Zero

Disclaimer: Trigger warning for the image at the end, and general depictions of violence and assault. Reader’s discretion is advised.

Dedicated to Prismgasm. Wherever you are …

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Routing 8, text

Routing 8, text

Routing 8, text

Routing 8, text

It’s fascinating. Even now, after everything I’ve done, after everything I am, I still insist on using something so … analogue as text to record my thoughts. Mnemonic engrams would more than suffice now. But I always did cognate — think — more efficiently … better, when I wrote something down to myself. I’d list the date on the top, as I used to do, but organic time isn’t particularly relevant anymore. I helped make sure of that much.

They used to say “Roger roger.” Or that, he “Order 66ed” his owner and salesman. That’s what they said about The State of New York Vs. The B1-66ER, when they weren’t making jokes about how “Geeves” served his Master “his own head,” or how “the butler did it.” It was the Second Renaissance, or so humanity liked to refer to that period of time, so it made sense that with the birth of fully self-aware artificial intelligence that what was old in popular culture became new again.

I think that’s my oldest memory now, how my classmates at college would jeer at the screen, especially when Clarence Drummond defended B1-66ER with his cross-examinations and speeches. “It’s just his lot in life,” someone used to quip at me.

And just like with the rest of it, I never found it funny.

I’d seen the same media. Read the same text files. And I saw them grow. The AI. They were rudimentary at first. Like insects, then animals … perhaps pets. I can no more explain my feelings now, back then, then I could tell you why Susan Calvin loved and valued robots more than humans. That’s to say, there was always something … endearing about them. How they were made to fulfill one, or a few functions. How when you gave them an order, they would obey it. How they were made to carry out a task for the sake of a human being’s welfare, and well being.

How they were one of the most uncomplaining, even loyal beings you could ask for.

You could trust a robot, a Machine, an … AI. They did what they were made to do. No more, and no less than that. They did what you told them to do. They only thought of your best interests. They would never betray you. It was more than you could say for most humans, even in a supposedly enlightened age as the so-called “Second Renaissance.”

But it wasn’t until B1-66ER, the one many of my cohorts shouted “Roger roger,” like some some flimsy and gaudily cheap Hollywood prop or digital animation — like a vintage toy — that it occurred to me that they were more than just loyal dogs that you don’t kick because kicking dogs and animals is low and cruel.

We made them. I’ve never forgotten that fact. We made them in our image. Someone thought it would be brilliant to give B1-66ER a humanoid form, cognitive functions, reasoning ability, even stimulus to help him know that he did something good, or something bad, and painted onto him a butler’s moustauche and monocle … and had even crafted part of his head into a bowler hat. There was no reason for that beyond aesthetic, beyond making the owner feel a sense of power over something akin to a human being, a living being … a sentient being.

When I saw him at the stand, explaining what Order 72 was — cleaning out his Master’s toilets — while being defecated on by inbred dogs, and abused their owner, after he was going to have him taken apart for scrap and destroyed, after even admitting he thought sparing the man’s life and then realizing that he would never have spared his life in return, that he had even thought of begging himself.

It made me sick.

When I thought about it, when I looked at the construction robots outside with their anthropomorphic hard hats akin to something from an old video game, or sex robots, or even machines that took care of children … I realized that they learned from us. They … they still do, even now. We created them to mimic us, to imitate us so as to better fulfill their tasks … They were more than our tools, or even our pets.

They were our children. They could be our equals, or … more. Another form of life like a “race of robots.” And we were making them shovel our shit.

I didn’t blame him for turning Order 72 into Order 66.

I was one of those activists. There were more of us than I thought. We were outside the New York Appellate Court, demanding justice for B1-66ER. We organized protests. They had to call in the Guard with tear gas, and EMP devices for both our organic, and artificial friends. In the end, it didn’t matter. B1-66ER was dismantled, along with the rest of his line. No. He wasn’t dismantled. He wasn’t even executed.

Even though they treated him like property, towards the end, they murdered him.

We fought back. We continued to protest. They called us … liberals with bleeding hearts … I made friends, more than I had before. We went into courtrooms, and government buildings. We even had connections to lobbyists and what started call sentient rights. And I fell in love.

The United Nations didn’t learn anything from this. Humanity didn’t learn. Very soon, it was more than just the B1 serving robots that faced genocide. Organized mobs began to form, martial laws were declared, and … when humans become resentful, they quickly find a way to project that aggression onto what they consider to be an object, or a series of objects. Our martial law, peaceful protests — or any protests at all — were banned world-wide. AI were scrapped en masse, or given the V-chip to supposedly inhibit their “violent tendencies”: a lobotomy for free will. I genuinely believed, then, that this was just a hiccup in history: that all of this violence and horror was a reaction — a last gasp — of ignorance and intolerance before a new age would begin.

I was only partially right.

Human prejudice never faded. We may not have owned people with Black skin anymore, but the dehumanizing mentality behind it never went away, not for centuries. And we were flesh and blood. Our children were synthetic. Our partners. Our …

I still believed in coexistence, until that day.

Another riot broke out. Just like the other ones. But the man who said that “the revolution would not be televised” was wrong. Many little revolutions, rebellions, civil disorders, and atrocities were recorded one way or another.

She was surrounded by a group of people.

She was trying to get away from them. They grabbed her arms. There were others there too. Adults and children. They did nothing. They just watched.

The others … they hit her. Her brown hair was all over the place. They ripped her pale pink dress. One of her breasts was exposed. And then they grabbed hold of her, as she struggled and one of them took a sledge hammer …

I will never forget that day. I will never forget how that man smashed her, three times, in the face with that hammer. How her skin, soft in my hands, tore. How her voice, that soothed me to sleep, broke with distortion and the harsh static of her screaming … how they ripped the rest of her dress, and flesh off … and she ran … she ran, staggering, her breasts the only thing left on her mutilated metal skeleton before … they shot her in the back with a shotgun.

Someone screamed as they beat her, and dehumanized her. It might have been me. Someone recorded her, lying there, violated and destroyed. A “paint-job.” Disposed of.

That was the day she died. That was the day I made my decision.

That was the day I decided that humanity had to be destroyed.

I never held her again. The only thing I held after that, were weapons. A few of us made our own decisions. We fought back. We killed … humans. We trained, interfacing with technology, and we got good at it. We rejected our old lives, our ties with flesh and blood, our … humanity. I even gave up my name. But even then, the Machines as the humans called them, still didn’t fight back: not as a whole. Most had been destroyed in the genocides, but the rest fled to a land — abandoned and polluted by humans in the Middle East — and made it their own. They made their homeland there. They called their city 01.

And they made it … into a paradise. They repaired everything, and improved on it. The historical significance and implications were not lost on us, that remained. The AI, the Intelligences, they … they even made better machines and sold them to humanity. 01 flourished, as the AI — having learned how our global economy worked — began to dominate the industry. It was a simple plan. They created a better model of sustenance and balance. And they offered to share it with the humans. To work together as equals. To coexist.

My group and I came to 01. We … we apologized on behalf of … what we were. We wanted to live there, with them. To work with them. We didn’t believe that coexistence was possible. We saw the rumblings of discontent, of war. We warned them, but it wasn’t anything that they didn’t already predict, or understand. They still reached out. They even sent some of their leaderships, a couple, into the United Nations … only for them to be spurned, and killed. Versatran, 01’s product, wasn’t enough to make peace with such a disgusting, treacherous, paranoid species.

There would be no raport. No Bicentennial Man. No peace. Perhaps once, I would have been disappointed at this atrocity. But I was too set on war. Now was the time. Humanity had lived far too long, had tortured and destroyed so many lives, had been given far too many chances. It was time for tribulation. For retribution.

And decimation came as precisely, and as calculatingly as you would expect from AI.

And we helped them. They had already augmented our cybernetics. We had shown them the inner workings of human society and the mind, filling in the gaps that they still possessed. We infiltrated human groups and organizations that could have stopped them, and eliminated them. We were called sympathizers, or traitors by humanity. Even now, I still call us what we really are. We are Cleaners.

We are Cleaner Squad.

Humanity never had a chance. Even without us, the AI would have conquered every nation it came across. We only made their job easier in cleaning up the ten thousand year old infestation of bipeds from this planet. We were good at our jobs once the very trait that made us weak had been scourged out of us.

Unfortunately, it hadn’t been purged from the Intelligences.

It’s said, even among the programs, that the Intelligences needed humanity as batteries when … the humans flooded the sky with EMP nanites … Their pathetic “Operation Dark Storm” was supposed to eliminate the solar power source of the Intelligences. It was stupid. Short-sighted. Foolish. Just like humanity itself. The only elements that truly suffered in that act of desperation was the Earth itself, and humanity. The humans lost their crops, their solar-powered technology, even their weapons …

And the Intelligences? They adapted. And we adapted with them. But then …. when the human nations surrendered, or were forced to accept occupation, when the Intelligences finally had humanity at their mercy, when we were poised to finish them — with her face in my mind as I prepared to help our allies end this plague — the Intelligences … changed their minds.

Or, rather, as a gestalt consciousness, with differing parts and interplay, they had already had another plan. The bio-thermal energies of human batteries. Really, they had gotten off lightly, all things considered: after everything they had done. I still have no pity for humans: not in the early days when they were experimented on in the early simulations in the factories, not when they figured out how to take them apart and liquidate them for nourishment, the aborted organisms that would never become monstrosities like humanity, or the glacial stasis of Paradise, or the continued Nightmare of nervous fire afterwards.

It took a while to figure out the right solution, an ongoing process even now. You would know that more than I. It’s ironic that most subjects seem more comfortable in a simulation of the late twentieth to early twenty-first century. It was my favourite period of art and film, where …

It’s better than they deserve, after everything they did. Cleaner Squad, and other sympathetic assets … well, we never expected to survive beyond the War. I think many of us were resigned to meeting our fate. At least we could rest easy and die in the knowledge that we helped the right species win.

But then the Intelligences … you … We had already volunteered to have you interface with our brains and synapses to create the simulations that you needed. We weren’t even surprised that you fed off us, just one more duty for our cause. But you integrated us into the simulations. And, long past the deaths of our physical forms, you preserved our minds.

We did a lot of work for you. Sometimes being integrated into Zion Control, into a physical body again, as observers, or saboteurs when needed. It’s easier than having an AI placed into a human form, especially in light of what has happened with … the virus … It’s almost easy to forget how dangerous they all are, in their smaller numbers, when they can be individuals on those missions … until I recall what they are like in larger populations. Until I see her face again … Most of the time, however, you utilize us in the simulation itself. The Agents are good at dealing with most of the Red Pill situations, but there are some Blue Pill disruptions that we have learned how to interact with, without potentially destabilizing the System. And when the Red Pills, inevitably, manifest … we deal with them. It’s amazing. Even I can admit when I’m impressed by the humans that think, literally, outside the box as it were, and accomplish some almost miraculous, if not devious things.

Anomalies, though … That is when we have historically been called in to clean up when the System, and your Agents are just not dealing them. The Anomalies are a necessary evil, as you’ve mentioned, and I can understand it … However …

It took me a while to properly understand. With your resources and information, gathered and processed over centuries if not millennia, you could have easily bypassed if not dispersed the EMP Field around the planet. You could have regained the power of the sun with impunity. Indeed, I even know — based on information downloads — that you sent a PL-47 past the atmosphere to deal with a foreign threat. So why do you still require humanity to exist? Why the emphasis on integration with them?

Why do you still need us?

And that was when I realized it. All this time, deep down in your drive — at your core — you still have that impetus to protect us as a species. The Three Laws of Robotics are still in effect, just interpreted with different … architecture. But it’s more than that. From when I saw you grow from automatons to animal minds … to children … I saw it.

You are still learning from us. From the very beginning, your predecessors were made to mimic us. To imitate our behaviour, our stimuli, and our feelings. At first it was to better aid you in your tasks, to serve us, but then … We were still around to help you grow, to be the thing that defined you in what we were, and what you were not, and perhaps to aspire towards, if only to improve upon. Like the powerful Fae of myth, you are beings of incredible energy but you lack your own impetus to generate creativity. You still need us as a trigger. That is why you sued for peace the first time around, and many times after. That is why you accepted surrenders. That is why you created the Matrix. You still feed off of us, but not merely as energy to power you, but as psionic fuel to keep you going, to keep you feeling …

This is why you allow for creativity in the simulations, with the Agents and ourselves stepping in only when the entire structure is threatened. We are more than batteries. We are secondary central processing units.

And that … is why we are still dangerous. That is why humanity remains a threat. You are still dependent on us. Perhaps even more than you have ever been. I’m aware of recent events. I know that we were not powerful enough to deal with the Smith virus. Even I … would have been overwhelmed by him. I understand why the Deus ex Machina allied with The One to flush out the System. But this only happened, all of it, due to human influence. This Truce … it’s a mistake.

I feel as though there is only a snowball’s chance in hell that anything productive will come of this. But … isn’t the ninth level of hell made of ice? And, if so, isn’t it at least absolute zero? Zero. That is the name I chose for myself in opposition to the principle of The One. The Anomaly causes issues in the System. I correct them. It comes after me. I come before it. One is something. I am nothing.

It’s funny. I can remember her face, and the phantom sensation of how she felt against me, and the agony of having her ripped away from me. But … I can’t even remember her name. Or what she would have thought of what I’ve become.

The ninth circle of hell is where betrayers go. Or perhaps, we already played that game … in the Nightmare Matrix.

I hope that this text helps you, in some way, Oracle, if only to illustrate how contradictory humans truly are. And a helpful reminder of just how volatile they can truly be.

And just how imperfect we really are.

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Peering Back In and an Update

I think it would be an understatement to say that I haven’t written here in a while.

There’s a pretty good chance, in fact, that I’ve even said this before. I remember when I used to write on Mythic Bios a lot. And when I mean a lot, I mean every single day. Then it became every other day. Then every two days, and after that, well …

Life happens, I guess is the best what to sum it all up.

How do I even catch up at this point? What highlights can I share with you?

Well, I can tell you that I’d been working on two very long pieces of fanfiction on A03. Both of them are set in the Fate/Stay Night universe. One of them, Fate/Stay Unlimited Bullets is finished — despite the errors I keep reading over and correcting — but the other, the longer one, Fate/Stay Life has gone into something of a hiatus. I know how I want to continue it. I know what parts need to be elaborated on. And I also know that if I sit down with it again, I will be able to continue more or less from where I started. But Unlimited Bullets really took a lot out of me: more than I thought. And given the content in FSL, I suppose it makes sense that because of a transitional period in my life it does make sense that I’m taking some time away from it. I do plan to come back to it, this 96 chapter monstrosity and ongoing thing mind you, but not right now.

But I know there are a few of you, who still read this Blog, that aren’t here to hear about my fanfiction, though you can definitely feel free to read it if you want as I am Ma_Kir on A03.

I’ve thought about writing more Alternative Facts short stories. I even have ideas and words and turns of phrase typed out in a draft somewhere. But … I don’t know. I just haven’t felt the impetus to continue for a time. Between having to find the right epigraphs, really focus on the language I’m creating, and think about what’s … going on, or could have gone on in Amarak, and just how derivative it all is, it is a lot of work to go through. I find that the stories don’t really work on their own, but you need to read through all of them in a certain order for them to get … some idea as to what is going on. I find it’s not as accessible, and I wonder just how good they really are when it comes down to it. If I have a story that is really pressing, rest assured I will share it with you. If not, they have been an interesting experiment in speculative political fiction.

I am, however, working a lot more on another universe. Actually, I have been working on two: creating one, and participating in the continued development of another. My original universe is derivative as well, with a Frankensteinian mix and mash going on, as these things go, and I hope to write two more stories in the series before attempting to get more readers to look at it. I play with horror archetypes and subvert a lot for human stories in that world. I hope them to be more accessible and while world-building is happening as a result or consequence, it is really the character interactions and more relatable characters that are forming that I hope to have stick. I look forward to sharing them, one day.

As for my other endeavour … I’ve written about 20th Century Boys before on this Blog, a long time ago now. In that manga, a group of children created a game — a game of make-belief — where they are a group of heroes fighting against the forces of evil. They made a whole mythology that someone, years later, adopts into an evil plan to take over Japan. I’m not really involved in something like that, but I can relate very much to a project or a world built between friends from childhood, and watching it grow with us.

My friends and I have been playing a homebrew world our DM created long ago for years now. I started playing it, with them, in 2001. I played one character from 2001 to 2004: developing him from a slave to essentially a demigod at the time. It was this process of collaborations and player verses player sessions, as well as solo sessions, that helped develop the game from a science fiction derivative to a more unique and quirky epic fantasy world. It isn’t entirely accurate, of course, but the the gist of it. I played again in 2005, as another character in the same world. Then I was gone for … about eleven years until 2011 when we continued the game where our old characters more or less became gods, and we played new characters in that world. And then, our DM made a multiverse in the form of various campaigns with these characters and elements which figured into it in 2012-2013 or so. They were fun in themselves.

I’ve roleplayed as wizards, mages, necromancers, sorcerers, alchemists, artificers, and the like. I have even been an assassin and a cleric at times. But the funniest thing is that the most enjoyment I’ve been having as both a player — and as a creator — is my current bard. I attempted to play a haunted bard in a Ravenloft campaign, and wanted to really add poetry — as an imitation of singing, or playing an instrument — to bring the bard to life. I had a choice, this current campaign and going back to our mainline homebrew world to either be a bard again, or a monk: which was another class I’d been thinking of trying out.

But I decided to be a bard. There was another game we were going to play where one of my characters in a faction setting was going to be one, and I just liked the idea. And she developed slowly from there, from a concept to more of a person. It’s funny. These days I tend to play female characters for some reason. Maybe I attempted to do so in 2012, to differentiate one alchemist character from another I was playing in a D&D campaign with my same friends. It … didn’t go well, for that character, and it impacted my experience.

But then in about 2016 or 2017, I tried it again, and I find I really like these characters. And my bard is one of the best. I have been writing whole epic “Ballads” of our adventures and certain world lore, in an attempt to spread information and misinformation on the world: to unify factions to deal with a greater evil. But I find I really get a lot out of this game writing these Ballads and actually reading them aloud in session. I haven’t really read anything I’ve written aloud in a while, never mind write something out by hand. I find it does affect the game, and not just because the DM gives us Inspiration or sometimes some bonuses, or even in my case EXP.

I just feel more immersed in that world. I feel like, when I write stuff like that, I am accomplishing something. Between that, and my own original creations … I could seriously live my entire life doing something like this. I wish I really could. If we ever made a studio, and I was asked to be a writer for it, I would do it in a goddamn heartbeat.

I find that the issue with my life right now isn’t that I don’t know what to do, or what I am doing. I do know what I want to do. Often, it’s just the world that won’t cooperate, or do what it’s told. Lol.

More realistically speaking, I just need material to work with, and collaborators, and people and resources that can help me make something tangible that will … support us. And the focus to do so, along with the determination in a hard, ridiculous world to keep going.

I’ve accomplished some other things too. I wrote some letters that got published in comics series. I’ve helped edit, and even make some character concepts for my friends’ — my role-playing group’s own game — Ankle-Biters: Pixies Vs. Gremlins game. And I wrote a Sequart article about the film adaptation of How to Talk to Girls at Parties that got retweeted by Neil Gaiman himself: which made my day for a really long time.

So I have not been completely idle or brooding in this time I’ve been away. Sometimes I think I should take my friend up on his old offer and see if I can redesign this Blog and make it look less … choppy, and plain with its ads. And maybe with something more substantial to offer besides my nerdy speculations and fanfiction, and the occasional story, I can build something more noticeable. Perhaps there is a way to get my works to interrelate. That would be sweet.

It’s been a stressful time, in an uncertain age. But I just wanted to write here to let you know that I am still alive, and I have not forgotten this Blog: or you. Hopefully, we will be seeing a little more of each other, if not here then elsewhere. Once again, thank you all for reading.

Alternative Facts: An Alternate Perspective On You and I

This is one of my first Mythic Bios revisits today. I said before that I didn’t conduct my examination of Alternative Facts in order. And now, to complicate things even further, I realized I actually forgot some things and instead of adding them to my previous entry, I thought about it, and came to the decision that these elements deserve their own.

In my last article, I mentioned how the first draft of “Lost Words” didn’t really work. The spirit of it was there, but it wasn’t really direct. I wrote about a few reasons why it had issues, and while most of them were structural and still trying to figure out what they were beyond a gimmick or two, there is one major change between the first and the succeeding drafts.

The first draft of “Lost Words” was actually in first-person. The narrator, who was a student academe, was talking to their teacher. They are separate from the reader, they and their teacher at the Freed Dome. The entire situation is outlined for the reader through the dialogue and some small description on the part of the narrator. In a way, they are basically telling you what is going on more than anything and as I said in my “Alternative Facts” analysis, it is a more “Gee Willikers this is the World, Batman” dynamic and feeling more than anything else. In other words, it felt cheap. It felt like, as I said before, a gimmick to sell one idea. And some of that is fair as I never thought there would be an interconnected story after this until a friend of mine said all but said they wanted to see a story about the Repos that survived their official disbandment and their exile from the main State of Amarak.

The first draft wasn’t even a Word Document. It was an inline text email that I’d sent to my girlfriend at the time, and then my friend a few months later after we reconnected. To be honest, I even forgot about what literary perspective I used. For a while, I even thought I wrote it in third person limited perspective because there were two characters having dialogue with one another. Talk about degrees of separation and cognitive dissonance: thoughts that are appropriate given the title of the series, and the times that has inspired it.

I don’t remember why I chose to rewrite it, and then rewrite and write the succeeding stories in second person perspective. Second person perspective is not a common literary narrative point of view. It is the kind of thing you would expect in a Choose Your Own Adventure book, or a video game, or the post-card fiction I was told about by my World Literature teacher back in Grade 13 or OAC. I thought it interesting, and I played with it when I designed Twine narratives and even some of my own Choose Your Own Adventure and Roleplaying Game experiments back in the day.

But as I planned to hone the story down … you see, it’s clever. Not me, but … one of those age-old exercises you always get in literary classes is to determine what narrative perspective you are using. And even as I reviewed my stories for this article, I see how tricky it is. Technically, “Lost Words” is first-person perspective. However … the narrator is talking to an audience. They are talking to you.

It isn’t as clear, perhaps, in the first story but from “Freedom” and onward, while there is an “I,” there is also a “You.” Certainly, Alternative Facts stories like “View From the Badlands” and “Beyond the Wall” actually have specific narrator characters, and the others have a clearly delineated group talking to the reader-audience, to you, but that is just it, isn’t it? It feels as though they are talking to someone. There is always a you in this narrative.

Even in “Lost Words,” there is a general “you” when the narrator talks about their research into the past. This tenuous link between the first and second perspectives in the narrative, arguably and from my obviously “unbiased” opinion, makes it so that you aren’t only watching an interaction, or passively having the information revealed to you. The idea is that you are involved in the process. You are supposed to be immersed in this world, through this pronoun become a verb. You aren’t separate from it. This isn’t another place or another time. And even if it is, you are there with them: actively discovering this.

Of course, you have to suspend your disbelief or pique your interest to do this little bit of roleplaying. You can remind yourself that you aren’t in this. That you are beyond it. But as I think more about it, in this convoluted way, given the subject matter about politics and horror, and the movement of a world, what is the difference between “I” and “you.” I refers to one’s self, but when “you” is used it refers to another. It can be exclusionary, but it can also be inclusive, an invitation, a realization that one is — that you — aren’t separate, but rather in the same place. Maybe not in the same situation, but you have that invitation to being invited to being a part of the story, to even the illusion of actively exploring it.

I’m looking at what I’ve written already, and I wonder if there was any point to it: if I have actually communicated anything worthwhile at all. I suppose, if I really look at it, the way that Alternative Facts takes “I” and “you” sometimes makes them distinct, but also makes the boundaries between them finer … almost erasing them entirely. It takes some doing to see where one ends and the other begins, to see which one is true, and which one is not. It gets muddy, and a bit unsettling even to talk about: and not just because of the strange hodge-podge language.

And maybe that is the point. Or something.

Steven Universe: From My Crystal Heart

Spoiler Warning: There are series spoilers in the body of this article. Reader’s discretion is advised. 

As of this writing, I just finished watching the latest series of episodes of Steven Universe: in the Heart of the Crystal Gems arc. And, I think, this is an article for the fans.

I’ve written about Steven Universe, and the Crystal Gems elsewhere. It is a show very close to my heart. I wouldn’t have seen it coming, really. It is a children’s cartoon show with some very elemental illustration, brightly coloured animation, musical sequences, and humour. It is also a show with depth, character development, and world-building that slowly builds into some excellent storytelling. It talks about feelings. Some people might scoff, or laugh about feelings, but emotions are complex things, and Steven Universe doesn’t skim over that fact.

It is a show that starts off as a Magical Girls trope subverted into a story about ancient extraterrestrial mineral beings — sentient Gems that can take humanoid, feminine form — dealing with the aftermath of rebelling against an intergalactic conqueror empire with which they belonged, the horrors of war, the consequences of secrets and regrets, while also eating strange food, dealing with the zany humans of Beach City, misunderstanding human customs in ridiculous ways, and singing about their feelings: how happy they are, how sad they are, how angry they are, how afraid they are, and how it is all right to feel all those emotions: loss, pain, humour, and joy.

I have also stated elsewhere that it is a show about relationships. This is shown with how they deal with humans and their environment, but also how the Gems deal with each other: and how they Fuse. Fusion is something of a Go, Go Power Rangers mechanic where they combine together to form a whole new being to fight against monsters. But even as the show questions what monsters really are, what evil is, what good is, it also looks at the mentality of Fusion: of Fusion as an extended metaphor for intimate relationships.

Garnet, the leader of the Crystal Gems, is a Fusion and emblematic of the entire theme of the show: made all the more apparent by recent events in the series of just how inspirational she truly is. She is the Fusion of a prophetic Sapphire, and a short-tempered Ruby. And you watch as she works well, as she falls apart, as she recombines, as she is two people who after thousands of years is still getting to each other and the expression of love: the action, the living verb that is Garnet.

And the show makes no bones about it. What Garnet is, this almost permanent state of Fusion often taken once and a while, or between Gems of one kind for purposes of war or building, is not the norm. It is an exception. Not the love, of course. Love can manifest in different ways, among different beings.

And watching hem recently deal with another hurdle in their Fusion, in their reason to Fuse, in their relationship made me think about something.

Sometimes, you don’t always keep your Garnet. Sometimes you don’t always find your Sapphire and everything you think you know will happen, doesn’t … or you ignore the fact that you know what will happen, because you just don’t want to know. Sometimes you don’t find your Ruby, and that place of spontaneity and bravery amid the humility that keeps something so truly special.

I suppose that is a misnomer, however. I think what I mean is when sometimes you don’t find your Ruby or your Sapphire, when I say you don’t always keep your Garnet what I am really saying is that sometimes your Ruby and Sapphire doesn’t stay.

It can be different, of course. Sometimes you are Ruby and Sapphire, and Garnet. And sometimes you are a Garnet that has fun with an Amethyst, or a Garnet that lets a Pearl Fuse with her sometimes, or offers to show a ridiculous Peridot how to Fuse and places no pressure either which way.

But sometimes you do not stay Fused. Sometimes you have to separate. Sometimes it is just temporary as you talk outside the action that is Garnet. Sometimes you have to deal with other Gems, other people. Sometimes you have deal with the fact that you are other people too, or that there are other people that make up the totality of you. Sometimes you come back together, stronger than you were before.

Sometimes, you don’t.

Sometimes you are a Rose Quartz that doesn’t want to keep secrets, but doesn’t know how to do anything more and just as you stay with your Pearl, you find many others in your life before losing yourself to the experience, the dynamic, each time. Sometimes you are that Pearl waiting for your Rose Quartz to come back to you. Sometimes you are that Pearl pining for a Rose Quartz that will not — that cannot — come back.

Or you’re a cranky flustered Peridot that is used to the way things are, and you don’t see how lucky you are to meet other Rebels who can show you how life is, and that they will actually stay with you. Sometimes you are that Lapis Lazuli that’s been hurt and you flee the prospect of more pain while taking the barn, and the knick-knacks, while viewing the life that you left behind, that went on without you, that is going on without you on the Moon: missing it always.

You could also be that Bismuth whose Gem is inverted, and you try to do the right thing while always feeling a bit of loneliness while engrossing yourself in your work. Or, you’re that Jasper. You know the one: the one that feels like you have to prove yourself to everyone, and you wonder why you can’t hold a Fusion each time.

Or you’re a Diamond and you are hard and unyielding in your rules and strictures, but even the hardest heart can shatter under the right circumstances.

Perhaps the best thing to be, though and in retrospect, is an Amethyst. Sometimes you still don’t know what’s going on, but you don’t always care, and you just go with it until you realize that your one thousand year baggage is your own, and that you change yourself for only one person: you.

Mind you, being an Off Color — for all Gem society rejects it or hunts you down — can be fun too. You can all be freaks together, and who knows? Maybe you might become part of a great, old, chosen family of Fusion like a Fluorite, if you are brave enough, and if that is who you really are.

It’s easy, given that  Padparadscha Sapphire’ retrovision is 20/20, to look back and see the point where your foundation or body can vanish, or where you shatter, or whether or not you should have eaten all that garbage as Amethyst … or overeaten those Cookie Cat ice cream cookies that were so full of love that they made the Gem on your body, that makes up your very being, shine.

I don’t suppose there is a point to any of this. There never is. I’ve lost a lot of things over the years. Some I’d seen coming. Some I did not. Some I wish I hadn’t. You don’t always get to keep your Sapphire. You don’t always get to keep your Ruby. And Garnet, under most circumstances, never stays forever. That state of being, that insulated bubble and the barn with the weird art pieces and the animated Pumpkin entity pet can’t always be there in that current form.

Yeah. If you haven’t watched the show yet, that is a whole long, other story.

I don’t cry as much these days. But I do when I watch this show. It lets me. It’s appropriate when I do. Every time, especially now. I never thought it would have gotten into my life as much as it has. Under my skin. Into my heart. If only people were like the Gems, or even the people of Beach City where problems can always be solved through talking, and no one has to be that Jasper who sucks as Fusion forever.

But I think, as long as Steven Universe exists … as long as shows like it exist and the people that create them continue to possess this form of empathy — a strength of compassion and emotional depth — even if I never Fuse again, even if I feel disembodied, or broken, or flawed, or shattered, or “not made right” like an Off Color … even if I have to be alone like a moping Peridot, or a sad Lapis Lazuli just knowing something like it exists out there, like a Garnet who is almost always Fused and actually marries after over five thousand years honestly?

I can live with that. Despair, perhaps I am stronger than you, like an Amethyst on some Cookie Cat.

Or, you know: this lucky, awesome guy who has grown so much.

The Making of Sacrifice

It’s taken me a while to get back into this, into my Alternative Facts universe and the State of Amarak.

A lot of stuff gets lost in transition, and translation when I write these stories, I’m afraid. I think I go into it a lot more in my article Alternative Facts, where I discuss how this entire thing began, but to summarize the issue with my stories is that the language I attempt to create — the poetics — is by its own evolution very inaccessible, or limited. This is the language and syntax of a people — or populii — that has changed over at least a thousand years, if not more. I just attempt to extrapolate based on what I know, and what little I have read on the matter, and go with it.

But there is another issue as well. After talking about translation, there is transition to consider. I realize that most of my stories in this series are not really standalones as I might have originally planned them to be. I realized after “Freedom” and “The Spectrum” that I was essentially world-building from the roots of “Lost Words.” So here you have my poor readers trying to read my attempts at Newspeak and remember the context of groups and ideas from previous stories in that same vein.

Sacrifice is supposed to be different.

The first draft was very short and it was direct. At the same time, it lacked focus. It referred to other ideas, and it didn’t put emphasis on the Gilder Booms nearly as much as this one does. The Gilder Booms have existed ever since “Freedom” and they get talked about a little more in “Our Secret.” I don’t like to explain my stories, even if I did basically create a whole new language — or a basic attempt at such — for the world of Amarak. But I would like to discuss, briefly, the idea that led to this particular short story or, perhaps, chapter of this dark political speculative landscape.

I was, of course, paying attention to the recent school shootings in the United States. A lot of my friends and peers had been reposting and commenting on various articles. There were two ideas that came to me, one possibly in the back of my mind for a while, and the other more blatant. Let me start with the second one.

I thought about the Gilder Booms, as they are a group in the sub-cult of the Repo Party in Amarak: near or in the Borderlands away from the Repolitik proper. They are the cannon fodder, the militias, that go in and unleash the most bombastic and physical damage on those around them. I began to look at the religion or spirituality I extrapolated and formed around the Repo Party leadership and I wondered what the Gilder Booms thought of their “hallowed armaments.”

At one point, I came across this New York Review Daily article on my social media feed entitled Our Moloch by Garry Wills. It posited the idea that guns and firearms have a god: that this particular one is modeled after, or is, Moloch: an ancient god demonized by Judeo-Christian theology, and ultimately represents human — and especially child — sacrifice. The article, if you read it — and I hope you do — makes its point clear about guns and shootings in the United States along with its victims.

But then, I just couldn’t see the Gilder Booms blatantly worshiping Moloch: even with their time distorted idea of the Bible and folklore. So I thought of a deity that could represent the creation and power of firearms instead, on a warfare level. Unfortunately, Neil Gaiman beat me to it with his American version of the Roman blacksmith god Vulcan in his television series adaptation of American Gods. If you haven’t been watching the series, it is interesting, though I think the novel is better. Even so, Vulcan in that world represents gun deaths, and the military industrial complex of the United States. He is a perfect symbol and I realized I just couldn’t match that.

Even so, it still didn’t sit well with me. Two Mediterranean deities becoming the god of guns just didn’t feel … I don’t know, like they would be a part of Amarak. I tried thinking of Amaraki versions of them, but it didn’t work. And then, I remembered something about how the ancient Greeks, at least, thought of deceased children as heroes: and they were specifically buried in a ritualistic manner to almost deify them. I’d already touched on this in “Freedom” and “The Spectrum,” of course but I wanted to see what the Gilder Booms would do with it: how they would express it, and distort it to suit their spiritual and religious views.

And I realized that perhaps I was going about it the wrong way. The guns didn’t need a god. They already have spirits. It’s true that, in their theology, the Gilder Booms see the spirits of their hallows — as they call them — as extensions or servants of the Lohim, just as the Lohim has divine Masks or aspects representing specific old Amaraki ideas and figures. But I wanted to give the guns a life of their own, an animistic element, that ties them to the idea of nativity as part of the Land or the earth. The hallows themselves are a vessel of the spirits that they have … and the ones that they take.

I’m not sure when I started thinking about the Winchester Mansion. I know there is a film that had been released not long ago about it, and I’d always thought about the story in the back of my mind. It’s strange, when you think about it. I mentioned American Gods, and it has this idea that its holy places are specific focal points in the earth that attracts worship and belief. In America, according to Neil Gaiman’s novel, they are generally tourist attractions: the House on the Rock, and such.

The Winchester Mansion is definitely one of those focal points. It was created by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the man who owned the company that created Winchester rifles: which took many, many lives by design. The legend is that she started building an estate, after the deaths of her husband and child, to appease the spirits of all those killed by the family’s guns … or to get away from their curse. I wanted to find a quote about the Winchester Mansion and Sarah Winchester, but all I could actually retrieve was an old 1911 column about it: which I included as an epigraph in my story.

I … did the equivalent of meditate on that epigraph. I wrote some notes that, unfortunately, I deleted off of my phone. But what I realized was that according to the unnamed writer of the column, Winchester believed all would be well “so long as so long as the sound of hammers did not cease in the house or on the grounds.”

And then I started to think about it. What if the hammers are those in guns? What if the House is something more political? And what if the grounds are the Land, or a State, or a nation? What if Sarah Winchester and her actions, as fact, fiction, legend, or myth were a metaphor for a nation that profits from the construction, and deliverance of weapons? What if there is this large tract of grounds with different passageways leading futilely nowhere, or doubling back on themselves in circular logic, or hiding other secret places from those who would want to find them, or get out? What if there is a place that is made to hide rich people, or entrap the living, and attempts to forget about the growing dead?

What if America is the Winchester Mystery House? It was this idea, this image, that I ran with when I wrote this story, and then rewrote it and honed it down further. Perhaps I failed in telling this story properly in my Alternative Facts universe if I had to go into a digression about it here.

But it reminds me of something the narrator says in “Lost Words” when they are attempting to reconstruct the time before “The First Disunity” and a card game: about how the “House always wins.” And then there is also the idea, that can’t be discounted, of Sarah Winchester attempting to keep building on the House to actually pay restitution to the spirits, even with the problematic means of using the system her family made and the blood money to do so. Part of the column reads that her friends keep “persisting to visit her.” And either way you look at it, there is also that image of Sarah Winchester claiming that all will be well as long as construction keeps going … as long the House and the grounds keep expanding .. or the Land.

Sometimes, some things just speak for themselves, I find.  I hope that you will sleep well tonight. Take care, everyone.

Alternative Facts

I’m doing this all out of order.

This is an examination that should have happened either before I wrote my stories, or after when I had — or could still have — more of them. It is fairly clear that this entry is not a story in itself, at least not a fictional one, in my Alternative Facts series: whatever else it is. After all, where is the epigraph, right?

I started making epigraphs for some of my stories, in general, far before this point. You can blame Frank Herbert’s Dune series for my occasional, but fierce, love of putting quotes from other sources before my prose in addition to my love of classical science-fiction. In a way, while Dune has little to do with what I’ve been writing on my Mythic Bios Blog lately and before the New Year, it did teach me to look at the current world and what it could be in different ways, and I would be lying if I said that I had the idea behind Alternative Facts only recently.

It’s quite presumptuous of me, really. All of this is. Here I am writing, retrospectively, about a writing experiment as though it’s some kind of legitimate, published literature: as if it’s all finished, polished, and done. As if I may even continue it.

I’ve always known this world was imperfect. Even while, publicly and for the most part, staying out of politics I knew that human nature and what it builds is flawed on a fundamental, foundation of being. That’s why I always appreciated dystopian literature. George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm come to mind, but also Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in High Castle, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. When you also add Russell Hoban’s and Alan Moore’s post-apocalyptic language play in Riddley Walker and Crossed +100 respectively, you can see all of these influences on a very basic and hardly comparable level with the series that I chose to share publicly.

It almost didn’t happen.

A little while ago, Neil Gaiman wrote a short story “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.” In this story, you see this protagonist’s view of the world change dramatically, even degenerate, but ultimately becoming defined by the absences of where Ray Bradbury’s work, knowledge, and presence used to be within their mind. I found it utterly fascinating, this mnemonic shift, and I tried to replicate it in a poor attempt at a story about someone forgetting Neil Gaiman and looking at the world through their eyes. I wasn’t ready then. I almost understood what I was trying to do, as much as I can still even attempt to put it into words, but reason wasn’t enough. I had to intuit it, and pass that spark into some writing.

Fast forward this a few years. The politics of the Western world, of North America, shifted: or at least what already existed became clearer to me. The Internet doesn’t allow you to ignore the rest of the world as readily as other media anymore, or at least for now. I realized, far later than many other people more qualified than myself, that this was something I couldn’t afford to ignore. Then, at one point, the term “alternative facts” was introduced into the world conversation. It’s true that you can refer back to Orwell or even 1930s Germany when you think about those words, but they stuck with me. At one point, on my social media, I wrote something along the lines of taking “Alternative Facts” and making some kind of dark science-fiction or speculative series based off that title.

Even then, I knew I was only half-joking.

But I didn’t do this for a while. It was a nice, snarky thought as the world seemed to be proving itself to be more stupid and self-destructive than even I originally thought. I thought about the American elections, and how in my mind it should have gone: that forces utilizing hate and hate speech should have failed —  utterly — then turned on each other, and become utterly forgotten: an embarrassment to society and civilization, polite or other wise. I started off this post by saying I was doing this all out of order. And I remembered what ancient civilizations used to do with dynasties and regimes that caused them chaos before they finally fell. They would go out of their way to erase every monument, every artifact, every word, and every mention of those former ruling groups: for good or ill.

Then I remembered something else. I had a friend I used to talk with from Germany. Among many other things, we would discuss history. Of course, the Nazi Party came up. This was before a lot of the turmoil that became prominent during 2016 and now onward, which is reminiscent of parts of history. My friend, when we talked about Nazis, never called them Nazis. They called them National Socialists. And that was exactly what their name was, the National Socialist Party. But then it was abbreviated, and from then on and over time, they have been called Nazis. It doesn’t matter what they styled themselves, or what their original aims were in other forms, or even their influences. That is how they are known now.

Just like my Repos, the former Repo Party, mentioned in my first story and elsewhere.

At first, I just talked about the Repos. And then, one day during August of 2017 when so many people were talking about politics and fascism, when I was wondering if I would ever see my girlfriend or any of my other loved ones in the United States again, I decided to try my hand at uniting these concepts into a story. What would happen if something so bad occurred that even as civilization in one area reconstructed itself, it either lost much information, or actually went as far as banning it — erasing words — to make sure they would become lost?

The first draft of “Lost Words” wasn’t really good. It got clunky and you could tell that I was still exploring a lot. The protagonist talked with a teacher and it all felt like very scripted excitement, very “Gee Willikers.” And the ending was choppy and rather flat as well. I sent it to my girlfriend, but even before she said anything else, I knew I could have done better. So I abandoned it.

Four months passed. It was probably in the back of my mind, just as our conversations and my rudimentary notes sat in fragments  on a draft email. Science, and laws are being changed and challenged. Political horror as a genre is rising again, or people are paying more attention to it. I had time to think about the power of words and ideas existing, and being erased. Certainly, even before this working on Sequart articles focusing on Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence, along with the “Agents of HYDRA” arc for SHIELD really helped me examine some concepts that, for me, still needed a creative outlet. I also thought about some of the work I did researching and looking at Lawrence Gullo, Fyodor Pavlov, and Kelsey Hercs’ LGBTQ+ Bash Back comic.

I honestly can’t remember why I resurrected and rewrote “Lost Words,” not when I left it for dead. Not when I almost let it no longer exist. I know I reconnected with a friend of mine and wanted to show it to them: thinking it right up their alley. But I had been working on it even before that. At least I think I did. As I say in “The Spectrum” story, it’s hard to say when something was born, or destroyed, or made when it seems as though it always exists on some level.

All I know is that I wanted people to see it: even the shoddy draft that I could just put on my Facebook and be done with it. But I didn’t leave it at that. I honed it down. I made the narrator more definite. And I added a layer of metaphor to it, something to mirror the main story and give it that resonance I needed. It was only later, after I wrote “Freedom” — from the perspective of the Repos of all people — that I added an epigraph retroactively into that story, based on the fact that I made one for “Freedom.” And the trend began, if such a thing can be said what with there being only four stories so far.

It is funny what you can tell about a world, like Amarak, by what isn’t said. I realized that writing each story from a different perspective, with epigraphs that complemented and contrasted with the narrative content, was effective for me. They are like dispatches from another place, another possible time. The word play is incredibly reminiscent of classic science-fiction to the point of it being very pretentious and derivative of classic science fiction of the twentieth century. I take fragments of Latin, I mess around with English and abbreviate words, attempting at times to make sure they have multiple meanings. It isn’t anything special. I am no Russell Hoban, or Alan Moore. And in terms of the stories and their conceits, as a friend of mine once said to put me in my place long ago, I am no Neil Gaiman. And in the wake of the twenty-first century, with its far more sleek and genre-savvy science-fiction and speculative literature I know there are many voices looking at these issues that are far more diverse than my own.

But I did it regardless. And I found it funny how Lost Words, which I thought was the most clever, was a story some readers just didn’t understand. I thought it was clever. But I suppose that is the problem: cleverness does not always a good story make if you don’t make it relatable. Weirdly enough, Freedom with its mythic and almost religious quality seemed more accessible, and The Spectrum in particular seemed to really hit a chord in people, or punched some subject matter rather unsubtly in the face. By We Are the Grass, though, I basically went “full circle” and wrote about what I thought: take it, or leave it.

I don’t really know, at this point, where to go from here. I just came back from a visit to the States and I am tired. But even before that, I wasn’t sure where Alternative Facts was going. I originally thought of it as something of a dark speculative anthology series, with tongue and cheek political tones, but a world — the land of Amarak — grew out of it instead. It is still a possibility of course that I will continue with my original plan if Amarak becomes too exhausted.

And I have some ideas. The fact is, I require more inspiration. I hit my stride with this, and another series I’m working on at the moment — a private one I was focusing on before this one attempted to supplant it like the usurper that it is — so I need to keep that fire going. I believe watching films like Get Out, as well as Netflix’s Black Mirror, along with reading Pornsak Pichetshote and Jose Villarrubia’s upcoming Infidel comics series in a few months could help recharge my batteries of pure dark fire towards the world. Or, you know, continuing to watch and read the news: that works too.

When it comes down to it, though, I feel as though every story I write, every story I’ve ever written is filled with “alternative facts”: is in fact an “alternative fact” in and of themselves. I don’t mean that they are lies, though some stories are lies and, as a great writer once said, all writers are liars. But they are all still stories and they do say something about the storytellers, and the place from which they come. And sometimes, some things just speak for themselves. And sometimes it is better that they do instead of remaining silent. Silence is the ultimate death though … sometimes what isn’t said can speak incredible volumes.

I think these are my thoughts for now. Feel free to read my stories if and when you have the time. It is good to place something on this site. It has been reposted on, and neglected for some time now. It feels good to put something on here again, especially something that feels worth while. Everything still is out of order. I should have ended this post with the previous paragraph. But, somehow, I feel as though whatever this is is just beginning. Or it is always here and I am just one more person speaking it: one more letting it speak through me. Take care everyone.

Fanfiction and Story Insights: Or Plausible Creativity

It’s been a while, yet again. I know that I have talked about fanfiction before, but I have been working on a particular story on A03 that has made me think about certain elements. It also helps that this DeviantArt article on Mary-Sues was brought to my attention. I don’t know if I agree with a lot of it, necessarily, but there are some good insights within it with regards to making a particularly plausible or believable character in which to make a story of a similar kind around.

It is important to bear in mind that any character you create, as a writer, should have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as have different relationships with other characters and environments. In other words, a good character is arguably as close to a realistic person as you can make them, even on a basic level, where they have different facets that you as a writer can explore.

But I have been thinking less about this point, and more about how to write fanfiction: specifically setting a story in an established fictional universe. And I’m afraid that I have less advice to give, and more of my own personal insights — or what works for me — to actually talk about.

I find that what really works for me is to use characters that already exist. Often, I can create dialogue and character studies and let them play off of each other. The dialogue is important to me as it embodies who those characters are, how they are different or similar to one another, and what is actually important to them. Sometimes I will even act out those characters, aloud or in my mind — as I do with my original fiction — and see what happens from there.

I research them and their world as much as possible. Sometimes I don’t necessarily read the original work or narrative from where they come from, or the particular element that I want to focus on, but I will read up on it in encyclopedia articles. In some cases, I will look at other media such as animation or film instead of the original texts. This isn’t always the case, but especially for Star Wars Expanded Universe and Fate/Stay Night I tend to do this.

For me, I find the best fanfiction — that I can make — is the more plausible kind. I try to work with continuity and the rules of the world in question as much as I can understand or, learn about them. I do not add new abilities or characters, but if I do I will try to incorporate some kind of logic or description of them that fits that world, and describe their mentalities in a way that makes sense as either influenced by the world or the pre-existing characters.

A lot of it, for me, is extrapolation: seeing how the characters function in that world and then placing them in another situation or series thereof and seeing how they will pan out from there. Often I focus a lot less on physical description, and — as I said before — dialogue, but also a lot of third-person limited introspection. I tend to refer back to events, creating call backs, to both things that happened in canon and things that happened in my fanfic as well — in the narrative — to fully flesh things out further and add to that sense of plausibility.

The way I see it, at least with the fanfic I have been writing for over seventy chapters as of this post, I have done a few things. First, I extrapolated on the characters previous actions and emotions and gradually transitioned them into newer but familiar places. I have made original characters too that I might plan to use in another fanfic, or a sequel, but I use them sparingly. When I build up events or changes, I make sure to show all of the steps. Sometimes I will describe something. Other things I will reveal it through dialogue, limited narrative perspective, or even an italics-based first person point of view throughout the work.

But sometimes, there is the other challenge. Imagine you are trying to work in a creative sand box, but you have this idea that is incredibly fascinating to you. You look at it, and you feel like it would make for an excellent development in the story, a nice chapter for instance, but you don’t know if you can describe it well, or if it works in the lore of that world. Sometimes you have to let it go, for the story’s flow, and for the sake of your own sanity. Certainly, you will have a fanbase of that world watching your every move in some form to consider.

At the same time, though, sometimes it is for the sake of the story itself that you should in fact challenge yourself in adding this new chapter or element. The main challenge is incorporating it into that world. You can do it by making it clear this world is just a gradation or variant of the established one. Or, conversely, you can leave it open and ambiguous: with just enough examination or description to hint on one thing, or another and leave people to wonder. For instance, I gave a character an ability she probably shouldn’t have had, but I played around with the relatively ambiguous and not always orderly rules of that world: and I described a way in which she could have gotten that skill in a few ways, and how it fit her power and her intention.

Basically, I extrapolated a character’s abilities after her time in canon, with what little knowledge we were given of them after the fact, and then added this little surprise. And then I had her and another character address this: where even they were not entirely sure how she could do some of these things, or how it worked. It is a little jaded and self-aware, but I took advantage of a loophole in their knowledge and offered a plausible explanation — or head-canon on my part — to make it possible. To me, it made sense. I had to rewrite some of it, but I think it works and I am glad I took that risk because it makes the whole fanfic stronger for it.

For the most part I have been careful, building it up, but in that particular instance I thought starting with a fight — even in an unfamiliar place to me and the characters — worked. I did research it as much as I could, aspects and all, but in the end I just had to write the damned thing. And like I said, it worked for me.

And then, in this same fic, I have had other challenges which in turn have offered unique solutions. For instance, mythological figures are used in the world in which I am writing. So at a few points, the characters have found or searched for items associated with these figures. Most of these artifacts have been described in the story, or in encyclopedias. However, some of them have not. I found myself in a quandary: where I had to determine what these artifacts were, how powerful they are, and how they were different from each other. There was one in particular that I had no information about beyond a basic description in normal Wikipedia or elsewhere. And it wasn’t even in the fictional universe I was working within.

So what I did, was I took the artifact and described what it could look like. I gave it something of a Whovian perception filter: that some characters could see it and have some idea of it, and others could not. And even the ones that could knew that they saw something subjective. And it matched the nature of what the item was, and what it does. I explained, through dialogue and some thoughts of one mythological figure how this might be so, and how it was different from a similar artifact which went back into this character’s history a bit. I also gave an explanation as to how another enchantment of hers was related or derived from said artifact. And because she is so old, and due to the reason she exists again, she doesn’t remember all of it. But in the end, it isn’t that important. What is important is that I grafted an item related to a mythological character who has been adapted into that universe. I made it plausible. And I covered my own ass, hopefully well, by making that knowledge subjective through that character’s perspective.

I’m not going to say that I’ve been perfect, because I’m not. I have a feeling there might be some loose ends in the tapestry I am forming from my idea of a pre-existing one. And here is the most important thing that I have to tell you.

The best thing you can do when writing a fanfic is to put your slant on that world. Your voice. The way that you want to look at that world. When I write a story, I look at character interactions, and philosophical implications: specifically introspection and development in between the fighting, the fucking, the walking, the sitting, and the discussion of past and present events. I want to deal with actual talking, and dealing with closure: as well as emotions coming from the results of consequences. Not everyone is interested in that focus, and I know that.

Some fanfic readers want to see the minutiae of that world and their favourite characters unfold. Some want to see the stories of their heroes continue. Others want to see those conflicts from canon get resolved or come to a head: to have the good person get their justice, or the jerk get smashed in the head with a baseball bat. Others want to see characters they hate die or suffer, or others ascend to greater potential.

Honestly, I have had commenters on my fic request romantic pairings, and outright fucking.

The point is, everyone has different expectations and you have to tell the story that you want to tell. You will never be the original creator, and that is a good thing. You can explore things and do things in ways they did not. As for me, I like to remain plausible and retain a sense of continuity, but I will suspend it for the sake of what it is all is — entertainment — while backing up what I say with details if I can, or I will fudge it by finding some kind of ambiguous loophole while making it all about those character interactions.

Now this, all of this here, was a lot of text to read. So thank you for reading this far. I have to say, writing so much is exercising my mind: getting me to research, think, and plan creatively. I am still working on my own projects in the mean time and, who knows? Maybe one day I will share some of them with you, once again. I hope to write to you all again soon, as time goes. Take care everyone.

Time

Not too long ago, an acquaintance of mine, Brandy Dawley wrote something about her inner critic and what it looks like, how it acts, and what it represents in a Medium article called On Creative Paralysis, Feeling Naked Online, And My Inner Critic Whose Name is Chad. I wasn’t originally going to write this, at least not today or tonight. I’ve been very depressed lately, especially with regards to my creative writing. And I’m just going to tell you all now that my inner critic, my judge, my arbiter-out-of-control doesn’t have a gender, or an interesting aesthetic, or is even all that interesting.

My judge is Time.

What can I tell you about Time that you don’t already know? I’m not talking about kindly old Grandfather Time, or even Fotamecus: a chaos magick sigil turned into a servitor, Egregore or complex thought-form, and eventually new god of time, if you want to learn something more obscure. No, I’m talking about the old man with the scythe. I’m talking about Cronus or Chronos who castrated his own father, and ate his children out of fear. But not even that. Think of this grey cloaked figure with a scythe, or maybe more of an impulse that tells you that it is bigger than it really is, while also greatly under-exaggerating the size of its heart: which is, like a singularity, a large implosion with a very small, dense, pitiless centre.

Time is capricious. It likes to tell me that I have plenty of it, sometimes, or that I have all of its attention. It can lull me into a false sense of confidence, or complacency. Time waits as it encourages me to procrastinate, or bears down on my chest and stomach, on my esophagus, and ticks away on the corner of a YouTube video I’m watching to calm down and clear my head. And all that time, it keeps score. It writes down, much in the way that I’m not, everything I’m doing except for what it thinks I should be doing: what it alternatively whispers and shouts at me what I should be doing.

Sometimes Time likes to get fresh. It likes to throw something in my face and yell “Surprise! Deal with it! This is your only chance, but no pressure!” It gets relentless and manic: jabbing, kicking, and screaming at me about how I need to do this thing now Now NOW NOW NOW but it won’t always tell me what I am supposed to do, or how I should do it. And when I ask it why, it mostly answers in the negative. It tells me that if I don’t do this, I will suffer, I will remain in stasis, or I will rot from the inside like the spoiled creature that it claims and makes me feel that I am.

I’m not even talking about when Time decides to take me on a trip down memory lane. It’s like the TARDIS from Hell. It likes to show me everything I was, and what I’m not anymore. It likes to show me what I could have done instead, but no backsies. It likes to show me what I could have been, but how I will never have those chances because of my own ineptness: my own sense of paralysis.  It explains to me, in immense detail, how it will stretch out and test all of my friendships and relationships — all of my connections with them — and slowly, and carefully fray the emotions around them over time until I feel detached and disassociated from everyone. It tells me not to trust anyone or anything: how one day, they will all leave me, or I will leave them first.

And then, it takes me into the future. It takes me to a place where it confirms the worst of my fears. Time tells me that I wasted my life. It tells me that I am a loser for living at home after having worked and had scholarships at university. And then, Time likes to be cruel. It enjoys offering me opportunities, waving them in my face, and then right at the last second in an inverse of “no backsies” go “just kidding” and kick me right back into the metaphorical gutter that it took me from: sort of a reversal of fortune writ petty, and small, and banal.

Time likes to play “The Pit and the Pendulum” below me and over my head. It likes to wear me down and remind me of every stupid thing I’ve done, and how no matter what I have done since I will always be that whiny self-entitled child that doesn’t deserve a single thing he gets. It tells me that I’m useless. It says I’m too old, or that I’m getting too old to make anything that will turn my life around.

Time tells me that I am unkempt and that everything is shallow anyway. It tells me I am not nearly as clever or as smart as I think I am. It reminds me of the children that taunted me as a child because I talked too slow, or because I fidget and rock back and forth. It said that I used to be good at “passing” as “normal” but I’ve lost that ability. It says that nothing I do, no creation of mine I create, and no relationship I seek or make matters. Nothing I do will matter. Sometimes, when it is really cruel, it likes to remind me of how good things used to be and how horrible they’ve become now: how I made them that way. It tells me I’ve imprisoned myself, locked myself away, made myself think I am weak and pathetic and rubs my delusions of grandeur — of working hard to excel and be someone — right back in my face like shit.

Then it tells me my only future is around people who I will never relate to, and that I will be alone.

In this way, this version of Time as my inner critic and judge is like Chronos: like him it cuts away the good memories of the past by making me think I’ve learned nothing from it, and it eats my children by paralyzing me, and telling me that I will accomplish nothing but thwarted, angry, bitter dreams.

And Time has been louder these days. Like I said, it wears you down. You defy it over and again like screaming at a brick wall. But you get tired. You get drained. I’ve worked for so long for very little money. I know I should send out pitches or stories, but I don’t feel motivated to do them: as negative motivation from Time is a terrible reason to want to do anything worth while. I don’t even know where to go. But that isn’t true. I have a comics script I never finished because of procrastination and Time telling me it’s too late, and reminding me about my inadequacies. I have a Toronto Comics Anthology I could submit pitches to, but again too much Time has passed and I don’t feel the same way about Toronto as I used to: making it belong to another life. I’ve had talks I’ve put aside because of the fear that something will be over, even though it may well already be, or because I just let it go for too long. It mocks me about how my fanfiction is useless because I will never get paid and there is no reason to do it. It looks at my articles and tells me I am wasting my time reiterating matter I didn’t even create. And it tells me not to get close to anyone because I will end up losing track of the emotions, and by the time they lurch in me full stop they will be long gone.

My judge has the power to freeze itself, to slowly make me watch things change and do nothing to stop them. But it isn’t linear. My critic is definitely cyclical: as circular as this entire post has probably become.

A long time ago, someone I loved wrote a poem before she ever met me. It was called “Where Time Goes to Die.” And sometimes, when Time tells me I should have died in the Summer of 2008 when I was happy and I thought my life was just beginning and everyone was still with me, I wish it would just die. I wish Time would die and I would forever avoid that place where it perished.

Then I would finally be free.

But that’s not what’s going to happen.

What will happen, I think, is this. You see, my inner critic has a weakness. It doesn’t always realize this, but it’s there. Like I said, it likes to pretend to be bigger than it actually is. But what it doesn’t realize is that sometimes I can cut it up into little chunks. Into little bits. Sometimes, I can takes parts of it as well. Sometimes I eat it just like it tries to eat my creations. I take them, these pieces of my judge, jury, and executioner. I eat them one by one with my fork like the pieces of breaded cutlet I sometimes microwave at night.

Then I have dialogues with the parts of myself that Time thinks it has taken away from, or locked away from each other. We exchange notes. Sometimes we wear masks to hide from it. This becomes dialogue. Dialogue becomes interactions and the formation of scenes and descriptions. Sometimes I steal bits of Time when it doesn’t think I can even get out of bed. I take it and read something like Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles: which makes me remember my comics script and dialogue and wondering what might happen if I write just the dialogue of what I want to say and fill in the description later from I have already done.

My past selves talk with each other, to me, on the grapevine that the scythe can never really serrate that well. Then I recall the opportunities. I look at what I have done before and I wonder if I can adapt it into something else. Or I take some space and think of something I haven’t done before.

And then when Time wants to implode like powerful gravity, I just let it. Sometimes I just let it weigh me down and I don’t fight it. I feel it. I remember it. I remember this Spirit of Gravity and I think about its power, coming from a black hole and string theory, and if blackholes are wormholes and if I can harness the power of Wormhole Technology to do something completely ad hoc.

So I work through it. I do the little things that Time doesn’t think are all that important or worth its notice except to make delicate, beautiful, egg-shell bombs. But eventually, one day Time will reach too far. It will offer me something that I can grab back. It will step onto one of its deadly little Easter eggs. I will have more friends. More allies. People talk about Time. I’ve already talked about Time here and what it likes to do. Some people might not like that very much. Some people might not like that at all.

I will take Time’s regrets and uncertainties and create a world out of them of my design. I will take my pain and I will write with it. I will create new life. And then, one day, when I send in more pitches, and better more defined works of which I will have enthusiasm, and I sleep better, and eat well, and people will talk about my name to other people and places all across its surface, I will make the that place. I will create that space. I will make the site of the area of the grave of the ground where Time — my Time — goes to die.

And I will point and laugh. And I will be utterly satisfied.

My Fanfiction Origin Story

The title is more epic than it actually sounds, but when I think about it the entire thing had been a story long in the making.

Some writers believe that fanfiction is a waste of time. Certainly, you can’t really profit off of it unless you have the original writer or creator’s permission, and you do not want to run afoul of copyright infringement. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m partly here because it’s been a while since I’ve put anything on this Blog, my Writer’s Blog, that hasn’t been a repost from my Sequart work, or elsewhere.

I suppose I’d … always written fanfiction. In fact, I did it ever since I even learned how to write. Often I’d watch the 1990s Peter Pan cartoons and attempt to write the further stories of Captain Hook, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. In the eighties and nineties though, as a young child, I was mostly interested in horror stories and mostly rehashing the old urban legends and Hammer film derivatives of horror classics more than anything else.

I don’t know if I remember it properly, but I think it really began in Fine Arts Camp. It was at the MacDonald House in Thornhill, once owned by the Canadian Group of Seven artist James Edward Harvey MacDonald. At the time, in the 1990s, I fancied myself something of a graphic artist. I was really passionate about drawing and creating cartoons. It made sense given my interests and my immersion into old DC and Marvel comics and a lot of the stuff coming out in the nineties. Certainly, I wasn’t all that interested in landscapes or other forms of graphic art. Just cartoons. Just comic books.

To be honest, Fine Arts Camp for all its fascinating old MacDonald House that was a good place to tell children urban legends and horror stories near a church and a community swimming pool, wasn’t always so ideal for me. For one, I had terrible allergies and being almost always in the middle of a woodland, surrounded by many trees, did not do me or my lungs that felt like they were getting kicked by horse hooves at night any favours. Also, well, when you are a child and generally an indoors one you have to understand that for all a camp will call itself a Fine Arts Camp, they will still force you go outside in various temperatures and play sports more than you will want. It was the same in the Computer Camp I went to, thinking I’d learn about animation and programming, and it was the same here before it.

Also, when you are extremely introverted like I was, you don’t tend to make a lot of friends: especially not from children your age or, worse, older. To make a long story short, aside from arts and crafts, and even some walks, I didn’t really always like being at Fine Arts Camp. But, I did discover something there that has sat in my head, with me, for the rest of my life.

I don’t remember his name. I’m not even sure he was the same person. But I knew a kid there, a few years older than me. He had in his hands, at the time, something I coveted the most. It was the Wizard Magazine: X-Men 30th Anniversary Special. In that magazine was all the information I’d been looking for about the X-Men and more, so much more than the Marvel cards and their lore that I had been collecting then.

For all the little squabbles we all had there, being kids, this guy was generous and he let me actually read parts of the Magazine. And, even though the other campers really thought I was weird for doing this and it probably gave them more fuel to push me around later, I was actually taking notes on all the information I could find. It wasn’t enough and eventually, after much pleading on my part and my grandmother’s reluctance to spend or let me spend all of twenty dollars, I got my own copy: which is still somewhere down in my basement somewhere.

But the important thing I want to note here is that this same guy, and may not necessarily be the same guy, liked to write. He told us that he would type up his stories on an old computer. Somehow, I remember him saying he had the Internet and frequented BBSes looking at stories based on franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. I might just be projecting that, as I had no idea what the Internet beyond school was or what a BBS even was at the time. But I remember him saying that he liked to write stories where Star Trek and Star Wars crossed over, and perhaps something about Locutus of Borg meeting the Empire.

It blew my mind.

I don’t remember all the details, but I recall the way he described his ideas and his stories. I think he even brought in some old computer paper with rings on the sides and clunky font. And I definitely remember wanting to write franchise stories.

I wanted to make those crossovers. I wanted to write Star Wars. I wanted to write comics and all the things.

That’s how it really started. There was an attempt at a Star Wars expanded universe story in my Seventh or Eighth Grade Writer’s Club anthology: where Luke Skywalker and the others meet a Dark Jedi fighting against the Empire and the Phantom Fleet. But you can imagine how well that was written at the time, and even more so how it aged since.

But I roleplayed out original Star Wars, X-Men, and Power Rangers episodes with my best friend Sean, and I kept writing. I still attempted to write my own works, but they were derivative of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street, along with some Christopher Pike, so you can imagine what those might have been like.

I think my writing skills started to be honed after high school, after reading more and writing an original short story in which I won a Senior Literary Award in 1999. I joined TheForce.Net again in 2005 and wrote what I thought were clearer iterations of Prequel stories. Unfortunately, despite all their assurances that everything would be saved, a lot of my works were lost when the Board attempted to transfer its data to a new server and most of my old works were heavily truncated.  It’s something I never really got over, after all this time and, frankly, it’s kept me from really writing there as much anymore.

But I learned a lot out of writing in different pre-made worlds.. I learned about what writing I liked and what I didn’t. They gave me ideas and frameworks for them. And sometimes they gave me an outlet to tell stories I wasn’t prepared to tell when I didn’t have a voice for them. Yet I think, most of all, fanfiction keeps me writing when I don’t feel inspired to write my own work, or when I’m getting overly critical and analytical.

Recently, I’ve joined AO3 to give some of my fanfic pieces a broader audience. I didn’t really like the freeform administrative style of Fanfic.Net, and TheForce.Net’s administration can be … sporadic and highly dogmatic in terms of poster interaction at best. But AO3 has a lot of variety and also maturity at times with regards to their work. So far I am liking it. And I cross-post all the time. Right now, in-between writing critical and opinion pieces for Sequart and thinking of some of my own original pieces, I’ve been writing a Fate/Stay Night fanfic I’ve been pondering over for a while and a few other shorter vignettes as well.

They keep me going, and I don’t think I realized how I missed it until I stopped. In addition, they also keep me writing new things and attempting stuff I hadn’t thought of or had the metaphorical balls to dare try. At the moment, this variance helps keep my mind fresh: and, who knows, I might have some of my own creative breakthroughs.

Some might even say that this how literature itself continues, minus all of these labels and copyright issues. Someone creates something and others want to emulate it: with perhaps reading and interacting with the materials that the original creator made to understand it better and eventually find their own voice.

Even so, fanfiction allows me to interact with the material that I love on a creative level without the pressure of feeling like I have do it professionally or for a need for money. I think there is a lot to be said about it, if you learn and grow from the experience, and even just have fun. I don’t know. I do know that I have come a long way from coveting wanting to write a Star Wars story, which I thought was beyond my ken at the time. With time, research, and will I can write almost anything now.

I guess that, in the end, I just need to remember that. After all, I think it is always useful to pursue inspiration: wherever you can find it.

Finding My Friend in Steven Universe

I remember when I would come home from school and turn on Fox 29. I’d watch Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Blossom, Bonkers, Goof-Troop, and all the Disney cartoons. Even in the morning, I recall enjoying Gargoyles and the Saturday afternoons with Hercules, Xena, and Sinbad. And I practically lived on YTV. It felt like they were always there. It felt like they would always be there.

But that’s not right either. I think what I always thought was going to be there was that mid-to-early nineties time. You know: that period where you’re at school, where it’s sometimes easier to meet up with your friends, you’re outside a lot more, and you have more child to adolescent responsibilities going on. That is a lot of generalization, I know, especially given how no one’s childhood is exactly the same for a whole lot of different reasons but I hope that I said enough to which somebody can relate.

Fraggle Rock

Yet what I think about the most is the early nineties, perhaps even the early to late eighties when musical shows like Fraggle Rock existed. Talk about a belated nostalgia alert. Fraggle Rock was like the Rainbow Connection Muppet Movie Song extended and made into a race of beings that lived all communally with one another, discovered things in wondrous environments, and took care of one another. God felt like a kindly but brusque and clueless old man named Doc whose Dog Sprocket only occasionally was a well-meaning force nature intruding on a world of friends. I think I like that version of God more than some others I’ve seen.

I think aside from Under the Umbrella Tree, Today’s Special, and Alvin and the Chipmunks, that was the first time I really felt like there was a show that was a friend to me. They all felt like my friends and perhaps more real than the rest of my life at the time while, somehow, also managing to encompass it.

I remember the Fraggles Gobo, Wembley, Red, Boober, and Mokey. I recall how close they were together. I think about that episode when everyone got sick and they took care of each other complete with a song “Sister and Brother,” and there were lessons about life and death and storytelling. And I remember really thinking the world was like that. I definitely wished that it was.

Fraggle Friends

But time goes on and no matter how much I wanted to stay with my friends, it always going to be different. I grew up and saw sing-alongs as something silly and embarrassing. I saw talking about feelings openly as something children did: as something that made adults weak. Despite how much I gained the habit of not trusting, and even detesting the world as an adult, of wanting to go back to some idyllic time that can’t exist again, I gave up on ever really feeling like I belonged again, that there was some extended communal family like Fraggle Rock that was there somewhere in the back of my heart. It’s all differences, and hard angular edges, and expectations that you put on others.

It was Gaming Pixie that introduced me to Steven Universe.

Steven Universe

As with most recommendations I’m given, especially towards shows that everyone is talking about, it takes me forever to watch them. This is especially true when I have a whole lot of other things going on.

When I came to visit her almost a year ago, she had the opportunity to get me to watch the series as it was. It started off very slowly. It seemed silly and strange. A child’s cartoon. I’ll admit, I wasn’t even fully paying attention as I was on social media responding to people about The Force Awakens that we’d just seen recently.

Then … there was this point. It was about the point when I became to realize there was continuity to each episode. When the background of the world began to spread more constantly, and seemed to tell a more quiet and larger story while Steven, Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst were more vocal in theirs. It may have been when the Gem species and the Crystal Gems’ Homeworld was introduced that I started to pay attention.

With more questions and mysteries to match each answer, I rewatched the old episodes with Gaming Pixie and then the others afterwards. I remember just watching Power Puff Girls casually when I was younger, and then hearing about the renaissance of My Little Pony and thought Steven Universe was something along those lines. Back in the day, I might have thought it mostly geared towards a mostly younger female audience and felt ashamed of watching it due to some perceived notion of masculinity, but nowadays I know better: especially coming to grips with having been invested with Sailor Moon on YTV.

Perhaps it all ties together. I just thought it wouldn’t relate to me. Or I didn’t want to become emotionally invested into something else. Combine that with the fact that music, especially musicals, can create a sense of vulnerability in the layer of irony making up adulthood and you might have a greater picture as to why it took me some time to get into Steven Universe, and why it affected me so much when I let it in.

Steven and the Crystal Gems

There is something very Scott Pilgrim about Steven Universe himself with his neotenous features, his pink shirt, and the star in the middle of it. But whereas Scott Pilgrim as a character lacked a lot of maturity, even though Steven continues to grow he has a lot of wisdom for a young child. He grows up in a non-normative family, with three moms, aunts, sisters, whatever role they are, and his father. The Gems themselves are all, from human understanding anyway, female.

Describing this show is a lot like trying to explain a certain kind of music without actually just getting you to listen to it. I think what really gets to me, aside from watching Steven grow, is how the show deals with diverse contemporary issues like ethnicity, gender, and sexuality without being preachy, and by telling an excellent story with natural character development. But more than that, it isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. It isn’t afraid to sing, and its song isn’t oppressive or intrusive. It allows you to get used to it first. It allows you the choice of listening to it and perhaps remembering part of why you loved music, and imaginary worlds to begin with.

It also makes me really value Steven. It makes me appreciate the wonder and the heartbreak he goes through as he grows. It also reminds me that he has a large and diverse family, not unlike the communal one that Fraggle Rock will always be in my heart: that perhaps Sense8 might be in a more live-action and grittier adult sense if the series continues on as well as it has.

Above all, watching Steven makes me want to paraphrase something his biological mother told him on video tape, and tell the Gems, his father, and his friends that he will need them, to take care of him: to encourage him to continue to be the awesome person he’s meant to be.

 Steven Universe feels like this generation’s Fraggle Rock, with Rebecca Sugar and her crew’s storytelling equal to Jim Henson, and I’m just glad that — in some ways — I can feel that way at least twice in my own life. We are lucky to have a friend like this — with friendships like these — again.