This is Halloween

This will be the first of two posts that you will see today.

I spent a lot of weeks before and during Halloween differently. When I was a child I would be inundated with television specials, movies, school events, and trick-or-treating. As an adolescent, I spent some time with my group of friends. In my early adulthood I spent a lot of it by myself trying to remember how happy I used to be and imagining all the other people who were having fun that I did not. I spent the rest of my young adulthood, alternatively, with friends and sometimes on my own.

I almost went to a Halloween party last year but I didn’t. I was too depressed and I did what I often do in that state: sleep and work.

This past while I’ve been doing something different for Halloween. Instead of wandering around outside at night in the dark aimlessly, or watching television, or hanging out with friends and lovers I have been busy.

I have been busy.

Last week or so, I covered six films in the 2014 Toronto After Dark for GEEKPR0N. I even covered an extra day, a Wednesday, so I could watch one film that was recommended to me. Those of you that read this Blog or my work at GEEKPR0N already know about this. I wrote reviews on The Drownsman, Wolves, Late Phases, Wyrmwood, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and Why Horror?

And it was difficult. There were many times I thought I could just watch the films, then go straight home, and write something out that night. But even though I got wiped out, it was totally worth it. The irony is that once, long ago, I was told that I should write reviews for movies — or movies like these — and I didn’t think I was qualified to do so. It’s only in relatively recent times that I’ve realized that the only way to be qualified to do anything is to make yourself so, and start to believe it.

I got some other things published in honour of Halloween as well. Not only did I write a nice short article on the end of Kris Straub’s Broodhollow Book Two, but I got to examine and see just how a creepypasta created by Eric Heisserer the subreddit no/sleep truly lures readers into fear and trepidation. If you have read my articles on creepypastas, you know something of what you might be in for when you read this particular piece of mine.

But I think there is one achievement in particular that I can really be proud of mentioning. Do you recall, that week or so ago before I went off the Mythic Bios grid again, that I was doing another interview: this one live and in-person? Well, with the help and guidance of GEEKPR0N and Toronto After Dark organization … the following actually occurred.

David Hayter Fav and Retweet

Not only did David Hayter, the screen writer of the first two X-Men films and Watchmen as well as the voice of Solid Snake favourite and retweet my review of his movie Wolves I also got to interview him before Werewolf Night at the Toronto After Dark.

You can find my interview with David Hayter right here.

So that has been my time leading up to Halloween so far. The rest of what I intend to do, however, is as follows. Later this evening I am going to the Silver Snail Halloween Party: the same one I didn’t end up attending last year. I don’t have a costume idea as of yet and I’m having some difficulty finding make-up after my last misadventure but I’m going and to anyone living in Toronto or nearby, I hope that you will join me. It’s organized by GEEKPR0N, in part, and it makes some pretty awesome parties and I don’t intend to miss this one this time around.

The next day I’m going to the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery to pay a visit to Drawing For Deb: In Support of Epilepsy Toronto. There will be signings and a 12-Hour Comics Marathon: Special Edition there to raise money to combat epilepsy which claimed the life of Debra Jane Shelly: a well-known friend of the comics community and someone that I only began to know when I first started coming to the Lounge. She was an awesome person and there will be some good people there. I’ve realized long ago that I am just not an artist with pictures, so I will be attending to pay my respects and I may not be there the entire day.

And then the next day I will be going to Horror-Rama: an all-horror convention where I want to explore and particularly meet Jovanka Vuckovic: the brilliant upcoming director of the Jacqueline Ess film adaptation.

Then somewhere, somehow I will catch up with my Doctor Who recaps and next week get back to my fiction writing and probably sleep for a few centuries as I am bloody exhausted.

So this is both what I have been doing, and what I am going to do. It’s funny. When I was reviewing Why Horror? I started thinking about just how it is effective. When I was a child I read many abridged versions of horror stories, listened to and read written down folktales and urban myths. And I would spend time in the now-defunct Hollywood Movies store reading the backs of horror film VHS tapes. I would attempt to avoid watching them, scared of being caught in the web of their details and becoming committed, but so very fascinated with what I might find.

Not much has changed. I think the reason that horror is so fascinating is the fact that when you look at all the gore, the grisliness, and the uncanny you see what you are not and you also get to see a bit of what you are. You are ultimately safe and in sensible surroundings, or so you think, and it gives you a rush of life — of vitality — in the autumn.

That’s why some people have sex after watching horror. That’s why some people have an urge to create stories and study mythologies after watching horror. That’s why people gather around their friends and celebrate their grisly façades: the orange light in the darkness. That’s ultimately why I’m rambling right now.

I’ve spent my life fascinated by, and avoiding life. But it lures you in. It is the ultimate horror but it is also a spectacle, and best experienced in good company. I hope that, today in sharing all of this with you, that I got to be the latter.

Happy Halloween, my friends.

Interviews and More Writing

I’m still doing my writing, but I just thought I’d go into a little more detail about what I was talking about in my last post.

If you remember I talked about an interview I did for GEEKPR0N. That interview was actually with Larry Wilson: the co-writer and co-producer of Beetlejuice, The Addams Family, and the writer and director of Tales From the Crypt for six seasons. Our interview centred around his current project the web series Cindy: a twenty-first century retelling of Cinderella with elements of Reality TV parody, dark humour, and just plain weirdness.

To be honest, I never dreamed that I would be talking to one of the people integral in creating a large feature of my childhood. I first got to know Beetlejuice through the cartoons and it goes without saying that while I knew about The Addams Family before the film, I recall spending a recess in the corner of my elementary school reading its novelization. And I’m not even going into the time where I would to sneak up late and watch some Tales From the Crypt on Fox.

And I will tell you right now that if I had the money and even basic screenwriting experience, I would definitely take up Larry’s script consultation reward. I honestly hope that if I can’t, someone else does.

I’ve also written a little something for Clive Barker. Yes: that’s right. You read that correctly. Basically he has put a challenge out there to write a story for an image he painted and posted on Deviantart. I will link to the image and I’ll post what I wrote here: because one requirement was placing the narrative in the Comments section.

ON WHOSE DREAMS

They built cities to keep them out.

People will tell you all manner of more pragmatic reasons for the creation of cities. They will mention the intersection of culture and trade, of the need for propaganda art to cow enemies and citizens alike, of a place to better house the billions of human beings being born every day.

But some will tell you something else. They’ll inform you, secretly where they think no one else can hear, that all of that art and architecture, the arrangement of the paths, streets, and buildings, and even the placement of certain homes and peoples were arranged as a pattern: to ward them off.

Yet ultimately it is the enclosures that are the thing.

They are no new innovation. It’s well known that ancient humans and their predecessors would hide in their caves during the night after saying farewell to their loved ones, their friends, and their enemies. And even now they would like to forget the howling outside, the scraping against the rock walls and their paintings of animal blood,  the hunger deeper than the tunnels in which they hid and the pleading: to be accepted back among their people.

However, all of them are wrong. They remember it all wrong. Cities weren’t made for the living to hide and hoard their food against the seasons and the predators. The lost weren’t put outside to roam around for eternity. No. The tribes often placed their lost in their homes: sealing them up and painstakingly maintaining them. They would bring them food, tools, and the results of trade. Over time they bargained with them, prayed to them … worshipped their memory and what yet remained.

Caves like wombs became camps. Camps became villages. Villages towns and towns cities. The monuments grew higher each day: growing from the foundation of countless generations and those that tended their ground: which they still do to this very day.

So now do you understand? Do you know why sometimes you feel so tired: so drained? Even as the symbols lengthen like shadows into the sky and expand across the land, nothing truly changes. It is amazing how, simultaneously, you are cramped and alone: like you are the one living in the coffin. You are the one that’s trapped here.

No. Cities were not built to keep them out, but to keep them in.

For cities are not built for the living, but for the dead: in which everything within truly belongs.

So to say I’ve been busy would be something of an understatement. I’ve already told you about the fact that I’m going to be covering the Toronto After Dark. I actually tried to do this last year with Mythic Bios and for my efforts I got an invitation to view and write a review of their opening night. This time, however, I’m attending on behalf of GEEKPR0N. Expect to see me there for the Sunday and Thursday showings.

And I am going to be interviewing someone else. Again, I’m not going to go into any details as of yet but I will say that it will be my first in-person interview ever and I’m both cautious and excited over that prospect.

I remember once being the person that never even dreamed of having these opportunities or being this person as immersed in geek culture as I am now: even when people encouraged me to do so. And well … here we are.

Don’t worry. I will take time to peer in here and update all of you. I just thought you’d like to know about this. And please, read my articles and tell me what you think. It means a lot to me. Yet again, take care everyone. 🙂

Writing Time Again: And More To Come

Hello everyone. I’m glad I got to spoil you with two articles last week, but this will probably be an exception and not the rule. Still, for a while there it felt almost like old times and it was all creative writing: as I obviously have Doctor Who on the brain.

Basically I am going into writing and deadline mode again. So I am going to be focusing a lot of my energies on my current assignment and, when it’s done in some way or form, I’ll be back in force. But before I go, let me tell you a little bit about what has been happening with me so far.

Very soon you are going to be seeing a lot of GeekPr0n articles. In fact, you already have in some ways. Cyan Worlds even retweeted my article on their plans to make a Myst television series. Myst was prevalent in a lot of my young adulthood and there is something very full circle about being recognized by its creators: especially as it is an article about worlds — Ages — linked to by Writing.

But that all said and done, it’s the season of Halloween and I found a lot of current news to talk about. As the zombies moan, spread the love and you know where to follow me.

There are two things of note that I’d like to mention, though, to this regard. First, I had an important interview with someone who has informed many a geeky childhood and is currently doing some good work. The second thing I’d like to mention is that I will be covering some of the upcoming Toronto After Dark for GeekPr0n.

And it’s funny. For years I had nowhere to go and nothing to for Halloween night proper and now I have two events around that time which I am going to attend. I’m excited and I feel different these days. There is still a lot I have to deal with but, and I think this has been happening for a while, I am not the same person that I used to be.

It’s hard to explain and it doesn’t involve spiritual or alien possession, cloning, mutations, or the dark side of the Force as far as I know. I’ve been producing words like a fiend and even though I didn’t get to undertake my Twine projects like I planned, I still haven’t ruled them out and they will be in my thoughts for the future.

In the meantime, I have some other writing to do and I hope to see you all soon and well. Once again, take care everyone. You are all awesome.

My Last Geeky Weekend

My last weekend did not go as expected.

There’s an understatement for you. I knew that Fan Expo was happening and I was going to avoid it. I had some bad experiences with it the previous year (in the form of getting a prepaid ticket for the last day, getting lost, and not getting a straight answer of where to go: even from the volunteers). It got me so angry that not only did I write to the previous managers of the event, but I vowed to personally boycott them. It was a sad decision: as I know people who go to it that I rarely ever see.

My original plan was go to GeekPr0n’s Cosplay Ball Friday evening and the next day go to the Silver Snail Black Canary Espresso Bar to meet my friend John, who was coming in from Michigan, for their Midnight Madness sale. In this way, I would avoid the lines, the confusion and be able to take my time at things: while possibly meeting my friends regardless.

But as I said, things did not go as planned.

First let’s start with the GeekPr0n Cosplay Ball. I left late that evening and I hadn’t eaten anything. After nearly getting lost, though not nearly as badly as I used to get because fuck geography, I found a Subway store nearby, only to have less than a half an hour to eat and get out. My original plan was to eat and then put on my make-up: instead of walking through suburban Thornhill, riding the TTC system all in pseudo-goth, and messing up my make-up by eating.

Instead, I was forced to go to a nearby Tim Hortons and do a rush job in the bathroom. Here is a lesson to making yourself up like the Crow. Number One: don’t rush it. Especially if you haven’t put on your own make-up in a few years. And Number Two: remember that putting black make-up over white dilutes it.

And you end up resembling something like this.

DSC00117

So after I left the Tim Hortons as a combination Crow and Kiss Halloween experiment, I got into the Mod Club: where we were having the event and due to my excellent sense of timing I missed a lot of things.

A lot of things.

It actually makes my heart hurt a bit to realize just what I missed. And you can find all of that at GeekPr0n, if you’d like. I’m not in any of those pictures because, yeah, I was late and it’s probably just as well. Still, I got some dancing in and met a few people. Our magazine manager actually got me a drink and I felt bad that I don’t really drink, but I definitely appreciated the sentiment and I still do. After helping pack up some stuff, I walked all the way to College and Spadina from the Mod where I formally said goodbye to the physical resting place of the Neutral Lounge that once meant so much to me.

DSC00118

It’s amazing how people treat you differently when you are wearing a costume. Most Torontonians ignored me, but I got a few jeers (there was one guy at the club that was always dancing near me and patting me on the shoulder and what-not because, you know, men always don’t mind physical contact apparently) and even some appreciation. Sometimes I don’t know whether someone is complimenting me or making a joke at my expense in the form of a compliment. I guess that says a lot about my early life with my peers. But on the bus ride home some giggling young ladies were sitting around and one wanted to take her picture with me. And I thought to myself: so that is how my cosplaying friends feel. It was a pretty cool feeling.

So after a late night walking back and talking with a friend of mine on the phone all the way home, I went to sleep extremely late and planned to slum to the Espresso Bar later in the evening the following day.

All right. Now let’s talk about the rest of that weekend.

So my friend John had this cockamame plan to get into Fan Expo and buy tickets on the busiest day of the event: Saturday. I told him good fucking luck, after trying to make him see the error of this insanity, and quite honestly waited for the messages of horror to come.

The following Saturday I woke up towards two and got a Facebook message from John saying he was heading out. All right. Again, good luck to him. I felt a little disappointment as I knew he was going to be meeting some of our friends, but I made my own plan and I was going to stick with it.

John messages me some minutes later telling me that he’s “here.”

“You’re downtown now?” I asked him.

“Nope. I’m on your driveway.”

My jaw dropped and I have to admit, I swore a lot. I asked him what he was doing here as I told him about my plan and he said he just thought it would be convenient if he drove me to the Snail or to Dundas and we could meet up later. Bear in mind: I was still in bed and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. But since John was already here, I decided “Fuck it, I’m going downtown.”

As we were going downtown, we decided to try for the Expo and get tickets for Sunday. Instead, we got tickets for that day and Sunday. You know, a part of me almost thinks that this entire thing was planned. I mean, John did tell our friends that he was going to try to get me down there, but for god’s sakes this was ridiculous.

So we ended up walking around the south building and eventually we met up with my friend Angela O’Hara was cosplaying Ariel: complete with a combing fork. We looked at drawings, sketches, and then comics. We met some more people we knew. I got a signed Manborg comic. And then we got a picture with some Daleks who decided to serve me:

Served by the Daleks

Or whom I decided to serve.

Serving the Daleks

But while language is ambiguous for a reason, Toronto traffic is less so. We spent an hour getting out of the city: and this happened both days. But on Saturday, since we were already out, we decided to meet up with our friend James in Mississauga and see Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d given up hope of seeing it with any one of my friends and I was this close to seeing it by myself to see what the hell everyone was raving about.

So after we had dinner, the first meal of my whole day, and Groot later, I was grandly impressed by the film. It was a story well done with dialogue exchange that is reminiscent of how I like to hear dialogue and write it.  I made a vow to see all the Marvel movies I can access now as I have a fear of commitment and it’s about time to get over that at least to this regard. Suffice to say I passed out pretty hard that night.

The next day I had time to eat, John picked me up, and we went to the Sunday round of the Expo. We hung around a little more in the North building this time around (and there was a lot of walking and escalators involved in that, let me tell you) and I got to meet my fellow horror and Heroes in Hell writer ZombieZak at his booth. We explored until it was almost that time and we headed back into the Toronto traffic before finally escaping on a highway.

And to cap off that day, I watched the Doctor Who episode “Into the Dalek”: which my dad recorded for me the night before. I even wrote a review.

So yeah. My friend John is stubborn and loyal and I got to have the geekiest weekend I had in a very long time. I learned just why we are Groot and that I will never be late for GeekPr0n Party again if I have anything to say about it.

Still, traffic jams need to be exterminated.

Matthew and the Daleks

Star Wars: Preludes and Interludes Of A Space Opera

I think that if I were a Time Lord, I’d be a unique one that specializes in travelling to alternate timelines: not because I originally intended to, but due to the fact that these are places to which my senses are attuned.

Lately, not to mix metaphors, I’ve been thinking about Star Wars. I mean, when aren’t I? But bear with me. Imagine, in that period between 1980 and 1983, when The Empire Strikes Back made people truly want to know what happened next, George Lucas came up with a plan: a long-term plan.

We already know and suspect that by Return of The Jedi, Lucas was planning on heavily merchandising the hell out of his universe. Some people even think the addition of Ewoks in the last film was an attempt to particularly appeal to children and their love for toys. Even after the sixth film, we had cartoons like Ewoks and Droids.

But what if it didn’t stop there? What if aside from the made-to-TV Ewoks films George Lucas had wanted even more merchandising. At the time, LucasFilm was in the process of developing its special effects technology that would be utilized not just by itself, but by other companies and film productions as well. Even so, by the time of the cartoons it had only been a few years since Return of The Jedi and people — particularly children — were still fresh off of a galaxy far, far away and wanted more. More than that, and I can speak for myself here, fans had questions: about the Jedi, about the Republic before the Empire, and the Clone Wars themselves.

Many of these questions had been answered with the new CGI Clone Wars cartoons and the Prequel films — albeit with some gaps even now — but there was a gap of at least, what, seventeen years or so, between the films: where many of us waited after the re-release of the Old Trilogy to find our answers and immerse ourselves into new Star Wars.

Yet what if during that time, we had something else to tide us over during near two decades of waiting?

Indulge me and imagine this. After the last film and the initial cartoons, LucasFilm decides to release oncoming series that takes place during The Clone Wars. Perhaps Lucas calls them, collectively, Interludes. During this time, we get to essentially see the Republic and the Separatist Crisis, and the Jedi Knights. We get to see a young Obi-Wan and Anakin actually growing together but, more importantly, we get to see something else as well.

Jedi Team

We are witness to other characters — other Jedi and galactic denizens — and we get to watch them grow. We are introduced to the clone troopers early and see them as individuals: while always wondering why they look so like and unlike stormtroopers. And there are hints of Anakin’s back story and how he met Padme. At this stage, perhaps a few seasons or an interrelated series of cartoons (perhaps aided in the 90s by one young Genndy Tartakovsky) and live-action programs: space opera serials not unlike the material from which their structure was derived. Can you imagine that? Coming home from school to watch your Star Wars show?

And yes, the intervening years between the early 1980s and the late 90s might not have much in the way of advanced graphics or special effects by our contemporary standards but imaginary worlds have been built on much less and with more attention to detail. I mean, look at some anime from that period, or even the Old Trilogy and how immersive it was for looking all run-down, and world-weary and real: letting our minds fill in the rest. I could have seen LucasFilm making a lot of money during this time. I mean, think of an Interlude series of Star Wars: Clone Commandos playing alongside G.I. Joe. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t be bad-ass.

Clone troopers

So during this whole time, you have all these background characters getting built up, living, and dying. You get immersed in their lives. Shaak-Ti, Aayla Secura, Kit Fisto, Plo Koon and the other Jedi have many adventures and you get attached to them. You see the Jedi Initiates as children and you want to be a Jedi: relating more to you directly as a child than even Luke does in the movies. Hell, you might even want to be Clone Troopers, have their special armour and play Clones Verses Droids along with Rebels Verses Imperials in the playground.

Of course, there would be comics and books as per usual. And then periods where there are no cartoons or shows. It makes the audience wait with anticipation. You build on the culture that you have already cultivated and created. The important thing is that you leave the questions. You have Anakin refer to his time on Tatooine and being a slave and you never know everything that happened. He has moments of darkness and you don’t know what caused them. You can tell Palpatine is doing something, but you don’t know where it all began or what even started the Clone Wars at all. Then there are the other questions about what will happen to the Jedi: particularly your favourite Jedi and their friends and comrades in the clones.

1999 comes around. Perhaps there has been some intervening years where the Interludes — The Clone Wars cartoons and live-action serials — have died down. Everyone is waiting. Now take the movies know from our timeline. If you want, imagine that the ideas created by George Lucas were written out by other writers: as he had those in the Original Trilogy. Maybe he even has others giving direction to the actors: those who can relate to them and have them react in believable and human ways. Scene-sequencing is interspersed with equal amounts of dialogue and action. CGI is cut down considerably and used sparingly: with a greater reliance on prop development and real world scenery.

The Phantom Menace reveals Anakin’s origins and just why the Jedi think he is so important. Attack of The Clones, three years later, shows us how The Clone Wars began. And, finally and heartbreakingly, we have Revenge of The Sith: where not only do we see Anakin fall, but all those Jedi characters that survived up until this point are mercilessly cut down by the clone troopers that we have, despite our better judgement as adults and adoration as children, grown to love.

Think of the impact of this alternate timeline. Think of how much we could relate to the death of Aayla Secura if we had seen her in various shows fighting for worlds and having her private moments with Kit Fisto. Think about Plo Koon and his time being a part-time mentor for Ahsoka Tano — perhaps even tutoring her in piloting — only to have his ship blown apart by one of his own clones. And the Younglings, those children you saw becoming Jedi … think about the horror in that.

How would you have viewed even the Prequels that we have now if there was all that build-up to the tragedy — a well-written tragedy — that was their Trilogy and the beginning of The Empire.

So now the Prequels are over. You know what happens. And yet … there are still some mysteries. Some Jedi are still alive or unaccounted for. A Rebellion has yet to form. LucasFilm, and perhaps Lucas Arts as it might still be around this alternate timeline can play with that. The fans are devastated by the impact of the Rebellion and Luke Skywalker is felt even more keenly. You watch the films again to know that the Empire fails.

Perhaps Star Wars cartoons and shows are divided into the Preludes — those dealing with the events before the Empire — and Interludes — those focusing on events during the Empire. Maybe some of these shows happen after the Prequels in real-time and others during the 80s and 90s. This is all you have to go on so far.

But everyone wants to know what happens next. They want to know what Luke and Leia do after the Empire falls. They have only had their appetite whet with the Clone Wars and the origins of the Empire. They want more.

And then, after 2005, ten years later after more shows and merchandising — and perhaps with the aid of Disney’s resources — we have: the Sequel Trilogy. The New Trilogy.

Of course, many people might have their own alternate ideal Star Wars watching timeline. Maybe there were no Clone Wars or Prequels. Perhaps the Sequel Trilogy happened right away. But there is something else to consider and it took me a while to personally understand and accept this.

It was Tony Pacitti in his pop culture memoir My Best Friend is a Wookiee that made me consider it. Perhaps one day, if not right now, there will be a new generation of children born. These children might watch The Phantom Menace and Attack of The Clones. Then they might watch The Clone Wars. Then Revenge of The Sith. Then the Old Trilogy. And the New Trilogy. They will see all the standalone films. And right now, it is all open to them. It isn’t perfect and there are gaps and questions, but they have mysteries to explore and wonder to consume.

It would be like us discovering the magic of Star Wars for the first time and their experiences would be different but similar to our own. They have so much more to see and know. They get to do what we can only dream of doing: living a life of imagination inundated by a variety of Star Wars: decades of Star Wars. And no matter way you look at it, this will be their first step into a much larger world.

Star Wars Legends: Crisis In Infinite Galaxies

It was a little while ago that Star Wars fanatics were informed, by LucasFilm, that the Star Wars Expanded Universe of novels, comics, video games and other multimedia would no longer be considered canon in the Great Holocron of that Galaxy far, far away. The Star Wars canon, such as it is, has been culled down to the current six films, The Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Rebels.

For the most part, all other materials belonging to the Expanded Universe have become Legends: stories that have, for all intents and purposes, been regulated to the status of galactic apocrypha. I wrote something on the subject at GeekPr0n, where I was fairly tongue-and-cheek about the entire matter, but I have to admit I had a few more thoughts on the matter.

You see, it’s not the first time a major franchise has rebooted, or attempted even a partial reboot, of itself: where stories that fans have followed for ages become either the relics of Gold, Silver and Bronze Ages, or non-canon entirely. Say what you will about Star Wars Legends becoming different “points of view” in examining that galaxy, that fans will “always get to keep their stories,” or that they will be consulted for those creators making the “new continuity.” I can even sympathize and admit that there were some Expanded Universe elements that simply didn’t make sense or, frankly, were very badly made.

But that all said, despite my own feelings that I wish the Prequels and The Clone Wars CGI series should be relegated into the realm of Legends (because, frankly, I don’t like the majority of their elements) I feel that there is something very cynical about taking a story and characters that people love and saying that they are no longer legitimate. Oh, they get their Legends and you can still read them but, chances are, you will never see them influence mainstream Star Wars and even if they do, they will not be the same. Your stories and characters are no longer in continuity.

For me, and in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, this news felt “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.”

Obi-Wan

But why stop there? Why simply stop at placing all of the Expanded Universe into its own Legends pocket dimension and go further?

That’s right ladies, gentlemen and other beings throughout the multiverse: perhaps LucasFilm should have “pulled a DC” and created their Crisis In Infinite Galaxies.

I mean, the tools were all there. There were already Star Wars Infinities comics: the very same that are, ironically enough, in Legends right now. But instead of a series of What-ifs, they could easily make a big What-If. And let’s make it a big one that functions a little something like this:

Imagine that each story arc: The Dawn Of The Jedi, Tales Of The Jedi, Knights and The Old Republic, The Star Wars Prequel books, The Clone Wars, Republic Commando, The Force Unleashed, X-Wing, Thrawn all the way to Visions Of The Future, Young Jedi Knights, Star Wars: Jedi Knight, Dark Empire, The New Jedi Order, The Dark Nest Crisis, Legacy Of The Force, Fate Of The Jedi, Star Wars: Legacy, the original Marvel Star Wars comics, The Star Wars, and all other multimedia adventures are their own Galaxies: including the novelizations of the films. Think of them all as alternate timelines and realities like the different Ages of DC and the parallel universes of Marvel.

Star Wars Expanded Universe

And each of these realities contains alternate versions of our favourite characters, and some unique characters as well. We take these characters and settings and, through some deus ex machina — through the art of the crossover stolen from the traditional comic book superhero genre — we do what Star Wars does best: we engineer a plot-driven conflict and destroy every reality until there is only one: the accepted one.

Think of this as the premise: there is an imbalance in the Force. In the Splinter Galaxy, an archetypal and primordial power known as the Kaiburr Crystal has been taken from its place in the Temple of Pomojema on Mimban and split into pieces by the forces of the Light and the Dark. Because of the separation of this Crystal and its removal from its resting place, the hyperspace disturbances on the edge of the Galaxy fluctuate.

Kaiburr Crystal

Meanwhile, in other Galaxies the ancient Celestials and the Rakatan Infinite Empire become aware of this shift in the boundaries beyond their Galaxy: or perhaps a hyperspace lane that one of them is manipulating warps into an unstable portal in the Deep Core. The Celestials proceed to explore while the Rakata mobilize their fleet and their Dark side-fuelled technology for invasion. The spirits of Obi-Wan and Yoda appear after a mysterious rift opens up near Endor and give Luke Skywalker a new mission. Then you have the Force Priestesses that taught Qui-Gon Jinn and Master Yoda ascension, along with The Ones, the anchorites in the Clone Wars Galaxy sense the destabilization of reality and summon the Chosen One and his allies to deal with this issue from Mortis.

Of course, this does not go unnoticed by the Dark Side. In addition to the Rakata you have Abeloth from the Fate Galaxy rushing in past the remnants of the Centerpoint and Sinkhole Stations: where a rift opens in the Maw and her realm “beyond shadows.” It gets worse, of course. Palpatine from the Dark Empire Galaxy seeks all of his alternate selves and plans to drain their knowledge and become a god, whereas the Sith Emperor Vitiate from The Old Republic Galaxy plots to destroy, devour all life everywhere and do the same.

Now imagine a young Luke Skywalker meeting all of his alternate selves: including the older Jedi-Bendu version of himself from The First Draft Galaxy, the swashbuckling hero from the Marvel Galaxy, and his Jedi Master selves from the others. Envision Han Solo’s genuine shock when he sees a reptilian version of himself that tells him about the odds. Perhaps Starkiller from the Unleashed Galaxy meets Annikin. The clones from Republic Commando run into their The Clone Wars counterparts. Even now I can see the Delta and Omega squads stating, “Brain chips? Brain chips!? What the kriff is this load of osik?”

Then you have Revan from The Old Republic Galaxy meeting The Clone Wars Anakin Skywalker and making the latter wonder what it is to be the Chosen One. Or Darth Vader encountering his First Draft counterparts: the general sharing his name, Prince Valorum of the Knights of the Sith and the prototype demonic artist’s version of himself. And just imagine the Force spirits of different Galaxies meeting each other: such as the young Anakin and the old Anakin many of us grew up seeing.

Star Wars Conceptual Drawing

And the Space Fortress and Death Stars band together, all survivors band together as a terrifying amalgam of World Devastator and Sun Crusher technology — something with a name like the Cosmic Obliterator — crafted from a Galaxy where a Droid Revolution or an Abominor invasion succeeded, or perhaps even the Star Forge gaining its own sentience and independence — obliterates one Galaxy after another in its quest to reunite the Kaiburr Crystal shards and gain unlimited power.

Star Wars Zombies

Or worse … perhaps the malicious Mnggal-Mnggal, coming from the Unknown Regions Galaxy, is seeking to expand its pain, suffering, and self-awareness across all the flesh in existence utilizing the Sith and Imperial-created Blackwing Virus to infect and infiltrate beings in all currently enmeshed realities — the only thing stopping it being a united Kaiburr Crystal. Or the strange and transdimensional Waru, from his Crystal Star Galaxy is drawn into the madness and wants to just go home. That’s right. I went there. I definitely went there. And yes, the blob gets his own Galaxy of that book title’s name. So there.

Yes, I am being incredibly sarcastic. But why not? If each story is no longer canon or set within a Star Wars continuity, why should there be a causality inferred between them? Of course there are copyrights to consider and more fan rage, but just consider the stories you could tell with this attitude. And imagine if the stories were told well. Think of all these characters and their interactions, the stories they themselves can tell. Imagine them making fun of, but respecting their own origins for what they are. And when they die, they can die with some kind of meaning: something more than simply being told they no longer exist.

Star Wars Explosion

And even with the cop-out of the reunification of the Kaiburr Crystal in the centre of the First Draft Galaxy’s most potent Force nexus repairing and “rebooting” the Galaxy of long, long ago erasing the characters’ knowledge of past events, does it really matter? Because if they don’t know of the struggles, if they no longer exist as the credits and the epic music roll heralding a new and uncertain reality, we will remain. We will know.

Jedi-Bendu

We will mourn the passing of the strange teleportation, time-travel, advanced droids and lost civilizations of the Marvel and Dark Horse Galaxies, the origins of the Je’daii civilization from the Dawn Galaxy, the short and meaningful lives of Frontline Combat clone commandos, the insane pinnacle of Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker who finally comes into his own, beautiful Zeltrons, the varied lives of bounty hunters, scum and villainy, and the love and passion between worlds.

Or, maybe this could be the process by which future writers will decide what goes into the new primary Galaxy. Who knows.

I will tell you now: this is the stuff of fanfiction. But I won’t make this story. I can’t. I recognize my limitations. But if something has to end, it should go out with a bang and everyone should have their time. I salute anyone who can, is, or will be running with this mad jigsaw idea of a crossover.

My rant has turned into a homage. Thank you for reading it. The Force be with you. Always.

I Found Out I Was a Cambion on my Birthday

It was my birthday yesterday.

It’s funny. I can’t always remember what I did every March 16. I can’t really remember anything particular about 2013. I do recall watching the controversial return of Darth Maul in Clone Wars back in 2012. I also recall my girlfriend buying me a Ms. Fields’ chocolate chip cake in 2011: the same year she had offered to have me move in with her. I didn’t really celebrate my birthday in 2010: though there had been the promise of a celebration that never happened. In 2008 I brought a birth cake to a gathering and before that there was another where someone announced it was my birthday and I was all embarrassed and such.

Before that it was a blur of Undergrad and small family celebration. I do know that every time this day comes along, it feels lighter. I mean there are seasonal reasons for that. When you look at it I was born towards the end of Winter. According to my parents, I was supposed to be born in the Springtime but I was apparently eager. Sometimes I wonder about my infant self’s wisdom, but there it is.

For many years in my childhood I had a birthday party with my friends and such. And yes, I was an eighties child and my parents did rent a party room and we did watch The Neverending Story and gave out memorabilia such as Falcore on a ruler that turned into a wristband. But then I got older and my friends went their separate ways and I found that I had no friends really to celebrate anything with. Birthday parties just started to feel very childish and when many of your friends live downtown or out of province and country, it is hard. Even though it didn’t feel like it, aside from dinners that my parents insist on taking me out on now that I’m at their place and a cake, my birthday just became every other day.

C'Tor Solutions

I was lucky this weekend. My friends, some of whom I’ve known since high school and one who I knew in elementary, told me at the last minute that we had a role-playing game session. This was going to be a special session. This was the point where our characters were going to cross from the ordinary mortal realm into beings of other essences. A new rule system was based and is still being tested by us. We talked, rolled dice, ate, laughed and actually role-played. I was exposed to so much lore from this world that Noah, our DM, has taken great pains to create.

And now because of the revelations of last game, my character’s plans might have changed along with his view of the world.

We spent the first part of our time cutting out cards and writing down our new powers. Then we started playing. I felt really enthusiastic and there were twists and turns and dinner and I could just see Noah waiting to reveal all of this lore: and it is not over yet. It’s funny. I have talked about my friends here before and our games, but I don’t think I ever realized just how long we would know each other. We have evolved over the years and sometimes we are together and other times we are off by ourselves. I think that is what loners of our kind do. But loners do gather from time to time to do awesome things.

And I vowed, for that one day before I even knew we had these plans, that I wasn’t going to dwell on the more difficult elements of my life. Not my welfare, nor my conflicts, or the myriad of other things I want or need to do, or didn’t do. All that mattered was that one day where I got to roleplay with my friends.

So there you go. This is my obligatory post-birthday, well, post.

Oh and, my character found out he was a Cambion: a descendant of a human and a demon. It actually explains a lot about me. It really does.

Happy thirty-secondth birthday to me.

Looking Outward

I Got Quoted, She Makes Comics, La-Mulana Cries, and A Pixie Is Making Games

This will be my first post written directly on schedule and I hope to make this a habit again. So what I’m going to do is the following. I missed you guys so much that in my haste to actually let you know what’s been going on with me lately, I’ve actually forgotten t mention a few things.

The first is that Anthony Martignetti, the author of Lunatic Heroes and now Beloved Demons, has created his own writer’s site and in its “Reviews and Endorsements” section is a blurb, at the very bottom of the page, taken from someone that all of you might find very familiar. Basically, Anthony quoted me. 🙂 I found this when I was at the Toronto Global Game Jam (which probably explains how I forgot to write about it with all the writing I had to do there and after) and in addition to all the positive energy that was already around me, it made my day. The fact of the matter is that I am honoured and feel kind of unworthy to be mentioned in such really august company.

That said, it still makes my day and reminds me that I am actually doing some good work here on Mythic Bios. I will tell you right now that it has been difficult to return back to my regularly scheduled posting. I still plan to do some writing outside of Mythic Bios and the Net and, regardless of even that, it took a while for the old, weird ideas to come back into my head and flow properly as they did. But I do have something to work with now.

And Anthony, I have not forgotten about you. You will all see something new about Anthony’s work relatively soon.

But here is what I am going to do for the rest of this post. I am actually going to be doing some very shameless plugging for some really cool things that haven’t been derived from me.

For first thing’s first. The Sequart Research & Literacy Organization is making a Kickstarter Campaign called She Makes Comics. Basically, this is a documentary about women in comics: specifically women as creators, editors, researchers, and publishers in the comics world. It really makes me frustrated that, despite all the comics I’ve read, I actually had to struggle to suggest some prominent female comics creators. In fact, it makes more than frustrated. It makes me sad. I am doing my part to support this Kickstarter. I even wrote a G33kPr0n article on She Makes Comics to give you another look or perspective on just why this is so important. I hope that you will support this campaign, or at least send the links out to those you know and, if you are Facebook or Twitter users, please do not hesitate to use the hashtag #SheMakesComics.

There is also another Kickstarter I would like to draw your attention. The La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter has reached its baseline goal. However, in order to unlock more goodies from chests not rigged with spikes, including the addition of extra character journals and story-modes to an already dangerous quirky puzzle and monster archaeological game of death, it requires more funding: with not much more time to spare. I always hated “timed levels” and I hope that someone here will make sure that this remains in reality and not in the game: which I hope to see funded as far as it will go.

I still hope PLAYISM will have time to post up my Twine fanfic in another Fan Art Update: as it has not happened yet. 🙂

Finally, last by not least there is a game-maker that you should be following. She is Gaming Pixie, whose work and process I reviewed in Life and Identity, Eden and Hell, and not only is she working on a video game that centres around a girl surviving seven days with her alcoholic father, but she has made offline versions of her Twine games Eden and Shadow of a Soul. The latter games are very complex and if you purchase them you will be able to store them on your hard-drive to play at leisure and also experience far less graphics and sound loading time. In addition, with the very modest prices that she offers for both games, you can also help to continue funding her endeavours. I cannot recommend Gaming Pixie’s work highly enough and it will only get better with time and aid. You can find both games here and, if you’re a Windows user, you can download “the first day” of her first major game Fighting the Monster for free.

are-you-sure

And that’s it for now. I had this all in my head for a while and there is still so much more work to do. I will speak with you all soon again I’m sure. Take care now, and have an excellent week.

Time Travel and Retconning: Revisionism and Reconstructionism in Doctor Who

Just as the New Year is approaching, so is “The Time of the Doctor.”

Time of The Doctor

I’ve come out of hiatus again, essentially, because this is another thought that just won’t leave me alone. After I was exposed to Julian Darius of Sequart’s distinctions between Revisionism and Reconstructionism with regards to comics, I applied it to my article In a Different Place, a Different Time: Revision and Reconstruction in Comics Without Superheroes? Of course, I should have realized it was not going to end there.

I mean, come on: I already mentioned space and time in the aforementioned article’s title. And after a while of gestation and trying to stave it off, I knew what was going to happen. I was going to provide the distinctions of Revisionism and Reconstructionism, taken from Julian Darius, the latter term apparently coined from Kurt Busiek, to the development of the Doctor Who series. Let’s face it: this was just going to happen and, if we’re going to be honest with each other, it probably has in no so many words and in ways that have been covered far more exhaustively than I am going to be.

So let’s get to the point and quote River Song, as I tend to with a lot of the Doctor Who articles I’ve written, to say, “Spoilers.”

This is really going to be a brief case of looking at parallels between the development of the superhero comics genre and Doctor Who. Like the early comics versions of Batman, Superman and others, The Doctor as a character starts off as a relatively morally ambiguous character: someone who isn’t necessarily evil, but not always good. Certainly, they all have the power to impose their will on others whom they don’t agree with, or are quite willing to let someone destroy themselves as opposed to interceding on their behalf. The Doctor himself, in his very first incarnation was more than willing to abandon people to their deaths if they became “inconvenient” to his or his granddaughter’s own survival.

And this was in the 1960s. Superhero comics themselves, especially the ones I mentioned, existed from the 30s onward: from that Golden Age period where superheroes were still trying to get past their “might is right” mentality to reveal at least some of the heroism that we recognize. The Doctor, however, had an even more interesting challenge: in that he was a character in a science-fiction program that drew on a tradition of science-fiction programs and stories. He wasn’t exactly a hero then and never quite fit that mould well. He and his Companions were more explorers and, as such, the program was one of exploration that bordered on a weird sort of horror: the kind of horror that, well, basically came from the spectacle of science-fiction B movies, comics, and pulp stories before it. Even the early Doctor Who episodes, from I’m given to understand, have a very pulp and serial feel to them: with constantly interrelated chains if episodes making a story followed by standalone episodes and “monsters of the week.”

Of course, things changed for both superhero comics and Whoniverse respectively. It was the Comics Code Authority that greatly white-washed many of the darker elements away from superhero adventures. Some of them simply didn’t survive and became silly caricatures of their original selves. This wasn’t always the case and some stories managed to be told well even in the midst of not being able to question authority-figures among other things. Towards the sixties, however, there were many campy and downright silly elements amongst this genre of comics: particularly with regards to Batman and such.

Doctor Who, which started in the sixties, always had an element of the uncanny and the weird in itself. It also had elements of camp and strange, tangential adventures. For some time, the BBC had a low budget so they basically had to utilize B movie props and effects to make their monsters and their stories. And The Doctor himself became a lot more of a swashbuckling character or archetype: embodying different ideals but becoming somehow more human as time went on. The humanization of The Doctor, which began with his Companions from his early days, contributed to this and probably in no small part due to the fact that the program began as a children’s show.

But just as there were so many disparate elements and strangeness in the Silver Age of superhero comics, this was definitely the case with the original Doctor Who series. What is interesting to consider with regards to Doctor Who however is that many “silly costumes and props and styles” have become iconic in themselves and even popular in a vintage, classic, nostalgic sort of way among fans. The books and audio dramas also helped to expand many of these elements and add more to the quantum branch of reality that was the Whoniverse.

It was in the 1980s that things began to change for superhero comics. This was when Revisionism came into play. Writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller asked themselves the question of what a superhero would be like, with the powers and abilities they possessed, in a realistic situation. They were also mindful of the pessimism, cynicism, and fear around in this particular time period and wondered how the hero would function in such a world: and what they would do to that world. This is the period in which the superhero really got dissected. Writers in this time and onward seemed to draw on the ancient classical designations of “hero”: of a person of spectacular power and skill that bordered on, or were totally amoral, to reshape the heroes of the 30s and 60s. This allowed much in the way of character development and the creation of truly epic story-lines. Of course, the danger was also created: that the dark grittiness of Revisionism would become a form onto itself and not a vessel to tell a carefully thought out story. Darkness for darkness’ sake, as it were.

With Doctor Who, I argue that its Revisionism came in 2005 with the beginning of the new series. After a gap from 1989, and television movie in 1996, The Doctor returned in 2005 under a very different premise from his earlier adventures. It is almost like producer and screenwriter Russell T. Davies created his own Crisis on Infinite Earths and destroyed much of the quantum and tangential branches of the old Whoniverse in order to create a very centralized, dark, and Byronic reality: as though he and others believed that the only way the program could survive would be to “mature” into this new spirit. It is as though they expected viewers to want something less silly and more “realistic.”

So there was a Time War, the Last Great Time War, that seemed to have obliterated many loose-ends (and cause no small heap of trouble in the loose-ends that did, in fact, continue to exist for the Universe) and leave a Doctor that was more gaunt, more lonely, and far angrier than many of his other incarnations before him. The children’s show origins of program seemed to have been burned away by rage, an attempt at a more serious tone, singular purpose, and Revisionism.

Even the inclusion of David Tennant as the next Doctor, who was a marked contrast to the sullen leather jacket-wearing Doctor who somehow began to lighten up a bit towards the end, only accentuated this kind of Miltonian grandiosity. He might as well, in a ridiculously sublime way, have been an angel from Milton’s Paradise Lost sailing through a perfect clockwork Universe skewed by Original Sin, or perhaps as a far livelier Virgil figure in a kind of Dante’s Inferno of wonders. When Steven Moffat took over as producer and the Matt Smith incarnation of The Doctor came in, the youngest depiction there has ever been (he is about my age), the dark elements were beginning to wear a little thin.

But there is something truly wonderful that was forming with Doctor Who, and its spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures. Despite the darkness and the angst of The Doctor being “the last Time Lord,” there has been a great depiction of wonders. I’m not just talking about the more advanced CGI or sophisticated props and costuming provided to the program. I’m also talking about its embrace of diversity: about its inclusion of different cultures, race and even sexual orientations. And it doesn’t seem to display them as novelties but as givens. As science-fiction that, by its very nature, encompasses the future and its possible sensibilities in addition to all of space and time it is extremely encouraging to see. It might have something to do with the fact that Russell T. Davies is gay himself and wanted to include diversity, but there is also the fact that Doctor Who is the longest running science-fiction show in existence and it changes with the times and the attitudes in each era in which it finds itself.

https://i2.wp.com/static3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130505044335/tardis/images/c/c6/Lizard_Woman_From_The_Dawn_Of_Time_And_Wife.jpg

But the sense of wonder that is, in the words of the program’s first producer Verity Lambert, “C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas,” is so much older than this and it wins out over the darkness every time. It is similar to the sense of nobility and kindness from Superman or the sure sense of justice from Batman. You can also call that sense of wonder hope.

By the time of Steve Moffat, whose episodes are strong in a self-contained short story fashion but whose overall structure begins to unravel the strong Miltonian clockwork of Davies with plot holes, much in the way that the Cracks in Time began to appear, or how the Weeping Angels feed off of temporal rifts and die from paradox-poisoning (which is ironic when you consider how Moffat created them in the first place and that his stories have many plot-holes), you may be witnessing a change beginning to happen. From 2005 and onward, most of Doctor Who has taken place on Earth or has focused almost solely on humans and has maintained a relatively linear story line and premise.

But then Moffat did something. By 1995, Julian Darius argues that Revisionism in comics began to change. Writers such as Grant Morrison began to look back on superhero comics before Revisionism and draw on the idealism and hope of those periods. They took the character-writing and plot development of Revisionism and combined it with the light-heartedness of heroes against the darkness. They, arguably, contributed to the creation of Reconstructionism.

And Morrison himself was known to have really liked the strange and wacky DC elements that existed before what he considered to be a cynical Crisis plot: perhaps much in the way that some of The Doctor’s fans might view his present “gritty and realistic” situation.

Now look back at Steve Moffat. In “The Day of the Doctor” he took the premise of The Doctor having destroyed the Time Lords and, in a typical time-travelling fashion, changed and retconned time. He had The Doctor and his previous incarnations save Gallifrey. Now The Doctor has to go and find it. In one stroke, however it was executed, Moffat eliminated the heart of The Doctor’s modern angst. And in the next episode, in the Christmas Special “The Time of the Doctor” we are going to see him fall to his lowest as he is apparently on his “last incarnation” and is going to die. But we know that isn’t going to happen. We know he will survive. We know there will be a new Doctor.

And perhaps, just perhaps, this is Moffat’s attempt to apply Reconstructionism to Doctor Who. Certainly the inclusion of Tom Baker, the former Fourth Doctor that represented The Doctor’s kindliness, affability and wisdom, into “The Day of the Doctor”–representing what could be another future incarnation of the Time Lord–can be interpreted as a sign of that return to some the weird, and wacky adventures that possess no small amount of hope.

But whatever the case, we are going to see Peter Capaldi as an older, but perhaps wilder Doctor: someone who is not a soldier, a traumatized war veteran, a hero with an anguished dream, or a lonely boy but an adventurer and traveler. He is going to look for where he put Gallifrey. He is going to go out again. Perhaps he might even leave Earth in all time lines and we can see how the rest of the Universe has been doing, how other worlds and newer beings live, and how he will interact with them. Maybe after all the time that Davies has reforged the content of the program it will open up back into larger vistas beyond just Earth and the human.

There is just one last Battle of Trenzalore, a Regeneration rule to work around, and then perhaps the potential for some reconstruction, for something new, for something old, and for something new again. Either way, I look forward to the journey.

When the Ghosts Stare Back Into You

In the First World, there were no ghosts.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/50/NES_Super_Mario_Bros.png

Everything was new and colourful in a washed out, nostalgic sort of way: like a lucid mind in an ecstasy of mushrooms and fantasy. And as shells of soldiers fell off ledges or collided with each other in contention, plants burned out by fire, beetles failed by foot, squat things were squashed back into the earth, and fish and squids fell in water and monsters drowned below bridges a princess was found in the right castle and all was well.

As a result, the Second World was a sleep of the just and bounty.

Until the Third World.

Until the ghosts came.

https://i1.wp.com/www.mariowiki.com/images/c/c1/LookinAtBoo.png

Perhaps the ghosts didn’t so much come as they were always there and it was only in the greatest castles, forts and darkest worlds that they began to manifest. Certainly, in the time of the Third World they seemed mostly limited to those spots and, after, they could be rendered out of sight. Out of mind.

Yet perhaps in mockery of the deeds that heroes did not want to admit to, or examine in too much detail, the ghosts would always stare away from their tormentor … they would stare away until his back was turned and, like a guilty conscience no longer assuaged by excuses, his ethereal attendants would catch up with him.

By the Fourth World and the graduation from shaded 8-bits into vibrant cartoon colours the ghosts gained their own castles. And some of them had different faces. And there were so many of them. So many.

https://i1.wp.com/www.mariowiki.com/images/6/66/Circling_Boo_Buddies.PNG

Did the heroes ever stop to count the number of enemies they slaughtered and attempt to match them up with the restless, mocking, vengeful dead?

And now–now–the ghosts have grown in size and intent. And worse yet, not all of them turn away under scrutiny but lunge for their murderers or, worse yet, stare right back into their eyes. But what does it mean? What does it mean?

What does it mean?