A Tale of the Once And Future King

After a highly enjoyable discussion of the Classic The Once and Future King by T.H. White at DragonCon over the weekend, I was able to makes some new friends and give the premier showing of the promotional video for the Upcoming Superversive Press anthology Tales of the Once and Future King. It was very well received, and I can now share it with you all via the magic of youtube:

A download of the song can be purchased for 99 cents here.

There is also a more orchestral version of the song, in which Sean McCleery again showcases his considerable musical talent:

This version can also be downloaded for the same price here.

In time both versions will also become available from a wide range of music sites. As this is my first foray into the world of professional music, it is an exciting and also daunting prospect.

The Lyrics of the song are below:

A Tale of the Once and Future King

I’ll tell you a tale so your hearts won’t quail
Of the Once and Future King.
Surrounded by heroes, how mighty the cheer rose
At the hope his presence would bring.
With the sword from the stone
For his sins he atoned;
Though he did go away,
He’ll be back here one day
To reclaim his rightful throne.

A shadowy hand stretched over the land
And the people were distressed.
Foul fiends of the night,
Filled with unholy might,
Gave the poor and helpless no rest.
By the power of the cross,
And at great human cost,
They were sent down to hell,
And the land was made well,
So at last they could mourn the lost.

Though we’re pressed on each side
And so many have died,
Now is not the time to despair.
We’re still strong enough
To repel and rebuff
The troops of the Queen of the Air.
We will not concede,
For in our hour of need,
It has long been foretold
That our great king of old
Will be back, and the people freed.

You may mock, you may sneer,
You may laugh out of fear,
At the hope I claim to bring:
Mere stories for children,
Or gullible pilgrims,
Of a good and righteous king?
Yet he stands in your midst
And will not be dismissed;
His heroes beside him,
His people uniting,
In his army we enlist!

When truth is viewed as treachery

When truth is viewed as treachery,
Integrity as vice,
And beauty as debauchery,
That’s when a nation dies.

When mercy is a hateful thing,
And power is all they crave,
The paradise they hope to bring
Is but an open grave.

And so we strive in our small works
To furnish, among other perks,
Young minds with beauty, wit and charm,
The faithful in this way to arm

Against the waves of hellish thoughts
Proclaimed in foul corrupted courts
That seek to undermine all hope
And glamourize the hangman’s rope.

So strengthened, they will dare to stand
And build great things upon the land,
Inspire others to the cause
That’s guided by such higher laws.

Thus day by day and heart by heart
We all must play our little part
In the greatest of all symphonies,
Most glorious of mysteries,

Whose notes are holy purity,
Resounding to eternity;
Uplift, inspire, make whole and strong,
And join in the Creator’s song.

I have known…

Listening to music can be therapeutic, soothing, invigorating, inspiring, heartbreaking, or depressing, much like reading or listening to a story. In fact Hans Zimmer once said that in all the music he composes his primary purpose is to tell a story, despite using no words. Listening to one of his most famous pieces (that accompanies one of the great movie endings of all time) inspired this little effort of mine below. In Zimmer’s piece, and the film, the hero is faced with a situation where all seems lost. He did everything he could, but all he has worked for has crumbled to dust before his eyes. He sees the situation for what it is, absorbs this devastating news, and yet he still finds the strength to keep going, even to sacrifice himself and his reputation to save people he will never meet, who will almost certainly never even know, let alone appreciate, what he did for them. He is able to do it quickly this time, because he’s done it before. In these respects, these few minutes are a microcosm of his entire heroic journey.

As the piece played I was struck by the ways in which it mirrored some of my own experiences (except it took me far longer to gather up the strength to keep going, and my behaviour has been far less heroic). It encourages me to keep going, to do better, to come closer to the good example set.

This is the power of story, of archetypes, of strong heroic characters, of good examples. Let us make more of them.

My piece set to Zimmer’s music can be found here, with the lyrics below that

I have known…

I have known despair, and I will not promote it.
I have known pain, and I will not glorify it.
I have known false hope, and I will not encourage it.
I have known cowardice, and I will understand, but not praise it.
I have known self-loathing, and I will not romanticize it.
I have known brokenness, defeat, lostness, and yet emerged on the other side, not unscathed, but grown.
I have known failure, and I will learn from it.
I will defend the truth.
I will not abandon my allies.
I will keep learning, and admit when I am wrong.
I will advocate for genuine hope.
I will praise and strive to create beauty.
I will call for courage in matters great and small.
I will seek to repair the damage I have caused.
I will seek to restore friendships.
I will console those who suffer.
I will encourage those who feel they can’t go on, for I have walked that path.

Appearing on Catholic Geek Radio and a Confession

Since this is the 1,000th post at SuperversiveSF, I will combine two posts I intended to post separately into one, so that the whole is worthy of such a milestone.

I was interviewed on the Catholic Geek podcast last week, and the interview can now be listened to over at blogtalkradio. We briefly discuss the sad anniversary of 9/11 before moving on to brighter topics, such as superversive fiction, my own literary journey and output, and the hope and beauty I attempt to convey in my work.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/webuiltthatnetwork/2016/09/11/the-catholic-geek-poetry-and-superversive-sf-with-ben-zwycky

There was one topic I deliberately omitted in the interview that I subsequently realised was worth touching on, so I will cover that below.

A Confession and a Motivation

I would like to expand on something I glossed over in my interview on Catholic Geek Radio, but now that I look back on it, played a much larger part in my motivations as a writer than I realized. It concerns how I moved from one university to another. It is not something I am proud of – instead it is something I am grateful for, since reminding myself of it is an effective defence against pride. This post will involve some painful memories, so please bear with me.

Continue reading

One Child

“One child is enough for you, the rest you will discard.
It’s in our nation’s interest; this choice is not so hard.”
A parent’s pure delight is turned into a source of woe,
As they decide which child to keep and which they should let go.

Millions are torn to pieces while still in the womb,
Their tiny bodies adding to another smoky plume.
Many more are left to freeze upon a winter’s day,
Abandoned in the street as if they all can make their way.

Shafts of light come filtered through the roadside’s fragrant trees,
The smells of woks and pans at work, all carried by the breeze,
Piano music interrupted by a teacher’s scold,
None of this brings comfort to a little girl that’s cold.

She’d love someone to scold her for an errant finger placed,
Since then they’d think their time’s investment in her not a waste.
She pines for Grandma’s village hut, with its floor of earth,
Nought but worms to play with, but folk grateful for her birth.

She makes it all the way back ‘home’, but then is left once more,
Each time the police bring her back to that unloving door.
Until at last that father is imprisoned for his crimes,
The girl sent to an orphanage to see more pleasant times.

Those places, though, are more like prisons; she soon runs away,
But there is no long-term escape, the world is bleak and grey.
All these troubles teach her that all parents are a fraud,
That Mother State and Party are her only loving lord.

The chairman of a boarding school then contradicts this thought,
He takes her and her cellmates in and treats them as he ought,
As children, pupils, precious lives of worth and purity;
He sacrifices plenty to restore their dignity.

(For this and other kindnesses, he’s later thrown in jail,
Performing better than the state, that’s far beyond the pale!)
The school’s house mother lavishes her love on all of them,
Soothing all the fears and pain from which her anger stemmed.

As years go by, a loving family seems a distant dream,
No-one will adopt a girl who’s now into her teens;
She must now start to think of when she’ll be a full adult,
On her own, responsible for each choice and result;

Then comes the news of a kind couple from a distant land,
Who long to take her in and hold her with their loving hands.
They’ve sons and want a daughter; they’ve come thousands of miles
To love someone this state discards, to treasure her sweet smile.

Inside her, softly, safe despair gives way to deadly hope
That tempts her from her lonely ledge to grasp this rescue rope.
Her broken self will have to die to birth a new creation,
As she is flown to her new life in that wild, distant nation.

In that odd land, one child is precious—missed when they are gone;
For those strange folk, one child is valued—each and every one.

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Selected Verse: Faith and Family is now on sale for only 99 cents until the 4th of December:

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Stranded

This is (slightly modified version of) a poem I submitted to Abyss and Apex, but it wasn’t accepted. I think it fits the themes of this site pretty well, what do you think?

Stranded

 
Stranded on a pinnacle, surrounded by a throng
Of the vilest creatures known from story, myth or song.
He led them on a merry dance when things got out of hand,
Out here to this lonely peak, amidst this barren land.
 
His radio is long-since smashed, his ammo’s running low,
His jetpack is all out of charge, discarded in the snow.
He’s improvised and struggled hard to keep the hordes at bay;
With no rocks left, it looks as if he won’t survive the day.
 
Hiding has proved futile, they smell his sweat and fear,
Their bony claws pierced through his armour, slashing his right ear.
His arms are getting heavy, his eyelids won’t stay up,
He sees bug reinforcements and his head begins to drop.
 
They cover the horizon, the ground squirms as they swarm,
The only thing that held them back was a great ice storm.
But now the winds are calming, they start their new ascent,
The screech of claws upon bare slate is homing on his scent.
 
He shivers as he stands again to face the warrior drones,
Debilitating cold and dread both pierce his weary bones.
He pictures all those he bought time to reach a safer place,
From where they could at last find peace and meet a friendly face.
 
He smiles to think of Sylvia enjoying motherhood,
Raising four kids and a dog beside a sleepy wood.
Jason, Mick and Frank will all be standing in salute,
As his beloved plays a mournful song on her old flute.
 
They’ll join their voices with the choir that sings a solemn hymn
Beside the lasting monument with which they’ll honour him.
They’ll talk about the good old times, the laughs, the games, the pranks,
Then raise their glasses in a toast to show their debt of thanks.
 
Then go on to enjoy the lives that he has won for them,
Each moment of sweet liberty more precious than a gem.
Just metres now and one clip left, he adds to the great heap
Of insectoid carcasses that fill the chasm deep.
 
With no regard for brotherhood, they trample on their own,
Fearlessly and ravenously scale that pile of bone.
His rifle clicks dead one last time, they do not pause or slow,
He catches one last glimpse of sunset’s amber afterglow,
 
Then all around him falls a flood of piercing metal rain,
Roaring jets and blinding searchlights drive them back again.
Pistons hiss and cargo bay doors open to his right;
Half-thinking this is all a dream, he steps into the light.
 
They wrap him in a blanket, and soar into the sky,
For the first time in a month his hands and head are dry.
“They’ll nuke the site from orbit as soon as we are clear,
And turn that vicious army to a sterile glassy smear.”
 
“How did you find me way out here? My radio was gone.”
“This was the seventh mountain range that we’ve explored since dawn.
We’ve scoured half the planetoid, all looking for your heat;
We couldn’t just leave you behind, there’s someone you should meet.”
 
The lovely face of Sylvia appears on a small screen,
She looks to him as if she’s just been crowned a beauty queen.
“Thank God you’re out, I couldn’t bear the thought that you were lost,
After all you did for us, and what your courage cost.
 
“I found the letter that you left, I really didn’t know
How much our friendship meant to you, you let so little show.”
“You weren’t supposed to read that, it was only if I didn’t—“
She puts a finger to her lips, he meekly takes the hint.
 
“You said you hoped I’d find a man that’s faithful, honest, good;
With whom to raise a family, who’d treat me as he should.
I know of one,” She beams a smile so full of joy and life,
Then says the words he’s longed to hear: “I’d love to be your wife!”
 

The Darkest Day by Ben Zwycky

The one on whom we pinned our hopes is now forever gone;

His broken, twisted corpse has shown all witnesses Rome won!

His promises of life and mercy clearly all a fraud,

Hide and lock yourselves away before you face a viscious sword!

 

What was he thinking? When they came he told us not to fight,

He surrendered with such calm, as if he controlled that night.

We could have made a break for it and seen another day,

With all the wonders that he worked, there had to be another way…

 

When he merely said his name, they all fell to the ground,

Wasn’t he supposed to clear the temple then be crowned?

Clearly not, no king would choose to die the way he did,

When morning comes it will be time that we all fled and hid.

 

Deny you ever knew him our you’ll share his shameful fate,

Our home towns might just take us back, if it’s not too late.

Our women want to see the tomb, embalm his body right,

There they go, despite the gloom of dawn’s approaching light…

 


 

 

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Ben’s first poetry collection, Selected Verse – Faith and Family, is now available on Amazon in both kindle and paperback form, the kindle version selling for only 99 cents until this evening GMT, or free with a paperback purchase.