Mach

Supersonic moments, shortage of time.

Yesteryear has gone, and our lives have changed.

Today is fleeting, too, vanishing fast.

Tomorrow approaches so rapidly.

I hang on to memories, won’t let go.

Until they’ve forgotten me, or time stops.

Everlasting, eternal, can’t go back.

Nothing the same, nothing is sane, new world.

Replaced by now, every moment too soon.

Existence replaces reality.

Transcending the presence of our control.

Helpless to stop the wheel, the hands that turn.

Eternity there, realized only then.

The unaided prison break, great escape.

Butterfly nets that can’t capture release.

Open palms face up, fluttering and gone.

The future comes like highway underneath.

Fast train

Fast train (Photo credit: Sander van der Wel)

No speed limit, passing fast by the laws.

Riding the curves, hoping the tunnel ends.

Not so abrupt, because we can’t slow down.

Face hits the pavement, skids piles of skin.

Wake up, world spinning, shouldn’t have stopped.

Momentum won’t return, won’t heal the scars.

Afraid and unworthy to continue.

Brush it off, look around, we’ve escaped hell.

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Just to breathe

Just to breathe, I would give up all your love.

Choking from smothering, I need freedom.

Cut a hole in my throat to make loud words.

Allow me to speak with thoughts in my mind.

Let us communicate, talk it all out.

The deadly silence creeps into my ears.

Ominous, foreboding, pictures of us.

Placed upon the mantle, fangs and teeth bared.

Skin peeling back, faces falling off.

A poor affair to show our families.

Yellowed eyes show alternate solutions.

A stream once tread becomes the sea, drowning.

Oceans of despair, whirlpool destruction.

Collapses upon itself, consumes death.

Central passage that leads to the wrong place.

Above the surface, weathered and fractured.

Desquamation weathering

Worn from the years. A tale of history.

Softness concealed by the winds of ages.

Fissure in the rock, better than a clock.

Showing time passed and the effects of life.

Sand castles drowned, or blown away in gusts.

Never to be found, only ash and dust.

Man created fire, and it burned him.

Experience of betrayal saddens.

Let me fall to pieces, and rest the same.

Why you shouldn’t read A Song of Ice and Fire

Library warning poster

Library warning poster (Photo credit: Phil Bradley)

Given the recent popularity of the Game of Thrones television series, and my need to balance my abysmal existence with immersion into a fantasy world, I decided a little while back that I would give a go at “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Before attempting the series I enjoyed “The Wheel of Time” and “Sword of Truth” series beyond praise, but with criticism. The former for the author ignoring the main (my favorite) character in favor of others, and the latter for pressing his political agenda that completely contradicts my own. I thought “A Song of Ice and Fire” had merit prior to its televised popularization, since I had seen it on numerous ‘Top Ten’ fantasy series lists. I started reading it, and I was considerably unimpressed. What follows is a brief (because nobody reads anything over 1,000 words) explanation why, with comparisons to Martin’s contemporaries Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind. My three main points are based upon characterization, political intrigue, and literary value.

Characterization.

Hollow. The characters seem empty to me, and perhaps this is the result of each character not actually being tied to a set of complex characteristics drawn from the real humans. The characters rather represent just facets of what makes up actual human beings. There are main characters that Martin tends to embrace more throughout the series, but what comes to lack from not fleshing out characters becomes worse than caricature. At least caricature can become amusing if the reader understands what the author intends. Martin’s characters lack this, being most likely a consequence of over-diversification of characters solely to express multiple character traits. Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind do the opposite. Rarely does a single novel in their respective series go into double-digit characters. This is because the characterizations are more comprehensive, and it is their characters, unlike Martin’s, that serve to drive the story, rather than being tugged about by excessive plot twists and turns.

Political Intrigue.

I hate it. Mystery, intrigue, and even occasionally romance, are all literary devices used to appeal to a mass readership. They are some of the most popular books by quantity, yet  rely upon simplistic ‘twists and turns’ to draw the attention of curious readers. Rather than being event-driven or character-driven, Martin’s world is built upon a swarming mass of political behavior. For Americans who suckle the life out of individualism, this becomes a quick sell. “What is this individual doing to that individual and how will it affect those individuals?” I couldn’t care less. Where Martin’s contemporaries exceed him is their understanding of the pacing issues that are inherent to a politically-driven world. It slows actions and events, doesn’t allow characters to grow and develop, and becomes muddied when the reader doesn’t attach or identify with a certain political entity or ideal. Jordan and Goodkind both deviated into p0litically-driven worlds at certain points within their series, but the entire series did not suffer because of it.

Literary Value.

I’ve heard the argument that fantasy isn’t literature, and I disagree. My disagreement is partially due to the inconclusive sampling that many anti-fantasy literary snobs have. The other part is because I feel that fantasy often seeks to explain the same moralistic ideals that I believe is the intent of any literary author. Scholars and critics may not share my opinion that the purpose of literature is ultimately to morally inform and spread personal ideology, but that is why I write and therefore what I believe. Martin, however, writes for a mass audience, which severely compromises poetic license.  This causes him to rely heavily on cliché and uninspired descriptions. His writing does flow, but it feels as though it was written for an audience first being exposed to literature as a means of entertainment, often categorized as ‘teen’ or ‘young adult’ literature. This self-imposed limitation on his vocabulary and descriptions gives his writing an elementary feel, and I suppose is equivalent to a cheesy science fiction film.

Alternatives.

Characters. Robert Jordan created my favorite complex character, Rand al’Thor, a simple man and a character gradually developed through the series to be reconciled with the insane Lews Therin introduced in the very first book. Terry Goodkind created another type of character, Zed, who would normally be cast-type as ‘comic relief’, but actually becomes an intense character himself, perhaps even borrowing the title of ‘main character’ occassionally.

Plot-driven. Rand al’Thor is the (spoiler) Dragon Reborn (/spoiler). The events surrounding him are what affect his world, and characters and their decisions don’t drive the story as much as they are simply affected by their world. Terry Goodkind does a similar job with Richard Rahl, making him the (spoiler) son of his first major enemy (/spoiler), but also allowing events to take over the direction of plot. Political intrigue is limited to character development.

Literary Value. Robert Jordan never preaches to the reader, but he definitely expresses his worldviews through characterizations and immersive descriptions of locations and battles. His writing is uninhibited by genre conventions. Terry Goodkind becomes a political philosopher midway through the series, but scenes early on made my stomach heave and chest pound, especially with the descriptions and background information about the Mord Sith.

Battle against Time

The face of a black windup alarm clock As a child, Caius did not know of the torments and terrors that the villain Time would bring to upon him later in life. For childhood is innocence, and time is not sufficiently understood. Days pass seamlessly from one to another. “Do I play now, or do I play later?” Interruptions for meal-time could be so inconvenient. “Mom, I just want to play!” Caius whined. So much fun to be had, why can’t he stay up later and play past sunset? So Time would leave his childhood alone. “Play, young Caius, do not concern yourself with me right now,” Time said. Because Time was waiting for Caius to get older before he stole moments away. Caius yet lacked comprehension of the vile thing that would betray him in adulthood.

Time slowly began to sneak up on Caius. It took from him little by little, such short moments of insignificance that he hardly noticed. Fleeting moments that added up to the days of his youth were so carefully stolen by Time that he hadn’t even noticed. “Where did those times go?” Caius wondered. Though Time was a villain, Caius was still unaware of the evils it was capable of. It was already hiding, taking things from him, and he didn’t even realize it. But Time waited for the right moment to begin to stealing things that would make Caius cry, precious moments Caius would never be able to have back. That is what Time wanted most. Caius did not realize it yet, but in time, Time would become his enemy.

Maybe it was because Caius looked forward so often, into his future, maybe that was how Time was able to steal so much from him. Caius had ambitions and dreams, and promises to fulfill. So he spent time thinking of the future, ignoring the present. How was Caius to know that Time was sneaking around his back, stealing moments he would need to get to that future? How was he to know that Time could take so many present moments that he would later grieve and yearn for when he didn’t have them? He didn’t realize that everything he built was being taken away, moment by moment, by unforgiving Time. By the time Caius discovered the little thief, it was far too late to do anything. Caius was Time’s victim.

Caius tried to reach up, outstretched hands grasping for his goals and ambitions to be realized. But by now, Time had stolen every past moment from him, leaving him nothing left to stand on, not even a pedestal. Caius could only hopelessly gaze at the pinnacle, look at it from afar, much as he had done before, except now it was out of reach. If he reached too far he would fall. He would never get to touch it, experience it, because Time had taken everything that he would have used to reach it. “Why can’t I reach it!?” Caius yelled. Tears began to stream down his face. Time is a heartless thief. No sympathy for its victims. It was impossible for Caius to reach his dreams, and Time would do nothing to console him.

Caius now hated Time, for all it had taken from him, all it had stolen away. Cowardly, fleeting time, sneaking around, taking with it every presently cherished moment. And more, Time forbade anyone to have those moments return. But Caius had enough of Time’s cruel methods. It was time for Time to be punished, to be shown you can’t take everything from a man without invoking his vengeance. Caius would make Time suffer like he did, he would torture it, leave it helpless, force Time to beg for mercy, tears streaming down its face, like he had so many times before. Time would regret the day it was born, and the very day it decided to become a thief. Caius would consume himself to bring the death of Time.

So Caius fought time. He hunted it down, with an arsenal of weapons to make any vampire hunter jealous. Sufficiently armed and teeth bared, Caius set off into the world, in pursuit of time. Before he left home, he smashed his alarm clock, then the timer in the kitchen, and he cut off his left hand with a machete to get rid of his wristwatch. All of the pieces of time he could not collect littered the dresser and the kitchen counter, his arm and the floor a bloody mess too. Caius walked down the street, entered every business where he knew Time was present, and fired his shotgun at every clock he saw. Not satisfied, he climbed a clock tower, smashed the face of it with his fist, and tried to wind it backwards to get his moments back.