Time and Death in Fantasy Worlds

Since much of fantasy literature is accessible to readers of all age and education levels, writers often use a variety of methods to work around and through difficult or unsavory topics. These techniques alImage result for time and deathso help with creating an alternate view of these subjects suitable for the alternate worlds in which these stories unfold. One subject that frequently manifests itself in unique ways is that of Death. While figures like Voldemort fear and flee death, it is an inevitable part of life, and no amount of Horcruxes or Invisibility of Cloaks will hide us from it forever.  To personify Death, authors sometimes rely on the conventional imagery of the Grim Reaper, but when it comes to speculative fiction, on the page or on the screen, this image sometimes is conflated with another, that of Father Time, and, in the process of fusing Time and Death, these stories use creative imagery and unique symbolism to portray the brief candles that are all of our lives.

On that cheerful note, cue up the cowbell and follow me after the jump for a look at a few recent and popular treatments of Time and Death in fantasy worlds. It really is less depressing than it sounds, TRUST ME.

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Professor Grubbly-Plank visits Staunton, VA for annual Harry Potter Book Night

Harry Potter book night

Owl tableLast fall, the Staunton Public Library contacted me about doing a presentation for this year’s Harry Potter Book Night on Feb. 2nd. The theme was “The Professors of Hogwarts.”  I couldn’t really think of a fun activity for kids that stemmed directly from my work on Harry Potter and psychology; I had an feeling inducing Dementor-like depression or Moody-esque PTSD in the youngsters would be frowned upon.  So with my (reasonably) close-cropped and (increasingly) grey hair, I decided to don my academic gown and matching witch hat and appear as Professor Grubbly-Plank, healer of Hedwig and expert on owls. [Read more…]

Juniper, The Girl Who Lived — and the Millions of Little Girls Who Don’t

Is Juniper’s miraculous survival one of the feel good stories of all time? I think so. Here is the story of the premature birth of our heroine and the follow-up on RadioLab.

And the child’s parents are Pulitzer Prize winning journalists so Juniper’s survival became a beautifully and powerfully written book as well.

And Harry Potter plays a big part in Juniper’s survival, believe it or not. Read the article at UpWorthy, ‘J. K. Rowling Found Out Her Books Helped Save This Baby’s Life’ for that.

JuniperOn the worst night, when our 1-pound daughter was fading in the darkness of her incubator, my husband opened a book and began to read aloud.

“Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived.”

He needed to say those words. I thought it was strange that he’d chosen the first book in a seven-volume series, a series that totals more than 4,000 pages, for a little girl who might not survive the night.

“How about ‘Goodnight Moon’?” I offered. “That’s a good book.”

Tom saw it all more clearly than I did. He wanted Juniper, born barely viable at 23 weeks gestation, to hear a story about children who could fly. He wanted to read to her about a baby who survived the most powerful evil in the world because his mother stood by his crib and protected him with her life.

In our family, the Harry Potter books are dog-eared and worn.

Tears? Oh, yeah.

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A Groundhog Throwback! Revisiting Posts of the Past

Apparently, since the groundhog did behold his shadow, six more weeks of winter are on their way. Quite honestly, the groundhogs where I live could see the shadow of Elvis and we’d still be lucky Image result for groundhogtoImage result for groundhog day movie get off with only six more weeks of ice melt, mud, bitter cold, and static electricity that could easily torch a Zeppelin. However, in the spirit of things, since today is Groundhog Day, references will abound to the Bill Murray film about maximum déjà vu. It is also Thursday, which has become the day to post pictures of the past. In honor of those two  events colliding, I thought it would be fun to re-visit some past posts that I really enjoyed writing and which, since they were some time ago, some of our newer Hogwarts Professor readers might have missed. So, turn that alarm clock back a few years, Mr. Murray, and let’s relive a few past posts that may ignite new conversations!

 

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Oscar Nominations for Fantastic Beasts: Nothing for ‘Best Original Screenplay’?

OscarsWe have this year’s Oscar nominations for the films released in 2016. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them received two nods from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the categories of production design (Stuart Craig) and costume design (Colleen Atwood). Betting odds at the time of this posting have 17/3 for Costume Design, fourth out of five, and 11 to 1 (ouch) for production design, a category the gamblers have all but ceded to La La Land.

f38811174This is exactly in keeping with the performance of the eight Harry Potter franchise films on Oscar night. Those films, still the most lucrative franchise of all time not featuring comic book heroes (or adding the new Disney Star Wars to the Lucas Films haul), received 12 nominations in six categories and won exactly zero Oscars. The nominations never included a ‘Best’ picture, actor, actress, supporting actor or actress, screenplay adaptation, director, cinematography, editing or either sound editing or mixing. Nada.

You’d think, frankly, that the Academy was made up of cranky Potter Pundits who think the films were a disaster that so despoiled the imaginative experience of the Hogwarts Saga that they deserved only a Razzie (Special Achievement). Folks like me! But we know that is not true. So where’s the love? Can ten gazillion Potter film fans be so wrong about the Warner Brothers cash cow? Are the movies just high gloss schlock?

I’m not a movie guy so I’m out of this discussion, that is, any conversation beyond noting that the professionals in Hollywood sure don’t like the Wizarding World movies. 

FB21I bring all this up, despite knowing almost exactly nothing about film making, to note one thing about the Oscars this year, the nominations that Fantastic Beasts scratched out, and the lack of success of the Potter franchise through the years and, it seems, Beasts this year to win anything, even a nomination in a category of note. 

Fantastic Beasts, unlike all the Potter films, was eligible for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

This year they snubbed J. K. Rowling, The Presence Herself.

I can hear your objections. “Of course she wasn’t nominated for ‘Best Writing’! It was her first attempt at a screenplay. She and her fans should be thrilled she wasn’t short-listed for 2017’s Worst Writing, Golden Raspberry.”

FB66Fair enough. Having studied the screenplay that was published, however, and read too many of the interviews with screenwriter, producer, director, actors and actresses involved, I feel obliged to note that what we got on the screen wasn’t what Rowling wrote.

We knew of seven scenes that were cut before yesterday’s announcement that the DVD will include eleven deleted scenes. And these aren’t just lost overviews of Gotham in the 20’s. These are story elements as important as, say, the ending of the film, the unnecessary bit (?) in which Rowling showed Credence Barebone alive and boarding an ocean liner. Or the scene of the MACUSA auror Graves having the vision which drives him to pressure Credence for information about his family.

Miranda1Not only do those deletions from the shooting script create a different story than the one Rowling wrote, I think it is fair to say they changed the entire story experience. To the point, they obscure the artistry Rowling the story teller (and, oh yeah, best selling novelist of our time) brought to the table as screen writer, the ring writing that caused Lin-Manuel Miranda to call her “The Master of Reprise.”

FB73Would Rowling have deserved a nomination if the Davids had filmed the shooting script and left it as the film we saw in theaters? We’ll never know. What we do know is that whatever the Academy thought of as “failings” in her work are just as likely the fruit of the determination of her producer and director — who in all their collaborations, to repeat myself, have netted exactly zero Oscars — to make her Fantastic Beasts script into a movie that conforms to conventional formula. Rowling described the process of working with them in her Original Screenplay acknowledgments, along with some nicer modifiers, as both “exasperating” and “infuriating.”

Here’s hoping her next contract includes a clause about ‘final cut approval’ so there might be a chance that the next time a Beasts film is up for an Academy Award we don’t have to re-run this post.