Jasper Frank’s Very Bad Day (Part III)

Hello, everyone! This will be the final part of my running short story, and unfortunately also my last post of the month! The good news is that Melissa will be back next week, so you should definitely come back for what she has in store. I’ve really enjoyed seeing where this story took me. Some of it was very unexpected! I hope you’ve had as much fun with this little demonstration of genre blurring as I have. In any case, here is “Jasper Frank’s Very Bad Day,” Part III.

For parts I and II, click here!

Jasper Frank’s Very Bad Day (Part III)

Hey Erwin, I’m at the location, but I’m not sure it’s right. You said the corner of Straylight Road and Sprawl Street, right?

Yeah man, that’s the place. Dorg’s message’s right in front of MMFH. COUGH COUGH

 

Erwin? Erwin!

Hey, yeah I’m fine. I’ve got this huge plate of avocado nachos with ranch dressing, and I sort of-

 

You’re eating? Right now?

 

Calm down Jay, I told ya, this guy’s legit. He won’t give you trouble, he owes me.

 

Yes, you told me that. You also told me that he wouldn’t mind it if you changed the contract mid-job and extorted stolen Chinese alchemicals from him. You forgot to mention that he works for the Japanese mob.

 

I didn’t think it was important to mention, ok? Look, you’re at the right corner, it’s 2:28, he should be there in two minutes. He’ll walk past you and drop a brown paper bag on the springy duck thing, and you’ll be out of there.

 

The springy duck thing? What springy – you mean that rocking-horse in the park across the street? Next to the slide and the merry-go-round?

 

What? No, not a horse, a duck. With the spring? That the little brats sit on and go crazy?

 

Erwin, that’s in the playground across the street. As in, not on the corner of Straylight and Sprawl. Are you sure that’s where I should be.

 

No, look You don’t go standing around in a kiddy playground in the middle of the night, that’d look too suspicious.

 

And a werewolf standing on a street corner in the middle of the night isn’t suspicious?

 

Dude, wolfies are, like, nocturnal or something, aren’t they?

 

Erwin, I’m surprised at you. That is one of the most common misconceptions about Lycanthropes. I mean, if you would just look at the pamphlet I brought you, you could educate yourself –

 

Woah, hold up. Didn’t mean to step on your new sore spot for the fuzzy peeps. Look, just stay there. When you see some shady guy walk through the playground, that’s your sign.

 

Wait! You’re not going to hang up, are you?

 

Jaaaay. I’ve got stuff to do, other contracts. Got a new gig lifting the thaum code off some magi-tech dealer. Got a guy who wants it so he can make some nice knock-off hair growth charms, total legit forgery stuff.

 

But what if the Yakuza show up!

 

Come oooon, Jaaaaspy.

 

Fine, leave me all alone! But if I get murdered by some angry Japanese warlock or get shot through the heart by a vigilante werewolf hunter, I won’t be there to pay half the rent. Then you’ll be sorry!

 

Don’t be like that, man. You’ll be fine, this guy’s totally legit. Sure, he may have gotten the Yakuza on his tail a bit, but he said he can handle it, and-

Wait, I see something. There’s a man… it looks like he’s walking to the park gate. Yes! He went in, he’s got something in his hand. Erwin! He left the bag on the duck! He left the bag!

 

Great, just like I told you. Now go get it before someone else shows up. I’ll be on the net when you get back, so don’t bother me, kay? Later!

 

Hello? Hello! Erwin? …Ok, you can do this, Jasper. There isn’t anyone… well, ok, there are some people now, down the street, but they don’t look like… right, that one’s holding a samurai sword. That’s probably not a good sign. Ok Jasper, just get the bag and… got it! Oh no. The one with the sword saw me… maybe if I sort of crouch down, I can –

 

Hey, who you talkin’ to, fluffy?

 

What? Fluffy? I don’t know who you’re talking – Oh! Because I’m a… uh, no one?

 

You on the phone? You holdin’ a phone up to your ear.

 

Ah, just a friend of mine, you know, talking about stuff. He’s a… well he’s a werewolf too, so we’re planning a networking meeting! You know, Society for the Ethical Treatment of Anthropomorphs.

 

Ah maaan, you’re one ‘a those SETA freaks?

 

Well, yes! In fact, I have this handy pamphlet that points out a few important misconceptions people have about shifter minority groups, if you’re interested. I have a whole stack! Please take one!

 

Eh, no thanks, man. Look, we’re lookin’ for this guy, took somethin’ from us. You seen anyone around this duck thing? Maybe left somethin’ here?

 

Oh no, I was just taking a stroll, talkin’- I mean, talking, with my werewolf buddy – You still there, Bradley? Oh ho, no, I don’t want to go work out right now…. Oh wow, I didn’t know you could lift 600 pounds! …Werewolf strength? Ah, yeah, I forgot about that! Ha ha! I guess even I can bench 300, now that I think about it…Listen, Bradley, I’m speaking with a gentleman here, I’ll be just a second… Sorry about that, was there something I could help with?

 

…Nah, man. It’s fine, we’ll just, eh… keep lookin’.

 

Ok then! You have a good night – and they’re gone… boy, they didn’t stay long! Well, I’d better get back to the apartment… huh. These alchemicals don’t expire for a whole month! Well, I guess I don’t have to take them right away if I don’t want to. I’ll see what Bradley thinks at the next meeting. I bet he’d love to hear about tonight, anyway!

 

And that concludes my story! I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Next week, Melissa will be back on rotation. Until then, have you ever written or read a story that didn’t seem to fit all the way in either the science fiction or fantasy genres? Let me know in the comments below!

Jasper Frank’s Very Bad Day (Part II)

Hello again, everyone! This has been a fun experiment so far. I’ve really enjoyed toying with the lines, and, I hope, demonstrating that the divides between genres can be pretty thin sometimes. I hope you enjoy the rest of the story!

For Part I, click here.

Jasper Frank’s Very Bad Day (Part II)

Heeeey Jaaay. What’re you doing back so early?

It’s almost seven pm, Erwin.  I should have been home hours ago.

Oh. Well, y’know, I kinda lose track of time sometimes, in the zone. So how’d your meet ‘n greet thing go? Meet any nice wolfies?

No. And, apparently, “wolfies” is a derogatory term punishable by a two hundred dollar fine if reported on public property. Nearly all of the orientation was in legaleze, I can hardly think in English anymore. And no one at the networking lunch had even the slightest desire to turn back to human. One guy snapped at me for even bringing it up. I almost lost a hand! Wait, you’ve been on Magi-net this whole time?

Yeah, Jay. I got a sweet gig casing this one achemi-medical corp out of Shanghai. Chinese medicine, y’know? Got a guy who wants the details on the company rune-tumbler sequence. I just dive in, take a peek, and net some nice cash for my trouble.

Did you at least take out the garbage?

Naw, no time for that domestic crap.

Erwin, we’ve talked about this, you can’t live here and just-

Whoa, Jay. You can’t sit there.

What?

Dude, you’ll shed on the upholstery.

Look, if I’m going to have to live with this, you’re going to have to deal with a little shedding. I’ll buy some lint rollers.

So they don’t, like, have some kind of opt-out for the whole Lycanthropy thing?

No, they don’t. It’s like it doesn’t matter that I didn’t want this. It doesn’t matter that I just got chomped by some random guy. They decide it’s a protected status, and I’m stuck injecting silver nitrate every month so I don’t go moon-crazy and slaughter the neighbors.

Silver nitrate? Is that, like, expensive? ‘Cause I’ve got a guy who’d take that off your hands for some quick money, you know, if you’re interested.

Erwin.

What, I don’t like our neighbors. They look at me funny when I go down to the laundry room.

That’s because you’re covered in bright pink tattoos. And, you’re an elf.

Hey, don’t knock the tats, these are the best in the biz. I get up to 6 peca-pentagrams a second on the nets with these, and that’s not even breaking a sweat.

You use those for Magi-net? I thought it was just a…

A what?

An elf thing? You know, frilly colors, pixie dust. That sort of thing.

Whoa, that’s not cool, Jaspy. Just because there aren’t any other pointy-ears around here doesn’t mean you got the right to decorticate.

I think you mean “discriminate.”

Whatever. Anyway, I stick the trodes here, where the tats come together on my hands, and I use the ol’ magic to get to the nets. You should see it, man. It’s beautiful. Like, a city of lights, going on forever, and you’re, like, flying past everything, and you can see all the spells and runes like big neon signs, and-

Ok, Erwin, I get it.

Right. So… what are you going to do?

What am I going to do? Get used to being a werewolf, I guess. The alchemical treatments I would need to turn back aren’t covered by my insurance, and they’re way too expensive without it.

Harsh. Well, if you think I could help with somethin’ lemme know.

Er… thanks, Erwin. Wait a second, you said your contract is to steal from an alchemy company?

Dude, not “steal.”

“Aquire.” Whatever. Would your friend be able to get alchemical pollymedicals from this Chinese company?

You mean alchemical pollymorphic pharmaceuticals? Like, to turn back to normal?

…Yes.

Oh! Yeah, man, that would work.

Would I… uh, need to pay you?

Naw, I could like, make that part of the conditions for receiving the rune-tumbler sequence.

You’re sure? You’re sure your employer wouldn’t mind?

Eh, probably not. I’m doing the guy, like, a huge favor. How mad could he be?

How mad indeed. To find out, look for Part III next week!

The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters: Just a Little Bit of Magic

 -- How I feel about writing pretty much every day.
How I feel about writing pretty much every day.

Someone once told me if you have nowhere to go when you write, just tell your story.

So here’s mine. 

I finally checked my student inbox for the first time since I graduated almost one month ago. One of the emails referred to my master’s thesis and the number of downloads it has received since publishing. I’m not sure what a good average looks like but I was pleased at the number of downloads so far. I guess this is what happens when you write your thesis on Harry Potter.

Here at Lantern Hollow Press, many of the staff have areas of “expertise” to help you, our readers, navigate the nuances of fantasy, science fiction, and literature. I was not really sure of my area until Rachel reminded me of my recently-earned degree and my love for children’s literature and education. In fact, my topic of Harry Potter came from this love of children’s literature. Of course, this decision to commit one year’s research and writing on this topic must have started somewhere, and this month I will tell my story, my journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

I read the first four books during the fall of 2002. I grew up in overly conservative Christian circles and heard the sermons and messages of the evils of Pokemon, Star Trek, and Harry Potter. In the summer of 2002, I watched the first film with my father, a person also reluctant to read the series, though I feel like my father’s reluctance stemmed from artistic skepticism rather than religious. After the film, my father and I had several discussions about what we saw that was anti-Christian or evil about the series: nothing. Though my father pointed out Harry’s penchant for lying and breaking rules (a topic I will address in a later post), we found absolutely nothing wrong with the film and wondered if the books were the same.

Months later, a family friend gave the first four books to me and my father to read, singing nothing but praises for the books (and he was a very conservative man). I went into the series nervous about the contents. What would I find? Were the sermons true? Is there evil, demonic witchcraft in the series? Does it openly mock God? What did the movie leave out?

 -- "Hey, Hermione, have you read this book? It's great!"
“Hey, have you read this book? It’s great!”

I read the first book in a day.

I. Loved. It. 

Again, I came to the same conclusion about the book as I had done the movie: nothing, absolutely nothing was wrong, evil, demonic anti-Christian, and anti-God about this series. Instead of atheistic or occultist philosophy, I discovered that Harry and his friends loved each other and sacrificed for each other. As mentioned above, some of the characters are morally ambiguous, but there is a clear distinction between good and evil. 

I devoured the others shortly after reading the first book. I was hooked, obsessed. I took the third book to my church’s revival survives and hid it in my Bible case. I brought the fourth book to my relatives’ 50th wedding anniversary, hiding it under a table until my father made me put it away and actually talk to people. I relished the magic, mystery, and adventure of the series. It, like so many other people, had made me an avid reader. . . of children’s literature.

To tell you the truth, I hate to read. I am easily distracted, and I find no pleasure in sitting still. (Ironically, I love to watch, study, and critique films–probably my true area of expertise.) Yet, children’s books hold me, and it all started with Harry Potter. Whether or not they are fantasy, children’s books enchant me. I care for the characters, their lives, and their wants and desires. Their protagonists are no different than you or I–they’re only smaller and probably experiencing their struggles for the first time in their lives. And to me, they all really have a little bit of magic in them.

Reading: Just a bit of magic
Reading: Just a little bit of magic

The Weight of the Writer

I have spent the last three weeks rambling about my thoughts as I reread The Four Loves, The Mind of the Maker, and  An Experiment in Criticism.  It has been a busy week since last Friday and to my shame I have not read as much as I’d like to have.    That being said, I do not want to neglect my post or the promise that this month was themed around my ramblings on these books.

The Power of the Idea in the form of the Word is still making its rounds in my head. Sayers spends a good deal of time on this subject and rightly so.  Writing is a powerful tool and communicates not just stories, but ideas … revolutions … religion … war … hate … redemption.

I have to ask myself, what am I communicating?  What Idea am I putting into Words that will have Power with a mind?

It is dreadful to think what the wrong words, wrong ideas will do to a weak mind.  It is exhilaration to think of what the right word, right ideas will spark in the right mind.  It is a heavy burden for an author to consider.

We see this power in the reaction to Harry Potter.  There were so many people who were for the books, against the books, who praised them, who cursed them…the criticism goes on and on. There is power in the ideas that Rowling wrote.  Magic.  Something that we all fear and/or desire. But I think that those who get caught up in the debate about magic miss something.  They miss the real issue of her books – Death.  Or rather the fear of Death and conquering that fear by facing it with grace and humility.  Magic is the foil that Rowling uses to deal with a more powerful, more real concept that many of us don’t want to think about or consider.  Rowlings’s heroes are able to live full and happy lives because they face Death with humility and acceptance. This is a lesson for all of us – the Power in the Idea.

However, going back to the concept of Magic, I must ask the question, does the use of magic detract from the message?  I still know of people – good people, whose opinions I trust and admire – who dislike the books on the grounds of magic.  I have had many an argument with friends and family on this topic: is magic within a fantasy story good or bad?  I heard/read the news articles about the kids that were snooping into real magic/dark arts and things because they had read about it in Harry Potter. Do I blame the books for putting the Idea into their heads, or is there a greater issue here?  I read the books, I heard about magic, but I did not go off and try to do magic in the real world. I suppose I had read/heard enough about magic to know that within the confines of the pages magic was a medium to be respected and outside of the pages, magic was a force to be feared and avoided.

Magic is dangerous and very real.  It is not something any one should tamper with.  There is no “good” magic in the real world.  There is the power of God and there is the power of devils.  And the Bible is very clear about this subject.

Yet, I think of Tolkien and Lewis and how they used “magic” in their worlds.  Gandalf is a wizard and he wields power.  In Narnia, Aslan talks about the Deep Magic that created the world.  These are arguably good forces in the stories.  I suppose what I must consider is not the means but the Idea behind the means.  What do these forces in the book represent and what are they trying to teach?  Just like in Harry Potter, the magic is a foil to the greater concept of Death and how we deal with the notion of dying.

I am still not sure where I stand on the issue about the use of magic in writing and the fear of the implications in the real world. It is the weight that a writer must bear as he/she thinks about what they are writing, why are they writing, and what are they ultimately communicating to their readers.

Faith and Faerie: Reflections of Another World

When I was asked to do a devotional for today’s post, I really didn’t know which direction to turn.  For someone who loves fantasy, the works of Lewis are an obvious choice for an intertwining of faith and faerie. But Lewis’s brilliance has its sources, and I thought that perhaps one of Lewis’s favorite writers, George MacDonald, would be of service in this discussion, as well.  In Mere Christianity, Lewis says:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

mist irelandAs Christians, we know that “another world” is the heavenly kingdom, but as we are, for now, separated from that future dwelling, we are left with promises and our imagination.  For many of us, exploring and creating fantasy worlds can temporarily satiate the driving need to find “another world” to which we truly belong.  But Faerie Lands can play the role of more than just escapism; they can both act is a reflection of Reality and become that faintest of connections to “another world” which compels us forward in our walk toward it.

The fantasies and faerie worlds that we construct, no matter how wonderful, are still impermanent.  The kind of fantasy that MacDonald, Lewis, and many others strive to write is a kind which attempts to draw us out of our immediate Reality and take us to another world, but only temporarily.  Then, like a mirror, these worlds begin to reflect our Reality in a different form, and we can’t help thinking that some of these enchanted landscapes seem very familiar. Inexorably, we are drawn back into our own world, but when we return, we understand something of our world better, while the yearning for another world remains, perhaps stronger than ever.reflections isle of skye loch

MacDonald says in Phantastes:

Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the reality? – not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always lovelier?  Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the wavering, trembling, unresting sail below is fairer still.  Yea, the reflecting ocean itself, reflected in the mirror, has a wondrousness about its waters that somewhat vanishes when I turn towards itself.  All mirrors are magic mirrors.  The commonest room is a room in a poem when I turn to the glass.

castle scotland craigmillarA beautiful reflection is exactly what MacDonald strives for in his depiction of Faerie Land.  With lush descriptions, strange and surreal, whimsical and lovely, MacDonald draws his wandering hero into the depths of Faerie and compels us along with him.

But as with all reflections, there is a place where they join with Reality.  We can be in one and touch the other.  MacDonald’s Faerie Land is not meant to stand entirely apart:

As through the hard rock go the branching silver veins; as into the solid land run the creeks and gulfs from the unresting sea; as the lights and influences of the upper worlds sink silently through the earth’s atmosphere; so doth Faerie invade the world of men, and sometimes startle the common eye with an association as of cause and effect, when between the two no connecting links can be traced.

From the very beginning, Faerie is intertwined with our world.  It reflects our own world, but it also connects us to another.  It both satisfies and increases our longing for that Other World that we know exists.  And so, if this fantasy world as MacDonald portrays it – a reflection of Reality and an echo of something greater beyond it – if this is not only accessible, but ever-present, then we might begin to realize that its higher Form, that Other World that we all long for, is also in our midst.  The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, tangible, glorious, the source of all deep magic, drawing us further into it.

This is why I find Faerie and fantasy so beautiful and so satisfying: they have the ability to reflect our Reality while simultaneously summoning forth faint, but glorious images of the true Other World.  The best Faerie stories form a connection between us and what we were made for.