What I Believe

A rare personal post this time.
I may be able to write fiction, but I have a terrible time putting my personal thoughts and feelings into written words when it comes to important societal issues. I’ve seen people on social media saying that if you have a platform, it’s important to speak out now, but my platform is small, and I’m doubtful that many people who see the world differently than I do follow me on social media or read my blog. And even if someone of a different mindset sees my message, what good would it do? If they’ve held onto their point of view this long – after everything that’s happened in America over the last few years – how can I get them to even think about what I say, let alone change their minds? Still, for whatever small amount of good it might do, here’s what I believe. I believe humans can accomplish more by working together than by being in conflict with one another. I believe that people matter more than things. Things mean nothing. People mean everything. I believe in seeking the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. I believe making a better world serves everyone in the long term, whether you’re altruistic or self-focused. A better world is a better world for everyone. I believe this is a position that’s equally supported by emotion and logic. I believe people should never stop growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and that it’s our responsibility as sentient beings to seek to be the best version of ourselves we can be. We should never be afraid to question our beliefs and we should do so regularly. I believe we should never be afraid to change and never be afraid to apologize when we’ve wronged someone. I believe we should listen more than we talk because we learn so much more when we do. If you can’t listen, it means you believe what you have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say, and that means you’re either self-centered, arrogant, foolish, close-minded, ignorant or any combination. I believe humans are never finished growing until we die (and maybe not even then). I believe all human beings should have equal rights in all things and be treated with dignity. I stand with people of all races, all gender expressions, all sexualities, all religions, all backgrounds, all anything. I do not stand with hate of any kind, with those who believe certain people should be excluded or oppressed or marginalized or disenfranchised or brutalized or killed because they aren’t the “right” kind of people or living the “right” kind of way. I do not stand with willful ignorance. I believe it is wrong to exploit others, in any way, for our own benefit. I believe that everyone should support our LGBTQ family, and I believe that if your response to “Black lives matter” is anything but “yes,” you need to do some serious work on yourself. I believe if you need a gun in your hand to feel strong, you’re weak, and if you get off on the power of holding a gun and can’t wait to use that power against others, even if only to intimidate them or impress them, you are an extremely sad and potentially dangerous person. I believe I can speak only for myself and of my own experiences, and I cannot speak for others. I believe I was fortunate to be born white and male in a time and place where that puts me automatically at the top of the power structure. I’ll never fully understand all the ways this benefits me, and I’ll never be completely free of the attitudes that I was taught by society as I was growing up, but I will keep on trying for as long as I live. I believe in doing what I can to help others and using my privilege to make the world a better place. I am not religious. I don’t care if there is a god or an afterlife. I believe in doing the right thing because it’s right, not because some powerful being will punish me with hellfire if I do bad or reward me with a cosmic lollipop in the end if I do good. I believe in extending my hand to all of you to shake, holding out my arms if you want to come in for a hug, and if you turn away from me, and from the rest of us, that’s your choice. But I believe you will live a small, lonely, and ultimately empty life.

I never close comments on my posts, but I’ve closed them for this one, for obvious reasons.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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