Last night, tired of political news, I surfed the 'net and found an astonishing collection of dragon images at Tor.com. It goes on and on. I scrolled and scrolled. Most are 20th and 21st C illustrations for fantasy fiction, which vary from cheesy to brilliant. Even the cheesy ones are so professionally executed that if you love dragon pictures, you'll get a kick out of them. Scattered throughout, moreover, are older images from Renaissance Italy to Chinese scrolls to William Blake—and this one by Thomas Cooper Gotch. It stopped me and held me; and this morning it sent me into a variation of Natasha Pulley's writing exercise.
Picturing a World
In these troubled times, gardens offer comfort and inspiration. Exploring the Museum Computer Network portal, I got to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento where where I found this painting by Theodore Wores. Wores, a San Franciscan who was influenced by James McNeill Whistler, went to Japan, learned the language, and brought Impressionist techniques to painting landscapes there. (Another example is his Street in Ikao.)
The Iris Flowers of Horikiri called to mind two things: First, the Asian-influenced garden, Innisfree, in Millbrook New York, where irises border a stream. Second, Natasha Pulley's Lost Future of Pepperharrow, most of which takes place in Japan in the 1890's and includes a Japanese estate with many gardens.
I was searching the McClung Collection of the Knox County (Tennessee) Public Library for a totally different historic image when I ran across this house plan from 1901 (Mattie might know someone back in Ohio who built just such a house). House plans are wonderful aids to imagining places in fiction, and local libraries like the Knoxville can be unexpectedly rich sources of images.
In this case, however, what struck me was how useful the image was for carrying out Natasha Pulley's exercise in starting a fantasy story. Remember? It has three parts: List five impossible things. Choose one and list questions related to "If this is true, what else must be true?" Think about those particulars, then write a paragraph.
I first read Natasha Pulley's Bedlam Stacks in a library copy. I liked it, but not as much as The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Or so I thought. Still, after a while I decided to buy a copy to have on hand, knowing I would want to reread it someday. The day came as soon as I put down The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, and very glad I was to have it with libraries and bookstores now closed. I loved it on second reading! It sent me Googling Pulley, which led to two links that are worth pursuing if you are interested in the interweave of fact and fiction.