Please welcome my guest blogger, Stan Hampton, Sr., author of horror, science fiction, fantasy, sword & sorcery, erotica, and military fiction.
Fingerpainting 40,001 BC
I admire artistic creativity. That’s part of the reason I spent much of my life as a photographer—my favorite subject was women in nature, usually against a backdrop of the Sand Dunes in southern Colorado, or the Rocky Mountains. Sculpting. That’s something I’d like to try someday. Imagine chipping and chiseling away at a block of stone or marble until the subject you’re working on begins to come to life. That would bring about such a feeling of artistic accomplishment. Now, about writing, I have a desire or a need, to tell stories, to share my vision of different worlds, and different times with those who have similar visions. And painting—ahhh, now that’s harder to explain. I admire artists for their ability to bring their vision to life through a mixture of paints and choice of canvas (John M. Collier’s 1898 painting of “Lady Godiva” is the best of the genre).
But of all of the painters, I’m fascinated the most by those mysterious, prehistoric artists who painted the caves of El Castillo, Chauvet, and Altamira. I’m sure you’ve seen photographs of those paintings—rough paintings in black and reddish hues of various animals from a long vanished world. The ones in El Castillo may date from at least 40,000 BC; those in the Chauvet may range from 30,000 to 25,000 BC, and those in Altamira, from 17,000 to 13,000 BC. (The Met Museum website states that the footprints of a prehistoric child have been located in the Chauvet cave.)
Imagine—cave paintings that are thousands of years old! I’m a 58 year old grandfather, but what are 58 years compared to thousands of years? When looked at a scale of thousands of years, our time here seems so very short by comparison.
I sometimes wonder who the artists were. Male or female? Or both? Did they even remotely think, reason, and conceptualize like us? Did they have an understanding of the concept of time? What did they see when they woke in the mornings, and what did they see in the night sky? Did they worship early gods and goddesses, and tell stories of spirits, and god-heroes?
More, when these artists entered the caves to paint images on the rocky walls, were they simply recording what they saw of the world around them? Were they painting ceremonial images of the animals in an attempt to beseech nameless spirits to bless them in a coming hunt? Or were these prehistoric artists, in a fashion understood only by their kind, painting images that told a well known story?
Sometimes I try to imagine standing just outside the light of smoky torches, and watching a man or woman dipping a finger, or perhaps a brush made from bone, into sea shells filled with colored paints made from earth and plants. A look of concentration probably filled their face as they applied the paints to cool, rocky walls. If I listen hard enough, maybe I can hear the soft scrape and tapping of a paint coated finger against the stone canvas, or maybe just the whisper of a bone brush.
If I can get close enough to look at the eyes without disturbing the painter, maybe I’d catch a glimpse of a glimmer of early intelligence, of thought, and reasoning. And I wonder what undiscovered treasures the prehistoric artist might paint next, and what stories those paintings might tell, if only we understood.
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy
“An Appointment in the Village Bazaar.” Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper Anthology. Ed. Nancy Kilpatrick. Edge SF & Fantasy, Forthcoming October 2012.
EXCERPT: “We isn’t in fuckin’ Kansas no more,” Sergeant First Class Robert “Chief” Nottingham, a half-Cheyenne Indian, chuckled from behind his dark ballistic eyeglasses and a puff of sulfurous smelling cigarette smoke, as Sergeant Caleb Justus staggered up the steep trail. Caleb stopped when he saw the rolling, rocky landscape of a thin forest with broken and splintered trees. Visible beyond the trees was a ruined village nestled below a low gray rise littered with skeletal trees. A chill wind moaned across the rugged, haunting landscape.
Behind them, such a deep contrast to the land before them, the valley they emerged from was a lush garden of green grass, brush, and trees.
“No shit,” Caleb, who usually didn’t swear, gasped as sweat, mingled with the cold thin drizzle that fell from gray clouds, trickled down his face. The platoon spread out and eyed an ancient narrow trail that wound through the trees to a wide, rutted path that led to the village.
As the soldiers slipped through the trees, Caleb thought they resembled unearthly creatures moving through a blighted medieval landscape; each wore a camouflaged Kevlar helmet, Individual Body Armor weighted down with heavy ammunition magazines, first aid kits and combat knives, and grayish-green Army Combat Uniforms with dark elbow and knee pads. Each wore the trademark dark ballistic eyeglasses that hid the eyes and gave the impression of emotionless, less than human faces. They carried M4 Carbines with Close Combat Opticals, M249 Light Machine Guns, and M203s, a 40mm grenade launcher mounted under an M4.
He knew that in their minds, and in reality, they were the meanest SOBs in the valley, or any valley. He felt safe in their presence. It was a much needed feeling after almost being killed by an Improvised Explosive Device three days before.
“Don’t know how much drawing you’ll get done on a shitty day like this,” Chief commented as he ground the cigarette under his boot heel.
“That’s why I brought my Nikon,” Caleb patted a black bag nestled against the side of his IBA and first aid kit. His drawing kit dangled against his right hip, just above his holstered 9mm pistol. “If I have to I’ll take photos, maybe do some color pencil drawings…”
An Appointment in the Village Bazaar
Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper will be released October 2012 and can be purchased through:
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing Online Catalog
SS Hampton, Sr. is a Choctaw from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren. He is a published photographer and photojournalist. He is a member of the Army National Guard, a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle, and Iraqi Freedom, and he deployed to northern Kuwait 2006-2007. His favorite genre are horror, science fiction, erotica, sword & sorcery, fantasy, and military fiction. His writings have appeared in The Harrow, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, and River Walk Journal, among others. Currently his work is published by Melange Books, Musa Publishing, and MuseItUp Publishing, though various short stories have appeared in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Ravenous Romance, and later this year, Edge SF & Fantasy. As of December 2011 he technically became a homeless Iraq War veteran.