Masks and Armor


Masks, Armor, things hidden beneath layers of disguise.

Ever run into a theme in your work and never realize it was there? I ran into this while discussing my writing and photography with a new acquaintance. It had me look back at the last few things I’d worked on. First, with my photography, you’ll notice how often I have masks involved. I love masks as photographic devices. They’re freeing and paradoxical. You’re hidden, yet because of it you can expose yourself. You’re free because no one knows who you are behind that mask.

My life consists of a series of masks. I wear different faces for different occasions. The Andrija you find at work is not the Andrija behind this keyboard. It’s not the Andrija who is listening to rain late at night while jazz rolls in the background. Growing up, this was particularly important. I remember being in kindergarten when a classmate, Russ, gave me advice I tried to follow. “Don’t tell people you like science fiction. Star Wars is OK, but anything else and they’ll think you’re weird.”  I failed at developing that mask – the weird went too deep – but it did lead me to wonder if my humanity itself was a mask. I felt so much more comfortable around strangeness and aliens. Things tied to the normal world felt strange. maybe I was an alien? Was this body the right one? I’d never felt comfortable in it.

I discovered the idea of mecha and powered armor during my teenage years. The idea of losing myself inside a suit dedicated to just strengthening and protecting me became dreamlike. Mecha are beautiful constructions. I was a chubby Serbian kid. Why wouldn’t I want to ditch my body and just be the machine? Small wonder Cybermen were my favorite Dr. Who villains. I especially love the new ones, but I also adored Maria’s design from Metropolis so the art deco touch is nice.  My reading fell in line soon enough, as did movies. Give me a film that uncovered the strange and bizarre hiding under the world’s mask.

That abandoned house? Not just a place where kids go to get stoned. No, look at the strange paintings on the walls. It’s a gateway to a Satanic dimension…

My two trunk novels, Elemental Metal and Running Black are urban fantasy books. The entire theme is a world hidden from our own.  The books are layers and layers of masks. Even the main characters, who everyone thinks they have pegged, are more than their mask shows.

I’ve written two short stories now with the theme of bodies and identity. Ivre is filled with characters who wear different masks. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the masks are torn down. And Metaphysical Graffiti is all about what is hidden beneath our lives, memories and cities.

Now, the question becomes… if I’m aware of a theme, does that change me? Have I shifted under my mask?

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