Most important lesson: Be clear, rather than clever when telling people about your work. Not an easy lesson for dragons who love riddles!
What is Draco Alchemicus? A faërie tale, fully illustrated, with dragons.
Why is it called Draco Alchemicus? “Draco” is Latin for “serpent” or “snake.” In English, the title might be rendered as “The Alchemical Dragon” or, more properly, “Snake Oil,” which should make you wonder about how (and why) scientists and physicians similarly use Latin to obscure the ingredients of the potions they sell. You know how doctors use fancy words to disguise the fact they are prescribing you poisons? So do drakes.
You claim to be writing as Christians. Aren’t dragons a symbol of Satan? This is another reason our title is Draco Alchemicus. Again, “draco” in Latin simply means “serpent” or “snake.” The ambiguity in the tradition comes from Psalm 148:7, where the “dracones” sing praises to God along with the other creatures. In the Dragon Common Room, our purpose is to recover fantasy for Christ, much as the dragons singing their praises in the psalm recover creation for the praise of the Lord. Thus, in our poem, the “Draco” is twinned: both Satan (the Dragon of the Apocalypse of St. John) and Christ (the Brazen Serpent lifted up in the desert, as noted in John 3:14-15).
Why the “alchemical” dragon? What is alchemy? Alchemy is the ancient and medieval tradition concerned with the transformation of matter, particularly the transformation of base metals into gold. It was also concerned with finding a universal elixir or medicine said to prolong life. In the Middle Ages and early modern period, it was invoked as a metaphor for spiritual transformation. The Counter-Reformation Roman Catholic convert Johann Angelus Silesius (1624-1677) used this metaphor frequently in his epigrams, describing the soul transformed by God as finest gold, clear as crystal. Our story works on multiple levels, taking the metaphor of transformation both as a spell cast over modernity in its quest for money and extended life, and as a promise of redemption through Christ.
|Alchemical Dragon and Brazen Serpent|
Is Draco Alchemicus a game or a story? I see playing cards in the Kickstarter rewards, but I don’t understand why. Draco Alchemicus is a poem, written in iambic pentameter, using the stanza form invented by Edmund Spenser for his great Elizabethan epic The Faërie Queene. We made the playing cards as a backer reward for the Kickstarter to introduce readers to the main characters in the story: Damian Stone (Kings), Eliza Drake (Queens), Guardian (Jacks), Dove (Aces), and Dog (Jokers). We also designed special pips for the suits to symbolize the different time periods in which the story is set and to play off the symbolism of the original medieval Tarot suits. Our pips are Daggers (Spades; Elizabethan); Flowers (Hearts; Commedia dell’arte); Gears (Diamonds; Steam Punk); and Vines (Clubs; Casino Magic).
|Magician Patrick Coffin demonstrates the power of the cards|
I don’t read fantasy/poetry/comics. Why should I be interested in Draco Alchemicus? Draco Alchemicus is intended as a challenge both to the dumbing down and deconstruction of modern storytelling (think, Hollywood blockbusters as studied in college classes) and to the mystification of the great works of English literature as “inaccessible” or “high brow” (think, Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer as studied in college classes). Rather than complain about the lack of great art, the Dragon Common Room has taken up the gauntlet and chosen to make some, while at the same time embracing the teachings of Augustine of Hippo on the importance of the sermo humilis—the mixture of rhetorical styles necessary for the communication of Christian mysteries. Perhaps the easiest way to describe Draco Alchemicus is as a crossover between Star Wars (itself modeled on Spenser’s Faërie Queene) and Shakespeare (a mastercraftsman of both comedy and tragedy, kings and fools). Much as in the Incarnation, God humbled himself to speak to us with human words, we, as Christian artists, use the low styles of preaching and comic art to lift the mind and heart to the contemplation of God.
|Crossover—somebody tell Mel!|