Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Guide to the Ambrosian University

If you have been a patient reader of this blogg (alas so rarely updated) and a patient reader of the Saga and its related works, you will know of the famous Ambrosian University in Milan, PA - a school attended by certain people such as Joe Outis (the Control Room Guy), Mike, Matt, and Mark Weaver, Steve Brown Chuch Weller, Malc Jones, Chris Reynolds, and so on. But there is very little told about this famous school in the Saga itself, except that it is a "Newman School" and is located in the rugged mountains of northwestern Pennsylvania. (Note: the author suggests you not bother hunting for Milan using your favourite map quest tools. It is not there to be found.)

Now, however, all that has changed. A Guide to the Ambrosian University is now available! This book presents a useful guide to the Ambrosian University: its history, its physical layout, its intellectual designs, and much more. There are maps of the town and the campus, and several pages of the questions everyone asks about this remarkable and highly ranked school. There is also a chapter on its sole varsity sport, the strange and greatly entertaining game of Gype, invented by no less intellectual masters than H. G. Wells and G. K. Chesterton!

Finally, there is a lengthy narrative on the experience of the Orientation Week for incoming freshmen - as seen through no less than the Weaver triplets. Strange and unexpected activities occur - and you will find out what they are, though at the end you may still be wondering (as the Weavers did) why such things are done: why they had to measure blocks of wood, why they had to make and bake bread.

Once you read it, you will want to attend - or at least visit. And sooner or later, it may be possible for you do to so. There is no reason why the Ambrosian cannot exist in this world...

It can. It should. But then somebody has to do the hard jobs.

The campus of the Ambrosian University. (NTS)

Christmas joys – More Quayment Short Stories

Hurray! A new book for your delight!

The book is called More Quayment Short Stories: a new collection of short stories about our favourite triplets - Mike, Matt, and Mark Weaver - in that famous old seaside book-town, Quayment. Lots of fun, and lots of new details about the Weavers and their friends. A trip to Kentucky, a flight in a helicopter - well, actually two flights, for two rather different reasons - a complex mystery involving Morse and our heroes in some very unusual situations - and then, a tale of how Mark gets lost in a snowstorm on the south side of town and finds himself haunting a bookshop...

Friday, June 12, 2015

Stories about St. George are NOT about cruelty to crocodiles!

Wow, I read that line in GKC some years ago - it is in a most excellent little study about adventure stories, a study which could easily be said to be the foundation-stone of my Saga. I will give you just the concluding paragraph:
Thus a real adventure story cannot be made on a certain moral or immoral model not uncommon in modern books. I mean the sort of story in which the hero is the villain. The hero need not be directly dealing in morality, but his own moral position must be by implication secure and satisfying; for it is the whole meaning of adventure that his soul is the fixed point in a wildly agitated world. Stevenson, who can be quoted so profitably about all romance, may here be quoted against himself. The adventures of the Master of Ballantrae among pirates and hunters are not adventures in the boy's sense, and do not satisfy any boy. And that is simply because he cannot sympathise with James Durie as he does with David Balfour. And if we cannot make such romance out of the Master, who was at least a gentleman and a fighter, we need hardly look for it in the miserable modern attempt to make a romance of business out of the tricks of hucksters and swindlers. A man may make excellent comedy out of the evasions of a rascal; but a comedy is a totally different conception from an adventure story. There must not obviously be any irony in an adventure story. When I read in my boyhood books like those of David Ker, or like those of Kingston and Ballantyne, they had to be read with the single eye with which a man sees danger, and not with the stereoscopic squint with which he sees incongruity. I rejoiced whole-heartedly when the brave English sailors captured the slaver; and I was right, because bravery is a good thing and slavery a bad thing. With fuller historical knowledge, I can easily find irony in the incident. I have come to know something about the English Press Gang and the English Poor Law. But that has nothing to do with it, any more than sympathising with St. George against the dragon has to do with cruelty to crocodiles. The child or the boy is quite right in believing that there really is a dragon somewhere, and that the harder he is hit the better.
[GKC ILN Sept 23 1922 CW32:453-4]

Now, anyone who knows about fantasy stories and dragons will understand, as GKC did, that we often need to have dragons in our adventures, even if they are the far more nasty sort which look like human beings from the outside. There are other things which we also need, and some of them are well worth spending serious time examining, just as any computer scientist has to spend time examining the theory behind the algorithms and data structures which he intends to use in an actual piece of software. Sometimes (ahem) yes, SOMETIMES, these things work a little differently in practice.

But we were talking about dragons, and of course whether we consult Tolkien (whose grandmother, I believe, taught him that we always say "the great green dragon" not "the green great dragon") or Chesterton (who taught us that "if there was a dragon, he had a grandmother" - whoever we consult we learn that dragons must be used with extreme caution, like recursion.
Us computer guys like to point out that using recursion requires what is known as the "terminating condition", which no less an authority than GKC also declares:

...if in the course of his adventures he finds it necessary to travel on a flaming dragon, I think he ought to give the dragon back to the witch at the end of the story. It is a mistake to have dragons about the place. [GKC "The Strangeness of Luxury" in Alarms and Discursions]

Just to give you an example for your study, you can see one way of handling these creatures

in my short story, How Mark Earned a Dragon, courtesy of Loome Books - or you can get the tactile edition here.

And if you want to know more about recursion, check out my Case Studies The Problem with "Problem-Solving Skills". Remember, you have to know how to give the dragon back when you're done... or you may risk - ah - confronting an army of brooms carrying buckets full of water.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Finally, an artist's conception of the Chivalry Club!

Even the best authors often leave "wiggle room" in their descriptions of even their greatest and best known characters. Some of the most famous characters of literature have gone through variations, sometimes due to the author's approval of some artist's approximation - I am thinking of Sherlock Holmes. There are others where the rendition (especially in movies) does not agree with even the more sparse descriptions - and here I am thinking of... well, never mind.

Anyway, I am finally able to present you with an artist's approximation of the 13 members of the Chivalry Club, as of the fall of 2016. I am not going to tell you where this is, or what is going on... if you're read far enough you will know. Otherwise, you might be curious enough to want to find out.

And if you do know what's going on, and what that large gray odd-looking thing in the foreground is, you might try guessing who is who.