Sunday, April 25, 2010

Plant a Maple

Few activities in life are as rewarding as planting a tree. In an Earthweek event, our small crew of Land's Sake volunteers and employees transplanted three sugar maples at Dickson Fields in Weston. It was a good morning's work and a productive workout. In eighty years, the pictured tree may be quite large, and may even be a source of maple syrup--assuming that global warming doesn't completely nullify maple syrup production. Perhaps I have found a new motivator, which should convince me to do more to combat the climate crisis. I want to harvest sap from this tree in a future year.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happy Earth Week; praise and FAQs for The Raven and The Crayfish

'blue marble' earth photo by NASA, public domain

Happy Earth Week everyone! I advise that you celebrate by volunteering a good deed for your planet. I plan on planting some Maple trees for Land's Sake. There are thousands of volunteer opportunities of all types out there, some near you, and easily found through the magic of a web search.


From Crater Lake National Park, Ranger Dave Grimes had high praise for THE RAVEN AND THE CRAYFISH:

"Studlar has taken many of the essential elements of Oregon's deep blue lake (crayfish, ravens, the introduction of fish, native tribes, discovery by gold prospectors, the question of what lies below the lake's surface, uncertainty about the volcano's future) and wrapped them up in a story that is simultaneously surprising and satisfying and that, moreover, wrestles with the key concepts that are fundamental to this mountaintop caldera: mystery, power, violence, transformation, and protection. After reading his legend, I will never look upon the lake in quite the same way.”

Yes, Crater Lake fans, he's THAT Ranger Dave, the one from Colorado, and a legend among park interpreters.


When folks who are less familiar with Crater Lake read THE RAVEN AND THE CRAYFISH, these are the most frequently asked questions:

1. Is this a real legend?
In my 'about the author' I said that I heard the story 'from an elderly Thamalk chief from a village called songe.' In the real world, there is no Thamalk tribe, and 'songe' is French for 'dream'. I invented the story, or discovered it in our collective unconscious, so we can think of it as a modern legend. There is a Klamath tribe, famous for their stories and religious beliefs on the sacred Crater Lake. I borrowed elements from their stories in crafting mine.

2. You wrote of radiation from the lake. What is the story behind that?
Down on the water, the UV light is INTENSE. The sun is bright, and the clearest lake in the world reflects UV light back at us in our little open tour boats. During the first summer that I worked at Crater Lake, I became a bit concerned about the UV, especially considering that there is a history of skin cancer in my family. I only half-jokingly called the UV light 'Llao's revenge.' (The Klamath spirit who inhabited Crater Lake was named Llao, in most versions of the stories. In some versions, he is referred to as simply 'the Chief of the Below World.') In my second summer on the lake, I took to wearing long sleeves and hi-tech 'glacier' sunglasses whenever on the lake, and found the sun considerably less threatening as a result.

3. What about the bubbles rising from the lake?
The US Geological Survey classifies Crater Lake as an active volcano. However, it has not had a sizable eruption in 5000 years. The mountain has shown some signs of activity in recent years. In 1945, there was a 'burp', wherein park visitors and staff reported bluish gray clouds of smoke or gas rising out of the lake. On September 20, 1993, the park experienced earthquakes of up to 6.0 on the richter scale, another probable sign of volcanic activity. And in 2007, visitors hiking Wizard Island reported seeing bubbles rise out of the lake, accompanied by a smell of sulphur. They reported this event to me (because I was guiding their boat tour), and I forwarded the message to the lake research crew. The research crew visited the approximate site of the bubbles in following days, and did not find any more evidence of activity. In any case, we never know when Llao might awaken!

In the near future, I'll follow up on my April 6th post with some comments on the work of Dunstan Firbolg. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MOCCA, Cyborg Horse, and Slime Mold Revolt

I will be at the MOCAA comics festival April 10 and 11, New York City, at the IKnowJoeKimpel table.

My RAVEN AND CRAYFISH will be for sale (and it is still selling online via IKnowJoeKimpel.)

This will be my first MOCCA appearance since 2005. Other duties have called me away every year between then and now. It will be interesting to see how the festival has evolved. SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED for small-press comics in the past five years; it will be interesting.

Now a preview of a current project, which certainly will not be ready in time for MOCCA....

The Futuristic Wood

Since I was very young, I have had a special fondness for science fiction. My first published comic book (small press) A HUMBLE JOY (2004) was an SF work about a research physicist and his guinea pig. SF themes dominated my comics work during my time at The Center for Cartoon Studies (2005-07): notable works there included MYTHS FROM THE FUTURE, “Paper Slave” (with Sean Morgan), and my thesis project ARRIDABA, an unfinished SF graphic novel featuring sea turtles. It would be wise for me to finish the work as a script, but so far I haven't mad much progress on that.

However, my CCS comrades might be glad to hear that I am currently working on two projects in the venerable genre of science fiction. One features a cyborg horse.

In 2008, I produced this drawing:

I took a bit of inspiration, or at least the idea of a priest riding on some sort of weird robot-donkey-like creature, from “The Quest for St. Aquin” by Anthony Boucher. Just about everybody who saw this drawing said the same thing: “I like the horse / donkey.” With that in mind, I wondered if I might compose a narrative starring a cybernetic horse. Evidently, the parts have been coming together in my imagination, because I am right now at work on just such a story.

A sneak preview:

His ally ia a cybernetic orang-utang:

And to you sports fans out there, this work also features a futuristic athlete (who also has musical ambitions):

And that is as much as I'll reveal, for the time being.

My other SF work in progress is a collaboration with fellow CCS pioneer Sean Morgan. (Warning: his site is 'for mature readers.') The “Paper Slave” team is back together. This time, we're creating an SF/ horror comic featuring zombies. I have composed the script, and we have made a bit of opening progress on the artwork. I hope that announcing the effort here will help to prompt greater progress.

And on a related subject...

I didn't know it, but science fiction could be in my genes(?!) Last week, my mother and her three siblings made their final clean of my late-grandparents house in Minnesota, before the new owners move in. My mom made a startling discovery. Or, should, I say an ASTOUNDING discovery.

She found a manuscript “Slime Mold Revolt” by Dunstan Firbolg, the pseudonym of my grandfather, the famed naturalist and conservationist John B. Moyle. It was accompanied by a rejection letter from the editor of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION. I had no idea that anyone else in my lineage ever wrote in this genre, but evidently my grandfather had made this effort, unbeknownst to his eldest daughter, until now.

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION lives on today, having been retitled ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT. The editor during the era of the former title was John W. Campbell Jr. He was, among other things, mentor to the great Isaac Asimov. An honor to think that Campbell read my grandfather's story, presumably.

I haven't had a chance to read SLIME MOLD REVOLT yet, but I may have more to say once I do.