Catherine Cruzan

A New Realm of Fantasy


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POMPEII at the California Science Center

I visited the Pompeii Exhibit at the California Science Center this afternoon.

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It was comprised of an amazing collection of the city’s paintings, mosaics, statuary, jewelry, furniture, fountains, bath items, kitchen utensils, fishing implements, engineering tools, medical instruments, bowls and glassware… What turned out to be my favorite part of the exhibit—the gladiator armor and weaponry… And ultimately a glimpse of the poor souls caught in Mt. Vesuvius’ violent expulsion.  There was even an adults-only room with household items decorated in phallic imagery intended to enhance a family’s virility, strength and power both at home and within the community.

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The history lesson opens with a look at a the layout of the houses, which not only served the family’s needs, but also hosted guests and business associates, as well as political attachés.  The dwellings were arranged around an atrium or garden, ornamented with elegant Frescos and marble statuary, designed to display the family’s wealth.  The residents often brought the furniture outside and dined beneath the stars in good weather.  At least that was the life of the elite.  The majority of Pompeii residents were poor, and lived in modest apartments.

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In the next two rooms, the lesson continues with a glimpse of residents’ sea-dwelling life—implements of fishing, farming and commerce, and associated furniture and kitchen-wares.  Amphora, or jugs, for olive oil and Garum stand as tall as a ten-year-old child.  Garum, a fermented fish sauce used for flavoring bland food, was one of Pompeii’s largest exports, and they were known throughout the Roman empire for it.  One of their wealthiest citizens, Asulus Umbricius, amassed his fortune from producing and selling garum.

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The next big room is a plethora of artifacts representing Pompeii life, ranging from a temperature controlled bathtub and bathing implements, to blown glass, gold jewelry, a glimpse of theatrical life, engineering and medicine, and a gladiator’s tools of the trade.  It is truly amazing how advanced their technology was in the first century, as evidenced by the tiny, tiny links in the gold chains, the intricately formed glassware, the elaborately adorned bronze armor and helms, their hydraulic valves, and even a sophisticated specula.

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After a well-rendered cinematic recreation of the 48 hour period during which the volcano erupted, the movie screen rises to allow admittance to the final room of the exhibit.  Lying in what amounts to Plexiglas coffins, a few of the victims of the ordeal express their pain.  These are not the actual plaster casts excavated from the Pompeii dig site, but rather resin copies.  Photos of their actual discoveries line the walls behind them.

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It certainly paints a clear picture of the fragility of life, no matter how sophisticated its origins.

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BayCon 2014 in Santa Clara, CA

ORIGINALLY POSTED: May 23-26, 2014

How do you spell Triskaidekaphobia?… Memorial Day Weekend at BayCon in Santa Clara, CA

At least, that’s what I found myself asking over the holiday weekend.  I’m not sure I ever gave myself a satisfactory answer…

I’d been looking forward to BayCon for months, given that my GLAWS author friends go on and on about the event with glowing excitement, especially regarding the BayCon goers who tend to be avid readers and SF/F/H aficionados.

In other words — the BayCon peeps are my kind of peeps.

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I dare say, the convention did not fail to live up to their praise, despite the unfortunate drop in attendance due to a rash of newly competing conventions in the Bay area over the holiday weekend.

I spent most of the weekend manning the signing table, meeting lots of fun and interesting people, and sold a respectable number of books, book bags and T-shirts.  My favorite visit was from Wiggles, the trained assitance pup — a sweet little black lab who reminded me of my childhood pet, Lady.

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Saturday night was awesome.  After the Dealer Room closed, I found myself immersed in Star Trek culture, complete with drinks at the Klingon bar, a Klingon slave auction, and even Captain Kirk on the sales block.  All the money collected went to charity, including the $5 I threw down for a drink called “Revenge” served to the tune of a room full of Klingons shouting, “Revenge is a drink best served cold!”

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I even got to enjoy some Taiko drumming!

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I will definitely be back next year if they’ll have me.  =)

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Gaslight Gathering 2014

ORIGINALLY POSTED: May 2-4, 2014

Gaslight Gathering at San Diego’s Town & Country

Victoriana Musings…

I began my Steampunk weekend with a selfie in the hotel.  Which means I must have been excited, because I don’t usually flip the phone on myself.  I prefer to be on the other side of the lense, in search of interesting things to shoot.

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The best part of the weekend was running into my friends here and there, some of whom even stopped to pose for pictures in their fun and fantastical garb.

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One of my friends, Richard Foss, broke down the ins-and-outs of Victorian food and libation.  He’s an amazingly informed foodie and food critic, as well as a talanted author in his own right.  I could listen to him lecture for hours.

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Speaking of authors, there were fewer writer panels at the convention this year, sadly.  So I sat in on some costuming discussions before getting to watch some terrific writers discuss the Steampunk genre.   Followed by my favorite part of the weekend — a writers’ workshop with Todd McCaffrey and Dru Pagliassotti.  And of course, getting my books signed by them and Cherie Priest.

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Our Steampunk Panelists from left to right: Ralph E. Vaughan, Cherie Priest, Todd McCaffrey, Dru Pagliassotti.

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Of course, Dealer Room antics abounded all weekend.  And I did end up spending some money… But can you blame a girl when all the booths looked so inviting with their gadgets and whats-its, doo-dads and feathered thing-a-ma-jigs?  And I’d be remiss in my duties as a shopper if I neglected to mention all the pretty attire!!!

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WonderCon 2014

ORIGINALLY POSTED: April 18-20, 2014

ComiCon International’s WonderCon in Anaheim

IMG_4146Another wonder-filled weekend in Anaheim…

WonderCon 2014 seemed so much larger than it did in previous years.  It’s just a matter of time before it’ll be as difficult to score an Anaheim ticket as it is to score one for San Diego.  It’s no longer the well-kept secret of San Diego refugees.  That, or there are just so many more of us shut out of the San Diego con, despite our hours lurking in the virtual waiting room on ticket-purchasing day.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to my dear friend Rebecca for my San Diego ticket this year.  It’s been 6 years since I’ve been able to get in.  I can hardly wait.  She was the first one to go with me so many years ago.  It’s apropos she’s the one to help me get BACK IN.

Meanwhile, WonderCon was a completely different experience for me this year, because I spent half of it behind a book signing table.  The whole weekend was a payoff for all of those grueling hours I spent working on ELFKIND.  I felt as if I’d finally grasped some of the stars I’ve been reaching for.

Thank you to my friends, and everyone else who stopped by to say “hello”!

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I did manage to squeeze in a few wonder-filled WonderCon moments when I wasn’t manning the table…

Most memorable was the Salem panel, complete with Shane West (nice!) and the show runners, Adam Simon and Brannon Braga, answering questions and giving us a sneak peek at the new WGN series.  I’ve since been watching it air on Sunday evenings, and I’m truly impressed with the writing.  I’m pleased they are incorporating so much research into the dramatization.  The actors are amazing, bringing it all to life, with fabulous costuming and dark, gritty cinematography.  I’m crossing my fingers they get a second season!

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Any other Faceoff fans out there?  I’ve been watching this SyFy show from its inception.  Cat and Nico were on the most recent season.  They were at the con, showing off their skills, and I even got a fun greeting from Nico, who almost made it to the finale show.  Both he and Cat are impressive artists.  I enjoyed watching them on the show, and now I can say I watched them live in action as well!

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I squeezed in the Nerdist Panel and a visit to the Nerdist booth, since I’m always all about Chris Hardwick and company.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get his autograph due to my own book signing commitments, but I got one from Jessica Chobot. Yay!   =)

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Star Wars definitely represented this year, including a visit from my friends, The Darkside Riders!

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And of course the Dealer Room abounded with excitement as it always does.  Some of the shots I collected are down below, including one of the artist who created the little Minion I took home with me.    =)

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WonderCon 2013 — ARTISTS ALLEY

ORIGINALLY POSTED: March 29, 30 & 31, 2013

WonderCon in Anaheim, CA

I Wonder, Wonder, Wonder…  THE ALLEY

ARTISTS’ ALLEY was busting at the seams with a ton of amazing talent this year.  I wish I could do a write-up on each and every one of the artists!  For a full listing, you can visit the WonderCon Artists’ Alley page.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the many things which caught my eye…

Tohru Patrick Awa

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This artist had some of my favorite stuff on the alley.  His characters are complex with beautiful, flowing lines.  His images are a wonderful blend of whimsical and bold.  Check out his Dracula, his Dragon Girl and his Red Riding Hood to see what I mean.

Amongst the many things he’s done, he did creature design work for Tim Burton’s movie “9” which was beautifully rendered in stop motion animation.

He also did concept design work for the Japanese Sci Fi anime BATON.

He’s got links on his site to some other amazing artists, so be sure to go check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin Harder – Claus Studios

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This artists has a really interesting take on angle and perspective which gives his artwork a surreal sense of sophistication.

I’m a fan of his commercial artwork as well.  He did some iconic Sons of Anarchy stuff, for example, that any fan of the show would recognize.  His artwork reflects the derision playing out in the club, and adds to the drama that we admire and appreciate on this show.

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Cain Illustration

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Anne’s booth stopped me dead in my tracks when I spotted her illustration of one of my favorite movie antagonists, Prince Nuada from Hellboy II, The Golden Army, created by Guillermo del Toro and exquisitely brought to life by actor Luke Goss.

She’s an amazing illustrator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas M. Baxa

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The amount of detail in Thomas’ illustrations is just phenomenal.  He’s amazingly talented.  He’s done interior art, cover art and card illustrations for many of the big fantasy games, including Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering.

 

Jessica C. Feinberg

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Those of you who know me, know how much I love dragons.  And one of the wonderful things about Jessica’s art is that it’s full of… That’s right, you guessed it… Dragons.

She also does some amazing elementals, faeries, steampunk and so on…

There’s no better way to get my attention than to combine things I like, such as steampunk and dragons!

It doesn’t hurt that she’s also a Doctor Who fan.

 

Rachel Walker

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I bought a glass pendant from this lovely lady after a lively chat at her booth about performance and costuming.  And I have gotten comments about it EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve worn it.  In fact, I love the subject so much, I’m sharing the print with you here.  I adore the whimsy of this piece.

Rachel’s faeries and Japanese Geisha are simply wonderful too.  Wearable art is the best!!!

Her website is fun to shop.  Go check it out!