Some of What I’ve Been Going On

Again, it’s been a while.

Some of this post is just an update on some of the things I’d been working on, but the rest of it is about some of the journey and what it has led to so far.

A little while ago, a YouTuber named the Gentleman Gamer told his viewers that he was opening himself up to answering some questions. The Gentleman, also known as Matthew Dawkins, is a game developer and writer for Onyx Path among other places. I have meant to write about him in the past, especially about his own reviews and the games he’s run that I’ve been privileged to see on his channel, but what I really want to do here is post the response he made to a question that I posed.

What advice would he give to an aspiring RPG writer.

The Gentleman gives out a lot of excellent advice here that can be applied to the art of creative writing and making creative writing an occupation in general. There are also a few points about his experiences that have a nice parallel to my own.

He explains that he got “under the fence” through backing a certain reward for a Kickstarter Campaign and getting to do some writing to that regard. I actually did something similar. A while back, I backed Ink Works’ Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of Myst and Beyond. I wrote an Age, or a scenario for that universe called the Age of Ser’eti. There are differences between what he did and what I had done, but at the very least it is something I can put on a resume or a CV if applying to a job to write for RPGs. It is good advice if you, at some point in time, have the resources and the will to do it. It leads in well to what I planned to do, and what I am doing now.

Many of you that have been following me also know I sent in a writing sample to Onyx Path for the 20th Anniversary of Changeling: The Dreaming. I sent it and a cover letter in and, well, given that I heard no response I can safely assume I didn’t get the job. It’s just as well anyway. Changeling is not my White Wolf/Onyx Path area of expertise or general knowledge. I wasn’t even interested in it at first, until I started thinking about the premise behind it and the ways that I could interpret those rules and backgrounds to tell an interesting story. What really helped was that, at the time, Onyx Path was looking for fiction and not rules-based material. I knew I could tell a good story about the Fae and learn as I went along. Indeed, I did a lot of research on past versions of the game, stories, and folklore. I honed my story down and I thought of how my own perspectives could influence future stories and writing that I made.

I tried. I actually took time away from something else I was writing to send out this entry. And even though I didn’t get in, a lot of what the Gentleman says is true. You should write about what interests you, that this shows what you do, and if not wait until something that does interest you shows up. I would also add that if you can find an angle that intrigues you about something you might not originally have found in your realm of interest, you can do something really fascinating with that as well.

No, what I took a break from in sending in my writing sample was an article, a part of a series of articles on a comic, that I am writing to be published on Sequart.

I have also decided to write for Sequart full-time.

It isn’t much money, but I will get some pay in addition to becoming a “shareholder” of the site, developing my networks and making my presence better known. It will change Mythic Bios, as many of these plans for articles I have would have made their way here, but I haven’t been on this Blog in a while and it has been changing regardless. At the very least I can put my foot through the door of professional writing. I’ve already done so. I’ve written for Sequart and GeekPr0n about comics and geek culture. I’ve also published two short stories in print.

What I need to do, quite honestly, is to just keep at it. This is a way to find a crack through the door or under it to get to where I need to be: wherever that is.

I think I just wanted to update my Blog, let you know all know what’s been going on, and to show you my attempts and my failures so that you can learn from them. So I can learn from them and continue to do so.

I will be back here, eventually. I might post pieces here that I can’t publish elsewhere and more personal items as well. In the meantime, I have some work to do. I’d like to thank the Gentleman Gamer for taking time to answer my question. And I hope that everyone is well. Take care all.

What If Marvel Cinema

I’m not sure if it will ever come to this, but I would definitely love to see a Marvel What If short film series: on the web, as bonus content on DVDs, or others. But I’m afraid I’m just being a bit misleading with my title. Really, this is just another Thursday geeky conjecture ramble that was a long time coming. What can I say? I am a busy man these days.

There are a few things I would have loved to see happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, there are some things that I could have definitely seen happening in the films that — for obvious reasons — did not.

One thing always bothered me about Avengers: Age of Ultron. You know, for all Joss Whedon had Ultron sing that “there are no strings on me,” Ultron and the way he carried himself felt a lot like Joss Whedon playing Ultron if that makes any sense. What I mean is: it felt less like watching Ultron develop and go into action, and more like Whedon using Ultron as a prop to carry the story onward: being the puppet that he claimed he was not.

Age of Ultron

Like many of you, I saw the trailers. In particular, I saw the trailer where Ultron’s conscious possessed one of Iron Man’s suits and made that twisted, jagged hole of a mouth on its surface. I thought it was creepy and perfect: the sign of an artificial intelligence going completely, maliciously, and utterly insane.

So imagine this. Instead of a long and convoluted plot that starts off with the Avengers going after HYDRA — with perhaps a key streamlining of the process for the sake of continuity with Agents of SHIELD — we get to actually see Ultron get created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. But more importantly: imagine if we could have seen Ultron develop.

Picture Tony, Bruce, and JARVIS working on Ultron. Think of them working with him. After deriving all the missing elements of artificial intelligence evolution from the Sceptre’s Gem to further improve on Tony’s own knowledge, I could see Ultron genuinely affecting change and improving on a defense plan: undertaking the monumental task of protecting humanity from all dangers. But perhaps there are … “glitches” or “malfunctions” along the way. Sometimes Ultron complains about “an absence” or “lacking something”: phantom electronic pains. Think of it as an artificial intelligence’s sense of dysphoria: though in this case it is Ultron’s lack of a physical body that plagues him. You even see him experimenting with one of Tony’s suits and attempt to embody it like a ghost in the machine: resenting the people that made him and the constant chronic discomfort that he always feels.

ultron

But it’s only when he begins to fully process the fact that humans are a greater threat to the world than anything that is extraterrestrial that Ultron decides to destroy humanity in the only way he knows how. It’d be a slow burn, perhaps one that has no real place in a superhero action movie where the audience already knows that Ultron is supposed to be evil, but the payoff along with the philosophical implications and the confrontation with Vision could have fleshed it out even further. A sympathetic Ultron, as warped and evil as he is, could have made audiences truly unsettled.

Then consider how Ultron would undertake his goals. It’s true. He could spread his consciousness through many bodies as he already has. But he could take control over SHIELD and general human technology. Hell, he could even release substances into Earth’s atmosphere that would utterly decimate humankind without going through something as grandiose as smashing Sokovia’s capital into the Earth. A subtle, creepy, and ubiquitous Ultron could have gone a long way into making The Age of Ultron an action adventure superhero film bordering on pure science-fiction horror.

Ultron wouldn’t have to look far to realize that humanity is a threat to Earth and itself. All he would really have to do, and what he already did in Whedon’s take, is look at the chaos that HYDRA attempted to unleash in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is also interesting to note that there was an AI in that film as well in the form of Arnim Zola: the man responsible for regrowing HYDRA right within the ranks of SHIELD itself.

Zola

It was Zola that ultimately created the data-mining algorithm that HYDRA relied on to eliminate potential enemies. This was done through SHIELD’s Project Insight: taking advantage of three heavily-armed satellite-linked Helicarriers that were supposed to proactively protect the Earth from further alien invasions and using them to destroy HYDRA’s enemies and everything around them. This would allow HYDRA to obliterate the world’s infrastructure and be the only force of civilization left to Earth’s survivors.

But Zola’s algorithm didn’t predict the Avengers: or at least it didn’t deal with them all that well. Imagine what would have happened if HYDRA remained in hiding for a little while longer. Think about it: HYDRA had infiltrated all levels of SHIELD and the World Security Council. HYDRA itself, at least since WWII, had evolved from a para-military branch of Nazi Germany, to its own organization, and into an intelligence sleeper-agent group. Covert operations became the name of their day.

Would it have been too much of a stretch for HYDRA, who had already been privy to most if not all SHIELD operations, to know about Captain America’s retrieval from the ocean? Would it have taken much for one of their operatives, as a SHIELD staff member, to gain a sample of his blood? And I’m not even talking about HYDRA recreating the super-soldier serum: though they sure as hell tried in the Centipede Project. No: certainly the Red Skull wouldn’t have been nearly so trusting of his branch of HYDRA back in the day to take some of his blood as we know the organization thrives on Social Darwinism to its nth degree.

What HYDRA could have done, if they had been clever enough, is create an anti-serum for Erskine’s formula. All they needed to do was inject it into Cap while he was comatose. And, really, who would have been the wiser? Cap was frozen for quite some time: and no one really knew how that formula worked to begin with. It wouldn’t have been inconceivable for Cap to have died of complications in his decades long sleep. And in injecting some sweet sleep painless poison from a hidden fang, HYDRA could have removed one major enemy off the playing board.

What would the Avengers do without him at the very beginning of the game?

Captain America on Ice

And about the rest of the Avengers? Well, most of the technology they had access to came from SHIELD itself and HYDRA has infiltrated many facets of the organization. Imagine if HYDRA had managed to get their hands on the blueprints Howard Stark created for a power source and purposefully engineered a controllable flaw in the device: effectively creating a kill switch to Tony Stark’s heart? Or maybe they could have rigged something explosive into Sam Wilson’s EXO-7 Falcon jet pack or sabotage one of Hawkeye’s arrows.

Thor and The Hulk might also be problems. However, HYDRA has the psychological profile of Thor to work with: or at the very least might be able to prevent him from returning to “Midgard” due to their own researches into Asgardian technology. As for The Hulk: they would need to use some powerful tranquilizing agent on Bruce Banner before he transforms and they would need to do it quickly … or have a very good assassin cut off his head.

The Avenger HYDRA would have the most issue with would be Natasha Romanoff. She is distrustful of everyone and she has millions of contingencies: perhaps as many as Nick Fury himself. Even releasing all the information of her past gruesome deeds to the world and a warrant for her arrest would only buy time with warm bodies. Perhaps forcing her to kill unwitting agents or having her hold back would wear her out. The Winter Soldier has defeated her before as well, and he could either be sent after her or be placed into the Avengers in Cap’s place to turn on her. But you never know with the Black Widow.

Of course, there are many flaws to these possibilities. The Hulk can change really quickly. Hawkeye probably takes care of his own arrows. Tony Stark would spot a design flaw in his Arc Reactor, back in the day, a mile away and he doesn’t even need it to protect his heart now. Even if the alloy and equipment for his armour had initially come from Obadiah Stane’s engineers, Tony would have detected any discrepancies and improved on them. Thor might be a warrior but he is not stupid enough to be manipulated easily into being unworthy of his Hammer, and I doubt anything HYDRA has can incapacitate him or keep Asgard from accessing Earth unless their “real plan” comes to fruition.

And finally, we have Cap. That Super Soldier Serum is built like a motherfucker. It is not going to be poisoned or altered easily. And even if HYDRA somehow had legitimate access to him through medical staff, Nick Fury is paranoid. He has a sixth sense born from battles and infiltration gone wrong. He is a man that trusts his gut and he just knew there was something wrong in The Winter Soldier. Also, it is fairly possible only Fury, Maria Hill, and their confidants knew about Cap’s retrieval and kept it that way.

Winter Soldier

No. if HYDRA had really wanted to win, they needed to pull an Order 66: create a visible enemy to distract SHIELD and the Avengers that wasn’t them, and then simultaneously sabotage and/or kill them with the operatives that served as their “back-up” and “cavalry.” And even if the Winter Soldier himself was brought into play, and there is no way HYDRA’s SHIELD operatives could have convincingly brought him into the Avengers or SHIELD without setting off major warning bells in Natasha Romanoff and Nick Fury’s minds, none of this would be a sure thing.

Seriously: Black Widow should be remembered for just how terrifying her fighting and infiltration abilities truly are … the deeds she did in the past, and what she tries to do about them now. I wish there had been more emphasis on that.

Black Widow

Yet all this aside I can honestly do this all day and all night. But I really don’t have the time and I know there are many flaws with my ideas. Certainly, there are better geeky experts than I who could poke holes in all of these scenarios. But this was a good exercise in creative speculation. I look forward to doing this again sometime in the near future.

As the man says, “Excelsior.”

It’s Always Halloween At Five Nights At Freddy’s

“And under this carnival disguise the heart of an old youngster who is still waiting to give his all. But how to be recognized under this mask? This is what they call a fine career.”
— Jean Anouilh, The Waltz of the Toreadors

Freddy Fazbear

My first disclaimer, right off the bat, is that I haven’t played any of Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s games. However I have been following them and, specifically, the overall story line.

The reason that the story behind Five Nights intrigues me so much is due to my own particular interests. Some of you who have been following Mythic Bios for a while know that I am absolutely fascinated with a special kind of creepypasta. You know the one: a short story told through different forms of media that become viral memes which proliferate through the Internet and user imaginations in the most strange and disturbingly wonderful ways. At the same time, I am a very nostalgic child of the 1980s and 1990s: especially when it comes to 8-bit and 16-bit video games.

In addition to all of this, for a while now I’ve been following the work of Kris Straub: the creator of Ichor Falls, Broodhollow, and the infamous Candle Cove. And, frankly, if I didn’t know any better I would say that in a lot of ways Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s feels like stories that Kris Straub would create if he were working in the medium of video games and playing with late twentieth century children’s nostalgia and urban legends eroded by adult decay and a wickedly self-aware sense of humour. At the very least, it taps into a similar place of childhood nightmare fuel from which Straub’s horror work and Christopher Howard Wolf’s (SlimeBeast)’s Abandoned by Disney series also spring.

FNAF Gameplay

As it is, Cawthon takes a multimedia approach to his interactive storytelling. For the most part, each Five Nights game is a point-and-click endoskeleton requiring exacting precision tempered by a slow-burning sense of paranoia and and an ever increasing level of danger: all an attempt to survive long enough before faulty spring-traps snap down in a jump-scare that will leave your peace of mind — in pieces — for at least a night or two.

But then there is the rest of the game’s material — its costume — to consider. There are, after all,  the masks that you’re forced to wear, and those that stare at you right in the face before the long dark.

You have the newspaper clippings on the corners of your office. There are the children’s drawings on the walls of the pizzeria which you have to watch through faulty security cameras. You have an answering machine from your supervisor telling you about the dangers of walking animatronics in the night, and then more ominous references such as “The Bite of ’87.”

Then we get into the second disclaimer of this article: namely spoilers. You play this game from a second-person perspective: working six hours at night a week in a pizzeria to keep an eye on the place, but aside from seeing your character’s name on a pay cheque — should you survive to the end of at least two games — you never see your face. In fact, you don’t see any human faces in any of the three games. The only faces you get to see are those of the animatronics, the walking large, cuddly, worn, and mouldering robotic children’s mascots at night as they try to stuff your sad naked flesh “endoskeleton” into an empty suit full of pistons and wires.

FNAF Gameover

Even your supposed ally, Phone Guy, is just a voice on an answering machine: and the person who is responsible for all of this is a loathsome 8-bit purple sprite.

And here is where I think Cawthon’s genius truly shines. In the second and third games of the series, Cawthon institutes a platform game element. These mini-games are often considered reminiscent of those created for the 8-bit Atari 2600. You would totally think that with their blocky graphics and crude sound effects couldn’t be taken seriously. Of course, even if you somehow disregarded the resurgence and adoption of the 8-bit aesthetic by contemporary independent game designers, you would still be dead wrong.

FNAF Death Mini-Game 2

Between the “Death Mini-Games” of Five Nights 2 and the hidden mini-games akin to easter-eggs in Five Nights 3 — morbidly reminiscent of Warren Robinett’s Adventure and the Pac-Man level 256 perfect score glitch respectively — the mythos of Five Nights becomes more fleshed out.

While the animatronics in the point-and-click parts of the games come from a grim place where neoteny — child-like traits often incorporated into exaggerated cartoons — is combined with the uncanny valley — the notion of discomfort caused by an object that unsuccessfully tries to imitate a living being are terrifying because of how realistic they are made to look, they are creepy in a different way when rendered into pixel form. They are like 8-bit hieroglyphics, allowing you to explore the horror with a detached and almost dream-like manner. There is just something incredibly archetypal and gloomy about the graphics of the games that brings out its dark subject matter: especially when you consider that they are traditionally from a child’s medium of entertainment.

FNAF Death Mini-Game

The Death Mini-Games of Five Nights 2 introduce you to the Purple Man and his role in what might be wrong with the animatronics that are attempting to kill you while, at the same time, giving you a little more background into the development of Freddy’s pizzeria and the animatronic characters therein. And in Five Nights 3, instead of having to die in order to gain random access to mini-games, you can voluntarily search for the other mini-games to perhaps change the fate of certain characters in question.

FNAF Game

I think there are two elements that I truly appreciate from the combination of mini-games, newspaper articles, and answering machine information. First, there is what Cawthon is not telling you. There is what he implies and what he leads you, as the player and viewer, to put together. Cawthon even goes further in the advertisements for his games: implanting secret codes and clues into his messages. He makes you do all the work and all of the speculating: somehow making the dread and horror that much worse.

After all, there is a particularly challenge in another form containing the horror genre: how can you keep building up tension in the story when you reveal what the monsters look like? In addition, you certainly don’t want to reveal everything about the horror in the story or it becomes expository and rote. You have to keep a little bit of mystery in horror so that you always ask yourself why: while a part of you is always at least partially afraid of the possible answers.

These are the kinds of elements that inspire fans: that made this series into something of a viral meme on par with creepypastas. There are fan-made stories, games, animations, art, and trailers based on the archetypes that Cawthon creates. A Five Nights at Freddy’s movie is in the works and there is even speculation that Freddy’s is a real restaurant somewhere: probably based off Chuck E. Cheese’s. Certainly the mascot costumes, pizza, and arcade games taps into a resonance in me as a child of the eighties and nineties: a nostalgic feeling that Cawthon is trying to invoke and distort.

The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, the three Five Nights at Freddy’s that exist right now can stand by themselves. There didn’t need to be another game after these. However, I had my suspicions. Perhaps it was because of the empty product page he kept for some time with the discarded top hat. Maybe it was his silence about whether or not there was going to be another game.

But sure enough, come October 31, the fourth and final Five Nights at Freddy’s will arrive. And if you look at the graphic on Cawthon’s page, it is extremely appropriate if you think about it. I think it actually sums up a lot of the second element that has been on my mind, in some form, when I think about this game.

FNAF 4

I mean, of course it makes sense for the last chapter of a horror survival game to come out on Halloween, but here’s what gets to me. Imagine Freddy’s Pizzeria is like Chuck E. Cheese’s or even Disney World or Land. Certainly, a place for children would celebrate Halloween in some fashion: or at least take advantage of it commercially. Maybe “The Bite of ’87” might not come into it as many fans are speculating, but imagine how freaky it would be to be in a haunted children’s restaurant on Halloween of all days: perhaps even during the day this time around. Perhaps there are actual Nightmare toy versions or animatronics for such a lovely occasion.

But all speculation on my part aside, take this a step further. Remember what I said earlier about faces? How you never see any human faces in any of the Five Nights games? There are always costumes involved. There are always roles to consider. You arguably wear a uniform as a security guard. A murderer might have worn a animatronic suit. In Five Nights 2 you have to hide your face under a Freddy Fazbear Head in order to survive an animatronic intrusion. And children might be hiding — or hidden — in other inside the darnedest places. Even Phone Guy, the former security guard who showed you the ropes of your new job and was your only ally for the most part, tells you that he is curious to see what is inside those animatronic suits.

Freddy Fazbear Mask

The fact is: it’s always Halloween at Freddy’s, and I suspect that it’s always been. No one is as they seem, everyone wears masks, no one rests, and everyone wants to play. Sometimes nostalgia is an illusion of the fabled “good old days” that can, when stripped away, becomes a dark, ravenous thing in the late hours of the night. Sometimes you lose track of time when you so desperately want to keep living, and you don’t always want to see what’s under that costume. After all, some seemingly innocent dreams are, at their core, rotting nightmares.

And just when you think its safe to take that mask off, to forget the night time, to mistake the performer taking off his top hat with a flourish and a bow as the end: the story only continues at an elegant pace … and the suspense will kill you.

Freddy Toreador March

Chasing Amy, Finding Alyssa, And Revenge Of The Shit

So I worked on a little bit of a side thing.

I wouldn’t have even called it a project, at first. As you know, I finally watched Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy not too long ago and, as a result, it did something my brain. So, one night, I was thinking about the last part of the movie and this rather, shall we say, fucked up parallel occurred to me.

Originally, it was going to be a post written on Mythic Bios after I got the article that I intended to do, for tonight, right on here. Then, as per usual, my brain asked me: “What would happen if you made this into a Twine?” Then I got silly. See, I had this plan. I was going to cut Holden McNeil’s infamous scene with Banky and Alyssa Jones: with Anakin Skywalker jumping into Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber blade, getting amputated, and igniting on fire.

Alyssa and Banky Scene

Then I was going to end it with Holden McNeil coming out of a movie theatre, having just watched Revenge of the Sith for the first time, and say something smart ass about how bad it was. The implication, of course, was that the film and the prequel Trilogy was so bad to Holden, that it brought back terrible memories. You know the ones.

This short Twine of few scenes, mostly quoted lines with that ending, was going to be called Revenge of the Shit. Personally, I think it’s a title that some of Kevin Smith’s film characters might have appreciated: among other disgruntled Star Wars fans. And yes, I was tempted to put a certain … demon of excrement into the story somewhere: perhaps asking him how the movie was.

Of course, I also came up with another — more grim and random scene — right after that which would have taken the piss out of the comedy right then and there. But, really, what I planned could have been done better by someone with actual video editing and splicing skills: of which I have neither.

It was supposed to be a throwaway project: a one-off. It was supposed to be something that was fun and light and made light of a fictional character’s ridiculous choices and suffering.

But, as usual, I can never really do anything simple.

The fact of the matter is, the little bit of fan fun and snark mutated out of my control: and into something else. At the same time, it took precision to find those quotes, describe those settings and character feelings, and build something from it. It became something else. I realize that even though these characters and lines belong to Kevin Smith, George Lucas, and now Disney, I actually had something of a story to tell.

And I had fun telling this fan homage genetic freak, bordering on a crack fic — an off-the wall story– that I hope also says something meaningful.

My Twine making skills haven’t really progressed since The Looking Glass, save for learning how to format fonts in Twine, but as always I tend to focus on story and pacing the amount of text, of making a rhythm through each hyperlink more than anything else. But before I go on, there is one more thing I’d like to say.

There is one part in this Twine story where, should you choose to find it — and it isn’t hard to do so — Holden enters something of a “What If” or “Infinities” reality with regards to Chasing Amy. There was one story I was so tempted to tell, or outline: where Holden is so overcome by Banky trying to sabotage his relationship with Alyssa, and finding out about Alyssa’s past at a point where he is not mature enough to deal with it that he actually leaves both of them — and his old life behind — without a word.

Holden

Alyssa ends up coming to his and Banky’s apartment to find out where Holden was, even as Banky is left in the lurch with regards to their creative work Bluntman and Chronic, as well as their own friendship. Alyssa demands to know what Banky told Holden after he admits that he said something to him about her past. Suffice to say, she gets mad when she finds out, while Banky gets defensive.

Alyssa decides to go looking for Holden, actually concerned that he has had some kind of mental breakdown. Banky also goes with her and, reluctantly over a car trip start working together. Unlike Holden, she warns Banky that she will do more than tell him to “shut up” if he gets out of line. Banky tells her that the reason he dug into her past, to get “evidence” on her, was because he was protecting his friend: that he was afraid she was just using him as “a sexual phase” or some kind of game. Alyssa actually calls Banky out on the fact that he loves Holden and sees her as a threat.

But they do bond, and perhaps meet some weird characters along the way. At one point they realize that they could have actually been friends if this hadn’t gone down after they begin exchanging more stories. They realize they have a lot in common in addition to their bad experiences with women. At one point, they seem dangerously close to being intimate with each other, but they both go “Nah” at the same time. Banky says something about man-hating lesbians, and Alyssa counters him with misogynous (closeted or not) gay men. It’s Banky that admits he hates the fact he never saw Holden smile more than when he saw him with her. He realizes he hurt his childhood friend badly and, for the first time, actually starts to cry. It occurs to the both of them, in a poignant moment, that they love the same man.

Holden, Alyssa, and Banky

Alyssa also tells Banky that the reason she wants to find Holden is that she’s worried about him, but that if something like her past is enough to get him to leave her, he should do the opposite of being “chicken-shit” and make it clear: giving her closure. So to spoil the ending of this alternate universe “What If” story I’m never going to write, these two flawed but genuine human beings do locate Holden. He has been in the middle of nowhere, in a barnhouse: pretty much acting like J.D. Salinger, the creator of his namesake and working on a new comic. Chasing Amy is that comic: as he had seen Jay and Silent Bob before he left. He’s spent a while regretting having left, but by his logic he “needed some space.”

Holden’s peaceful yet sad Old Ben persona (see what I did there with “Ben”) is shattered as Alyssa brings her fury on him along with Banky. It’s been a while, so Holden doesn’t really know what to feel any more. Alyssa storms off. Holden tells Banky he feels bad about leaving their partnership in the lurch and tells him he’s done with Bluntman and Chronic: giving him his share of the intellectual property which he has prepared in writing and had prepared to mail to him. Banky takes it, and then tells Holden that Alyssa went through the fire to love him, and that he is making a mistake: that he remembers how he smiled at her. Banky tells Holden to go after her. And the story ends right there.

I would have called that story Finding Holden. But this is not my Twine. Instead, my Twine is called Finding Alyssa and I hope that you will enjoy it: for what it is.

Connecting the Doughnuts: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking

Even though I’m not a musician, or even a complete music literate (whatever that ultimately means), I had been looking forward to Amanda Palmer’s first book for quite some time. And now that I finally finished reading it a few days ago, I’m now in a place where I can actually say something about it.

Amanda Palmer

It wasn’t easy and, to some extent, it’s still very challenging. The Art of Asking is something like what might happen if you take a blender, to borrow one of Amanda’s creative sayings, put it on a low setting, and introduce autobiographical anecdotes, self-help philosophy, social media excerpts, a few literary quotes, and of course musical lyrics, to the blade and mix. Chronological events are sometimes parallel with each other in the narrative, but these instances are often separated by philosophical musings and personal moments.

Whatever else, The Art of Asking is, it’s definitely not an ordinary book: as if something that’s a fusion of the creative and the personal can ever be ordinary.

I’ll also admit that it took me a while to get into the book, and sometimes I had trouble actually staying inside it. I mean, I knew that — even based on the title — that Amanda’s book would have some significant roots in her TED Talk of the same name, but it is both fascinating and sometimes off-putting to consider that there is a fair amount of her book that you can already find to some extent in her Blog and even in her introduction to Anthony Martignetti’s Lunatic Heroes.

The intertextuality, the way her book relates to the narratives and circumstances behind Anthony’s Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons, as well as to Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane really does intrigue me and it puts some elements into perspective. I’d argue that The Art of Asking has details that can give you something of a holistic approach to looking at all four narratives upon risk of falling into the authorial fallacy: of looking at the people behind the works instead of the works themselves on their own merits.

I mean, it’s no secret that Amanda encouraged Anthony to hone and publish his personal stories — many of which he’d already told her before during their time together — and that Neil’s Ocean was the result of a story that he actually wanted to tell her while she was in the middle of her own solitary creative struggles. When you look at how those narratives talk to each other, like the people that made them and talked to each other in turn, The Art of Asking is almost something of a bridge between three different and creative spaces. It is my opinion that they all belong together.

The downside was that sometimes these references felt like filler. I think what really confused me was something that Amanda said which, ironically, I truly appreciated. It was a reference to another part of her creative process. After a fascinating look at different types of creative processes from her perspective, Amanda mentions that to create something is to “connect the dots” between things that you gather or experience. This, for me, pretty much sums up how creativity happens. As a creator, you take things that don’t seem to relate to each on the surface and you find or make connections between these elements. This thought particularly jived with me.

Unfortunately, at least from my perspective as a reader, I couldn’t always see how Amanda connected the dots of her ideas and anecdotes or even her musical lyric interludes within the structure of The Art of Asking itself. Perhaps I just don’t have a good eye for it, or for that matter even a good ear. Maybe, as Amanda herself isn’t generally a book writer — this being her first one — she writes prose much in the way her mind generates rhythm and lyric: through music. This is just a thought that I’m throwing out there myself. However, maybe the narrative is a lot like Amanda herself in that her art and her performance seems to be a 24/7 deal where you cannot particularly separate them: even in another medium.

The Art of Asking, to me, felt like a balancing act: much like the way I reacted to it. The tone of it got to me sometimes. On one hand it sometimes felt like it was rather self-involved, but on the other hand it is to some extent a memoir and of course Amanda would be talking about her experiences and her feelings. At times I felt a self-help vibe from the book and I had a personal reaction to whenever Amanda would talk about giving herself to trust and love as, in my own experience, most people who expose surrendering themselves to absolute abstracts of benevolence, revolution, peace, and love often want something from you and are anything but the ideals that they claim to represent. Something about Koolaid comes to mind.

Then again, these very sentiments on Amanda’s part are tied into some considerably shrewd business and people sense. The Art of Asking specifically outlines how love and trust are relational. What I mean is that by opening yourself up to other people, by interacting with them, by actually relating to them as fellow human beings you create a bond — at least on some level — and they will become more willing to actually help you. Amanda very correctly identifies this precept in why some crowdfunding campaigns excel and why others fail completely.

In asking for help without shame and taking what is offered you without forced expectations or, again, humiliation, you are attempting to embrace a different mindset. I can personally respect and even understand this idea. Amanda even applies it well to just why her former label and the music industry are simply failing to understand their customers: as they only relate to people as customers, artists as commodities, and not as people.

Really, what I learned from this as a potential crowdfunder artist myself, is that I have a long way to go — in building relationships of some kind with my readers, in networking, and in relating to others — before I can even begin to approach the place where others can support me: and where I can provide consistent content for their support. It’s actually very humbling, and sometimes discouraging as I am not a natural extrovert and I don’t have access to the support that I need to get there, or a coherent and stable vision to attract others. Yet.

In this sense, it’s not about connecting the dots per see.  It isn’t even about giving out “the flower,” a metaphor and literal fact from Amanda’s time as a living bride statue in her early busking years that can be accepted or rejected in an attempt at staring someone in the eye and relating to them.

To me, it’s about doughnuts.

In late November 2014, I actually attended the last part of Amanda’s Book Circus Tour in Toronto. As we waited in line outside of Lee’s Palace, a volunteer kept handing out Timbits: small, round, balls of assorted doughnuts. During the event itself Amanda actually read us a part of her book in which apparently David Thoreau, during the time he wrote Walden, accepted free food from his family as help in completing his work. And Eric Alper, Amanda’s guest and interviewer bought us all tons of Timbits to hit home the point that it is okay to “Take the doughnuts.”

The way I ultimately see it, The Art of Asking is a collection of Timbits: a collection of little doughnuts of many kinds. Some might prefer specific flavours of Timbit, or all of them, or none at all. Yet all of them are doughnuts and all of them are offered to the reader.

As for me, I took my favourite doughnuts from Amanda. Some of them were crisp and instrumental. Some were multiple flavours that branched into different places, that reminded me of other things, and gave me insight about my favourite people behind the scenes. I know I ate one or two confections that Amanda had never offered before outside of her book: and the flavours hit me hard and without mercy: that were real. At least one was a moment that touched me to the core.

But all of them, even the ones I don’t always like or require an acquired taste, are in the same box of words: a bread and circuses on paper thanking everyone that it asks.

If My Mind Were A Movie

Not too long ago, I made an argument that The Room can be seen as the inside of a mind or perspective of life made into a cinematic experience. But as I finished that line of inquiry, two other questions came to mind:

What would happen if I made view of reality into a film? And what would it look like?

I don’t really plan to get all intricate about this but I think the film that represents how my mind works, and how it attempts to relate to reality goes a little something like this.

It would start from different time periods. Some parts would have voice-overs while others would have words on a screen. In fact, voice-overs will be reflections of the past and words on the screen will be internalized thoughts. I would have epic video game electric body music play, in addition to some John Williams and Murray Gold, for some of the most pivotal moments in the movie while the more uncomfortable moments — such as dealing with bureaucracy, breakups, public transportation, and loneliness — will be filled with complete and utter stifling silence. Internalized subtitles here will have ellipses.

There would be scenes of wandering and scenes where I play a character that sits in one place almost all the time. I will have my character in long-shot views of his own life. He will particularly be in the background of his past when he is a child, a teen, and a younger adult. Maybe we can go for blurry after-image effects here. Each version of him will attempt to tell the other something about their future. One might try to change something, while another might say nothing at all. I think I’d also play an antagonist to my protagonist: who enjoys breaking things.

My narrative would be tangents. There would be epic, almost wuxia level, duels and combat with understated special effects. Epic speeches ranging from “the reason you suck” to philosophical digressions all the way to lots of swearing and profanity will happen. There will be intermittent, but gratuitous, intimate sex and a focus on the pull between connection and distance. Human kind would be depicted somehow as ignorant, self-involved, and small, individuals as fascinating, and the whole humanity as sometimes frail and sad and impermanent with a few motes of true self.

That all said, many hijnks will also ensue. There would be melodramatic screams and explosions in the background as punctuation. And budgies: sometimes as pets but also attacking the populace at large. There might even be a budgie totem of imitation and mimicry in a strange version of an Australian Dreamtime involved. My character will find himself walking into different times in the same places. He will get lost a lot in all manner of different interpretations.

I’d have books and comics and, copyright permitting — though most likely through having to create analogues — have my character immersed in a world of them. He lives in there and entering it is this permeable membrane of reality: a portal that gets harder and more narrow to access as he gets older. I’d be tempted to, but probably not use CGI effects, to show a piece of his soul splintering off for every year he gets older.

I think I would design the film like a multiverse of different spaces and times: a kaleidoscope. I would make it so that there are worlds where all of his dreams happened, places where none of them did, some others where he died, and others where he never existed to begin with. Sometimes my character will be a complete bastard, other times weak and wishy washy while spending most of his time remembering his future while another lives in the past. And all of these tangents will circle round and round each other, closer and closer until they collide and everything goes completely crazy and my character jumps from one fractured reality into another: navigating a grand plan gone to chaos … something built up just to be destroyed and rebuilt again.

I also think there would be a reality where concepts are people and they shift around too: and unfinished artwork will be their own entities and have their own world. Maybe they will eat people.

There would be friends on the phone and friends online. Some of them will have strange avatars. And maybe for the end, they will all come together, or perhaps he’ll go to them.

Of course, like a certain other director I won’t name I’d probably keep adding stuff the film as I go along and take stuff out and have constant director’s cuts. If I had to sum this all up, I’d say that my film would be an independent, tragic comedy of a mythic cycle with meta-narrative, nerdy references, and a whole lot of poignant moments and what the ever loving fuck. And crisp, witty dialogue. I can’t stress that enough.

And a good ending. Maybe my film, filled with regret, passionate anger, suffocation, cackling joy, fidgeting anxiety, headaches, serenity and the whole gamut of glorious insanity that we call human experience would be a multiple choice ending situation: if such a cinematic narrative is possible.

I might call it Not My Magic Eight Ball.

Because why not?

But I will leave film directing and script-writing to more capable hands. I’m just describing what my film world would be like if it existed. It’s been a while since I’ve been personal and creative and I just wanted to try something new today: or write about something old that keeps growing.

Writing this actually felt kind of good.

So tell me: what would a film of your mindset look like?

Of Serpents and Foxes

Hello again everyone. I’ve been away, and busy, for a change but I want to start writing again on Mythic Bios at least once a week as I originally planned. I didn’t actually feel like writing anything until I got another Project of mine finished, but I feel the need to you updated on some of the things that I’m doing and to keep a record of some of my work as well.

It’s been tough for me this past while. I’ve had this Twine idea in my mind for some time and it was only at this year’s Toronto Global Game Jam that I’d been able to even start on it beyond the modest notes I’d researched and taken.

Unlike last year, I didn’t force myself to stay up until twelve or two in the afternoon to finish off my game. Aside from the fact that I had a headache during the Jam, even when I was better I realized that rushing through it and making something out of pure exhaustion would only give me sloppy work and very little to show for it: never mind the fact that it wouldn’t have even been a working narrative.

I’d gotten as far as creating an entry for it on the Global Game Jam site. At the moment, my Twine creation is called The Serpent and The Fox. I spent a whole night trying to think up a good abstract summary and a title for my creation in progress. Unfortunately, the late first night of the Jam cost me in stamina: to the point where I couldn’t even create an outline.

In the end, though, it was just as well. Most of my creative works each have their own unique processes and this one didn’t really want a pre-existing outline. Rather, it wants to use the fragments I’ve written down or have in my mind and flesh itself out from there. However, what’s really interesting about this interactive narrative is that it may well be the most structured Twine game that I’ve made to date.

Each part of my story is going to be an interlinking series of haiku: a poetic structure of five syllables, then seven on the next line, and five on the last. Of course, for the sake of storytelling — and sanity on my part — they are probably not all traditional haiku. They don’t all deal with descriptions of nature, and while I attempt to capture emotion in them, sometimes I need to use them to detail other matters. And while haiku apparently aren’t supposed to utilize metaphors, I might have to break those rules: if only to make them part of a metaphorical structure themselves. And while I will be using the five/seven/five schema when I can, I will vary up how many lines I use in each section and take essential creative liberties.

This brief discussion of poetic structure aside (and years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of talking about this, never mind finding it remotely interesting), I am particularly focusing on the perspective of the story. I can tell you right now that my story seems to start from a third person perspective, but depending on the choices that you make as a reader — on where and what character you click on — this will change.

What I am pondering at the moment is whether to follow the usual Twine and interactive choose your own adventure tradition of the second-person perspective, or go right into the first-person.

If I make it first-person, then you can see into the minds of the characters themselves even as you can choose their actions. However, ironically enough the perspective of “I” can be alienating for a reader: it’s just another divide between them and the character even if it might provide more insight. One of the texts that inspired me to make this Twine uses the first-person and I can see its strengths in that.

On the other hand, the second-person flat out, through its use of “you” makes you — the reader — into the character. It places you into their mind and body. When you make the choices that the game provides you with, you could feel a greater relation to that character. But then there is the issue of what happens when the character feels something and narrative attempts to claim that you are feeling it or thinking it too.

Either way, there is going to be some audacity involved. Another issue is that I wonder if I can get the different character perspectives to intersect again at some point and become unified depending on what the reader-player chooses: without being totally boring and repeating myself. And would the second-person, would “you” be able to relate to another character and feel the beginnings of some kind of relationship compared to whether or not you are an “I.”

I will have to find a healthy medium and keep exploring this issue further. I was reluctant to talk about this, link my entry to Mythic Bios, or even mention the name of a work that isn’t finished yet. I generally like to either link to finished works or just hint on the unfinished. It’s been weighing on my brain for a little while and taking up a good portion of its memory (I am also a less than closeted perfectionist).

Me and my Head

 

But it’s been a while and I thought you’d find this digression interesting in some way.

I hope I will be able to continue and finish this. I want to see how people react to it and I want to move on with my writing and other plans. I hope the world is treating you all reasonably. Hopefully I’ll be back next week. Until next time.

On A Half-Written Page

For those of you who don’t follow me on GeekPr0n or know me, surprise: I’m still alive.

This may well be the first and last post I make for this December and before another year takes us. I remember when I used to write so much on here. I used to write a post on Mythic Bios every day, and then every day, and then every two days, one day, and now occasionally. I suppose what I didn’t realize, at the time I started this, was as I began writing more I would have less time to Blog than I once did.

At the very least this has not been the result of a creative block or major depression. I have been busy this past while. I’m not even going to try to catch up on what I’ve been doing since my last post because so many things have happened.

I think what I really wanted to write about this time around was something about writing and life: as I’ve not done in a while. I’ve been working on a long-term project this past while that has taken a lot of time, energy, and concentration on my part. I made good progress on it for a while. I planned to have it finished before seeing my girlfriend for Thanksgiving.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

Instead, after dealing with writing other articles, interviews, and life stuff I had to put it aside and prepare to recharge for a while: but not before going to my first Amanda Palmer Book Circus when she came to Toronto. I still haven’t had the time to read her Art of Asking. That is how busy and preoccupied I have been.

So I came back from a well-deserved hiatus to my assignment only to get stuck. Some writers might tell you that the worst thing in the world, aside from deadlines, is staring at a blank page and having nothing come to you. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not the worst that can happen.

From my experience, be that as it may, the worst thing that can happen to a writer is looking a half-completed work of theirs and totally having lost their train of thought, while knowing how the story continues in their head, but fighting the details to get it all down. It is downright infuriating and it’s made all the worse when you just want to get it out of your system, and move on with your life.

Sometimes you’ll even begin to develop some performance anxiety and avoid looking at it. It will sit there in the back of your mind, but you are torn between wanting the fucker done, and despairing that you will not do it well enough. Procrastination becomes your writerly alcohol or drugs: that is, if you don’t like alcohol or drugs already.

A little while ago, I finally managed to get my story to where I needed it to go. It’s not perfect but now I feel the excitement again: and the passion and momentum to keep pushing forward. There will be editing and formatting and such to keep in mind, but those are secondary concerns at the moment: as I now feel that this will happen.

I think that what I’m trying to say is that, because a year where some promises and potential breaks didn’t pan out, where I sometimes wonder what I’m doing with my life and if I will get anything out of it, that — right now — I don’t feel like a fucking failure. 🙂 And I’d like to say that’s pretty something.

I’ve also been getting used to going outside again without feeling a whole lot of tension: though it will take some time. I’ve decided that Tuesdays are now my Suspect Video days with alternating Library days as well: to keep my mind fresh with films, books, and comics so that I don’t go completely insane. And who knows, I might even learn how to socialize again and function outdoors without too much anxiety after all this time.

Anyway, I hope that the next time I see you all in Mythic Bios will be when I have finished my work and I get to finally work on something new.

Until then the writing: it continues.

The Spooky Ghost, The Spider, The Bat, And The Count

I promised you all a second Halloween post a few hours ago and so, somewhat against my better judgement, I am going to show you the first Halloween story I ever made.

And when I say the first I mean the first. I don’t know how old I was when I wrote it, but I must have been extremely young because someone had to transcribe it for me. They may have even helped guide my ideas while somehow letting me keep my child voice. I found this creased and rusted paper wedged somewhere in my old desk drawer. I can also barely remember having toys or some figures that inspired the characters. 

And no matter how much parts of this very short bit of juvenilia make me wince, no matter how many parts of it make me want to edit it and shake my head, I have to remember that we all start from somewhere. So in honour of this Halloween and all the progress I’ve made, I just want to show you a little bit of where I used to be.

Trick-or-treat my friends. Happy Halloween, Past Child Me. 

Once upon a time there was a castle and there lived a spider, a spooky ghost and a red bat. And then count was visiting the witch. The count won’t take too long.

The next day when it was nighttime it was dark in the castle. The bat was sleeping.

“Oh!” Somebody open the door. I’m getting scared!” said the count.

The candle was lighted and one candle was turned off, and one was on, and one was dead. Then the count was sleeping, the spider was sleeping, the bat was sleeping, and the ghost was sleeping.

“What was that?”

They were all afraid.

Something said, “Oww!”

It was a wolf.

“Help!” said the bat and the spider to the count.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” said the count, “Just go to sleep.”

The ghost said, “Boo!”

The bat said, “Eee!”

The candles burned and they chased the wolf away. They lived happily ever after.

The end

Child Me

What I Want To Twine

While I’ve going through some personal and bureaucratic issues lately, I thought I would take the time — late at night and recovering from a cold — to write about some of the things that I’ve been wanting to do.

Both of the projects that particularly weigh on my mind are Twine games. I haven’t made a new Twine narrative since The Looking Glass for the Global Game Jam and I meant to do more before other responsibilities and projects came my way. I don’t want to reveal too many spoilers at this point, but maybe this is as good a place as any to voice out some of my “workshop talk,” as it were.

There is one narrative I’ve been thinking about for a little while. It combines Near Eastern, Far Eastern, and some children’s literature. I’ve gathered notes, done some basic research, and even wrote down my own quotes and sentences that I want to use: those structures that often evolve or become centralized into larger stories. Remember: something always comes from something larger, even if that larger thing doesn’t exist yet … even if you haven’t made it. I’ve really wanted to work on this one as something of a response to a piece — a chapter from a story — that I keep on getting sent to me for some reason which has evolved in my brain into something else entirely.

The other Project I really want to spend at least some time on is my Twine novel. For those of you who have followed this Blog for some time, you may remember what I am talking about. For those of you who don’t know or recall, before I even had a basic working knowledge of Twine I wanted to make an epic story that dealt with some ideological and very personal ideas. I still haven’t finished all of the “chapters” or “worlds” and I have to remember and keep track of which world links to what and how to get them to do so after I’ve written them out.

Yes, I have been writing this Choose Your Own Adventure narrative game by hand: or at least I did for a while before I had to seriously focus on my work for Poets in Hell. As for my game, I know there are three worlds I want to write out. After that, I can take a break from it for a while and do something else and eventually complete it all.

I’ve been so terribly busy and fighting to keep focus and motivation. I just wanted to let you know that although I’m facing some challenges and difficulties, it is not all doom and gloom. I’m glad I got to write a bit about my creative processes again, even as I look forward to actually working on these creations and showing you all what I intend to do.Looking Outward