Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Contemporary Folklore


There's some old guy opening this page on his Ipad. Somebody else is probably, doing the same thing with his cell phone. And still it is a certainty, many folks are viewing this blog on their laptop and desktop PCs.
Isn't science awesome?

Science fiction museum
Science fiction museum Photo credit: pelican
The genre or subgenre (depends from which side you view it) of fiction popularly called science fiction was not always known by that name. Like lots of stuff in art and life, inspiration and invention come first and then, the naming. It's never the other way around.

Maybe I ought to let you in on a secret from the onset so you don't end up getting disappointed by the end of this write up; this is not a term paper on the history of science fiction. Do not expect an overdose of quotes and proofs. Believe me, you don't need the attention. Rather, try to see how this wonderful and amazing genre has evolved over time to become for us what fantasy was for folks of the Dark Ages.

We've left behind the age when science fiction was primarily a work of speculation as more discoveries and inventions are brought to the fore. Especially, inventions predicted in the writings of several scifi writers. The people of the Middle Ages were up to their neck in tales of dragons, enchanted forests and talking animals. Literally, swarming with stories of evil stepmothers and witches, of poisoned apples and frog princes, of ogres and magic mirrors (who needs magic mirrors when you have Google's internet glasses?).

In modern times-our time-we grew up with tales of computer crashes; hacked Facebook accounts; Bluetooth transfers, tethering, email... Today's folklore is communicated through Cable. Who needs a crystal ball when Google Search gives you access to the world's information with a few keystrokes? Nobody needs worry about preserving ancient scrolls for future generations, just PDF, XPS, DOCX or whatever it. And if the message is for a chosen individual who's got to slaughter a dragon to prove his mettle? No problem, encrypt the document and give him the password. Easy.

Take a look around you and see the reality which for a time was fiction, science fiction.

We talk science, breathe science, eat science, sleep science. Why combat dragons when unmanned drones can go to work for you? The internet, exploration in space, the eBook, air travel (remembering Icarus of blessed memory); we talk about this kind of stuff day after day, it's become a way of life for us, our culture and tradition.

Much of the credit for this technological advancement goes to the literary genre of science fiction, the folklore of the computer generation.

Keep your pen bleeding.



Akpan






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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frodo Baggins & Harry Potter: A Comparison

Frodo Baggins
Photo credit:
fromlandptoenglishtea.blogspot.com
The Hobbit, Frodo Baggins of The Lord of the Rings franchise and the bespectacled wizard, Harry Potter the eponymous character of the fantasy series by J. K. Rowling have striking similarities and peculiarities that all but beg to be recognized.

As far as speculations go, J. K. Rowling's series take after Tolkien's work but my topic is a mile wide of such theories. I'm not even about how the Harry Potter character is a spin-off of Frodo Baggins. What you have here people, is a fan's obsessive streak; a highly opinionated view of two of my favorite fictional characters.
Note: The bold and italicized fonts mark out the similarities.

In Tolkien's LOTR, Bilbo Baggins, who is his Uncle adopts his cousin, Frodo Baggins. The latter's Parents are almost non-existent in the plot. Harry Potter shares a similar fate difference is his parents are indeed dead. He lives with his aunt and uncle-in-law. While Frodo's task is destroying the immortal Dark Lord Sauron and Saving Middle Earth, Harry Potter has his hands full fighting off psycho wizard Lord Voldemort whose mind is bent on taking over the world.

The process by which Frodo becomes the Ring-Bearer and thereby the chosen one is a little complicated but somewhere down the line is An Act of Love that put the show on the road. Frodo's uncle Bilbo whose love for his favorite cousin made him adopt Frodo as heir gave him charge of The Ring before embarking on his journey. In the HP universe, the love of his mother who gave her life for his, saved baby Harry Potter's life and somehow, picked him out as the special one.

Harry Potter
Photo credit: harrypotter.wikia.com
As the fate of their worlds come to rest on the shoulders of these two characters, they are accorded Chaperons. Frodo goes to the Dark Tower with Samwise Gamgee and Gollum (a most unlikely of escorts); Harry leaves on his quest with friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. I have my doubts though, but I perceive the creature Gollum as Frodo's Dark Side. The despicable creature the easygoing and cheerful hobbit could become if The Ring takes over the control of his mind. And who is Harry's dark side but the Lord Voldemort in whose bloodstream flows Harry Potter's blood cells? One of them (Harry or Voldemort) must die if the other is to function maximally.

The Wizards add a twist to the entire storyline. In both characters' lives, two wizards play a major role; one good, the other not-so-good. Frodo has Gandalf the Grey (the good wizard) and Saruman (the evil wizard); Harry has Dumbledore (the good wizard) and on the other hand is Lord Voldemort (the evil wizard).

Another similarity that stares you in the face is the Persuasive ability both Frodo and Harry exhibit in their separate but unique macrocosms. When Frodo and his faithful companion and friend, Samwise catch Gollum riding their backtrail, Frodo talks the creature into guiding them to the Dark Tower where he would destroy the One Ring. And Harry is called upon by Professor Dumbledore to assist in retrieving information from a fellow Hogwarts professor. After much ceremony, Harry successfully drags out the secret about Voldemort's seeming immortality from the villain's former teacher.

Just in case it crossed your mind to ask, who of the two characters is my favorite? That's an easy enough question. I should get you an answer say... in my next lifetime; when I reanimate as a crossbreed of Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter.

Keep your pen bleeding.



Akpan








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Monday, February 25, 2013

Science Fiction + Horror: A Match Made in Mars?

Photo credit: Wikipedia
Science fiction is sensational for a genre which not only explores several delicate issues but attempts to proffer the fundamental reasons behind them. However, I would have you mull over the peculiar twist that takes shape when the storyline of a scifi makes the acquaintance of a shock/suspense plot.

Both genres are masters of their own universes nevertheless, there are such times when a writer crosses the two and creates a sort of art hybrid. The masterpiece which evolves during this literary copulation is something which quickens the human heart to awe. Science fiction with all it's possibilities, limitless multi-verses and travel through time. Horror on the other hand, gripping you by the balls, evoking the worst kind of nightmarish ecstasy, holding its cold claws to the stuff that speeds up your heartbeat and not for the better.

Some of the best science fiction flicks are tinged with horror themes. Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park brought dinosaurs to life. Yet, the weight of the potential disaster, if science decides to delve into such enterprise as pictured in the movie, slides home with relatively greater force because of the horrific content of the story than in spite of it.

The memories carved by images and by implication from Jurassic Park is something that would go to the grave with me. The Resident Evil series is another fine example of a mix of science fiction and horror that hits you on the head with a message of world domination. Just finished watching a scifi film tinged with horror themes and felt compelled to write this.

The next time you watch a scifi flick I challenge you to judge how much themes of the macabre moves the plot, holds you by the hand and leads you into the grave dangers abounding in the subject matter.
Somethings were made to bond.

Keep your pen bleeding.



Akpan








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Saturday, February 23, 2013

5 Stephen King Ghost Stories (Shorts)


Photo: paranormalresearchgroup.blogspot.com
5 bloodcurdling ghost short stories from a master storyteller to keep you awake and steal your sleep long after the last page is turned and the book is closed. These stories come with a lot of plot twists that makes the tales as entertaining as they are spine-chilling.


A story about the Ghostly Room at the Inn is how Stephen King himself explains it. Mike Enslin is a bestselling author of non-fiction works based on haunted places who does not believe in the paranormal.

His unbelief becomes his undoing at the Hotel Dolphin's Room 1408 where something resides which shakes the very foundation of his fundamentals as a man. Room 1408 which adds up to the unlucky number 13, has been left vacant for almost 20 years because of the strange things happening to people who lodge within it for an extended period of time. Occupants of the room have always met with their deaths at least, 42 deaths have been recorded so far. The hotel manager Mr. Olin tries in futility to dissuade Enslin.

Although Enslin is flustered, his pride gets in the way and he goes up to 1408. The door to the room appears crooked. At first, it tilts to the right, gets straight on observation then, leans left. In the room, Enslin experiences turn weird like somebody stoned on dope. The pictures in the room start changing then, become animated. Even the furniture are not what they seem, Enslin is hypnotized, the whole incident is totally overwhelming, he stands transfixed even though, he feels the thing in the room coming for him. He sets himself on fire to break his paralysis and rushes out of the room ablaze.


Anne is just coming out of the shower when she hears the phone ringing. Her relatives are all over the place yet, nobody answers the phone on the extension not even the answering machine kicks up as it's programmed to do after the fifth ring. She picks up the phone and the first word that comes through is her name, Annie. She recognizes the caller immediately. It's James, her husband.

Anne slumps to the bed horrified. Her relatives are in the house to prepare for his funeral and James is on the phone chatting with her. He tells her they (himself and other passengers of the plane crash he was involved in) are in a place that bears a resemblance to the Grand Central Station though, it's not. James tells Anne that maybe he was able to get through to her after he died because he was just about calling her when their plane went down. There's a recurrent beep from James' cell and he complains about not finding a spot to charge his battery.

James predicts two fatal events and warns Anne to stop going to Zoltan's bakery on sundays. He also instructs Anne not to allow some kid clean out the gutters for her though, they moved out of the apartment he refers to some time in the recent past. Both events eventually come true.

The story of the hitchhiker who got picked up by a dead man. Alan Parker is on his way home after receiving a call from a neighbor that his mother has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke. Alan does not have a functioning car and decides to hitchhike all the way south. First, he gets picked up by an old guy who would not take his hands off his crotch. The stench of urine is overwhelming and Alan has a vague feeling the old guy is a serial killer. This feeling prompts him to request the guy let him off even though he offers to take him all the way to the hospital.

Alan then takes a lonely road that leads through a graveyard. He's exhausted and decides to sit on a broken fence. Curiosity gets the best of him and he wanders into the burial grounds where he finds a gravestone marked "George Staub" Well begun, Too Soon Done. But Alan probably out of fear and concern for his mother misreads the epitaph as Fun is Fun and Done is Done. He interprets this as a message from his mother; she is dead. In his panic, he trips and his head collides with a rock. The impact sends him into a faint and (unbeknownst to him that he dreams) Alan thumbs down a ride. It's George Staub, the dead guy and he makes Alan choose who dies next between himself and his mother. Alan awakes beside the tombstone, after choosing his mother out of fear, to find the button the dead man was wearing in his dream pinned to his shirt.

He takes this as an omen that he would find his mother dead at the hospital. However, his mother is okay and would see many more years. After a while, Alan loses the button only to have it resurface seven years later after his mother passes away. Still bearing the inscription, I RODE THE BULLET AT THRILL VILLAGE, LACONIA.

Willa
At a train station, a bunch of people who have survived a derailment wait for the pick-up train to retrieve them. David, one of the passengers is worried about his girlfriend who has wandered off on her own into the desert. He sets out to look for Willa, his girlfriend. His fellow passengers try to discourage him saying the shuttle might arrive while he is away and that since sunset encroaches on the skies he would have to contend with wolves alone.

David goes in search of his girlfriend nevertheless, and confronts one fierce wolf which he sends scampering into the dark when he claps his hands and tells it to go away. He finds Willa at a honky-tonk sitting by herself in a high-backed booth. And in there Willa opens David's mind to accept something he's probably been aware of all along but has refused to live with.  The train passengers are all dead; they've all been dead for twenty years. No shuttle is coming to pick anybody up. David notices the customers and waitresses at the joint keep avoiding the booth they occupy. It's like they feel a ghost presence.

The two return to the train station to let everyone in on this new reality. They realize that a few of the other passengers know the truth but won't acknowledge it openly for fear of its implication. Others are adamant in their refusal of the obvious and eventually, they send David and Willa away. The two return to the honky-tonk where they find the place shut down for the night. They help themselves in, turn on the music and dance in each other's arms.

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band
One wrong turn somewhere was all it took a couple to land in the deepest mess of their lives (and death?) Clark and his wife Mary decide to go sight-seeing in Oregon just before Clark who works for a computer company goes on transfer. Things start out just fine (don't they always?) with the couple spending the night at a motel. Then farther out into their tour, the idea hits Mary that they might be lost. When she confronts her man, Clark denies the fact and uses a map to back his claims.

Mary tries not to argue with Clark but urges him to turn around while there's still time. Clark, who is apt to drop dead if he agrees he is in the wrong, tells Mary he knows what he's doing. He could all but smell Toketee Falls, which would be the trophy, the scene-stealer. Mary falls asleep and when she wakes, Clark has all but driven them into a point of no-return.

Soon, they stumble on a town and wind up in a diner where a band played. They have a hard time trying to second guess if the musicians are impostors or the real thing. By the time the truth is out, Clark and Mary are mobbed up to their mortal necks by dead music legends. While making their way out of town, they run into a bus and Jimi Hendrix summons the cops. Clark and Mary are arrested by Otis Redding (Chief of Police) and Elvis Presley (Mayor of Rock and Roll Heaven). The couple are taken back to town where they attend a rock concert that would last for years.


There are other haunted short stories by Stephen King like Sneakers; The Things They Left Behind; Sometimes, They Come Back; The Road Virus Heads North and so on. Many of these bone chillers set me in the depths of despair for the characters. I've always had a thing for ghosts especially, when it had to do with arousing their fury and wrath. Stephen King adds the twist to the ghost story.

Keep your pen bleeding!



Akpan









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Friday, February 22, 2013

10 Less Common Vampire Traits

Photo credit: sodahead.com
Updated: Nov. 6th, 2016

Ever since Stoker created his Dracula-probably, the greatest anti-hero of all time and definitely, the most adapted villain in film and literature-vampire writers as well as film makers have added several improvisations to the vampire genre

Just like the more commonplace, the less-known traits exist as well. And thing is, each of these gains a better foothold with the release of every new film and lit. 


1. Sympathy Towards Humans
It's not every day you hear a vamp sympathize with humans. Why should they? Humans are food to vampiresBlade is a fine example of a vampire with heart. Edward Dalton, head hematologist (blood doctor) in Daybreakers felt sympathy towards humans, as well.

2. Invitation into Private Residence
In Salem's Lot a vampire had to be invited by the occupant of a house or they were powerless to enter. A scene in Ninjas vs. Vampires has a female vampire asking to be invited in by a guy before she could go in. Most modern vampires don't need IVs. They know their way in.

3. War Between Vampires
In Blade II a vampire hybrid feeds on other vampires giving the idea of dissension within the bloodsucking world. In Twilight the Cullen family battle James and his team for the life of Bella Swan. In The Saga of Darren Shan, the vampires are at war with the vampaneze (a bloodthirsty variant of the vampire). Usually, vamps co-exist in mutual confidence and reciprocal virtues *clears throat*.

4. Telepathy
Markus from Underworld gains access to other people's memory bank by drinking the victim's blood. Throughout the movie, there is a bonding of minds through drinking of blood. In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mina's mind bonds with the Count when he traps her under his power. An event like this one is scarce in the vampire genre.

5. Holy Symbols
Science easily becomes the new magic. Recently, somebody shared a link on Reddit about a group of scientists creating a zombie virus. Back in the day, zombies were strictly tied to voodoo. Back to vampires, in Underworld, Daybreakers, The Vampire Chronicles, Blade, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and many others, holy relics do not harm, scare, or kill vampire. You could scratch a few with 'em if you got close enough besides that holy symbols are just objects.

6. Flight
Most powerful vamps glide effortlessly. However, besides the bloodsuckers in Stephen King's Salem's Lot, Markus in  Underworld and, the 'subsiders' (who grew wings) in Daybreakers most vampires have no business off the ground. If they really feel like flying they might catch a plane.

7. Blood Substitute
Blade used a special serum to fight off his thirst for blood. In Daybreakers where a plague turned the entire world into vampires reducing humans to a mere 5% of the population, blood was in scarce supply and research for a blood substitute was inevitable. You don't see this kind of stuff in every vampire movie.

8. Human Lovers
Dracula had Mina (Bram Stoker's Dracula); Edward Cullen had Bella (Twilight Saga); Selene had Michael, who later became a hybrid vampire/werewolf (Underworld); Darren Shan had Monkey girl (The Saga of Darren Shan), the list goes on. This trait is almost fit to be part of the common vampire traits.

9. Associate with Werewolves
The werewolf is a sworn enemy of the vampire but modern writers have added a new twist to the age-old feud between the two species. In Twilight, a pack of werewolves fought side by side with vampires against bloodthirsty vampires from another coven; Underworld has a hybrid of werewolves called Lycans protecting and serving vampires. Remember, Dracula can only be killed by a bite from a werewolf. This is a fine twist to the old vampire legend.

10. Resents Being Vamps
Now ain't that a bitch. Edward Dalton (Daybreakers) resents his brother for turning him into a vamp and fights relentlessly to find a cure. He also refuses to drink human blood. Darren Shan (The Saga of Darren Shan) was coerced to turn a vampire to save his friends life. For turning his mother while she was pregnant with him thereby, making him a half-vampire, Blade (Blade) hunted and killed vampires all his life.


The mentioned traits, with exception of one or two, are rare and unusual additions to vampire lit. and film. All of these are without argument, great plot devices which never cease to thrill vampire movie and book geeks the world over.

Keep your pen bleeding.



Akpan








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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stephen King's 'Women'


Stephen King apparently has a threefold cord binding and holding his female characters in place as creations of a unique mastermind. At least, to a point where their interests can be nailed on a definable subject.
Men.

King's female characters' association with their male vis-à-vises seems to spark off their  journey into the dark places of this world. Trouble trundles in either directly from the male characters (in many of these cases, their lovers/husbands) or is tied to their hanging around these menfolk.
Photo: digitalspy.co.uk
There are exceptions to the rule, of course. You might find those (in any of King's novels) if you have a careful eye. The female characters featured here have their strengths and weaknesses which decided their outcomes in their peculiar situations. Mind you don't take these as the MC of the stories, some like Rose Daniels and Jessie Burlingame are, but most are major characters. This write-up points the strobelight on their peculiar qualities not the men in their lives and not the plot of the respective novels.



Rose Daniels (Rose Madder)
The MC (main character) in King's fantasy story, Rose Daniels married a psycho cop. Rosie endured Norman Daniels' (her husband) beatings for about fourteen years. But after realization dawns she may eventually get herself killed starring in the endless drama she breaks away from home.

She later remarries and her true altruistic nature which made her stick out fourteen years in a miserable marriage is brought to the fore. Rosie offers to rescue the baby of a woman she encounters in a parallel universe from a labyrinth guarded by a beast.

Winifred 'Wendy' Torrance (The Shining)
"Wendy is an extraordinary woman." These words made by her husband during an interview at the Overlook Hotel (setting of the novel) appropriately describe the character Wendy. Wendy is another female character who stayed strong by her man's side despite his shortcomings; Jack Torrance (her husband) was battling alcoholism and had inherited his father's temper (very bad temper).

When Jack threw a fit and unwittingly broke his son's arm, Wendy was there to call the hospital. When the "hotel" took possession of Jack's mind and turned him against his family, to save her's and her son's life, Wendy battled her husband and love found a way in the end.

The prototype bad nurse, Annie Wilkes is responsible for the deaths of over 100 old folks and infants. She happens to be the number one fan of the writer Paul Sheldon.

While a practicing nurse, Annie Wilkes assumes the role of god and maker and believes other people's right to life is her business. She has the right to decide who among the folks under her care lives or dies. She lives alone, is divorced and though arrested once in connection with the deaths for which she is responsible is never actually convicted. Her treatment of the sick and crippled Paul Sheldon reveals her oppressive and possessive state of mind towards the weak.

Odetta Susannah Holmes lost her legs when a sociopath pushed her in front of a subway train, meaning to kill her. She deals with this trauma by unconsciously creating a volatile other hidden in her brain. Each split personality is unaware of the others existence. The hidden woman calls herself 'Detta Walker.

The love of Eddie Dean (a major character in the ongoing series) makes the two personalities of Odetta and Detta to acknowledge each other and merge as one into Susannah Dean. As the two personalities compensate each other Susannah becomes a stronger and better woman.

Mary (Roadwork)
Mary marries Barton George Dawes after the couple discover she's pregnant with his child. She later suffers a miscarriage. She births another child by the same man, named Charlie but he dies of brain cancer a few years after. Mary's marriage takes a turn after this incident both parents unwilling to let go and come to terms with their situation.

Mary rarely smiles much after that. Even Dawes (husband) notes this fact. She might as well have been a zombie. With the marriage strained to breaking point, Dawes sabotaging of his company's purchase of a new facility was the icing on the cake. Mary leaves her husband and home for her parents'.

Cynthia Smith (Desperation)
The female hitchhiker who got picked up by a writer's roadie and got herself into a situation where she would have to fight for her sanity and her very life.

Cynthia left home at age seventeen and spent most of her time as a drifter. She finally settled down with a guy who pretended to be clean. He got hooked on crystal meth and beat up on her. She left him for a shelter. She told the roadie, Steve Ames that she had every reason to be careful of guys; one had nearly torn off her left ear and another had broken her nose not so long ago.

She was returning home to her father (a retired preacher) and her mother.

Elizabeth Eastlake (Duma Key)
The evil in the story uses Elizabeth's young mind and talent to get back into this world from the depths of the ocean and then unleashes terror on her family. With Liz's help, the evil spirit (called Persephone) is trapped in a jar of freshwater where her powers are weakened. 

Suffering from Alzheimer's and in her 80s, Liz is the one who 'senses' Persephone is regaining her powers in the pit where the jar is buried. She is struck dead at an art exhibition hosted by the MC, by two damned souls who appear in the image of her dead twins sisters. But not before she gives clues on how to destroy the wicked entity controlling the Key.

Jessie Burlingame (Gerald's Game)
To reinvigorate their tame and lame sex life, Jessie's husband, an otherwise successful lawyer devices a plan; handcuff Jessie to the bedpost and then initiate the act.

Jessie threw away her personal dreams to get married to Gerald for his money which should account for the mentioned lax in their sex life. The experience in the cabin lodge awakens a suppressed painful childhood memory. Jessie was sexually abused by her father when she was only ten. Jessie is almost a direct opposite of Mattie Devore from Bag of Bones. The death of Gerald (her husband) in the cabin is a kind of revenge on her father and Jessie is ready to start her life all over again(?)

Lisey Landon (Lisey's Story)
Lisey is stalked by psycho fans of her dead husband for the deceased manuscripts. One peculiar case is a guy who mutilates her to make her surrender her husband's literary property.

She faces the odds head on to keep the warmth of their love going. Despite her husband's family's dirty past; Scott Landon's father killed his son and Scott had to kill his father to contain an incurable insanity that was gaining on him. She is dedicated to the memory of her late husband a famous and successful novelist. Scott has a special ability, the power to transport himself to another world. Eventually, Lisey inherits this gift and with it saves herself from the maniacs who stalk her.

Mattie Devore (Bag of Bones)
Mattie is a twenty-one-year-old, widowed mother of a little girl. She is involved in a custody battle with her billionaire father-in-law. Despite the strange circumstances in which we find Mattie, she's never had one sleepless night over her dilemma. She is unbelievably optimistic and fond of Kyra, her daughter.

Another great quality of Mattie's is her self-reliance which is initially put to the test when Max Devore (her father-in-law) offers to pay her off for custody of Kyra. Mattie refuses instantly. Secondly, after she is fired from work, a direct follow up of her custody battle  with Max Devore, Mike Noonan has to force Mattie to take his money. She is killed in a drive-by shooting after the end of the custody battle.


From widows (Lisey Landon) confronting the dark night to married women (Jessie Burlingame) battling their husbands/lovers and then pan to single women (Annie Wilkes) who lust for independence. Does Stephen King follow a set pattern when creating his female characters or are these mere coincidences? You decide. Check what happens to the couples in these stories: The Dark Half (the details are in the first pages of The Sun Dog); Secret Window; Dolores Claiborne; The Langoliers and so on.

Keep your pen bleeding.



Akpan






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