We Interrupt These Stories to Bring You Andrez Bergen, Great Capes and GeekPron

Originally, I was going to make the month of October 2013 Storytime for Mythic Bios: if only because for the past three entries I have been posting up stories. And I was going to do it again today until it occurred to me that there are two updates that I need to make.

So first of all, I am friends with Andrez Bergen: an author and musician whose Blog you can find under a cap-locks version of his name right here with the subtitle: a wayward soapbox for author/hackwriter Andrez Bergen. He has written a few books, but the one that I have read is his new Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?: of which you can either click on the previous link or look at Heropa itself. Basically, imagine a virtual reality world modelled after an original Silver Age comics universe where players can be either superheroes or villains. Then add to it with the fact that it operates on the Comics Code Authority rules: such as no swearing, fraternizing between hero and villain roles, drinking in public, revealing your secret identity, and then some. And then complicate it by having set in a dystopian offline society and have the dregs of it start to affect this ideal world.

I actually met Andrez in the WordPress Blogsphere when, I believe, I wrote My Best Friend Was a Sith Lord. What it seems like in this amateur version of Blog archaeology or psychogeography is that Andrez commented on my entry and I commented back, followed him to his site where his book was being promoted and still in the process of being finalized … and the rest is history that can be summed up into a continuing friendship and a consequent Sequart article published yesterday entitled Revisionism Comes to a Silver Age: Or Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?

Suffice to say, I am really pleased with how the above article turned out and if you are interested please buy Andrez’s book, look at my article and read through Sequart’s really fascinating scholarship on the medium of comics and everything it has influenced. You can find the link to Sequart through my article or my Blogroll on the right-hand side of Mythic Bios proper.

It is just amazing how things can come together: and in ways that you didn’t even think of beforehand. I also have another element of news. As you might have seen from my Blogroll, I have been following G33kPr0n for some time now. What you might not know is that they were looking for some contributing writers and, after sending them some work, you are looking at one of the newest members of the G33kpr0n Contributing Writer Staff. 😀

I didn’t want to say anything until I posted my first article and made it official. It is different writing for G33kPr0n than for Mythic Bios, but it has opened various new avenues to me: if only out of sheer geeky enthusiasm. My first article actually covers The Dark Crystal Author Quest and outlines it for the readers of G33kPr0n. I am also getting revitalized for my work for the Quest as well in creating my story. I know what I want it to be about and the rest is now a question of details and time. Suffice to say, I have a whole lot of ideas for G33kPr0n articles, new space to collaborate with, and good awesome geeky people to share it with as well: both staff and readers.

I have wondered, however, if this will impact my writing of Mythic Bios: if I will have to cut down on articles in order to also work on my other projects … maybe to once a week instead of twice for a while. I still need to look for other avenues as well and we will just have to see where it goes. But in the meantime, yay: lots of links tonight, ladies and gentlemen and beings of all kinds. I believe I will have some other news if and when specifics are given to me as well. I have plenty of branching ideas and I just want to see how they bear fruit.

So stay turned everyone, as I become an even more obnoxiously speaking-Geek. Same Mythic time, same Mythic Bios …

Looking Outward

The Dark Crystal Author Quest

Jen Dark Crystal

If you were a child that was either born or grew up in the 1980s, chances are you watched the 1982 film called The Dark Crystal: a movie in which Jen–the last of the Gelfling race–undertakes a quest to repair the broken Crystal of Truth in the strange world of Thra while evading its many dangers and the horrors of the evil Skeksis and their Garthim minions. The world of The Dark Crystal–of Thra itself–was created by Jim Henson: the master puppeteer and creator of the Muppets, Labyrinth and many other shows and films.

The Dark Crystal is a world onto itself and despite talk about a sequel this world has only been expanded on so far in two graphic novels: Tokyopop’s Legends of the Dark Crystal and Archaia Entertainment’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths. In addition to Brian Froud’s The World of the Dark Crystal–an art book illustrated by the conceptual designer of the film itself which expands further on the actual identities and roles of the Mystics and Skeksis as well as the lore of Thra–there had been no other official creative forays into the world of The Dark Crystal

Until now.

author quest

On October 1, The Dark Crystal Author Quest began accepting submissions for the next Dark Crystal novel. It is a writing contest created and organized by the Jim Henson Company and the publisher Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group–While the Rules for this contest can be found under the Author Quest Rules and Regulations section on the site, basically anyone can submit a 75,000-10,000 word entry–either a short story or chapter excerpts–to the Contest in order to qualify for review by the Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap. Then of all those entries, five writers will be selected and go to the second round where–with revisions and editorial suggestions–they will expand their story into a 50,000 word manuscript. After that process, and in the immortal words of Highlander, there can be only one. The winner of The Dark Crystal Author Quest will thereby receive a $10,000 book contract for the next Dark Crystal young adult novel.

This story is not supposed to be a sequel. It is a prequel event that occurs during that the time of what is called The Gelfling Gathering: in which the Gelfling people, once ruled over by the Skeksis Empire, realize what their overlords truly are and begin the process of creating the Wall of Destiny or the Prophecy that will one day liberate them. It is a time where the Skeksis still rule over Thra and have supporters among the Gelfling that they will one day commit genocide against. During this time there are seven distinct Clans of Gelfling, sixteen pairs of Mystics and Skeksis that are still alive and a lot of world-building toys to work with: found in both The Gelfling Gathering Author’s Resource and the still-developing Encyclopedia, Mythological timeline and other goodies at darkcrystal.com.

As I said, submissions opened October 1 and will close December 31, 2013, so feel free to join this wonderful Contest, or the official Dark Crystal website listed above.

As the urSkek at the end of The Dark Crystal film states, everything is connected. I myself am a participant in The Dark Crystal Author Quest and as a new writer to G33kpr0n I thought I’d be very remiss in neglecting to mention the existence of such a Contest. It is a rare thing for an established creative world to be opened up like a playground to prospective writers to make what has so far generally been fanfiction into a possible literary and fantastic reality. At the top of the page is The Dark Crystal Author Quest Panel from the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con if you would like to hear about some of what it is going on from the Contest organizers themselves.

Whether as a participant or an observer, or a dedicated fan or someone coming in new to the franchise, I hope that you get to experience the expansion of cult-classic mythos that has been so inspirational to so very many.

Play It Again

It can be a video game where you can’t skip past the cut scenes. The part of you that plays your character sits disquieted, out of immersion and clicking on the controller frantically, uselessly as you watch yourself doing something stupid and you can’t stop it … or look away.

You just don’t understand. These actions are not in-character and it messes up your sense of equilibrium–of continuity–with yourself.  And even when it all works out, your brain otherwise seems to function like Super Mario RPG: including that annoying tendency to fall into pseudo-3D gaps and the frustrated screaming that comes after.

And sometimes other people laugh at you when you tell them that people give you advice behind houses and you can only find treasure by jumping in the corners of places. For when others attempt to dissect and hack those places, they do not find the sprites of others or the value of hidden items. They find nothing because, deep down, they are are only looking for nothing.

But you? You might not be real, like they are, but you are a character in a video game. Only you can see the people that hide behind bit-houses or vanish into the black squares of doors. You have the intuition to find those unseen blocks. You are the one that can hear the music of invisible secrets.

And that, my friend, says it all.

Please play again.

Boo

It thinks that I can’t see it, but I can.

I walk up the stairs to my room. Something repellent moves from the corner of my eye, but I ignore it. Now is not the time. It will be gone by the time I look. My back feels exposed and raw. No. Not yet.

I almost expect it to be in the hallway mirror. It likes to do that: staying there in the glass glowing and rotting long enough for your heart to lurch and a keening sense of wrongness–of wrong clarity–yanking your insides down, down, down like a bad realization.

I turn the corner–it always loves to hide in corners–near the bathroom and I half-expect to see its sickening, unnatural face there. But not yet. The floor creaking breaks the stillness of white noise in my ears and then, I know.

I get to my room and then turn on the light. I see it for a few seconds!

Despite myself, my back is ice. I take the time to breathe. The last time it did that, it was a pale woman in a tattered dress and a shredded eyeless face in the middle of the night. I blinked once and she was right in front of me. Then she was gone.

I climb into my bed despite the other memories. It’s worse when you can’t see it. I lean my neck against the headboard as I put my laptop with its makeshift worn plastic box prop onto my stomach. The unsettling feeling that’s been with me for a while now is prickling stronger. It likes it when I think about it. It likes it when you think about all the other times it got you before: playing its sick game of tag, and hide and go seek.

And it cheats every time.

See, it knows. It knows that I know it’s there now. It can smell it on you: that mix of anxiety and anticipation that is human fear. I move my fingers across the small cramped keyboard: looking at my email while I know it’s watching me.

Click.

Click.

Click.

My bladder is filling up. It’s getting closer. I can feel it grinning now. I’m trying not to think about the times I don’t see it … the times I don’t see it as it rocks my bed in the night, or touches me in the dark … even under the covers …

It is the only thing that can be both hider and seeker in its games, but whatever else it is always a predator.

I surf the Net to a page displaying an animated GIF of a Boo Diddley from the Super Mario games. I watch the small pixelated white cartoon ghost making faces at the back of a pot-bellied plumber, soaring towards him with a red-eyed gaze and a vicious fanged grin before the latter turns around and it covers its face: as though fading out of reality with transparent chagrin.

This ridiculous image reinforces my knowledge. I slowly look over the top of my laptop. It’s standing at my desk chair: a hideous, twisted thing out of nowhere, the farthest thing from a cute cartoon or anything else from this world …

And I will it into place.

It’s all over: just like that. I get up and keep my eyes on it. It seems like it’s struggling, but it can’t move. It is fucking repulsive. Every part of me wants to be gone from it. My skin and the nerves underneath want to crawl away from the thing, as my bones become stone. But I make myself look at it.

“I have to admit,” I tell it, as it crouches there misshapen on the carpeted floor, “I made all of you well, but I think I made you best of all.”

I feel the power of my will wash away the dregs of my fear as animal repulsion turns into a strange kind of fascination. Its body is crooked and stunted. The thing is naked too: its skin glistening with a wet kind of pale blue luminosity. It doesn’t have any eyes or ears and there is a flat line, almost like a fine horizontal gash, where its mouth could have been.

I walk slowly towards it, “Just forms in the dark,” I move slightly off to the side, “You were always there. I wanted to see … I wanted to see if I could make something like you: if you’d attack your creator.”

It makes no sound at all. The grim fascination is quickly becoming a morbid disgust: like seeing a particularly bizarre form of insect intruding into a human living space. It shouldn’t belong here, but somehow it does. And that bothers me. I pick up the baseball bat I left leaning on the side of my dresser.

“You thrive on uncertainty and seeming on the fringes of things,” I lift the bat over my head in a two-handed grip, “Sure, when you startle someone, you are all tough shit. But here, in the light, without your cover you look unreal. Fake. Just as I made you.”

It’s that age-old admonition to never reveal the monster in a horror story. Otherwise, it has no more power. It never did. I begin to swing the bat downward … until it chuckles. It is a faint, rustling form of wheezing. My bat is inches away from its face. The thin line that is its mouth twists and I more feel it than hear it speak.

“You didn’t make us.”

I … can’t move. It gets up. The fact that it is several inches shorter than me doesn’t make me feel any better. I can feel it managing to look at me without eyes. It speaks again.

“We were forms in the dark. Things in the shadows. And we’ve watched you,” its voice scraps like leaves across the pavement, “We watch you as you are born in your own filth and blood. We see you become gangly, awkward beasts with sweet-smelling hormones: though you aren’t yet ripe. You put your dripping parts into each other to make more squalling things in perpetual pain and fear of the dark and you delude yourselves into thinking that you are not alone.

“And that is the sweetest of all.”

I’m willing my eyes on the thing I made, willing my arms to swing down, to back away …

“The broken bones are an added bonus, but they aren’t necessary,” it explains to me, “the shattered dreams add spicing. Sometimes, you slit yourselves open, or smash yourselves into adolescent pulp before your maturation, before your time … as if you already know.”

It’s the first time it’s ever spoken to me. I want it to shut up. I want to make it die.

“No. Our favourites are the ones that age to ripeness and perfection: the ones that gradually begin to see themselves for what they really are, what we see you to be,” the thing’s thin mouth peels back, revealing long and yellow stinking teeth, “Hollow brittle shells of dark churning space against the pressures of gravity. You are born in pain, and you live in it, and–in the end–you die in it. Despair aged to perfection has a unique flavour.

“And then you hope it ends in death.”

The last thing I want to hear is the sound of its laughter. It reaches a long, slick bony talon towards my face, “You see, it’s not so much that you created us … it’s that we created you. We made you: to suffer in all the little banal ways first. All the hidden, shameful, unspoken, lonely human ways. We get to watch as you die slowly inside and out … and when we watch, we feast. We feast as you return to the filth you came from. We devour you as you return to the dark … from where we crafted you.

“And we love your sense of self-delusion. Because false hope … it is our delicacy.”

My bat slams down into its skull. It smashes into its face. It’s more like my body is the one in fury, my adrenaline speaking with my voice, my voice being my hands, my feet, and my weapon while my blood is my sheer unadulterated hate. My arms and fists are aching. Somehow the bat is gone and I’m beating the thing. I’m beating it to a pulp. I can’t think. I won’t think.

My fingernails gouge into its slimy skin. My teeth sink into ichor. I taste bitterness. A part of my mind knows that it will be over soon: that others will find me. Maybe it will be my family, or more of these … things. They will find me in my torn clothes with another’s blood on my chin and torn flesh in my mouth with the pulped remains of another sentient being under me. Or maybe they will find me alone, with no one else, crazy and without my mind. Perhaps they’ll take me away where the things will keep laughing at me in the dark: amused enough by my new … enlightenment to let me live on like this.

Perhaps it was never a game of tag or hide and seek. Maybe it was just a joke with the following punch-line.

I am a monster. And I don’t care.

Maybe that’s what I’ve always been. Maybe I’ve finally found what I’m really looking for. Somehow, I see myself smiling just like the Boo still flashing on my laptop screen: looking away from myself and grinning … wickedly.