This week’s $5 reward is a copy of the digital painting I did after finishing “Leviathan Wakes” by James S. A. Correy. The painting depicts the climatic scene of the asteroid Eros breaking apart and falling into the planet Venus where it will be a source of dread for stories to come. The ending was so epic that I had to bring it to life, which pushed me to learn more about Gimp 2.8 and tricks to achieve better images. I had a lot of fun coming up with this image because the book was so great. I highly recommend the series.
Today’s post is not about my writing or artwork, but the material I have fed into my brain over the years, which influences my imagination and creativity. So, today, I give you a book review of a very quirky yet deep book call “The City of Dreaming Books” by Walter Moers. I found this book on Amazon by accident and the title alone drew me in.
The story is about a Dinosaur searching for the author of a manuscript that he feels is the best example of writing he has ever read. Yes, I said dinosaur. The book is populated by all kinds of creatures including sentient, intellectual dinosaurs that read and critic books. Humans also make an appearance; however, that does not come until later in the story. At this point you may be thinking that this is a children’s book or at best young adult but I would like to mention that it is 456 pages long. While the setting and characters may lead you to believe that you are about to read such a book, the story itself is very adult and the ending is deeply profound and emotional. The main characters search will take him to the title city where his innocence will be removed through manipulation and betrayal, as well as, the learning of a profound evil.
Walter Moer’s writing is elegant, rich, and visual. There may even be some metaphor involved about the publishing industry as the main character uncovers the truth about the writer he is seeking. In addition, the book is illustrates throughout. So, do not let the blurb or the cover trick you into missing out on a unique and engaging read.
I want to make a case for funding the arts for obvious reasons and I don’t mean because I am an artist. Of course, I am an artist so I do lean toward an artistic point of view. Also, the arts are more than just images, they are music, they are writing, and they are theater. How many of these affect your life? Well, by how much money actors, singers, and writers can and do make, I would say a lot.
Where to begin? First, let us deal with the fact that Republicans once again want to scrape funding for the endowments to the arts and public television, which make up a small percentage of the governmental budget. Why do they target these programs? One, they are rich and can afford to get any art, entertainment, and learning for said they want so they feel they shouldn’t have to be taxed to help people who cannot afford access to same. Classic “if it does not benefit me directly, I don’t want to pay for it”. Unfortunately, it does benefit them greatly but they are too myopic and greedy to see that. I will explain later. In addition, they are not the only ones being taxed for these programs and the voters should have more say in what is cut. You know, that whole “taxation without representation” jazz the Republicans spew when it is not in their favor. Two, cutting such programs make them look like they are fiscally responsible without having to dig into programs that benefit their largest donors. Note, I do not say base because their base does not count, only their largest donors. Finally, the artistic community is in general one of their biggest oppositions, so it is logical to do all they can to undermine that sector.
Now, let us focus on why the arts need funded. The basic reason, and one that is directly in their favor, is that the arts take peoples minds off their woes. After dealing with all the pressure of work, what is one of the first things people reach for to relax, TV – entertainment. What makes entertainment possible? Art, music, and theater. The arts help soothe the frustrations we all feel. Music calms the savage beast. Next, the arts directly influence scientific discovery. How many times have you heard that Star Trek has influenced a scientist or astronaut to become who they are? How many ideas have been generated from artistic endeavors? Also, the arts help to relax the minds of people so that they can better focus on the work tasks that are given to them. Finally, by limiting art access to only those you are willing to pay for directly, you risk becoming frozen in a set of artistic values that will eventually erode their worth. You in effect create a stagnant pond that begins to have a negative affect on scientific and technological creation. How many great artistic and technological innovations have come from random citizens in our country? The bigger the pool of talent, the better the results.
So, are the arts important? Hell yes! Where do the Republicans think the ideas for their ad campaigns come from? Where do they think the ideas for wrist watches and cell phones came from? Star Trek and Dick Tracy! How do scientists and movie makers visualize for the public their ideas? Artwork! Where do scientists and engineers get a lot of their ideas about the future from? Science Fiction Writers! Life without the arts would be dull, meaningless, and dangerous. Hey, I can understand that cuts need to be made, but you don’t have to totally wipe out these important programs. Try dipping into all the items in the governmental budget evenly and quit lining your pockets with our tax dollars/future. Quit shifting the burden solely onto the middle class you claim to care for so much. Try trimming some of that corporate welfare fueling the 350 to 1 income differential between the top 1% and middle class incomes. Take your stinking paws off the arts you damn dirty apes!
As you know, I kind of like dragons. Not only writing about them but reading about them. To me they are the ultimate mythic beasts, almost God like in their influence over us mere mortals; however, anyone who is widely read in fantasy, or even science fiction, knows that dragons come in many forms. They can be brutish beasts who’s only objective is to wreak havoc. Or maybe, they are long-lived creatures full of wisdom to impart unto us lesser beings. Or better yet, they are something in between.
I am currently re-reading Barbara Hambly’s “A Knight of the Demon Queen”, which features one of my favorite dragons Morkeleb the Black. He is first portrayed as a force of nature that wreaks havoc on the kingdom of Bel in “Dragonsbane” but later you realize that he and his kin are immortal star travelers whose names are literally music. After nearly being killed by John Aversin, the dragonsbane, he is rescued by Aversin’s lover and witch Jenny Waynest since he helped her save John. His interaction with Jenny unlocks a hidden power within her that draws her to him. Thus, for a time she decides to leave John and her children to become a dragon and explore time and life as a dragon does.
She later rejects this gift in favor of a human life and love. You would think that was it; however, in a new trilogy of books started with “Dragonshadow” we encounter a changed Morkeleb who shuns the company of his brethren. Like Jenny, he is haunted by the changes his contact with the her has opened within him or as he would say “Not a Thing of Dragons”. As the story unfolds, you will see Morkeleb change from an aloof archmage to reluctant friend to a curious student of what it means to be human. A depth of caring for those that have become surprisingly important to him will emerge as the trilogy unfolds.
Wow, multiple styles of dragon all wrapped up in one creature. But this is only the tip of the iceberg for dragons in the fictional realm. Take for example, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern dragons from the series of the same name. They are genetically altered native creatures that were created by colonists to help them survive a devastating otherworldly attack. They are at once intelligent and animal like in nature, more akin to very smart pets and just as loyal.
Then there are the dragons found in Melanie Rawn’s “Dragon Prince” and “Dragon Star” trilogies. Creatures of immense power and moderate intelligence, they become mostly wild companions to several key figures in the series after first contact is made through magic. They are unpredictable because of their more animal view of the world, but when harnessed, they are devastating weapons.
Finally, I give you the dragons that appear in Tad Williams’ trilogy “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” that are totally mysterious yet unavoidable. We are never given clear insight into their intelligence, nature, or role in the world. They are long-lived yet dormant most of the time. Key figures in the world’s past and present have suffered grave damage from battling them; however, nothing more is revealed. Oh what a tantalizing web left dangling before our eyes. As for my own dragons, I tend to make them a mix of all these gnarly beasts. They are cunning and shrewd and unknowable for the most part. Then something happens to throw everything up in the air. What could be more fun?
It is time to tease you with next month’s story. This is a change from what I had planned to place for March but I thought it would be nice to give you guys a hopeful story.
The Sindain have been at war with the Hadar for a thousand years. Without the warnings sent to them by their God and the Woods of Calling, the Sindain race would have ceased existence for the Woods of Calling returned the youths that entered as warriors and craftsmen to battle the Hadar. Unfortunately, as the warriors emerged from the woods, artists, singers, and musicians disappeared from Sindain society. After a thousand years of war, the Sindain were losing hope.
Maia and her brother Diocles will soon take their initiation into adult society by entering the Woods of Calling to receive Sky Father’s directions for the need of the Sindain. Both are nervous and hopeful for change in the peoples fortunes. The two siblings are closely bonded and spend much time in the Shrine of Memory where the ancient works of art have been kept for the Sindain to remember better times.
The changes these siblings undergo will ripple through the tribe, changing everything. Be sure to subscribe to my Patreon page for $1 a moth so that you can read “Lepidoptera” next month.
Many of my story ideas come from being a person constantly in between two worlds, never fitting into either. One of the reasons for the title of the collection these stories hail from is that, although most of my life I have been a misfit, I have come to see myself as a mystic. I have found that many of the ideas I held fast to where indeed correct, more so than a large portion of society.
Another aspect of being in between is that you see that both sides are right and they are both wrong. Rarely; however, will either side listen to you on the subject because to them you are a misfit. Mystic/Misfit, Tomato/Tamato. The stories that are generated tend to be battles against inner demons and identity shaping. My characters fight to define themselves outside of the strictures placed upon them. They struggle to free themselves from the conventions of normal.
They feel weak but eventually turn out to be quite strong. Where others might give up, they find a core of strength and stubbornness that sees them through whether human, alien, or something else. Come with me and read between the lines of the choices most people would make.
Yes, when I write my stories, I actually visualize them as a movie. I work on scenes like a movie director by thinking whether I am viewing the action coming up from the ground or down from the sky. Where is the light coming from and how strong? Do the characters enter from the right, moving to the left or vice versa? What important bits of dialogue and background do I need to set up the scene and how far do I need to go to exit same?
I first analyze what I want to achieve in a given stretch of story, whether sentence, paragraph, or chapter, to see the plot point I am trying to get across. Then I begin mixing elements like time of day, interior or exterior, and characters involved. Another step involves a definition of the type of scene. Will I need an action scene to portray the struggle between opposing brute forces or a clever dialogue driven scene to depict cunning battles of intelligence? Am I just bridging scenes to bring a sense of depth to the story or am I building to a major plot point? Better yet, am I camouflaging an important plot point with a piece of misdirection?
I have to think about the outfits the characters are wearing. Clothes do make the character you know. Is this a business scene or a rough outdoor hike, cold or hot, and daytime or night? Will their be a change in outfits? What do the outfits say about the characters? How long will I ramble on about these things?
All of this plays through my head. Why? Because I have watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books and I have had many surprises in both. However, the most fun I have is when I realize that what I mistook for poor writing by an author may actually have been a clever way to bring me into the world as the character is living it. I do not mean a fully realized character giving you information about the world they know to put you into the story. I mean a character as confused about the world as you are by the author’s writing style. Only as you read further and the character learns the ropes do you begin to see what the world is about. Sometimes the lingering feeling of confusion, even after finishing the story, was placed there to make you feel like a person thrown out of their depth. “Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille” by Stephen Brust is a good example of this kind of story. Someday I hope to pull these kind of things off.