Communion Of Dreams


Final countdown.

We’re in the final countdown of the Kickstarter. Like those old space launches I grew up with, counting down from “T-minus 10” and never being quite sure what would happen.  I’m old enough to remember more than one launchpad failure.

Ten days.

And we’re only at 50% on pledges to the goal.

* * * * * * *

I’ve had several “close calls” in my life, moments when with the slightest difference in luck I probably would have died. This is probably the most dramatic. It’s certainly the most graphic. But there have been others which were  just as close. A bullet which passed some two inches away from my right temple. A fall on a dark night into an unsecured excavation where I missed being impaled on rebar by about a foot. Other occasions, some more my fault than others.

I sometimes joke with my friends that the only explanation is that I’m a cat, and still have a couple of lives to go.

* * * * * * *

Saw an item in today’s paper:

Bank takes ownership of Taylor House

It was one of the first properties designated a local historic landmark. It set an example for high-quality historic restoration. It was a home. It was a bed-and-breakfast.

Now, it’s owned by the bank.

U.S. Bank now owns the house Robert and Deborah Tucker spent years and more than $1 million renovating. The bank foreclosed on the three-story home that contained The Taylor House Inn bed-and-breakfast at 716 W. Broadway on Sept. 17.

I know these folks. Not well, but the jewelry business they had prior to taking on this B&B was just down the street from my art gallery. Small business owners in Columbia’s downtown got to know one another, sharing similar interests and concerns.

I was surprised to hear that the B&B had gone into foreclosure, though I knew that they had declared bankruptcy late last year.

This is a fact of life, particularly with a small business. You can pour your heart & soul into something, only to see it fail. Same thing happened with my art gallery.

But only those who are willing to risk failure have any chance for success.

* * * * * * *

“Dark have been my dreams of late,” he said, “but I feel as one new-awakened. I would now that you had come before, Gandalf. For I fear that already you have come too late, only to see the last days of my house. Not long now shall stand the high hall which Brego son of Eorl built. Fire shall devour the high seat. What is to be done?”

That’s from JRR Tolkien’s The Two Towers, and is the character of King Théoden speaking after coming out of being beguiled by Gríma (Wormtongue). Here’s the adaptation of the scene in the 2002 movie of the same name, with the actual line spoken at about 3:15:

* * * * * * *

Ten days.

And we’re only at 50% on pledges to the goal. Unless we hit the goal, no one is out anything, and the Kickstarter “fails.”

There’s nothing wrong with failure. Like I said, only those who are willing to risk failure have any chance for success. You have to push yourself, challenge yourself. No writer or artist who is worth a damn always plays it safe. Same for any entrepreneur.

Failure hurts. It should. But it isn’t lethal, at least not in the areas I’m talking about. I’ve had close calls. That’s different. In this case, failure means only a delay in being able to complete and publish the next book on my own.

Ten days. We’ll see what happens. Help out if you can.

Jim Downey



Architecture as shorthand.

What do you visualize when I say “Hobbit”?

How about “Blade Runner”?

Chances are, in both cases you had a mix of images you thought of. But I would wager that you had at least one architectural image both times: of a ‘Hobbit Hole’ and of the Tyrell Corporation’s vast pyramid. In both cases the iconic images help to anchor us in an alternate reality, whether it is Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Ridley Scott’s dystopian LA of 2019. (I’m sorry to say I don’t remember how much description of architecture Philip K. Dick had in his novel from whence Blade Runner is drawn – mea culpa.)

Odd or (paleo-) futuristic architecture has been a common device to help create a sense of setting for SF and fantasy just about forever. Descriptions in text, or images used in movies, quickly communicate that the setting is something different than our everyday world. And even before you get into a book or movie this works. With a movie poster or a book cover the visual image of architecture can instantly convey something about content to the viewer, and when it is well done it both informs and intrigues, and can come to symbolize or summarize the entire story the director or author wishes to tell.

I use architecture this way in Communion of Dreams. There are descriptions of how the US Settlement Authority offices reflect the passive defenses of the chaos following the fire-flu, of how they also incorporate some elements of the new building technologies from space colonization. There are descriptions of the colonies themselves, and of the space stations (both old and new), not to mention Darnell Sidwell’s Buckminster Fuller style dome habitat. There are even descriptions of how homes have evolved somewhat, adapting to a more communal style and drawing on the resources of huge numbers of abandoned buildings.

But the book opens with a small research facility in the ‘buffalo commons‘ out on the Great Plains prairie. I don’t give a lot of description of the station in the book (perhaps that’s something I should change . . . hmm), but envision it as a small, modular unit which could be relocated easily if necessary. Perhaps something like this. Or this. Or even this.

Those are all from a Wired column by Rob Beschizza titled “Small and Fabulous: Modular Living as it Should Be.” (Via BoingBoing.) I can’t say that I would really want to live in any of the dozen designs profiled in the article – but I am a spoiled American in an 1883 Victorian home with about a dozen rooms. Realistically, most of the world lives in much smaller spaces. And when you start considering the cost of transporting materials and managing environmental controls in space, then some fairly radical changes will be necessary.

Architecture, like any art, is a reflection of the society which produces it. Of course, until an architectural style is widely adopted it cannot be said that it is representative of society. As interesting as the various modular homes in the Wired article are, I cannot imagine that they will become emblematic of our society anytime soon. But because of that, they’d be perfect for use in, say, a film adaptation of Communion of Dreams. I wonder what Peter Jackson will be up to once he is done overseeing the production of The Hobbit in 2011 . . .

Jim Downey



DM of the Rings
October 29, 2007, 10:31 am
Filed under: Comics, General Musings, MetaFilter, movies, OOTS, Peter Jackson, Shamus Young, Tolkien, Twenty Sided

I have what can charitably be called an offbeat sense of humor. Most of my family just think that it is strange. Even some of my friends shake their heads. My wife of twenty years occasionally just nods and says, “That’s nice, dear.”

So, in that spirit, consider yourself well warned. But I came across something via MeFi yesterday that had me in stitches: Shamus Young’sThe DM of the Rings.” As he says in the intro to this unusual comic strip:

Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern D&D. The latter rose from the former, although the two are now so estranged that to reunite them would be an act of savage madness. Imagine a gaggle of modern hack-n-slash roleplayers who had somehow never been exposed to the original Tolkien mythos, and then imagine taking those players and trying to introduce them to Tolkien via a D&D campaign.

And then he goes on to do just that – run through the entire Peter Jackson movie adaptations of the Lord of the Rings books as though it was some Dungeon Master’s D & D game. Brilliantly using screen captures to illustrate the strip (in 155 episodes), he shows how this would play out.

It’s friggin’ hilarious.

I was never much of a hardcore gamer, just did enough in college and a bit after to be familiar with it, understand the humor behind a strip like OOTS. But I’ve long been a huge fan of Tolkien (even though I am not that much into the fantasy genre generally – odd). To see what Young does in juxtaposing the two shows just how absurd each really is in its own right.

So, check it out. But whether you spend the next several hours going through the storyline, or just scratch your head and wonder about me, don’t say you weren’t given fair warning.

Jim Downey