The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘myth’

AW Blog Chain – Fire And Ice

Posted by BigWords on August 23, 2012

This blog hasn’t been updated in a while (though you don’t need me to tell you that), and I thought that getting back into the swing of things was a good idea. Even better, using the blog chain gives me ample reason for mass linkage to some of the awesome blogs out there – and you really want to start clicking on these linkies if you haven’t visited the blogs before. So… linkage first, madness second.

orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines – http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
areteus – http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Catherine Hall – http://theelephantinthetemple.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
bmadsen – http://www.bernardmadsen.com/ (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama – http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
meowzbark – http://erlessard.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
BBBurke – http://www.awritersprogression.com/ (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion – http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
wonderactivist – http://luciesmoker.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
SuzanneSeese – http://viewofsue.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
randi.lee – http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Proach – http://desstories.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
magicmint – http://www.loneswing.com/ (link to this month’s post)
tomspy77 – http://thomaswillamspychalski.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)

The prompt for the blog chain is “Fire and Ice”.

Image by Frank Frazetta. Go buy some of his paintings.

CONTENT WARNING – PROFANITY AHOY.

Fire and ice are at opposite ends of the thermal spectrum, and so aren’t linked by many things. Except volcanoes. Yup. You read that right – freaking awesome volcanoes at that. Sometimes it seems that the universe looks at our laws of physics and says “Fuck that, check this out” and does something outlandish. Not that, y’know, we should be surprised or anything, given that reality has already laid the smack-down on our understanding of life on our own planet. As a voracious reader, such things crop up surprisingly rarely in fiction because… Well, you simply wouldn’t accept being told about ice volcanoes, would you? It would be like those Kemlo books where the brat could breathe in space and had awesome adventures just because. Looking at the differences between fire and ice also brings up another question you are probably not going to give a damn about, but which gave me an unbelievable boner when I discovered it – you most likely know about absolute zero (−273.15°C), but you probably didn’t know that there’s an equivalent for fire as well. Unfortunately, some genius thought that “absolute heat” sounded good enough a name for this limit (where reality loses its shit and starts to break down), so scientists are forevermore doomed to say something which sounds like a bad eighties action film whenever they talk about this phenomenon.

Aren’t you glad I skipped over Gliese 436 to bring you all this other stuff?

There are a lot of myths about both fire and ice which are as fascinating for me as anything that reality throws at us – the phoenix, rising from the flames is an image not easily forgotten, and places such as Niflheimr (literally a land of ice) are as potent as any Greek He-Man wannabe. I spent rather too long a while back hunting down the origins of a rather more modern myth, concerning a Russian submarine which picked up a “corpse” on a chunk of ice only to find that the body (when defrosted) wasn’t as dead as imagined. The various tellings differ slightly, though the impossibilities of the repeated information make me think that somewhere along the line someone was having waaay too much fun propagating this piece of cold war nonsense – the life span of an iceberg isn’t that long, and to believe that the woman was recovered in 1988 and nobody has spoken about being on the sub which pulled her in beggars even the most credulous mind.

Those of you who know of my slightly (snerk) obsessive nature will no doubt be wondering when I’m gonna break out the inevitable reference to Fire and Ice from the Justice league, but… that would be too easy. And boring. Lets try something a little more highbrow.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Browning, 1920.

It is interesting that fire is linked to hate there. Written before the horrors of World War II, he couldn’t have imagined just how potent it would become for future generations. The notion of repeated apocalypses – apocalii? – has been a staple of myth for probably as long as there have been people. the Hopi believed that there have been three apocalypse events already. Handily, they occurred in the order of fire, ice, then the flood… I find this endlessly fascinating. Firstly, how the hell did they work all this out, and (more importantly) how did they come to that order? it fits with the scientific knowledge that a planet smashed into the earth, turning the surface into a molten goo. Then the massive ice ages (of which we are currently in the middle of a rather minor one), and… Hell, they nailed the fact that the last major ice age was followed by flooding when the sheets of ice covering giant chunks of the planet thawed. It is eerie. And that’s before we get into what the Mayans came up with, in between games of soccer with the heads of their enemies. It seems that no matter where you turn, there is another apocalyptic myth which begs investigation.

For everyone who knows anything about the universe, this is gonna be boring as hell, but for those of you who didn’t pay attention in school, it is important – there are currently two ways the universe is going to end. Go on – take a wild guess as to what those two ways are… Yup. Fire and ice. Again. Shit, it is almost as if the universe likes deliberately messing with us. Either everything spreads out to the extent that the skies will turn dark, and the end comes in a slow, freezing nothingness, or the universe pulls back on itself like a giant rubber band and contracts into a fiery point of everything, where the next universe will be born from a big bang. Like hitting reboot on your computer, though without any of the information being saved. Kind of a bummer. And don’t fret – mankind will be long, long gone by that point. Oooh – we might all be ghosts, watching as the shit hits the fan. That would actually be kinda awesome.

Aaaand that’s as far as I thought ahead for this. I suck, I know. I’ll leave you with a suitable song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are wondering how the hell I got through this entire post without mentioning George R.R. Martin, then join the club.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Incident At An Overlook

Posted by BigWords on June 25, 2010

by Gary James

The cliffs. Cast in glittering white, now tarnished, the cliffs are where she stands. Alone, and wondering. Lost. Looking out to sea, hoping for the moment. But there is nothing. No answers to her call, no breath of the divine. No salve for the emptiness, no warmth for her soul. She grasps the rail, shoulders hunched, peering over the edge. The drop. Waves rise, fall, surrender to their nature. Erin sighs, fingers tapping. Her ring clanking on the metal rail. Seagulls laugh, flying overhead, tormenting her. Salt air invading her lungs. Standing on the cliffs. Erin, a cipher to herself, mysterious. Who am I?

The sea. Shimmering in repose, it calls to her. Home. Erin leans to it. Fingers stretched on roughly painted metal. Tapping. Clouds roll languidly in the air, playing. Erin still has not found herself. So she waits. Watching the sea, she waits. And beyond, barely visible, is France. A slice of gray resting ghostly on the light blue sea, past the sea, beyond the sea. And of Erin… A bob of black hair framing delicate white skin. Ghostly, sharp features. Beautiful, her mind preoccupied. Tormented. Impatient at the wait. The endless wait. Shifting on her feet, she leans. The railing holds. Erin breathes, and thinks. Who am I?

A ripple runs through her mind, playing at her wants. Not answered, but acknowledged. She has been seen, but she has not been offered tribute. The breeze catching her blouse, the tip of her shoe scratching at the path beneath. Fingers tapping on the metal rail. Impatience. She is Erin, yes, but she is fury. The wait hurts. Cuts. And her anger grows. The sea calls. There are no answers, only questions. Erin wonders. Who am I?

Solitude is broken. Shattered by quick, eager footsteps. A jogger runs the path. Erin watches. Trainers tapping on concrete, the young woman’s stride, the taut strength. Erin straightens, alert. The young woman moves closer. Erin notices the briefest movement in the trees. A man, masked. The jogger is unaware. She is not like Erin. Erin, fingers tightening on the rail, feet flat against the ground, tensed. The sea crashes against the cliff, crying out. Erin watches. Who am I?

The man moving. Nearing the woman. The jogger interrupted, thrown sideways. Erin watches, fingers straining at the metal of the rail. Fury rising. Hair blowing into her eyes. The call of the sea. The man swipes, hitting the jogger. On the ground now. One hand at her shorts. Erin, tensed and ready. The flat of his hand hitting. Erin approaches. Thoughts swirling in her head. Clouds gather in expectation. Eager anticipation. The jogger is struggling. Bleeding. Who am I?

Erin takes the man. Fingers stretching as she savors the act. Erin breathes. Fury rising. She strikes, tearing, ripping. Her anger divine, Erin screams in rage. The sky darkens. The sea calls. Waves whipping in a frenzy. Erin stretches. Flexes. The wait is over. She is Erin, yes, and her mind is clear. And she is savage. Uncontrolled and uncontrollable, Erin continues, gouging, rending and ravaging. Never ending. The horrors she commits shock her. And she wonders. What am I?

Erin’s call is answered. Her calling confirmed. Nerves tingling, rejoicing. The sea flowing her blood, the sky churning in her stomach. Her past flooding in, drowning her. Erin’s sisters, the wars, the neverending pain. Ten thousand years of loss. The defiler sacrificed to her gods. To her friends. His death a kindly act. Erin, satisfied at last, stops. Still hungry. The sea calling to her. Erin, shocked. Horrified. Stepping back from her act, to the rail. To the rail where she has waited. Fingers grasping for steel. Breathing hard. Her head light, Erin balances herself. What am I?

The sea mocks. The jogger, panting, wriggling back from her attack, rises. Turns. Flees as fast as she can. And Erin watches. Aware. Always aware. She knows that her call has been answered. Her soul lightened. And she knows who she is.

She is Erin, yes, and she is fury.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Five Ponderables

Posted by BigWords on August 23, 2009

#1 Does Every Writer Secretly Want To Be An Actor?

I’ve just watched the episode of Veronica Mars with Joss Whedon as a car rental guy, and I’m wondering just how many writers have the need to spread their time into other areas. Quentin Tarantino’s acting talents aren’t exactly exemplary, though Joss managed to deliver his lines perfectly well. Kevin Smith, another geek-favorite, has managed to carve out a nice sideline in acting jobs, though if you were to base any opinion of his talents on Die Hard 4.0 or Silent Bob appearances then he doesn’t seem so cool.

Is this normal? Gee, I must be a freakish mutant, ’cause I have no intention of wasting a day to deliver a couple of lines. That isn’t lowering the importance of television or film, it’s just a fact that both media take so long to set up scenes that it doesn’t seem worth the hassle. I’ve never had the urge to get involved in front of the camera, but scriptwriting isn’t too bad. The most fun is probably to be had in writing series-bibles or coming up with new formats for old ideas.

Stephen King, who really doesn’t need to do anything but sit on his ass and watch the money accumulate in his bank account, regularly appeared in movies based on his novels. I never thought about this much, but now it seems a strange way to stamp authorial importance in the audience’s minds, exactly the same as the cameos Stan Lee gets in every Marvel feature film. I’m slightly less impresses with Lee, mostly because of the way he claims credit for every good idea to come out of Marvel since he kick-started their Silver Age output.

What is the appeal? Is writing unfulfilling for some people?

#2 Red Faction

Playing Red Faction: Guerrilla reminded me of the original, which was better than Half Life in many, many ways, but there was one aspect of the game I never really understood. In the extras there was a enclosed cave / cavern thing which had a giant greenhouse sitting in the centre of the map, but it was never explained what was meant to occur there. I blasted tunnels in the walls, using infinite ammo cheats to get as far as I could go, but there was a limit to the length of tunnel that could be created.

I tried exposing all of the supporting beams under the greenhouse, to get the building to collapse, but this – again – was impossible. So I gave up trying to work out why the map was there… until the second game was released. I wasn’t partial to Red Faction II because of the shallow gameplay and annoying menu interface. Still no clues as to the reason for the damn thing. Then Guerrilla came along, and I’m still no clearer as the the purpose of that glass building from the original game.

#3 Mystery Disks

America has long been used to double-sided disks, but I’m beginning to get rather fed up with the use of them I have the bad habit of not returning DVDs straight back to their boxes, and I’m finding that the double-sided disks are beginning to gather into a large stack beside the television. The ones which have the tiny little writing near the center are bad enough, but there are some which have no writing whatsoever to identify the film on the disk.

Who decided that it was a good idea to release a product that was impossible to identify unless the consumer wastes five minutes putting it in their machine and checking the content? It isn’t rocket science, and even a schoolkid could tell them that there would be trouble in store if some kind of identification isn’t provided on the actual disk. Am I alone in this? Whenever I think about buying R1 DVDs I always check on various websites to see what the specs are now, just so I am not landed with another mystery disk.

#4 Paper Wastage

There’s so many film guides that it can be hard to choose between them, but I’ve been thinking that the days of giant tomes may be over. With imdb.com and the hit-and-miss Wiki pages devoted to films, what are the purpose of film guides these days? Are there still people buying these books, and – if so – what are they getting from the books that they can’t find online from equally reliable sources?

I’m not counting the hilarious histories (there is an account of Cannon which is a terrifying read for any accountant) or the biographies which scrape away myth and PR bullshit, but the alphabetical listing of films, with their release date, cast, crew and a brief plot.

A million years ago I thought of writing a film guide which would cover all of the films which hadn’t been mentioned in print for five years, which would have been the most obscure text on film ever written, but with the advent of so many sites covering obscure films it no longer seems remotely possible. Every dirty little corner of film history seems to have been picked to death by expert and amateur hands alike. I’m not impressed with most blunt little reviews anyway, which often miss some great moments.

#5 The Odyssey

Remind me – was Telemachus the annoying kid or the silly red robot?

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Even though I tried to ignore them, I have the awful feeling I have created another meme. Ugh. Whatever – if you have five ponderables to get off your chest, then go ahead. Just make sure you give credit where credit’s due.

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Business As Normal

Posted by BigWords on July 25, 2009

The last couple of posts were kinda lazy, pulling up stuff from disk and fobbing you guys off (which sucks – I know), but the course, my writing and a commitment for the end of next month have eaten into my already-tight schedule. So it’s back to business as normal…

Which means that I’m off on another tangent, and thinking strange thoughts.

I spent a while yesterday afternoon looking at my western-not-a-western and trying to decide when to drop the bomb. The story has taken a leap into deep mythology without me even trying to be smart, and there are now references to Aztek curses, angry spirits and ‘ghost lights’ alongside the usual shootouts. There was a half-second when I considered using a little bit of Cthulhu mythos in there as well, but I don’t want to over-egg the weirdness factor. And I took out the zombies, ’cause that would be too much even for me.

This all built itself up from a couple of completely disconnected scenes which I couldn’t figure out. Now there is a couple of thousand years of back-story, two time frames and a massive monologue which (hopefully) ties everything together. I’m still patchworking in some facts, strange characters, references and sly call-backs, but at least it looks like something that I am not completely dissatisfied with.

It was only when I got to the beginning of the mid-section (a long and convoluted trek through the middle of nowhere to find lost gold) did I realize that I have managed to link it in to some of my other stories. This is where I should explain that my stories were never intended to share a single universe, but the cumulative effect of simultaneously writing different eras, genres and formats (short stories and novels) has manifested a few common points of reference:

  1. The Native American whose skeleton is discovered in a thriller short story is of the same tribe who appear in The Reverend. Might even be a character from the novel…
  2. There’s some loose threads from Faerwither which get tied up in the monologue, though it is presented as a myth in this instance. I may leave it as it is, but the coincidental use of a common legend is slightly jarring when surrounded by other elements.
  3. A similarly-described charm to the one the MC wears turns up (chronologically) a hundred or so years later in Ghost Bureau, and has an important plot surrounding it.

It isn’t as if I am deliberately creating a cohesive universe across my work, but it seems to be happening regardless.

I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of whathefuck moments passed by completely, when something extraordinary happens and none of the characters seems too put out. The tidying up of the absurdisms will get done soon, when I have time to edit properly. There are many people who use anything they like in a story, but I have always had a hard time censoring my own thoughts – That goes some way to explain one of the stranger concepts (which has been shunted to one side now), but was originally going to be my first novel…

The novel in question began life when I was probably six or seven years old. Yes, six or seven years old, because you’re never too young to start. I didn’t write anything, but that is when the idea came to me for a fantasy story which, looking back on it, is probably no sillier than many ideas which have made it into print.

The basic concept came to me – and stuck in my brain for the better part of a decade – when I was playing on the floor, my toys laid out in front of me. I remember sorting the action figures into ranks, standing them in rows according to how large they were. The giant Voltron robot (which may have been a Hong Kong knock-off come to think of it) was at the back, with all of the Action Man figures. In front of them were the slightly smaller figures from Super Powers, He-Man, ThunderCats and other mid-sized toys.

In front of those stood the Action Force, Star Wars and tiny little toys. I seem to recall a handful which had shiny silver 3D stickers for faces, or maybe on their chests… The very smallest toys stood in the front, little 5mm tall yellow figures (I have no idea of their origin, so they remain a question mark) and some Dinky cars. The basic thought which kept interrupting my already-logical little mind was one of scale, and I struggled to put them all in a single story. When I think about it, most of the other kids had no problem whatsoever accepting the varying sizes of their playthings…

The story unfolded itself over the course of my school days, when I discovered lots of little facts that could help me orchestrate the idea of a planet with characters ranging in height from a few inches to dozens of feet tall. I also came up with a massive cast of characters at this point – somewhere in the region of two thousand main characters and many, many secondary ones. I threw everything and the kitchen sink into the epic, with werepeople, robots, the ghosts of dinosaurs, talking monkeys (just because) and other strangeness.

The original story now exists as a series of tales (300-500 pages handwritten) in the bottom left hand drawer of my desk. I’ll eventually look through them to see what I can salvage, but I have a feeling that I will be disappointed. So there you have it… The roots of my writing addiction, and a disturbing glimpse into the mind of a child who was plotting out an epic when he should have been playing in the sun.

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