Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Lord of Cries.

 I may have mentioned that this summer is shaping up to be a summer of vampires. The Atherton Vampire is live now at Amazon and on the Kindle app for iOS devices in the United States, and many thanks to those of you who have taken a look at Jerry's story so far. In addition, I'm in the midst of writing the second novella in the series. And last weekend, I saw the world premiere of The Lord of Cries, an opera based partly on Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula, at the Santa Fe Opera.

I'm not a massive opera fan, but I've seen a number of them over the years. This one intrigued me not only because of the subject matter, but because librettist Mark Adamo has written a mashup of Stoker's story with that of  The Bacchae, a tragedy written by Euripedes that had its own premiere in 405 BCE. Adamo has been quoted as saying he was intrigued by Dracula's status as an outsider in Victorian London, which seemed to him to  correspond pretty neatly with Dionysus's status in The Bacchae

For those of you who haven't read the play, I'll recap: Dionysus is the Greek god of wine and wine-making, revelry, and religious ecstasy. His father was Zeus; his mother, Semele, was mortal. The kingdom of Thebes, under the rule of King Penthius, has forsworn his worship -- supposedly because he's not really a god due to his mixed parentage, but really because all the women in the kingdom, who are dubbed the Bacchae, are following him into hedonism. Dionysus wants Thebes to recognize him as a god, so he appears before Penthius as a stranger who supports the god's claim. Alas, Penthius cannot be swayed, so Dionysus decides to teach him a lesson -- one that leads to Penthius's destruction.

To get the Dracula tale to fit the bones of The Bacchae, Adamo made some key changes. He rolled Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra into a single character: Lucy Harker, wife of Jonathan Harker. In the novel, Jonathan comes back from Dracula's castle with his mind intact, but in the opera, he has been driven mad with, y'know, lust and stuff by Dracula's three vampire women. Also in the novel, Van Helsing is the main vampire hunter -- but here he's demoted to assisting John Seward, the head of Carfax Asylum and (because reasons) the de facto mayor of London. Seward is determined to do his duty and save London from Dracula, and that means denying his passion for Lucy. We discover that Lucy is also crazy about John, but she must do her duty and tend to her husband -- who, by the way, was driven insane because of the warring desires within his own soul. 

Into all this drama strides Dionysus in the guise of Dracula himself. He intends to wake up Victorian Londoners to the dangers of denying their baser instincts and desires in the service of "doing good", because that way, literally, lies madness. Neither Seward nor Lucy will abandon what they perceive as their duty, and so they are destroyed.

A lot has been made over the years of Stoker's setting for his novel. The Victorian era seethed with sexual repression, and literary critics have long seen Dracula as a target for fear and disgust because he challenged Victorian notions of propriety.

Of course, Adamo uses that. But what interests me, as a modern-day Pagan, is the vehicle he chooses for the message: a pagan god. In our present era, in which conservatives are fighting to repress social progress of all sorts, it's heartening to hear someone say that the pagans had it right.


These moments of bloggy ecstasy and ruin have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Destiny vs. Tricksters.

First things first: At long last, The Atherton Vampire is out! Go here to find Jerry's story. The first ten episodes are live right now; Episode 11 drops next Monday, July 26th, and new episodes will be released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the end of August. Enjoy!


Xochicalco | Deposit Photos
Speaking of episodic fiction: All six of the episodes of the Marvel Classic Universe's newest TV show, Loki, have been released on Disney Plus. (I would have used a graphic with scenes from the show, but I didn't want to get a letter from Disney's lawyers about copyright infringement.) 

I am going to do my best to avoid spoilers (but no guarantees!), as the final episode just dropped Wednesday and a lot of people probably haven't seen it yet. Here's the show's premise, as laid out by the first couple of episodes: Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, does something that changes the original timeline in the Avengers movies, thereby running afoul of an organization that calls itself the Timeline Variance Authority, or TVA for short. The purpose of the TVA is to prune people who create offshoots of the "sacred timeline." As we all know (from reading the Pipe Woman Chronicles books, if nothing else), Loki is a Trickster. So of course there are a bunch of Loki "variants" that have done stuff that would change the timeline, and they have been pruned. The MCU's original Loki is spared by a TVA agent named Mobius, played by Owen Wilson. Then our Loki runs into a renegade version of himself who escaped from the TVA. This Loki is female; she calls herself Sylvie. And hijinks ensue.

Am I in spoiler trouble yet? Oh well. Onward!

Reviews of the show have been split. Folks who were fans of the comic books were generally disgruntled; they saw who the Big Bad Guy would turn out to be a mile away and/or they're unhappy with the depiction of Loki's character, including one reviewer who wanted more of an emphasis on Loki's gender fluidity. (Even in Norse mythology, Loki had the ability to morph into a female -- and without benefit of having to create a new timeline.) Some folks thought it was lazy storytelling for Loki to take a liking to another version of himself. (Yeah, yeah, spoiler, I know. But I rolled my eyes when I read this. He's a narcissist -- of course he'd fall for himself!)

Folks who never read the comic books have generally been charmed by the show, although -- like me -- they're annoyed that the writers couldn't have wrapped up something in the first six episodes. Episode 6 ends with a giant cliffhanger and the second season probably won't start airing for another year and a half. 

Anyway, there's a big philosophical question underlying the structure of the series, and I don't think it's much of a spoiler to point it out. What the TVA is doing, essentially, is putting the kibosh on free will. Somebody has assumed the mantle of God, decreeing which events fall within the sacred timeline. Does that mean everything that happens is predetermined? What does that mean for free will?

Clearly, in the MCU everything is predetermined by the writers. But I think every fiction author has had a character go rogue on them. Sometimes they'll do what you want them to do, but not for the reason you thought. But sometimes they just flat-out refuse to follow your outline (assuming you have one) and then you're left scrambling to get everything to turn out the way it needs to.

In real life, though, the battle between free will and predestination gets murkier. And it's a big argument among Christians -- do we make our own decisions, or are our lives preordained? In other words, has God written the whole script ahead of time? And if so, can we change our destinies? Is it worth even trying?

As a Pagan, I don't worry about any of this. There's no Creator God in my personal pantheon, so there's no one available to write the script. I tend to think more in terms of people behaving in predictable ways. That means free will is a given. We have the ability to change our ways and hopefully create a different life, a different outcome. It's difficult -- but there's no doubt in my mind that it can be done.

Regardless of my personal beliefs, though, I enjoyed this first season of Loki and I cannot wait for season two.


These moments of Tricky blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The vampire is (nearly) loose.

Are y'all tired of me talking about The Atherton Vampire yet? If so, sorry -- I'm doing it again.

But this time, I have excellent news. Amazon announced a few days ago that Kindle Vella will launch this coming week. And Jerry's tale is in the queue and ready to go. If you're in the US, and if you have a Kindle app on your phone or iPad, try this: Open that Kindle app, go to the search function, and type in "atherton vampire" (yes, in quotes; no, it doesn't need to be capitalized). You should get a result that looks like this (although the resolution should be better):

Clicking the link gets you an error message right now. But sometime this week, I'm told, it'll work. And then Jerry Atherton will be released upon an unsuspecting public, muahahahaha.

Well, you won't be unsuspecting because I've told you about it. 

Oh, you know what I mean.

Anyway, I'm making outstanding progress on the second Atherton Vampire story for Vella. My goal is to write one episode per day for Camp NaNo this month; today I'm at almost 17,000 words. So I should be able to start publishing episodes of the second story as soon as all of the episodes of the first story have been released. 

It also means the first Atherton Vampire story will be published as a regular Kindle ebook around the fall equinox in September, with the second story released as an ebook just before Halloween.

All this, and I've started a part-time job, too. I'm working for the New Mexico Legislature as a legal proofreader again, but the hours are a lot more forgiving right now than they were during the legislature's session last winter. Which it looks like I will be doing again this coming winter. Which is good, actually, because I'm buying a condo and the extra money will come in handy.

To be honest, a lot has been happening lately. And the rest of this summer is going to be busy, too. This is how retirement is supposed to work, right?


I hope you haven't forgotten about the hearth/myth Summer Reading Challenge. There's still plenty of time to increase the number of books on our list that you've read. You can find the list and the rules here. Good luck, and happy reading!


These moments of anticipatory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy not-COVID-freedom day.

Gerd Altmann | Pixabay

On Thursday, New Mexico officially lifted all COVID-19-related restrictions. Stores and restaurants are back up to full occupancy, attendants are no longer wiping down the handles of shopping carts at the grocery store, and a whole lot of people have abandoned their masks.

We got here not by ignoring the virus, as other states have done, but by pushing vaccinations hard. As of early last week, 71% of eligible New Mexicans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 62% of those eligible were fully vaccinated. The numbers across the state are not even, of course; we have a lot of rural land, as well as our share of anti-vaxxers. Just 29.9% of eligible folks in Roosevelt County are fully vaccinated, compared with 82.6% in Los Alamos County. (I live in Santa Fe County, where the full vaccination rate is 69.5%. The statewide dashboard is here.)

I've been out and about a bit over the past week, and it appears that stores and restaurants here are now defaulting to the CDC guidelines: If you're fully vaccinated, you don't need to mask up. That's true even in regard to the variants; all three of the vaccines approved for use in the United States are effective against the delta variant, which is the one causing the most trouble right now. In fact, virtually all of the people dying of COVID-19 in the US right now are unvaccinated. The Associated Press story I just linked to observes that if everybody eligible for the vaccine would just get the shot, deaths from the virus would be virtually zero.

And yet we still have a sizable percentage of people that haven't gotten a shot. The percentage varies from state to state; the states with the worst vaccination rates are mostly in the South. Holding the bottom spot is Mississippi, with just 38.3% of its adults fully vaccinated.  

I feel terrible for my friends who live in states that haven't pushed vaccines as hard as New Mexico has. Here we are, 16 months into this pandemic, and too many fully vaccinated Americans are still scared to leave their homes. But now it's not because of the virus running rampant, but because you don't know whether the unmasked person next to you at the grocery store is fully vaccinated or just living in denial.

Today we're celebrating the 245th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence -- yet in a lot of ways, and despite the cheerleading from Washington, this virus is still holding America hostage. I wish we could reach herd immunity without losing too many more people to COVID-19, but I don't see how we can. The unvaccinated are in for a terrible fall and winter. And to be honest, I can't feel sorry for them anymore.

More Atherton Vampire news: Of course as soon as I said that Amazon's rules required Kindle Vella stories to be exclusive to that platform, the Zon went and changed the rules. Now they're going to allow authors to publish episodes in a single volume 30 days after their Kindle Vella release. That means I'll be able to publish The Atherton Vampire as a regular old ebook in oh, say, late September or early October. The exact date will depend on when Kindle Vella goes live. I'll keep you posted.

In addition, The Atherton Vampire 2 is progressing nicely. I started the first draft Thursday, the first day of the July Camp NaNo session, and I'm already 5,000 words in. If I stick to 25 episodes for this story, too, and if I write an episode a day, I'll have the whole thing drafted well before the end of July. 

These moments of independent blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!