A Nod to Pulver and Burke

Across the heath

A mild satire inspired by Pulver and Burke’s list of fantasy novel tropes and clichés

“And just what qualifies you?” the Priest of the Pram gods asked.

“We’re short, for one thing,” the half-meter tall, dumpling-shaped man replied.

“Not so little. I’ve seen smaller.”

“Small enough to be called Little People and we come from a land that’s like medieval England.”

“Could help. What else you got?”

“We have about five wins against a few corrupt wizards and…”

“Just five?”

“And an evil tyrant in an extremely difficult to reach kingdom, beyond the Pramidian Ocean and past the range of Dire Woe Mountains.”

“So?”

“Who just happened to be my father.”

“You battled your own father?”

“Not exactly. He died just as we stormed his castle’s keep.”

“Stormed?”

“Well, snuck into.”

“You and who else?”

“My twin—I met her for the first time in the village nestled beneath the castle walls.”

“Nestled beneath?”

“That’s how we talk.”

“Anyone else?”

“A knight on his last quest for the perfect…”

Impatient, the Priest of Pram interrupted again. “Your adventures lack a certain something.”

“Oh, sorry, wait. I nearly forgot her (how could I do that?): Shana of the East, the clever former royal servant who stole the throne of Mordred II of the Wolds and Bournes, a misguided sorcerer if there ever was one, who died from his own poison brew. She led us.”

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” The Priest of Pram nodded to his acolytes gathered around him and the little dumpling spokesperson. “You are most suitable. Five lattes, one sugar, two no foam no sugar, two caramel syrup. Got that?”

“On it, Boss. I can call you, ‘Boss?’”

The Priest of Pram winked and dismissed the band of merry little ones with a wave of his hand.

 

 

Escape from Planet Earth

Across the heath

 

The Dilemma: should I pick up the paperback of Rutherford’s The Forest that I started a few weeks ago? I’d put the book down just as the narrative plunged me into a Georgian England setting. Or would I rather start another Terry Pratchett “Discworld” adventure, a wild ride into his magical realm of absurdities? Either choice will take me away from today’s news stories, importuning me from every media source. Should I feel badly about wanting to escape from those stories?

Earlier today, during my usual morning workout at the gym, I glanced up at the t.v. monitor just as the closed captions scrolled across images of scattered bodies after yet another massacre. The flames of eighty-plus souls, ten of them children, snuffed out in less than a minute. A commercial for fast food cut in just as I finished reading the caption. You saw the dead. Now buy a burger, dripping with cheese and bacon, waiting for you in a shiny bun; don’t forget your coffee and six or seven different doughnuts to go.

The messages were clear: yes, the news is horrifying but you need only buy a burger or a frosted pink doughnut to escape the world’s miseries and enter a more comforting zone of easy, warm treats that reassure your growing gut.

By choosing to continue reading The Forest, I escape into historical fiction, imagined in a way that persuades me temporarily that surely, in the past, people lived through worse times than our own. Certainly, if I don’t snack, the time I spend reading will be less harmful to my metabolism than a half dozen doughnuts; but neither opportunity to escape for a bit from the woes of Planet Earth excuses me from responding to crises reported in the media. The temporary relief I experience, however, gives me time to reflect and renew my commitment to be more generous and compassionate in the face of global road rage.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish all those murderous, angry folk responsible for so much grief would volunteer to man the Great Silver Cylinder destined to bring Earth’s first colonists to Mars. There, they could work out their anger and resentment or die for lack of cooperation. There, they might gain a new perspective of Planet Earth, rethink their plans, re-do their agendas, and eventually regret that they ever meant to harm, that they ever wanted to escape. Sounds like a good story waiting to be written.