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"The Sad Girl" is what I decided to call this illustration I did for the story "Blood Culture" by Eric Del Carlo, published in Talebones, issue no. 20, Fall 2000.  Eric's story is about the aftermath of a future war between humans and vampires (it's been coming for years).  The humans lose and are put on reservations, where basically human culture and technology stagnate.  Meanwhile, the vampires who now control most of the world create a social and technological utopia.  On the human reservation is a woman who thinks that if she can murder her husband in the right way, he will become a vampire and can thereafter escape to the vampire utopia. Then she can kill herself and follow into fangdom.  But it turns out she is wrong, and she winds up just killing him.

While the piece itself illustrates the story described above, I commissioned poet Christina Sng to write a poem about it.  

This is a little bio about Ms. Sng:

"Christina Sng's first poetry collection The Darkside of Eden is scheduled for release in March 2002. Her peoms have appeared widely in such venues as Black Petals, Dreams and Nightmares, The Edge, frisson, The Pedestal Magazine, Wicked Hollow, and The Whirligig, with new work forthcoming in fables, Flesh & Blood, Hadrosaur Tales, Roadworks, and Space & Time, among others.  She lives in Singapore with her husband and their big-boned cat."

I envision a multi-person project that I may oversee one day, wherein, for example, a first person writes a story, and then gives the story to a second person, who does an illustration for it, who then gives the illustration (but not the story) to a third person who writes a poem, who then gives it to another person who writes music, etc. etc.  In any case, Christina wrote not one but two poems for this piece.  Following Christina's wonderful poems, I have some comments about the artwork itself.

 

THE SAD GIRL

by Christina Sng

 

Who are you?

Have you come to release me?

Or are you here to see Eric?

He is gone, gone.

Gone like the dawn.

They dont stay here very long,

Not since that siren song.

But stay a little while.

Let me show you around.

 

This is my Care Bear,

Companion since birth

Once tattered and eyeless

I have sewn him a new one.

It glows in the dark.

You wonder about the smell.

It is mine, tears congealed,

Sealed in his fur a time capsule.

I would bathe him

But there is no running water.

Not here, where no river flows.

It is a barren place, this desert.

Desert of my soul.

 

Here is my remote to life.

On off on off

Like a curtain swishing

And being shoved by the breeze.

I smack it but am pushed,

Spiralling, caught in the web

I spin like a twister

Up, up into the sky.

Dorothy, where am I?

Oh God, I am between channels.

Lost in a diatribe of ether,

And the static deafens me from both ends.

It is maddening.

 

Dino, my friend.

Giver of noise.

I squeeze his rubber torso

To hear it

Oh the beauty of sound outside my mind.

It resonates inside my cell

Like a harp. Sometimes a cello

I dont know. I am not musically-schooled.

This melody

I cannot fathom its origins.

It is hard to dispel.

 

My machine gun,

Yes, the one I thought

Would give him Resurrection.

But it overwhelmed,

Ripping holes between his bonds

The atoms would not hold.

Not even

His super vampiric ones.

Theyd lied about the bullets.

They lied about them all.

 

This is the baring

Of my soul. This is

The cage within I hold

In my hands, a gold trophy.

Oh, it shines with unfettered glee

Tickling me with atrophy.

The rigor mortis consumes me

And I stiffen like liquid nitrogen,

Smashing to the ground.

 

I breathe within these walls,

Bullet-proof, sound-proof

Here in all my creature comforts

I drown, smelling

Familiarity loud

As a sound.

Oh, its a ball!

(And they let me

Pin stuff on the wall.)

 

But oh, Eric, oh,

Id give them all up

And this cluttered room

Just for a whiff

Of your smell.

 

THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE (for The Sad Girl)

 by Christina Sng

She pulls you in

Though her crestfallen eyes.

You can see she is choking,

Asphyxiating, imprisoned inside.

 

Locked in tight with

The demons in her mind,

Who clamber over her sanity

Like it is some kind of prize.

 

Soon they will tear through

The sinews in her head.

Pick the choicest parts

For their daily fun and games.

 

When there is nothing left

Of her to entertain,

They turn to you watching

In horror and disdain.

 

 

 

Patiently they wait

For the stars to align,

Breaking open the hellgates

Between the real and sublime.

 

When the hour strikes

They tear through the canvas,

Pin your startled body

Beside the burning hot furnace.

 

You feel nothing

While they ravenously feed,

Frantically devouring your flesh

Like it is morphine.

 

Nearby, in the distance

You hear your sister calling,

Hey, come and check out

This morbid painting.

 

Write to Christina and tell her she's great; or visit her website.

In addition to The Sad Girl, I commissioned Christina Sng to write poems for Resurrection Man, Indifference, and Keep the Universe Beautiful.

 

About the original illustration:

To backtrack a little bit...  While almost all the work I do for stories and books share the name of the story or book, this one is different.  Though the story is called "Blood Culture," "The Sad Girl" is what my friends call this piece (as in "That thing you did with the sad girl").  Maybe they couldn't remember the title of the story, but "The Sad Girl" just stuck.  Sorry, Eric.

One thing that I do when I create artwork for magazines is that I try to advance my own agenda, separate from the story's.  While the story is about vampires, I chose to use it to make a statement about materialism.  I did this piece at Christmastime, and I was distressed that all the buying and selling was distracting us from the reason for the season.  The girl who murders her husband, incorrectly believing that this is a one-way ticket to utopia, is described as being surrounded by all this stuff - cool stuff, and I wanted to make the point that  material possessions cannot make us happy.

Just for the count, the "stuff" in the drawing include (from the bottom right): My Illustrators of the Future trophy; a Jesus candle I bought for a dollar at Walgreens and used a few months before in doing an illo for Fantastic Stories; a 7-Up can with the new design; fallen mug; TV remote; stuffed lion; computer disk for sneakernetting; Picard figurine because I want to be more like him; Care Bear; Thunderbird 1; T. Rex, which is actually a telephone; lamp with fringe; books, including Writers of the Future; Romulan Bird of Prey; steel guitar (as opposed to a steel-string guitar); a billy goat skull I found in the Australian outback; a drawing I did of a friend, Jessie, floating in space; Philippe Druillet's rejected poster concept for Star Wars (too cool for Lucas?); and a fragment of my illo "Joey's Machine" for Fantastic Stories. The odd winky thing between the Illustrators trophy and the Jesus candle - the smiley face - is a plush toy.  When my friend and fellow artist Rebecca Shortle went to Paris, I asked her to bring me back the tackiest souvenir she could find.  This was it.  A stuffed Eiffel tower.  With a bowtie and top hat.  What could be tackier - or cooler?  This is all my stuff, my cool stuff, but it won't make me happy.

In case you're wondering, the sad girl herself is someone named Phelicia I met commuting on Caltrain.  I had been sitting across from her, thinking that she might be a good model for this piece.  Then a guy in our car got his bike off the train, but he himself was stuck on the train when the doors closed.  Then the train moved away from the station, leaving his bike, while he shouted in vain for the doors to be opened.  Phelicia had this incredibly sad and concerned look on her face, and I said, "That's it! That's exactly what I need!" I asked her if I could take her photo, and it worked out just fine.  Thanks, Phelicia.

 

"The Sad Girl" was reprinted on the cover of Star*Line poetry magazine, issue 27.2, March/April 2004:

Image (c) 2001 Frank Wu

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