Posts Tagged ‘Children of the Old Stars’
In:amreading, amwriting, blog post, Films and books, Horror, horror fiction, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, movie inspiration, movies and books, paranormal, science fiction thriller, Supernatural, suspense, suspense thriller, suspense thrillers, writing craft, writing inspiration
Movies often fire my imagination and inspire my writing. These days, I watch movies carefully to see what storytelling tricks I can glean. Special features on DVDs can be instructive, helping me see what choices the directors and writers made to tell their stories. Movies can give me a frame of reference when I’m visualizing a location in one of my novels or imagining how a character might react in trying circumstances. Today, I want to look back at three movies that I found particularly influential.
There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be a novelist if not for The Milagro Beanfield War, directed by Robert Redford and based on the novel by John Nichols. It tells the story of a developer who wants to build a resort in a small New Mexico town and those people who stand up to him, including Joe Mondragon, who resuscitates his father’s beanfield with water slated to irrigate the development’s green lawns. An angel with an accordion and a serape gives our heroes a nudge. For most critics, it explored magical realism in the desert southwest. For me, it showed the kinds of things my family and friends do. The movie showed me that the stories I experience everyday can be worth telling. I started looking at the stories of my mom’s family homesteading in New Mexico and began to imagine what it would be like if people homesteaded an alien world. That led directly to my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro.
I studied German extensively in my college years. My professors not only had us read German literature, but introduced us to German cinema. A major film that came out during that time was Wolfgang Peterson’s film, Das Boot. It is a tense, occasionally humorous, often frightening film that showed the grim realities of crewing a U-Boat during World War II. The movie helped me understand one thing that long bugged me about science fiction films. The space ships often look too clean and everything is so spacious. It struck me that space travel would be much more like working on a submarine. It would be claustrophobic. Fire would mean disaster because it could exhaust the air supply very fast. Every bit of space aboard the ships would be used as wisely as possible to keep costs down. When I started imagining the star vessels in my books, The Pirates of Sufiro and Children of the Old Stars, I imagined that they would be more like the submarine in Das Boot than the Starship Enterprise. This realization helped me visualize my spaceships and think about how the officers and crew would interact with each other.
While I might not have written a novel if not for The Milagro Beanfield War, I wouldn’t have written horror if not for another film I discovered during those years studying German. Werner Herzog’s 1979 film Nosferatu is a remake of the classic 1922 silent film. What made Herzog’s movie special is Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of Count Dracula, which creeped me out while making me care about him at the same time. Characters such as Lord Draco, Alexandra, and Rudolfo from my Scarlet Order vampire novels owe a lot to Kinski’s performance. What’s more, the vampire makeup in that film helped to inspire the human-created monsters in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Perhaps more important than even these elements, Nosferatu taught me that horror is one of the ways to explore human emotion in the extreme. We see humans at their worst as they give into temptations and at their best as they sacrifice themselves for noble causes.
As I write this, I’m working through the second editorial pass of my forthcoming novel The Astronomer’s Crypt and I find these movies have influenced this work as well. The setting is my beloved southwestern United States, which I learned to utilize from The Milagro Beanfield War. I endeavor to create tension like that in Das Boot and we see humans at their best and worst as we do in Nosferatu. I’m sure this won’t be the last novel to be influenced by these amazing films.
It’s not very often that I find myself finishing a book with my jaw literally dropped open. That’s what happened with David Lee Summers’ new novel, Heirs of the new Earth. I flat out admit I was disappointed. Not with the ending of the tale but the very fact that I had come to the adventure’s conclusion. Summers carefully breaks up his tale into sections and like a master weaver threads separate story arcs and characters across the galaxy, spinning the fabric of an amazing tale of science fiction adventure that kept me on the edge of my chair eagerly scrolling page after page. A warning to every reader . . . block off a good chunk of time, pour your favorite beverage and sit down in your favorite comfort chair. Once you start reading, the story jumps out and grabs hold, drawing you into a world one thousand years in the future where mankind has spread across the universe, contacted other intelligent life, and colonized new worlds.
Not all life in the galaxy is warm, fuzzy and humanoid. This, in my opinion, is where Summers shines like a fiery day star. The author creates a palpable sense of awe and dread painting an intricate portrait of a mysterious alien race known only as the Cluster. Summers’ prologue gives the reader a sense of the mysterious alien(s), their history in the galaxy and the beings’ desire to merge with another species to use as “Appendages”. Unfortunately for humanity WE have been chosen. Summers intricately dissects the cost/benefit analysis of human interaction with an “All powerful entity” motivated to “Help” us cure disease and cleanse the Earth for our benefit. Sometimes the price for paradise can be too steep and the motivation of a benefactor not always as pure as one is led to believe. Summers creates a viable web of intrigue and puts a morality study into play as humanity is unwittingly aiding in its own destruction.
Summers takes the battle for humanity into deep space at the Galactic Core with incredible ships such as the Mapping Cruiser ‘Nicholas Sanson’ led by Captain John Mark Ellis and the refit pirate schooner ‘Legacy’ headed by the elder Captain Ellision Firebrandt. But he also utilizes cerebral pathways and gateways of the human mind manipulated by the advanced alien intellect. Summers’ brilliant depiction of an ancient sailing vessel navigating interstellar space populated by copies of human brain patterns literally made me stop mid-read and ponder the possibility of such an incredible concept. Summers goes even further as he creates the final epic space battle to save humanity from its “Benefactors.” It is here that all the story arcs come together, each fabric of Summers’ tapestry woven to perfection culminating in the final battle to save humanity not only from the Cluster but from itself. Again, David Lee Summers shows his story-telling genius by throwing a major twist into the salvation of humanity and giving the reader another moment for dramatic pause to consider such a wondrous possibility that man may not be the best intellect on Earth. In the end it isn’t human genius or firepower that saves mankind but something more subtle, awe inspiring, yet somewhat terrifying at the same time. As the danger for humanity isn’t over but may only be delayed as the powerful alien Cluster learns and develops from its new host appendage.
It took longer than normal to get involved with the main characters of this tale because it’s the third book in a trilogy, and though it’s apparent there are relationships established in the first two books that continue in the third, this doesn’t detract from the story as the relationships become self-evident and the plots cleverly merge together. Summers’ ability to create a unique future for humanity is quite believable as the problems that impact modern day society in the 21st century are still there in the 30th century only exasperated in scale.His description of 30th century Earth is as fantastic as it is credible which makes this epic tale about the struggle to preserve humanity that much more intriguing and viable to any reader.
Grab your favorite chips and beverage, curl up in a nice cozy spot and give your mind and imagination the treat of this incredible tale told by a unique, gifted author. The only problem I have now is waiting to get book one and book two.
The Old Star Saga by David Lee Summers includes:
What it’s About:
The Cluster is a vast alien machine that destroys starships indiscriminately in its quest for something or someone. Commander John Mark Ellis, disgraced and booted out of the service when he fails to save a merchant ship, believes the key to stopping the Cluster is communication. Clyde McClintlock believes the Cluster is God incarnate. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own starship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together these three set out to solve the mystery of the Cluster before it finds the object of its quest.
Get CHILDREN OF THE OLD STARS right here at Lachesis Publishing for only .99 cents!
Let’s get one thing clear up front. Piracy is a terrible crime. Modern pirates capture people and vessels and hold them for ransom, sometimes committing murder when they don’t get what they want. Even in the so-called golden age of Caribbean piracy during the 18th and 19th centuries, pirates were thieves and murderers. So why is it we enjoy pirates and the stories about them so much?
First off, it’s clear that to choose a life of piracy, you pretty much have hit rock bottom. Your alternatives in life are to go on the street and be a beggar or steal from your own neighbors just to survive. In that “golden age” of piracy, crews of British Navy ships were “conscripted” by sailors going out in the street and literally kidnapping people who didn’t have the money to pay a bribe. These people would be hauled off to work on ships in terrible conditions for years. The crews on these ships would be flogged for the least offense, exposed to death and disease, and put in the front lines of any danger the ship faced. Life on a pirate ship, where you were treated with some modicum of humanity, could look pretty good after all that.
So, at their most basic level, pirate stories give us hope. We learn that no matter how bad life has gotten there is some way to claw ourselves up from the bottom to something that’s at least a little better than what we had before. Not only do pirates represent hope, they represent freedom. We have the picture of them roaming the high seas, going where they want, living a life awash in rum and leisure.
The truth is not quite so much fun, but there are reasons pirates become symbols for freedom. In the golden age of piracy, the captain of a British Naval ship was an absolute tyrant who could make your life a living hell on a whim. Pirate crews of the period often voted on which of their crewmembers would lead them. If one became too much of a martinet, the crew would rise up and elect a new captain. What’s more, pirates played a role in American independence from Britain. Colonel Andrew Jackson sought help from the pirate Jean Laffite in the 1814 Battle of New Orleans.
I explore the theme of pirates and freedom in my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. It tells the story of a pirate crew stranded on a distant planet and how they must work together to build a life. The conflict builds when the established government discovers valuable resources on the planet and starts to exploit the society founded by the pirates, raising questions about who is really worse, the pirates or the industrialists who will go to any means necessary to win a war.
In the sequels, Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth, we find that the descendants of the pirates are well suited by their ability to question authority and break a few rules. They uncover one of the galaxy’s best hidden secrets and fight to save the Earth and the entire galaxy.
Along with the relative freedom piracy has afforded people over the centuries has also come a sense of equality. If you’re strong enough or good enough, you can obtain fortune or command, no matter who you are and no matter what your gender. There are numerous examples of women pirates throughout history. Among the most famous are Anne Bonney and Mary Read, but one of my favorites is Grace O’Malley. Not only did O’Malley command a pirate ship during the 16th century, she rose to become chieftain of the O’Malley clan in Ireland. She makes a brief cameo in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
Of course pirates have a long literary tradition, appearing in books like Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (who I share a birthday with!) So go out there and find some books about pirates. Yes, you’re sure to find high adventure and thrilling escapades, but you’ll also find stories of hope, freedom, and equality. Yo ho!
Our guest blog today is by Lachesis author David Lee Summers. David has written several horror and science fiction novels for Lachesis including The Pirates of Sufiro which is free, and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.
Our ongoing topic is: what inspires your writing? Over to you David . . .
When asked what inspires me, I think of the 1985-92 television series Ray Bradbury Theater. During the intro segment, Ray Bradbury walked into an old cage elevator and came out in an office full of memorabilia and toys. He referred to it as his “magician’s toyshop.” All he had to do was look around and begin. As it turns out, I first met Ray Bradbury in 1983 and he encouraged me to go through life with eyes wide open, because an author never knows where inspiration will strike.
As with most writers, books can be an inspiration for me. Several years ago, I read Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love and John Nichols’ The Magic Journey, back to back. Both told stories of life in a frontier. In Time Enough for Love, the frontier was space. In The Magic Journey, the frontier was New Mexico. As I read the two books, I thought of my grandparents and great-grandparents who homesteaded New Mexico at the end of the nineteenth century. I wondered what it would be like to tell that story in space. Ultimately, that became the genesis of my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro.
My “day” job is operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Not only do I have the opportunity to contribute to world-class science, I find myself awash in inspiration, and sometimes in very unexpected ways. Back in the 1990s, one of my fellow telescope operators was a fan of vampire novels. She loved everything from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice, and she hooked me on the genre. We used to joke that telescope operators were the vampires of the observatory because we were only visible from sunset to sunrise. This made me ask what if a vampire really was a telescope operator? As I considered that question, I wrote down what would ultimately become the first chapters of Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
Of course, working at an observatory, having the opportunity to see planets, stars, and galaxies regularly, also inspires me in more expected science fictional directions. One night, while observing the heart of our own galaxy in the infrared, a visiting astronomer remarked that we were seeing farther into the center of the galaxy than any human had seen before. I began to imagine ways humans really could visit the center of the galaxy and that started me on a writing path that ultimately led to my novels Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth.
My current writing project takes some inspiration from my job at Kitt Peak. The 4-meter telescope is housed in a 17-story tall skyscraper on a remote mountain in Southern Arizona. At night, the building is mostly empty. Stairways go off in unusual directions. Doors open onto odd-shaped, closet-like spaces. What few lights there are, are typically red and dim. Astronomers often remark how scary the building feels. Because of this, I’ve been working on a new novel that imagines a terrifying night at a haunted observatory called, The Astronomer’s Crypt.
Over the years, I’ve been building my own magician’s toyshop. I collect things that grab my eye, build models of spaceships that capture my imagination, and buy prints from science fiction convention art shows that depict alien worlds. On the wall in the picture (on the left), you can see a model I built of a solar sail, a type of spacecraft NASA and other space agencies are trying to build. It’s the thing that looks a little like an old farmhouse windmill. Imagining travel aboard a solar sail spacecraft led to my novel The Solar Sea.
In general, inspiration comes in favorite songs. It comes when I spend time with my kids and my wife. Sometimes inspiration finds me while I’m taking a walk through my neighborhood, hashing out an idea. I’ve found Ray Bradbury’s advice to me all those years ago to be absolutely true. A writer must go through life with eyes and ears open, because inspiration is everywhere.
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