A note on the title and banner

I wanted to share a couple of other things which I think are cool about the “physical” state of this blog.

The first is the title. Originally it was going to be “Till the World is Mended,” taken from a Tom Bombadil song in The Fellowship of the Ring, which was also the title of my undergraduate thesis in Environmental Humanities. The thesis took three major works of fantasy and analyzed the way that they related to a revolution in how we perceive the surroundings of our lives: The Lord of the Rings, the Earthsea cycle, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In fact, for those who have read the latter (which should really be everyone), another choice for the title was “Tree Speaks to Stone, Stone Speaks to Water.” But that didn’t seem quite in line with what I was going for.

Tom Bombadil himself, incidentally, is a character I used to love to mock, but then somebody pointed out to me that he is basically a good version of Cthulhu. How often in fiction do we really encounter an incomprehensible, eldritch force of kindness? Tom has had my respect ever since.

In the end, though, I went with “To Find the Colors Again.” This is taken from a quote by George R.R. Martin, the reigning pope of fantasy, which is worth sharing in full:

The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.

Great stuff. GRRM deserves all the fame he receives and more, I think. He’s certainly worked for it.

In a way, I write fantasy to find the colors again, because my imagination has always been my strongest muscle. If I were a D&D character (such gaming being something else you’ll hear more about later) I would have all my points in it. I don’t have any better way of constructing meaning, and that’s not a bad thing. We’ve been using narratives to understand the world since the dawn of consciousness–only we called them myths once.

I took the banner photo a few days ago at a place called Indian Beach, in Ecola State Park, Oregon. Astute viewers might recognize this as the beach from the final scene of Point Break, when Keanu Reeves lets Patrick Swayze out of the handcuffs to go and surf himself to death. The movie says it’s in Australia, but the movie lies.

Incidentally, it’s also only a half-hour drive down the beach from Astoria, where they filmed The Goonies, and where they are currently celebrating that movie’s 30th anniversary. Crossover potential, maybe? Johnny Utah and Mikey Walsh team up to find a stash of gold bullion hidden by a surfing pirate? Stay tuned.

Currently reading: Neil Gaiman, American Gods; John Keats, Complete Poems; Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur (it’s wonderfully wroth)

Currently watching: Gravity Falls, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley

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