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Damned Powerlines?

April 9, 2014

Lucifer Morningstar held prisoner in a church? Most awesome art installation. Ever.

Click to see and read more.

 

The Overprotected Kid

March 21, 2014

This great article over at The Atlantic, titled “The Overprotected Kid“, has got me thinking about my own childhood in the 80′s and early 90′s. Did I ever have “adventures” as a kid? Did I ever have unsupervised time with my friends outside of our parents’ houses?

I suppose I did have some suburban adventures with some of my neighborhood friends around that time. There were definitely many attempts fort building, or at least stacking scavenged wood planks together to make various structures. Riding our bikes down neighborhood streets farther away from our homes than we’d promised our parents we would travel. Still, I don’t think I ever experienced anything quite on par with what those kids who live near The Land get to do. What they’re encouraged to do.

Thanks to that article, I’m now wondering if the sterilized asphalt school playgrounds and overly strict “adult supervision” that we were subjected to in elementary school contributed to the amount of bullying and fighting that colored so much of my early school experience. It could have also just been shitty teachers, shitty yard supervisors and shitty administrators. But the sort of asphalt wasteland that passed for a playground back then definitely didn’t help.

I’m not a parent yet, but there’s a lot of things in that article to consider for when I am.

Arthurian Fantasy

March 20, 2014

A palpable look of disdain crossed Sir Gawain’s face as he read Sir Percival’s manuscript.

“Do you have any constructive criticisms for me, Sir ?” Sir Percival asked.

“It’s preposterous Sir!” Gawain declared. “Why would the folk of your made-up world travel  about on machines instead of horses, unlike sensible people?”

“It’s a tale of the future,” Percival replied. “Or a possible fut-“

“I have had enough of your absurd fantasies,” Gawain said. He flung the parchment aside. “Call your squire and don your armor Sir. We must be off to slay that rampaging dragon the fen witches have summoned.”

Worlds Worth Stealing, Part 1 (Games on the Brain)

March 14, 2014

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned here before that table-top role-playing games are a huge distraction source of inspiration for me. If you’re the type of person who bothers to read blogs about genre fiction, I’d say there’s a chance that’s the case for you too. I know that happens to be the case for many a soul out in the blogoverse. While Gamemastering an RPG is necessarily very different from writing stories (woe be to the fiction writer or GM who forgets that), there’s plenty of crossover where practicing one can benefit the other. In particular, some of the most brilliant world-building out there comes from the desire to create a gameable setting, ripe for adventure.

(Side Note: Just so we’re clear, a key difference between a game world, and a world created purely for one author’s story-telling purposes, is that the game world exists for people other than the setting’s creator (i.e. players) to come along and wreck the place. The story in a game should never come before the freedom of the players, GM included, to make meaningful choices that might go entirely against the intent of the original creator. Otherwise, it makes for a boring, crappy game.)

Here are a few of my favorite world-building bloggers. Whether you write adventure fiction, or adventures with funny-shaped dice, I think there’s something to inspire you somewhere at each of these blogs.

From the Sorcerer’s Skull: I know I’ve mentioned Trey Causey’s amazing Weird Adventures in the Strange New World setting before, and it’s worth mentioning again. I could try to describe it as an alternate 1920s/1930s with elves, dwarves and magic where Indiana Jones and Doc Savage could be found battling evil cultists or hunting live dinosaurs, but even that description leaves a lot out. Basically, if you like pulp action-adventure, or pulp noir, and you want to see it combined with fantasy, this setting is worth checking out. Trey’s got dozens, maybe hundreds of posts about the various facets of the setting (the link above is to an index), and a reasonably-priced RPG book for sale.

But wait, there’s more. If far future sci-fi is your thing, you’ll also want to check out his series of posts on the Strange Stars. I could try to sum it up as Farscape meets Dune, but that probably does not do it justice. Trey lists his inspirations for his totally weird (and to me, very original seeming) space setting, where high technology has led to the divergence of the human species into many new (and many fallen) civilizations across the galaxy, millennia into the future. That’s a sizable list of books for me to catch up with.

Tales of The Grotesque and Dungeonesque: What do you get when a professor of Gothic literature blogs about RPGs? Apparently, a bunch of free settings. Just look at the right-hand sidebar. I was originally attracted to Jack Shear’s blog by his guides to running D&D in a Gothic setting (each volume titled, oddly enough, Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque), but it’s his Savage Worlds material that keeps me coming back regularly. (It is my favorite set of RPG rules.) The number one standout? Without a doubt, it’s Planet Motherfucker!

Now how I do I even start to describe the ultra-violent, maxi-trashy, psychedelic grindhouse-style hellscape that is Planet Motherfucker? I think I’ll let Jack’s description speak for itself.

Looking for a slightly more “traditional” world setting? Maybe Ulverland 1666 is more to your tastes. Or are you looking for something “child appropriate”? (Muahaha.) Take a look at Slithedale Hollow, inspired by Monsterparts. Jack just seems to keep cranking them out.

Wine and Savages: In a nod to another of my fellow Savages out there, I’ve got to recognize the thoroughness and research that Sean Bircher is putting into his The King is Dead setting. It’s Gothic 18th century revolution against the vampire aristocracy. With mad science, super-powered and miracle-working heroes, and all the wonderful- and wonderfully weird- action that only a Savage Worlds setting can deliver. My favorite aspect of this setting just might be the vampires’ attempt to rewrite history with their own ‘Sathanic’ religion.

Scrolling through Wine and Savages will find you other smaller settings as well. I remember (but can’t find right now) that there are rules for a Scott Pilgrim setting in there somewhere. It even gives vegans the high-powered, four-color version of super powers, because “vegans really are just better people”.

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More to come, but that’s a good start for now. If these tickle your fancy, there’s plenty more where those came from. The blogroll at each of the above sites are filled with links to more RPG blogs. Don’t lose yourself out there. =)

Where Magic Comes From

March 11, 2014

First, everything that would become the universe was all in one place. One infinitesimally small point in the void forever contracting in on itself. Before that ever-contracting point, there was another universe. Or perhaps, it was not exactly a universe as we would think of it, but it was a sort of existence that had its own unique forms of matter and energy. This prior existence may or may not have contained what we would call ‘life’, but it did contain beings capable of sentient thought. When the last universe came to an end, collapsing in on itself to become a single atom of unimaginable gravity, the essences of some of these sentient beings remained apart to continue their existence on other dimensional planes where the force of gravity is weaker. The primordial atom eventually imploded to the point where it could only continue to exist by exploding (a.k.a. the Big Bang). Many of the sentient quasi-beings from the last universe took the opportunity of the newly available matter and energy to re-make themselves over time into forms that could better interact with this newly expanding universe. This is how the ghosts of the old existence became the first gods of the new one.

While the ghost-gods were re-creating themselves, the quantum dust of the new creation began to take the shape of the simple elements hydrogen and helium, which then collided, coalesced and combined into great balls of nuclear conflagration. These first stars gathered their own clouds of matter around them, which eventually took the shape of the first worlds of the new universe. Some of the early gods took the opportunity to create life on these worlds, though it was still not quite life as we know it today. Many of these pre-life entities attained sentience, however, they would never be able to attain the levels of advanced gnosis achieved by their creators. This was by intent, for the early gods, or the elder gods as we know them today, wished to receive the power of worship without the risk of ever being challenged by their creations.

The stars had their own plans. They had arrived into existence and achieved their power by the natural laws of this universe, and they resented the intrusions from a universe past.  The stars realized that the things raised to sentience by the shadowy ghost-gods of an old existence were limited in their potential. Using their inherent knowledge of the laws of matter and energy, they devised a means to destroy and re-create the systems of matter that orbited around each one of them, by destroying and re-creating themselves. In doing so, they could form new, heavier elements, which could be used to create their own forms of life. More dynamic and chaotic life with greater potential to affect its own changes to the universe. Thus, millions of stars, each in their own time, underwent a supernova.

The gifts that the dying stars gave to their new systems differed wildly from system to system. Some of these gifts lead to more successful forms of life, some to less. Our own world, and our own form of life here on Earth, is marked by the gift of iron.

An immense spinning ball of molten iron formed the center of the Earth. Iron in the blood enables of mammals enables us to properly use the air of our world as part of our energy source. Iron is our connection to the star dust that we all originally come from, just as hydrogen is our connection to the Big Bang. The ghosts of the elder things that lived in the worlds before Earth, in the old solar system, are envious of it.

The elder gods would not allow their niche in the universe to be ripped from them uncontested. Some of them, as a means of preserving something of their creations, granted the gift of transdimensional travel to certain of their worshippers. In some cases, the elder gods were able to make war upon particular stars and ensure that their opponents expended too much energy to successfully undergo a supernova. And so, elder beings with ties to the universe-before still survive in the dark places of the current universe.

Hot iron can provide fresh connections, through dimensions we cannot see or hear, to the ever-turning core of our world, and to the stars. It can also attract the attention of the elder things, and some say, the elder gods. If one is brave, and most likely also foolish, hot iron can be used to compel or bargain with them. The iron in fresh blood is always hot.

Cold iron, if properly used, can repel such shades, such demons. It can also abjure or harm creatures from worlds where iron cannot be found. Hot iron, however, is the key to realizing sources of power beyond the three dimensions of typical human perception. That is why, sooner or later, it all comes back to blood.

* * *

This post was inspired by a combination of Tim Powers (especially his novel On Stranger Tides), Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman (of course), and Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, whose work I’m honestly only familiar with second-hand thanks to a friend of mine. Just the tiniest bit of Lovecraft too. To anyone with a complaint about my errors in astronomy, or geology or physics in this post, I would ask you to please re-read the title.

Back in the Swing of Things

March 9, 2014
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Alright, let’s just do this. Still around. Still writing. Really. Honestly.

A couple of  weeks ago, I began to get back into the writing groove after something of a hiatus. I have good reasons for taking time off from writing. One of them was getting married.

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That’s right, the Ninja-Fiancé is now the Ninja-Wife. Then of course, there’s the various things and activities that lead up to getting married when you’re having a giant wedding with loads of family and friends. Then there was the honeymoon.

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And between the wedding and the honeymoon, my grandmother passed away. Don’t be too sad for me. She was 91, and had been in sharply declining health for a long time. The timing was inconvenient, but it was not a surprise. We had our time to mourn.

After all of that, it was a little hard to get back into the groove. As it is, writing often takes a backseat to the day job, and my social life, and now my family life (though my wife is wonderfully supportive). Then a couple of weeks ago, I finally started translating my daydreams into words again, and damn did it feel good. Only a couple hundred words at first. Then a couple hundred more. Now some blog posts.

Stay tuned, more to come.

Junta Virus

October 21, 2013

Contrary to the denials of most modern-day governments, the Junta Virus exists, though it may be impossible to quantify the number of infected. The most common symptoms of infection are a sharp decline in a person’s faith in democracy, and a noticeable increase in one’s respect for military authority.

The virus’s existence first became public knowledge in 1947, shortly after the now-legendary battle between the supervillian known as General Nefarion, and the costumed vigilantes, The Human Fist, Commander Freedom, and the Commander’s ill-fated sidekick, Sergeant Stripes. General Nefarion had planned to unleash the Junta Virus upon Washington D.C. by means of a specially engineered V2 rocket. This rocket was designed to explode above its target area and deliver its payload in aerosolized form.

At the cost of his own, life Sergeant Stripes was able to redirect the rocket, causing it to instead explode in mid-atmosphere above South America, where the damage from its payload was considerably lessened. Reports that Commander Freedom had been exposed to the virus are generally considered erroneous, despite his documented actions in Nigeria and Thailand in his later years. The Human Fist has never spoken publicly about the events of that day, as is typical of him.

Approximately one year ago, the Agency began an official study on the risks of human-to-human transmission for the known strains of Junta. This study was canceled before it’s completion by order of the Department of Defense.

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