Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shedding Light On The Resurrectionist - E.B.Hudspeth Interview by S.E.Lindberg

E.B.Hudspeth: Author & Illustrator of "The Ressurectionist"
E.B.Hudspeth: Author & Illustrator of "The Ressurectionist"

E.B. Hudspeth’s novel/art-book combination “The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black” chronicles an artist/scientist as he “revives or brings to light again (aka resurrect)” a dormant beauty inside humanity.  With a horrific tale complementing beautiful anatomical drawings of hybrid creatures, he invites us to reconsider the boundaries (if any) between man & animal…between art & science.  We appreciate E.B.Hudspeth taking the time to “bring to light” the beauty in his art with this interview:

Motivations & Muses: Did a muse similar to Mary Shelly's affect you? Where you terrified by muses?

With The Modern Prometheus (1818), Mary Bryce Shelly grappled with the themes of Science, Art, and Spirit.   Her character Victor Frankenstein, the infamous artist and scientist, pieced together materials from cemeteries to create life via alchemy.  In her prologue, she described how her muse worked though her:
“My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw-with shut eyes, but acute mental vision-I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together.  I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.   Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.  His success would terrify the artist.” - Mary Shelly ~1818

EBH: No, it sounds like Shelly’s muse would have terrified anyone. The whole thing came about as a simple curiosity. I wanted to know how the anatomy of a winged human would work. It was originally a study for a sculpture but then it turned into something more comprehensive. The artwork came first. After I had a pretty clear idea of the art direction, that’s when I worked on the story, focusing on the nineteenth century. I wanted the artist to have believed in this work, not just a piece of fantasy, to me, that’s where the heart of it is. You know immediately that who ever drew this took it seriously and that provokes a pretty interesting question.

The Process of Creation: Did the process of making the book further evolve your own philosophy on art or beauty?  

Spencer Black learned a lot about himself and humanity during his life, especially when he tried to produce new forms.  Did your views of art change as you realized your vision of the book?
EBH: Yes, my views on art are always changing and they change faster than I can improve as an artist. I feel as though the more I learn, the more respect and appreciation I gain and the more I need to improve. One thing I try not to take for granted in art is the history of esthetics. Their origins, the centuries required to refine them and then their tragic disappearance. There are curves and shapes and line weights that can be lost if we don’t pay attention. Looking back into the 19th century to research certain styles was a wonderful thing to do and a little sad. I am proud of my penmanship but it is nothing compared to the ornate flourish and decoration used commonly in letters.

E.B.Hudspeth: Author & Illustrator of "The Ressurectionist"

Art vs. the Artist: How much of E.B. Hudspeth is reflected in the character Dr. Spencer Black?

We know Dr. Black struggled to reveal dormant/recessive beauty to the public.  The below quote from Spencer seems to echo your motivation: 
"I hear them marvel at my work—my indignant science. I hear them call out in fear of what they see. And there are some gentlemen who doubt what I will tell them. They call me a liar and a charlatan or a quack. But in time the methods of science that I now employ to convince people will surely set them free—alas, this I cannot explain to the angry fools."
I assume you see beauty in the horrific drawings you produced (I do); how do you respond to those who need help seeing the beauty?   Can you help “bring to light” awareness. 
EBH: I am not sure how much of myself comes out in a character. There are certainly going to be things that I write that I am relating to personally. I think it’s common to feel like there is something special and powerful within us that we have a difficult time expressing. Dr. Black is giving the world something that he feels is no less valuable than food, but they won’t eat. I think this sense of rejection is something we all feel at some point in life. 
I wonder if beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. I am not trying to convince anyone. We all love different things and it would be terrible if we all agreed on what beauty was. I personally love the shape and form of organic life. Every specimen is a beautiful mystery, visually and intellectually.
I wanted the artwork in the book to play out as a character. You never really sympathize with Spencer Black until you see his drawings. It isn’t the context that makes you understand him, it’s the sincerity. There are things that artwork can do that other mediums cannot. The same is true for the other mediums i.e., music, writing, dance, etc., they all have their special traits.
E.B.Huspeth: Author & Illustrator of "The Resurrectionist"

Bounds of Humanity: Where does man begin and animal end?

There are real life analogues to the fictitious Spencer. Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919) comes to mind. A dedicated, philosophical scientist with outstanding artistic skills, he documented thousands of life forms and published his beautiful plates in “Art Forms in Nature” (translated from German: Kunstforman der Natur). But then his fascination with Art-Nature caused an uproar when he tweaked his drawings of embryos in 1874. 

The setting in “The Resurrectionist” is ideal for redefining the nature of “man.” The turn of the 19th century was rich with advances in evolutionary theory, science, and even speculative fiction. Anatomists, philosophers, and scientists ruminated on how far to extrapolate Darwin’s assertions. Most understood that all vertebrates shared a common skeletal structure; but if animals and man were connected in their development, was it not reasonable to reconsider the existence of creatures termed mythological? Were centaurs real? Harpies? Demons? Spencer Black needed to know. You seemed to use him to lure us on this quest.  So, are there distinctions between man and animal?  

EBH: To get into the real scientific answers to this question you would need to ask someone else, someone far more qualified. I am happy to offer my observations, whatever they are worth. Your question is where a lot of the story was able to breathe. The oceans, so vast and mysterious and still unexplored… what lives in it? Today we entertain the possibility of weird or imagined creatures living somewhere in the world, image what it was like 150 years ago?

Anatomically, it is astounding what similarities occur in animals. The bones following remarkably similar patterns, hands become wings, feet become elongated lower legs etc. Eyes, teeth patterns, and reproductive systems all follow predictable rules. Among all of the animals there are a great deal of similarities. Scientists like Ernst Haeckel were amazing for their times. He did doctor his own work, which isn’t uncommon, especially if you believe in the work and its future— competition was fierce, as I am sure it still is today.

The nineteenth century was a good place to exploit the questions of what is the true origin of man. A question that we still aren’t 100%. It’s that 1% uncertainty where doctors like Spencer Black look for answers.
As far as distinctions, they exist in everything. This is how we quantify our world, we measure and name and make distinctions—there is nothing wrong with this. The danger is when we place values on everything.

More Art: Are there more resurrections in the future (i.e. more horrors to shed light on)? Can we expect more history of the Black family to be revealed?

EBH:  I am working on a sequel. It’s taking longer than I had hoped, but that’s only because I am very excited about it and I want it to be right. There will be more about the Black family. The first book was written and designed with a sequel in mind.
Stay tuned by following this site and checking out the author's website:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bloodsong Hel x 3 by Dean Andersson (Asa Drake) - review by S.E.

Bloodsong - Hel X 3Bloodsong - Hel X 3 by C. Dean Andersson
S.E.Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining gateway to Hell, and toward darker fiction

History and Style: The three books combined in Bloodsong! — Hel X 3 were written within ~1.5 yrs (1985-86). C. Dean Andersson (aka Asa Drake) was motivated to make a fun horror series on quick timing. The result was easily digestible horror / fantasy, all rooted in Viking lore. The trilogy includes: 1) Warrior Witch of Hell; 2) Death Riders of Hell; and 3) Werebeasts of Hel.

The concepts and setting really carry the story: a reanimated mother is out to save her unborn daughter from the Goddess Hel. This more than compensates for the dialogue which relies heavily on characters broadcasting their intentions. Its simplistic tone and fast pace is appropriate for young-adult novels, but its abundance of mature scenes makes it more suitable for adults (there are many heroines who continually find themselves stripped naked, chained, and tortured). This is highly recommended for epic/high fantasy readers looking for darker fiction. It would work well as a "gateway drug" for those introduced to fantasy via Tolkien, but are now looking for gritty fare.

Bloodsong and Freedom: The conflict centers on the female warrior Bloodsong who is pitted against Hel Queen of Darkness, Death Goddess. It begins with Bloodsong coming back from Hel's domain, resurrected and sworn to serve the Goddess. Hel is holding Bloodsong's daughter, hostage (she had died in Bloodsong's womb, but was raised in Helheim). The conflict over freedom/domination is persistent and explicitly echoed in the protagonist's war cry & call to action "Bloodsong and Freedom!" The subsequent books fill in many details about Bloodsong's husband and her son, who had died during the same raid as she; they are, of course, plagued past their natural deaths.

Fun Horror: The variety and abundance of undead creatures makes this most fun, and their titles speak to their coolness: Flesh Demons (skeletons who steal skin), Skull Slaves (humans possessed by ghosts), Death Riders (undead warriors mounted on skeletal Hel-Horses who ride the wind), Corpse Beasts (humanoids who eat their kill), Hel-Witch (sorceress who draw upon Her powers), etc. There are of course Viking inspired monsters (i.e. Frost Giants, Invisible Dwarves), but the series is really about Hel's incarnations, as the three titles communicate, so expect lots of necromancy.

New vs. Old: The 2013 Helx3 eBook release has a lengthened first book (in the omnibus, the first book "Warrior Witch from Hel" has 24 chapters versus the original 18). The remaining books have the same number of chapters, but their content is altered to accommodate some character development , mostly regarding the secondary character Jalna. The additions are fine, but the paperback originals are just as enjoyable.

Coverart:The illustrations for the paperbacks and eBook are from Boris Vallejo. They are incredible and accurately portray the characters and books' tone:
Warrior Witch of Hell Death Riders of Hell Werebeasts of Hel

More Bloodsong Adventures:

2014...: A new novel, The Valkyries of Hel, is in progress now.

1996: Eternal Champion cross-over: In the Pawn of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion anthology, Bloodsong interacts with Michael Moorcock's eternal champion (the Urlik Skarsol incarnation) in the short story: "The Warskull of Hel" (which was the title for the first book in the trilogy according to the author). This continues the saga in a solid way, even if a short story.

2006: R.E.Howard and Texas: For the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas, there was a R. E. Howard centenary tribute anthology called Cross Plains Universe - Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard. Therein there is a fun, Bloodsong short "Slim and Swede and the Damned Dead Horse."

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Monday, January 13, 2014

A Road of Blood and Slaughter - Review by S.E.

A Road of Blood and SlaughterA Road of Blood and Slaughter by David Hunter
S.E.Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

With A Road of Blood and Slaughter, author David Hunter delivers what the title promises. Expect brutal military fantasy infused with political intrigue and eldritch sorcery. Highly recommend for Conan fans.

Part 1) Organized Crime Meets Cthulhu:
The book is divided into 4 parts, the first sets the brutal tone for the novel, introducing us to the rogue-royal Artemo and the Viking-esque Horsa in a Sword & Sorcery adventure. Artemo takes center stage and is known as the Killer of Men, so don’t expect him to be a chivalrous tour guide. Immediately, we understand the title is apt, as we are thrown onto a road literally filled with blood and slaughter. Fragile alliances are constantly formed and broken amongst criminals & governors; the occurrence and outcome of betrayals & loyalties are sometimes difficult to predict. Part 1 mixes political intrigue, with vivid battles, and Lovecraftian-inspired magic. With this introduction you should expect more brutality, and you’ll get large doses of it.

Part 2 & 3) A Bloody Tour:
Part 2’s introduction will likely be disorienting (especially if you haven’t read the Author’s Note on Goodreads). Tucked into the chapter headline is a change in year (rewinding ~14yrs). Given the abundance of names, and vast survey of lands, this time-shift further encumbers the reader. On the plus side, Artemo continues as our primary protagonist, though Horsa emerges too. The frequent alliance/betrayal routine continues. At this juncture, you will want to know if it is worth stretching your memory to comprehend it all; it was a risk I took, and I am glad to report that the story does converge pleasantly in the last Part.

For fans of the fantasy genre, it is obviously that the fantasy world is modelled after a European centric continent much like Robert Howard (Conan creator) conceived. Still, a map or index would have been helpful since the books pays homage to every culture and corner of the world (Kush, Amazons, Vikings, Egypt, etc.). Generally this middle section has less sorcery, emphasizing bloody, “realistic” battles. Amongst the warring, there is a compelling, heroic last-stand of a King; and Horsa raids a tomb in splendid, horrific fashion.

Part 4) A Thrilling End:
With plenty of epic adventures and diverging plotlines, readers should be comforted knowing that the author does bring it all back together at a pleasant pace. Also, the amount of monsters and sorcery ramps up, which also makes this more pleasing as a fantasy read.

Quibbles :
• Although most of the sudden betrayals & fragile-alliances are explained/justified, there are several that seemed implausible enough to distract
• A lack of Index & Map
• The Author’s Note found on Goodreads should be in the book (apparently it is included in the Paperback version, just not in the eBook)
• The non-chronological order may alienate readers. Despite it making sense from a design perspective (i.e. it introduces the key characters and sets the tone better than if chronologically arranged), it is not abundantly clear as a first-time reader that time shifts.
• A lead character has a frequent habit of “tongue clicking” which occurs abundantly enough to swamp other traits

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mightier than the Sword - Review by SE

Mightier than the Sword and Other StoriesMightier than the Sword and Other Stories by Bill Ward
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mighty Legends and Creepy Tales:
Bill Ward is an accomplished author who has recently released a series of anthologies (2013). Mightier than the Sword and Other Stories proves to be as equally entertaining, dark, and varied as The Last of His Kind and Other Stories. Here Ward has eight more tales (two published for the first time; see the content list below.) Again the author uses strong, illusionary narrative to tour the reader through fantastic realms, most featuring a prominent sword. A “ward” in the fantasy genre refers to an iconic symbol that protects against evil magic; Ward the author emerges as the opposite, his books delivering magical, dark adventure.

I was completely enthralled while reading “Shadow on the Edge of the City of Light,” “The Witch Queen’s Tower,” and “The Wolf of Winter.” Others like “Mightier than the Sword,” “Unmaker,” and “The Sea Kings’ Champion” are as entertaining, but are less trippy. The duo of General Boa and Shan “Spirit-Slayer” appeared in Mightier than the Sword and Other Stories too, but I cared for them less in this new episode (“Race to Dragonhead Rock”); the levity they bring to a the series is welcoming, but Ward shines brighter (ironically) when he drags us through darker adventures.

1) “An Imperfect Swordsman,” originally published at Every Day Fiction on April 4, 2008
2) “Shadow on the Edge of the City of Light,” originally published in Shadows & Light: Tales of Lost Kingdoms from Pill Hill Press, September 2009
3) Race to Dragonhead Rock - appears here for the first time, Mightier than the Sword and Other Stories, 2013.
4) “The Witch Queen’s Tower,” originally published in Morpheus Tales Issue 1, July 2008
5) “Mightier than the Sword,” originally published in Flashing Swords Issue 9, Winter 2008
6) “The Sea Kings’ Champion,” originally published in Flashing Swords Issue 10, Spring 2008
7) The Unmaker - appears here for the first time, Mightier than the Sword and Other Stories 2013.
8) “The Wolf of Winter,” originally published in Rage of the Behemoth from Rogue Blades Entertainment, June 2009

More Ward:
The Last of His Kind and Other Stories and Heartless Gao Walks Number Nine Hell and Other Stories
The Last of His Kind and Other Stories Heartless Gao Walks Number Nine Hell and Other Stories

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Art, Beauty, and Fantasy Fiction: An Interview with Janet E. Morris

I have been fascinated with many Horror/Fantasy writers' view on the themes of "Beauty" and "Art" (see essay Undercurrent of Dark Muses in Weird Fiction ). In short, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, R.E. Howard...even Edgar Allen Poe...wrote essays/letters in which they professed their fiction as being Art with a level of Beauty. For them Beauty was defined more of an emotive-experience rather than something "pretty" or related to "sex/gender." These authors are interestingly (a) all men, and (b) rarely wrote about heroines, or from the female perspective.  

Via the Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads-com, I engaged author Janet Morris (JEM) about these themes. JEM has pushed people's expectations of sexuality and the role of women in fantasy fiction since 1976; she has since published more than 20 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris (including the Sacred Band of Stepsons of the Thieves World series; she also created and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell).  She is still writing, recently contributing to Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the ProsIncidentally, her expanded editions of her Sacred Band books are being re-released now (Video Trailer).  She frequently interacts in the Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads-com, which is currently running a Groupread on Heroines (everyone is invited, so feel welcome to join).  Her below comment suggested she had a lot more to share:
"Men in woman-suits do not women make, and the novel's purpose in the world is to create story to carry forth common values and shared ethos; when those values are deformed, and that deformation taken for true, we all suffer." Janet E. Morris - 2013
JEM kindly agreed to an interview and simply overwhelmed me with her response.  She is a font of information, and her responses should appeal to readers and aspiring authors (incidentally, Alexandra Butcher recently posted an insightful, interview with JEM on a broader range of topics).  She shared loads of insights and inspirational messages, I highlighted a few in blue.  Thank you JEM for your continued passion for writing, and for sharing your philospohy on Beauty and Art in Fantasy Fiction:  

  1. Were you aiming to recast/redefine the definition of beauty at all in your work? If so, would the Silistra series be the most representative? Link to JEM's answer-1
  2. How exactly did you strategize writing fiction featuring a powerful woman without pandering to stereotypes (i.e. chic's in chainmail) or making her wear a "man-suit"?  Link to JEM's answer-2 
  3. Have you ever thought of your own fiction as beautiful art? Link to JEM's answer-3 

Intro) JEM: Art is the process and Beauty the goal

Herein we’ll briefly explore Art and Beauty in fantastical literature, which may include fantasy and horror for purposes of discussion, not only historically, but how this single core issue is changing today: is Art and its associated Beauty still a valid goal in modern fiction, despite the vast quantity of fiction written by those aiming to capture the lowest common denominator of readership?
1) Was Estri & Silistra strategically conceived to create a new sort of female hero?
JEM: When I wrote High Couch of Silistra, I was twenty-five and loved being female; my body and mind were my laboratory, and I wanted to write the book I couldn’t find to read: not a book that was a clumsy attempt to treat a woman as a man, or as an enemy or competitor of men, or as a victim of men, but as someone powerful in a different society for genetic and political reasons; a protagonist whose sensuality and sexuality are at the heart of her world, and whose travails are self-created, so that I could explore the genetics of behavior: Estri, protagonist, is a courtesan and an adventuress, but not a sword-swinging hero tougher than any man around her. The books explore the differences and complementarities between men and women and the exercise of power, both personal and societal; they aren’t about a man who happens to live in a woman’s body. The Silistra Quartet is well discussed by Kaler in The Picara, where she compares the Silistra Quartet to the Picara model, from which it does purposely diverge.
My strategy was simply to write a book that spoke for a unique viewpoint, not for the “woman’s movement” (who were offended that it diverged from their politics) or the conservative male-backlash audience. Like Disraeli, I always write the book I want to read. In Silistra, all stereotypes are turned on their heads; emotion rules; sexuality is sometimes graphic as it pertains to power among and between sexes: it’s a book about people balancing free will against their hard-wired natures, not about women in man-suits or men in woman-suits. At the end of Wind from the Abyss, the third in the series, Estri’s counterpart Sereth reminds us, “We are all bound, the highest no less than the meanest.” 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.
Boris Vallejo - High Couch of Silistra Cover
Vallejo - High Couch of Silistra Cover Art
None of our heroines have ever worn chain mail:  Estri's chains are on her wait and sometimes on her writs; Shebat Kerrion, our science fantasy heroine of the Dream Dancer/Kerrion Consortium trilogy, is a newcomer to the space-faring culture where she wanders and a catalyst for change; the various Sacred Band of Stepsons heroines include Jihan, who has scale armor and a few supernatural powers appropriate to the daughter of the god of wind and wave; Kama has leather and linen armor, just like the men she serves among  (she wants to be a man so her father will respect her, but is a poet most of all); Cime wears god-forged armor or doeskin leathers, is a sorcerer-slayer by vocation, is also picaresque, and rules Tempus' heart and by extension, the Sacred Band at times.  It's not their weapons or outfits or special powers that make them heroic, but their goals and deeds, hopes and dreams.  When I saw the Boris High Couch cover for the first time, I was insulted that anyone could have derived the brass bra and Gucci boots image from my work. 
(this next paragraph is paraphrased from her comment): I was a fine arts major in school. My first cover was the Boris High Couch, commissioned by Bantam for High Couch of Silistra. I didn't think it matched the description, so I got Bantam to arrange for me to talk to him and request changes (feathered wings to non-feathered, etc). He didn't like that. So we changed to someone else thereafter. I had always loved the Frazetta covers, and in Germany I had Chris Achilleos for the German versions of the Silistra series, then Frazetta for the German Tempus. But now that I have cover control, I'm choosing Rubens and ancient art that truly moves me. The new cover for Tempus, and The Sacred Band cover, and the Beyond sub-series with Rubens covera, are pleasing me because I can look at them for hours and always see something that evokes the heart of the stories within. Matching books to cover, when centuries separate book and cover creation, has been an adventure. Strangest experience was finding the three Rubens we're using for Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, and Beyond Wizardwall and realizing that each of those three paintings fit one of the three books nearly perfectly.
SEL asks whether I’m aiming to recast/redefine the definition of beauty in my work and, if so, would the Silistra series be the most representative? The answer to that is simple: like everyone concerned with writing Art, I am always striving, always hoping to improve, always experimenting, pushing my limits, trying to reach Homeric heights – but for me in my time, not by copying him in his. What is most beautiful about literature as Art is its ability to transport, to materialize a vision, whole cloth, in the reader’s mind, and I’m still working on doing that. The most representative of my books is probably my most recent novel, written with Chris Morris, The Sacred Band, grappling as it does with what is common to all, and unique in some: taking hold of mythos and ethos, sexuality of every sort, and exploring power and emotion at their best and worst. My favorite of my books is  I, the Sun, biographical novel of Suppiluliumas, Great King of Hatti, because his own words set my soul afire, and the task – flavoring my style with his writings, creating a relative chronology, and bringing so many historical people to life – was unparalleled in its demands on my ability. My favorite science fiction book, Outpassage, written with Chris Morris, is my greatest success so far with writing a group of futuristic, strong, heroic and villainous female characters.

My female characters, no more or less than my male characters, speak for themselves, not for a grand plan to redress centuries of perceived grievances, or to be role models for a future of retributive bile, where men and women are retaught their roles, and those roles are precisely the same. If, indeed, Art is the process and Beauty the goal, and if ‘common values’ can still be transferred to future generations through literature, then only reality and its study can yield fantasy worth reading, and making women into men and men into women won’t have my desired result: a book that satisfies me, since I must go first into any adventure I write, and live there. 
2) Have you ever thought of your own fiction as beautiful art?
JEM: My answer is simple: Of course I do. And of course it is valid to consciously strive for greatness in any art-form, and literature most of all, since literature carries our culture forward, gives voice to our inner selves most directly, speaks for us in no uncertain terms to a future yet unformed.  I think of my own work as a search for Art and strive for beauty in every line: for power, lyricism, brutality, mythos and ethos, and I do this by invoking character, not diatribe. 
3) Is Art and Beauty present in classic fantasy?
JEM: Certainly each man’s essays and letters (i.e. from Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, & Poe) reveal their intent to create Art with a level of Beauty in their fiction. Consider these among other writers equally persuaded that they were writing Art with Beauty. The Western Canon, and back to the earliest myths of Gilgamesh, give us fantasy and horror stories with Art and Beauty: since these are ‘literature’, we don’t refer to them as Horror or Fantasy anymore, despite the faeries in Spenser, the witches and ghosts in Shakespeare, the devils and demons in Milton.

Art with a level of Beauty (where Beauty is emotional impact and Art is a process of transcendent composition) does not exist in every piece of fiction, but it exists in many more fictions than today’s pernicious genre-fication would lead one to believe, or the ghetto-izers of literature would prefer. However, look sharp: if the book is really good, people will not call it Horror or Fantasy very long. For instance, is Moby Dick Horrific Fantasy? To me it is. Does Conan carry the flag of fantastical creation forward, and even include the emotional context and kick necessary in Art? Absolutely, although the non-Howard Conan stories written by others so far do not.

If Art is, as Zola famously observed, life seen through a temperament, then Howard’s Conan is Art. The spare prose and raw power of that work stimulated many to try to copy it whole cloth, resulting in a cripplingly limited vision of how Howard emplaces impact that has created a genre of crude imitators. No matter: Conan can take one’s breath away, and replace it with his own. The loaded style of Poe is peerless, in his darkly forsaken world, as much an echo of New England’s own inherent darkness as of the phantasms he evokes. Arthur Conan Doyle observed through the mouth of Sherlock Holmes that: ‘Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.’ Writing fantasy (whether one may become the next Dante or Poe or Homer), or reading it, requires imagination, and creating Art and Beauty is the goal of an informed imagination.

Now, what do we mean by Beauty? The most beautiful line I have ever read is from Hamlet: “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” In Poe, it’s “Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore! Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’” Howard stabs for your heart with his Beauty, evoking a barbarian soul in “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women”, but consider Howard’s “Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky. But Crom is your god, Crom and he lives in the earth. Once, giants lived in the earth, Conan. And in the darkness of chaos, they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered. And the Earth shook. Fire and wind struck down these giants, and they threw their bodies into the waters, but in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battlefield. We who found it are just men. Not gods. Not giants. Just men. The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one – no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts.” In my own work I can show you my strivings for Art and Beauty more easily, since I know it best: “The chapel is dim, full of the god. So many of Tempus’ own ghosts are here. He bows his head and greets them one by one. Shades and revenants from years gone by crowd in, murmuring like the dead he carries in his heart. A gilded chariot gleams in the chapel’s soft light: a prop for a show he disdains, in these days when it is so hard for him to keep man and god separate, distinct from one another; when so many, many wraiths come with him, walk with him, ride with him from battlefield to battlefield, war to war.” or: “Woe betide the soul who loves too much, wants too much, dares too much. Soon now comes the hour of doom for some, victory for others.”
"Beauty requires that we breathe into our characters a unique view of the human condition, and show how that character experiences and suffers the world around him (her)."  Janet E. Morris - 2013

So where does Art reside, and where Beauty? Art is the process and Beauty the result. These together reside in the totality of thought; in the dark of the soul; in the voice of your Muse and, finally, if you are very lucky, on the page. If you are male or female, and writing fantasy fiction today, are you at an advantage or a disadvantage in the marketplace? The answer should be ‘no,’ but now and previously, may be ‘yes,’ depending on how separate you can keep yourself from political correctness and societal pressure to write trite stereotypes, not characters. Is the first great fantasy writer “J” from the Old Testament? Probably. Harold Bloom thinks “J” was female, and says so. What makes Bloom think so? A lifetime of scholarship. I recommend to you his “The Book of J” so you can find out for yourself. Where does the Art and Beauty reside in the Old Testament? Try the oldest translation you can find of the ‘burning bush’ scene. Homer’s Iliad, the most male of tales, changed the world because Alexander of Macedon considered its treatise on war-fighting so much his inspiration that he carried it with him on campaign. Before the Iliad, the myths of powerful women in Greek, and before them in Hittite and Egyptian and Akkadian mythologies, abounded. After Homer, the age of early male heroes increasingly defined literature, but these heroes were aided and abetted by female goddesses, muses, nereids, all more powerful than the men who served them. Then came the inscription at Delphi: “Keep woman under rule.” Why? Perhaps women sibyls and rulers had abused their men, perhaps the warlord overcame the sorceress. After Constantine and his New Testament redactions, modern patriarchy took hold with a vengeance, eradicating not only the Gnostic Gospel of Mary, but much else that made women and men equally important – in the eyes of literature, at least.

"Today, the writer, be that author male or female, makes a choice, at the outset: to reach for greatness and challenge an audience, or even change them; or to please a common denominator of audience by writing a familiar tale told artlessly. It is rare to attempt both, even rarer to achieve both.
So why try for Art and Beauty, when what most people want is a short, easy read, simple and direct? For some, Art is its own reward, and Beauty brings Art to the life in the mind. Before these art-seeking souls today, a wilderness stretches: many more craftsmen exist than artists, and the good, invariably, is the enemy of the great." Janet E. Morris - 2013

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Heroines - JanFeb 2014 Groupread

You are invited to the Sword & Sorcery Goodread's Group read!

Heroine Female Lead & Anthology Groupread: The poll results equilibrated enough to call these topics. This is the first time a write-in vote won, which is pretty cool. The concurrent group reads will start Jan-1st 2014 and run through the end of Feb (two months for two topics).

L to R credits for the Jan-Feb 2014 Banner 
Character // Artist // Title // Author(s) // Year
1) Red Sonja // Jenny Frison // Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen Of Plagues // Gail Simone, and Walter Geovani // 2013, 2014
2) Bloodsong // Boris Vallejo // Warrior Beast from Hel (2013 3Book release =Bloodsong! — Hel X 3 Trilogy) aka Werebeasts of Hel // Asa Drake aka C. Dean Andersson// 1986 
3) Aella // Dsbenix Digital Entertainment, Ximphonic Versus: Oblivium Sic Sempiternum (Xing Xin and Endro Gatotkaca) // Sword Sisters: A Red Reaper Novel // Tara Cardinal,Alex Bledsoe // 2013 
4) Jirel // Arnold Tsang // Black God's Kiss // C.L. Moore // 2007
5) Dossouye // Mshindo Kumba // Dossouye: the Dancers of Mulukau // Charles R. Saunders// 2011

Red Sonja Volume 1  Queen Of Plagues Werebeasts of Hel Sword Sisters  A Red Reaper Novel Black God's Kiss Dossouye  the Dancers of Mulukau (Dossouye, #2)

Other heroine books of interest that almost made in the banner:
Jason E. ThummelThe Bladewitch, released 2013
-Milton DavisGriots: Sisters of the Spear, 2013 and Woman of the Woods
Janet E. Morris's High Couch of Silistra

The Bladewitch (The Bladewitch, #1) Griots  Sisters of the Spear Woman of the WoodsHigh Couch of Silistra (Silistra, #1)