The Joys of Spring / Why Fantasy is Written


With temperatures into the teens (that's the fifties for you Fahrenheit lovers), the snow and ice have begun to melt in earnest. There are few things more joyous than to hear the snow melt.

At the beginning of the two weeks of spring weather (before we were hit by that snow day) we had a lot more snow, and it melted a lot more quickly. And in the joy of finally being able to walk outside without a jacket, there were a lot of people rolling down their car windows.

I was standing at a bus stop, having to head downtown, and I was watching cars barrel through the intersection, not noticing this huge puddle several metres away from me until it was too late. At sixty kilometres per hour, they were sending up huge geysers of snowmelt in their wake. Fortunately, I was well removed from this action, and I could enjoy just looking at the rainbows that appeared in their spray.

But, remember: this was the day that people across Waterloo joyously rolled down their windows after a long, hard winter.

So, I kept an eye on my watch and, sure enough, five minutes into my wait, a car barrelled through this huge puddle at sixty kilometres per hour. In the next lane, driving in the car's blind spot, was another car, with the passenger-side windows down. I saw hands waving desperately to ward off the spray.

It may have been mean, but I laughed. I laughed harder when it happened a second time. And a third time... And a fourth time...

Ah! The joys of spring!


Erin and I spent yesterday afternoon in Oakville, trying out the Colbourne Street Cafe. It's a nice place that didn't bother us as we ordered two lattes and just sat and wrote. Then we headed to Indigo in Burlington and wrote some more. Then it was home to watch a movie (The Truman Show -- brilliant), and prepare for the visit of Cameron today.

It was a glorious day in terms of weather. The sun was out, the temperatures were up, and the snow was melting. The rivers are running deep. In this shot, taken at Oakville's harbour, the Sixteen Mile Creek is feeding into Lake Ontario. Note that Lake Ontario's water is blue, and Sixteen Mile Creek's water is reddy-brown.

Oakville is a stunningly beautiful town, with a downtown that's vibrant, with a mix of modern stores and old architecture. Portions of the old town (especially those buildings by the lake) date back to the early 19th century. There's also a diner (where Erin and I had lunch) and a "hotel" that were obviously in business since before the downtown became so chic. I don't know about the hotel (whose battered sign is pictured), but the diner serves excellent greasy-spoon food, and is nicely down-to-earth.


One more comment about the JamCam. Yes, it is a colour camera, but I find that I prefer it if I take my colour pictures and change them to black-and-white. The colour on this camera is biased to the red and splotchy. Black and white takes care of that nicely.

Here's a comment from my writing group. The poster later came on and said he'd spoken hastily, but it still got my juices flowing:

The thing about fantasy writers and geopoly thriller (that's a new one to me, word coinage is the new modern art) writers, is that the story isn't really the prime focus. Sure, you need a storyline to involve the characters and keep things going, but the atmosphere, the world-building, as it were, is what reader's of those genres love.

My reply was as follows: "I have to respectfully disagree with you there. Sure, this might be all right for genre fiction, but *good* fantasy, as with any other literature, depends on a good story. Indeed, one has to work harder than standard fiction to keep the story realistic, since you're already fighting against a major sense of disbelief by writing about unbelievable things.

Tolkien has a lot of world building in it, but the story is what drives the show: good versus evil, a great quest, a great struggle, people coming into their own. The setting is there to add a twist, and to bring about a story that can't be as easily told in "real" life. Earthsea in Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy is secondary to the story, focusing instead on Ged's coming of age, and his struggles with great unknown forces.

The same goes for science fiction. Consider Philip K. Dick's Minority Report. Am I there to ooo and aah at world of the near future, with precognative children and murders stopped before they happen? No. I'm entwined by a story examining the nature of free will and the conflict between justice and vengeance.

As a reader of science fiction and fantasy, I'm not in it for the world building or the dragons and demons and vampires (oh my!). I'm there for the characters who, just by coincidence, don't exist on my world.

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