Quote of the Moment

"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Grimm - Pilot

Grimm is another new fantasy TV series that just started a few weeks ago. I was quite happy to see that there were two more fantasy based series coming out this year, even if they started later in the season.

Unlike Once Upon A Time, though, I'm still not sold on Grimm after watching the Pilot. Right now, I consider Grimm a mash between Charmed and Supernatural. Now, both of those shows have a special place in my heart, but Grimm feels much like the cliche I just used.

Here is our premise. Nick is a homicide cop, and he is supposedly a Grimm. This is something that is hereditary, and it's his responsibility, since his aunt, his last living relative, is dying of cancer, to hunt down the scary creatures--all those frightening fairytale creatures that no one believes are real.

Now Charmed had several cops throughout the series helping out the sisters. The Halliwells also had their awesome old Victorian they lived in (so does Nick!), and they had to keep everything a secret. And Supernatural, the Winchester brothers are always hunting down those scary creatures, and of course impersonating law enforcement in the process.

So, you see how I made the connections? Right now, the protagonist as cop has been way overdone. There are enough cop shows on TV (some very good, and I happily watch them), so why did Nick have to be a cop? What makes these nasties he's hunting any different than the ones that the Halliwells and Winchesters have beaten down repeatedly? I guess I am looking for something to lift Grimm out of the world of predictability, to surpass the "been there, done that" feeling.

Did I totally dislike Grimm? No. It did have some good points. I particularly liked Nick's partner, Hank. Not only was he willing to put up with a little of Nick's craziness, he was shown to be a smart and observant cop. He noticed the song that the "Big Bad Wolf" was humming. Unfortunately, Hank's smarts kind of reflected badly on Nick. Nick wasn't looking close enough for the proof, throughout the entire episode. It was like once he learned about the monsters and that he was a Grimm, he forgot that he was also a cop and should act like one.

I also liked the music frame of the episode. At the beginning is "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics, and then at the end is the cover of the same song my Marylin Manson. Although I am not a fan of the cover song (kind of creeps me out, even though I love the original), I did think that was a nice frame to use for the episode. Heck, that was the best part of the episode for me.

I am hoping the second episode will show more promise. I'm giving it two more episodes before giving up on it.

Overall rating: 2 of 5 Stars

NEXT UP: Classic Fantasy from 1975-1989.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coming-of-Age and Balance in A Wizard of Earthsea

SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read A Wizard of Earthsea there are spoilers in this essay.

* * * * *

Ah, A Wizard of Earthsea. I've read the initial Earthsea trilogy before (I have yet to read the newer two books in the series, though), and it's another story that I enjoyed reading again, especially since Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite authors. A Wizard of Earthsea is a true coming-of-age story for the wizard Ged. Le Guin also does an excellent job structuring her magic system--it perfectly reflects what Ged becomes at the end of the novel.

"The first two books of the Earthsea cycle thus recount coming-of-age stories for two children, a male and a female" (145). What Richard Mathews states here is simple truth--it's hard not to see the coming-of-age story in A Wizard of Earthsea (and the female coming-of-age story in The Tombs of Atuan is a wonderful mirror to the first novel). We meet Ged when he's still a boy, still unnamed, and as he learns his magic, he goes through many stages and emotions to finally reach adulthood.

When Ged first becomes Ogion's apprentice, he's an impatient child. He wants to learn everything, and he wants to learn it immediately. The childish impatience gets in the way of what Ogion is trying to teach him. It's not until far later in the novel that Ged finally accepts and craves learning by listening and watching as Ogion originally wished. That impatience also sends him straight to Roke.

Once on Roke, Ged develops a disdain for his fellow student, Jasper. It's another emotion and impulse of childhood or even adolescence. And it leads him to believe that anything that goes wrong isn't his own fault, but the fault of another. When Ged looks like a fool his first day at Roke, he doesn't take responsibility for his own actions. "And Ged followed sullen and sore-hearted, knowing he had behaved like a fool, and blaming Jasper for it" (Le Guin 41). It was Ged himself who actually chose how to respond to Jasper's questions and made himself look the fool, yet Ged blames Jasper.

And the next stage in Ged's life is his fall, which comes about due to his pride. Like a pompous teenager, he boasts and shows off, which then comes back to tear him down. His spell causes the shadow to enter the world. Ged's pride comes crashing down, and instead of simply learning from his mistakes, he feels as though he needs to be constantly punished. Initially he was so high on himself, and now he drags the perception of himself to rock bottom.

Then Ged runs. He attempts to hide from his mistakes in a literal sense, by running from the shadow that pursues him. This is yet another stage in his growth.

Finally, when he's ready to accept the mistakes he's made, he decides to face them head on. He chases the shadow to the ends of Earthsea because he knows he must face the truth about himself. And once he finally meets face to face with the shadow, he realizes he is made up of his successes, failures, and mistakes; that there is a balance inside of him between good and evil, just like there is in everyone. This realization is Ged's step into adulthood. "Ged has completed one stage of his life and is ready for the next" (Mathews 141).

The balance that Ged attains at the end is a reflection on the entire magic system of the book. Le Guin masterfully outlines just what and what not magic users can do in Earthsea. You can't get something out of nothing, you can't change something without it effecting something else. There must always be a balance. And when Ged takes the shadow into himself, he's righting that balance inside of himself, just like magic.

A Wizard of Earthsea is a great high fantasy that shows that coming-of-age arc, and that's only emphasized by the magic Le Guin weaves into the story. The following novel focuses on the other side of the coin, the growth of a female protagonist, making both books powerful reads in a great series. Le Guin is an author that I think should be read by any fantasy or science fiction writer (or reader) since she is an exceptional storyteller.

Works Cited

Le Guin, Ursula K. A Wizard of Earthsea. Bantam Books: New York, 1975.
Mathews, Richard. Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination. Routledge: New York, 2002.

NEXT UP: A review of the first episode of Grimm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Classic Fantasy from 1950-1974

This will be a long list! I'm not sure if I will end up taking this series all the way through 1999 because the books multiply exponentially. But below is a list (at least somewhere to start) of classic fantasy from 1950-1974.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Blue Star by Fletcher Pratt
Voyage to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
The Golden Apples of the Sun by ray Bradbury
The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Half Magic by Edward Eager
The Children of Green Knowe by L. M. Boston
The Wonderful O by James Thurber
The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
James the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
The Stealer of Souls (Elric Saga) by Michael Moorcock
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Witch World by Andre Norton
The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydian) by Lloyd Alexander
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Snow White by Donald Barthelme
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
A Wizard or Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Swords in the Mist (Gray Mouser Series) by Fritz Leiber
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffery
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Nine Princes in Amber (Amber series) by Roger Zelazny
Deryni Rising (Deryni series) by Katherine Kurtz
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Darkover Landfall (Darkover series) by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

And that is the list. So, which classics on this list do you love? Are there any others you think I should include that aren't on there now? It's amazing how much fantasy is out there, past as well as present.

This list was compiled with the help of Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination and A Short History of Fantasy.

NEXT UP: My look at A Wizard of Earthsea.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Review: Once Upon A Time - Pilot

I know I'm a couple episodes behind, but hopefully everyone has now watched the Pilot of Once Upon A Time (for those like me that DVR everything and watch when there is time). There are of course spoilers in this review.

Since both Once Upon A Time and Grimm are new fantasy TV shows this season, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at both while the season passes. I always get excited when I see the networks taking a chance on fantasy.

The Pilot of Once Upon A Time pleased me, overall. However, I was left with a few questions that kind of felt like plot holes.

I loved it that Emma Swan's profession was a bounty hunter. It was unexpected, and unexpected is always good, especially if it fits nicely into the story. Her profession was utilized a little bit in the first episode, but I'm hoping that it will be used throughout the series. As long as the writers didn't just make her a bounty hunter and forget about it in the long run, it was a great choice.

I also liked how she was the type of person to spot a lie. It was nicely done at the end how she asked Henry's "mom" if she loved him - Emma obviously saw it was a lie, but instead of outright telling us that's what she saw, the writers showed us that she saw the lie by having her check into the inn instead of leaving town.

The clock re-starting was a little predictable, but it is hard to get away from some predictability.

However, as I mentioned earlier, there were a couple of things that didn't make much sense. First, Emma's name. She claims she was abandoned on the side of a highway (obviously where she came through via the wardrobe). How exactly did whoever found her or the foster care system know her name? We know there was no note attached to the child. Was her blanket embroidered with her name? If so, I totally missed that, but it does seem like a bit of a hiccup.

The second thing that bugged me was Henry. Supposedly, he's Pinocchio. So then, why didn't he immediately have the curse on him and exist in Storybrooke like the others? How was he then born to Emma Swan? And if bad things happened whenever anyone left Storybrooke, how was HE able to leave Storybrooke without consequences? Some of it just seems a bit shaky or big leaps in suspending disbelief to me.

There was one more thing I wanted to comment about. Now, I haven't watched any further episodes yet (although I hope to this week), but from this one episode it really felt like the writers have a horribly negative view on our own world. Our world has been portrayed as a place where there can never be any happy endings. I do like the darkness that surrounded the first episode. After all, I'm all for the dark fantasy, as you know. I'm just wondering if it was too heavy handed for some people in the first episode with such a negative view on our own world.

I do look forward to watching the next episode of Once Upon A Time, though! That's a good sign - just like the desire of wanting to turn to the next page in a book.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

NEXT UP: Classic Fantasy from 1950-1974 (I promise this time, really).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

It's that time of year again! Writers are going crazy to push out 50,000 words. Ah, NaNoWriMo, you daunt me and drive me all at the same time. I have never successfully completed a NaNo novel, but at least I've gotten a decent amount of words done trying.

This year, I'm going to be a Rebel again! That's nothing new for me. Projects that need finishing before I can start new ones. I will be completing the rough draft of Dead As Dreams (so close!), and then I'll be continuing Daina's Dance: Rhythm novel. There should be more than 50,000 words between those two projects, but I am going to allow myself to set a goal of 25,000 instead. I do still have the toddler to chase around and an online class to complete this month. I will attempt to post weekly updates on my blog, and I will be Tweeting the results of my writing sessions.

Also, don't forget about Writing Quest - November! You can join Writing Quest in concert with NaNoWriMo. =)

My Word Count Meter for the month is below. I will attempt to change out the emoticons everyday, but no promises. I've already gotten in an hour of writing time already today! Next session will start right after I post this!

NEXT UP: Wherever my whims take me! (Either the Classic Fantasy Reading Lists continued or a review of Once Upon A Time.)