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url 2015-07-09 13:13
Tough Travels with . . . Otherworldly Creatures (Tentacles preferred)

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: Otherworldly Creatures (Tentacles preferred)

Just for Tiara, this topic explains itself. Creatures not of our world or even our plain of existence, perhaps living in another dimension. Preferably, though not required, with tentacles. Or really anything with tentacles can be considered weird enough to be otherworldly.



Okay, let's get the obvious out of the way first and address theelephant octopus in the room. H.P. Lovecraft. The whole Cthulhu Mythos. Really, kiddies, this is what tentacle-strewn nightmares are made of. His work is just chock full of "slimy creature from the sea" - most of them sporting preternaturally strong, agile, sticky tentacles. Right from C'thulhu himself, right down through the ranks, you can't talk about the horrific potential in tentacles and not think of Lovecraft.


Now, let's deal with the other elephant Watcher in the room, and talk about J.R.R. Tolkien. Really, if there's a tough traveling trope that he didn't either invent or use, it's probably not worth mentioning.Anyway, he brings us the horrors of the Watcher in the Water fromThe Lord of the Rings. Is it a squid? An octopus? A Kraken? Who knows. All we ever see of the guardian at the gates of Moria is its tentacles. Heck, even Gandalf isn't sure whether there's one Watcher or several.


Terry Brooks liked his tentacles monsters as well, using them multiple times in the Shannara novels. In The Sword of Shannara, Menion, Shea and Flick are attacked by a Mist Wraith - a tentacled beast with a beak at its center - as they make their way around the edge of the Mist Marshes. In Wishsong of Shannara, the Mord Wraiths summon an honest-to-gosh full-scale Kraken to batter down the Dwarven Fortress Dam at Caapal.


As long as we're talking Kraken, then we have to go back and revisit Swords in the Mist, the 3rd Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser book from Fritz Leiber. Becalmed, our two heros tie a rope to their ship and descend into the sunken world of the Sea King. It's a story full of flirting, battles, and frantic escapes, but what I remember most is Fafhrd fighting against a giant squid with a sword in each of its tentacles as the underwater world collapses around them.


Finally, since we began with horror, lets end with horror - the The Mist by Stephen King. There's a scene in the book where a group of men decide to make a desperate run from the supermarket to the generator out back, which has broken down. As soon as they open the door, a mass of tentacles attacks, snatching more than one of the would-be heroes and dragging them off, kicking and screaming, into the mist for dinner.

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2015/07/tough-travels-with-otherworldly.html
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text 2015-05-21 13:18
Tough Travels with . . . Dead Gods

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: DEAD GODS

Fantasyland had gods, right? And now they are dead. Dead Gods are not forgotten though, often they are still just influential to the land as they were when living.


Let's get straight to the good stuff, shall we? It's one thing to invent a mythology, populate it with fantastical gods, and then kill them off one-by-one. Cool, yes, but perhaps a little too easy. It's another thing entirely to take a known mythology, set your cross-hairs on its figurehead, and kill off somebody billions of people believe in. Yet, that's precisely what a few well-known authors have done.


There are two gentlemen who have killed 'God' for laughs (or, at least, for satirical purposes), and they are James Morrow and Douglas Adams. In Towing Jehova, Morrow actually begins his tale with the discovery of God's naked, two-mile-long corpse, floating serenely in the Atlantic Ocean. The Vatican wants it buried in an iceberg, while atheists want it destroyed. In Blameless in Abaddon, Morrow continues the story, this time with God not quite dead, but a comatose centerpiece of a Florida theme park - at least until he's put on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity. The third book, The Eternal Footman, deals a plague of death awareness, with God's skull a in orbit above as a blasphemous sort of new moon.


In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Adams offs God in a bizarrely comic, ridiculously ironic puff of logic. It's a rather convoluted series of circumstances, all based on the impossible existence of the Babel fish - a symbiotic alien that that burrows into your ear and translates any language in the universe. The existence of such an impossible, yet useful, creature both proves and disproves the existence of God, based on the conflict between evidence and belief. In the last of the original books, Arthur traveled to the end of the universe to witness God's final message to creation. That message? The brilliantly comic, "We Apologize for the Inconvenience" which has more irony and blasphemy in its grammar than should be possible.


The Pantheon series from James Lovegrove, beginning with Age of Ra, takes a broader, more imaginative death-stroke to established mythologies - both contemporary and historical. Just imagine a world in which ALL of the gods who have ever been are real, in which they've gone to war, and in which the gods of the ancient Egyptians have defeated all others. Odin, Zeus, Allah, Jesus . . . all of them are dead and gone, leaving a modern world where men, women, and gods all walk the Earth. Here you have soldiers armed with ancient weapons (flails, maces, and sickles), modern weapons (guns, tanks, and planes), and magical weapons (god-powered staves and bombs), fighting alongside armies of mummies resurrected from the battlefield.


Getting back to invented mythologies and imaginative fantasists, Robert Jackson Bennett does a number on an entire pantheon of gods in City of Stairs. The story opens with a tale of conquest that extends so far as to have seen the conquerors murder the gods who once watched over the land of Bulikov, reshaping the landscape through the chaos of a catastrophic, anti-miraculous event known as The Blink. It killed the gods and destroyed their miraculous works, but there's still a lingering question as to the fate of the gods, especially with their miraculous items hidden away in a mysterious warehouse that puts Area 51 to shame.


Finally, we come to No Return (and it's upcoming sequel, Shower of Stones) by Zachary Jernigan. This is a story set in a world where the gods are real, and where Adrash, the last god standing, remains floating among the stars, bored, depressed, and idly contemplating the destruction of the world below. He has crafted a series of metal moon-sized spheres, the orbit and rotation of which he shifts ever-so-slightly to keep his worshipers anxious and uneasy. He's already caused two cataclysms by dropping individual spheres upon the planet, but the next (should it come) will be the big one. The first book involves a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet, while the second calls for revolt against him.

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2015/05/tough-travels-with-dead-gods.html
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url 2015-05-07 13:57
Tough Travels with . . . Moms

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: MOMS

Everyone has a mother, including people in fantasyland. Just in time to be slightly early for Mother's Day.

 

Okay, if we're going to talk moms, then I think we have to kick things off with the women of Stephen King. First up is super-uptight, fanatically-religious Margaret White - mother to teenage Carrie. This is a woman who is frightened by anything feminine, disgusted by anything sexual, and who only sees her daughter as a shameful reminder of that one horrific time she had sex. On top of that, she sees Carrie as an unholy abomination, a child she once tried to kill because of her evil telekinetic abilities. Her death is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise horrifically depressing tale.

 

 

To be fair, Stephen King doesn't just write evil mothers - although his heroes do have a tendency to be somewhat damaged or sullied. Case in point, we have Donna Trenton, the adulterous wife but loving mother ofCujo. Her affair is crucial to the story, as it not only helps drive her husband away, but also distracts him from realizing where she is, and potentially coming to her rescue sooner. In the meantime, trapped in a broken down car with her toddler, she fights off dehydration, heatstroke, and a rabid dog to keep Tad alive, braving the rabid fury of Cujo's rabid bites multiple times.

 

 

In Clive Barker's Weaveworld, Immacolata, The Hag, and Magdalene are triplet sisters, the latter two of whom Immacolata strangled to death in the womb. The Hag survives as a ghost, while Magdalene survives as an ectoplasmic fiend, with the two of them sharing some odd Motherly duties. Magdalene frequently rapes defenseless men, and then gives birth to their brutally deformed offspring (called by-blows) hours later, at which time The Hag examines the afterbirth for her prophetic tellings. Magdalene is about as dark and horrific as a mother gets, being both beautiful and hideous, seductive and terrifying, with her abominations one of the most horrific aspects of the book.

 

 

Like King, however, not all of Clive Barker's mothers are evil . . . although they do tend towards the monstrous. Allow me to draw your attention to The Madonna and her daughters from the Books of Blood. The Madonna herself, as the name suggests, is a hermaphroditic sort of virgin mother, a grotesque headless, limbless creature, swimming beneath the surface of an abandoned basement swimming pool, who gives birth to monstrous offspring - which are then lovingly nursed by her beautiful nymph-like daughters. Although Garvey sees the women and their children as monstrous creatures of horror and disgust, and is driven mad by the gender transformation they inflict upon him, Jerry can see the loving, nurturing aspect beneath the monstrous, and ultimately accepts his own gender transformation as a sort of miracle.

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url 2015-04-16 12:23
Tough Travels with . . . Awesome Displays of Magic

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: AWESOME DISPLAYS OF MAGIC

Sometimes magic can be subtle. Who wants that? Big explosions or acts of creation, death and destruction or acts of awe inspiring wonder. If your world has magic then why not show it off?

 

For starters, let's take a look at The Runelords by David Farland. This is a series that's all about awesome displays of magic. Unfortunately, it's also a series that struggles to keep topping itself with those displays, often at the expense of character building or plot, but the first 2 or 3 books are well worth reading. Basically, this is a world where attributes such as strength and charisma can be magically transferred from one person to another. Runelords who gorge themselves on these endowments become superhuman - and when one becomes too superhuman, the other just gets another endowment, becoming more superhuman, so the other gets another endowment . . . and the cycle continues.


As much as I felt his Mistborn Trilogy lost steam after the first book, suffering from the absence of my favorite character, there's no question Brandon Sandersonknows how to establish kick-ass magical systems. There are actually 3 kinds of magic in the series, but it's allomancy that really provides the awesome. Basically, allomancers eat small bits of metal and 'burn' them internally, providing them with different abilities, based on the metal (strength from pewter, enhanced vision from tin, etc.). Kelsier and Vin are not only able to burn metals, but flare them as well, providing them with even more (temporary) awesome. Their metals of choice are iron and steel, which allow them to either pull or push on other metals, giving them the power to magically race across the rooftops like the bastard child of Spider-Man and a mutant mistress of parkour.


Robert Jordan put a lot of thought into the magic of The Wheel of Time, and it goes far beyond the awesome of the One Power and the taint on saidin. For starters, there's traveling, the art of opening magical portal that allow armies to basically teleport across the world - except these portals are razor edged, removing limbs that don't make it cleanly through, and slicing travelers in two if they don't make it through before the doorway slams shut. Far more awesome than that, though, is the magic of balefire - think a magical laser beam that not only obliterates everything in its path, but actually erases those targets from history so that they're not just dead, they never existed . . . and nothing they've accomplished ever happened.


Before it got all preachy and philosophical, the Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind was actually a solid epic fantasy trilogy with two awesome displays of magic. First of all we have the Confessor's touch, a magical touch through which a Confessor breaks the mind and will of her target, making him or her completely, unconditionally, and helplessly in her thrall. It ensures loyalty and answers, but at the cost of one's sense of self. Next we have the Sword of Truth itself, a weapon wielded by Richard Rahl, that allows him to cut through lies, falsehoods, and deceptions, cutting through anything (no matter how strong or well-protected) that the wielder thinks of as an enemy, but refusing to touch anyone Richard considers a friend or ally.


The Night's Edge series from Julie E. Czerneda has one of the most awesome displays of magic in recent memory. Jenn Nalynn is turnborn, cursed to never leave the valley of Marrowdell, but possessed of an incredible magical power that's basically wishes made real. The first time she uses it, she transforms the dragon's spirit that's been watching over her into a crippled young man. The second time she uses it, she changes the personality of another young man, forcing him to obey her simple command. It gets to the point, as she comes into her power, that very moods are able to subconsciously reshape the world around her, changing behaviors and even the weather to suit her whims.


Finally, simply because I can't resist the temptation to dabble in the dark side, I have to wrap things up withThe Rage of Kings from Andy Remic. Orlana the Changer is a cold, cruel, stunningly beautiful sorceress with absolutely no regard for anything but her own motivations who clawed her way back up from the underworld to take a second crack at power. Where does the awesome come in? Well, she is the mistress of the splice, allowing her to create monstrous creatures by magically twisting horses, lions, bears, orcs, and men into terrible, tortured, twisted creatures. She coulddo it neatly and cleanly, but she is deliberately imperfect, using the tortured nature of her armies to fuel their rage and hunger, and to instill even more fear in their enemies.

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2015/04/tough-travels-with-awesome-displays-of.html
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url 2015-04-09 11:39
Tough Travels with . . . Unique Flora

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: UNIQUE FLORA

Self-explanatory. If you know of a plant that is either not on earth, or doesn’t act the same way in fantasyland as it does on earth, then you can consider it unique. Have fun.

 

You want a tree that's not a tree, but is also infinitely more than just a tree? Well, look no farther than Rhapsody, the first book of Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of Agesseries. There are five World Trees scattered throughout Haydon's world, with roots that connect to one another through the centre of the planet. Rhapsody, Achmed, and Grunthor must pass into the roots of the World Trees for a magical journey that not only takes them to the other side of the world, but which changes them in the process. It's a long journey too, as you might expect, comprising the first half of the novel, but utterly fascinating.

How about some hungry, poisonous, carnivorous trees?The Coldfire Trilogy from C.S. Friedman features trees that initially seem normal and innocuous. They don't walk or talk, they don't wave their limbs around, and they don't have massive gaping maws in their trunks. Instead, they give off a noxious chemical that drugs passing animals into paralysis, at which time the trees send out creeping tendrils to pierce the terrified beasts and basically suck them dry. Oh, and just because horror always tops horror, there's also the Forbidden Forest - "the Forest is alive, it tears them apart, it strews their blood upon the ground to nurture its foul growth."


Okay, okay, so you really do what those magical, animated trees that possess human-like qualities. The Illearth War, the second book of Stephen R. Donaldson'soriginal Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. In it, Caerroil Wildwood is an immortal Forestal of Garroting Deep - a kind of male dryad - who is responsible for protecting the forests of the Land from Lord Foul's Ravers. During the climactic battle, he literally brings the forest to life, sending an unstoppable army against the forces of Lord Foul. Unfortunately, it's neither an easy victory nor a cheap one - there's a price of eternal servitude to be paid for the assistance of Garroting Deep (a forest of trees that, as you might guess, like to garrott their victims with their branches).

An older, creepier portrayal of trees that aren't quite trees, but something deeper and darker, comes fromStormbringer, the last of Michael Moorcock's originalElric Saga. Mordaga's castle, which lies upon the topmost crag of a tall and lonely mountain, is protected by 139 steps are 49 ancient Elder Trees. As Straasha explains to Elric, "Each elder contains the soul of one of Mordaga's followers who was punished thus. They are malevolent trees-ever ready to take the life of anyone that comes into their domain." Upon approach, each tree releases a shower of leaves that latch onto the flesh of those walking below and begin draining their blood, while sharp branches help keep the victims immobile for feeding.

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2015/04/tough-travels-with-unique-flora.html
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