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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Spark of Hope with Christian A. Brown

A Spark of Hope

Last night we watched Lucy in lieu of another film, Snowpiercer. I was mildly disappointed as we turned on the movie, since I’ve been dying to see Tilda Swinton’s hokey performance in Snowpiercer.

But the vote was for Lucy, democracy decided, and that’s what we watched. Have you seen this movie? If not, a brief synopsis: young party-girl/ student, living in the East, gets conned by her sketchy boyfriend (of like a week) into making a “delivery” to a Korean drug Czar. 

Hmm…probably a bad idea. It gets worse! It turns out that she’s not delivering meth or any other ‘normal’ illicit substance. Rather, she’s delivering a psychotropic/ geneomorphic pharmaceutical that can stimulate previously untapped areas of the human brain. (Why the Korean drug Czar is trafficking in this, one cannot say, #plothole) And so begins a dark chain of events for our Lucy. I’m a fan of when bad things happen to strong women and they cope with their shit, instead of rocking in a corner and losing all ability to function, which only breeds a victim persona. Lucy is still quite human, quite terrified and distraught, but she endures, she’s a survivor. Starting off the “bad things that happen to Lucy” list, first she’s knocked out and surgically turned in a mule: the drugs are sewn inside of flap of skin in her lower abdomen. Later, Lucy is assaulted, a couple times, but most viciously at one point by a man whose sexual advances she refuses. It’s the second incident that breaks the plastic-kangaroo-pouch carrying the mysterious drug inside of her. The drugs then leak out into her bloodstream, and thus begins the process of awakening neurons, pathways and supernatural abilities in Lucy’s mind. In exchange for these incredible powers and perception, she starts to lose a bit of her personality, her humanity; her sense of self.

A fair amount of the movie is spent on action sequences. However, there’s just as much camera time dedicated to panoramas of nature, or scenes where nothing is said at all. Overall, the movie is gorgeously filmed and peppered with lavish imagery. I found it a treat to watch. Writer and Director Luc Besson—Fifth Element, The Messenger: Joan of Arc—has created a power fantasy here, although it’s nice to see a woman in the driving seat. To be clear: it wasn’t a particularly feminist movie, by the many, debatable definitions of that term. However, it wasn’t misogynistic either. In fact, Lucy’s sex was not the determining factor in the power fantasy or the narrative. She could have been a man named Luke, instead (at the risk of indulging in Besson’s vanity). The story wasn’t about sex, or sexism, but humanity. And I found that focus and narrative refreshing. The story was about our sameness, not our differences.

Lucy, once she gets past her trauma, her “human” and irrational fears, and accepts what has happened to her, manages any number of incredulous feats. When she realizes that her time in her “human” body—filling with incalculable energy, ready to burn out of its flesh—is finite, her goal becomes to seed her vast, cosmic wisdom for future generations. It’s a pleasant and tight narrative, with a soft morality that doesn’t force one dogma or religion upon the viewer. In fact, it’s all very scientific: that cells exist to reproduce, that our only enemy in life is time and the fear of accepting our unity, our fundamental atomic similarity. Lucy, who sees plainly past the fear-of-being as she ascends, represents a mothering, messianic figure for all mankind. (Luc Besson often “saints” his female characters, after a gauntlet of trials.)

Anyway, in order to leave her legacy, Lucy contacts Morgan Freeman, who—gasp—isn’t playing the Almighty for once, but instead a speculative biologist (or something), whose work, coincidentally, speaks to Lucy’s metamorphosis. I honestly can’t remember the name of Morgan’s character. I was calling him “Morgan” the entire time; he’s just too iconic of an actor to not be himself. The drug Czar from whom Lucy escaped continues to chase the ascendant heroine throughout the movie; he wants his drugs back from this super-powered woman that levitates and kicks the shit out of his cronies, because #reasons, #malepride, #wtf, #plothole. Ultimately, his foil nicely encapsulates the terror and desperation of man; a weakness that Lucy has left behind. SPOILER. Even at the climax, where the Korean drug Czar has a gun pressed to Lucy’s head, she still does not fear him. She is unflappable in what she is to do: to leave the legacy of her wisdom for humanity.

It was a great movie. Sure there were a plot holes, bits I found unnecessary, and sometimes Besson can become a victim of his own cinematic grandeur. In movies like this, there is a delicate, delicate balance to find between pomposity and philosophy. Also, in a film spectacle, the message can get lost in the explosions, or be ham-fisted in its rushed delivery. I found that the film worked best when it was quiet, rather than loud. I wanted the movie to be longer. Perhaps more length would have answered the questions with which I was left. Although, padding the script could have come with the risk of philosophical rhapsodizing. And a bit of mystery is necessary in a story trying to express a message of this scope. Not every question needs to be answered in a story. I’d say some of the best stories leave the important questions for us to ask ourselves.

Excusing the movies faults—since sometimes we have to put aside our inner critic and just embrace childlike wonder—I ask myself: what was the message? Well, we fight against time. We fight to be different; to define our individuality. A useless battle, for we are all energy, all thought, all connected in ways unfathomable to our fear-clouded minds. As for Lucy, well, she “ascended” into something of the divine. Heretical? I don’t think so, since she became something very basic, very small. The atom, the spark of life and inspiration. Energy. I like that fantasy: that beneath all of our complexities, we are all united, simple, beautiful sparks. At least that’s what I chose to take away from the movie.

I think that the spiritual side of Lucy—her calm separation, her sense of belonging and refusing classification by society and fear—is inside each of us. I encourage you to find her.

Feast of Dreams
Four Feasts Till Darkness
Book Two
Christian A. Brown

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Book Description:

As King Brutus licks his wounds and gathers new strength, two rival queens vow to destroy each other’s nations.

Lila of Eod, sliding into madness, risks everything in the search for a powerful relic, while Queen Gloriatrix threatens Eod with military might—including three monstrous technomagikal warships.

Far from this clash of queens, Morigan and the Wolf scour Alabion, hunting for the mad king’s hidden weakness. Their quest brings them face to face with their own pasts, their dark futures…and the Sisters Three themselves.

Unbeknownst to all, a third thread in Geadhain’s tapestry begins to move in the wastes of Mor’Khul. There, a father and son scavenge to survive as they travel south toward a new chapter in Geadhain history.

Available at Amazon Kindle and Paperback

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/rURqUni_lco

Excerpt 2
“Fine playing,” said Maggie.
            The Silk Purse’s proprietor sat down at the table where the night’s entertainment fiddled with his lute’s strings. The bard glanced up and smiled at her with his eyes, although he kept on tinkering and tuning to the pitch of his voice. Maggie watched him for a spell. The man was mystifying. He was as distant as a dream one forgot and so far into himself, his music, or some secret obsession that she might as well have been elsewhere. He was certainly handsome, though, and in their short conversations today, he’d proven a capable and witty talker. She wanted a bit more of his talk.
            “Will you be staying on another night?” she asked. “Before heading back to…”
She realized that in all their discussions, the man had never told her where he had come from—or where he was headed. Or much about himself at all. Even stranger, she couldn’t pin down how she’d made his acquaintance. Had he come knocking at the tavern door yesterday? Had he smiled a dashing hello with a lute over his back and a promise to play for coin? That seemed right.
            “Would you like me to stay?” he asked suddenly.
            He grinned from ear to ear and displayed his offer of companionship as confidently as the fox he reminded her of strutting around the henhouse and picking its prey. She could see him evaluating her body—her full breasts, strong hips, thick, wind-tossed hair, and comely face. She was as chipped and beautiful as a sculptor’s favorite piece. She wore her hardship plainly, but it had not dulled her beauty, and he seemed to appreciate her weathered self. As for the fox’s proposal, Maggie was a sensible self-made woman without need for a man. Once or maybe twice a year, she took one to her bed, but she never asked him to stay or even to break a morning fast with her. Whatever her hesitations, when the fox smiled—fiery and daring—she lit up and felt as warm as a woman sinking into a bath. A decision was made. A little outside of herself, she slid his hand over hers. She reinforced her agreement by standing up from the table and leading him past her tired staff as they cleaned up the night’s mess and rolled the drunks outside. The trip up the stairs and into her chambers was fuzzy. Suddenly, they were alone and kissing in the dark. He whispered of her beauty. “Like a cameo of Diasora,” he declared.
She wondered who Diasora was while he plucked his fingers upon and within her as though she were his lute. They tumbled into chairs, onto the carpet, and onto the bed. She wasn’t sure where they were half the time. She swallowed his hardness just as he ate and kissed the mouth between her thighs. Together they rolled and tumbled about in the dark and moaned in ecstasy. She rode him against the wall and swallowed his gasps as he spilled himself inside her. It was careless, and she should have known better. Apologetically and with a perverted grin, he cleaned out with his tongue what he had done, and passion carried her mind away again. Through the haze of their sex, she would remember his handsome smell—vanilla, subtle incense, and sweeter herbs such as marjoram. Sometimes he sang to her ears while playing the instrument of her body. She would most remember this—his passion and musicality.
When they finished, dawn had come. It cast its hard rays though the curtains and into their humid nest of sin. Maggie should have felt embarrassed or shamed even, but instead she snuggled into her lover’s taut flesh while he continued caressing her breasts. Milk drops, the bard called them, for their pendulous whiteness and succulence. She chuckled as he said it. She would have slapped any other man who made nicknames for portions of her anatomy.
“Where will you go?” she asked.
She knew this was a fleeting encounter. Men as artistic at loving as he were called to greater passions than women.
Alastair kissed her breast. “Well, I shall stay in Taroch’s Arm a while longer. I have another task to which I must attend. One more meeting after this.” He sighed and looked off with his multicolored stare to count the ceiling’s lines.
Maggie snuggled into him further until she realized what he’d admitted. “Wait! Meeting? Is that what this is? What is your aim?”
She leaped from the bed. Alastair went after her and backed her into a corner. He appeared stricken and white from regret. Rather brazenly, he kissed her so deeply she lost her breath. Although Maggie allowed it, she slapped him as soon as their lips parted. He grinned and rubbed his cheek. “What fire you have!” he said, adding sadly, “How much you remind me of a woman I once knew. Do understand. This is not how I had planned our parley. I am not ungrateful, though, for this turn of events. I would stay for a thousand kisses more if I could. However, my master is most demanding of my time.”
“Master?” she exclaimed.
“You are fortunate, Maggie. Most serve masters and destinies from which we cannot break. You have made so much of yourself without the hands of others. Despairingly, I must ask this of you. It’s a task you cannot refuse.”
I can, and I shall, she thought. No man, not even a roguish wanderer, could boss her around. Then the fox whispered a secret and those familiar names to her: Thackery, Caenith, Rowena, and Galivad. By the time he was done, she had no resolve to argue. She had only an unwanted urgency to pack, make quick arrangements for the Silk Purse’s managerial duties, and leave. She had no choice—not with so many lives at stake. While she busied herself about her apartment, the bard came to kiss her a final time, and they fell onto the bed. For all their grinding, they did not make love. Soon he stopped, studied her, and soaked in her beauty. Maggie closed her eyes. She would not watch him leave. When she was certain he had gone, she pulled her sturdiest boots from under her bed and put them on.

Feast of Fates
Four Feasts Till Darkness
Book One
Christian A. Brown

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Date of Publication: September 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495907586
Number of pages: 540

Word Count: 212K

Book Description:

"Love is what binds us in brotherhood, blinds us from hate, and makes us soar with desire.”

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her--visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

With Morigan growing more powerful each day, the leaders of the realm soon realize that this young woman could hold the key to their destruction. Suddenly, Morigan finds herself beset by enemies, and she must master her mysterious gifts if she is to survive.

Available at Amazon and Createspace
Feast of Fates, Excerpt #2 (533 Words)

Morigan took the bracelet.
            “I accept your offering.” The Wolf’s face lit and she thought that he would leap at her. “Yet first, I have a request.”
            “Anything, my Fawn.”
            “I would like to see…what you are. The second body that shares your soul. Show me your fangs and claws,” she commanded.
            Perhaps it was the steadiness of her voice, how she ordered him to bare himself as if he belonged to her, that made the Wolf’s heart roar to comply. He did not shed his skin but for the whitest moons of the year, and even then, so far from the city and never in front of another. In a sense, he was as much a virgin as she. With an unaccustomed shyness, he found himself undressing before the Fawn, confused for a speck as to who was the hunter. The flare of her nostrils, the intensity of her stare that ate at him for once.
            I have chosen well for a mate. She is as much a Wolf as I, he thought, kicking off his boots and then shimmying his pants down to join the rest of his clothing. No bashful maiden was Morigan, and she did not look away from his nakedness, but appreciated what she saw: every rough, hairy, huge bit of him.
            He howled and fell to all fours. Bones shifted and snapped, rearranging under his skin like skeletal gears. From his head, chest and loins, the soft black hair thickened and spread over his twisting flesh. His heaving became guttural and sloppy, and when he tossed his head up in a throe of agony or pleasure, his beard had coated his face, and she noticed nothing but white daggers of teeth. Wondrously Morigan witnessed the transformation, watched him swell with twice the muscle he had possessed as a man, saw his hands and feet shag over with fur and split the soil with black claws. Another howl and a final gristle-crunching shudder (his hindquarters snapping into place, she thought) signified the end of the change.
            Her dreams did not do Caenith justice. Here was a beast twice the size of a mare with jaws that could swallow her to the waist. Here was a monster that had stalked and ruled the Untamed. A lord of fang and claw. The birds and weaker animals vanished, knowing a deadly might was near. Around her, the Wolf paced; making the ground tremble with power; ravishing her with his cold gray gaze; huffing and blasting her with his forceful breaths. While the scent of his musk was choking, it was undeniably Caenith’s, if rawer and unwashed.
            Morigan was not afraid, and was flushed with heat and shaking as she slipped the bracelet on and knelt. She did not flinch as the Wolf lay behind and about her like a great snuffling rug and placed his boulder of a head in her lap. No, she stroked his long ears and his wrinkled snout. A maiden and her Wolf. Soon the birds returned, sensing this peace and chirping in praise of it. And neither Morigan nor the Wolf could recall a time—if ever there was one—where they had felt so complete.

About the Author:

Bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genre-changing Four Feasts Till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes a blog about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media. A lover of the weird and wonderful, Brown considers himself an eccentric with a talent for cat-whispering.