Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Culture Posts have inspired The Writer's International Culture Share

My cultural posts might bring the crowds that I hope, considering that I have taken a hiatus from blogging as it is, but I have managed to inspire one of the nicest and most in tune with worldbuilding authors I know, Juliette Wade to start a project of her own:

What if there were a place on the web where writers from all over the world - including the US - could share folklore, local culture, religious stories and details of daily life that would be difficult or nearly impossible to discover through ordinary web research avenues?

Welcome to The Writer's International Culture Share. Yeah, I am the muse, which inspired this project. The project will be hosted every Thursday. Right at the moment, Juliette is reposting my first cultural posts from this blog as well as her posts on Japan. Quite thrilling. We are expecting to have people tag along from all over the globe.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Being a Phantom Menace

I know it's been a long radio silence and by the likes of it I may continue with the radio silence. I'm fairly busy with my manuscript and handling things in real life, which is kinda why I probably will not be around much on here, until I sort the incredulous list of tasks I have to handle.

Thanks for the patience. Love ya.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

[State of the Reader] Reading in Bulgarian

I'm not making the headway I wanted with the edits. I had a very busy weekend, which I spent in the company of other people [yeah, I'm surprised I did that as well] and had very little time to sit down and edit [naturally, the holes that I had filled up with official duty as a marketing maven]. I have nothing to report on that front, but I hope to make a difference this week.

As far as my reading goes, I manage to steal several pages in bus rides or when I decide that my of so worked fingers need to rest. The bizarre coincidence is that my main reads are both in Bulgarian and it's odd to read in my mother tongue. Since I review in English, I prefer to read my materials in English, because of the names. I'm terrible at names and when they are translated, the task grows a lot more complicated.

As is the case with "Game of Thrones". I'm reading this brick in Bulgarian and while the translation is adequate, there are god knows how many names being thrown right from the start. So yeah, I finally got around to working on that project [read GoT and compare it to the TV series as they air episode after episode]. I just hope that I manage to watch the series in order to make it happen, because let me tell you, watching things in Bulgaria is quite the challenge.

For pleasure [yes, I actually hope to read books that I won't have to review] I'm reading a super old edition of "The Birds" by Daphne du Maurier. The translation is from 1983, which makes the book older than I am and the lineup is pretty bizarre, because I can't find all the stories, but that may have to do with the translation rather than anything else. I've watched the Hitchcock movie and now that I'm reading the original novelette, I'm surprised that there is almost no correlation between the text and the motion picture.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Open Anthology: Bloody Fabulous edited by Ekaterina Sedia

It's finally happened. Fashion has come forth and it shall rule! I know that this may seem a bit out of the blue, but I'm interested in couture fashion. Actually, the first attempts at writing fiction were more or less related to paragraphs of how the characters dressed or the infamous magic girl scenes of transformations [Sailor Moon style]. Of course, I have no actual knowledge of fashion. Just the appreciation of aesthetics that can be achieved. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled when a piece of clothing acquires power or importance.

This is why, upon hearing that Ekaterina Sedia will be editing an anthology, where fashion has to be on the forefront, I did a Mexican wave [which is surprisingly easy now that I have characters by the hundreds]. Here is the premise. I think that I will submit something.

“Bloody Fabulous:

Lace. Leather coats. Open collars over exquisite collarbones. A single red drop on paper-white cuffs. Each fiction genre has its sartorial signifiers, and urban fantasy is no exception – from the brocade extravagance of the Unseelie courts to the ubiquitous leather of supernatural detectives to the old-fashioned good taste of wealthy vampires, we are as familiar with them as we are with the supernatural attributes of the protagonists. However, despite the prominence of clothing in urban fantasy, fashion is usually a supporting actor. In this anthology, we want to give it a center stage (or a runway). Let the tales of tormented designers and well-dressed vampires strut into the light, and finally get the attention they deserve. BLOODY FABULOUS is a collection of urban fantasy tales, featuring vampires as well as other supernatural creatures, but focusing on the world of fashion and its intersection with the uncanny. Get ready, get set, get fabulous!”

Friday, March 4, 2011

Personification of Spring in Bulgarian Culture

It's March, the most bipolar month in Bulgaria [to be honest December surpassed it with days, I had to walk with short sleeves OUTSIDE]. It's the month that catches the death of winter and the birth of spring, so from a meteorological standpoint, March can be as cold as January, as rainy as February and as mildly tempered as April.

Baba Marta in her sunny mood

Of course, such erratic weather patterns panicked did a lot to panic Bulgarians back in the time, to the point that we personified March as Baba Marta [or Grandma March for the curious ones] and March is a time, when we honor Baba Marta in hopes for good weather. In olden times, shepherds would freeze up in the mountains with their flocks, because the sunny weather would easily turn to a snowstorm and the people along with the animals would be trapped there. Naturally, no one had the desire to lose their loved ones as well as their livestock to bad weather and this naturally led to the conception of Baba Marta and the month-long series of rituals that are performed in her name. Baba Marta is not only the embodiment of March, but also the very personification of spring, which for Bulgaria is a tough and unpredictable season. Often cold and with rain showers while it's sunny outside.

In this post, I will touch upon the mythological reasoning as to why Baba Marta suffers from her violent mood swings. The most popular belief is that Baba Marta has two brothers: January and February [they are named Golyam Sechko and Maluk Sechko, which I fail to translate], who have anger management issue, hence why it's cold during these months. Basically, both brothers always do something to displease their sister, either drink all the wine or leave their house in an utter mess. This angers Baba Marta, who as their sister is depicted as an old crone with a cane, and snow covers the land. Otherwise, when not provoked, Baba Marta is happy and loving, thus prompting the sun to shine.

Baba Marta during a fit

Sometimes, Baba Marta's said to be the brothers' bride [yes, there's polygamy at work here] and I actually know some inappropriate jokes about why she is always throwing fits. They involve cold feet and ill-endowed spouses.

It's interesting to note that while nowadays March and spring are female in Bulgarian folklore, once Baba Marta was actually a man, who had two wives. One was loving and beautiful, while the other is described as always scowling and cold. When March looked at the first, the sun shone and the weather cleared. When he looked at the other, winter would creep back in. However, it's a rather unpopular version.

The patriarchal structure of Bulgarian society reinforced the idea that March is a female and that her mood swings are unrelated to anything. Today, the tale of Baba Marta and her brothers or spouses, while known, is not central as to why Baba Marta angers as easily as she does. It's just accepted that she is as easy to laugh as she is to cry. Anything can anger her. If she sees old men on the streets, she might anger. Seeing children and young women might better her mood.

With this ends the mythological roots of Baba Marta and a very brief 'psychological' profile of her emotional instability. Next week I will try to translate [key word is try, of course] some short fairy tales about Baba Marta.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In which I blog everywhere else, but here

Busy week. University started and I'm getting in a rhythm with what I can accomplish in which of the time slots, while at the same time dealing with end of the month and the beginning of the other family dynamics. So that's that. On to the links.

First, I was fortunate enough to have submitted 500 words to Juliette Wade's Wednesday Worldbuilding Workshop, who breaks down the text to its smallest particles and examines setting, magic and the interaction between the people. The result is a deep analysis that certainly shed light on the story I excerpted from. I do suggest that you submit and see for yourselves. Here is what she said about "Crimson Cacophony":

First, I'd like to thank Harry for submitting this piece. I found it dramatic and interesting. I think that the blending of the worlds, i.e. modern/gritty real world and fantasy magic system, is well done. The two seem not to struggle against one another; I can accept that a night-based magic system exists in this world.

Next, I continue with my ramblings on Jules Verne, though this time I cover the characterization in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "The Mysterious Island" with commentary on the Victorian morality. The post is hosted at Beyond Victoriana and would like to hear some input on it. So far it has one tiny comment. Here is an excerpt from my piece:

Did Verne create “steampunk” characters in his novels? Though I cannot define Verne as being a steampunk writer, I can say that Verne’s works, while written in a cut and dry cataloguing style, nonetheless emphasizes moral and social qualities as much as it does scientific ones. Given these circumstances, I will consider what are considered important values that a person should have according to the characters in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1 and The Mysterious Island. 2 Moreover, by investigating the value systems these characters hold, we can compare how they hold up to the characters in today’s modern steampunk books.

I also happened to review Pan's Labyrinth for the Monster Awareness Month, in which I raise the point that monsters take on a positive role, in order to contrast with the monstrosity of the humans during the post-Civil War clashes in Spain:

Celebrating the monsters in cinema can’t be complete without mentioning the monsters in our mythology. Pan’s Labyrinth is the perfect example of how the monstrous in our folklore can be assimilated in the cinematic format, creating a modern, dark fairy tale for adults. Unlike a lot of the entries in the Monster Awareness Month, Pan’s Labyrinth is far from being a horror, while at the same time it displays a horrifying reality that has nothing to do with cheap scares.

Last, but not least in importance is my contribution to the Pornokitsch team with a long review of Kaaron Warren's collection "Dead Sea Fruit." Needless to say I loved it, because this is Kaaron Warren that we are talking about. She's inspiring. Here is a snippet:

Kaaron Warren makes the reader feel. Her stories are emotionally tactile and its through these sensatory assaults that I had to stop and process my response as well as think about what I’d just read. In Dead Sea Fruit as a whole, Kaaron Warren deconstructs blood ties, love and friendship and shines light on what happens when they mutate, when goodness dies and the human spark flickers out. Her stories follow the death of the soul, while the body’s still living, and the life of the soul after its body’s death. Her endings are usually the end for the lone, unfortunate people who populate her tales.