12.18.2020

SHORT STORY: RACING RIVALS

Racing Rivals
A story of the chariot races.

By Anna Blackwell (April, 2020 - age 12)


    Cid looked up from the parchment he was reading.

    “Aw man where the hack is he?A hour and a half late?An hour and a half!”he exclaimed.

    “I mean this is serious,” said Perseus who was looking from behind a pillar at the audience.”they are going to start eating each other out there.”

    “Humph, he is probably in bed praying to what ever gods he prays to not to send a thunder bolt to get him while he is laying there.” said Virtius a roman tribune, who was fiddling with his gold plated helmet. "He knows today will be a defeat.”

    “Well you should have done the same roman! Victory is in sight!” Cid said pointing to no where in particular.

    Now we have first showed the competitors waiting for another competitor who appears to be late.But let’s get into greater detail about the three while we what for the other challenger to arrive.

    Cid was a Decurion (commander of ten men) from the Roman auxiliary Unit from Hispania (Spain). His main Goal in the races was to gain Roman citizenship. Another reason was to defeat his all time rival Virtius, a rivalry he is confident to win. Now for the chariot which he rides, drawn by a dark brown horse. His Chariot was black on the bottom half and green on the top half with gold trimming in between. His chariot also bore a green flag and his most prized weapon, a club head mounted on a spear to replace the spear head. On the front Cid had attached the skull of a bull he had defeated. His racing colour was green

    Perseus was a famous greek from Athens,he was very famous for slaying the monster Medusa.In fact to display his achievement,he carried a replica of Mudusa’s head(it was really made of a old mop).He was black,green eyes,he wore a blue toga and a gold hemet with wings on the sides.His chariot was red,with yellow engravings,a splendid black horse with a mane dyed orange proudly pulled his chariot.His main goal in the races is to showoff his heroism.His racing colour was yellow.

    Virtius is a roman tribune who got his promotion during the campaign on Egypt with Caesar Augustus.His main intention at the races was to display Rome’s power and superiority and to defeat his all time rival Cid.He wore his finest war amor and helmet which was gold plated and had to outstretched wings on it.His chariot was glossed in red colour,gold thunder bolts were engraved at the base area of the chariot,another larger thunder bolt was engraved on both sides of the chariot.A two golden lionesses were carved on the chariot,one on each side,right under the two large thunder bolts.Attached to each of the wheels was a jagged spike used for destroying other racers wheels.

    A majestic black stallion nobly drew his chariot. His racing colour was red.

    A commotion came from the stalls. A chariot painted in the colours of dark blue and moss green being pulled by a nut-coloured horse drove towards them. A rider with no helmet, wearing a red, woven garment directed the horse up to them.

    “Whew, our champion Alexander, has come forth! Ha,ha," he said. "Wow, quite an audience huh? Hey, am I to late for Virtius chariot crash?’

    Virtius moved his horse away from Alexander's chariot in disgust.

    “Oh I guess not,” Alexander said moving his chariot into position. Both Cid and Perseus were looking at him.

    “Ok, what did I do?” Alexander asked. ”What?”

    Before any of them could answer,a roman ran up to them.”Oh good,he is here.”he said almost out of breath.”Hurry,the crowd will wait no longer.”

    “Don’t worry Roman, we are all ready.” Alexander said clutching a scabbard which held a crude dagger,he liked to use when his wheels got damaged, because when they did he would jump onto another racer’s chariot. Stab the driver and take the chariot.

    Once the competitors had been positioned correctly,they drove their fine chariots into the arena.Oh the cheers and cries of the crowd,with such voice to make ones ears burst.For all to see the racers in full view,they round around the arena once.And then finally stood still for the caesar(Augustus)to name the competitors.

    After the crowd was silenced,Caesar stood up and being given the parchment in which the names where written he spoke:

    “Alexander from Alexandria.” Hearing his name, Alexander waved and nodded left and right to the crowd also giving them his winning smile. A lady dressed in a light blue tunic tossed him her scarf.

    “Perseus, Athens.” Perseus drew forth the (fake)head of Medusa for all to see once they heard his name. The few people from Greece broke into a loud acclamation.

    “Virtius from Rome” With his name being spoken, Virtius put his right hand on his hip and stood up proudly on his chariot as the roman citizens cheered him as if a hero, the people from Hispania payed no attention.

    “Cid From Hispania.” Cid waved to the crowd and pulled back his left sleeve to reveal his muscles as his name was spoken. The people from Hispania went into a series of hurrays, the roman citizens seemed to ignore him.


    With their names revealed, Caesar Augustus drew forth a white handkerchief; once he dropped it the race would commence.

    Alexander, Perseus, Virtius and Cid readied their horses to gallop at the signal.

    The white handkerchief fell and the horses galloped off,Cid in the lead.

    Now we give record of the race. As we said Cid is in the lead and Virtius is right behind him.

    Alexander ordered his horse to go faster,poor Perseus was lagging behind.Virtius was trying to get closer to Cid to try and break Cid’s wheel with his spikes attached to his own.

    For the next 3 rounds,Cid and Virtius remained to neck to neck.Virtius steered his chariot to the right but missed Cid’s chariot by an inch and ended up behind him.

    “Nice try, Roman but I’m going to win!” Cid shouted.

    “Ha you wish!” Virtius said a trick right up his sleeve.

    “No I know. Victory is in sight!” Cid yelled.

    Virtius ignored Cid’s cry to victory and drove his chariot to the side and continued forward regaining his position beside Cid.

    Cid tried to move out of the way but to his misfortune,as he made a tight turn around the corner.Virtius wheel got to close to his.The spike on Virtius’s wheel jammed into Cid’s wheel and began tearing it up.

    Soon it broke into splinters. Cid’s chariot crashed into a wall.Cid fell out of his chariot,only to have it fall on top of him. The Hispanianian”s watching groaned at the sight.

    Alexander’s tried to steer out of the way of the wreckage but skidded and crashed.Alexander was thrown clear from the crash. He stood up shaking his fists at Virtius who only pointed behind Alexander,who turned around to come face to face with Perseus’s chariot. With no time to get out of the way, Alexander was run start over by the chariot.

    “See you later Cid!”shouted Virtius.The last round was commencing”there was no way I’m going to lose now.”Virtius thought as he neared the finish line.

    But little did he know his wheel was under stress and was beginning to break.Then just before his victory was clear the wheel broke!Virtius was sent flying to the ground only to get his head stuck in the(unbroken)wheel of his chariot.

    The Roman citizens moaned seeing their champion down.

    Meanwhile Perseus smiled seeing his path to victory had been cleared. But his success didn’t last long for he didn’t have time to turn around the wreckage of Virtius’s chariot. So while his horse flew safety over the wreckage Pursues’s chariot didn’t for it caught hold on Virtius’s chariot and Pursues was dumped head first into the sand.

    A sudden hush fell over the ground and then suddenly the arena exploded in a series of hurrah,yay, and many other cheers.The people stood up cheering and shouting.

    Caesar Augustus smiled.” The people are happy and that makes me happy.”he said as the stretcher men came out to carry out the injured racers from the arena.

The End

12.16.2020

Book of the New Sun (Book Review)

 


Title: The Book of the New Sun: Shadow and Claw
Authors: Gene Wolfe
Publisher: Bantam
Godfrey's Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) 
Summary in a Sentence: Masterfully crafted, eloquent, and original first two novels following Severian, Journeyman of the Torturer's Guild, but not for the faint of heart due to adult content and "heavy" language.

Shadow and Claw is a compilation of the first two novels of The Book of the New Sun, a fantasy/sci-fi quadrology set in a far-future and post-apocalyptic earth (called "Urth" by the inhabitants). It is a very unique novel, so unique that I'd urge caution upon anyone approaching it because it will be unlike anything you've read before. Therefore, one must set aside any preconceived notions about fantasy or expectations when picking up the novel.

The novel is told from the first-person perspective of Severian, initially a novice and then a journeyman of the "Torturers' Guild". In this far-future setting this guild carries out the punishments ordered by the mysterious and remote Autarch. This in itself makes the novel unique and the main character an interesting one, who has a certain personal code of honour but has been raised from birth among a group of men who carry out brutal acts with a certain professional pride. He falls in love with one of the "clients" which leads to his fall from grace with the guild and is sent out to travel to a remote town to act as executioner as a punishment that will save the honour of the guild. Many strange and interesting episodes ensue. A very original and fully developed/realised future earth serves as a fantastic setting.

The writing is fairly dense, but extremely eloquent. Award-winning science fiction author Michael Swanwick has said: "Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today. Let me repeat that: Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today! I mean it ... among living writers, there is nobody who can even approach Gene Wolfe for brilliance of prose, clarity of thought, and depth in meaning." I am inclined to agree and the rich prose is a big part of the enjoyment to be had in reading this series. Many wonderful arcane words are used to add to the feel of a foreign world, but it is not a particularly easy read as a result.

A word of warning, and a complaint I have about the book: there is some adult content in the novels and certainly they should not be read by anyone other than a mature adult. There are at least three scenes that I recall that really pushed the boundaries of propriety. Young adults should not be allowed to read the book for this reason. It may also be said that Severian is a bit too "irresistible" to women and my ability to suspend disbelief was taking a bit of a beating with the frequency at which women who've only just met him throw themselves at him. Yet on the other hand I think it offers a brutally honest portrayal of human nature -- and I say this not solely in reference to the "naughty bits" but to the behaviour of characters in general.

I have found over time that this is a novel that has really "stuck" with me and I find myself thinking about it over time leading me to re-read it at intervals. It is not for everyone, but certainly worth a try.

12.09.2020

Foreign Languages


A friend offered four possible ways of portraying foreign language in prose and asked fellow writers (myself among them) which is the preferable method: 

1) Repetition in the dialogue using the main narrative language: The German tipped his hat to the Englishman. "Wie heissen sie? What is your name, sir?" 

2) Explanation in the tag: "Wo yao yi ping lu de che," she said, ordering a cup of green tea. 

3) Direct translation in italics: "Ite maledicte in ignum eternum!" Depart ye evil-doer into everlasting fire! 

4) Don't offer any help; let the reader sort it out for himself. 
My preference lies with #2 although I've also used #4 and tried to provide enough context that the reader will have an idea. I agree that one should be very judicious in the use of foreign languages and especially to make sure that what you've written is correct. 

In a fantasy/science fiction context, unless you're a linguist like J.R.R. Tolkein, I think a writer should avoid creating a language and using it in the text at all costs. Rather, think of the general sound (gutteral, singsong, &c.) and describe that rather than making up words. 

That said, I found a very good "toolbox" for creating new languages here: http://www.zompist.com/kit.html and have tried it out myself. In the end, I decided it was way too much work for the results a non-linguist sucha as myself (I only speak one language, a linguistic phillistine, really) would get out of it.
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