Heads Up, New J.R.R. TOLKIEN NOVEL!

 

I am super excited about this one. Being a huge fan of Tolkien, owner of two first edition novels of his, and avid fan of the movies… this is huge for me!

The new novel is titled The Fall of Gondolin. It looks like Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien is trying to get everything out as fast as he can… given that he’s getting up there, I can understand that. The book will be illustrated by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings artist Alan Lee. I am familiar with, and love his work.

From what research there is available on this book, per  the author of Tolkien and the Great War, John Garth, Tolkien initially wrote The Fall of Gondolin while attempting to recover after the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. It is, however, not going to necessarily be recognizable to fans of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. According to an article in the Guardian, this story is set roughly six thousand years prior to the events of those two novels.

So to my fellow Tolkien followers, get ready!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Contempt for the Contemptful Reader

 

Dear Jim,

I’ve read some of your other posts and was wondering if you had any advice for me. A lot of your other posts have taken stabs at identity politics. I think you and I fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, but I figured I’d give this a shot.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a strong lesbian character. Someone I and others like me can relate to. However, since publication, I’ve been getting a lot of critical and downright offensive comments regarding my work. Some of them even come from self-proclaimed homosexuals who say that the character is stereotypical and offensive. I suspect a lot of these people are trolling and would like to expose them as the hateful individuals they are, so I was thinking of writing a blog piece calling them out on their hatred, but I’m worried about potential backlash from doing this.

If you have any advice, I’d really appreciate it.

Thanks,
Alicia (User asked not to use full name)


… Oh boy…

Hi Alicia,

First of all, I want to respond to your idea of posting a response to your critics calling them out. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU DO THIS!!! Dismissing a part of your audience that may have taken issue with something you wrote will not gain you anything. It won’t bring anyone over to your side and it won’t establish you any level of moral high ground.

I invite you to go back and look at my posts regarding the Ghostbusters debacle and Marvel Comics trends. In those cases, Paul Feig and Marvel accused their audiences of being bigoted trolls. The resulting backlash made things considerably worse than if they’d kept their mouths shut.

What I would ask is whether or not you’ve actually considered that their criticisms might actually be valid? I would look at what they’ve said to you, check out any examples that they may have provided and go back and look at your writing to see if you can figure out what they’re talking about.

Looking at one thing you sent me in your message:
“For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a strong lesbian character. Someone I and others like me can relate to.”

I have a feeling that you may have fallen into a trap that a lot of other people have fallen into. When writing a character, I’ve always found that there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. Basically, this is what it boils down to:

Writing a (LGBT\Female\Male\Minority) Character vs. Writing a Character that Happens to be (LGBT\Female\Male\Minority).

At first glance, there may appear to be little to no difference here, but upon further examination the difference is actually very nuanced. Let’s go with the example you gave above about writing a lesbian character. How often does the fact that she’s a lesbian come up? Is she defined by that characteristic?

See the problem with writing a character this way is that too often the character is defined by their sexual preference and that becomes literally all their is to that character. In essence, that character isn’t a character at all, it’s a character archetype which displays extremely stereotypical lesbian traits. This happens because when a character is defined by what they are instead of who they are, they can’t really bring anything more than that to the table and thus cannot contribute any more than that to any dialogue. They’re always going to stand out and they’re never going to be relatable.

Now let’s look at it from the other perspective. Did you write a character that happens to be a lesbian? In other words, did you write a character with a personality, quirks, etc. that offers more than simply being a lesbian? Are there other aspects to the characters personality… and finally, can people other than lesbians relate to this character?

If you create this character and don’t place all the focus on the fact that she’s a lesbian, suddenly this character will likely seem more like an actual human being that could exist. Give her real world problems, some of which only a lesbian would have to, but others that every day people would have to.

You can still have your character tackle issues that those in the LGBT community faces, but without a human characteristic, people are going to see an archetype that is going to come off as stereotypical. Now I grant you that this is simply an assumption on my part as you didn’t provide me any source material, but I’ve seen many writers fall into this trap and I grant you, it is an easy one to fall into.

My advice to you is two-fold. First, sorry to be blunt about this, but you need to grow a thicker skin. This is advice that you really should have gotten before you started out and I’m sorry that you’re learning it after the fact. Different people speak different ways and what might come off as mean may simply be them being blunt. That being said, their are going to be trolls out there and if you put yourself out in view of the public, especially online, chances are good that you’re going to get trolled.

Which brings me to my second piece of advice. Take a couple of their comments, post them in a blog piece and say something to the effect of “Okay, I can understand why you might feel that way, but honestly my intent was to create a character for people like me that we can relate to. If you have any advice on how I can improve, I’d like to hear them. All I ask is that you give my story a chance.”

That’s really all you have to say and most of the time you’ll either silence or satisfy much of the controversy surrounding your work. Just to reiterate though, do not call them out, do not resort to name-calling, and do not accuse them of bigotry/hatred. Doing that will be like throwing gasoline on the fire and will embolden critics. Word of mouth is everything in this business and attacking critics will come off as you showing contempt for your readers if they don’t necessarily agree with you.

In the end, you won’t silence them and you’ll only be hurting yourself and your writing.

I know that this was an extremely blunt piece of advice, but I really think that what I wrote above is the best way forward for you. If you’d like to discuss this further, my door is always open and you are 100% encouraged to send me a followup if you need any help.

Now what’s say we open this up to my reader base? What does everyone think? Does anyone have advice for A.? How can she rectify this situation?

Thanks All,

Jim



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

Defending a Movement Vs. Its Rights

 

As a writer… I’m always vexed when the issue of Freedom of Speech comes up.

There has been a lot of talk lately about protected speech vs. unprotected speech, as well as when physical violence is acceptable and when it isn’t. I’d like to try to tackle this without getting into a massive political diatribe, because that frankly helps no one.

Now often times, I hear people defending the free speech of people like Neo Nazis, the KKK, White Supremecists, 3rd Wave Feminists, Anarcho-Communists, and BLMs, among other groups that are either hate groups or people of questionable morals. The thing that really irks me is that there are people out there who see fit to shut these people down either by violence, fear, ruining their careers, or simply silencing them on social media.

The problem is that when someone tries to speak up and say ‘well wait a minute, these people are disgusting and horrible, but they’re not attempting to incite, they’re saying what they believe. They have every right to do that!’ They are immediately lumped in with said groups, accused of defending them and their position.

Defending someone’s position is when you try to justify the remarks they make. It is coming up with facts and arguments that support their cause. That is not what these people do. These people do not come up with any defense of hate or intolerance, in point of fact they are fighting against it. They are literally saying, “We don’t agree with their position, but you trying to shut them down through violence or intimidation, you are putting yourselves on their level.”

That is not the same thing, not by a long shot.

I can’t speak for Europe or other countries, but in the United States, yes hate speech is protected speech. Anything that does not incite a person to violence and does not infringe on another person’s rights, is PROTECTED under the First Amendment. People have the right to voice their opinion and their ideas free of prosecution and free of being attacked.

The First Amendment and the right to freedom of speech is arguably the most important right we have. It is not only a tool against tyranny, it is also an effective weapon against hate.

A recent poll in California shows that most of its left leaning populace wants to restrict free speech. 

Jim, you’re being disingenuous! They just want to restrict it for White Supremacists!

I’m actually not being disingenuous and I left that out intentionally. You see… the full title reads as follows;

Poll: Most California Democrats want to restrict free speech from white nationalists

The ‘for white nationalists’ part is a qualifying statement…

qual·i·fi·er
ˈkwäləˌfī(ə)r/
noun
  1. 1.
    a person or team that qualifies for a competition or its final rounds.
    “he is now 14 and trying to become the youngest qualifier for a PGA Tour event”
  2. 2.
    GRAMMAR
    a word or phrase, especially an adjective, used to attribute a quality to another word, especially a noun.

In other words any qualifier could apply, thus without it, the headline still rings true. You are restricting freedom of speech.

The issue here is who decides what is hate speech and what isn’t?

People like this:

 

You might as well tear up the constitution right now. Also, who decides which people are white nationalists? Who decides who among the population are Nazis? Who decides who are communists or feminists?

Right now, there are large group of people indiscriminately attacking people who don’t agree with their narrow view and label them all across the board as Nazis. Are they to make that decision?

Case in point, in a modern society where context is so important, you can’t govern what speech is acceptable anymore than we already have. Speech that will incite violence and get someone physically hurt is the limit to what you can prosecute. Any more than that and you’re guaranteed to wrongly infringe on someone’s rights.

This isn’t a scholarly quote, but the writers of Star Trek TNG were absolutely correct when they coined the phrase;

“With the first link, the chain is forged, for speech censored, first thought forbidden, first freedom denied, binds us all irrevocably. Those words were uttered as wisdom and warning. Anytime a man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.” 

The Supreme Court has been very clear on this legally. For the right to speak, and the right to hold ideas to have any meaning, we cannot discriminate based on content or on viewpoint, because if we do, any speech or any idea is not beyond the chopping block.

If you believe in the tenants of Free Speech, then you believe that they must apply unilaterally and cannot be selectively revoked, because then its no longer freedom of speech at all. If we cannot hold up the one core value of the first amendment, then it may as well be scrapped.

So if we damage ourselves by trying to ban hate speech, how do we combat it?

The same way you combat anything else. With other ideas. I hate using this example, but let’s consider for a minute… what would have happened in Charlottesville had counter-protesters and ANTIFA not shown up?  Well what’s happened at past KKK and White Supremacy rallies? Usually 2-3 hunderd people would show up, spout their nonsense and bile, and disappear within a few hours. They would be quickly forgotten and that would be the end of them.

This did not happen…

By championing attacking people based on their personal beliefs, by trying to legally or physically silence them, you are giving them what they want. You are turning them into martyrs, and making the additional mistake of lumping anyone who questions your methods in with them, you are swelling their ranks. How? Simple… there are people out there who lean the same way they do. They’re on the same side of the spectrum, but not quite at the extreme. Then they see what you’re doing and what you believe… well that’s not good, not at all. So in some of the more teetering cases, they’re going to lock hands with those hateful people because in their mind, YOU ARE THE GREATER EVIL!

I don’t know that I’d agree with that, but at the very least, you’re just as bad. These people show intolerance for other people based on a race, ethnicity, or gender. You are showing intolerance for ideas you don’t agree with.

As I said above, the best way to combat bad ideas is with good ideas. If you want to counter protest, then fine, great. Go to one of these rallies or protests. Go up to one of the people you don’t agree with and actually talk to them. Understand why they think the way they do, get some context and understanding. Once you have that, you can better challenge their world-view and understanding because you understand it a little better.

This is how the First Amendment works and why it has worked so well. In the United States, hate movements have been reduced to a few hundred people per event. There’s a reason why those numbers have begun to swell… because groups that attack them, essentially give up the moral high ground and reduce themselves to these people’s level. Thus, you are proving their point.

Allow me the luxury of an example…

I once sat down and had a conversation with someone who was against the removal of the Confederate Flag, against the removal of the statues, Robert E. Lee was a good man who should be honored, and professed that the Civil War was not about slavery.

When I asked her why she felt the way she did, she very eloquently justified each of her points…

  1. The Confederate Flag wasn’t a national flag. It was a military banner, rejected as the national flag by the Confederate Government. It’s use today wasn’t meant to spread hate, but to honor those soldiers who had fallen in battle.
  2. The statues shouldn’t be removed for the same reason. These people fought for their land. Just because the reason for raising succession may have been slavery, but not everyone in the South owned slaves and may who didn’t, viewed what was going on in Washington as an attack on their sovereignty.
  3. Robert E Lee was part of the U.S. military before the war. He opposed succession, but when it was democratically decided on, he viewed it as his duty to defend the people of his state. Back then before social media and nation-wide events, people were more loyal to their locality than they were a national government.

I had to admit I was surprised. There was nothing hateful about what she was saying and, while I don’t agree with a lot of her points, I understood better. I responded by letting her know that I didn’t agree. Most of the statues should be removed because they were put up during the Jim Crow era in an effort to disenfranchise former slaves. Honoring one’s history is one thing, weaponizing it is something else all together and should not be tolerated.

I also noted that Robert E. Lee didn’t want any monuments to himself. This was documented. I couldn’t comment on her points about succession. I’m not a Southerner, nor did I live back the, so I can’t comment on the validity of her belief of why people fought in the war. I do know that there is quite a bit of documentation out there to suggest that people were far more loyal to their localities than to the nation as a whole, but I’ll leave that for someone with a little more scholarship on the matter to dissect. The Civil War was never an era I was particularly interested in.

She actually didn’t know about the Jim Crow era history of those statues and conceded my point. I don’t know if I changed her mind or not, but we had a good discussion and walked away with a better understanding of why we both believed what we did. No fists, no angered words, no nothing like that.

That is how you combat ideas!

NO WAY! I am not sitting down with some hateful bigot! They’re not worth my time and you cannot change people like that! 

Well… that’s unfortunate… because that’s the only way you learn and grow. By dismissing these people, you’re not only doing a disservice to them, but to yourself as well. You can’t fight an ideology or belief if you’re not willing to engage with it. You can’t defeat a bad idea by ignoring it, and you can’t stop an opponent by banning them.

To quote Nelson Mandela;

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Defending a group’s right to share their thoughts and ideas, regardless of the content, does not equate to agreeing with said thoughts or ideas.

This is a simple concept that has been lost in recent years.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

Diversity and Good Writing

There has been a lot of talk lately about how diversity is killing good writing… or perhaps more accurately, studios and companies have been accused of using diversity as a stand in for good writing.

I honestly had no idea the two were mutually exclusive.

There is truth to the idea that many creators out there have been producing complete garbage, but seem to think that they still deserve credit because their cast of characters is diverse…

In fact, Richard Roeper touched on this in his reaction from the Ghostbuster’s backlash:


So the question is, does intentionally creating a diverse cast mean that your writing is going to suffer or can it be used as a cover for poor writing?

Well first of all, let’s touch on what ‘diversity’ actually is;

    • di·ver·si·ty
      dəˈvərsədē,dīˈvərsədē/
      noun
      1. the state of being diverse; variety.
        “there was considerable diversity in the style of the reports”
        • a range of different things.
          plural noun: diversities

         

      2. a range of different things.
        plural noun: diversities

Note the second definition. ‘A rage of different things.’  So taking that definition, a diverse cast (in terms of race/gender identity) would be a cast that has more than one gender AND more than one race.

So let’s take the fore-mention Ghostbusters movie. Is this a diverse cast?

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In terms of race, yes. However in terms of gender, no. So because this really only meets one of the criteria, I’m going to say no. This cast is as diverse as the original;

vzQVL4JcaXwJDdfPlN13h4AtqBz

To be honest, I think a lot of people today would say that the 1984 team isn’t diverse, so I’m going to hold them to their own standards here.

So if neither of these teams is truly diverse, then what is?

Well to be honest, Suicide Squad actually fit the definition perfectly:

vzQVL4JcaXwJDdfPlN13h4AtqBz

That is a diverse cast. Both genders are represented, as are multiple races. This actually meets the criteria perfectly.

So there you have it. A diverse cast is a cast where both genders and multiples races are represented. So now that we know what diversity is, let’s explore the questions. Does diversity kill good writing? Is diversity a good excuse for bad writing?

Well… Marvel comics certainly seems to think so…

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”
-David Gabriel

There was considerably backlash over this statement, leading Gabriel to issue a correction:
 “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.”

So at this point, the answer to the question should be an obvious ‘no!’

It should be… but it isn’t.

So why is that? Why do many people out there roll their eyes and shun new works when the creators announce that the main characters are going to be either female or a different race.

Uh sexism and racism?

In some cases, yes, but not as many as you might think. A lot of the time people adopt this attitude because of what Marvel and Sony, among others have done. We’ve already explored Sony’s debacle with Ghostbusters, so lets take a look at Marvel.

A lot of their classic characters are having their identities/sexual orientations changed, or are being replaced completely with little to no explanation other than ‘alternate universe, we can do whatever we want.’

While that’s true, it’s become a bit of a cliche and honestly if you don’t even bother addressing HOW the universe altered from the original, you’re going to turn readers off very quickly. It’s not asking too much for the writers to retcon how we got Spider Gwen, Miles Morales, Nick (Shaft) Fury, etc. That’s not objecting to diversity, its objecting to long-established characters suddenly being changed with little in the way of explanation. However Marvel apparently doesn’t see a difference.

Secondly, based on what I’ve read in many of these comics… as well as reviews from others, people are seeing a lot of characters come out without a lot of character:

“Others, however, argued that the focus on identity came at the expense of the story.”

Now here’s where we get into trouble. Diversity of the cast isn’t the problem, its when the story focuses on their superficial traits that we run into issues.

Let’s put it this way for a moment, you have two books. The first one offers you a cast that is diverse. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s an even cast of men and women (2 of each) and a transgender. Let’s also say that the cast includes a white person, an African American character, an Asian character, and a Latino character. Now maybe a character has an accent or something culturally quirky they do in the story, that’s fine. However other than that, race, gender, ethnicity isn’t raised except in the initial description, and any time the character’s physical traits come up. They’re treated as equals, their differences are non-issues, and the story is able to progress as it should. Any political views of the author are written into the story through metaphor and situational circumstances. If alternate viewpoints are addressed, they are done so respectfully, perhaps with a side character that eloquently explains his point of view.

Now, let’s take a look at another book. This book has that same diverse cast, however in this book, the characters’ identities and races are constantly being brought up. The political beliefs of the author surrounding their identities is constantly being brought into the story to the point where it’s almost completely brought to a halt. The author then goes on to berate any viewpoint that disagrees with theirs, often by making the main villain a sort of insulting caricature of their detractors.

Which story sounds more appealing?

In my opinion, the first one. The second one fails on several levels. First, people don’t like being preached at. I’ve covered this in a previous post. No one is going to read your book/watch your movie if you bad mouth them for their beliefs, or resort to childish name-calling. Something the cast of Ghostbusters did on countless occasions and even mentioned in the movie when they took a swipe at the online community.

Perhaps the most glaring issue with this is that the characters in the second story aren’t characters at all. They’re archetypes for characters. They’re cardboard cutouts of characters that are often either mildly stereotypical… or blatantly racist as we see in several crticisms of America Chavez that were captured by The Wire:

“The dialogue was terrible, the Spanglish was racist (at best), the plot jumped around between various irrelevant points with little connection, the political commentary was a subtle as a sledgehammer, and there wasn’t a single character with any sort of development (other than “random girlfriend whom the reader never gave a reason to care about broke up with the protagonist, in what might be one of the least realistic exchanges of dialogue ever written”).

The author is apparently hoping that “MINORITY LESBIAN YASSSS!!” will be enough to cover up for her complete inability to write either characters or plot lines, but this comic is so completely terrible in every aspect that I doubt she’ll get away with calling everyone who points out its plethora of flaws “racist/homophobic”.”

This is a trend that we see, not only in Marvel comics, but in traditional writing, and in movies. The writer is trying so desperately to push an agenda and be inclusive that they actually wind up doing exactly the opposite; creating resentment, anger, and offense.

Diversity has a place in good writing and it always will. The gender/race of a character should never be a tell-tale as to whether or not a story will be good. As long as the characters are treated equally, not having their superficial traits focused on at the expense of the story, then it should be fine.

But Jim, politics has ALWAYS been a part of fictional/fantasy mediums, what’s so different about it here? 

That’s true, politics and social issues have and always been apart of fiction/fantasy, and that goes straight to my point. Stan Lee wrote about things like segregation, the holocaust, racism, and several other themes too. However he did it in a very clever way; he didn’t even really bring it up. He told his story, showed his characters being segregated, murdered, and abused, but at the same time, he explored the arguments of the other side as well. He didn’t paint them as straight villains. In many cases, you could actually empathize with the villains as much as you could the heroes.

So then how does one write a diverse cast without falling into these traps?

The way I see it, there are three ways;

  1. Respect your characters and their background.
  2. Respect your audience.
  3. Understand that there are opposing viewpoints that have legitimate criticisms.

When you write, focus on the character’s personality, their traits, and their abilities, not their skin color or gender. Focus on what really matters; the heart of the character. Your minority characters deserve the same treatment as your other characters. Continuously showing and pointing out what makes them different isn’t the way to bridge any gaps. Showing how they’re the same and how they can easily get along with others, their own issues not withstanding, will draw your readers in.

“What you are isn’t nearly as important as who you are.”
-General Xaphan.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy ramble, but this was a trend that I wanted to speak about for a long time. Do you have a different view? Is there a different way of going about it that I missed? Am I way off on my opinion? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks friends!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

Stardust: Being a Review Within the Realms of Faerie

The book, turned into a very popular movie that has quickly achieved cult status, was published in 1998. Originally it started out as a written story that was published in comic book form (sort of). Neil Gaiman, the author, wanted artwork displayed with the book and from what I read, convinced his friend Charles Vess to do the illustrations. It was published by… of all people, DC Comics!

Keep in mind though, this is NOT a comic book. Far far from it. Given the layout, the way the illustrations tend to flow around the words, and the drop cap, illuminated caps at the beginning of each chapter… I have to say that its closer to looking like a medieval book (See book of hours for further reference.)

It’s written in a very old world form of English and will require a slightly more expanded vocabulary to fully appreciate the writing. I personally love that Gaiman chose to do this as it fits in with the type of story that it is. This is written as a very traditional fantasy, paying homage to the pre-Tolkien styles and stories that many of us grew up with.

So I just finished the book… and… honestly I’m kind of on the fence about this one.

Why? Well… maybe because I saw the movie first… ill-advised, I know, but my introduced me to it. I didn’t even know a book existed until about a year later. So in typical collector fashion, I sought out a first edition… and found one that was Autographed by Charles Vess.

So going through this book, it reads fairly similar to the movie. It starts off dealing with Dunstan Thorn and then follows the adventures of his son Tristran (Not Tristan) Thorn as he searches for the fallen star to bring back to his true love.

Overall, the book definitely delves a lot more into the world of Faerie (Not Stormhold). The book starts off kind of slow, as most traditional fantasies do. In fact, the star barely makes an appearance until about half way through. We’re also introduced to many characters, including a nymph tree, a rabbit-like hairy man, among others.

The artwork is also sort of a fairy tale, old-world style, which compliments the book nicely and is unexpectedly dazzling to look at:

20170410_075615.jpg

Keeping in mind though… THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND I MEAN BY ANY STRETCH!

20170410_075540.jpg

However there are several things that I don’t like about this story, and again, this may be more the movie’s fault!

Spoilers ahead folks, be ready!


So what did I like about the book?
As I said, the artwork, the expansive story, the overall writing style, and a completely original world that we haven’t seen before. The character development was great, the relationship between the main cast was very well fleshed out, and motivations behind everything they did were clearly established.

What didn’t I like?
The sky pirates aren’t as developed as they were in the movie and the captains hobbies are not explored either as they are in the movie. The movie took quite a bit of dramatic license.

The ending… my God the ending… This is one of those rare books where its strong enough to survive an iffy conclusion. Again, this is partially the fault of the movie. Where the movie ends with Tristran and the Star living many years together and then leaving for the Heavens to live together forever as stars… in the book the star can NEVER return to her domain. After Tristran dies, the immortal star becomes the lady of Stormhold and rules by herself. The book ends by saying that she spends her nights up in the highest tower looking up at the heavens, sadly.

Ugh!!! Maybe I’m just a pampered brat, but this is not my kind of ending. It left me unsatisfied and really just looking at it like ‘…. what the heck!?’

I might recommend skipping the Epilogue.

Now again, maybe I’d feel different if I’d read the book first, but I didn’t.


So with all this in mind, what is my overall rating?

4/5 Stars.

I can’t in good conscience downvote the book because of the movie. As far as I’m concerned, they are not the same story. Where one expands, the other cuts back. The book covers more time, but the movie really gets the character better. The relationship in the movie feels rushed and almost cliched and is explained far better in the book.

Do I recommend it? Hell yes! It is an amazing story in its own right and is one that fantasy junkies like myself will love for years to come. This gem of a book is going on my shelf right next to my first edition NeverEnding Story and Silmarillion.

Have you read it? Let me know what you think in the comments.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Reproduction Collectibles – A True Collector’s Bane!

Okay… I’ve wanted to say something about this for YEARS! Anyone who knows me well, knows that I collect various antiques and collectibles… They include the following:

Original Comic Art
Comic Books
Star Wars Figures and Sets
Military Antiques
1st Edition Books and/or Rare Antiquity books
Antique Firearms
Historical Documents…

and the list goes on…

My issue? PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING I LISTED HAS FAKES OUT THERE!!!

And I’m not talking about illegal forgeries like what we see with art. Believe it or not, there’s a huge collectors market for those and… as much as I hate to admit it, they are still pieces that were hand done by someone.

No, I’m talking about things made in a factory, printed, assembled, and made to look old. This is one of the reasons that I consider the 1950s to be the dark years for collectors. Not because collections were short at that point… IT’S BECAUSE THATS WHEN A LOT OF THESE FORGERIES WERE MADE!!!

The 1950s were essentially the beginning of Mass Production. Take a look at a clock or a radio from the 30s-40s, they’re beautiful. Wood, backlit, the clocks are metal, brass, and hand made in many cases. Many of these survive today and still work very well.

Now compare those to the 1950s.

Plastic… mass-produced. Usually easy to find at antique stores for a pittance.

Okay, I know I’m generalizing here a little bit, but it really is quite prevalent. If that were the only crime, I’d be fine with it, but go on sites like gunbroker.com and look up antique flintlock pistols/rifles/Matchlock, etc. You’ll have to figure out which ones are real and which are fakes, and I guarentee you that the majority of the fakes made in CA either by Hy Hunter or Hacker Martin.

Not convinced? The other day, I went into a book store by me and found an original Magic of Oz book… being a fantasy collector, I asked to take a closer look. See below:

1-87

Both of these look similar and both have a pre-1930s copyright date… however one was published in 1919, while the other was published in the late 50s. Can you guess which is which? The seller at the store couldn’t.

Thankfully, as a die-hard collector who knows what to look out for (Publisher marks, etc.) I pointed out the difference. The store owner apologized after confirming that I was correct and offered the book to me for 1/3 the price he was selling it for. I do a lot of business with the guy so I knew it was an honest mistake. However, despite that being a very generous offer as, despite being a blatant ripoff, the book still has value, I declined. Call me an elitist, but I don’t do reprints… EVER!

Okay, I’m done bashing the 1950s. Now go onto ebay and look up the Titanic Sinking Newspapers… I did this the other day just to prove a point… 4 are supposedly authentic and there are about 30 ‘Reprints!’

You’ll see it with books too. Ever on the lookout for an actual book of hours from the 13-14c.? I know I am… though I doubt I’ll ever own one given that they go for $15k at the cheapest… but you have no idea how many forgeries there are out there. I’ve seen fakes being passed off as real either by honest mistake, which I’ll give the benefit of the doubt on, or by unscrupulous sellers.

But Jim, reprints and remakes make collector’s items affordable to the rest of us! Shouldn’t we get to enjoy these things?

Of course you should, but here’s the problem, we’re not talking about something like a copy of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the U.S. Something that is very clearly not authentic. Or another document that is clearly stamped with its production company or has a label on it that states ‘Reproduction’, ‘Reprint’, or ‘Facsimile.’
We’re talking about remakes and reproductions that are so close to the original, it’s impossible to tell the difference if you don’t know what to look for. In some cases, you even have to bring some of these collectibles to a lab or a professional historian and pay a fortune just to confirm that what you have is authentic. So while you may think that reproducing antiques exactly as they were without a single mark on them so its hard to tell the difference doesn’t hurt anyone… as a collector of original works, I have to beg to differ and I’ve gotten burned a few times with unscrupulous sellers where it took an arm and a leg to recover what was spent. It’s rare, but it happens.

Anyway, just something I wanted to get off to some of my readers. If you’re geek like me, you collect and being a geeky collector can run very expensive!! So be careful and do your research before making ANY purchases.

Thanks for listening to my rant!



 

Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Do Comic Books Count As Reading?

A lot of people, mostly older and notably academic, would say no. You’re basically looking at a lot of pretty pictures with some text. It has no real character or setting description, no alteration, nothing.

Which is true, but does it really matter that much? On the one hand, you could argue that a picture is worth a thousand words and you’re omitting those words by showing rather than telling, thus making it easier on the reader. Is this a valid point though?

Well maybe… you really are taking what could be explained in several pages and condensing it to a single tile on a page, but that doesn’t make it negative.

Personally, I don’t see these two as being the same medium, closely related, but no the same medium. You have visual and written mediums, as well as audible mediums. One is no less valid than the other. In this case, I’d say that comics and manga are a hybrid of two mediums, no less valid than either of them.

Yes when the writer paints the picture instead of describing it, you lose something. Now the reader can’t as easily build the world in their own imagination as they see fit, but it also gives the reader a chance to become more immersed in the world. By showing instead of telling, the reader can focus more on the characters and their development instead of imagery. Many people like comics because they say so much with just a few lines of cleverly chosen dialogue.

In a normal book, many writers get too tied up in imagery and descriptions instead of letting the reader figure it out. This can lead to some becoming disinterested or even bored with what they’re reading. There are many books out there that I can remember where I could skip over whole pages of description without really missing anything. In comics and manga, I couldn’t imagine skipping over a single panel and still being able to continue reading.

So in the end, do comic books count as reading? Honestly, yes. They may not really fall into the literature category, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. When I was in college taking intro to education classes, I remember being taught about how there are some people who learn better with visuals, and some who learn better by just hearing things. Honestly, I remember struggling in school in the younger grades because it was a time when education was more of a one-size-fits-all deal where there was more tell and less show. Today, that isn’t the case. In fact, I had a few history classes in college where graphic novels such as MAUS  were required reading. The classroom dynamic has changed to much that hybrid mediums such as graphic novels and comics are becoming more accepted.
In fact, there is a great charity organization out there called the Caroline Manga Library. It is a great traveling charity that’s goal is to teach and raise literacy awareness through manga and comics. They go to several cons and events, offering a wide library of comics, manga, artwork and so on. It really is a great organization. |

Yes, nothing will ever replace classic stories and the written word, but that’s not necessarily the goal of manga and comics. It’s simply another way to tell the same story. If you don’t like that medium or find it hard to follow, no problem. There are of course the traditional learners who still need to be catered to as well, but in accepting mediums that encompass more than one style, we open the door to more possibilities.

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on the matter. Please feel free to leave a comment below whether you agree or disagree. I’d love to hear what everyone thinks.

 

Thanks friends,

Catch you on the flipside,

Jim



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim