The State of My Blog

At one point in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Mr. Wednesday states that America is the only country that worries about what it is. I do have some disagreements with that statement. You will notice it is not so much that America supposedly doesn’t know what it is, but it seems like it is concerned with what it is, where it came from, and what it might be becoming.

It isn’t uncommon for me to start off a piece of writing, or conversation, with a tangent and slowly try to lead into some kind of relevance. I know there have been many times when I’ve annoyed friends and loved ones with this roundabout way of getting to the point. But I’ll tell you.

I have forty-three Blog entries so far talking about a variety of different, but somewhat related things and it’s only after I deleted a forty-fourth one that I have actually started to get really self-conscious about what I’m writing on here. I’m concerned about what this Blog is and what I want it for. The question is not whether or not I want to continue it, because I obviously do.

The best way to explain it is that I thought I found my voice and–in fact–I sometimes still think I do. My tone and voice is a tenuous mixture of the formal and the profane: heightened diction, like my professors liked to call it, and slang. I focus on writing and the creative process while sometimes I do write a little about my feelings on those matters. It’s a strange alchemical mixture: and a lens through I feel I’m making to engage in information and issues beyond myself.

A little while ago on Facebook, I put as my status that I felt like I was playing Hermann Hesse’s Glass-Bead Game and utterly enjoying it. The Glass-Bead Game was something that was never really described except as something of a creative outline but–from what I understand–it was a game which people would take lore from different sciences and arts to create some kind of very intricate and beautiful interactive pattern. One example that Hesse’s novel likes to use is how some players combine certain kinds of music and historical lore together: to show how they relate to each other even if they are in different forms.

I wish I could explain it more, but basically this is how I feel when I write an entry here. I feel like I am engaging the massive amount of human knowledge that the Internet has, while knowing it comes in different forms of experience, and somehow trying to express their relations and differences in an entry. I obviously choose things that interest me or make me feel passionate. At the same time, I feel sometimes that each entry builds on a theme or an overall structure that I can’t really explain beyond that.

This Blog is important to me. The issue I had with the Blog entry that I deleted–the first entry I deleted–is that I tried to combine two general and personal ideas like I usually do and it didn’t … fit into this Blog. It just stood out in a jarring sort of way. In my review of Craig Thompson’s graphic novel Habibi, I mention how the rhythm was just off and this was a similar situation. I tried editing it, but I realized that it just didn’t fit and–worse–to me it just sounded asinine. I saved it for myself–because I do think there is some personal value in it that might come back here again in some way or form–but it was the wrong way of trying to communicate something. Really, it was a result of me trying to be too damned clever: something that you certainly need to watch out for when you are a writer of any kind because the temptation is definitely there.

Of course, I also realized that–for me–deleting a post would set a precedent for myself here and I began to wonder where to draw the line. Should I delete every post that has an emotion in it? Would anyone read something is simply information? Where do you draw that line?

Of course there are other considerations like thinking about how many times I repeat myself without thinking about it. I think what really bothered me about the post I deleted–which my attempt to combine an examination of money as an extension of the human ritual of exchange, and my decision to eventually affiliate this Blog with Amazon Associates–is that it did sound asinine and I tried to make the fact that I need money more grandiose than it is.

The fact is, I am going to get personal to a degree here. That is a fact. The title of this Blog says as much. The question is: what is the purpose of this Blog? And I will say this right now. It is to get me out there. It is for people to notice what I can do as a writer of fiction and articles. I also want it to supplement my ultimate goal: which is to get paid for my work and to do something that I frankly love. I also want this Blog to point people out to books, films, comics, video games and other things that I like and maybe even encourage them to get them as well.

One thing I was concerned with is that by affiliating myself with Amazon–even though I’ve written reviews for them many times and love their services–is that somehow I’d be selling out: even for a very small amount of income. But the thing is I want to get to the point where I can support myself with what I do and I feel that this is the beginning of that process. So I will make my affiliation with Amazon. Getting money or the potential of that is a bonus to what I want to do here for me and that is exactly what I am going to do in the way that best suits me.

In fact, one of the major reasons I started this Blog was because I know now–and I’ve always known–is that I have to do things in my own way. This obviously not the “be all, end all” for what I want to do, but I really look forward to seeing what I can do with this Blog, with what I write in it, with the connections I can make with it, and beyond all of that. So right now, that is what this Blog is: a companion and aide in discovering what it is I can do after years of studying and writing things here and there.

I’m also going to try to pace myself in what I write here, but just keep writing because I enjoy it and I am so glad that there are people out there that are interested in what I have to say. Sometimes it does feel like the Glass-Bead Game the way I see it in my head: like writing here is one great interactive game of information-shifting, manipulation, and combination.

I said that this Blog and the premise behind it was a promise to myself to keep going and that is exactly what I am going to do. So I hope that you will continue to Follow me, that more of you will Follow me, that maybe sometimes you will click on a highlighted link on a book, film, or video game title here to see if you might want to read or play them, and that you can watch what I do to the best of my ability. Take care everyone.

Dreams of Lost Pixels, Hand Eye, and More Video Game Ramblings

I know I’ve said this before, but I am not a video game expert. Like I’ve said, I’ve played some video games in recent times but I have been very eclectic about what I will play, or even watch being played. It doesn’t mean I hate them and I do keep track of some that really catch my eye. I’m very partial to role-playing games and the only reason I hadn’t played as many as I would have liked is because I have had issues with time and money: in that I don’t always have a lot of either.

But I am interested in video games: specifically their game-play, their story lines or premises, and their choice of aesthetics. I like the idea of an interactive story that can translate itself or spread itself across multimedia.

I don’t say this often, but at one time I wanted to be a graphic designer in order to make video games and animation. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the programming skills and the teachers that I had couldn’t teach me in a way that I could engage or absorb. It’s funny because, once, I really used to love technology. Some of you might laugh at this: those of you who know me personally. I used to think that video game technology, for instance, along with the Internet and computers would only get better with time and it could only go up from there.

I’m not sure what happened. I think I was into PC games a lot and I never had a good enough computer. I also didn’t want to get sucked into online games and I saw the quality of some console games change and not for the better. Also, in my How to Turn a Medium into a Genre I mention how I felt a misguided amount of shame for playing “old and obsolete childish games.” I’m also glad I really got over that nonsense. I do think the real reason I don’t like to play many video games is because I know I will get invested into them if they are really good and I get worried about losing time and also getting too … attached to something: to the point of being sad when it is over, or upset when my skills fail me past a certain point. Sometimes, as weird as this sounds, I get concerned about caring too much about a game.

Now, let me say this: I was really happy to be at the Comics Vs. Games element of TCAF this year. I really loved just playing some of the games with some person I just met there. It felt different and new. To make this story, if you want to call it that, even more interesting as a person who has not played a lot of contemporary video games and likes to watch a lot and remember old games, I have been interested in writing plots for and–really–just writing video games.

I know: now I am just a paradox. Now before anyone starts to tell me how foolish these thoughts are, I am aware of that. I have read and heard enough from some people in the industry–or who are getting into it–to have a little bit of an idea as to how hard it is to get into the industry and to do the amount of work and research to create a game. It isn’t something to do on a whim.

So, like I said, I came across Comics Vs. Games and saw this situation where artists were being paired off with video game creators to make games together. And … I don’t really know what to say: something in me just felt really happy to see that. Another part of me also felt immensely jealous because–once–it was a dream of mine. I am a writer. I have not really published anything for monetary gain as of yet and I am not exactly at a stage where my writing is popular. I know I am not there yet.

So I went back on to the above website and saw that Miguel Sternberg–the indie game designer and pixel artist who organized Comics Vs. Games–has been working on a new project. You should definitely check out his page Spooky Squid Games because there are a lot of very innovative and intriguing goodies on there that you probably all know about because you’ve kept with the times: including the game Guerilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution where the object of the game is to play as protagonist Molly Greenthumb who gardens to subvert a totalitarian regime. Essentially, you grow plants to not only improve your city, to make it “green” again, but to also allow provide morale to other citizens to peacefully overthrow the State. It sounds like a cheerfully subversive game that creates a social commentary about our own culture and also refers to a few similar instances of this phenomena that have actually happened in our world. In fact, it has resonance with Roger Doiron’s TED Lecture My Subversive (Garden) Plot.

But the game that has really gotten my attention–just today–is one called They Bleed Pixels. God, I can’t begin to tell you just how beautiful I find that title. Imagine a pixelated Goth girl character who can change her hands into claws as she goes and kills creatures with pixelated stylized violence and blood. You literally see tiny squares of red gush in fountains as she creates combo attacks–with numbers appearing above them–in midair sometimes. I really like the deceptively simplistic aesthetic and the music suits the background.

It makes me genuinely happy to see something like this. There is also another interesting gameplay element in that “save points” have to be made by you and you have to expend your own points gained in battle to make them. In other words, it costs you to make save points and makes the game more challenging and forces you to be more versatile. It makes you interact with that world much more: giving you the power to manipulate your reality but also having to play by the ad-hoc rule you make for yourself. The controls are apparently very easy and precise to make without having to resort to ridiculously complicated button-mashing to fight, though I am just repeating what I have more or less read. Also, I read that they are making a silent comic to tell this character’s story about her interaction with a Necronomicon-like book and beyond.

I would definitely play this game: if only to relieve some blood-lust, which is always a plus for a game in my opinion. It might not be an RPG, but it looks fun and I like fun.

You know, sometimes I feel like I’m a fake for writing about video games and other things of which I do not have expertise. But do you know why I am writing about this? It’s because it interests me. It is partially the world-building and interactive parts, but it also appeals to a part of me I don’t always get to express. I’ll let you in on a secret too: I actually wrote a very rough script for a RPG video game: one that would definitely need a Restricted Sign if I ever posted it serially here or anywhere else: if only because of its sometimes tasteful, though definitely (if somewhat questionably) mature content. It was a 16-bit game with some ideas for interactive game-play. I actually think of it as a parody of an RPG video game script with a lot of meta-narrative fourth-wall breaking.

I’ll also say this: if I ever get to the point where I am considered a professional or well-known “artist of words” and someone ever offers to do a video game collaboration with me, I will probably not turn them down. In the meantime, I have been looking at the Hand Eye Society which is a non-profit organization that deals with organizing video game projects and supporting Toronto’s video game community. I’m not sure if they are still having socials, but they have mentioned volunteer opportunities on there and I am contemplating finding out more about this.

I may well be an amateur writer and general enthusiast, but when I look at these links I realize that these people do things with the medium of a video game that I never thought possible or really thought about and I think that is just bad-ass. I also really love creative things and it would definitely be something new. In any case, it is something to think about. I hope that this has been an interesting, if somewhat long post.

The End?

Magic in Progress: A Review of Andrew Eckhart’s The Last Mage

I also posted this on Muse’s Success: a Wiki of serialized Web Fiction and reviews. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Check out Andrew Eckhart’s Web Novel at Last Mage or just look at my collection of Links on the right lower hand side of Mythic Bios

“Magic in Progress”

I’ve always been interested in Mages. Warriors can get very stereotypical in the Fantasy genre, and even the stereotypes of mages are a fascinating basis to start from. So one day, just on a lark, I typed in the phrase “last mage” into google to see what I would get: if it would be some kind of game or RPG stats for a variant class of spell-caster: because god knows there are a great many of those.

Instead, I found a story: the story that I am reviewing right now. In some ways perhaps it might not be fair for me to review Last Mage at this time. Even now that this story’s time as a Web Serial Novel is over–that Andrew Eckhart continuously worked on for twenty chapters and many more parts later–it has and it is a work in progress.

The fact of the matter is that Andrew wrote this novel as a work in progress. From the very beginning, he made no secret of the fact. So yes. There were spelling and grammatical errors, but nothing that couldn’t and can’t be easily fixed. Some names changed. Some character motivations were expanded upon. He made this a very interactive process. He asked for feedback and he got it. Even now, he has even stated that he is still in the process of editing this work but we–and some people even more so with email subscriptions–got to see it evolve before our very eyes. It is a rare and good thing to see the creation and creative process of a novel and it is even more doubly so with regards to Last Mage.

So what is Last Mage? Last Mage is a story about a man named Elijah Valentine who gives a writer an interview with regards to how he saved the entire Earth and all of reality. It is nothing more and definitely nothing less than that. But I still feel as though I’m not doing it Justice or–should I say–I’m leaving Law out of it and only Justice. 😉 Sorry I couldn’t resist, if you read the story you will get my reference.

As for the feel of Last Mage: imagine Dr. Who, mixed with a little Sandman, StarGate, X-Files, and some superhero elements for good measure. Imagine following a team of very human–if not completely human–characters and beings and realizing that one person’s story is only one focal point for an entire constructed world. This world can be unwieldy at times, but it is a work in progress and Andrew spends a lot of time, effort, and detail–particularly on the short stories he’s included on his website–to create a really varied and complex world. I would even venture for you to consider that his world is–in some cases quite literally–multi-dimensional and events function in it on many different levels with the echoes of personal consequences resonating through each and every facet.

In some ways, this is a very straightforward story, but it is also very complex with enough moral ambiguity, unstated stories and philosophical quandary to be considered quite human. Overall, I see Last Mage becoming something great: if it isn’t already and I just as I looked forward to reading each new part to the tale, I especially look forward to its sequel.

Andrew Eckhart is doing an excellent job because you know that a magical ritual–especially in fiction–is never ever quite finished.

Rating: 9/10

Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Dieselpunk, Mediums, Genres, and Making Choices

Going to the Steam on Queen Fair on Saturday made me think about some things. And despite the adage that if there aren’t photos it didn’t happen, I was there. There were booths with various things: including a squid-headed cane (which I still insist was Cthulhu without his batwings), a decoration of a spider made out of metal parts, some vintage-looking ray guns, and so on.

What really got me–though–were the costumes. Some people really got into the spirit of the thing in an insane way: with women in elaborate bodice-dresses, hats and coiffed hair, men in suits, and people even wearing turn of the twentieth century summer dresses, bowler hats and suits that looked more at home in the Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea than twenty-first century Toronto. Add some clock-work props and Steampunk aesthetics and you pretty much see what you get. It was like going into a time-warp.

The event took place at the Campbell House off Osgoode Station and it was like being in a shady verdant bubble of alternate Steam Age reality while being surrounded by a busy and summery contemporary world. The inside of the house had various Steampunk exhibits: one drawing room looking like a makeshift Victorian workshop and laboratory while outside were singers and even a bawdy dance or two. But one group of people that really caught my interest were two women sitting on a blanket in the grass dressed as though they came from Avonlea: The Lost Ladies of Zion Schoolhouse.

These lovely and adorable ladies–having found themselves lost from 1910–are on a quest to find their way back to it again. They also represent the Gibson House Museum and Zion Schoolhouse which hosts birthdays, historic dinners and special theatre events using said “costumed” interpreters to immerse people into a Victorian-Edwardian frame of mind.

But after going to this Fair, I started thinking about Steampunk: as well as more pesky considerations of how to view a medium’s growing complexity. Steampunk is a science-fictional genre–with consequent costume aesthetics–that generally operates from an alternate nineteenth to early twentieth century that utilizes the power of Steam in its day-to-day technology. Yet I have always felt it was more than that. I always believed that Steampunk hearkens back to that old Victorian utopian mindset of Science being a power of benevolence and constant progress. You can see it in a lot of Victorian literature and media of that time. Yes, in the genre there are people who use Science and Steam Age technology for evil, but they are always countered by “the good guys.” There is swashbuckling, an ideal of honour, and a lot of anachronistic versions of modern technology powered by steam and sometimes–if it is very special–there is still magic and the supernatural coexisting alongside all of this as well.

It seems a sunnier world, doesn’t it, or at least the conception I’m talking about. I have a friend who thinks Steampunk is all about the costumes now and a certain kind of elitism: which I think is hilarious seeing where it derives itself from historically and culturally. But on Saturday, all I saw was people having fun and one can never get tired of seeing that. I also think that Steampunk is our time’s way of creating a genre–a sort of retroactive genre–of an alternate form of progress where Science and Adventure are still seen as these great forces with good intentions.

Because of course you have Steampunk’s alternate: Cyberpunk. If Steampunk is an attempt at utopian fiction, Cyberpunk is dystopian. It is a world where generally technology and science have invaded the lives of its people to an insane degree. These worlds are generally polluted and corruption is everywhere and no one of authority can be trusted. There generally aren’t “good guys” in the traditional sense, but there are definitely survivors. I think that for a time we leaned more towards Cyberpunk because it was exemplifying just what our world was turning into. I also think Steampunk was a reaction to that dark mindset: because while Cyberpunk seems to talk about where we are heading, Steampunk seems to be a deceptively nostalgic genre that talks about what could have been … and yet by doing so, it encourages what could be too.

These are both obviously generalizations. It is tempting to get caught up in them. For instance, there are some historians that say that the Western world’s general optimism about Science and progress was ultimately destroyed at the advent of World War I: when that same knowledge that should have helped people was used to destroy and degrade them instead. It is tempting–at least for me–to wonder if there would have been a World War in an alternate Steam Age. Of course, there could have been: just with different tools because human beings do not change that much with different technology.

But I sometimes wonder what our world would have been like without World War I. What would have happened if those generations of young soldiers hadn’t died? Or what would have happened if the Holocaust had never occurred? Who would they have become? What would our world have been like?

You see how tempting those lines of thought are. I guess you could say: “Okay Matthew, maybe you should write a book or story about that or something instead making these suppositions,” and I’d say sure: when I am more qualified or there is an angle that catches my mind and I can build on with the knowledge that I have.

I’m also tempted to talk about Dieselpunk: about a genre (some say a sub-genre of Cyberpunk) that has 1950s technology and a 1920s or 30s culture. You can definitely find influences from Steampunk and Cyberpunk: save that it is a genre that centres around the internal combustion engine, diesel fuel, and the discovery of nuclear power while computers and the Internet are not quite there yet. I believe it is still a contested or developing genre and subgenre and I find it amazing just what can actually be classified under it. It is a genre I am really interested in and I think I can relate to a lot more because it is closer to our world and time-line in a less nostalgic way. Of course, there are a lot of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon moments in this genre as well: as exemplified by Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Hell, you can even say that Captain America and the Hulk are some examples of Dieselpunk superheroes if you’d like: with the retro-50s aesthetics, science-fiction serial feel, mentality as well.

And here I go on a tangent again. As I was thinking about all of this, I started thinking back to what I said about video games–about how mediums can turn into genres–and I began to ask myself this question: what does it mean when a medium can turn into a genre? What does that mean? And I think that if I had to give a one-word answer, it would be choice.

I think that when you can choose to go beyond the technical and ideological aspects of a medium–of what you can materially and creatively do–then you can create a genre or something that defies genre entirely. When you have the options, or make the options to do something different with a familiar convention, when can choose to do so, that is the moment when everything changes and variances can be made. It’s about there being an option and therefore being able to make a creative choice.

Because, in the end, that is what being creative is about. It’s about making choices and knowing that we can always do so: whether you want to dress like a grease-monkey, wear a soldier’s uniform with a clock-work eye, look like a hacker, draw it, or write about all of it.

I think I’m going to let the “Lost Ladies” end this entry off. Though I imagine it to be somewhat frightfully inconvenient to become lost from your own time period, there is just something encouraging to see them making do with their picnic basket and afternoon tea. If only getting lost in time were that convenient and pleasant. Say your hellos, ladies and gentlemen.

Naming the Unnameable and a Tangent about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

So despite what it looks like, this story was not inspired by my “The Tragedy of Kishuna” entry: or at least not directly. I will admit it is convenient that way though and I do think that there is some kind of theme forming and uniting this entire Writing Blog as I keep going at it.

A night or so before I wrote “Unnameable,” I had an idea about Frankenstein’s creature and how–because he had his creator’s Journal–he had the potential to make more of his own kind. To be honest, aside from that thought I didn’t give the matter much more thought beyond that and went on to other things. Then the next morning I found myself compelled for the first time in a while to write the story down in my actual Mythic Bios notebook and as I was writing it more chains of ideas continued to form. It’s funny how a half-awake, tired state can influence the creative process. Then I realized that my story was not completely about Frankenstein’s creature at all and went even further.

So there were two twists of the plot-knife as it were followed by a moment of attempted profoundity at the very end of the piece. I could almost make that into a formula in its own right and I have to say that I’ve also always been good at creating parodies of my own work. I parody myself well: though I’m always still learning more.

That said, I’m not sure if the ending works well. I did want to make something of a transcendent moment or even a catchy statement. I always thought that Victor Frankenstein was an irresponsible, dysfunctional, and stupid parent for making something and then abandoning it when it quite inevitably did not fulfill his unrealistic aesthetic expectations. Seriously, man, don’t expect something made out of dead body-parts to smell like roses after just a bit of galvanization!

And he’s an idiot too for not looking at the details, but I digress. I think in some ways this story and its end was also my response to something I read once which said that there was “no way” Mary Shelley could have written Frankenstein: that it was really her husband the poet Percy Shelley that did so. Well, I think I would be understating my response if I said I think that is total bullshit.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. The end. Did she have critical and editorial help from her husband? I’m sure. Did she have access to her father’s library growing up, his tutelage, and then her own even without a university or college education? I’m also sure of that. Did she participate in intimate Victorian writing circles of friends and develop her craft? What do you think? And whose mother was Mary Wollenstonecraft: feminist writer and creator of A Vindication of the Rights of Women? Whose writing Percy Shelley even said he admired? Yes, that’s right and even if Mary Shelley hadn’t read her mother’s work, her influence was there.

So I guess in some creative way some of my opinions got in there, though that’s obviously not what my story is about. It’s really just a story about something that interests me. I also always wondered what the creature’s bride would have looked like if she had been completed: aside from the Hollywood image of the hysterical woman with the frizzy dark hair with the white streak that we all have of her now.

I’m also really fascinated with stories about how people try–and sometimes succeed–in creating life in an artificial way, and what that means. I know that I have and I will return to this theme in various ways. In any case, I notice I got somewhat ranty this time around, so I will just go back to rambling in my next post if that’s all the same to you. I make no promises though. 😉 I never do.

Unnameable

Because I don’t have a Name, I have power.

Didn’t you know that, Father? Didn’t you even consider it? I’m almost surprised. Names have power and even after all of this time the only conclusion that I can come to is that you made me out of a sense of that power: out of a lust for it.

What did you think would happen that night, those nights, those years ago? I know what I’m made from. It is no secret to me. I’m spare parts: I’m fleshly components dug up from graveyards and charnel houses. My blood is a mixture of alchemical liquids and the modern contents of test tubes. I’m the sum total of clinical science and abstract mysticism’s search into that age-old question neither they–nor you–ever answered as to what exactly it is that a soul might be made from.

Did you think the electricity would transfigure me, Father? Did you believe that based on all my base elements that galvanization would somehow change my dead, scarred body-parts into something new and beautiful: something beyond human?

Honestly, Father, what did you think would happen once you finished your “work?” Did you honestly think I would be beautiful? Did you? Did you?

Did you honestly think that you knew what you were doing? Well, I’ve read your Journal–the one you so foolishly lost–and I read a lot of the how but never really saw the why of it. Neither of us did.

Oh Father, even though he only refers to you as “creator” he did learn from you nonetheless. Did you really think that all he learned to do was speak from the Journal you accidentally left him when you ran away? Oh yes. The arrogance of it: to think that an unnamed, mute creature that could teach himself how to talk and read from snippets of stolen conversation and a pseudo-scientific notebook couldn’t teach himself about himself. We are creature of fire, Father: of lightning and fire.

In fact, so are you and your kind. The only difference is that while the current inside of you, inside the womb that made, inside the generations of you has diluted into a mere spark of the thing that jump-started the primordial ooze from whence your genetic ancestors sprang, the power inside of us is far more recent and purer. An accidental haphazard creature of awkward clay may have put our bodies together, but our souls came directly from the sky itself! Like manna from the heavens, Father, like the fire of Prometheus made incarnate! How can a petty human soul even begin to compare to that?

You never did think about what you made those nights ago, did you? But while you never really dared to think about it, you did do it, didn’t you?

Because here lies the irony. After you sewed me up like a strumpet-scarecrow of flesh and bone, in a sudden fit of “conscience” you dismembered me before I was even born: just so my mate and I would not proliferate the world with our “abominations.” He really did just want it to be him and I with perhaps a few children in an isolated place far away from the likes of you.

But because of your cowardly actions that night, you left him with no other choice. Your work–I–was not unsalvageable. Like a masculine Isis, he put me together again–a feminine Osiris–and he breathed the same life into me from the source from which he gained it.

And this was your mistake, Father. If you had fulfilled your promise there might have been only the two of us. Certainly our bodies–made from dead matter–might never have been able to issue offspring on their own. Yet while my own womb might be dead, and his seed non-existent, our hands are neither.

We have children now, Father. Life finds a way. My mate read your Bible. He told me the story of Adam: of how God Named him and in turn Adam Named the world. And that was your second mistake. By not Naming him, your Adam now has the power to rename or unname this world in our image and–as your unnamed Eve–I’ve given him the impetus to do so.

But I’ve given him more than that. In the height of your arrogance, you tried to create life: a life without a mother … some aborted thing made from the sterile emptiness of a cold and unfeeling man. But I have given us a Mother. I’ve found her out. We are beings of lightning and fire. We see past the seeming of things. And while you think that you–as a man–made us, in reality she–a fragile, tentative, fiery being–made us all.

Because, in the end, she made the idea of us. We are her living ideas.

You do not even have that Father, sperm-donor, digger of corpses, words on a page, a dead man now and forever. You might have died, but I have unnamed you in all the ways that matter. This is our final testament–a page in a Journal that no one but us will ever see–the beginning of a new world that we will build as it was meant to be: a world without Names.

Fire Emblem Blazing Sword, Games as Silent Dramas, and the Tragedy of Kishuna

During the last years of my Undergrad, I bought two used games (and no, this is not the beginnings of a creepypasta): Final Fantasy I and II and Fire Emblem. I got through the first part of Final Fantasy pretty easily and then the until part held no more interest for me. It was too simplified and hadn’t yet reached that point of complex plots, captivating character development, and entertaining gameplay. So then I started playing Fire Emblem Blazing Sword.

I have to say: I was astounded. Up until that point I’d never found a strategy RPG more captivating, more fun, more incredibly frustrating to the point of me throwing it across the room than Fire Emblem. Up until this point I’d thought that there were no other games aside from Final Fantasy that had that combination of complex characters and fun gameplay. But it was the characters and the extra content that intrigued me the most.

And so today, I am going to talk about a character that doesn’t get mentioned a lot in the game or anywhere outside of the Fire Emblem Wiki site. I am going to talk about Kishuna.

Who is Kishuna? And this where we get into a bit of spoiler territory. When you first run into Kishuna in Fire Emblem, he comes unannounced and unexpected. He is a red-robed being whose very thin and pale face is covered by a hood. Kishuna is accompanied by a group of very immensely powerful Morphs–mystically artificial beings that you encounter more and more as the game progresses–and they are hard to kill. Another thing you need to know about Kishuna himself is that he doesn’t attack you. No. But his mere presence–his aura–is powerful enough to neutralize all of your offensive and healing magic. So as long as you are in the blocks affected by his red aura, you can’t use your magic at all. He is called a “Magic Seal” for that reason.

So Kishuna–who is an enemy–arrives to mess up another enemy’s plans: the enemy you have to defeat. I can only conjecture that he is there out of pure spite: because he pretty much hates everyone for what happened to him. So, you can kill him with conventional weapons: however, he is very hard to hit and your speed and accuracy has to be exceptional to do so. If you do manage to kill him after some considerable effort in the protagonist Eliwood’s Chapter, he dies and that is the end of him. But if you are playing Hector’s Chapter, that is a whole other story: a whole other story indeed.

I won’t go into any more particulars about game-play requirements to do all of this. You can find all of this stuff pretty much here. As you come to the Nabata Desert, you see Kishuna again in an underground complex. The screen transitions into a flashback of a blurred naked spindly pale being in a magic circle standing in front of Nergal: the main antagonist of this game. Nergal created Kishuna as an experiment to see if he could make an alchemical being with emotions. The screen transitions back to Kishuna–surrounded by an army of his elite Morphs–and his only dialogue just as it was in the previous time you met him is, “…”

When you come to him here, you sense a lot of hostility and anger. But then if you beat him he seems to die again. If you are doing things properly, towards the end of the game you will encounter Kishuna one more time. He is in another set of underground ruins and he is having a flashback of Nergal coldly and callously rejecting him: telling him he was a mistake and that he should go and rot somewhere for all he cares. All Kishuna ever says as the flashback transitions away is, “…”

As you go towards him, you have a character in your group–the same one who sensed him earlier–who detects him again but also feels from him loneliness and intense sadness. After you kill his Morphs–and I always wondered where he got those Morphs from since he was a reject: I assume he either made them himself or they were more rejected Morphs from Nergal that he just gathered together in silent, resentful company beneath the bowels of the world–you have to kill him.

Your characters never learn Kishuna’s name or even know what he is. He never speaks. And at the end, when you finally kill him, it’s almost like he has just given up. It’s as though the failed Morph wants to die.

I don’t think I ever felt so … sorry for a fictional non-player character until this point. Imagine a being who was made as an experiment–with feelings–who is abandoned and then meditates on his creator’s abandonment of him for what seems to be centuries. Each flashback and transition shows this sprite meditating on the futility and loneliness of his existence. But that is only one aspect of the tragedy of Kishuna.

You see, assuming you did everything right game mechanics-wise, by encountering Kishuna in these ways you also unlock Nergal’s back story. You find out more about the Dark Druid: that he really had been a good man once and the road to hell for him had been paved with good intentions. In that first flashback with him and Kishuna, Nergal seems less hostile towards his creation–having just made him then–and seems more intrigued by his existence. He says something to the effect of, “It is said that man was sculpted by the hands of the gods. If so, then you, who was sculpted by these, my hands …And I, whose labours gave you breath and life… What are we then? What does that make us? In your fabricated heart, which I gave unto you, what is it you believe Kishuna?”

It is almost as though Nergal made him to appeal and examine feelings he cannot–or will not–examine in himself anymore. But I think what is even more telling than his creation of Kishuna is his violent renunciation of him. When he calls Kishuna–one of his earliest experiments–weak, a pale imitation, and worthless he isn’t so much calling Kishuna that as he is referring to the last of his lost humanity. And I think that is the saddest thing of all: that the tragedy of Kishuna isn’t just his existence, but how he represents Nergal’s double: as the dregs of humanity that the Dark Druid ultimately rejects. When Nergal talks to Kishuna–like any artist or creator–he is really talking to himself.

Some people might say to me that I’m reading too much into this: that this is just a video game and has no more value beyond simple entertainment. But a video game is a medium for storytelling. In many ways, video games–such as role-playing games–are a lot like interactive silent movies with dialogue and mimed movements of characters. The fact that with these sprites and words the creators of this game managed to convey such nuance and depth of emotion and character is a tremendous feat of creativity.

I’ll also tell you something a little more personal. I started playing–and continued to play–Fire Emblem in my last years of Undergrad because I’d had a really difficult breakup: my first one. So I engrossed myself into this game. I immersed myself into that world that wasn’t my own. I got attached to characters and situations there. In some ways I felt like I was doing more in that world than in mine. I know how that sounds, but that is also how–to some extent–it was.

What I really liked about this game is that it makes you into a character. You are a tactician and you can name yourself. Your characters refer to you and ask you for advice. When I first met Lyn, the Sacae plains-woman and master swordswoman, she–to an extent–began to feel like the friends I felt I didn’t have in reality anymore. But when I ran into Nergal, he reminded me of all the mistakes I made and just how far from my goal I became. And with Kishuna, I emphasized with what it felt like to feel abandoned and left filled with rage and sorrow.

If a game can do that, it is a good game and–as far as I am concerned–an excellent art-form. So here is my tribute to Fire Emblem and Kishuna: perhaps an under-appreciated but an ultimately very important and human character.