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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy writer’

I’ll be out and about this weekend, at Lake City Comicon. It’s a one day comic convention in Coeur d’Alene, ID. This will be their first year, but they’re associated with Lilac City Comicon, which has been going for a few years now. My role is to sit at a book table and accost… I mean, strike up conversations with all passers-by.

Lake City Comicon will be at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. My table is in the Jacklin Building. We’re open from 10 am to 4 pm. If you’re in the area and love comic stuff, it would be a great chance to meet up.


Now, I can’t just drop the Voodoo theme I’ve had going for the past few posts, so here’s a re-blog of a post from a few years back.

Dragonwort (May 21, 2016)

Here’s a truly spectacular flower that will amaze and… well, maybe not delight you. To be honest, it’s kind of stinky.

Dracunculus vulgaris is native to Mediterranean regions from Greece and the Aegean Islands to the Balkans parts of Anatolia. It’s been known since ancient times and has a number of names: Voodoo Lily, Black Arum, Black Dragon, Snake Lily, and so on. Because it is so showy, it has been transplanted to yards and botanical gardens all around the world.

The plant has just a few big, jagged leaves, with the blossom reaching up to 2 meters tall. The single petal is scooped, somewhat like a calla lily, and deep red or purple. At the center is a prominent spadix, which is black. The flower’s sexual organs are deep inside the base of the flower and emit a “perfume” that smells much like rotting meat. Flies and other insects are drawn to the scent and crawl through a narrow gap to the chamber where the actual flowers are. Unable to escape, the insects are forced to crawl back and forth over the flowers, thus pollinating them.

When enough of the flowers are fertilized, the petals wither. This allows the flies to escape and perhaps carry pollen to another flower of the same species.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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St. Leonard’s Forest is a region of The Weald, an ancient forest located in what is now Sussex, England. Legends say that many dragons once lived in this deep, wild forest. It must have been good habitat for them, with many hiding places and deer to feed upon.

The forest became associated with Saint Leonard of Limousin (485-559 C. E.), who ran a monastery nearby. During the last years of his life, he lived in the forest as a hermit. Saint Leonard wasn’t too old to have a few adventures, though! So many dragons were coming out of the Weald to attack the countryside that the people begged this holy man for help. Saint Leonard went in answer to their pleas. He fought the dragons, and patches of lily-of-the-valley sprang up where his blood flowed.

Saint Leonard was believed to have killed the last of their breed in the Weald. However, there may have been survivors. Dragon sightings were recorded in St. Leonard’s Wood as late as 1614 C. E.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

 

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Will you bear with me while I mix politics and the writing life for a bit? Normally I confine myself to dragon lore here at Wyrmflight, but I’ve experienced a moment of “total recall” that made me do some thinking.

Anyone living in the U. S. (and probably people outside our borders, as well) is aware of the confirmation fight over a supreme court nomination. The nominee has been accused of sexual assault. This comes amid the two-year-and-growing Me Too movement, where women are speaking up about their experiences with sexual harassment or assault. Powerful men are being accused years after the events occurred.

Against this background, I picked up a book given to me by a friend over the summer. Dragon Tales is an anthology from 1983, collecting stories that feature dragons. It’s edited by two revered figures, Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg. The authors are luminaries like Orson Scott Card, Gordon R. Dickson, Anne McCaffrey, Gregory Benford, and Dean Koontz. The editors made an effort to find work by early fantasists such as L. Frank Baum, and there were even a pair of women authors I hadn’t heard of before.

Imagine my surprise when the very first story included a sexual assault. A woman is pinned against the wall and kissed, despite her saying she doesn’t want this. It turns out she’s a dragon cursed into the form of a woman. Neat trick! But instead of punishing the fool who laid hands on her, she decides to help him get revenge on some guy he doesn’t like. Wha—?

Later, we see relentless bullying of a retarded man… for which the victim is persuaded to blame himself. We see barmaids equated with whores. Several tales use women as mere pawns, captured by dragons to serve as bait. One of these characters is so shocked by her experience that she becomes nearly mindless, yet apparently lives happily ever after. (“She is a mirror in which her husband can see himself.” This is what we call a Happily Ever After?)

In the most egregious case, a young woman sorceress is hounded by a stronger male sorcerer who sends an invisible incubus to grope and molest her. Ultimately this ends in her being raped while out-of-body fighting her persecutor. After winning, she is determined to summon that incubus again. But it’s not because she intends to punish him. Apparently she regrets missing out on the complete rape experience. WHA—???

When I finished the book, I told my husband I wanted to have a strong drink while taking a hot shower. Because fantasy is my beloved genre. It’s what I read and what I write, and I couldn’t believe the roots of it were buried in such filth. How could I not know this?

What made me really sad was to realize that, actually, I did know it. I read stories like these when I was in high school and bitched to my friends about the sexism. There was a terrible plot arc in the Avengers comic book, where Ms. Marvel (now known as Captain Marvel) was brainwashed and raped and had a baby in a matter of days. The rest of her team thought the baby was adorable and couldn’t understand why Ms. Marvel was so upset. I remember reading an interview with Anne McCaffrey, one of my early idols, who spoke of being asked to write soft-core porn for the SF magazines of the 1960s and ’70s. And she did write it, because the editors paid her well.

I guess I was oblivious, because I still read fantasy and comic books. And time went on. Until I read that anthology, I was able to forget how bad it was.

Now, the whole Sad Puppy debacle appears in a starkly different light. I thought they were all just obnoxious jerks. This anthology reminds me that when they say they want to get back to “the good old days of science fiction,” this is what they mean: women as pawns, women as whores, women who like being raped.

No. No. No. You assholes. No.

Things have gotten better, at least to some extent. Editors are more aware of demeaning content and have begun to avoid it. Certain factions may still think it’s funny to mock trigger warnings, but the warnings are there because they’re needed.

Do we, as a genre, still have miles to go before trigger warnings are no longer needed? Undoubtedly. But we who write fantasy really have come a long way since 1983.

If only certain judges and senators could say the same.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

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Recently my local newspaper caught my attention with travel coverage about the site of a Dragon crash. Dragons? Tell me more!

The XB-28 “Dragon” was an experimental high-altitude bomber briefly developed by the U. S. during World War II. The design work was done by North American Aviation. It was based on their earlier, successful design for the B-25 Mitchell bomber.

Several trial craft were flown in 1942 and ’43, and the tests were considered quite successful. However, military planners determined that high-altitude bombing would not be as useful in the Pacific arena as it had been in Europe. Weather conditions in the Pacific did not allow accurate bombing runs, and this would lead to wasted ammunition and other resources. Thus the XB-28 was never put into production.

The crash site mentioned in the travel article is a relic from one of the test runs. In January of 1943, a crew was flying from (probably) Twin Falls, ID to Tacoma, WA. They encountered a winter storm in the mountains. Ice built up on the wings and forced a controlled crash. The pilot spotted Loon Lake, north of Boise, and used its frozen surface as a runway. It was still a rough landing. All eight crewmen survived, although one was badly injured. They pulled together a shelter using wreckage and forest material, and hunkered down to await rescue.

The radio was no longer working after the crash, meaning that the Air Force didn’t know where they were. Search planes flew without success. After a few freezing-cold and hungry days, three of the strongest crewmen set off on foot to look for help. These three hiked forty miles over two weeks until they reached a ranger station and reported the situation. In the meantime, however, the five other crewmen had already been rescued. A bush pilot passing by had spotted the wreckage. The men who hiked out must have been frustrated, but they certainly were heroic and deserve to be called dragon riders.

The plane’s wreckage was left where it lay. It remains on the shores of Loon Lake, in the Payette National Forest. Today you can view it after a hike of ten miles round trip, starting at nearby Payette Lake.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

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Here is a joke from the web site “From Russia With Love.” It features Zmey Gorynych with a different bogatyr, Ilya Murometz. The English is somewhat rough there, so I’ve cleaned it up a bit.


One time the famous Russian bogatyr, Ilya Murometz, was enjoying a day at home. A group of elders from the village nearby came to see him and said, “Ilya, help us! Zmey Gorynych is so angry that he burned 3 villages and ate all the hens. We are in trouble!”

But Ilya did not answer them. They went away discouraged.

A few days later, the village elders returned. “Please help us, Ilya! Zmey Gorynych has destroyed 10 villages, eaten all the cows, and kidnapped our wives. You must take action!”

Again there was no reply. They went away desolate.

After a few more days, the elders came calling again. “Ilya, it’s a nightmare! He’s destroyed 20 villages, eaten every domestic animal, and snatched the princesses. He’s very close to us now. Please, won’t you do something?”

At this, Ilya got up and got dressed. The elders were relieved and grateful. “Thank you for helping us at last!”

But Ilya said, “Oh, fellows. It’s time to escape now.”


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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Previously… A bogatyr (heroic knight) named Dobrynya Nikitich had fought the dragon, Zmey Gorynych, and forced her to plead for mercy. The two of them agreed never to fight again. All was well, or so Dobrynya thought.


When he returned to the court of his patron, Vladimir the Great, Dobrynya was greeted by terrible news — none other than Zmey Gorynych had descended from the sky and snatched away Vladimir’s niece, Zabava Putyatishna! The king was furious when he learned that Dobrynya had encountered this dragon and allowed her to live. He ordered the bogatyr to rescue his niece or die trying.

Dobrynya went home to his mother and complained bitterly that he had neither horse nor weapons suited to such a task. (Never mind that he had already defeated Zmey Gorynych with nothing but a hat…) Mama Dobrynya gifted her boy with a fine horse named Burko, a spear, and a magical whip from Shamakhi (modern-day Azerbaijan) that would heal any wound.

Thus equipped, Dobrynya Nikitich set off on his quest. He followed Zmey Gorynych’s trail to the Saracen Mountains. There he rescued several Russian captives, but was unable to find the missing princess. He did locate the Zmey’s nest, where he trampled and crushed her young. Before dying, one of the dragonlings bit Burko’s leg and paralyzed the poor horse. Fortunately, Dobrynya remembered his magical whip and was able to restore his faithful steed.

Just then, Zmey Gorynych rushed from her lair in a rage over the loss of her brood. She swore that she would never release Zabava until Dobrynya had fallen before her. The battle was joined, and what a battle it was! Combat raged all over the Saracen Mountains for days on end. By the third day, the bogatyr was exhausted and had nearly decided to abandon his mission. But a voice came from the Heavens urging him to fight just three hours longer. Dobrynya Nikitich gathered his courage and fought on.

Just as the voice had promised, Zmey Gorynych lay dead less than three hours later. But Dobrynya was still in trouble. The dragon was so evil that the earth would not allow her blood to sink in. A great pool of blood collected there, and Dobrynya was at risk of drowning in it. Again a voice called down from the Heavens, telling him to speak an incantation and jab his spear into the ground. At this, the blood finally soaked into the ground. Dobrynya was able to save the Princess Zabava. (One assumes he washed the blood away before returning her to her uncle’s court, however.)


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

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Dobrynya Nikitich is a great and popular character who stars in many byliny (epic poems) of Russian and Slavic folklore. Dobrynya was a bogatyr (a heroic knight). He may have been based on a real person who lived in the court of Vladimir the Great, an Eleventh Century ruler in what is now Ukraine. As often happens, the legend of Dobrynya’s cunning and skill at arms far outstrips that of any mere mortal.

Perhaps his best known adventure came when he faced the dreaded dragon, Zmey Gorynych. As the tale begins, Dobrynya’s mother warns him of four things that he must not do: travel through the Saracen Mountains, trample baby dragons, rescue a Russian captive, and swim in the Puchai River. Like many young men, the bogatyr was fearless and proud. He scoffed at his mother’s advice.

One day, as he traveled on court business, he came to that very same river. It was hot, so he decided to go for a swim. Unfortunately for Dobrynya, someone else was also bathing that day — a twelve-headed dragon burst from the water, roaring! This, of course, was Zmey Gorynych. Because they were in the water, the bogatyr was able to avoid being burned by her fiery breath, but his weapons and armor were back on the bank. If he tried to reach them, he would be incinerated! In desperation, Dobrynya groped in the water for anything that could help him. All he found was a sturdy pilgrim’s hat.

Somehow, the bogatyr was able to use this as a weapon. Now it was the dreadful dragon who feared for her life. She pleaded with Dobrynya to spare her on account of having young baby dragons at home. The courtly knight was moved to pity, and the two of them made a promise not to fight each other again. Zmey Gorynych flew away — but she was as wicked as she was fierce. As soon as Dobrynya was out of sight, she started to plan her revenge…

Come back Saturday for part two of the epic tale!


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

 

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