Thursday, September 06, 2007

Requiem of a Reader (No Know One Has Died, I'm Just Being Macabre)

(This was written last week on Tuesday and languished unposted, reference dates as such.)

This morning on CBC's Sounds Like Canada was an interview with Ed Greenwood, author, world builder, librarian. Ed is a Canadian with about a billion books under his belt, and a fantasy world of such depth that is makes JK Rowling's books seem surface deep (and they are far from that.) Over four decades Ed Greenwood has published through TSR (and then Wizards of the Coast, and now Hasbro) his Forgotten Realms novels and gaming products. The Forgotten Realms is still my D&D world of choice and has weathered and republished itself through many generations of the game.

For me Ed Greenwood's novels were a staple of my reading through senior public and high school. In fact in both grade 12 and OAC Ed became a piece of my English projects, first as a study of a Canadian author, and then as a study of modern fantasy writing in the framework of the evolution of the genre, where I contrasted his writings with that of Lewis Carol, JRR Tolkien and Robert E Howard. (Probably a more prestigious group than he really belonged in, but that's ok, I was a fan boy.)

To this day I hold one of his novels (Elminster in Myth Drannor) as prize because he personally autographed it when I went to interview him in his unnamed Library in Toronto.

(Actually funny story, in retrospect I used social engineering to hack private employment data to find the guy. I called up a random library in the area, asked if he was an employee, they said no and I said "Oh, well I know he works for the system, I was sure it was your library would you mind checking your records to let me know which branch he is at." Friendly as ever the librarian sent me on to the right branch, and presto-changeo one fanboi had found his author/idol.)

I even made mention this weekend of that autograph because we were contrasting getting in line at a convention for 10 seconds with and author to actually receiving an autograph under novel situations. For me Ed Greenwood and Robert Sawyer both have special autographs in my collection, and my Friend Brad got a great one from the Creegan brother's (one of which is a current Barenaked Lady, and the other was the original keyboardist and long time friend of the band.)

Sadly Ed's works while thrilling in my youth no longer captivate my attention as they once did. His world I still love and visit with my swords and sorcerers, but those are my stories not his. I'm glad he still does his work, and that his world grows. I hope a new generation finds his writing and thrills as Elminster plays the role of Dues Ex Machina for witless heroes. More so I'm glad to hear him on a national radio show reminding day time listeners that pencil and paper board gaming isn't the work of the devil, and he nearly echoed my own parent's emotion. Paraphrasing, when your children and there friends are all in the basement on a Friday night being social and playing games you know they are safe, as opposed to out on the street getting into trouble.

As I wrote this, comically, Robert Sawyer also came on the radio, its like CBC's Toronto Author day. Any Robert's big shit in China these days, and his latest work Rollback was really well done. My complaint as always is he brings up a whole whack load of interesting ideas that are peripheral to his plot, and never has time to do any of it justice (short of the 3 - 4 core ideas in the story.) One idea that really caught me, and was probably touched on for less then a paragraph is how the internet is changing fact based learning as much as the calculator has changed mathematics. He briefly alluded to the idea that 'facts' in education become less essential as we have instant access to them via the internet (which we now have at our sides at all times.) Once we do away with the burden of memorization we make room for more intellectual discussion. In his book he approached it in the classic style:

Phase One: Collect underpants.
Phase Two: ?
Phase Three: Profit

So he leaves out the part about how education reconciles the internet and classroom conflict and gets straight to "profit" as grade school students engage in philosophical debate over abortion. I think the idea of engaging youth in real discussion in a meaningful way is awesome, and it isn't even an outcome I could have imagined, even though the ? process is clearly underway.

I actually read roll back in less then a day, which is really rare for me. I just couldn't put it down.

Anyways I've rambled an awful lot and delayed posting this, I'm not even sure who will read it (as it what audience should read it.)

I've committed to writing more in the coming months real writing, my goal is to bring out a short work of fiction that isn't trite. Doesn't have to be good, just not terrible, that is my foundation and my goal.

I just had an idea, filing it for later :)

Train is pulling it


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