July Update

Dear readers:

We've admittedly been a lot quieter around here than we expected ... one would have expected that "lockdowns" and "social distancing" might allow us to be more productive, but we've managed to keep ourselves busy and for a homeschooling family, having government schools closed didn't free up a whole lot of time.

As always we've got several irons in the fire and are plugging away at trying to finish them. You will probably see more videos posted and to that end we've set up a YouTube channel: Swords & Space TV 

We will be linking uploads to this blog, of course, so you can either just wait for those postings or subscribe to the YouTube page separately. 

On a final note, something seems to have gone wrong with our sidebars. We are looking into what's wrong and hoping it doesn't require an entire site redesign!



By Anna Blackwell (Autumn 2019; age 12)

Concept are for lizard men in Anna's world of Annataia; she has since rethought how this race might be represented in that world which we are working on turning into a "shared world" for fantasy stories from the Swords and Space Team.



Today we begin a new series that represents a collaborative work between Albert, Anna, Barbara, and James. They all developed the concept and story together, while Albert has taken on the task of pencils, ink, and colours.

It's an alternate history with comedic and sci fi elements. We hope our readers enjoy this quirky comic series.


Chesterton - Word to Write By

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.❞

Great quote for writers like myself who gets easily discouraged with his writing, and is tempted not to write because he's "not good", "not going to be published", &c. General Sherman had a similar quote that "perfect is the enemy of the good" which I think has a similar meaning.


Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Review by Godfrey Blackwell
Title: Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Excellence: 4 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: Another very solid science fiction offering from Tom Cruise that features not just good action and special effects, but a very serviceable underlying plot, lifelike characters that the viewer will connect with, and a great new take on the "Groundhog Day" style reliving of the same day over and over.

This was one of very few films in the last couple decades that I took the time to go see at the theatre and was not disappointed by one bit.

The basic plot is quite straight forward: Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is forced into what's little more than a suicide mission that is part of an attempt to halt the subjugation of earth by aliens called "Mimics". Killed within minutes, Cage then finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop - forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying over and over. He ultimately joins up with Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski and together they try to use his reliving of the same day to defeat the alien menace.

The cinematography was great and the world well-developed and realistic. This certainly helped with the suspension of disbelief, and the battle scenes were well-paced and appropriately devastating to give the viewer a very real sense of how desperate the human battle against the Mimics is.

The plot was fast-paced and well-conceived. There was even a bit of humour here-and-there, and the performances were, without exception, very well done. Special "props" to Bill Paxton for an unexpected (and very strong) performance as a drill sergeant from Kentucky. I was a bit skeptical about the Emily Blunt character going in, but I thought she was done quite well. That she goes into battle wearing a stength-enhancing combat exoskeleton compensates for one of my usual complaints about the "D&D Warrior Babe" trope (i.e. that women physically aren't as strong as men) and she did a good job of portraying a character who is much more than her exterior hard appearance suggests.

I only really had nits about the film. I wasn't crazy about how the military was portrayed, throwing completely untrained troops into battle, but I suppose this was done to convey just how hard-put humanity is. I also thought that Emily Blunt's character engaging in a very strenuous pre-battle workout was unrealistic since no soldier would exhaust themselves like that on the eve of battle, but I can see why it was done in the context of the film to convey her single-minded devotion to her craft (making war against the Mimics).

Overall, I thought this a fine, fine film. One of the most enjoyable new science fiction film I've experienced since Serenity way back in 2005. Unlike Serenity, it did quite well in the box office, thanks no doubt to a robust marketing effort and the star power of Tom Cruise -- who, it must be said, has only rarely let me down. He is a strange, strange man in his personal life, but he chooses good films and performs well in them.


The Myth of Child Brides in the Middle Ages

By Godfrey Blackwell

Time for some more history! A few months ago I did a post about medieval hygiene -- here's an easy "filler" post for this week: demolishing the myth that young girls under the age of ten were routinely forced to marry much older men [in the Middle Ages]. Now, it's true that according to the Catholic Church's canon law, girls were considered eligible to marry as young as 12 years old, and boys as young and 14.[1] However, this doesn’t mean that everyone was indeed married at the minimum age. We can use common sense to discern this, since even today Church law allows for marriage at these same ages, yet few marry that young. Furthermore, we’ve already disproved part of the myth since marriage to a girl under 12 was illegal and invalid.

Interestingly, finding sources that can give us any definitive answer about what age people were married at is difficult at best – although one can surmise that the Protestants and Modernists who concocted such canards as the child bride conceived of them from reading about certain isolated (and highly publicised) betrothals of royal princes and princesses at a very young age. Even then, these cases almost always involved a betrothal in childhood that was not translated into a sacramental marriage until many years later, or the couple would not consummate the marriage until adulthood. Further, both were of similar age. Such was the case of Catherine of Aragon’s betrothal to Arthur of England at ages three and two respectively, but they were not married until age 16. The rare cases where a young girl was married to a much older man, such as Isabelle d'Angoul√™me’s marriage at age thirteen to King John of England (aged 33) in a.D. 1200, received much attention and remained in people’s memories precisely because they were unique occasions of scandal.

Of course, royalty were a very small percentage of the medieval population and it is more useful to see when the average person married. Looking again at The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England by Barbara A. Hanawalt, we see that wills, manorial court records, poll tax lists, and parish registers all fail to give ages.[2] We must therefore look to “circumstantial” evidence drawn from cultural attitudes reflected in the primary sources.

All in all, these sources, which include those mentioned above, as well as literature, hagiographies, descriptions of domains and synodal statutes, indicate that people married at roughly the same age, and at a relatively mature age.[3] Of course, “relatively mature” depends on the culture we are looking at, and we should keep in mind that people in the Middle Ages started work quite young, with many boys entering apprenticeship at seven.[4]

Looking to more specifics, we see that in 14th century England, at least, teenagers were considered too young to marry, as reflected by the fact that in rape cases, men whose victims were teenagers were singled out as especially reprehensible by the prosecutors.[5] This reveals an attitude that girls in their teens should be sheltered from sexual encounters.

It’s also noteworthy, that the age of inheritance was twenty-one, which means that a young man could receive no money from his parents until that age.[6] Moralists of the time such as Robert Mannyng (1275-1338), a Gilbertine Monk and historiographer, considered the marriage of children an outrageous sin. Even the artists of the time wrote in ballads stories of special and tragic circumstances surrounding the taking of a young bride. [7]

All of the foregoing would suggest that most people were married in their early twenties, which is not much different than today (at least among those who don’t live in public sin before marriage). A survey of familial literature (ricordanz) of mercantile “bourgeoisie” from the Tuscany region of modern-day Italy between 1340 and 1530 shows some 136 first-time brides with an average age of 17.2 years married to husbands averaging 18 years old.[8]

[1] Rock, P.M.J., “Canonical Age”, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Nihil Obstat. 1 March, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
[2] Hanawalt, Barbara, The Ties that Bound : Peasant Families in Medieval England, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 98
[3] Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane, “Women and Children”, The Middle Ages, Fifth Edition. Ed. Brian Tierney. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999
[4] "Family Life" Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Ed. Norman F. Cantor, London: Viking, 1999.
[5] Hanawalt, supra at note 1, p. 98
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Klapisch-Zuber, Supra at note 3



By Barbara Blackwell (January 2020, age 9)

A little piece of artwork Barbara made using a "how to draw" book she received for Epiphany from Grandma.



Battle Report: Warhammer 40,000 Training Exercise

We decided it was high time to post another battle report and not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good in putting it together and posting to Swords and Space. A few weeks ago, Dad/Godfrey and Alber had time to do a quick 535 point battle of Warhammer 40,000.

The battle was Blood Angels (Albert) vs. Inquisition/Astra Militarum (Godfrey)

The battle depicted a joint training exercise between the Angels Sorrowful 2nd Company and elements of the Vth Inquisitorial Storm Trooper Cohort. Bear with us, as this was our first 8th edition battle in years AND our time every using MyMiniReport to prepare it

Angels Sorrowful, 2nd Company Detachment:

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Imperium - Blood Angels) [42 PL, 525pts] ++

+ No Force Org Slot +

**CHAPTER**: Blood Angels

+ HQ [12 PL, 178pts] +

Chaplain [6 PL, 90pts]: 5. Recitation of Focus, Bolt pistol, Invocation of Destruction, Jump Pack [1 PL, 18pts], Litanies of Hate

Librarian [6 PL, 88pts]: Bolt pistol, Force stave [8pts]

+ Troops [22 PL, 235pts] +

Scout Squad [4 PL, 55pts]
. Scout [11pts]: Boltgun
. Scout [11pts]: Boltgun
. Scout [11pts]: Boltgun
. Scout [11pts]: Boltgun
. Scout Sergeant [11pts]: Bolt pistol, Boltgun

Tactical Squad [9 PL, 94pts]
. 4x Space Marine [48pts]
. Space Marine (Special weapon) [23pts]: Plasma gun [11pts]
. Space Marine Sergeant [23pts]: Bolt pistol, Combi-plasma [11pts]

Tactical Squad [9 PL, 86pts]
. 4x Space Marine [48pts]
. Space Marine (Special weapon) [26pts]: Meltagun [14pts]
. Space Marine Sergeant [12pts]
. . Bolt pistol and boltgun

+ Elites [8 PL, 112pts] +

Sanguinary Guard [8 PL, 112pts]
. Sanguinary Guard [28pts]: Angelus boltgun, Encarmine sword [8pts]
. Sanguinary Guard [28pts]: Angelus boltgun, Encarmine sword [8pts]
. Sanguinary Guard [28pts]: Angelus boltgun, Encarmine sword [8pts]
. Sanguinary Guard [28pts]: Angelus boltgun, Encarmine sword [8pts]

++ Total: [42 PL, 525pts] ++

Inquisitorial Storm Troopers of the Vth Cohort

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Imperium - Astra Militarum) [31 PL, 525pts] ++

+ No Force Org Slot +

Regimental Doctrine: Regiment: Millitarum Tempestus

+ HQ [7 PL, 75pts] +

Lord Commissar [4 PL, 35pts]: Bolt pistol [1pts], Power sword [4pts]

Tempestor Prime [3 PL, 40pts]: Display Astra Militarum Orders, Tempestus Command Rod [5pts], Warlord

+ Troops [18 PL, 336pts] +

Militarum Tempestus Scions [5 PL, 61pts]
. 4x Scion [28pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [13pts]: Flamer [6pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [13pts]: Flamer [6pts]
. Tempestor [7pts]: Chainsword, Hot-shot Laspistol

Militarum Tempestus Scions [5 PL, 120pts]
. 5x Scion [35pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [18pts]: Plasma gun [11pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [18pts]: Plasma gun [11pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [21pts]: Meltagun [14pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [21pts]: Meltagun [14pts]
. Tempestor [7pts]: Chainsword, Hot-shot Laspistol

Militarum Tempestus Scions [5 PL, 106pts]
. 6x Scion [42pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [18pts]: Plasma gun [11pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [18pts]: Plasma gun [11pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [21pts]: Meltagun [14pts]
. Tempestor [7pts]: Chainsword, Hot-shot Laspistol

Militarum Tempestus Scions [3 PL, 49pts]
. 3x Scion [21pts]
. Scion w/ Special Weapon [21pts]: Meltagun [14pts]
. Tempestor [7pts]: Chainsword, Hot-shot Laspistol

+ Dedicated Transport [6 PL, 114pts] +

Taurox Prime [6 PL, 114pts]: Taurox Gatling Cannon [20pts], Two Hot-shot Volley Guns [14pts]

++ Total: [31 PL, 525pts] ++

INITIAL DEPLOYMENT: Both tactical squads and the scouts for the Angels Sorrowful deployed as seen below, with the scouts in the ruins to the left. The Librarian is with the scouts and the Chaplain (Chaplain Pontius) is "deep striking" with the Sanguinary Guard. The Vth Cohort Stormtroopers deployed one squad with 2x plasma and 2x melta behind the fortifications in the centre, with the dual flamer squad plus Lord Commissar in the Taurox Prime behind some rubble in the top-right corner. The remainder are in Valkyries ready for grav-chute insertion. The Angels Sorrowful had first turn:



By Anna Blackwell (Autumn 2019, age 12)

Concept are for wolf men in Anna's world of Annataia; she has since rethought how this race might be represented in that world which we are working on turning into a "shared world" for fantasy stories from the Swords and Space Team.


Moving Forward into 2020

The season of Easter, after celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ just over a week ago, seems a good time to renew our efforts at keeping Swords and Space running with regular updates and new content like we did in 2019.

Things slowed down for us a bit after the Christmas break from blogging, as several of our writers tried their hands at writing longer stories that have taken a little longe than anticipated to complete. We didn't want to start posting pieces of them without having the whole thing ready.

We've also been giving thought to changing formats somewhat ... a blog isn't the best medium for reading stories, so we are investigating options to shift to an online magazine (PDF) format. While we're working on that we will finish the series started last year such as Prowess and Loyalty and D.N.A..

We're also excited by the concept of unveiling at least two "shared universe" projects where all of our team will contribute stories set in shared settings. We're working on a science fiction setting and a fantasy setting and hope to have the inaugural stories in the worlds ready within the next few months.

In the mean time enjoy the series we are finishing up as well as artwork, concept sketches, battle reports, and musings that we'll continue to put out. And if you're enjoying the blog please consider sharing it with your friends!


Book Review: Godcountry

Title: Godcountry
Author: Colleen Drippe'
Publisher: Novelbooks
Godfrey's Rating: 4 stars our of 5
Summary in a Sentence: An original, highly engaging work of science fiction featuring the the adventures of former corporate slave Eduardo Sabat as he infiltrates the forbidden pagan "godcountry" on a remote planet on a rescue mission.

Colleen Drippe' is a fellow Catholic author -- one who's more actual author than "aspiring" like us here at Swords and Space so hats off to her. She and I (Godfrey) have exchanged several manuscripts and I've always valued her feedback. A while back she sent me a copy of Godcountry and it was very, very enjoyable. Certainly professional quality work and a lot better than most of what the library carries these days in the sci-fi genre. Consider supporting a Catholic author, and you'll get your money's worth with this book.

It is out of print, however Amazon still sells a Kindle version. Now, to the book itself, here's the summary given on Amazon and the back of the book:

Eduardo Sabat, corporate slave, is accidentally freed when his company's main computer is destroyed. He accepts a search and rescue job in planet Quele's Godcountry Preserve where he once served his company as a professional tomb robber. Before he departs, his estranged artist wife is murdered and he suspects Maureen, his first love and also a former slave. On Quele, he and Maureen stalk one another as she leads a rival expedition into the forbidden preserve. He asks himself -- does he hate, love, or pity her? And is she the murderer or not?

Quele is the planet that hosts "godcountry", which is an area revered by the pagans that live there who revere it as a sort of preserve where their gods dwell. For any unbeliever to enter is death. This was an interesting starting point, and the cultures represented in the work were rich and well-developed. As the summary suggests, the characters were also complex, unique, and interesting. Eduardo's shady background provided extra layers to what otherwise is a relatively straight-forward rescue mission plot.

I really enjoyed the speculative future that Colleen developed for this work. It is a future that recurs in a number of her works. To get around the question I struggle with of how to deal with sentient extra-terrestrial life, she posits a situation where tendrils of a wormhole-like thing called "the net" touch down periodically on planets. Thus, in earth's pre- and early history groups of humans were taken and deposited on far-away planets and have thus developed over millennia totally ignorant of earth. Thus providing some fascinating alien cultures and even people that often look rather alien. I thought this was a rather elegant solution and certainly original.

The story was also very well-paced, with lots of good twists-and-turns. She did not shy away from killing some characters, and presented an appropriately realistic human nature without going overboard √† la A Game of Thrones. So good action, good conflict, but also a very good theme and moral to the work. Two thumbs up!


Book Review: The Hunger Games

Review by Godfrey Blackwell

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Godfrey's Rating: 2 stars
Summary in a Sentence: A mediocre "dystopian future"-themed young adult novel that features the disturbing spectacle of children killing each other in gladiatorial-style games, which has neverthless touched something in the young-adult crowd being a best-seller for some time now

Just to start off, a very quick recap of the basic plot of this novel, for those unfamiliar with it:

The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopic far-future North America, in a state named "Panem", composed of a capital and 12 districts. Years ago the districts rebelled, were crushed, and now as a punishment with send one randomly-selected boy and girl between 12 and 18 to the yearly Hunger Games. At those games the contestants battle to the death until there is just one survivor. Katniss Everdeen, a 17-year-old inhabitant of District 12 volunteers to be her district's female "tribute" when her 12 year old sister is chosen.

Much of what I wrote in my review of the film version of The Hunger Games applies to the novel, but I would add some commentary that pertains specifically to the novel. If asked which of the two I preferred, I think that the film was slightly less cynical and was a lot easier to "consume" owing to the fact that I really disliked the first-person present tense the novel was written in. It was like nails on a chalkboard for me, quite honestly.

But setting that stylistic concern aside, in terms of the cynicism, most of the characters were even more evil or unlikeable in the novel, whereas in the film they were made a bit more human with SOME redeeming qualities. Haymitch Abernathy (a previous survivor of the Hunger Games from District 12), for example, while still a drunk and a pig, was rather charmingly portrayed by Woody Harrelson in the film -- whereas in the novel he was completely disgusting, passing out in his own vomit and scarcely of any assistance to anyone. Katniss herself was, if possible, even less heroic and more out for herself.

This played-out especially in the "romance" between her and Peeta Mellark (the other District 12 "tribute"). In the film, it was ambiguous as to whether it was all an act or if she had developed some feelings for him. In the novel, it is made repeatedly clear that she is only pretending affection for him to gain a benefit in the game. Which left a rather sour taste in this reader's mouth, as this came across as a form of prostitution. Yet I wonder if this isn't another area of resonance with young adults, especially young ladies? Sex is literally pushed on these young people from a very young age with "sex education" in schools and a constant bombardment of sensuality in the media they are absolutely marinated in (television, music videos, the internet). And I suspect that the young ladies are not quite as enthusiastic about it all as the young men are, and thus to a degree feel "pressured" into it for reasons not unlike Katniss. Especially when coupled with the sense of abandonment from parents and the resultant "looking for love in all the wrong places".

The sense of abandonment for adults and even hatred of them was more prevalent in the novel. At least once per chapter or every other chapter, Katniss reflects back on her father's death and mother's depression/mental abandonment that followed. With these internal monologues, it is made more clear how completely Katniss had to care for herself and her sister.

Chapter nine has a quote that I thought fairly summarizes how many young people feel today: "All I can think of is how unjust the whole thing is, the Hunger Games. Why am I hopping around trying to please people I hate?" For sure, not all of today's young adults feel that way, but it seems that a number of them do, if one is to judge by anecdotal evidence, high suicide rate, and media. I believe that sense is part of why (perhaps subconsciously) the youth have been so drawn to this work. Of course, it's highly a problematic theme because it helps entrench the "war between the generations".

The worldbuilding was seriously lacking, and this is another area where I get my "mediocre" descriptor from. For science fiction, there was scarcely any world building to speak of beyond a vague sense that this is a far-future "post apocalyptic" world. There was no history presented other than the rebellion that led to the Hunger Games, no sense of how Panem came to be, why there was a revolt in the first place, how the districts came to be so thoroughly crushed that they don't protest the barabric spectacle of the Games. But further, the attempt at a completely "post-Christian" world made no sense, from a perspective of human nature. Let us assume that in this post-apocalyptic America all vestages of Christianity were eradicated so long ago that the society is basically a pre-Christian one (because of no knowledge of Christ or Christianity at all) -- people would not behave like modern liberals in such circumstances. The whole glorified suicide at the end is a good example of this. No society has ever treated suicide this way.

So, on the whole, I wasn't much impressed with the work. I didn't find it particularly original or entertaining. It was disturbing in parts, which isn't of itself bad, but as I referenced in the movie review,  was perverted in this novel with its amorality (or attempt at it). Ignoring the grating present tense, the writing was good but nothing extraordinary. Worldbuilding seriously sub-par. Characters were decent, but were better in the film (perhaps evidence of Suzanne Collins' skills improving since she wrote the screenplay?).


Swords and Space One Year Old!

Swords and Space launched on January 15th of 2019, and over the course of the year we've posted 120 articles, pieces of artwork, or short stories.

Photo by Anna-Louise from Pexels


Book Review: Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman

Review by Godfrey Blackwell

Title: Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman  
Author: Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Publisher: Bantam
Godfrey's Rating: 2.5 stars our of 5
Summary in a Sentence: The 30-years-in-coming sequel to A Canticle for Leibowitz which shows flashes of the original's brilliance, but on the whole ends up being a disjointed and lacklustre, though interesting, parallel novel to the classic original.

This is one of those books that a really wanted to like, and which had many elements that I did like, but in the end must be called disappointing and perhaps mediocre. Although, to be fair, it did grip my attention sufficiently that I kept reading it every lunch break until it was done which cannot be said for other novels like Witch World which I've been "working on" for 6 months and just cannot get into it. I finished off Saint Leibowitz in less than a month despite continued illness.

The main character, Blacktooth Saint George, is one of the main problems with this work. He's basically a narcissistic, self-centred, whiner. At the beginning of the novel, this is forgivable, as he still has a certain likeability about him, a charming naivete, and he is still struggling manfully to overcome his demons. So one expects him to develop into a good protagonist, but rather than develop he tends to stagnate and even regress over the course of 450 pages. As far as I was concerned, he'd devolved into a thorough donkey cave by about page 300 and did not redeem himself by the end.

The good of the work is the worldbuilding. Taking place around the time of the second novella in the classic original, this work fleshes out the post-apocalptic North America A LOT more. This was very well (and thoroughly) done and enjoyable. Aside from Blacktooth Saint George, there were a number of interesting and likeable secondary characters, although some of them seemed to disappear around the halfway point of the work.

The plot tends to jump around a bit too, and the end seemed very rushed. In all, the novel really felt like something that a man had struggled with for 30 years and then had it finished by someone else who was unwilling to input too much of himself into the work, and therefore leaving blanks instead. It definitely had flashes of Miller's brilliance from the original and many memorable individual scenes. But as a whole, the work just does not hold up. It is also a much more depressing and "dark" work in the "Game of Thrones" vein where there are few real good guys and everyone does lots of very bad stuff (some of it seemingly for no reason) evincing a tortured soul who, if he hadn't lost his faith, was on the verge of it.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...