Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Friday, August 31, 2018

Historical Anatomy: Composing Bodies and Representing the Invisible Soul

Note this is Part of a series:



#3:  Historical Anatomy: Composing Bodies and Representing the Invisible Soul (you are here) 

#4) Weird, Dark Art Design: Implicit vs. Explicit Gore and Horror

Historical Anatomy: Composing Bodies and Representing the Invisible Soul
Sixteenth century apothecaries sourced both medicine to physicians and raw materials to artists; the former treating souls with medicine, the latter manufacturing their own paint so they could portray the divine (as there were no art supply stores then, nor industrial means to mass produce it).   Artists, alchemists, and early physicians would also convene within the dissection chambers.  Anatomical artists had to grapple with documenting macabre scenes of opened bodies while remaining 'artistic'.  For the dignity of the specimens and to satisfy the surgeons' needs, artists often found harmony by posing their subjects.  Many artists captured or imparted a bit of the lost soul into their dead subjects.  Perhaps most famous are Johannes de Ketham's Fasiculo de Medicina (1491), Andreas Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), and Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks (~ 1452-1519).   Recent compilations like The Quick and the Dead and Spectacular Bodies ii are fantastic resources on this subject.
 
The prevailing Church did not permit the dissection of innocent believers, so criminals or 'sinners' were often used.  Then, the notion of the four humors prevailed.  Bodies were considered divinely sacred and were thus difficult to obtain and dissect; those corpses deemed acceptable could not be refrigerated, so one had to work fast!  Nor were there cameras or video to capture the observations!  Artists and alchemists partnered to explore, and document the microcosm of life.  Leonardo Da Vinci provided detailed notes along with his drawings:

"I have dissected more than ten human bodies, destroying all the various members and removing the minutest particles of flesh which surrounded these veins, without causing any effusion of blood other than the imperceptible bleeding of the capillary veins.  And as one single body did not suffice for so long a time, it was necessary to proceed in stages with so many bodies as would render my knowledge complete; this I repeated twice in order to discover the differences.  And though you should have a love for such things you may perhaps be deterred by natural repugnance, and if this does not prevent you, you may perhaps be deterred by fear of passing the night hours in the company of these corpses, quartered and flayed and horrible to behold; and if this does not deter you, then perhaps you may lack the skill in drawing, essential for such representation; and if you had the skill in drawing, it may not be combined with the knowledge of perspective; and if it so combined you may not understand the methods of geometrical demonstration and the method of estimating the forces and strength of muscle; or perhaps you may be wanting in patience so that you will not be diligent." iii
How brutally, and beautifully, clear he was in describing what was necessary to follow his muse.   Corpses were given personality, soul if you will, through artificial poses and theatrical, emotional countenances.  Da Vinci determined through his dissections that the senses were linked to a 'common sense' that led to the brain.  But no actual soul was discovered. He yielded the goal of managing the soul to religion.   Below, from his treatise on painting, he spoke how the artist must deal with this and impart the soul into its subjects otherwise:
"A good painter has two chief objects to paint, man and the intention of his soul; the former is easy, the later hard because he has to represent it by the attitudes and movements of the limbs. "iv 

Interactive Book Link
With the most promising connection to our souls being the senses, it follows that the next great promise of discovery came when the technology of optics allowed scientists to see, and draw, new worlds.  Astronomers were anxious to probe the heavens and documented the heavens; for instance, Galileo's Starry Messenger (1610).  Pioneering microscopists had to capture their views with pen and parchment.   In 1664, Robert Hooke published a large treatise entitled Micrographia, containing an encyclopedia of detailed drawings of his microscopic views.   To have these reproduced in print, each drawing had to be converted into an engraving!  From this, Hooke is credited for coining the word 'cell' to describe the pores in cork.   In his preface, he explains to the reader that optics have enabled a spiritual quest:

The next care to be taken, in respect of the senses, is a supplying of their infirmities with instruments, and, as it were, the adding of artificial organs to the natural; this in one of them has been of late years accomplished with prodigious benefit to all sorts of useful knowledge, by the invention of optical glasses.  By the means of telescopes, there is nothing so far distant but may be represented to our view; and by the help of microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry; hence there is a new visible world discovered to the understanding.  By this means the heavens are opened, and a vast number of new stars, and new motions, and new productions appear in them, to which all the ancient astronomers were utterly strangers.  v
There are two key points: one, the spiritual creative process occurs when artistry, science, and spiritualism coincide; and two, the soul has never found.  Despite how far we see into space with telescopes, or how well we resolve structures with microscopes, the soul still eludes us.  

Ernest Haeckel (1834-1919) was a famous artist-scientist fascinated with the aesthetics of nature and the elusiveness of the soul.  His 1904 set of lithographs Art Forms in Naturevi  brilliantly exhibit his obsession with the symmetrical beauty of biological microstructures, and his extensions into comparative embryology brought him controversy.   He argued this in his support of his own monistic religion that scientific adventures continually uncovered the beautiful designs inherent in nature (monism generally supports that "body and soul" are one connected entity, not separate as many dualistic religions profess):

The remarkable expansion of our knowledge of nature, and the discovery of countless beautiful forms of life, which it includes, have awakened quite a new aesthetic sense in our generation, and thus given a new tone to painting and sculpture.  Numerous scientific voyages and expeditions for the exploration of unknown lands and seas, partly in earlier centuries, but more especially in the nineteenth, have  brought to light an undreamed abundance of new organic forms...affording an entirely new inspiration for painting, sculpture, architecture, and technical art.  vii

In 1900, Haeckel published his scientific, spiritual book Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century in which he explains his monistic philosophies.  Within this he has elegant discussions about the soul's lack of participation in the "Laws of Substance" (conservation of mass and energy); below, he discusses how many related the nonexistent soul to that which is tangible:
Thus invisibility comes to be regarded as a most important attribute of the soul.  Some, in fact, compare the soul with ether, and regard it, like ether, as an extremely subtle, light, and highly elastic material, an imponderable agency, that fills the intervals between the ponderable particles in the living organism, other compare the soul with the wind, and so give it a gaseous nature; and it is this simile which first found favor with the primitive peoples, and led in time to the familiar dualistic conception.  When a man died, the body remained as a lifeless corpse, but the immortal soul "flew out of it with the last breath." viii
Many beautiful rituals evolved since souls could not be truly located or measured after a body died; many myths persist that cannot be readily falsified.  The notion of relics is common across cultures and time. It assumes that the soul is a contagion remaining attached to the body postmortem.  Hence, the power of a Saint could be absorbed if one obtained his or her bones; this gave rise to the theft and desecration of many crypts and catacombs.  Many crypts remain with the bodily relics are on display:  the crypt of Saint Munditia of Munich and the Vienna Imperial Crypts are fine examples.

More bizarre, and beautiful, is the notion that souls could be deified by creating architecture with the bones of the deceased.  Here the artist would convene with the spiritualist in a funerary chamber and temple.  Famous examples include: the shrines of Capuchin monks in Rome and Palermo, Sicily (these catacombs contain 6,000 to 8,000 bodies); and the Kostnice 'Church of Bones, Kutna Hora, Sedlec Ossuary, Prague, (containing remains of forty thousand people); lastly, the impressive catacombs of Paris (l'Ossuaire Municipal) in which several condemned cemeteries were collocated in the 18th century and countless skulls comprise the walls.  
If one can make architecture from our bodies, can one make pigments or paint from them?  Organic matter played a strong role in the history of art technology.  Parchment, vellum, was manufactured from the hides of animals before wood based paper was available.  Size, a gluey substance used to prepare surfaces or harden gesso, was made from boiling skin and bone.  Many medieval pigments were iron based (blue, red, black iron oxides) or were derived from living material (dried blood, sintered black bone, and many binders were protein based (milk casein, egg yolk).   Calcined bone is used as a white pigment.  Gallstones were sometimes used as a source of yellow color in the Middle ages.  Bile was used for some greens.  Caput mortem was a mysterious pigment that may have been just iron oxide or, if the ghoulish rumors are true, powder from pulverized mummies.

If the sourcing of material was a spiritual motivation of alchemical artists, as the Mappae Clavicula indicates, would the sourcing of material for a self portrait be most genuine if the elements to manufacture it were provided by our ancestors?   This notion was in the inspiration for the Inheritance Rite of the Picts in Lords of Dyscrasia.

Petherbridge, D. J., Ludmilla (1997). The Quick and the Dead Artists and Anatomy. Los Angeles, University of California Press.
ii Kemp, M. W., Marina (2000). Spectacular Bodies: The Art and Science of the Human Body from Leonardo to Now. Los Angeles, University of California Press.
iii Da Vinci, L., Ed. (1998). The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. Oxford World's Classics New York, N.Y., Oxford University Press.  p151
iv Da Vinci, L., Ed. (1998). The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. Oxford World's Classics New York, N.Y., Oxford University Press.  p178
v Hooke, R. (2007). The Preface, Micrographia or Some Physiological Description of Minute Bodies. New York, NY, Cosimo, Inc. section d-e
vi Haeckel, E. (2008). Art Forms in Nature - the prints of Ernst Haeckel. New York, Prestel.
vii Haeckel, E. (1900). Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (Die Weltraethsel). New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers. p341
viii Haeckel, E. (1900). Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (Die Weltraethsel). New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers. p199


Friday, November 27, 2015

Practical Surfactants - Illustrations and Phase Diagram Widget



I've had the pleasure of knowing Professor Steven Abbott for several years now.  His credentials are solid (Oxford & Harvard Chemistry PhD, U. Strasbourg Post Doc in Nobel Prize lab, Senior Manager ICI, Research Director MacDermid Autotype, Visiting Professor U. Leeds, Independent Scientist, Consultant, Trainer, Author) and his personality splendidly high-energy.

His knack for making web-based, interactive models is well-established, especially for coatings, adhesives, and solubility issues. More recently, he has created a package for understanding surfactants/detergents, available online - Practical Surfactants site and now in a Practical Surfactants- Free eBook.  I was thrilled to be able to provide some illustrations for the eBook (i.e. for surfactant curvature) as well as co-developing the Phase Diagram tab which includes some awesome sub-tabs:
Two-Phase Regions and Lever-Rule Widget / Ternary Diagram Basics /
  Understand the Gibb's Phase Rule / Ternary Data Viewer

Practical Surfactants - Online Interface




Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lloyd Library - A Treasure Trove of Scientific Art

Lloyd Library and Museum - Cincinnati, OH

The Lloyd Library is a reclusive gem hidden in downtown Cincinnati (Plum & Court Str. corner). Despite having attended Rieveschl Hall at the University of Cincinnati to study chemistry, and having lived in the region since 1991 while pursing a carrier and hobbies that blend graphic arts with science, I missed this place entirely.  Cripes, I could have seen Rieveschl's lab notebooks in person!  Thanks to the Lloyd Library & Museum (LLM) sponsoring a clip on NPR, I learned about the institution.  It is a small venue, at least to the public; four of its five floors are off limits since they house a treasure trove of antique scientific literature.

I am a confessed bibliophile. In 2012, I had the pleasure of seeing an original, 1665 printing of Robert Hooke's Microgrograhia (thanks to Don Brooks and the McCrone Research Institute; link).  Of course, cameras did not exist then, so early scientists had to draw their data! Leonardo Davinci's notebook is a classic documentation of this, but consider early anatomists who had to draw fast since their non-refrigerated corpses/subjects decomposed (for more on this, I recommend Kemp's beautiful book: Spectacular Bodies: The Art and Science of the Human Body).  Hooke pioneered the use of the microscope and presented his survey of microstructures to the Royal Society in his "Micrographia, or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses (click to browse the interactive book). Hooke had to draw his observations as he peered into strange, microscopic worlds.

So to learn that four levels of books from similar eras were downtown at the LLM, I had to visit.  The first floor is open to the public and features some rotating and some permanent exhibits; calling ahead to arrange a visit may expedite getting inside.  They do host small educational groups, but this is really a place of research in which the librarians are used to retrieving medieval-to-early-19th-century works.  Here are some highlights:

Temporary Exhibit Back from the Brink

Description from the LLM: "This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the last known passenger pigeon, Martha (shown at right), who died at the Cincinnati Zoo, despite attempts to find her a mate and save the species, which once numbered in the millions...Over the course of human history, we have, unfortunately, caused the end of numerous species...This exhibition features species that have made a comeback, showing those moments when our species has recognized our own folly and done something to make a difference." History of four footed beasts and serpents: 1658 (link to public domain) was one featured book (behind glass of course), turned to the Bison image (image above). The link to the public domain site shows the hidden pages that include mythological  beasts. So the image of the Bison was indeed cool....but to be able to browse through the printed version at the other entries would be remarkable (and possible it seems, especially if one has an academic reason to request access).

Permanent Exhibit: The George Rieveschl, Jr. History of Pharmaceutical Chemistry 

 The George Rieveschl, Jr. History of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Exhibit features a patented Lloyd Cold Still (at right) built in Cincinnati and used at the University of Michigan and at AYSL Corp; a key device use to invent and manufacture Benadryl.  The Cold Still was a neat, patented invention by the Lloyd brothers that heated the surface of an extract to remove solvent, as opposed to heating the bottom; the benefit was that fragile chemicals were not degraded during the separation process. The exhibit features the actual cold still...and Rieveschl's lab notebooks (see photo)!

Permanent Exhibit: Lloyd Brothers

The Lloyd Brothers set up shop in Cincinnati ~1885 and had a rich tradition of researching botantical chemistry and medicines.   Of particular interest to soap makers of past and present (i.e., Cincinnati soap makers Procter & Gamble), was their "clean" long, lasting soap: $1.40 for a dozen cakes!  

Online ExhibitThe Magic and Myth of Alchemy 

This is a very comprehensive website that blends historic drawings of real scientists with the subjective, trippy alchemists.  LLM description: "This is a permanent online exhibit: "The Magic and Myth of Alchemy" exhibit was created in honor of the International Year of Chemistry, an event celebrated by chemists and chemistry associations throughout 2011. In truth, however, there has been a wish to present the alchemical holdings of the Lloyd Library and Museum to the general public for some time. While we do not hold the most ancient treatises from Asia or the Middle East, the Lloyd holds a wealth of materials from the Early Modern and later periods, along with translations and later editions of some of the earlier volumes. A quick search in the Lloyd's online catalog yields no less than some 140 titles pertaining to that topic in some fashion, dating from 1544 to 2010. The collection includes the works of Paracelsus, Maier, Glauber, Hermes Trismegistus, and that alchemist made even more famous through a mention in the Harry Potter ™ series, Nicholas Flamel."



Friday, March 21, 2014

C Dean Andersson / Asa Drake - Interview by S.E. Lindberg


Image #1: Portrait of Hel  - Illustration by C. Dean Andersson
Interview with C. Dean Andersson by S.E.Lindberg
It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven my strange muses. This continues the interviews of weird/speculative fiction authors on the themes ofArt & Beauty in Fiction.  Here we corner C. Dean Andersson (a.k.a. Asa Drake) who has written Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror since the 1980's and just released Hel X 3 (an eBook omnibus of his Bloodsong saga; check out my review of Hel X 3 (link).  Let’s learn more about his artistic inspirations.

Grotesque Beauty: 
You seem fascinated with the Goddess Hel. The Hel X 3 trilogy is titled and inspired after her after all (with a fourth Valkyries of Hel in progress), and you received a Bram Stoker Award finalist ranking for your story about a modern encounter with the Goddess Hel, "The Death Wagon Rolls on By."  Hel has a wonderful character design, being half-living-beauty / half-corpse; she explicitly represents the paradox of attractive horror.  In the anthology Pawn of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion, your short story "The Warskull of Hel" has Bloodsong working with Michael Moorcock's eternal champion (the Urlik Skarsol incarnation); Urlik discovers Hel and suggests that her corpse-side may be beautiful:

"So, you think me beautiful, do you, Urlik Skarsol?" The woman on the throne laughed, a sound like a raven's call.  "Yes, your thoughts are known to me, and that this image of beauty is the most dear to you of any in existence.  But you have not seen my other side."  She pulled back her hair and revealed the half-face of a rotting corpse.  Her laughter again echoed from icy walls.

Urlik quickly concealed his shock and said , "Someone in horrible pain might think Your face of Death most beautiful."

Your own fiction is "horrific" but you share it nonetheless, and invite others to share in the grotesque.
How do you make the corpse-side of Hel appealing?  
CDA: It is beyond my power to do so, without audience participation. If the Thanatos in Eros-Thanatos triggers your libido and stimulates fantasies darker than most can stand, kissing the corpse-side of Hel’s face may be your cup of tea. But whatever affects you strongest, the mythic power of Hel’s image comes from the emotional tension generated by its Ying-Yang juxtaposition of Life and Death.

Hel, whichever side you prefer, can be a kind of visual Norse aphrodisiac. Her dead side reminds you, at least on a subconscious level, to beat the genetic clock and reproduce before it’s too late. Of course in our too-clever-for-our-own-good human ways, sexual gratification is often consciously unrelated to reproduction. Hel’s appearance also inspires an appreciation of our current life because she reminds us of our future death. She holds, in addition, in her life qualities, the promise of rebirth to new life. Some Norse believed in reincarnation within family lines. If that is your belief, Hel’s death side is a door your spirit must pass through to get to your future.  
I probably need to point out, for the Norse challenged, Hel is not Death. She takes care of the Dead. But her realm is the Norse Underworld where the environment itself was believed to be unpleasant, dark and cold, like a grave. In fact, one suggested origin for her name is that it simply meant “to cover over,” as in a burial. 
Hel is a goddess whose concept probably predates the Norse Myths. How old is the awareness of an eventual, personal, physical extinction?  In the myths, she is portrayed as a special child disfigured at birth but loved by her mother, a Jotun, giantess—Neanderthal?—whom the myths call Angrboda, Anguish-Boding. The gods kidnapped Hel and her brothers, Fenris the Chaos Wolf and Jormungandr the World Serpent—two other ancient power symbols--from their mother because Odin and company feared their potential roles in Ragnerok, where gods are predicted to die.
At Ragnerok, Fenris is to kill Odin. Jormungandr is to kill Thor. And Hel sails to battle from the Underworld with an army of the Dead in Naglfari, a ship made from dead men’s nails. It is said the Norse kept their fingernails short to delay Naglfari’s completion. Fenris was chained on an Island. Jormungandr was thrown into the ocean. But Hel was exiled to the Underworld where, still possessing power in all the Nine Worlds, she established a refuge for souls unchosen by other deities. In HEL X 3, I named her the Goddess of the Forgotten Dead.

Drawing vs. Writing: 
Depicting a character in words requires a different creative process than drawing.  For The Brutarian #52, Fall 2008, you tapped into your fine arts training and depicted a dark goddess to complement an interview (VAMPIRES, WITCHES AND WARRIOR – OH MY!   by Michael McCarty) and a short story featuring the Queen of the Sumerian Underworld, Ereshkgal (MAMA STRANGELOVE’S REMEDIES FOR AFTERLIFE DISORDERS  OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE MOTHER DEATH).  I was surprised to learn that you had a drawing side to you, and even sold illustrations at science fiction conventions. 
Image #2: Watercolor "Portrait of a Vampire" by CDA 
(shown in art shows but never been published elsewhere, until now!).

Did your fine arts education/creative-process inform your fiction?  Do you still create illustrations, perhaps as part of the creative writing process?  


CDA: I doodled spaceships and robots all over the margins of my first grade papers. The teacher, Goddess bless her, encouraged me to keep at it. I had no formal art training until college, where I abandoned the music major I had planned at the last minute and, on an unplanned urge, switched to the art registration line instead—try explaining that one to parents who had scraped and saved to help you afford college.

But somewhere in high school I started writing stories. After college, I spent four years in the Air Force then worked in art before I started being serious about my writing and trying to sell it. Images I visualized and drew or painted have been used in my books. The “Portrait of a Vampire” here (Image #2) is a watercolor drawing that I created years before I wrote about Tzigane, Dracula’s mate. Tzigane undergoes rigorous training and devotes her life and Undeath to becoming a powerful Vampire-Witch, with a mission to convince Dracula of a destiny that requires he voluntarily allow her to initiate him into Vampirehood.

My watercolor is a drawing overlaid with washes using vivid “Dr. Martin’s” dyes. In retrospect, it has much of my future Tzigane in it, or vice versa. It is based on a still from The Ghost, showing the star, Barbara Steele. Her extraordinary eyes and face and acting is an inspiration to many artists, writers, poets and dark fantasy aficionados in general (see Paghat's review of Barbara Steele work.)


At one time, a number of art pieces I created had inspiring visions of Steele as their theme. Then, at an SF convention art show in L.A., the late Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland and, of course, a childhood hero, bought one, “for a Barbara Steele collector in Belgium,” was all he would say. That collector’s name remains a mystery to this day, but I hope he or she enjoyed the art. 

Another example, not shown here, because I couldn’t find the original to scan, is a drawing that was my version of the time-honored “Death and the Maiden” theme. Edvard Munch’s famous drawing of “Death and the Maiden” is an interesting example. But my version was placed in a dungeon and later used in the second Bloodsong book, where the character named Huld is captured by the villain, Thokk, chained in Thokk’s dungeon, and tormented by a living skeleton.    

Traditional and modern “Death and the Maiden” images are analogous to Hel’s image, by the way. A young woman is a potential source of new life, while the contrast of a figure representing Death twists the emotions into a stimulating brew. And it does not have to be a Grim Reaper reminding you of Death. A place of Death like a tomb haunted by spiders or a place that threatens horror and death like a rat-infested Inquisitor’s dungeon can serve just as well.

In general, I don’t see any difference in the basic inner creative process when creating visual art or creating stories. I see the scenes I create in books as if I had drawn them first, whether or not I actually have. I write from one scene to the next. The scenes I see could be illustrated, if I had the time. One day I hope to illustrate a book or books I write or have written. That, too, would be fun. 

Image #3: "Gorgon Goddess" - ink illustration by C Dean Andersson

Illustrations

CDA: The full-faced drawing is an ancient and monstrously powerful “Gorgon Goddess” (Image#3) who has broken her chains and is rampaging against those who tried to destroy her through prejudiced patriarchal propaganda and fear-centric “new religions.” She’s loose! Watch out! Be afraid! Unless you’re her friend.

The half skull-faced “Portrait of Hel” (Image #1) was later adapted from the “Gorgon Goddess”  for use as an Internet avatar. Portrait of Hel shows the living half of her face as black and featureless, in total shadow, and the dead half of Her face as skeletal white and skullish. 

Can you comment on your own attraction toward repulsive/terrifying things? 

CDA: I did not at first go looking for scary things as a kid, but if something scared me enough, it ran the risk of getting chased down and tackled. A good example is my first Dracula movie. For some reason, the concept of a corpse sneaking into my house to suck my blood while I was sleeping gave me nightmares. The idea threatened me. I needed to know more about it. 
I found and read Stoker’s Dracula, which also scared me, then a disturbing non-fiction book about worldwide vampire beliefs, Montague Summers’  The Vampire, His Kith and Kin. Vampires, it turned out, were everywhere, and always had been. Nevertheless, the next Halloween, I went trick-or-treating as Dracula. I was not too comfortable doing it. But it gave me a feeling of power and pride. I thought, if worse things than a Vampire showed up, a kid who dared to play Dracula could probably survive them. And because I wanted to find those worse things before they found me, I started looking for scary stuff in books, magazines, and movies. 
Looking back, instead of being attracted to repulsive and terrifying things, I was seeking them out and studying them, to gain power over them. I’ve had many people say horror writers seem unusually well adjusted. Maybe it’s because we explore our fears in our stories. More likely, insert ominous laugh, it’s a trick. On ourselves.   

Should horror be "fun" or "monstrous"? 

In the 2008 interview, you mentioned "I find [horror] fun, for starters, and these days, I don’t want to waste time on fiction writing that is not fun…If I need an artsy excuse for my motivation, I can quote Tristan Tzara’s 1918 Dada Manifesto: “Art should be a monster that casts servile minds into terror.”   Should horror be "fun" or "monstrous"?
CDA: If I have fun creating something, you stand a better chance of having fun experiencing it. I don’t enjoy reading a depressing, no hope in sight horror story, no matter how important and realistic such stories are sometimes judged to be. So, I do not have creating stories like that as a goal. Having horrible things happen in horror stories is required, and even likeable characters may not have happy endings. But someone in my stories has to fight back and hope to win, which in my experience is far more realistic than give-up-and-die tales. People do not accept defeat easily.
Most humans are heroic, often in quiet ways. They fight epic interior wars, invisible on the outside, unguessed by people who pass them in the street and often by people who live and work with them. They resist overwhelming odds, circumstances, sickness, and other people or things that threaten them and their families’ lives, hopes, and dreams. By placing characters in hyper-extreme situations in my stories, I have shown their discovery of strengths they had not known they possessed. I have had readers say such characters are inspirations. I know the same has been true for me, reading other people’s books.
The character I created in Torture Tomb named Bernice, an ordinary young woman with ordinary hopes and dreams, is mercilessly tormented beyond anything she could have imagined surviving. But not only does she survive, though crippled by her injuries she returns, wheelchair-bound, in Fiend to fight for and help others.
The slave woman named Jalna in Hel X 3 survives horrible injuries, too, and becomes one of Bloodsong’s fiercest warriors. Bloodsong herself survives impossible odds and repeated tortures as a slave before leading a rebellion. She even finds a way to return from the dead to save her daughter and fight on.  Everyone breathing is a survivor. And almost everyone, sooner or later, has to fight to stay alive. When backed into a corner, in my horror stories as in life, most people, no matter how docile they might at first seem, will fight back and sometimes win. They grit their teeth and turn into Conan the Barbarian if pushed far enough. So, watch out, power mongers, tyrants, and bullies. You have been warned.  
  
Dark Muses: Have you been trying to put a pretty face on your fears?
It seems that you are not only trying to entertain "servile" minds, but are also driven to realize your own fears.  In your recent Interview with Terry Ervin (link) you revealed that you had a phantom muse: an "Old Woman in Black."  Please expand how this female haunt has motivated your writing.  For instance, Raw Pain Max , Torture Tomb, and your The Bloodsong Saga (Hel X 3) all feature strong woman as protagonists, as does every other book or story you have created. Are these manifestations of your dark muse? Have you been trying to put a pretty face on your fears? Is it therapeutic to give your dark muse substance in art (i.e. are fears heightened or alleviated)?
CDA: My strong female characters are probably inspired in part by the power I sensed in my Dark Muse, whatever she was, when I was afraid of her as a kid. Women I have known well in life, grandmother, mother, childhood best friend, and spouse, are definitely also responsible. As the old saying goes, you write what you know. The women warriors in my Bloodsong books are obvious examples. But all my books have strong women in them. And all have examples of my shape-shifting Dark Muse.   
Raw Pan Max features a female bodybuilder named Trudy who performs as a crack-that-whip dominatrix in live sex stage shows. Trudy is also, she is horrified to discover, the reincarnation of the historical Hungarian Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, the famous mass murderess who tortured young women and bathed in their blood. My Countess was haunted by a powerful Dark Muse, which she called her Ally. 
In Torture Tomb, one of the characters is watched over and protected by a supernaturally powerful female haunt he believes is his dead mother. From early childhood, she visited him at night and forced him to learn dark secrets that, though terrifying, gave him power.

The Goddess Hel in HEL X 3 I’ve already described. Her relation to the Old Woman in Black I feared in childhood dreams and apparitions is obvious.
Tzigane in I Am Dracula and Katiasa in I Am Frankenstein are strong characters I loved creating and intend to use again in new books. I’ve already mentioned Bernice in Torture Tomb and Fiend. The novel, Fiend, also has Trudy from Raw Pain Max in it, and Fiend features my version of the immortal Witch and powerful High Priestess of the Goddess Hecate, Medea. She is a strong woman who is also a Dark Muse to others. Bernice and Trudy are inspired by her and follow her. 
But to me the question now is, did I see that Old Woman in Black as a kid because of who and what I was and am? Or am I who and what I am because I saw that Old Woman in Black, whoever or whatever she was and is? She might have been one thing or a combination of things. There might have been an actual old woman wearing black at the first. There might have been a ghost of a widow who still visited her old home town. I’d like to believe that, a lot. Or, there might have been something that had nothing to do with an old woman in widow’s weeds that my mind interpreted wrong. 
On the other hand, maybe she was a traditional, ancestral, Scandinavian, guardian female spirit like I‘ve read about in Norse Myths. Could she have been, though, some kind of Jungian Old Crone Goddess-Archetype from the human collective subconscious, like the Greek Hecate or Celtic Morrigan or Summarian Ereshkigal or Babylonian Tiamat or Norse Hel? Most days, I’m quite fond of that explanation.  But maybe she was a UFOnaut who repeatedly abducted me for experiments and hid behind an Old Woman’s image that he-she-it-they inserted into my brain. Or was she “just my imagination?” 
More likely, she was Cthulhu in disguise, a Lovecraftian Old One from the insanely vast spaces between the stars who picked me to inspire because I’m not really human but a stellar hybrid with sub-dimensional tentacles that touch things which should not be. Yes, that last one is probably the answer. Excuse me while I update my bio. But whatever I experienced and have fun speculating about now, I don’t think I still fear her. I suspect, should she appear and lift that veil, I would see whatever I needed to see or was capable of seeing. And I believe we could have a very interesting conversation. 

More Andersson (all links):

·         Author Website
·         Facebook:Bloodsong


Friday, February 7, 2014

Glass Eyes - Inspirational Crafts - Spawn of Dyscrasia

Doni Hatz crafts inspirational glass eyes for Spawn of Dyscrasia

Consistent with Lords of Dyscrasia, its sequel Spawn of Dyscrasia (due out in 2014) has a lot of artisan themes.  Several human characters are glass-workers; others will require a glass-eye to see the Otherworld (souls, memories, ghosts, etc.).  A previous post details some hands-on research at a glass studio (link).

Another posts revealed the Cover (with illustration from Ken Kelly) that features the key character Helen, a sorceress with one special eye.  For inspiration, I touched based with a local glass maker, Doni Hatz, who created some fantastic example eyes (more info. on her below).  Thanks Doni for showing how glass eyes can be made!  Two of her eyes are featured here under different lighting conditions:
  • The top row is front-lit 
  • The bottom row have the same eyes, back-lit.  
The red-eye is particularly creepy.  The blue one was made from a striped cane of dichroic glass (multicolored, sparkles), which can see best from reflected lighting.

Glass Eyes from Doni Hatz  - Spawn of Dyscrasia

A red and blue eye, lit from front and behind (bottom)


Doni Hatz is an expert glass worker.  For decades she has created industrial-scientific works in the day hours...and all sorts of fine art by night. "Marcie Davis interviews Doni Hatz, scientific glassblower who has risen to the top of a field that is generally dominated by male glassblowers. Doni shares her background preparation at the Salem Community College, her work at Proctor & Gamble, and her venture into creating works of art in glass.  This article was originally published on page 34 of the Winter 2011 issue of The Flow."



Doni pointed me toward a great DVD made by that shows how glass eyes are made professionally (produced by Firelady Productions):
"Walter Hellbach is a third generation glass eye maker in Lauscha, Germany. Using specialized glass tubing and rods, he creates human eyes for prosthetic use. In this demo you'll get a "short and sweet" version of this complex and fascinating process. This is an excerpt from our newest DVD by the same name. (In "The Eyes Have It" DVD you can see the entire exciting process from beginning to end!) And while it takes years of training to make eyes for human use, you'll be able to apply the techniques you see here to your own work with great results. It all starts with white Kryolith tubing, which opacifies as it is worked. As you watch, Walter meticulously adds a variety of multicolored canes, and in just a few minutes an eye of startling realism comes into view."


Spawn of Dyscrasia Cover

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Vance's The Dying Earth - Review by S.E.

The Dying EarthThe Dying Earth by Jack Vance, S.E.lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vance's Prismatic Charm of Beautiful, Untiring Adventure

Review Summary: The Dying Earth, is beautiful, pulpy adventure. It is a series of six connected short tales (chapters), each being a mix of (Sword & Sorcery) and (Sword and Planet)...so consider it (Sword & Sorcery & Planet). And, it is an important classic, first published in 1950; Jack Vance's codification of magic items & spells proved influential in RPG-game design.

Dying Earth Series: Tales of the Dying Earth: The Dying Earth/The Eyes of the Overworld/Cugel's Saga/Rhialto the Marvellous is an omnibus edition of the four novels written by Jack Vance (1916-2013) between 1950 and 1986; the first is simply The Dying Earth, which is itself a collection of six short stories. With the recent passing of Jack Vance (1916-2013), the Sword and Sorcery Group is reflecting on his work this Summer (July-August): The Dying Earth (1950) is the first in the series (the next three in sequence are: (2) The Eyes of the Overworld (1966), (3) Cugel's Saga (1983), (4) Rhialto The Marvellous (1984)).

Codifying Magic - Role Playing Game (RPG)s: Tolkien maybe credited for inspiring "fellowships" of Dwarves, Elves, and Humans to go adventuring (a key trope for RPGs), but his magic-system was never codified well. Some ontology, or approach to classifying, was also needed ...and already provided, actually. Before "Lord of The Rings", Vance delivered The Dying Earth, and seems responsible for providing RPG-franchises with the needed approach: captivating brand names. Vance's Items and Spell titles simply exhibit self-evident credibility : Magic Items such as Expansible Egg, Scintillant Dagger, and Live Boots...and Spells such as Excellent Prismatic Spray, Phandaal's Mantle of Stealth, Call to the Violent Cloud, Charm of Untiring Nourishment. Three decades after The Dying Earth was published, the broader fantasy culture apparently caught on to the branding of spells and magic items (i.e. 1980's Dungeons & Dragons… or even magic-based card games like Pokemon, etc.).

Pace & Style: The title evokes gloomy adventure. The stories follow suit. The poetic, weird narratives will remind readers of predecessor Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961)'s Lost Worlds; the swashbuckling adventure and planetary exploration evoke Vance's contemporary Roger Zelazny (1936-1995)'s The First Chronicles of Amber. Each tale moves at breakneck speed. Often times, within just one page, teleportation will propel the protagonist across multiple planetary systems and vast continents. Actually, the pace is too fast and the stories appear rushed (keeping this from receiving a 5-star rating). Most encounters involve some haggling/negotiating, and some of these lead to sudden brutality:
"Then you may die." And Mazirian caused the creature to revolve at ever greater speeds, faster and faster, until there was only a blur. A strangled wailing came and presently the Deodand's frame parted. The head shot like a bullet far down the glade; arms, legs, viscera flew in a direction." -- Ch2- Mazirian the Magician
The brisk pace belies the serious, philosophical undertones that persist throughout. The milieu does involve the decline of earth, after all, but Vance does not dwell on it. The action is at the forefront, but darkness is continuously dosed. One moment he'll be describing some present urgency, and then he will sneak in a bit of epic, chronic darkness:
"At one famous slaughtering, Golickan Kodek the Conqueror had herded here the populations of two great cities, G'Vasan and Bautiku, constricted them in a circle three miles across, gradually pushed them tighter and tighter, panicked them toward the center within his flapping-armed sub-human cavalry, until at last he had achieved a gigantic, squirming mound, half a thousand feet high, a pyramid of screaming flesh."-- Ch2- Mazirian the Magician
Beauty Theme: The tales share many of the same characters, but each has a different protagonist. The protagonist from the six tale (Guyal) seems to speaks on behalf of the author's muses; he invites readers to consider:
"Where does beauty vanish when it goes?"

Guyal's Father Answers: "Beauty is a luster which love bestows to guile the eye. Therefore it may be said that only when the brain is without love will the eye look and see no beauty." - Story 6- Guyal of Sfere
Vance's work seems genuinely motivated by an appreciation of art and the mourning of lost beauty. He seemed to be following in succession from like-authors. Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft all delved into evoking emotions through their art; they were serious writers who philosophized and wrote essays regarding "Weird Beauty" in literature. The undercurrents of dark muses in literary horror fascinate some (link). Below are excerpts and comments of Beauty's themes in The Dying Earth (per story):

1) Turjan of Mirr: The books opens with a sorcerer trying to create living things. His craft, his art, is "life." He mirrors the plight of Victor Frankenstein:
"[Turjan] considered its many precursors: the thing all eyes, the boneless creature with the pulsing surface of its brain exposed, the beautiful female body whose intestines trailed out into the nutrient solution like seeking fibrils, the inverted inside-out creatures...Turjan sighed bleakly. His methods were at fault; a fundamental element was lacking from his synthesis, a matrix ordering the components of the pattern."

"For some time I have been striving to create humanity in my vats. Yet always I fail, from ignorance of the agent that binds and orders patterns."

"This is no science, this is an art, where equations fall to the elements like resolving chords, and where always prevails a symmetry either explicit or multiplex, but always of a crystalline serenity."
Turjan needed more knowledge to complete his goal. This compels him toward making a woman who appreciates beauty (to compete with another woman who cannot detect beauty).

2) Mazirian the Magician: This chapter has significant overtones of Clark Ashton Smith's Maze of Maal Dweeb, Xiccarph tales (1935, 1930)...in which an alien sorcerer had the "caprice to eternalize the frail beauty of women," maintaining them in a garden. Here, the beautiful T'sain dies to save her maker, Turjan, in a magic-filled chase through an alien sorcerer's garden. This excerpt demonstrates how Vance never ceases to pour out the colors!
"Certain plants swam with changing iridescences; others held up blooms pulsing like sea-anemones, purple, green, lilac, pink, yellow. Here grew trees like feather parasols, trees with transparent trunks threaded with red and yellow veins, trees with foliage like metal foil, each leaf a different metal--copper, silver, blue tantalum, bronze, green iridium. Here blooms like bubbles tugged gently upward from glazed green leaves, there a shrub bore a thousand pipe-shaped blossoms, each whistling softly to make music of the ancient Earth, of the ruby-red sunlight, water seeping through black soil, the languid winds…"
3) T'sais: The titular character, once an antagonist piece-of-art, searches out the ability to see beauty on Earth. As she describes:
"Pandelume created me," continues T'sais, "but there was a flaw in the pattern." And T'sais stared into the fire. "I see the world as a dismal place: all sounds to me are harsh, all living creatures vile, in varying degrees--things of sluggish movement and inward filth. During the first of my life I thought only to trample, crush, destroy. I knew nothing but hate. Then I met my sister T'sain, who is as I without the flaw. She told me of love and beauty and happiness--and I came to Earth seeking those."
Etarr, an ugly companion of T'sais who had his hansom face switched with a demon's, goes with her to witness a Black Sabbath. As they watch the demons congragate, Vance philosophizes:
"Even here is beauty," he whispered. "Weird and grotesque, but a sight to enchant the mind."
4) Laine the Wayfarer : Laine the arrogant magician is challenged to repair a piece of art: Lith's tapestry. Therein is depicted the Magic Valley of Ariventa, but it has been cut in half. Can he restore it?

5) Ulan Dhor: This is a fun piece, with more sci-fi than the others given the reactivation of ruined technology. The artistic elements are less covert here. There are two embattled groups that literally cannot see another. They signify themselves not with classic blazonry...but by simply by color: Green vs. Grays (vs. Reds)!

6)Guyal of Sfere: Guyal's insatiable search for knowing everything leads him on a quest to speak to the Curator of humankind's knowledge. En route, he partakes as a judge in a beauty pageant; here he meets with the maiden Shierl. They go on to explore sacred ruins, battle a demon who consumes beauty, and look upon the treasure trove of beauty, a sanctuary:
"This is the Museum," said Guyal in a rapt tone. "Here there is no danger...He who dwells in beauty of this sort may never be other than beneficent…"
All in all, a recommended read to any sci-fi and fantasy buff, and to any reader who also likes RPGs. Feel welcome to join the discussion (at any time...even if the official group-read time expires):Group-Read Link.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Inspiring Natural Sculptures: Beautiful, Scary, Sentient?

Dark Beauty

First let us calibrate our expectations when it comes to the face of evil.  We expect scary, bad things to be ugly, right?  Devils are rarely depicted as pleasing to look at.  Conversely, good things, like angels, are beautiful.  Viewer's perception of art is influenced by these expectations.  For instance, many believe that Frazetta's dark fantasy illustrations are full of gore (despite the lack of blood... see Weird, Dark Art Design: Implicit vs. Explicit Gore and Horror). So if your intention is create dark art, then how do you approach the design?  Should your devils appear ugly?  Does the horror have to be embodied in a devil?  What inspires your art (your muse), and how will you choose to represent it?

Weird fiction masters (Poe, Lovecraft, Smith...) documented their intense philosophies about instilling beauty in their weird works (see prior blog post: Dark Muses I: The undercurrent of "Art" in Weird literature).  They viewed their horror works as beautiful art. Can horrific things, evil enemies or works of art, really be full of beauty?  Certainly fantasy fiction requires some type of monstrous element, usually the antagonist force is sentient and ugly (mythological beasts, aliens, orcs, devils, etc.).  Consider the horror otherwise. What if a terrible threat emerged from something we thought of as inanimate and beautiful?

The Terrible Beauty of Kudzu, a Dark Muse

I discovered my favorite beautiful horror ~20yrs ago on a road trip to Georgia (on Route 75); conveying my awe at the yet-to-be-identified vine sculptures I saw en route, my cousins corrected my enthusiasm for the beauty I had witnessed and educated me on the horrors of "kudzu." Imported to increase ground cover in the Southeast, this uncontrollable, evil vine now extends into Ohio.  However, to the ignorant, the sculptures appear as beautiful, continuous green blankets. The ability to create art is considered a critical point in the evolution of man's intelligence. Usually artificial things (items made by man) are discernible from natural ones, and we gain some sense of security knowing the difference.  But what horrors await us if brainless things like vines begin making large-scale sculptures?  If art self-assembles from chaos, should we be awed or terrified?
Kudzu-Sculpture-Route-75
Here is recent photo of Kudzu I took while my wife took a turn driving on our trek from Cincinnati, Ohio to Charleston, South Carolina (again on Route 75, image taken in southern KY...okay, a confession is in order, since I took not one...but hundreds of pictures, being so mesmerized, and distracted her driving).  Not shown here, is the imminent devastation of all the growth serving as a template; in other words, all the hidden trees beneath are being smothered. This beauty is terrible!  My fascination remains solid however.  Kudzu has become one of my dark muses.

For more images formed by Kudzu, I recommend touring JJ Anthony’s site:

Natural Beauty

Incidentally, right before vacation, I finally joined the social community for artists, DeviantArt.com (please visit: http://selindberg.deviantart.com/ :) ). The kudzu imagery is reminiscent of ice sculptures captured by Niccolo Bonfadini, a photographer I "watch/subscribe to" (check his work out (link)...actually, I highly recommend browsing DA if you have not already, it is a great wealth of inspiration and talent).  These ice sculptures are another example of natural elements templating trees, however I believe the vegetation in Finland survives the winter.  Regardless, the apparent self assembly of monoliths is ominous.  They evoke Arthur Clarke's strange monoliths: nicely carved, inanimate, intelligent.  


©2012 *niccolobonfadini 
Finnish Landscape by *niccolobonfadini His caption: During winter, with temperatures ranging from -40 to -15, the trees in some areas of the Finnish Lapland get completely covered by snow and ice. This makes for a unique landscape, where everything is white and frozen as far as the eyes can see. That morning I slept in my tent to watch the sun rise from the top of a hill.