Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To Scream or Keep Silent, That Is the Dying Question

Scream by Edvard Munch
Scream by Edvard Munch
September went into a tailspin about a week ago. I can't remember the last time I actually received personal good news from family or friends. Death or dying and depression crowd around me, jostling for position and attention, blotting out my surroundings: beautiful sunrises and sunsets, crystal clear night skies bursting with twinkling stars, perfect weather any southern California native would drool over.

I woke up this morning after having tossed and turned and lost the skirmish with my sheet and pillows. Apollo couldn't wait to jump up and greet me with a wagging tail and unconditional canine adoration. Roxy slept on, sprawled on the floor, oblivious to anything but her dreams of breakfast. I rubbed the crusty, dried sleep from my eyes, slipped on my reading glasses and woke up my Nook to see what had happened in the wider world while I pretended to sleep.

I soon read the sad, tragic news of the death of Sara Douglass (aka Sara Warneke). I discovered this astounding Aussie female fantasy writer a half dozen years ago and loved everything she wrote, especially Threshold, the first novel I found written by her. As I perused the various postings on Twitter and Facebook about her passing, I found her blog post from March 2010 she entitled "The Silence of the Dying." I took a few minutes to read the entire post, after which I couldn't help but shiver, especially after the seemingly prophetic nature of the most recent Doctor Who episode "Closing Time" wherein the Doctor seems to fall apart (emotionally) as he approaches the day of his death (flashback to the start of this season and the "Impossible Astronaut"). He even utters some dialog containing the words 'silence' and 'dying.'

After reading Sara's thoughts on how modern society sticks it's head in the sand with respect to death (and the dying), I pondered my own situation. Part of my September tailspin centers on a sharp worsening in my health. Par for the medical course, I'm running the gauntlet of various tests, procedures and eventually a biopsy (scheduled for mid-October), all of which amounts to endless waiting for results and the accompanying anxiety. Just as Sara describes in her blog post, I prefer to keep silent, as I don't want to appear 'weak' by complaining. Of course, at this stage of the 'game' I'm not in much pain or discomfort (not compared to what Sara or other cancer victims endure). And I must put up a good front for my husband, one of the chronically ill routinely maligned or ignored by modern day society. He needs me to be 'strong' and I will remain so as cheerfully as I can.

Normally, I look forward to the beginning of October and the advent of autumn with peace and joy in my heart. Of course, the fact that my birthday occurs the day after the first of October wouldn't have anything to do with that would it? But this year, no birthday cake with sputtering scores of candles will great me. Instead, my husband and I will travel south, to his home town, to console and support his life-long friend and his wife in the sudden and unexpected loss of her mother, so soon after his mother's death. Oh, and their dog died last week in the midst of all this family tragedy.

I am full of unanswered questions and troublesome, uncomfortable thoughts today, ones that I wish I had the courage to shout out on a street corner to the self-absorbed oblivious passersby. Rather than deprive a homeless person of their accustomed spot, I will jump up on my bloggity soap box instead.

From a Christian worldview, I can understand some of the silence surrounding death and dying. Jesus conquered the grave, therefore, it follows, that we can sweep this whole messy business of dying under the proverbial rug. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic). Yet, even Jesus wept (and raised Lazarus from the grave). Jesus also suffered, but not silently, and died, nearly alone, on a cross we nailed him to, at a crossroads dung heap outside Jerusalem. Two thousand years later, we've sanitized and compartmentalized dying, hiding it from ourselves so we can ignore the writing on our own walls.

I ask that you stop for a moment and spend time, yes, that very precious commodity you can never, ever get back, with a friend or family member who is dying. Don't send flowers, or stuffed animals or Hallmark cards. Give them comfort. Don't expect them to put you at ease about their situation. Embrace the truth. For you know, it's not 'if' we're going to die, it's when. We're all dying. And I, for one, will not go silently into the night.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Amy Pond Outshines the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited (aired in US 9/10/2011) Perhaps being turned into a giant wooden doll while trapped in a dollhouse stored in a scared boy's cabinet left Amy with some unresolved anger issues. Last week's forgettable episode, Night Terrors, disappointed on many levels (weak story and acting on the part of the bit players). Creepy Doctor Who episode I hope to forget sooner rather than later. Thankfully, last night's episode, The Girl Who Waited, provided excellent science fiction (including a time travel paradox unresolvable by either the Doctor or the TARDIS) and phenomenal acting from both Karen Gillan (as Amy Pond) and Arthur Darvill (as Rory Williams). While this episode doesn't contribute much to the overall story arc for this season (the Doctor's death), the character growth glimpsed in both Amys and Rory will knock your socks off.

A great stand-alone episode of Doctor Who I highly recommend for your viewing pleasure.

Doctor Who Returns after Summer Break with 'Let's Kill Hitler'

"Let's Kill Hitler" aired on BBCA 08/27/2011 I suffered through some disappointing summer science fiction television recently (most notably "Falling Skies" on TNT). But all that is behind me now with the return of the Doctor and the best 'bad girl' in any time or space: River Song. Amy and Rory continue their quest to reunite with their daughter, Melody Pond, also known as River Song, although her parents are still coming to grips with their daughter's incorrigibility, knack for mad-cap adventures and an obsession with the Doctor not of her own making.

And River, as Mels, Amy's BFF from childhood, who coins the episodes title 'Let's Kill Hitler' when she finally meets the Doctor, after Amy and Rory destroy a wheat field with a crop-circle calling card. Holding the Doctor and the TARDIS at gunpoint, Mels corrals everyone into the TARDIS for a trip back to pre-war Berlin. Mels manages to shoot the TARDIS and forces a crash landing in Hitler's office, interrupting a shape-shifting humanoid robot containing miniaturised humanoids has assumed the form of a Wehrmacht officer and attacked Hitler.

It's at this point where Hitler becomes a minor impediment to the ongoing conflict between the newly regenerated River Song and her immediate assassination attempt on the Doctor, Amy and Rory kidnapped by the miniaturized humans, and a dying Doctor. Hitler is locked in the cupboard by Rory. My husband and I laughed repeatedly on that dialogue.

The tiny robot-occupying humans reveal themselves as time-traveling Justice Department personnel who mete out punishment to infamous criminals by snatching them in the last seconds of their life and torturing them for thousands of years for their crimes. They switch gears from Hitler (they arrived too early anyway in 1938) to River Song, who has a criminal record including killing the Doctor. So now we spend the last thirty minutes of the Doctor's life arguing whether River can be tortured for killing the Doctor when he is in fact still alive.

Best bit of lore gleaned this episode about the Silence (spoilers follow, obviously):
Robot Amy: Records Available
Doctor: Question. I'm dying. Who wants me dead?
Robot Amy: The Silence.
Doctor: What is the Silence? Why is it called that? What does it mean?
Robot Amy: The Silence is not a species. It is a religious order or movement. Their core belief is that Silence will fall when the question is asked.
Doctor: What question?
Robot Amy: The first question, the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight.
Doctor: Yes, but what is the question?
Robot Amy: Unknown.
This episode did not have the impact of 'A Good Man Goes to War' (but how could it with the big reveal of who River's parents actually were). However, I loved it (as I do most Doctor Who episodes) for the great writing, story-telling and acting. I know where I'll be every Saturday evening ... wherever the TARDIS re-appears.

... originally posted at my WordPress blog on 08/28/2011 ...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts

I returned from Dragon*Con yesterday, after having a great visit with Janny, and realized I had not published my review of her excellent stand-alone fantasy novel To Ride Hell's Chasm, which I read nearly two years ago (and the story and characters are still vividly engraved on my mind). I highly recommend this novel.
To Ride Hell's ChasmTo Ride Hell's Chasm
by Janny Wurts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished this two hours ago (on 10/18/2009) and my emotions still wring me with spasms. The breakneck ride to the end felt like the crest of a tsunami or a primal volcanic eruption. I absolutely could not tear my eyes away from the page, nor turn them fast enough to keep up as the story unfolded.

For the first half of the novel, I struggled a bit to connect with the characters, but Mykkael and Anja's crucible experience came into visceral focus, never letting go their grip on my heart until the last song was sung.

I must force myself to keep this brief, because anything I discern or divulge will spoil the ride of your life down Hell's Chasm.

I highly recommend this outstanding stand-alone fantasy novel by Janny Wurts.

Beyond Reality October 2009 Fantasy Selection (click here to peruse the discussion thread and feel free to post questions or comments).

View all my reviews