I Am Getting Published In Hell

I was away last week, but I had a pretty good reason: one so compelling that I actually changed the article that I was going to post up here today.

For those of you who have been following me, you know that I’d participated in the Dark Crystal Author Quest. Unfortunately, I had too many other tasks at the time and I couldn’t deliver on that story beyond the outline and crude introduction that I posted on Mythic Bios a while ago.

What some of you might also remember was that I’d been working on another project at the time. Some months before, Janet Morris–the creator of Heroes in Hell–approached me and asked me if I wanted to write a story for her universe. Of course, I agreed. Not only do I find the world she created captivating, but it would be the first opportunity I’ve had in getting a short story of mine published into print.

Of course, I didn’t want to say anything too soon. There was not guarantee that I was actually going to get my story published. First of all, it had to be accepted first. There were a lot of challenges in even creating this story, and then editing it. Two weeks ago I was going a little crazy: hitting a major learning curve in the collaboration process. This was happening for a while, but in particular almost concurrently after showing off my Twine game and attending the GeekPr0n Third Anniversary Party.

But I was lucky in that there were good people to help me through the process, including and especially Janet Morris herself. So now, let me make it nice and official.

My story WHEN YOU GAZE INTO AN ABYSS has been accepted into the latest volume of Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell POETS IN HELL.

Poets in Hell

As a bit of background information, Heroes in Hell is a shared universe that operates on the premise that anyone who has had an interesting life will have violated one of the 613 commandments intrinsic to the fabric of a moral universe and will thus find themselves in hell. So imagine hell filled with underworld gods, fallen angels, demons, monsters, mythological figures, historical figures, genii, mass-murderers, thieves, and–well–humankind in general. And make no mistake, my friends. This is literally hell.  If you think our world is bad, and it has a lot of bad qualities, reading this will make you appreciate our world a whole lot more: as all good and intelligent literature should.

My story “When You Gaze Into An Abyss” features Lilith, the apocryphal first wife of Adam, and the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche — amongst other diabolical friends.

I look forward to hearing what you think about this story and the volume that it comes in. I can’t reiterate enough that this will be my first short story ever in print. Expect POETS IN HELL to become available on Barnes & Noble, Amazon around June to July 2014. I also believe it will be on Kindle as well along with its other volumes. I will update you all with more images and links when they arrive.

Suffice to say, and considering all the struggle it was to get to this point in time, it feels good to be a poet of hell.

This Little Party is Just Beginning

It’s been two weeks now since I posted anything on here.

Really, my post before this would could have had a few other alternative titles: you know, like “Fed Up,” or “Exhausted,” or something more responsible along the lines of “I Love You All, But I Need To Take a Fucking Break.”

So let me tell you what I’ve been doing since I last wrote here, and what I plan to do.

The very day I wrote that last post, I went to my friend Noah’s birthday dinner and then hung out with him and my friends at a Tim Horton’s: including my friend Andrew whom I haven’t talked with in ages. We just talked about geeky stuff and nothing more strenuous than that. That was about the last time I have seen my friends so far, but it reminded me that I needed to get more time out that I have, well, honestly been getting.

I’m can’t remember a lot of what I did after that. I kept meaning to write something here and I just … didn’t. I even started to get ideas again and have them become more coherent in my brain. I bought the second issue of The Sandman Overture, and then the book Darth Plagueis: the last of which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

And during this time I knew that I had a few ideas for more Sequart and Mythic Bios articles. I want to look at Gwendolyn MacEwen again, at an interesting form of comics, at a Batman fanfic comic and the second volume of the new Sandman. The material is all there. I’ve contemplated writing about women in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but figured it had already been done before and didn’t include it here: though some of that did make its way into an article on Sansa Stark on GeekPr0n. Perhaps that will happen one day.

I also thought about eventually making that article on Anakin Skywalker and how as a classic science-fiction swashbuckler hero he is at a severe disadvantage merely existing in the extreme black and white Force-powerful Star Wars universe. I have also been meaning to write something for my friend Anthony with regards to his second novel Beloved Demons.

And, of course, after one playthrough so far I also want to look at Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest. It’s fitting I guess, when you consider that this past while I’ve been depressed.

Me and my Head

At first it was all exhaustion, but then I started to get perfectionist and disillusioned and side-tracked with procrastinating. Also, I began to feel concerned that I would get restless and feel empty again: having no sense of accomplishment writing at least two hundred words a day.

So I didn’t do anything at all.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been maintaining my one post a week on GeekPr0n, as it is my job but also something I like to represent my skills well in doing, but it’d been a lot of white noise in the back of my head. Of course, that white noise is ultimately a lot of ideas that lack a structure or starting point that threatened to drive me crazy.

But now here we are. I’m writing something on here again. And now, we come to the next part of this post.

I took one proactive measure that I’m proud of. A few days ago I went downtown and made good on my Day Pass to Bento Miso: a collaborative workspace and community. Game makers utilize the space considerably, but there are a whole variety of different people that go there to work on their own projects, network, and attend particular events. I must have the strangest luck in the world in that the few times I’ve visited outside of the Bit Bazaar events, I’ve always come when most of Bento Miso’s members are at conventions.

The fact of the matter is that, as I have said before, I do need a space away from home to work, but not just on anything. There are some other projects I’ve been meaning to focus on and I have not had time or the concentration to do so. And I just need something new. So I decided to join Bento Miso as a cohort. 🙂

I remember that night, walking down Queen Street from Strachan, thinking to myself that the street didn’t feel nearly so old anymore or filled with ghosts. In the spring time, looking at Trinity-Bellwoods Park and walking down the street to take a streetcar to the subway, it felt like it was new again. I mean, here I was outside going downtown on some adventures and a new quest.

I think what I’m trying to say is that for the first time in a while I felt more like me again: no longer hiding and starting that process of making new opportunities and perhaps even connections. Who knows, right?

And I do have plans. I’ve thought long and hard about why my Patreon account hasn’t been followed or supported. And I realized that my work right now, on Mythic Bios, is good but scattered over a variety of different subject matters: all of them geeky, but not always specific or focused. This was always ever meant to be a supplement to the main writing that I planned to do.

Kris Straub, before he created Broodhollow, spent much time creating works to get to that place where he could make something akin to an ongoing master project or, if you’d like to get more profound about it, a magnum opus.

So here is what’s going to happen.

I am going to be writing on Mythic Bios once a week now. I simply can’t always write two posts a week like I used to. I need time to work on other projects and details in my life. I will, of course, break my own rules from time to time, but expect a post either Monday or Thursday. I will most likely alternate.

I will still be working at GeekPr0n creating my articles for them as well and with more time, hopefully, I can send some more … unique work Sequart’s way again. But, more importantly, I am going to be creating Patreon-Only content. My plan is to create a serialized work, or series of works, and make it so that those who Support me will be able to see whatever it is I will post there. Anyone can contribute whatever they’d like and we will see what happens from there.

And that is just for starters. I need to make my Patreon more presentable aesthetically and outline what my actual goals are. Right now I just have what I can offer. These are two entirely different things and with something more concrete, I might be in something akin to business.

You can find my Patreon account right here: http://www.patreon.com/mkirshenblatt

Let me know if you have any suggestions. I have a few ideas for some serialized work, mainly fiction, that I think some of you might actually enjoy. In the meantime, this is just the beginning. There are other possibilities as well. And I look forward to seeing where they might go.

For Crystal and Castle: An Author Quest Ends and a Gelfling Gathering Begins

Last week, The Dark Crystal Author Quest to write the first novel of The Gelfling Gathering finally ended. Twenty-five excellent writers were given honourable mention and five were chosen as finalists. It still really disappoints me that I couldn’t find the time to enter the story that I had planned. I was working on another submission at the time and I had to make a choice. Suffice to say, it was not an easy decision to make and, hopefully, I will be able to show all of you the fruits of that decision one day soon enough.

However, I did manage to do something during that time. As a treat and in honour of the Author Quest’s success, I want to show you the introduction that I created to start off my Dark Crystal Gelfling Gathering tale. I hope you will take it in the spirit that it is given and enjoy. Its working title was Dark Crystal: For Crystal and Castle.

It was over nine hundred trine ago that the Great urSkeks, wonderful, luminous, glorious beings from the highest realms who had come to bring wisdom and enlightenment to our beautiful world of Thra, finally left us. They had come to our home for contemplation and, having gained the revelation of their true selves from the divine Crystal of Truth, they left us with one final task.

Before the urSkeks, we were small and lowly. It was not until their blessing that were chosen as Stewards of their Castle of the Crystal: to guard it, Gelfling, Podlings and all of Thra from the evil that still surfaces to this very day.

For the soul stealers, ugly, twisted monsters that would take Gelfling children in the night for their shadowy sorceries were locked away: banished to their prison in the Mystic Valley from which they shall never fully escape. Our Adversaries were held back and imprisoned behind the wards of the urSkeks, whose power we still maintain and they cannot ever fully escape: let alone dare approach the Sacred Crystal to see what cowards they truly are inside.

Nevertheless, the soul stealers are crafty and clever.

To this very day, led by their dark and insidious Master, these cruel wizards still lure Gelfling victims to their Valley. And sometimes it is even worse. Sometimes, some–not all, but some–of the soul stealers find ways out from the barriers that seal them their infectious nature from the rest of Thra and seek to interfere with, and corrupt, our great and glorious realm.

This was the reason why the paramount of our kind, the beloved and enlightened Emperor skekSo First and Only of His Name, created the elite Castle Guard and made his Empire of all Gelfling civilization and Podling principalities. This is why we have decided to teach those worthy among you Gelfling the arts of war and defence.

And while a soul stealer cannot be destroyed by Gelfling or Podling hand, with your help we can capture and contain the menace of the wizards–to keep the dread Sixteen from liberating their entire body–until that great and glorious day when a thousand trine shall pass and the Third Great Conjunction brings glory to the Empire, peace and order to its loyal citizens, honour to the Guard that defends our Lordly Stewardship and the Crystal of Truth, and eternal oblivion to the soul stealers and their corrupted followers.

Until that momentous day we must remain forever vigilant. Everything is connected and it will only be through our sense of connection and our trust in his Imperialness the Great skekSo that we will all find true harmony.

This is our duty and our gift. This is our peace to all of Thra.

Remember the oath of our Guard: “For Crystal and Castle.”

— written by skekLi, Noble and Humble Poet Laureate of the Skeksis Empire

File:Castle of the Crystal - Pure.jpg

This was, sadly, as far I officially got. But I had plans. I’d written a whole lot of notes asking myself questions about the Skeksis, the urRu Mystics, and the Gelfling, their different Clans and what kind of plot I could make out of all of it.

But as the second part of my treat, I will tell you what I roughly had in mind.

I really planned on writing about Rian, the Woodlander Gelfling Guard slowly discovering that his beloved rulers were in fact some of the most evil monsters that he has ever met. I wanted him and his Spriton friend Jul to be rivals in the Guard and when Rian finally did defect away from the Skeksis, he would have to face his best friend until, finally, the latter saw the truth and came to his side.

During this time, the Guard are actually trained and led by three Skeksis: skekVar the General instructs the Gelfling in land-based combat, skekSa the Mariner drills them in naval war, and skekMal the Hunter teaches the Guard survival skills and the art of stealth and, well, hunting. I wanted to make three things clear. First, skekGra the Conqueror was once a leader and instructor of the Guard before he was exiled by the Emperor along with skekLi the Satirist. The second is that Emperor skekSo sometimes displays his martial prowess during Castle Festivals and the Guard are in awe of his speed and sheer power. And, third, that all the Guard feel very uneasy about skekMal. He has this way of looking at them as though they are just pieces of meat. Sometimes, some of the Guard go missing during the night. Not always, but occasionally and while the “soul stealers” are blamed, some of the Guard wonder.

Of course, it is revealed later that skekMal basically trains the Guard to hunt only to hunt them down, in return, much later after he puts on his mask and tracks them. It is basically a sport to him to “play with his food.” Even the other Skeksis find that somewhat disturbing. He comes and goes whenever he feels like it and he supports the two Skeksis in exile when it suits him. I was also toying with the idea that it is on a mission to “find” the exiled Skeksis that Rian discovers more about them.

Basically, this side story, or first book even was going to have the Emperor send the Guard to stop skekGra and his associates from attempting to make their own rebellion with Gelfling followers. If skekHak the Machinist hadn’t been killed in the second volume of Dark Crystal Creation Myths, I would have used him to create a makeshift essence-extractor: a cruder version of skekTek’s. However, perhaps skekMal had his own portable device made when he threatened skekTek. Remember: the Gelfling Gathering takes place before the Emperor had sole access to essence, so it is possible that something like this could have happened.

But in any case, I saw Rian and the Drenchen Gelfling Gurjin as childhood friends. Gurjin, for a swamp-dwelling Gelfling, was the more scholarly of the two in my mind and he wasn’t a part of the Guard. When they weren’t playing Jarra-Jen and Creghel the Tyrant, they played Three Suns and the Moon: each of them was one of the suns and an old childhood female friend was the moon. I picture her as a Vapra and perhaps, in their minds, the future Queen of the Gelfling Clans.

Eventually, Rian discovers that there is a Gelfling Resistance led by the hidden Gelfling Queen. As it turns out, almost a century ago, the Sifa Gelfling Gyr and the Vapra Lady Kel witnessed the actual creation of the Skeksis and the urRu. Kel, becoming the next Gelfling Queen, secretly passed on the knowledge of what happened through dreamfasting with her successor and a select group of loyal Gelfling. They didn’t know what to make of what they saw and so they waited. They waited for a few generations: knowing that they didn’t have the power to oppose the Skeksis directly and that their own pacifist nature, with the exception of perhaps the Spritons that were so close to the Skeksis’ corruption, would limit whatever they could do for now.

I decided that Rian first acts as their spy in the Castle and then he finally just can’t stay there anymore. Maybe I will tell that story one day: though it will definitely be fanfiction unless the Henson Company or Grosset and Dunlap are ever looking for short stories. That story was going to be my entry. And if the third Dark Crystal Creation Myths book doesn’t destroy its continuity, then it definitely will be a fanfic.

But as for the rest … Rian sees the beginnings of the proto-Garthim developing in the cave tunnels of the Castle: supervised by skekUng the Garthim Master who wants to supplant skekVar as General and skekTek who hopes to get more prestige out of helping him. I see them as red and raw without their organic carapaces at this stage. Rian and his friends run into the real Gelfling Queen: a young and mute Dousan Gelfling. She has mastered Dream-etching: the precise ability needed to bring something from dreaming into physical being. She will become the central architect of the Wall of Destiny. They attempt to mobilize the other Gelfling, but they need resistance and disbelief. But gradually, they would pass on what they have learned through dreamfasting.

At this point, the Skeksis become aware of what is going on. As they pass the cover story of there being missing shards of the Crystal, as the Gelfling group has revealed that it is damaged, the Castle Guard is led by Emperor skekSo himself, along with his minions, to take care of the Rebels. Unfortunately, for the Skeksis, the Guard are all converted to the Rebels through dreamfasting. I planned, at this point, for the urRu to get involved: as the protagonists were staying in the Valley: having realized that the Skeksis’ accusations against them are obviously false and the Skeksis are the ones kidnapping and “draining souls” from Gelfling.

There was an epic duel between the four-armed combatants: urSu the Master and skekSo the Emperor. These are not the decrepit beings we saw in the film, but two powerful opponents in the prime of their lives. Each blow they land on each other also affects the other one and they gain cuts and injuries that match each other’s own. SkekSo only retreats when he realizes that his Guard have defected and his other Skeksis are facing similar problems. SkekSo vows revenge and flees. The Gelfling either do not notice this phenomenon or simply do not understand and it is understated. It is also during this time we are introduced to urVa the Archer: the one Mystic who seeks to actively destroy his counterpart in the form of skekMal.

UrVa spends much time teaching Rian and the others how to fight, as he is a martial arts master, and when the time comes to leave the Valley and go to organize the other Gelfling, he chooses to go with them: being the only urRu who can actually find it in himself to actively interfere in what is going on. Later, as they get to the site where the Wall of Destiny will be built, this is when the Skeksis get nasty and they send the three militaristic Skeksis with a mass of essence-drained Gelfling husks, literally zombies, to destroy the Rebellion.

By this point, it is a bloodbath. And what is worse is that skekMal starts picking off Gelfling from the shadows of the Vapra’s trees (I assume this their territory is close to where they are building the Wall) with his crossbow. He and urVa have a standoff. UrVa hates everything that skekMal stands for, representing the aggressive side of him he despised as an urSkek, while skekMal hates urVa for being that weak and hesitant part of his original self whose deliberations cost lives back on the urSkek homeworld.  In the end, they both shoot each other at the same time: a former whole being in conflict with its dual aspects.

Rian holds urVa’s dying form in his arms. UrVa asks Rian to kill him, but Rian doesn’t understand and refuses. He then goes and finishes off skekMal: who had killed his father not too long ago. Both Skeksis and urRu die. Then the seven Gelfling Clans, all knowing what the Skeksis truly are, congregate and the Wall is created.

File:Prophecy.jpg

It awakens the essence-drained Gelfling husks from their living death and the remaining Skeksis are forced to retreat. But Rian, the Queen and the others all know that this far from over. Nevertheless, there is still hope and wonder in Thra.

This is, sadly, as far as I got in my notes. And there are so many gaps. I still have difficulties describing our world’s geography, never mind Thra’s and its unique solar system. There is also so much story there and many story lines that I could have done with the mariner Sifa, the desert-dwelling Dousan, and the underground Grottan. I did plan on having each chapter dedicated to, and function from, the limited third-person perspective of the character: Skeksis, Gelfling and perhaps even an urRu. You know: much in the same that George R.R. Martin structures his chapters in A Song of Ice and Fire.

But I didn’t get to it. Nevertheless this process of world-building kept my mind occupied and got me into some good discussions on The Dark Crystal Community Forums. I’m also pretty sure I learned something and, in the discussions themselves, I even suggested corrections for their entries into the Encyclopedia. And what is even more awesome is that the other authors that didn’t get into the finals have a similar idea to mine and have posted links to their stories in the Forums and in the Fanfiction section of the Dark Crystal website.

The fact is that my experiences in the Quest, for all I didn’t make a story, deserved its own honoured place in my Mythic Bios and it is excellent way to show you how my creative process and, well, my mind works.

I will say it again: everything is connected. Everything is connected and I am glad I connected my creative mind to the world of Thra. Therefore I salute my fellow writers and posters, as well as the Henson Company, and my story that could have been and in the words of the Castle Gelfling Guard I planned to create let me proclaim proudly, “For Crystal and Castle.”

A Surprise Post Appears! La-Mulana, an Age, and Solo Jamming all Entwined.

I have been meaning to write here for a very long time. So I am going to write behind my own designated schedule and wave hello at all of you.

So I am still alive and I am hoping to write here again a lot more often now. For those of you don’t know, I went on something of a hiatus to finish a short story that may have me see actual print: as in something actually published in print in addition to my poem in the art book Klarissa Dreams. That is all I can really about that at the moment, but please stay tuned.

In the meantime, however, I have been busy with other things as well. So where do I even begin?

Well, I participated in the Unwritten RPG Kickstarter Campaign. I essentially made an Age for them. In case you don’t know, Unwritten is a table-top RPG based on the universe of Myst: in which you must go through several Descriptive and Linking Books that connect to other worlds. The D’Ni civilization figured out a way to write Books that allowed people to link to other worlds or gradations of a particular world: or Ages as they are called. I read the books and played two of the games in my formative years and for about a decade I had an idea for an Age and a people.

There were some changes I had to make, but what resulted is pretty impressive based on a creative collaboration with the team. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can show people that I was part of the Guild of Writers and I finally made my own Age. My nineteen year old self would be proud of what the thirty-one year old me has become capable of doing: at least to that regard.

I also admit one other thing. So you know the game I vowed never to play? Well, I am playing La-Mulana now. In fact, very soon the La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter will be making more Fan Art Updates and my Twine story The Treasure of La-Mulana will be featured in one of them. I will be on the look out for that and at some point I will link that update to all of you. It’s funny. I have gotten to know quite a few people through this game and it is perhaps one of the few sources of real community that I’ve felt in a really long time, if not ever. I am not a game-designer in the programming sense. I am a writer. Of course, Christine Love herself said the same thing and look at the places she is at now. Granted, she has programming knowledge and I don’t. But that’s ok.

In fact, I hit another milestone relatively recently. I attended the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam. As some of you know I participated in the event last year, but armed with a basic understanding of Twine, I registered as a Solo Jammer and completed my first Twine game as such. I go into a little more detail about that on my G33kPron article Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam, but given what this Blog is about I wanted to talk a little shop about my game.

The Looking Glass was an experiment. After my Treasure of La-Mulana fanfic, I realized I could tell an extensive story with Twine, and use the hyperlinking transitions to control how much text the reader sees, and how much I wanted to pace the narrative. My Haunted Twine was an earlier attempt at this, but it was a lot clunkier and it still has issues that I need to address in future works. But I wanted to add more of an interactive element besides clicking on words this time around.

In addition, I was following a person’s experiences with a particular game online and, as my brain often works, I combined a few ideas together and came up with a concept and a few notes that you can see in all of their natural idiosyncratic handwritten glory down below.

I had a choice between this and a game about a serial killer. I was at first happy with neither of these concepts as I wanted to make something very personal and me for this Jam, but when I realized that my version of a “choose your own adventure” Twine game about my experience at the Jam itself would not be good enough at this stage in my development, and not really feeling the killing thing by the second official day of the 48-hour Jam I went with my original, very complex yet simply elegant idea that I should have taken more than two days to do. I may create more games like this one in the near future. In fact, I may be personally showcasing this one at the Toronto Global Game Jam Arcade in April. We shall see.

So now that I have at least four working Twine games or stories, I decided to expand a branch of Mythic Bios to contain them. You can find it on the menu bar above or click here on this link. I thought I would only make two relatively big Twine novels, but it seems my brain had, and needed, other plans. Perhaps sometime in the near future I will see what will be done with those.

And seriously ladies, gentlemen and other sentient beings, this is it for now. As I said before, I hope to be writing here more often again and I have some plans, as always. I have a few posts that are overdue and I want to fee more time to explore while continuing some of the work that I have been cultivating in my long self-exile. Poor January only had one post. Let’s see how many posts February will have as result shall we? 🙂

La-Mulana 2

Oh and before I go, please support NIGORO and Playism’s La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter Campaign. The universe of La-Mulana is both an archaeologist’s and a gamer’s dream and worst nightmare: it will challenge your ingrained assumptions about gameplay and mechanics. It also has a really nice unfolding story and a quirky character about it that few other games I’ve seen can match. So please check it out. You will not be disappointed and we might get to unlock some goodies without the spikes.

Mostly. Err …

Take care everyone.

Disappointments and Achievements in the Year 2013

This was the year in which we apparently cancelled, or postponed, the apocalypse.

So I said I was going to make a post before the New Year and here I am. I’ve started this post three times already and I trying to find the best way to continue it.

I suppose I will start off by stating one of my greatest disappointments. After all the fanfare on my part, and the reading, and the note-taking, and the hints, and the story sketches I did not end up sending an entry to The Dark Crystal Author Quest.

The fact is, after all that, I just took on too much. I went as far as writing a crude introduction, far too late, and then I realized that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring the energy and attention to a world that deserved more. So, I’m sorry to everyone who might have been eager to see what I could have brought to the world of Thra but the only things you’ll see now are my story sketches and perhaps the introduction I made when it’s not so fresh. And I also offer my apologies to The Dark Crystal. You deserved better. And you will get it. After spending time on the Community Forums, I know at least that you will get far better than me.

It wasn’t a total loss. I made some friends and acquaintanceships on the Forums, and the task of writing notes and questions to myself about Thra kept me from going insane this summer and onward. That, along with my other story project and this Blog for a time kept me busy and feeling a certain sense of accomplishment roughly ninety percent of the time.

So while I failed my Challenge, I did learn a lot from its failure. For starters, I am never going to work on two major projects at the same time again. The second is that if I do again, I will type up all my notes first and then figure out what to do. The third will be to go out during the more temperate climate to do some writing and not get bogged down by distractions: to give myself a sense of space. In the end, it is one thing to work on a major project and then some minor ones, it is a whole other thing to juggle multiple ones at once. I am no Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to that regard and even they have had issues with that. Anyone would.

With that unfortunate, but necessary news out of the way I’d like to talk about what I have actually managed to do this year. I went to my first ever Toronto Global Game Jam and made a working board game with some collaborators, and I also attended my first ever 12-Hour Comics Marathon at the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery and completed something there too. I began writing for Sequart and, later, G33kPr0n as well. I got to cover events like the CanZine Ghost Arcade, the first WordPlay Festival, and Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market. I even wrote a review of the first day of the Toronto Afterdark. I wrote an article on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Overture #1. I met Neil Gaiman before that. I’ve tweeted with Amanda Palmer, Anna Anthropy, Christine Love, the Gaming Pixie, I wrote a review of the creative process behind Broodhollow and tweeted a bit with its creator Kris Straub, I travelled all the way to Quebec to meet some friends, and I created my first three Twine stories Level-Up, Haunted, and The Treasure of La-Mulana. I made the acquaintance and friendship of Andrez Bergen and I geek out with Julian Darius sometimes. I began reading the books of Anthony Martignetti and started to see more examples of how to incorporate one’s life with mythology to tell a story.

I’ve probably missed a whole lot of other events, but suffice to say I have been busy. It hasn’t been easy and sometimes I still feel as though I haven’t accomplished nearly enough. I know where I want to go, but I don’t always know how to get there.

But look above. I wasn’t totally useless, not everything was completely futile, and I actually did some very cool things, while I also went to many more. So there is that. I’d say, if I had to sum up 2013, I basically did a whole lot of Work. And I don’t see this coming year being any different.

So I will say right now, goodbye 2013. You had your annoyances and stresses, but we had some challenges together as well. Perhaps we planted something together that will begin to show some fruit by the time of your successor.

As for the rest of you, I will see you all, in some form, during the New Year and hopefully back on track. You know, it’s funny. The parting image that I’m going to leave you with is something that was taken in 2007 by a friend of mine I haven’t really talked with in ages, during a time of great transition in my life. There was so much I didn’t know then and I was only beginning to learn.

It seems that, to this regard, nothing ever really changes.  Until next time, my friends.

Looking Outward

The Treasure of La-Mulana

So I have been stabbing my Mythic Bios notebook with my golden pen, but for one brief moment I am going to re-materialize back from the ether to leave you with something. I made this, my third Twine story, a little while ago after watching Deceased Crab play through both the original and the remake of La-Mulana.

This game … for something I have never played and probably never will because I neither have the patience nor the hand-eye coordination, got into my head: into that mythic space that permeates my very being. La-Mulana is an adventurer-archaeology game created by the game company NIGORO and filled with puzzles, riddles, deathtraps, insanity, lore, and vintage video game goodness. It is a fun, but notoriously hard game. But the world and story that NIGORO created got into my mind so much, and so badly, that I went online at one point and looked for fanfiction based on it.

It was there, online, that I found madamluna’s long slow collision and Bones. It was the first story, a Twine narrative itself, and the news that there would be a sequel to the game itself that cinched it for me.

So now: to business. What you are looking at here is a homage–a fanfic–to a game I’ve only seen on Let’s Plays, written in Twine. Basically in addition to this being my third Twine story, this is my first polished Twine fanfic to an awesome and insane game. So while I might not be a “real” fan of the game, in that I haven’t played it, I hope you can all accept me as one in spirit if nothing else.

In other news, I am still hard at work and I plan to make a New Year’s post of some kind. I hope you enjoyed this surprise and impromptu post of mine. I hope to return relatively soon. But, since you have all been very good readers I now leave you with my modest attempt at a homage, at something that will probably be completely debunked and repudiated by the actual sequel to La-Mulana itself. It is a story with events meant to bridge the gap between the two games. So such, please remember that there are Major Spoilers. I hope you will take this in the spirit that it is given.

So good night, fellow explorers, and allow me to leave you all with The Treasure of La-Mulana.

La-Mulana

The Work Continues and a Peek at Coming Attractions

Yesterday, I was going to post up an article that I already made but then I started to think about I feel that everybody deserves something fresh.

The obligatory zombie reference aside, this time of year is generally harder for me. I mean, winter probably has a seasonal affect on everyone and makes them want to sleep more but more recently I’ve been lucky to wake up in the early afternoon never mind what can be considered morning. I mean, I am up in the morning technically, but I generally haven’t slept before then.

It hasn’t been solely due to procrastination or depression however. If there is one thing I have been consistently this past while, it has been busy. I’ve been experimenting more directly with Twine now and after two experiments, there is another one that I would like to implement sometime soon.

For my next trick, I want to make a story with Headings that you can Rewind to, and selectable options that will determine what endings you will get. I envision a few game-overs, one “normal ending,” and one “true ending.” I have been looking at some tutorials, though I am concerned that I will be going closer into the realm of programming or, at the very least, the kind of “user-accessible” programming that was available in Civilization II: Fantastic Worlds. Twine may well be a gateway drug back into the Hell Temple of coding for me. But I do have help and all I need to keep track of time.

And I have to watch time very carefully. I have a story that I need to write, a Dark Crystal entry that needs to appear, an article that needs to be edited, and … another article that I want to write on Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston: on one aspect of his life in particular. I am wondering how much material will exist out there on the latter and when I will have a chance to look at this.

But I also know that I have priorities. This entry is a short one, but it’s good because it will serve as a reminder for what I am doing and what I plan to do. I will be back soon and, hopefully, sooner this time. 🙂

My Second Twine Game: Haunted

Me and my Head

I am apparently now in the habit of posting late. So a week or so after the WordPlay Twine Workshop with Christine Love, and exploring Faerie Dark’s world of interconnected Twine games and stories–essentially the progression of a universe-seed in progress–I felt compelled to make another Twine.

My first Twine game was mostly an experiment to see what I could apply in a very basic way to the software medium. I wanted to see if I could tell a story and use the medium to mimic page-turnings, or panels, or–if you prefer–punctuation. With this game, I wanted to do two things.

First off, I wanted to make sure what I did before wasn’t a one-off and I wanted to keep up the practice for when I create some of my more involved works. Luckily I have the template of “Level-Up” to work off of as well as some Twine tutorials and the instructions of Anna Anthropy and Porpentine as well as Gaming Pixie’s advice to go off of too.

But the second reason I made “Haunted” is because I wanted to make both a longer story and something personal. And this story is personal. I don’t just mean that it is based off of some of my life experience, which it is, but it really taps into feelings. I wanted to make sure that I could do this. It feeds into part of a feeble excuse in which I didn’t edit the text or anything, just because it was something I wanted to say and express while it felt real and fresh and, more importantly, tangible and cohesive in my mind. So, in part, I am basically taking Twine and telling a story as flat-out as I can and I admit that process is rather cathartic, if nothing else.

This also gave me an opportunity to explore the boundaries of my own ignorance. Right now, I am at the stage where I am basically taking basic Twine hyperlinking and knowing how to make titles and attribute my name and nothing more. I don’t know how to grey-out or eliminate links once they are chosen. I don’t know how to affect the game when certain items are chosen or not, or when certain places are clicked on or not selected. I have to be mindful about what words I will be using to click from one plot box to the next.

Sometimes I have made mistakes. In my old Twine story, I didn’t even unload it to Philome.la, a free Twine Twitter-based hosting site, properly. It took a few tries and I succeeded thanks to the very prompt and patient guidance of one Colin Marc. This story, such as it is now, is structurally limited but it is more of a game than the first one is. There is more exploration and you will have some–albeit simple–options. I am still focusing on story and expression, this time more personal expression, but I hope to eventually make a stronger game mechanic to make that exploration more potent … with editing, I assure you.

That said, I can see some “dictatorship of the narrative” going on here and I don’t know how well a more generalized audience will be able to relate to this game, but as I have said many times this is a story and I am working on one thing at least that might be a bit more inclusive. At very least and if nothing else, I made an experience and a story.

So here is my answer to the question of whether or not you can haunt the places of your own life. I hope you will appreciate it, and take it for what it is. Until next time, my friends.

For now, become Haunted.

ETA: Based on scraps of what I can remember from Christine Love’s Workshop, I believe I recall what the vertical bars, the |s do. They actually create Headings so that you can Rewind your game to that point and start off from there again instead of doing it all over. I will keep that in mind next time once I figure out how to utilize it properly.

How You Can Help Me

Remember my post where I Am Asking For Your Help? Well, this follow-up post is both late and a long time coming.

I have been insanely busy. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it feels like I’m in a Time War of my very own. I am trying to find that balance between having a life and using my art to support that life. It’s hard. When people tell you that attempting to become a published writer, especially a published writer that makes money off of your creations, they are not exaggerating. I have attempted to get published “legitimately,” and while I have still not ruled it out by any means, and I have one work in particular that I want to send by those channels, there is this one hard fact to consider.

I am working hard to make content and I am not getting paid for it.

Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy writing for Mythic Bios and being given the opportunity to contribute to the other online magazines in which I publish articles. I write much better when I get to focus on the matters of Geek Culture and other areas of interest.

This not about them or any of that. I just can’t ignore the facts. I am on social assistance, and I am working hard to write articles and stories that are not making me any money.

And this has been bothering me for a very long time. To be perfectly honest with you all, I know I’m talented. I know that I have accomplished a great many things in this past year alone and I continue to make myself believe “in as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” which is a far cry from the one or two I barely had energy to concentrate on back in the day, but despite my efforts and my audience I am quite simply not getting paid for any of it.

So I have thought about a solution to this issue. I’ve realized that this is no one’s responsibility but my own and I am now going to take steps to deal with it. The fact of the matter is that throughout my entire life, I’ve never done anything through orthodox channels, and even when I’ve been in established institutions I have had to find my own methods of dealing with them, and creating my own learning path. And now that I’m outside of academia and those established places I realize that I have to apply that same mentality to life. That said, I didn’t even know how begin to deal with life on those terms.

Until now.

Anna Anthropy, through her own quests to support herself and her work, made me aware of a new crowd-funding platform called Patreon. It is essentially an application that allows an artist’s supporters to become their patrons: to donate money to their art. It is a lot like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but while the former are made to support larger projects, Patreon is created to fund artists on a smaller and yet potentially longer term monthly scale.

So now this is the part where I finally get to the point. While Anna Anthropy was the one who lead me to this platform, Amanda Palmer introduced me to the Art of Asking: to the power of crowd-funding, of trusting in the goodwill of your fans, and to simply asking for help.

And here is how you can help me.

I have created a Patreon Profile. I would like you, my loyal friends and Followers to read over what I have written on this Profile and do one of two things: become my Patrons and donate whatever amount of money you feel comfortable paying to my art, or spread word of my art and my Patreon Profile to the people that you know.

I go into a lot of detail in the Profile, so please read it closely, but allow me to clarify a few other matters first. I am not charging money for anyone to view my work on Mythic Bios or anywhere. Aside from the fact that I lack the authority in those other places, I do have the authority to state that Mythic Bios’ content will always be free to the public. If you’d like, think of it as what the name suggests: you are patronizing me (hopefully in the positive sense of the word) for the work that I already do and if you do become my Patrons in addition my Followers you will get to see some Patron-Only work, or be the lucky ones to get a first view of it before I launch it more publicly. And I am also willing to undertake research and creative commissions.

I am not begging you for charity and most of you already know this. I am asking you for the opportunity to work for pay doing something that I love doing and making that connection with you.

Now, this will be a learning process for the both of us. I myself am still figuring out the details with regards to Patreon and it will undoubtedly change over time. Also, I just want to state that if you ever want to stop funding me for whatever reason, you can easily cancel your donations. I am simply hoping for a modest cumulative monthly donation of some kind which I plan to share the results of with you.

The thing is: this is both really hard and very easy to ask this of you. What Amanda Palmer espouses, asking for help, is something that has been ingrained in me ever since I was diagnosed as being learning disabled. The very term “extra help” is indicative of asking. But as I said, I have challenges but I will not beg and if you can’t or don’t want to donate anything to my work I understand and, like I said I hope you will keep following it and let other people know about it and my Patreon.

There has always been a stigma to asking for extra help, or even just asking someone for help in society. But here is where I began to realize the difference. I am not asking a bunch of strangers for change. I am asking you–my friends, peers, colleagues, and loved ones–for help. I am letting go of the negative part of my stubbornness: the pride and the fear of change that does not want to admit weakness or, in this lexicon, vulnerability.

I am trusting, all of you, to help me in some way. Even if it is only in the form of suggestions, questions, concerns, or advice about the contents of my Patreon please let me know and I will treasure what you tell me.

So I am going to re-post a picture I’ve been using for two posts now, and with good reason. This was me looking at the horizon a few years ago: wondering what was going to happen next. And this time, not only am I doing exactly the same thing but I hope to see you all there with me. I will keep putting myself out there. I promise you that. I owe you that. I owe that to myself.

Thank you for supporting me: in any way that you can. You already are.

*Hugs*

sincerely,

Matthew Kirshenblatt

Looking Outward

P.S. I am going to pay this attempt at good will forward. Gaming Pixie is an excellent reviewer, graphic artist, site designer, and video game creator. She is one of those that already believes in six impossible things before breakfast. But due to life circumstances, she needs more help than I do at this moment. Please consider donating some money to her art on her website and seeing what she can truly do. Because just as I believe in her, I also believe in all of you. Please encourage her to believe in a seventh impossible thing.

And check out Anna Anthropy’s Patreon as well. She cannot have enough support for the work that she is doing: not only being one of those creating games with her own voice, but advocating the creation of means for other people to do the same.

My First Twine Game: Level-Up

I know that in my last post, I asked for all of your help. And very soon, I am going to show you how you can help me. There is just a little more work to do, but once that is taken care of I will explain everything in my next post this coming Thursday.

But right now, I want to talk about something else in this belated post of mine. This Saturday, at Christine Love’s Twine Workshop during the first-ever WordPlay event, set up by the Hand-Eye Society, I made my first ever Twine story. The reason I call this my first story is because, technically, it is not a game.

So here is what I am going to do. I am going to paste the link of my creation onto Mythic Bios and then, afterwards, I am going to talk about the Creative Process of it a bit. This is my experiment–my first Twine by action if not in planning–and for what it is, I am extremely proud of it. So without further ado, and without images or sounds or other fanfare allow me introduce to all of you, my loyal readers to …

Level-Up

All right, now that you played through it I want to talk about what went on behind it. Basically, a little while ago I had a story sketch in my head that almost–almost–became an entry for Mythic Bios. Really, like a lot of my creative works, it grew from a single sentence. This single sentence formed in my head and I needed to create a home for it. Then I found out, and signed up for Christine Love’s Workshop. If you have been following this Blog for a while, you will know that I have the utmost respect and enthusiasm for Christine’s storytelling and her game-making. So you will understand that I could not allow the opportunity of attending one of her Workshops to pass.

And when I was accepted onto the reservation list, I realized that I wasn’t just going to learn how to make a Twine game. I was going to make one right there, at the Toronto Reference Library, in about little over than an hour.

You have to understand that I generally plan out my stories in advance, or I take a lot of time actually making them. But Christine took the time to talk about the basics of Twine in fifteen minutes and, the next thing I knew, we had five minutes to think of an idea and then the rest of the time to implement it.

And I did.

What you are about to see here is what happens when a world is being processed in your brain for a lot longer than you thought it did. It seems I am almost always world-building in the back of my head: even when I should be doing something else … or especially then.

But this isn’t a game. This is a story fragment that somehow functions well. I made up for my lack of knowledge and technique with Twine by attempting to create the right transitions or hyperlinks. Basically, I was aiming for making a rhythm for clicking through the story from one screen to the next.

Yet, as a friend of mine who is now working on his own Twine as part of my Challenge to him observed, what I didn’t really do with the medium of Twine at this stage I attempted to do with descriptive storytelling and dialogue. Also, my second-person perspective–you–might have gotten into the mind of the character in question. Or maybe you won’t. You’ve also see that it is extremely short and lacks sound and images: hence the storytelling that is my strength.

So allow me to thank Anna Anthropy for introducing me to Twine through Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Christine Love for her Workshop and giving me the excuse to finally go beyond the theoretical and do something hands-on with the software I plan to work with, Gaming Pixie for her support and to all you for all experiencing my very first, and not my last, Twine story. It is not part of the two that I have been planning for ages, but I have to remember my priorities at this point. Also, anyone who can guess which line helped to form the entirety of the story will get bonus points from me.

Take care, my reader-player audience. I will be back here this Thursday … with news.

Looking Outward