Tag Archives: kowloon walled city

#My5: The Bell Forging Cycle

Welcome to #My5, a project that I’ve started, with a few of my fellow authors, across the internet. In this and other posts, we’re going to delve into five things that had influenced our current projects: it could be five people, five books, five songs, five comics or a mixture of some or all—you never know. Why five? It’s an arbitrary limitation, but it’s digestible and prevents these posts from running away from us. If you’re an author and you’re interested in joining us, you can read the introduction post or check out the info at the bottom of this post. So, without further ado, here’s #My 5: The Bell Forging Cycle.


Inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere, and it’s different for each writer. For me, there are key instances that trigger something in my mind that inspired me to create the world of the Territories.

I tend to pitch The Bell Forging Cycle as “Lovecraftian Urban Fantasy,” which is a relatively narrow descriptive. In my article for Fantasy Book Critic, I described the series as a “dark cyberpunk post-post-apocalyptic dystopian weird western cosmic horror urban fantasy adventure,” which, yeah, was a mouthful. Instead of explaining how all that works, I figured it’d be fun to use #My5 in a way that lets me share how all of those pieces come together.


Five Influences, #1 - The Lovecraft Mythos1. The Lovecraft Mythos

This is the obvious one, but it’s important enough that I need to mention it first. I didn’t start reading H.P. Lovecraft until I was in my early twenties and attending college. While Cthulhu, Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth were on my mind, it wasn’t until a conversation in 2007 with my friend, Josh Montreuil, that I had the idea of mixing the mythos with a story like the one I wanted to write.

Longtime readers of the Lovecraftian mythos can see the signs in the world. The books are set in a world rebuilt after Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones returned, caused an apocalypse, and once again faded into myth. Their influence has a fundamental impact on the world. Landmasses have been reshaped, and humanity is no longer alone; exotic species lifted from the mythos now inhabit the world alongside us. Dark cults from stories like The Call of Cthulhu, The Haunter of the Dark, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth have risen to become large organized religions. While a knowledge of the mythos isn’t necessary to enjoy the books, there’s no denying that Lovecraft’s influence is scattered through everything.


Kowloon Walled City2. Kowloon Walled City

It’s probably no secret that I’m a cyberpunk fan. Books like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neil Stephenson’s Snowcrash, and movies like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner are seminal works in my life. Cities of cement and chrome, coupled with the compression of humanity, were a draw for me. In each of those worlds were millions of stories. So, when I discovered a real world example of those strange, stacked cyberpunk cities, I was fascinated.

Kowloon was a densely populated neighborhood that existed in Hong Kong during the middle of the 20th-century. Thirty-three thousand people lived within 6.4 acres of space stacked atop each other up to a height of 140 ft. The result of this mass was an isolated, multileveled community, filled with all manner of individuals, organizations, businesses, schools, and unique cultures. (Check out this fascinating cross section map or this detailed illustration to see how dense it was.) Kowloon’s existence became the spark that eventually became Lovat. It was the real-life example that triggered my concept of the vast megalopolis by the sea.


Five Influences, #3 - The Dark Tower3. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Stephen King’s opus is an early forerunner of genre mixing; an intense blend of western tropes, fantasy locations, and science-fiction problems, mixed with a post-apocalyptic road story starring gunslingers. I started reading the series in high school and quickly devoured what I could until it finally ended in 2004. Up until The Dark Tower series, most of the sci-fi and fantasy I read was fairly conventional.

Seeing this strange new world presented in such a way opened my eyes to what fiction could become. I can still picture walking with the Ka-Tet of Nineteen throughout Mid and Endworld. There is so much to love. The Lobstrosities, Shardik, Blaine the Mono, the city of Lud, the plains of Mejis, the Wolves of Thunderclap, and Devar-Toi are all vivid in my mind, and I continually find myself revisiting the series to this day.

And, if you’re wondering, I absolutely remember the face of my father.


Five Influences, #4 - Bas-Lag

4. China Miéville’s Bas-Lag

I love worldbuilding; I love seeding the potential of new locations and stories throughout prose. If it was King who showed me my first glimpses of weird fiction, China Miéville refined it. Perdido Street Station constructed a world that proved to me that fantasy didn’t have to be elves and dwarves, hobbits and men, orcs and dragons.

His Bas-Lag series—my favorite of which is The Scar—takes those ideas to a whole new level. Strange species crawl through Mieville’s books: bug-headed women, vampires, half-machine hybrids, sentient cacti, tiny gargoyles, disembodied hand-shaped parasites, scabmettlers—the human-like creatures who’s blood congeals to the point that it can become a sort of armor—and that’s just the start. That same approach is applied to everything from governmental structure to economics. Each book opens up new lands and strange new species, and throughout it all, Mieville does it right. He mixes and blends and creates a profound concoction that still stick with me.


Five Influences, #5 - Hellblazer5. HellBlazer (In particular M. R. Carey’s run)

One of the granddaddies of urban fantasy, the Vertigo comic series, follows the magician for hire, John Constantine as he drinks and smokes his way through England, America, Hell, and all parts in between. There is something about his wisecracking ways and indifferent attitude that I love. Constantine is relatable; he isn’t some all-powerful superhero; he isn’t some wealthy playboy; he is a working class stiff who is more clever than good and more determined than heroic.

Constantine is relatable. He is Walter White, a man doing bad things for good reasons. While Waldo Bell isn’t Constantine, there is a similarity between the characters. Both are dogged and driven men who would stop at nothing and go to any lengths to defeat what they see as evil. Heroes don’t always need to be golden paragons of humanity. They can and should be flawed.


So those are #My5, my collection of properties that influenced The Bell Forging Cycle. Each has had a profound impact on me creatively. You can check out my series at bellforgingcycle.com or hit up any of the specific books at the links below to read excerpts and learn more about the world of the Territories.

The Stars Were Right – Old Broken Road – Red Litten World

I’m not alone in collecting #My5! Other authors have joined me and written their #My5. You can find their articles by following the links below. Make sure to look for links at the bottom of their posts as well.


Are you a published (indie or traditional) author who is interested in joining in the #My5 fun? Write your article following the format above (remember, the limit is five), link to your work and others’ posts, and shoot me an email at hello at kmalexander.com, and I’ll add you to the list above and the official #My5 page! You can download the #My5 logo at any of the links below.

Download the #My5 Logo600×600 PNGs: White | Black
1200×1200 PNGs: White | Black
(Vector version available upon request.)

Friday Link Pack 07/31/2015 - Dang, July is a long month.

Friday Link Pack 7/31/2015

After a week hiatus, we’re back! Here is today’s Friday Link Pack! Some of these links I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…

WRITING:

How To Deal With Harsh Criticism Of Your Writing
A great article from Charlie Jane Anders popped up on io9 this week. Criticism is hard, sometimes painfully so, but there are ways you can approach it. This is good advice.

Wake-Up Call: Amazon Serves Author Interests Better Than Publishers
Industry vet, Mike Shatzkin, breaks down Amazons recent innovative moves (like launching the follow button for readers) and how their success has translated into success for publishing and writing in general.

Ursula K. Le Guin Is Breathing Fire To Save American Literature
A great profile on badass Ursula K. Le Guin. (If you’re a follower of my blog it’s no secret how much I love her and her work.) Absolutely fantastic read, delving into her writing, her defense of sci-fi and fantasy (and books in general), and her activism work.

Why Horror Is Good For You (And Even Better For Your Kids)
Artist Greg Ruth gives us six fantastic reasons why we should all read horror.

Indie Or Traditional: The Cost Of Publishing
Creating a book always has a cost. It’s up to you as the writer to decide what that cost should be and how much you’re willing to pay.

ART:

Alicia Savage, Destinations
Stumbled across Alicia Savage’s ethereal photography work and knew I’d need to share it here. Obscured women float and drift through surreal glimpses of shattered Americana.

The Art Of Greg Ruth
He’s already told us why horror is good for us in the Writing section. Why not enjoy exploring some of his incredible work as well?

Artist Sam Van Aken’s Tree Grows 40 Different Kinds Of Fruit
Using grafting, Sam Van Aken grows some pretty incredible trees. [Big thanks to Ben for sharing this with me.]

RANDOM:

Perfectly Timed Photos That Make Dogs Look Like Giants
Because you needed something like this right now.

Abandoned Indonesian Church Shaped Like a Massive Clucking Chicken
Some people do strange things to get messages from God, things like build a strangely shaped church in the middle of the jungle. Apparently the builder had intended it to look like a dove but it’s clearly a chicken.

Kowloon Walled City
I have mentioned before that Lovat, the megalopolis central in my Bell Forging Cycle, was heavily influenced by Kowloon Walled City. This multimedia project by the Wall Street Journal is an incredible way to explore the rich stories and dark streets of the legendary Hong Kong settlement.

A Renaissance Painting Reveals How Breeding Changed Watermelons
We’re in the throws of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Why not take some time to explore the horticultural history of one of summer’s greatest treats: the watermelon.

WEIRD WIKIPEDIA:

Aroma Of Tacoma

“Seattle! Seattle! Death Rattle, Death Rattle; Tacoma! Tacoma! Aroma, Aroma!”

George Francis Train

“The “Aroma of Tacoma” is a putrid and unpleasant odor associated with Tacoma, Washington. The smell has been described as similar to the odor of rotten eggs. The odor is not noticeable throughout the city, but is rather concentrated in the north end of Tacoma and is frequently smelled by motorists traveling that section of the Interstate 5 highway.”

H.P. LOVECRAFT STORY OF THE WEEK:

The Night Ocean
This gloomy mood piece follows a melancholy artist who spends time alone in his cabin by the sea, and unlike most of Lovecraft’s protagonists he doesn’t throw himself into the way of terrifying monstrosities.

GIF OF THE WEEK:

In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits...

Friday Link Pack

The Stars Were Right - by K. M. Alexander
It’s the last Friday before “The Stars Were Right” is released! I figured why not take the time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week.
Some of these I mention on twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! I’m always looking for new links if you have any suggestions, please, let me know.

Writing:

“The Stars Were Right” on Goodreads
Yep, I’m going to recommend my own stuff. :) Early reviews are starting to come in and they’re looking swell! Make sure to add “The Stars Were Right” to your own “to-read” list.

Bring the Storm! How Ugly Emotions Can Ignite Your Setting
Lauren Sapala offers up some suggestions for writers working with adding some flair to their setting using emotion.

An Invocation for Beginnings
I’m going to post this again. If you’re ever struggling with your own creative endeavors: watch this. Ze Frank offers some of the most honest advice you’ll get from anyone, ever. (Warning: It’s NSFW but damn is it ever encouraging.)

Art:

Posters That Motivated Jazz-Age Workers To Strive
My good friend Steve shared this Slate link with me. So often we see posters like this as propaganda for governments, rarely does that cross over into the corporate world. While the tone is similar the messages are quite different.

Random:

Home is Where You Park It
One of Kari-Lise and my not-so-secret fantasies is to buy a VW Westy and head into the wilds of Alaska for a few months or drive down the pan-American Highway. “Home is Where Your Park It” is the Kickstarter for photographer Foster Huntington who essentially lived my dream and took a bunch of photos along the way. He’s assembling a book. It looks rad. Check it out.

Kowloon Walled City
Kowloon served as a great source of inspiration for the megalopolis of Lovat when I was working on Stars. It’s gone now, but at its peak 33,000 people lived in its 6.5 acres. The images and pictures behind Kowloon are as fascinating as they are heartbreaking and really shows the adaptability of humanity.

4 Rules to Make Star Wars Great Again
Portland creative house Sincerely Truman creates a fun little video directed at J.J. Abrams with their suggestions for making Stars Wars great again. The animations are a lot of fun, as for the rules, well…they are rules I can get behind.

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

Cool Air
Great little story with a excellent ending. If you don’t have time to read it make sure you listen to the audio version from HPPodcraft.com. They do a really fine job.

Farewell Gif(s) of the Week:

Professor X doesn't care.__________________________________________________________________

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