Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fantasy fiction: Return to Legos in the basement

This meanders a bit, but I promise you it will get somewhere.  Whether or not it is where you actually want to go is wholly dependent.

Back in October, I saw a film called The Whole Wide World.  It was a biopic of writer Robert E. Howard.  Howard is of course the creator of Conan the Barbarian.  Set in rural Texas where Howard lived out his years, the movie depicted him as a wordsmith who was depressed, antisocial, agitated, and viewed as completely eccentric by his fellow townspeople.

I can relate.

Besides identifying with Howard (although I entirely lack his genius), the film became the omphalos, "ground zero" if you will of an entirely unintended consequence.  I began to go through my issues of Conan the Barbarian from Marvel Comics and purchased editions of Howard's short Conan stories in a used bookstore.  I enjoyed rediscovering Conan, that man of "sullen" or "smoldering blue eyes and a black square-cut mane" as Howard described him in slightly homoerotic terms (not that there is anything wrong with that.  Got it, North Carolina?)

Conan was a man of enormous physical strength and was a cunning warrior, a barbarian in the Hyborian Age, a forgotten era of history that took place between the sinking of Atlantis and the rise of known ancient civilizations.  A man of power yet one tinged with a sense of sadness and endowed with a bleak point of view that this life is uncertain and at many times pointless.  Everyone will one day die, the most you can hope for is to do so with a fistful of steel swinging in your hand.

I can relate.

Except for the sword part.

Among the more enjoyable reading experiences I had during this time was Howard's quintessential Conan story, Red Nails.  In that tale, Conan discovers a lost jungle city where the inhabitants are resigned to their own destruction and decide to live out their final days by reveling in perverse sexual acts.  Yes, Howard was making a statement.  The real effect that reading all these stories and comics had upon me was something that had not happened since the first installment of The Lord of the Rings films back in 2001.

I began to like fantasy again.

I yearned to be a 6th grader once more, discovering Dungeons & Dragons for the first time.  I wanted to play out stories involving clerics, wizards, elves, thieves, and of course...warriors who fear neither dirt, nor blood, nor blade.  While this inspiration was strong, I still didn't feel like I quite had the chops to write it.  I mean, I am a science fiction writer through and through, who also dabbles in action pulp thrillers and the odd "literary" piece...whatever the hell that means these days.  I just didn't know if I could write a Dungeons & Dragons type of story.

Then it hit me.  Why write it?  At least not in the conventional sense?  Might I not return to a medium I once practiced many many years ago?  One I have never talked about before?  Don't worry, it's not obscene.

It's the what is now cliche use of Lego characters acting out a story in either video or still shot.  My basement is full of Legos and other toys, several of them being from the "Castle" genre.  I also have a digital camera.  I have everything that I need.  Additionally, building the sets and all the other little arty undertakings are just the distraction that I need from the ennui of my own pointless existence.

So look out, Interwebs.  A Lego/Imaginenext cast photographed in a Howard/Tolkien mash-up fantasy will soon be uploaded to you.  I am still writing, still blogging, and still working on a as yet to be revealed secret project.  So no release date for the fantasy epic.  Taking it in a very casual manner.

Otherwise what fun would it be?

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