April 17, 2019

S is for Space Creature

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for lots of fun information about the book.
You may be noticing that this is not the letter you expected to find featured today.  I trust you can handle it.  For the Letter O click here.

        Like robots, space creatures are often neglected when people look at the creatures of fantasy, presumably because of the slightly arbitrary distinction between fantasy and science fiction.  You may be surprised to learn that people have been telling fantasy tales about travellers to the moon, heavens, stars, and other planets for as long as we have writing that preserves the stories they told, and those tales include all manner of  fantastical space creatures.

        “The story illustrated for you here is of a struthioform astronaut from the far-distant planet Pelavium upon its first discovery of life forms on a moon of Nemelun, with which Pelavium shares a star.  Among these newly encountered species are a tentacled crater-dweller, a grove of sentient trees or vines, and the aviansect that dwells thereon, while a cautious frondbrow looks on shyly.  All these space creatures are new discoveries to the struthioform, but it should be noted that the struthioform is equally new to them.”

        For a few more posts on older fantasy involving space creatures, check out 
        I’m not as well-practiced at drawing space creatures, but I certainly had fun trying to invent a few.  What sorts of aliens would you most want to have pay a visit to Earth?  Or encounter on your own space travels?

        The other creature representing S in my book is the salamander, which you can link to by way of

[Picture: One Giant Leap, rubber block print by AEGN, 2019.]

April 16, 2019

R is for Robot

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for lots of additional info on the project.
You may note that this is not the letter you expected to find featured today.  I’m making trouble by using my own modified schedule again.

        You may argue that robots are not fantasy, but of course those depicted in much sci fi or fantasy fiction are.  As the bestiary explains…
        “A robot is a creature built by human hands, and can thus be designed in myriad forms.  Some of the creations of humans are mere tools, devised by mechanics to perform a task without thought or reflection, and these are common in the mundane world, especially in factories.  Other robots, however, are complex creatures capable of life-like action of their own, beings proper that may consider their own place in the universe.  Indeed, there is much debate over the essence of a robot, and whether a robot with self-consciousness and will can indeed be said to be alive and have a soul despite its artificial birth.  The ancient robot says: I am on-ly a ma-chine. But I can think and speak and act, when I am pro-per-ly wound up.  I am fit-ted with Smith & Tin-ker's Improved Com-bi-na-tion Steel Brains.  You have no i-de-a how full of ma-chin-er-y I am.”

        The “ancient robot” is Tik-tok, as quoted by L. Frank Baum in Ozma of Oz, written before the word robot was coined.  Tik-tok is a character of whom I’m very fond.  He frequently points out that he’s not alive, but it seems to be a distinction without a difference.  Then of course there are Data from Star Trek, replicants from Blade Runner, and robots in Westworld, Almost Human, and dozens of others.  What do you think?  Will truly sentient robots ever move out of the realm of fantasy?  Should they?

If you prefer your fantasy creatures more fantastic, there are always rocs, Redcaps, and ramidrejus.  Click the link to read 


[Picture: A Device for Cleaning Steam Pipes, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016.]

April 15, 2019

Q is for Qilin

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out its Kickstarter Campaign, which is already 200% funded!  (Much gratitude to all who have pledged!)
You may note that this is not the letter you expected to find featured today… but I’m not too far off.  For the Letter M click here.

        “The qilin is a most auspicious creature in the land of China, where it dwells.  It is covered in brilliant scales and has a mane and tail that flow always upwards like flame.  With its slender legs and delicate hooves it is careful to step lightly so that it never harms a living thing, neither crawling insect nor blade of grass.  The ancient writer says: There lives a creature of so gentle kind a nature, on no living thing will tread, no, not e’en the grass in spring; and the horn which crowns its head never injures mortal thing.
        There are those who may say kind words when people are listening, but speak cruelly behind others' backs, or who do what is right only when others are watching, in hope of reward or in pursuit of reputation.  The qilin, however, is gentle wherever it walks, and is no less careful of a lowly beetle in the grass than of an emperor.  The qilin’s perfect integrity gives it the power to stand up to wickedness, for it knows what is right and how to live in peace and honesty with all.”

        I had a lot of fun with this piece and am really pleased with it.  My qilin is floating above the tops of the grass blades and taking a courteous interest in the butterflies, as befits such a gentle soul.  The ombre coloring is done by putting the two colors of ink (in this case green and black) next to each other on the plate and rolling them out until they’re blended just the right amount.  Then you have to ink your block in one direction only (horizontally and never vertically), so as not to mix up the colors.  It does make it harder to get the block inked perfectly, but can be a really nice effect.

        The qilin is a particularly good mythical beast to encounter because it is entirely auspicious and (especially if you’re reasonably virtuous) won’t hideously slaughter you.  What mythical creature would you most like to see live and in person?
        Q may seem like a tough letter, but the alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  You can click the link to read


[Picture: Keeping Off the Grass, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 12, 2019

P is for Pyrallis

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign; there are lots of goodies about the project posted there.
        Actually, the two P creatures in my bestiary are the phoenix and the pterippus, both of which I’ve blogged about before.  So I decided to be tricky and focus today on the pyrallis, which will appear in my book only as a bonus critter in a tiny detail of another illustration.
        Many sources nowadays describe the pyrallis (aka pyrausta) as being like a tiny dragonoid insect or insectoid dragon, which lives in the copper-smelting furnaces of Cyprus.  When I first heard of this I was utterly enchanted.  I imagined it as being a miniature dragon, but with dragonfly wings, large multi-faceted eyes, and probably antennae.  I can just see it, flitting among the sparks and glowing in the firelight.  It’s a delightful image.  But when you do a little digging, Pliny, our original source, classes it under “insects” and describes it as “a four-footed animal with wings, the size of a large fly.”  With only four legs we are justified in questioning whether the pyrallis is truly an insect… but dragon?  Where did that come from?
        The pyrallis is a poster child for the question of “authenticity” in fantasy.  For millenia people told each other stories, and retold them, and adapted them, and mixed them up, and told them again.  We saw this phenomenon before with the gnome, and the phoenix, too, had all kinds of variations from author to author - how long did it live, what did it look like, how did that whole regeneration thing work?  There are many many different versions throughout various classical and medieval writings.  Which one is “authentic”?  What does “authentic” even mean when you’re talking about something entirely imaginary?  On the other hand, if I start describing a swimming bird that doesn’t regenerate at all, I really can’t call it a “phoenix”, can I.  How much leeway should modern fantasy writers get in adapting and changing fantasy creatures they did not make up themselves?
        It’s a question with a lot of wiggle room and grey area.  What do you think?  All you fantasy writers out there must have Opinions, and among readers, do you appreciate the little tweaks or added depth that fantasy books contribute to your image of a mythical creature, or does it annoy you when they don’t stay true to previous versions?
        As for me, I confess that sometimes changes annoy me and sometimes they don’t, but in the case of the pyrallis, if it is a mere insect, I don’t much care about it, but if it’s a tiny dragon?  Yes, please!  What do you think?
        You can read all about
and

[Picture: detail from The Philosophers at Home, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 11, 2019

O is for Ouroboros

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for all sorts of additional information, pictures, and even a video.  Huge thanks to all the backers who have already successfully brought this campaign to its goal, much to my astonishment and delight!
        And now for our featured creature:

        “The ancient artists of Egypt and Greece depicted this serpent as a simple circle, tail in mouth, but not all ouroboroses find satisfaction in the perfect circles common among their kind.  Though some find the simplicity of the circle pleasing and satisfying, others prefer to form themselves into other shapes, just as dancers long to sing with their bodies and poets long to paint with words.  Yet no matter the strange and sinuous variety of patterns enacted by the more poetical ouroboroses, every one holds its tail in its mouth, without which closure it would no longer be eternal.
        By the ouroboros we are reminded that everyone has a unique voice and vision, and it would be a terrible loss to force every person to conform themselves to the same regular shape instead of the endlessly creative variants with which our souls are naturally teeming.  But just as the ouroboros must always keep tail in mouth, so must we remember that true creativity consists not in mindlessly altering things merely for the sake of novelty, but rather in balancing the fundamentals which are truly important, with the variations that allow us to celebrate our myriad unique visions.”

        For a post about my process in imagining and creating this piece, see here.
        Are there any things that you have your own unique way of doing?  What quirky personal variations do you have for ordinary activities?  (Or maybe not so ordinary?)

The alphabet of anything-but-ordinary creatures doesn’t stop there.  Click the link to read


[Picture: Ouroboros Makes a Poem, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014.]

April 9, 2019

N is for Ninki Nanka

        My theme for this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  I’m super excited to announce that I am launching my first ever Kickstarter Campaign to kick this project over the finish line!  Please check it out; there’s a lot of info about the book there, including a video, because I’m just that snazzy.  And if you know of anyone who might enjoy this project, please let them know about it - I’ll need all the publicity help I can get!
        And now for the content teaser, an excerpt from the Letter N:

        “The Ninki Nanka is a fearsome monster dwelling in the swamps and rivers of western Africa, especially the Gambia and Senegal.  Although it is seldom seen, its presence is known, and children are warned never to enter the swamps alone lest the Ninki Nanka devour them.  Imagine how easily even a huge beast can lurk in the muddy pools among the roots and weeds, watching and waiting for unwary prey.  A swirl of movement in the humid, heavy air, a swish of the turbid water, and suddenly the scaly neck rears up, the horns slash, the powerful teeth clamp on flesh, and another victim disappears beneath the churning water.  Surely no one should enter the swamp without being warned of the Ninki Nanka.”

        Did anyone ever warn you with threats from the boogeyman, Jenny Greenteeth, Krampus, or other scary creatures that will Get You if you don’t behave?

        The alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  Something's gonna get you if you don't click the link to read


[Picture: Don’t Go Into the Swamp, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 8, 2019

M is for Malacorana

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  Please visit my Kickstarter Campaign for the project to learn all sorts of additional details!

        M is another letter for which I’ve already discussed both my bestiary’s creatures in this blog.  To learn all about them, first go back and read my previous posts
But I do have a new block print to share with you, which is one of the malacomorphs that will appear in my bestiary.  True to their origins as doodles in the margins of illuminated manuscripts, I have made a number of these funny little critters which will appear throughout my book.  I had particular fun with this one, combining not only the requisite snail shell, but also snail antlers and then wings, just because that made it even quirkier.  What creature do you think would be best combined with a snail shell?

      Are you a doodler?  What sorts of doodles do you tend to produce?  Pictures of things, or abstract shapes?  Straight lines or curves?  Filling in all the o’s or putting mustaches on all the people?
But wait; there’s more!  The alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  You have to click the link to read


[Picture: Malacorana, rubber block print by AEGN, 2019.]

April 5, 2019

L is for Leviathan

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  You'll find lots of additional information at my Kickstarter Campaign for the project.  Please check it out!

        Both of my bestiary’s L creatures have been featured in this blog before, so you can start with lots of background reading:
on the lylit (aka leaf baby) here (from last year’s A-Z Challenge)
        And now here’s an excerpt from my bestiary, On the Virtues of Beasts:

        “There are known to be many creatures in the depths of the ocean, of wondrous strangeness, and never seen by human eyes.  And yet our learned men are wont to assert as if with certainty that this creature or that one cannot truly exist.  It is well to remember the limits of earthly wisdom and the reality of those realms beyond our current knowledge: the distant skies beyond the stars, the depths of the oceans beneath the waves, and the possibilities of wonder within the imagination.  Perhaps even the leviathan, largest of creatures in the deepest of oceans, is no greater than our ignorance.
        The leviathan, therefore, reminds us of how much we have yet to learn.  No one can call themselves wise who cannot first recognize and admit the limits of their knowledge.”

        The leviathan is the biggest creature of all.  What’s the biggest creature you’ve ever seen?

        The alphabet of mythical creatures is bigger, too.  You have to follow yet another link to read 

[Picture: Altum Incognitum, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014.]

April 4, 2019

K is for Kasa-Obake

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for the project!  There's all sorts of additional information about my book, pictures, and even a video!








        Once again, rather than rehash information I’ve posted before, I’ll send you right away to read

        … And now that you know what a kasa-obake is, I’ll tell you about my version.  It’s just a small piece with not a lot of room for detail, and it’s pretty straightforward.  I tried to remain true to the traditional description of the thing, so my twist on it is in its setting and pose.  You might recognize it…  Yes, that’s Gene Kelly in the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain.  I figured that a sentient umbrella would surely out-Kelly Gene Kelly himself.  I like to imagine this Japanese spirit
or creature on dark, stormy nights happily singin’ and dancin’ in the rain.
        Do you like the rain?

        Remember, if you click the link for the A-Z Blog Challenge, you will find the Master List of all the other blogs participating this year.  There are lots of cool posts out there for you to discover!

[Picture: Singin’ in the Rain, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
Photo of Gene Kelly from Singin' in the Rain, MGM, 1952.]