Lessons From…Alys

I know, I am writing a “Lessons” post about a book again after I swore to try to focus on other media. In my defense, it’s a pretty good book and has such an obvious nugget worthy of note and discussion that I just couldn’t help myself. Moving on, today’s lesson comes from Alys by Kiri Callaghan. The book is a retelling/re-imagining of the classic Lewis Carroll story, Alice in Wonderland. Everything from this point on could be considered a spoiler, so you know warnings and such.


The entire book could provide various lessons on life like the effects of a suicide on those left behind, the importance of memory, dealing with turmoil and loss, among many others. Did I forget to mention Alys might be considered a darker version of the Carroll story? However, I am more interested in two particular passages from the book.

First, from Chapter 9 “Lost in Thought” on page 107:

“Alys pointed to some of the rotting volumes. “What are those?”

“Oh. Sad, isn’t it?” The bookworm tsked and shook her head. “Those are the lost causes; tales that will never be finished, continuously overworked until they rot and are useless to everyone–even the author.”

“Does it happen a lot?”

“Only when vanity, pride, or obsession overpower the wit of being written.”



Now, this section is explicitly discussing literature, but is easily applicable to just about any avenue of life. How many hobbies and interests have fallen by the wayside simply because you were not as good as you think you should be or what others might think about you? How many times has something or someone you loved turned to scorn or dismissed because of your constant vigil over it? It is difficult, but if we want to create something, whatever that may be, we need to find a way to overcome our pride, vanity, and obsession. One way is to actually put your work out into the world and put your pride and vanity on the line. No better way to lose those two than to subject yourself to the criticism of the Internet.

terra mirum

As well, from Chapter 9 “Lost in Thought” page 108:

“Every book ever written and a few that never will be,” the bookworm answered with a smile. “Some are only thoughts or concepts. Some are epic tales, others just short stories. All vastly valuable.”

The questionable legitimacy of an author stating the importance of stories is not lost on me. Still does not make it any less valid. Stories matter, even the bad ones. Obviously, science and math should be pursued and will help answer some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, but the human skill and desire to create should not be a casualty of the push for scientific discovery.

The standard argument for the arts is that science and math allow us to live and thrive while the arts gives us a reason to live. Frankly, this statement has always annoyed me and seemed a bit pedantic. The truth is that stories do more than just entertain; they educate and inspire. When speaking to the next generation of space explorers, we do not tell them about the math of the physics involved in take off or the engineering in the ships and systems. We tell them about the majesty of the stars and of the lives of great explorers that came before them without fear of the unknown and uncertain.

Stories matter because it is stories and words that have moved men and women to great and terrible things. Even those who have wielded the knowledge and power of science have been inspired by the tales and words of others. I am not saying one field or pursuit is better than the other, but instead that they are both necessary parts in the future endeavors of humanity’s path.

So to recap,  in order to create, you must overcome the defeating triumvirate of pride, vanity, and obsession, and all stories, even the bad ones, have a purpose and matter. Thus endeth today’s lesson.

One final note. I highly recommend Alys. It is well worth the investment of time and money, plus you support a promising independent author. You should also check out Kiri Callghan’s other works, like her YouTube channel and Wit&Whimsy Tumblr, if you’re interested in various creative things or just curious in general. Seriously, both entertaining and educational at the same time every once in awhile. Here’s a slight preview of her skills:

Thus ends post blog post random recommendation.

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