What Does Science Fiction Want for Our World Today?

Back when my father was a kid science fiction was all about rockets to Mars, flying cars and atomic power.  The world would march forward in the same way that it had after science advanced in the generations before.  It would engineer applications for atomic power in the same way that earlier generations applied knowledge of chemistry and physics to create the internal combustion engine and airplanes.

When I was a kid science fiction had progressed to where relativity and quantum physics were assumed to be susceptible to human genius and no barriers were too tall to prevent humans from colonizing the stars, travelling through time and even traipsing into other dimensions.  Now this made for a lot of interesting stories about universes where humans could meet up with all kinds of amazing creatures and events.  But at some point, you have to wonder if the word “science” in the name science fiction should be changed to fantasy.  And that’s fine.  Having faster than light (FTL) travel opens up so many story lines for an author that it’s hard to resist.  Otherwise, we’re stuck with multi-generational ships depending on relativistic time dilation to reach the nearest stars in one or two hundred years.  Which, by the way, makes for a lot of very interesting sociological phenomena on the ship.  But anyway, you can see how FTL travel would be a very desirable pseudoscientific device.

But here we are something like a hundred years on in the “modern” science fiction timeline and we’re still engulfed in the FTL travel trope.  And we’re still nowhere near any kind of science that would lead us to believe that FTL travel is even remotely possible.  So, in my mind maybe science fiction needs to start looking at science again for inspiration for new themes.

Thinking about this, it’s not like there aren’t all sorts of scientific discoveries and avenues for new technologies that are not only possible but also exciting building blocks for science fiction stories.  In biology we have gene therapy and longevity research.  In computer science there is artificial intelligence and cybernetics.  The reality of atomic power as a replacement for fossil fuels is not really science fiction as much as fact but there are enough questions about how it will change the present world that it could provide plenty of fodder for stories.  And human exploration of the solar system is now much better understood than it was even back during the Apollo program.  Reimagining the directions that something like landing on Mars will take has already been a successful idea for one author who even saw it turned into a successful movie.

Perhaps some of this sounds a little tame for science fiction readers.  On the contrary, sticking to the reality of what it would take to put a small colony on Mars should allow a good author to engineer in plenty of human interest and adventure.  I could see how a story based on capturing and harvesting an asteroid filled with gold and platinum would make a very exciting tale.  A good author would include the part of the story that involves very rich and powerful individuals scheming to hold onto the profits from a mission that might include the most powerful nations on Earth claiming the assets as the “legacy of all mankind.”

So, this is something I’ve been thinking about lately.  Now I like space opera as much as the next guy.  I’m very comfortable with galactic empires and multiverse.  They’re great fun.  But I also think it’s time for some of the most creative writers to start adding some real science back into science fiction.

Nick Cole Talks About Becoming An Indie Author

Nick Cole is one half of the writing team that has produces the highly successful (and highly entertaining) military science fiction series “Galaxy’s Edge.”

Nick talks about starting out as an indie writer and his run in with the big publishers.  After his initial success as an indie, the New York publishers gave him a contract but as soon as something in his next story offended their woke sensibilities they gave him an ultimatum; take it out of the story or lose his contract.  He chose the latter and has never looked back since.

There was some very good information on holding onto an audience once the first book in a series appears.  Unfortunately, the strategy he recommends is writing several books before publishing them.  This way they can be released at one month increments to keep the audience stocked in sequels when they are most receptive to purchasing another book.  Considering my slow progress it’s pretty discouraging to think I’ll have to finish three books before I can get publish anything.  Ah well.

It’s about an hour long so it might be a little much for most people.  But if you’re a fledging author it might be worth your while.

 

 

 

The Bounty Trilogy – A Book Review – Part 2 – “Men Against the Sea” & “Pitcairn’s Island”

In this second part of this book review of the Bounty Trilogy I’ll include both of the remaining stories.  I think this is reasonable because neither of these later “books” has the same narrative clout as “Mutiny on the Bounty.”  Although each story has remarkable human interest and involves harrowing danger and human suffering neither is as dynamic as the tale in Mutiny.  And for this reason, I think I can do justice to both in this single review.

 

Men Against the Sea

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Men Against the Sea is the narrative of Captain Bligh’s Sea voyage.  I’ll let the narrator Thomas Ledward, the Bounty’s Acting Surgeon summarize the voyage, “Never, perhaps, in the history of the sea has a captain performed a feat more remarkable than Mr. Bligh’s, in navigating a small, open, and unarmed boat–but twenty-three feet long, and so heavily laden that she was in constant danger of foundering–from the Friendly Islands to Timor, a distance of three thousand, six hundred miles, through groups of islands inhabited by ferocious savages, and across a vast uncharted ocean. Eighteen of us were huddled on the thwarts as we ran for forty-one days before strong easterly gales, bailing almost continually to keep afloat, and exposed to torrential rains by day and by night.

And that description gives us the gist of the book.  But as remarkable as that voyage was what’s it like as a story?  I would say that the story is passably interesting and we do get a flavor of each of the passengers and especially Bligh but the circumstances of the story are on the whole too static to make the adventure come fully to life.  For this I don’t fully fault the authors.  I’m not sure anyone could figure out a way to fully document the voyage and still give the story a dynamic feel.  Instead, the book faithfully portrays the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere that eighteen men trapped on a twenty-three-foot boat for forty-one days must have been like.

Pitcairn’s Island

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Pitcairn’s Island is the story of the Bounty mutineers along with some women and men from Tahiti establishing a colony on a small, secluded and almost unknown island in the South Pacific in order to escape from the British Navy that would be searching for them over the mutiny.  This is a very strange story of how these Englishmen took what was potentially a tropical paradise and turned it into a private hell.  All of the human foibles are on display.  Greed, sloth, lust, intolerance, drunkenness and wrath play a role in destroying the colony.  By the end of the story only the women and children remain except for one mutineer who assumed the role of father figure for the children.

The story is an exciting one full of conflict and human tragedy.  And the pace of the story is much more engaging than Men Against the Sea.  But at points the dialog does seem to be a little stilted.  But this book is much more readable than the previous story.

 

Final Comments

“Men Against the Sea” and “Pitcairn’s Island” aren’t as engaging or have plots that are as well rounded as “Mutiny on the Bounty.”  But I would guess that nine out of ten readers of Mutiny will at least try to read these later stories.  Personally, neither of these later stories was as satisfying as Mutiny but I recommend that anyone who read Mutiny on the Bounty should at least give them a try.

The Bounty Trilogy – A Book Review – Part 1 – Mutiny on the Bounty

I’ve just finished the first part of the trilogy, Mutiny on the Bounty, and I’m so enthused about that book that I decided not to wait until I have finished all three books to start writing the review.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

I have seen a couple of the film adaptations of Mutiny on the Bounty previously and always enjoyed the story.  So I was impelled recently to hunt out the book to see what I thought of the more detailed treatment in the book and to discover just how closely the movies kept to the original text.

The story of the Bounty is the collision of a melancholy and headstrong Englishman, Fletcher Christian, with a brilliant naval officer, William Bligh, who was at the same time a venal, cruel and boorish man who inflicted brutal floggings on his crew for situations that he himself caused.  He starved his men for the sake of pocketing the savings he made on provisioning the ship and he belittled and accused his officers of petty offenses that he dwelt upon because of his obsessive nature.

The story is told from the point of view of one of the midshipmen, Roger Byam, a young gentleman whom Bligh convinced to join the journey in order to create a dictionary and grammar of the Tahitian language for a mutual friend of theirs Sir Joseph Banks who was the President of the Royal Society.  The mission of the Bounty was to sail to Tahiti and collect hundreds of saplings of the breadfruit tree and then transport the plants to the British West Indies where they might become a cheap food source for the slaves on the sugar plantations there.

The story chronicles the outward voyage to Tahiti and the mission on the island.  We meet all of the more notable members of the crew and several of the Tahitians who are important to the personal stories of the main characters.  Christian, Byam and several other characters become intimately involved with women on the island and this adds to the unhappiness when the return voyage begins.

Bligh and his minions in the crew confiscate the food and other material souvenirs from the men and officers, ostensibly for equal sharing but in reality, for Bligh’s benefit.  And when some of this plunder, a few cocoanuts, are stolen one night by one of the younger crewmen, Bligh accuses Christian of the theft.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  At daybreak Christian enlists some of the seamen who had been most afflicted by Bligh’s punishments and they seized muskets from the weapons locker, took Bligh prisoner and took possession of the ship.

Christian and his mutineers formulated a plan.  Bligh and the officers and anyone who wanted to remain loyal to him would be set adrift in the ship’s launch.  The Bounty would be commandeered to take the mutineers to an island where they hoped to avoid discovery by the British Navy.  But in the event, it turned out that there were too many loyalists to fit in the launch.  The excess loyalists, including Byam had to remain with the Bounty and Christian finally decided to make a trip to Tahiti to drop off the loyalists, purchase provisions and convince some Tahitian women and men to join the mutineers in their new home.

Once the Bounty leaves Tahiti the story revolves around the fate of the Byam and his comrades both on Tahiti and later on when a British Navy vessel comes looking for the Bounty.  Contrary to all expectations, Bligh was able to navigate his tiny craft 4,200 miles to Timor in the East Indies.  On finally reaching England he alerted the authorities of the mutiny and a man of war, the Pandora, was sent to the South Sea to find and recover the Bounty and bring the mutineers back for trial.  The loyalists left on Tahiti and some mutineers who decided to stay on Tahiti were all rounded up by the captain of the Pandora and the ship searched among the islands of the south Seas looking, unsuccessfully for the Bounty.  But when the Pandora struck a reef in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, the surviving crew and prisoners were in a similar situation to what Bligh suffered in travelling thousands of miles in lifeboats to reach port.

Finally, the story reaches its climax in the court martial trial of Byam and his companions.  And here we see circumstances conspiring to paint Byam as a mutineer.  Bligh misunderstood an innocent conversation between Byam and Christian the night before the mutiny and reported it as proof that Byam was part of the mutiny.  But the only one who had heard the whole conversation had disappeared in a ship wreck before the trial.  And so Byam is convicted and sentenced to hang.  By a miraculous coincidence the missing crewman is rescued and gives testimony of Byam’s innocence just a few days before his execution would have occurred.  After the trial Byam returns to naval duty and has a long and illustrious career.  But an epilogue has him return to Tahiti where the paradise that he had experienced there had been destroyed by exposure to the conflicting pressures that European lifestyle put on the natives.  Almost all of his friends were dead of disease or war and the population was reduced to a miserable and sparse remnant of what he remembered.

Mutiny on the Bounty is a fictionalized version of the actual Bounty story.  Although the characters are all based on actual people, I’m sure the authors have injected their own details and personality traits to give the story the desired tone.  It is not a history.  And for that reason, I will rate it as a work of fiction.  I consider it an excellent adventure story.  Being based on actual events the authors strove to convey the extraordinary hardships that the characters suffered while trying to survive the almost impossible conditions of their grueling sea voyages.  And the description of the idyllic world of the Tahitians in this early stage of their introduction to Europeans is remarkably effective in conveying a sense of sheer happiness.  It literally sounds like heaven on earth.  I haven’t read the other two installments of the Bounty Trilogy but I highly recommend the Mutiny on the Bounty story to anyone who enjoys adventure stories.

Improving My Mind

Watching Joe Biden turn into a mumbling moron with stuffed artichokes for brains has reminded me that for us older folks it’s use it or lose it.  So, I’ve initiated a cultural renaissance right here in Dunwich.  I’ve got three very different reading projects going on.  They are:

 

  1. Northmen: The Viking Saga, AD 793-1241, by John Haywood
  2. The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin, by Søren Kierkegaard
  3. The Bounty Trilogy: The Complete Series: Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea & Pitcairn’s Island, by James Norman Hall (Author), Charles Nordhoff (Author)

The Kierkegaard book on “Anxiety” is the most questionable project.  I took some courses in philosophy as an undergraduate and found them to be highly annoying.  They seem to spend so much time and effort splitting hairs that by the end, all of the audience has walked away in boredom.  And they employ so much specialized jargon that the notes for the vocabulary sometimes outweighs the text itself.  But I want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt.  He claims he wants to make philosophy more about what we need to do as human beings and less about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  I figure the least I can do is slog through the argument.

The Bounty trilogy is just a book I’ve always meant to read and now have finally gotten around to.  And so far, it’s a good one.  I’m finding that the 1930’s Charles Laughton movie is pretty close to the text.  It’s an exciting adventure story that has the added advantage of having actually happened.  It is a fictionalized account but it is based on the documents left by the protagonists and by their descendants.  Other than the myriad of parts of a sailing ship that I don’t know the names of the book is a fast read.  I’ll have a review of this when I finish.

The Northmen book is something I’ve been interested in learning more about for a while.  I was writing a sci-fi/ fantasy story that used Valhalla as a plot element and I just kept running into aspects of Norse mythology and history that I wasn’t up on.  This book looked to be a way to fill in some gaps and also provide me with some information I’ve always been interested in.  The Scandinavians had a very large impact on several different aspects of European and by extension world history.  I feel like I should know a lot more about their origins before I start introducing them and their culture into my stories.  I’ve just gotten started with the book but already I’ve learned a bit about the origins of the Goths, Burgundians and Vandals that I didn’t already know.

As I said yesterday, our whole lives shouldn’t be railing against the progs.  As the ZMan says, a negative identity does not provide a basis for a viable society.  We must pursue the actions and goals that have intrinsic value.  If we are claiming that the Left is trying to destroy our way of life by denying us the opportunity to do things that we value then shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to do these things?  Otherwise, it’s all just cant and posturing.

So, stretch your mind and learn something new.  Then figure a way to make some of it relevant to your life.

Galaxy’s Edge – Dark Victory – A Science Fiction Book Review

I’ve got to hand it to Anspach and Cole.  The world building they are doing in the Galaxy’s Edge franchise doesn’t seem like it will ever slow down.  They’re at least fifteen books into this universe and I keep running into newer and weirder twists and turns in the history of their galaxy.  And they’re always throwing in new characters and cross-connecting old characters and advancing new plot lines.  These boys are on their game.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

In this latest installment Aeson Ford (/Captain Keel/Wraith/Tyrus Rechs (imposter)) is working undercover for his old Legionnaire friend Chhun.  He gets mixed up with an investigation into Nether Ops interference into the chaotic political situation that has existed since the Legion put an end to the House of Reason.  Working with the Nether Ops agent “Honey” he infiltrates several bases of the nefarious spy agency leading up to the capture of vital intel.  Meanwhile Ford is also in search of information on his own forgotten origins in the Kill Team Ice that stretches back to the Savage Wars by means of cryosleep.

Meanwhile we discover that his crewmate Leenah was not killed when the Indelible VI was attacked by bounty hunters in the last book.  We learn how her ship was all but destroyed just as she made the jump to light speed.  The jump saved her life but left her stranded in the middle of nowhere with almost no air and no way to get help.  Through her mechanical ingenuity she rigs a signal and waits with time running out.  Meanwhile Ford’s other crewmate Garret is Lenah working with Nilo’s Black Leaf mercenaries and because he hasn’t given up on Leenah’s life, he locates her signal and convinces Nilo to go on a rescue mission.

When they get to the beacon Leenah and the ship is gone and Nilo figures out that Leenah has been captured by Gomarii slavers and they go on a mission to save her and take down the Gomarii.  During the rescue Nilo and Garret discover that the Gomarii vessel is actually a Savage hulk that contains information in its memory banks crucial to the upcoming resumption of the Savage threat to the galaxy.

Aeson Ford fabricates a plot to capture a rogue Naval Commander who has been doing the Nether Ops dirty work.  During the action Honey betrays him with her former colleagues in Nether Ops and she is killed along with the rest of the agents that Ford defeats.  When he returns to the Legion base, he learns that his old comrade Masters is in dire straits.  Instead of returning to Garret and Nilo he heads off with the legionnaires to save Masters.  But at the end of the book, we find that Nilo also has business on that same dangerous planet.

Dark Victory winds two plots together and both are done well.  The rescue of Leenah from the salvers is the more dynamic and satisfying of the subplots but taking Ford out of the action allows the secondary characters like Leenah and Garret to get their moments in the sun.  Plus, it allows Nilo and Garret to advance the information on the Savage Wars back story which will tie in with other characters that don’t figure in this book but will return soon.  Let’s face it, once you’re into the series this deep all you want to know is whether it’s still a good read.  It is.

Here’s a Sample From My Unfinished Sci-Fi Book

Here’s a sample of a book I’m currently about a quarter of the way through.  If you look at the Header of the website there’s a new link to “Stuff to Buy.”  That where I’ll embed links to books and photogrpaphy I’ll have to sell soon.

 

 

The American Archipelago

Book 1 – The Sniper

Chapter 1 – An Object Lesson

Joseph Boghadair was set up at a loophole in a small prefabricated metal building at the top of a mountain that contained the Icarus Mine.  His .50 caliber sniper rifle was trained on the narrow road that led up to the mine.  He could see a line of black SUVs about a mile and a half down the road and he was getting ready to start firing on the convoy.  His first shots took out the engine of the lead vehicle thereby halting the convoy.  His second volley took out the engine of the last car in line thus trapping the rest of the vehicles between.  Then at a more leisurely pace he took care of the other eight vehicles.  By this point the passengers were crouching behind their disabled cars and randomly firing handguns and assault weapons in Joseph’s general direction with almost no discernible results.

After about half an hour a few of the men in black body armor attempted to reach a stand of trees about 300 yards away to their left.  Joseph put a few well aimed rounds in front of their path and they quickly retreated back to the supposed safety of their not so mobile autos.  Joseph snorted wryly at their shyness.

An hour after that a helicopter approached the mountain from the opposite direction to Joseph’s loophole.  Walking over to a window on the other wall he could see a distant Blackhawk approaching at relatively high altitude.  Joseph then began his preparations for their reception.

Between crew and troops, the Blackhawk had a dozen men on board.  And more importantly it had a couple of hellfire missiles.  From a very safe distance away it targeted Joseph’s position and fired.  The missile struck precisely on target and obliterated the steel structure almost completely.  All that remained was the foundation of the structure around the mine shaft, now clogged with debris.

The Blackhawk landed about three quarters of a mile from the mine entrance.  At this point the agents hunkered down behind their vehicles began to stream toward the helicopter.  By the time they reached the aircraft the troops had exited and were waiting for their rescued brethren to arrive.

FBI Special Agent in Charge, George Chastain assembled both teams and briefed them on the updated mission plan.  “We will proceed to the mine head and look for any human remains.  We will collect whatever we can retrieve for lab analysis and attempt to seal the mine head until qualified personnel can be assembled for recovery operations.  It is presumed that the target, Joseph Boghadair was killed by the missile strike but we will take no chances.  He was an extremely dangerous individual and should not be approached by anyone without backup and prior approval from leadership.  In addition to his war record it is believed that Boghadair is responsible for the shooting deaths of forty-six people in the last six months with thirteen of those people being FBI personnel.  No one enters the mine until remote sensing equipment is brought in.  Alright, proceed.”

The agents formed two groups.  Apparently, SUV agents and helicopter agents must not bond very well.  But before they were more than a hundred feet from the helicopter a series of incredibly powerful explosions shook the ground and knocked them off their feet.  And while they were holding onto the ground for dear life, they could see that the high ground where the mine head was located collapsed into the earth.  The roar of that collapse was more frightening than the initial earthquake and some of the agents hid their heads under their arms in abject terror.  When the mountain stopped shaking the men started to collect themselves and stand up.  When they looked around them, they were astonished.  A circular pit had opened up centered on the mine head.  It was a thousand yards in diameter and so deep that only blackness could be seen at its center.  Several cracks had formed outside the circular pit.  One of these had nearly swallowed the Blackhawk.  It was on its side and half buried in the crevice.  Its rotors were fractured and it wouldn’t be flying away from this landing.

Chastain went over to the edge of the crater and just stared down into the blackness below.  Then he went back to his team and started giving orders to begin a retreat from the stricken mountain.  He was trying to think of what he was going to tell his boss.  Nothing reasonable came to mind.

Galaxy’s Edge – Legacies – A Science Fiction Book Review

Before I proceed to the review a quick note.  It’s been over a year since the last review in this series.  The explanation is a puzzling fact.  I buy the paperback version of books and for some reason Legacies never came out in paperback.  I’ve checked and the subsequent books in the series are now available in paperback but Legacies never was.  So recently I gave up and bought the hardcover version.  What can I say, I’m a creature of habit.  Anyway, welcome back.

Legacies rejoins the story with Aeson Ford, aka Aeson Keel, aka Wraith and now aka Tyrus Rechs in search of Prisma, the young woman who has found herself embedded in the conflict between a confusing array of sides.  From the previous volumes in the series, she has seen Goth Sullus destroy her family in his quest to convert the Galactic Republic into a personal weapon against lurking threats and she has been swept along by Tyrus Rechs and Aeson Keel and discovered that she has mysterious powers that somehow make her important in the conflicts still to come.

In this book we will follow separate stories involving Prisma and Keel as they struggle to survive in a galaxy filled with confusing threats.  Prisma is aboard a war machine left over from the Savage Wars, a device that replays historic battles to evaluate alternate strategies to some mysterious end.  Keel goes under cover as Tyrus Rechs to find out who has put a price on his head and why.  And these two seemingly unrelated threads are slowly woven into one fabric.  Truths are revealed about Aeson Ford’s father and Tyrus Rechs and Goth Sullus that go back to the beginning of the Savage Wars and maybe beyond.

The book shifts back and forth between the two main narratives and then adds another plot line from the past.  This leads to some whiplash for the reader from time to time but the writing is quite well done and it kept my interest throughout.  Anspach and Cole have a very complex world-building project going on in this series.  In this volume, they provide origin information on the Cybar, Aeson Ford and links with the Savage Wars plot lines that expand a great deal on what I knew about the story previously.  And any hope of finishing this series in less than a million volumes has flown out the window.  But I’m happily resigned to my fate.

Highly recommended for all fans of the series.  Year two of the series is barreling along on hyperdrive.

04FEB2022 – OCF Update – The Ice Storm Cometh and Goeth

Winter Storm Landon, possibly named for Lil’ Joe, the youngest of the Cartwright boys, sashayed through the Compound today and deposited a couple of inches of rain followed by a half-inch of ice and slush on my driveway.  Since Camera Girl has a painting class tomorrow morning and will want to to get out of the driveway alive, it behooved me to scrape off this annoying and dangerously slippery coating before it became a rock solid ice skating rink-like surface.  I went out to shovel without gloves, jacket or hat to show her how virile and manly I am.  I felt I had to do this because we had just finished watching Amazon’s first installment of the Jack Reacher series called, sensibly enough, “Reacher.”  After watching him snap limbs, gouge out eyes and break backs in a seven on one prison fight I felt I had to up my game.  I needed something more dangerous and elemental than my usual go to, “taking out of the trash.”  I shouted, “I’m going out there to make the world safe for you, woman!”  She rolled her eyes but I knew she respected the hell out of me right then.

Anyway, this is the second tv series we’ve watched based on Camera Girl’s crime/action book choices.  First we watched Bosch and now Reacher.  So far she’s batting a thousand.  Bosch was very good (except for the last season that got too social justice preachy for my taste).  And now Reacher is a straight up action/crime fest.  And as compared to the movies that featured Tom Cruise the guy playing Reacher is a monster.  He could use Cruise as a Pez dispenser.  So far it’s been very entertaining in a comic book sort of way.  I really need to review these two series.  With so little worth watching out there I should share anything that’s actually worthwhile.

Today was a good fiction writing day so I’m behind on posts for the site but I’m sure to be inspired by the dumbasses who run our country.  One of these days I’ll probably write something very insulting about Jen Psaki.  Every time I watch one of her press conferences it occurs to me that she must be a singularly unpleasant woman.  She appears to be the quintessential Karen, sort of the National Karen so to speak.  But the question to be answered is, has Dementia Joe ever smelled her stoplight red hair?  We’ll see what my muse has to say.

The Trucker’s Protest in Canada has been getting more and more attention.  I wonder if they’ll spark a true revolt up North.  It seems unlikely but you know I think the world is coming to a consensus that COVID needs to end.  A number of European countries have already pulled the plug.  Will there be a flashpoint before Dementia Joe pulls the plug in March?  I hope so.  I’d love to see the feds back down.  Well, to be continued.  Enjoy the start to the weekend.

 

As the Primary and General Off-Year Elections creep up on us I’m interested in getting posts from readers about their local political scene.  Places like Texas, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, Illinois, Minnesota are represented by readers here.  Even Canada and Australia have local political stories that some of our readers might want to provide.  So if you are interested in sharing your perspective on your local politics, get in touch.  Either leave a comment or send an e-mail to orionscoldfire at charter dot net.  Anonymity is, of course, perfectly fine and if you prefer to discuss local cultural issues instead of or in addition to politics that also is encouraged.  I’ll add this want-ad to the footer of the posts for a while to see if I can entice any readers to write.

The Inside Baseball of Film Versions of “A Christmas Carol” – Part 1

Anyone who has been reading my posts on this site for more than a year knows that I am a Christmas Carol fanatic.  So as a fair warning I’ll just say that this post is only for true Christmas Carol devotees.  Every word of it is subjective and dedicated to minutiae.  I have four versions of the film that I like and each has an aspect in which it excels the other three.  Every year I re-evaluate the films and debate with myself on trivial points that would have exactly zero importance to the overwhelming majority of the human inhabitants of planet earth.  Here goes.

Material that wasn’t in the book

A Christmas Carol was a novella.  It is brief and in places lacks details about the characters and events.

For instance, the book never says why Scrooge’s father treated him so poorly.  In the 1951 version it is stated that his father held it against him that his mother died in his childbirth.  And in the same version a similar grudge exists as the reason why Scrooge dislikes his nephew Fred.  It is shown that his sister Fan died giving birth to Fred.  In the 1984 version the same reason for his father’s dislike for Scrooge is presented.  But the death of Fan during Fred’s birth is not added.  What is interesting about these additions is that based on the original story they would be impossible.  In the book Fan is quite a bit younger than her brother Ebenezer.  Therefore, their mother couldn’t have died at the birth of her older child.  I suppose Fan could have been Ebenezer’s half-sister but I don’t imagine that a twice married man would still be holding his first wife’s death as a grudge against his son.  So, this addition is spurious.  But it is extremely dramatic and provides a timely reason for both father’s and son’s misanthropic behavior that could be somewhat excused and so leave room for deserved forgiveness.  And it has a highly effective scene where the older Scrooge hears his dying sister ask for his promise to take care of her infant son Fred.  We see that the younger Scrooge never heard the dying plea and the older Scrooge gets to belatedly beg his beloved deceased sister’s forgiveness for his heartless treatment of her only child.

And notice that the 1984 version borrows both the discrepancy of Fan’s age and the spurious grudge of Scrooge’s father but neglects the equally spurious grudge of Scrooge for his nephew.  I guess they thought those additions gave resonance to the story.

In both the 1951 and 1984 versions Scrooge’s fiancée is introduced during the Fezziwig party scene and give a name (Alice in the earlier version, Belle in the later).  Neither this early link to Scrooge’s life or the name show up in the book.  In addition, in the 1951 version it skips the scene introducing this woman’s later life with husband and large family but instead substitutes a scene during the Ghost of Christmas Present section where Belle is volunteering at a shelter for the poor.  Now whereas tying Scrooge’s love to the Fezziwig era of his life is fine and in fact better than the way the book presents it, I do not particularly favor the poor shelter addition.  It seems unwarranted.  I think the scene where she is surrounded by her family is dramatic enough in that it illustrates what happiness Scrooge has lost.

In the book the Ghost of Christmas Present visits the house of Scrooge’s nephew Fred.  The dinner guests are presented enjoying games such as blindman buff and forfeits which I take to be word games such as twenty questions.  One of the rounds determined that it was a disagreeable animal that growled and lived in London.  And, of course, it turns out to be Uncle Scrooge.  In the 1984 version the story is adapted so the dinner guests are playing a game called similes where they need to guess the end of a simile.  When Fred asks his wife to complete “as tight as,” she replies “your Uncle Scrooge’s purse strings.”  Scrooge hears this while in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Present.  After his repentance and on the actual Christmas Day he meets his niece and discussing the game of similes he advises her that the simile, in case it came up, was “as tight as a drum.”  Nicely played.

From the book we know that Jacob Marley died seven years earlier on Christmas Eve.  And we are informed that Scrooge inherited his house.  What the 1951 version does is tie these facts together in a scene.  We have Jacob Marley’s charwoman come to the office and interact with Bob Cratchit and Scrooge.  Then we have Scrooge being warned by a dying Marley that their misanthropy would endanger their immortal souls.  And this then links both the charwoman’s stealing of his bed curtains and bed clothing and her later spurious appearance after the last of the spirits depart and Scrooge wakes up on actual Christmas morning.  In this scene the charwoman (identified incorrectly as Mrs. Dilber) is bringing in Scrooge’s breakfast and witnesses his reformation into a caring human being.  His manic happiness frightens her and when he gives her a gold sovereign coin as a present, she assumes it’s a bribe to keep her quiet about his strange behavior.  When he tells her it’s a Christmas present and he is quintupling her salary she is overcome with happiness and rushes off with her own characteristic version of a Merry Christmas greeting.  I find this addition to the story especially apt.  In the story the charwoman selling Scrooge’s bed curtains comes off very negatively.  But humanizing her by including her positively in the scene about Marley’s death and allowing a rapprochement with a penitent Scrooge on Christmas morning improves the story and ties these aspects of the story together in a way that gives the story more depth.  It reinforces that Scrooge’s repentance touches every aspect of the world we have been shown in a positive way.

Overall I’d say that the film additions to the plot have been acceptable and true to the spirit of the story.

 

The Inside Baseball of Film Versions of “A Christmas Carol” – Part 2