Day of the Dead 2018: Oaxaca

How do we deal with death? Should we fear it? Avoid discussing it? These seem like foolish ideas, considering how inevitable death is: from the moment we’re born, from those first gulps of oxygen that open the door to life, we also begin dying. No matter what, death takes us in the end. So what if we looked at it a bit less… grimly?

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I’ve always had an immense admiration for Mexico’s Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead (as readers of Pale Highway probably figured out). In the last few years, Veronica and I have made a point to mark the occasion by remembering the loved ones we’ve lost. To truly understand a tradition, though, I think it’s important to go back to its roots. So back in late October, we took a trip down to Oaxaca, Mexico, to experience Día de Muertos firsthand.

Oaxaca is an amazing location, on its own, but everything lights up during Day of the Dead in a way that has to be seen to be believed. Altars commemorating lost family members are everywhere. Costumed parades cheer, dance, and play brass instruments across the neighborhoods, all night long. Grinning skeletons hang from balconies, windowsills, and doorways. Candles light up the cemeteries, and bands play through the evening, as everyone comes together to honor the ones they’ve lost, to grieve, to celebrate their lives, and to recognize death—not as something to fear, but as an integral part of what makes life meaningful. image (8)

This sort of realization—to love life, to smile through death, to dance with the skeletons instead of running from them—is something that anyone, in any culture, can learn from. Thank you, Oaxaca, for showing us what an amazing holiday this really is.

 

 

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Intraterrestrial: Audio Book Now Available!

Not everyone enjoys reading their stories in the form of a paperback book, and that’s okay. Many readers, especially today, prefer the ease and comfort of ebooks. Lots of people also prefer audio books, a format which allows them to sit back and listen as a story enfolds them, speaks to them, wraps them in its auditory universe. The only problem? Until now, audio book fans have had no way to tune into my newest science fiction novel, Intraterrestrial.

Here’s the big news: the audio book edition of Intraterrestrial is now available, narrated by Daniel James Lewis. 

audible intraterrestrial nicholas conley audio book daniel james lewis sci-fi

If you’re about to take a long road trip, train ride, or are simply looking for some crazy stuff to listen to on your daily commute, the Intraterrestrial audio book can be found on Audible and on Amazon:

Audible

Amazon

Even if you’ve already enjoyed the print or ebook versions of Intraterrestrial, I highly recommend checking out the audio book, mainly because Daniel’s narration is (pardon the cheesiness) out of this world. While he does a great job bringing to life the main characters of Adam and Camille, what’s really amazing are the many tones, reverberations, and styles he uses for the alien figures, particularly the Star Voice and the Mad Glee. Even as the author, listening to it felt like a whole new experience.

Anyhow, hope you all have a great weekend!

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Human Rights Day: December 10th

On December 10th, 1948, the then-new United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting a global standard for human rights across all nations, cultures, and demographics. Obviously, that one action didn’t magically create world peace, as anyone who follows  international news can attest to. However, as a society, if we can learn from this foundation, by working together to solve the many human rights crises raging both at home, and around the world—repairing devastated locations, striving to give people everywhere access to basic needs like food, clean water, and medical services, assisting marginalized populations such as refugees, the homeless, the elderly, immigrants, and prisoners, fixing income inequality, pushing giant corporations to curb the effects of climate change—we can use the message outlined back in 1948 to shape a better future.
In honor of that event in 1948, the day of December 10th has since been known as Human Rights Day. Here are my thoughts, as written for the Join Us For Good initiative:

Celebrating International Human Rights Day, Today and Every Day

Human-Rights-Day-1

On December 10th, 1948, one of the first major achievements of the United Nations was the adoption of a bill called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was the first global affirmation of human rights in world history. Since 1950, every December 10th now honors that historic moment with the annual celebration of International Human Rights Day, a day where people of all nationalities, creeds, and backgrounds can come together to recognize our basic human rights as well as what progress can still be made today… READ MORE

 

Excelsior, Stan Lee

When I was as a kid, happily watching X-Men: The Animated Series with Spider-Man pajamas on, Stan Lee often seemed like he was just another superhero. He was the grinning, sarcastic, grandfatherly figure behind all the magic, holding his hand out and inviting you to join the fun. For me, as someone whose maternal grandparents were New York Jews, there was always something familial about Lee’s presence in my favorite superhero stories; the New York accent, the creativity, the combination between heartfelt sentiment and witty humor.

young stan lee marvel comics.jpgSuperheroes always save the day, and so, as a little kid, it seemed hard to imagine a world without Stan Lee. But I remember one day, when my elementary school self watched an interview with Lee, and I  suddenly realized he was getting older—which caused the second, scarier realization that at some point, he’d die. At such a young age, this thought saddened me deeply. If Stan Lee died, would all of the superheroes still be around? Would the magic die?

Now, that day has come, and in certain respects, it’s important to realize than while the world has lost Stan Lee, Lee himself finally has the chance to rest. In his final years, he faced many struggles, from the loss of his wife to his ailing health to the much-documented elder abuse saga, all of which was heart-wrenching to watch. Still, the loss of Stan Lee hits almost every superhero fan heavily. If there’s one thing that’s deeply heartening to see, it’s the wave of love and affection for him visible today, exploding across social media: a love that he fostered for decades and decades, whether he was creating superheroes, writing for “Stan’s Soapbox,” or making gleeful cameo appearances in every Marvel movie.

stan soapbox racism bigotry marvel

Stan Lee wasn’t the only creative force behind Marvel Comics, of course—you can’t ever forget to mention Kirby, Ditko, and Romita, to name just a few—but there’s no question, to me, that Lee was the guiding agent, the force of nature that turned Marvel into the phenomenon it is today. He was a man who poured all of his love, energy, and enthusiasm into an art form once perceived as silly and childish, and successfully transformed it into the biggest force in pop culture today. When measuring the impact of characters like Spider-Man and movies like Black Panther,  it’s easy to see that, in the end, Lee became one of the single most influential creative voices of the 20th and 21st century, though he probably didn’t realize it at the time. By creating so many colorful figures who fought to make the world a better place, he inspired countless weird, awkward children to see these heroic characters in themselves, and to try to do the same thing. Everyone identifies with at least one superhero, and it was truly Stan Lee’s focus on these characters which made that possible.

Though I never met Stan Lee in person—I once saw him from a distance, which was amazing enough—I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll miss him, as if a distant family member died. Of course, I’m hardly alone in that sentiment. I’d imagine that millions of people across the world today, millions of adults who grew up on superheroes and kids who love superheroes today, are mourning Lee’s death, and remembering his legacy.

The news of Stan Lee’s death hits just as hard and heavy as everyone thought it would. However, the magic that he put out into the world isn’t dead, and never will be. All the concepts that Stan helped create, from worlds to world-eaters to multiverses to geeky teenagers with spider-powers, live on, and countless more kids will be drawn into the Marvel Universe for years to come.

Thanks for everything, Stan. Rest in peace, and excelsior.

stan lee with spider-man marvel creator

October 24th, 1946: The First Time Earthlings saw Earth from Space

As science and technology perpetually shoot forward at the speed of light, there are a lot of things we take for granted today, which would’ve been totally bizarre to past generations. For example, isn’t it weird that telephone calls used to involve using a human operator, instead of calling people directly? Isn’t it odd that “computer” was once a job description?

Or how about this: before human beings ever had the ridiculously ambitious idea of jumping on a rocket and going into the stars, what did they think the Earth looked like?

Seriously, stop and think about this for a moment. Today, popular culture is so inundated with images of our little blue globe that it’s odd to remember that, once upon a time, people had no idea what it looked like from the outside. Sure, everyone knew it was round—ancient Greek mathematicians figured that out thousand of years ago, according to the Independent—but for the majority of human history, it was like every one of us was locked into one house, totally unaware what color the outside paint might be.

Humankind is nothing if not ambitious, so naturally, lots of people tried to figure out what our little globe looked like from space, with varying results. The U.S. Library of Congress shared some of these old images back in 2013, and you have to give those artists an A+ for effort. For example, check out this image of the Earth and the Moon, as seen from Mars, drawn by Marcianus Filomeno Rossi in 1920:

Marcianus Filomeno Rossi

Not bad, right?

Anyhow all that speculation came to an end on this date in history, October 24th, in the year of  1946. According to Vice, it’s now been over 70 years since this pivotal day, where a rocket launched from the U.S. southwest shot into the sky and snagged Earth’s very first selfie:

first photo of earth from space october 24 1946

Sure, there have been a lot of better photos since then. But there’s something magical about looking at this picture, and realizing that it was the first time we ever got to see ourselves.

Meanwhile, if you’re into spacey coincidences: the date of October 24 also marked the death of astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1601, and legendary Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry passed away on October 24th, 1991.

The Mailing List Has Arrived

Life gets busy. The 21st century is a hectic place. As a result, trying to keep track of new book releases can get stressful, and it’s no fun being left behind.

So, welcome to day #1 of the official NicholasConley.com mailing list. If you sign up using the form below, you’ll receive updates whenever I have a new book coming out.

Here’s the deal. I’ll never bombard your inbox with emails: this mailing list will only ping you when I announce a new release, and then ping you again when the new book lands on Earth. Sometimes it takes a while, of course. Space travel is rough. Also, here’s a bonus: since you all will be the first wave of subscribers, if you sign up within the first week, you’ll receive a free ebook edition of Clay Tongue: A Novelette, as a special thank you.

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy golem

Sounds good? Okay, let’s do it!

One rule, though. If you want to join the mailing list, please include this one term: Helios. You can include it anywhere in the email, but that way, I’ll know you’re a human being.

 

 

 

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