It was my wife’s birthday this week, and I gave her a DVD–Season #5, 22 episodes of The Rockford Files.
We don’t have television anymore. My friends who have cable or satellite all say, “We get 150 channels and there’s nothing to watch.” I only see TV, these days, when I have to go to the doctor. Last time I was there, I saw a special on Kim Kardashian and her ridiculous marriage, and part of a soap opera. The guy who called television “a vast wasteland” was being much too kind. It’s much more like what you’d expect to see if they had brothels in Mordor.
Patty and I were Rockford fans way back, when the show was actually on TV. We hadn’t seen it since. So we popped the disc into the DVD player, and…
Blow me down! A plot, of all things. A clever and creative story. Characters! Played by professional actors. Crisp, sparkling dialogue, with unexpected twists that made us laugh. Do you mean to say that TV was once like this? And it was free? You just turned it on, and there it was?
Those old Rockford Files episodes, all cranked out for just one season, were better than nine out of 10 first-run movies today. I don’t even know what’s on TV anymore, other than soap operas written by dirty-minded 12-year-olds and performed by Seconal addicts, and reality shows featuring poor schlubs whose only talent is to make the audience feel superior, and sleazy, leering screenplays about teenagers coughing up their virginity. The crimes solved by Jim Rockford seem virtuous by comparison.
I wonder what else was on, 35 years ago, that was a thousand times better than the best we have today.
I’m often asked for advice on writing fantasy, so I thought a few suggestions might be helpful. Here are some pitfalls you should try to avoid.
Don’t bombard your readers with outlandish names. If you write a sentence like this, you’re asking for trouble: “Froobish the Saffronesian dismounted in front of the Temple of Quor and prayed a silent prayer to Poogle-Mo-Pooble that he would find High Priestess Botchygaloop in a forgiving mood.” Oh, I can imagine your objections. “No way, man! Lord Dunsany always wrote like that! So did Clark Ashton Smith–and what about all those crazy monikers J.R.R. Tolkien came up with? He had a character named Legolas, for cryin’ out loud!”
Yes, part of the fun of fantasy is making up the names. All I’m saying is, don’t overdo it. Besides which, great artists like Dunsany, Smith, and Tolkien can get away with things that the rest of us can’t.
The world is entering a new Dark Age. The fabric of Western Civilization is unraveling before our eyes. The global economy is headed for the glue factory…
And along comes the Kohler Co. with the answer! Don’t worry, be happy… As the one thing we’ve all been needing, as the solution to life’s problems, Kohler proudly presents (drum roll, please)… The Computerized Toilet!
At a mere $6,500, this baby is a steal. Ideal for installing outside your glass-walled penthouse: see the ad at http://www.kohler.com/numi/
It opens, it closes, all by itself. It plays music. It plays radio stations. It remembers your favorite water temperature.
It’s full of microchips and wires and all sorts of technological whiz-bang… and you’d better not be sitting on it during a thunderstorm. One unlucky lightning strike, and you’re musical john just might turn into Old Sparky.
I heard the guy who invented this used to be a fantasy writer, but his ideas were considered too wild to be published.
“The Cellar Beneath the Cellar is better than the first, and flows with a tighter, more focused narrative. The characters all come into their own, the scope and details of the world are more fully fleshed out, and we learn more about Obann and its history.”
Hey! I’ve just discovered the wildest, wackiest, wooliest fantasy ever!
What if the government made everybody equal? I mean really, really equal. We all get exactly the same income, whether we work or just sit around playing video games and getting high. If I clerk at the corner convenience store, I get just as much as a brain surgeon. If I sell hundreds of my books, I get the same money as someone who sells millions. Wouldn’t that be absolutely wonderful?
Even better, what if everything was free? Why should we have to pay for stuff? Why not force Big Business to give us all no-show jobs?
These must be good ideas. After all, they’re shouted up by college students and their professors, and we all know how smart they are. I think those Occupy This and Occupy That folks must be on to something. Or are they just on something?
No matter–let’s just go ahead and set up the guillotines, and the gulags, and the firing squads, and all the rest of the instrumentality of Utopia.
If we can micromanage the earth’s climate by taking away people’s air conditioners and toilet paper, surely we can make everybody equal.
A review of Lee Duigon The Thunder King (Vallecito, CA: Storehouse Press, 2011)
$14.00 289 pp ISBN: 978-1-891375-56-9
Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz
Like the second book, the third one in the Bell Mountain saga adds more plot elements to the mix and provides deeper discussions of their significance. Perhaps there are some critics who may judge the result to be too advanced for a juvenile reader, but, in the immortal words of Mortimer Adler, “We need something over our heads to lift us up!”.
We learn more about the significance of the ringing of the Bell and about the decadence of t he Temple, especially that of its First Prester, who is first in wickedness, not in piety. And we see ever more clearly the parallel between the teaching in the Secret Scrolls and the doctrines in the Bible, and between the history of Obann and the history or Israel and the Church.
But it needs to be borne in mind that the story is a fantasy — a story in its own right — not an allegory. As the biographical sketch of the author on the rear jacket makes clear, Lee Duigon loves both fantasy literature and sound theology. And, contra much of popular opinion, there is no discord between the two because, after all, God is the greatest story-writer of all — history is His Story, because it is His fantasy that became reality when He created the world. Amen!
For most of my life, I was an avid baseball fan. I was a walking baseball encyclopedia. My wife and I went to games at Yankee Stadium, got autographs, collected vintage baseball cards, stayed up far later than we should have, listening to games on the radio–oh, yes, we were fans!
But now? Phooey!
The seats we used to favor at the ol’ stadium, which once cost us $15-$20, were up to around $275 each, at the start of the season. But even if we could afford to go, who wants to pay to see some guy with a 6.00+ ERA start “a critical game” in the late season? Once upon a time, the Commissioner of Baseball would have investigated a manager who did that. And if one of the workhorses on your pitching staff had an ERA of 6.00, your team wasn’t doing anything, anyhow.
And what’s all this talk about “seeds” and “rounds” and whatnot? Did Rocky Colavito ever have to wonder what kind of “seed” his team would wind up being? I mean, it sounds like one of those stupid college “sports” where they vote to decide who’s the “national champion” and several Congressmen get upset and vow to pass a bill regulating the process of determining the national college championship, blah, blah, ad nauseum.
If I may be serious for a moment, I’d like to pose a question.
Given the tens of thousands–maybe even hundreds of thousands–of churches that dot America’s landscape, why is our nation’s Christianity so weak?
What has become of the preaching of the Cross? (“For the preaching of the cross is, to them that perish, foolishness”–St. Paul, I Cor. 1:18) How did we wind up with such a flabby, comfortable, timorous Christianity that was utterly powerless to stop our culture from melting right in front of us?
This week is, I think, “Banned Books Week,” in which liberals like the American Library Assn. celebrate and honor books that were objected to on account of their filthy content or their total unsuitability for young readers: while totally ignoring the fact that the Holy Bible is by far the most banned book in America.