I Left My Social Life In 1997

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In March this year, the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer reunited for a round of photoshoots and interviews to mark the 20th Anniversary of the show first gracing our TV screens. If you haven’t seen any of the clips from this happy reunion (where have you been?!), head on over to YouTube to look them up. Apart from the slightly sickening fact that none of the cast appears to have aged AT ALL in the intervening years, there is something really lovely about seeing them all back together in one place, talking about their time on the show.

02-BTVSBuffy really was ground-breaking in a number of different areas. The term “ground-breaking” may be somewhat overused these days, but in Buffy’s case, it really does hold up. For instance, the way that the series was structured, interweaving standalone stories with an ongoing seasonal arch leading up to a confrontation with the “Big Bad” at each season’s finale, may seem like a no-brainer these days, was not always so. Buffy may not have been the first series to go for this structure, but it is certainly one of the most memorable and influential and, due to the show’s popularity, it is a structure that has been more widely adopted since. Incidentally, writer/producer Russell T Davies, who headed up the re-launch of Doctor Who in 2005, cites Buffy has being partly responsible for the new Doctor Who series using a similar format.

Possibly more particular to Buffy was its season 6 musical episode Once More With Feeling. It was a complete departure from anything that the show had ever done, and yet at the same time it managed to feel like a natural phenomenon. Of course the residents of Sunnydale will spontaneously burst into song (and subsequently into flames, some of them). They live on a Hellmouth after all. Since this episode aired in 2001, it seems that other shows have had the courage to do the same. Again, a few shows had attempted musical episodes before Once More With Feeling, but there has been a definite increase since with shows such as Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy, Fringe, and Sanctuary all seeing their characters stretch (but not strain) their vocal chords in recent years.

On top of the technical leaps and bounds made, Buffy was also incredibly powerful in terms of the themes it explored. At its centre was a group of teenagers navigating their way through High School (and beyond into adulthood) while also battling the Vampires, Demons, and whatever else the forces of evil decided to throw at them. It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to notice the metaphorical implications between the social and personal issues faced by teenagers and the supernatural elements that Buffy employed to explore them.

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As you may have gathered, I was (and still am) a massive fan! It is one of my all-time favourite TV shows. Xander/Nicholas Brendon was my first celebrity crush, followed sharply (no pun intended) by Spike/James Marsters. I know every song from Once More With Feeling. I have lost count of the number of times the show has made me cry.

It is a show that, in my house, warrants a re-watch at least every other year (if not more) and I find myself at times, not only quoting the lines, but channelling the characters without consciously meaning to do so.

Happy Anniversary, Buffy!

May your influence continue to be felt for many years to come.

But for all the hype that has been around Buffy for the last couple of months, something else occurred to me.

There was another TV show that also started in 1997 and that had a similar (if not greater) impact on my teenage self. Any guesses what that show could be?

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Stargate SG-1 hit TV screens in July 1997 (just four months after Buffy) and between the two of them, I was so completely hooked. There really was no hope for my social life (bear in mind this was before the days of “Geek Chic”, and the internet had not yet brought fandoms together in the manner you would find today).

I, for one, am hoping that there will be as much hype in July for Stargate’s 20th Anniversary as there has been for Buffy’s. But as far as I can tell, SG-1 is not as widely acclaimed as Buffy, in that it remained a cult favourite, rather than breaking into mainstream popularity in the way that Buffy did. If I am wrong on that count, please do let me know. In the meantime, here’s my own bit of hype for SG-1’s 20th year.

Stargate SG-1 premiered on 27th July 1997 with its pilot episode Children of the Gods. It re-introduced audiences to the 22-foot-high, ancient, metal ring that, through the creation of a sub-space wormhole, transports people instantaneously to other planets across the galaxy.

The pilot episode picked up where the 1994 movie left off, with Dr Daniel Jackson living with the people of Abydos, and Colonel Jack O’Neill (two L’s this time, and that is important) moving on with his life. Both are called back into action when Earth’s seemingly dormant Stargate springs into life and a US Air Force Officer is taken captive by a new enemy, Apophis.

O’Neill and Jackson are then teamed up with Captain Samantha Carter, a brilliant and beautiful Astrophysicist and Air Force pilot in her own right, and Teal’c, an alien (Jaffa) formerly in the service of Apophis who defects to Earth in the hopes of freeing his people from the tyrannical rule of the Goa’uld.

Together, they are Earth’s first line of defence against the Goa’uld threat as they journey through the Stargate, exploring new worlds and discovering new cultures each week.

I mean, really, what’s not to love right there?!

SG-1 ran for ten full seasons (214 episodes in total), launched two spin-off series, and concluded with two TV movies. The show still inspires a following of loyal and fervent fans, many of whom are actively campaigning for a re-boot in some shape or form.

As with many Sci-Fi shows, the possibilities open for exploration were practically limitless; and in the seventeen collective seasons (ten for SG-1, five for Atlantis, and two for Universe) the writers were able to etch out an entire mythology for the franchise that encompassed existing Earth mythology (namely Egyptian, Norse, and, in the later seasons, Arthurian legend) whilst also adding its own myths and species into the mix. At the centre of SG-1 (and the subsequent spin-offs) was a constant debate between the respective virtues of Scientific exploration and the Military needs of Earth to defend itself against an alien incursion.

In the first few episodes alone, this dual mission is addressed and taken on board as Stargate Command’s Standing Orders, Stargate’s equivalent of Star Trek’s Prime Directive. In contrast to Star Trek, however, Stargate did not operate with the philosophical restraint of not interfering with the natural development of other cultures and societies. SG-1 and the other SG teams were more than happy to interfere when needed (or not), whether that was offering medical or technological advancements, or even military troops and weapons. Having said this, Daniel Jackson did serve as the show’s moral compass and frequently went toe-to-toe with O’Neill and other military characters if it looked like they were about to go too far.

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On top of all of that, Stargate, as a Sci-Fi series, managed to utilise just about every trick and trope in the book to explore the overriding theme; that is: “What does it mean to be human?” I have mentioned in a previous post that the Science Fiction genre encompasses a vast array of story types in its discussion of this theme. If you want to make comparison with my previous list, click here to read that particular post.

Of note, Stargate taps into:

  • Alien Invasion
  • Space
  • Genetic Mutation/Manipulation
  • The use of/reliance on Technology
  • Time Travel
  • Alternate Realities
  • Artificial Intelligence

Not to mention Inter-Galactic Politics!

There really was no stone left unturned. And yet, there is still room for more. While SG-1 was allowed to run its course (and then some), and end on its own terms, its spin-off series were not so fortunate. It seemed that Atlantis was gathering momentum when it was cancelled in 2009 after five seasons; and Universe was cut very short in 2011 after just two seasons. Universe may not be a favourite among fans (I for one have not yet seen its second season), but I am sure that if it had been allowed to develop, it could have provided quite a few surprises of its own.

I really could go on for days about Stargate. And no doubt there will be more posts on here about it, but for now, let me just say:

Happy 20th Anniversary, Stargate.

Come back to our screens soon!

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(B)Rain Stops Play

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So, I feel like time is on fast-forward at the moment. And I’m not just saying that because I am rapidly approaching my 31st birthday and wondering where on earth the last year (or decade) has gone. I am talking specifically about the last couple of months. Some of you may have noticed (or not, that’s OK too) that I have not posted anything in a while. The last thing to make it up onto the site was the Prologue and Part 1 of Jacob’s Dream (the second instalment of The Eternity Mirrors). That was at the end of January.

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And then it’s like I have taken a breath or two, and here we are nearly at the end of March. I can honestly say I have done pretty much nothing all year. Welcome to 2017, people. Blink and you will miss it!

This is more of an apology post than anything. I am sorry I have not posted more of Jacob’s Dream; and I am also sorry to say that it will be a few weeks yet before the next part makes it online. Over the last couple of months, I have sat down on more than one occasion to write Part 2 and nothing has seemed right. I won’t go into too much details because I don’t want to spoil things, but I have toyed with the idea of completely re-structuring what I originally set out to do with the series and, so far, have not settled on the best way forward. As soon as things click into place, I will be off and rolling again, I promise.

In the meantime, I will be focusing on some more non-fiction posts for the time being in the hopes that I can get myself back into some sort of routine with my writing. This means there will be more Geekery and more Books -v- Films to explore, plus random thoughts on writing in general.

In the meantime, please feel free to hang out here for a while and check out some of the stuff I’ve posted already. If anyone needs me, I’ll be at my desk. Writing. I hope.

Happy Reading!

 

PS – I just wanted to add a massive THANK YOU to Emily Wilden for doing an amazing job on turning Episode 1 of The Eternity Mirrors into a Podcast. If you have missed it, check out the Podcast link in the menu above. Emily’s Podcast is called Sunday Night Stories – check it out. You will not be sorry!

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Introducing The Eternity Mirrors Episode 2!

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AVAILABLE NOW:

Prologue     Part 1

So, it turns out that sequels are not easy. I have 10 episodes in mind for The Eternity Mirrors and as I was setting out on Episode 2, I realised I had plenty of ideas for Episodes 3 and 4, and even up to Episode 10. But Episode 2… That proved a little elusive for a little while.

Episode 1 was very much an introduction to the world of The Eternity Mirrors. It was all (deliberately) from Nick’s perspective. He was the avenue in for me, and hopefully for you as the readers, to explore the strangeness and complexities of the In Between and the multiple realities accessed by the Mirrrors. But for Episode 2, the world is already set up and the rules (or most of them at least) have been set. Now, it’s time to get to know everyone else and really get into some storytelling.

Above are the links to the Prologue and Part 1 of Episode 2: Jacob’s Dream. I do hope you enjoy them. Please feel free to get in touch, either by leaving a comment below or using the form on the Contact page, to let me know your thoughts.

If you are new to this site, here’s a run down of what you can find in this blog:

  • Blog – This is where I will be sharing my thoughts on life and general interests.
  • The Eternity Mirrors – A Short Story Series available exclusively on this site! Follow this link to catch up on Episode 1 and read the latest updates of Episode 2.
  • Geekery – My take on all things Science Fiction.
  • Book -v- Film – A discussion of books and the films they inspire.

Feel free to have a look around and add your own comments to what you see here.

Happy reading!

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Book -v- Film: The Nativity Story (2006)

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I’m sure we all have memories of Primary School and Sunday School nativity plays. I remember two in particular: one in Nursery where I was an Angel. My tinsel halo kept slipping off my head in that one – read into that what you will. The other was a Sunday School play where I got to be Mary.

I have always loved Christmas and, as a Christian, the nativity story has always been a big part of my Christmas celebrations.

A few years ago, I discovered the film, The Nativity Story, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, and starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Isaac as Mary and Joseph respectively. I first watched it as I was wrapping presents one year and was so blown away by its amazing handling of the story that I have come back to it every year since, usually while wrapping presents. This is because in amongst all the bustle and trappings that we have come to associate with December 25th, I find this film is a perfect way to make me stop for a moment and think about what I am actually celebrating.

The most accessible account of the nativity story can be found in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel in the Bible. Indeed, the majority of what we would traditionally recognise as the nativity is taken from Luke’s account (with a few notable additions from Matthew’s Gospel).

For the most part, The Nativity Story follows Luke’s account. It begins in Jerusalem with Zechariah in the temple being visited by an angel (or at least an angelic voice) telling him that his wife will have a son in her old age. This son will grow up to be John the Baptist, who will pave the way for the promised Messiah.

After this, we meet Mary in Nazareth. We are given a glimpse into her daily life – working to help bring in money for her family – and, through her eyes, we see into the broader issues of first-century Palestine. This is one of the really strong points of the film. It doesn’t just present the Christmas Card version of the story. It gives the full social, economic and religious context that is so often glossed over.

the-nativity-story1For example, when the Roman soldiers arrive in Nazareth to collect taxes, Mary witnesses another family’s devastation when they are unable to meet the monetary value of the taxes and their daughter is taken by the soldiers to work off their debt. Mary’s own father has his donkey (a vitally important working animal) taken off him and half of his land forfeited to cover his own debt. The donkey is later returned to them through the kind actions of Joseph who buys it back from the soldiers on their behalf.

Later, when Mary travels to see Elizabeth (her cousin Zechariah’s now pregnant wife), more civil unrest is highlighted as a group of men (presumably Zealots – a militant group of Jews who were opposed to Roman rule and King Herod’s compliance with the Emperor) is pursued on the road by Herod’s soldiers and later found executed on the road side.

NativityAll of this, plus the constant murmurings amongst the people of their long-awaited Messiah and Herod’s own paranoia of being dethroned, builds a sense of anticipation and tension that forms the backdrop for the main story.

With all of this happening around her, Mary is given two life-changing pieces of news:

  1. She is betrothed to Joseph, a man who is clearly older than her and whom she barely knows.

  2. That even though she is a virgin, she is going to bear a child. And not just any child, but God’s Son who is the Messiah everyone is talking about and longing for.

Having heard this story by rote from a very young age, it is easy for us to gloss over just how much of a shock this news must have been to Mary, not least for the fact that, according to the laws of the time, she could have been stoned to death for bearing a child out of wedlock. This is something that is highlighted in the film with the dream Joseph has in which he is handed a stone, but his hand is stayed by the angel who, for want of a better phrase, fills him in on God’s plan.

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While we are on the subject of Joseph, the way he is portrayed in the film is really beautiful. It makes me wish there were more Josephs in the world. Mary, later in the film, describes him as “a man who will give of himself before anyone else”. This is shown right from the start. I mentioned earlier that he buys back Mary’s father’s donkey. When he gives it to Mary, he tells her not to mention to her father that he bought it back. Instead, he tells her to say that it was found on the roadside, abandoned by the soldiers. He doesn’t want her father to feel indebted to him.

You get the sense very early on that he truly cares for Mary and that he is a man of honour, faith and integrity. Mary really only gets to know him on their journey together to Bethlehem and it is on this journey that she begins to warm to him in seeing how genuinely caring he is with her and how willing he is to accept her child as his own.

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One of my favourite pieces of imagery in the film is the moment that Mary washes Joseph’s feet as he sleeps. This simple gesture call to mind Jesus himself washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. In biblical times, travellers’ feet would get very dusty and dirty on the road and it was the task of the lowliest servant in a household to wash a visitor’s feet upon arrival. When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, he is setting the example that we are to serve one another and not just ourselves.

When Mary washes Joseph’s feet in the film, she shows her acceptance of him as her husband and her appreciation of everything he has done for her on their journey to Bethlehem.

I mentioned before that the social context that the film gives means that we don’t just get the traditional Christmas Card presentation of the story. Of course, it does still give us what we would recognise as the traditional nativity tableau. Towards the end of the film, we are given the familiar image of Mary and Joseph cradling Jesus in the centre of the shot with the shepherds on the left and wise men on the right. This is the part of the film that departs from the biblical story.

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Yes, there were shepherds who came to visit them in Bethlehem. Yes, there were wise men who came from the East with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But they did NOT arrive at the same time.

The Magi did indeed follow a star to Bethlehem (taking a slight detour to Herod’s palace in Jerusalem along the way), but the Bible doesn’t actually say they were there moments after the birth. Many biblical scholars theorise that it could have been as much as two years later that they arrived (hence Herod’s orders for any child under the age of two to be killed in Bethlehem).

Having said this, I do like the depiction of the Magi in the film. And I completely understand the filmic merits of having them arrive in Bethlehem with the shepherds and with the star shining brilliantly overhead. It is a fitting climax to the film that so skilfully builds up to the birth of Jesus.

I could honestly talk about this film all day! And there are several other aspects I have not mentioned here that add even more to the story’s context. It has to be said, however, that the film is a very faithful adaptation of the biblical story. If you haven’t see it, I highly recommend that you get hold of a copy and give it a watch. You may also want to have a look into the Gospels of Luke and Matthew for the original and full story.

In the meantime, may I wish you a very merry Christmas as we once again welcome the Saviour into the world. As this film puts it, “a Messiah for the lowest of men to the highest of kings”.

H a p p y   C h r i s t m a s !

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New Podcast In The Works!

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I hate it when writing has to take a back seat, but there are some things that are more important than writing. Like clearing up after a mini-flood at home, or preparing said home for family coming to stay at Christmas.

As things get back on track for me, I figured it was time for my blog-hiatus to come to an end and for me to update you all on a couple of rather exciting developments (well, I think they’re exciting at least).

Firstly, Episode 2 of The Eternity Mirrors is in the pipeline! Watch out for that in the New Year. If you haven’t had a chance to read Episode 1 yet, the link is below:

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Episode 1: The Forgotten Fairground

Prologue    Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7    Part 8    Epilogue

Which brings me to the second exciting development…

I want to introduce you all to my friend Emily Wilden. Emily is an Actress I have known since my Uni days and she has recently started a Podcast (available on SoundCloud and YouTube) called Sunday Night Stories. She is making recordings of short stories by new authors and posting them on Sunday evenings for the world to listen in. I am sure you will all join me in wishing Emily all the best of luck with her new project!

On the main menu above, you may notice a new item called Podcast. This has links to Emily’s website and to the first story she has been working on – which just happens to be ­The Eternity Mirrors Episode 1: The Forgotten Fairground by Yours Truly. The Prologue and Part 1 are ready for listening with more to follow.

Podcasting is not something I had given much thought to before Emily put a note on Facebook about the project back in October. I am really very excited to be working with her on this and hope you’ll all have a listen to what she’s done so far.

If you, as a writer, have any short stories that you would like to see/hear turned into an audio version, take a look at Emily’s site and get in touch with her to get that ball rolling!

In the meantime,

happy reading and happy listening!

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Episode 1 Part 8 Available NOW!

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Well, FINALLY! After a crazy week and a half, I am very pleased to present Part 8 and the Epilogue to Episode 1. If you’re wondering why there was a little delay in me getting this posted, have a read of my previous post, Rain Stops Play.

« PART 8    EPILOGUE »

Prologue   Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7

Anyway, that is officially a wrap on The Forgotten Fairground. I will let you know when Episode 2 is off and rolling.

In the meantime, I’d love to get your feedback on Episode 1. Feel free to comment below or get in touch using the Contact page.

For now, all that is left for me to say is:

Happy reading!

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Rain Stops Play

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You would think that in a country like the UK, where the weather can be extremely unpredictable, that we would come up with sports where bad weather is not an inhibiting factor in determining if it is played or not – Cricket, Tennis, I’m looking at you.

“Rain Stops Play” is a very common phrase to hear in the Summer, particularly during Wimbledon fortnight, or during an English Cricket International series being played on home turf. However, it is less common to hear this at the end of October concerning a series of short stories. Unfortunately for me, this is exactly what happened this week (in a manner of speaking).

For the last seven weeks, I have been working on the first short story in my new series, The Eternity Mirrors. I set myself the challenge to post a new part each week for the whole of September and October, with Part 8 due to go online today. Up until last Friday, all was going well.

And then Life decided to throw me a curve ball and… well, rain stopped play.

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This very acurately sums up my week.

Not literal rain, but close. I came home from work last Friday to find it was in fact raining inside my flat. I have a ground floor flat and the one above mine had sprung a leak which, thanks to Gravity, was trickling (gushing, cascading) down into my kitchen and living room. I did as much as I could to clear it up and tried to alert my upstairs neighbour to the problem, but couldn’t get hold of him. It wasn’t until later when the water found its way through the ceiling light in my living room that I fully appreciated just how big a problem it was.

Anyway, by Saturday morning the leak had stopped and the long process of drying everything out began. One week on, the dehumidifier is still going and exactly zero writing has been done. It turns out a cold, damp, and slightly smelly flat is not conducive to the writing process – who knew, right? Each night this week as things have settled down, I have tried to get going on Part 8 of The Forgotten Fairground, and each night I have struggled to focus.

I was (until Thursday evening) determined to finish and post it ‘on time.’ But then my best friend gave me this to think about:

Do you want it to be done by Saturday, or do you want to be happy with it? This isn’t your homework, you know.

She had a point. During college, I had turned in work that was on time in terms of the deadline set, but that I felt could have been done better if I had had more time to do it.

So, I gave myself a break and began to feel much better for it. Self-set deadlines and targets are a great way to keep motivated, but as I found this week, there are times when you do need to put the pen down and just walk away for a little while. Now, after a couple of days of not beating myself up about it I am ready to pick up where I left off and carry on.

And after a cobweb-clearing walk along Newcastle’s Quayside this morning, followed by an hour and a half in the City Library, Part 8 is well and truly kick-started and in the pipeline. All being well, it should be posted in the coming days.

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But this little home-based disaster has not just caused my short story plans to change. It was my intention to take part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. For those who have never heard of this, the challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month. It is a brilliant writing event that has been running for a few years now (check out their website here for more information) and this was going to be my first ever stab at it. However, over the last few weeks, with focusing on The Forgotten Fairground and then my mini-flood, I have not been able to do the kind of prep work necessary to make a good go of it. Add into that the fact that a lot of November is now going to be taken up with re-plastering my kitchen ceiling and re-painting my kitchen and living room, suffice to say I will no longer be joining the NaNoWriMo Adventurers on this particular quest. For anyone who is taking part this year, I wish all the very best to you. I look forward to hearing stories of your progress and success.

For me, instead, once I get Part 8 done and dusted, the time I have in between redecorating will be spent reacquainting myself with the novel I have been writing for the last few years. At the very least, this will keep my mum happy for a while. She proofreads* for me and has been asking for some time about what happens next in my book. I had said to her that I would not be going back to it for a while as I was exploring other things, but now with NaNoWriMo off the cards, it seems like the right time to take it off the shelf and have another look at it.

Then, of course, there is this blog. I will be carrying on with posting random thoughts and points of interest on here, so keep your eyes open for these as I go.

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For those of you who have been enjoying The Eternity Mirrors so far, I can tell you that Part 8 will be the final part of The Forgotten Fairground, but there will be more to come. I already have Episode 2 in the works and the aim is for that to start in January. That is, of course, barring any further disasters (natural or otherwise) befalling me in the next couple of months. I will keep you posted on that score and will let you know closer to the time when I will be rolling it out.

Anyway, until then, and until Part 8 is done, do take a look around at some of the other stuff on here. Also, feel free to get in touch with any comments or suggestions of things you’d like to see on this site.

Are there any books that have been turned into films that you think I should review in by Books -v- Film section? Perhaps there is a particular aspect of Sci-Fi you feel should be explored in Geekery.

Or maybe you have some brilliant DIY tips I could use to fix my flat! Those would be more than welcome too.

But until normal transmission can resume:

Happy reading!

And keep writing.

 

* Disclaimer: My mum has NOT proofread this post. Any typos are entirely mine!

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Episode 1 Part 7 Available NOW!

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Here is the penultimate part of The Forgotten Fairground. The final part will be up next week, so stay tuned.

As always, any and all feedback is welcome! Please do get in touch to let me know your thought on this of anything else on this site.

If you’re new here, welcome! Here’s what you can find in my blog:

  • Books -v- Film – Join the debate on which is better, the book or the film.
  • Geekery – Have fun geeking out about the amazing world of Sci-Fi.
  • Blog – Some general thoughts on writing and life in general (but mostly writing).
  • The Eternity Mirrors – My short story series exploring Parallel Worlds.

Do have a look around and enjoy!

Anyway, as promised Part 7 is here. The link is below, together with links to the earlier parts if you need to catch up.

« PART 7 »

Prologue   Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6

Happy reading!

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Book -v- Film: The Chronicles of Narnia – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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So. You’ve got the rights to a series of beloved children’s classics. You’ve already adapted two of the books into box-office smash-hit films. You have the beginnings of a rather successful and lucrative franchise. What do you do next?

Get cracking on film number three of course!

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the third Narnia book to be published and is the last story to be centred around the Pevensie children. Sadly, Peter and Susan are now too old to return to Narnia, but Edmund and Lucy have one last adventure with their old friends. Unfortunately for them, their tiresome cousin, Eustace Scrubb, has tagged along for the ride.

The book itself is quite different from the first two, insofar as the plot does not build up to a climactic battle. It is much more of an episodic, ‘road trip’, narrative, as the crew travels from island to island on their voyage to find the seven missing Lords. It is the kind of narrative that works very well for a short TV series.

But in terms of a family, Christmas blockbuster, studios tend to prefer more cohesive and progressive narratives. To that end, some changes had to be made. Unfortunately, it is a number of these changes that make this film the weakest of the series.

There is a part of me that, at times, wants to be a fly-on-the-wall in a production meeting, just to observe how certain decisions are made in the life of a film. In particular, I want to know how certain things were decided for Dawn Treader.

Firstly, there is the whole thing about the missing people. When the crew arrives at the Lone Islands, they discover that people are being rounded up and sent off in boats as tribute to some great evil that has taken up residence far out to sea.

Here’s my problem with this little addition: The crew of the Dawn Treader was already on a quest to find a bunch of missing people. They set out with the sole intention of finding the seven missing Telmarine Lords who served under Caspian’s father. What purpose does it serve to add in yet more missing people for them to find?

If the original purpose of the voyage had been simply to travel as far as they could for the fun of it, then, sure, add in some missing peasants for them to track down while they’re at it. But it was already a search and rescue mission, so why add another one into the mix?

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Secondly, there is the whole thing about the swords. In the film each of the seven missing Lords had been given a sword that, when combined, become very powerful and are exactly what they need to defeat the bad mojo that is keeping all the people in boats prisoner. Now, I have no problem with the concept of magical swords, and actually having them collect the swords as they went was a handy visual cue to mark their progress throughout the film. But, ultimately, the use of the swords in their final battle somewhat negated the provision and protection that otherwise would have come from Aslan.

In the book (in all of the books in fact), help is always given when someone either acts in the name of Aslan or calls on the name of Aslan. Why, then, should that reliance now be transferred to a bunch of swords?

And then of course there’s t02-n3-3he fog. I mean, what says mortal peril better than evil green fog?

I will grant you that in the book, they do come to a dark, misty island that messes with their heads and makes them see all kinds of crazy things. And yes they do pick up Lord Roop at this point. But, they are not constantly followed by wisps of green fog that spring up every time they do something stupid. It is there when Caspian and Edmund fight over the water that turns everything to gold. It is there when Lucy takes the page from the Magician’s book containing the spell to make her beautiful.

Symbolically, it shows that evil can take any form, whether it is in someone’s personal shortcomings, or a physical adversary that needs to be fought off. I for one think that this concept comes across just fine in the book without the need for it to be visually represented. Granted, film is a visual medium, but even so there are more subtle ways that this could have been conveyed.

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But enough of the negatives, because at the end of the day, the film is still a much closer adaptation than a lot of other books that have been made into films. The essence of the story is still there, even if it has been somewhat clouded in evil green fog.

The main beats from the book are there: the visit to the Lone Islands, Eustace’s time as a dragon, Deathwater Bay, the Dufflepuds, the Magician’s spell book, Ramandu’s Island – they are all still there and recognisable; it’s just that the order has changed and certain aspects have been expanded for dramatic effect.

Most notably for this is that Eustace spends a lot more time as a dragon than he does in the book. This works quite well as it enables the character to develop through the transformation before he is ultimately redeemed by Aslan. It also allows the friendship between him and Reepicheep to deepen.

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One of the things I particularly like about the CGI dragon of Eustace is his eyes. He retains his human eyes, perhaps implying that his humanity is still within and he is not an entirely lost cause.

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Another highlight for me has to be the sequence in which Lucy uses the Magician’s spell to make herself more beautiful. In doing so, she becomes her sister, Susan, and ceases to exist herself. In the book, Lucy doesn’t actually recite the spell. She sees images (visions perhaps) of what will happen if she does say it, but Aslan stops her before she has a chance to go further.

06 N3-1.PNGAt the start of the film, we find Lucy watching another girl receive the attention of boys around her age. Then, when she arrives in Narnia, one of the first things Caspian asks is how her sister is. He later comments that he is not married yet as no-one has caught his attention quite like Susan did (the second film built up a blossoming relationship between Susan and Caspian – see my previous post on Prince Caspian for more details).

In amongst all of that, Lucy is shown to be envious of her sister’s beauty. In the sequence where she recites the spell, she literally becomes Susan (as she is the measure of beauty by which Lucy judges herself). In doing so, Lucy wishes herself away and her brothers have no memory or experience of Narnia.

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When Lucy finally snaps out of the vision, Aslan is there both to chide and to comfort her. He reminds her of the good she has achieved by simply being herself. It is a lesson that quite often doesn’t get through these days, particularly to young girls who are fed an ideal of beauty and body image by the media that is at best impossible to live up to and at worst is psychologically destructive.

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The development of this aspect of the story is extremely well handled and, to a point, it justifies the additional character of Gael, the young girl who stows away on the Dawn Treader to be closer to her father after her mother is taken by the evil green fog. Lucy takes Gael under her wing throughout the film, leading to Gael telling her that when she grows up, she wants to be just like her. Lucy’s response is, “When you grow up, you should be just like you.” The delivery may edge a little on the cheesy side, but the sentiment behind it is genuine, which makes it bearable.

On the whole, I do enjoy the film, but it did take a couple of viewings for me to look past some of the more intrusive changes. Yes, I am talking about the evil green fog; can you tell I am not a fan of the fog?

But what I find most disappointing is that two of my favourite lines from the book didn’t make it into the film.

My best friend has a theory that Caspian was C. S. Lewis’ favourite character in the Narnia series. Certainly, when it comes to Dawn Treader, he does seem to get his pick of the best line. For instance, when they first encounter Eustace as a dragon, the book offers this exchange between Reepicheep and Caspian:

“With your Majesty’s leave –” began Reepicheep.

“No, Reepicheep,” the king said very firmly. “You are not to attempt a single combat with it.”

Then, of course, there is my all-time favourite literary pick-up line: In Chapter 13, upon meeting Ramandu’s daughter, Liliandil (the woman Caspian eventually marries), Caspian comes out with this:

“And what are we to do about the Sleepers?” asked Caspian. “In the world from which my friends come,” (here he nodded at Eustace and the Pevensies), “they have a story of a prince or a king coming to a castle where all the people lay in an enchanted sleep. In that story he could not dissolve the enchantment until he kissed the Princess.”

“But here,” said the girl, “it is different. Here, he cannot kiss the Princess until he has dissolved the enchantment.”

“Then,” said Caspian. “In the name of Aslan, show me how to set about that work at once.”

I don’t know about you, girls, but that would have worked on me! Especially if it came from Ben Barnes. Alas, it did not make the cut for the film. Perhaps the Producers were worried about giving Caspian/Ben Barnes that level of pulling-power.

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We may never know.

Overall, Dawn Treader may well have fallen quite a bit short of the expectations set by the first two films in the franchise, but it is still enjoyable and leaves the audience with plenty to think about. With the announcement earlier this year that The Silver Chair has been given the green light, I can only hope that the same level of care and attention is taken in its adaptation.

The Silver Chair is my favourite of the books and so I will no doubt be going into it with an extra-critical eye. In the meantime, the fact that there is more to look forward in the Narnia film franchise is enough to keep me going.

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On an entirely unrelated subject, for those who have been reding The Eternity Mirrors, Part 6 was added at the weekend. Follow the links below to check it out if you haven’t already!

Episode 1: The Forgotten Fairgroud

Prologue   Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6

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Episode 1 Part 6 Available NOW!

MirrorEp1

I promise I have not forgotten about my actual blog stuff, although things have been quiet on here in that respect of late. The third Book -v- Film post looking at the Narnia series will be up at some point this week. If you want to catch up with the first two, head on over to the Book -v- Film section of my blog to check them out.

Anyway, on with the task at hand. Part 6 of The Forgotten Fairground is now ready for you all to enjoy. As ever, please do feel free to leave any feedback or comments. I would love to know what you think!

« PART 6 »

Prologue   Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5

Happy reading!

 

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