This week, instead of the usual storytelling class that I have with my daughter, we just set aside some time to write together. It was nice to have that time set aside, and I think we may switch to a schedule where we have our “class” every other week, and just have a scheduled writing time for the weeks in-between.
However, one of the things I’ve really enjoyed about our writing class (and documenting it on the blog) is the opportunity to review what I read and wrote over the past week. I figured I can continue to do that even if I don’t have a separate topic to discuss as well.
What I Read
I continued to work my way through The Unwritten, finishing volumes 5, 6 and 7. This series is my favorite read of the year so far, and quickly becoming one of my favorite graphic novel series of all time.
One of the tricks that The Unwritten pulls off amazingly well is the constant expansion of the story. It’s a mystery at its heart, with the main characters trying to figure out the motivations and powers of their enemies, and even trying to understand how the world around them actually works. In each volume, our understanding expands. We learn more about the world, which reveals more questions and raises the stakes.
I’m already thinking about a dedicated post talking about the series once I’ve finished, so I won’t dig too deep now, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
I’m continuing to read Dune aloud at bedtime with my oldest son. It has been years since I last read Dune, so I get to come at it with fairly fresh eyes.
I’ve been struck by Herbert’s style, which is equal parts florid and terse. He seems almost allergic to conjunctions, and is happy to connect multiple sentences with nothing more than commas. He frequently has paragraphs that consist of a single short sentence, or even a fragment. And yet, there are moments when he waxes poetic, when he’s describing the geography and environment of the desert planet Arrakis, or when delving into the characters’ thoughts on philosophy and politics.
Like many works of science-fiction that have been able to endure for decades, Dune is a strange book. It is a mix of prescient futurism and anachronism.
It is infused with environmentalism and ecological systems inextricably tied to the human populations that live within them. It offers a generally positive view of Islamic cultures. It imagines a universe where people have rejected artificial intelligence, and spent centuries exploring, advancing and honing the possible modes of human thought.
It also imagines a far-flung spacefaring society that is fundamentally feudal, governed by all-powerful emperors and lesser royals, where the populations of ordinary people have no meaningful say in the structure of their society. The only competition for power comes from the Spacing Guild, who monopolize space travel; the CHOAM company, who monopolize life-extending spice; and the Bene Gesserit, who use social, political, and even religious manipulation to infiltrate the other powers and perform experiments in long-term eugenics. Power is almost exclusively amoral and self-serving. It’s not the sort of future most of us would be eager to experience first-hand.
Having read all of the Dune books (at least the ones by Herbert himself), I never felt that any of them stood up to this first one in the series. They are interesting though, because they do a better job revealing Herbert’s interests in vast timelines; huge interconnected systems; and ideas of humanity behaving as a single collective organism, with the fates of individuals being dictated more by the drives of the super-creature than any individual choices they make.
What I Wrote
I got about halfway through Razor Mountain chapter 9. I also started writing a short story that I’m calling “The Incident at Pleasant Hills.” The idea was inspired by a Story Engine prompt, and I used a slightly modified version of Firewater’s Cube brainstorming method to flesh out the characters and setting.
I think I was in need of other fiction to work on alongside Razor Mountain. I’m still enjoying writing Razor Mountain and I’m committed to finishing it, but it’s nice to have small things to work on alongside the novel that I know I’ll still be working on for months to come.