Friday, 19 July 2013

Kuato Says, "Open Your Mind"

Kuato the Activist
This lasting image in the Total Recall movie, of Kuato telling the protagonist to "Open your mind", has stayed with me for years.

A baby-sized alien co-existing with a biped is an odd thing to be interested in. Before I read the original story by Philip K. Dick, I always thought that Kuato was a telling addition on the author's life, because Phil Dick was a twin to sister Jane, who died less than eight weeks after her birth, allegedly from an allergy to mother's milk. After I read the original story, there was nothing at all that involved Kuato, or anything that most of Total Recall has, in fact.

Reading the story, it seemed to be more thought oriented than what the movie portrayed. The protagonist was trying to figure out his past and present, his memories (were they accurate?) and thoughts; and the story was basically about a man trying to understand who he was, and who tried to not be defeated by his thoughts.

There is another example of a baby-sized creature in Phil Dick's work, a novel called Dr. Bloodmoney (1965). In this novel the baby is unborn, and from memory it is a twin that speaks through telepathy to a woman that has it inside her. Being a twin myself, I found this very disturbing and fascinating.

The scene in the Total Recall movie, where Kuato drums those three words into the protagonist's head over and over, was illuminating to say the least. As I saw the camera zooming through the depths of Mars, it triggered an idea that the mind can also open up when you perceive an expansive scene for a setting, be it a large world, an area of space (why not the entire universe) and even when an author views in his mind his novel in its entirety.

Friday, 10 May 2013

My Two Favourite Artists

I should say they are 2 of my many favorite artists. But what separates these two is the fact that they have a photographic memory (well, the kind of mind that can conjure images that can be perfectly executed, without years and years of practice). They are both savants in the field, I believe, and are able to create images that one would think were created through many years of experience.

Frank Frazetta and Mahmoud Farshchian.

Dark Kingdom 1976 by Frank Frazetta
Silver Warrior 1972, by Frank Frazetta

Injustice by Mahmoud Farshchian
Vanity by Mahmoud Farshchian

I was drawn to Frank Frazetta because my older brother used to buy and read comics like Maxx, Lobo, Dread, and Sandman, etc. The Lobo comics were drawn by the well known illustrator Simon Bisley, an obvious fan that had a keen interest in Frank Frazetta and his work.

Click here for a detailed account of Mahmoud Farshchian's life and works; and for Frank Frazetta, click here.

In posting this blog, I hope that those who aren't familiar with these two artists will check out their sites. It really is inspiring to observe how perfectly original and moving their work is. For instance, Frank was able to depict motion within the stillness of the scene, and Farshchian able to create dreamlike qualities (almost mirage-like) of beautiful colors and patterns that the eye moves over as though it were the surface of water.

Lewis Carroll and Ideas

If you have managed to read Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, I'd recommend purchasing the Penguin Classics copy below (ISBN 9780141439761), because this copy includes the original manuscript version called Alice's Adventures under Ground, complete with Lewis Carroll's own drawings.

The Child, Nonsense and Meaning.
It is also known that Carroll, in a letter to Tom Taylor of 10 June 1864, talks of his difficulties of finding a title for his "fairy-tale". This letter, along with a second about "Good English", and his discussion regarding names in Symbolic Logic (there really is a plethora of information regarding all his dealings with language that I simply cannot write here) I shall now talk of Lewis Carroll and his interpretation of how one obtains their ideas for writing.

One of his many mathematical works.

What I shall talk about is in regard to "ALICE" ON THE STAGE published by Carroll in The Theatre, April, 1887, which is in the Penguin edition mentioned above. This excerpt also has information that pertains to his characters (such as the White Rabbit, the Hatter, but particularly Alice), riddles, and thoughts about childhood in general.

In reference to the two books:

"In writing it out I added many fresh ideas, which seemed to grow of themselves upon the original stock; and many more added themselves when, years afterwards, I wrote it all over again for publication: but (this may interest some readers of "Alice" to know) every such idea and nearly every word of the dialogue, came of itself. Sometimes an idea comes at night, when I have had to get up and strike a light to note it down - sometimes when out on a lonely winter walk, when I have had to stop, and with half-frozen fingers jot down a few words which should keep the new-born idea from perishing - but whenever or however it comes, it comes of itself. I cannot set invention going like a clock, by any voluntary winding up: nor do I believe that any original writing (and what other writing is worth preserving?) was ever so produced. If you sit down, unimpassioned and uninspired, and tell yourself to write for so many hours, you will merely produce (at least I am sure I should merely produce) some of that article which fills, so far as I can judge, two-thirds of most magazines - most easy to write and most weary to read - men call it "padding," and it is to my mind one of the most detestable things in modern literature. "Alice" and the "Looking-Glass" are made up almost wholly of bits and scraps, single ideas which came of themselves. Poor they may have been; but at least they were the best I had to offer: and I can desire no higher praise to be written of me than the words of a Poet, written of a Poet,

"He gave the people of his best:
The worst he kept, the best he gave.""

As a writer myself, I glean what gold I can from the sand. I tend not to worry too much about remembering such information; I know that if it's interested me enough to remember it, it will stick. Idea's (at least I think) do involve some sort of problem solving on the part of a working story. I guess it's obvious that your mind is always on what you are currently writing - whether asleep or awake - and it is there, the ideas are coming to you and your decision making skills are on full speed (for me it is most effective at night), even though the problem solving aspect is long past the starting line.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Fairy Tale Must Reads!

Here are five great books for the fairy tale aficionado. They range from the 6th Century BC up until 2009. You'll find that each book will handle the broad scope of stories that fairy tales cover, and the narrative variety that fairy tales are famous for. The last two books are a modern take on the fairy tale style.

Fables from the 6th Century BC.
Aesop: The Complete Fables are full of humour, insight and savage wit as well as many fascinating glimpses of everyday life, yet earlier English versions have been both sanitized and highly selective. This is the first translation ever to make available the complete corpus of 358 fables.

Aesop himself was most probably a prisoner of war, sold into slavery in the early sixth century BC, who represented his masters in court and negotiations and relied on animal stories to put across key points. Such fables vividly reveal the strange superstitions of ordinary ancient Greeks, how they treated their pets, how they spoilt their sons and even what they kept in their larders, showing that the tales are also a recording of sorts of that period. As the stories became well known, 'Aesopic' one-liners were widely quoted at drinking parties, and the collection eventually came to include more satirical tales of alien creatures - apes, camels, lions, and elephants - which presumably originate in Libya and Egypt. And all have now been brought together in this definitive and fully annotated modern edition of Aesop: The Complete Fables.

 One of the most popular collection of tales ever published.

This classic edition of 210 ageless tales of myth and magic - one of the most popular collection of fairy tales ever published!
"Among the indispensable, common-property books upon which Western culture can be founded....It is hardly too much to say that these tales rank next to the Bible in importance....Beautiful," wrote W.H. Auden when the original edition of Grimm's was published in 1944.

"Everyone should possess and know Grimm's Fairy Tales - one of the great books of the world - and no English speaking person could do better than this edition." - Richard Adams, New York Times Book review.

"Sheer excitement." Time Magazine

These fairy tales, told originally as an oral form of storytelling, shows us what the real Snow White was like, and also Cinderella, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and many more. Grimm's Fairy Tales is a must for fairy tale lovers.

Journey to Fantastica!


Unicorns, dragons, sprites, will o' the-wisps; the inhabitants of an enchanted world. And through this world ventures Bastian, through the old pages of a book. Bastian is a lonely boy of ten or twelve, and he must save Fantastica, a world that is slowly decaying, its Childlike Empress dying. Only a real human being can set things right by giving the Empress a new name. Bastian finds himself crossing the Swamps of Sadness and the Silver Mountains, meeting giants, sorcerers, night-hobs and bats, racing snails and gnomes, as he journeys bravely toward the Ivory Tower.

Bastians quest is filled with all the wonders of myth and fairy tale! The Neverending Story is a fantasy adventure that will recapture the magical dreams of childhood - and your heart.

Tales within tales.

Catherynne M. Valente has mastered the modern fairy tale in this 483 page book of tales within tales - puzzles, stories, and adventures told from many characters, trailed down from a lonely girl who spins stories to warm a curious prince. Her tales are inked on her eyelids, and each tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl's own hidden history.

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden have tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horse-women, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars - each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before!

"Valente's endless invention and mythic range are breathtaking. It's as if she's gone night-wandering, and plucked a hundred distant cultures out of the air to deliver their stories to us." - Ellen Kushner, author of Thomas the Rhymer.

A city at the end of the world.

An overwhelming tale of life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world, a city called Palimpsest. To reach this city is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse - a journey given to those who have always believed there's another world than the one that meets the eye. People that make the passage are forever marked by a map of that wonderous city, a random district tattooed into their flesh after a night with another who has a piece of the map upon their skin.

Catherynne M. Valente has enchanted readers again with this original  kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, cream filled canals, and living kanji, where come four travellers who have lost something important: a lover, a wife, a sister, a direction in life. But what they shall find in Palimpsest is more than they could imagine.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Welcome To My Blog!

Welcome! My blog is for those interested in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Speculative Fiction genre(s) and sub-genre(s). I shall recommend quality reads in these genres and talk about various science fiction and fantasy books that readers will find of interest, voice my thoughts on the craft of writing, and also mention my enthusiasm in the fine arts, along with authors, artists, and perspectives. If all goes well I will continue to post a review of books and various interesting quibs that I hope you will find interesting!

Being a Judge for the 2011 Australian Aurealis Awards, I have read and reviewed many interesting collections and anthologies. I would like to share that interest with the public, especially to those who are avid readers and are looking for their next great read.
You can find an interview on the Aurealis Award judging process conducted by the talented Mary Elizabeth Burroughs (former non-fiction editor of Strange Horizons) at my writing group blog, The Amberjacks.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Top 5 Classic Reads

Here are 5 classic titles that I recommend to read this Autumn. The great thing about this Top 5 is that some of them impacted on the genres to a degree, and others to a great degree:

The earliest Gothic novel published
1) Interestingly enough, The Castle of Otranto was published pseudonymously in 1764 and became the earliest and most influential of the Gothic novels. This book is where the Gothic novel began, and since its publication there have been many variations on the genre. I prefer to read books right from the source, and this book is a must read, be it for study, personal interest, or illumination on the beginnings of genre types. I am always keen to know what kinds of tales these groundbreaking books have to offer.

Looking at story, it is a dark tale of a Steward hoping to wed his son to the heir-descendent of Castle Otranto, and from which unseen forces strive to thwart him. The Gothic element is surprisingly fresh and modern, and one can see Mr. Walpole's influences with Shakespeare within the text, particularly of Macbeth, with its protagonist on the edges of his sanity.
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Written in the 16th Century during the Ming Dynasty
2) Monkey was written during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). Specifically during the 16th Century, Wu wrote Monkey at a time when trade was booming in China, where the country became involved in a new global trade of plants, goods, animals, and food crops, which was known as the Columbian Exchange. Towards the end of the Dynasty however, the flow of silver into the country diminished, undermining state revenues that caused problems with agriculture, and was combined with natural disasters, calamities, crop failure, epidemics, etc. which caused a challenge Ming authority.

This tale is a fictionalised account of the legendary pilgrimage to India of the Buddhist monk, Xuanzang. Within the story he has four protectors in the form of disciples who, as an atonement for past sins, have agreed to help him obtain sacred texts (sutras). This task was given to them on instruction from the Buddha to Guanyin, an enlightened being. This story represents the journey of individuals towards enlightenment. The popular Monkey Magic TV Series are also based upon this awesome book.
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The origins of Buck Rogers
 3) Armageddon 2419 A.D. We all know of the famous Buck Rogers, who became a serialised phenomenon after its original publication in the 1920's. The character of Buck was first called Anthony Rogers, but changed to Buck during its TV and film serialisation (he was also called William Rogers at one stage too).
The adventures of Buck Rogers in comic strips, movies, radio, and television became an important part of American popular culture. It introduced Americans to outer space as a familiar environment for swashbuckling adventure. But this is only after it became serialised. The original story does not involve outer space at all. It's about a man called Anthony who enters a cave filled with toxic gas, falls unconscious, and awakens in the 25th Century. He realises that he cannot return home and must help the future human race fight the evil Han. It is interesting to note Mr. Nowlan's take on 25th Century technology and how they're used and practiced. You will be surprised.
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A wonderfully spontaneous tale
4)  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. This story illuminates through beautifully spontaneous nonsense and meaning. As a reader, one is caught in a world of narrative distortions and nonsensical explanations. To try and find some meaning involves pleasure and pain, simultaneous and separate. I guess we are like Alice, plunged into Carroll's world, hoping (and trusting) him to a considerable degree.
 Reading this book, I found that people of all ages can glean their own knowledge from it and keep it. I tend to be the reflective type that tries to understand meaning within all aspects of the narrative. I guess there are two types of readers of this book: the one who thinks that most of what Carroll talks about is absolute nonsense, and the other who would find meaning within the nonsense. Nevertheless, this tale is wonderfully inventive and a definite read for anyone interested in 19th Century spontaneity.
Also, the word "chortle" was coined by Carroll, being a combination "snort" and "chuckle", which is in Through the Looking-Glass (part 2 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland).
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Winner of the first World Fantasy Award

5)  The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Although this is not technically a classic in terms of being very old like the novels above (it was published 1974), I still felt that it should be mentioned as a classic, because this book won the first ever World Fantasy Award! It definitely deserved to have won, because you will find a simple, dream-like tale of a girl called Sybel, who lived her life alone upon Eld Mountain.
 Sybel had an extraordinary gift: to call and communicate with fantastic mythical creatures from all over the world, creatures that others fear, such as the dragon Gyld, and Cyrin the mythic boar. She dwelled within a great dome of crystal, caring nothing for the society of humans until she is forced to raise a baby at age sixteen. This baby complicated her simple life and melted her stubborn heart and brought her joy.
The man who brought the baby to her returned years later, and they fall in love and reluctantly she lived with him far away from Eld Mountain and her wonderful creatures, where her powers could be exploited for political gain. It inevitably drew her into a struggle that could turn her against the very child that she raised as her own.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. There is a kind of quietness and calm that can be felt in the narrative. It left me contemplative and thoughtful when I finished it. One really does experience a calm through the pages, not too far removed from staying at monasteries or humble abodes.
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