Hi MaryEllen! Thanks for having me on your blog today. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Perrin Pring, author of the Ryo Myths. My first book Appointment at the Edge of Forever and my second book, Tomorrow is Too Late are both available on Amazon and Barnesandnobel.com. The Ryo Myths is a science fiction/fantasy trilogy that even people who aren’t sci fi nerds seem to enjoy. (Think Star Wars or Firefly.)
Today, MaryEllen asked me to talk about how my sense of place affects my writing. If you haven’t checked out MaryEllen’s paintings, place is a very important theme in her work. In fact, she’s helped me develop my ability to see where I am (If you scroll down to the blog titled Glory Days, you will notice a quote at the bottom there, “You see things I miss when I walk to work looking down.” Yup, that’s me. I’m not so good in the mornings. Good thing MaryEllen paints what I miss.
The question MaryEllen posed to me is, when I create planets and other places in my writing, am I writing about places I know, or am I creating places from scratch?
I’d have to go with the former on that. I take places I’ve traveled to or lived in and augment them to be whatever I want them to be. That’s the beauty of writing science fiction. I don’t have to write reality as I see it. Some of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been are volcanic landscapes. I love hot springs and mud pots and cinder cones. I just can’t get enough. In the final book of the Ryo Myths (still unnamed at this point) my characters all end up on a volcanic planet. I created that planet kind of like Thomas Moran created some of his famous paintings of the West. I put together a lot of features I enjoy about a volcanic landscape and had them all exist in the same place. I made the sky a sweet color I’ve never seen before and blew out the color on the rest of the landscape to make it what I wanted it to be, which is based off of what I know but is in no way a replication of it.
This being said, I could not, in anyway, create any meaningful places in my writing if I hadn’t traveled or lived in so many places. For example, I’d always heard the American North West was rainy, but I didn’t really get it until I lived there for a winter. In my first book, Appointment at the Edge of Forever, one of the main characters ends up on a planet called Bok, which is a very rainy planet. While Bok is only a stopover for the character, I know the details I included about Bok are much more meaningful and realistic because I spent a third of a year in constant rain.
As I said, I’m Perrin Pring, author of the Ryo Myths. Check out my writing, follow my reviews, and get my books at:
www.perrinpring.com, Facebook, G+, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com
Here is an excerpt from Roger Minick's 2012 field notes about some realizations he had while photographing his Sightseer series over the course of 30 years. The full website is sightseerseries.com.
"Throughout my hours of driving and time spent at hundreds of overlooks––from Yosemite National Park to the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Old Faithful Geyser to the rim of the Grand Canyon, from Niagara Falls to the St. Louis Arch, from the Crazy Horse Memorial to the World Trade Center, from The Alamo to the Washington Mall, from Zion Canyon National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains––there was one question that continued to press upon me for an answer. What was it that motivated people, by the hundreds of thousands, at great expense of time, money, and effort, to visit these far-off places of wonder and curiosity? I must confess that there were times in my travels, squeezed elbow-to-elbow with my fellow travelers, that I viewed their presence at the overlooks as nothing more than another example of mindless, boorish, behavior. I thought they were there simply to get their pictures taken as quickly as possible, the one tangible validation of their trip, and then head on to the next overlook, the next campground, motel, bus stop, then home––the experience at any one of the dozens of overlooks remembered only later through a snapshot they barely recalled taking.
But in the end I came to believe that there was something more meaningful going on––something stronger and more compelling, something that seemed almost woven into the fabric of the American psyche. I would witness this most dramatically when I watched first-timers arrive at a particularly spectacular overlook and see their expressions become instantly awestruck at this their first sighting of some iconic beauty or curiosity or wonder. After seeing this happen innumerable times, I began to compare what I was seeing to the religious pilgrimages of the Middle East and Asia, where the pilgrims are not just making a trip to make a trip, or simply to return home with some tangible piece of evidence that they were there––the snapshot––they have instead come seeking something deeper, beyond themselves, and are finding it in this moment of visitation. For as with all pilgrimages, they have made the journey, they have arrived, and are now experiencing the quickening sense of recognition and affirmation, that universal sense of a shared past and present, and, with any luck, a shared future."
From "We are a Camera" by Nick Paumgarten
"For two days in the Idaho mountains, Chase’s cameras had been rolling virtually non-stop. Now, with his companions lagging behind, he started down the trail, which descended steeply into an alpine meadow. As he accelerated, he noticed, to his left, an elk galloping toward him from the ridge. He glanced at the trail, looked again to his left, and saw a herd, maybe thirty elk, running at full tilt alongside his bike, like a pod of dolphins chasing a boat. After a moment, they rumbled past him and crossed the trail, neither he nor the elk slowing, dust kicking up and glowing in the early-evening sun, amid a thundering of hooves. It was a magical sight. The light was perfect. And, as usual, Chase was wearing two GoPros. Here was his money shot—the stuff of TV ads and real bucks...
Once the herd was gone, it was as though it’d never been there at all—Sasquatch, E.T., yeti. Pics or it didn’t happen. Still, one doesn’t often find oneself swept up in a stampede of wild animals. Might as well hope to wingsuit through a triple rainbow. So you’d think that, cameras or not, he’d remember the moment with some fondness. But no. “It was hell,” Chase says now."
A few months ago I was crossing Stoneman Bridge in Yosemite Valley when I saw the light of a passing car reflect off of some animal's eyes along the Merced river. A minute later I heard some splashing and looked down to see a raccoon swimming after fish. I don't think it caught any but I was pretty excited to watch it actually perform like a wild animal unaware of the nearby Camp Curry Pizza Deck and numerous visitors who would be happy to share their dinners for a good photo-op. Before bed that night I sketched out what I remembered and over the course of the following months I have slowly finished a painting.
It may not have been a heard of elk, a marmot licking a go pro camera, or a whale coming up below my kayak, but it was a rare sight none-the-less, and one I am glad to have documentation of. I love cameras. I love photography, but in that moment, I am glad I can build a memory on paper, after the fact.
I am pleased to announce that four of my paintings will be included in the Fall show at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. Up through the end of the month.
For a few weeks now Fall has been spilling into the valley from the high country. The isolated wind tunnel runs over the, now dry, Yosemite Falls and into the housing area, ending abruptly by the barn at the end of the street. It has made my walk to work a bit of a walk down memory lane- to my time working at the top of the Fire Island Lighthouse, fishing with my siblings, and early August mornings in Vermont. Some of my favorite places, past and present, being experienced at the same time.
On a recent 45 degrees Fahrenheit morning, I hiked out to Ten Lakes Basin, where I often went during my backcountry patrols last year. My goal was to paint as much as possible, light and fast. As it happens a huge wildfire started and I was in the right place to capture someplace familiar in a moment of change. I work for an agency where preservation comes first, so changes in the landscape (beyond seasonally) should be appreciated (it is easy for me to feel fortunate for visitors who get to see a rainy day in the Valley, even if they do not. More on that to follow.)
"you see things I miss when I walk to work looking down."
Working from life is a major part of my process- however I don't always have the ability or time to paint on scene. Below are a couple of sketches and one of the resulting paintings based on recent fires in Yosemite.
In late April 2014 I flew over a familiar stretch of I-40. A week and a half later I was driving that stretch of road back to Yosemite. It got me thinking about what the landscape's role is in most people's lives. It is a relationship that seems to be increasingly ambiguous, the land's main affect being the creation of distance between people and their constructed activities. I spent the driving distance equivalent of two or three Rhode Island's waiting for the chance to take a quick picture of the sky where I had been so recently.
Here is to being nearly in the same place, nearly at the same time.