Enough already!

I saw the new Star Wars movie last week; it was a good fun waste of a couple of hours. But now I think it’s time for the whole media circus to move on (at least until the next movie!)

We’ve had the hype machine running full tilt for the last couple of months, we’ve been bombarded with the ads and some of the worst product tie-ins ever. And, now the film is in cinemas, we’re seeing the internet undertaking a collective postmortem: discussing the perceived plot holes, spotting the Easter eggs and the cameo appearances, and hand-wringing over the sexual politics and gender representation. It just seems endless – to the point where we’re not enjoying the franchise as a piece of science fiction escapism any more.


Now, I’m a big time sci-fi fan, but the image above is from my Flipboard ‘Science Fiction’ feed, which has now turned almost exclusively into a ‘Star Wars’ feed.

And I’m sick of it.

Can we please all just take a deep breath and remember that it’s just a movie. And, despite the spectacle, it’s made lots of people undeservedly rich at a time when lots of ‘real’ people struggle to get by.

And yes, I do see the irony in writing about it…

The real Game of Thrones…

plantagenetsI’ve been looking forward to the new series of Game of Thrones as much as anyone. It just so happens that it’s started as I’m half way through reading Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets and, in comparison, the world of the Seven Kingdoms seems rather a tame place to live.

So there were no dragons flying about 13th century Europe at the time, but everything else is there: court intrigues, battles for succession, warring houses, pitched battles and sieges, and more rape and pillage than HBO would ever dare to show. We all crossed our legs when Theon Greyjoy was gelded in one particular scene in GoT, but this was nothing to the treatment of Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham in 1265. After being stabbed through the neck with a lance, the real fun began. According to the chronicle of Arnald FitzThedmar:

“The head of the Earl of Leicester, it is said, was severed from his body, and his testicles cut off and hung on either side of his nose; and in such guise the head was sent to the wife of Sir Roger de Mortimer, at Wiggemor Castle. His hands and feet were also cut off, and sent to divers places to enemies of his, as a great mark of dishonour to the deceased; the trunk of his body however, and that only, was given for burial in the church of Evesham.”

Add into the mix other real-life perils such as periodic eruptions of the plague, bouts of dysentery and various fevers, and terrifying rates of infant mortality and Westeros looks like Disneyland.

When did God become so dull?

God_answers_Job_from_the_Whirlwind_1803-05_(Butlin_461),_detailI’ve been reading some interesting books recently (Reza Aslan’s Zealot and Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God), on the historicity of Jesus. Strange reading material for an atheist perhaps, but I can’t help but be a ‘cultural Christian’ and the historical origins of these mythologies fascinate me endlessly.

What struck me most in my reading is how much more exciting and awe-inspiring the world of ancient belief was. The ancients hadn’t the modern conception of Heaven and Earth that we have. In many cases, the divine realm overlapped with and shared the world of men. Gods, angels and demons were all to be found in everyday life and their propitiation was as natural as baking bread and making babies.

It occurred to me how boring the God of my childhood seemed. Served by dour priests, desiccated nuns and bumbling but earnest religious education teachers, there was always something dull about the whole affair. Why were the intermediaries of the almighty so grim and austere?

Hadn’t they heard the ‘Good News’?

It seemed to me that if I did get run over while crossing the road – and if I had atoned enough for original sin already at that tender age – that hanging out with the Lord might have been about as exciting as an eternity in a dentist’s waiting room. But this after all was the God that supposedly enjoyed all those soporific hymns and wanted the same litanies to be repeated to him in a million churches, by billions of people every week.

His likeness too was always rendered as horrible, almost abstract, line drawings. I don’t know if there is a ‘Modern Catholic’ style (my artistic vocabulary fails me here), but as a child it was everywhere – from the Priests garments to the covers of hymnals and mass books. Jesus in my mind was always more ‘Badly Drawn Boy’ than Robert Powell or Ted Neeley.

Further, he was never a dynamic fighter against evil in my eyes. The cross that for many was such a symbol of redemption, to me seemed a depiction of utter failure; a dead man nailed to two planks of wood. This is born out by my reading, the Romans seemed to liberally decorate ancient Palestine and Judean countryside with the crucified at the slightest whiff of sedition.

Pre-Christian gods and monsters were fun though – give me Perseus over Paul and Tiamat over Thomas any day of the week. They’re so much more fun to play with in the childhood (and adult) imagination than anything that arrived anno domini.

Inspirations for Gape…

I’ve been busy putting up a series of images to illustrate some of the big influences on Gape. One of the problems of trying to be a bit more active on social media is having to take the decision of whether to duplicate content, so I’ll just post a link back to my Facebook page so that people can take a look if they are interested.

It’s been an fascinating little exercise in seeing just how many different sources fed into the book without me realising it at the time. But, don’t be put off by the references to Milton, Dante and medieval art. I stripped the bare essentials from these to construct my story – there’s very little that’s highbrow about Gape.

The images and references will continue to go up over the next week or so.