Either I forgot, or I thoroughly repressed just how bad episode four was. At least, I hope it was one of those two, because I would hate to think that as either an author or a reader I ever looked at this episode and thought it was good. When I went to start revisions on this episode, I floundered around, looking for some way to start, because I thought that it was so bad that no amount of revision could help. I was very nearly tempted to throw out the entire original text and start over again, and the only thing that restrained me was that I'm still nominally calling these revisions, and have promised to be somewhat true to the original episodes. That meant, unfortunately, that I was stuck with the silly plot involving some thieves, some poison, and some gold.
As I said in my review of The Hobbit, during this reread I was surprised by how light that novel is; I suspect that my memory of its tone from my last reading was affected by my intermediate viewing of the movies. Or, perhaps I was merely linking it with the core Lord of the Rings books, which very quickly take on a markedly different tone from their prequel (and yes, I know that technically there is just one "book," which was split into three parts for the convenience of readers and publishers). The implications of a darker turn are heavy throughout even the early chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, but are pivotally confirmed with the events of the chapter A Knife in the Dark.
I remember having several English teachers, especially early in my schooling, who spent a great deal of time talking about how important a good opening line is. As they likely did for many of you, they called this opening line a “hook,” and explained how the entire fate of the universe, or at least my essay, rests on having a “hook,” a first line that will draw readers in and make them desperately excited to learn more about what I have to say on such fascinating topics as Lyme’s disease, Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home, or the intelligence of dolphins.
In theory, a sufficient understanding of genetics, and the technology to implement that understanding, could lead to the ability to create custom people. CRISPR-Cas9 has delivered significant successes in genetic engineering, including human experiments in China in which a scientist used the technology to alter human embryos to remove a disease-causing gene sequence.
Finally, I am undertaking my re-read of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are certain books that are always worth re-reading, no matter how many times I may have read them before, and these most definitely make that list. Since this is the first time I'm re-reading them since I started posting reviews here on the site, I think it is only appropriate that I go ahead and review them here. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, I usually try to do a re-read every four or five years, since the first time I read them back in third grade. We'll see if I decide to re-read and post a review for The Silmarillion, too.
Don't worry: despite the title, this is not going to be a post of me complaining about something, or at least that's not how I would construe it (but then I wouldn't, would I?). Instead, I would like to begin with an observation, that observation being that humans are fundamentally lazy. Or, for those who prefer a positive spin to things (so many possible particle physics jokes there), humans are fundamentally efficient. Like nature, we are generally inclined to take the short term path of least resistance.
Though I've read Timothy Zahn before, and enjoyed his books, this wasn't a book that I sought ought to read. In fact, it wasn't even on my extensive reading list. After finishing Back to Methuselah, nothing on my reading list was really calling out to me to be read, and I happened to see that this piece was in Prime reading on Kindle, which meant I could read it for free. A short, free, light read seemed the perfect thing coming off of a heavier piece like Back to Methuselah, while trying to think of what I actually wanted to read next.
I've been wanting to write this episode, or something like this episode, for quite a long time. The idea is best summarized as Star Trek's Prime Directive, from the perspective of the "primitive" civilization, and it's an idea that I've really wanted to find a way to explore in a story. So I put it into a plot in my initial outlining of the Blood Magic second season, and have been looking forward to the chance to write it ever since. That's probably why it ended up being so difficult to write.
Over the past few months, I've been slowly making my way through the extensive historical archives of the Peanuts comic strip, starting all the way back at its inception in 1950. I don't usually get a lot out of comics, graphic novels, and other, similar forms - my patience and interpretive abilities for these visual media are only somewhat higher than my abilities to create in such media - but Peanuts was enough a part of my childhood that I am enjoying reading through them all from beginning to end. This rather esoteric project began from a random curiosity about how the strip originated, and while I continued with it in part because I was enjoying them, and out of curiosity, it also became something of a writing exercise.
Prison reform has been a subject of debate for many years now, and there has been a lot of discussion, especially in the past year or so, about what role prison is really supposed to fill. Is it punishment? Disincentive? Reform tool? Protection for society? These debates are not new; similar conversations have been occurring at least as far back as the days of Mesopotamia. In a way, it's probably a problem and a debate that comes along with the existence of society - wherever there is society, there will be those who do not obey its strictures (for whatever reason).