Narrative Transport. The official Michael Pryor website.
  • History
  • July26th

    The life of a professional magician isn’t always easy. There’s the death-defying, the hair’s breadth escapes, the daring what ordinary mortals would not. And then there’s the problem of skin care.

    Harry Houdini toured Australia in 1910. A tireless self-promoter, he embarked on a series of stunts to publicise his performances, including being wrapped in chains and hurling himself from Melbourne’s Princes Bridge into the Yarra River. Various members of the public set challenges as well, with fiendishly difficult rope entanglements, hand-built coffins and manacles of devilish devise.

    With all this, it’s no wonder that Houdini appreciated a ‘healing embrocation’, especially for those wrists chafed during his handcuff escapes. An obvious aficionado of soft and supple skin, Houdini penned a testimonial to the makers of Zam-Buk, an ointment which promised to heal ‘cuts, bruises, scalds, burns, eczema, pimples, psoriasis, piles, bad legs and other affections of the skin and tissues’.

    It’s good to know that even masters of mysteries like Houdini need to take care of life’s niceties.

     

  • May20th

    On Friday 18th May I was lucky enough to be part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival ‘Writer Overnighter’ at the Powerhouse Museum, and what fun it was. I’d never been to the Powerhouse before – a sad gap in my vast store of museum love – so I was nearly as excited as the fifty or so young people who came along for a night of Steam power!food, activities, talks, demonstrations and exploration, with the bonus of being able to choose their own special place to sleep in a museum. The whole museum was alive with magnificent steam power, with so much whirring, rocking, rotating, hissing and clanking that it was a Steampunk writer’s dream come true.

    So much fun was packed into our time there, from steam-driven balloons to excited ping pong balls to steam-driven ice cream makers. When my turn came, I was able to explain why history is so useful to a Fantasy writer before going on to demonstrate how Steampunk is such a sublime blending of history and imagination. After that, of course, we all got down to write and I was staggered at the creative outpourings from everyone there. In a short time, we had imagined enough explorers, scientists, engineers and spies to populate a thousand Steampunk stories, and all of them had elaborate Steampunk vehicles, ranging from submarines to pogo sticks. I don’t care how well reinforced that old turbine room was, I think we were only a handful of ideas away from blowing the roof off. Read More | Comments

  • April12th

    Get rid of the grey and add some glow in the dark!

    Get rid of the grey and add some glow in the dark!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • April10th

    Ah, 1971, what a year! Even though it was technically well inside a new decade, the spirit of the previous ten year was unwilling to die. In some ways, the early seventies were the culmination of the Sixties, in music, fashion and culture. And in good taste, of course.

    Take this advertisement for Rit dye. There’s so much to love here! Look at the astonishing colour combination she’s wearing. Look at her belt, which looks as if it’s made of macrame pasta. Look at the empty-eyed doll on the table, pre-flattened so it can slip under your bedroom door at night and haunt your dreams. Look at the wallpaper – can you imagine a whole room done up with that pattern? Black Ops teams are probably studying it right now to see if it can be used in psychological warfare.

    And then there’s the art that’s on the wall, the art she’s so proud of. Yes, that’s tie dye. Everyone was doing it in 1971. Tie dyed jeans, tie dyed shirts, tie dyed sheets. But tie dyed art? I can imagine being at a dinner party in 1971, tucking into my French Onion soup and getting ready for a main course of Steak Diane, then glancing up at the wall to see that art in all its hideous power. All thought of polishing off that Ben Ean Moselle would fly out the window, confronted by this majestic capturing of the giant alien amoebae coming to get us.

    Not many people would be game enough to hang this wonder on the wall, but the early seventies made heroes of us all.

     

  • March24th

    I’ve been re-watching the 1998 HBO series ‘From the Earth to the Moon’, and it got me thinking.Moon

    We went to the moon. Can you get your head around that? We, collectively, as a species, went to the moon. That moon, the one way up there – we went to it. We went right around the other side. We trod on its dusty surface. We picked up rocks. We measured stuff. WE DROVE A FREAKIN’ DUNE BUGGY ALL OVER THE PLACE!

    We went to the moon.

    Yes, we all know that, but I’m not sure if we appreciate it, or appreciate it enough. What an effort. What an achievement. What a batty, glorious, arrogant thing it was even to conceive of. ‘Okay, the moon. Let’s go there to see what it’s like.’ It’s one of the great things about humanity, this ability to undertake something vast, futile and poetic, just because.

    We did it, and then we stopped. We haven’t been back since 1972.
    Read More | Comments

  • February13th

    A great feature, thanks to Retronaut, with some splendid, inspired imagining of London streets as canals.

    underwater!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • November29th

    I visit many schools and libraries, and speak to a lot of young people about books and reading and writing. One of the (many) things I tell them is that history is a fantasy writer’s best friend. As a fantasy writer, I Nom, nom, nomlove what history can offer. As well as simply being interesting in its own right, history is a goldmine for anyone contemplating writing fantasy. Take any period in history, change a few names, sprinkle in some magic and suddenly you have an outline for a massive fantasy trilogy. At least.

    While that might be tongue in cheek, learning about history is a superb way to generate ideas for writing. Not just the great people and great events – although that sort of thing is valuable – but intimate details of social history, how people lived and worked and played.

    This leads to one of the central paradoxes of writing fantasy. Yes, it’s all made up and imaginary and strange – but it works best when it’s realistic. The aim of the writer of fantasy is to make the exotic into something believable – or plausible, at least. Read More | Comments

  • October31st

    Almost forgotten today, Talbot Mundy was one of the great adventure writers of the first half of the twentieth century. It was fellow bibliophile and curiosity seeker Stephen Bresnehan who put me onto Mundy, sending me a copy of  ‘King – of the Khyber Rifles’, a thrashingly good tale of derring-do in the days of the British Raj. What struck me reading KotKR was the sense of place the story had, how convincing the description was of India, Afghanistan and its people. While some of the characters showed the casual racism of the time, this wasn’t universal, and Mundy’s portrayal of the Indians and Afghanis was positive, respectful and without condescension. It was evident, too, from the events of the novel, that Mundy was fascinated by the spiritual aspects of life in India and how these differed from Western practices.

    Intrigued, I went Mundy chasing – and found an extraordinary life.

    Read More | Comments

  • September11th

    British Museum Enlightenment Room

    I lie, of course. It’s the Enlightenment Room at the British Museum. But if I had a library in my home, it’d be something like this. With ladders to reach the books on the second floor. Of course.

  • August30th

    Snappy Ad

    Posted in: Articles, History

    I love this one.