Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Post: Why "Man vs Man" is less effective than "Man vs Supernatural"


Were you disappointed in the recent Conan the Barbarian movie?  Perhaps you expected Sword & Sorcery...


Thanks to Shaun Duke who invited me to guest blog on his site "World in a Satin Bag"  (WISB).  Shaun is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and graduate student (studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy at the University of Florida).  WISB includes book and movie reviews, interviews with authors, literary analyses, discussions of genre, publishing, and more...


Here is an excerpt; check out the entire article the WISB:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 : Guest Post: Sword and Sorcery -- Why "Man vs Man"is less effective than "Man vs Supernatural" by S. E. Lindberg


"Fantasy readers and movie-goers maintain an expectation that protagonists will battle supernatural forces. Those forces may manifest in humans (“bad guys”); however, when the supernatural element is diluted (or superficially offered in clich├ęd, familiar forms so that the protagonist literally battles a man) then expectations are not met. Consumers become disappointed. The lack luster reception of this year’s movie, Conan the Barbarian, is a good example of this expectation being unsatisfied.

Of course, Man vs. Supernatural conflict is ubiquitous across fantasy. Most recognizable of Supernatural antagonists may be Tolkien’s bodiless Sauron. Nearly three decades before Sauron stalked bookshelves and haunted rings, Conan creator Robert Ervin Howard originated the Sword & Sorcery genre by writing action-packed shorts exploring Man vs. Supernatural.

Sword & Sorcery was coined by author Fritz Leiber years after REH passed, but as he suggested the name he also clarified the role of the supernatural: 
I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story. This accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element and also immediately distinguishes it from the cloak-and-sword (historical adventure) story—and (quite incidentally) from the cloak-and-dagger (international espionage) story… (Fritz Leiber, Amra, 1961)
But it was Lin Carter who may have best defined Sword and Sorcery in his introduction to his Flashing Sword series (Carter, with L. Sprague de Camp, posthumously co-authored several Conan tales):
We call a story Sword & Sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land or age or world of the author’s invention—a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real—and a story, moreover, which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil. (Lin Carter, Flashing Swords I, 1973)

REH wrote twenty-one Conan tales, and no human antagonist persisted across them. Each story had bad guys/creatures/etc., but they were overt proxies for greater supernatural evils. Hence, the conflict was Conan (the Man) vs. Supernatural...."

Read the rest on the WISB:




Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Card 2011

A cherub sits atop the earth’s atmosphere, ushering in the new sun with a trumpet call!  Happy new year!
Another year, another card; historic Holidays Cards (from 1998 on) are display here!

Style: Wanted to learn how to paint with PhotoShop (as per artist/microscopist Vince Kamp and ImagineFX workflows (link); Credits: I acknowledge awesome critiques from my wife and daughter; their input was tremendous.  It helps to produce art with a few crafty, artistic folks around (who are not afraid to tell you how to improve).

Here was the process of generating this year’s card:

1) Conception: The initial goal was to incorporate bears into a Holiday theme.  This originated as tribute to our family vacation to the Shenandoah park (having encountered ~5 bears in 3 separate instances).  The only conceivable way of including a bear was as a toy…so the vision of an angel cradling a teddy bear while nestled in pillows emerged…with a morning sun encroaching!  Between sessions at the recent Society of Rheology convention in Cleveland, I  doodled the first composition of a cherub holding a teddy bear.
Society of Rheology Oct 2011 - initial vision of card-2

2) Sketches and Story: When I got home, I used pencil and paper to draw a few cherubs.  The story emerging now was a set of three angels, one awake and hailing the new sun to the annoyance of the other two slumbering cherubs.
IMG_0005IMG_0003IMG_0006

3) Digitization: Next, These sketches were scanned into Photoshop with some pictures of my local West Chester skyline.  Each was granted a dedicated layer and “blocked in” separately with a mask. Wanted to target a Renaissance mood, and experimented with gaudy frames (later eliminated).
3-workflow-composition layers

During SoR we had visited the Cleveland History Museum and its Planetarium; there I learned about the coolest constellation ever, which I tried to incorporate: Microscopium.  This idea was eliminated since the constellation is usually in the South not the East and I required the sun rising behind the angels.
4-workflow- pallette and blocking in

4) Painting: I used a Wacom Bamboo tablet (I can’t rationalize ordering a Cintiq until I learn some more!).  So I began painting over my sketch as if it were a blank coloring book entry.  Using the swatch panel as an artist’s palette works well.  Still need to learn how to use Brush Presets, since I was constantly iterating between masking, painting, dodging/burning/ etc.  Notice how two angels were discarded--one was enough.
  5-workflow swatches as a pallette

5) Adjustment layers: Finally, I added a few adjustment layers to tone down the saturation (i.e. the left image below looked like a neon bar sign) and warmify/cool selected masked regions (to put a translucent brilliance into the clouds); oh yeah, a few carefully placed lens flares helped with the sun’s brilliance. Erin instructed me to turn the eyes from green to blue to match the sky; Heidi had me remove some “mystical smoke” that was blowing from the trumpet…which I thought was cool until I saw her point that it made the angel look like a pipe-smoking crack baby.  Cripes!  A near miss!

6-workflow-merged-layers-v3jpg2011holidayCardHereComesTheSun-v7
6) Final steps! A decorative border and text are added in Illustrator (then tweaked in PS), and woo-hoo! we arrive at the final card (at top)!  Need to order prints from mpix.com !

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review- Lords of Dyscrasia is Creepy and Fantastic


A Halloween treat for me!  The first customer review has been posted for Lords of Dyscrasia !  It is an informative, succinct post that builds on the ForeWord magazine review (5/5 stars) by describing motivations of the key characters:




4 out of 5 Stars
 Creepy in a fantastic kind of way!, October 31, 2011

The book revolves around the characters: Doctor Grave, Crypia, Endenken, and Dey. Endenken seeks revenge, Doctor Grave dreams of restoring what was lost, Crypia wants to live, and Dey is running away from his past. In a world of disease, monsters, and danger, will the passions and desires that drive them be enough to help them survive?

A very well done book by S.E. Lindberg! From the beginning, we are treated to vivid descriptions of the carnage and ruin created by the disease, dyscrasia. Don't expect this author to pull his punches, he's not afraid to make readers squirm! The plot is engaging and fast-paced, once you get through all the exposition. While I don't feel all that sympathetic to some of the characters, they stood out in their own way and are not strictly "good" or "evil".

I should point out that I wouldn't recommend this book to any young readers. Some of the scenes can be pretty brutal. Also, one thing I have an issue with is that the beginning can be a bit confusing, especially when coupled with the book's intricate language. Lindberg switches viewpoints a lot so it's easy to lose track of what's happening sometimes. However, once you get used to the author's style, the book becomes even more enjoyable and you'll finish it in no time!

Pro: flowery and vivid descriptions, complex characters, unique setting 
Con: Somewhat confusing in the beginning

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Robert Hooke: a Microrheology Pioneer



I just attended the 83rd Annual Society of Rheology (SoR) in Cleveland, Ohio, and wanted to share some important links between Art/Science and Micro-rheology/Robert Hooke.


Rheology is "the study of the deformation or flow of matter" so SoR attracts a diverse bunch: device manufacturers designing diagnostic, medicinal widgets (blood flow); product and process engineers of paints, cosmetics, and foodstuffs; packaging designers concerned with manipulating molten plastic; petroleum engineers ruminating on extracting oil from the earth; and even biophysicists studying the mechanical properties of cytoplasm.   


The "Father of Microscopy" 
dreamed up the "Spring Constant"


Nerds are often self-deprecating and insecure, so it is refreshing that SoR's diverse participation welcomes people with multidisciplinary backgrounds (like me!).  Although I am a chemist by education, I have more experience performing microscopy and am embedded within a group of product/chemical engineers at work.   Since 2005, I could best be described as a "micro-rheologist" who studies the variation of mechanical properties within soft matter mixtures (more on microrheology below).


When your experience morphs you into being a master of the interdisciplinary, it is refreshing to find a single champion representing your apparently disparate fields of study (and hobbies).  Hence I was delighted to realize that the "father-of-microscopy" Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was the same who dreamed up "Hooke's Law" of elasticity (Hooke's law describes the elasticity of springs which is fundamental to rheology ... “As is the extension, so is the force”); but wait there is more... he was an artist too!  



Scientists were once artists

Of course, cameras did not exist in 1665, 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.




Particle Tracking Microrheology - 
Hooke was a Microrheology Pioneer
Microscopes can be used as rheometers too!  To do this, one needs to be able to document the speed and location of colloidal bits (~1/100 the diameter of human hair) as they jiggle by Brownian motion (thermal fluctuations).  Difficult to do this by hand!

Note that Einstein was key in enabling the use of a microscope to measure one of Chemists' most famous number, the Avogadro constant, being the number of atoms per mole of material; well Einstein set the stage anyway, J.B. Perrin checked this experimentally with a microscope ~1900.

0.53micron particle tracking data from J.B. Perrin ~1913

A field of Particle Tracking Micro-rheology (PTM) has been emerging since the mid-1990's, fueled by the advent of the digital camera.  PTM Practioners will appreciate the often ignored Davidison and Collins' 1976 study of heterogeneous domains within Carbopol slurries in which they relied on Polaroid film and overlays of negatives to capture their data (J. A. Davidson and E. A. Collins, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 1976, 55, 163-169).

In complex fluids (from living cells to cosmetics) we are presented with a mixture of spring-like structures that are much smaller than the eye can detect.  Bulk methods can describe how they look to the eye (a camera) or how they flow as a composite (rheology), but to see measure the landscape of properties we need a microscope to see (a) the structure of the material that has a variety spring-like properties and (b) the rate at which free particles push against them.

PTM tutorials:
For an online tutorial of the nitty-gritty workflow I recommend MIT's website (some example images from there are highlighted below to illustrate how the motion of particles can be tracked); and for an example of how PTM can be used to measure soft matter mixtures I recommend Caggioni's paper "Rheology and microrheology of a microstructured fluid: The gellan gum case (link).




Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Halloween Crafts: Spooky Apple Head Creatures

Crafting Prototype Creatures
image from: Apple Head Dolls & More!
I am designing creatures for the sequel to Lords of Dyscrasia and am exploring possibilities with tangible prototypes.  This process yielded an easily reapplied Halloween craft!

Animating Manikins: The dark hero Lysis reanimated the skeletons and armatures of Doctor Grave's Dissection Theater to form his undead troop, the Red Horde (image below).  Motivated to integrate the mysterious fruit/orchard themes littering the book (the presence of which will be explained in the sequel) with this Horde led me to literally mix (1) apple-head crafts with (2) art manikins.  The results are...

Simple Spooky Apple Head Creatures
Appledolls.org is a nice resource for creating traditional dolls (as seen on Martha Sterwart :)).  Below is my modified method: 
  1. Skin an apple; for a spooky effect, leave some slivers of skin on the face to mimic scars
  2. Carve into a shape such that, when dried, will resemble a head
  3. Ensure it can be mounted to a doll or art manikin; for the art manikin route, carve a hole in the under side of the apple so that it can become a "helmet"--for a tight fit, allow the apple to dry on the manikin head.
  4. Decorate with paint, needles, toothpicks, etc. ; Simple PVA glue makes for good drool!

The Red Horde: reanimated armatures, skeletons, and art manikins from Lords of Dyscrasia
The Next-Generation Red Horde?




Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lords of Dyscrasia Promotions - Free Books!

In hopes of generating customer reviews (ratings, etc.), I am luring victims readers with promotions:

1) Through Halloween 2011 (10/31/2011), I am giving away free paperbacks of Lords of Dyscrasia via Goodreads.com (open to U.S. and Canada due to shipping constraints). Goodreads assigns winners randomly from a list of anyone who requests to be included. 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lords of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg

Lords of Dyscrasia

by S.E. Lindberg

Giveaway ends October 31, 2011.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

2) LibraryThing.com (click link) will be hosting a Giveaway of 50 ePubs. This is the easiest way to share the novel globally (Giveaway starting Oct. 1st 2011).  LibraryThing offers a few types of Giveaway programs, this Member version selects winners randomly from any who request it.

3) Read the ePub and get a free paperback! I am offering complimentary signed paperbacks to those who post on-line ratings, reviews, or testimonials. The first chapter is free, and full version only $2.99. Click here to find out how to sample the ePubs
ForeWord gave it 5/5 stars. Do you agree?
Read the review!
Foreword Clarion Review gave Lords of Dyscrasia 5 stars!

"...Outside of the works of Poe and Lovecraft, there are few, if any, novels comparable to this one...
Beowulf comes to mind both for its epic quality and bloody action...

The pace is nearly breathless...
Lindberg, who also created more than 50 illustrations and the cover for this book, makes the majority of current popular fantasy fiction read like recipes by comparison.  Lords of Dyscrasia is highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Five Star ForeWord Review of Lords of Dyscrasia


Created a new Reviews Tab that includes this; added here as a Post to broadcast the news!








ForeWord Clarion Review
FICTION: FANTASY
S. E. Lindberg
Ignis Publishing LLC
978-0-615-39286-8
Five Stars (out of Five)
September 2011

"...highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart..."

“Diary, I tallied the Dissection Theater’s subjects again.”

So begins the debut novel of Massachusetts native and chemist-by-day Seth Lindberg. This decidedly dark fantasy is heavily influenced by Dante, Poe, Lovecraft, and a great love for weird tales.

Opening the novel is the narrator, Dey, a seer and the stepson of Endenken Lysis. Endenken’s father, the leader of Clan Lysis, has recently died. In fact, much of Dey’s and Endenken’s world is dying. Humans and gods (both insectoid and avian) are infected with dyscrasia, a blood disease that is fatal to all who contract it. Endenken’s ancestors, the Picti, endeavored to save their gods through a complicated ritual that allows the Lysis clan to bear descendants who may eventually find a cure for dyscrasia. However, nothing is that simple. In the process of conducting the rite to pass his clan’s powers onto him, Endenken rejects his inheritance in favor of saving his wife and finding a way to end the blood plague.
Outside of the works of Poe and Lovecraft, there are few, if any, novels comparable to this one. It has a bardic tone, as if it was a tale told over many nights. Beowulf comes to mind both for its epic quality and bloody action.
"The pace is nearly breathless..."
Imagery shifts from mundane to surreal in the same paragraph. The pace is nearly breathless, though it never feels forced. Lindberg’s love of the English language and his admiration for Dante in particular are obvious on every page. The melancholic dread that Poe and Lovecraft were so skilled at creating is matched—and at times exceeded—in Lindberg’s prose: "I stared upward at a skull and heap of bones. I knew only the soul of a man spoke to me, and that astral, red warmth emanated from the charnel pile. A woman’s skeleton lay near—her hands gauntleted with insectan claws belonging to some eldritch creature and her head helmeted with a gargantuan bird skull, much like my own."

Apart from a rather obsessive attachment to the words eldritch and ichorLords of Dyscrasia is carefully crafted and fits well into the weird-fiction canon. Given that Poe and Lovecraft have been dead for decades and still remain popular, Lindberg’s novel should find a ready-made audience in readers of the macabre and strange.

Lindberg, who also created more than fifty illustrations and the cover for this book, makes the majority of current popular fantasy fiction read like recipes by comparison. Lords of Dyscrasia is highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart.

- Janine Stinson

"...makes the majority of current popular fantasy fiction read like recipes..."