Friday, January 1, 2016

Immortal Muse - An Entertaining Blend of Art and Alchemy

Immortal MuseImmortal Muse by Stephen Leigh
S.E.Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

**update: the author was kindly open to an interview which uncovered all sorts of splendid perspectives and fine art (link) **

Stephen Leigh’s Immortal Muse blends modern day fiction with alchemical history. As a chemist and artist, and fantasy genre fan, this was a perfect match for me. How neat would it be if your muse was not just a one-way source of inspiration? What if you muse was a person who provided feedback and even shared a symbiotic relationship with you such that your creations benefited her? What if your muse’s life was threatened by a darker counterpart?
“Yeah, artists want immortality all right, but the immortality we’re after is the kind you don’t know you achieved because you’re dead when it happens. It’s the work that’s supposed to live forever. Not the artist.”

Complementary Art & Alchemy: Prior 1600, scientists and artists had overlapping interests/skills; scientists had to draw their own data in sketchbooks; conversely, artists had to craft/prepare their own pigments and materials (via chemistry). Artists and alchemists frequented the same apothecaries. The art & science of transmuting materials was a shared goal. Alchemists codified their goal in the substance called the “philosopher’s stone,” which was either the understanding to transmute materials into anything they wanted (i.e. gold)…or the base material itself. Harnessing the power of the stone could also enable one to live forever (in which case the “stone” was called “the elixir of life”).

Immortal Muse blends these complementary disciplines. It is half contemporary fantasy (New York, 2010), and half Historical Fiction, which covers a range of times, European geographies, and art (detailed below). This is an entertaining soap-opera/thriller.
-1400, Paris: Perenelle Flamel & Nicolas Flamel (scribes, alchemists)
-1635, Rome: Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Roman artist &sculptor)
-1737, Vienna: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (Musician)
-1790, Paris: Jacque-Louis David (Painter)
-1814 England: William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelly (Poets)
-1900 Vienna: Gustave Klimt (Painter)
-1940 Nice, Italy: Charlotte Salomon (Jewish artist)

Artistic Philosophy: Immortal Muse is chock full of artistic perspectives and shout-outs. I was thrilled for the mentioning my favorite artisanal recipe book : Mappae Clavicula: A Little Key to the World of Medieval Techniques. There is a somber but nicely executed arc regarding the persecution of Jews, beginning with the ~1394 Jewish migration from Paris and ending with Charlotte Salomon’s tragic plight during the Holocaust. There are plenty of moments like the quote below in which an artist is caught between following their muse (and creating something to be shared) and lacking the trust of the audience to care or judge them (or having their art taken away).

“Ana let the pages of the sketchpad fall back and handed it to [Charlotte]. She pressed it to her chest as if she’d never expected to have it returned.”

Author Stephen Leigh: The writer taps his own artistic experience for this. As a musician and creative writer, who also practices Aikido, it is obvious that he funneled a lot of his own muses in this. I half wonder if there is a bar called the Bent Calloipe in Cincinnati which he plays his guitar. I'll have to track him down for an interview (I was able to catch his book signing in 2014).  His Immortal Muse is recommended for historical fiction, art philosophy, alchemy buffs, and fantasy enthusiasts.

Immortal Muse book signing - Barnes & Noble Mason OH (3-8-2014)

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dyscrasia Fan-Fiction - The Village of the Blood Hills

The Village of the Blood Hills

by EEL Dec 2015 (this is the first ever fan fiction of Dyscrasia Fiction)
A.N. This story takes place after Spawn of Dyscrasia, in the flesh world that Helen and Lysis explore.

            As Helen surveyed the land, the inverse nature only appeared more grotesque. She swung her feet from where she sat on the wooden porch, partly built into the thick, wine colored blood flowing downstream. It terrified her to know what she really rested upon were the recycled corpses of the dryads, but, as they had told her earlier upon arriving to the tiny, secluded village, the flesh land had given them very little to build with. Therefore, when each nymph passed from age or battle, the bodies were reused for the sake of the community. The longer she remained in this demented land, she thought, the less it seemed to frighten her, despite her instincts screaming at her otherwise. As the time passed, searching for Master Echo, she had begun to assimilate culturally.
            Helen peered at the opposite bank, twisting a lock of stark-white hair around one finger. The flesh rose and fell in deep valleys, where the bottoms would gather blood as it trickled down the hills from disturbances in the thick layer of skin. Every once in a while, she could see the red sunlight glint off the fingernail formed cliffs in the distance, overlooking the lake where blood and tears met and turned the liquids rosy pink. There was an eye, too, buried into the side of a hill, bloodshot and the surrounding flesh purple and blue. Above it, a dryad’s tree struggled with the land to survive, roots digging into the eye socket, as the mossy green iris nearly disappeared while the pupil dilated.
            Yes, this world was strange.
            Helen gripped her staff. The wooden beads clanked as she stood up. Behind her, she could hear the dry, scratchy footsteps of a dryad, startling her from her daydreams.
            The dryad held up its hands in surrender, the long, gnarled, spindly fingers spread. Over her wooded body of twisted branches, strings of Spanish moss formed a thin covering, spotted with blue baby’s breath flowers. Huge, phosphorescent moss eyes glowed bright green. Around her neck were several polished and carved ivory necklaces.
            The nymph, Druantia, noticed Helen’s interest in the necklaces and the carvings. “Do you like them? There is a clan to the north who dig deep into the flesh in search of bone to carve and sell to other villages. It’s messy work, and costly, as the land never heals and turns into the murky swamplands of pus and blood and roughly covered skin, but it pays them well.”
            “The carvings are very pretty.” Helen scrutinized the small pictures on the bone. “What’s that?”
            “Oh, the creature?” Druantia peered at the serpentine, yet plant like monster depicted in mid-roar, the body of several Chromanti dangling from its mouth, others attempting to bring the creature down, only to be knocked back by the wide leaves. “It is the Venus, who live in the lake down river. It eats the flesh creatures foolish enough to get too close. If you watch long enough, you might be able to see it.”
            Helen pulled her cat pelt over her shoulders. She pointed in the opposing direction of the lake. “What about that, over there?”
            “The great mountain range is composed mostly of teeth of all sizes and shapes. Sometimes, you can find a gap in-between the larger teeth and live there. There is a village that trades with us jewelry and housewares, even just teeth with carved symbols. Here.” Druantia untied a leather pouch from her belt. Inside, Helen could see hundreds of teeth ranging from human size to that of a mouse. Each one was carved with intricate markings. Druantia took one from the bag. “This means spirit. It is a common symbol nowadays, to protect us as the Chromanti continue to wage war with the others in this world. Here, you can have it. To protect you on your travels.”
            Helen took the tooth. It appeared similar to the shape of a cat’s fang. Around the base and tip was a tiny, yet simple border, enclosing the elaborate and graceful swirls. She took the fang and began to work another braid into her hair, to put the fang in. “Thank you, Druantia.”
            “Anything. You kept the Queen of the Chromanti away from the village with your magic, you and your companion upon the giant ant. Do you know when Lord Lysis returns from scouting the villages downstream?”
            Helen shook her head. “No. He wishes to follow the trail further, see if Lord Echo is following the queen and her army. I don’t mind the wait, though. It gives me the chance to practice my magic, and add a few layers of protection around the village.” She closed her eyes, searching deep inside herself. Helen opened her scarred eye, surveying the land. She could see the wild, white fire forming a ring around the village, and the ghosts of the feline guardians enforcing her will. They patrolled the border, snarling at the quivering eye, digging their claws deep into the iris and tearing it apart. It would not surprise Helen if her spells would destroy the abomination.
            Her own cat spirit lay content by her side, purring and rubbing its tufted ears with one large paw. It was almost comical, such a creature capable of injury and of noble features acting like a common house cat. Helen smiled to herself.
            Then a small wisp of green caught her eye. She looked at her hair, where the fang now resided, tangled in her long locks. Apparently, it did contain magic of some sort, the shamrock colored energy wrapping around her like vines, keeping the darker forces at bay.
            Helen opened both eyes again, peering at the normal world. Instinctively, she turned to the grand lake. Overhead, a flesh reaper, its wings of stretched skin flapping sporadically, flew over the great expanse of tears. It released a skin-rendering screech.
            From under the lake, a deep rumble shook the landscape. Druantia smiled. “Just wait.” She said.
            The surface of the lake began to ripple. The flesh reaper sensed to danger it was in, and began to fly frantically towards the cliffs. However, from the lake sprang a gigantic plant springing from the depths, shaking blood and tears over the landscape. Its flat, green mouth, the inside pinky red from its recent kills, swooped up and snatched the flesh reaper from the sky. Behind her, Helen could hear the villagers stop to watch the spectacle.
            The Venus, once done with its meal, wasted no time folding up and resting on the bottom of the lake. The lake’s surface rippled; then began to settle.
            Yes, the land was strange, Helen thought to herself. But she had begun to grow used to the strangeness of it all.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sword & Sorcery Anthologies - Jan-Feb 2016 Groupread

Sword & Sorcery - Anthologies Jan-Feb 2016 Groupread: Wow, don't assume that anthologies of Sword & Sorcery only form the genre's roots! 2015 had at least three quality anthologies surface which are featured in the banner. Officially, the group read is Jan-Feb 2016, but start whenever you want. Treat yourself to a Holiday gift! Time to find new and established authors.  Below are the banner/cover art credits.

Discussion folder is open (link)!

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters edited by Janet E. Morris ; Designed by Roy Mauritsen with "St. George" engraving by W.Roffe after a medallion by W.Wyon, published in the Art Journal, 1850.
Weirdbook 31 edited by Doug Draa; Front cover Dusan Kostic (Stephen Fabian’s back cover is shown here) 2015
Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues edited by J.M. Martin cover by , Arman Akopian 2015.
Heroika 1 Dragon Eaters (Heroika, #1) by Janet E. Morris Weirdbook 31 by Doug Draa Blackguards Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues by J.M. Martin 

Having difficulty choosing?
(1) . The group read Poll results offer a representative selection (link)

(2) Also browse a partial collection in our bookshelf (this is not rigorously maintained but may spark an connection) : Books in the group shelf marked Anthologies. (Feel welcome to add or update the meta data).

(3) There are many. Check out these great listings by GW Thomas:
(a) Anthologies and contents of each - 1963-1985
(b) Anthologies and contents of each - 1986-2008

Weirdbook31 back cover by S. Fabian 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Happy Holidays 2015 - Snow Flake Trapping Experiment - Lindberg Greeting Card

Happy Holidays and New Year too!

This year's theme is “snowflakes” – real ones. Due to winter's erratic precipitation and the self-imposed theme, we had to start early on this design--no snow would be present the months preceding card distribution (Aug-Nov) so we started in Feb 2015.  We were eventually successful. The snow flake design displayed on the card are actual shapes of flakes harvested and imprinted in West Chester Ohio. It took ~4 attempts, two of which were ~4AM since that is when the snow came. If interested in trapping snowflakes and learning how the card was made, then follow this link/blog post detailing to how this Snow Flake Card was made (previous 17 years of cards are displayed on Lindberg Craft Blog).  

Capturing Snow flakes 

0) Collect Snow Trap equipment: namely glass microscope slides (available via Amazon) & hair spray; put them in a garage to cool.

1) You need to have snow falling at the "right" rate/density: snow needs to be falling at a slow but steady rate.  Too much snow, and they do not imprint separately...not enough, and you won't catch enough on on your "snow trap" described below. This took several rounds of testing.

2) The snow trap consists of microscope slides coated with hair spray (cheers to Aquanet, the champion of 1980's hair styles!).  Most hairsprays are dissolved polymer solutions that, once exposed to atmosphere, evaporate allowing the polymers harden. Using "hot" (i.e. room temperature) hairspray will melt fresh snow.  Using cold/old coatings will not work since they will not be too dry or too hard to be imprinted. The trick is to coat the slides right before use with pre-cooled hairspray. Keep hair spray and slides in a cold place (i.e. garage); freshly spray the slides right before a snow event and lay them out in the yard.

3) Weigh down the slides on card board otherwise, wind (that often comes with snow) will flip your adhesive coated slides over...and you'll have mulch/debris embedded through out (tested that too).

4) Keep the slides cold as the water melts & polymer hardens: after harvesting the snow flakes, place them in a cold garage. If the snow is coming down heavy, you'll have to retrieve the slides before they get too covered. You need to let the polymer harden and dry before taking them into a warm house. Wait for the snowflakes to melt/evaporate.

5) Image these via (a) a photographic macro-lens with the flakes are still present.... or (b) via a microscope after the flakes melted and evaporated (leaving their image in cast). You'll see that many flakes are only half embedded or overlap.  The camera used on the scope is monochrome which reflects the colorless imprint.  Simple bright-field imaging is used.

Monochrome Raw Data 

7) Faux-color in Photoshop & Font Battle:  These monochrome images are now doctored up in Photoshop with lots of false coloring, masking, and layering options; a number of the snowflakes are isolated atop a template provided from (one of many online printers screenshot below). Art Director Heidi may initiate a war over appropriate fonts, and you should expect to lose. My blocky carved ice letters were "not right for this project" and I was convinced to follow her advice to use a sleek font instead. Erin and Connor concur with mother as per their training. The next battle is with the computer to ensure the printing of CMYK reflects the RGB coloring; this is resolved via opening & exporting the template in Adobe Illustrator (see variety of blues/cyans below). The template is made read for printing.  A proof confirms all is well. 

Team Lindberg Update

2015 had Connor growing taller than his dad (he's now 6 feet tall at 13yrs of age, cripes). Erin, Connor and Dad were promoted in the Kyu ranks in Aikido (Mushinkan Dojo in Liberty Township under Sensei Domaschko...a great place to learn self-defense without striking/harming your opponent…highly recommended to all).  Heidi ramped up her photography hobby to the point she is beginning to take portraits for clients (family photos, Linkedin head shots, & pet portraits). Dad continued pressing his writing hobby and saw his first short story appear in an anthology Heroika: Dragon Eaters (17 authors chronicle the killing of serpents across as many centuries--Seth covered ancient Egypt); also audio books for Seth's dark fiction were released thanks to voice professionals found via Amazon's ACX service. 2016 promises to be fun, as Team Lindberg tackles crazy artistic endeavors!

Best to all, Seth, Heidi, Erin, and Connor (Shorty & Sweetie too)

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

Hanging out with Professor Abbott (2019)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

S E Lindberg's You Are A Grim Hero - translated into Italian!

You Are A Grim, Italian Hero 

Last April, I wrote a guest post on the Grimdark genre's roots (1930-and-1980).  I was just notified that the post was translated and reposted this month!  Like dark fantasy?  Check out a perspective highlighting Clark Ashton Smith and Fighting Fantasy.

Original Guest Post in English, thanks to an invitation by Francesco La Manno:
 2015-April "You-are-grim-hero" Post on Panopticonitalia-Hyperborea Blog

Now in Italian, thanks to Alessandro Iascy:
Nov-25th 2015 - Blog Post translated into Italian!


Why & How to Read The Zothique Tales:
·         It's an Aficionado’s duty – know the origins of Sword & Sorcery and Grimdark
·         Short Stories – won’t consume much time
·         The stories are awesomely Grimdark
·         Free – available online thanks to Eldritchdark, a fan website run with permission from CAS’s family. The Zothique tales are ordered as they appear in Necrocomicon’s Press 1995 printing of “Clark Ashton Smith’s Tales of Zothique” edited by Will Murray and Steve Behrends (i.e., chronological order of publication). A great review of these was shared by author Ryan Harvey on Blackgate:

9-      Xeethra  - Mar 1934
17-   Zothique - poem
19-   Mandor's Enemy - fragment  (fragment)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

High Cough of Silistra - Intense, Sex-Infused Fantasy for Thoughtful Readers

High Couch of Silistra (the silistra quartet book 1)High Couch of Silistra by Janet E. Morris
S. E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Janet E. Morris’s High Couch of Silistra is Intense, Sex-Infused Fantasy for Thoughtful Readers

In 1977, an intellectual female author wrote a debut, fantasy/sci-fi novel featuring a heroine in a dystopic, alien world striving to discover her mysterious past & god-like ancestry; in 2015, her debut novel was reprinted. Some may assume I am referring to Tanith Lee who passed away recently; her 1975 debut The Birthgrave was reprinted in 1977 and this year which I just read/enjoyed/reviewed. However, I am referring to Janet Morris’s 1977 High Couch of Silistra; this reviews her ‘author’s cut’ version, coincidentally released this year. Janet Morris’s style is quite different that Lee’s, though fans of the Birthgrave would certainly devour High Couch.

Intense Sex: One would wrongly assume that High Couch of Silistra is purely a 1970-feminist-movement book; the role of sex, rape, and fertility is posited to make the reader tense. The protagonist Estri is a woman of Silistran origin (alien with human form) and most Silistran’s are reliant on humans to become impregnated, which is a rare event. The culture and expectations of purchased sex, often brutal but sometimes passionate, are constantly present. Somehow, Janet Morris manages to write all this erotic-infused adventure in an intellectual, almost dispassionate voice. This is not shallow romance/soft-pornography. Nor is High Couch of Silistra gratuitous whoring. This is mature-rated, engaging fantasy.

Tension: Without spoiling, note that characters watch their parents have intercourse, men rape other men, and woman lust after men who abuse them. In real life, these situations would appall me. My test for rationalizing my comfort level and reading onward was: if Estri tolerated her predicaments, then so should I. The constant tension between the book’s acceptable behavior and today’s societal norms took me beyond reading the story. It made reading this more than adventure. It made me think. Janet Morris’s intent was to play with controversial sexual and societal themes; she delivered with Estri’s journey, full of codependent genders & races, an intricate alien world, and psychedelic magic.

Cover Art & Interview: In Janet Morris’s 2014 interview on Beauty in Weird Fiction she said that “Human extravagances and limitations are what, for me, Silistra is about, but it is not a series for the erotically-averse, or the intellectually timid.” As a reader/reviewer, I could not agree more with that self-assessment. In that interview she also noted her dislike of the 1977 cover art Boris Vallejo that depicted Estri with a brass bra and Gucci boots. For the author’s cut, she employed artist Roy Mauritsen who presented a more intellectual design for the Silsitra quartet by dividing the Dancing Maenad in (a Roman relief) over the four books (photo by Ana BelĂ©n Cantero Paz).
High Couch of Silistra (Silistra, #1) by Janet E. Morris High Couch of Silistra (the silistra quartet book 1) by Janet E. Morris

Genre & Theme: This futuristic, dystopian world has science-fiction elements (space/time travel, some technology), but leans toward fantasy (alien beasts with hybrid/mythological designs; sorcery like telepathy/mind reading; fighting that is melee/blade-focused). Ubiquitous themes of procreation, fertility, and “shaping” the world add depth.
The Silstra Quartet seriesThe series continues, the remaining three presumably to be released in the near future (since the covers are designed.)

Dancing Maenad a Roman relief over the four books

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