Because the only thing more terrifying than velociraptors are velociraptors that can fly.

Monday, August 27, 2012

An O'Boyle Original

Hello, and welcome to my blog!

Today's post will be of a flash fiction story I wrote last year entitled, "The Crown of Eyes." If you'd like to hear me read it, you should look me up on YouTube where I have a channel called, "Colin Reads." I upload new videos Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If you like what I do, please like, share, and subscribe! (I'd really appreciate it.) Here's a link:

And here's my story. Hope you like it.

            The Crown of Eyes—symbol of the Nordkings’ might. A heavy circlet made of gold, topped by seven silver rays. Beneath each ray lies a semiprecious stone in the likeness of a human eye, all except the one at the back of the head. There, an eye is simply cut into the metal of the crown with a bit of mirror as its pupil.
According to the stories, the Crown of Eyes is a potent artifact, one that gives its wielder unimaginable power. Many say that the Crown’s magic is what allowed the Nordkings to bring together the northern lands in the days of old, the crown allowing them to pierce the veils of space and time.  In any rate, the crown passes down from father to son, in this case, from the hands of the late William the Wise to his son, Olaf.
Many in the kingdom feel it should have passed to his younger brother, Fredrick, as Fredrick served his time in the realm’s military with distinction. Olaf never bothered to show up for his duties. Fredrick was married with a young son. Olaf led a string of strumpets through the castle at all hours of the night. Fredrick was dashing, brave and confident, where Olaf was weak, pudgy and indecisive.
But the law is clear: The eldest son inherits the throne.
The first night of Olaf’s kingship, he drunk himself into a stupor, still wearing his crown. In his dreams, he met a man who claimed to be the crown’s maker. He told Olaf that the stories of the crown’s powers were true, and showed him how to use them. When Olaf awoke, he found himself able to see through walls, to move small things with his mind. But rather than use his powers to help the kingdom, he simply played cruel tricks on his servants and engaged his friends in further debaucheries.
Each night he dreamt of the crown-maker, and each night the man taught him how to use the gems set into the crown’s brim. One night, they reached the empty eye, the one with the mirrored pupil. The crown-maker advised Olaf against activating its power, saying that he wouldn’t be able to handle what it showed him. “Even your father,” droned the crown-maker, “struggled with its visions.”
“Piss tosh,” said Olaf, who resented yet another comparison of himself to his late father. “Am I not the king?” he said imperiously. “Are you not my subject? I order you to activate its power. I command it!”
The crown-maker said nothing, but bowed deeply. When Olaf awoke and wore the crown, he felt no different than he had the day before. He could not suddenly melt steel with his gaze or raise the dead with a thought. What then could be so dangerous about the empty eye’s power?
It wasn’t until he sat down with his generals that it started to become clear. On talking with the grizzled old greybeards, he suddenly realized how little they respected him, how much they wished they were dealing with his brother. Interrupting the meeting, he left, and sought comfort in the arms of his favorite mistress. But there he found no pleasure, for while they were together, she imagined that she held his brother, Fredrick, rather than him.
Olaf saw what every person he met really thought of him that day, and on looking in a mirror, he saw himself for what he really was. In despair, he threw himself from the castle’s tallest tower, having finally discovered what the empty eye allowed its wielder to see: The truth.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Procrastination Gremlins

Every once in a while, (although distressingly often lately, it seems), I suffer from what I call "an attack of the procrastination gremlins." This typically results in my having a less-than-stellar day. Not a bad day, mind you, not like if somebody chewed me out at work or I got stuck in really bad traffic or something along those lines, nothing so drastic. More like a thin layer of mental sludge has been poured over the top of my brain, sinking into the folds of gray matter and gunking up the works.

My motivation will start high enough. I'll wake up, work out, have some breakfast,and I'll say to myself, "OK, now I've checked my email and Facebook status on my phone, there's nothing that needs my urgent attention, I'll pop onto the laptop and get some work done." It's not like I have to go to work or run errands in the afternoon. I understand why I have trouble writing then. I get stressed out about the time. I worry about getting into a scene because I'll have to leave it half-finished, and I'm afraid I won't be able to recapture the mood I've created. That I get.

What irritates me is when I have time to write, but can't seem to get those words down. Like today, for example. I'm glad I have this blog, as writing of any kind, even if it isn't going into my story, tends to get the creative juices flowing, as I hope will happen now.

However, as I sit next to my gaming computer, I hear it beckoning. "Just play for an hour," it says. "Take a short break, and you'll come back refreshed." It sounds reasonable, it really does. But I don't know that I'll be able to come back to my writing.

But even when I force myself to sit at the computer, the word document open before me, the cursor blinking, nothing comes out. Maybe a line or two, but that's it. I'm not sure if I'm not inspired or just unsure where this part of the story is going, or what.

It's frustrating.

On a happier note, I have posted some videos to YouTube under my channel, "Colin Reads," which you should check out here:

The first video, of me reading Rudyard Kipling's "If," is less than three minutes long, and if you like it, you can check out the others. Also, if you do like it, please subscribe to my channel. I'd really appreciate it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's Happening on Friday (on YouTube)

Once upon a time, I read a story. (Shocking, I know. Me? Read? But bear with me.) In the story, the last man on Earth bemoans the arrogance that led the world to that situation. Apparently, (and this was a real fear at the time), before the detonation of the first H-bomb, it was believed that the bomb's ignition might ignite the Earth's atmosphere, immolating the planet in a fireball of unimaginable proportions. This obviously did not happen in reality, but in the story, it did. The protagonist knows that he alone (for a reason I've forgotten) survived the blast, and even if there was one woman who also survived, they would not be able to repopulate the Earth themselves. So humanity ends with him. But when the man dies, he sinks into the sea, where the many bacteria within his body spread, and thus, life goes on.

When I first read that story, it was in a collection of short scifi pieces, and I didn't remember the author or the title of the piece. Then, years later, I picked up a book at a relative's house. The name of the author, "Alfred Bester," didn't ring a bell, but in reading through the book, I encountered a story called, "Adam and No Eve," in which a man is the sole survivor of an atomic blast...

I know this story, I thought, and I read through the rest of the book that evening. It was wonderful. And among those stories, I encountered, "Fondly Farenheit," which featured an android, a synthetic human more closely fitting the original idea of a "robot" meant by Karel ńĆapek, The thing that stood out most to me when I first read "Fondly Fahrenheit," though, was Bester's use of pronouns. By playing around with something as simple as who's speaking when, Bester created a really neat effect, especially when one considers that the protagonist of the story is (going) insane.

So that brings us to this week, and YouTube. "How enigmatic a title you've created, Colin," you might be saying. (Although probably not.) The reason this entry is so titled is because I've recently begun a weekly series on YouTube entitled, "Colin Reads." The premise is simple: Each week, I will read a piece of prose or poetry. That's it. I also include a fun fact, usually about the author or work in question and then a quote, because who doesn't like quotes?

This week, I'll be reading, "Fondly Farenheit," so make sure to tune in and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Hate "The Wings of the Dove"

'tis true, dear readers. I, Colin O'Boyle, hate a novel (that isn't Twilight). And this brings me to an interesting point. (At least, I think it's interesting): It is possible to concede that a work of fiction (or movie, or sandwich, etc.) is well-crafted but still not like it. Conversely, it's possible to like a thing and agree that isn't well-made.

For example, McDonald's. I love McDonald's, don't get me wrong. I enjoy their hamburgers, and their chicken nuggets are delightful. However, I don't think there is anyone out there who, when thinking of their food, associates it with "fine dining." Along those same lines, anyone who would dispute the fact that the "Twilight" series has enjoyed wild success is simply wrong. Ms. Meyer's work has spawned a well-known movie series, and products featuring her characters extend as far as lunch boxes and action figures. However, "Twilight" and the other books in the series are not written well. The description is repetitive, the dialogue is tiresome, the plot is unbelievable (and I'm not talking about the vampires and werewolves). The main character doesn't grow as a person over the course of the story, and everyone inexplicable moves heaven and earth for the protagonist, even though she has a personality roughly equivalent to a damp paper towel. It is wish-fulfillment, plain and simple.

It is not a good book. (I realize that some might dispute me over the definition of "good" in this context, claiming that a "good" book is simply one that sells well, but I disagree. Again, I refer you to fast food. While Mickey D's hamburgers are wildly popular, they are not fine dining.) Also, I have nothing against popular books. The idea that just because something is popular necessarily means it cannot be good is about as irksome to me as the idea that something popular it must be by definition good.

But how does this apply to Henry James's novel, "The Wings of the Dove?" I'll tell you. In college, I was an English major, and one of my courses was on Victorian literature. The Victorians, along with the Puritans, a two groups of people whose written work irritates me greatly, so I was aware that I probably wouldn't like most of the books we read in the course, and I was proven right in that assumption. "The Scarlet Letter," "Jude the Obscure," "The Mill on the Pond," "Tess of the D'Ubervilles," all of these books I read, and all of them I disliked. But I finished them.

Then came "The Wings of the Dove." I won't go into plot summary here, as even thinking about the book too hard sets me to ranting, but I'll attach a link to the Wikipedia page for the curious:

What irritates me most about the book is that nothing happens for sure. Rather than being told through an omniscient narrator, the story is told through a series of third-person limited narrators, allowing the reader to hover over the shoulder of a number of different characters as the narrative progresses. The problem is that each character interprets events differently, and since the reader only has that character's "word" for what happens, one never really knows what does. Is Milly sick, or isn't she? She thinks she is. What did the doctor say? Because we don't have his actual words, etc. Nothing happens for certain.

Linking to my earlier point, I did not like "The Wings of the Dove."  Not knowing what actually happened in the novel confused and irritated me, to the point where I simply stopped reading it, something I had never done in school up to that point, and never did again. It was that bad. But, I am not saying that the book was poorly-written. One theme the novel seems to exemplify is that reality is filtered through perception, so one can never truly "know" what "really" happens anywhere. Why, then, should that be different in one's fiction?

And I say, "That's true, but really annoying." James, I assume, set out to accomplish a specific goal with his book, and he succeeded in that goal. The novel was very carefully crafted. However, I loathe it with an unbridled passion.

In short: just because one likes something, that doesn't mean that it is well-crafted, and just because something is well-crafted, that doesn't mean that it's likable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Colin O'Boyle of Earth

In 1912, Edgar Rice Burroughs--of Tarzan fame--published the first in a serialized story that would eventually be come to known as A Princess of Mars. One hundred years later, in 2012, Disney released a movie version of this story, calling it John Carter. Recently, I saw that film and after watching it I decided to read the books. They are in the public domain, after all.

As far as the movie is concerned, I went into it with low expectations. I knew that it was one of the biggest financial flops in history, losing Disney hundreds of millions of dollars (I'm not sure on the exact figure), so I didn't expect it to be great. From what I'd read, it had a lot of neat special effects, but that was about it. And yet, the only disappointment I had after watching the movie is that there won't be any other ones.

The special effects were gorgeous, as expected, but there were little things that drew me in as well. in One scene, for example, John Carter's captor, Tars Tarkas--a four-armed green martian, or Thark--asks him to jump. (Since he's from Earth, Carter is able to jump much higher than the martians.) Tars holds his lower arms out, palms up, and mimes with his upper hand the word "jump," since he and Carter don't share the same language yet. The simple fluidity of that motion, of using his four arms in a natural way to demonstrate his point made me accept that there are four-armed creatures on this planet, and that's normal for them.

Then there are the little humorous moments, like when Carter leads the Thark army all the way to one city to rescue his lady love, only to find out that their foes are at another city. There's a moment of silence as Carter digests this fact, trying to think of what to do next, and then Tars Tarkas takes one of his four arms and smacks him right on the back of the head. Hilarious.

It's even quotable, like the line, "Leave a Thark his head and one hand, and he may yet conquer." I had to write that down when I heard it, it sounded so cool.

So, I liked the movie, but what about the source material? It's definitely pulpy, with unrealistic stretches of dialogue, racist depictions of Native Americans and martian races that fit that role, and the female characters in the novel are anything but role models, but these things are not out of the ordinary for this type of work and the time period in which it was written. I'll have more to say once I've finished it, but it's interesting so far, both in itself and in comparison to the movie.