måndagen den 12:e augusti 2013

The Waking Dead


And then one day, I woke up.

That's how it felt. Mid-sentence, almost, the latter half of a sentence that had taken me – how long? Five years, ten maybe? I don't know. I woke up to this wasteland, a place where the clocks had stopped, the lights were dead, the cities blown-out carcasses. Nobody there to keep track, not that I know if anyone could. World's gone crazy.

I musta killed people. I mean, I must have. If nothing else, I must've turned them. Made them... like us. You know? I even woke up with meat in my stomach. Heh. Brains, maybe. You know, like in the old movies? But I don't know what they eat. What I... ate. I don't think they're picky. They don't seem to be. They just eat.

That's why, I guess, there aren't a lot of them. Most people never have time to get infected. Most people just die, ripped apart by the damn things. Like my friends were. Like I nearly was. But I, well, I was a coward. They shoulda put a bullet in by brain, but I never told them about that bite in my arm. It's healed, now – there's barely even a scar. I must have been under for a very long time. Last thing I remember, my head was swimming with a fever, and now- boom! Here I am. Mid-sentence. Somewhere. The city's called Fullerton, but the state, I've no idea. Indiana, maybe, judging by the plates on most of the cars. No idea how I got here – I must have migrated, with the rest, in search of more prey.

They're different, nowadays. No more mass migrations. No more mass anything. I suppose they must have run out of fresh meat, because the ones that's left, well... they're eating each other. You might have noticed. I'm surprised there are even any left.

But then there's me. I didn't get eaten. I got infected, just a bite, just a tiny little scratch – and then I died, and then I got better.

Nobody thought this was something you got better from. And what do I know? Maybe I'm the only one. But I'm alive.

I'll stay alive. Those idiot things don't seem to know about canned food, and the survivalists left behind plenty. Crazy as it seems, they ran out of bullets 'fore they ran out of beans. Poor suckers must have been swarmed from all sides by those things – by me. By us.

Well, that's how I got all this stuff. I found the shotgun, though it doesn't have no shells, and the shovel, and the chair, and the handcuffs. Thank God for the handcuffs. I don't know how I woulda gotten you in here without them. Risky enough, using myself as bait, and well... I don't want to have to kill you.

Please, fucking fuck you please, say something.

No?

I can't be the only one. You're in there, I know you are.

So wake.

The fuck.

Up.

torsdagen den 14:e februari 2013

Planet of Hats

We solved starvation. It was actually the last problem to go, despite how the technology had been around for ages - it was a matter of distribution, that was all. We'd worked out diseases, crime, climate change, et cetera, and now the final problem had been cracked; nobody needed to go hungry. We were done.

And, being done, we started questioning ourselves.

What would we do next? What else could our species possibly accomplish? We focused on entertainment, for a while - but it grew stale. We figured we'd work on technology, but without any real incentive to better ourselves, we invented nothing of consequence. We thought, perhaps, that we could focus on exploring the stars... but then it happened. We don't know who started it - someone, somewhere, just had an idea, and it spread like a wildfire.

Our civilization had gotten bored. It needed a hobby. It needed, desperately, some means of occupying itself, and so it invented one. It could have been anything, the Project, but this is what we chose. Who knows why?

It wasn't ubiquitous at first - not everyone joined the fad - but over time, over the course of generations, it began to change. It was the grandest project yet - the grandest project ever - a complete reinvention of ourselves. Every single member of our species, working together on an all-encompassing, planet-wide effort to change ourselves - not into something better, just into something different.

Centuries later, the travellers arrived. By then, we had forgotten. Only the Project remained. And so, when they arrived, we greeted them as we had always greeted, spoke as we had always spoke. As had always been our custom - as long as anyone could remember.

"Howdy, pardner. Welcome to the Wild West Planet - yee-haw!"

onsdagen den 6:e februari 2013

The Artful Narrowness of Taste

Recently I've been thinking about my old brain-spectre, Quality, again. Briefly put, I've been wondering - for a very long time - how the quality of art can be measured. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet you can teach objective principles of painting, music, writing, et cetera - so obviously there is some objective mechanic at work. This is a conundrum.

Here is, I think, another piece of the puzzle: Narrowness. Let's illustrate with an example.

What is going on here? Simply put - the first picture is very well-made, requiring a great amount of skill - but it's not very narrow. It's an old woman and a dog. People have seen a great many pictures of old women and a great many pictures of dogs. Furthermore, humans have a strong sense of tribalism - and there's nothing tribal whatsoever about the first picture. It's (almost) universally human.

The second picture, on the other hand, pertains to a subculture. Not only does that make it a little more original, but it also speaks to a particular tribe. The picture says "I, the artist, have something in common with you, the viewer" - assuming the viewer, then, is a fan of rainow-fox-dog-things. Which we can presume a lot of those 145 people are.

Two forces are at work here. Firstly, the second picture is competing against a much smaller pool. There are fewer pictures pertaining to its subculture than there are pictures pertaining to old women. Second, and I think more importantly, the second picture sends a tribal message - it establishes a sense of connection via shared interests. Jokes are a good way to study this second phenomenon.

If I make a simple pun, it's instantly understandable to everyone who speaks English. It's extremely inclusive and, therefore, not very funny. On the other hand, if I crack a joke about that one time you and I did something, and compare it to a TV show we both love - why, I've established a strong sense of connection, and in the moment you're likely to find that hilarious. This is because it establishes a personal connection between you and I.

So! The comment "Deviantart Logic" seems to imply that someone has taken offence at this state of things. The explanation is simple: There's another subculture at work. This subculture might revolve around knowledge of advanced anatomy, drawing techniques, et cetera - an artists' subculture - or it might be based on a classical schooling, in which Michaelangelo and Leonardo are what Michaelangelo and Leonardo are to TMNT fans.

Both of these viewpoints are valid. In the former case, the person is saying "I appreciate the work that went into this picture, and feel a connection with the artist because of it". In the latter, the person is saying "I appreciate the resemblance to classical works of art, and I feel a connection with the artist because of it - as I imagine we both care deeply for the classical ideals". Whether or not this is true is, of course, irrelevant. I could (and have) write fanfiction for fandoms I do not care about in the least, and have people appreciate that work because of a perceived sense of belonging.

So - this is another little piece of the puzzle. I think it makes sense.

onsdagen den 16:e januari 2013

A Quote

“Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred” - Wendell Berry

måndagen den 24:e december 2012

Fifteen - The Characters of Christmas Past


We have been:

The Raiders of the Lost Knark
Todd, the Bored Druid
Arthad, the Black Knight
Kråkmåns Höghatt, the Faithful Dwarf
Aust Galanodel, the Visionary
Vackeria, the Wild Woman

The Sleepless Fellowship
Beo, the Absurd Hero
Ling / Ree / Arepo, the God of Paradoxes
Naseef, the Man Who Should Be Dead
Freddy the Cat, the King of Tigers
Aust Skywalker, the Last of Ban Lam

The Wizards of Jalan City
Vincent Mario Giovanni Winthrop, the Entrepreneur
Luke, the Child of Misfortune
Pervoslav, the Russian Scientist
The French Thief
The Mathematician

The Vampires of Berlin
Athela, the Beautiful Beast
Dragomir Zhukov, the Rogue
Zetha, the Doll
Ulrich, the Patriot
Plus Eddie, Mr. Crane, and many others

The Rune Pilgrims
Vesper Kite, the Hero of the Empire
Wade, the Champion of Death
Sojiro Naraku, the Lovestruck Sorcerer
Ulf, the Northerner

The Fandango Four
The Ultimate Fighter
The Hybrid
The Littlest Vampire
The Fat Ninja

The Exalted of the East
Vincent Cale, the Bronze Falcon
Zaraki Kensei, the Sword Saint
Lily, the Drug Queen
Sharif, the Monster

The Guardians of Shinwa Taizen
Song Hui, the Mistress of the Mindscape
Hyun Wook, the Hopping Vampire
David Blaze, the American Samurai

The Scions of Japan
Shinichi Kurode, the Aquacop
Magnus Magnusson, Thorboy
...and Brian.

The Blood-Bearers of Quetzalcouatl
James Fleming, the Monkey Man of Mystery
Rederick von Steinberg XIII, the Faceless Rogue
Setsuna, the Ojou-sama, and Setsu, the Godchild

The Ragnarök Renegades
Simo Pohjonen, the Finnish Sniper
Yvain the Dangerous, alias Åke Björk, the Fake
The Iron Librarian

The Protectors of Ptolus
Gell, the Paladin
Lupi, the Honourable Psycho
Storm, the Wild Druid, and Logan, the Sun's Chosen

The Agents of PSI
Assistant Director Jack Hudson, the Werewolf
Special Agent Karen Lennox, the Mage

The Hope of House Tepet
Tepet Kalyna, the Princess of Creation
Tepet Taran, her Bodyguard

The Military History Club
Lloyd Wilder, the Prince of Britannia
Cecil Darashia, the Psychic Prodigy

The Kingslayers
Gabrian De Veers, the Cold Killer
Garrus, the Iron Man

The New Kardus
Gehenna, the God of Judgement
Gwendolen, the Human

…and many, many others.

May their stories live forever, and may there be still more heroes in our future.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

söndagen den 23:e december 2012

Fourteen - BFFs


Here are some characters whose friendships were a huge part of their greatness.

Lloyd Wilder and Cecil Darashia - The Storm 'Verse, home of these two characters, revolves around two great principles: Passion and friendship. Despite their many differences, they exemplified both. Lloyd was a kind, friendly Prince, and Cecil a fierce, dangerous pauper – but they covered each others' weaknesses, both in combat and in social situations. Though they frequently misunderstood each other and caused unintentional trouble for themselves and their friends, they always had each others' backs – because that was the very first lesson they learned on their arrival to Eisenkrone Academy.

Gabrian and Garrus - This pair of Iron Heroes complemented each other very well, despite being mechanically rather similar. Both of them were damage-sponges, capable of enduring brutal beatings – and perhaps that was the cornerstone of their friendship in a sense, because they withstood terrifying punishments for each other. Garrus carried Gabrian out of a crumbling castle after a fight against the Demon King, and Gabrian delivered the death-blow to the dragon that nearly slew his friend. Theirs was a friendship worthy of Iron Heroes – a friendship forged in iron, and tempered in blood.

The Norlanders - Hoo boy, I doubt anyone has heard of these guys before. They were a Northern team of a berserker and a warrior-poet, appearing halfway through the Fairy Tale Game I ran in D&D a million years ago. Something about these two characters just clicked with each other. They were created to be friends, and they lived up to it – right up until the bitter end, surrounded by enemies in a pitch-black cave.

lördagen den 22:e december 2012

Thirteen - Freaks and Monsters


Today we take a look at some seriously scary characters.

Sharif - Sharif is the first character that springs to mind on this theme. An unkillable man-eating shapeshifter with a severely disturbed mind, Sharif reads like some horror movie monster but was, in fact, a Lunar Exalt from the Chronicles of the Bronze Falcon. He Exalted due to his tenacity and perseverance in surviving a famine, but he also killed and ate his brother in the process, something which... well, pretty much broke his mind. Only very barely human in any sense of the word, Sharif remained playable because of his strong loyalty to the Solar Exalted, who perhaps, perhaps, might one day fix him. Or, you know, just unleash him upon their unsuspecting enemies. And occasionally friends.

Wade, the Champion of Death - Wade was actually a quite benevolent character, but that didn't stop him from being scary and weird. Wade had fallen in love with Death itself, and devoted his life (or weird pseudo-life, as it were) to her service, harvesting souls and bringing euthanasia to those who needed it. An Arcana Evolved Champion of Death, Wade was very, very, very good at killing stuff, but only ever did it when appropriate – a death-dealer in moderation, inhuman yet with a strong moral code. As he found out near the end of his life, his predecessor Hamadathurian had not been thus restricted.

The Littlest Vampire - I have sadly forgotten his/her name, but this character – from Trigonometry Fandango, a freeform anime-themed game – was the creepy kid-trope incarnate. A soulless female vampire, forced to reside in the body of a little boy, the Littlest Vampire was a murderous little child who specialized in slashing tendons, so that people fell over and could be properly disposed of. Although his/her team also contained no less than two super-powerful killing machines, neither of them could really match him/her in terms of cold-bloodedness.

Athela - seductive, manipulative, psychotic. Likes: Crushing peoples' will, necrophilic threesomes, stalkers. Dislikes: Water, especially in Berlin. 'Nuff said.