Imagining The Fantastic


On the weekend of April twelfth, I left three feet of snow behind me, and traveled to Northern Michigan University. I was presenting at a conference about imagination and mythology called “Imagining the Fantastic 2”. Other presenters were writers M.T. Anderson, Holly Black, and Ari Berk, artist Charles Vess, actor Charlie Bethel, and harpist Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.






It was a remarkable group of people. Other than doing our individual presentations (I did one about how to forge a dragon slayer’s sword) the conference was a conversation between us, loosely based on various subjects. We talked about the difference between darkness and depth, how stories have saved our lives. Elizabeth-Jane told the story of the handless maiden­— a folktale about a girl whose father sells her to the devil, and how she survives.


At one point during a discussion of music, Elizabeth-Jane and Tobin warned the audience against playing the diminished fifth — the chord of evil!

diminished fifth

After the conference was over we spent a day hanging out and sharing inspiration. Charles showed us a book of thumbnail pencil drawings for a graphic novel he’s writing. We spent the day at Ari Berk’s house, which looks fairly normal from the outside, but once entered reveals itself to be a portal into an alternate dimension, filled with paintings, and masks, fetishes and at least a-hundred-thousand books, each on a subject more arcane and fascinating than the last.

And there were hats.




When I came home the snow-world I had left was melting away, taking the roads with it. The culvert by my house was three feet under water. A whirl-pool formed, sucking debris down into the corrugated shoot and throwing it out the other end in a geyser of white plumed brown water. In three days the snow almost completely melted away, rushing down to flood the lowlands.






In my house in the hills the water passes, and I work, digging up bronze artifacts from my imagination, in the world of ice and thaw.


photos of the conference care of Tracy Ford.


facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby feather

Jake Powning

Jake is a professional swordsmith, artist, and writer who explores the strange place where traditional culture and the land meet.


  1. Love the photos!
    This appears to have been the type of event I love to attend. One day it would be wonderful to catch you in a similar scene.

    Except for the flooding …

  2. beautyful!!!

  3. Yep..I would have been at this with bells on!

    Harps,Swords,Dragon tales etc etc…great pics!

    Strangely I love the one of the Mud Maelstrom best!

    Don’t know what that says about me?

    Cheers for this Jake!
    Owen Bright? Eoghan Flynn.

Comments are closed