Monday, April 30, 2018

S is for Sam: Zelazny A to Z

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.
I’m certainly getting a lot of mileage out of Lord of Light for this series of posts, but I’m not going to apologize for that. It’s a brilliant work and that opening line is one of the best in genre literature.

For this post, I’m going to offer up another quote to take a closer look at Sam the holy con man.

I barely paid any attention to Cliff’s play. I spent most of it thinking about Tommy’s eerie behavior. Why was he always so secretive about everything? why did he get so angry that Cliff rang my doorbell? Maybe, I thought, we weren’t friends. Maybe Tommy had somehow conned me the whole time. That’s the thing with con artists. They never tell you their story. They give you pieces of it and let you fill in the rest. They let you work out the contradictions and discrepancies. they let you believe that the things that don’t add up are what makes them interesting or special. they let you believe that in those gaps are the things that hurt and wounded them. But maybe there’s nothing in those gaps. Nothing but your stupid willingness to assume the best of someone.

---from The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell.

Sam understands the value of allowing his followers to fill his silence.

R is for Romance: Zelazny A to Z


[rōˈmans, ˈrōˌmans]

 A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

Zelazny’s stories seldom featured romance as it’s commonly understood as primary focus. However, it’s worth noting that there are several definitions that apply to his writing.

  1. A quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life. (synonyms: mystery · glamour · excitement · colourfulness · color · exoticism )
  2. A medieval tale dealing with a hero of chivalry, of the kind common in the Romance languages. "The Arthurian romances"
  3. A work of fiction dealing with events remote from real life, especially one of a kind popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. "Elizabethan pastoral romances"

But yes, traditional romantic attraction seldom played a large role in Zelazny’s writing. I think that’s largely attributable to the period in which he wrote. Those were simply the kind of story that publishers wanted. As he progressed and the times changed, so too did his writing, and 24 Views in Particular deliberately bucks this trend.

Zelazny was a prodigious talent and he was learning and evolving right up to the end of his career. I’d stop short of saying that it would become a prevalent theme in his works had he lived longer, but it’s an addition to his armory of traits I'll not disparage.

Zelazny, Interrupted.

Sorry for the break in posting! Something came up. We now resume with the regularly scheduled series of posts. If I had planned this out better I probably could have configured it to post W for Walpurgisnacht on April 30th.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Q is for Qwibbian Qwibbian Kel : Zelazny A to Z

The lock began cycling closed and Dorphy was already raising the torch to burn through the welds.

"My vocabulary is still incomplete. What does 'qwibbian' mean in your language?"

The cycling lock struck the cable and severed it as she spoke, so she did not know whether it heard her say the word "berserker."

From Itself Surprised

"I got the story from Qwib-qwib in pieces," she began. "I had to fill in some gaps with conjectures, but they seemed to follow. Ages ago, the Builders apparently fought a war with the Red Race, who proved tougher than they thought. So they hit them with their ultimate weapon—the self-replicating killing machines we call berserkers."

"That seems the standard story," Wade said.

"The Red Race went under," she continued. "They were totally destroyed—but only after a terrific struggle. In the final days of the war they tried all sorts of things, but by then it was a case of too little too late. They were overwhelmed. They actually even tried something I had always wondered about—something no Earth-descended world would now dare to attempt, with ail the restrictions on research along those lines, with all the paranoia…"

Monday, April 23, 2018

P is for Pride (of a Prince): Zelazny A to Z



  1. The consciousness of one's own dignity.
  2. Tthe quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one's importance.
Two passages on pride from Nine Princes in Amber

"Look, I said I'm sorry," I told him. "What do you want me to do? Nobody got hurt and there was no damage."
    "They shouldn't turn goddamn drivers like you loose on die road!" he yelled. "You're a friggin' menace!"
    Random got out of the car then and said, "Mister, you'd better move along!" and he had a gun in his hand.
    "Put that away," I told him, but he flipped the safety catch off and pointed.
    The guy turned around and started to run, a look of fear widening his eyes and loosening his jaw.
    Random raised the pistol and took careful aim at the man's back, and I managed to knock his arm to the side
just as he pulled the trigger.
    It scored the pavement and ricocheted away.
    Random turned toward me and his face was almost white.
    "You bloody fool!" he said. "That shot could have hit the tank!"
    "It could also have hit the guy you were aiming at."
    "So who the hell cares? We'll never pass this way again, in this generation. That bastard dared to insult a Prince of
Amber! It was your honor I was thinking about."
    "I can take care of my own honor," I told him, and something cold and powerful suddenly gripped me and answered, "for he was mine to kill, not yours, had I chosen," and a sense of outrage filled me.
    He bowed his head then, as the cab door slammed and the truck took off down the road.
    "I'm sorry, brother," he said. "I did not mean to presume. But it offended me to hear one of them speak to you in such a manner. I know I should have waited to let you dispose of him as you saw fit, or at least have consulted with you."


    "Wait!" he cried out. "I spoke hastily. I don't want to lose your counsel, if nothing else. Stay with me, please. I will even apologize."
    "That is not necessary," I said, knowing what this thing means to a prince of Amber. "I'll stay. I think I can help you."

The overweening pride of the royal family is largely a characterization that was abandoned in later books, but I think it's interesting to examine how it informs the first one.

Friday, April 20, 2018

O is for Orangutan: Zelazny A to Z



A large mainly solitary arboreal ape with long reddish hair, long arms, and hooked hands and feet, native to Borneo and Sumatra. The mature male develops fleshy cheek pads and a throat pouch.

The Black Throne isn't my favorite story by Roger Zelazny. It's not even my favorite collaboration of his with Fred Saberhagen. It's a Poe pastiche, but there is something there, and I'm glad I live in a world of where it exists.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

N is for Night: Zelazny A to Z

Night, Thing that Cried in the

In the days when I reigned
as Lord of Life and Death,
          says the Prince Who Was A Thousand,
in those days, at Man’s request,
did I lay the Middle Worlds within a sea of power,
tidal, turning thing,
thing to work with peaceful sea change
the birth,
designs upon them;

then all this gave
to Angels ministrant,
their Stations bordering Midworlds,
their hands to stir the tides.
And for many ages did we rule so,
elaborating the life,
tempering the death,
promoting the growth,
the shores of that great, great sea,
as more and more of the Outworlds
were washed by the curling,
crowned by creation's foam.

Then one day,
brooding on the vast abyss
of such a world, brave,
though dead, barren,
not then touched by the life,
         I roused some sleeping thing
with the kiss of the tide I rode.

M is for Merlin: Zelazny A to Z



1.) Son of Corwin and Dara and the protagonist in the second chronicles of Amber.
2.) A contemptibly obnoxious person.
3.) A stupid, irritating, or contemptible man.
4.) Paste-eater

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

L is for Lokapalas: Zelazny A to Z

Lokapāla, Sanskrit and Pāli for "guardian of the world", has different uses depending on whether it is found in a Hindu or Buddhist context.

In Hinduism, lokapāla refers to the Guardians of the Directions associated with the eight, nine and ten cardinal directions.

In Buddhism, lokapāla refers to the Four Heavenly Kings, and to other protector spirits, whereas the Guardians of the Directions are referred to as the 'dikpālas'.

The girl sat on the floor, a heap of various objects before her. She was scarcely more than a child, and she hugged a brown and white puppy and looked at Kubera with wide, frightened eyes, until he gestured and she smiled.
"Kubera," said Yama.
"Koo-bra," said the girl.
"She is my daughter," said Yama. "Her name is Murga."
"I never knew you had a daughter."
"She is retarded. She suffered some brain damage."
"Congenital, or transfer effect?" asked Kubera.
"Transfer effect."
"I see."
"She is my daughter," repeated Yama, "Murga."
"Yes," said Kubera.
Yama dropped to his knees at her side and picked up a block.
"Block," he said.
"Block," said the girl.
He held up a spoon. "Spoon," he said.
"Spoon," said the girl.
He picked up a ball and held it before her. "Ball," he said.
"Ball," said the girl.
He picked up the block and held it before her again. "Ball,"  she repeated.
Yama dropped it.
"Help me, Kubera," he said.
"I will, Yama. If there is a way, we will find it."
He sat down beside him and raised his hands. The spoon came alive with spoon-ness and the ball with ball-ness and the block with block-ness, and the girl laughed. Even the puppy seemed to study the objects.
"The Lokapalas are never defeated," said Kubera, and the girl picked up the block and stared at it for a long time before she named it.

Friday, April 13, 2018

J is for Jacobian: Zelazny A to Z

"I am Vindici! The son of Death! Bred in the Senecan twilight of Jacobian demigods, and punctual as death!

Roger Zelazny's education was in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and his Master's thesis was an analysis of The Revenger's Tragedy, a seminal work of the era. It was titled Two traditions and Cyril Tourneur: an examination of morality and humor comedy conventions in The Revenger's Tragedy and interestingly, authorship of the piece was reassessed since Zelazny's piece and it is now generally held that Thomas Middleton was the author rather than Cyril Tourneur.

Tourneur did write The Atheist's Tragedy, or the Honest Man's Revenge, which is something of a subversion of the tropes of the revenge play, to the extent that the ghost of the murder victim shows up to tell his son, "Naw, it's all good. No need to seek revenge." I could absolutely imagine Zelazny writing such a twist.

Three hallmarks of the era are metatheatricality, madness and murder, traits we can agree Zelazny's work has in abundance. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I is for Immortality: Zelazny A to Z



The ability to live forever; eternal life.
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
Even more than car accidents, green eyes or the span of three days, the concept of immortality pervades Roger Zelazny’s work.   Most of his supernatural characters tend also to be immortal or very long-lived.  Of the protagonists of his major novels, only Nameless (from My Name is Legion), Pol (of Changeling/Madwand), Fred Cassidy (Doorways in the Sand) and Hell Tanner (Damnation Alley) spring to mind as those who have not lived beyond their natural lifespans.

Both the Krulik biography and the Call Me Roger segments of the Collected Stories touch on this in greater detail, but the aspect of immortality as it relates to Zelazny’s writing that I find most interesting is the question Corwin raises in the Chronicles. Do people really change, or do changed circumstances bring out characteristics that have been there all along? Long-lived characters allow an author to dig into such questions.

H is for Home and Hangman: Zelazny A to Z



The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.



 An executioner who hangs condemned people.

I've always had difficulty with titles. I'm very happy with my Doctor Who story "Forever Fallen", but I feel like I could have done better with the title. It’s not bad; it’s just not the best title for the work.

It's tricky encapsulating a work in a single phrase. There are only so many pithy epigrams to go around in the English language, and consequently you occasionally this leads to two books with the same title.

Richard Laymon’s A Night in the Lonesome October is probably fairly well-known to fans of Zelazny’s work. I’ve personally encountered it on bookshelves, and first I was elated to find a version of the classic with a new cover and then quickly dashed when I realized what was going on.

Now both books take their name from Poe’s Ulalume, so it’s not as huge a coincidence as it may seem.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:

Chris DeVito brought another book with the same name to my attention. Home is the Hangman, by Richard Sale. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to do so once I wrap up April’s posts and I’ll report back it if the book contains any parallels with Zelazny’s story of the same name or if it’s just one of those coincidences that occurs from time to time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

G is for Ganelon: Zelazny A to Z

In the Matter of France, Ganelon is the knight who betrayed Charlemagne's army to the Muslims, leading to the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. His name is said to derive from the Italian word inganno, meaning fraud or deception. He is based upon the historical Wenilo, the archbishop of Sens who betrayed King Charles the Bald in 858.

Dr. Kovacs asked if I’d be doing “Green Eyes” for this installment, but I changed my mind. What can I say? I’m a rebel.

This post will have spoilers (albeit for a very well-known 40-year-old book on a website dedicated to the works of that author), so proceed at your own peril.

Ganelon undergoes an interesting evolution over the course of the chronicles.  He was a friend to Ganelon Corwin, then an enemy, and progressed through foil, ally and back to friend again.

Of course, that’s not true. The real Ganelon is long dead by the time the Chronicles begin, and the character is Oberon in the likeness of Ganelon, guiding and judging Corwin.

I’m pleased that we never got any stories delving into the backstory of Oberon.(Shut up! There were no prequels) I prefer an ancient and unknowable monarch of Amber. That said, I like to think he grew and changed a little bit alongside his son.

Monday, April 9, 2018

F is for Fire: Zelazny A to Z



Combustion or burning, in which substances combine chemically with oxygen from the air and typically give out bright light, heat, and smoke.

Welcome back to the second week of Zelazny A to Z. Today’s topic is Fire, specifically, God of.
"Describe this stranger!" ordered Siddhartha, forcing the words through his own lips. 
"He stands very tall," said the demon, "and he wears black breeches and boots. Above the waist he has on him a strange garment. It is like a seamless white glove, upon his right hand only, which extends all the way up his arm and across his shoulders, wrapping his neck and rising tight and smooth about his entire head. Only the lower part of his face is visible, for he wears over his eyes large black lenses which extend half a span outward from his face. At his belt he wears a short sheath of the same white material as the garment, not containing a dagger, however, but a wand. Beneath the material of his garment, where it crosses his shoulders and comes up upon his neck, there is a hump, as if he wears there a small pack." 
"Lord Agni!" said Siddhartha. "You have described the God of Fire!" 
"Aye, this must be," said the Rakasha. "For as I looked beyond his flesh, to see the colors of his true being, I saw there a blaze like unto the heart of the sun. If there be a God of Fire, then this indeed is he."
Agni, lord of the invincible fire wand, given to him by the deathgod himself,  which is said to have scored the surfaces of all three moons while Lord Agni stood upon the seashore and waved it. None may wield it without being blinded and losing a hand in the process!

Agni is one of those characters who never quite lived up to his fearsome reputation.
Agni had entered, and he pointed the wand. 
"Do not move, Sam! Demon!" he cried, above the roar of the engines; and as he spoke, his lenses clicked red and he smiled. "Demon," he stated. "Do not move, or you and your host will burn together!" 
Sam sprang upon him. Agni fell easily when he struck, for he had not believed that the other would reach him. 
"Short circuit, eh?" said Sam, and hit him across the throat. 
"Or sunspots?" and he struck him in the temple. 
Agni fell to his side, and Sam hit him a final blow with the edge of his hand, just above the collarbone.
And versus Yama
"Brother Agni, you have come up in the world." 
"I am no longer Agni, but Shiva, Lord of Destruction." 
"You wear his armor upon a new body and you carry his trident. But none could master the trident of Shiva so quickly. This is why you wear the white gauntlet on your right hand, and the goggles upon your brow." 
Shiva reached up and lowered the goggles over his eyes.
"It is true, I know. Throw away your trident, Agni. Give me your glove and your wand, your belt and your goggles." 
He shook his head. 
"I respect your power, deathgod, your speed and your strength, your skill. But you stand too far away for any of these to aid you now. You cannot come at me but I will burn you before you reach me here. Death, you shall die." 
He reached for the wand at his belt.
"You seek to turn the gift of Death against its giver?" The blood-red scimitar came into his hand as he spoke.
"Good-bye, Dharma. Your days are come to an end."
He drew the wand.
"In the name of a friendship which once existed," said the one in red, "I will give you your life if you surrender to me." 
The wand wavered. 
"You killed Rudra to defend the name of my wife." 
"It was to preserve the honor of the Lokapalas that I did it. Now I am God of Destruction, and one with the Trimurti!"
He pointed the fire wand, and Death swirled his scarlet cloak before him.
There came a flash of light so blinding that two miles away upon the walls of Keenset the defenders saw it and wondered.
 Still, I wouldn't mind some Agni side stories where he can be as badass as his reputation implies. Ideally with some snazzy Jack Kirby-inspired visuals.

Friday, April 6, 2018

E is for Ecclesiastes: Zelazny A to Z

I never went to seminary, but I'm not 100% sure about that date.


A book of the Bible traditionally attributed to Solomon, consisting largely of reflections on the vanity of human life.

Arguably the story that put Zelazny on the map, A Rose for Ecclesiastes is a story I respect more than I like. That said, it's impossible to deny the power of the piece. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

D is for Donnerjack: Zelazny A to Z

I’m still very fond of Donnerjack, Zelazny’s (and Lindskold’s) sprawling, multigenerational epic. I think its time has come in the zeitgeist! The world is ready for Donnjerjack-mania! Bill it as Ready Player One meets American Gods and you’ve got a hit on your hands.

C is for Corwin: Zelazny A to Z

I paused when I uncovered the next card, and my heart leaped forward and banged against my sternum and asked to be let out.
    It was me.
    I knew the me I shaved and this was the guy behind the mirror. Green eyes, black hair, dressed in black and silver, yes. I had on a cloak and it was slightly furled as by a wind. I had on b]ack boots, like Eric's, and I too wore a blade, only mine was heavier, though not quite as long as his. I had my gloves on and they were silver and scaled. The clasp at my neck was cast in the form of a silver rose.
    Me. Corwin.

Of all of Zelazny’s characters, Corwin is the Zelazniest!

He checks many of the boxes in the drinking game, probably more than any other character.

  • Long lived/immortal: Check
  • super strong: Check
  • "laid-back..": Check
  • "...easy-going...": Check
  • "...wise-cracking..."" Check
  • "...homicidal": Check
  • If the story involves cars or car accidents: Check
  • Prose as poetry - Whenever you read a passage so lyrical that you feel compelled to put down the book for a moment to reflect on it: Check
  • Free verse poetry: The hellrides
  • Use of Real-World Mythology: Not a core component, but Amber is chock full of mythological beasties.
  • Use of First person narrative: Check
  • If the protagonist is out for revenge of some kind: Check
  • Two drinks if the intended revenge is greater than the original offense: Check
  • Green Eyes: Check
  • If the plot involves a missing father figure: As essential to the story as the car accident.
  • Any time a character smokes or talks about smoking: Check
  • Any time our character consumes unusual quantities of food: Check
  • Description of techniques or use of specialized terms from martial arts or fencing ("I parried in quarte and riposted)
  • For use of phrases in foreign languages: Check
  • Two drinks if it's in French: Check.
  • Use of the word "arroyo": Not sure if it came up until the Merlin books, but it has to be in there.

I deal you out like a hand of cards, my brothers and sisters. It is painful as well as self-indulgent to generalize like this, but you—I—we—seem to have changed, and before I move into the traffic again I require a final look.
    And the man clad in black and silver with a silver rose upon him? He would like to think that he has learned something of trust, that he has washed his eyes in some clear spring, that he has polished an ideal or two. Never mind. He may still be only a smart-mouthed meddler, skilled mainly in the minor art of survival, blind as ever the dungeons knew him to the finer shades of irony. Never mind, let it go, let it be. I may never be pleased with him.
    Carmen, voulez-vous venir avec moi? No? Then goodbye to you too. Princess of Chaos. It might have been fun.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

B is for Borshin:Zelazny A to Z

The Borshin is the secondary antagonist from Jack of Shadows and the subject of some of the best lines. Less a character and more of a force, it still moves the story forward.

It looked like something that had started out to be a man but had never quite made it. It had been stepped on, twisted, had holes poked into the sickly dough of its head-bulge. Bones showed through the transparent flesh of its torso and its short legs were thick as trees, terminating in disk-shaped pads from which dozens of long toes hung like roots or worms. Its arms were longer than its entire body. It was a crushed slug, a thing that had been frozen and thawed before it was fully baked.
It was-"It is the Borshin," said the Lord of Bats.


"I am Jack of Shadows!" he cried out. "Lord of Shadow Guard! I am Shadowjack, the thief who walks in silence and in shadows! I was beheaded in Igles and rose again from the Dung Pits of Glyve. I drank the blood of a vampire and ate a stone. I am the breaker of the Compact. I am he who forged a name in the Red Book of Ells. I am the prisoner in the jewel. I duped the Lord of High Dudgeon once, and I will return for vengeance upon him. I am the enemy of my enemies. Come take me, filth, if you love the Lord of Bats or despise me, for I have named myself Jack of Shadows!"
Quilian's face showed puzzlement at this outburst, and though he opened his mouth and tried to speak, his words were drowned out by the other's cries.
Then the window shattered, the candle died, and the Borshin sprang into the room.

and near the end:

Through the dust, the noise, the chill, it followed the trail. The flaring lights, the trembling land, the stalking storm meant nothing to it, for it had never known fear. It glided down hills like a ghost and slithered among rocks like a reptile. It leaped chasms, dodged falling stones, was singed once by lightning. It was a blob of protoplasm on a stick; it was a scarred hulk, and there was no real reason why it should be living and moving about. But perhaps it did not truly live-at least, not as other creatures, even dark-side creatures, lived. It had no name, only an appellation. Its mentality, presumably, was not great. It was a bundle of instincts and reflexes, some of them innate. It was lacking in emotions, save for one. It was incredibly strong, and capable of enduring extreme privation, great amounts of pain and excessive bodily damage. It spoke no language, and all creatures it encountered fled from it.
While the ground shook and the rocks rattled about it, it began its descent of the mountain-which-once-had-moved, currents of blazing cloud dropping fires along its way.
The landslide did not stop it any more than the tempest could.
It picked its way among the strewn boulders at the mountain's base and for a moment regarded the final ascent.
There led the trail; there must it follow.
High, high-set, walled and well guarded ...
But in addition to its strength it possessed a certain cunning.
...And its one emotion.

The Borshin even gets a song in the Jack of Shadows album.

A Wrinkle in Time

I've lost faith in a lot of the things I believed in as a child.

I stopped believing in God and Santa Claus decades ago and on bad days I don't even believe in myself.

But I still believe in a Wrinkle in Time.

It is my desert island book. It's the book that reminds me that there is still goodness in the world.

The 2003 movie was pretty bad, but I approached this version with tempered enthusiasm. Jennifer Lee had been the screenwriter for Frozen, so that was encouraging.

But I really don't understand how she managed to miss the meaning of the book so completely. It's one of the few properties about which I'm still sentimental and they messed it up so badly that I was just short of actually angry.

I guess I'll open with what I liked about the movie.


Meg Murray: Meg is probably white in the book, but that whiteness isn't essential to her character, so I don't have any problems with the change. Storm Reid (who has a great name) does an outstanding job with the performance. I'd go so far as to say that she's the best part of the film. The idealized Meg with straightened hair was a good scene, and I don’t think it would have had the same punch with a white girl in the role.

The scenes with baby Meg and her dad were really cute too.

Red: He was a departure from the character in the book, but I thought Red worked pretty well. The bit with the sandwich being literal sand (instead of just tasting like sand) was a bit on-the-nose for my liking, but affably evil characters can be frightening in a way more obviously evil villains aren’t and he’s a good contrast to the capital E Evil of the IT. The puppet metaphor went on a bit too long, but it wasn’t bad conceptually.

The IT: This is another change that more or less worked. Calling the adversary “IT” works in a novel, where you can see the capitalization, but it would lead to confusion in a movie already populated by Whos, Whiches and Whatsits galore.  Adding the article in front of IT is a small change, but I would argue that it’s almost a necessary one for clarity’s sake. Also, the weirdo psychedelic brainscape was a little ostentatious (like the rest of the movie), but a.) at least there was no glitter and b.) IT as described in the book (a slightly oversized brain on a dais) probably would have looked silly on screen.

Enfolded: I liked the recurring motif of things being present but hidden from sight because they’re enfolded. The visual of the paper fortune teller works and the set-up more or less pays off. I thought they were going to use it to illustrate a tesseract, but they didn’t, and that seems like a missed opportunity.

Some good scenes: The montage of misery on the earth was a truly well-composed sequence.  Ava DuVernay does a great job with the quiet, human moments, and those moments should have served as the core of the movie, but they were lost in favor of spectacle.

The Bad

Mrs. Whatsit: "Now, don't be frightened, loves," Mrs. Whatsit said. Her plump little body began to shimmer, to quiver, to shift. The wild colors of her clothes became muted, whitened. The pudding-bag shape stretched, lengthened, merged. And suddenly before the children was a creature more beautiful than any Meg had even imagined, and the beauty lay in far more than the outward description. Outwardly Mrs. Whatsit was surely no longer a Mrs. Whatsit. She was a marble-white body with powerful flanks, something like a horse but at the same time completely unlike a horse, for from the magnificently modeled back sprang a nobly formed torso, arms, and a head resembling a man's, but a man with a perfection of dignity and virtue, an exaltation of joy such as Meg had never before seen. No, she thought, it's not like a Greek centaur. Not in the least.

From the shoulders slowly a pair of wings unfolded, wings made of rainbows, of light upon water, of poetry.

Hold that image in your mind. The book cover at the top of the post can serve as a useful reference. Go back and read it again if you need to. I didn't see anything describing a flying piece of asparagus with Reese Witherspoon's chin, but that's what we got.

It's nice to see Archibald is still finding work after Veggie Tales.

I want everyone to know that Lily is the one who came up with asparagus joke.

Mrs. Who:
 Her distinguishing trait in the novel is that she speaks in quotations. They dispense with that about a third of the way through the movie, at about the point where she wore a bustle while running through flowers who were also running.

She loses additional points for quoting Chris Tucker. What’s the matter, couldn’t they get the rights to wubba lubba dub dub? Mrs. Who quotes Chris Tucker and the attribution, “Tucker, American” is longer than the quote. Ugh. Listen. I understand the desire to be topical, and those kids today (shakes rake at them to warn them off my lawn) aren’t going to understand the provenance of a quote by Blaise Pascal. But this is barely even a catchphrase.

Mrs. Which: I was nervous about Oprah Winfrey in the role because I thought her presence would prove distracting because she's one of the most famous human beings in the world.

I was wrong. She was even more distracting than I had feared because she was one hundred feet tall and covered with glitter.

The Titans have breached Wall Maria. 

In the movie, she says, "Trust nothing." Do you have that  Fox Mulder "I want to believe" poster hanging on your wall, Mrs. Which?

Give me that old-time religion: I'm not religious myself, but Madeleine L'Engle's particular brand of Christian Universalism serves as the core of the book.("All will be redeemed in God's fullness of time, all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ. All the strayed and stolen sheep. All the little lost ones.")

I don't think it can be removed without changing the story fundamentally and you certainly can't just rip it and continue on with nothing in its place, as was done here. The movie is empty inside.

The Writing: It's often just bad. "She's evolved beyond the need for language." "Charles Wallace doesn't live here anymore." Seriously? Even children's cartoons know they can't get away with playing that line straight anymore. Calvin disappears almost completely for the final twenty minutes of the movie. We were joking that he'd be calling for the other characters on Camazotz during a post-credit sequence.

Crappy Mentors: A Wrinkle in Time served as an influence on my Doctor Who story, Forever Fallen. I also loved the Doctor's relationship with Ace because he could solve her problems for her easily enough, but instead, he helps her become the version of herself capable of solving those problems. That same dynamic is at play in the book, but the movie features mentors that neither like nor respect their charges and it just doesn't work. What's the point?

The Happy Medium:  Zach Galifianakis plays the medium as a gymnast/soothsayer. Kudos for playing against type, but not an interpretation that grounds the movie, is it?

Walk like an Egyptian
Charles Wallace goes down like a chump: In the book, Charles Wallace goes into IT’s grasp willingly, because IT has promised him that the location of his father is in there and he believes he’s strong enough to pull himself out once he’s in there. Pride is his fatal flaw and it’s this overconfidence that gets him.  In the movie, The Man with Red Eyes takes control of Charles Wallace by reading from his second-grade math homework.

I’ve touched on this before, but love is the theme of the book. Meg is poisoned by doubt, but she knows as certainly as she knows anything that Charles Wallace loves her. Her mother loves her. Her father loves her. They love each other and despite her doubts about other things, Meg knows this. The Mrs. Whatsit of the books loves her.
"Mrs. Whatsit hates you," Charles Wallace said.
And that was where IT made ITs fatal mistake, for as Meg said, automatically, "Mrs. Whatsit loves me; that's what she told me, that she loves me," suddenly she knew.
She knew!
That was what she had that IT did not have.
She had Mrs. Whatsit's love, and her father's, and her mother's, and the real Charles Wallace's love, and the twins', and Aunt Beast's.
And she had her love for them.
But how could she use it? What was she meant to do?
If she could give love to IT perhaps it would shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not withstand love. But she, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness, was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not too much to ask of her, but she could not do it.
But she could love Charles Wallace. She could stand there and she could love Charles Wallace. Her own Charles Wallace, the real Charles Wallace, the child for whom she had come back to Camazotz, to IT, the baby who was so much more than she was, and who was yet so utterly vulnerable.
Charles. Charles, I love you. My baby brother who always takes care of me. Come back to me, Charles Wallace, come away from IT, come back, come home. I love you, Charles. Oh, Charles Wallace, I love you.
Movie Mrs. Whatsit’s opinions on Meg range from disgust to disinterest. Why is she even there if she feels this way?

What I’d like to see is a more or less straight adaptation of the book as an animated film by studio Ghibli. Hayou Miyazaki can helm it the next time he comes out of retirement.

Grrr...So bitterly disappointed in what we got.

Monday, April 2, 2018

A is for Arroyo: Zelazny A to Z

noun: arroyo; plural noun: arroyos

A steep-sided gully cut by running water in an arid or semiarid region

Ha! You thought this was going to be Amber, didn’t you?

Every writer has concepts or phrases to which they regularly return.  I make a few light-hearted observations about Zelazny’s signature style in the drinking game and his penchant for using “arroyo” is one of the items on my list.

Now, on the face of it, this is not unreasonable. He lived in Santa Fe and wrote about the American Southwest or otherworldly regions analogous to it. Consequently, he uses a word that describes a feature of the landscape that would reasonably be found in such a setting.  It’s not like he has to engage in excessive perturbations of the narrative to get there.

That said, it shows up an awful lot.

A partial list:

Last of the Wild Ones
Unicorn Variation
Eye of Cat
A Dark Travelling
Bridge of Ashes

I’d like to see the Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve type analysis to see if it's statistically significant.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Roger Zelazny A to Z

It's April! Traditionally I've done poetry (originally haiku, but later branching off into other types), but sometimes I've mixed it up and done quotes from Zelazny's work. This year I'll be doing one post for every weekday in April, starting with A and working my way through the alphabet. Please swing by tomorrow to see what we have for A.