There and back again, a Postcolonial Journey.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort” (Tolkien, J.R.R. 1937)

This has to be my favourite opening to a novel, and what better way is there to open a blog? It is so evocative and descriptive, which is where Tolkien’s talents lay. He invented a rich world that can be visualised.

It is once again time for my weekly blog, and this week I have asked my students to write a blog post analysing the themes of a song, using cultural theories and methodology. In order to show good practice I will write a similar blog post.

Instead of writing about a song, I have chosen my favourite book, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. (Or should I say, one of my favourite books). This way the work can also be used for my PhD. (I still argue that Fantasy is closely linked with Science Fiction – they’re often on the same book shelves.)

My thesis: The Effect of the Second World War on The Golden Era of Science Fiction (1950-1960) must look at the postcolonial world. The world of Middle Earth and Tolkien’s writing is a good example of these theories coming to play in literature. I love the Hobbit, but The Lord of the Rings is probably a more accurate example.

It is often suggested that the Lord of The Rings was a literary response to the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The badlands around Mordor being a desolate industrial place, and Saruman the White cutting down the trees around Isengard in order to increase production of his Uruk-Hai, detestable creatures. (Jeffries, S. 2014) There is a clear black and white distinction between good guys and bad guys, good and evil. The good guys, the Hobbits live in grassy greenland free to roam the forests and wildlife, where as the bad guys seek to bring all the lands of Middle Earth under their industrial chokehold. The opening page of

The industrial revolution itself was a very colonial phenomenon, using the slave trade and produce of colonies, tobacco, cotton, sugar, etc. that was then turned into products in the factories. (Seth. S. 2013) However, the Lord of the Rings itself was more concerned with what happened after the industrial revolution. How could Sauron be defeated, and his evil grip on middle earth be distinguished?

In the end (Spoiler alert!) Frodo throes the ring, a product of the evil Sauron into the fires of mount doom, this destroying this product in the fires of its on industry. The ring itself is a magical metaphor, for power, but the end result is still the same. Sauron is gone.

At the end of the story, the Elves the omniscient ancient race that originate from somewhere outside Middle Earth (were they conquerors originally?) leave the natives to their own devices, knowing that Middle Earth is now far beyond their control, and the native peoples (Humans and Hobbits) can start to look after themselves.

To me, this is a very postcolonial outcome. Much as when the British Empire left India and the other colonies, knowing that their power was limited and the natives were rising up to take their own power. (Johnson, R. 2007) This is a very general summary, but there are definitely postcolonial themes there that can be analysed and discussed.

I would like to see what happened to Middle Earth after the Elves left. This idea has always fascinated me, and fives that great literary question, “what if?”

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment below.

 

Reference List:

Jeffries, S. (2014) How the West Midlands Black Country Inspired Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/19/how-the-west-midlands-black-country-inspired-tolkien-lord-of-the-rings

Johnson, R. (2007) The British Empire: Pomp, Power and Postcolonialism. Humanties-ebooks.

Seth, S. (2013) Postcolonial Theory and International Relations. Routledge. 

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1937) The Hobbit. George Allen & Unwin.

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1954) The Lord of the Rings. George Allen & Unwin.

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R… r… r… research.

Just a quick one this week, and a new style of topic to keep you updated with.

This trimester I am teaching a module entitled “Research Practice and Society”

Why do we research? For fiction that is quite easy to answer – if I am writing in the real world, even historical fiction I must know how things are, how they work, the realities. Even in Science Fiction I need to know the physical realities so that I don’t break them and bring the reader out of the story – but in other contexts it’s more difficult. I often tell my students that it is the best way to learn something, and I honestly believe it. And, what else is academia for, but to learn?

Anyway, during the course of the module I will be asking my students to write blog posts based on discussions and research they have conducted. When they do that, I plan to do a similar blog post so that we can compare. This week I asked them to plot out a timeline out their module, including deadlines and how they would break down the work. I tried to do something similar, but as I don’t have any real deadlines I failed. Hence this blog post, which is more of an introduction to the concept.

We’ll see how it goes next week.


Book of the Week

I finished the book I was reading last week the day after I published the blog post about it, and I have to be honest, the end didn’t really redeem it.

This week I am reading another Arthur C. Clarke award nominee (I’m actually working through last years nominees and winner), The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor.

It’s an interesting concept and quite a short novel, and there are bits that I have enjoyed. However, for the most part the prose doesn’t really interest me, and in some parts I would dare say that it becomes quite annoying. The main character is an accelerated human, who is only a matter of years old, and I suspect that the prose is written to reflect this, but it often comes across as naive and basic. This is especially frustrating when the main character has supposedly read thousands upon thousands of books in her short life, but seems amazed by the smallest detail. She also seems to fixate on food, which isn’t particularly interesting as far as the story goes.

I often find first person writing a struggle to get into. I often feel more distanced from the character, rather than finding myself in this story, and this is one of those examples. I have sixty pages left, and it is enjoyable enough that I will finish it, but I am not wowed by it.

If I were to be pedantic I would describe it as more of a fantasy novel than a science fiction novel, as none of the fantastical things that happen within its pages are explained, nor related to science. (I’m fairly sure the characters even break Newtonian Physics, but we’ll let that slide)

Anyways, I’m sure as in all things other people will enjoy the novel in their own way.

Thanks for reading!

2016 is Dead, long li- Nah, scratch that.

So, I haven’t blogged in quite a while (March last year was the last time – eek!) and a couple of conversations over the past few days have encouraged me to say hello again.

Hello! Thank you for stopping by. I’m hoping to publish a weekly blog on all sort of writing things. This may be a Wednesday, but I’m looking at posting every Monday in future as that works better for me. What day is best for your readers? For now here’s an update of what I’ve been up to.

2016 was an odd year, and a bad year for many reasons (Let’s not talk politics right now!). I spent the second half with the worst sinus infection I have ever had. I haven’t felt that ill since before I was first diagnosed with ME in 1999. From about June I felt constantly exhausted and bunged up. Only now are things starting to clear up and I’m starting to feel like normal. I’m using that as my excuse for not blogging in so long. I wanted to, believe me! During that time I’ve self-referred myself to the local ME therapy clinic, and I’m booked in for some sessions, so I’ll keep you updated on how that goes. (When I was first diagnosed there was nothing like it).

Back in June I also started work on my PhD at Liverpool John Moores University. My thesis is currently “The Affect of the Second World War on Science Fiction”. I aim to keep you updated on it through this blog. At the moment I am plotting the novel and making sure it’s of a PhD standard. I may post some excerpts/updates on research from time to time.

In May, I finished my First World War novel Objection. I’m currently making a spreadsheet of agents that are accepting Historical Fiction submissions. (If you know of anyone, agent or publisher please get in contact!) Then I will begin querying them with the novel. I’ve sent it out to one agent that I know so far, so let’s see how that goes.

As if I didn’t have enough to do, I’m currently toying with the idea of putting my MA Writing and Academic Teaching experience to good use and offering an editing/proofreading service to writers and students. I haven’t had a chance to contextualise it yet, but if you are interesting in some help then please feel free to comment below, or get in touch through my contact page and we can discuss it. I will post something more solid on this soon.

The final thing of this blog is for me to ask you, the reader, what kind of content you would like to read. If you have a particular idea you would like to know my thoughts on, or a particular writing issue that you have, then get in contact and I will try to help in a future blog. Even if you just have a question comment below and if it needs a long answer then I will incorporate it into a future blog. Another interesting question for you is, “how long should a blog be?” How far do you read before you get bored? Answers in the comments below!


One feature I would like to add to the blog is something I am currently calling “Book of the Week”.

Last year I tried to summarise all the books I had read that year with a single blog post. The problem was that I couldn’t remember much of the books I had read earlier in the year. So, from now on I will tell you which book I am currently reading and my thoughts on it. As it may take me more than a week to read some books you will see how my opinion changes throughout reading.

I’m currently about 40 pages from finishing Europe In Autumn by Dave Hutchinson. This book is published by Solaris who are predominantly a Sci Fi publisher, and it was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award.

Honestly, I can’t see how it made the shortlist. It’s an interesting idea, and a Europe of the future is intriguing. There is some intriguing Le Carréesque espionage plotting, but its main downfall is the vast swathes of info dumping. Info dumping and exposition is a trope of Sci Fi, particularly when a large amount of world-building is involved. However, when you find yourself scan reading, you know something is wrong. As with most novels, I like to persevere till the end (I usually have to know how the story ends, or I get annoyed), but I don’t think I will be recommending this one to anyone. The ending might be enough to save it, but you’ll have to find out next week!


Once again, thanks for reading, and please do comment below.