Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature. —Eric Hoffer
That is why you fail. —Yoda
The World Turned Upside Down: I’ve a few more thoughts and photos yet to offer from my recent trip to Brisbane, but perhaps what I’ll remember the most was looking up at the night sky and being completely disoriented by the sight of the constellation Scorpius, not riding low on and upright on the southern horizon as I see it in Kansas City, but inverted and nearly at the apex of the sky as I faced southward. A very bright Saturn was floating near the Scorpion’s mouth, adding some extra drama to the picture. Then I found the Southern Cross, forming a compact little kite low in the south, near a brilliant Alpha and Beta Centauri. It hovered over our worksite early in the evening, which made hopping off the bus to face my graveyard shift a little more tolerable. “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way…” Or words to that effect. It’s a small thing, this simple landmark in the sky, but it has a peculiar power to stir the soul.
With Friends Like These...the world is a better place. Had a nice visit last week with Dan & Jan Davis, Barbara Hartzler (another local writer—check out her new paranormal YA novel, The Nexis Secret), and My Fair Publisher, Grace Bridges, who was stopping by on her current journey from Middle Earth across the U.S. via Realm Makers (a Christian SF&F writers’ conference—more about that in a later blog). There was much pleasant conversation, consumption of large hamburgers, sketching-out of a few deep-laid plots, a pleasant cup of tea, an argument revisited concerning the merits and demerits of head-hopping, a new debate about the ethics of omniscient narration in romance novels, a spot of video poetry, and a heavenly slice or three of Grace’s amazing pavlova (the dessert, not the ballerina). Grace also left me a copy of her latest book, Mariah’s Dream, which I’ll be reviewing here soon.
“Five Gold and a Party!” Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is set in an immersive post-apocalyptic techno-magical world (think Thundarr the Barbarian or Krull). Using Fantasy AGE, a streamlined, user-friendly roleplaying system, Game Master Wil Wheaton leads a motley crew of heroes-for-hire on a thrilling quest that transcends conventional expectations of dice-and-grid roleplaying adventures to achieve something very close to cooperative storytelling, and it’s a ton of fun. Give it a watch when you have a moment to spare, and take note of how quickly the players are drawn into the story and the characters they’ve created. Episodes air weekly on the Geek and Sundry website and are cross-published on YouTube. Start with the introductory spots that introduce the characters and game world before launching Episode 1.
Yes, gentle cynical reader, it also serves as a marketing pitch for both the Fantasy AGE RPG materials and the Titansgrave adventure module, but I think it provides a glimpse of how science fiction and fantasy literature and art are converging with both gaming and social media to produce immersive and interactive fictional worlds where the barrier between creators and audience begins to vanish—where the experience is a seamless dance of high tech and high-touch. It’s the difference between “Sit down, I’m going to tell you a story,” and “Come along, we’re going to embark together upon a great adventure!” Wheaton continues his yeoman’s work as an advocate for tabletop games that bring people together face-to-face for fun and fellowship, and I think that’s a re-discovery worth making.
Oh, Bother. Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh was a quick read, though somewhat disappointing. Taoism is about going with the flow of nature, rather than fighting it and overthinking it, and everybody’s favorite Silly Old Bear is a rather apt exemplar of that worldview. Being a Bear of Very Little Brain, Pooh is apt to take life as he finds it, and things seem to work themselves out effortlessly for him, with a snackerel of honey along the way, while his woodland friends have no shortage of tribulations. Analytical Rabbit ties himself into knots, pompous Owl sounds impressive but always misses the point, fearful Piglet frets himself into immobility, proud Tigger’s overconfidence lands him in hopeless fixes, and selfish Eeyore is so focused on his own problems he’s no good to anybody.
There’s some wisdom here, but as a guide to life, “Don’t Worry—Be Happy” feels aimless and empty to me at day’s end. Hoff’s allusions to excerpts from A.A. Milne’s Pooh stories are clever, if a bit forced, but I think they fail to convince or to present more than a surface image of Taoist philosophy. He’s also a little harsh on gloomy old Eeyore. I like Eeyore. Anyhow, I’m certain there’s more to life than floating like a poohstick on the limpid brook of fate, idly wondering when I might bump into the next jar of honey. Ah, there’s one now…