Friday, May 14, 2010

FIGHTING SKELETONS

Another in a series of Why I Write
by Lupe Fernandez


The photo appeared in a book on monster/fantasy films. I can’t remember the book’s title, but I’d never forget the film’s name. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. As a boy, I stared at the black and white photo of heroic sea captain and the skeleton crossing swords, black curly hair, determined head tilted, his white tunic, marveling at the sweep of Sinbad’s arm, his muscles taut, the downward sweep of this sword, the position of the shield, the magic lamp hanging from his belt, his back against the wall, yet he fought on. The skeleton charged, relentless, ghoulish, black eye sockets, bony arms and legs in motion. The frozen moment made me think how did Sinbad get there? What powers created up such a foe? What happened next? I had to know.

The character was based on several stories in One Thousand and One Nights Arabian Nights with two Sinbads - Sinbad the Landsman and Sinbad the Sailor. Sinbad the Sailor was a wealthy merchant who regaled the poor Sinbad the Landsman about his oceanic adventures. Although Sinbad the Sailor never fought a sword-wielding skeleton, he did encounter a giant whale, a monstrous bird called the Roc, a hungry Cyclops, cannibal tribes, bird-men and a lot of ship-wrecking storms.

In 1975, Columbia Pictures released The 7th Voyage of Sinbad to coincide the premiere with a new Sinbad adventure, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. I learned the name of the modern movie conjurer was Ray Harryhausen, an apprentice to stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien – think the original King Kong – and a close friend of author Ray Bradbury.

Even in the days before videotape and DVDs, I lost count how many times I watched 7th Voyage, but I could not own the film. From the library, I checked out an LP that contained excerpts from the soundtrack. The brassy, horns, deep strings and pounding tympanis first conjured scenes from the movie, but later I imagined other scenes and other stories. I saw myself battling armies of skeletons in the hallways of high school, saving a girl – whom I was too shy to talk to – who would swoon in my arms and become my grateful girlfriend.

Seen from today, 7th Voyage of Sinbad appears culturally myopic, melodramatic, and technically primitive. But viewed from a childhood, the film was dynamic, inspiring, and unforgettable.

Though I didn’t have the nimble fingers and model-making skills Ray Harryhausen – he made 15 films including the original Clash of The Titans - I realized I could put one word next to another, like single frame animation, and bring my own skeletons and heroes to life.

9 comments:

  1. I love that what a beautiful description of what er do as writers - put one word next to another and bring our characters to life.

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  2. Thanks Sue. I been wondering what writers do.

    Lupe F.

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  3. I love the way you wove this together and especially your ending lines about putting one word next to another. Reminds me of perseverance, too: just keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep on writing . . .

    Sincerely,
    Abs of Steel (after just 2 days!) ;)

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  4. Yo Abs of Steel,

    Way to go. Woof! Woof! Nothing like syntax stomach crunches to eliminate the adjectival fat.

    Now one, two, threeee......you can do it! Arrgggg!!!! Breathe through the pain.

    Sincerely,
    The Swashbuckling Superlative

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  5. Wonderful memories, Lupe. You battled armies of skeletons to save a girl you were too shy to talk to...the essence of childhood dreams. Keep them close and vivid and your words will always conjure magic in the same way this post has. :)

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  6. Thanks Rilla.

    Sincerely,
    Captain Conjunction

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  7. I would say I write because I have to many cool ideas in my head that I don't want to forget. Hm, that's a good quote. I should write that down.

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  8. Yo Chris,

    Sometimes I have good ideas in my left occipital lobe.

    Sincerely,
    Corpus Callosum

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