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ReReadable Books

April 2011

Reality Plate Tectonics: Part II


Jacqueline Lichtenberg



 To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,jl@simegen.com  for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  
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True Blood TV Series

Vampire Diaries TV Series

The Hollow Crown by Diana Pharaoh Francis, RoC Fantasy Pb June 2010

Wings of Wrath by C. S. Friedman, DAW Fantasy, Pb, Feb 2010

Through Stone and Sea by Barb & J. C. Hendee, RoC hc, Jan 2010

This month marks the beginning the 19th year I’ve been doing this column for The Monthly Aspectarian. Last month we looked at the changing model of reality over the last twenty years.

Advances in science have been so rapid, discarding old models of reality faster than adults can adjust, that the line between "real" and "not-real" is blurred in the worldview of younger people. Or maybe, it’s the older folks whose view is blurred and the younger who see clearly?

Last month, I wrote: "As we once thought of Earth’s surface as a solid crust that occasionally moved or cracked in earthquakes, we once thought that science had mapped out solid "reality."

But science discovered the Earth’s surface is composed of tectonic plates that move against each other. And now it appears (appears mind you) that science has discovered that "reality" is composed differently than was taught just 20 years ago."

We now "know" that even the continents move, that planets are common in our galaxy and probably the universe, that there’s probably "dark matter" and particles once thought indivisible are actually composed of complex components. We’ve mapped the human genome, manipulated one-cell creature’s genes, grown bio-engineered crops, and found water on the moon.

So many things pundits claimed were impossible a mere 30 years ago are now commonplace. Because of that change rate, nothing you know today can be relied on to stay true tomorrow. Social structures are morphing under the impact of electronic networking faster than corporate structures. Governments are trying to "control" person-to-person communication, tax internet commerce, and "manage" the new world. Churches are crumbling and new churches forming, but how long will they be around?

We live in a world where reality has become a constantly morphing structure. Our fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, reflect that.

Note the incredible popularity of the TV shows True Blood and Vampire Diaries. These vampire shows ride on the popularity of the Vampire Romance which began, like the steampunk genre in the 1980’s and has grown steadily as the walls around "reality" have dissolved.

This is not a cause-effect relationship. Taste in fiction is not derived from "reality." "Reality" is not derived from fiction. They are parallel and interlaced. But the "causes" must originate much higher in the spiritual realms.

We might consider how much one can learn about reality by studying fiction. How much can one learn about fiction by studying reality? As Above; So Below. You won’t see the whole picture if you study only one half of it.

So, let’s take a close look at Diana Pharoah Francis’s fourth novel in her Crosspointe series, The Hollow Crown.

Crosspointe is an island set in the midst of a dangerous sea surrounded by shores with varying kingdoms. One of those kingdoms is on a conquering march, devouring neighbors almost faster than the news can reach Crosspointe.

This sea is laced with a substance, called Cypher after the first man to master its use. If cypher touches humans or other creatures, it morphs them into "something else." Usually, the result is twisted and ugly. Sometimes a human survives being touched and, appearing almost human, becomes a Magicar, a magician able to direct pure force at will, to heal, or to navigate ships across the sea using a Compass Rose made from cypher by magic.

Francis goes light on explanations of how cypher works, of the technology of it. She focuses on the human society that has developed the usual politics and diverging ethics and morals, social strata and pariahs. Economics works almost as it seems to in our everyday reality.

The Crosspointe novel series focuses on the (very large) Crosspointe Royal Family. The not-quite human people attacking Crosspointe are doing something that destroys the magical substance, cypher, leaving those whose economy is based on it helpless. The non-human invaders use a different "power" based on Blood Magic, the power in pain and suffering, instead of power from cypher.

The basis of economics, politics, social order, and even family itself is morphing, shifting, and crumbling around the people of Crosspointe. Their very reality is changing despite furious resistance. There are of course traitors and loyalists, mystical destiny and love eternal. But this is a world which is morphing much the way our own 21st century is morphing around us. Forces striving for stability are overwhelmed by forces advocating bloody violence.

The solution appears to be internalizing, conquering and combining both kinds of magic within a few highly developed and changed Crosspointe magicars.

C. S. Friedman’s Wings of Wrath is book Two of the Magister Trilogy, and it, too, is about a tectonic shift in what has hitherto seemed concrete and stable, a shift caused by too many of the wrong kind of people gaining access to too much power (sorcery).

The Magister Trilogy is set on a world with two moons. It used to be that if a book started with an image of two moons, the reader knew it was not Earth. Today we make moons, and have a whole lot of them in orbit.

In the Magister Trilogy, only Magisters can draw on the forces of magic without dying for it. They pull off this trick by taking the "life force" required for their feats from other human beings. Someone loses years of their life for every feat of magic.

In this world, there is a magically created barrier that isolates a region where demonic creatures have been penned up, so humans can live normally elsewhere. The demons hate the dark, cold Coventry and plot to escape. Naturally, a human, traitor to humanity, is willing to make a deal. And one woman stands against this plan.

In both the Crosspointe novels and the Magister Trilogy, we have situations where the "magic" follows complex and strange rules – but the authors lead us toward a possible scientific basis for the feats of magic. In both cases, there are hints that the humans are not native to the planet where the story takes place.

And in both these "Fantasy" series, we have a story where the main characters discover that reality as they grew up to depend on is not at all what they thought it was or is in fact changing because of human actions. Reality morphs.

Juxtapose that against the world we live in and see if you find a reflection. Consider the 8 of Pentacles Tarot card, and the Initiation of the Mirror Degree.

Now read the Vampire series, The Novels of the Noble Dead by a husband/wife writing team, Barb & J. C. Hendee. Through Stone and Sea advances the story of politics and power among Powerful Races, Scholars, Magicians, and Shapeshifters who guard deep, dark secrets having to do with beings who can traverse dimensions.

Here, the Scholar Wynn is in hot pursuit of ancient texts, information kept "secret" – lost or stolen and buried in an ancient Dwarf administered archive.

On previous adventures, she tagged along on an expedition into far lands and retrieved some texts from a castle lost in snowy mountain peaks. Her Guild of Scholars has confiscated the texts from her, creating a mystery her scholarly personality can’t abide. So she’s determined to get to the bottom of why these things are happening, no matter what it takes.

In previous novels, Wynn was a minor character with spunk but not a lot of real courage or depth. Here we learn who she is from the inside, and learn to understand the thirst for knowledge and abhorrence of a mystery that drives both scientist and magician.

Through Wynn’s eyes, we gradually begin to piece together the world she lives in that mere adventurers, half-breed Elven prince, and magical interdimensional dog could not reveal.

As Wynn learns about the world we have journeyed through in previous novels, we come to experience once again the dissolving of the walls and floor of "reality" right under our feet – the tectonic shifting of the components of what we rely on as real, unchanging, and true.

All of these TV Shows and novels take us on a mystical journey of initiation through terrors. We come through The Tower Card – having the egotistical notion that you understand who you are, where you are, and what you are doing knocked clear out of you – to a new Reality.

The authors achieve this Tower effect by yanking the "rug out from under your feet" – by shaking the foundations of reality until it crumbles around you. What you do then is the measure of your true identity.

To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,  jl@simegen.com for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  



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