitter.com/madhupalaji24. I also write a blog named The Clipped Nightingale, https://theclippednightingale.wordpress.com.  Please feel free to get in touch with me.

 

The Wistful Reads of a Nineties Kid

No nineties child has ever lived so much in the 1940s. Between the ages of about 6 and 10, I was obsessed with Enid Blyton, whatever form her stories took. The Famous Five, and reckless adventure? Check. The Twins of St. Clare’s, and boarding school mischief? Check. The Faraway Tree, and all the different worlds in its uppermost branches? Check, check, check. For a long time, that’s all I’d read, and looking nostalgically back at those books, I can pretty much understand why.

They were wholly different to anything I knew, and anything I would ever see. The Famous Five, with George, Dick, Anne, Julian, and Timmy, were free; Britain was safe for them to run around, although they always ran into mischief and mysteries, and that was alien to me. Even at such a young age, I romanticized picnics in the country, just with other kids, eating food I’d never heard of; the unspoiled, beautiful, whimsical landscape that Enid Blyton described; and the sheer independence that these kids had, in an England that’s changed.

Granted, these books were not true to life. Kids outwitting smugglers (Five Go To Smuggler’s Top), kids solving creepy mysteries (Five Go To Mystery Moor), kids rescuing kidnap victims (Five Run Away Together)… but in a way, they echoed my own parents’ childhoods. The hours of solo biking, swimming in rivers, going out when it got light and coming home at sunset, with endless exploring and games. Times change, and so do childhoods… but The Famous Five were a gorgeous escape.

And what child doesn’t like to imagine themselves beating baddies with their brains?

The boarding school books were a similar thing. The Twins of St. Clare’s, and Malory Towers, and Anne Digby’s 1980s Trebizon books… it was adventure, and yet another realm of it. No parents? Tuck boxes? Odd-sounding sports (as a kid, lacrosse seemed very odd indeed), the occasional boy scandal, and trips into the nearest quaint town?

Perfect. The dream, in fact. I saw these books as constant sleepovers, loved the drama, and got weirdly obsessed with the lesson plans. I even wrote my own boarding school stories, where I’d plan the lessons, and create students of all ages, with character sketches to boot.

Case in point, from a story I wrote age 9, about teenagers who march around Surrey collecting students, and then set up a boarding school in Switzerland. As you do.

They had 18 pupils (counting Rayanna): Ray, Hazel, Maria, Sophia, Holly, Claudine, Jessica, Melissa, Hannah, Janitiana, Katie, Zoe, Lindsay, Emily, Rosa, Fiona, Lucy-Anne, and Arianne.

Those names, and that detail. At least I had a good grasp of the Oxford Comma. This also made me smile:

“Listen up everyone, I’ve decided that today is going to be the day where we sort out the uniforms, furniture, text and exercise books, and classes – for cleverness – and if you’re a Senior, Junior, or Infant… The name of this school is Sundown! Oh, and Lunch will be at 12:00am!”

It was very, very cute. But why was I obsessed with this kind of thing? Again, it was so different, and something I’d never see – even if I had gone to boarding school, I wouldn’t have had the fabulous old fashioned uniforms, or lived by the same old fashioned rules, or come from the same types of families and home lives, because I was sixty years in the future.

And oh, how they talked in these books! I couldn’t get over the 1940s ‘posh’ language that’s naturally gone out of style. I devoured Roald Dahl autobiographies for the same reason – it’s a time out of time, and something I could fully immerse myself in, imagining my own innocent adventures. I loved the magical thrill of his first trip in a motor car, in Boy, and although it ended with him flying through the windscreen, you could fully feel the family excitement. His trips to sweet shops, and his holidays, too… it was magic, and I read and reread and reread again.

As I did with The Faraway Tree. It stayed with me for years, even after I’d stopped reading the books. Before I went to sleep, I’d imagine fantastical predicaments for myself in the different crazy worlds – having a grand old time in the Land of Goodies, and surviving kidnap attempts in the Land of Dame Slap. It was innocent, if daring, as were all the adventures in these books, and they painted such a deep picture of everything they described.

I think that was very much part of the appeal: adventure without real threat, in a modern world that’s scary for kids and adults alike. You knew the Famous Five would escape their scrapes, as would the children in the lands above the tree. It’s good old fashioned escapism, without the nastier elements that creep into even kids’ books today, and without the exhausting chop-chop-chop pace. The books flowed, they were gentle, and the stories were inspired.

This is a desire that clearly lingers on. The Magic Faraway Tree will soon be a film, exciting all those kids who grew up on the books, and all the adults who knew them a generation before. I hope it’ll excite the next generation, too, and give them the innocent escapism they need to keep them fresh, and sane, and young, in the crazy, crazy world. If it makes them read the books that send me looking wistfully back at my childhood, and even more wistfully beyond, then that’s nothing short of amazing.

Passing The Torch

I grew up at the most amazing time.

I know a lot of people would argue that the late 80’s/early 90’s were not a mecca for anything except poor fashion choices, but here are the perks that come with being an ’85 kid.

The Little Mermaid was the Disney movie all my friends knew and loved. Every trip to a pool, lake, or ocean… we were mermaids. I got in trouble more than once for brushing my hair with a fork in public. The sing along potential from that movie is amazing, and who doesn’t want a cranky crab as a sidekick?

I learned about traveling through the digestive track with The Magic School Bus. Ms. Frizzle was my cartoon tutor about all the wonderful things you could explore in life. Though, admittedly, I did have nightmares about shrinking, being swallowed, and getting permanently trapped in a person’s throat.

I also grew up alongside Harry Potter. I was just past the stage where I could hope for a letter from Hogwarts, but I was perfectly placed to revel in the wonder of the wizarding world. When the final books were released, I was an adult who could go to the midnight release and binge the books through the night. I made it through the Harry Potter series spoiler free. That is a feat, my friend.

Teenaged angst? Buffy The Vampire Slayer was right there, not only having way worse dating drama than I could ever cook up, but proving that girls kick butt… seriously.

And an epic bonus, I was old enough to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies in theatres! I had grown up with a serious crush on Elijah Wood, and though the hobbit feet still freak me out, seeing someone so close to my age succeed on such a massive level was incredible. Also, the movies are just great.

Here comes the part where I sound really old.

Kids today just don’t get the awesomeness that was my youth!

The Little Mermaid has its own ride at Disney World and Disneyland, which is super awesome, but Ariel has been replaced (in general, not on the ride) with the modern princesses. I love that Elsa and Anna save each other, and it’s great that Moana has no love interest at all. Sure, The Little Mermaid might be a little sexist and there are some major plot holes, but it’s still a great movie! I worry that over time this classic will be pushed into the realm of Steamboat Willie where clips will be watched without context on YouTube, and small children will wonder why anyone would want to buy that hat at Disney World.

With the reboot of The Magic School Bus, kids today think they’re the ones to discover the magic of Ms. Frizzle. Don’t let the children convince you of this. Enough said.

It’s sort of the same boat with Harry Potter. Kids don’t understand why an adult would be so obsessed. I’ve been to the theme park (which is amazing, btw), and kids don’t seem to understand why there are so many grown ups who want to get a good view in the windows, or watch Dumbledore speak in his office. I have an interactive wand, and kids glare at you like you’ve stomped on their puppy when you don’t let them cut the line to cast spells. This is my childhood, kid. You can wait in line like the rest of us.

Poor Buffy has been relegated to a dark corner of the TV universe where kids will probably never see it.

I actually had a teenager tell me they didn’t like the Lord of the Rings movies because there wasn’t enough plot. I had to explain the difference between the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.

So, here I am, stuck in a world of swirling nostalgia. On the one hand, it’s nice to love something like Buffy where I don’t have to argue the timeline and validity of a universe to people who can’t drive.

But I do want the next generation to experience the joy and wonder of Harry’s sorting. I want them to know that Sam is the real hero. It’s a balance that’s hard to find.

Maybe we could all agree to just slap an est. sticker on all great media, so kids would know the history of the stories they enjoy.

The new generation can’t steal the joy that was my childhood, but maybe, just maybe, we could teach them why they are just going to have to wait their turn to cast the wingardium leviosa spell on the feather at Flourish and Blotts.

Spring Mythology

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

We’ve known what spring is, what causes winter, what brings back the green for a long time now. Surprisingly, it doesn’t involve worshipping at the feet of a twenty-foot statue of Jeff Goldblum. The tilt of the Earth, the distance to the sun, weather patterns are all triggers. But you knew that. Ancient peoples had no such repositories of knowledge however, and relied on storytelling to inform their world. The Greeks had Persephone, the Babylonians Inanna, and the Norse Idun, among others.

All of these mythologies share key aspects – the descent or kidnapping of a bright goddess (usually fertility or nature) to the underworld, an admonishment not to eat or drink anything from that place, and a rescue, usually by a loved one or a repentant figure (in Idun’s case, Loki. Not the Hiddleston one though, but the get myself pregnant as a horse and give birth to my own father’s eight-legged mount). It’s interesting to note that the Norse have a darker version as well, where Baldur, beloved by the gods, was kidnapped into the underworld and couldn’t be released until everything in the universe wept for him. Loki (of course) gave him the shaft by taking the form of a titan who refused to do so, so now he’s stuck ’til Ragnarok.

In the end, the hero (or heroine) returns with the goddess, and the world, wilting like cheap roses, springs (sorry/not sorry) to life. But – the goddess who was trapped in the underworld had a serious case of the munchies, and now she’s cursed to return to the Bates Motel of divinity for 4-6 months of the year. (Not eating anything in a strange place is another piece of mythology that’s stuck with us as well – Alice in Wonderland, fairy abduction stories, and gas stations.)

The important thing we can learn from this is twofold (three if you count ‘never trust Loki’ as one): The rise of the goddess as coequal to their male counterparts as agrarian society grew, showing the shift from a hunting, male-based culture to one of stationary cultivation. At that point, society had recognized women as essential to life, to the health of the community, and though there was some way to go, it was a step up. The other was the promise that though the world can be dark at times, eventually the sun breaks through.

In time, all those myths trickle down, and you end up with symbols. Symbols are the shorthand of culture, and are probably a lot easier to understand than actual shorthand. The lily, the rabbit, the egg. Fertility, new life.

And life, uh, finds a way.