Literary Review “The Hungry Time“
The article below is excerpted from a review by Joel Thames, which was printed in Japan Times. © Joel Thames 2007
(Nils Osmar) grew up in the wilderness of Alaska where food had to be dropped by plane from the outside world. There, he and one of his four brothers, a year older, had an identical repetitive dream of being alone in the cabin in the winter without food, listening to their mother telling stories, while waiting for food to come. That inspired Osmar to write THE HUNGRY TIME, title story of his recently published book.
His stories reflect a blend of reality, dreams and imagination….
Three of the stories, Crawling in the Garden, Prime Rib, and the title story, The Hungry Time, grew out of intense dreams that went through twenty to thirty years of metamorphosis and shaping, but the basic part of the story remains close to the dream.
Fire and Ice contracted from novel length to short story after thirty rewrites starting when Osmar was still in high school. Originally the story involved the last survivors orbiting in a space station after a nuclear war, but after discarding all but three of the characters, it became a much more personal story with a backdrop of the sun going nova.
Absolution also started in his last year of high school when he was threatened by the prospects of being sent to Vietnam. He researched the history of the war and what was really going on and set the story in Vietnam in the late sixties or early seventies. The structure of the story remained the same through thirty or forty drafts, but the backdrop changed to an alien revolution.
The dedication page of The Hungry Time is for Kristin, his sister and David, an older brother who died several years ago. David had described a walk along the beach late in the fall in the great wilderness in Alaska where they grew up. He came upon thousands and thousands of jellyfish as far as you could see washed up on the shore. Then a tide came in and washed them all away.
None of Osmar’s family had seen anything like that in the years they grew up there. A couple of years after David’s death, Osmar went walking in the same area along the same lonely deserted beach and had the same experience.
“There was a very alien and strange quality to these jellyfish. It was as if they’d been swept in from a totally different part of the ocean and deposited there.” In Dead Aliens on the Beach, a child walks along the beach and finds a dead alien, mostly eaten by seabirds. The people around him keep finding remnants of Aliens. “It’s a moody story that hopefully works on a number of levels. It is somewhat disturbing and somewhat of a Rorshock. Each person reading the story is going to have a very different visual image of what is going on.”
Together, the stories form a pattern. There’s an emotional structure or statement which flows from one story to the other and the order of the stories is deliberate. Not everyone will read them in the order in which they were written, though, or read them in one sitting.
Though Osmar prefers to concentrate on writing stories and plays, three years ago he created a revolution in the comic book industry monikered photo-realism, then photo-surrealism. It began when he bought a computer thinking he would use it to colorize his comic book and commercial line art. Intrigued with the potential of Adobe Photoshop, he ended up creating a new type of photo-surrealist computer-generated comic book…. For the cover of THE HUNGRY TIME he employed a subdued version of the techniques in (Osmar’s) Cyber Reality Comics. “What I was aiming for in the cover of THE HUNGRY TIME was something clearly science fiction at a glance with characters that have some human qualities but are basically alien and inhuman. But I didn’t want it to look like Star Wars or space opera and wanted to express something of a more subtle, psychological mood. So in the cover composition, the characters are vertical and sedate and the action and colors deliberately understated.”
Sedate and understated describe Osmar. He blends with the burgeoning literary, art and theater Emerald City community…
Order “The Hungry Time”
Author comes home with newly published book
by Jerry McDonnell CLARION DISPATCH
Nils Osmar, remembering his early years at Kenai High School as a freshman says, “I used to sneak my short stories into study hall so I could work on them while pretending to be studying social studies or math. I also got detention for being one minute late for a class because my locker was stuck and had to stay after school for a couple of hours each day for a week or two; I used the time to write one of my earliest attempts at a novel called “One Moon’s Shadow. Sitting in KCHS’s eerie, semi-dark study hall in the middle of winter may have actually helped contribute to the weird mood of that story. Apart from that, I always loved reading and &dolt as a kid, and began writing very early. I was writing stories and novels of a sort since around the 5th grade.”
From that beginning Nils Osmar, son of homestead-ers Per and Fran Osmar of Clam Gulch; brother of Iditarod-winner Dean; and uncle of Tim, also of Iditarod fame, went on to become a self-employed, internationally published, graphic artist/illustrator; a Science Fiction author; comic book publisher of com-puter-generated science fiction/fantasy artwork and recently a playwright. “In the past ten years I’ve done hundreds of book and magazine covers, paintings, abstract drawings, realist paintings, comic book covers, illustrations for ads for billboards, magazine spreads, etc. for clients all over the U.S.” Osmar says. His comics are also published in Europe.
However the work Osmar is bringing with him to the Peninsula—The Hungry Time— is hot off the press from Wonder Publishing and is serious collection of Science Fiction short stories. “The Hungry Time deals with traditional science fiction themes, but on a per-sonal lever Osmar says. “So aliens land, or the human race mutates, or the sun goes nova; what does
this mean to an abandoned child struggling to survive in a world without human company, a woman on a space station orbiting a doomed earth, a man whose son runs off to join a cult of alien asteroid-hoppers, or a religious fundamentalist bitterly resentful of the intru-sion of extraterrestrials into her life? And what will the earth itself mean to our descendants millions of years in the future? If these themes interest you, the book will grab you.”
Osmar reflects: “I used to dream about dinosaurs swimming across the Cook Inlet and climbing up the cliffs in Clam Gulch.” Growing up in the Gulch was also very dramatic in a way, spending summers on the beach fishing, with massive crumbling cliffs towering overhead, and waves and tides that could sweep beach cabins away at times. Why I picked up on the elements of drama and beauty in the environment while other people seemed more into its practical purposes, fishing, hunting, etc., I don’t know.”
In a way The Hungry Time is a very Alaskan short story collection. Growing up on the Kenai Peninsula had a lot to do with my developing the sort of mind that could come up with these scenarios. My brothers turned into fishermen and dog sledders; I turned into a science fiction writer. I remember walking down to the Clam Gulch store every day or two when I was a kid, hoping to find a new science fiction book in the book exchange there. I found some great books, some of which I still have. When I moved to Seattle it was like moving to another planet, from a quiet life in the wilderness to what seemed to me a bizarre futuristic metropolis.
Nils Osmar will be on the Kenai the week of August 19th through the 23rd to visit his family and promote his new collection of short stories The Hungry Time.
On Monday, August 19th, he will be giving a video presentation to the Boys and Girls Club in Kenai at 3:00 p.m. on his career as a computer graphic artist.
On Tuesday, August 20th, he will be interviewed on Sound Off on KSRM at 10:00 or 10:30 a.m. That same afternoon at 2:00 p.m., in the Kenai Library, Osmar will give a reading from his Sci-Fi collection The Hungry Time. Autographed copies will be\on sale at that time for those who are interested but there is no obligation to buy, it is free. Wednesday. August 21st, Osmar will be available at a table in the Central Peninsula Mall in Soldotna from 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Autographed copies of The Hungry Time will be available for purchase and samples of his graphic illustrations—some high-lighting his father Per’s invention the DUZ-IT-ALL—will be on display.
Osmar’s several careers compliment each other; he has been on television several times in Seattle where he now lives. His appearances have included news shows, as well as other TV shows focusing on things he has drawn, painted or published.
Two of Osmar’s plays have been produced in Seattle, “The Ghost and Ms. Demure” at the New City Playwright’s Festival in 1991, and “Demea,” a comedy produced in February this year at the Seattle Fringe Festival.
In 1994 his serialized, graphic novel (read comics), ‘The Game Guys,” was published in the U.S. then translated into Italian and reprinted by Egmont publishing in Europe. Osmar has also been written about in MacFormat, England’s largest Macintosh computer magazine, concerning his computer-generated science fiction/fantasy artwork.
Osmar’s publishing business is called Wonder Comix and produces such titles as Cyber Reality Comix, Mythos, and Fever. “Here in the U.S. my comics were selling 5,000 copies or so; in Europe I had about 150,000 readers,” Osmar says. “However I no longer knew what the characters were saying as it was translated into Italian?’
The comics are very different from the book; they are modeled after the traditional superheros. Osmar explains: “… my focus in doing them [the comics] was much more in exploring a new artistic medium of photo realism and constructing quick stories to showcase the visual effects, than writing.” “The book is a much more serious effort, and is hopefully more in the tradition of writers like Ray Bradbury, Ursula Leguin and Robert Silverberg.