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ZOMBIES – A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP.

I’ve never been a big fan of the zombie genre. In my mind, if you’ve seen one zombie film, you’ve seen them all. Zombies shamble, or run these days, chasing humans for brains and other juicy body parts while the humans try to escape, hide or fight back. Now that’s a generalized statement, I know, but the whole “eating brains” and “zombie virus thing” kind of bores me.

At least it did. I’ve found, lately, my position is softening somewhat on that front. However, I still have some gripes.

Some of my main complaints are why do zombies have to eat? They’re dead! And if they eat, do they defecate and urinate also? Zombie poop–now there’s a subject for a scientific paper (which could have already been written. After all, the Department of Defense has a plan in case of a Zombie Apocalypse. It’s true – look it up. It even has categories for zombie chickens, magic zombies and vegetarian zombies. I kid you not although, to be fair, the whole thing was set up for testing purposes with “zombie” used as a  placeholder for who or whatever really might attack us. Still–zombie chickens? Uh huh.)

Also, why can’t we have zombies that can hold a conversation? Who can reason for a change? In fact, I have heard of some recent movies, TV shows and books which have these kinds of zombies, which I think is great. Some people complain about there being way too many vampires and werewolves in popular culture but at least there’s more depth to those types of characters because they can react in human ways while fighting against their animal natures and so on. Internal conflict, you know.

In the movie remake of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, they created an “uber-Morlock” played by none other than the great British actor Jeremy Irons, who was the brains behind the otherwise hive-like, brutish Morlocks. He could think rationally, converse, make evil plans. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Truthfully, I have watched a handful of zombie movies (have never seen the TV show, The Walking Dead ,though) and I’ve enjoyed them. I did see Night of the Living Dead back in the day and liked it but never thought of the effect and influence it would have on later writers and moviemakers. In my experience, the first virus-infected zombies (as opposed to the old Voodoo-raised zombies of old – think White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi in 1938) I ever saw were in the movie Twenty Eight Days Later, which was a terrific horror flick.

However, I argued with people, saying Twenty Eight Days Later and its’ sequel Twenty Eight Weeks Later weren’t zombie movies at all but movies about a virus which turned people into monstrous, mindless killers. Well, guess what? That’s what the definition of zombies had become by that time. One thing that was different about those movies, though, was it didn’t take a zombie bite to turn a human into a zombie. Just exposure to zombie saliva (yuck!) was enough as actor Robert Carlyle’s character found out in Twenty Eight Weeks Later when he kissed his wife who, though she was immune to the virus, was a carrier. The honeymoon was definitely over for them after that!

I guess what I’m saying is I’m not completely resistant to the zombie phenomenon anymore but hope it can evolve in more interesting and unusual ways. Some Steampunk novels like Dreadnought by Cherie Priest and The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers contain zombie elements and both are characterized somewhat differently than the norm.

I’ve even started writing what I originally thought of as a series of “anti-zombie” short stories featuring a talking, reasoning zombi (with no “e”) of the old school type of Voodoo-reanimated undead controlled by a bokor, his sorcerer/master. To my complete surprise, it’s turned into an exceptionally enjoyable writing experience with the anti-zombie part of it becoming less and less of a concern for me. It’s just really fun to write!

I guess I’ll have to start binge-watching The Walking Dead next. But only for research purposes you understand, to prepare myself for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Yeah, that’s it.

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A PERSONAL STEAMPUNK ADVENTURE

I attended my first Steampunk convention two weekends ago in Parkersburg, WV. It was the debut VANDALIA CON organized and put on in the historic Blennerhasset Hotel in downtown Parkersburg. All proceeds went to a the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program & Bonnie’s Bus, state-wide programs that provide patient services for uninsured and underinsured West Virginia women. Good causes all around.

And the setting couldn’t have been better. The Blennerhasset Hotel was built in 1889 during the Gaslight Era during which money from coal and natural gas was flowing freely throughout West Virginia. Owned and operated back then by Harman and Margaret Blennerhasset, the hotel still sports an old-style elegance.

I’ve had a budding interest in Steampunk for a while, having read several short stories in the sub-genre over the years as well as a handful of novels including The Difference Engine from 1990 by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and, more recently, Dreadnought by Cherie Priest and The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers. The 1960s television series, The Wild Wild West, is considered nascent Steampunk.

Though often simplistically described as “Victorian Science Fiction,” there is a distinction as Victorian science fiction, like the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, describes what could happen in the present world with a look toward the future. Steampunk offers more of alternate history scenarios which deal more with the past.

One of the things I find most interesting about Steampunk is the “Maker” aspect of it. Maker is the term given to those of the Steampunk persuasion who design and create clothes, gadgets, gizmos and art of all kinds with a Steampunk aspect. As a former art student (and holder of a BFA in Fine Art from West Virginia University), this really appeals to me. The Dealers’ Room at Vandalia Con was small but the artists and craftspeople exhibiting and selling there were first-rate.

From clothes, paintings, books, sculpture, jewelry, to film, music, and ‘mechanical’ arms, the wealth of talent and imagination was fantastic. Met a lot of interesting and fun people as well including well-known Steampunk writer, artist and Maker Thomas Willeford plus the director and cast of a remake of the 1932 film White Zombie which was reimagined with a Steampunk flair.

A few of my friends and fellow PARSEC members (the Pittsburgh Science Fiction and Fantasy Group) have long been aficionados of Steampunk. I’m still a beginner in this interesting sub-genre but my interest has been piqued enough to become more involved. At the con (which, unfortunately, I could only attend on Saturday), I wore a long-sleeve linen shirt, vest, jeans and work boots. Under duress, I did try on a bowler-style hat but it was too small for my big Alien-shaped head! So, that’s a start. J

My upcoming novel, Blood of the Daxas, contains some Steampunk elements like airships but is not true Steampunk, but more fantasy adventure. I just had a vision of a dragon battling an airship and went from there!

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Peter Jackson – the Gory Years

Sometimes greatness springs from the oddest beginnings. Not that those beginnings aren’t great but, well, different.

Famed writer/director Peter Jackson creating horror and splatter films? Say it ain’t so! But yes, Jackson wasn’t always the go-to guy for big budget epic movies. Everyone has to start somewhere, even award-winning artists. And sometimes, those humble beginnings become career landmarks themselves.

Bad Taste, Peter Jackson’s moviemaking debut (1987), is a far cry from his later, more serious projects Heavenly Creatures, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit movies and the King Kong remake. An unabashed gore/sci-fi comedy, Bad Taste was made over a four year period by Jackson, members of his family and friends during the evenings and on the weekends.

Jackson wrote, directed, produced and played two roles in the cinematic gorefest. Low budget, yes, but the special effects, makeup and, of course, gouting blood and splattering viscera, are very creative and well done. And did I mention that it’s funny? It has to be for laughing out loud at the sight gags and jokes takes your mind off of the stomach-churning violence being committed onscreen.

Shapeshifting aliens have landed on earth in their starship (which looks like an English manor house) and are harvesting humans for their intergalactic fast food franchises. What some fresh brains? Just lop of the top of some poor Earthling’s head and scoop them out with a spoon!

The hero, Derek, and his buddies discover this cosmic culinary conspiracy and, of course, try to stop it. A lot of blood is spilled, bodies ripped and torn and organs devoured before the end. Be prepared for the absolutely hilarious “drinking of the grog” scene and the “exploding sheep.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll gag.

Dead Alive, Jackson’s revolting third film (1992, again directed and co-written by him), is a zombie splatter comedy with even more blood and guts than its predecessor. Lionel’s mother hasn’t been feeling well and Lionel doesn’t understand why until Mom becomes a full-blown zombie thanks to the bite of a Sumatran Rat-Monkey.

As an added result, anyone then bitten by Mom becomes a zombie and then anyone bitten by those zombies become one and so on and so on, literally ad nauseum.

So, as more people are bitten and the zombie hordes swell, the besieged characters, from Lionel and his girlfriend, to a priest who, while executing deadly martial arts moves on a group of attacking undead, declares, “I kick ass for the Lord!” attempt to fight off the shambling scourge.

One of the final scenes has more fake blood in it than any other twenty horror films combined with Lionel literally slipping, sliding and practically swimming in it.

Neither movie is for kids or the faint of heart but definitely worth watching to see how a now respected filmmaker got his disgusting, vomit-inducing start and just how creative (and absurdly funny) one can be when limited to a shoestring budget.

Hey, it can happen to anyone.

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Werewolves: New Twists on an Old Monster Tale

In my novel, The Sixth Precept, there are genetically-modified hybrid creatures called Shadow-Trackers wreaking havoc. They’re part human and part dog, the dog part giving rise to their “tracker” sensibility and name. However, when visualizing and describing them, they came out pretty much as werewolves (who could talk and reason but were programmed to hunt). I’ve always had a soft spot for those full moon beasties so it was nice discovering a trio of movies which tried to put a little different spin the whole werewolf mythos.

Dog Soldiers

Dog Soldiers (2002), written and directed by Neil Marshall (who later went on to write and direct The Descent, Doomsday and The Centurion) pits a pack of werewolves against a military unit staging exercises in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands. Starring Sean Pertwee (son of actor Jon who portrayed the third Dr. Who) Dog Soldiers is a combination of gore, black humor and intense, violent action.

The story turns the werewolf mythos on its head by depicting not just one but several werewolves with the point-of-view focusing strictly on the humans being hunted (no touchy-feely, internal human persona vs. animal persona conflict here!). The struggles of the military unit’s members and the mysterious woman who helps them are front-and-center as they can either give in to fear or stand and fight the horror surrounding them.

Some elements of Aliens and Night of the Living Dead are evident in the film but the characterization and action elevate the movie above the usual “monster on the loose” story. And, refreshingly, the werewolves themselves are actors in makeup, not computer-generated.

Skinwalkers

Skinwalkers (2006 – not to be confused with the Tony Hillerman novel of the same name), directed by James Isaac and starring Jason Behr, Rhona Mitra and Elias Koteas, depicts a pack of dangerous werewolf bikers on the loose. They are “skinwalkers,” according to Navajo lore–humans who are able to change their forms into those of animals.

Opposing them are good skinwalkers who are trying to live their lives without killing. They do this by shackling themselves to the inside of their RV on the nights of the full moon. If they taste human blood for the first time, their animal nature will take over completely. And their human personas must remain intact in order to protect the one member of their family who has the power to end the werewolf curse once and for all–a 13 year-old boy who is half human and half skinwalker.

The expert werewolf facial makeup was done by the late, great Stan Winston, giving credence to the expression, “Less is More.” These werewolves really look bestial without the makeup effects being over-the-top or cheesy.

Underworld

The big budget entry of this trio of films, Underworld (2003), directed by Len Wiseman and starring Kate Beckinsdale, Scott Speedman and Bill Nighy, reimagines werewolves and vampires as rival gangs engaging in high-tech urban warfare. Stylishly cool and sexy, the film shows both groups adapting very well to the modern era. The vampires shoot bullets containing silver nitrate at the “Lycans” and the werewolves return fire to the “Death Dealers” with bullets that emit ultraviolet light. Both opposing groups utilize laptops, the internet and cell phones as tools in their centuries-long struggle.

In addition, the werewolves are trying to create a powerful vampire/werewolf hybrid to help them in their battle against the blood-suckers. They live beneath the city streets (the “underworld” of the title) while their vampire foes reside in luxurious mansions replete with state-of-the-art technology.

Oddly enough (with a couple of exceptions), the much bigger, more powerful Lycans get their behinds kicked in this film. Preferring to get down and dirty in their werewolf forms, most of them fall easy victims to the Death Dealers’ modern weaponry.

Stylized action sequences and an in-depth backstory on the ancient war between these two toothy groups give this film a little more substance than most run-of-the mill creature features.

At the end of the day, a werewolf is a werewolf is a werewolf, but kudos to those artists who won’t take the easy way out. Their imaginative slants on classic horror tropes make the old seem new again.

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MORE COMIC BOOK INFLUENCES…

BRAIN BOY and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS

I mentioned in my previous post how comic books influence my writing to this day. The tropes of metamorphosis and super humans possessing extraordinary powers have always been favorites of mine.

Growing up in the fifties and sixties, there were a ton of comic books available to eager, adventure-seeking geeks like me – just like today. A couple of short-lived, relatively unknown, comic books that I enjoyed as a kid were Brain Boy and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

Brain Boy, published by Dell Comics in the early 1960s, only lasted six issues (although Dark Horse Comics recently rebooted the series). I’m not sure if its early demise was due to not being very good or what. I remember liking it a lot because it was somewhat unusual in that the hero didn’t wear a costume or mask to conceal his identity (much like the Fantastic Four in their first two or three issues).

Teenager Matt Price had been endowed with amazing mental abilities due to a horrible accident. Still in his mother’s womb, his family is struck by lightning which leaves his father dead and his still-to-be-born self changed forever. He can read minds, levitate objects and fly.

Recruited by a secret telepath organization dedicated to fighting evil, Matt becomes Brain Boy and battles international crime and, in one issue, reanimated dinosaurs. Ha!

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was published by the defunct Tower Comics from 1965 to 1969 (it too has been brought back several times over the years) and some it was illustrated by the late, great Wally Wood. Taking cues from the popular spy dramas of the time like the James Bond movies and the television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents followed the adventures of a group of United Nations-sponsored super heroes.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. was an acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves (of course!) and originally featured the heroes Dynamo (whose super strength came from wearing the Thunder Belt; NoMan, who was an android with a brilliant professor’s brain uploaded into him and who wore a cloak of indivisibility; Menthor, who wore a special helmet which increased his mental abilities to be much like those of Brain Boy’s; and the Thunder Squad, made up of the agents Guy, Dynamite, Kitten, Weed and Egghead. What a hoot! They all battled the evil Warlord and his minions, Demo and the Iron Maiden (a woman in very form-fitting armor).

Though not nearly as well written as the Marvel and DC comics at the time, these two series appealed to me just because they were so fantastic and action-packed. Their super-hero exploits were simply what they did on their day jobs. The interesting thing about Menthor, however, was he was, in fact, an agent of the Warlord but when he put on the helmet, he became a good guy. That was cool and had a little more depth and conflice then a lot of comic book heroes at the time.

In bringing my own characters to life, I often rely on the crazy stuff that inspired me as a kid, updated to an adult world. I’ve been told THE SIXTH PRECEPT would make a good graphic novel and that’s something I do think about. In the meantime, I’ll use my own super-power, which all of us possess–imagination. That really is the best.

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COMIC BOOKS AND OTHER INFLUENCES…

I’ve always been an avid reader. As a child, I haunted the local library, checking out the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Andre Norton and Ray Bradbury. I read the Doctor Doolittle series, the Black Stallion and Island Stallion series by Walter Farley. The Hardy Boys series? You bet! I was a nerdy, geeky little kid, not good at sports or talking to girls. You know, kind of like the characters on The Big Bang Theory. So I immersed myself in imaginary worlds.

All these authors and their ideas influenced my own writing in various ways. Andre Norton, particularly in her later fantasies, wrote characters who possessed powerful mental abilities–telepathy, communication with animals as in the Beast Master novels. Her Witch World series are still some of my favorite genre books–magic is key in these stories, giving the characters amazing powers. I’ve always thought Norton’s characters in most of her books all talked and acted the same. There was very little difference from one to the other. But her imagination, action, and depiction of truly alien and magical worlds are unsurpassed.

Sometimes, a blip on the SF radar screen emerges with something unexpected. For instance, did you know Walter Farley’s third Island Stallion book, The Island Stallion Races, included a large science fiction element? As bizarre as it sounds, it’s true. Alien shape-shifters from a far galaxy land on the island where Flame, the Island Stallion, rules his herd. Fascinated with horse racing, one of the aliens gets Flame and his young master, Steve Duncan, to enter a prestigious international race in Cuba. What a hoot! I figure if Farley can do it, well then, so can I!  J

As an adult, I realized another big writing influence for me is comic books. I devoured the adventures of Batman, Superman, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Justice League of America and on and on. I still, on occasion, pick up a comic book to see how my childhood heroes are faring (the 21st Century is very different in comic book land these days as well). As a result, I became fascinated with the SF trope of metamorphosis, of change, either physical or mental. That trope permeates a lot of my writing.

A lot of my characters, either in my novels, novellas or short stories, change in some fashion over the course of the story or possess a power of some sort. It’s usually not something I think about much beforehand–I create a character and the power or change is just part of that character’s makeup. The action of the story follows from there.

My novel, The Sixth Precept, has several such characters, one, in particular, being based on one of my comic book super heroes of old. I describe my novella, Reunion at Olan, as the “X-Men Meet Die-Hard.” One of my short stories, “About Face”, published in the genre anthology, Raw Terror, is about a young woman with Prosopagnosia or Face Blindness, a real neurological disorder. She can’t recognize people’s facial features. Until, after taking an experimental drug for the disorder, she can suddenly see things no one else can. Very bad things. As a result, she becomes a “super hero.”

I guess you can say I’m one of those of people who never really grew up. In the case of my writing influences, that’s a good thing.

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I STILL BELIEVE IN MAGIC – Part 4

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Another Kind of Magic ~

A few years ago, my wife and I and two friends took a trip to Venice, Italy. Truly a magical place. It was like being in an honest-to-God secondary world. At least to me. I got a few story ideas there, three of which made it into finished pieces with all of those being sold.

Of course, Venice has its problems like any city and the extraordinary facts of it slowly sinking into the sea, has flooded on occasion and the canals smelling bad during the warm months are well known. But with no cars being allowed in the city, Venice’s amazing culture, history and architecture, and, yes, the canals, give Venice an otherworldly ambiance like no other place.

Again, at least to me. I can’t speak for anyone else. I remember, after visiting England and getting the same type of emotional reaction to Stonehenge, a coworker who had also visited that wonderful monument, asked me what the big deal about it was.

Yikes! How do you explain that to someone who doesn’t get it? I experienced such an overpowering mystical feeling in Venice when I first stepped onto the quay from the vaparetto that brought us from the airport. I just stood and gaped at our surroundings. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. The Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge and Market, the Jewish Ghetto, the labyrinth of winding, narrow streets where you didn’t care if you got lost, the dozens and dozens and dozens of mask shops with their huge front windows displaying a multitude of intricately-designed masks. Here was a place of real magic!

And how do I explain those feelings? I guess that’s why I write. I put all that emotion into my acts of creation. I infuse the cities I create with some element of Venice, my characters with some aspect of the strong Venetian personality, my magic with the idea that you get that ability, that strength from the land around you. It’s a part of you and you’re a part of it. The city and its denizens are a part of a great whole, a complete living entity. The city is a character in the story itself.

“The Raptor and the Lion” (published in the SQ Magazine anthology Starquake 1) takes place in contemporary Venice and is the first of my Maghi stories where Venice itself demands blood sacrifice in order to survive. The Maghi, a group of ancient sorcerers and sorceresses, are more than willing to provide that sacrifice.

“Ravilla’s Wraith”, published in the Twisted Cat Tales anthology, takes in a Venice-like city with art and, of course, cats taking center stage. But these aren’t your average, everyday cats.

My short story, “The Turin Effect” (published in Penumbra online magazine) takes place in contemporary Venice and also involves the Maghi and their nefarious plot to return to power. This time, however, they may have bitten off more than they could chew.

Finally, Venice plays a big role in my in-progress sequel to THE SIXTH PRECEPT. Much of the action of WARRIORS OF THE LIGHT takes place in that grand city and features, you guessed, the Maghi.

What cities or places have you all visited that evoked a sense of wonder for you?

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I STILL BELIEVE IN MAGIC – Part Three

Pick up any fantasy novel that involves magic and that particular book’s magic system will be different from any other book’s. For instance, Andre Norton’s WITCH WORLD series posits if her witches lose their virginity, they lose their powers. In Evangeline Walton’s THE MABINOGION, belief in ancient gods and goddesses, nature worship and blood sacrifice are the keys to evoking magic.

Many magicians, witches, warlocks, etc. focus their powers through some kind of talisman – an amulet or a ring. In the television series, LEGEND OF THE SEEKER, based on Terry Goodkind’s  THE STONE OF TEARS books, the wizard’s magic is only effective if he uses his hands in gestures and flourishes. If his hands are bound, he’s powerless. In the Harry Potter novels, a spell must be intoned aloud to accomplish the magic. Pins in voodoo dolls. And so on.

Even in myth and legend, these rules apply. Take witches, for example. According to WIZARDS AND WITCHES, a volume in the Time-Life series, THE ENCHANGED WORLD, witches’ power of flight often didn’t just result because of the brooms, staffs or farm implements they rode into the night sky. They would rub a magical ointment over theirs bodies made of a potent mixture of herbs such as monkshood, henbane, deadly nightshade, mandrake and hemlock to aid in their power of flight. In general, charms of all sorts were used diligently to heighten the magic-wielder’s powers.

Basically, there is a list of “must haves” for any magic system. These are:

  • A logic as to why a particular character possess magical powers.
  • Every magic-wielder must have limitations as to how and to what extent those abilities are and can be used.
  • There must be a balance with any opposing powers or enemies.
  • A magic system must have an internal logic.
  • Any working of magic must have a cost to the user.

Of course, all of the above points are open to interpretation and tweaking with fantasy authors playing around with these all the time. It’s great to think that, like Samantha in BEWITCHED, a twitching of your nose could accomplish anything. But, after a while, as a reader and a viewer, it gets boring and predictable. What if she got a cold and was congested? Then what?

In my novel, BLOOD OF THE DAXAS and its prequel, REUNION AT OLAN, my Priest and Pristess-Mages cannot bring to life their inherent magical powers until after they’ve consumed a small portion of dragon blood and keep the vessel the blood is contained in, The Well of Incessance, filled. Not all of the mage “candidates” can drink the blood with some of them dying in the process. Those who survive are inducted into the Congregate of Mages. The Perliox Animists derive their powers from the forces of nature. If those forces become weakened, then so do the Animist’s abilities weaken in turn. My dragon Wyverna possesses a very special magical power but using it exacts a powerful price.

In the end, it’s always more interesting to have a magic-wielder who is not all-powerful. Even Superman was given a weakness to Kryptonite early on and then also to, you guessed it, magic!

So, who would win in a super-powered face-off? Superman or Mandrake the Magician?

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I STILL BELIEVE IN MAGIC ~ Part Two

Magic, Illusion or Something Else?

Three of my favorite magic-inspired tales of the last few years are:

THE PRESTIGE – both the 2005 novel by Christopher Priest and (based on the novel) the 2006 Christopher Nolan-directed film.

THE ILLUSIONIST – The 2006 Neil Burger-directed film based on the short story, “Eisenheim the Illusionist,” by Steven Millhauser.

LAST CALL – the 1992 novel by Tim Powers.

All three of these tales make use of magic and/or illusion, all different from the other and all used to obtain different goals.

Using the definitions of magic I stated in my previous post, THE PRESTIGE is defined by: The exercise of sleight of hand or conjuring for entertainment.

In the movie, the two protagonists are rival stage magicians in Victorian London, determined to outdo each other on stage with increasingly complicated, mysterious and dangerous acts. Fame, glory, envy and pride are their motivations. Yet, in the end, something entirely different from magic and illusion comes into play with devastating and frightening results, giving credence to Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote – “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Dark and thrilling with the book’s entirely different ending even scarier.

THE ILLUSIONIST is also defined as: The exercise of sleight of hand or conjuring for entertainment.

Here, the magician protagonist uses his powers of illusion in early Twentieth-Century Vienna to win the love of a woman of royal standing (who happens to be an old childhood friend). As a result, an elaborate “magical” con game is set up which keeps the film’s characters and the audience guessing until the very end. Sort of like a turn-of-the-century “Mission Impossible.” Much lighter in tone than the dark PRESTIGE but still evoking a sense of danger and wonder.

LAST CALL is the most mystical of the three and is defined by: The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or to control events in nature, or the charms, spells, and rituals so used.

In the book, magic really exists, it’s not an illusion. Taking place in 1960’s America, it posits the idea (central to most of Power’s work) that what really happened in historical events is never in the books we read in school. In this case, the founding of Las Vegas by Bugsy Siegel was really accomplished by the mythical Fisher King and the once-every-twenty year poker game (played with tarot cards) the King holds decides who will continue to hold the power of this magical world (unseen by most of us) or who will overthrow that power. Really, really strange and compelling.

In my forthcoming novel, BLOOD OF THE DAXAS, magic abounds. But is it really magic, illusion or something else?

What are some of the magic-inspired tales you’ve found in your life?

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I STILL BELIEVE IN MAGIC – Part One

The word magic evokes many things to different people. In fact, there are several varied definitions of magic. THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY defines magic as:

  • The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.
  • The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or to control events in nature, or the charms, spells, and rituals so used.
  • The exercise of sleight of hand or conjuring for entertainment.
  • A mysterious quality of enchantment: the magic of the distant past.

THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF MAGIC by Milbourne and Maurine Christopher states the first recorded description of a “royal command performance” magic act took place in ancient Egypt. The show was put on for the Pharaoh Cheops (who built the Great Pyramid) around 5000 years ago. A wall painting, accompanied by hieroglyphics, in a tomb in Beni Hasan, Egypt about 2500 B.C. depicts a “cup-and-ball” trick, still performed today. According to Egyptian mythology, the god Thoth was the inventor of magic.

Of course, every culture and country had their own forms of magic, magical lore and famous magicians. The Chinese had Ching  Ling Foo, “the Court Conjurer to the Empress of China.” The British had P.T. Selbit. America had Houdini. The list goes on.

As a child, I put on magic shows for my friends and family and wasn’t too bad at it. As an adult, I’ve seen the performances of both the late Doug Henning and David Copperfield and, though I knew what they were doing onstage were illusions, they were incredibly believable as real legerdemain!

To me, in reference to my writing and to my day-to-day life, magic encompasses all of the above definitions be it subtle or grandiose. I imagine dragons, super-powered beings and eldritch creatures every day, which are truly magical to me. I see the magic in living such as celebrating the holidays with friends and family or playing with my cats. The power of love is a real magical force.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, BLOOD OF THE DAXAS, being published by Assent Publishing in 2014, there are several factions of magic-wielders, each one unique and able to conjure in different ways. The Priest and Priestess-Mages of the Imperium have no magical abilities unless certain sensitive ones of their order drink dragon blood. The Perliox Animists possess a magic fueled by the natural world around them. When that world is under siege, they too weaken.  Farsensers possess a magic of the mind, able to read the thoughts of others and broadcast their own. Beast Witches can commune with animals.

But the magic of Wyverna, the Queen of the Daxas, the last adult dragon in the world of men, is the greatest of all. And the most surprising.

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