24 Jun 2015

Poem: Jörmunísskast

‘Alex!’ you cry; ‘wherever have you been? And don’t you owe us a poem?’ you enquire. Well, dear reader: you are indeed correct. Though my blogging has been less than impressive so far—blame the writing of personal statements—I do nevertheless have a poem in store for you. ’Tis known as Jörmunísskast (literally ‘Great Ice Castle’ in Norse) or Aslaug the Banished.

It may be helpful to know some of the underlying context behind this, however, before you go jumping in. Aslaug is in mythology proper a noble princess raised by peasants; I, however, have taken liberty to name Aslaug a daughter of Loki, and a former idol of man. Being displeased of her power, Odin banished her to Niflheim—the land of ice.

Aslaug, of course, was less than pleased with this development; and so she schemes, in her grand ice castle, of how she may contrive to grasp her former power.

As befits a dark goddess, Aslaug is a bitter old soul. She harkens to the days of old, when men bowed to her might, and she was great; and she holds her new protégées—the creatures of the Ice: Frost Giants, sea serpents, great bear-like beasts—in contempt. Jörmunísskast, on the other hand, is forged of her own power. It is a testament to her invincible power; to her rule, over her dark, cold realm.

In any case; I’ve given you enough on the way of background. If you are unfamiliar with the better known tenets of Norse mythology, Thor and Loki are the gods of thunder and wickedness (respectively) and have been at each other’s throats since time-immemorial. Hrothgar is a clement King described in the Beowulf saga; Midgardr is the ‘middle world,’—the human realm; and the serpent is Jörmungandr, a massive sea serpent that encircles Midgardr, and a child of Loki. Now, feel free to take a look…

Jörmunísskast, or Aslaug the Banished

Jörmunísskast, how great are thee!
O’er fallen cries of great white beasts
You stand tall; and even Winter’s
Inclement caress
Can but grace those
Gleaming icen walls.

You call Jörmunnordr—the
Great North—your timeless foe;
And yet, as you stand proud;
As you hold defiant, to savage Viking cry
And mighty Godly bellow
You call Jörmunnordr, brother.

Neither invaders’ grand desire
Nor death’s timeless machinations
Can defeat the regents of the Ice.
Your graceful, arrogant towers
Reach, with foolish hand, to Asgard’s
Fickle realm.

Of Niflheim, you are; and in
Your everlasting purlieu, your land
Of ice and star; your Queen,
Grows restless, in audacious

Like Thor and Loki,
You, Jörmunísskast, are but damned
To battle eternal; for she,
Man’s bitter love past
Shall forever lust for that
Forbidden fruit.

‘Let man tremble against the powers of the ice,’ says she;
The capricious beast!
‘Let him wonder, as he enjoys ephemeral fire,
‘Of what patient foe lurks deep in northern Hinterland.’
’Tis true, her word: for man knows
The fickle heart of that capricious god.

When the Frost Giant’s breath shall blow far;
When darkness shall covet stars
Aslaug’s dreams shall find solace.
In her throne—a sculpted totem
Of Winter’s incipient fury—she smiles
Eyes gleaming, cold blue.

Like Hrothgar’s magnanimous caricature
She walks, form posed in lethal grace;
Ice follows faithfully, and the Cold Ones
Await her bloody promise.
‘Rise! Rise, creatures of the ice,’ she calls.

Her hand aloft, her sword alight
She calls to Jormunisskast:
‘Stand with me, great ice castle;
Stand, and let our enemies
Know Winter’s age-old wraith.’
So says man’s former Queen.

In Midgardr, the serpent coils
And the gates are torn asunder.

I shall also take the liberty to draw your attention to a few of the particulars. Take:

Neither invaders’ grand desire
Nor death’s timeless machinations
Can defeat the regents of the Ice.
Your graceful, arrogant towers
Reach, with foolish hand, to Asgard’s
Fickle realm.

The first few lines concern themselves with our castle’s impressive record: it has repelled Aslaug’s enemies in Asgard (the realm of the Gods), and it has even defeated the dauðr—undead beings of the ice, and former denizens of Niflheim.

The lines thereafter, however, are interesting in that they pay homage to a Christian myth: the Tower of Babel. Aslaug, the former God, still desires a place at Odin’s side; and, fittingly, her pride is what ultimately resulted in her losing it.

Let us also take a look at Jörmunnordr—the Great North. In some ways, it is Jörmunísskast’s enemy; or, implicitly, Aslaug’s foe. After all: Aslaug despises its denizens, and Jörmunnordr is a wall against her former worlds.

And yet, the two are like rival brothers. They seem to possess great dislike of one another; and yet, nevertheless, they share a fraternal bond—a brotherly camaraderie forged of common enemies and desires. There is also a literal aspect to this: the ice castle is designed both to hold the Great North’s elements at bay, and to guard Aslaug from her enemies. The former leads the two to enmity, while the latter is a gift they share.

Very well. I have discussed this little side-poem in detail; now I must concern myself with essays, more poems for the Fallen Saga, and of course: the Ark. With regards to the latter, I shall present to you two things: firstly, the ‘Upcoming’ page, which has been requested; secondly, I shall plan and begin the Ark.

Until then—may the stars be with you.

18 Jun 2015

A Review

Hail readers!

As promised, here is my review of Epiphanies Whilst High out of One’s Mind by HT Yim. Courtesy goes to Sage (my eminent blog tour host) for sending me a review copy, and of course: to Hayoung Yim, for indulging in this whole charade.

This review will also be up on my Reviews page (of course) and will soon be released on Goodreads and Amazon.

‘Alex!’ you cry; ‘surely you have not forgotten that you are a writer, as opposed to some high-brow, tedious critic?’ you may enquire. Rest assured that I have not forgotten; rather, I aim to provide you, firstly, with a taste of my writing in other endeavours; and secondly, to fulfil my duties as a blog tour host.

Rest assured also that I am fully engaged with my usual literary enterprises: I have another essay cooking (did anyone say Marxism?), a poem—likely one not part of the Fallen Saga—and of course, the Ark is coming soon.

Until then, you might as well take a look at this charming insight into the ever-contentious drug.

Epiphanies Whilst High out of One’s Mind: A Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a free review copy by Sage’s Blog Tours; I was not compensated for this review, and write this in the full capacity of an impartial reviewer.

Epiphanies whilst High (as I shall name for the sake of brevity) is in many regards an aptly named memoir: the author details her personal experiences with the dubious substance—giving fascinating detail both on the pleasant and unsavoury aspects of the drug—as well as, curiously enough, the epiphanies that she experienced whilst under its influence.

Nevertheless, I feel this limits the scope and efficacy of this work; for although personal experience can be valuable—there is something more human to introspective prose than what cold reason can hope to bequeath—the essay was nevertheless held back by a lack of detailed analysis. There was no mention of why marijuana was different from, say, alcohol; and by this I mean not in the sense of the drugs’ effects (in fact that was elucidated on handsomely) but rather: why is one permissible instead of the other, and why does the author think marijuana should be legal as well?

I also felt the essay could have done well to have included some political philosophy (with which the author clearly was familiar). There was no mention of internal vs external freedom, for example, or why marijuana might impinge on the latter. Nor was there any consideration to the value of freedom per se, and how marijuana use fitted into that.

The author did elaborate on the health effects of pot—she for example personally experienced memory loss—but never did she ask the reader to question whether these are cause enough to ban weed.

I would also have enjoyed some jurisprudent analysis. It isn’t illegal to consume alcohol while pregnant, for example, even if it is highly recommended against by doctors[1]; nor is it illegal to purchase substantial amounts of alcohol, or to get drunk (though some limited laws have been passed). If weed were legal, how would these legal issues be addressed? What about those prone to schizophrenia? Or teenagers?

Opprobrium aside, I nonetheless enjoyed Epiphanies. For one, it was genuinely humorous; Yim has a talent for injecting seemingly ordinary situations with just a slice or two of craziness (and I don’t mean that in a literary sense).

For two, Epiphanies is written in a curiously descriptive—even novelistic—style, that works well to pique the interest of the reader. One feels more inclined to describe Epiphanies as a new adult romance, as opposed to a dry political essay. Were I not so punctilious a soul, however, I might not comment on the author’s literary failings. Yim has a tendency to begin most of her scenes with pathetic fallacy; and initially, this works well; but soon, it grows a little tedious.

That said, Yim’s skill as a writer isn’t in doubt: she writes in a clear, and sophisticated yet informal manner that allows one to both easily absorb the content of her words, and to enjoy Epiphanies as a memoir. In this regard, I will pose no criticism. What I will comment on: some of her eponymous epiphanies.

Some are quite fascinating. She ascribes the feeling of an uncertain relationship to be much like deciding on bus routes: one is constantly wondering whether they’ve picked the quickest bus route—and if the buses tend to run slowly, one wonders whether it is better to leave one bus and try another. Though simplistic, this is a fitting analogy for how lovers feel when a relationship doesn’t seem to be working.

Others are interesting, though a little tenuous. For example: she likens the way horsemen in RR Martin’s Game of Thrones dismount when in a duel, to being somewhat like the chivallric code; the idea being, to implicitly level the playing field. One ought be careful of using fantasy analogies (knights dismount in close combat because horses are more of a liability in that situation, for example) and even more so of accepting simple explanations. That said, there’s nothing outwardly fallacious about Yim’s analogies.


Allow me to summarise my admittedly rambling thoughts on the matter. Epiphanies whilst High our of One’s Mind is, largely, well-written, engaging, and contains some fascinating personal experiences—as well as, of course, plenty of epiphanies. I believe those curious about the drug, or those interested in debating its use and legality, would find Epiphanies while High a strong read. That is, if they read it with the clear understanding that this is not a formal essay.

If you are looking for a formal essay, this isn’t it; though even so, this is a worthy read. And that perhaps best describes Yim’s work.

Rating: 3.5/5

1: Potentially an offence under Offences against the Person Act 1861, though enforced only in extreme circumstances.

This post has been ammended to name the author as Hayoung Yim. Previously, a pseudonym had been used.

12 Jun 2015

Musings on the Fallen Saga

If you’ve been reading this blog of mine, you’ll have realised I’ve promised a lot—analysis, poetry, reviews, and an upcoming book all plan to make a debut. You may even be wondering if I, perhaps, am capable of so many a mean feat. But rest assured: I never decline a challenge.

For starters, the aforementioned book review—on Epiphanies whilst High out of One’s Mind, by Abigail Lee—is to be released on the 18th of June. It concerns marijuana (or ‘pot’): the author details her personal experiences of the dubious substance, along with presenting evidence and argument for its liberalisation. Will she convince me? I doubt it; but the book has thus far proven informative and entertaining. And I am certain my review shall be pleasing, both for her—and for you, my dear reader.

Dubious substances aside, let’s get down to the subject of this post: the Fallen Saga.

The Narrative

The Fallen Saga, of course, is as yet incomplete. Nevertheless, I have several musings to share with you, both on the nature of its present narrative arc; and on likely future additions.

If you haven’t done so already, do read the Fallen Saga.

We begin with Peace, in which we are introduced to the setting:

In lands cold and far
The mighty castle gazes
Upon peaks of rocky countenance
Enmeshed in Winter’s mellow grasp…

Though this installment does not detail the setting by name, I will in fact mention it to be the Valley of Souls. The theologically minded among you may wonder if I am referring to the ‘Valley of Soulmaking’ of the Irenaean theodicies proposed by the likes of Hick; this is indeed the case.

In simpler terms, the Valley of Souls is a place of free will; good may exist, and so may evil. In some ways, the struggle between the Angels of the Light and their dark brethren is one of man’s struggle to ascertain his place in the world: to find meaning in an existence without explanation, purpose in a world defined by its very freedom.

‘Alex!’ you may cry; ‘does this not present these characters of yours as being less the mighty angels, more the confused children?’ Indeed; this very critique is levelled against the Iranaean theodicy (among many more). Nevertheless, there is a kernel of truth to it: for both man and angel suffer from confusion, uncertainty; vascillation in matters crucial. Make of this what you wish.

Queer theological musings aside, the Fallen Saga’s next incarnation is simple enough in purpose: our world—though possessed the verisimilitudinal qualities that are named peace, order, and life—is still, at its heart, a place of chaos. Such quaint metaphors as:

The trees shiver in tremulous awe
As if they fear not the fires from the ether.

Only serve to show that such calm, permanent features—the trees, the sky, the power of our weapons (‘The cries of mighty dragons / Fall silent.’)—are but illusion in the face of greater things.

In the Darkness Arisen, our narrative progresses to the dawn before the war. We begin with an insight into the great discontent—even injustice—that marks the Dark Ones:

Exiled, we were;
Exiled, for we dared to question—dared
To believe
Not in empty promises light
But in a future ruled
By the free.

Is freedom—no matter where it leads, no matter what the cost—a worthy ideal? And is it worth fighting for?

Moving on, we are later introduced to Merthiol. He’s a curious hero, is Merthiol—and by this I do mean hero in the classical sense: human, god-like… somehow quietly ordinary, yet truly exceptional. And of course, Merthiol is a saviour. Of what, well; that’s a difficult question. Does he support the Light—or the Dark? Or has he transcended this bitter schism, to view life as an experience not marked by polarities; by purpose in strife: but rather, by the common experience of beautiful existence?

Our next chapter is aptly entitled Dulce Bellum Inexpertis (‘how sweet is war, for those that know it not’).

My love for metaphors, as you may know, is only superceded by my love of pathetic fallacy (itself a kind of metaphor). Take this:

Oh, how sweet is war!
How the very earth trembles in awe
And delighted fear; how even the sky—seemingly
So insouciant; so untroubled by dark countenance—
How even it must grow vermilion
As if in sweet expectancy.

There’s a fitting irony to it: the sky, initially an object of wonder (at its immutable face as well as it grace) is now an accomplice in this distinctly dark turn of events.

In any case: Dulce Bellum Inexpertis does, indeed, bring in war. There’s an inevitability to it; as if—for all the posturing on discussion and diplomacy—at the end of it all, fate is decided only by battle.

Merthiol, interestingly, actually does debate—with the narrator. (I shall make no mention of the narrator, thought their identity is one you perhaps ought guess.) In one stanza, the narrator urges Merthiol to act; but not for the sake of angel or demon—no: Merthiol ought act for the sake of humanity.

Merthiol! Do you not wish
To see the moon reflect your eyes once more;
Do you not wish
Sweet peace; sweet human life
Stop them, Merthiol!

You may however notice that humanity hasn’t actually come into play yet. Why? Well, that may be because it’s been about humanity all along. But I shan’t say no more of that! Instead, permit me to offer a suggestion:

‘Aye, teller of truth,’ says he;
‘Do you wish me—indeed—
‘To bring peace to tormented souls?’ he asks
As if in jest.
‘In light, shall they not abandon us for good?’

Our hitherto latest episode is entitled Lucifer. His portrayal is a sympathetic one, it may be argued: for Lucifer rebelled not for arrogance’s vacuous placations, nor for the sake of Pride’s empty promises. Lucifer is a warrior; his fate was foretold, created, and destined for all of eternity.

And yet, he is a warrior pledged to nothing. Battle—though grand and awesome—can bring neither contentment nor resolution. Though perhaps this battle; perhaps it may change the course of Fate.

I have spoken enough. If you wish for further musings, do tell. But now, I must leave you. Expect further installments—soon. Until then: may the stars be with you…

10 Jun 2015

A Summer of Discontent

Hail readers! (Is that getting old? Do tell.)

I am pleased to announce that my exams are now, officially, over. This—as you can no doubt tell—is greatly fortunate. For one, I may now take pains to entertain you with my queer and curious musings; for two, it permits the commencement of writing.

Yes; writing. There’s going to be rather a lot of that going on. Up first is either an interview with a non-fiction writer (as part of my tour host relationship with Sage’s Blog Tours) or a review of her essay on marijuana legalisation, usage, social attitudes and so forth. No date has been set as yet; but of course, this is only a matter of time.

Up second is more blogging. By this I mean blogging in general; the creation and analysis of poetry; and additional long-pieces on such contentious issues as e.g. Marxist economic and political theory. (If you wish to have a say in the summer’s selection of blogging, take this survey.)

Finally, of course, there are the books. The Ark—my upcoming novel on a tale of love against all odds—will be planned and partially completed over the summer. Currently, I am considering whether to create an ‘Upcoming’ page, in which details such as descriptions, excerpts, progress reports and so forth will be released; if we you wish to chime in on that, take the above survey.

Writing books never was quick business, though: if you plan on waiting for the Ark, you might want to consider reading the Necromancer (a tale of dark revenge and bitter redemption; see its page) or even taking a look at my substantial collection of poetry.

Now, I must pay you good day. Keep following; and may the stars be with you.

PS: an analysis of the latest iteration in the Fallen Saga, along with a broader consideration of the Fallen Saga as it currently stands (its main themes, the direction of the narrative, the style), are to be released soon. Keep following…

7 Jun 2015

Reader, Reader, Beyond the Veil...

Hail readers!

Firstly, you must accept my apologies for the lackadaisical blogging and reviewing; curse these exams of mine. (You may, however, be pleased to learn there is but one left: mechanics. Physics—the previous—was reasonable, insofar as exams can be.)

To keep you occupied during this unfortunate interlude—and perhaps to satiate a blogger’s curiosity—humour me on this: a survey. It isn’t too long (promise!); and, moreover, it deigns to ask important questions. Such as: what do you prefer most, of all of my wonderful writings? Or, do you wish for an up-and-coming page for the Ark, and all future works?

To answer these—and more—take a look below.

Until then; do keep following...

EDIT: you may now answer without a Google account. Sorry for the inconvenience!

3 Jun 2015

Greetings, oh Patient Ones

Hail readers!

Firstly, I take it you have been acquainted with me and my friend’s musings on education herewith? If not, do take a look.

In any case, I have news. Important news—but that’s what I always say. Chiefly among these: exams. Yes; our dear friends. Though I’m pleased to say I have already undertaken the majority (they proved a reasonable enough endeavour) I do nevertheless have two left. These are Physics (to be undertaken tomorrow) and mechanics. You will, I am sure, forgive me for my less-than-keen blogging henceforth.

But onto more pleasant matters! I have another installment in the Fallen Saga available for your perusal. Its name? Lucifer. You shan’t be surprised to hear of this, I might think—the Saga is, after all, of a war between angels and demons—but you may be surprised to know that, rather than focusing on Lucifer’s discontent through the more traditional means (Lucifer’s pride, God’s totalitarianism) this work takes a different interpretation: Lucifer as a born warrior.

’Tis a sad fate, for any warrior: to be confined to impotence and subservience for millennia; to fight wars, briefly, ingloriously; and to then be relegated to the post of obedience.

The element of plot, you may notice, only manifests itself towards the end. In some ways, war is an inevitable consequence of disempowerment… and also, perhaps, the only way to gain justice. But war can be fought for many a reason, and for the warrior, release is often reason enough. But can release lead to salvation?

‘Alex!’ you cry; ‘give us the damn poem already, instead of all this analytical bullshit.’ That I shall do. This time, the poem is inline—blame this on my currently limited school software. (And on revising for exams.)

You have been called many names
Oh great warrior:
You have been called Bearer
Of the Light; you have been
Known, too, as
Bequeather of the Dark.

Neither Heaven’s white fire
Nor, indeed, Hades’ sepulchral depths
Could vanquish your warrior spirit.

The Warrior—’tis well known:
He knows no true master; no puppet, is he,
To those of ambition great.
For he, the eternal soul, has been pledged not
To but fickle dictator desire, nor to ephemeral
Empire. Nay: the Warrior is pledged to Battle.

Battle! Is it in the gleaming armour;
The greedy battle-sworn sword; is it still
In the cries of the Fallen—the eternal, but forgotten?

Nay: for a Warrior
As you, oh Dark One, know so well
Has been pledged to fire. Even in peace—so
Cold, and yet so warm with promise—the Warrior,
He doth go restless; o’er fallen comrades, he walks
Ever keen to join, finding no solace among the living.

Was that, dear Lucifer, your curse?
You are too great, to be but temporal in life;
Only Battle’s age-old cry, can rouse you from false succour.

He rules, does Lucifer; rules in that throne
Forged of fire and blood, paying homage
To old Horace’s time-worn lies.
Though delighting in sweet wine (bless,
Dionysus, your protégée) Lucifer
Can but lust for release.

’Tis said that the greatest of rulers
Know their friends close; their enemies closer.
Poor Lucifer!

No matter your magnificence;
No matter your magnanimity;
You are without master, ever the quintessential Warrior.
And what cruel Creator! To bring to life
A being destined for death.
What fickle a whim must Creator carry!

But Lucifer! Come, oh great deceived;
There is yet hope; yet majesty
For one so injustly fated.

Pax, pro devotos;
Spiritus est temporalis.
Aye! There is yet hope for those doomed.
The Warrior, he is pledged to Battle; let thus
Battle commence.
It shall be the greatest of all; for such is the end.

Further analysis I shall give to you at a later date; so too will I make available a nice, updated PDF.

EDIT: an updated PDF (and a slightly revised Lucifer) are now available on the Poems page.

Finally, I have news on books. (Yes; those.) Firstly, I have reviewed a number of them recently—the Reviews page contains the latest. I have also just finished reading Prince of Fools (by Mark Lawrence, a favourite of mine) to which I shall provide a review in a reasonably prompt fashion.

You, however, likely don’t read this blog of mine merely for my critiques. My own works—the Necromancer, the Sandman, a novella I have kept quiet on, and my upcoming novel, the Ark—have of course not been forgotten. With regards to what is published, I shall release a marketing push after these wonderful exams of mine. The focus will be on reviews (for I am ever so vain), but a giveaway is also on the books. Keep following.

With regards to yet unpublished work, writing will commence in full; after, of course, exams. Details, alas, are short at this stage. My novella—the Vampire Eirik, a work concerning an unfortunate hike with the eponymous vampire and his human friend—will likely be released sometime this summer. My grandparents have promised me more cash for this endeavour; thank them.

The Vampire Eirik is not the piece d’resistance, of course. The Ark—a tale possessed of the potential that graces all inchoate works—is the one you ought watch out for.

I shan’t be too forthright with the detail (for it is bound to change) but know that it is of the struggle of two lovers in a world that has so little patience for love, and yet so much need of it; that there will be pain, and joy, and surprises both beautiful and terrible; it will be… the Ark.

There’s something strange about it; something implausible in that ludicrous size, those impossible angles and shapes, something strange—indeed—in the sheer ambition of the thing. History has taught us that war, not salvation, is man’s greatest achievement. As for the Ark: who can tell? It has enough firepower to blow this country off the map. It can only succeed. And yet equally, it can save millions from damnation. It can only fail.

I’ve often wondered at love. In younger days, I thought it a feeling inside—a squeezing of the heart; a hope, a flower, too beautiful to ever bloom; I thought it curious, overpowering, empowering. Today—in wiser days—I know that love isn’t just a feeling. Love is what you get when the universe aligns, and the other person feels the same same way about you.

Years ago—centuries past—man’s greatest lie was in believing he could control his fellow man; that, by virtue of his status, or position, or wealth, other men could only bow to his will. Later, man’s greatest lie was in believing nature subdued—as if, instead of being fragile, ephemeral creatures no more relevant to the machinations of the universe than some inconsequential speck of dust, we were instead Gods, posessed of some divine faculty of intuition and greatness.

Today man has deceived himself into believing he is a traveller of the stars. We are doomed. Our existence was a fluke; a brief dawn of kindness in Fate’s cruel heart.

Some have called me a pessimist. My take on it? Sit back and enjoy the popcorn. It’s gonna be one hell of a ride.

I have spoken at great length. I would write more still—indeed I would set to work on the Ark, for these writer hands of mine grow impatient—but, alas, I have not the time. May the stars watch over you. And stick with me. You might just find there’s happy ending to this roller-coaster ride.