Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday fun

Here is an article on Iain Banks (that's without the M this time) about his latest novel. It involves families, boardgames and big meany Americans.

Here is some President's Day fun from Reason.

Did you hear what Bush said about Osama? Be sure to enjoy the photo.

While HP Lovecraft gets all the love and attention, Clark Ashton Smith gets less recognition for his role in the development of horror/weird fiction. Michael Dirda has a review in the Post.

I just finished the Warrior Prophet, second in the Prince of Nothing series. If you don't like fantasy, stay away, but if you do, read on. The standard analogue for fantasy novels is medieval western Europe where princelings, emperors and some middle class interest groups vie with the declining Church for power. Sometimes the church is a magical guild, sometimes it is a religion.

Bakker sets his world in a analgoue to the ca. 1100 AD Mediterranean. The strongest power is a version of the Abassid caliphate, although it may be stronger than the historical version. The stand in for the Pope has raised a Holy War from the lands of the West (east in this case.) In the middle is the Byzantine analogue, which tries to use the Holy War as a means to retake its lost land. The fantasy element includes schools of magicians who are considered unclean but are too powerful to eliminate.

The Warrior Prophet is a monk from the north who is a Christ/Anti-Christ figure. It remains unclear if he will be a savior or destroyer. He is clearly undermining the established authorities and has his own mission, but he may be critical to the defeat of the Consult, the uber-evil and hidden demons of the world.

The book stands apart from other fantasy for its constructivist philosophy. Many of the characters including the Warrior Prophet see nationhood, religion and hierarchy as social constructs, which define thinking. The Prophet on the other hand is expert at manipulating the assumptions built into the constructs and in redefining them. Shades of the Bush Administration staffer who derided the reality based community.

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