Tyrion Lannister, Body Image & Books That Make You Think

My first thought when I saw today’s word prompt, was of Tyrion Lannister. If you don’t know the name, Tyrion is a character in the book, Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

I began this conversation with myself this morning with the word squat, and with trying to think of what I could write. I saw a number of posts taking the word “squat” and talking about its meaning of “nothing.” I didn’t want to go there, having been suffering of late from this “nothingness,” and an inability to put words to paper.

That’s when I thought of Tyrion Lannister.

I am currently reading Game of Thrones as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. I am about two thirds of the way through the book, and I haven’t yet decided if I like this character, or despise him. Tyrion is a squat, little man, affected by dwarfism. He makes up for his lack of physical size with a keen mind and a brash, often impertinent tongue.

This compensation of his frequently gets Tyrion into trouble, opening his mouth at the wrong moments and saying all the wrong things. The reverse is just as often true as well, however. He can talk his way out of certain death as quickly as he got himself into the trouble in the first place.

It is human nature to hide our weaknesses from others whenever possible. In Tyrion’s case, however, his physical stature is an obvious weakness, plain for all to see. Rather than hide it, Tyrion instead hides within his weakness. He embraces it, and uses it to his advantage over those who would discount him for it.

Negative body image is a huge issue in our real world today. We don’t really need characters like Tyrion to remind us of this fact. But I couldn’t help wondering what could we learn from Tyrion about dealing with those who would shame us for our physical attributes. He says:

“Let them see that their words can cut you and you’ll never be free of the mockery. If they want to give you a name, take it, make it your own. Then they can’t hurt you with it anymore.” – Tyrion Lannister

I found myself surprised that I would think of Tyrion when this word prompt came up. I haven’t had much to write lately, and I didn’t really think a little word like squat could inspire me. As I wondered about my apparent inability to write, and what to do about it, I asked myself the question, what have I been writing about lately? Aside from my fiction projects currently in the works, I’ve mostly been writing about what I’m reading. And currently, that is Game of Thrones.

Unlike another book I’ve read recently, a collection of stories by H. G. Wells, I haven’t been inspired to write much about Game of Thrones. I’ve been too busy reading it! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the book, completely absorbed in the story.

While reading the Wells book, on the other hand, I had several ideas pop into my head along the way. My curiosity was triggered about a lot of different things. Such as this impromptu mini-study on the discovery of helium. Or this ongoing investigation into the treatment of gender roles in fiction. Reading through the Wells collection also generated ideas for several new stories I hope to one day pursue.

There are, of course, any number of differences between these two works that could account for this variance between them. Wells wrote his stories more than a hundred years ago. His language and styling are vastly different from Martin’s contemporary storytelling. Also, Wells is a collection of stories, as opposed to a single work. Make that part of a single work.

The bottom line is, there are some books that make you think. They instruct and inspire curiosity about the world around you. The H. G. Wells collection was such a book. Then, there are other books like Game of Thrones that simply take over your world, and devour you whole.

What does all this have to do with Tyrion Lannister? Ultimately, not much, I suppose. But he does fit the description of squat, and for that I am grateful, as he has inspired me to write these words.

And, what do you know, I suddenly find myself intrigued by dwarfism. What causes it? How many people are affected by it? How do those affected manage their day to day lives? …

H. G. Wells: Collector’s Book of Science Fiction – A Review

The H. G. Wells Collector’s Book of Science Fiction, by H. G. Wells, has been on my shelf for far too long waiting to be read. The 2016 Reading Challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to make this book a priority. It joined the list as selection #11, “a book that intimidates you.” Though I started reading this before NaNoWriMo interrupted me last year, I didn’t finish it until this month. Therefore, I felt justified in adding it to my 2017 Reading Challenge also as a collection of short stories.

Why did this book intimidate me? It’s H. G. Wells! Only one of the top names in science fiction writing. Ever! Plus, it’s a rather large, hardbound book containing 500+ pages of double columns of text. It includes three of his novels and sixteen short stories as they were originally published in magazines from the 1890s-1900s.

Wells was all over the science fiction map, writing about space travel, alien invasion, mad scientists, ghosts, man-eating plants, sentient ants, prehistoric fables, biological terrorism, miracles, future dystopias and more! If there is a science fiction sub-genre not included in this collection, I’m not sure what it might be.

In many of these stories Wells takes the stylistic approach of writing as if the narrator of the story was an observer, or someone relating a story told to him by another. Other stories, such as The First Men in the Moon, were written as the narrator told his own story. I found this second style much easier to engage with and enjoy. In fact, for being more than a hundred years old, I discovered I could enjoy Wells’ stories quite a lot. Some, more than others.

“The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost” was probably one of my favorites of the stories included in this anthology. Even though it was written in the “as told to” style like so many of the others, I found myself engaged in this story to the end. The suspense is well done, and even though I anticipated the ending, I still read it impatiently, eager to see just how the ending came about.

The “Empire of the Ants” on the other hand, was one of my least favorites. It tells the story of a man from Britain traveling in the Amazon region of Brazil. While there, he encounters, along with a local military captain, a plague of ants. But these are no ordinary ants. The British traveler accompanies the captain as he goes to investigate and eradicate the ants and together they learn some remarkable truths about these strange insects. The story ends abruptly, however, with the British man returning home with no resolution to the ant situation.

I was delighted to find that I could be instantly sucked into some of these stories, such as The War of the Worlds. Others were difficult, even painful to get through. I think of all the stories, my favorites were a series of related stories titled Stories of the Stone Age, fable-like tales relating the adventures of Earth’s earliest humans.

This collection of stories by H. G. Wells serves as an excellent primer on the realm of speculative fiction. Going in, I had no idea of the wide range of Wells’ writings. Labeled as a science fiction author, I was prepared for the likes of The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon. But I was surprised by many of the others like the stone age fables and the political dystopia, When the Sleeper Wakes.

Though it was difficult at times to wade through, overall this was a fascinating read, one that sparked curiosity and ideas that may one day fuel my own writing. If you have any regard for science fiction and have never before read anything by H. G. Wells, I would recommend this collection as a great place to start.

Gravitationally Unbound: H. G. Wells and the Discovery of Helium

I have been reading The First Men in the Moon, by H. G. Wells. A fascinating little tale first published in 1900-1901 about an inventor, Mr. Cavor, and a failed business man, Mr. Bedford, who travel to the moon by a rather strange vehicle. Mr. Cavor, has theorized that just as certain substances are opaque to heat and light, there must be a substance that is opaque to gravity.

Mr. Cavor manages to create this theoretical substance with an alloy of metals, and I’m not sure what all. Plus helium. A very interesting idea, to be sure. They make no small mess in the process of learning how to create this substance. Ultimately, however, they build a small ship that will take them into space.

This whole idea made me curious about when the element helium was discovered, and how new it was when Mr. Wells wrote this story. When I looked it up, I found that helium was first discovered in 1868 by a French astronomer who noticed a yellow line in the sun’s spectrum while studying an eclipse. It was later identified and named by an English astronomer. The element wasn’t found on Earth until 1895 by a Scottish chemist conducting experiments on a mineral called clevite.

According to an article on the JeffersonLab website, “Helium makes up about 0.0005% of the earth’s atmosphere. This trace amount of helium is not gravitationally bound to the earth and is constantly lost to space.”

It was this property of helium that no doubt intrigued H. G. Wells and sparked his curiosity. This story was first published between December 1900 and August 1901 as a serial novel in The Strand Magazine. The story then, was written in the years immediately following the discovery of helium.

I love that this story-written more than a hundred years ago and using what is now outdated science-could still inspire curiosity today. Now we live in a world where helium is used to entertain children at parties, and men really have been to the moon. And here I am, reading this antiquated little tale of adventure and learning something I didn’t know about my world.