Thursday Thirteen: Fictional Places I’d Like to Visit

I am feeling the need to do a substanial written post, but also to lighten it up a bit around here. Since Diana did an awesome Thursday Thirteen of fictional places she’d like to visit last week, let me just get in on that fun. I’ve read her list, but I’m pretending I didn’t long enough to make one of my own. There will be some overlap.

1. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Specifically, I would like to tour cities and strongholds of the First Age. Nargothrond. Gondolin. Menegroth. Nogrod and Belegost. These are fictional place names that give me the shivers and make my imagination run entirely amok. And there are more of them.

gallifrey

Gallifrey

2. Gallifrey. Because it’s Gallifrey.

3. The Dreaming, the realm of Morpheus, formally known as Dream of the Endless, from Gaiman’s Sandman series. You knew this had to be here, right? The Library of Dream is a point of particular interest, because it contains every book that was never written (a whole section of novels the authors finished only in their dreams, for instance).

4. Carroll’s Wonderland. I know the story, but haven’t actually read the book. This one is too good to pass up on the strength of adaptations alone, though. If I had 13 wishes and could only use them to visit fictional places, I’d have to use one of them to have a chat with a certain caterpillar.

tasselhof

Kender hero Tasslehoff Burrfoot

5. Krynn, the setting of the Dragonlance series. The halflings of that world, called Kender, are too interesting to not meet.

6. Amber and the Courts of Chaos from Zelazny’s two Chronicles of Amber series. I could be cheating here because that’s two places. Or maybe not. Maybe they are more like sides of a coin, since they are the only two really real worlds, and all other realities are reflections of them.

7. The Emerald City. How could I pass on the Emerald City?

8. Never-Never Land. In the same category as #s 1, 4, and 7. It was impossible to think up a ninth one until I put this one is on the list.

9. Jasper Fforde’s BookWorld. This is a meta-world (for lack of a better term) in which characters and places from books are real, and the putting-together of literature is an industry. There are literary police, of course. And a detective from the “real” world, a bemusing dystopia in which time travel and cloning are well developed, and cheese is so expensive people smuggle it.

ankhmorpork

Ankh-Morpork

10. The Great City of Ankh-Morpork from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

11. Kashyyyk, also known as Wookie Planet C. And Bespin, the Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back (still my all-time favorite). I’m cheating again, but I figure if I can tour the cities of Middle Earth, I can take a hyperspace jaunt around the Star Wars galaxy. Oh. Coruscant, too. I’d have to see Coruscant.

12. The planets Vulcan and Romulus with a layover at Deep Space Nine. I love Star Trek and Star Wars  differently, but equally. They each get three places on the list.

13. Arrakis from Dune. This one wins out over both Westeros and Narnia because “He who controls the spice controls the universe,” and we all know what a megalomaniac I am.

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The Thursday Thirteen: Horror Films

Gene’O and I have switched off for the day—he’s writing about Tolkien in a special Thursday Thirteen at the Monster, and I’m writing here. As I sat here prepping for my comprehensive exams this weekend (and by prepping, I mean trying not to hyperventilate and eating Halloween Oreos), I thought to myself (prompted by said Oreos) “oh, it’s October, and this little monster hasn’t talked about horror films yet.” So that’s what I’m going to do today.

I’ve mentioned before that I like gory TV shows and all-things-zombie. And, naturally, I have an affinity for all manner of creatures and monsters. I also don’t mind being scared, especially if I can be scared in my own home, and especially if it’s October, which Sam and I have officially designated as a month of horror films. Below, I give you some of my personal favorites for the month.

1. Insidious, 2010.

I love haunted house stories, and I’ve watched this one with more, not less, horror each time I’ve seen it. The film maintains an excellent balance of newer film techniques with tried-and-true horror film staples. Plus, this creature that a friend and I isolated in the trailer still freaks me out, almost 5 years later.

Yeah, that thing. Night. Mare.

Yeah, that thing. Night. Mare.

2. 28 Days Later, 2002.

Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic world of contagion is fantastic. It does what the best horror movies do in that it provides us with a scapegoat to be afraid of (the virus, and those fast zombies) and then reminds us that what we should really be afraid of is humanity.

3. The Exorcist, 1973.

I was in college when I watched this for the first time, and I was absolutely frightened by it. The feeling lingered for a while, a few hours after the film was over. The re-watches don’t scare me as much, but it’s still a chilling film—superbly scripted and acted, with that spider-walk on the stairs still being one of the creepiest things I’ve seen on film.

4. Let the Right One In, 2008.

I’ve seen both this original, Swedish version and the American remake, Let Me In. And it was honestly a little difficult to decide which version to choose for the list. Each version is an adaptation of a vampire novel, and each has its own merits. The Swedish version ultimately topped out for me because of its careful timing and fantastic use of long, slow shorts and sparse dialogue to create tension.

5. The Cabin in the Woods, 2012.

This film surprised me, it really did. But then again, with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard at its helm and Kristen Connolly as its heroine, I suppose it shouldn’t have been surprised at the heady mix of cheekiness and gore. Not content just to subvert our expectations of the genre—it twists and rearranges them.

6. The Shining, 1980.

Jack Torrence is one of the scariest characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch on-screen, but at least 7/10’s of that is due to the performances put in by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Long. I’ve been watching this film since I was probably-too-young-to-watch-it, and I’m pretty sure that those twins in the hallway are the origin of my fear of kids-in-horror-movies.

Thosetwins

Those twins. Those. Twins. *shudder*

7. Zombieland, 2009.

A zombie film with Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Jesse Eisenberg? And they run into Bill Murray, you say? Sign me up. The film manages to be, at its heart, a zombie film, and while the characters are fun in a way that they rarely are during the zombie apocalypse, there are moments of tension, fear, and pop culture critique.

8. The Conjuring, 2013.

Another recent film, The Conjuring tells the story of the Warrens, American paranormal investigators, as they conduct an investigation and exorcism at the Perron family home. Using old-school scare tactics and striking cinematography, the new film manages a refreshing, cerebral take on the horror tropes of the investigator and the haunted house.

9. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, 1962.

Fantastically creepy, the aging sisters of Baby Jane are a stark reminder of the jealousy and animosity that can sit beside us, of the things we hide from ourselves and those closest to us. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are fantastic mirrors for one another.

10. Halloween, 1978.

Difficult to make a horror film list, especially in October, without mentioning this one. Mike Meyers has haunted our dreams for 36 years now, and he shows no signs of stopping. From the moment he stabs his sister to the film’s final act, Meyers is terrifying and mesmerizing.

meyers

Yikes!

11. Frailty, 2001.

Matthew McConaughey walks into a police station and claims to know who the God’s Hand Killer is, a terrifying serial killer who is revealed, through flashbacks, to be McConaughey’s father (Bill Paxton, in his directorial debut), an ultra-religious man who wakes up his two sons one night to instruct them on how to dispatch demons. The film is twisty-turny, and it’s a woefully underrated piece of suspense horror.

12. Psycho, 1960.

The king of horror films, Psycho still manages to be scary, over 50 years after its release. Norman Bates is a character of horrifying beauty.

13. Alyce Kills, 2011.

This is a new one for me, as I watched it for the first time last week. It has a bit of a sagging middle, but the opening act and the final act are fantastic. It’s plenty gory, though most of the gore is contained in the last 20 minutes of the film, and it’s also darkly funny and painful to watch Alyce, whose friends have missed all signs that she’s a budding psychopath, come completely unglued because of her guilt over a friend’s accidental death.

Alyce

Let me know what would make your list, and hop over to Part Time Monster and see Gene’O’s Thursday Thirteen over there!

Thursday Thirteen: Banned and Challenged Classics

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Banned Books Week. Since I’m a fan of books and I love intellectual freedom, I feel as though it would be a sin to let the week pass without a banned books post. As I mentioned earlier today, Hannah Givens is hosting a week-long banned books blog party at Things Matter. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll get a post out for the blog party, so I’ve borrowed an idea (and a graphic) from Diana. Here’s a Thursday Thirteen from the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Classics list.

All the books here have influenced me as a writer and thinker. I read them all before I turned 21, thanks to a mother and a high school English teacher who share my love of reading and freedom of thought, and thanks to a public library that was way better than any town of 5,000 has a right to expect. They are posted in the approximate order I read them.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

My mother read this book aloud to me when I was in elementary school. She read The Hobbit to me when I was in first grade, and I begged her to read LOTR for two years until she finally did. I read it on my own for the first time when I was 11. If I write a post for Hannah’s blog party, this is the book I’ll focus on.

2. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Checked out from the library when I was 11 or 12; perhaps for my last year of the Summer Reading Program. It frightened me more than any horror story ever frightened me and forced me to look at the locker room antics and high school hazing with new eyes. I still find it disturbing. The film adaptation doesn’t do it justice.pins

3. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

I barely remember reading this one, but I know I did, because I remember the story and the cover of the battered old paperback. I also remember that it made such an impression I didn’t pick up another book for a while after I finished it.

4. 1984 by George Orwell

Picked up from the library when I was in the tenth grade because I’d read Animal Farm for school and I wanted more Orwell. I’ve since read most of his essays and Homage to Catalonia, his memoir of the Spanish Civil War. He’s my favorite early-20th Century thinker.

5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

I went through a Hemingway phase when I was 15 or 16, and this is the second or third Hemingway novel I read. It’s on my list of top 15 20th Century novels, and the chapter where one of the characters is reminiscing about bull-baiting in his village before the war stands out to me as one of the best single chapters in all of American literature.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Required reading during my senior year  in high school. It’s probably why I’m fascinated with the 1920s to this day, and why I’m such a sucker for tragic romance.

7. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

I checked this one out of the library when I was a senior in high school just to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t really get it then, but I do now. If I made a list of “novels everyone should read,” this one would be on it.

bbweek8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This was an assigned book for my honors freshman composition course. I wrote an essay on Huxley’s use of the “noble savage” trope, and I was still immature enough to be titillated by the way he uses the word “pneumatic.”

9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I read this one during my freshman year of college, and if  you’re wondering why anyone would want to ban this book, this quote will give you an idea:

“Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live – for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died…And this you can know – fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.”

10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I find it as disturbing as The Lord of the Flies, but in a different way. I read it during my freshman year of college just for fun and ended up writing an essay about it.

11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read the book because I saw the Gregory Peck movie and liked it so much I wanted the reading experience. It’s a real shame that anyone even considered banning this book. That says not-so-nice things about American culture at the time it was published.

12. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

One of a dozen novels I read for Survey of the 20th Century American Novel in college. I also read Gatsby for the third time for that course, and got my first introductions to Nathaniel West, Carson McCullers, and Emile Zola. Slaughterhouse-Five is likely the novel that convinced me genre fiction can be serious, because whatever else it is, it’s also science fiction.

13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

I picked this one up when I was 19 or 20 on the recommendation of a friend. It’s a strange and rewarding read. I don’t know what else to say about it.

I had  no idea what I was going to come up with when I started this list, but I like it. It tells me quite a bit about myself. It’s no wonder I’m suspicious of authority and believe in universal human rights. No wonder at all.