- C.S. Lewis, "On Reading Old Books"
Far back in Kane’s gloomy eyes, a scintillant light had begun to glimmer, like a witch’s torch glinting under fathoms of cold gray ice. His blood quickened. Adventure! The lure of life-risk and battle! The thrill of breathtaking, touch-and-go drama! Not that Kane recognized his sensations as such. He sincerely considered that he voiced his real feelings when he said:
“These things be deeds of some power of evil. The lords of darkness have laid a curse upon the country. A strong man is needed to combat Satan and his might. Therefore I go, who have defied him many a time.”
After viewing the not-bad movie Solomon Kane, which I reviewed recently, I decided to see whether there were any Kane stories I’d missed. I’d read one collection before, and thought that was all there was. But in fact, I discovered, Robert E. Howard wrote a number of Solomon Kane stories, enough to fill a book of reasonable length if you include the unfinished fragments, and that is what The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane is.
The stories start in Kane’s English homeland, where he battles various dark forces, but soon Howard takes him to continental Europe and then to Africa, where he stays for the rest of the book, except for a “homecoming” poem that rounds the collection out.
As you can judge from the snippet at the top of this post, Robert E. Howard was not a writer of elegance. His prose can clunk from time to time. But I have to say that I didn’t care. The man was unmatched in his ability to paint a weird scene, draw you into it, and engage you at every level. I read the book in great chunks, with immense visceral pleasure.
One surprising fact, which I learned in the excellent biographical sketch on Howard by Rusty Burke which is appended to the book, was that Howard was a fan of G. K. Chesterton. It’s apparent, though, that it wasn’t Chesterton’s theological writings that he liked, but his poetry, especially “The Ballad of the White Horse,” which he actually quotes at the section breaks in the story “The Moon of Skulls.” Despite being identified as a Puritan, Solomon Kane doesn’t actually think about theology much. He is even willing to use (though gingerly at first) a “ju-ju stick” given to him by an African witch doctor, though Howard softens the unorthodoxy of that choice later on by identifying the stick as being both the rod of Aaron and the staff of Solomon. In short, don’t look for Christian lessons here. This is pulp fiction from the 1930s, albeit top of the line pulp fiction.
Something should probably be said about Howard's handling of race. Solomon Kane is not hostile to the black people he encounters. In fact he often acts as their protector, flying into volcanic rage over injustices and violence visited upon them. But he is patronizing in the extreme. The author's view seems to be that Africans are a lower evolutionary form of human being, soon destined for extinction, and that it's the duty of superior whites to look after them.
Lots of violence. The language was pretty mild, in the style of the times. And lots less sexual suggestiveness than in the Conan stories.
I should also mention that Gary Gianni’s illustrations for this book are simply wonderful – skillful line drawings in the old style of Howard Pyle and N. C. Wyeth. They are fully worthy of the material and add immensely to the effect of the prose.
Highly recommended, as pure entertainment.
- Evil intersperses cruelty with kindness.
- Evil assumes other people are as fake as It is.
- Evil likes to toy with other people’s boundaries.
- Evil takes a victim stance.
- Evil would rather kill the person doing the questioning than take a realistic look at itself.
- Evil does it for kicks.
- At it’s heart, Evil is parasitic.
- Evil is smooth-talking and impulsive.
- Evil, it would seem, reduces living things to commodities, especially those foolish enough to lick its knee.
- Evil ruins childhood and refuses kids the tools to grow up.
- Evil is mindless suffering and a blind compulsion to act out a painful past.
First, a brief commercial message. Due to a momentary technical lag in our diabolical plan to raise the prices on my two self-published e-books, Troll Valley remains for sale for the old $2.99 price at the time of this posting. I have no idea how long this will last, so if you want it at the old, low-self-esteem price, get it now.
Author Michael Z. Williamson sent me this link to a remarkable piece of writing by Jackson Crawford, who teaches Norse and Norwegian languages at UCLA. It's a retelling of the Star Wars story as an Icelandic saga, and to my ear it seems letter-perfect. Also better than the movies.
But Lúkr took Artú’s bloody cape and there found the message written by Princess Leia. He began to read it. “I am no runemaster,” he said, “But these words say, ‘Help me, Víga-Óbívan Kvæggansson; you alone would dare to avenge me.’ I don’t know how to read any more words, because they are written poorly and hastily. What is this?”
Artú pretended not to speak Norse, and asked in Irish, “What is what?”
“What is what?” responded Thrípíó, “That was a question. What was written on that message which Princess Leia gave you?”
“That’s nothing,” said Artú, “An old message. I think that Princess Leia is long dead.” Thrípíó translated his words into Norse.
“Who is Princess Leia?” asked Lúkr, “What family is she from?”
I had no idea they were making a movie of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. Hard to imagine they could do it justice, but the trailer hits the right notes.
Coming early 2014.
Alissa Wilkinson writes about Christian artists who eschew identification as such:
Sometimes it's because they're afraid of being stigmatized, in some fields more than others. But just as often, what I hear is that they don't because they're afraid that the "Christian world" will glom onto them, making them the next poster child for the cause: "Look! Christians can be cool, too!" Then, precisely because the gears are ready and well-oiled, they fear they'll be sucked into being packaged for "the Christian market." (And often they want their art to be appreciated because it is well-made, not because a Christian made it and we all gotta stick together.)(via Jeffrey Overstreet)
My father, Pfc. Jordan Walker, in the Occupation Forces in Japan, about 1946.
Thanks to all our veterans for your service and sacrifice.
C. S. Lewis wrote somewhere that for modern souls, the acquisition of new appliances, vehicles, and entertainment devices constituted “the very stages of their pilgrimage.” I bear that in mind as I announce my acquisition of a Kindle HD.
As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I’ve had a Kindle Keyboard (the generous gift of no less a figure than the learned Dr. Hunter Baker) for some years now, and have fallen wholly under its sway. I like its ergonomics, its lightness, and the opportunity, when I need a new book, to satisfy my jones in about a minute. I treasure my Kindle Keyboard, and have no plans to abandon it. In the single day I’ve owned my Fire, I’ve tried reading on it, and it’s fine. I’m sure I could transition to it as a regular reading device without trouble. But the battery on my old Kindle lasts longer, and the essential reading’s equally good.
The Kindle Fire HD is a genuine tablet, albeit a low-end, entry-level one. The first thing that impressed me was the graphics. What I see on my device doesn’t have the definition of the more expensive Kindles, but nevertheless it amazed me. I got a free month of Amazon Prime with my purchase, and I downloaded an episode of “Justified.” I was highly impressed with the speed and picture quality (though downloading YouTube videos can be annoyingly slow and page loading can be poky). Also impressive was the Dolby sound, which is amazingly good for such a small device.
I’m still learning to navigate on the thing, and experiencing the normal old dog’s problems. I like the way you can move around and zoom in on the screen with a finger swipe, and I think the whole thing will become pretty instinctive before long. For someone who’s always worked with Windows, the whole “Mojito” operating system involves a little techno-shock, but like all systems it makes its own kind of sense. The virtual keyboard is OK; it confounded me for a while but I think I'm catching on.
The main reason for the low price of this Kindle is that it doesn’t have either a camera or a microphone, so the buyer should be aware of that. I bought mine because I wanted more flexibility in accessing the web. I think I’ll even be able to do some of my graduate course work through it; at least that is my hope.
This is a preliminary evaluation. I’ll let you know if I change my mind about anything.
Remembering being asked to make a new translation of Beowulf, Seamus Heaney said, "While I had no great expertise in Old English, I had a strong desire to get back to the first stratum of the language and to 'assay the hoard.'" He had gained a feel for the sound of Anglo-Saxon and wanted his translation to sound as authentic as he could make it. He remembered a way of speaking from his relatives. "I called them 'big-voiced' because when the men of the family spoke, the words they uttered came across with a weighty distinctness, phonetic units as separate and defined as delph platters displayed on a dresser shelf. A simple sentence such as 'We cut the corn to-day' took on immense dignity when one of the Scullions spoke it."
So he brought out this sound in England's oldest epic poem. Now, researchers are saying their accepted opinion on the poem's first word may have been skewed. The word translated as "hark", "lo", "behold", and similar words (“Hwæt! We Gar-Dena in gear-dagum, þeod-cyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!”) probably isn't so boldly declarative. And Heaney may have thought so as well, long before the researchers caught up to him.
…Chris thought of Jimmy Barsonetti, a man who, if there ever was one, deserved to die. He knew in his bones not only that he deserved to die, but that the truest justice comes at the hand of the victim, or his family. Had this been Joe Black’s code? On the one chance he had had to ask that question, Chris had been too young, and too paralyzed by the weight of Joe Black’s persona to speak up. He “followed orders” his father had said, but what happened when the orders he received were evil? What did Joe Black do then? That was the question Chris had never asked, afraid of what the answer would be.
Sometimes you run across a book that you like very much, but aren’t entirely sure you understand. But that said, I have to give Sons and Princes by James LePore a high rating.
The hero of Sons and Princes is Chris Massi, a son of the Mob. His father was a respected and feared hit man. He used to be married to the daughter of a don. Nevertheless, he never wanted to be part of that world, and became a lawyer instead. He worries over his son and daughter, being raised by their mother in the shadow of the Family.
But Chris’ plans for his life have gone off track. The district attorney, once Chris’ best friend but now his greatest enemy, tried to send him to prison, and did succeed in getting him disbarred. Now the don is making Chris an offer he… well, you know. He tells Chris that a rival don murdered his father. And if Chris will kill that don, he will send Chris’ son to live with him, out of the seductive mob environment.
Chris is dismayed at the choice, but that’s only the beginning. Things are going to get very nasty, and people are going to die, and the secrets of a number of hearts will be revealed.
There’s a strange double vision in this book. There’s a compelling sense of morality, and even of Christian faith. Chris is a Catholic believer, and there’s a very decent priest involved, and one character turns to prayer in desperation, and the prayer is answered. Yet the idea of vengeance also permeates the story.
That said, I enjoyed Sons and Princes quite a lot. I recommend it. Read it yourself and see what you think. The usual cautions for language and adult themes apply.
Tonight, crowdsourcing. Or a social experiment. What I mean is I want your opinion.
I was talking to someone the other day about the way my novels are languishing at Amazon (my big exposure through Christianity Today the other day resulted in a total of 20 copies sold), and I mentioned that I’m asking $2.99 for a download. My friend suggested maybe that’s too little. Perhaps people assume that a $2.99 book isn’t to be taken seriously.
Baen is charging $6.99 for The Year of the Warrior.
I take it for granted anyone who reads this blog and is in a position to buy an e-book has already gotten their own $2.99 copy. So you have nothing to lose by giving me your honest opinion. Do you think the books would sell better at $4.99? $5.99?
I figure we could run a sale once or twice a year. Hard to do a sale at $2.99, unless you just make it free.
Tell me what you think.
In The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing, by Jeff Goins, we have a light-weight book on living in the present. No exegesis of the origin of the word wait (Middle English from Anglo-French). No history of waiting or relevant thoughts recorded by ancient thinkers. Goins gives us his own thoughts teased out of stories from his life. His point: “What we were hoping for, what we dreamed would be a larger-than-life experience, ends up looking a lot like morning breath and spreadsheets.”
With stories about Christmas and Epiphany in Spain, on falling in love and becoming a parent, and on leading worship services for prisoners in Washington, he tells us that the in-between times are dull but good. “The good life comes like most good things,” he says, “unexpectedly—in moments that are fading away faster than we realize.”
Toward the end, Goins says he has always been reluctant to push religion on anyone, but that’s what this book needs. Despite the background of church and faith in almost every story, the book points to personal contentment rather than to Christ. A Buddhist could do this. What we need during the in-between times is not a reminder to bless those around us or that we can learn from the slow places in our lives. We need to remember the work and glory of Christ Jesus, whose spiritual wealth is far greater than anything we can achieve with our hard work.
I can understand this reluctance, if it comes from that contemporary desire to askew religion in favor of our relationship with our Lord Jesus, but when we hide from the truth because we can’t stomach religious terminology, we harm ourselves and our readers. The gospel of Christ trips people. They take offense at it, and so do we. We need to understand that such squeamishness comes from our sinful pride, our desire to manage our own lives without submission to the King of Kings. When we understand that we live under the authority of Christ, our Lord, then we can handle the in-between times with greater patience.
Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.
Criticize the selling of self-destructive behavior to the young and you’re “puritanical,” or “slut-shaming,” or being “unrealistic about the modern world.” But in fact, this effort to normalize the degraded is itself perverse in the extreme. It’s the incarnation of that imp within who urges us to do ill to what we love the best: ourselves and our children. The people who peddle this trash curse those who dare to criticize them so loudly precisely because they know they are doing wrong and can’t stop themselves. Believe me: the person who accuses you of “slut-shaming,” is herself deeply ashamed.
The term "The Imp of the Perverse" is a reference to story by Poe.
Emily Temple has a brief, but long list of hard books: "Some books are only for the toughest readers on the block, your Sylvester Stallones of literature."
Copyright 2009, Universal Pictures
The 2009 film version of Robert E. Howard’s second most famous fantasy hero, Solomon Kane, came and went almost without my notice. I think many people, even fellow Howard fans, had the same experience. But I caught it on Netflix yesterday, and found it considerably better than I expected, though not without faults.
For a writer of no particular religious belief and rather freethinking sexual views, it was an odd choice on Howard’s part to create a character who was an English Puritan. Of course he made up for that by essentially having no idea what Puritans believed, and the movie shares that ignorance. Still he created an interesting character – more a type than a character, really – who lives and travels the world for the sole purpose of fighting evil.
This movie, intended as the first of a trilogy, is an origin story for the character, giving us background Howard never bothered with. In this imagining Solomon is the son of an English West Country nobleman, banished by his father. At first he traveled the world as a sort of pirate, cruel and greedy but unmatched in his fighting skills. Then, after an experience when his lust for gold brought disaster to his crew, he retired to what appears to be a monastery in England (which is historically problematic, as the story date, though uncertain, must be later than Henry VIII’s dissolution of Catholic institutions). There he comes to the questionable conviction that he can achieve redemption by living “a life of peace.” Read the rest of this entry . . .
If I’d known what I was getting into when I agreed to be one of the Vikings present last night at the American Swedish Institute’s annual “Loki’s Bash” Halloween party, I might not have done it. It was only after agreeing that I learned that one of the event’s sponsors was a local paranormal society, and that divination would be performed as part of the festivities.
But I’d given my word, so I set off. As it turns out, it wasn’t so bad. No doubt I was surrounded by people who would have considered me a Nazi if I’d shared any of my views, but that’s a less and less infrequent experience for me. And I don’t think anything went on, in terms of the occult, that didn’t also happen at the Science Fiction cons I attended. In any case, all of that was out of my sight.
What I did see was an endless parade of (mostly) young adults (total attendance, I’m told, was 1,600) adorned in costumes of varying degrees of quality, cleverness, and good taste. A fair number were dressed as they imagined Vikings would be, in keeping with the event theme. Many were identifiable characters from movies and TV shows. Many others, no doubt, were identifiable characters from movies and TV shows I’ve never heard of. Others were puzzles. Some were meant to be puzzles.
Take for instance, my favorite. There was a young woman there dressed in a black dress with white collar and cuffs. She wore a gray wig plaited in two pigtails. And she had an eyepatch and two toy ravens perched on her shoulders.
I finally had to ask. “Schoolgirl Odin?” I asked.
“No," she laughed. “I knew it was too complicated. I’m Wednesday Addams. But Wednesday is Odin’s day.”
Makes perfect sense when you think about it.
I got home after midnight, and to bed after 1:00 a.m. My alarm clock picked this morning, of all mornings, to lose its bearings and set off its alarm about forty minutes early.
I blame witches.
Earlier this year, I was going over Martin Luther's 95 theses, and it occurred to me that many of them apply to the teachings we call the prosperity gospel. The comparison isn't exact, of course. Prosperity teachers may be popular, but they aren't part of the majority church as were the teachers Luther opposed. And if you remember from reading Luther's list, he gives the Pope all due respect, suggesting that he is being misrepresented, not that he is teaching heresy himself. We can't say that for the preachers of the prosperity gospel.
Here's my list, taken from and based on Luther's original--and four theses short. You see today's Wittenberg doors on the right. They're bronze, so we'll have to post new theses with sticky tack. You'll also see that several of the theses here are Luther's own statements, taken from this translation.
No doubt, the spirit of Luther will pull me out of bed tonight, knock me in the head, and rebuke me until daybreak for pulling this stunt. I hope it doesn't offend you and bore only some of you. Hope you continue to have a good and holy All Saint's Day.
91 New Theses for the Modern Church
- When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
- The word cannot be properly understood as referring to living your best life now, i.e. positive thinking, as taught by some preachers.
- Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
- As long as hatred of sinful self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Preachers of “kingdom prosperity” have neither the will nor the power to remit the penalty of sin.
- They cannot remit guilt, but only ignore or excuse it because original sin and Christ’s atoning work are not in their view.
- God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to Christ.
- The promises of God apply only to followers of Christ Jesus, those who have been raised to life from a spiritual stillbirth.
- Mere fandom for a church or preacher does not qualify anyone to be particularly blessed by the Lord of Hosts.
- It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when mere fans of a church claim statements from the Word of God as particular promises for their personal lives.
- When preachers encourage their followers to claim particular promises, instead of repentance, surely it would seem that tares were sown among their congregations. Read the rest of this entry . . .
I've been playing with the kids today and working on theology piece which I hope to post here soon, so while it's still Reformation Day, let me direct you to this recreation of Luther's Reformation acts in !!eye-poppingly realistic!! LEGO form. You will believe you are actually in Germany with these events went down.
"The pleasures of Moby Dick are more akin to the pleasures of a police procedural like CSI or NYPD Blue," writes author and scholar Jonathan Rogers. "A better comparison, really, would be the Horatio Hornblower books or Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series."
He says Moby Dick is a book about whaling, which is the reason there are so many details about whaling in it. He notes, "The piled-on detail seems oppressive to many readers; it truly is hard to handle. But the story begins to do its work on you when you stop trying to handle it."
Moby Dick by ~scumbugg on deviantART
Actor T. P. Cooke portraying Frankenstein's monster in an 1823 theatrical production.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! –Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath. His hair was a lustrous black, and flowing. His teeth of a pearly whiteness. But these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same color as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, 1818.
I probably won’t be posting tomorrow, as I have a thing going on in the evening. Silver bullets to shoot, stakes to drive through hearts, you know the sort of thing.
I read and reviewed one of Peter James’ earlier Det. Supt. Roy Grace novels, Dead Simple, several years back, and gave it a middling grade.
But I unwittingly downloaded the Kindle version of another one, Dead Man’s Footsteps, recently, and enjoyed it very much. I thought the characters were better developed here, and Superintendent Grace’s (to me) regrettable interest in psychic evidence only got a passing mention.
The story involves several seemingly unconnected threads, which duly come together in the end, as the real identities of various characters are gradually revealed (with some red herrings thrown in for the fun of it). Supt. Grace is called out to a construction site in his city of Brighton, where a skeleton has been discovered in an old storm drain. Several indications lead him to believe that it might be the remains of his beloved first wife Sandy, who disappeared, as if into thin air, some years ago. Meanwhile a woman is caught in an elevator in her high rise, spending more than a day in terror, unable to send an alarm or use the emergency phone. And we flash back to the morning of September 11, 2001, as a shady Englishman in Manhattan heads for a fateful meeting in the World Trade Center.
The story is long and convoluted, but that’s more a feature than a bug; there are a lot of puzzles here for the reader to work out. And this time the characters were pretty interesting, at least to me. And the story ended with a surprise neat enough to give me a little chill.
Recommended. Cautions for language, adult themes, and a steamy sex scene.
What a strange day. I was very low and very high within a few hours, and all through the mediation of the Internet. This whole thing would have been inconceivable just 20 years ago.
First, though, the weekend report. My big project was my annual ceremony of seeking out and repairing cracks in the retaining wall on the west side of my property, so it doesn’t rain chips down onto my neighbor’s driveway, or give way altogether in small landslide. The neighbor and I have discussed replacing the whole thing, but that awaits the Day When My Ship Comes In. A movie deal would do it.
I knew ahead of time that the work would leave me walking like Walter Brennan on the old Real McCoys TV series, which most of you are too young to remember. Which is just the sort of thing Grandpa McCoy would have said himself, except that he would have said it about Vaudeville or nickelodeon shows.
The other big accomplishment of the weekend was submitting my first research paper for my grad school class. Worked hard trying to master the APA style, and had to cut out half my text after I realized I’d forgotten to make it double spaced. I’ve often had people (some of them with doctorates) tell me they can’t imagine writing a novel. I for my part have a hard time imagining writing a doctoral thesis.
So I hobble into work today and check the grad school web access page, and find that my instructor has critiqued my paper, but not given me any grade points. I took that to mean I’d failed the assignment, and so plunged into Stygian depression. I have to maintain a B average to stay in school. All that was over now, I thought. I was done. Bound for unemployment and life on the street.
Then I e-mailed the instructor, asking her to explain. She e-mailed back that she just hadn’t assigned grades yet.
OK. Never mind, then.
And then I get a plug from John Wilson at Christianity Today’s Books & Culture podcast (see below). That’s like a bucket list thing for me. All my life, Christianity Today has been the standard of intellectual respectability in the evangelical world. And I made it! In a way.
My grandmother would have been so proud. Though I’d have to explain to her what the Internet and podcasts are.
Then we could commiserate about our stiff joints.
In his podcast today, John Wilson of Books and Culture talks about how much he enjoyed Lars' latest !!spell-binding!! novel, Hailstone Mountain, and a bit about how he was provoked to read it. The world feels smaller somehow.
If you too are brand new to Lars Walker's novels, learn more by following this wonderful, insightful, and humility-inspiring blog or through the links below:
- Twice the Critical Goodness!
- Phil's Review of Troll Valley
- Eleventh Century Vox
- I Did Not See That Coming
- My Review of Hailstone Mountain
- By the Dawn's Erling Light, Part 1
- By the Dawn's Erling Light, Part 2
- My Review of West Oversea
(via Kevin Holtsberry)
Autumn always gets me thinking of early America. Maybe it seeps out from Thanksgiving, that thoroughly Pilgrim holiday. So I offer you this music which, though in theme is slightly off-season, in tone is perfectly placed. As Hawthorne said, "She poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the thirst of his spirit."
Had a small adventure today, a step outside my customary work orbit. It involved a connection with a fellow blogger, too.
Dennis Ingolfsland (a fine Norwegian name) is the chief librarian at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, a school of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He’s also the blogger at The Recliner Commentaries, a fine blog I’ve been following for years. He doesn’t post as often as I’d wish, but then he’s a teacher as well as a librarian. Also the pastor of a church. That’ll eat into your time.
I’m in the last stages right now of composing a research paper on Theological Librarianship for my grad school class. One thing I was required to do for that project was to interview some working librarians in the field I’m covering. I e-mailed three, and they all agreed to help (librarians, I'm discovering, are a remarkably helpful and accommodating group. Which makes me wonder whether I’m cut out for the job). Dennis invited me to come out to Crown and look at their set-up, and I decided it would be a good idea.
He showed me through their library, which is far larger, better organized, and more sophisticated than mine is. He gave me some good suggestions for connections to online resources. And he bought me lunch, on the college’s dime.
I think they must have confused me with somebody else.
In any case, thanks, Dennis.
A still from Night of the Living Dead, 1968.
It’s Halloween season now, I guess, so I think I’ll speak my mind about zombies.
I don’t like them.
Not in the Bruce Campbell Evil Dead sense of, “I hate those bleeping zombies and I’m gonna blow them away.”
No, I dislike them because they’re boring. Of all the monsters invented by the mind of man, the zombie (as imagined in America ever since the movies altered a Haitian folk superstition into a semi-systematic popular mythology) is the least intriguing.
Zombies have no style, like Dracula. They (generally) have no pathos, or capacity for it, like Frankenstein’s monster. They have no tortured self-awareness, like the wolf man.
They just lurch around hungering for brains, compelled by mere appetite, without choice or agency.
They are a metaphor for modern humanity, as seen by itself.
And I hate that most of all.
Author Neil Gaiman notes that the prison system is big business. How can they predict jail cell growth? "[U]sing a pretty simple algorithm," Gaiman said, "based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn't read." Not that all illiterate people are criminals or all literate people are not, but the relationship between being unable to read and crime is strong. Sixty percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate; 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
Gaiman said he went to China for the first sci-fi convention ever approved by the Communist establishment. He asked an official why this was finally approved. The official replied that the Chinese had no imagination for invention, so they asked the likes of Google, Apple, and others who were inventing new technology. These people were readers of science fiction and fantasy.
"Fiction can show you a different world," he said. "It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in."
The Fox is Black, a design blog, has held design re-cover contests in the past. I just saw their winner for a contest on redesigning The Wizard of Oz, which adds the word "Wonderful" to the title. It is captivating.