As a child, I read and reread The Chronicles of Pyrdain a countless times over.
This five-volume series is by Lloyd Alexander, who passed away last week at the age of 83. It was not surprising that I enjoyed the tales of a young boy who went from a simple kid to a hero and a king – not in the least because it wasn’t just a story of wish-fulfillment, but one of genuine growth and heroism.
I read them many times as a child – and even now, these stories are among the few that I still return to time and time again. Perhaps that is one of the defining marks of a truly good story – being able to inspire one to return, once again, to well-worn pages for yet another telling of the tale. That in spite of knowing what is coming – of knowing every little twist and reveal – every page is as enjoyable as the time before.
There are some stories out there that I’ve read several times more from necessity than desire, and these are not bad stories – the Wheel of Time is a good example of a story so overwhelmingly plot-filled that it requires a week playing catch-up every time a new volume comes out. There are more than a handful of webcomics that are similar in nature – that every so often require another trip through the archives just to know what is going on.
But there are also those precious few that present a story so solid, so enjoyable, so timeless, that I return to them again of my own volition, compelled by nothing more than memory.
The Chronicles of Prydain were among the first such stories to have stayed with me throughout the years. They will stay with me forever.
Rest in peace, Lloyd Alexander. You will be remembered.
I considered spending today giving my own thoughts on yet another bit of drama making the rounds, involving the comic book industry and the fallout from certain massive crossover events. But… others have already written about that, and I don’t think there is much more I can add to the discussion.
I did, however, notice that it is International Women’s Day. And being that my mind was on the topic of comics, that made me think of Girl-Wonder.org, a site with a very strong, and very important, message. The focused campaign of the site is to get recognition for Stephanie Brown, who took up the mantle of Robin, and then was brutally killed – at which point DC mostly forgot about her.
I originally agreed with the site’s goal, largely on the basis that this was a character I had grown up a fan of. One of, sadly, many that DC has done terrible things to in recent years. But it wasn’t really until I started to read Girls Read Comics! (And They’re Pissed), by Karen Healey, that I started to ‘get’ the message they were trying to get across. That I started to genuinely notice the sexism and misogny unfortunately all too present in modern comics.
That was really what struck me about the state of things. That until it was pointed out to me, I just had not noticed. I didn’t agree with women being demeaned in comics, nor could I defend it – but until I had my face shoved in it, it didn’t occur to me to question it.
I think highly of myself as a rather reasonable, open, and well-meaning individual. So being put face to face with my own… ignorance? Apathy? Unawareness? Well, whatever it was, it wasn’t exactly the best feeling.
Since then, I’ve continued to read Karen’s column, and to genuinely keep my eyes open when I’m reading comics. (Both in print and on the web.) I couldn’t claim to have accomplished anything more than become aware of when I am reading something that is slealthily offensive, but I’m glad to take that as a start.
Some time after this point, I was talking with a friend about All Star Batman and Robin. It’s by Frank Miller, and it is pretty damn terrible, in all manner of ways. Most people are aware of this by now.
I was telling a friend how bad it was, and he asked me exactly what made it so bad. My response: “The gratuitous amounts of fanservice, the exceedingly lame dialogue, and the thoroughly incompetent pacing of time.”
His response: “Well, only two of those are really reasons not to read the comic.”
Now, this individual is one of my most intelligent friends, and a person I have a considerable amount of respect for. So seeing him just as stuck in that mindset, not even seeing anything wrong with it… well, that was another shock.
I don’t know how to stop the problem. But I think talking about it, getting it out in the open, is definitely an important part of the process. Making people aware of it is important. Because it really is far too easy for someone not directly affected by it to just not notice. And that says plenty of bad things in its own rights, but also means that the more people that can be made aware, the more progress can be made.
I’m sure there is plenty more I can do to contribute. For now, though, I’ll point people towards Girl-Wonder.org, and recommend they take a good long look. They’ve said it better than I ever could, and are saying things that damn well need to be said. And, honestly, it shouldn’t take it being some special day of the year for me to mention them – but the topic has been in the back of my mind for a while, and I’m glad I had something prompt it to the front.
And hopefully, in the future, I won’t need even that.
Whimsy on a Wednesday: Adrift in a Sea of Choices
Sunday was the fifth of November.
Monday, entirely by coincedence, I read V for Vendetta.
Tuesday I went and did my civic duty, and voted in the elections.
Today I sit and ponder the act of voting.
I always feel… out of my depth, I suppose. Here I am, lending my tiny but not insignificant voice in a grand decision, and I am never sure if I am truly qualified for the job.
I have a remarkable amount of trouble staying abreast of current events in general, and politics are hardly an exception. I don’t hide my head under a rock by any means, but it is often the last thing I pay attention to, and the more my knowledge of things comes secondhand, is filtered through other peoples views and voices, the more I wonder how much of my opinions are my own.
Even so, I’m firmly on one side of things given the current state of affairs in the US. As uneducated about things as I am, I am solidly against Bush and what he has done. Unlike many of my friends, I’ve never threatened to run off to Canada. I’ve never proclaimed him a fascist, or called him Hitler. But I disagree with what he’s done, and would like to do what I can to change those in power who support it.
With that as my outlook, my voting should in theory be simple – Republicans bad, Democrats good, right? Knowing so little of the specifics of things, doing all I can to put the democrats in power should be an easy choice, yes?
And yet, I dislike the simplicity of it all. So just to confirm my outlook, I go and do my research on the candidates. I try to find what truth there is in between the mudslinging and the handwaving. I look up past activities, I look up voting records. (I discover, among other things, that Maryland is home to 2 of the 7 Republican Representatives who voted against the bill that suspended Habeas Corpus.)
I do a great deal of research, and come out of it knowing very little more than I did when I began.
I go to the assigned location, and I vote as seems best to me. And I do it all plagued by the fear that, all in all, it is far too difficult to really know what affect my actions will bring, if any. Part of it is the fear enounced by Spider – but much more is simply the fear that nothing is that clear-cut, and decisions are not so easily made.
I voted, and I did a great deal of research that changed very little about how I voted, and left me not much more confident in my knowledge of the strange world of politics.
But I still feel glad I made the effort, and I feel glad I got a nice little sticker with a flag that says “I Voted.” And on all accounts, I should be damn well pleased with the results of the election itself.
Still, I find myself feeling more contemplative of things than anything else – and in the end, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.