Friday, January 20, 2012

My Little Ponies Massacred!!!!

So Shining in Darkness, my first non-urban fantasy is coming out Feb. 15. I've been thinking, maybe I need to find yet another way of whoring my thoughts to the world. Movie is generally my big bro's territory, but I figure I can handle a trailer. Have you ever seen book trailers? We've already discussed this. Pitiful. It is painful to watch them. So how could I be different, fun, and hip while examining sprites (as in fire sprites etc) doomed to a bloody Prophecy?

The answer was obvious: My Little Ponies and a lot of gore:

or click here

Now, you loyal few will be privy to what few have known before. The answer to why they are fat little ponies:

I got my start writing before I could actually write. Mom and Dad would staple together typing paper I would draw on. Then I would tell them the words I wanted and they would show me how to form them. I got a few awards for short stories, but my writing career swallowed my life whole when I was nine. My friend RoseAnna and I already had a so called friend teasing us for still playing with toys. Junior high loomed. We had to sit down and have a serious talk. Our childhoods were about to end, sitting there on my bedroom floor, my entire room made into a terrain for My Little Ponies. We knew every detail of our main character's lives. We knew every trial they faced, and could always elaborate on them or come up with another.

RoseAnna was glum and probably hating me for bringing this up. Neither of us wanted the fantastic out of our lives. Staring at the plaster and plastic Golden Knight, who was the Eldrins' (we didn't call them ponies) God. He had a whole tragic back story too, which explained his hated brother Exidor, also a God, who always tried to kill the Eldrins and the Golden Knight.

At this moment, I had a fantastic ah-ha. Now, let me explain my mother had already made me privy to the creation of novels. She spent my childhood writing them and trying to publish. I knew what to do with stories. And we had stories. "What if they were sort of novels--or two. One, like, about the Eldrins, and then a prequel about how everybody got to be gods and fated and everything?"

At 9, I began my ambitious project in a notebook covered in puffy endangered species stickers. RoseAnna ended up writing the prequel, while I wrote about the Eldrins. It was originally supposed to be the other way around.

Laugh. I know I do. But in less than three years, I had an, albeit long hand, 1500 page draft. RoseAnna topped me. By now the Eldrins were more like multicolored, slim elves. Horses were too hard to work with. Esp. since I'd ridden one twice. Also, privately, I thought the horse thing was dumb and babyish. I worked on editing that book until I was fifteen. I memorized characters, scenes. I knew when I had changed a word where and why.

Then it just became apparent to me. The duo books didn't work. It was impossible to keep all the connections between the two we wanted to draw on without crippling one or both of our writing. Plus, RoseAnna and my styles were pulling so far apart I couldn't guarantee someone who read one wouldn't have a rude shock reading the other. At that point, she was far more epic. I already tried to break the epic mood every chance I got. Hers were the characters getting married in the end, but mine were the ones having sex. She had an ethereal beauty in her words. True to my childhood, I liked to get down in the mud and sink my hands in. RoseAnna still struggled to make her book work. And it was unfair of me to make the decision without her, but my My Little Ponies and I finally parted. I simply told her I had finished the final draft, and I was more than ready to move on to the next book that had gotten into my blood.

RoseAnna eventually moved on to a different fantasy project, too. It must have been late college before we admitted to each other that our first novels were flawed, mainly in that they depended on each other.

But years later and a few fantasy books on, I found myself in a masters and certificate program in secondary education at U of Mich. Don't get me wrong, I love being a teacher. My student teaching placement kids will be etched in blood in my soul forever. But as it was a year long program, we pulled very long days. And three hour classes. I had been a great student, up till this point in my life, but I am tired, and they are talking jargon. The light is fluorescent and it is already dark outside.

Something deep, deep within my soul stirred. Covered in mud and made of bright plastic. One thing you learn in teaching school is what not to do. Telling all of your students they absolutely must bring and use a MacBook in your class--not so smart. I was on facebook more than the rest of my facebook using altogether. Everyone in class had friended each other, so a constant, second conversation took place. But I needed something even more. It was visceral, bloody and wild. It was childhood.

Almost all the ponies had belonged to RoseAnna. I had given away my handful to her when we broke off the games, rather than have them separated.

But eBay helped me get the old gang back together. Over the course of many classes, I searched out each of our most loved characters (so, like, 30). When I finally did get to go home, little boxes would wait for me, filled with magic.

As I sat, stroking plastic hair and drinking in the colors, I could touch each pony's personality. Each history. Each foible and triumph.

Of this moment, the ah-ha struck again. Divorced from the prequel except for some references, strip almost every aspect of the plot away--the characters weren't bad. I had to age them up a bit so that they felt like teenagers instead of what a kid thinks teenagers are like. At first it was just my doodling puzzle. But the temptation was too much, and the bait tasted great.

So my ponies rose to be sprites--beings of one particular streak of magic--fire sprite, dream sprite, rock sprite, fertility sprite--nothing left but the echoes of personalities that once had been.

Don't worry, the book doesn't sound like a nine-year-old wrote it now. But I sometimes wonder if we ever leave that which we truly love, that formed us.

So when it came time to publicize Shining in Darkness, I could only think of one thing. A stop motion, gore fest tribute to the book's humble beginnings. For those who didn't know me when I was twelve, who didn't read this blog--no earthly reason the two connect. Is the video still amusing and eye catching at least? How can you not like those cute little ponies kicking ass?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fairy Tales

Let's take it to the Way Back Machine, Sherman.  The way, way, way, way the hell back.

We're talking fairy tales, or so they are termed now.  We're talking fairy tales because we are still reading and writing and watching them.  Disney, of course, jumps to mind.  But our fantasy literature is rife with adaptations of fairy tales.  I've already mentioned Beastly, movie and book.  Robin McKinley spawned two "Beauty and the Beast"--the first, Beauty, being an all time favorite of mine.  Tam Lins crop up everywhere.  Beagle, Jones (twice) and Dean, among others, guilty.  Making me doubly guilty as Weaver's Web is a hard twist on Tam Lin and even Rebirth includes a Tam Lin sequence.  I even have a Beauty and the Beast slated, but I have to get through this series first.  So, why are we so fascinated?  Why do modern authors and readers return to these primal, Jungian stories over and over?  Where do they come from?

I had a fascination with fairy tales from an early age.  Even our Disney-ified versions are not the usual child's fair.  In Snow White, a step mother is so jealous she repeatedly tries to kill her step daughter.  Why were we fed this stuff?

So I did my high school term paper on Grimms' fairy tales.  Only they were originally Household Tales, and meant for adults.  The Grimms had changed up the stories to fit the every day sensibilities.  A father eating a stew made from his son being, obviously, the modern sensibility ("The Juniper Tree").

So here's the dish.  The Grimms used fewer sources than they made it sound.  Most of their sources were easily accessible.  These were the nannies and cooks of the places the Grimms frequented.  I do not believe for a second that a nanny of the Grimms' best friend told a perfectly honest account of what she told her friends.  That aside, the Grimms set out to save the oral stories of the common people to publish and save.  That was their platform.

Only many of the stories didn't quite suit their tastes.  Interestingly, the Grimms added violence.  A lot of the just deserts that were served, were served up by the Grimms, not their sources.  The original tales were chaotic folklore, based on chaotic folklore and myth that preceded it, past down through the ages by an illiterate culture huddled around fires at night, trying to out-do each other.

The only notably less disturbing thing the Grimms did before repackaging their tales--all those step mothers.  Why is the fairy tale obsessed with evil step mothers?  The answer, it isn't.  Snow White?  Her own mother wanted her dead.  Cinderella, the classic step mother?  Not a step.  Deerskin getting raped by a step father?  Um.  A little more incestuous.  At the time, mothers were held up as paragons of virtue.  They were saintly, even.  The angel of the household.  Man's better half.  We couldn't have them running around killing their children.  So the "step" got inserted.

As much as Grimms glorified in violent, bloody ends, there was something they could not stand about the tales they told, and certainly couldn't hand the high born gentry:  Sex.  We still like to skip it in our retellings.  Possibly because we don't know, and possibly because we are still a culture that would rather have blood, guts, gore, and child eating than a little rock 'n' roll (in its original sense).

Before the Grimms had their way, for instance, in one of the versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" passed around, she did a strip tease for the wolf and got called a slut by her grandmother's cat.  I love that one (another tale I'm considering adapting, once I get through the three or so books in front of it).  However, it can't be beat that in more than one version of "Rapunzel," the witch (*cough*mother*cough*) found out about Rupunzel's prince climbing her long hair because the next door neighbor (so much for a tower deep in the woods) informed the witch (*cough*mother) that by the smell of it, and the flies around the window, Rapunzel would soon be knocked up and would probably run away with the best silver.  Yikes.  That could even make me blush.

But we don't use it.  Admittedly, Rapunzel is a bit of a hard story to mess with (though I'd like to try) since she spends so much time in a tower, though if you kick it old school, she also gets thrown into a wasteland to take care of her twins (knocked up) while the prince got his eyes poked out and wandered around blind till he found her again.  Which might be more interesting.

My fav adaptation is a broad range of adaptations and goes not to a fantasy writer, but to Stephen Sondheim in the musical "Into the Woods".  He tackles a host of fairy tales with both the violence and some of the sex as each for their own reasons, one after another of his characters must go "into the woods".  The woods represent a archetype of leaving society, leaving reality, and entering a space of dream, emotion, danger, and change.  In the second act, the storyteller meets an abrupt end, and the confines of the stories we know and understand bust loose even more all over the place.  Even more than in the first act, stories meet each other, and at points confuse characters into the wrong stories.  Characters learn what they really want in their lives, somewhere in the woods.

This reputation of the woods--this is what I believe we are all attracted to.  Be it children's movie, YLP book, YA movie, adult movie, that kind of adult movie, or a myriad of fantasy books, we all strive to walk back into the woods, to retain this portion of our lives and share it.  Fantasy books and films are especially prone as the goal is so often the same anyway.  We strive for this archetypal space where chaos and learning meet in twisted metaphor.  This is why we write fantasy.  This is why we love it, and this is why we return to those ancient stories over and over again.