Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rodent Spotlight: Squirrel

Where to begin? Squirrels have been seen so many times in fiction that they have achieved a certain "hall of fame" status. I found it rather difficult to choose what I should and should not talk about in the interest of time, but here is what I have come up with.

No matter what the truth may be about your real-life common squirrel, they have a very stable and organized stereotype that has drawn people's interest since the beginning of time. For one, squirrels are perceived as nature's hard workers. They are often used as an example of diligence. This is due to their affinity for saving up nuts for the winter. They are also known for being rather frisky and energetic. Children often see them as friendly and free creatures who love the sun and enjoy romping about as the children themselves would likely wish to do.

Squirrels have been in our imaginations since even ancient times. The ancient Greek referred to the creature by the name σκίουρος (pronounced ski-ou-ros.) The word literally means "shadow-tailed," and I think that is a clever designation if you consider their very peculiar, curly tails. I have used these designations for squirrels in my own fiction which I will discuss more in depth later in this blog.

One of the earliest works of fiction about squirrels was Arthur Scott Bailey's "The Tale of Frisky Squirrel" (published in 1915.) Much of the free and fun-loving aspects of the creature that we are accustomed to were represented in this book. It also portrayed the squirrel as curious and mischievous to a fault. The book was a well-written children's story that should still be read to this day.

A little closer to the present, there was a rather iconic scene in the Disney movie "The Sword in the Stone," where Arthur and Merlin were transformed into squirrels. They were very well drawn into the creature's minuscule universe and were subjected to various trials that squirrels must overcome on a daily basis. The segment was particularly striking when a female squirrel falls in love with Arthur. I encourage you to see the movie to see how it plays out.

Very recently, we had a squirrel movie come out called, "The Nut Job." I thought the movie was just brilliant and even quite relevant in narrative. It inspired me to make my own squirrel story entitled, "God and the Squirrels."

In my own fiction, I recognize these common tropes as valid points of interest. I enjoy that they are hard-workers and religiously do their best to survive. In my unpublished story "Rat," it actually was a religion. They worshiped an entity called The Great Acorn in which provided them with nuts that they must save diligently in order to survive the forth-coming winter.

In another one of my unpublished stories called "Tooth and Tail," I focused more on their duty and team efforts. I portrayed them as calm, collected, and driven to serve society as a whole. I gave them great heroes which represented the paragon of their society and called them Shadow Tails. I named their country Skiouros, and designed the towns and cities around forest life. I have spent this entire year carefully constructing this country as I wish, and someday, I hope there will be others who will appreciate the imagination that went into it.

Before I bring a close to this blog, I will take a short moment to mention a rather overlooked darker side of squirrels. I originally learned about this oddity while reading a Mouse Guard book. A bit shockingly, squirrels are omnivores. That's right, they do not mind eating meat. In fact, they are known to eat baby mice! I did not believe it at first, but there were several videos online that proved it. It makes you wonder what that squirrel is actually thinking while up in that tree. Nuts? Or maybe... something else. Regardless of the truth, the stereotype of nut-eating herbivores are still the most common perception, and I am fine with joining right in on it.

Thank you for reading this blog! If you liked what you saw, type in a comment below, or you can email me at Stay squirrely!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rodent Spotlight: Capybara

Behold! The giant among rodent-kind: the mighty capybara! If you happen upon one of these large creatures, you might think they look something similar to a guinea pig, the funny thing is they are about the size of an actual pig. I think that if there is anything to be marveled about this creature it SHOULD be its size.

In my unpublished rodent fantasy "Tooth and Tail," I portrayed the capybaras as huge, lumbering giants with big clubs who were born for war. Somebody had to do it. I mean, if you are going to design a fantasy universe with nothing but rodents, who are you going to pick for that role? This is kind of where good, old-fashioned research worked out for the best in my case.

As much as I love the rodent, there is just so very little fiction written about them. It is a shame because they really look quite awesome. One thing in particular that has always stood out to me was their blunted nose. It just gives them a hard, intense look. I see them and WANT them to be a warrior race!

But if you read up on the critters, they are actually fairly docile. They are herbivores and are more known for being hunted themselves. It is a shame and could be one of the reasons they are not used much in fiction. Can you imagine what a difference in perception people would have if these giant rodents went around killing things?

In my story, I made the actual God of War a capybara named Bellum. I could see how he bonded with the mortal race whom he called his own and would lead them into fits of violence and death. I suppose this is where imagination seems to outclass reality. I liked my version of the creature more than the real animal itself. There is nothing wrong with that!

When you take a feral animal and give it the ability to think and feel as a human, you are already taking it out of the realm of reality. At this point, you have the freedom to take as much or as little as you wish from the encyclopedia as you need in order to make a fun story. I appreciated that the capybara was the world's largest rodent, and so I made them giants with a taste for war. And that aspect of them was really all I truly needed to bring them to life as people.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you like what you have seen here, please comment below, or you can email me at TTFN.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"God and the Squirrels" has been published!

"God and the Squirrels" has been published on Smashwords for only $0.99! Robert was a simple insurance salesman who’s life did not really amount to much. He hated his job and spent his days wallowing in self-pity. One day, Robert tried to run a squirrel over with his car in anger, but to God, that was the last straw. The man had to be punished, and by punishment, he would be turned into a squirrel and sent to a cutesy cartoon squirrel village until he would learn his lesson.

This is a "bizarro fiction" which basically means an absurd idea taken as seriously as possible. It is filled with lots of fun and comedy throughout. You can find a link for it below. Also check out the totally awesome cover illustrated by Coy Fields II!

Rodent Spotlight: Hamster

Continuing with my spotlight series on rodents, I would like to bring up a species of which I have not yet written about. Hamsters are likely better known as popular pets, but there has been a few notable appearances of them in media. Likely, the most memorable would be "Hamtaro."
In "Hamtaro," a group of adventure-seeking hamsters run around trying to solve various unimportant problems for the sake of fun and friendship. It sounds boring, doesn't it? Well, it almost was, but there was something fairly hypnotic about it which kept me interested for far too many episodes.

I think what may have drawn to me to it was that watching an episode of "Hamtaro" was about as interesting as watching a real hamster explore his castle of a cage. It is not so important that he has a goal, but that he is fascinated by what he is doing regardless of the lack of plot. Besides, who is to say that there is nothing interesting around the next bend? There could be a fresh batch of sunflower seeds for all we know!

In a little-known cartoon series called "Capitol Critters," hamsters were portrayed as glutenous, needy, and even somewhat promiscuous. Without going into too much detail on that latter quality--after all, the show was likely canceled for it--it really gave me my standpoint on how a hamster might be properly portrayed in fiction.

Think about it. Hamsters really are selfish creatures, and much of this comes from how we pamper them. They spend each and every day engorging themselves on whatever food we toss in their cage, and are just as happy to crawl around in the plastic tubes and elaborate castles we provide for them. We go out of our way to keep them happy. They take advantage of us too. They leave pee and pellets all over their wood shavings and naturally expect us to handle the matter without complaint. If a hamster could talk, he would expect to be called His Majesty! They live the life of fat, little kings, and we encourage it.

When I was very young, I had my own pet hamster who I named Fuzzhead after a dog from a Disney movie I liked. Like many people, I built him a castle worthy of a tiny king. There were many tunnels that he enjoyed exploring, but his absolute favorite part was this lookout tower up on the top. It was a long tube that allowed him to get up high above the cage and look out across his kingdom (which was my bedroom.) He spent much of his time up there, and I rather enjoyed his fascination with the lookout tower vicariously.

Then came the day--that terrible day. Fuzzhead was to be my show-and-tell for school. I unhooked all the adventure tubes from the cage but left the tower on. As I carried the cage down the long flight of stairs to my house, something went wrong, and the lookout tower snapped free from the cage and fell down the stairs crashing about for the entire plummet. Poor Fuzzhead... was inside.

I paused in horror for a moment. Finally, I put down the cage and ran down to see if Fuzzhead was okay! I was crying in fear that I had done a terrible thing and had failed His Majesty in my duties to care for him! Fuzzhead was frozen stiff from shock as he lay upon the ground... but he was alive. Sadly, the incident was never fully out of his system, and he never once went back up into his precious lookout tower again. No amount of reinforcement would be enough. No. I had failed him, and he would make me aware of it every day thereafter.

In summary, I see hamsters as representative of glutenous high society or royalty. But they also have an odd fascination for adventure even if they do not really know what the adventure is really about. That is why we love them. They live a simple kingly life in a little cage while the real world moves on around them. Treat them well, and they will provide you with fun and curious imagination.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rodent Spotlight: Jerboa

Fiction has not portrayed very much of the jerboa. The closest cousin we have seen to him is the kangaroo rat which you might remember from Disney's "The Rescuers Down Under." Jake was his name, and he was quite the memorable character due to his self-reliance and unending charisma.

I have used jerboas in my own fiction quite a bit. I have a running character named Petalweight who is a self-loving poet who shows a never ending flare for his own abilities to create. In my unpublished stories called "Tooth and Tail," I portray the jerboa as quite arrogant. They "strut their stuff" whenever given the opportunity, and for this reason, they have a tendency to be disliked.

My original motive for portraying them this way was due to their unusual tails. They are short-furred for most of their length up until you reach the end where a cute and showy puff can be found. From my own stylized viewpoint, I saw this puff as something the jerboa must flaunt and, in turn, be admired for.

"Look at this glorious tail!" cried the jerboa proudly. "Have you ever seen anything so fancy and refined on a mouse or a rat? I think not!"

You see where I am going with this, don't you? I like to use jerboas to explain how I feel about humans who act similarly. This is by no means a value judgment, for I firmly believe that a jerboa can be either good or evil. Arrogance can often be misconstrued as a negative trait, and often times, it very much is.

I would turn your attention to human beings who represent the good side of the jerboa. William Shatner is one of the all time greatest rodents of this class. Here is a man who thinks very highly of himself, but really, he has accomplished so much that he rather deserves to feel that way. On top of it all, his self-love is rather cute and lovable to behold. The man has always striven to be the best he can be, and whether or not he has been arrogant about it, he has remained true to who he is.

In classical literature, the great Cyrano De Bergerac is another apt example of how I envision a civilized jerboa. Although I know very little about the real man, the play written by Edmond Rostand portrays Cyrano as self-loving and one who flaunts himself at every opportunity. He is also the hero, despite those in the story who detest him.

My own personal jerboa, Petalweight the Bard, is quite similar to the character in that he never bothers to censor his feelings of self-love. He wears that tail poof proudly and flaunts it every day as he recites his dazzling soliloquies. Some may criticize him for his arrogance, but Petalweight represents the best of his type, and I would never wish for him to change even one iota from how he lives his life. He has talent and uses such talents to better the world, and for this reason, the jerboa has every right to flaunt his tail to the masses.

Thank you for reading this blog. I am very sorry for the horrendous delay, and I will attempt to post more often. Please comment below or contact me at G'day, mate!