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In The Dark, There Be Dragons

Lately, I’ve been fully immerse in the Starz show Black Sails, the 4-season prequel to R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island which tells the story of Captain Flint, Billy Bones and Long John Silver in a terrifyingly realistic historical setting. There be dragons? Oh yes!

Beyond the swashbuckling, so much of this show resonates with what I care about as a storyteller that I even re-watch it in binge sessions. Don’t worry. I will spare you harping on about my admiration for the storytelling, the characters, the actors, the set and essentially everything else that is brilliant about this production.

Except this bit where Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), dead-tired of fighting against “civilised society”, proceeds to take the words right out of my mouth [no spoilers]:

 

They paint the world full of shadows, and then tell their children to stay close to the light. Their light. Their reasons, their judgements. Because in the darkness, there be dragons.

But it isn’t true. We can prove that it isn’t true.

In the dark, there is discovery. There is possibility. There is freedom…in the dark. Once someone has illuminated it.

~ Captain Flint (Black Sails S4E10)

So embrace your nightmares. You won’t regret it.

Love,

there be dragons

Articles, Blog

Humans Are Animals

humans are animals - evolution skulls
Photo: Steve Johnson @ Flickr

We humans love to beat our own drum. We just love to proclaim how smart and resourceful we are. How we’re a unique creation, made in God’s own image. According to Judaism and its derivatives, anyway. Different religions, different opinions, of course.

Philosophies are beautiful, but so are the laws of nature. And those laws state, with irrefutable consistency, that humans are animals. Of the species homo sapiens sapiens, to be precise.

Evolutionary Basics

Homo sapiens sapiens, or “the thinking man”, is the last survivor of the otherwise dead human family tree. The first members of the homo family appeared approx. 1 million years ago, but during the last Ice Age, only we and our cousins homo neanderthalensis still existed. All other humanoids had long gone extinct, and at the end of said Ice Age, so had the Neaderthals.

Compare that to sharks, which have been around in abundant varieties for 420 million years.

So not only are humans animals, from a genealogical point of view we’re not even particularly successful.

Articles, Blog

Modern Witch Hunts With A Modern Hammer

Guest Post by Cael Kalbrandt

 

“Witch.” The sound alone conjures up image of ugly crones with warts, black cats, and a supersonic broomstick. The very word is obscene: an unholy insult to scare children and offend adults.

Witch no.3 - J.E. Baker - modern witch hunts

Of course, society is so much wiser and more civilised now. We may detest those who are not exact copies of our ideal self, but we don’t immolate, drown or hang by the neck until dead. “Immolate” means to burn someone, by the way. But hey, stakes are a thing of the past, right?

Screw that! The witch hunts aren’t over. Not by a long shot.

Articles, Blog

The Pain Game

Not quite the blogpost I had planned for today, but clear thinking is impossible when you’re repeatedly curled up in foetal position for days on end. However, that little setback did put me in the perfect position to study the mind’s response to pain. Especially excruciating pain…

pain game - excruciating pain and how it affects the mind
Photo: Vincent Bozzo

A bout of enteritis brougth on some terrible and very painful cramps. They were only cramps, I kept telling myself. But even “only cramps” proved sufficient to hotwire my brain.

In short, my body threw a Happy Potter-style Cruciatus Curse on itself. This is what it did.

Articles, Blog

Hacking Your Fear of Failure

fear of failure - hands - AK Rockefeller

Fear is the essence of horror. So as a writer of horror fiction, naturally I’m an expert fear manager, right?

On paper, yes. In reality, I’m always more or less terrified of one thing in particular. And so are you, whether you realise it or not.

The Commonest Fear

Extreme fear is high profile. The list of phobias is endless. But the most common everyday fear is as insidious as is it crippling. Everyone suffers from it. “Not me!” you say? Think again. Think of…

…failure. Nobody wants to be a failure. No one wants people laughing at them. You may not call it fear, but your shoulders tense. You feel queasy and your palms become sweaty. All at the mere thought of failing to…