Thursday 6 January 2022

New Books and Titles | The Stolen Years by Debbie Paget

The Stolen Years by Debbie Paget
– a wisdom born of suffering and a boundless faith in miracles –

Front cover of The Stolen Years by Debbie Paget
The Stolen Years by Debbie Paget
with Foreword by Mary McAleese

Three years following the death of her daughter, Tina, in 1999 at the tender age of just eight, Debbie Paget began writing about her experiences, as much to aid the grieving process as anything else. What emerges from that undertaking is a fascinating and heartfelt story.

Debbie was born into a family of fifteen in Dublin, in the 1960s. She talks about her earliest memories: from a very difficult childhood in the family home, amusing tales concerning neighbours and friends, her days in homeless hostels, school days, family tragedies, abuse, neglect, love and marriage, the birth of her children.

Death, life and love are intertwined in this unique story. It is the particularly sad and untimely death of her darling daughter and first baby girl, Tina that forms the focus. Tina’s short life was one of remarkable courage, strength and laughter in the face of tragedy. Mary McAleese, who got to know Tina well during her first term as President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann), recalls of those encounters that:

She had a wisdom born of suffering and a boundless faith in miracles. Her mother's book is one of those miracles.

Today, Debbie finds great comfort and solace in the spiritual world, where she keeps regular contact with Tina. Her story reveals a fighting spirit and a keen understanding of life in the face of adversity. Debbie is a survivor and her story will amaze, stun, sadden and inspire all who read it.

Although Debbie often had to endure the absence of love at crucial times in her life, she is such a loving person and she understands that love is at the core of life itself. Even through death and sadness, love conquers all.

The Stolen Years by Debbie Paget is published by The Manuscript Publisher and available to buy online, in print and e-book editions.

Listen to a podcast of Debbie talking to Johnny Holmes of Near FM about her life and the book that her experiences has produced.

Tuesday 4 January 2022

Language and Linguistics | UNESCO International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032)

2022–2032: A Decade of Indigenous Languages

The New Year has also ushered in an International Decade of Indigenous Languages, which will take us all the way up to 2032, when who knows what kind of world we will be living in.

Sponsored by the United Nations and arising out of the strategic recommendations of the Los Pinos Declaration (2020), the emphasis will be on:

... indigenous peoples' rights to freedom of expression, to an education in their mother tongue and to participation in public life using their languages as prerequisites for the survival of indigenous languages, many of which are currently on the verge of extinction.
With regard to participation in public life, the Declaration highlights the importance of enabling the use of indigenous languages in justice systems, the media, labour and health programmes. It also points to the potential of digital technologies in supporting the use and preservation of those languages.
Building on the lessons learnt during the International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019), the Declaration recognises the importance of indigenous languages to social cohesion and inclusion, cultural rights, health and justice and highlights their relevance to sustainable development and the preservation of biodiversity as they maintain ancient and traditional knowledge that binds humanity with nature.
Current data indicates that at least 40% of the 7,000 languages used worldwide are at some level of endangerment. While reliable figures are hard to come by, experts agree that indigenous languages are particularly vulnerable because many of them are not taught at school or used in the public sphere.

Source: UNESCO

Sunday 2 January 2022

Days of Observation | National Science Fiction Day 2022

Following the Science Fiction

Dr. Isaac Asimov by Phillip Leonian
from New York World-Telegram & Sun
(Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Today (2 January) is celebrated as National Science Fiction Day in the USA and, quite possibly, many other countries too although it is not officially recognised as a holiday in any country, territory or jurisdiction that we are aware of.

The day does coincide, however and allegedly, with the birth of the famed, 20th century science-fiction writer, Isaac Asimov but even this is difficult to pin down, as the precise date of Asimov's birth is unascertained except that he "was born was born in Petrovichi, Russian SFSR on an unknown date between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920 inclusive" and even for this much information, we are relying upon Wikipedia! Nevertheless, it does seem to be established that Asimov chose the date of 2 January to celebrate his birthday. Strange but not entirely inappropriate perhaps, that a day that is linked to 'science' is, nevertheless, shrouded in speculation, a lack of precision, a dearth of evidence and questionable sources!

The War of the Worlds by Henrique Alvim Corrêa, original graphic 15
An alien invastion featured in
H.G. Wells' novel, The War of the Worlds
as illustrated by Henrique Alvim Corrêa
(Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Asimov's family emigrated to the United States when he was just three years old. He would go on to have a career as professor of biochemistry at Boston University but also as a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He is probably most widely known for the Three Laws of Robotics that he devised and, which most people will be familiar with from the 2004 motion picture, I Robot. As promulgated in his 1942 short story Runaround, the three rules are generally summarised along the lines of:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Frontispiece to Frankenstein 1831
Illustration for 1831 edition of
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
by Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844)
(Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

What actually defines science fiction as a literary genre is a matter of some debate, as is the task of tracing the origins of it, which some would date back to ancient mythology. It could be considered that science fiction (together with related genres of fantasy, horror, superhero fiction) represents a kind of modern mythology, dealing with futuristic concepts and trajectories, to the point of being more concerned with the ultimate fate of human civilisation rather than its origins. Advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and extra-terrestrial life are among the themes that commonly feature.

Imagination 195808
Greenleaf Publishing / Malcolm Smith
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mythology and the oral tradition aside, a literary timeline of science fiction, the authors and their works considered to fit the genre would surely include Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein and The Last Man), works of Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne, H.G. Wells (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau). In the 20th century meanwhile, science fiction writers of note would include (in addition to Isaac Asimov, already mentioned) the likes of Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut.

Those interested in the genre of science fiction might find that Days of the Year calendar has some interesting suggestions as to how to go about marking the occasion that is National Science Fiction Day.

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