Der Kleine Hobbit

German edition

This German cover of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit changes the title slightly to “The Little Hobbit” and pairs a bloated, toadlike, crazy-eyed Smaug with a tap-dancing Hobbit waving a top hat. The whole is enclosed in a trompe l’oeil frame with a spider crawling on the bottom, which alludes to the dwarves’ misadventures in the forest of Mirkwood. One could say the artist didn’t bother to read the book, but it’s also common practice in publishing for the project manager to give them a description of what they want, not the whole book, and those descriptions are open to interpretation, or omit what’s clearly in the text. Thus, “red-gold” Smaug becomes greenish-gray and sprouts butterfly wings. Nevertheless, I find it delightful.

Russia does The Hobbit

In the 1980s the Russians made their own version of The Hobbit (unauthorized — copyrights, shmopyrights!) for TV.

It is not so big budget, but the acting is delightful. I particularly like the baby crocodile Smaug.

Tolkien Month

Sauron’s forces on the move

It’s Tolkien Month here on my website! A little odd considering I have been writing mostly erotica and horror, but my roots are in SF and Fantasy. Reading E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, a progenitor of Tolkien’s and a probable influence, has made me appreciate the good professor even more. Not that Eddison is bad, mind you — it’s that by reading his work that I was able to see the historical, literary context behind Tolkien’s, and the roots of modern fantasy itself. And like it or not, Tolkien certainly laid the groundwork.

Other Tolkien scholars have said what I could say 1000% better, so the point of me adding my two cents to the topic is not one of deep analysis. Rather, it’s a scrapbook that highlights what I like, have found, or find interesting about his work, and in particular his publishing history.

Let’s start with an appreciation of Tim Kirk, an artist who gave, in my opinion, one of the best Tolkien interpretations around, and whose vision I prefer over Alan Greene’s and John Howe’s. The orc army above is what I continue to see in my mind’s eye whenever I re-read the trilogy: greenish-skinned, hulking samurai striding out of the mist.  I like the way Kirk has limited his palette and chosen to highlight the three figures at the left in detail, while the ones in the rear are more stylized, recalling the work of Barbara Remington’s 1960s Ballantine paperback covers, which I’ll highlight later — all streaming flags and surreal, elongated glaives.

Smaug

This is by far my favorite Smaug. As a teen, I received this calendar containing Kirk’s artwork one Christmas and I remember trying to duplicate his Smaug again and again, to poor result. Again, the palette is limited to murky browns and purples, and the image is clear and iconic. Kirk cuts loose from the book in that Smaug is black, or dark maroon, rather than the red-gold creature of the book, but it’s very effective paired with the creature’s hypnotic, yellow-green eyes, which have side pupils that give him an otherworldly air. And I love the way he lightly yet possessively holds his front talons over the pile of treasure. It’s as if he’s sitting for a portrait.

Galadriel, Celeborn, and Frodo

I was not so fond of this picture as I was of Smaug’s, as Frodo looks unfinished, but again, it’s a good, iconic rendition with a limited palette, muted grays and lavenders contrasting with the more earthy browns of Frodo’s garb. Though described in the calendar as “fan art” these pictures were actually painted by Kirk as part of his Master’s Degree in illustration from California State University. Later he worked commercially, doing cover illustrations for DAW books, and  founded his own design firm. In recent years, he served on the advisory board of The Museum of Pop Culture here in Seattle.

Gandalf arrives at Bag End

I find Kirk’s Gandalf the most wizardly, Gandalf-y Gandalf outside of Ian McKellan’s movie depiction. Frodo varies in appearance across the calendar, so taken as a whole the pics are less unified than they could have been, but I assume that since they were for a thesis, they were done over a long period of time and professional publication was not the goal.

Smaug attacks Rivertown

Again the town I see whenever I re-read The Hobbit, though the flying, glowing shadow does not seem to belong to the Smaug in the earlier pic — it seems more like a Nazgul. I like the rich forest greens and jades of the buildings and the yellow lights reflected in the water.

Orc soldiers

Two orcs on the march, perhaps conversing to pass the time. They are the book’s villains, yet, they seem oddly sympathetic here. They’re just a pair of grunts doing their job.

Frodo comes to the end of his journey

I always liked this pic as well. Frodo arrives at the Far Shores, a scene never depicted in the books, only told in  postscript. He eagerly climbs up on the foremast to get a batter look. The mountains are green and lush, the city inviting, if a little R’lyeh looking. The domed building, in fact, reminds me a little of Florence cathedral. From here he passes into myth.

 

Worldbuilding Wednesday 2/28/18: U.S. Cities (East Coast)

 

What’s a writer to do when they want to set a story, series of stories, novel, or game in a large American city, but can’t for one reason or another? The answer: Make up their own.

H.P. Lovecraft did this well with his Cthulhu Mythos stories, basing the made-up New England city of Arkham on the actual Massachusetts cities of Salem and Boston. Arhkham was set on the fictional Miskatonic River and boasted a university where much of the stories’ action took place, as well as many seedy riverfront dives and run-down Victorian housing where supernatural events also occurred.

In a similar vein, the Batman World’s Gotham City was a stand-in for New York, and Frank Miller’s Sin City (short for Basin City) for Los Angeles, with the similar-sounding Sacred Oaks subbing for Thousand Oaks. The naming of the latter is what I aim to do here, with names twisted to the right, or left, of those in the real world.

Continuing to further flesh out the cities, how about some Broxton baked oysters, the cuilinary specialty of this blue-blooded port city? And have you heard of, perhaps, Persephonia’s Freedom Cannon, which was only fired once, and cracked its iron casing? Or how about Miamö fashion designer Augustus Mercedes, tragically gunned down by a disgruntled ex-lover on his luxury yacht? Stories abound, if one will but write them.

 

East Coast Cities

WASHINGTON, DC

Wickington, DC

Moonington, DV

Washgirdle, DR

Waterington,  LS

Blisterington, DF

Thrashington, DC

Washseed, DS

BALTIMORE

Bultimoran

Badhimere

Boltplior

Balbrimora

Balteborough

Balvimure

Baltchausor

BOSTON

Broxton

Bostol

Banthon

Bostoth

Rostoz

Baltoch

Bostitch

PHILADELPHIA

Phuladelia

Philanterra

Persephonia

Trilladelphia

Phoenixia

Shilasandsay

Peurredonia

MIAMI

Liamá

Triami

Diano

Mazori

Ziamu

Miamö

Maiamsta

NEW YORK CITY

Yew Port City

Sédh Raorn City

New Tory City

New Shorp City

Yez Yurk City

Newkhurk City

Suthnork City

The Cradle Will Rock

…into the depths of the sea.

(The Inundation of the Beisboch in 1421, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema)

Worldbuilding Wednesday 2/21/18: Birds

Astranci by Caelicorn on deviantART

Astranci, by Caelicorn

It’s pretty easy to name a new species of bird. Their beaks and tails adhere to certain shapes, and body parts such as eyes, breasts, and wings share certain features also. Their habitats name them, as well as their food, calls, and mating behavior.

So if you want some fictional avian or avians in your story, you can get one here.

 

Imaginary Bird Species

Mermigan

Short-Breasted Forest Wren

Pidgekin

Scarlet-Tailed Bobber

Shearback

Ground Fisher

Bee-Eating Blue Swift

Soft-Tailed Warwill

Snowy Finch

Canyon Goose

Mullsnip

Emerald-collared Finch

Sedge Thorntail

White-Backed Warbler

Sagebrush Grouselette

Ground Swordbill

Rose-Crested Sucker

Sultan Swan

Soft-Bellied Sismou

Sapphire Spineback

Rose-Throated Creeper

Long-Tailed Lowlands Jay

Gypsy Bluff Ibis

Saddletail

Whooping Spadebird

Parokha

Long-Eyed Prairie Pigeon

Woodriole

Whiskered Sickleback

Double-Plumed Kakarata

Glossy-Spotted Spadewing

Gray-Backed Swift

Pidgeonette

Screaming Pheasant

Evening Redback

Emerald-Crested Mullboola

Russet Scythebird

Golden Creeper

Bush Goose

Glossy-Chinned Stork

Forest Redbird

Short-Rumped Warkin

Sedge Stork

Sapphire-Tailed Parakeet

Lesser Coslet

The Mouse

What is more horrifying to see… a dead mouse, or one so obviously transformed by genetic manipulation?

 

(Art by Monique Goosens)

Worldbuilding Wednesday 2/14/18: Great Romances

Guinevere’s getting ideas

Sometimes, when writing fantasy SF, or some mixture of both skewed sideways and viewed through a mirror, a writer likes to be clever and insert some obviously intentional fictional replacement for a real-world person, place, or thing. For example, Poppy Z. Brite’s novella Plastic Jesus was about a 1960s rock band called the Kyddz, the name a clear stand-in for The Beatles, which didn’t exist in the novella’s world, right down to the intentional misspelling.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day. I played around with the titles of some well-renowned love stories that fiction writers or game designers can use for local color, or perhaps a story inside a story.

 

Imaginary Romances

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Blackfellows

Love and Gristle

Harmony and Librarianship

Vigilance and Defense

Youth and Pachouli

Pride and the Hairbrush

Purity and Pretense

Peace and Prejudice

Loneliness and Jaundice

Logic and Stability

Clarity and Justice

Doom and Prestidigitation

Villainy and Pratfalls

Romeo and Juliet

Romaeo and Charmiet

Rapáe and Phea

Romey and Julie

Rolei and Signe

Ramoo and Aila

Moyee and Neviah

Ruqueo and Fariet

 

Wuthering Heights

Foraging Heifers

Thieving Highs

Weathering Hells

Stalking Kirtles

Blustering Quoits

Lady Chatterly’s Lover

Lacy Bradderly’s Villain

Dame Chasttelin’s Gamekeeper

Lady Chappesty’s Gypsy

Lady Tytterly’s Ouevre

Lanie Drattesny’s Lovely

 

Anna Karenina

Annie Karabethina

Ashlee Karenssa

Strella Kadryxna

Gretta Kekyvaina

Salda Karenina

Anna Karenobel

Trista Karylvania

Sara Sarenina

Inga Katherina

Her Ritual

bizarre face mask

The ritual was about to begin. She masked herself accordingly.

 

New story in Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths II anthology

My short fantasy story “The Unchosen” is featured in this anthology from Left Hand Publishers, under my other writing name of Trece Angulo.

You can buy it here from Amazon.com.

“The Unchosen” was a story I had been planning to write for ages. Like many writers of my generation, I’d been entranced by Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (until I saw through the obvious sexism, that is) but I had always wondered about the boys and girls who weren’t chosen by one of the dragon hatchlings. What happened to their lives? Did they forever resent the ones who were? And what if being chosen wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?

These were the ideas I played with in my story.

It also follows one of my favorite themes, the gulf between illusion and reality, and how human beings reconcile the two.