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Re: [Oct 2017] - Find the Story in the Picture - Discussion Thread I managed to write and post a poem before your very prompt response. My wickedness is only superseded by my amazing hack speeds. Since there is not a drop of fantasy content in the poem, apart from the mention of monsters and legends, I will have to withdraw it. On the bright side, I can claim it lost due to a technicality! :)  Better still I can add "Award Losing Poet," to my credentials.

October 30, 2017, 07:13:01 PM
Re: The King's Paws (with one holding a bottle of Peri Peri sauce.)
I was a certified adult-swimmer instructor, and in the U.S. most adult-non-swimmers are non-swimmers because someone (usu. a parent) threw them in and it scared the bejeesus out of them in childhood. That usually leaves them absolutely petrified, in the PTS sense of the term. I taught a 40-y.o. mother of three to swim and she displayed so much courage. She was in water that was waist deep and setting her face in the water to blow bubbles was so stressful she was literally sobbing. But we worked through that fear. So to answer your question "What's it like being a non-swimmer?" - absolutely terrifying.
I am in total agreement.

Fear is easily learned and it is often hard to let go of. I used to teach preschool children to swim. The simple trick to success is to keep them safe and make them feel safe as you introduce each physical step. Children are pretty serious about exploring their capabilities and expanding them as long as they don't feel threatened. At the end of my fairly short series of classes I had entire groups running off of a diving board and swimming to the ladder.

With one notable failure. I had one little girl who finally managed to sit beside me with her feet in the wading pool water and splash. That was as much as I could gently persuade her to do. Just being near splashing kids was something that took courage for her. The rest of the kids were in a circle alligator walking through a hoola hoop that I was holding. They were raising their arms high as they reached forward to walk and kicking up water while blowing bubbles. These are the same motions that let them swim when they get in deeper water. Each can be added one at a time and eventually the children will start swimming instead of alligator walking, even in the shallow water.

this little girl who just sat beside me and splashed was my biggest failure. I did not have the tools to reach this poor little girl. At the end of the class, when all of the rest of the children where swimming in water too deep to stand in, the girls mother was presented to me. I was crushed and didn't know what to say. I had failed. She hugged me and thanked me profusely. Apparently the girl was so scared of water that her mother had to give her sponge baths up until she took the class.

A safe and comfortable environment is the strongest teaching aid. It is easy for a child to learn fear. All it takes if for a child to go under, breath in a bit of water and have everyone react strongly when they are sputtering. Making sure they are safe and showing sympathy for the distress of breathing water teaches an entirely different lesson than grabbing the child in fear or ignoring their distress. It is very easy to learn fear when faced with discomfort.

In rescue we learn to stay back from panicking non-swimmers till they tire out. We learn how to come up behind them to rescue them. We learn to go deep to escape them. A panicking non-swimmer will try to climb you to stay as high out of the water as possible. This will push you under water and make it impossible for you to breath.

A panicking non-swimmer will exhaust themselves by trying to stay too high in the water. The worst is a low fat athlete who cannot swim. You may have to go underwater to save them, since they sink. Then they will latch onto you and it is hard to control the situation. You have to come at them from behind and know exactly what you are doing. It is much safer taking a float out and offering them the float when they are still above water. This lets you stay at a distance while towing them in.

October 30, 2017, 08:04:14 PM
Re: So when does fantasy become fiction? Fiction is not fantasy when we cannot clearly see the fantasy content. If we can see the fantasy clearly or even feel it strongly, it is fantasy.

Kurt Vonnegut didn't consider "Cat's Cradle" to be science fiction. He felt that science fiction was more what a loose club of writers wrote and less about science fiction elements. "A Canticle for Leibowitz" has no science fiction in it and yet it is a classic of science fiction. Fantasy is more diverse but it may yield to this same paradigm.

One could say that modern fantasy is more of British origin and that science fiction is more American. The French would have healthy reasons to disagree with both of these statements.

Fantasy is never going to be clearly defined. Time turns fantasy to faith and faith to fantasy and falsehood while rational men find value in all three. It doesn't take much to find fantasy content delivered as news. In a time when false new stations shout the dangers of false news, pure fantasy is refreshingly believable in contrast.  Even atheists disagree on how things work. As far as fantasy goes, the Salem Witch Trials, are quite real and at the time, what most of us consider fantasy content was entirely accepted as real. There are devote Christians who deny the element of possession. A lot of folk deny the rest of the Bible entirely. The Koran uses Djinn in a matter of fact manner. The witch trials in Spain and Scotland have Fairies as accepted causes.

One man's fantasy is another mans truth and the line between horror and fantasy is even thinner than the line between what is real and what is fantasy.

Science currently rules out spontaneous generation even though we all know it happened once and it is impossible for science to actually rule anything out. Properly science studies what is testable and repeatable. There are very real things that science is not that good a tool for understanding. As we get better at science it may start to be more generally useful, but for now it is not a perfect tool. The odds are good that half of what we accept as science will become as luminiferous aether. Some things may not be science but they yield to scientific understanding. Some things we learn with science lead us towards some very strange beliefs.

The movies, "The Remains of the Day," and "Blade Runner," both have moments where the birds fly free. Without the higher perception of what is beyond this physical realm, both stories are robbed of essential meaning. To remove all fantastic elements from a story would be to remove much of the depth.

In the case of Fantasy, if it looks like a dragon, and it sounds like a dragon and it acts like a dragon, we have a Fantasy book even if it is explained by science on a planet called Pern.

October 30, 2017, 08:54:33 PM
Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread Here is my submission, "I Am Wet." 666 words long.

Spoiler for Hiden:
I am water. I let the Tao flow freely and I guide it. I am at peace, but I am no stranger to turbulence.

As I lift my hands, I bring forth my chi from the center of my being. Today the Tao feels thick and rich as I start the first postures. I have been dreaming lately of the island I grew up on so long ago. I am distracted from the now and seeing the past. I focus and I look in the mirror at my five best students. They are all doing well so it is time for me to surprise them.

As we pause in the White  Crane Spreading Its Wings posture, I say, “I am honored to have taught and shared these simple motions with you. It is time that you see what is possible. It is time that I leave. I have been having dreams of the island I grew up on. I plan to visit my old home soon.
“You have all learned enough to grow on your own. I have nothing binding me here where I am today. Thank you for sharing this dream with me.”

“Sifu, when will you return?”

I ask, “Do you trust your Tao?”

My students are all much taller than I am. The sailors who took me were taller than the tallest men on our island and the children these days would, in turn, tower over those sailors. My students are ready to be masters. I wonder if I will meet any of them again.

“Sifu, we should have a party.”

I say, “This is our party.”

“Sifu, when will you return?”

I answer, “When it is time for it. We are all water. All things change.”

In the mirror, I look at my form. I am dressed in a fabulous and loose fitting white silk suit. The one sin I allow myself is vanity. Without greed I spent all I have on this suit. I am free to move on.

“Sifu, it is written that one should be like the stone at the threshold and it is written that we must be water.”

We turn and I am facing the glass wall overlooking the lake embraced by mist. I will miss this smooth wooden floor. I will miss this place of peace, but I, too, am water and change must be embraced.

I say, “The stone is a metaphor for modesty. Water is what we are. Only by flowing can you remain. Hard things shatter. Things held onto, age and crumble.”

As we start the patterns of fending off the monkey, things I need to release again rise up in my mind. I must forgive to be free of place and form. I release the sailors from blame. I release my captors who made me a eunuch. I release those who injured those that I loved. I release my angers and fears. These things are as dust and they are so long ago. I have forgiven all of these things before. It seems true forgiveness is a process and not an event. Nothing is stone. All is water. These things are all in the past and the past never was. Now is all that ever was and ever will be. Now and change.

“Sifu, when will you leave?”

I say, “Soon. As soon as I have balance.”

We begin the movements of our Hands Like Clouds. I release the physical and now I am drawn to the island of my ancestors. My memory of a house on wooden pillars draws me, but all things are water and that house could have not possibly withstood the ages that have passed. Now a hotel stands where a village once thrived. A swimming pool sparkles where children once ran.

I fall from the floor of the home that is no more and splash into the pool.

I stand on tip toe, head just above the water and breathe. I am water. I am also wet.

November 03, 2017, 03:31:09 PM
Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Discussion Thread My submission is in. 666 words. :) The hardest part of these challenges are their brevity so I have to watch the word count as I work. When I read the title of the challenge I thought of a tropical island. Then I saw the picture and I had to use both. I liked the mood of the picture so I decided to try and echo it.
November 03, 2017, 03:45:04 PM
Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Discussion Thread Bradley, thou hast indeed inspired me.

So I present a sonnet with love and water throughout.

In pools I have swum, while lakes I have crossed,
Thin ice I have shattered as I swam through.
In springs I have bathed and oceans have tossed.
My greatest love, my Water, it is you.

But now like ice I canst not melt thy frown,
My humor and jest do leave thee colder.
My waves of entreaty are all now turned down.
Where surf crashed now moss grows and love molders.

All wet, no sparks light, no joy bursts to life,
Like a cold bog in the night I'm lonely,
Yet my love like a spring ignores all strife,
I drink, Water, and wine to thee only.

November 05, 2017, 04:11:54 PM
Re: The King's Paws (with one holding a bottle of Peri Peri sauce.)
The Alamo?

I'm looking forward to go back to work tomorrow because I am EXHAUSTED!!!! Cleaning walls, sandpapering skirting boards, filling holes, assembling a sofa, cutting big cardboard boxes to fit in the green bin...
My gloves were soaking wet after the walls thing, so now my hands are full of little cuts and bruises from the assembly ::)

But it's looking fab ;D

That's it the Alamo, so hard to remember that fine tradition where Bowie, a Mexican Noble, died fighting Mexico in an attempt to free Texas from not having people free. :)

November 06, 2017, 06:25:07 PM
Re: Setting, plot, or characters - which should come first?
Character - you cannot have a story without one, although you can have a story with no plot and next-to-no setting, like that film that is essentially one long conversation between two friends in a café.

I agree that character is the most important. I also agree with your arguments. I still place setting as first.

You can be a good author without world building but without the ability to bring a character to life you are severely challenged. Yokohama Shopping Log is an amazing anime that is pretty close to not having a plot, so I have solid evidence that plot is not as essential as character.  Even Asimov's robot's had personality and Asimov, genius that he was, was not famous for his character development.

That said, setting comes first. The first thing you see when the curtains draw open are the props and the clothing.
In a movie blurb the first thing said could be, "Joe is a plumber with a problem..." but the first thing you usually hear is "In a world where ..." Even when I just tell you that Joe is a plumber, without a serious twist, a certain amount of setting has been revealed. As much if not more than you know about Joe.

A story can begin with voices heard, but more often, the scene is well drawn before you know the character. Characters and plots can slowly be shown and elaborated. The setting however is the ground you start on. Even if the setting is just a  café, it sets a tone and gives us expectations that can be met and broken. Setting can change and so can plots and characters, but the setting reveals position and relationships. A barber shop, a park or a psychologist's office can communicate the basics of how characters relate with just a few words. There are rules and expectation to the relationships that are informed by setting.

If I tell you that the boss just walked by, it means little without a setting. It almost means almost the same thing with a huge range of possible settings, but without context it has no impact.

Describing a character by the use of setting is tremendously effective.

When the mean laughter of children causes me to wake up suddenly and lift my head off of my desk, the setting has given you solid clues about me. A few more clues and you know who I am and what my challenges are. When I sit by the slide, holding an empty cone and look at a scoop of ice cream in the sand, setting has spoken clearly and the story is waiting for my reaction. This in turn reveals part of my character. If I ignore the blood on my knee and run with the ice cream to the fountain to wash it off, suddenly I have escaped preconception and revealed things in a way that make me more interesting than if I simply tell you that I am a practical child.

November 07, 2017, 10:15:28 PM
Re: Is there anything 'wrong' with a setting that is, 'mundane?'
Lloyd Alexander has written books that felt like fantasy but had no real fantasy elements in them. Personally though, I think that if you leave out talking rats you are making a big mistake.

Oh yeah? What did he do to get that fantasy feeling? Why would leaving talking rats out is a big mistake?Because I'm cutting out potential and interesting dynamics?

Westmark https://www.amazon.com/Westmark-Trilogy-Lloyd-Alexander/dp/0141310685/ref=la_B000AQ1QXY_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510577811&sr=1-12 is the trilogy by Lloyd Alexander that I am referring to. I can't say exactly where the Fantasy feel comes in. I think his books are worth a read in any case. The movie "Chicken Run" doesn't come across as being fantasy even though it clearly is.

As far as not leaving out the talking rats, it is because the rats are the stars. Small rodents are a keynote in quite a few fantasy books. Snark, evil or another perspective doesn't hurt. Trying to help Cinderella or being a brave but tiny warrior has held up over time. The small coming back to rescue someone kind is a classic theme in Fairy Tales. It can pay off to echo elements and themes that have resounded in ancient tales. These are the memes that have been tested by time.

It is worth looking at the roots of the genre. Fantasy has an origin in the tales told by hearths and fires since the dawn of time. Aesop told his tales of wisdom in a fantastic manner and Disney steals from the best. 

November 13, 2017, 01:27:00 PM
Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
I was having a discussion with my partner about book series and the importance (or lack of importance) of reading books in a sequence.
So my question to you is this: can you name a book series where it isn't essential to have either read the first book or read the books sequentially?
The only series I can think of (and I've only read a few!) are the Discworld books, which I know are organised into miniseries.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander work pretty well on their own. The Oz books are mostly functional although there is a lot of reference that you will miss. C. S. Lewis wrote books that stand on their own quite well. Some authors have written books in a universe that is consistent throughout though the stories stand alone. Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley both can be read in the order you find them. Lawrence Watt-Evans' "Ethshar"  books stand on their own wonderfully. Lois McMaster Bujold has written great science fiction and fantasy stories that stand on their own. In science fiction, writing to a universe is reasonably common. A lot of Heinlein's books compliment each other without being dependent.  Larry Niven and Vernor Vinge both have books that support their universes strongly while being independent. Both of these authors have written convoluted stories that have stood on their own despite the depth built into them.

I prefer a book that stands on it's own feet while contributing to the whole. That can be really hard to do without having a good spoiler at the front. In the case of an author who conveys complex relations and alternate physics, this can be nearly impossible. Sherry S. Tepper wrote wonderfully convoluted and deep stories while having books that mostly stand up on their own. Personally I think a Sherry S. Tepper series should be read from beginning to end with out life intruding on the world she takes you to.

November 13, 2017, 07:52:39 PM