I was seven years old when I saw the first Star Wars movie and discovered that I wanted a lightsaber, the quintessential high-tech phallic symbol and power object of my generation. Later, when I was the quintessential slacker, I would study the lightsaber in great detail — getting to know the particulars of each prop hilt used in the films and the differences between them before I finally got around to channeling my geek creativity into writing books and indoctrinating my son into the galactic mythology of his people. I even collected a few replica lightsaber props along the way and eventually my interest in sword-like objects led me to study Iaido, the Japanese martial art of the samurai sword (cultural prototype of the Jedi weapon). Today my favorite lightsaber shares a stand with my katanas on the bookshelf beside my writing desk, collecting dust.
But now that I’ve seen the second teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, my interest in Star Wars has reawakened, and I’m giddy to see that they seem to have got the details right this time out.
There was a minor uproar after the first teaser trailer went online (bitch all you want about the so-called “cross-guard” saber in the hands of that villain—I personally think it represents a crude attempt to reclaim a lost craft with the side emissions serving as vents to balance an unrefined energy level) but the new trailer should give fans new hope for the film, and once again it’s a lightsaber sending the signal.
The original iconic prop from 1977 was an antique Graflex camera flash with the bulb and reflector removed and some rubber grips glued to the handle. The prop makers attached vintage calculator display bubbles to the clamp to resemble an exotic power switch and a belt-clip ring on the bottom. A quirky, yet elegant piece of gear that felt (like all Star Wars artifacts at the time) endowed with complexity, history, and functionality.
When the weapon reprised in The Empire Strikes Back, it had undergone a few changes: the calculator bubbles had been replaced with a circuit board and the grips were now studded with rivets, but it was still a 3-cell Graflex flashgun and for the fans who noticed the differences at all, it was easy to imagine that Luke had made a few upgrades or repairs.
Fans catalogued the variations, and for many years antique camera buffs hated us for driving up the auction prices on what should have been relatively affordable accessories. But hey, if Luke’s lightsaber wasn’t our holy grail, it was our Excalibur.
On screen, the saber was lost when Vader cut Luke’s hand off, and we didn’t see it again until it was shiny and new and hanging from Anakin’s belt in Revenge of the Sith.
Things got ugly for lightsaber geeks in the prequels. Now the hilts had big red buttons, as if a Jedi couldn’t find his dick without a neon sign. And George Lucas threw all regard for continuity out the window. I can point to at least two scenes in two films in which editing results in a character inexplicably holding the wrong lightsaber. But worst of all, the weapon that would pass from Anakin to Luke via Obi-wan, the object that should have been the key symbol uniting the two trilogies, was not a prop from the Lucasfilm archive but a new chrome and gold plated, machined hunk of metal in the shape of a Graflex with details suggestive of the hilt that Obi-wan hands Luke in A New Hope.
Plenty of filmmakers can let details slide, safe in the knowledge that the audience won’t notice, but Lucas let this stuff slide knowing that millions of toys were going to replicate the details and put them in people’s hands!
Now we see that saber again in the second Episode VII trailer and learn that it will once again be a symbol uniting the trilogies. As it should be, because it is the Excalibur of the Star Wars mythology. And, while we only get a glimpse in low light, it sure looks like they’re using a Graflex handle with rivets in the grips, just like the one Luke lost with his hand at Cloud City.
To me, that’s a signal that the filmmakers are geeks who grew up with a passion for the story and that they care about getting the details right. It also indicates that we are to some degree returning to the aesthetics of The Empire Strikes Back, the crowning achievement of the series. To quote Han Solo, “Chewie, we’re home.”
Winter has been brutal here in Massachusetts, but anyone with a TV probably knows that. At our house, the mountains of snow have overtaken the entire property, and digging out the mailbox has become my twice-a-week cardio workout. Between the arctic temperatures, school snow days, and a flu that keeps mutating and bouncing around our family, it has been hard to stay healthy and get any writing done. But the pressure to do just that is back on because I just signed a new 3 book deal with JournalStone!
Red Equinox has been out for a little over a month now and it’s catching on with a wider readership than I’ve seen before. My sincere THANKS to everyone who has bought the book, talked it up to a friend, or posted a review. It helps more than you know and enables me to stay in the game.
In the thick of the blizzards and flu battles, we managed to have a couple of great launch events at my two favorite indie book stores: Jabberwocky in Newburyport and Water Street in Exeter. Thanks to Jill Sweeney-Bosa, Christine Sadowski, Sue Little, and Dan Chartrand for making those a success. Exeter TV 98 sent a cameraman to the Water Street reading, so I might have a video link for that eventually if they bleep my f-bombs and upload it. I read the scene where Becca first encounters Moe Ramirez in the abandoned textile mill. Fun. Here are some pics…
Also in the A/V department, I did an interview with Adam xii on Radio BDC last Thursday. You can listen to the audio right here via Soundcloud.
The segment only runs about 15 minutes but we managed to cover everything from the pronunciation of “Cthulhu” to the connection between the Boston Marathon Bombings and the fictional Boston of Red Equinox. And if you haven’t had enough of my jaw wagging about the new book, next Sunday (3/1) I’ll be a guest on the Lovecraft eZine video chat at 6pm eastern with Mike Davis and crew. We’ll be giving away a few copies of Red Equinox to random viewers. Tune in and check it out if you get a chance.
I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain for Friday evening has arrived and the pressures of dark forces have accrued, but by the time I set down my pen, I shall be buzzed, for I have obtained the amber elixir.
The origins of the potion are shrouded in mystery. The formula is hinted at in the dread Necronomicon: honey from the hives of winged creatures that haunt lonely hills and whisper with voices that buzz in crude imitation of the speech of men. Hops from the meadows that border the river Oukranos where it winds beside the Enchanted Wood on its way to the Cerenarian Sea. Alcohol content calibrated to the mystic numeral seven. A potion shunned by pregnant women, for it is rumored to produce abominations.
The dark satanic mill from whence it came was founded in Rhode Island in the Yuletide of 1890, year of the nativity of our prophet H.P. Lovecraft. Whether or not the prophet himself ever ingested the earlier incarnations of the sacramental brew is a matter of some speculation. However, his writings predict the fate of the potion with oracular clarity.
At the end of Lovecraft’s tale “The Haunter of the Dark,” a superstitious doctor casts the gem of power known as The Shining Trapezohedron into Narragansett Bay, where it is believed to be lost forever. And yet, in the book Red Equinox, we learn that the gem was subsequently retrieved from the depths by descendants of the Starry Wisdom Church and its power once again tapped to fuel their dark rites. So too, the Narragansett brewery was once relegated to the wrecking ball but has since been resurrected to unleash the power of Lovecraft Honey Ale on the world in January of 2015, three days after the publication of the dread tome Red Equinox.
Great power lost, now tapped again.
Coincidence? I think not.
Some believe the potion is the Space Meade foretold by August Derleth, prescribed as a defense against interstellar travel. I hope they are right as I intend to serve small doses of it to the celebrants who will gather to hear readings from the red book at Jabberwocky in Newburyport, MA and Water Street Books in Exeter, NH on the evenings of January 30th and 31st.
The elixir, difficult to obtain, now occupies a glass upon my desk: a deep amber red reminiscent of the lost gem, topped by lacy golden foam. It flows smooth as the sea into Innsmouth harbor, bringing a scent of sweet honey and herbal overtones. And yet there is an underlying bitter note—a darkness befitting its origins—that courses through the sweet bouquet and lingers for a moment inspiring one to ponder the fathomless icy reaches between the stars.
I have acquired 24 canisters for my congregation. I may need more, for having sampled one; I am tempted to consume them all.
I’m trying to find my way into the next book, playing around with opening lines and paragraphs. Beginnings set the stage and influence everything that comes after because they set the tone for both reader and writer. Stephen King says opening lines are invitations. William Gibson compared them to handshakes or keys.They introduce us. They open the way.
And yet, sometimes, when writing the first draft, it’s more important to just kick in the door, any door, and get into the story. You can always figure out where the main entrance is once you’re inside. I did that with my latest novel. Scrapped the first chapter in draft two and found a new way in.
A handshake. A key. A fractal?
Let me suggest that the opening line, or paragraph of a book can be a kind of fractal. I don’t know if this would work for other writers, but it’s something I’ve noticed in my own work.
In Red Equinox my main character discovers fractal tentacles surfacing in the walls of abandoned buildings–images that are at first only visible in her infrared photography. It got me thinking about the nature of fractals and how (sort of like holograms) the part contains the whole. The smallest pattern at the tip of a fractal repeats and expands so that when we pan out and take in the whole, we see that same shape writ large.
Could the opening of a novel contain the fractal signature, the DNA if you will, of the whole story?
I think maybe I’ve intuitively done something like this three times now. Since I’m only really qualified to analyze my own work in this way, I hope you’ll indulge me a quick look back at those openings.
Billy Moon didn’t know exactly when he had sold his soul. There had been no pact penned in blood, no dusty crossroads. Maybe it happened that night on the bridge, the night he met Trevor Rail. Maybe his soul was tucked away in one of those paragraphs of legalese he had skimmed over hungrily in his mid-twenties—his eternal spirit leveraged against mechanical royalties and recoupable advances in a five-point font. I sold my soul, he thought, and it fit. Like a perfect chorus summing up the verses of his life, it rhymed with the rest of him.
—The Devil of Echo Lake
Billy Moon, a troubled, confused, burned out rock star is searching his failing (maybe repressed) memories for his identity, and the conclusion he reaches in that first paragraph is the fractal tip of his story, the shape of his past, present, and future. He is a man fighting to reclaim his soul.
There were at least three good playgrounds within a short drive of
the Ocean Road apartment, but on the day Desmond Carmichael
lost his son for a terrifying ten minutes, he had chosen one farther
away, the one they called the Castle Playground. It wasn’t Lucas’s
favorite, but the days when the boy would argue for a favorite
anything were behind them by then. Desmond figured that when a
child loses his mother at the age of three, pretty much every other
preference takes a back seat. He knew that he wasn’t Lucas’s
In Steel Breeze Desmond, a grieving widower wracked with guilt and regret, is about to enter a living nightmare in which he races to save his son from a pair of serial killers. It will take a few chapters for his life to spin out of control, but his grief and fear of further loss are all there at the moment we meet him, a fractal fingerprint on his character with ripples flowing into both the future and the past.
Now we come to Becca Philips, the photographer at the center of Red Equinox.
Death has a way of calling us home, and when it does we put on
our best. Becca Philips hadn’t been to Arkham in years, hadn’t
worn a dress in almost as long, and now here she was, stepping
off the train and feeling out of place in both.
I hope you might feel like you know her already after just two sentences. At least a little. She has left her home town but has been pulled back. She’s an escapee, but what was she running from? She’s a bit of a tomboy. Maybe she’s an outsider in more than just this situation. She’s uncomfortable but rising to the occasion.
And the story to come will continue to challenge Becca to “put on her best” in the face of death.
So there you have it: fractal paragraphs. Your mileage may vary.
* * *
With just one week to go until Red Equinox drops, you can now read the first two chapters at Tor.com. Tor is my favorite hub of geek goodies, so I’m thrilled to get a ride on Stubby the rocket! I hope you’ll head over and give the story a chance with your Saturday morning coffee. And if it hooks you, why not pre-order the book at Amazon? Thanks for checking it out.
Before Chuck Killorin designed the killer cover for Red Equinox, I tinkered with my own design while working on the final revisions to the book. Just for fun. Also just for fun, I ran off a couple of hardcover proof copies with Lulu to see how it would look in print. I think it came out pretty spiffy. And since I’m feeling jolly about unleashing the book on the world next month, I’m giving away this copy to one lucky winner.
I’ll select my favorite comment from this blog post or the related Facebook thread on Saturday December 27th.
The copy I’m giving away is an uncorrected proof version of the novel, so there are some differences from the final copy-edited text. There are also little errors in the cover (see if you can find them if you win) but that sort of thing just might increase the value of this rare tome someday. And since there are currently no plans to release Red Equinox in a hardcover edition, it’s a rare prize indeed.
Oh yeah, I’ll also sign and personalize it if you want, before mailing it out.
Good luck, and Merry Cthulhumas!
More about the book:
The Red Equinox has dawned, and the old gods who have slept for aeons are stirring.
Urban explorer and photographer Becca Philips was raised in the shadow of Miskatonic University, steeped in the mysteries of her late grandmother’s work in occult studies. But what she thought was myth becomes all too real when cultists unleash terror on the city of Boston. Now she’s caught between a shadowy government agency called SPECTRA and the followers of an apocalyptic faith bent on awakening an ancient evil.
As urban warfare breaks out between eldritch monsters and an emerging police state, she must uncover the secrets of a family heirloom known as the Fire of Cairo to banish the rising tide of darkness before the balance tips irrevocably at the Red Equinox.
Coming from JournalStone in January 2015.
UPDATE: I’ve read through all of the entries here and on every Facebook post where the link appeared. Thanks to all who entered and shared, and congratulations to Mark Burns who won the book with a sustained campaign of groveling and photo meme bombing. But don’t envy Mr. Burns the nightmares the dread tome may induce…
My third novel, Red Equinox, will be released by JournalStone on Friday, January 16th in trade paperback and a bunch of e-book formats. It’s about Becca Philips, an urban explorer and photographer who discovers malign forces seeping into our world from a parallel dimension in the flood-ravaged Boston of 2019.
Equal parts horror-thriller, urban fantasy, and sci-fi, the book riffs on the mythology of the late, great H.P. Lovecraft, but you don’t need to be familiar with his work to enjoy it. I set out to pay homage to his influence (while defying some Lovecraftian tropes), but my main goal was to tell a suspenseful story with characters I cared about.
I hope you might come to care about them too.
I’ll be doing a couple of signing events to celebrate the release: Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA on Friday 1/30 and Water Street Books in Exeter, NH on Saturday 1/31. Both kick off at 7PM.
I can’t wait to get out and talk about the story, read a creepy scene from it, and doodle some tentacles on title pages.
And if you need help getting off the fence and giving this one a try, here are a bunch of nice blurbs from writers and editors who were kind enough to preview it:
“Douglas Wynne has accomplished a rare feat in Red Equinox. He has written a thrilling action-adventure story while at the same time melding it with hints—and more than hints—of chilling Lovecraftian cosmicism. Vivid characters, a keen sense of place, and a cleverly executed plot contribute to making Red Equinox one of the more notable novels in the Lovecraftian tradition.” —S. T. Joshi
“No Lovecraft fan—or horror fan for that matter—should miss this one! Philosophical and creepy, RED EQUINOX is a Mythos tale set in the real world. I enjoyed it immensely. Douglas Wynne is definitely a writer to watch.” —Mike Davis, editor, The Lovecraft eZine
“RED EQUINOX is an enjoyable book touching on the unique legend of H. P. Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep, that most mysterious of Outer Gods. Cleverly plotted, with engaging characters and wonderful Lovecraftian touches, the book reveals Douglas Wynne a true acolyte of Eldritch Horror!” —W. H. Pugmire, author of The Strange Dark One
“In RED EQUINOX, Douglas Wynne has done what countless authors have tried—and most have failed—to do; he’s brought Lovecraft into the modern world. And he’s done it in such a plausible and unsettling way, you’ll wonder what lurks just beyond the understanding of man and you’ll fear the coming of darkness. A love letter to Lovecraft, no fan of the Mythos should let this one pass them by.” —Brett J. Talley, author of That Which Should Not Be
“Douglas Wynne’s RED EQUINOX is a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller that drop-kicks H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos into the 21st century. Wynne summons dark, ancient horrors into our hyperconnected, high-tech era with taut prose, captivating characters, and refreshing originality. The Great Old Ones will surely be pleased.”—Michael M. Hughes, author of The Blackwater Lights trilogy
Want to know more? Head over to JournalStone for the back cover synopsis.