Saturday, 14 May 2016

Dystopia vs. Utopia

Wow, I just had a look at Sci-Fi and Fantasy sub-categories of ebooks on amazon.com, and guess which ones are by far the biggest, with over 13,000 titles?  Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic!  Not that I'm surprised, mind you, with all the TV shows and movies with those themes, not to mention even the daily news in the real world!  But it made me stop and think about how I've been describing my book to people.

You see, my Rhuna series is set in mystical Atlantis, which was said to be a Utopian society, the definition of Utopia being "a community or society possessing highly desirable or near-perfect qualities."  That's the setting I've used, but of course, writing about a perfect world would just be boring, so I add characters who go against those idyllic rules and lifestyles to create conflict.

The idea is to show that there is no such thing as a perfect society, even if it appears to be so on most levels.  There will always be some people and some issues that don't fit, and that's where rebellion starts. 

But Rhuna is still living in an overall peaceful, idyllic world, thanks to the rulers of Atlantis.
 


There is no "Utopia" category at amazon.com, and doing a search for "utopia" gets you all kinds of things, but try "Dystopian",  and there are thousands and thousands of books, images and other things.  Why does Dystopia have so much more appeal than Utopia?  Because, I mean, you'd think it would be the other way around, wouldn't you?  Don't people prefer pictures of paradise instead of a post-apocalyptic ruin of a city? 

There are probably many reasons and topics you could philosophize over (and please do share any thoughts you may have in the comments below!) but my main concern now is whether a utopian theme in books would fare well in such an environment as we have right now?

Is Dystopia only popular now because some books, movies and TV shows were hits, and that started a fad?  Are people reading Dystopia because there's no real alternative (except for my books, perhaps?!) 


I read somewhere that readers think a utopian setting is political propaganda of some sort, which might be the case if the book is not Fantasy or Sci-Fi, and so far, no reader or reviewer has had anything negative to say about the utopian setting of my books. 

Far from being political or propaganda, however, I do admit to making social commentary in my books, merely by bringing up age-old issues that still have relevance today, or that the reader can relate to, even though two books are set in Ancient Egypt, for example.  (see Rhuna: Crossroads and Rhuna, The Star Child)

My hope is that readers will find some thoughts about human society and ways of governing as described in Rhuna refreshing, stimulating and worthy of deeper consideration.  So, tell me what you think!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Inspiration for Fantasy novels?!

Believe it or not, reading about the statues on Easter Island in Thor Heyerdahl's 1950s book, "Aku-Aku" was the beginning of a journey that ended in the writing of my first Fantasy Novel, "Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom."

And here's the man to whom I dedicated that first book:


Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian Anthropologist and Adventurer/Explorer knew he was onto something big and special when he discovered megalithic stone statues hidden in the tropical jungles of remote Pacific Islands when he was there to study biology.  He changed subjects and began studying anthropology, travelling the world in search of more mysterious stone statues.

The most famous ones are on Easter Island, of course.  All 887 of them.  That's right:  almost 900 of them, all the same, and all with tall bodies buried more than halfway in the ground.  They would have been a terrifying and awe-inspiring sight in ancient times (and still a bit creepy now that some have been fully restored!)

Reading about the mysteries and unanswered questions around these statues, as well as their similarity to many other big stone statues around the world (especially South America) really got the wheels in my head spinning, and before I knew it, I was also hooked on this mystery.

Not only did I end up reading all of Heyerdahl's books, but I even went to Tonga to see some of those megaliths myself.  Here:



While searching for answers to these mysteries, I read many New Age books as well, and one day I realized I had all the ideas and material for a solid novel in the Fantasy genre.  Fantasy only in the sense that some of the things my characters do to create those megalithic structures is not based on scientific fact, but the rest of the story is about real people and real places.

Even though I can't travel and explore like I used to, I am still venturing far afield in my mind as I write more books in the series, and the more I delve into all these ancient mysteries, the more material I find to use in my books!  (Check them all out! Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom - Kindle is FREE! Rhuna: Crossroads and Rhuna, The Star Child.)


Monday, 25 April 2016

Advanced Technology of Ancient Civilizations

I know, I know...you keep hearing about Ancient Aliens or Ancient Astronauts that came and built the pyramids in Egypt and all that...well, I'm not talking about that at all here - just the facts!  Well, at least to begin with.

So first of all, have a good look at these pictures:


See how exact the stones in this ancient Inca wall in Peru are placed together?  They say that you can't even put a sharp razor blade between them!  And that's without mortar or anything to bond them together!  Imagine how difficult it would be to get a hard block of stone that even, level and smooth, let alone the right angle to fit perfectly alongside another block!

And what about this:



They could also do perfectly smooth curves!  Not just in corners of rooms, but when sculpting those giant stone statues!

Some modern-day engineers have had a closer look at the remarkable workmanship of Ancient Egypt and other impressive ancient ruins, and have concluded that getting the curves, angles and symmetry so exactly right is almost impossible, even with today's technology and know-how!

One of the books detailing these things is Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt: Advanced Engineering in the Temples of the Pharaohs by Christopher Dunn.  Reading it will convince you that Ancient Egyptians had knowledge and skills above and beyond ours today!

When I discovered these fascinating things, I knew I had to incorporate it into my writing - and in fact, this advanced technology of the ancient world is a fundamental theme of my Rhuna Fantasy book series, and since it's Fantasy, I'm allowed to theorize all I want as to how, why, who and where (but it's not aliens!).





Sunday, 17 April 2016

Amazing Reed Boats of the Ancients




This is a reed boat.  You may or may not have seen pictures of them, because even though they have been around for thousands of years, they aren't exactly common knowledge. 


The reed boats I'm talking about are the ones made from the reeds growing along the shores of Lake Titicaca on the border of Bolivia and Peru in South America.   Apparently, they are so super-buoyant, strong and stable, that people in that area have been making them the same way for literally thousands of years!  That's pretty amazing in itself, I think.

But there's more...

Quite a lot of historians and anthropologists have reason to believe that ancient civilizations built larger versions of this kayak-type reed boat to cross vast oceans, not just Lake Titicaca.  They were built with cabins on top, long rudders and oar-like poles to navigate, and probably also with sails, so it's quite feasible that they could have crossed a sea or even ocean.

If you've been around for a while, you've probably heard of Thor Heyerdahl and his famous expeditions to prove that people in ancient times really could have crossed oceans with such reed boats.  For The Tigris Expedition, he built a reed boat in the style of these ancient ones to cross an ocean, but the book about his first and most famous expedition, called Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft  is still a #1 best seller!

Reading it some 20 years ago started a long process that resulted in my first book, "Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom", using many ideas from Thor Heyerdahl's books and related subjects. 

Heyerdahl believed that many people on Pacific islands had Caucasian ancestors because records show fair-skinned, red-haired people living on some of those islands, such as Easter Island, when Europeans and other explorers like Captain Cook first arrived there. 

And since fair-skinned and red-haired mummies have been found in Peru, Heyerdahl wanted to prove that an advanced civilization from South America could have crossed the Pacific Ocean to settle the Pacific islands.  Those white-skinned races then mixed with the Malayans who came from Asia, and their descendants are today's Polynesians.


Rhuna, the heroine of my series, is Polynesian.  Her father is a fair-skinned, blue-eyed man from South America, and her mother a brown-skinned native living on Easter Island.  She leaves her isolated island home on a reed boat, and eventually ends up in South America.

So, do you think combining history, or at least theories about mankind's past, with fiction and fantasy is a good idea?!



Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Villain vs Antagonist

Long before I started writing anything, I heard the saying that "every good story has a good villain" - or perhaps that should be "...a bad villain"?!  In any case, I took it to heart as I planned my first novel, and this is what I came up with:



The Dark Master, as he is called, who wears a black robe and causes ripples of terror to pass through the idyllic and utopian communities of Atlan, where the heroine and protagonist of my novels resides. 

Although The Dark Master sounds like a Fantasy cliché, I decided early on that he should be a real and complex character, like the others in my story, and not just a "bad guy" for the sake of having a villain.

In the world I've created for Rhuna, my protagonist, the Dark Master has a name like everyone else, and was a normal citizen of a peaceful society.  His name was Gatherer of Sage, and he was a Herbalist who began to dabble a bit too much in Alchemy and other unknown elements.

His quest to achieve things believed to be impossible or unattainable drove him to rebel against the restraints of society and the criticism by his peers, and before long he was no longer a respected Atlan Master wearing the traditional white robe, but rather a dark one to express his defiance:  hence the moniker, "the Dark Master."

At some point I began to think of the difference between a plain, outright villain, and an antagonist, and realized that some of my other characters, who were basically "good guys" were also antagonists because their viewpoint, opinion or actions brought on a conflict, a new situation and consequences that my heroine, the protagonist, had to deal with.


Now that I've decided what motivated The Dark Master to become such, and what still drives him on, he is no longer a faceless, menacing villain, but a formidable personality that can even be respected or understood to a degree. 

What do you as a reader think about a villain/antagonist you can relate to, or who has depths and dimensions like the good-guy characters in the story?



Monday, 28 March 2016

Book Review: Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr

Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr


I had only to read this book's subheading,  "A story of Togas, Daggers and Magic", to know I would enjoy the blend of ancient history and magic, and sure enough, I could hardly put it down!

The ancient world has always fascinated me, and mankind's search for magic throughout the ages is even more rivetting.  Throw in many great characters with Latin names, and an excellent story told in the first person by Felix the Fox about the investigation he is hired to undertake, and you find yourself immersed in another world. 

And a very enjoyable world, at that.  You don't even need any knowledge of history to appreciate this well-told story because it has all the hallmarks of a great book with overall appeal to most readers.   In fact, the author explains in the notes that the setting is far from accurate, but rather a combination of many elements making up the Roman Empire.  Yet the descriptions of food, daily life of the people, the towns and cities as well as gladiator games combine to make a very authentic experience for the reader. 

Personally, I was hooked as soon as I read in the opening chapter that the son of a wealthy Roman had died, apparently from a black magic rite gone wrong.  There is nothing cliché about the magic, nor anything else in this book, for that matter, and I was pleasantly surprised by all the ideas and twists in the story. 

This book is the first in a series of books featuring Felix the Fox, the unconventional Roman sleuth, and needless to say, I'm looking forward to the next book!  In the meantime, I've written a more formal review for this book at amazon and Goodreads, and you simply must see the author's fabulous website.



Friday, 25 March 2016

Nuclear Warfare in the Ancient World

Could it be possible?  An atomic bomb exploding in Ancient India thousands of years ago?


When I first read about it somewhere many years ago, I was skeptical.  Like most people, I believed that mankind had reached the pinnacle of technological development in my own lifetime, not hundreds - and certainly not thousands of years ago.

But then I began to read and research various subjects that interested me, and I soon found myself confronted with discrepancies and doubts. 

I realized that the history we are taught in school and most books is full of holes and big gaps!

And the rest is mostly theory and guesswork!

Ancient Egypt is a fine example of how modern historians fall short miserably when trying to explain the highly advanced engineering techniques evident in the pyramids and other structures.  So it stands to reason that, if ancient Egyptians had ultrasonic drills and technology still ahead of our own, that they could also have discovered how to make hydrogen and nuclear weapons.

Is there any evidence of such weaponry, you ask. 

Yes!  Look at this:

They are skeletons with a very high radiation reading, found in the area where the atomic blast is believed to have occurred.  Nearby, sand had turned to green glass, which is only possible when sand is subjected to unnaturally high heat.

And if written records are any proof of historical events, then there is a clear description of a nuclear explosion in the Vedic/Ancient Indian holy book, the Mahabharata.  Here is just one webpage with further details:


So, in light of this new knowledge, I am going to use the setting of Ancient India for my fourth book in the Rhuna series, and the story will culminate in a nuclear explosion just as described in the Mahabharata, and according to archaeological evidence!