Archive for June, 2015

Coco/Coca are a type of wicked spirit in folklore from Spain and Portugal. They sometimes take the form of dragons, sometimes of a ghostly floating head or skull, and even a horrifying hairy brute that lurks under the bed. Males are called Coco and females are Coca, though otherwise they have the same attributes.

Cocos function rather like the Bogeyman in Northern Europe. Parents warned unruly children that the Coco would come get them if they didn’t behave. They were especially associated with getting children into bed on time. One lullaby translates: “Sleep child, sleep now. Here comes the Coco and he will eat you!” Sometimes legend said the Coco would snatch the victim into the land of the dead, rather than eating him.

Cocos must not have been all that awful, though. In Portugal, if someone was “given coca,” they had been charmed and made weak by magic or sweet words. The root word Coca appears in a few phrases about children who are “spoiled rotten,” thus carrying through the association with a Bogeyman to threaten naughty children.

The draconic form is most associated with the female, or Coca. Legends all over Portugal and northern Spain related how a terrible she-dragon came from the sea and was devouring the young women, until a band of young men put an end to her reign of terror. Even into the 21st Century, village festivals feature re-enactments around the time of Corpus Christi in late May or early June. Oddly enough, St. George often comes into the tale, too! He battles a large Coca puppet or mannequin that has been paraded through the streets. If St. George is victorious, the crops will be good and no famine is expected. If Coca wins, well…


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A blogging buddy of mine brought this to my attention. GoGoDragons is an interactive sculpture walk, community event, and charity auction in Norwich, England. The kickoff was June 21, 2015 and it will run through the summer.

There are several layers to GoGoDragons, and the public can participate as they like. Eighty-four artists were commissioned to paint or otherwise decorate large dragon sculptures. Local businesses and organizations sponsored these dragons. In addition, 120 schools received medium-sized dragons to decorate.

In all, 204 dragons were installed around Norwich. There are two separate art walks, one for the school dragons and one for the artist dragons. Shuttle buses are available for visitors to reach some of the outlying dragons. At the end of the viewing period, the school dragons will return home and the larger dragons will be auctioned for charity.

This sounds like a totally fun public art activity. If only I could get there to see it! But if you’d like to view some photos, check out my blogging buddy, Princess of Dragons, for her take on the GoGoDragons event.

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Here’s a link to another atypical dragon statue. “Dragon Family” is located in Varna, Bulgaria. I’ve been unable to find out much about the statue, except for various photos posted by tourists. (The one linked above is from Pinterest.)

So I can’t regale you with how tall it is, or the exact location in Varna. It appears from the photos that it’s near a public pool; the taps on the statue’s base are said to run with hot mineral water, so perhaps it’s at a hot spring. I do know the name is the sculptor is Eugene Ivanov and the work was installed in October, 2010.

The statue depicts two bipedal dragons, presumably a male and female, gazing at each other with loving eyes as they hold a golden egg between them. Some notes say that the male is leaving on a journey and entrusting his mate with their unborn offspring. To me, it appears that the female has presented this egg to her mate and he is overcome with solemn joy.

Apparently there was some public debate when people saw this sentimental depiction of what are usually fierce dragons. A church group protested that the artwork undermined their Christian values. Okay, yes, dragons appear in the Bible as one of Satan’s disguises. Still, it’s hard to understand their objections to such a lovely and — dare I say it — wholesome work of art.

Another for my “someday I would like to go there” list.

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It’s been a while since I revisited this topic, but I couldn’t resist. Here’s a link to photos of a bizarre new dragon statue in London. Click the link — you won’t believe your eyes.

“She Guardian” is an 11-meter tall bronze (that’s 35 U.S. feet) by Russian sculptor Dashi Namdakov. It was installed in late May 2015 in the plaza at Marble Arch.

According to the sculptor, this actually depicts a female cat who is all fierce to protect her young. Before I read the artist note, I really thought this was a dragon. The snarling face, the leathery wings… But most dragons don’t have rows of teats down their bellies!

It is certainly a striking artwork. Pleasant to look at? Not so sure.

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Brace yourselves — I’m about to make a weird connection. And first I’m going to ask, “Are the literary dragons dead?”

Many of us who write, grew up with the legend of great editors and publishers. Giants who sought out and cultivated promising writers. Whose literary eyes were keen and whose judgments were indisputable. We hoped that we, one day, would be lucky enough to catch such an editor’s eye and grow to greatness with their careful art.

Such “literary dragons” (see, that’s my weird connection) may have existed around the middle of the Twentieth Century, but I fear they have since been hunted into oblivion. The publishing world has changed so much. Corporations now control the editorial process. They concentrate on stockholder profits rather than literary art. To this end, it seems, they regard books as a product to be rolled off the assembly line, following a formula and subject to re-writes based on what the marketing people think.

For a more in-depth take on this problem, see this excellent blog from World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I happen to agree with Rusch on this. I see so many books on the shelf that sound exactly like three other things I just read. It’s frustrating. In a genre like speculative fiction, which is supposed to be about limitless imagination, we really can’t think of anything original to write? After reading Rusch’s comments, I wonder how much the corporate mentality plays into this problem. Editors won’t (or aren’t allowed to) buy anything that hasn’t already been done before and sold a ton of books, because corporations, by their very nature, are all about the status quo.

In this context, I was reading a book by a new author. I’m not going to name names, because I’m not into shaming people, but… I wasn’t able to finish the book because of how the female lead was handled. She supposedly had an amazing power, yet she kept getting captured and rescued by the male lead. She was pawed over by a lascivious villain. All those annoying sexist things that clueless authors do to female characters? This author followed that formula to a T.

I drew the line when the female lead was possessed by a fire demon who burned off all her clothes (yet she suffered no actual burns). Then when she defeated the demon, she was taken prisoner and handcuffed with a black trash bag over her head.

Just take a moment to think about that image, would you?

So then the supposed good guys had a long conversation and not one of them bothered to offer her a shirt, coat, or any other way to cover herself. She stood there, naked except for the trash bag, while they discussed her fate.

And here’s another weird connection: Abu Ghraib Prison. Remember that? Naked prisoners on dog leashes, surrounded by grinning guards? Reading the scene in this book gave me the same sense of crawling horror that the Abu Ghraib photos did.

From the author’s picture, he’s just a young guy. He probably had no clue that anyone might find this scene disturbing or sexist or even just plain tacky. I’m left wondering, not only why he would put in such material without thinking it through, but where his editor was while this book was in production. Did nobody at the publisher read the manuscript carefully enough to recognize the author had written Abu Ghraib Prison into his story? Or did they think their “winning formula” would excuse the awful content?

This is how I know the literary dragons are dead. Because no editor who cared about writing would have let that scene go through.

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Are all the dragons dead?
Are all the giants fled?

These are the first two lines of a very old good-night poem I used to hear as a child. I think it’s originally from Scotland or Ireland. I’ve searched far and wide, but I can’t find the whole thing. It’s just killing me.

If anyone knows of a source, please share!

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I’m doing a happy dance! My gothic fantasy, The Grimhold Wolf, has just had its first substantial review.

The Grimhold Wolf low res

The reviewer is Brian Triplett, a casual acquaintance who writes for The Examiner. Check it out!

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