Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sorcery versus Swords : Groupread Announcement Sept-Oct 2014

elric and harold lamb group read

Sorcery versus Swords!

All Sword and Sorcery groupies,
Everyone who likes to read is welcome to join our two-month (Sept-Oct 2014) discussions on two opposing flavors of heroic fiction ("without sorcery" and "warrior-sorcerer Elric"), Focused on authors: Harold Lamb and Michael Moorcock:

1) Sept-Oct: Swords sans Sorcery - Read and Discussion
2) Sept-Oct: Elric Groupread Discussion

As always, a montage of appropriate art is showcased. Art credits:
Background: Elric: The Dreaming City, art by P. Craig Russel (art from interior depictions of Melnibone’)
Riders of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume Three, cover art by Darrel Stevens
Wolf of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume One , cover art by Darrel Stevens
Swords from the East , cover art by Darrel Stevens
Elric: Swords and Roses, cover art by John Picacio

Elric  The Dreaming City by Roy Thomas Riders of the Steppes  The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume Three by Harold Lamb Wolf of the Steppes  The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume One by Harold Lamb Swords from the East by Harold Lamb Elric  Swords and Roses (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melnibon√©, #6) by Michael Moorcock 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Spawn of Dyscrasia - Press Release - Dark Fiction by S.E. Lindberg

Sharon died serving the undead.  
Will you take her place?

Spawn of Dyscrasia - dark fantasy fiction by S.E. Lindberg (c) 2014. 

Paperbacks available via AmazonBarnes & Noble, and many more online/global retailers
Ebook available via Kindle-Store / Amazon (link)

Dyscrasia Fiction™ explores the choices humans and their gods make as a disease corrupts their souls, shared blood, and creative energies. In 'Lords of Dyscrasia', the first installment, Lords Lysis and Echo stabilized dyscrasia that mutated and killed the masses. Roaming dangers persist two decades since that Ill Age. The ruined Chromlechon colony has evolved into a Keep hosting orphans who supply the Lords with sorcerous energy.

'Spawn of Dyscrasia' follows Helen’s abrupt promotion from neophyte curer to Lord Echo’s personal healer, replacing one who died mysteriously. She struggles to keep Echo alive as contagious phantoms corrupt his soul. While Lysis fights a sudden invasion from a grotesque army, Helen’s humanity is tested to its limits: she contacts the original source of dyscrasia, and emerges transformed…
Spawn of Dsycrasia cover






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, August 1, 2014

Diorama Map Making

Making Maps Feel Real; Diorama Design

Maps have a special role and meaning for fantasy novels.  For one, they are often needed to orient readers to crazy, new worlds; but to make the fantasy-world be realized, I decided to depict the maps for Dyscrasia Fiction real landscapes (not common cartographers' maps). Below, the color version of the Land made for Spawn of Dyscrasia (publication in process Summer 2014) is a photograph of a 5' x 3' diorama constructed in my basement.  This post details the making of it.  First, note that there is no compass rose; instead, the sunrise indicates East.  The predecessor Lords of Dyscrasia had maps that appeared as hand-drawn sketches of the same landscape, which were used to guide the scaling (they are available online too as interactive maps--link).
Spawn of Dyscrasia Map
Lords of Dyscrasia - Maps made interactive online

Inspiration Real Places

New places are featured in Spawn of Dyscrasia, and old places have evolved.  It was important that each key area was identifiable and unique, just like a living person. I drew inspiration from real places with haunting beauty such as: the colored sandstone of Zhangye Danxia, China (for the Arenite Range),  the Island of the Dolls, Mexico (For the Gray Orchard),  the Maijishan Grotto, Gansu, China (for the Chromlechon Keep), and the La Brea Tar Pits, California (for the Blood Bogs).  La Brea is the only site I saw in person, the others are on my bucket list.

Plastering Terrain & Setting Viewing Angle

Then the fun began.  The existing map of the Land was drawn on a large foam core board.  Then pictures of the key places were laid out.  From the beginning, the desired output was a map that fit a portrait page design (to accommodate print and eBook viewing).  It was critical to plan a vantage for photographing this, and the topography was tweaked to present the desired perspective. The tripod placement was decided early on to capture a cross-section of the Underworld and the key Land features.  Then newspaper, bubble-wrap, and cardboard were used as skeletons for the mountains and terrain.  

Visible and Hidden Details

All was coated in plaster-coated gauze. Successive coatings of plaster and paint consumed weeks.  An undercoat of gray and brown blocked out terrain types.  The surface was coated in all sorts of crafty materials: trees were made from lichens, colored sand was used for the sandstone range, diorama-friendly powdered grass and faux bushes polished off the vegetation;  polymer melt faux water was used for the Pyre atop the Keep and the Underworld sea of oil.  Mixing black-oil paint with white-aqueous paint made for some wild textures since the "gray" would phase split during painting, and the black oil would slowly bead atop the white.  There are all sorts of details not accessible from the photo, including real cicada shells  in the Underworld, fluorescent paint around the magical areas (which require a black light), and real minerals for the crystalline tombs of Clan Tonn. 

Photography 

Luckily I know a competent photographer.  My art-director and wife Heidi imaged the diorama from all sorts of angels and lighting.  She preferred natural light, with strong shadows from the setting sun...so we hauled the beast outside.  It is amazing how many photos were taken.  In the end, I took the one taken from the initially designed vantage, but weaved in close-ups (digital magic via Photoshop) to ensure it was all in focus. 

Photoshop and Cover

With a color map in hand, I was ready to complete the cover.  Understand, that the only way I could provide a color copy of the book (and keep it affordable) was to incorporate the map on the back of the cover (the interior is all black and white). It took some creative thinking, but the fire from Ken Kelly's masterpiece art was weaved into the backcover landscape.  Print copies will be available soon (Sept 2014, available globally via online retailers like Amazon, BN.com, etc.), with eBooks too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spawn of Dyscrasia proof copies are in!

Beware, Spawn of Dyscrasia Comes Soon!

Just received the proof copies of Spawn of Dyscrasia, and they look ready to go!  Print copies should be available soon, with ePubs to follow over Summer 2014.

In the photo, behind me, is the Ken Kelly commission (learn about the making of this --link) and the enormous diorama of the Land within Dyscrasia Fiction photographed for the backcover/interior-map (I have yet to blog the chronology of the making of that 5-foot x 3-foot beast, but my Facebook page for Lords of Dyscrasia has many snap shots).

Two video trailers are also in production. Watch out...



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Aguirre's Heraclix and Pomp - Review by S.E.

Heraclix & PompHeraclix & Pomp by Forrest Aguirre
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beware the Death’s Head Fez in this is Weird, Mystery Adventure
In brief, Heraclix & Pomp is a fun, well-constructed fairy tale that will appeal to fans of historical and speculative fiction.

MYSTERY ADVENTURE: As the Book Summary indicates (copied below), Heraclix & Pomp tracks an undead man (recently raised) and a magical sprite as they hunt down a necromancer. The amnesiac, Frankenstein-like-golem ‘Heraclix’ rediscovers himself (and the history of his subparts which maintain their own volition) while the mischievous, chronologically-challenged fairy ‘Pomp’ learns human concepts. As the title suggests, this book is really about their plight, but they serve well as proxies for any introspective reader who questions “Who am I?” and “Where is my life going?” Don’t worry, the adventure is more comedic than philosophical. The unique duo navigates the Austrian & Ottoman Empires of 18th century Europe (with sorties into Hell); the below Dialogue Excerpt captures their collective voice.

With a story that hinges on two characters not knowing where they are going, or who they are, the reader should expect dealing with some uncertainty. There is also an implicit promise that Heraclix’s mysterious history will be explained, and it is. Whereas the dosing of information seemed spot on for the first half, the latter suffers from some disjointed/unexpected transitions and reveals. In all, Aguirre artfully unveils Heraclix’s past(s) well enough, even if his geographical trajectory cannot be predicted. The real strength of Aguirre’s writing is his weird style and eye for design:

WEIRD STYLE: Aguirre’s prose is steeped with entertaining weirdness (see Weird Excerpt), but could hardly be classified as horror despite the key word “necromancy” tagging it. As done for the novella Swans Over the Moon, Aguirre’s meticulous character design is again brilliant. Foremost, the appearance of the death's-head-Fez caps must be highlighted. The juxtaposition of skull-and-crossbones on the timely headpiece (popular in the 18th century) represents the necromancer, indeed the entire book, well. If this was a Sword & Sorcery tale, we’d expect to encounter a grimmer skull helmet akin to the head of Frazetta’s Deathdealer; but this book is more of historical fantasy that delivers weird myth under more inviting flare.

The elegant cover (credit artist Claudia Noble) and introductory quote from the esteemed alchemist Hermes Trismegistus, promise readers an intellectual narrative. My knowledge of history is terrible, so I undoubtedly missed many historical references, but the inclusions of real curiosities are enjoyable: for instance, the winged hussar cavalry units that appeared in angelic-costume on the battlefield make a cameo here. Historical and speculative fiction fans will enjoy this unique tale.

Weird Excerpt:
“Around, above, and through—yes, even through them—flowed a gathering of spectral beings, close to a hundred strong, their ecto-plasmic strands in tatters behind them as they floated up and down the stone stairway and the great, empty, circular shaft around which it spiraled. The specters were loathsome, every one of them crippled in some way. Many were missing limbs, several sported gunshot wounds, a few were altogether decapitated. But the mere sight of the apparitions, strangely, did little to affect Heraclix who was himself, after all, caught in some kind of state between life and death. Rather, it was the soft crying and plaintive weeping (of those who still had mouths, tongues, and heads with which to weep), the faintly echoed pleas that caused him to shiver…”

Dialogue Excerpt
“What do you see?” Pomp asks.
“The past. Or at least a part of it.”
“What is ‘past’?”
“It’s what happened before now.”
Pomp looks up at Heraclix with a skeptical squint.
“I met you in Mowler’s apartment. You came there in a jar. Before, you were free. And I have a hunch that I might have once been free.”
“But Mowler pushes you around.”
“That’s precisely it. What did I have to fear from him? I am physically superior to him in every way: stronger, faster. Yet I didn’t fight back.”
“You should.”
“But I didn’t. Something held me back.”
“What holds you back?”
“Guilt.”
“What is ‘guilt’?”
“’Guilt’ is feeling bad for something you’ve done.”
“Why do you have guilt?” Pomp asks.
“I don’t know, exactly. But I think it might have something to do with . . .” Heraclix stops.
“With what?”
“With whatever happened to me before I awoke in the cauldron of blood.”

Book Summary:
Heraclix was dead and Pomp was immortal. That was before Heraclix’s reanimation (along with the sewn-together pieces and parts of many other dead people) and Pomp’s near murder at the hands of an evil necromancer. As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and back again (with a side-trip to Hell), they struggle to understand who and what they are: Heraclix seeks to know the life he had before his death and rebirth, and Pomp wrestles with the language and meaning of mortality. As they journey across a land rife with revolution and unrest, they discover that the evil necromancer they thought dead might not be so dead after all. In fact, he might be making a pact to ensure his own immortality . . .



View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Vintage Howard - July Aug Groupread

sword and sorcery groupread july aug 2014 - vintage howard - brundage



Vintage Howard

It is time to discuss, read, re-read the works of the "father of the Sword & Sorcery" genre: Robert E. Howard. A lot of his work originally appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, with wondrous covers by Margaret Brundage.

Please join us!  
Click here to join the discussion:

The Masthead Banner displays some of Margaret Brundage's illustrations of Robert E. Howard's work
L-->R
  • Queen of the Black Coast : Weird Tales issue May 1934
  • The Hour of the Dragon: Weird Tales December 1935 
  • Red Nails: Weird Tales July 1936
  • Black Colossus: Weird Tales June 1933
  • A witch Shall Be Born: Weird Tales December 1934 (vol. 24, no. 6),
  • The Slithering Shadow: Weird Tales September 1933
  • The People of the Black Circle: Weird Tales September 1934 (Vol. 24 #3)