I was walking back to my classroom yesterday when I passed three of my students carrying a box full of dirt and test tubes.
These three are a rather nerdy trio, so I like them. The dirt and test tubes made me curious and I asked what they were doing. They froze, looked at me, looked at the box, had a quick whispered conversation in Korean, and then one finally looked me straight in the eye and said in the loudest voice I’d ever heard her use, “SCIENCE!” before they all ran off.
It was the best answer ever.
Here’s a Wednesday check in. My hay fever is raging fierce and mean so don’t expect much in the way of segues.
You know what I forgot sucked? Puberty.
Holy shit does puberty suck. You go from playing with GI Joes, drawing rainbows, and unicorns to crying uncontrollably for five hours and breaking out in zits all in the span of one week. And that’s just the early stages. Give it a few years and you’re a sanctimonious twit outraged because the book kiosk in the mall doesn’t have a copy of Naked Lunch.
But anyway, I bring this up because right before my Tuesday afternoon class (the one I teach alone) the 6th grade alpha couple (he’s a dope, and she’s a smart bully) had a big fight and broke up. Then it came time for my class. He’s not in it, but she is, and, well, the tears, my friends, the tears and I’m the “adult” in the room who, you know, has a lesson plan and wants to teach some English—but fuck all if that gets done when the season finale of Dynasty is going on in the classroom.
You know what’s really popular in Korea? “The North Face” athletic gear.
It’s so popular there are tons of knock off North Face gear. My dress sweat pants have a The Novella Face logo on them and my sneakers are The Red Face. Which only means I think of the Gas Face whenever I put this stuff on:
If I had a segue to the next part it would be here.
Mary Renault’s The King Must Die is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read this year. No fooling. First, there’s the language:
“Then I saw why Apollo had sent a bard. Cretans do not know everything, though they think so. They know how to raise stones, but not men’s hearts. The people were afraid. So I understood why I was there, and called upon the god; and he put the power on me, to feel the work and make it music. I sang his praises, and gave the time. After a while, the seven kings with their sons and barons came forward and pulled for Apollo’s honor, standing among the people. Then the stones rose up slowly, and slid into the beds the Cretans had made for them. And they stood fast.”
Second is the world building, which is Ancient Greece seen through the eyes of a person who believes himself the son of Poseidon. If you’re a fan of Gene Wolfe or Catherynne Valente it’s worth checking out. Even if you always thought Theseus was a bit of a douche for leaving Ariadne on Naxos after she helped him escape the Labyrinth. It’s still worth it.
Stuff done this weekend:
Ate noodles and hotteok, not together but on the same day. While eating noodles the restaurant owner gave me some tips on how to hold my chopsticks. Hotteok remains delicious if not nutritious.
Printed out Clusterfuck, the Novel (it’ll either be called The Crooked Ones or Castle Junction depending on which pile of story-corpses wins the fistfight). This necessitated purchasing a printer and three printer cartridges to print the whole thing.
A new coffee shop opened up near us. It’s next to one of the faux-French bakeries. Drank lots of coffee. Also lots of green tea. Jin and I had a conversation about the difference between “being lucky” and “being fortunate”. We decided it came down to degrees of randomness and one’s response to that randomness, with “being lucky” being more random than “being fortunate”.
Would you agree or disagree?
Back to work tomorrow…
I was sitting in a bar tonight reading Mary Renault’s novel, The King Must Die. It’s a pretty fun book, and while it’s a mundane, magic-free novel about Ancient Greece, its characters clearly believe they inhabit a “magical” world animated by gods and spirits. Theseus and his fellows believe in the whole Greek pantheon with greater conviction than one normally encounters in contemporary mainstream fantasy.
It got me thinking. A lot of fantasy seems to take its cues from the pulps. But I wonder if there’s a shadow history of epic fantasy that thrived in historical fiction and sidestepped the pulps.
Off the top of my head I’d place Renault, Mitchison, Flaubert, Dumas, Sabatini, Graves, and even Bashevis Singer (his novel King of the Fields in particular) in this shadow history. It’d certainly be a more amorphous tradition, one with more narrative complexity and more “Grandmothers and Godmothers” in it. It would likely lack a fandom trading the original magazines in mylar baggies. Maybe it’s the simplicity the pulps offered—the hero battling his way through insurmountable odds for a bit of wealth and/or maiden skin, all that sense of wonder and escapist derring-do, but I really wonder if this is just a narrative we’ve all been fed and swallowed. A heap of lies that says THIS IS THE GENRE’S HISTORY when really the genre’s true history is a lot more crusty and weird.