Beware Clowns Wielding Baseball Bats

Picture it if you will. It’s 1997. MTV still knows a thing or two about airing music videos as a main attraction; not just a sideshow between promoting teen pregnancy for fame and misfortune. The venereal disease known as Boy Bands is running rampant through the day’s female youth, and though it’s always been lurking there in the underbelly of the culture it’s really taking on a new shape and ferocity; moving on from a simple chlamydia-esque nuisance to full-blown AIDS that the country will never really recover from.

American music is drowning in saccharine sweetness, and the hair-band metal that once drove MTV to national stardom has all but died. Metallica’s already put out Load, and what a load it is. A big steaming one that pissed everyone off and drove metal further into the shadows by taking all the metal out of Metallica. They’re hard rock now. They’re Van Halen. Even Van Halen isn’t Van Halen by this point. It’s even worse than Van Halen. Some dickhead frontman from Extreme is Van Halen at this point because Sammy Hagar had more tequila-oriented things to do. It is the first anyone’s even heard of Extreme, and the last we’ll hear from Van Halen for a while.

All the metalheads are either disappearing into their underground clubs or jumping ship to ride out the last couple years of the gangster rap wave, because metal is fucking dead in 1997. It’s a bleak, horrible time and the handful of metal bands out there still struggling by for airtime are starting to assimilate into the greater rap movement by either fusing rap lyrics into their own drop-D tuned guitar riffs or touring in weird hybrid shows like Korn’s Family Values Tour – where you can see Korn, Ice Cube, Limp Dickshit (oh, that’s Bizkit, right…) and Orgy all in one fantastically shit-filled show.

But all is not lost! For in the middle of that shitty little tour that got way too much fucking hype and legitimized way too many hacks, a bomb fell. It rained out of the sky in the shrapnel leftovers of a Germain airshow disaster, and it had two words scrawled on its casing we just had time to appreciate before being swept away by the blast: DU HAST.

Rammstein had come. Thank fuck.

Rammstein was America’s introduction to something that had started in Germany a few years earlier with OOMPH!’s second album, 1994’s Sperm: Neue Deutsche Härte.

I’m not even going to attempt to lay out the history and definition of the so-called New German Hardness. If you don’t know Rammstein by now you’ve been living under a rock. DU HAST was everywhere in the late 90s and early 2000s, and you could hardly escape it in movie soundtracks (The Matrix, anyone?), night clubs, and house parties.

That was the point.

If you took Pantera’s groove metal sound and threw it in a blender with a bit of dance club electronica, a healthy dose of Nine Inch Nails industrial and started screaming German profanities while the blades did their work you’d get NDH/NGH. The Germans could dance to it, the Americans could mosh to it, and if you didn’t speak German you could still enjoy it for the musical aptitude it took to balance all the moving parts.

Hell, in the case of some Rammstein songs it was pretty much a blessing if you didn’t understand German. Trust me. Some songs are just best left mysteries, because you will never feel clean listening to them again otherwise.

But this isn’t a music blog, and I’m not one of those “experts” who like to babble about genre defining moments, the technical perfection of one song over the other, or get into the discussion of the heavily masculine and occasionally homoerotic imagery one finds in NDH music. No, I’m just a fan of good music and a writer who can’t help but expound on the things he finds interesting.

See, in 1997 I was fifteen. My musical preferences were just starting to form into what they are today. Up until then I’d been every other mid-western kid listening to the same classic rock radio station as everyone else, drinking deep on the radio-friendly strains of Van Halen’s David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar years, the southern rock mainstays like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Foreigner, and occasionally getting a glimpse of Dio, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden that made me yearn for that classic METAL sound instead of the classic rock endemic in my area.

Rammstein was something different. It was metal, it was foreign, and it was something German I, as a youth of largely German descent, could actually be proud to claim some tenuous connection to after having spent my entire grade school career learning absolutely nothing about Germany past WWII and the Nazis. It showed me there was more to metal than the American hybrid crap on MTV.

No one had bothered to tell me back then half the metal bands I actually liked back then were English, or that metal itself was not a strictly American invention but more a bastard child of the blues created after American blues artists had been paraded through the UK in the 50s and 60s and their sound had influenced a whole generation of early rockers. It was just not in the musical education of the time, and the Internet was young enough back then I’d have had no way to learn anything about those roots.

Rammstein opened that door for me, though, and once it was open there was no going back. I still listened to some American bands, but I got a lot pickier about which ones I let past my quality filters. I went delving into a world of British and European metal and found a whole host of acts who weren’t just interested in putting their name on TV and selling a bunch of merchandise to get rich. Sure, they wanted that stuff too, but they weren’t selling their souls to the cannibalistic, incestuous nature of the American music scene to get it done.

I’m not saying European bands don’t change, or they don’t do anything different, or they don’t form weird hybrid sorts of genres that often leave one scratching one’s head in confusion. Certainly that happens too, and it was just such an experiment that resulted in bands like OOMPH! and Rammstein finding their voice in the world music scene in the first place. It’s just that the bands I found seemed somehow more honest about what they were and what they wanted to be and just kind of stuck with that. They might change their image a little here and there, or swap members around so fast you might not even notice, but it always felt like there was something more authentic in the European bands. Something grown more out of a love of the music and the art of composing than the American way of doing things just because they’re popular in the moment or the rights to a song are up for grabs.

Lately, I’ve been delving back into those NDH bands I’d grown so fond of. I’d outgrown them for a while, or maybe just got tired of them after so many years when I found my way into more Scandinavian ways of doing metal (sweeping symphonic epics and folklore-laden musical and lyrical themes), but with my Duolingo kick of late I felt I’d get a little bit more out of the German bands now that I’ve actually undertaken a study of the German language itself. I was not disappointed, but I was a bit surprised by just the sort of thing I’m talking about here.

See, Rammstein is great and all, but they actually weren’t my favorite of the NDH bands. They were just the first to make landfall in the States, and the most popular. Even OOMPH!, who are largely credited with inventing the genre, never found a foothold in America. I’m not sure my favorite NDH band has ever even toured in America. If they have, I never heard of it.

They’re called Megaherz, and I found them right around the time their 2004 album, 5, came out. It was their first album with their second singer, Mathias Elsholz, and the only album he did with the band. Their original singer and band founder, Alexx Wesselsky had left after five albums, but here’s the thing: I didn’t know that.

I only had a scattering of songs acquired through various peer-to-peer protocols, and no full albums, and all the real information on the band one could find on the web at the time was in German. I’m usually pretty good at picking out tonal differences in voices, but Wesselsky and Elsholz sounded like the same dude to me. I didn’t know the difference between songs from the band’s first NDH album, Kopfschuss (their third actual album, but the first two were more alternative than NDH) and 5.

Nor did I know that when the next album, Heuchler, came out with Alexander Wohnhaas behind the mic that it was yet ANOTHER different singer. It just didn’t sound like it. Somehow, the band had managed to keep the same sound through three singers and so many member changes that only guitarist Christian Bystron and bassist Wenz Weninger have actually been with the band since the first album.

Some albums are a little harder than others, some songs are a little more explicit than others, but Megaherz itself has managed to exist as an entity faithful to the sound laid down in Kopfschuss in 1998 right down to today with their 2014 album, Zombieland – a feat achieved in no small part by their odd habit of updating popular songs for the new singers.

Mind you, I’m not entirely thrilled with the name Zombieland (the only non-German album title they’ve ever had) or the fact the band is presently rocking the zombie look pretty hard because the title track of the album is a bit of cross promotion with the German advertising for The Walking Dead, but musically the album still sounds like the Megaherz I know and the zombie look doesn’t quite fit the band’s actual sound or lyrics very well. But hey, if a little Walking Dead coattail riding is what it takes to get one of my favorite bands a little extra notice, fine. So be it.

Hypocritical of me, I know, but… Megaherz, motherfuckers.

So, by now you’re all Googling Megaherz, or searching them up on Spotify so I don’t have to explain that the title of this post is an allusion to their band mascot, a clown face that’s appeared on several albums since Wer bist Du? and is currently being portrayed by singer Alexander Wohnhaas in his zombie make-up on the new album, right? Right?

Oh well.

But, I had another reason for bringing up Megaherz besides espousing my love for the weirdness that is NDH metal. See, way back when I was writing the first half of my novel I tried to keep a running document full of notes. I had this idea that a writer has to write out his inspirations, his characters’ personality traits and key features and other details to keep straight what was going to happen and how they were going to evolve.

Crazy, I know.

Some people may work like that, but I just don’t. I just write, and write, and write, and mostly manage to keep it all straight in my head by the power of sheer genius alone. Back when I was keeping those notes, though, I was listening to a lot of Megaherz. I might have actually spent more time daydreaming about the story and potential film/TV adaptations than I did actually writing the fucking thing, and Megaherz was the soundtrack I had in my head for that time.

Notes on those early chapters actually include things like “Du Oder Ich for this scene”, “Glas Und Tranen for this one,” and so on. I hadn’t even finished the damn thing. I only got twelve chapters finished in 2008 before I put the whole thing aside for seven years, but I was scoring it in my head to Megaherz with only a lyrics-search understanding of German at the time.

After a while, my regular listening shifted and though I’d get the odd Megaherz lyric in my head here and there I hadn’t listened actively to the band in years until this week. The second half of the book was written largely under the influence of Wintersun – which I’ve expounded on before – but now it’s all kind of coming back around again as I sit here listening to Megaherz and thinking about how I’m going to get back into the story of those early chapters after so much time without really thinking about them.

I’d edited them down a little bit when I started on the second half, but I wasn’t in the same headspace I’d been in when they were written. I suppose the hope is that this little exercise will help bring just enough of that back up to pull my own hybridization feat; to merge the old stuff with the new and unite the two halves of the book into one cohesive voice again.

You know, before I turn everything on its head and get back to writing the second book.

 

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Rambling Bit of Nonsense: 2am Edition

I know, I’ve been slacking on the blog posts lately and there’s not even a really good reason for why. I just haven’t felt like it. I look at the Add New Post page and nothing comes to mind to write about and then I go do something else and revisit it a couple days later to do much the same. So, why not a little glimpse of what I’ve been up to in this hiatus?

Here’s a hint: NOTHING.

Seriously. I have done nothing of interest since the last post. I randomly probe the aether by night, and sometimes day, looking for and applying for jobs or trying to figure out the technical issues preventing my computer from accessing certain work-at-home programs, and when I get tired of that or feel I’ve done enough for a day I go and do something else.

Sometimes I stare at a short story, find that I hate the last thing I wrote and delete it, and then rewrite a third of what I deleted before closing it and not saving because what I had was still better than the alterations. Sometimes I build a bit for PotP, but at this point I’m the only person actually doing any of that right now and I have three completed areas just sitting there waiting to be checked and copied in. With our illustrious admin typically absent and the fact the only other person with access to do copyovers is the “head coder” (for stupid reasons that presuppose that no one else can copy a file or work in a Unix environment, but are really all about said coders being jealous control freaks who believe they and they alone should hold the keys even when they don’t fucking log on for months at a time), though, there’s no real hurry to get them checked since no one can do it.

So there’s that, I guess.

Progress on novel revisions remains stagnate, as most actual writing is apparently beyond my capability at this time, but two more good friends (maybe three) are reading the first draft now and hopefully a bit of extra feedback will shake something loose in that department.

I’ve been doing a lot more reading lately. Usually in the hour or so it takes my brain to unwind when I finally do lay down to go to sleep. Most of that reading has been the complete Conan works of Robert E. Howard, and I admit I kind of put Ana Spoke’s book on the back burner once that undertaking began. I’m still working on it here and there, and find it an enjoyable read, but I’m pretty sure I’m the furthest thing there is from a target audience for the amusing misadventures of a perpetually oblivious twenty-something stumbling and bullshitting her way through life and her new job at what I’m pretty sure is a corporate cult.

I mean, her boss owns an Apache helicopter armed with Hellfire missiles, has at least one actual slave (the Gimp, which makes me think of the Gnu Image Manipulation Program because BDSM isn’t a thing I associate with at all), and arms all his employees as a matter of corporate policy. It’s absurd, and I can appreciate the absurdity, but in small doses of about a chapter a week.

Conan, on the other hand, speaks more to my usual mindset, writing style, and love of world building, so I’m devouring that and rather kicking myself for having taken so long to get around to it. One would think I’d have been a Conan reader an Age ago since Howard and Lovecraft were as close as Lovecraft could ever be said to have for close friends and Lovecraft’s been a particular favorite of mine since I was fifteen. I’d seen, of course, the Arnold movies, and I’d read at least four different Conan comic series, and Robert Jordan had even written some Conan stories before The Wheel of Time, but nope. Never touched the Howard source material.

Foolish, and being rectified.

Let’s see, what else can I babble about for no apparent reason?

I switched browsers today. I was tired of Firefox and it wasn’t working with one of the work-at-home sites I’m trying to get going, so I dumped it for my first love: Opera.

Before I switched to Linux I’d been an avid Opera user since Opera began. It’s a lovely browser that’s always been fast and loaded with innovations that everyone else ripped off. When Internet Explorer and Netscape were still dominating the market with their clunky interfaces and that ever-expanding list of individual windows for every page that’d creep along your Windows 95 taskbar like a trail of ants feasting on your system resources, Opera had already started toward the tabbed interface by opening all your pages in nested windows inside the main Opera window.

My old tower, though, ran a 32x chipset and Opera hadn’t been updating the 32x version of it’s browser by the time I switched to Linux, so I had to make due with Firefox. I like Firefox just fine, and on that machine it was the best option because Chrome is a bloated piece of shit that Google should be ashamed of. When I finally got this laptop running sans-hard drive with a USB drive instead, I just stuck with Firefox because Ubuntu installed it natively and it worked fine for what I needed it for.

But it’s been annoying me lately, and I’m tired of updating it and finding page load times going through the roof, unresponsive windows for minutes at a time, and generally causing a cascading effect across my other open programs whenever it decides to crash. So, since I actually have a proper 64-bit architecture on this thing, and was trying to find something that works with The Smart Crowd website (it still isn’t at this moment, but it’s my project for the night), I turned back to my beloved Opera for help.

The developers behind Opera made the somewhat controversial and unusual decision to shift the browser’s ethos over to the Chromium base that became Google Chrome and is otherwise maintained as an open-source web engine all its own, but whatever’s under the hood doesn’t interest me so much as the usability of the browser itself. It’s working beautifully, loading faster than Firefox ever has, I have a proper Opera speed dial again (Firefox doesn’t, and requires third-party extensions to pull it off), and my speed dial even has an animate star field background that goes well with my desktop theme of rotating Hubble images.

WordPress is working more smoothly than ever, too, so bonus.

I think I’m still going to wind up having to install hated Chrome to manage to do anything work-at-home, because small-minded people take shortcuts in coding to a specific environment instead of providing a wide range of compatibility, but I suppose I’ll live.

Anyway, I think I’m out of shit to ramble about, and sorry if anyone reading this thought they were actually going to get a quality post. It’s 2:30am, and at this point I just wanted to get something up here for the sake of the habit. Maybe next time I’ll have something worth saying.

Maybe.

The Moon: Not Just for Freemasons!

I know what you’re thinking already: “What the fuuuuuuuck?”

Let me explain. I’m often awake at all hours of the night/morning doing various and sundry things, and even some writing while I’m at it. I’m a natural night owl and have been since I was thirteen and discovered two things: caffeine, and the Internet. From that point on, it was a given I would never have a regular sleep schedule.

I wrote a couple months ago about the return of Art Bell and what a joy having him back in my late night routine was, and that’s because when you’re up late into the night you need some sort of crazy shit to keep you going. No one brings the crazy like Art does. That hack who replaced him, George Noory, tries very hard to bring the crazy, but he really just winds up bringing the crazy PEOPLE.

Seriously, I put up with Noory while I had to because now and then he’d have a good guest on, but for the most part he fills his guest line-up with any old fuckwit who writes a book about how they channelled the alien ghost of Jesus and he told them they’re the new king of the world. Delusion runs rampant at Coast to Coast, but it was fun delusion while it lasted.

Then Art came back, and left again when his Sirius XM deal went to hell out of general curmudgeony and a bit of technical fuckery. Then he came back again, and this the new internet-radio show has been going strong and fuelling my brain late into the night and doing so right at this moment as I sit here writing this rambling bit of bullshit just to get a blog post out.

So, what do Freemasons have to do with the Moon?

Absolutely nothing, but when you listen to enough conspiracy radio nonsense you pick up some of the most amazing stories. There are actually people who believe the Moon is an artificial construct built by time traveling Freemasons. These people have not only put their bullshit out on radio programs like Coast to Coast (so far Art’s new show, Midnight in the Desert has avoided this bit of fuckery), but national television on the various conspiracy and alien-oriented programs currently hoarding space on once-educational channels.

Art’s been great this time around, and he’s balancing a lot of the crazy out with some very real science from very real scientists. Right now I’m listening to a tenured Professor of Physics talk about the physics of time travel and his explorations into whether or not it is actually possible.

Far cry from the show Coast to Coast is putting on tonight in which Jesse Ventura will rant about the same government conspiracies he’s been “exposing” on national television for a decade and then some lady who’s going to babble about psychic connections with animals, no?

Believe it or not, though, this post isn’t actually about how great Art’s new show is or how utterly retarded Noory’s has become. This post is about the moon, and it just happened to have been brought on by listening to Art late at night. One might even call this:

THE MOST BAD-ASS THING I EVER LEARNED AT 2AM!

See, between segments of the show Art runs his usual handful of commercials to keep the show running and a few little nonsense “news” blurbs that usually have dubious basis in fact and are often just retellings of the nonsense callers to the show claim happened to them.

One of these news blurbs, however, caught my attention. It claimed that NASA has recently done a dump of almost 10,000 images from the Apollo Program to Flickr. Given that the British Library had done an enormous image dump a few years ago to the same social media image-sharing site, it sounded like a plausible idea.

Apparently, Dark Matter News (the internet radio network Art’s producer Keith Rowland runs) picked the story up off of various social media groups they seem to troll for most of their “news”, and while they’re purposely making news reports on stupid stuff and not trying to be all that serious, they didn’t do their homework at all.

NASA is not behind The Project Apollo Archive. A man named Kipp Teague is, and he deserves recognition for this fact that the tweens and brain-dead zombie people who perpetuate your average social media story blitz are simply failing to notice at all. Kipp actually put an image on the first page of the archive to explain this fact, and STILL people are calling this a NASA-run image dump.

While it may not be a NASA project, it does include thousands of NASA-provided images from the history of the Apollo Program. These are high-resolution images taken by the Apollo astronauts themselves on their way to the Moon, during landing, and on the surface of the Moon. It is, in a word: amazing.

I’ve only spent about half an hour on the archive so far, and had to write a bit about it before I could continue. I’m anticipating something horrible on the way this week, and I rather like having the opportunity to look through all of these images without the overbearing taint of Richard C. Hoagland’s bullshit that I can smell coming a mile away.

Hoagland runs his own radio program after Art Bell; The Other Side of Midnight. If you’re unfamiliar with Hoagland’s work so far, you should thank whatever deity you find amusing at the moment. This is the man behind the infamous “Face on Mars” contrivance, and in the decades since that original bit of idiocy he’s built a career out of looking at images from space and the various heavenly bodies, picking out shapes like you see shapes in the clouds overhead, and claiming they’re leftover pieces of technology from (I shit you not)… an ancient, long-dead solar system spanning civilization that ultimately destroyed itself completely in a series of wars that left only Earth with sentient life, but managed to seed hundreds of artifacts, special libraries of ancient knowledge, and maybe a secret brotherhood of Earthlings who maintained knowledge of this massive technological civilization and currently exploit its secret physics to oppress humanity and keep all the “really good stuff” for themselves.

Yeah. He’s a special little snowflake, alright, and I’m expecting either in the next five minutes (as his show just started as I type this) he’ll start to proclaim all the random rocks scattered in these images are high technology, or sometime in the course of the next week.

It’s a shame, too, because NASA does a lot of really good work on a shoestring of a budget, goes out of their way to make available all the images they get back from the various rovers, landers, and orbiters and probes out there in the solar system, but this jackass has a wider exposure and more people are willing to believe him and his big glass domes on the Moon than they are that NASA could possibly be a legitimate agency doing good science.

Sometimes, I want to weep for the stupidity of humanity. Oh, fuck. Tonight’s show is Michael Cremo, and frankly I don’t have the energy to write all the bullshit THAT guy spits out into the world.

Regardless, crazy people and ancient space-faring civilizations (Cremo’s basically an Atlantis guy at his core, but tries to cast human civilization on Earth back millions of years) aside, check out The Project Apollo Archive. It’s real science brought to life in real images of the real Moon by real men who risked their lives to walk around on a rock in space just because they could.

Image dumps like this, all in one place with such ease of access, are rare and wonderful things and exactly the sort of effort that makes the Internet worth having. It’s this sort of spreading of GOOD information and legitimate human achievement that we should all be clamouring for; not pictures of some jackass’s cat.

We get it. Cats play with shit. Big fucking deal. Get over it, Internet. Get some education. Look at another piece of the solar system in a way you never have before, and give thanks to the men who made that possible.

And while you’re at it, thank Kipp Teague for taking the time to put this archive together. Kipp, you probably will never see this, but thanks. I’m sorry the Internet is full of illiterate morons.

The Winds of Fate: Lost on the Back Burner

Sometime in the hours before false dawn (when I usually pass out) while I was weaving my way through the first Conan story, The Phoenix on the Sword, I realized I needed to get some blog posts done that actually had some sort of relevance to this whole writing thing. While reading Conan did give me a few structural ideas regarding how to attack my obsessively large timeline of interweaving stories – all of which have something to do with the novel’s world, but not necessarily with the novel itself – it was a previous attempt at something similar that I found myself thinking about as I laid there waiting for sleep to take me.

Once upon a time, before I’d become the creature I am now, I’d been a rather promising youth with a mind too strange and brilliant for my high school teachers to keep up with or care to do anything with. I say this only partly out of my oft-professed narcissism as there was actually evidence of these statements back then. I did poorly when it came to getting homework done on time, or caring about the usual high school bullshit, or even giving a shit about the half-assed nonsense my teachers often came up with to try and get students to engage in the classroom, but I aced every test I ever took. I carried the highest scores on the standardized tests, and had demonstrated this ability to the tune of a 160 I.Q. on the two occasions I was tested.

Some call that genius. Who am I to argue?

The point, however, isn’t that I’m just naturally smarter than everyone else – though certainly I am because they’re all idiots – but as a set-up for what came next. I was going to fail 10th grade so badly they were going to hold me back. They’d have done so in 9th grade, too, because for all the evidence that I not only absorbed all of the information I was supposed to absorb and easily carried my own against all the preppy GPA-whores who did their homework every day like good little sycophants and shit-heels, the educational system cares more about doing what you’re told to do than learning anything.

I’d skated by after 9th grade by way of one particularly good teacher suggesting that I pass if I agreed to attend SuperCamp that summer. I did, and loved it so much that when the good folks at SuperCamp’s head office called me about working for them a few years later I jumped on the opportunity and spent a month at Atlanta’s Emory University working as a Team Leader for the academic-skill-oriented summer camp. The school, or perhaps more rightly the biggest bitch of a principal ever to walk the Earth, wasn’t going to extend me the same sort of offer twice, though.

So I said, “Fuck you guys, I’m out,” and left after 10th grade. But I wasn’t your average high school dropout. I got my GED a week later with no prep classes, and signed up for college classes at the local community college the next week. I majored in Computer Programming until two years of that bored me and I switched to the brand new Graphic Communications program. I still didn’t do homework, but it was a great time and I learned all sorts of stuff.

What I DID do when I was supposed to be doing homework, however, became the impetus for this post and the real topic at hand. I had all sorts of free time since I wasn’t wasting it doing homework, and my programming teachers were truly brilliant people who knew how to inspire creativity in an otherwise very repetitive and often frustrating field. So, between classes or any time I had a break or got bored in one of the mundane Gen Ed classes thrust upon me, I turned my expansive mind and creativity toward what I felt was going to be a truly fantastic future in game design.

I wrote for hours, and filled three notebooks with handwritten plots, character designs and details, world history, quest information, and every other detail I could think of to put into what I envisioned as a classic RPG series very much in the vein of a Final Fantasy, or Suikoden, or Dragon Quest, or whatever other Japanese console RPG series you want to plug in.

I named my series The Winds of Fate, and gave each of the five games I managed to get down before the next diversion took my attention away from the effort its own subtitle instead of numbering them like the Japanese games I loved (and still do) so much did. My vision was a simple one, but grand in scope. I’d create a common thread between each game, even though they occupied different worlds, kind of like the famed crystals or Cid of Final Fantasy; omnipresent, but not always the same.

For The Winds of Fate that common thread was to be a sort of bleeding effect between worlds, before I really had the language to properly express how such a bleed would work or what it meant in the grander scheme of things. It was, according to the game world, just a wind that blew through the worlds themselves and shook things up seemingly without purpose. Winds of Fate characters, foes, and chunks of world would drift from one game into the next, or come out of nowhere from two games ago, and so on. It was an idea I knew even then I was pretty much copping from Stephen King, since by then The Dark Tower had already become my favorite book series of all time, but I thought at the time I was creating something really interesting and compelling.

Even if it was really just a thinly-veiled J-RPG riff with stories inspired by King, a juvenile understanding of mythology, and an intense desire to make my mark on gaming history.

I didn’t know it then, but The Winds of Fate would come to haunt me even to this day. What I thought was just going to be a fun project to keep me entertained while I avoided homework and plotted world domination actually became a testing ground for the world I’m still building today around the novel and the stories that take place outside of it. Everything goes back to the Winds and that attempt to create a world of such breadth and depth that no one story can contain it.

I still have those notebooks tucked away in a dresser drawer in Iowa, and every few years in the fifteen since my misspent years at SCC I’ve pulled them out for a chuckle and a nod to what I’d been before. The writing is horrendous, the plots are shamefully thin and centered around a lot of level grinding and dungeon crawling to pad each game out from what might be about six hours of actual story each, but the exercise was important and acknowledging it as such has often given me that little bit of drive I need to get a project done or at least stir up a few old ideas I can use again.

And the Winds of Fate blow still. A few years after I’d put the notebooks down and moved on to my next obsession, I picked up Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World and I’ll be damned if the Winds weren’t right there, on page one, rising in the Mountains of Mist, blowing east across the Sand Hills (once the shores of a great ocean before the Breaking of the World), and into the Two Rivers to ruffle the cloak of a young man who’d change everything. Robert Jordan’s wind was not the beginning, but it was a beginning.

For The Winds of Fate: Beginnings, though, was the title of the first game in that series-that-never-was.

Space. It Don’t Give a Fuck.

I spent a few bored minutes finally getting around to resizing a new image for the rotating harem of deep space wallpapers I use to keep my desktop interesting, and it turned into an effort to homogenize the image across my web presence as well. I’m not done yet, but getting there involved stopping here to swap out my banner image and this post was born.

My old image was a slice of another background I’d carried over from my desktop system back in Iowa to the laptop when I moved. On that old computer, still running an ancient HP CRT monitor with a resolution of 1024×768 on a good day, it was a stunning image of the Great Rift you can see here in full. On a more modern laptop screen, though, it really does look rather grainy. I kept it, though, because I’d already assigned it here as my banner image and pushed it to Google+, Hangouts, and Twitter as my profile pic and even set it up here as my profile pic about a week ago when I noticed it wasn’t.

But, I found a higher resolution image of the Great Rift a couple weeks ago in a fit of boredom and just kind of forgot about it until I was cleaning out my Downloads folder today. A few minutes of GIMP (the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, Photoshop for Linux people, or people who don’t like paying out the ass to Adobe) work later, and I was pretty well set. I slapped a slice of the new image on my banner here, dumped it to the wallpaper folder on my iPhone, and voila. New shit.

So, you’re probably wondering why the fuck I bother to talk about this, eh? Simple; I needed a blog post, and this shit interests me. So, yeah.

The Great Rift, also sometimes called the Dark Rift is actually visible to the naked eye, and a little less “deep space” than my usual cycling background of galaxies, clusters of galaxies so numerous they look like stars on a field, and close-ups of the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation (a stellar nursery where stars form).

It’s really nothing so fascinating as the swirl of a distant galaxy, or a vague suggestion of a ring of dark matter glimpsed only by suggestion in the intermittent spaces between bands of light billions of light years away, but the Great Rift makes for a damn fine picture. It’s just dust, but dust in layered clouds stretching from Cygnus to Centaurus at a distance of roughly 300 light years from Earth and obscuring our view of the galactic center. With our Solar Sytem on the Orion arm, we typically see two other arms of the Milky Way Galaxy from Earth; the Sagittarius Arm where the Great Rift is visible toward the galactic center, and the Perseus Arm out toward the rest of the universe outside of our galaxy.

Of course, there’s a lot of discussion about where exactly the Orion arm sits, whether we’re part of one arm or an arm of our own, or what the actual layout of the arms of the galaxy itself are since we can’t actually see our galaxy except from within and extrapolate all sorts of ideas based on observation of other spiral galaxies way the fuck out there in space, but you get the idea. I don’t usually concern myself with such details when it comes to picking a new space image, but this one fits this blog nicely.

It’s all about looking inward toward the center of our galaxy, the core of our existence and finding it obscured by some fucking bullshit. What could be more apropos a metaphor for the rambling nonsense I get up to here than that? What more perfectly defines the fiction writer’s job than a big cloud of dust getting in the way of everything?

But this isn’t some New-Agey bullshit, either. Don’t get me wrong. Unlike some morons who think we have to be at a certain angle to get all the magical rays of perfection from the galactic center to align us with ultimate power/love/whateverthefuckthey’resellingtoday, we actually kind of NEED that big fucking dust cloud. Without that big fucking dust cloud, we’d essentially be receiving more radiation from the galactic center than we do now, and while I’m not talking nuclear radiation in the “oh my god, we’re all gonna die because we don’t understand physics or that every bit of heat and light in the universe is radiation” sense, what I mean is the form of life that exists on this planet right now would be impossible.

Our location in space has every bit as much to do with our existence and the shape of it as any other factor, and without that big fucking dust cloud the temperature conditions of this entire solar system change. Slightly, perhaps, but fractions of degrees of change on the astronomical scale create incredible difference at the local level.

One tiny change, and everything else is different. A bit of dust here, a word there, and the whole verse takes on a new shape.

That bit of dust stretching from Cygnus to Centaurus obscures the light in just the right way to shape natural history to make life on Earth possible in the form we recognize. It’s just dust, but it’s important dust. Another bit of dust on a more local scale writes a few words about how we are all just dust, and human history is shaped in the same way.

What happens in a few billion years when that stellar dust has moved and changed again? Or a few thousand years when a different writer’s bit of nonsense becomes indelible fact to a people we can’t even imagine now?

I’ll tell you.

The sea-faring octopus-worshipers of Earth all hail Great Cthulhu and his prophet L’v’krft while making war on the photosynthetic Green Men of Mars and their two-faced god, Lord Burrwells in the year 6,5000 BCE.

Duh.

Bing Fucky, Yo.

What do you do when it’s 4am, you have 1260+ Bing Rewards points unspent because you quit spending them on free X-Box Live months a year ago, and everyone you know has been harassing you to read some crap by a guy who you’ve already professed profound dislike for?

Duh. Spend ’em on Amazon gift cards and get free books that don’t suck.

That’s what I did last night, and I’m not even done. I just got tired.

At 475 Bing points for a $5 card, one wouldn’t expect to be exactly rolling in literary goodness, but hey, I was bored and awake and the free promo copy Ana Spoke’s book (which I haven’t finished, but I’m making my way through steadily) was looking awfully lonely as the only thing in my Kindle app. Half an hour later my list was looking a little more me.

Obviously the first thing I did was look for Lovecraft. Why the hell wouldn’t I? I’d have aimed for some Stephen King, but then I’d only get one book, and it’d probably be a short story collection from the dark ages. Lovecraft, however, is a public domain author; his stuff is FREE if you know where to look, so folks putting together collections for e-books can’t really get away with charging all that much. And that’s how I wound up with the Complete Collection of H.P. Lovecraft for $.99 that really only cost me 95 Bing points, or about one week worth of randomly searching shit on Bing.

From there, shit just kinda started happening on its own. Download everything Lovecraft ever wrote, and the next thing you know Amazon just starts throwing pillars of the pulp years at you left and right. So, I wound up with the complete Robert E. Howard Conan collection (only Howard’s originals, none of those spin-off authors, though one day I do need to read Robert Jordan’s Conan work…) and the complete Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter series for another $.99 each.

Of course, once you have everything “of Mars” Amazon decides to suggest you also get a 12-novel collection of H.G. Wells, apparently knowing full well you’ve only actually read War of the Worlds. $.99 more cents go away, thirty more hours of classic sci-fi genius appears.

Now, at this point in my wandering I was getting tired and my brain didn’t really care to think what else I might pick up on the free. The already-mind-boggling amount of classic pulp sitting there was just enough to fry my brain. I’ve read most of the Lovecraft stuff before, but it was necessary. One should always have a little Lovecraft on hand for emergencies.

The Conan and John Carter series, though, I’d never read in their original form. I’ve had years worth of comic book adaptations of both, both direct adaptations and new-material expansions, but obviously Lord Amazon decided it was time for me to stop bemoaning my lack of a public library (back home I’d been shut out of the Burlington one because they raised the yearly fee and Danville stopped paying it) and get my pulp on. Wells is just kind of an extra bonus. War of the Worlds is a terrific book that has about jack-all to do with any of the movie adaptations, and I’m looking forward to the rest.

My curiosity, however, would not be sated. By now it was nearly 5am and my brain went to where it always goes when all else fails: mythology.

In one fell swoop I picked up The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Sir E.A. Wallis Budge’s translation collections “The Babylonian Legends of the Creation” and “Legends of the Gods, The Egyptian Texts” in about five minutes of inspired searching. All of these, and so many more that I need to seriously spend a lot of time later to go frolicking through the Classics, were free. It turns out there are actually a metric fuckton of free classics on the Kindle store. Since I’m both a cheap motherfucker and entirely absorbed by any and all ancient history and mythology, it’s gonna be a long time before I’ve successfully hunted down copies of everything I could possibly want.

I didn’t even burn an entire gift card yet, either. That’s going to be fun.

I should note that until Ana launched a free promotion for her book I hadn’t even signed up for Amazon. All these years it’s been around, there was just no reason for me to go shopping online for anything, and I’ve always been a hard-copy book person unless I’m looking for quick reference materials. Once I had the app, though, it seemed necessary to at least try to fill it up with stuff a little more up my usual literary alley.

I’m enjoying “Shizzle, Inc” so far, though I’m well aware at this point (five chapters in) that I am certainly not the target audience for this book. I like how absurd it is, and despite the comments of certain individuals it doesn’t really feel like what I imagine when I hear the term “chick-fic” so much as it is just an intentionally absurd comedy about a pleasantly-oblivious twenty-something, an eccentric billionaire, and what I’m pretty sure is going to prove to be a homebrew terrorist plot.

It is, however, not the sort of thing I usually read. That’s good sometimes, and I’m happy to read it and give it a bit of time as one writer supporting another, but after Isa’s hijinks I’m going to need to spend some time taking manly adventures in the deserts and jungles of the pulp gods for. Maybe I’ll wander down some cyclopean ruins while I’m at it.

(By the way, this was NOT a sponsored post, but if Amazon or Microsoft would like to throw some money at a brotha…)

Building The City

I spent the few days since my last post in a near-constant state of distraction, but not for any reason one might have known to look at me.

Sure, I had plenty to do in that time; including considering how this weekend’s little jaunt to a car show might go. But really, the predominant thought in my head was simple; the next post I make on my blog will be #50.

Yeah. All you people I talk to all day and see and spend time with who thought you were so important? Hah! My career (or hopeful one) could hinge on how I spend the 50th post for this blog, so fuck you.

Ok, not really. I love you all dearly, but I really do have to focus on writing more than I have been and on a blog that’s supposed to be the thing that keeps me writing, the 50th post seems like a mile marker I simply have to take a little more seriously than the usual daily-bullshit post or some half-baked plan to write stories centered around an iPhone game.

I really have been thinking about this one all day, though. I needed the distraction to keep me sane in the midst of such god awful musical selections (Frank Sucknatra and Lynyrd Skynyrd back to back? Seriously?) and wanton displays of redneckery. What else was I going to do but find a dark corner to be antisocial and plot? C’mon. I’m the villain, right?

Somewhere between the backwoods drives (because Google maps decided that was quicker than the straight-shot highway half a mile from my front door), the realization that Ohio’s terrain is abysmally utilized to create the most god-awful roadways known to man, and the knowledge that even the smallest towns around here are more gentrified than anything I’m used to in the Southeast Iowa/Western Illinois stretch of land around the Mighty Mississippi, I hit on this idea that maybe I’d spend a little time talking about home.

Add to that the knowledge I’ve spent ungodly amounts of time building areas for Prophecies of the Pattern lately (just finished the third in two months, starting the fourth as I write this) and considering the entire world-building process as a result, AND compound that with the knowledge I haven’t spoken much of my novel beyond vague references, AND the fact I’ve actually been reading Ana Spoke’s novel because she was gracious enough to provide a free promotional copy incentive this weekend and it’s got me in the novel-talking mood again, AND the fact that this is the most fantastically run-on sentence ever… I figured I’d just meld all that bullshit into one giant fucking post to celebrate the fact that this is indeed the 50th post.

I mean, shit, I’ve barely even started this post and it’s already 500 words before I get to the actual goddamn point! How fortunate for all of you.

So, here’s the thing. I like it here in Ohio. It’s not what I’m used to at all, it’s a completely strange area when compared to what I’m used to, there are a lot more people and only five who aren’t complete fucking strangers. In a way it’s refreshing. It’s a blank slate, and I needed that, but the problem with blank slates is finding a way to fill them up again. To write the story that goes on that slate. To draw the picture and define the data that slate contains.

I don’t have that problem in Southeast Iowa. Thanks to a misspent youth and college career, I know every nook and cranny accessible by car for 50 miles from my hometown of Danville, and can extend that reach up as far as Iowa City. It may be a small chunk of land to some of you who have lived in multiple states and countries throughout your lives, but it was MY chunk of land. From Gulfport, Illinois (where one Rex Gatling and I had many misadventures) to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (where I spent half my childhood with my grandparents), to Iowa City (where college was great to me even though I never attended there) down to Fort Madison (visited only occasionally, on the most wandering of sojourns), that was home.

I love the Mississippi River, even though it’s a muddy brown mess year-round and prone to flooding the fuck out of Burlington’s downtown area every summer. The Old Man River is beautiful in its own way. It’s the defining feature of Midwestern life and once upon a time the steamships running up and down its length were the absolute pinnacle of transportation – because the fucking railroad hadn’t even managed to cross that big fucking bastard yet. I wouldn’t go swimming in it for the life of me, and everything I ever flushed down the toilet wound up there eventually, but if you live in the U.S. and haven’t lived on the Mississippi you haven’t seen a real fucking river. You’ve seen creeks and streams. That river is the only real river in the land, and fuck anyone who thinks their river means a good goddamn next to such a glory as the Mississippi.

But enough about that king of all waterways. One day I might tell you more. If you’re lucky.

Inevitably, there are two camps of people when it comes to the rest of this godforsaken country and how folks think of Iowa: those who confuse us with Idaho, and those who think we’re as flat and boring as Nebraska.

To the former, I can only say fuck you. You don’t deserve Iowa if you think it’s Idaho, and you need to go back to school and learn something about geography.

To the latter, though… well, fuck you too. Iowa isn’t flat at all. Iowa is made up of rolling hills formed sometime in the Devonian Epoch (419-3.2 MILLION YEARS AGO), and most of these are flint and limestone; meaning they used to be undersea. Limestone forms as a result of the mineral deposits left behind by marine life, meaning most of Iowa used to be seabed. Indeed, one can wander up into the hills of the Starr’s Cave Nature Preserve and find rocks with fossilized plants that could only exist on the sea floor. Indeed, the Nature Preserve folks make a very prominent part of their tour about this feature.

I may have been raised in Danville, found all my life’s best and oldest friends there, but Burlington is where I was born and Danville for all it’s quaint smalltown charm can best be considered ancillary to Burlington’s dominance of Des Moines county. My childhood was spent roaming the streets of Danville, but the moment I put my Size 14 shoe to a gas pedal (behind the wheel of my very own ’89 Dodge Dynasty) it was Burlington that consumed my exploratory heart.

I’ve driven every single street in that town of 25,000+. Most of my friends and family moved there at some point. My father is buried there. I went to community college there. I fell in love there more times than I care to count. Burlington, Iowa is to me what Bangor, Maine is to Stephen King: my muse given life in concrete and steel. It is because of this that we come to the real point of this piece.

King is without a doubt my favorite author of all time. I love Robert Jordan for the Wheel of Time, I love Lovecraft for all the madness and cyclopean visions of terror he brought me, and I love Dante and Homer and Ovid and all those who followed them for the richness they brought to my worldview, but King… King was my first foray into adult literature. I was twelve when I bought It on a whim because I knew there was a miniseries based on it running on TV and Tim Curry’s face on the cover was so goddamn captivating that I had to know all about this evil clown peering so dangerously into my little adolescent heart.

A lot of people give King fans shit. They make noises about not liking “horror” or how his just-folks brand of storytelling doesn’t follow all their nice little academic views, but anyone who tells you they don’t like King has never REALLY read King. The man is a master of his craft: storytelling. He doesn’t write to please your sensibilities. He doesn’t write because he’s trying to win awards and praise from every fucking institution under the sun; he writes because he HAS to write. He can’t help himself. The man can announce a retirement and then write more books in one year than he has since his coke-fueled 80s rage.

King builds worlds. Every word of every sentence, every line of dialog, every thought and action his characters take lend themselves toward establishing a world unique unto itself.  So what if he uses patois like it’s going out of style, or if he sometimes uses over-flowery language to establish a scene (“The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts…”). The man gets the job done in a way that frankly no one else can. He builds a world not by telling you everything about the world; not by laying out a whole book of history about the world or a glossary of ideas and terminologies you need to know; he builds a world by grabbing you by the dick and throwing you into it to discover the world as it comes to him.

He takes elements of one story into the next; to the point that he had to eventually tie about a third of his catalog into the Dark Tower series (my favorite of all time. Sorry, ghost of Robert Jordan). Bangor, Maine becomes a backdrop for some of his work, but so too do the entirely fictional realms of Derry, Maine and Castle Rock. Elements that King built from a lifetime loving where he’s from built themselves into everything he’s written. He rarely sets foot outside his comfort  zone, and when he does it’s not quite the same as those Derry/Castle Rock/Bangor novels. Unless it’s Mid-World. Mid-World, though, is everything.

So it’s to King I owe a lot of what my novel has become. I didn’t set out to emulate him at all, and the writing and subject matter should show that fairly well, but I learned a lot about world building from that crazy bastard from Maine.

I had a single image in mind when I set out to write the short story that eventually expanded itself into 95,000+ words (with revisions still in progress I expect this to climb rather than shrink if feedback given is any indication): a man stands alone across the street from a burned-out husk of a church in the pouring rain in a trench coat with a hood drawn over the smooth metal helmet that covers his head and face.

That church was real. A self-proclaimed Satanist put the torch to it a couple years before I wrote the opening scene. The city he lives in is my city. His has no name, but it’s Burlington to a T and blown up to Chicago-proportions. It’s a Burlington that could have existed if the death of the steam ships and rise of the railroad hadn’t made the river town obsolete.

The hills his City rests on, with diametrically opposed income classes positioned on the north hill and south and a downtown area in the flood-prone valley between the two – those are real. Our hero walks a city that never existed, but it’s a city I know like I know my own. It is my own, in more ways than even I want to mention. Every nook and cranny. Every dilapidated building, crumbling storefront, and struggling Mom & Pop shop… I know them because I’ve walked them.

One of the greatest mantras of writerdom is “Write what you know”, so I do. I write my city the way I know my city could have been. I write my city the way I wish my city had been. I write my city and make it mine the way I learned wandering down the streets of Derry when I was twelve.

Is it New York or Chicago with high-rises abound, people crowding every inch of real estate available, and that faceless swirl of life pulsing through the culture to define the way an entire nation thinks and moves? Nah. That shit bores me. Fuck New York. Give me my City any day; where a hero without a name can still do some good in spite of himself, where a woman can step out of the shadows and change the world, and where a dream can still mean something.

Where a writer can be something great.

Yeah, yeah. I know.

I took a whole week off this time, didn’t I?

It’s not a matter of intentional neglect of the blogging experience (though I’m still not really that used to the idea of anyone reading the shit I babble), but more a matter of just having nothing to say. I try not to lapse into blogging about my daily life like some people do, because my daily life isn’t that interesting, so when I don’t have anything in particular to write about I just kind of don’t write.

Most of my creative effort in the last few weeks has been poured into the MUD as I struggle along at the great effort of revitalizing the place in any way possible. Other people have been hard at work doing so in their own way, but my skills fall primarily into two modes: building, and roleplaying.

On the building side, I’ve been churning through a number of small (100 rooms apiece) areas updating old build work from old builders to the current standards. For me, that generally involves acting as an editor would for a nonfiction book. Even though it’s a fictional world, it’s one that’s based on something that already exists – The Wheel of Time – so, each area that goes into PotP has to reflect that world as accurately as possible.

The mobs have to reflect what you’d find there, the items can’t stray too far from plausibility, and any features a town/city/forest/etc… has in the book series needs to be reflected in some manner in the MUD world.

For instance, when I burned the old Blight area to the ground and rebuilt it from scratch I took in reference images from the Eye of the World graphic novel, paragraph after paragraph of descriptions found in the novel (since before A Memory of Light, Eye of the World contained the densest bunch of descriptions of that area in the series), and basically built an area that looked as faithful to those descriptions as I could manage with what I had. Every creature and landmark along the way (except the Eye itself, which awaits my second Blight area project), the Seven Towers of fallen Malkier, Tarwin’s Gap, the forests of man-eating trees, the Stair of Jehaan and Harot’s Crossing (mentioned only in single sentences in the series), and every creepy little detail I could design within the proper context is present.

It is, frankly, a masterpiece that almost no one sees since lazy assholes refuse to go past level 250.

But that’s the Blight, and I’m the Main Villain – of course I was going to spend disgusting amounts of time planning every little horror and detail. The areas I’m doing these days are mostly smaller villages and a Stedding (where giant nonhuman treehuggers named Ogier live). They aren’t as detailed or creepy as the Blight, but each requires the same amount of care to scoop up any book references to the area and make sure they’re all in place before spreading out from there to flesh out a complete area that has the same feel one would expect from the details given by Robert Jordan.

It’s not just playtime, it’s historiography for super-nerds. And frankly, I’m a goddamn badass at it. When I’m not feeling any of my own writing and can’t for the life of me get up the energy to tackle book revisions, short stories, blog posts, or anything else that seems like it might actually be profitable, I can build like a son of a bitch.

And hey, I have plenty of fucking time to do so because Ohio employers take their sweeeeeeet fucking time getting back to a guy about anything. I had a call from Office Max a day after filling out their app, and that was the first place to actually get back to me about shit. They still haven’t called for a callback past the initial phone interview, though, so I apply elsewhere and I build, and I argue with my roommate’s hellspawned cat.

But ahh, building. I can do that forever. Even if an area is almost 99% as accurate and problem-free as an area can be, like the one I’m working on revamping right now, I still get to splash around a whole new color palette because it was built in the dark ages when the MUD only had 16 colors to pick from and not the full 256 color palette we have now. Slap a new coat of paint on it, fix the number of mobs reset (and undo some extreme laziness in mob planning/resetting in the process), and an old area can be made good as new in relatively no time at all.

Beyond the building, though, the matter of breathing new life into an old MUD takes many forms. Not everyone levels, and even if they do there’s no guarantee at all that they’ll use your area (recall, there are over 25,000 rooms in PotP, and areas are generally 100-250 rooms each), and RP has always been one of PotP’s bigger selling points.

Unfortunately, for some unfathomable reason that I haven’t deduced in over a decade, not everyone wants to be the bad guy, and for some crazy reason the world hasn’t decided to bow to the greatness that is my Shadow reign. Uncontested for nearly a decade thanks to masterful fear-mongering on my part, my main character, Itan Kuranes (sound familiar?) has pretty much done everything a Dreadlord can do; including having just taken over an entire country for the Shadow – something that has never happened so blatantly before. So I needed something else to do that’d challenge me and interest other people.

A couple years ago we tried to set up a precedent for players to take on book-character roles by holding a little contest to establish a player character who would be the MUD’s equivalent to Perrin Aybara – one of WoT’s three main characters. We knew we’d never set anyone up as Rand al’Thor since that character has a long history as an Imm-controlled character brought out to handle certain events from time to time, and we didn’t think we needed a Matrim Cauthon at all since the only guild we have that needed him, The Band of the Red Hand, has basically been a “get drunk and do nothing” guild for the entirety of its existence.

However,  Perrin has a lot of interesting story around him that many WoT fans tend to find boring or not impactful enough. Those people are idiots. Here is a guy who basically takes an entire region, the Two Rivers, populated by people who barely even recognize themselves as having been part of the nation of Andor to begin with and unites them under a single banner as one of the most startlingly effective forces in the whole series. Two Rivers men save the day a lot, because they’re the only people in the world who have ever heard of a longbow, and Perrin is at the head of that. He does a lot of other stuff throughout the series, of course, but sometimes it seems a little mundane to the casual WoT fan because he’s not slinging fireballs around with the One Power or banging his way across the land. He’s downright monogamous and faithful to the only woman in the series he ever loves, for that matter, and in a world where everyone expects “Game of Thrones”-style (or, A Song of Ice and Fire, you fucking illiterate heathen assholes) incest and sex and death in their fantasy… Perrin seems kind of boring.

But, in PotP we had never covered any of the Two Rivers events and we didn’t have a guild to represent the forces aligned with Perrin at all. So we ran our little contest, picked our Wolf King, got a lot of people excited about the new guild and moving toward having a lot of fun and then….

That asshole disappeared.

Seriously. Two months after being created, our Perrin analog disappeared entirely and only logged in a couple times in two years after that, never to actually do anything past his first two RPs (solo deals with no one else involved but a couple staff members playing the parts of Rand and Min), and a guild I personally took a lot of interest in (made a new character for, and moved one of my old ones into it, made half the ranks myself, and helped plan their guild hall with our illustrious Build Mistress) fell to darkness again.

So I got tired of that shit, and I put a motion forward to undo that little waste of space and take on the role myself, and it passed. It took me two weeks to come up with a way to create a new character who could simultaneously fill the exact position Perrin fills (friend of Rand, enemy to Whitecloaks, wolfbrother, key figure in WoT history) while giving him a PotP twist as a character who doesn’t have to follow Perrin perfectly, AND manages to exist alongside an entire ensemble of other key characters who we don’t have in-game but might fill the roles for later.

With Perrin, that means having to dance around references to Moiraine, Lan, Loial, Mat, Egwene and Nynaeve for however much of his history I chose to use. Since the intention was to pick up before the events in the Two Rivers, I had to pick a spot to place him in the storyline that’d give enough history to establish the new character, Erron Bayara (yep, recognize that one too, doncha?), as alterna-Perrin while giving folks enough time to establish their own characters in the Two Rivers guild so they’d be in place once the story is ready to involve them.

Long story short, I parsed a lot of shit down to vague references, reworked a portion of his story to give it that little bit of PotP flair and set the precedent that this isn’t exactly the same story or character – just one in the same position – and I think it turned out well. The exercise got me thinking about characters and how to press on with the story from where I left it, and thankfully I’ll have help from this point on from a friend who’s taking on the role that WoT fans would equate with Faile so I’ll have someone else to play off of until the story gets up to the point where everyone else (many of whom already started their characters moving toward that storyline when the first Wolf King was established) can jump in and the real fun begins.

It all sounds like meaningless playtime nonsense to a non-Mudder, I’m sure, but the takeaway is that it’s a creative effort and it keeps me moving and keeps ideas flowing. I may just be playing a role or building a mirror image of a world for fun, but that sort of thing keeps me from stagnating and just falling to playing video games and watching mindless TV all day. I have to keep thinking, keep creating, keep writing SOMETHING that someone somewhere can read and enjoy. Even if the audience is smaller than small, like the one for this blog, and even if the practice doesn’t have any potential for a career like finishing revisions for my novel or writing a short story really fast to make a buck, it’s that creative effort that matters.

That’s the essence of the art. Sometimes it just doesn’t give a fuck what you want or what’s best for you. Sometimes it just wants to be expressed however the fuck it’s going to express itself.

One day I’ll manage to finish the book for real. One day I’ll manage to shop it around and see about getting a publisher. One day. One day. One day…

Today, though, I just kick some ass, have some fun, and do what I can to stay creative and wait for the wave that let me finish the first draft to roll in again and let me finish the second.

It’ll happen, eventually.

As an aside that isn’t quite so self-centered, I’d like to take a minute to congratulate Ana Spoke on her own publishing effort. Ana is one of those few people (12) with WordPress blogs who actually follows this little mess of mine, and I’ve been following her in turn as she finished and self-published her own novel, “Shizzle, Inc” through Amazon. Ana just hit #72 on the Kindle best-seller list for Humor Fiction after publishing 5 days ago. I haven’t read the book, myself, as I am quite thoroughly broke until I get a new job lined up, but best wishes to Ana and her continued success.

Mobile!

So, this post is not going to be very long, or particularly well written, or particularly interesting, but fuck it. I’m bored and sitting around waiting on my roommate while our and about today.

I’m seeing more of the area today than I have since coming to this godforsaken state, and surprisingly I only hate it mostly, not entirely.

The roads were obviously planned by crack-addicted twelve year olds who’ve never heard of a level or straight line, but not every state can be as intelligently laid out as Iowa.

I’d post some pictures of the stupid shit I saw along the way, but this is Writin’ Shit, not Photogin’ Shit. Instead you’ll have to content yourselves with a couple brief descriptions and a lot of cursing.

The ostensible purpose of my sojourn our into the world beyond the apartment complex gate was to meet a friend for lunch, and that went great. Along the way, though, I saw the absolute dumbest piece of “art” I have ever witnessed.

Picture if you will the humble ear of corn: elegant in it’s edibility, a yummy shade of yellow, and shaped somewhat like the cock of some horrendous tumor-monster…

Now picture about a hundred of those, cement gray, standing in orderly rows, and eight feet tall.

Ohio art, ladies and gentlemen.

I wrote this post with the WordPress app on my phone, and surprisingly I didn’t hate that entirely either. I was going to finish it from my laptop when I got home, but the draft apparently only saved to my phone while I was out and rather than fuck with trying to sync it I just pecked the rest out on this retard-keyboard instead.

Nice little app for reading blogs, but I’m not sold on how goddamn long it takes to type a post worthy of my usual levels of bile and loathing.

Thank Fuck That’s Over, Eh?

So I fucked around with the scheduled plan a bit, was late on some posts, and generally ran the whole Fallout Shelter thing a bit longer than expected, but who cares? It’s my blog. I do what I want!

Anyway, I set out to do a separate story from a different character every day, but the plight of the Overseer was just irresistible once I got rolling. Sure, I made a lot of shit up that wasn’t in the game, but you’d be surprised just HOW MUCH actually was.

Rex really was constantly lighting the kitchen on fire every time I tried to rush food production, radroaches really did love coming in through Water Treatment whenever I tried to rush that, and Itan really did kill a guy for his hockey mask – though he had to send him out into the wasteland naked since Bethesda did not see fit to allow Vault Dweller deathmatches.

So too were the names and numbers of the births and deaths real, as well as the various stages of expanding the Vault. Of course, all that bullshit about the Overseer, his robot pal, and the overall plot were just nonsense I made up mostly on the spot as I wrote it, but who didn’t expect me to make a bunch of shit up? Really?

The fun bits, though, came along in the least expected way. You see, the game really isn’t optimized for the iPhone 4, so sometimes it runs a little choppy or glitches out, or just plain crashes. During those times, since the game is programmed to carry on for a little while after being closed, weird shit would happen until I could reload it and try to un-fuck the whole mess.

That mutant radroach? One of those crashes. All at once my production facilities had hit capacity and some radroaches attacked a power plant I was rushing to build up the energy stores. Well, when they attacked it tried to zoom in on the room while all those other rooms were demanding attention, and the whole fucking thing locked up for like five minutes. By the time I got it closed and reloaded, two rooms full of people had died and the one remaining radroach proved itself entirely invulnerable to all my best men and guns.

The game crashed again, and everything went back to normal, sans all the dead people.

This happened a few times during such attacks, but that was the only one which actually proved immortal. It was a little bit of a pain in the ass trying to keep the game going at times, but see how I suffer for your amusement?!

Then the end came last night, and I knew with the way it was going that I had the perfect ending. Naresh and Daniel were out scavenging for nearly two real-time days, and they had my best weapons, and though everyone else in the vault was armed by that point, I was woefully unprepared for a Deathclaw attack. The first wave hit, then the game crashed, then I came back and that wave had miraculously died without killing anyone, but I was entirely out of clean water. I spent an hour trying to restock my water supply, but every time I got close, a fire would break out, a few radroaches would attack, or the couple I left in the living quarters for the express purpose of churning out babies would cause my camera to go wonky as it tried to zoom in on them rushing into the back room to bang like rabbits and knock her up in 20 seconds flat…

So the game crashed. A lot.

Eventually, I got my water stores back up to capacity, but by then everyone had been drinking irradiated water for so long that half their health bars were consumed by radiation and everyone in the Vault was complaining that they didn’t feel well, though there was a hand growing out of their stomach, worried about glowing in the dark, etc… etc…

Then came the Deathclaws. With half-health, no one stood a chance. The bastards laid waste to the place and by the time they finally DID die (to the Emperor’s plasma rifle and Rex’s missile launcher), so had a lot of supporting players. Oddly, none of the Kuraneses died, though Rex had to bury a lot of children that day. It was the perfect ending, handed to me by the gods of silicon who live in this old phone.

I may return to Vault 223 some day, but for now we’re just gonna let them be. The Overseer is gone. Mr. Gutsy Model 223-FU has gone to sleep. That fucking Mr. Handy is still roaming around, and the Emperor has secured his legacy through a pact with the Brotherhood of Steel. Who knows when we’ll see them again, or if we will at all. I guess it depends on if I ever get in the mood to torture myself fighting the game for story material!

I’ll see about dumping the whole run into a separate page later when I feel like poking around my WordPress tools a little more than I have so far, just so there’s a permanent location for the first work of fiction I’ve actually put up here (though some would like you to believe everything I write is made up bullshit, and they might not be far from the truth). Hopefully someone liked it, and if not, well, fuck you.

But if you work for Bethesda and want to hire me to write additional content? That’d be cool. I could use a paying gig!

In the meantime, this whole ordeal inspired an urge in me I haven’t had in years: to replay the original Fallout in all its glory. It took a little bit of fuckery to get it to work in widescreen format on my Unbuntu Linux laptop, but my fuck is it beautiful to be wandering the wasteland as the original Vault Dweller once more. It’s a far cry from the batshit insanity that is Vault 223, but Vault 13 will always welcome me home with open arms (as it demands I  find a fucking water chip before they all die like the 223 dicks).