To me, fantasy is the celebration of creativity, the glorification of endless possibility. It has always meant anything goes to me. Ever since I received that first box of infinite potentiality, the original D & D Boxed Set, fantasy has been an intrinsic part of my soul. I fell in love with the concept of the game, and the encouragement of its creators to use the rules as guidelines and create to my heart's content. Save for a few close friends, family, and my wife and daughter, I could live without most anything else, but not without fantasy.
Why most people limit their world-view of fantasy, baffles me. I just don't understand that way of thinking. Once you buy into a reality that is not real, why not charge into the abyss and embrace the imagination in all its magnificence? I guess I'm not meant to understand the mindset of most people. To me, once you cozy-up to the idea of vampyres or The Great Cthulhu, why stop there? Why not give yourself permission to create all manner of fantastical imagery, creatures, spells, and stories?
Maybe I am built differently and don't have the inhibitions most people possess. I have been told on more than one occasion, by more than one person, I am an odd duck, and I know that much is true. I'm not blind and do have a mirror. But still, the timid embracing of fantasy by people who profess to be open-minded confounds me to no end.
I just don't understand the desire to read stories that are derivative of one another. Once you've read Lord Of The Rings, why would you want to read a cheap knockoff? The answer seems to be twofold; folks don't want to stray from their comfort zones, and they want assurances their time spent reading will be well spent.
As for rules of fantasy, why would you want them? They only serve to confine the imagination and place everything into tiny boxes like high-fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, and horror. I say, let the pigeons loose and free our minds of such madness!
The point of art, and yes, I view fantasy as an art form, is to create without limits. That's the only way artists can show us something new and shiny, leading us to something completely different. Imagine what the art world would be like if Picasso had stopped at the edge of impressionism and cubism. Modern art wouldn't be the font of creativity it is today.
We all stand upon the shoulders of giants. We owe a debt we can never pay to those artistic masters who paved the way for us. For me, that's: Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Homer, Ovid, Virgil, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Locke, Hobbes, Smith, De Tocqueville, Mill, Kant, Poe, Hawthorne, Twain, Ibsen, Leiber, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Thomas, Wittgenstein, Shaw, Steinbeck, Russell, Beard, Plath, Hayek, Williams, Hoffstadter, Safire, Friedman, Azimov, Dick, King, Barker, Rice, Dworkin, Hawking, Zelazny, and Martin. I love and appreciate all forty-two of them, but have no interest in copying what they created. We can all read the original works of those masters of the written word.
Instead, I pay homage to them by advancing their words forward to something new and different. Their sweat and creative energy made my work possible. We should not take that for granted, which I don't and hope I never will. I know I have a duty to move fantasy to somewhere unheard of before I came onto the scene. That's one of my goals as an author and fantasy artist. If that goal is accomplished by the time I die, I will consider my life as an artist successful and well-worth the effort.
As you can see from my list, I draw from every kind of master of the written word. Although I love fantasy, I also adore philosophy, history, economics, and other kinds of fiction as well. Having multiple perspectives makes fantasy pop and spring to life. Concepts are described one word at a time. Nothing is more powerful than an idea, whether in our reality or a fantasy one. My stories lay it all on the line: Ideas are true power, and those who understand this have the power of The Gods at their beck and call.
That's all I have to say for the moment. Until we meet again, give your mind permission to wander to the outer periphery of sanity and explore the possibilities!
As I wrote last night, a thought occurred to me. It buzzed around my mind like an annoying fly that wouldn't go away. I kept swatting at it, and it kept coming right at me. That fly was a persistent little bugger.
Music surrounds us and invades our consciousness wherever we go. We hear it in elevators and as we shop in stores. It plays on the radios of our cars and on our cellphones. It is as if there is a soundtrack to our lives, just like in the movies. The invasive question is then, if books are indeed a slice of life, then why don't books have soundtracks?
The question is probably rhetorical, but nonetheless, vexing, and it won't let me be. With the digital revolution in full bloom, embedding a soundtrack within an electronic book would be fairly easy. Currently, most e-books don't take advantage of the endless possibilities technology affords us in this day and age. Someday, links within e-books will be as common as sliced bread.
Movies are a finite medium. No matter who you are, a three hour flick is always just that, a three hour flick. Books are a different animal altogether. People read at different rates or words per minute. That would be problematic for creating soundtracks for literature. Cool music might also slow the reader down and affect her comprehension as she divides her attention between the words on the page and the tunes serenading her ears.
Still, music and words, the perfect combination, and two things of which I never grow weary, so even better! Who could ask for anything more? That damn fly keeps buzzing around my gray matter. What would a soundtrack of my stories look, feel, and sound like? Hmm, I wonder...
There is no doubt, there would be lots of dark tracks. Metal is the obvious genre, springing to mind. Judas Priest, Metallica, Iced Earth, Rob Zombie, Ozzy, Betty Blowtorch, AC/DC, The Tiger Lillies, Motorhead, and Accept are all good candidates for this sort of thing. Rock has its dark edge as well. The Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Boss, Billy Joel, Rush, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Jimi, Van Halen, and ZZ Top all immediately come to mind. When considering dark themes, blues can't be left out of the analysis. I could see the work of artists like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, BB King, Lightnin' Hopkins, Tom Waits, Etta James, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, Junior Wells, and Johnny Winter accompanying my stories quite nicely. The folk music of Bob Dylan would blend in nicely as transitions between songs of different genres. Johnny Cash can't be left out in the cold in that regard either. His songs Rusty Cage and Mercy Seat would be so perfect!
So many great songs have been written and recorded. Song choice would not be problematic. But, for my dark tales, which ones, and how many?
I suppose I could create an endless loop of say, five or six hundred songs that ebb, flow, and have several head-banging crescendos throughout the loop. It would be similar to the mixed tapes and CDs I used to make in the dark ages for myself, my friends, and family members from my vinyl albums. Yes, I have no less than five or six thousand of those relics, however archaic that may seem to modern folk. Future archaeologists are going to have a field day when they sift through the ruins of my house. I am a collector of many things most people find odd. Getting back to the point, an endless loop is certainly doable.
Enough about that for now. I'll put the idea on the back-burner and let it simmer. I ruminated on the concept of dark tracks long enough to be able to move onto other, more pressing, matters.
Oh, the sun is beginning to oppress me. I guess, it's time to get a few winks. Well, probably more than just a few. I'll have to tell you about the other things thundering through my thoughts another time. Until we meet again, I leave you with this thought: For those about to rock, we salute you!
Good golly, Miss Molly! I have been bombarded with messages over the past couple of days or so, asking for more of THE SHADE'S TALE. Apparently, the taste I gave two nights ago wasn't enough. Taking to heart the message The Kinks delivered in GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT, this post is devoted to giving all of you exactly what you want, a longer passage of Book One of THE SHADE'S TALE. I will begin at the point I left off in the post I called, Got My Mojo Working. Without further ado, here you have it:
Most of the time, my thoughts appear to be coherent. At least there is a semblance of consistency. I have no baseline by which to analyze whether my mental faculties are intact or not - Most of the time.
Some of the time, my consciousness crosses into the miasma of vacuous insanity. Mental, spatial, and temporal definitions wrap around one another. Every notion that grounds me eventually short-circuits when my experiences and memories flex and collide with one another. This confusion of reality can become a festering pandemonium bereft of rationality. During those times, I know I am not of sound mind - Some of the time.
On many occasions, I feel my thoughts sliding back and forth inside my brain. That causes my skull to ache and my soul to whither. Anger and joy are often indistinguishable to me. Pleasure and pain become one and the same. Contradictory absurdities stretch my intellect beyond reason - On many occasions.
"What a hapless cretin with which we have been saddled! How can anyone possibly believe mental activity is relative to the observer and can be perceived in any sort of tactile manner?"
"Well, his mind is addled after all. You cannot expect a genius quality of reasoning within the framework of an imbecile. You need to significantly lower your expectations regarding this ignoramus, Fellow Traveler."
"Dear Companion, I needed a reminder to pull me back into reality. I get so caught up hoping the man will finally accept the lot The Divine have given him."
"No need for accolades. I merely underscored what is obvious to anyone of sound mind."
Dearest Countess, did you hear those pronouncements? Of course you didn't. You never do. Sorry to disturb your revelry. Our common tongue is their language of choice. Those people speak about our situation like this is some kind of game they play, using us as pawns for their enjoyment.
I want our lives back! What kind of monsters mock those living under the weight of the foul conditions surrounding us? Damn! They went silent again.
What day or year is it? How long have we been in this state of existence? My instincts are our only friends. We are trapped by my rivals. Take heart, my band of brothers in arms!
There is no need to lose faith. Heft that battering ram. Close those ranks, and guard our flanks. Prepare to smash through The Doors of Subjugation into the sanctum of our enemies!
My mind is parched. I thirst for knowledge I can never imbibe. This desiccation of my gray matter has disabled any cerebral acuity I may have possessed. Those voices tell me I have forgotten more than any ten men have learned.
I can't say with any particularity how we came to be in our present circumstance. You all know I have only vague notions and shadowy assumptions to cling to for glimmerings into our past. All of you have been brave through this ordeal I brought you into. I preach to the choir on that point.
We have been in this state for several centuries without any respite for our minds, our spirits, our very souls. A disconnected temporal context invades our psychic kingdom. Let's give 'em hell!
"Fellow Traveler, although I am not sure what to make of his delusions, did we just witness an iota of self-awareness?"
"No, Dear Companion. His mind has been derailed. If anything, the intensity of his hallucinations has increased. I am confident any inklings of cognition will pass gently into the night. Just you wait and see."
"I am not sure your analysis is accurate. Maybe this time will be different. It is possible the man will pull himself together and overcome his infirmity. He has done so before."
"You optimists drive me to distraction. I wouldn't be buying the cake for the homecoming party just yet."
"At least we idealists are not closed books!"
Why do they speak as if I am an object? I am a man deserving of decent consideration. I am not an animal to be fed slop at the trough! Nothing. All I can hear is the sound of the gears of my mind spinning out of control.
Useless bits of information relentlessly flood my deliberations. Some morsels of knowledge prompt other factual shards to dislodge from the shadows of my subconscious. I can never pin down the purpose of that pandemonium. Maintaining my debilitated state of mind has to be the reason behind the ebb and flow of my murky revelations. Once new snippets of insight emerge, other details slither from my grasp. I dwell within a framework of confusion.
All of you know me to be Darkly Vandercoot. That's my name, isn't it? Of course it is. What else could it be?
Being a shade looms around the periphery of my transient assumptions. If I am not a shade, then how did I come to know so much about that race of humanity? You all need to help me with my tenuous self-identity.
As I have told all of you countless times, shades are born to a tangible form that is not too dissimilar to any other species of humanity. I believe that to be correct, though, I do have a limited point of view. None of you would conspire to contradict me. I am correct with those assumptions, aren't I?
Listen to me. I talk and write to myself, as if any of you could remedy our situation. We are abandoned. There is no doubt about that fact.
Do any of you remember what I said about the breeding of shades? Before we attack, just before sunrise, I will reiterate the lore of my people that I have told all of you numerous times. The retelling of my story will ease your minds, and maintain your focus to pass the time until hostilities resume. Do keep your applause to a dull roar so everyone can hear my tale.
Drop that battering ram and huddle in a circle around me. Gather in tightly. We don't want any outsiders horning in upon what I am about to tell you. The information within my yarn is for your ears alone.
Fill in the gaps on either side of The Countess. Nice. You are ready to be enlightened once more.
Chapter 2, A Shadowy Existence
My friends, as you are well-aware, this misery, within which we find ourselves, presses us to forget who we are. Our environment attempts to beat us into submission. We must fight against those overtures.
I begin my tale by rehashing who and what I am. I want all of you to remember each detail as if your lives depend on it, for I am certain they do. Keep those bastards at arm's length and listen to me with every ounce of energy you can gather from the depths of your souls.
Each male shade produces progeny only once within his lifetime. Those of my kind may mate with females of any species. Once conception happens, BANG, a metamorphosis occurs for the man. At the moment of impregnation, his tangibility is passed onto his foetal offspring. A process of transformation to an intangible form takes hold of the male. My sweet Kristoph!
Once males produce offspring, their relationship to light and dark irrevocably alters. In the light of day, beings like myself can no longer touch or be touched by anything or anyone. Within the darkness of night, shades have tangibility and strength the envy of every other race. Darkness is my friend.
After he yields an heir, a natural power over darkness and shadow rises from the soul of the male shade. This power can be honed. I am convinced I have developed many skills and abilities since breeding. My environment pushes at me from all directions, preventing the expression of the talents I have taken great pains to refine.
I believe myself to be highly educated. My alma mater must be a renowned institution of higher learning. I continued my studies in an informal setting and studies under the tutelage of an acclaimed professor. I don't feel like a simpleton. It is unclear to me why the voices suggest otherwise. Details of my education elude me, as do most other specifics of my life.
Darkness and shadow are real extensions of the intangible male shade. I can't recall specifics about my innate abilities nor how to use those gifts. Reality bends around the incorporeal shade. There is no explanation as to why existence doesn't deviate in my proximity. Power rises.
Female shades have a different relationship to reality than their male counterparts. They propagate the race solely with males of the species. Mating is not a transformative experience for the darker sex. Women of my kind never change their relationship to reality. I ave sired a child. Don't ask me with whom, fore I have no definitive answer to that question. Something within me screams out that my child is a boy, and his name is Kristoph. Dark relationships.
I imagine myself being high born, to parents from a long noble heritage. I fancy myself hailing from a place I call Shadowcross. You all know it is hidden within the shadows of lofty land masses made of pressurized glass, I refer to as The Eiglophian Mountains.
Shadowcross is the seat of power for The Dutchy Of Shadimare. It is a fiefdom that is one of five in the Kingdom Of Eiglophia. The territory is one of nine kingdoms that comprise The DreamLands. Shadow protects.
Eiglophia's primary resource is a mineral known as Eiglophian Glass. It absorbs and reflects darkness. Shades mine this valuable deposit from the mountains surrounding our homeland. When properly refined, this rock becomes an ore of magnificent qualities. Dark glass.
Once the refined ore is forged into a product we all know to be Eiglophian Steel, no material is smoother, harder, or more resistant to alteration. All other elements yield to the majestic dominance of Eiglophian Steel. Because of this metal's intrinsic qualities, it has become the primary export and source of wealth for my country.
Swords made of Eiglophian Steel are highly sought after by every warrior worth his salt. Something deep inside of me, tells me I once was a soldier bound for glory. The coffers of Castle Shadowcross overflow with an abundance of treasures obtained through the trade of this precious commodity. What hero wouldn't give his first born for a blade made of such a wondrous material? Black gold.
Before I close my eyes at the end of each day, I tread upon the soil of my birthright. There is nothing in all of creation like the feel of Shadimare's terra firma between your toes. All of you are perfectly aware I am a prisoner draped in a Divine-made straight-jacket. My dreary misery has invaded your lives as well. I refer to all of this to give you a perspective of what it feels like to run your fingers through shadowy happiness.
These wrappings isolate me from my beloved darkness and shadow. It appears they prevent me from using my innate power. The voices torture me with reminders of my sorrowful condition. They have tormented me for as long as I have been imprisoned. I am no longer allowed to thrive within The DreamLands of my youth, at least not in any physical sense.
Something Divine placed me within the confines of what began as a crater countless eons ago. I am told The Gods punish me for the hubris of believing myself to be greater than them. A suspicion lurks in the darkened alleys of my mind I wounded some god before being exiled to this horrific place. For some reason unfathomable to me, I remember those particulars. How Divine can a being really be if it were to care about what I think, and I was able to cause it injury? Divine Wrapping.
I am shrouded in a binding of my own making. Encapsulated by my hubris. Secluded by evil deeds done over the course of a lifetime. Encased within my own doubt and failure.
I was once told how I came to be here with all of you. The light of Lord Balentine, who maintains The Cosmos, isolates me. The supernatural darkness of The Dark Lady, who enforces this tyranny, divorces me from reality. Am I confidently incompetent? Arrogance and stubbornness have become the foundation upon which I derive my will to survive.
I must deserve to be secluded from the rest of humanity. Mercy, charity, and love of my fellow man should have been my life's work. Instead, I chose to spread pain, greed, and sorrow. I was too weak to nurture the idealistic principles my parents tried to instill within me.
Most every step I've ever taken has done nothing to benefit anyone but myself. I am selfish, cruel, and devoid of value. It is right to be punished for transgressions against humanity. When you put it that way, I am nothing but a worthless bastard. Why do The Fates and Death allow me the air I breathe? I am unworthy to see the light of day or the darkness of night ever again!
"I told you so, Dear Companion! This fool just acknowledged his reprehensibility. He finally accepts the truth we both knew all along."
"Or did he profess a desire for contrition? How do we know he hasn't retreated back into the depths of his mind once more? He speaks to the air around him, Fellow Traveler, and attempts to shield himself from our omniscient eyes. Insanity may have taken this shade to places from which he may never return."
"We'll have to wait and see if he did express an aspiration to regain his footing on the path of the righteous, or if he merely spoke nebulous words dripping with sheer madness. Hopefully, we don't have to count him down and out just yet!"
Kristoph must be so innocent, gentle, and sweet. I have to believe that apple fell far from the tree. If not, then chalk that up as one more black mark on my record for neglecting my duty to my son. A parent has the responsibility to raise his child properly.
Why must Kristoph be punished for the sins of his father? What kind of fiend excoriates the guiltless? Balentine, damn you to the very hell from whence you have crawled!
Probably not a helpful thought. It is pleasing nonetheless. Being a reprobate isn't without its amusements. Feel free to curse our Divine host for all he's worth. I won't tell, if you won't. These thoughts scurry and bounce around my mind like so many ants shoring up their sand-hill after a torrent of rain.
I hope that satiated your hunger for my dark fantasy, for the moment, at least. I have also posted another Passing Thought to my Thought Train. I have called it, Windows Of The Soul. You might want to check the post out because it will give you a different view into your favorite works of art. Until the next post, may all your time be spent living after midnight and rocking to the dawn!