Monday, April 19, 2010

Wherein Dragons First Appear

It has been brought to my attention that I have been remiss in posting fantasy art. A friend indicated that I had posted plenty of science, horror, and science fiction, but not not enough fantasy. Being a scientist, I immediately trotted off to collect the data, choosing appropriate bins. Here it is, by number of works of art/photos, and subject:

14  Science (NASA, night sky, and such)
13  Common (pens, cups, etc.)
11  Science Fiction
03  Abstract/Fractal
02  Speculative/Psychological
02  Horror
01  Fantasy

Well, indeed, we see a bias. Or several, actually. The preponderance of "common" themed art is a result of my not yet having hit upon the idea of looking for more original and thematic pieces to go with my posts. So that's fine. I'm also not surprised about the number of science photos, since it has been my intention to have a nice selection of real science/astronomy on the blog as a source of writing inspiration. Also, NASA photos are open for non-profit use, since we as U.S. taxpayers have already payed for them.

But my goal is to have at least moderately equal representation of science, sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genres, with the abstract/fractal and speculative/psychological pieces likely to overlap with all of them. I'll note that the person who inspired me to do this analysis was incorrect in the implication that horror was well represented. It appears to be suffering in similar ignominy to fantasy. That would be yet another bias discovered by my research :)

The cure for not enough fantasy is of course to post a dragon. I needed a good one, so I offer "Solace" by dragonicwolf. This fantastic dragon can only be appreciated properly by going to the source site and seeing it at full resolution. I quite like dragons; they are one of my vices along with vampires. By the way, the only other cure for "not enough fantasy" is to post a unicorn. :) So next time I get a comment about the art I post, I'll find the fluffiest, sparkliest, most rainbowy unicorn and share it here. It will hurt me more than it will hurt you ...

There is simply no amount of "overuse" of dragons that will make them stale, at least not for me. Human civilization at large apparently feels the same, since dragons of one type or another have appeared in stories and myths around the world. Some of these stories are thousands of years old. This fascination has continued into modern times with the birth of the current standard view of the "European" dragon (as opposed to "Asian" Dragon) - brought to us as Smaug by Tolkien. This is the giant, evil, winged, red lizard, sitting on top of a horde of treasure, and waiting to roast and devour adventurers.

Since then, dragons in literature have diversified. The dragons of Heinlein's 1955 Between Planets were intelligent and friendly scientist-types. They lived on Venus. McCaffrey's series The Dragon Riders of Pern, which started in 1966, has dragons portrayed as an integral part of fighting off a planet-wide threat. There is the luckdragon Falkor in Ende's Neverending Story, 1979, who is both a friend and a mode of transportation for the main character. There was apparently a Marxist dragon in Foster's Spellsinger series, 1983.

After that I stopped keeping track. The 1990s had so many dragon books and kinds of dragons that the idea of a "typical" dragon stopped being of much use. They can be tiny, huge, powerful, weak, intelligent, dumber than a sack of hammers, covered with feathers, covered with scales, have wings or not, and on and on. Yet still, somehow, a dragon is a dragon. They still intrigue readers, and inspire writers. They retain a mythical sensibility regardless of the indignities we put them through. I'll admit another bias, dragons appear in one of the books I'm working on.  So I'm not likely to completely pan them, am I?

How about you? Tired of dragonkind yet? Or do you think there is still something worth exploring, there? If yes, why do you think they remain so compelling?


Image Credit:  "Solace" is used with generous permission from the artist dragonicwolf on deviantArt.

My comments: Art like this makes me sit up and take notice. I want to be there - what is that dragon thinking, anyway? Is it good or evil, or something more complex? What is the nature of the world it lives in? Is it solitary? Social? Will it give me a ride and eat my enemies?


Kay said...

Loved the way the pupil makes the dragon look like he's plotting ... something interesting, I hope.

Anyway, as a historical dragon reference, I always thought it was amusing that Saint George (England) fought a dragon (Wales).

Bryce Ellicott said...

Kay - Yes, I agree, the dragon is certainly plotting. I find myself wondering if he is going to eat me or be my friend. And I don't suppose I'll know why, in either case. And thanks for mentioning the St. George reference, I had forgotten about that. I appreciate your reading and commenting!

Jessica Chen a.k.a Dragonic Wolf said...

How dragons have appeared in so many different kinds of mythology around the world and have remained quite similar is quite intruiging too. Either dragons might have existed in some way or another, or it has to be something in the human mind that sparked its birth.

What displeases me about dragons now is that a lot of them now look the same, as in when people want to create dragon characters for themselves. I am not a big fan of fads or cliches, so that is probably where my distaste for the 'style trend' comes from. I love it when people manage to create a dragon which I would consider unique and different.

And haha, yeah, Im glad the facial expression and intention of the dragon came out as 'difficult to read', because that is one of the little things I tried to achieve. This dragon is a solitary one , and not being around other creatures much, it is definitely a risk to approach it, because no one really knows what it would do.

P.s: i feel honored to have my piece of art being featured by you, thank you.

Bryce Ellicott said...

Jessica - Thank you for visiting the blog and leaving a comment! I suppose there is a tension that exists between wanting to depict a really unique and original dragon, but also wanting to be sure it isn't so far out that people don't see it as a dragon. I do find myself these days drawn to the more Asian styles, simply because they haven't been as over explored as the typical Smaug-style dragon.