The Skyscraper Throne

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I have finished the first book of the Skyscraper Throne by Tom Pollock.  Set in London it was urban fantasy borrowing from New Weird.  I felt while I was reading that it covered a lot of  the same material as Charlie Fletcher’s Stoneheart Trilogy.  Of the two authors I would be more inclined to recommend Fletcher who seems to me to write with more energy and vision.

Still the idea of using the Skyscraper Throne is a good one.  There is a paragraph in the middle of the book that described it:

Cut into the western face of the pyramid was a seat with high sloping arms.  It was vastnothing could possibly be big enough to fill it.  But even as the words left her mouth, Beth knew whose throne it was, because cut into the chair’s high back was the tower block crown.

It amused me to consider Dunedin has something similar in the back of the old central post office, a granite throne looking toward the harbour.  Smaller cities are not candidates for urban fantasies.  I think Dunedin as a heritage city should be a good contender for age-old battles of the imagination.  I wonder what agent of the Iron Crown waits to return to ascend that abandoned throne.

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The Problem of Susan

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I was reading a discussion list a couple of weeks ago when this topic was referenced.  It is the problem that many readers face in C. S. Lewis’s closing book of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle that he deliberately shuts one of his protagonists, Susan Pevensey, outside of the Real Narnia.  The reason why? She has become a modern young woman!

Oh Susan! she’s interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up!

Grown-up, indeed.  I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.  Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.

Well, who can blame her, since the book was first printed in 1956, only a couple of years after rationing had finished in Britain.  She has stopped sharing in memories of Narnia and put them behind her as a childhood game.  Putting away childish things, indeed?

Critics are unhappy with these lines.  It seems to them that Lewis was uncomfortable with the idea of sex, and the independent woman.  There are examples to pick on elsewhere in his stories.  The idea was picked up and named by the writer Neil Gaiman with the above title.

Other writers and critics have picked up on it.  It might explain a scene in The Amber Spyglass where Lyra and Will spend the night alone.  Pullman averts our eyes in his narrative and apparently they pass the night holding hands.  Written in Miltonic language I don’t think Milton himself was this prudish.

It doesn’t seem to me directly to be about maturing into sexual beings.  Instead it is about putting on the trappings of adulthood.  Childhood fantasies and creativity are put off as the young person enters a cargo cult of bright lights and encounters.  It’s a world that Lewis doesn’t want to celebrate, or encourage his readers into.  It’s a dangerous world to enter.  Walk down the main street on a Friday night.

What kind of person did Susan grow to be when she lived in Narnia.  In The Horse and Her Boy it is observed about her that The Queen’s grace will do as she pleases”.  Maybe there is a secret history to be written about Susan in Narnia.  Did she pursue her own course, and her own company, during that golden age?  It hasn’t been discovered.

There are other characters that Lewis doesn’t let off lightly.  I would raise the stakes on the Problem of Susan and throw into the pot the Problem of Alberta.  Read the opening lines to The Voyage of the Dawntreader.  Harold and Alberta Scrubb are very modern, progressive parents.  They have raised their son Eustace in the same way.  A summer with his cousins the Pevenseys ruins him.  He becomes “tiresome and commonplace” according to his mother.  He is killed in the same accident that wiped out nearly the whole Pevensey family, leaving the Scrubbs childless.

Lewis doesn’t seem to allow for modern rational people in a fantasy world and treats them unfairly.  Maybe that’s a bad move.  They could easily turn around and say, “Okay, we’ve stepped into another world and the laws of physics have been broken here.  Let’s see how we can work it to our advantage.”  No one seems to have written that idea.  There are many ideas that would be interesting to seen introduced into a fantasy scenario.  How about democracy for a start.

Maybe Susan is the lucky one.  She gets to walk out of the story intact and on with her life.  The rest of her family are still there, trapped in the last page, in the Great Story, which goes on forever, and know, it is forever.

Update from another New Zealand

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I posted up the results for an alternative election in New Zealand earlier this week where the parties that were least successful in each seat swapped around and won that seat in my alternative time-line. After I posted it I realised that how I could manipulate the list vote is give the highest votes the value of 1, the second highest 2, and so on, then add those numbers up and work out a percentage of votes from that.

Fifteen parties contested the list vote. Six other parties did not contest list votes but won eight seats, as well as seven other seats which returned independent members of parliament. The resulting parliament has 147 members, higher than the numbers elected here due to the number of overhang seats. One party, the centre-right National Party won no seats and its list vote was re-allocated as it was below the threshold.

ACT 22 MPs 22 electorates 0 list
Alliance 14 MPs 2 electorates 12 list
Democrats for Social Credit 14 MPs 8 electorates 6 list
Libertarianz 14 MPs 7 electorates 7 list
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis 12 MPs 2 electorates 10 list
Mana 12 MPs 3 electorates 9 list
Maori Party 11 MPs 1 electorate 10 list
United Future 11 MPs 5 electorates 6 list
Conservative 8 MPs 1 electorate 7 list
NZ First 6 MPs 2 electorates 4 list
Greens 5 MPs 1 electorate 4 list
Labour 3 MPs 1 electorate 2 list
NZ Sovereignty 2 MPs 2 electorates
Communist League 2 MPs 2 electorates
Youth Party 1 MP 1 electorate
Economic Euthenics 1 MP 1 electorate
Human Rights 1 MP 1 electorate
Nga Iwi 1 MP 1 electorate
Independents 7 MPs 7 electorates

Still a strong neo-liberal block with ACT the largest party allied with the Libertarianz. Needing 74 MPs to form a bare majority, they may draw in other parties who want to be around the caucus table: the socially rightist Conservatives, the centrist Ünited Future, and the indigenous Maori Party. They might even attract the hemp industrialists from the Aotearoa Party or the economic policies of the Democrats. The left look like to be be in opposition between a strong showing by the Alliance with its support parties, Labour, the Greens and the Communists.

In truth this is a parliament of rejects and the leading parties of this parliament reflects this. There is enough there to terrify to alarm and attract various factions in real factions. Analysing the numbers proved to be an interesting exercise in itself in studying the voting trends of the country. I may have to keep that information for consideration.

Urban Elf Tribes

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One of the projects I dabble with is to create a city in a fantasy world that could be a mirror to the one I live in.  I watched parts of the movie Peter Pan at the weekend.  It contributed to an idea that has been germinating that in such a city the elvish and fairy citizens are an artistic sub-class overlapping with criminality.  They walk among the other peoples of the city with otherworldly gifts and immortal foods that offer addiction: lotuses, viaticum, elf-shot.  They also steal children when they can, and run gangs of unageing flying thieves.  They need to policed and kept within their boundaries.

As for the image of a pirate ship riding the fog of London between the clock towers, that’s an evocative image.

Lawful Good Half-Elf Ranger Cleric?!

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I noticed a link on Noinden Tain’s journal. Having a fondness for Dungeons and Dragons when I was younger I didn’t resist trying the test.

[Update] The link is broken and I have removed it.  Sorry if you have come looking to find out what Dungeons and Dragons character you are.  If you find the quiz before I do, leave a comment. Thanks.

The results:

Alignment:
Lawful Good and proud of it! The one true alignment, accept no alternatives! Goodness and Law are guiding influences in my life. This is in contrast to my flatmate crypt who favours Chaotic Neutrality – random choice free from moral obligations.

Race
Half-Elf!? After a brief reaction I realised this made sense. Neither one thing nor another, neither immortal elf nor mortal human, instead someone pulled between both groups. A third-culture person, born in one group and raised in another, at home and foreign in both societies, pulled between two worlds. I am not a third culture person, although I find the concept intriguing. Elf and Human were second and third on points – Halfling was one of the lowest, less than zero!

Primary Class
Ranger. I’ve never played one, so I can’t comment. I’m not a hunter, I don’t live off the land, I’m not ‘in tune with nature’. I choose to live in small cities where facilities are available to me, and the interaction with other PCs are available if I want to take that choice. Maybe part of this reflects my preferred weapons in a fight – staff and knife. The medieval re-enactor is coming out in me. (The worst weapon in a fight? Magic. Too tricky, it could turn against the user, it cheats.)

Secondary Class
Cleric. I don’t know about secondary classes. I think they were introduced after I stopped playing. (Long story involving why religion is a bad thing – I would like to start playing again before I get too middle-aged, I haven’t found a D&D group I want to join yet.) Cleric makes sense for a person like me. Someone who stands facing the god, living before the Presence.

Deity
Mielikki, Lady of the Forest, Neutral Good goddess of the autumn, her sign is the unicorn’s head. Oookay, this would make sense if my choice of deity in real-life wasn’t YHWH, an intellectualised version of the patriarchal god of the reformed Christian tradition. If I lay aside my monotheism then the Lady who maintains the good balance in nature on the warm golden afternoons of autumn (my favourite time of the year) makes good sense. After autumn, winter, and the promise of renewal.

Thx to Noinden for the link.