I recently did a Top Ten Tuesday post on a similar topic, so it’s going to be interesting to see how many other shows I can come up with. My best guess is that the first two items on my list will be on everyone else’s lists, too!
Lord of the Rings
With all of the 1980s and 1990s remakes coming out these days, I hope that this trend ends before anyone decides to remake the early 2000s Lord of the Rings films. They’ve aged wonderfully in my opinion. I’d rather see studios take a chance on something new than remake these films even though I do love this story.
There are certain things that work beautifully in a novel but won’t feel the same in a film (and vice versa). Overall, I was quite pleased with how the Harry Potter films depicted the Potterverse. The first few movies in particular will always feel magical to me.
This film did an excellent job of explaining how the main character used science creatively to get himself out of all sorts of life-threatening predicaments when he was accidentally stranded on Mars. My first experience with Andy Weir’s style of storytelling came from this movie, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since.
Emma Donoghue’s original version of this drama about a young boy who had lived his entire life in the same room because his mother had been kidnapped by a violent stranger a few years before the boy’s birth made me stay up very late at night to see how it would turn out.
The film version of it was just as intense. Even though I already knew how it ended, I still found myself holding my breathe at certain key scenes.
Lisa Genova’s book by the same name was about a woman named Alice who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I was so excited when it was turned into a film.Both versions followed Alice from shortly before she was diagnosed until well into the progression of this disease. They were tearjerkers and I’d reread/rewatch either of them in a heartbeat.
My great-grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease, so it was especially meaningful to see what this illness might be like for the person experiencing it. The gif above is from a scene where Alice forgets how to get home again early on in the course of her disease. It was the moment when I realized just how amazing this story is.
Where there were a few fictional tweaks to the film version of Hidden Figures that I wasn’t a big fan of, the true story that Margot Lee Shetterly wrote of how these women made the calculations that sent humankind to the moon is still something well worth checking out.
Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.
When I was a preteen, one of my uncles gave me copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I read and enjoyed The Hobbit immediately.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy took longer to get into. The vocabulary in it kept making me pause to look up words I’d never heard of before, and the pacing was slower than I was used to in the other stories I discovered at that age.
Still, reading about the roughly 3109 kilometres (1932 miles) that Frodo and Sam walked during the course of this adventure did grab my attention. I was the sort of kid who liked the outdoors in small doses before I ventured inside again to cool off and have a snack.
The thought of walking – and occasionally running – as far as they did while being hunted down by all sorts of malevolent creatures and skipping second breakfast made me shudder.
As an adult, I wonder what it would be like to walk that distance for the sheer fun of it. There have been various points in the past when I’ve run across accounts of people who made spreadsheets that tally how far the characters walked to get to each each milestone in the plot and when they as a fan can pretend like they’ve reached the next one based on how far they’ve walked in real life.
It was only recently that I discovered a site that keeps track of this information for you. Walk to Mordor offers free cellphone apps and also has a space on their website for people who prefer to log their miles that way instead.
The best part about this game is that it gives you notifications about what is happening in the story as the distance you’ve travelled reach specific plot points. It starts in Bag End, Frodo’s home and the opening scene for this tale, and it goes all the way through what happened in the Grey Wood after the battles had all ended. I like the thought of that.
The man who created it developed it out of his love of these books, and I’m talking about it today simply because I think it’s an incredibly cool idea that I thought some of my bookish followers who also enjoy exercising might want to check out.
As always, this blog does not feature sponsored content and I am not being compensated for this post in any way.
Why Mordor, Though?
Because it’s a challenge.
Over the past five years, I’ve been keeping track of some of my fitness-related statistics. I’ve walked an average of 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) a day since I first began recording this stuff. This includes days when I didn’t move much due to illness or injury, so that number is higher when I’m feeling well.
Weight training is my other main source of exercise. I still find it challenging, and there’s nothing I’d change about my lifting routine at the moment.
As much as I enjoy walking, it doesn’t give me that same sense of accomplishment that moving up to a heavier set of weights or noticing how my body changes when I lift weights and eat a good diet.
By no means am I bored with walking…but I do like the idea of seeing all of the distance I put in on the average day add up to something tangible.
There’s also the fact that Walking to Mordor has a definite end date. If I continue at my current pace, it will wrap up at the end of winter or beginning of spring in 2020. I like the idea of starting something new while knowing that it won’t and can’t last forever.
(Relatively) Calm Entertainment
This style of storytelling appealed to me, too. I’ve been looking for a fitness app that was somehow tied to science fiction, fantasy, or speculative fiction for a while now, but I was selective about what sort of adventure I was going to be signing up for.
First of all, It needed to be something that wasn’t going to track my location in the real world or sell my personal information to other companies. There is far enough of that happening in the world as is!
I also wasn’t interested in an app that tried to get me to move faster or for longer distances because of a storyline that involved anyone being chased by zombies or other dangerous creatures.
While I can see how that would be very motivating for some players, it’s not the sort of thing that I personally find appealing. Tell me a good story, but do let me move at my own pace while everything is unfolding.
Knowing how it ends for Frodo and his many companions was yet another reason why I decided to sign up for this game. I was definitely not feeling calm the first time I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there is something to be said for returning to a world you’ve visited many times before even if it’s plot isn’t exactly what most people think of as a soothing one at first glance.
I was willing to pay for what I was looking for, by the way. The fact that I found a free app that fit my criteria was icing on the cake.
If anyone reading this wishes to friend me on Walk to Mordor, do a search for Lydia Schoch. I kept my username there simple on purpose, and I’m happy to share my journey there if we’ve talked before and you’d like to link up.
Either way, I may be blogging about this game and others like it again in the future as I move through the various scenes. The thought of turning exercise into a non-competitive game appeals to me very much!
Have you ever read a book that described fictional foods you desperately wished you could try? I blogged about this topic in detail a few months ago. Recently, I decided to finally try the closest thing to real Lembas bread that exists on our planet since the elves left Middle-earth at the end of The Lord of the Rings.
Not only is this recipe simple, it uses ingredients that are very common. You might have all of them in your kitchen already! Not having to shop for obscure ingredients that I probably won’t use in any other dishes was one of the main reasons why I chose this particular recipe to try. I bake pretty infrequently (as you’ll hear about below), so I generally only buy seasonings, spices, and other things that I can use in multiple ways in the kitchen.
I’m copying over the ingredients and instructions into this post so that they’ll still exist somewhere if the site I linked to above ever goes down. Do click on over for the nutrition information and for a gorgeous picture of the final product, though.
If you want to know my detailed thoughts on making this recipe and how I’d change it in the future, keep reading.
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons (or 1 stick) of cold butter
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
2/3 cup of milk or heavy cream (or more, if necessary)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1) Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celcius (425 degrees Fahrenheit).
2) Mix the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
3) Add the butter and mix with a fork or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles fine granules.
4) Add the sugar and cinnamon, and mix them thoroughly into the mixture.
5) Add the milk/cream and vanilla and stir them in with a fork until a nice, thick dough forms.
6) Roll the dough out about 1/2 in thickness.
7) Cut out 3-inch squares and transfer the dough to a cookie sheet.
8) Criss-cross (DO NOT cut all the way) each square from corner-to-corner with a knife.
9) Bake for about 12 minutes or more (depending on the thickness of the bread) until it is set and lightly golden.(the recipe makes about 10-12 pieces of lembas)
The first time I try any recipe, the only substitutions I make are to replace any milk and milk products in it with foods that won’t cause any allergic reactions for me. It’s important to know what something is supposed to taste like before you fiddle around with the ingredients too much.
I used vegan butter instead of traditional butter and almond milk as a replacement for the milk/heavy cream. If you consume dairy products, I’d love to know how this turns out with them.
The dough did feel slightly dry when I was rolling it out. That made it a little challenging to keep the dough together when I was cutting it into pieces. When I make this recipe again, I’d like to see how it turns out with a full cup of almond milk. I suspect that will be just enough additional liquid to solve the minor issues I had with getting the dough ready to be baked.
As I mentioned above, I don’t regularly bake stuff like bread or sweets. My supply of brown sugar had dried out, and I didn’t know that was the case until I’d reached that section of the directions. It was slightly challenging to mix that ingredient into the dough thoroughly. The little brown speck you see in the final product was a result of that.
Next time I’ll use fresh brown sugar and won’t have that problem. Raisins might be a nice addition to it as well. Despite my minor problems with the dough, the final product tasted delicious. It is definitely something I’ll be making again.
I know that my tastebuds have changed since I started eating a low sugar diet, but the combination of cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar made me think of it as a dessert.
Keep in mind that this isn’t as sweet as a typical dessert, but it does have a sweetness and chewiness to it that made it an appealing snack.
The Lembas bread I made two days ago has been keeping well so far. It honestly tastes even better after it’s had a day or two to rest. I love non-fussy recipes like that.
As for whether or not it will sustain you on a long journey or vex the Smeagols in your life, only time will tell. 😉
I know there are fans and writers of the science fiction and fantasy genres who read this blog. Today, I wanted to talk about themes that I wish would be explored more often in these genres and pick your brains. If you know of any books that include these themes, come on over to Twitter and tell me about them.
If you don’t know of any stories that fit these descriptions, maybe it’s time for us to start writing them!
By far my favourite characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were the Ents. I was enthralled by the idea of a tree-like creature being as intelligent as any person, elf, or hobbit. The more I learned about their physiology, the more curious I became about what it would be like to exist in-between the world of plants and the world of mammals.
I’m struggling to think of any other examples of this kind of storytelling in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Occasionally I’ll read something about an alien or magical plant that’s surprisingly dangerous, but they’re almost never able to carry on a conversation.
It’s hard to imagine what a plant would think about the world around us. How would staying in the same place for your entire life – more or less – while hoping that nothing eats you change the way you thought about everything from family to how dangerous this planet it? Would a plant be surprised by the human concept of war or understanding of it? How would they compare the seeds they dropped every year to how people raise their young?
If I knew more about biology, I’d have written a story about this already. The more I think about it, the more I feel the urge to research it enough to make educated guesses about what such a creature might be like. There is so much scope for the imagination here, as Anne Shirley would say.
A Replacement for Religion
Organized religion is in a rapid decline in western countries. Fewer people are attending religious meetings or labelling themselves as members of a particular faith with every passing generation.
What will western society be like when the majority of people label themselves as Atheist, Agnostic, None, or vaguely spiritual but without loyalty to any particular religion? Western Europe is a few decades ahead of North America in this process, so there are glimpses of what that kind of society will be like.
My question is, what, if anything, is going to replace religion as a widespread cultural understanding that binds a society together? Will it be sports? Pop culture? A rising interest in science? Nationalism? Has the idea itself of having one thing that most of a population grew up experiencing outlived itself?
How would a post-religious society interact with other countries on Earth that tend to be much more devout?
Yes, Star Trek has given us one vision of what this kind of future might look like, but I’d like to see other people’s extrapolations, too. Science fiction in general seems hesitant to explore religious themes in depth unless it was written specifically to proselytize or as part of the Inspirational genre.
I wish this wasn’t so. There are ways to explore people’s relationship to their faith (or lack thereof) without assuming the audience agrees with the character or trying to (de)convert anyone.
Life After Fossil Fuels
Eventually, we’re not going to be able to get enough oil, natural gas, and coal out of the Earth in order to sustain all of the systems that rely on those fuels to keep going. This moment could arrive far sooner than we realize, too.
I’ve read many post-apocalyptic books about people returning to agrarian societies as a direct result of some kind of war or other conflict, but I haven’t read too many that explore what would happen if there wasn’t a single disaster that broke modern society down.
How would you keep communities going after the last drop of gasoline has been used up? What parts of our medical educational, correctional,and municipal systems could adapt to a world that must rely on renewable resources? What parts of them would become luxuries for the wealthy or fade away entirely as resources grew scarce?
I wouldn’t be surprised if most people began working from home in this sort of future. While I think of that as a positive step for society due to the elimination of commutes, the reduction in the spread of communicable diseases, and the increased freedom that comes with having total control over your work environment, only time will tell what negative side effects from that arrangement could be.
Aliens Who Aren’t as Technologically Advanced as Humans
Imagine meeting an alien species that was a few hundred thousand to a few million years behind us.
How would we treat their planet?
How would humans treat them?
If they could talk, would they be better off or worse off than a species that had no idea what was happening to it?
There are hundreds of stories out there about aliens coming to Earth and trying to steal our resources. I wonder why we so often assume they’d be violent, cruel, and greedy. Is that the way we’d treat them? Is it a quietly lingering cultural guilt over how certain groups of people have been terribly mistreated in the past?
Given how difficult it seems to be for life to take hold in the universe in the first place, I wouldn’t be surprised if any alien species we do find out there is closer to the self-awareness of a houseplant or a lizard than to a fellow humanoid.
I remember hearing all kinds of bizarre stories about crop circles when I was a kid.
Some people were convinced that they were messages from alien races. It was never clear to me what kinds of messages they were or if anyone ever thought they’d decoded them.
Other folks set out to prove that many different types of crop circles could be recreated by humans using simple tools. There have been a few other cases where crop circles were shown to be a natural reaction to archeological remains. When this happens, the same design appears in the field every year because of how those ruins have affected the soil.
For a topic as old and well-known as this one, I’m a little surprised by the fact that I don’t remember reading any sci-fi stories about it at all. This sure seems like it would a topic that could be explored from many different angles, from the extraterrestrial to the paranormal to the bizarre but still completely logical.
How about you? What science fiction and fantasy themes do you wish were more commonplace?
The Chronicles of Narnia was one of the first series I remember being recommended to me. My generous uncle gave me all seven books in that series at once when I was in elementary school.
As soon as I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I began quietly touching the back of every closet to see if it contained a wall behind the clothing hanging in there or if it would somehow lead me somewhere interesting. I was a little young for the later, darker instalments at the time, but I loved the first few stories immediately and soon grew up enough to enjoy the rest, too.
One of the things I loved the most about the magic in that world was how unpredictable it was. Aslan didn’t always show up when you expected him to, and he didn’t necessarily meet my expectations of what the creator of a planet would be like either. I spent more time than I care to admit memorizing little details about Narnia and wondering what it would be like to go there for real.
When my uncle heard how much I adored his gift, he came up with something even better for the next round of gift-giving: copies of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit was an instant hit with me. I loved Bilbo’s cautious nature and the exciting details of his trek to The Lonely Mountain. It was one of my first brushes with characters who were in real danger when they went on an adventure. This was a more treacherous world than the one the Pevensie children knew. There were no adults around to save them, and I was never entirely certain if Bilbo or his companions would make it home safely again.
Not only were there carnivorous trolls in The Hobbit, Bilbo also had to face conniving Gollum (whose backstory and identity wasn’t revealed until The Fellowship of the Ring), gigantic spiders who also wanted to eat him, and many other perils.
My uncle knew what he was doing when he recommended these stories to me. The basic rules of magic were different in each universe because one was written for a younger audience than the other was, but they were both filled with creatures whose very existence tickled my imagination.
Tailor Your Recommendations
Suggesting the right book for someone is kind of like giving them clothing. Knowing the right size (or genre, in this case) will go a long way in helping you pick something out, but there are many other small details that matter as well. You have to know someone incredibly well in order to have any chance at all of giving them something they’ll want to use or read over and over again.
There have been times when I’ve recommended books to people who ended up not enjoying those tales at all. In other cases, I’ve had books recommended to me that didn’t quite fit my tastes.
Other than obvious errors like writing two-dimensional characters or using cliches excessively, so much of what goes into a great story is subjective. You might be bored stiff by plot lines that I love, and I might feel the same way about the stories that someone else could spend all day reading without ever growing tired of them.
So it came as a huge surprise to me when a friend recently recommended a book that I’m loving so far: The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes.
Fred was a completely ordinary man who was turned into a vampire as an adult. He gained strength and became a physically healthier version of himself, but he otherwise remained the same shy and quiet man he’d always been.
No, he didn’t sparkle in the sunlight, seduce teenage girls, radically change his habits, or suddenly have the nearly-supernatural ability to conquer the world. (There’s nothing wrong with liking any of these tropes, of course, but they’re not the kind of storylines I generally want to read about).
Honestly, other than the fact that he drank blood and was now allergic to daylight, Fred reminded me of myself and of a few of my friends. He had a kind soul and a sharp wit. Sometimes he worried more than he should. He wasn’t the life of the party, although he was incredibly likeable and charming once you got to know him beyond his day job and strange affliction.
This is the kind of vampire fiction I will never get enough of. It has a dry sense of humour and a realistic take on what it might be like to become a vampire but still have nearly all of the problems from your old life following you around.
Will you like this story? I don’t know. There are some readers who I’m sure will stop a few pages in once they realize that Fred is breaking nearly all of the rules that have ever been made about what a vampire is supposed to be like. It’s completely okay for them to do that, and I hope they find what they’re looking for elsewhere.
When I recommend this tale to people in the future, I’m going to save it for folks who enjoy unconventional monsters, sarcasm, and the realization that becoming a vampire isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. There’s an audience out there for every book and a book that’s perfect for even the most selective reader if you look long enough for them.