Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Revelatory Beginning (via LOTR)

Middle Earth is fracking awesome!
Though if  unfamiliar with Battlestar Galactica they probably wouldn’t use that exact phrasing, I am pretty sure that any Tolkien fan would have to agree with me on this point.
The level of detail and attention paid to the building of his world is one of the things that made Tolkien’s iconic trilogy so compelling. So when creating the movies, Peter Jackson had to show us a world that was just as awe inspiring as the one Tolkein described. And boy did Jackson deliver! No matter what your opinion of the storyline or the acting or the special effects, I don’t think anyone can deny that the vistas and skylines and locations that filled the movies were absolutely breathtaking.
Here’s a little reminder of what Middle Earth looks like: 

Peter Jackson did a fabulous job when making these movies, and they really are some of my favourite movies. The best thing about these movies, however, is that they helped me realize something wonderful.
Middle Earth is real.
The magnificent landscape of Middle Earth that we see in the movies is very very real, its a place called New Zealand. Now this may not be the mind-blowing revelation for you that it was for me, but let me explain.
I have always been obsessed with two things, sci-fi/fantasy and the natural world.
As a kid I knew all about different animals, cassowaries and kinkajoos and ibexes. I loved picking berries, and playing with leaves and digging in the dirt. I was the kind of little girl who would scream and run toward the spider rather an away from it, and would always get very upset if someone tried to kill one in my presence. My summer’s were spent camping, and I reveled in the fresh air, the crystal clear lake, and the joy of being allowed to get dirty. My hometown of Sudbury, Ontario provided its local schools with two annual field trips, one to Science North, a fabulous science center with a large focus on nature (an in-house porcupine named Ralph was a favourite of mine). The other trip was to the Laurentian Conservation area. My favourite game which I can still vivdly remember is one in which all the kids chose at random the role of carnivore, omnivore or herbivore, and then were let loose into a designated woodland area. I always relished getting to be a herbivore. I’d find a well hidden spot and then just sit and relax, listening to all the rest of the kids chasing after each other.
At the same time my appetite for fantasy novels was insatiable. My mum got me started by reading me the Narnia Chronicles, Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and E. Nesbitt’s Five Children series. My mind was wrapped up in magic and fabulous places. My Dad gave me the wonderful gift that is Star Trek. When I was growing up every kid dreaded 6 o’clock, because it was the hour that our evening of TV viewing would be brought to a halt by our parents wanting to watch the boring news. Not in my house. At six o’clock every weekday my Dad would switch on channel 8 to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. Talk about creating a monster! From then on my sci-fi obsession would grow to epic proportions. I was reading Hitchhiker’s Guide at age 12, Isaac Asimov at 13, and tricking my mother into falling asleep early so I could stay up late and watch Star Trek Voyager (with no cable, the only time I could see it was at midnight).
These are my two passions, the things that most fascinate me.  One half of me wanted to escape into fantasy, the other was fascinated by the world around me, grounded in reality. But until I made the connection that Middle Earth was New Zealand, I had always seen them as two opposing sides. 
How foolish I had been, of course the two were connected. All sci-fi and fantasy is created by someone whose only frame of reference is the natural world around them. A strange planet may have pink grass and blue trees, but there is still grass and trees. All of the fabulous locations my favourite TV shows had taken me to over the years were all based in reality. The running joke on Stargate SG1 was that all of the planets looked like Vancouver, B.C. From the deserts of Abydos to the garden paradise of P7J-989, these exotic otherworldly locales were places here on earth.
My escape into a fantasy world was in fact, to steal a phrase from one of my favourite podcasts/blogs, an escape to reality.
So, here on Fantastical World I’m going to endeavour to continue to explore my pivotal revelation, and look at the world around us through the eyes of a scifi/fantasy buff, and look at scifi and fantasy through the eyes of a natural history buff. 
Some features to look forward to:
Hero Worship: a profile of some of my ecological and fantastical heroes, and I’ll attempt to get interviews with those a little closer to home.
Creepy Planet: Just as scifi and fantasy love to explore the darker side of speculative fiction, I’ll be delving into some of the creepiest creatures here on planet earth. From mind-controlling plants to the mysterious depths of the oceans, nature is pretty freaking scary at times.
Fantasy Traveler’s Guide:  I’ll be taking a look at the places  here on Earth that can make you feel like you are stepping into another world. From film and TV set locations, to fabulous jungles or magnificent mountain ranges that remind us of our favourite novels, these places are a must-see to believe.

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