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Archive for February, 2016

Prepare yourself, for I shall ramble a bit over the next few posts. I’ve been thinking about zombies and dragons and post-apocalyptic dystopias. This all started with a post by Charles Yallowitz, so you can blame him. And do check out his blog, Legends of Windemere.

Charles asked for thoughts on dystopian fiction, and this was my reply to him. “I would observe that in some ways dystopian storytelling is a developmental phase for youth. Calling it a phase makes it sound trivial, but really I think the process is important. As kids, most of us view our families and the world as safe places with benevolent rulers in the form of our parents. A utopia, if you will. However, as we move into our teens, we begin to see flaws in our parents and the world. Beloved parents now are seen as despots. We question, demand, bicker, depending on family dynamics.

“Dystopian fiction reflects this process of questioning as children move toward adulthood. Although the dystopian story setting is often bleak, in fact the youth usually ‘solve’ many issues. So, though questioning the values of their world, they also accept responsibility for changing what they don’t like.”

Charles replied, in part, “I keep thinking about Brave New World and 1984. Those are more adult, so do you think the genre has shifted to a younger demographic?”

And I said, in part, “In the era of the books you mention, there was little or no writing specifically directed to children. But I do think young readers have really claimed dystopian fiction as their own. Although there’s some overlap, more overtly horrific material, such as zombies and conspiracy theories, are more the domain of adults because those reflect adult fears.”

But what does this have to do with dragons? Come back Wednesday and I shall ramble farther on.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine is an electronic magazine of speculative short fiction, interviews and reviews, edited by Iulian Ionescu. Operating since 2014, they have just released their eleventh issue. This is another Kickstarter I’m really glad I backed, because the stories have been wonderful.

First up in this issue is “Sundark and Winterling,” an elegaic fantasy from Suzanne J. Willis. The title characters are lovers, a fay woman and a dragon man, torn apart by jealousy and death. Winterling was murdered by a despot who hates all dragons, but Sundark maintains his memory in a remarkable home constructed from his carefully preserved bones and skin. A year of mourning has passed; as Sundark prepares to avenge her lost love, it appears he may not be entirely dead.

I’m still in the midst of reading the issue, but I simply have to recommend this story and the publication. Fantasy Scroll Magazine. Check it out.

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These are an oddity that occasionally show up in my local grocery store. They have an interesting appearance — hard magenta peel with thorny green flaps sticking up like scales. The white interior is speckled with tiny black seeds. There are also red varieties with bright pink insides, and yellow varieties with white insides.

Most often, dragon fruits are peeled and sliced to eat. The general flavor is often compared to kiwi fruit, because of the mild sweetness and the texture including so many seeds. Sometimes they are crushed for their juice.

Dragon fruits are imported from Asia, where they are known by several evocative names depending on the country. In Vietnam they are called thanh long (green dragon,) in Cambodia as sror kaa neak (dragon scale), and in China as long zhu guo (dragon pearl fruit). Indeed, if you look at a cross-section, they do resemble the flaming pearl so often pursued by dragons in Chinese art.

I was surprised to learn that that dragon fruits were originally native to Mexico. They grow on a group of cacti and were known to Native Americans as pitaya or pitahaya. The fruit were fairly sour in those days. Later, Spanish colonial ships carried them to Southeast Asia, where they thrived and became popular. A few centuries of selective breeding have no doubt led to the sweeter flavor we now know. Modern medicine recognizes dragon fruit as a so-called superfood that is low in fat and supposedly helps ward off cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

So next time you’re feeling adventurous, why not try a dragon fruit? I think that I will!

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Ready to relax with a very cheesy fantasy  movie? Curse of the Dragon Slayer should be just the thing. My husband stumbled on this one while browsing Netflix. The film, released in 2014, attempts to ride on the coat-tails of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, with a very standard fantasy cast and trappings.

The title character is an elven woman, Nemyt, who indeed kills a dragon but then is struck with a curse. Unfortunately for me, I missed the first few minutes and didn’t even see the dragon. Since it’s on Netflix, I suppose I could go back if I really want to.

Anyhow, the evil Shadow cult has been recruiting an army of undead warriors to destroy the world after they release their dreaded god, Goth Azul. They plan to add Nemyt to their ranks via the curse, but she is diverted by an itinerant human cleric, Keltus the Wanderer. These two are barely on speaking terms when they stumble upon an orc warrior, Kullimon the Black, who has his own reasons for hunting the cultists.

It’s all very D & D. The trio traverses a fantasy landscape, has some adventures, and so on. There are a few twists, including Keltus being cursed and his goddess immediately abandoning him. Kullimon is revealed as a noble warrior who talks a lot like Lt. Worf of Star Trek fame. Much to my annoyance, Nemyt suffers the fate of all female characters and gets captured, then rescued by her comrades. There’s also a handful of women in white dresses who show up only long enough to be sacrificed.

Production values are not all that bad, actually. The costuming is pretty good, except for some notable stiffness in Kullimon’s facial appliances. They had a lot of fun with digital effects, such as saturating the color in Nemyt’s eyes. (Although, why they occasionally turned the entire world orange escaped me.) And there are the requisite helicopter shots above magnificent vistas.

If only the script writers had found even a smidgen of originality. But they didn’t. So, like I said, this is a very cheesy fantasy movie with not nearly enough dragon going on. It can still be a fun way to spend an afternoon.

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To follow up on my recent post, the Kickstarter for Dragon: the Game has reached its goal. Sometime next week, I will be roaming the virtual landscape in the form of a mighty dragon! Or maybe as a fledgling. I haven’t actually seen the setup yet.

If you were sitting back to wait, not wanting to back it and be disappointed, you still have until February 15th to experience the draconic awesomeness. That’s Monday, in other words.

As for me, I’ll be making a list of names, because every dragon needs a magnificent name.

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While searching about for interesting dragon lore, I stumbled upon a fascinating article from 2013. Everyone has heard of that warning from Medieval maps, “Here be dragons.” (Or, in Latin, “hic sunt dracones.”) It’s a thing, right? We all know it. Especially fantasy writers. We know those superstitious Medievals were always putting dragons and stuff on their maps.

Well, according to Robinson Meyer’s article in The Atlantic, we might all know it wrong. The author searched authentic maps from the period and… You know, I think I’ll let Meyer explain.

Click here to read and enjoy.

 

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I find myself at one of those points we writers all reach, where I’m considering my work to date and pondering which direction to take. This particularly involves my short fiction, which I always struggle to find markets for.

Okay, yes, it is substantially my own responsibility that I continue to write stories that don’t have ready markets. I know that adult magazines consider stories with a fairy-tale flavor too juvenile for their readership, and I know that a 2,000-word short story is too long for juvenile magazines. But, bless me, that’s what I keep coming up with!

So I send submissions to 1 or 2 magazines with a remote chance of publishing me, because that’s all the markets there are. After that, I just have these stories without anywhere else to submit them. And so it goes.

I’m reluctantly coming to the conclusion that if I want my stories to be read, I will have to create a market for myself. It wouldn’t be the first time I set out to make something happen because I needed it to. I started volunteering with SCBWI in the early 2000s, because I couldn’t afford to travel for my career. I’m happy to say the local chapter is still going strong, too.

So I could go whole-hog and start a magazine for the readers I imagine when I write my own work. An actual magazine! The idea scares me to death, because it’s such an investment and there’s so much I don’t know. Also, it’s pretty cheesy to publish your own work and call that a magazine. Thus, in all likelihood, my stories still wouldn’t be published.

A more realistic goal might be to self-publish my stories in a series of collections. Perhaps 3 or 4 at a time, with a modest price tag. Since there are about 16 of them, depending which I choose, I could stretch that out for as much as two years depending on frequency.  Since I’ve finally got another microphone, I could podcast concurrently and have these available in e-book or audio.

To be even more modest, I could just do another podcast. Spring Break is in two months, and I’m sure I could get another novelette ready to record by then. However, I suspect that would not be enough. To build audience and achieve some recognition, I think I’ll need to push myself toward the second option.

This is what I’m currently pondering. The options, the expenses, the time away from my novel in progress. Those of you who have done this before, I would welcome your insights and advice. Thanks in advance, and stay tuned for further announcements.

 

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