Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shared Worlds: History and the Imagined Fantastical

I love taking pictures of old buildings. And, as mentioned before, old and secret doors and windows in old buildings. Part of this is the simple beauty of these things. Part of it is the mystery. Part of it, though, is the sense of lived history in these places. These are connections to the lives of actual people. They are not simply monuments of the present, but actual pieces of lives in the past.

As a writer of fantasy, nothing seems more magical. The realness of these buildings is a departure point (an inspiration point) for me as a writer. It's not just that I can imagine a soldier looking over a battlement at an invading army, but that I can see him on an empty night, the cold wind blowing up over the stone. Thinking of a fire, of a girl he loves, of something to eat, even as the light fades in the west and the great eastern darkness boils up off the horizon. Does he notice? Or has he seen it so many times that he's blind to it, living by touch, living from shiver to shiver?

This is the magic of physical history on the mind of a writer.

So! I had a shot yesterday of a cannon in Belem Tower looking out over the water to the Vasco da Gama Bridge, outside Lisbon, Portugal. I loved this tower, and took a bunch of pictures of it. It's an important building, too, both for its beauty and its age. And the age is important, because it was one of the few great buildings in Lisbon to survive the horrendous 1755 earthquake that shattered the city.

Here are a few shots of the Belem Tower. It's worth seeing, if you ever get the chance.

We hope you've enjoyed the tour. Please exit to the left.


R.S. Bohn said...

Where's the gift shop? I'd like to purchase a little flash fiction, if you please.

(lonely child princesses kept against their will and plotting escape, I'd pay extra for)

Steve Abernathy said...

Love Portugal. Want to retire in Coimbra. Or nearabouts. Don't speak the lang, but know how to fish. That's all that matters in Porto anyway.

Faith E. Hough said...

Wow, that is incredible. I live in a 250+ year old house, and I love the sense that history has been lived here for generations... But I'd trade it for a castle if I got the chance. :)

jbchicoine said...

I've never seen a building older than a couple of centuries. The US is so limited when compared to some of the really old relics of Europe. It's brain rattling to think of all the people/lives that have passed through those places--the voices are deafening for those like us who listen...

D.G. Hudson said...

Beautiful photos, Bryan, I like these old buildings, too. I wish each building came with a history of who lived in them, what happened to them, etc. So many stories tied up in stone.

In one of your shots of the tower from above, I could imagine the nobility walking around on a nice day, or watching to see if the enemy were coming. How well they must have built some of these forts and buildings for them to have survived for so long.

The rental apt. we stayed in in Paris last year was built in the 1700s, and had the huge doors and tiny elevators from the early part of the 20th century. We loved it.

Windows and doors lead outward, and beckon us to new adventures if we're bold. If we're not, they make us wonder what's on the other side.

Loved the tour!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Your pictures and words are so beautiful! I think it's the magic of the mind of the writer that takes us to these places. For me, having grown up in California where everything is shiny and new, anything older than 1970 kinda blows my mind ( in a good way).

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Those are impressive photos, though I suspect they don't do the objects they represent any justice. You're right, though. Such places really do open up the doors of imagination for writers.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Old castles are so cool. Awesome photos. Is it really that white?

Marsha Sigman said...

That is awesome. I had no idea Portugal was so beautiful. I'm always too focused on Scotland.

Maybe I need to tweak my dream vacation...

Nicole Zoltack said...

Such beautiful pictures!

maine character said...

Awesome building. It's held up so well, it looks like something from a movie set for Narnia.

And yeah, those details of what exactly they see from the window, and the texture of the stone, and the chill air and echoes... I love exploring forts.

Matthew MacNish said...

Holy fuck, Bryan. Your photography skills are phenomenal, but as good as they are they're still slightly eclipsed by your writing.

The thing I love about your letters most is that you can take the most mundane thing, and turn it into a rhythmic song of poetic prose.

Anyway, I'm done blowing smoke, but I have to say you've taken a beautiful monument and made it much more than just a spot for tourists.

Thanks, as always, for another glimpse into your world.

Bryan Russell said...

@ R.S.
I'll see what I can do.

@ Steve
I can't catch fish, but I can eat them. This also goes over well in Portugal.

@ Faith
Apparently the castle market has gone down these days, so you never know...

@ jb
You trip over amazing stuff in Europe. It's everywhere.

@ DG
"so many stories tied up in stone"

@ Susan
California has San Francisco, so it's all good.

@ Jeffrey
Nothing like old buildings for a fantasy writer.

@ Alex
Yup, it's really that white.

@ Marsha
Portugal is awesome. Of course, so is Scotland. I could do with visiting a picturesque Loch right now.

@ Nicole

@ Maine character
Yeah, I blame my Dad for this love, as he was a history professor. I saw many a fort as a tot.

@ Matt
I'm just an amateur photgrapher, but I enjoy it. I like finding shots that give you an experience of actually being in a building, rather than just the distant post-card sort of shot.

Deniz Bevan said...

This post got linked to one of mine somehow and I'm only just seeing it now. Love the photos! I'd never heard of this building before.