Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Tragedy of Apollo Creed

In all fairness, I should point out ahead of time that the following entry will interest only me. It is considered bad form for a writer to do that, but the following entry MUST be written.

I’ve always maintained that the first four Rocky movies is just as much about Apollo Creed as it is the titular hero. His story arc follows that of the traditional tragic hero.

He starts as the best in the world, unbeatable, untouchable: a figure who’s almost grown mythical in his prowess. Every other fighter is too scared to face him, at least, in his own humble opinion. He’s cocky, arrogant and deservedly so. He’s very good at what he does. He’s just not as good as he thinks he is. No-one possibly could be.

His own hubris leads him to choose a random fighter, on the assumption that any fighter he picks will not be a threat to him. And Rocky doesn’t beat him. But Rocky embarrasses him and puts his reputation into doubt. Once again, his pride gets the better of him and he rushes blindly into a fight that can only hurt him.

By doing so, he loses the title and he fades to the background.

But his arc has not reached full decline. By the fourth movie, he has fallen completely by the wayside. Forgotten mostly by the public at large, he allows himself to take on one last fight and is killed in the ring.

In days of old, Apollo Creed would have been the hero of any Greek tragedy. The brave warrior whose single flaw is his own ability to recognize his own fallibility. But in our own culture, there is less reverence for the best of the best. If anything, the Best is held up as an example of something to be mocked and derided. They’re shown as insufferable, arrogant and consumed with thoughts of themselves.

Instead, we worship the underdog; the little guy that rises up and topples the number one guy off his throne. The Karate Kid, any Rocky movie, The Bad News Bears, or pretty much any sports movie.

Where once the winners, like Apollo Creed (or Odysseus or Jason or Hercules) would have poems and epics and plays written about them, they’re now relegated to the supporting roles while the loser takes the stage.

Dylan Charles

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Beyond the Veil

Millenia ago, people believed that alongside our own world was another world. The worlds existed apart, but the borders between the two could wear thin and it was possible to cross from one t’other.

It was said that in certain places, during certain times, going to the other world was as easy as crossing through a doorway. One just had to know how.

But to do so, would be to draw the attention of the things that lay beyond the veil. Those things were often beautiful, magickal and immortal, but they were also vicious, cruel and insane. And they coveted us.

There were many stories that told of people being taken. Often the people would never return. Or they would return, only not in their right mind. The beauty of the other world was a strong draw, but it was beyond anyone’s mind to comprehend. Colors and shapes that could not and should not exist. Sounds that demanded to be heard, but defied recognition. The other world was an offense to the mind and abhorrent to the senses, in spite of that awe-full beauty.

So people began to learn the Rules that governed travel between the two worlds. They noted the special times and the special places where travel occurred, even without the consent of the traveler. And sometimes the travel happened the other way: they would come to our world to come for what they coveted.

They noticed that the travel happened during the In-Between Times. The time between night and day. The time between seasons. These were times when it was most easy for the things beyond the veil to cross-over. The biggest In-Between Time came during fall. It was in-between seasons, and in-between years, for they used a different calendar than we did and their New Year was in Fall. It was a powerful time, when the border between the worlds all but fell ‘way.

The people would lock their doors as the sun set, because the time In-Between Day and Night gave the other side the strength it needed to cross over. Inside their homes, they would try and ward off the magick folk that moved through and into shadow. The creatures that lived in the walls of our world. Little scratching, gnawing things that took no shape, that blinded with their very existence, that wanted to take the children away as their own, to be raised in that Other World.

It was a day dreaded and now, on our calendar, that day falls on October 31st.

Dylan Charles

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Anticipation

There’s something you should know about me: I am straight up crazy.

Now I can already hear you saying, “But Dylan, we already knew that. Why are you making a special mention of it today?”

Well I’ll tell you Hypothetical Reader. It’s getting pretty close to that time. And you know what time of year I’m talkin’ about too: Halloween time.

Now, I know some of you are looking at me askance while the rest of you are rolling your eyes, but if one takes into account that stores begin marketing holidays a month and a half before the day, then really, Halloween time starts mid-September. So is it really so crazy that I get excited around August?

I’ve always loved Halloween. It’s a love that comes from the same place that loves horror movies and Stephen King novels and paintings by Bosch. It’s the one time of year where I can indulge in my morbid idiosyncrasies and blend in, rather than stand out. But, for once, my vast knowledge of horror comes in handy, rather than marking me as an oddity.

Hell, by the standards of other people during Halloween, I’m downright lowkey. I don’t do a lot of dressing up and running around the city. My only problem will be that, this year, I won’t have a way to properly celebrate. I’m in no way going to do Thirty-One Days of Horror again. So I need to find something else to do. Suggestions?

Dylan Charles

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Book Review: Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds

It’s been a while since I’ve read any new science fiction, meaning anything written in the last twenty years. Usually I just stick with Neal Stephenson, with occasional flirtations with folks like William Gibson and Orson Scott Card. Most of the time though, I stick with the old timers: Bradbury, Asimov, Heinlein, those guys. They’ve got brand name recognition. Delving into science fiction unguided leads to reading stuff, like Island of Fear.

So Chasm City was an unknown for me; I had no expectations about quality. Luckily it turned out to be extremely well-written.

The science fiction that resonates best with me is the kind that uses these fictional worlds to examine humanity. It’s not the tech or the aliens or the newest pop science ideas crammed rudely into the plot: it’s how the author imagines people responding in these strange new worlds.

For Mr. Reynolds, people act, more or less, as they always have. It doesn’t matter that (for the very rich anyway) immortality is a distinct possibility. It doesn’t matter that near-light speed travel is a real thing or that nanotech is commonplace. People are still people and the technology has little to do with it. His cast of characters would fit into any time period, in spite of their genetic modifications or extra long lifespans.

They’re a wide collection of ne’er-do-wells, heartless bastards, desperate poor, cynical optimists and bored aristocrats. Reynold’s future is not exactly hopeful but nor is it apocalyptic. Humanity is surviving, as it always has. The only thing that has changed is the location.

Chasm City also spends a fair amount of time talking about memory and its effect on personality. What truly makes up a person? Are they just the accumulation of their memories or are they more than that? It’s a topic that authors like, say, Philip K. Dick have talked about at length. But Reynolds put together an even more intricate scenario than even Dick, a plot strand that’s almost hard to track at times, which is fine by me.

Everyone has something to hide and everyone has secrets, the main character having the most to hide, even from himself. Figuring out the main character’s past and not quite knowing the main character’s past was done so well and added so much to the general theme of the book, that it didn’t strike me till just now how big of a cliche it is to have a mysterious past.

I’ll be going back to the rest of the series at some point, I think. Mr. Reynolds has shown me that the genre still has more to offer.

Dylan Charles

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An Extended, Steam-Powered Metaphor

I am heading very quickly into the UNKNOWN.

And there’s something kind of spooky about that. This UNKNOWN, a territory that stretches further than the distance between New York and California. It is vast, an expanse that boggles the mind and contains any number of horrors and wonders. There are dragons there, of course, and they may eat maidens or they may just talk in annoyingly obtuse parables. There are trolls and riches and demons and angels and all kinds of things litter the roads that wind and twist and snake their way through the UNKNOWN. And these roads are treacherous things, it’s a foolish notion to walk along them unaided. One must have a plan to travel through the UNKNOWN safely.

My plan is a rough-hewn construct; really nothing more than a skeletal structure, steel girders riveted together in a rapid fashion, rust streaking it from where I neglected it and left the parts in the rain. And this construct is what’s going to carry me deeper into the UNKNOWN; a mechanical titan that totters about on shaky legs and runs on steam and has guts made of cogs and whirling gizmos. It creaks and groans and does not endow feelings of security upon its operator. It’ll stumble on obstacles, most likely, faltering on treacherous ground.

But it’s what I have made for myself. And I am fine, for the most part. I’ve never been big on grandscale plans, much to the chagrin of everyone who knows me. My plans extend, maybe, five years into the future. But they get creakier and more wobbly the further out you go. Most people, I think, do not march into the UNKNOWN in such devices. They have sleek and shiny vehicles that run on hopes and dream and common sense and foresight and an IRA and job security.

In 13 days, I’ll be testing out my plan. And we’ll see how far it takes me. And if it breaks down, deep in UNKNOWN territory, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to make another one right on the spot.

Dylan Charles

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Welcome

I’ve noticed recently that there are quite a few people coming here from places where my stories are posted, namely Ichor Falls and Tales of the Zombie War.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I always feel a bit odd because I’m worried that folks come over to my blog expecting more horror and zombies and vampires and demons and evil pizzas. And, instead, they get politics, music rants and my mindless ramblings about daisy farms.

At my old blog, I did post stories. And for three years, I even did something called 31 Days of Horror, where I wrote one horror story a day for the entire month of October. And while that was a hell of a lot of fun (and stress), I always felt on edge about just posting rough draft stories. If my stuff is going to be out there, it should be polished and nice and not filled with typos and spelling errors.

I was also worried that someone would consider posting a story on a blog as being “previously published” and that would lead to complications. So I decided to avoid all of that and instead I just write my nonsensical blog entries and save my fiction for other places.

But, for those of you looking for horror, just head on over to Dylan on the Web to see links to places where my stories are currently posted. And there will be more there at some point.

And then you can come back here and see what I REALLY think about those goddamn daisy farms.

Dylan Charles

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Me and the Devil Blues

I’ve not really been on speaking terms with music lately. I’ve listened to the same two playlists over and over again, to the point where I no longer hear the music. It’s just a droning noise in the background, indistinguishable from any other sound. An endless, sound that rolls and wavers that is little more than white noise to me. Occasionally I’ll catch a snatch of something that sparks, jolting me into actually hearing what I’ve been listening to, but then it subsides again into a mindless atonal noise.

It’s a depressing thing, because while having music isn’t the end-all for me, it does mean something to me and it plays an important role in my creative drive. It’s always been there to me, to more or lesser degrees. I’ve even based some stories (loosely) on songs I’ve listened to. Sometimes it’s just a feeling that the song provokes that I then translate into story format, like the song “Wanna Rock & Roll” where a man with a cold black heart and red hot mind kills his lady because she dances with another man. If you’ve read my stories, you can probably see why this song appeals to me.

It’s always functioned as a catalyst for me, but lately I’ve been stuck in a rut, both in my writing and what I’ve been listening. So maybe if I switch up what I’ve been listening to, I can get back to writing again in earnest.

If I can find the time anyway.

15 Days Remaining.

Dylan Charles

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