Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry X-Mas!!

...And a happy new year!

Chapter 5.2 is finally posted--despite writer's block, Christmas preparations, and illness!

Did a major change in post order for the website, so that old posts are now displayed first.  This fixes the problem with the archives, where new posts were listed first, making it difficult to read chapters despite having them all on the same page.  Now you can just go from top to bottom, no prob.  I was trying to find a solution through editing the site template, but I'm not saavy to that sort of thing so I just decided to do this instead.  It means more work for me whenever I post a new installment, but if it helps with site readability, then I think it is worth it.  Readers can skip having to click on the "read the latest chapter link" every time they come to the site by just signing up to the feed, which links directly to the new post.  It'll save you a few seconds, which on the internet, can mean everything for some people.

Happy holidays everyone!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jes' checking in.

I'm working on a few sidebars for Eikasia that I think some might find interesting. I don't know when I'll post them, but hopefully I'll be done with them soon enough.

I plan on doing some heavy editing for Eikasia. Chapters 1.1 and 1.2 are all ready in their second drafts, but I'm still going to be doing another pass to try and eliminate the crappiness. Chapter 5.1 is probably the one I'm most eager to get to, because I feel the overall quality of it is low and I probably could've described the scenes in a better and more plausible way. But despite my eagerness to re-work it, I'm going to hold off until I can revise the earlier chapters--after all, I need a good base before I can hope to work at the top.

I did a review last week on Chris Tejeda's "Lifting of the Veil", which is a very interesting science fiction web serial that I think you folks should check out.

I've also started doing the next installment for Eikasia. However, if I'm actually productive this week, it may be tossed out in favor of something better.

Recently watched "The Mindscape of Alan Moore"...which really told me a lot about the man, and tore down my earlier belief that he was just an egotistical creep. In fact, a lot of the things I've thought about when writing, or dreaming, or while staring blithely at my ceiling at 2 in the morning, he echoed, in a fascinating and evocative narrative detailing his career and his beliefs on politics, science, sex, and religion. It was eerie. I won't say that everything that came out of his mouth was gold--but I was surprised at how much I did agree with him on things. I recommend it to anyone who has read any of his work, or who appreciates an alternative view on things, or who simply reads comic books. It really is worth a look.

Gonna sign off here...Some part of me wants to vent recent personal frustrations in this entry--they are "personal" but they've affected my work on Eikasia, so I guess it's partly relevant. But I'm not sure what good it will do but make me seem attention-seeking and like any other silly bitch under the esteemed banner of "Generation Y".

Ah well. This really isn't a personal blog anyways. Who the heck reads my non-personal stuff to begin with? (oh whoops, I'm fulfilling the stereotype again, ha ha)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On Shapechanging...

I decided I'd do a post on shape changing and my views on them. It's an important theme in my story, one that I hope to represent to the best of my ability in the coming chapters. If you're like me, and have a thing for therianthropes (humans who shift into animals, i.e. werewolves or cat people) then you've likely got your own passionate ideas about how the shape changing process occurs (or "should" occur.)

If you're new to therianthropy, or just fantasy in general, then you will not have a clue what the heck I'm talking about. "They change from man to beast. What's the difference?" you might say.

But it makes all the difference in the world, my poor unenlightened friend!

I've had hours of discussions with friends on such delicate matters, and the debate still seems to rage. It concerns matters of spirituality, basic science, and of course, culture. Just about every major society has their own myths on shape changers. The stories told reflected societal concerns, superstitions, and environment.

Much of the stories of werewolves in Europe and Colonial America seem to share the same theme--rape. Violation. The forceful commandeering of flesh and spirit by dark forces. Lycanthropy (or therianthropy) was just about always connected to Satan or infernal beings. As such, transformations were usually seen as horrific--likely painful. What many people fail to realize is that the themes of "rape and violation" do not just apply to the also applies to the afflicted/cursed individual.

With vampires, their major theme is all about seduction. Leeching away what they want by attractiveness and hypnotization. Bottom line: self-gratification. That is part of the reason you see so many "aristocratic" vampires or "young, ambitious" vampires, because they fit the stereotypes of selfish and indulgent assholes. With werewolves, it's the opposite. In popular culture, they are shown as people who were turned into monsters against their will, and who find their bodies at the mercy of some terrible change once a month. Very often times they were the poor, the common peasants, the loners, the sick or the insane.

Still, in other countries and other beliefs, therianthropy was looked on less as violent and traumatic, and more as deceitful and mischievous. The Japanese kitsune, for instance, was a creature that could shift at will between human and fox forms. They caused chaos through wit and craft, rather than pure violence...sometimes, however, they were seen as benevolent and wise beings that aided some unfortunate or disadvantaged soul. Continuing on that note, shapeshifting or spiritual transformation was seen as desirable ways to power and wisdom for some people, such as some Native American tribes. With the vikings, berserkers were feared and admired for their strength and bravery. It was said that they tried to draw power from the wolf and bear skins they wore, and emulated these animals ferocity and skill in combat.

Stepping away from simple 'man-to-beast' transformation, shape changing has had a strong presence in many religions and myths. In these cases, the physical changes underwent by the individuals were more symbolic of the mental change a person underwent, or the sin they bore, or their true underlying desire. In Graeco-Roman culture this is especially true. In Greek mythology, we can find great examples: Circe transformed Odysseus' men to pigs in Homer's The Odyssey; and Medusa was changed into a monster after having intercourse with Posiedon in Athena's temple. Zeus frequently took different forms to approach women, and to conceal his affairs from his wife, Hera.

In film (and I'm speaking from an American standpoint) werewolf transformations have been depicted in a variety of ways. From fast and fluid, to slow and grotesque. Some look more human, others more like real wolves. Since there aren't too many werewolf examples in literature that I can take seriously, I turn mostly to film for inspiration on what a shapechange would entail.

The best example of a rapid change can be seen in the movie, "Underworld"...which I thought was just a load of gothic wank. The 'wolves' looked more like weird, naked bears:

I will say, right now, that I am NOT part of the "it would be quick and painless" camp. Shape changing, in my opinion, would be a painful experience, and would likely take a while (several minutes at least. That can be forever for a person undergoing something so terrible.)

Here is Bad Moon's take on shape changing. Again, not so keen on the "fast and painless" take on shapeshifting. In my opinion, it takes away a lot of the metaphorical power about transforming body and mind, and leaves a superficial understanding of what the shapechanger inherently thinks and feels.

First example I found that wasn't related to werewolves. Instead, this shows the transformation of a man to a panther. I'm really just showing this because the form Nyx took in Chapter 1.1 looks similar to this (only a bit scruffier and with more human nuance).

From the movie "Cat People". Again, just because it's a cat transformation. The first few seconds of this clip made me think of when Nyx's face "went cat" in Chapter 4. The last few seconds though...I mean, it's interesting. It shows that the human skin is not the "true" skin, but just a cover for the beast inside. This isn't the case with Nyx or the other therians in her world, though.

Here is a nice YouTube video that takes both "The Howling" and "American Werewolf In London's" take on shape changing. I appreciate AWIL's much more than The Howling's 'bubbling' and 'popping' change. BUT...I still think that an actual transformation would be less confused and halting. I personally feel it would be a symmetrical process. You see how the main character shifts only one hand, then his face? Because I'm a spiritual git, I'd think it'd start from the torso, then spread out--because that is where the heart and gut are. In magic and in mythology, those two things are said to be where the soul or 'Self' is...or at least, great focal points for spiritual energy. The heart especially. So why wouldn't the change occur where these things are first?

Furthermore--AWIL's werewolf appears...not very wolfish, when finally revealed later on. The Howling does a better job of having a "wolfish" result, but again, AWIL earns points for showing the transformation as a painful, debilitating experience. I think about AWIL when writing Nyx's transformations. But the issue with turning to film for inspiration is that, in their attempts to make the monster "scary" or "cool", many film creators fail to get the overall point of lycanthropy myths (and by that vein, ailuranthropy too.)

And what do I think it "means" then? Why all my blustering? For me, shape changing is a greater metaphor for the strength that lies within all of us--a power and passion that could easily become something terrifying if allowed. I take both the good and bad of the shape changing myths because that is how life is. Too much sugar will give you cavaties, too much drinking will make you an addict, too much reading will make you an insufferable recluse. I think there is as much a balance with therianthropy as there would be anything else in our world. That is why, despite my insistence on getting the 'bodily pain' of transformation right, there are those in Nyx's world that do NOT suffer, and who may even enjoy the experience.

Okay, so I'll end with this...random anime clip I found. I think it's from the series, "Slayers."

The point of this post was really just to illustrate my idea of "proper" shape changing. For Nyx, her pain is symbolic of her ostracization and shame with her people. For other therians, there is still a "physical" change that takes time, but it lacks the pain--possibly even contains some sense of euphoric release. If I got too much in detail about how this relates to my story, I might ruin things for later on. I also don't want to give the impression that I don't trust my writing enough to speak for itself. This was simply a 'sidebar' talking about my thoughts on the ramifications of shapeshifting. I might do a follow-up post later, if I feel anything more needs to be said...

Bingo, bangle, bungle, I'm so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go...

Okay, the title has nothing to do with this post, really. I just have that song from Fallout 3 stuck in my head.

Anyways, the story has been updated. These last two weeks were weird due to holidays, birthdays, inescapable events, illness, and general female wackiness. I keep reminding myself that I'm doing this for free, but I want everyone to know that I really do try to keep up with my schedule. I'm starting to think I'm going to have to make a routine of it, versus just writing whenever it strikes me.

I started a new digital drawing (separate from the last one I mentioned...I did mention it right?) It's a lot more cartoony than some of my other works, but I mean to clean up the lines on this and color it in full.

Some proportions are off. Like Elmiryn's right arm, but I'll fix that.

And tomorrow's my birthday. I turn 20. Yes, I'm an old, old hag.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This is a TOTALLY original and clever post title.

Oh wow...this week was kinda hard for me. Not because anything in particular happened. Just...well, put simply, these have been the worst mood swings I've ever suffered in all my years of being a girl. I haven't felt like doing anything, I've been sick, and tired...and sore. And tired, and sick, and--it's like a vicious cycle. Yesterday I was quite literally sitting at the bottom of my shower, staring off into space and wishing I could just put life on pause, then later that day I was high as a kite and happy as hell for no real reason at all. I've tried taking vitamins, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, and watching funny stuff, but it was all moot. This morning I woke up and felt like someone died. I guess I had a bad dream. Feeling better now though, so I guess I'm in one of those highs.

And to think, I've only got menopause to worry about when I get older.

Anyways, enough blathering. Here's the chapter preview to prove that I've actually been doing something:

She told herself to scream, because she figured it would make her feel better. But where would that sound go, in this terrible place? What would that sound mean here? It hardly meant a thing to her, after all... She was dead. A ghost...right? So what did it mean when the sound of anguish curled out of her mouth like a desperate hand?

...Aw, who cares...

Elmiryn pushed herself upright, and her limbs shook with the effort. She came to an angle her spine disagreed with and fell back again, pain incising itself into her nerves. That dubious noise came to her lips once more, but rather than take flight, it clung there, shuddering, before it was lost in a sudden bark of laughter.

She had always wondered if Halvard, moral god, would see fit to cast her in some dank hell. Well...she got her answer. How could she have survived such a crash of water? It cast her into dark--shattered her completely beyond recognition, like glass, like a mirror...

Remember kiddies, it is subject to change, but you should all ready know that by now...