Anyone who visits the VFA on a regular basis may have had a bit of a surprise when they visited the site today. It’s been completely revamped thanks to some amazing new members in the VFA’s team (and especially ‘web dude’!) Do pop on over and check it out!
TRAILER FOR MY INTERVIEW AT LIGHTUPWITHSHUA Here are all the links to my 3-part interview with Shua Khan Arshad at her podcast on conscious living and parenting. Please feel free to like and share this post, and please like, share and comment at YouTube too. PART 1 – discovery of the Munir quote, reactions to
Well, it’s the end of the year, and also the decade. Happy New Decade! May 2020 and the next ten years be peaceful and prosperous for all.
In the 15 years since I began writing the books titled Secular Jinnah I have always refused interviews, for my own reasons (with the exception of one or two written online ones). But in August, a chance query email from a fabulous lady, Boston-based Shua Khan Arshad, led to my decision to finally give an
Seven years to the day after the original release of Secular Jinnah & Pakistan: What the Nation Doesn’t Know, I am pleased to announce that the second revised and enlarged edition has just gone into print, with a brand new gold version of the original cover. Oh, and with plenty of revisions, of course. They include:
Following is a reproduction of an article I have written for the VFA – SK
Although much visionary fiction has magical and fantasy elements in common with the fairy tales of old, the two differ in some fundamental respects. The themes of the conventional fairy tale revolve about the triumph of good over evil, where the heroes are princes and princesses, or peasants who marry princes and princesses and gain a kingdom or an endless supply of gold. The villains are always jealous stepparents, or evil older siblings, or tyrannical kings and queens. At other times they are monsters, or trolls, or wolves. The latter in particular are ugly and incomprehensible, external forces, wreaking havoc on the heroes and their people, or they are cunning creatures luring some naive vulnerable character to do their bidding, reminiscent of Satan misleading Adam and Eve.
The characteristics of the heroes are equally clear-cut: the shining knight, or the prince, or the peasant who turns out to be a missing prince. They are almost exclusively male, and their relationship with the heroine is defined as “pure” or “true love”, betraying the psychological influence of mysticism that compares this form of love to Divine union. In some tales this true love is key to breaking some spell that has trapped the damsel, as is the case in our story of interest to be reviewed here shortly.
Visionary fiction, like the fairy tale, is interested in the good versus evil conflict but like other modern literature, it asks what constitutes “good” and “evil” in the first place, and what might turn a good person bad. Its protagonists are frequently female, and even if they are not the lead, they are rarely damsels in distress. Love may feature as a means of defeating darkness, but it is not narrowly defined within the context of romantic or sexual love. Indeed all these can be said to be part of the modern trend of fiction in general, except that for the most part modern fiction arguably addresses these ideas at a more superficial level.
Few would disagree that visionary fiction is a relatively new (or, as I believe, a recently revived) genre, and that fairy tales remain vastly popular. But as many VF writers will attest, the visionary form is also in demand and gaining ground. And it seems that the old fairy tale might tale up for a revamp to accommodate this change in literary ideal.
Maleficent – a review
Recently I saw Disney’s Maleficent (2014), a live-action adaptation of the fairy tale classicSleeping Beauty and also a rewrite of the 1959 Disney animated movie of the same name in which the evil fairy from the traditional fairy tale was named “Maleficent” for the first time. In the movie trailer, Maleficent is advertised as a fairy tale with a twist – promising to reveal the “truth” behind the “legend” of that spinning wheel curse. The twist is that this is a story told from Maleficent’s point of view, and is an explanation of how this “good fairy” came to place the curse on the newborn princess Aurora.
On the surface this seems to be just another modern Disney movie, but there are some elements that turn the traditional version of the story on its head, and defy the conventions of most other traditional fairy tales in the process. Without going into the details of the story too much, let’s take a look at some intriguing examples.
The villain is the good guy – and vice versa
Unlike in the traditional fairy tale, Maleficent is not merely a bad fairy who resents not being invited to the christening of the princess. In the remake, she starts off as (and essentially remains) a good fairy, but she is betrayed by Stefan, a man whom she had considered her “true love”, and she has taken revenge by cursing his daughter. Unlike in the traditional version, the curse does not entail death, but places the princess into an eternal sleep, and the princess can only be woken by “true love’s kiss”. In the meantime, the Aurora’s father becomes the formal villain, first by cutting off the young Maleficent wings in order to gain the throne, and later by attempting to kill Maleficent and take over her homeland (more on that shortly). We might also note that no character is purely “evil” as such, and instead we are shown that many of the characters’ actions, however wrong, often come from legitimate feelings of anger and hurt. And on that note …
Human monsters, internal demons
In the traditional fairy tale, the threat to human life is always external; it is the giant, the dragon, the ogre and the witch. In Sleeping Beauty it has always been the evil fairy now called Maleficent. But in this movie, human beings themselves are the threat, and they are driven by simple greed. They want to take over the Moors, the magical land where Maleficent lives. Interestingly, the Disney Wiki page for the film mentions that the Moors is “home to magical creatures and fairies, whom had no ruler due to their intensely close friendship and trust in one another” in contrast to the human kingdom ruled by a “ruthless” king. This is a sure indicator of a visionary theme, using the allegories of the human kingdom and the magical Moors to differentiate between the present survival of the fittest mentality and the ideal of altruism and cooperation respectively.
Greed similarly is the inner demon that compels Stefan to betray his “true love” Maleficent and cut off her wings, and this act marks him as the villain from this point. Similarly, Maleficent is clearly defined as the possessor of a good heart early on, when she decides not to doom the princess Aurora to death, and instead creates the key to undoing the spell. She also watches over the growing child from afar, when the pixies assigned to take care of the princess in the forest fail to do so properly. She eventually comes to love the child despite her bitterness over the past. She comes into direct contact with Aurora as a fifteen year old and the two form a mother-daughter type relationship. Soon after realising her feelings for the child, she attempts in vain to revoke the curse.
True love is spirit, not form
In both Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent, the sleeping princess can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. In both stories, the prince is supposed to be the one to wake her. But in Maleficent, the prince fails to awaken Aurora (in part because he had not known her for long), and there seems to be no hope. Overcome with grief, Maleficent kisses Aurora on the forehead – and that is when Aurora awakens. This again is a break from an ancient idea, namely that romantic love is the highest form of love, and that it can come instantly, at first sight. Or at the very least, it is challenging the conventional view of an ancient idea.
Since Disney is ultimately a commercial company, it might be said that this story reflects the modern age, in particular the rise of feminism. But I have reason to suspect it’s more than that. Last year’s release Frozen (inspired loosely by The Snow Queen) has touched upon exactly the same elements. Its villains are human; its monsters are emotional (fear and greed); it alludes to ideal social states, and again, the “true love” needed to break a spell comes not from the romantic lead, but from the love of a sister. And since Disney is also the world’s most famous vehicle for the fairy tale, surely these developments are not without significance?
Having observed a 3 day blackout, this site and the SJ2 site are now back to normal.
As I write this the People’s Climate March is underway in Manhattan, New York, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is apparently among the estimated 100,000 people taking to the streets. London’s march earlier today attracted 40,000 people or more; and it’s one of around 2000 marches taking place around the world in this 24-hour period. Attendees are from every walk of life and represent a wide spectrum of groups including charities, environmental groups, farmers, fishermen, scientists, political leaders, popular celebrities, and faith groups, as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary members of the public.
News agencies have quoted the organisers of the Manhattan event as having said they wanted to transform the climate question from being just “an environmental concern to an ‘everybody issue'”. From the turnout, I’d say they’ve already come a long way in making it so.
Today, as over 4 million people in Scotland cast their votes in a referendum that could drastically change the future shape of the UK, both this site (by which I mean the main Libredux site) and the SJ2 site have begun a “blackout” in support of the upcoming People’s Climate March this Sunday (21 September 2014). If you haven’t done so already, do sign the climate change petition I posted about here recently. Just click on the image.
And if you are reading this, then that means you managed to sneak past this site’s blackout page somehow. Naughty, naughty!
In any case, both sites will be back up again as normal on Sunday evening.
We are fast reaching a crisis point that affects us all, wherever we are. It’s more important than the economy, local or international; it’s more pressing than any war; a greater threat than any government, religious group or financial giant; it matters more than anything happening in any country. It’s the biggest issue of our time, and it affects not only our generation, but future generations as well. In short, it’s a question of life and death for every single person in every single country, and in fact, for every living thing on this planet.
I’m talking, of course, about climate change.
The great tuning out
We’ve all been aware of climate change for a few decades. Many of us, myself included, have been hearing about it since childhood, and more and more often as we grew up. Unfortunately, these days we hear about it so much on the news and through other media that we’re tuning it out, treating it like some annoying advert that we don’t need to hear again and again.
But we do need to hear it. More importantly, we need to act. Immediately.
The well-known social activist site Avaaz.org has described it in these sobering words at their site and by email:
Scientist Julienne Stroeve has studied Arctic ice for decades. Every summer she travels to north to measure how much ice has melted. She knows that climate change is melting the ice fast, but a recent trip surprised even her. Vast areas of Arctic ice have disappeared, beyond our worst expectations.
This is what the experts warned us about. As the earth warms, it creates many “tipping points” that accelerate the warming out of control. Warming thaws the Arctic sea ice, destroying the giant white ‘mirror’ that reflects heat back into space, which massively heats up the ocean, and melts more ice, and so on. We spin out of control. In 2013 everything — storms, temperatures — was off the charts.
Scientists are screaming from the rooftops that climate change isn’t just a bit of warming and some more storms. No exaggeration, our actual *survival* is at risk — this is a fight to save the world.
UN Emergency Meeting
The situation is serious enough that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has arranged an emergency Climate Summit at the UN New York headquarters to be held on 23 September 2014. Social activist groups such as 350.org and Avaaz.org are already in the process of rallying ordinary people across the world to collectively call for affirmative action before it’s too late. They will be part of an international People’s Climate March on 21 September.
Add your voice
The ultimate aim of the march is to deliver a petition calling for the international community to make a concerted move away from dirty fuels like oil and coal, to 100% clean energy sources. If you think this sounds unfeasible, consider this: 20% of the world’s electricity is already generated from renewable sources, and solar power is now cheaper than coal in many countries, including the USA and Australia (in the case of the latter, consumer choice in favour of cheaper solar has made coal entirely unprofitable, prompting a British newspaper to declare: “Solar has won“). While this is all good news, we need to push for more.
The petition will be delivered to leaders at the summit, and it needs to have as many signatures as possible to make a positive impact. Avaaz has set up its petition online with a target of getting at least 3 million signatures. To add your voice, sign it here:
To help spread the word, you can share this post through the usual social media channels or email, simply by clicking the big “share” button at the bottom of this post.
This is not a climate change petition. This is the climate change petition. So make the call to save our planet. We have to.
Link to this post:
Postscript: This site and the Secular Jinnah site will be observing a “blackout” in the days just before the summit. This post will display at both sites’ home pages to help raise awareness.
SK: Reproduced from the Visionary Fiction Alliance blog (18 August 2014):
Exciting news for all Visionary Fiction authors, readers and lurkers:
As of August 2014 a entry entitled “Visionary fiction” has been published on Wikipedia at:
To read the rest of the article at the Visionary Fiction Alliance, click here
Today is your last chance to get 15% off Khurram Ali Shafique’s new book, Iqbal: His Life and Our Times. Order directly from this page (https://www.createspace.com/4780451) and use the code in red at checkout to qualify. Offer ends tonight at 8 p.m. (British time).