May 31, 2014

300: Rise of Fantasy

Return to Tar'Tron
science fiction cover
Last May I blogged about reaching 200 posts to this blog. Now, one year later, this is the 300th blog post. Last June I began developing my ideas about the writing career of a character named Thomas in my science fiction novel Exode. Within the Ekcolir Reality, Thomas went to New York City to launch his writing career, but he became a carrier of a swarm of alien nanites. During the past year I've developed an understanding of how Thomas found his way into our Reality and the role that he played in making sure that I would be the one to "inherit" both his nanites and those brought to Earth by Izhiun. Here, in this blog post, I want to explore the influence that Thomas has had, and continues to have, on the rise of fantasy in this blog.

For the past few weeks I've been thinking a lot about Thomas Iwedon's fantasy novel Daveed the Luk'ie. I'd previously mentioned another novel, Return to Tar'Tron, also written by Tomas Iwedon. I guess I have always previously thought of Return to Tar'Tron as a science fiction story, but now I'm wondering if Thomas might have entered into his "fantasy period" as a writer as soon as he had his mental breakdown. I like the idea that Thomas only found it possible to write fantasy after being institutionalized for mental instability.

Thomas' secret ring
Thomas' end game
What if Return to Tar'Tron is also a fantasy novel? I've previously outlined how the writing of Thomas was influenced by his odd genetics and his environmental exposure to nanites. How might removal of those nanites and his loss of contact with Trysta and the Sedronic Domain shape his imagining of Return to Tar'Tron as a fantasy story?

Fantasy cover - version 1
Previously, in classical science fiction style, I imagined Obsidia as an alien from the distant planet Tar'tron. In order to transform my thinking about the book cover, I'm trying to picture Obsidia as a mythical creature such as an elf rather than think about her as an alien.

I've been trying to imagine the "Hierion Domain" as an adequately ambiguous name that could be interpreted as a magical domain for fantasy stories. So, if Obsidia originates in the Hierion Domain then how should she be magically summoned to Earth?

In this first draft of a fantasy-style cover (to the right) I tried to depict Obsidia in both our world and within the Hierion Domain. See below for a description of where I obtained the photographic elements that went into this composite image.

I tried to give Obsidia an elfish fantasy appearance within the Hierion Domain (inside the crystal ball).

What I'd really like is to have an animated version of the cover that shows a version of Obsidia with non-human features emerging from the Hierion Domain and transforming into human form.

The animated gif (to the left) is my first draft for such an animation.

The individual elements used for this cover are shown below.

Image Credits. I used two images from Robert Elsmore at deviantART.

I wonder who this model is?

For the top part of the background I used an photograph of St. John's Chapel Tower of London from deviantART. This photo and the next three, all with huge pixel counts, were very useful.

The bottom-right part of the background is an image from Wikimedia Commons.

A second image from Wikimedia Commons has a few buildings from a "hidden" village, hidden there in the image, in the background inside the crystal ball.

The crystal ball is from vanhookc at Flickr.

To make the elfish appearance of Obsidia within the Hierion Domain, I used Elven Archer by atistatplay at deviantART.

The top ten most visited blog posts as of today:

More imaginary book and magazine covers.

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Hierion Tubes

My most recent draft of a fantasy book cover.
See below for information about the images
from diviantART that I used in this composite.
As described in my previous blog post, I've been trying to devise some cover art for Thomas Iwedon's fantasy novel, Daveed the Luk'ie. To the right on this page is my latest incarnation of the book cover.

That's Daveed down there in the lower right corner. He has been carefully crafted to have a human appearance, but he is a Luk'ie, a being with the special ability to communicate with the Sedronic Domain.

The 3 Domains of the Universe
The Luk'ie normally inhabit the Hierion Domain, and in this image that's where Daveed is, but he's just about to cross over into the Domain of we Earthlings. There, just on the other side of the Hierion Tube, is a pek, ready to pull Daveed through the Tube to where she is waiting, on Earth.

Don't be disoriented by the mismatch between the gravitational field of Earth and that being experienced by Daveed. The Hierion Domain is like a bridge that connects the Hadronic Domain of our daily existence to the Sedronic Domain. The Hierion Domain exists outside of the usual flow of time as we experience it here on Earth.

Image Credits
the magical pek
Kayla Davion
As described in my previous blog post, I went searching through the "stock" images at deviantART to find the elements for this new cover image. I modified the image of Kayla Davion to make the magical pek for this cover image.

I modified the eyes, ears and nose to create a non-human elf-like appearance.

The pek are artificial life forms and able to take on any desired shape and form. However, in my attempt to create the feel of a fantasy book cover, I tried to use a well-known fantasy element. I fear that the pointy elf ear is not easy to notice among the decorative leaves on her head. Also, the pointy nose does not show up well unless you zoom in.

stock background image #46 by user lifeblue at deviantART
For the background, I found a stock image by user lifeblue at deviantART. I wanted to use this particular image because it looks like a magical portal between Earth and the artificial Hierion Domain.

There are several other images (including #61 and #70) in lifeblue's background gallery that struck me as possible representations of a portal between our world and the Hierion Domain, but #46 was my favorite.

The large swinging door is what prompted me to tilt the portal by 90 degrees, allowing everything to fit more gracefully onto a vertically-oriented book cover.

jason aaron baca dec3068free vas
To represent the fictional character Daveed, I found a suitable image of Jason Aaron Baca in a photograph by Portia Shao. Jason has a gallery of images that he freely shares for use in non-commercial settings and he also sells his high quality photos for use in commercial book cover art. I needed to find a model who was in a pose that was complementary to that of Kayla.

The vase became a way to magically link the two characters at the interface between the two Domains.

I fear that my instincts are still largely based on science fiction themes, but hopefully my lighting effects are able to pass as magical rather than disrupting the fantasy theme with the feel of SciFi laser beams.

Science and Magic by Thomas
I found an inspirational painting by Thomas at deviantART that helps me think about the difference between cover art themes that are appropriate for either science fiction or fantasy stories.

brooch detail
Does the "Nuclear powered Super heroine Atomic Blonde" use cold fusion? I love the brooch that holds her scarf in place (see image detail to the right, click image to enlarge).

Be sure to take a look at the high resolution version of this drawing that is available for download.

belt detail (source)
Also, take a look at the original "Nucular Lass". I like the belt decoration (see detail to the left). 

 How is this for a super power: "give everyone cancer by talking to them".
Wait...I've known some people like that...

fake magazine cover
I could not resist making a fake pulp magazine cover for the Atomic Blonde. This "Atomic Science Stories" cover (shown to the right) is inspired by a classic pulp science fiction cover created by Lawrence Sterne Stevens for the Super Science Stories April 1949 issue.

Why did Thomas Iwedon write A science fiction story called "Atomic Blonde" and how did the drawing "Science and Magic" get used for the cover art of a magazine in in 1957?  I'm imagining that Atomic Science Stories was published in the Ekcolir Reality. Maybe Trysta liked to view the deviantART website in our Reality from within the Ekcolir Reality and she showed "Science and Magic" to Stevens.

Next: another fantasy book cover by Thomas Iwedon's Return to Tar'tron.

More imaginary book covers
More imaginary book and magazine covers

May 28, 2014

Deviant Me

"May Queen" by Marcus Ranum
(click image to enlarge)
Is this Sarah Ellis?

I finally decided to look into the deviantART online community. The "straw" that finally broke this camel's back was a Google image search that I did for elements that I could use for a fantasy genre book cover (to pick up the trail of that search, see this blog post). My image search kept turning up interesting images that led me to the deviantART website. I was intrigued by mention of dA "stock" images that photographers have made available for other people to use.

I've long been impressed by people who, while trying to make a living with photography or other artistic skills, post some of their work on the internet and invite other creative folks to use their photographs or art work. Some people engage in this practice as a form of advertising: "use my works as you like, but just make a link back to me". In the case of Marcus J. Ranum, it sounds like he set out to have some fun at the deviantART community.

deviation by Ana Fagarazzi
Here is what Marcus wrote on his website: "Recently I've been amusing myself by producing stock images for other artists to play with. For that purpose, I have opened up a stock account on deviantArt. It's great fun: I post stuff and other artists make composites from what I posted. Some of the results are absolutely amazing!"

In the past seven years his photographs on the deviantART website have been viewed about 7,000,000 times and variations (deviations) of the original "stock" photographs can now be found all over the internet. For example "signs of spring" was made by Ana Fararazzi starting from the "May Queen - S - 7" photograph.

"Blackbird 10" by Janna Prosvirina
In the cover art for the fantasy novel Daveed the Luk'ie, I want to depict a pek in the act of performing some magic (specifically, conjuring Daveed into the Hadronic Domain). My first problem is that the pek are a type of artificial life that can take on any convenient shape. However, since Daveed is a guy, I want the pek to be using a female form, as the pek tend to do when visiting primitive planets like Earth. I would not mind giving the pek character in the book cover image a slightly non-human morphology. My other concern is that I want the pek to be doing something interesting and have a natural pose. In "signs of spring", I think Ana did a great job constructing a scene that matched the particular pose that Marcus had photographed.

Janna's DA fantasy stock photography
"Blackbird 10" shows the kind of magical pose I'm looking for. Janna Prosvirina's deviantART stock photography gallery contains many photographs that strike me as examples of realistic or naturalistic poses. I love the black cloth with the white stones, but for my purposes, I was thinking about this figure being on or near water. However, this photograph has me imagining all sorts of alternatives....sadly most are more suited for science fiction than fantasy.

This "Goddess of Earth" is Kayla Jane
Photographer: Heiko Warnke
In addition to the gorgeous pose, "Goddess of Earth" is even a great name for the pek character that I am trying to depict. Every goddess of Earth should carry a big stick.

I can picture Daveed taking her hand and being pulled from the Hierion Domain into a new existence on Earth. Also see "Goddess of Wind".

Kayla's deviantART journal has a thank you message to other folks for "the amazing art you create from my stock images".

For how I used this image of Kayla in cover art for the imaginary book Daveed the Luk'ie, see my next blog post.

Goddess Deviations
Here are some deviations for "Goddess of Earth".

"A gift for my friend"
"A gift for my friend" by Mark Frost. Is that a dragon egg?

"An Offering" by Keith Mathis. Great horny skulls!
"An Offering"

"Maga" by Ricardo Esparza. I like the luminous helix zapping around the stick.

Photographer and Model Preferences
One of the interesting aspects of deviantART is that the users sometimes post rather long and detailed accounts of the conditions under which their photographs and images can be reused. For example, Kayla Davion wrote these instructions: "Feel free to use my Stocks for creating Art BUT ... 3) do not mutilate them/me in any degrading or perverted way".

When I'm making whimsical book and magazine covers, I like to "mutilate" human figures by substituting alien features for the human features of the people in the photos, people who are usually celebrities or models. For The Sedron Monopoly, I tried to depict two alien-looking passengers in a spaceship by removing the human heads and Photoshop splicing alien heads into the image.

Leymaygn and Vozgrow (source)
Maybe some models would be offended by having their image altered so as to make them look "alien". For my Exode character Vozgrow, I needed to create an image of an old and partially alien human who is slowly taking on Fru'wu physical characteristics.

This depiction of Vozgrow (image to the right on this page) might well annoy the model whose image was altered to create an alien-like feel for the imaginary Vozgrow character.

As stated here: If I'm using one of your images without attribution, please let me know, I'd love to give you credit. If my use of your work is offensive (or, in your view falls outside of the "fair use" domain), let me know, I'll remove your image from my blog.

Follow these links to some of my blog posts with more "Deviations":
Imaginary Book Covers
baseball in 1941
illustrating Trysta and Ekcolir
illustrating Foundations of Eternity
To Live for Anney
rise of fantasy
other futures
The Phasian Elf
Lieserl Einstein
The Urak Intervention
Searching Earth
Time Travel Television
Replicoid Secrets
Nicotinic Anney

May 27, 2014


I've been struggling to construct a space in my brain for fantasy. As part of that struggle to expand my writing beyond the confines of science fiction, I recently blogged about belief in supernatural non-material consciousness as a natural component of fantasy stories. Here, I want to explore enlightenment as a supernatural element of fantasy and relate it to both the Exode Trilogy and my imaginary fantasy novel, Daveed the Luk'ie.

The human brain constantly synthesizes and integrates a lifetime of experience, quickly providing us with an answer to the endless question: what should I do next? Brains are good at white-washing gaps in our knowledge and understanding. A brain is constantly making estimates that are good enough to get us through life, just good enough so that we need not be distracted by our own ignorance.

In the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that the pek have designed the human brain so that it is a trivial matter to regulate human ingenuity and the pace of technological advancement. The pek use nanites to regulate human brain activity, switching off human creativity whenever the pace of technological change on Earth becomes too rapid.

A fantasy story can adopt a supernatural perspective on human enlightenment. Here, I'm using "enlightenment" in the sense related here: "many fantasy novels are simply loaded with existential and/or spiritual enlightenment".

My logical perspective tells me that there is a formula for enlightenment: question everything. Or, as Carl Sagan put it: just combine Skepticism and Wonder.

If stories in the fantasy genre interest readers because "excitement and wonder can be found in imagining impossible things" then does that mean that fans of fantasy prefer to skip skepticism and simply accept anything that a fantasy author sticks in a story, no matter how nonsensical?

Grean the Traitor
In the fantasy novel Daveed the Luk'ie by Thomas Iwedon, Daveed is an analog of Grean, the Kac'hin who puts and end to the Time War that has raged between the Huaoshy and R. Gohrlay. Since R. Gohrlay's positronic robots are programmed to defend Humanity, by siding with the aliens isn't Grean a traitor to the human cause?

Daveed, and indeed, all the Kac'hin, are brought into existence by the pek. Daveed is simply the individual who is selected to be the one Kac'hin who negotiates with Trysta over how to end the Time War. In the fanciful cover illustration to the left on this page (above), Thomas shows Daveed being magically brought into time from out of the Hierion Domain.

Since Grean (re-named "Daveed" in Thomas' version of the story) makes use of the Bimanoid Interface to "channel" the Huaoshy into the Hadronic Domain, how can a reader of the Exode Trilogy know whether or not Grean is just a puppet, forced to to the bidding of the aliens? Teasing the reader with such doubts is about as close as I can come to making Exode a horror story.

If there is a deep literary point to Exode, it is getting readers to question whether we are puppets, whether we Earthlings are unable to conquer our addiction to fossil fuels and prevent global warming and a coming ecological disaster. The Huaoshy follow an ethical code that aims to protect "Garden Worlds" like Earth from ignorant technology-wielding primates. If so, then why do the Huaoshy hand we Earthlings an opportunity to develop a technological civilization on Earth, particularly when they know very well the mess we are likely to make of things here on this fragile little planet?

Part of the answer to that question is that while dealing with primitive primates in the Exode Trilogy, the Huaoshy undergo their own enlightenment. They realize that the discovery of time travel by the positronic robots of Earth is a blessing in disguise. After fighting a long Time Travel War with R. Gohrlay, the Huaoshy finally realize that they can put an end to time travel by altering the dimensional structure of the universe. In so doing, they inactivate the capacity of the "Eternity Device" on the Moon to function as a time travel machine, but it will remain forever as a generator of sedronic matter.

Image Credits. My image search for "enlightenment" turned up Brad Warner's book (see the pulpish book cover to the right).
by Roman Snytsar

The new version of a cover concept for Daveed the Luk'ie (above, on this page) makes use of a photo by Roman Snytsar. 

The pek are composed of zeptites that confer seemingly magical powers. In this latest conceptual sketch of a fantasy book cover for Daveed the Luk'ie, I try to depict a pek walking on water.


For the pool I used an image from this blog.

The guy (Daveed) was made using an image from the Serene Dreams website.

The next round in my attempt to craft he fantasy cover for Daveed the Luk'ie.
More imaginary book and magazine covers.

May 25, 2014

Fun with Vance

Aunt Mayness Diotyma Beiser (source)
A few weeks ago I started thinking about a tribute blog post to honor Jack Vance. My first impulse was to force myself to do something I don't enjoy: decide which of Vance's science fiction novels is my favorite and then write a book review. This is a task similar to trying to decide which of your children is your favorite. Vance's novels are full of all sorts of fun, tricks and are some of my favorites...

When I was trying to think of a name for a character in Exode who would be the aunt of my best friend, I immediately knew that I had to call her Mayness, in honor of Jerdian Chanseth's aunt in Jack Vance's novel The Face.

the magical moon Mirassou
In The Face, Jerdian and her party of haughty Methlen go out for a ride among the Chailles, near Dinklestown on the world Dar Sai, under the full phase of the magical moon Mirassou. Their native Darsh guide is the notorious trickster named Nobius.

Nobious shrewdly uses the Methlen as tokens in a trade that wins him a chance to copulate with the tender kitchet Farrero. For her part of this bargain, Aunt Mayness has a "beastly experience" after she is abandoned on the desert floor by Nobious. Mayness is "entertained" for the evening by a Darsh who she later describes as, "a gross beast smelling of beer". Kirth Gersen dispassionately observes that the Darsh naturally assume that anyone out on the desert at night is is there to participate in a romantic adventure, Darsh style, but he is able to spare Jerdian from a similar fate and so begins their romance.

by David Russell
At the start of The Palace of Love, Gersen is still living with Alusz Iphigenia, a true princess from the planet Thamber. In search of clues to the identity of Demon Prince Viole Falushe, Gersen takes Alusz to the planet Sarkovy, a world renowned for the skill of its people in devising and using poisons. Poor Alusz does not have a good time and her feelings for the Sarkoy and their culture becomes quite evident during a banquet.

Of course, the banquet is part of the ceremonial poisoning of a group of condemned prisoners. Not only is Alusz invited to dine while the poisonings take place, but the food consists of local delicacies such as large centipedes, blue vegetables and a side dish of an acrid black paste. When Alusz departs the table early, their local host, Edelrod, pauses in his vorascious consumption of the meal and asks innocently, "She is not well?"
Gersen replies, "I fear not."
Soon after that, Gersen and Alusz go their separate ways. Gersen realizes that a woman like Alusz, "so honorable, generous and kind" is not well suited to the life he must lead.

by Eugene Damblans
Later in The Palace of Love, Vance included a group of Druids among the guests at Viole Falushe's Palace. Vance's Druids find a nice tree, dig a hole under its roots and proceed to entomb two children under the tree.

However, Vance allows one of the guests to play a trick on the Druids. He arranges for an escape tunnel to be dug, so the sacrificial children are saved. The next day, Pruitt, one of the guests, freaks out when he sees the children, still alive: believing they had been sacrificed the day before, he runs off in fright and is never seen again.

A Nobel Schoolboy
Two thirds of the way through The Book of Dreams, Vance allowed Demon Prince Howard Treesong to indulged in a neatly crafted Daydream of Justice in which, after 25 years, he exacts revenge against his old school mates. Not even the band director Professor Kutte, escapes Treesong's retribution. Treesong forces him to drink and play "drunken squirrel" style, as Kutte once long before had accused the young Tressong of playing.

During the program of entertainment for a class reunion, many "ingenious frivolities" are carried out at Treesong's command including: for having once ordered Treesong to sit quietly, Maddo Stubbins is made to sit on a block of ice. Bloy Sadalfloury was tattooed with Fs for having given Treesong the odious nickname Fimfle. Because Leopold Friss had once told Treesong, "Kiss my ass," he is made to appropriately kiss six pigs. This scene is lovingly played out by Vance over ten full pages and we readers are later treated to a humorously penned printed summary of the high points in Cosmopolis magazine.

After arriving on the planet Wyst (Alastor 1716), the young and naive Jantiff Ravensroke is often taken advantage of. Jantiff is invited to go on a "forage" outside the city of Uncible in search for bonter, that is, natural food. Unlike the irresponsible Arrabins, Jantiff tries to come prepared for the trek in the country side, loading a pack with spare clothing,  some food and even some toilet paper.

Out in the wilds, the foragers look for nut trees and wild plums. One of the group soils his clothing and asks Jantiff for his spare outfit. When hunger pangs strike to group, they devour Jantiff's meager supply of food. Luckily that leaves Jantiff with plenty of room in his pack to carry the dirty clothing of his comrade. The fate and usage of Jantiff's toilet paper is not revealed, but when the forages get back in Uncible Jantiff is annoyed and sulky.

Kirdy Wook
In Araminta Station, Glawen Clattuc and Kirdy Wook go off on a police investigation that takes them to the planets Natrice, Soum and Tasadero. At Soumjiana, Kirdy wants to partake in a side-mission: sampling the grilled sausages offered by the dozens of vendors around the Octacle. Glawen can't take Kirdy seriously and keeps efficiently carrying out their police investigation.

On Tasadero their investigation leads to Lutwiler Country, the land of the Zubenites. Fearing trouble from the Zubenites who are regarded as religious fanatics, Glawen goes into Lutwiler Country alone after instructing Kirdy to call out the local police as backup if he is not heard from soon. Kirdy plays Glawen false, leading to his imprisonment at Pogan's Point in the Monomantic Seminary of the Ordene Zaa. Only after months of captivity in Zab Zonk's tomb, at the heart of the Point, does Glawen manage to escape. In the end, after years of "dealing" with Kirdy, Glawen gets the last laugh.

I guess when you write for one penny a word and your goal is to write a million words each year then you better know how to have fun with each and every story. Thanks a million, Jack.

John Holbrook "Jack" Vance
August 28, 1916 – May 26, 2013

 Related Reading: May 2015 tribute: the places of Jack Vance's imagination.
May 2016 Vance tribute post
May 2017 Vance tribute post 
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