Archive for October, 2009

SAIL AWAY!

Posted in Australia, dark fiction writer, desk job, horror writer, Lewis Carroll enthusiast, Lyn McConchie's friend, mythology, Night to Dawn author, Published in the USA, pulp fiction writer, Romance, set in Australia, Writer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2009 by ROD MARSDEN

Of times to come...

Who wouldn’t want to sail away to another land? Who wouldn’t wish to explore the heavens when the sky is clear of humanity’s pollution?  Writers have been putting together tales of adventure and daring-do now for centuries.

Enya’s singing of Orinoco Flow (Sail Away!) still inspires this writer as I am sure it continues to inspire other writers. I live in the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. I am not one for putting up the sails but I do enjoy the sea in my own particular way. I enjoy fishing and just being out there were you can smell the salt off the waves.

Of the writers hit by the travel bug it is hard to go past Geoffrey Chaucer. He was there when the English language was coming together in a written form that contained French ideas as well as Latin and Greek. He understood the importance of keeping the old Anglo-Saxon traditions going yet bringing across new ideas from overseas. For the grandest example of all this there’s The Canterbury Tales.   For a grand Italian example of this sort of thing there’s The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio.

Through these two men of vision story telling in English as we understand English today (Chaucer) and Italian as we understand Italian today (Boccaccio) began. Middle English Chaucer style is difficult to read but it can still be read by people today even though most of us prefer a modern translation of a work so large and impressive as his The Canterbury Tales.

Possibly the first recognizable novel that wasn’t simply a large poem or an assortment of short stories roped together was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – a tale about being shipwrecked and discovering new vestiges of one’s own humanity. It has long since been condemned as having elements of racism but it still stands up in the literary world as a grand experiment in writing of the time.

In Spain Don Quixote came into being for the public in 1605 (book one) and then in 1615 (book two). The author, Miguel  de Cervantes, had traveled and because he had he was able to instill in his major work much of his experience of the world at this time. The Middle Ages had come to an end and with it the illusion of knight inspired chivalry. Even so, people still clung to the dream of chivalry and to send this up Cervantes created a wonderful madman who saw the would not the way it was but, according to chivalry, the way it should be. Personally, I prefer the second book to the first because there’s more action and less explanation. Regardless, Don Quixote has been published in just about every European language and there have been at least on musical and successful movie made about this tilter of windmills.

Mark Twain made much of a river journey in his famous and also rather infamous American novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is a book about freedom and the right to be free. It was once banned in the American south. In recent times it has come under attack because of some of the period language used but academics that know their business have defended it. Also it has been defended some time ago by the writers and cast of the American sit-com, Family Ties and by those responsible for the 1997 movie, Pleasantville. Next time you view Pleasantville do look for a visual reference to Mark Twain and Adventures of  Huckleberry Finn. Its there along with other most excellent works that were once banned by small minded people.

Lewis Carroll in the 19th Century took his readers on a number of weird and wonderful journeys with his Alice books.  And yes there was a real Alice. It is said that the Alice books began in a boat on a river in England where Carroll was entertaining a group of children with the strangest of tales. He was urged to write down the unfolding tale that became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. After these adventures in Wonderland were published they caused a sensation thus prompting the second Alice book.  Modern surrealism was born with these books though the term was yet to be coined. Also the tale of the Jabberwocky with its nonsense words came to show just how versatile sound was and also how powerful language can be in the right creative hands.

In the 1930s in there was high adventure in the pulps. For mystery there was H.P.Lovecraft and for Sword and Sorcery there was Robert. E. Howard. For scientific wonders and adventure in numerous countries there was Doc Savage.

Today adventure can be found in the printed and ebook works of Terry Pratchett (U.K.), Peter David (USA) and Terry Dowling (Australia.) Also do check out Desk Job by Rod Marsden.

http://bloodredshadow.com/about/night-to-dawn-magazine-and-books/rod-marsden-supernatural-thriller-vampire-lore/desk-job/

WALKING LIKE AN EGYPTIAN IN SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, ENGLAND, FRANCE, AND EGYPT

Posted in art, Art Deco, Australia, Cleopatra's needle, dark fiction writer, Egypt, France, Lewis Carroll enthusiast, London, Lyn McConchie's friend, mythology, New York, Night to Dawn author, Published in the USA, set in Australia, Set in italy, USA, Writer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2009 by ROD MARSDEN
Evil in the night...

THE MYSTERIES OF ANCIENT EGYPT

When artifacts from Ancient Egypt turn up at at major city in Australia, such as Melbourne, Sydney or Canberra there is always great excitement. It seems as if there has always been a lot of interest in things ancient and Egyptian.

Ancient Greek travelers made a fuss about Egypt describing it as a place of wonders. They were right on the mark. Then, some time later, the Romans came along and were impressed by what they saw. They also took home with them artifacts they felt said something about power and majesty.

For a while Egypt was the bread basket of the Roman Empire. This was so to the extent that if there was a famine in Egypt or the grain ships from Egypt would not sail, then there would be starvation in Rome.

Today, in Rome, there are still ancient Egyptian artifacts on display that are left over from the Roman Empire days.

Ancient Egypt appears in the Bible and hence has that connection with at least the Christians of the western world. Then there is the alchemy connection and also what Hollywood studios and British studios have made, since the 1930’s, of the possibilities of walking mummies. The notion of ancient evil rising to attack the present world has been the bread and butter of many a writer including American pulp genius of the haunting,  H. P. Lovecraft.

Everyone loves a good mystery and fiction writers adore a great locale for their fiction. Agatha Christie, for example, made much of Egypt as a backdrop for her murder mystery, Death on the Nile (1937).

The present day fascination with Ancient Egypt really began with Napoleon and his scholars wandering through what was then modern Egypt in the 18th and early 19th Century (1788-1801). British warships made the complete conquest of Egypt by the French impossible. In face Napoleon was lucky to get out of Egypt without getting captured by the British. Even so, some spin had to be put on the Egyptian campaign in order to save face but how to go about doing so was the big question. What the campaign lacked in military value it could, to some extent, make up for in scientific and historic value. Hence the craze to know and understand Ancient Egypt swept France in a way it had never done before.

Note here that Napoleon adopted the symbol of the bee, thinking it was an Egyptian symbol for power. Later it was discovered that it was actually a symbol for one of the two Egyptian kingdoms.

The main treasure of the French Egyptian campaign, the Rosetta stone, fell into the hands of the British and still rests in a museum in London. Even so, this clue as to how to read Egyptian  Hieroglyphics first came into French possession after many centuries of  either being buried or ignored by the locals, and it was the French who first took the necessary 19th Century steps in figuring out the ancient writings that had puzzled visitors to Egypt for centuries. The British, Germans and Italians took their best shots at working out the meaning of Egyptian Hieroglyphics but it was a Frenchman by the name of Jean-Francois Champollion who eventually succeeded. Also thanks to Champollion and his predecessors, the Louvre in Paris has a fantastic Egyptian wing.

Both the French and the British went wild  for things Egyptian in the 19th Century much the way the Romans had gone wild for things Egyptian in earlier centuries. The British moved the obelisk known to them as Cleopatra’s needle from Egypt to London. Not to be out done by the British, the French also moved an obelisk they thought of as Cleopatra’s needle from Egypt to Paris. Then there is the obelisk known as Cleopatra’s needle which was moved from Egypt to New York also in the 19th Century.

Incidentally,  the London obelisk was falsely named Cleopatra’s needle but still stands as an incredibly old and powerful symbol of what the Ancient Egyptians were capable of doing. Moving these giant obelisks without smashing them up was and is considered some feat by the engineers who did so in the 19th Century.

Meanwhile Australia wasn’t to be completely left out when it came to obelisks. At the entrance to Hyde Park in Sydney (intersection of Elizabeth St and Bathurst Street) there stands a most unusual but still impressive obelisk. It was modeled on the obelisk the British took to London but the materials used in construction are very much 19th Century and of the country where it was made rather than of ancient Egypt. It is primarily made of sandstone with a bronze pyramid on top.  It is also adorned by sphinxes and serpents. It was meant to serve as a sewage vent to eliminate noxious gases from the sewer underneath though it has never fulfilled this function very well.  It was first unveiled to the public in 1857 and today it is in need of some maintenance. Even so, it is still a magnificent sight and well worth checking out if you are visiting Sydney.

In 1922 the discovery of the burial place of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in Egypt caused a great stir of excitement and new interest in Ancient Egypt. Among the treasures found there was a magnificent golden mask.  The discovery coincided with the art deco movement which began in Paris in the 1920s and spread out from there. Ancient Egyptian symbolism and hieroglyphics tended to go well with this new art form. Pyramid designs became popular everywhere as did the ankh which appears in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics but also on its own as the symbol of life. It remains today a popular symbol worn by many people throughout the world.

Today, outside the Louvre in Paris, there is a rather strange and controversial glass pyramid.  It was completed in 1989 proving that even toward the end of  the 20th Century interest in Ancient Egypt remained solid at least with the French. In Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code,  you will find more than passing mention of this glass edifice.

Every now and then the subject of pyramid power arises. Does the very shape of the pyramid evoke forces we have yet to fully understand? Can even sitting under a makeshift pyramid meditating lead to better health? In A Country Practice, an Australian television soap set in a country town in the 1980s, a doctor’s receptionist, Shirley Gilroy (as played by Lorrae Desmond), believed in the healing powers of the pyramid. It was a sort of running joke with always the possibility that it might indeed be true. Mind you, as far as I am concerned, the major benefit, if the is one, to sitting under a makeshift pyramid is the belief factor that it will do you some good.

In 1986, just to prove that there was still some excitement to be generated by anything even remotely to do with Ancient Egypt, the band The Bangles had a hit with the song, Walk like an Egyptian. It was a silly, fun bit of business with none of the American girl members of the band coming anywhere close to looking and, for that matter, actually dancing like what an egyptologist might envision how ancient Egyptians dance. Here, of course, the operative word is fun and it is obvious there was no desire to even attempt to get it, let along keep it, real. Sometimes you need to let people have their fantasies and their fun.

In 2011 one of my nieces came back from Egypt and presented me with a small glass pyramid from Egypt. It doesn’t date back to ancient times but I do feel good when I look at it. I think this has more to it being a treasured gift than anything else. Mind you it would really be something if it did, in fact, have mystical powers of healing and promoting good health. Well, this particular niece used to walk like an Egyptian before visiting Egypt and, at times, she still walks like an Egyptian.

Among present day Australians with an interest in ancient Egypt there is television personality Molly Meldrum.  In recent times Molly has shown enthusiasm for Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s story plus the golden age of Pharaohs.

As for ancient evil, this is really something that belongs in western fiction beginning in the 1920s and continuing to this day. It started with the belief in the mummy’s curse attributed to disturbing Tutankhamun’s resting place and went from there. Mind you, the old gods of Egypt are rather fierce and not to be casually mucked about with.

The symbol of Life – Egyptian style!