The OF Blog: May 2005

Monday, May 30, 2005

Life is but a dream?

To be, or not to be, - that is the question -
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? - To die, - to sleep, -
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and teh thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, - 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, - to sleep; -
To sleep! perchance to dream: - ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause...

Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

Those who know me well will tell you that I am a huge lover of plays. For me, plays constitute the boundary between the Written and Spoken worlds. So much can happen in a play that cannot happen elsewhere. Unlike movies or television shows where the viewer is only a passive, non-essential part of the performance, the play often requires active audience participation. It is our applause, our interest, our own emotional baggage that the playwrights seek to attract, and in some cases, to deceive.

The actors are truly in action, moving about, morphing our perceptions with just a few well-placed words and a timely twinge of emotion that might flicker across a performer's face before it is replaced with another, possibly mysterious sign of feeling. A play is staged, but yet it conveys deep truths about ourselves when it is performed well. As Shakespeare had Hamlet's character say later in Act III, "The play's the thing."

What power in such lines as that or in Hamlet's soliloquy! I have found that good playwrights can create a world full of Feeling and Meaning just by allowing us audience members to do exactly that, to listen and to react to what is being said, and even more importantly, to how it is being said. One of the main weaknesses that I believe speculative fiction has as a whole is that this genre has failed to capitalize upon the power and beauty that is inherent in the play form.

In many ways, plays provide people with the avenues for emotional/personal escape that lovers of speculative fiction claim for that genre of literature. While watching Hamlet's dilemnia, or perhaps pondering the often-sad realities found in Thorton Wilder's Our Town, or even considering the notion that Life itself may be just only (and so much is this only!) a dream, as Segismundo does in Calderón de la Barca's La vida es sueño (Life is (a) Dream), the playwatcher can be caught up in such a way that is virtually impossible for any written work to perform unaided. For words to have true power, I believe they must resonate within the hearts of the recipiants, which means they must be spoken as well as read.

But yet plays are not as important as they used to be in everyday life. From television, movies, and video usurping some of the exciting visual moments, to radio and the above extracting the auditory elements, plays have been pushed into the background of posh theatre groups or rinky-dink high school performances. Where are the Georg Taboris daring to rewrite histories such as Hitler's youth into dreamscapes of the human psyche? Where are the Henrik Ibsens, reminding us of the often sad truths to be found within the doll's house? Where have they all gone? Is there any future left in the play format?

I believe that there might be. For as I tried to say above (and fear that I might have failed at my task), plays just offer something more meaningful for those people who "get it." There are more direct connections, as the actors and actresses may appear at the end and bow for our applause. We give immediate approval or disapproval to these performances. Seeing sometimes our hopes and fears presented in a play can just be so rewarding, that it is a wonder that we don't see more plays being written today, in this world of dislocation and alienation. Perhaps that is a field that someone with a keen interest in the speculative can explore to greater extent. Because I suspect that the play form can be paired quite well with the speculative. But maybe I'm just only dreaming. It wouldn't be the first time.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Well, time to get this blog active again, yes?

So it's been a long, strange trip since I last updated this Blog back around New Year's. Since then, I've returned to school full-time as a Social Work major and I just haven't had the time/energy/desire to immerse myself in speculative fiction like I did the year or so before. But now that summer is fast approaching, I should have some free time coming up to making at least occasional posts here.

Considering that this is basically a blog for some of the OF Admins to comment on whatever floats their boats, hopefully there will be more variety in the posts. After browsing through a few other blogs, I thought maybe we could better integrate this Blog of the Fallen with OF as a whole. So I'm going to try to do these things with my future posts here:

1) I'm going to provide more short reviews here, especially of works that might not fit exactly within the parameters of speculative fiction but which might be of interest to the reading public.

2) More comments about discussions, debates, etc. within and without the field that I encounter in my personal life or elsewhere on the Web as a means of provoking thoughtful discussion.

3) Less links to places like this.

In the coming weeks, I plan on kicking things off by reviewing books I recently received from publishers, such as Alison Croggon's The Naming, Kevin Radthorne's The Road to Kotaishi, Julie Czerneda's Migration. Also, expect reviews shortly over Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, Yuri Andrukhovych's Perverzion, and Calderón de la Barca's La vida es sueño.

If there are other things you wish to see from this blog, please leave a suggestion here and I'll see what I can do. The more that reply, the better!
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