29APR2018 – Quote of the Day

I have always thought Treasure Island is the quintessential adventure story for boys.  The film versions  are also good fun but reading the story I find can almost make me feel twelve years old again.  Well maybe fourteen anyway.  Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

3

The Black Spot

ABOUT noon I stopped at the captain's door with some cooling drinks
and medicines. He was lying very much as we had left him, only a little
higher, and he seemed both weak and excited.

“Jim,” he said, “you're the only one here that's worth anything, and you
know I've been always good to you. Never a month but I've given you a
silver fourpenny for yourself. And now you see, mate, I'm pretty low,
and deserted by all; and Jim, you'll bring me one noggin of rum, now,
won't you, matey?”

“The doctor--” I began.

But he broke in cursing the doctor, in a feeble voice but heartily.
“Doctors is all swabs,” he said; “and that doctor there, why, what do
he know about seafaring men? I been in places hot as pitch, and mates
dropping round with Yellow Jack, and the blessed land a-heaving like the
sea with earthquakes--what to the doctor know of lands like that?--and I
lived on rum, I tell you. It's been meat and drink, and man and wife,
to me; and if I'm not to have my rum now I'm a poor old hulk on a lee
shore, my blood'll be on you, Jim, and that doctor swab”; and he ran on
again for a while with curses. “Look, Jim, how my fingers fidges,”
 he continued in the pleading tone. “I can't keep 'em still, not I. I
haven't had a drop this blessed day. That doctor's a fool, I tell you.
If I don't have a drain o' rum, Jim, I'll have the horrors; I seen some
on 'em already. I seen old Flint in the corner there, behind you; as
plain as print, I seen him; and if I get the horrors, I'm a man that
has lived rough, and I'll raise Cain. Your doctor hisself said one glass
wouldn't hurt me. I'll give you a golden guinea for a noggin, Jim.”

He was growing more and more excited, and this alarmed me for my father,
who was very low that day and needed quiet; besides, I was reassured by
the doctor's words, now quoted to me, and rather offended by the offer
of a bribe.

“I want none of your money,” said I, “but what you owe my father. I'll
get you one glass, and no more.”

When I brought it to him, he seized it greedily and drank it out.

“Aye, aye,” said he, “that's some better, sure enough. And now, matey,
did that doctor say how long I was to lie here in this old berth?”

“A week at least,” said I.

“Thunder!” he cried. “A week! I can't do that; they'd have the black
spot on me by then. The lubbers is going about to get the wind of me
this blessed moment; lubbers as couldn't keep what they got, and want to
nail what is another's. Is that seamanly behaviour, now, I want to know?
But I'm a saving soul. I never wasted good money of mine, nor lost it
neither; and I'll trick 'em again. I'm not afraid on 'em. I'll shake out
another reef, matey, and daddle 'em again.”

As he was thus speaking, he had risen from bed with great difficulty,
holding to my shoulder with a grip that almost made me cry out, and
moving his legs like so much dead weight. His words, spirited as they
were in meaning, contrasted sadly with the weakness of the voice in
which they were uttered. He paused when he had got into a sitting
position on the edge.

“That doctor's done me,” he murmured. “My ears is singing. Lay me back.”

Before I could do much to help him he had fallen back again to his
former place, where he lay for a while silent.

“Jim,” he said at length, “you saw that seafaring man today?”

“Black Dog?” I asked.

“Ah! Black Dog,” says he. “HE'S a bad un; but there's worse that put him
on. Now, if I can't get away nohow, and they tip me the black spot, mind
you, it's my old sea-chest they're after; you get on a horse--you can,
can't you? Well, then, you get on a horse, and go to--well, yes,
I will!--to that eternal doctor swab, and tell him to pipe all
hands--magistrates and sich--and he'll lay 'em aboard at the Admiral
Benbow--all old Flint's crew, man and boy, all on 'em that's left. I was
first mate, I was, old Flint's first mate, and I'm the on'y one as knows
the place. He gave it me at Savannah, when he lay a-dying, like as if I
was to now, you see. But you won't peach unless they get the black spot
on me, or unless you see that Black Dog again or a seafaring man with
one leg, Jim--him above all.”

“But what is the black spot, captain?” I asked.

“That's a summons, mate. I'll tell you if they get that. But you keep
your weather-eye open, Jim, and I'll share with you equals, upon my
honour.”

A Few Thoughts About Space Opera

After finishing up my review of Galaxy’s Edge – Galactic Outlaws, it occurred to me that there was more to say about the category of Space Opera.  Some might say that I was a little unfair to social justice fiction fans.  After all there must be a significant audience of fans with blue hair and cats who really enjoy girl power super heroes and their adventures in space.  So, to say that these are automatically bad just because I heartily dislike them might seem arbitrary and unfair.  It might seem that way but it isn’t.  And that’s because I am the final arbiter of good and bad in science fiction.  I earned this coveted status by living long enough to see everything in the world.  So, once again, all Star Wars movies after Return of the Jedi (and even some parts of them before that point) are irredeemably bad and should be cast into the outer darkness where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And that lines us up for me to proclaim what does make a good space opera.  What follows is:

“photog’s RULE FOR WHAT MAKES GOOD SPACE OPERA” (patent pending).

It needs to appeal to the sense of wonder of the twelve-year-old boy in you.  Now mind you, it doesn’t have to only do that.  It can also be a brilliant philosophical treatise on the dualistic nature of the universe or a psychological study of the impact of technology on the human race, or even a deathless love story written across the stars of the galaxy.  But if it fails to inspire the twelve-year-old boy in you it’s not space opera.  It may be science fiction or anything else but it isn’t space opera.  And this isn’t even an exclusive precinct of science fiction.  Any adventure story has to satisfy that same basic requirement.  Take the literature of the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century.  A quintessential example that comes to mind is Treasure Island.  Here is a story that was tailor made for the sense of wonder of a twelve-year-old boy.  It has all the earmarks of the tale of wonder.  The boy who loses his father, the quest for riches, exotic locales, colorful and dangerous opponents, the revelation of secret knowledge, the coming of age experience of the world and the people in it.  An adventure story is a story for a boy that kindles his interest in the world around him.  It leads him to think there is more to life than school and chores.  It inspires him to strike out on his own and find his place in the world.

Now I can just hear the modern women and girly men screeching, “Girls want adventure too!”  To which I reply “Stop screeching, you’re hurting my ears.”  But also, I would say that what girls want is neither here nor there.  Boys need the adventure story because it fits their brains.  Girls have been told that they want adventure stories so they want them in order not to get left out in the modern #metoo world that they live in.  And in fact, I don’t really care if there are adventure stories for girls.  More power to them, I guess.  What I do mind is that for the sake of inclusiveness they are ruining all the adventure stories that are coming out of Hollywood.  And that is why I look for good old (and new) space opera and other adventure stories for my grandsons (and for me).

25MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

Robert Heinlein used this poem as the inspiration of a science fiction story and included the poem in the text.

Requiem

Under the wide and starry sky

Dig the grave and let me lie:

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

 

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:

Here he lies where he long’d to be;

Home is the sailor, home from sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

(written 1880)

Robert Louis Stevenson. 1850–1894