Tag Archives: Literature

HAPPY BLOOM’S DAY 2017

jamesjoyceYes, it’s the 16th of June, better known to James Joyce geeks like me as Bloom’s Day. The day is named in honor of Leopold Bloom, the Jewish advertising sales rep and Freemason who is one of the major characters in Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The novel also brings along Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of his earlier novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

For those unfamiliar with this work, Ulysses is Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novel in which he metaphorically features the events from the Odyssey in a single day – June 16th, 1904, in Dublin. (The day he met Nora Barnacle, the woman he would eventually marry after living together for decades) Bloom represents Ulysses/Odysseus, Stephen represents Telemachus and Leopold’s wife, Molly Bloom, represents Penelope.

The novel is jam-packed with Continue reading

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JAMES JOYCE’S BIRTHDAY

jamesjoyceHAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JAMES JOYCE! His works got me hooked in my teens when I really related to his character Stephen Dedalus as he rejected his religion and indulged what I call his “young and pretentious side” in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I wore out my copy of Joyce’s novel Ulysses and continue to mark Bloom’s Day to this very day.

Over the years Finnegans Wake replaced Ulysses as my favorite Joyce novel and I’m fonder than many people are of his play Exiles, his “epiphanies” in Dubliners and, poetry geek that I am, even Pomes Penyeach and Chamber Music. So, if you live in Ireland, say hello to Anna Livia Plurabelle for me today!   Continue reading

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PAUL AERMONT AMONG THE PLANETS (1873): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

venus-landscapeA NARRATIVE OF THE TRAVELS AND ADVENTURES OF PAUL AERMONT AMONG THE PLANETS (1873) – I shortened the title when naming this blog post. Paul Aermont was the pseudonym of an unknown author, so full credit cannot be officially given.  

Paul Aermont, an American descendant of fallen French aristocrats, is living in Albany, NY with his parents. After running off to sea years earlier Paul has sown some wild oats and now seems willing to settle down. In his travels he has learned how to be a pharmacist but while pursuing this stable profession by day the still-adventurous young man spends his free time experimenting with gases and balloons.  

In the early 1820s Aermont discovers a fictional gas which enables his aeronautical balloon & cart vehicle to escape the Earth’s gravitational field and explore our solar system. Like other vintage science fiction that Balladeer’s Blog has reviewed this story presents space travel being possible without breathing equipment. Once in space Paul is rendered inert and is unaware of the “space currents” (sic) blowing him toward Jupiter.   Continue reading

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TEN EXAMPLES OF “ANCIENT” SCIENCE FICTION: 1634 – 1909

Forget the stories written by the usual science fiction pioneers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. This list will examine some of the nascent works of science fiction going back to before the world at large even used those words to describe this emerging genre. Though technically this examination could begin as far back as 150 C.E. with the Greek philosopher Lucian’s works like Icaromenippus and True History – both involving journeys to the moon via man-made craft – I will instead begin in the 1600s and move on to the early 20th Century.

Somnium10. SOMNIUM (1634) – Written by Johannes Kepler. Yes, this is THE Johannes Kepler the famed astronomer so this may be the earliest work of proto-science fiction written by a figure with a grounding in something approaching our own notions of rational science.

Somnium depicted a fictional visit to the moon with story details based very loosely on observations Kepler had made while observing Earth’s natural satellite through a telescope – a fairly new device at the time.  

Kepler’s work depicted the moon as a celestial body of extremes which was bisected into two regions of blazing heat and freezing cold. Nights on the moon were very mild on the side facing Earth because of the amount of reflected sunlight that our planet sends its way. Believe it or not life existed in this world of extremes – reptilian creatures which lived in caves and breathed in the lunar atmosphere. Kepler also depicted plant life – cone-shaped vegetation which went through its entire life-cycle within two weeks.

Fearing the type of persecution that Galileo had faced Kepler never published Somnium during his lifetime and even wrote it in Latin accompanied by copious technical footnotes, possibly to try to disguise it as a thesis. Even though Kepler’s story came out posthumously he might have been spared any persecution for his Copernican views even if he had published it earlier since he took the precaution of explaining the lunar journey away as a mere dream (the meaning of the word “somnium”).   

Man in the Moone9. THE MAN IN THE MOONE (1638) – Written by Bishop Francis Godwin. The Man in the Moone depicted Godwin’s fictional hero Domingo Gonsales who trained a huge flock of specially-bred swans to transport him to the moon. The book was written in the style of the accounts that the great nautical explorers of the age wrote of their travels and is often considered the first science fiction story written in English. 

Despite the tale’s thoroughly unscientific method of reaching the moon Gonsales dealt with sensations of weightlessness on his space journey in a nicely prescient bit. Godwin came very close to stating a theory of gravity even before Isaac Newton! In a nod to Dante’s Divine Comedy from centuries earlier the story also featured some of the spirits of deceased humans inhabiting the space between worlds.

Godwin depicted the moon itself as fairly Earth-like and inhabited by a race of Continue reading

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AEGIR AND RAN: NORSE DEITIES

AegirFor my full list of Norse deities click here: https://glitternight.com/2011/04/10/the-eleven-most-neglected-deities-in-teutono-norse-mythology/

AEGIR – The god of the sea who brewed the ale that he would share with the other Teutono-Norse deities when they would get together at his hall on the island of Hlesey. Many poetic references are made to Continue reading

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IT’S JAMES JOYCE’S BIRTHDAY!

jamesjoyceHAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JAMES JOYCE! His works got me hooked in my teens when I really related to his character Stephen Dedalus as he rejected his religion and indulged what I call his “young and pretentious side” in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I wore out my copy of Joyce’s novel Ulysses and continue to mark Bloom’s Day to this very day.

Over the years Finnegans Wake replaced Ulysses as my favorite Joyce novel and I’m fonder than many people are of his play Exiles, his “epiphanies” in Dubliners and, poetry geek that I am, even Pomes Penyeach and Chamber Music. So, if you live in Ireland, say hello to Anna Livia Plurabelle for me today!   Continue reading

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ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY: AUTOLYCUS circa 420 B.C.

Jesse Ventura: Wrestler turned governor of Minnesota

Jesse Ventura: Wrestler turned governor of Minnesota

With the ongoing domestic violence situation with the NFL’s Ray Rice, the fake “drowning rescue” at USC plus the usual number of other scandals plaguing high-profile athletes at the moment this seemed a good time to examine the ancient Greek comedy Autolycus. This play was written by Eupolis who, along with Aristophanes and Cratinus constituted the Big Three of Attic Old Comedy. As with so many comedies of the time period Autolycus has survived only in fragmentary form, unfortunately.

THE PLAY

The title character of Eupolis’ comedy Autolycus was an Athenian athlete who earned a high degree of fame for his performance at the Great Panathenaia in 422 B.C. To simplify the concept the Great Panathenaia was a “local” version of the Olympic games and did not have participants from all over the known Western World.

Like so many figures from ancient Athens Autolycus had both male lovers and female lovers. The plot of this comedy dealt with the way in which Autolycus’ male lover Kallias – a wealthy heir – had begun grooming Autolycus for a run at political office. The play depicted Autolycus (son of Lykon) as being all muscles and no brains, prompting Kallias to insist his lover be “coached up” on politics by one of Lykon’s servants – an erudite man who suffered financial losses and was reduced to the lackey class in Athens.  

Once again we have an ancient Greek comedy with a theme we can still relate to today. On one level we can picture unlikely figures like Arnold Schwarzeneggar or Jesse Ventura successfully winning gubernatorial races despite their public reputations as “jocks” instead of statesmen. On a deeper level the theme of the comedy can also be applied to ANY figures who are deemed politically viable because of their accomplishments in a field COMPLETELY unrelated to the skills necessary to the art of governing.   Continue reading

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