Friday, 16 June 2017

Narrative Rebellion: Dark Universe - The Mummy



You know, I think Universal are doing this whole Universal Monsters Shared Universe Reboot backwards: we're thinking of the classical Universal monsters (Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman, Gillman), when there are a wealth of characters in classic Universal films that could be introduced too.

My thinking is that everyone is perfectly familiar with the major characters and the original stories, and we've seen them fighting each other all the time. So, rather than build up to something we've already scene dozens of times, why not start with that, and build up to something else? I keep going back to Kong: Skull Island's wonderfully cosmically-horrific quote:
You heard of the U.S.S. Lautmann? Neither did the public. Out of a thousand young men on that ship I was the only survivor. They told my family she was sunk in battle but I know what I saw. It had no conscience. No reasoning. Just destroy. I spent the last 30 year trying to prove the truth of what I learned that day. This planet doesn't belong to us. Ancient species owned this Earth long before mankind, and if we keep our heads buried in the sand they will take it back.
 - Bill Randa, Kong: Skull Island

Howard fans may find that quote tantalisingly familiar:
A Key! Aye, it is a Key, symbol of a forgotten horror. That horror has faded into the limbo from which it crawled, loathsomely, in the black dawn of the earth. But what of the other fiendish possibilities hinted at by Von Junzt--what of the monstrous hand which strangled out his life? Since reading what Selim Bahadur wrote, I can no longer doubt anything in the Black Book. Man was not always master of the earth - and is he now?

And the thought recurs to me - if such a monstrous entity as the Master of the Monolith somehow survived its own unspeakably distant epoch so long - what nameless shapes may even now lurk in the dark places of the world?
 - The Narrator, "The Black Stone," Robert E. Howard
And on the concept of a Universe of Monsters? Well, there's another Howard quote that comes to mind:

“Through the dim corridors of memory those words lurk... For that phrase has come secretly down the grim and bloody eons, since when, uncounted centuries ago, those words were watch-words for the race of men who battled with the grisly beings of the Elder Universe...”
... for an instant he seemed to gaze back through the vastness that spanned life and life; seeing through the vague and ghostly fogs dim shapes reliving dead centuries — men in combat with hideous monsters, vanquishing a planet of frightful terrors. Against a gray, ever-shifting background moved strange nightmare forms, fantasies of lunacy and fear; and man, the jest of the gods, the blind, wisdom-less striver from dust to dust, following the long bloody trail of his destiny, knowing not why, bestial, blundering, like a great murderous child, yet feeling somewhere a spark of divine fire... 
“They are gone,” said Brule, as if scanning his secret mind; “the bird-women, the harpies, the bat-men, the flying fiends, the wolf-people, the demons, the goblins — all save such as this being that lies at our feet, and a few of the wolf-men. Long and terrible was the war, lasting through the bloody centuries, since first the first men, risen from the mire of apedom, turned upon those who then ruled the world.”

“And at last mankind conquered, so long ago that naught but dim legends come to us through the ages. The snake-people were the last to go, yet at last men conquered even them and drove them forth into the waste lands of the world, there to mate with true snakes until some day, say the sages, the horrid breed shall vanish utterly. Yet the Things returned in crafty guise as men grew soft and degenerate, forgetting ancient wars. Ah, that was a grim and secret war! Among the men of the Younger Earth stole the frightful monsters of the Elder Planet, safeguarded by their horrid wisdom and mysticisms, taking all forms and shapes, doing deeds of horror secretly. No man knew who was true man and who false. No man could trust any man. Yet by means of their own craft they formed ways by which the false might be known from the true... So mankind triumphed. Yet again the fiends came after the years of forgetfulness had gone by — for man is still an ape in that he forgets what is not ever before his eyes...

 - Robert E. Howard, "The Shadow Kingdom"

Now, I am by no means an expert on the Universal Monsters canon: I have watched many of them and enjoyed them a great deal, but I hope folk will forgive me for not having the exhaustive knowledge of this wide subject such a project really deserves. Nonetheless, inspired by my fellow Brad Ellison, I knew I had to write something. So, for the purposes of fun, I had some musings over what I would do were I the creative director of a prospective Dark Universe, taking elements from Robert E. Howard, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other classic adventure authors...

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Robert E. Howard in Scots: "Adventurer"



With Scotland and its future being predominant in my life at this stage, a great deal of that focus has been on Scottish culture and language. In particular, I've been looking deeper into the Scots language itself. I look at all the fine translations of great works into a multitude of languages, and think: why not Scots?

So while I'm absconded from my friends in Cross Plains and the world of Robert E. Howard, I think there's no better way to keep that connection alive than to continue translating Howard into the mither leid.

So, here's the latest. Hoping all my friends in Cross Plains have a wonderful adventure!


Sunday, 25 December 2016

A Stranger Came Ashore


The White Castle of East Lothian

"Did you hear about the newcomer, Caled?"

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Adventures of Saint Andrew, Part Eight: Martyrdom in the Land of Lost Gods



saint-andrew-by-peter-howson
Persecution caused the followers of Asura to hide their temples with cunning art, and to veil their rituals in obscurity; and this secrecy, in turn, evoked more monstrous suspicions and tales of evil.

But Conan’s was the broad tolerance of the barbarian, and he had refused to persecute the followers of Asura or to allow the people to do so on no better evidence than was presented against them, rumors and accusations that could not be proven. "If they are black magicians," he had said, "how will they suffer you to harry them? If they are not, there is no evil in them. Crom’s devils! Let men worship what gods they will."

- "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p151-152
Part One: Seas Red and Black

Part Two: Riders Beyond the Silk Road

Part Three: In The Country of the Man-Eaters

Part Four: The Cross on the Ice

Part Five: The Outermost Ends of the Earth

Part Six: A Cave in the Realm of the Wolf-People

Part Seven: "This Day A Martyr Or A Conqueror!"

The last tour of Saint Andrew would be through civilised lands - and, as tends to be so typical throughout life, it's often the civilised peoples who are the least tolerant of those who are different.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Adventures of Saint Andrew, Part Seven: "This Day A Martyr or a Conqueror!"

thracia-map
Part One: Seas Red and Black

Part Two: Riders Beyond the Silk Road

Part Three: In The Country of the Man-Eaters

Part Four: The Cross on the Ice

Part Five: The Outermost Ends of the Earth

Part Six: A Cave in the Realm of the Wolf-People
One of the elements that came from the Roman and Thracian celebrations was the one about wolves. Is it only a coincidence that we, the descendants of Dacians, whose flag was shaped as a wolf, have chosen the patron of wolves as our protector? During this night, the wolves are allowed to eat all the animals they want. It is said that they can speak, too, but anyone that hears them will die soon.

Early on St. Andrew’s day, the mothers go into the garden and pick tree branches, especially from apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees, but also rose -bush branches. They make a bunch of branches for each family member. The one whose bunch will bloom by New Years day will be lucky and healthy next year.

On St. Andrew’s night ghosts haunt and harass the people. For protection, one should rub the entrance door with garlic and turn all the dishes upside down. A special party takes place now, called “Guarding the garlic”. Boys and girls gather in a house with the doors and windows rubbed with garlic. They also put garlic (three bulbs for each girl) in a wooden tub that is to be guarded till day-break by an old woman, in a candle-lit room. They party all night, and in the morning, the wooden tub is taken outside and they dance around it. Then they all take some garlic home as protection against illness or spells.

St. Andrew is the patron of the wolves, being the one who protects the people attacked by these animals. St. Andrew is also celebrated in order that the wolves should stay away from the households or from the travelers. The salt is charmed and buried under the door of the stable. It will be taken out on St. George and given to the cattle, as a protection against the wolves and other evil things.

- St. Andrew's Day in Romania
St. Andrew is the patron saint of wolves? That explains a lot.

I mentioned Thracians of what is now Bulgaria in an earlier post, but it's worth revisiting this fascinating people. Thrace was one of the first lands Andrew was sent to preach the Gospel, but he may have returned during, or following, his 20 year sojourn in Dacia (Romania). He ordained bishops and priests to Thrace, so perhaps he wanted to check up on them. Knowing the Thracians, that was probably a good idea.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Adventures of Saint Andrew, Part Six: A Cave in the Realm of the Wolf-People

dacia-map

Part One: Seas Red and Black

Part Two: Riders Beyond the Silk Road

Part Three: In The Country of the Man-Eaters

Part Four: The Cross on the Ice

Part Five: The Outermost Ends of the Earth
After dwelling in the veritable hinterlands of the Far North - possibly even Scotland, since the opportunity and route was there - Andrew turned south towards "civilisation." Coming through what is now Poland, he may have encountered other tribes - the early Rugians, Burgundians, and Vandals, who would go on to cause so much trouble for the Romans in the coming centuries. Andrew was deep in the Country of the Barbarians, and far from home.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Adventures of Saint Andrew, Part Five: The Outermost Ends of the Earth

andrew_journey_5


Part One: Seas Red and Black

Part Two: Riders Beyond the Silk Road

Part Three: In The Country of the Man-Eaters

Part Four: The Cross on the Ice
It's often remarked how strange it is for Scotland's patron saint not to be from Scotland (usually from folk who don't know that much about patronage and saints). Not only that, Scotland's thousands of miles from Jerusalem: there's no way could Andrew have even visited Scotland... is there?

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Adventures of Saint Andrew, Part Four: The Cross on the Ice

andrew_journey_4


Part One: Seas Red and Black

Part Two: Riders Beyond the Silk Road

Part Three: In The Country of the Man-Eaters

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of several countries: Scotland, of course, but he's also the patron saint of Barbados, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Romania, Russia, Sicily, Ukraine, and the medieval Kingdom of Prussia. Would it surprise you to learn that there is a possibility he has visited most of them?

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Adventures of Saint Andrew, Part Three: In the Country of the Man-Eaters

andrew_journey_3
When to this far-famed city Matthew came, There rose great outcry through the sinful tribe, That cursed throng of Mermedonians. Soon as those servants of the Devil learned The noble saint was come unto their land, They marched against him, armed with javelins; Under their linden-shields they went in haste, Grim bearers of the lance, to meet the foe. They bound his hands; with foeman's cunning skill They made them fast—those warriors doomed to hell— – Andreas: The Legend of St. Andrew, translated from the Old English by Robert Kilburn Root (1899)
Part One: Seas Red and Black

Part Two: Riders Beyond the Silk Road

And now for something completely different.