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

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

Freddy Fazbear

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

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

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

FNAF Gameplay

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

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

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

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

FNAF Gameover

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

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

FNAF Death Mini-Game 2

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

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

FNAF Death Mini-Game

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

FNAF Game

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

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

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

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

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

FNAF 4

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

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

Freddy Fazbear Mask

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

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

Freddy Toreador March

This is Halloween

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

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

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

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

I have been busy.

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

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

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

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

David Hayter Fav and Retweet

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

You can find my interview with David Hayter right here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween, my friends.

Kris Straub’s Broodhollow: Luring Readers In With an Angleworm

I’ve said this before in other forums, but horror and comedy have a lot in common. You start off in an innocuous or, conversely, a bizarre place and then escalate the scenario until, right at the end, you deliver the twist: or the punchline.

Kris Straub has managed to do this, at least twice in a major way, for Broodhollow. I have been following this web comic for a while now ever since its start in 2012 and, I have to say, its level of storytelling pushes the envelope on what comics can actually portray. Unlike the other times I’ve talked about Broodhollow, I really don’t want to reveal any spoilers as suspense and reader anxiety, broken only a few times by laughter and warmth, are key to Straub’s work.

Here is what you need to know about the plot. Wadsworth Zane is a young encyclopedia salesman with a behaviour called The Pattern, something bordering on if not outright a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder, trying to survive during the Great Depression. He gets a letter from his late great-uncle wanting him to claim his inheritance from the strange city of Broodhollow. Wadsworth encounters eccentrics, angry and suspicious citizens, strange creatures, and ghosts.

And it only gets weirder and more disturbing from there.

There is something light, airy, and innocent about the cartoon style in which Kris Straub draws the human denizens of Broodhollow and the daytime of the city itself. It is a nostalgia reminiscent of the old newspaper strips and Disney cartoons of the 1930s: a cheeriness slowly and terrifyingly subverted into warped and twisted Lovecraftian aesthetics of red and fear. Even the juxtaposition of cartoon drawings and serious dialogue, coupled with questionable memories and conflicts of dialogue and thought bubbles makes the reading experience truly jarring: in a way that truly works.

And now the second arc, Broodhollow Book Two: Angleworm, has recently come to a close. And I still don’t even know what to make of it. You can read Book One: Curious Little Thing on the Broodhollow website or purchase it and other sundry, evil things from Kris Straub’s Chainsaw Suit store. Book Two: Angleworm is only available online at the moment, but perhaps come December or so there might be a Kickstarter Campaign to make a book form possible: just as there had been for the first.

In the meantime, keep an eye out on the Broodhollow website for updates. In addition to creating comics, Kris Straub likes to create horror stories and they operate on the same principles of slowly creeping dread and “long game” punchlines as they do in his other works. For instance, he is the creator of Candle Cove.

But let me leave you with a pleasant thought for the season. While I won’t tell you what Book Two is about, I will say this. The thing you need to understand about angleworms is that they come from the soil, they feed off living and dead matter, and they are used as bait … to lure prey to a predator.

Or perhaps, in this case, an opening line bringing sleeping minds to nightmare fuel.

Oh and Kris Straub has announced that Book Three of Broodhollow will be coming out sometime in early 2015 running parallel to the Kickstarter for Book Two. It’s called A Game of Oubliette. Pleasant dreams everyone.

What Scares You Will Be Its Soul: My Dead Girlfriend and Project: Dark-Seed

This post contains horror, disturbing images and, worst of all, *spoilers.* Reader’s discretion is advised. 

When Dream created the Corinthian a long time ago in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, his original aim was to construct a sentient dream that represented humanity’s fear of its own darkness. In the end, of course, he became more like a simple serial killer than anything as grand as a being that could make dreamers face the worst parts of themselves.

Corinthian Uncreated

The Corinthian’s initial failure as a dark mirror in which humanity could see the other part of its soul is a fitting metaphor when you hear discussions about the horror genre: particularly how gore and spectacle can take precedence over slow, creeping, uncanny elements out of the corner of your eye and the fear of the unknown or the forgotten.

And then you have creepypastas.

Kris Straub is already doing a web series called Scared Yet in which he looks at and dissects creepypastas: examining how they work, and how they don’t. He said once, in his now defunct Ichor Falls Blog, that many creepypastas fall into a formula or a series of tropes. You know: Jeff the Killer that is the result of bullying and acid being thrown on his face becoming ala the Joker analogue, a whole series of cursed video games bought from a creepy old man who may or may not vanish after a purchase, every story about Disney symbolizing institutionalized and secretive evil, and all the rest of it.

Many beginning writers can do this: they find stories that appeal to that part of them and they imitate them. Even so, many of these pastas have somehow become viral memes as they tap — sometimes even in a shallow manner — into that sense of universal horror and dread in humanity.

But then there are others …

There. Are. Others.

I have talked about Candle Cove before: created by the aforementioned Kris Straub. But a few days ago this little gem manifested itself:

My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook. I’ve got the screenshots. I don’t know what to do. It is a story that was created on a subreddit called r/nosleep: where people seemingly write stories that commenters respond to as if they are real accounts. You can find a more polished version of it right here. But in many ways the original is much more diabolical and I will explain why.

First of all, like Candle Cove, it uses its medium to effect. But while Candle Cove emulates a Message Board, complete with user typos and all that loveliness, My Dead Girlfriend is already on a subreddit: a forum that functions as a series of comments stacked up on each other in a grey background with faded white fonts.

But goes further than that. My Dead Girlfriend also has links to what seem to be screen captures of Facebook Private and Public Chats. It utilizes Tags in empty spaces. And then there is the writing style to consider. While Kris Straub utilizes typos in Candle Cove, natesw or Nathan — which I suspect are personas — writes this from the first-person in something of a epistolary format: a series of journals or reports of the phenomenon occurring. Moreover, the writing from natesw’s persona on r/nosleep is clear, with no typos whatever, and possesses proper sentence structure, spelling, and grammar.

Yet the Facebook Chats he has “screen-captured” have the typos and fragmented sentences. And the dialogue between him and his dead girlfriend gets juxtaposed and played with like a twisted form of poetry. These two modes, the first-person of the subreddit text and the third-person and visual aids of the Facebook images complement each other. Unfortunately, if you go by the subreddit the ending could be lost: if it is indeed the ending.

Read the second, cleaner tickld version though: and look at the very last image that it shows you.

Creepy, no?

Remember, you have to find Candle Cove. My Dead Girlfriend finds you.

Ghost Writer

It’s still finding us. When Candle Cove was first sent to me, it had been around for a few years. Right now, though, My Dead Girlfriend is still spreading.

And the story had me before that image too. My friend and I were talking about this into the wee hours of Sunday and she told me that it had her at “FRE-EZING.” This was the only original word that “Emily” was able to construct, or revealed. You see, we never know whether Nathan’s torment is the result of a sick hacker, Nathan’s own subconscious mind projecting the grief of his trauma into messages from Emily, or … the fragments of Emily’s traumatized essence not completely realizing that she is dead and going to the place and person that she knows more than herself: perhaps even trying to make up for the reluctant displays of affection that she showed Nathan in life before she died on her way to their apartment.

Basically, the story is left open-ended. And there is the challenge in the recipe right there. You have to basically know that balance between detail and that open-endedness. If you have too much detail, people will question the specifics and your creepypasta will deflate into skepticism. On the other hand, if you are too grandiose and you try to encompass everything your structure will either never grow or will fall apart at the seams.

I think one element to know what medium you want to use and how you want to structure it. At the same time, you need to know what story you want to tell. Images, photoshopped or otherwise, help too. Another advantage that My Dead Girlfriend has is the fact that it has many commenters either playing along (being the poster’s friends or general fans of the subreddit) or are so taken by the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Effect that they are genuinely giving the poster natesw advice. But this story also manages to tap into the general and the specific. The characters and personas have names. There are dates. The accident that took Emily is revealed in slow and painful detail. The uncanny is tapped.

And that is the difference right there: that last ingredient. You can study the remnants of a miracle, but you can’t really reconstruct its soul from what is left. Or, in my case and in the case of other writers, you can’t create an original soul of a new story by purely examining leftovers alone.

I can tell you how these stories work, but it’s like deconstructing a joke. It’s just not funny after. It’s just not horrifying. And anything that I make from this, as it has been a long-term goal of mine to create a viral horror meme after my girlfriend had showed me Candle Cove, would just be a shallow or empty form.

I have many ideas for a creepypasta. It was the very aim of my Project: Dark-Seed. But after that conversation with my friend last night, I realized something. I realized just why the Corinthian was such a failure to Dream.

Dream even admitted that the fault was his own. Dream created the Corinthian to embody humanity’s fear of its own darkness, but despite the fact that Dream is an embodiment of the sentient impulse of imagination and dreaming, he isn’t human. Until his imprisonment in Preludes and Nocturnes, and slowly before with his human friend Hob he never tried to get close enough to humans to actually understand their perspective.

Dream could observe human darkness, but he didn’t really know how they experienced it. He couldn’t relate to his audience. The Corinthian, who was intended to be a classic horror tale became a gory spectacle because he only engaged humans on that superficial level. Unlike Dream’s other stories, other dreams and nightmares, the Corinthian wasn’t made from a pre-existing concept or a sentient being made into something more. He was Dream’s attempt at original creation and imitation of life and he failed.

He was an empty shell that tried to fill himself with gore and eyeballs and attention. As Dream’s creepypasta to humanity, the Corinthian falls short. That is the same reason why some creepypastas and horrors stories fail because the creator doesn’t try to relate to their audience. In terms of comedy, the joke doesn’t amuse them.

The story doesn’t scare them.

But what would have happened if the Corinthian scared Dream? What would have happened if Dream thought about what scared him and made the Corinthian in that image? What happens when a horror writer creates a monster that scares them, that makes them feel goose flesh at the mere thought of it: of that thing at the corner of their consciousness that they logically know can’t happen or exist, but deep down knows?

Who knows. Perhaps Dream’s re-creation of the Corinthian after his own imprisonment and exile changed the model. Perhaps he just needed a catalyst to tap him into that deep black pool of universal horror and white noise, take a piece of it, and fashion from its substance a soul to fill the emptiness.

Static

Perhaps a creator only needs to find something to be scared of in order to create a nightmare that can be shared with the world.

Now if that isn’t the beginning of a story of one’s descent into creative damnation, I don’t know what is. The powers help me. I think I have been writing too much in hell. But the moral of this story is that some people like their pastas filled with gore or emptiness.

I like my pastas to be filled with darkness: from the heart.

Corinthian

This Little Party is Just Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me and my Head

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

So I didn’t do anything at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here is what’s going to happen.

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

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

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

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

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

Of Dark Crystals and Brooding Hollows Traveling Down the Late Night Road

The thing about “there,” is that when all goes well you come back again.

I meant to write this the very … night I came back from my trip, but then I realized after talking with a friend that I was more tired than I believed. And then today I felt energized with purpose but now the exhaustion segment of this burst energy and gall on my part is coming into play: so much so I’m now writing this past Monday.

I even had this post all planned out to an extent but then I just felt like … I don’t know, tired and repetitive. Nevertheless, there are some things that still need to be mentioned. I was on the Greyhound bus back from Ottawa and, finally, I got my borrowed laptop to link into the free wifi connection. After catching up on a wide variety of Facebook messages and even some new Twitter followers, I went on the Broodhollow website and I found something there: that on the very day of my impromptu trip my Sequart article got linked to and mentioned in an update by Kris Straub himself.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, and I was secretly hoping that he would mention my work, but it’s one thing to hope and think about it but it is an entirely different situation altogether to see it staring at you right in the face–on a Greyhound bus back to Toronto in the fading early autumn sky–and just say, “Wow.” Before this point, I did comment on the site like everyone else, but here was name again, connected to my writing, associated with Sequart and–for that time and that time alone–front and centre. I found this a few days or so after another Twitterer suggested my work be printed as a “Forward” to the upcoming Broodhollow Kickstarter, to which Kris Straub replied:

“@MKirshenblatt unfortunately there’s no room! but he is worthy of it”

It was at that point that I went on my Facebook and wrote another status down–linking the exchange from above–and I wrote, “I hope that this is the longest Day of my life.”

And I still mean it.

Of course, I’m not perfect. After I found Kris Straub’s post, I saw two comments. While one of them caught onto a run-on sentence I made, the other pointed out an even more glaring factual error. It turns out, I actually made the Belgian cartoonist Hergé have an untimely death: in that while he actually died in 1983, I wrote that he died in 1938. One simple reversal of numbers read the wrong way–some dyscalculia (a word I also apparently misspelled on the Broodhollow site) if you’d like–but ultimately a goof on my part. I spent our fifteen minute rest-stop replying to both comments, thanking the posters, and then emailing Cody Walker and Julian Darius with the good and the bad–but quite fixable–news. The mistakes have long since been corrected.

In the past, this error would have positively mortified me but I realize that everyone makes mistakes and it is admitting to those kinds of errors, thanking the people involved for pointing them out, and then taking steps to correct them that let others know just what kind of professional–or person–you really are.

The highlight of seeing that post of Kris’ is one other fact for me. I was first introduced to Kris Straub’s work when my girlfriend sent me “Candle Cove.” After seeing it for what it was, I realized I wanted to make something like this: something that wasn’t just a run of the mill creepypasta that is a variation of so many others. And I realized that the best way to make something like this was to figure out how Kris made his. You can look at Horror as a Universal Power and Horror as Collaboration to see some of the process right there. I have yet to unleash my precious horror: to make my monster.

So I found the Ichor Falls site and read some of the stories I found there too. I eventually found Broodhollow as well though it took me a while to get around to reading it, but when I did I began to see some … connections to things and after following some of Kris’ own exchanges on both sites I realized that making an article on an author’s creative process–aside from it being a Mythic Bios thing to do–was, and is, a great phenomenon and opportunity to witness and document. I also believed that Sequart would really benefit from an article on a webcomic like Broodhollow in terms of its aesthetics choices and implications and so I sent it to them.

On Stories

But the real highlight of this entire thing is that moment when I saw that Kris Straub referred to me as an author. He didn’t have to do that. He could have called me a scholar or a critic. Hell, he could have even called me a writer: a title which I’d been referring to myself as for quite some time anyway.

No. Kris Straub called me an author and that makes me know, if I didn’t know it before, that I have a future and I am seeking it right now even as you see this post. It means that much to me.

While I was staying with my friend, I was also thinking more about my own creative process with regards to my Dark Crystal Challenge. In the post directly previous to this one, I talk about and link to my short Story Sketches on the Dark Crystal Forums. I already mentioned how I decided to challenge myself and attempt further immersion of my creative imagination into the world of Thra by writing a story about YiYa: the first urSkek and subsequent pair of Skeksis and urRu to die before the Crystal is even cracked.

Mainly, what I sought to do was show that his death was not arbitrary and I realized I was being influenced by something I’d seen or heard about. It was only when I was at my friend’s by myself that I remembered. In Tezuka Osamu’s first volume of Buddha, there is a story about a wise man–a Brahmin–who is meditating in the wilderness and begins to starve. There are animals he befriends that help him but it is the rabbit that throws itself on the fire to provide him sustenance to survive. Yet instead of eating the rabbit, the Brahmin sobs and holds its body and, in that moment, attains enlightenment. Tezuka obviously got this from an older source that he incorporated into his Buddha manga series, but it stuck with me to the point where even when the names and images faded from my memory, the idea remained.

So I thought of urYa–the Mystic segment of YiYa–being of a philosophical bent and respecting and even loving all life on Thra. I thought of his counterpart, SkekYi–that part of him that always felt belittled or held back–wanting to greedily take everything on that world and destroy all of its meaning. And then I thought about the other Mystics and the Skeksis and how, at the time of the Creation Myths second volume–when they are recently split–and how they didn’t know or remember that they were all connected. I made it clear that YiYa had a limited form of precognition and that both of his aspects inherited this. But while SkekYi was enamoured with a future of despoliation and obliteration–so much so that he was so busy dreaming of those moments while freshly born from the Great Division–urYa was also seeing the future but had that presence of mind to know how to act in the here and the now.

The fact is: he knew that the Skeksis coming to kill him–SkekHak (that part of HakHom)–was destructive enough to eliminate him and urHom: the urRu segment of the original HakHom. UrYa could have defended himself even at that stage, but he chose not to. He chose to die so that SkekYi’s evil would never happen, and he knew that as a result SkekHak would kill his brother urHom and thus destroy himself: as they are both linked. But more than this, urYa knew that his Mystic brothers would see his and SkekYi’s simultaneous deaths and learn the lesson: that everything is connected. Those are the very words that UngIm tells Jen at the end of The Dark Crystal itself. In addition, urYa also knows that there are Podling and Gelfling representatives present at the Division and he hopes that this moment will teach them something about their future with the urRu and the Skeksis as well as the nature of their world and themselves.

UrYa is the rabbit that has attained enlightenment–or already had it–and he sacrifices himself so that others might have it as well. The Skeksis only figure out that they are connected to the urRu, however, when SkekHak throws his other Mystic counterpart–urHom–into the Lake of Fire and ignites as well. They only see it as a crude sort of material warning: something in keeping with their own nature. The urRu gain something else out of it entirely.

The thing about Dark Crystal, from what I have already observed is that you need the right amount of mysticism and exploration–along with characterization–to make a story there. And the story I made, as a sketch, was rough and I will admit that. But this is an insight I wanted to share with you all: just as I wanted to tell you that I wrote those articles for Broodhollow on Sequart to learn from Kris Straub. I am learning.

And one thing I want to learn is how to make a living, how to make some money in addition to recognition and fun, from what it is that I do. I have a few friends who say I should totally be doing this and while writing for free has its advantages, I would like to see if I can support myself from what I’m more than capable of doing. As such, I have some plans and I hope you will all stay tuned for them.

In the meantime, after my absence I have some other things to do and catch up on. As tired as I am, it’s good to be back and I hope to speak with you all soon once more.

I Think I’m Ready For Another Adventure

It’s been September for a little while now. Cool winds vie with warm air as Summer continues to want its time. The seasons tend to be greedy like that. And every year, at this time, I remember feeling a combination of fear and anticipation as school started again: as a whole new journey began.

Of course, after a while and as my Master’s work came to a certain point I had fewer–if any–new courses to look forward to and dread. Even so, in 2009 of this time I had Dragon Con as my next great journey–all the way into Atlanta–followed by forays into new places and meeting new people. But eventually by 2012, even that sense of movement began to ebb and fear–that natural fear of impending change–turned in on itself and became a deep sense of internalized anxiety followed by a sense of burn-out and a whole lot of being practically sedentary: in almost all the ways that mattered.

For about a year or so, my only real movements were–aside from meeting from friends–very reluctant journeys into practical matters and solitary walks. I can’t even remember a lot of last year’s September, but a lot of it was writing, writing, writing and the slow and inevitable realization that despite one inclination to shun connections and being the North American equivalent of Hikikomori–a recluse or a shut-in–I was now talking a different journey into making voice actually heard and slowly opening up in a different space in my life.

I’ve told you all about some of the somewhat modest developments in my life over time, including these recent ones, and I want to tell you a little more before going on my next journey.

I am working on The Dark Crystal Gelfling Gathering story and continuing to explore the world of Thra and its characters through story sketches. This is a recent one: it is the story of two urSkeks–though of one in particular named YiYa–who die before the Crystal is cracked. It is a brief look at YiYa’s existence, of a role that he didn’t have enough time to gain, and an attempt to give his demise some meaning aside from being a throwaway character. I tell more than I show, there are undoubtedly grammatical errors and perhaps some choppy sentences, but it is literally another foray into the world that I plan to look at with a little more depth. A journey does not happen all at once, but in increments and with setbacks and some insights along the way. The urSkeks came all the way to Thra to heal themselves, but they also got to explore an entirely different world and find out some things about themselves in the process. It is a nice background for me as I will continue on with how the Gelfling operate.

In other news, Sequart has published the second half of my article The Stitching Together of a Mythos: Kris Straub’s Broodhollow: which, in turn, focuses on a more neurotic young man named Wadsworth Zane undertaking a train ride of his own. And with Kris Straub’s comment today on my Twitter, stating that “@MKirshenblatt’s dissection of broodhollow and its origins is everything i ever wanted” fuelling my sails further I am also going to go on my own train ride: to Ottawa.

And by the time you read this, I will be on my way. I won’t be gone long and it is a relatively ad hoc journey. In fact, it’s almost completely out of character for someone like me: or the person I’d turned into this past while. While I am going out of some practical concerns–such as developing my skills and resources further to actually gain employment and even go so far as to create my own job–I’m also enjoying the prospect of meeting some old and new friends and, really, to get something akin to a vacation.

Some people might think to themselves, “But Matthew, you’ve not had a paying job or gone to school in almost two years. You’ve had about two years of vacation.” And that’s all very well and good an opinion, except that they would be wrong. I have been out of school and work for almost two years, it’s true, but almost two years of unemployment, of anxiety, of being shut-in, of not really having my own space, of doing a checklist and a report for Ontario Works, of looking for work, of networking, of constantly writing everyday–as enjoyable as that may be–is not a vacation. What it has been is almost two years of work and struggle and rarely, if ever, letting myself fully relax.

But I have been waking up. As much as I want to retreat back into the tiredness sometimes–especially when it gets stressful–I find I’m like I always am where when I am up, I’m up. I have built up a certain kind of momentum but I also recognize that I am going to have to take some paths I didn’t even think about and that sometimes they happen suddenly and that life does not stop when you want it to and–perhaps–that is a very good thing. Life happens when you make other plans and life happens when you make any kinds of plans, or you think you are going to be on a certain track for the foreseeable future and this is true of gods and monsters and careers and relationships of any kind. And even now, I don’t intend to really take a break.

It’s almost fitting that while I have a Project or two to catch up on, I will also no doubt be reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring on my journey by Via Rail on my seat by the window: watching the space I’ve been in for so long pass me by. A part of me is scared to be leaving the familiarity of my surroundings–both my comforts and my inconveniences and so relatively suddenly too–but there is another part of me, a part I’d almost forgotten about that is excited and looks greatly forward to meeting up with some awesome friends and to learn new things together.

To my friends and loved ones I love you all, and I will see you again on Monday because in the words of Bilbo Baggins–my favourite Hobbit–I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.

Looking Outward

It Made My Day

I just wanted to take some time to talk to you, my readers, old and new. It’s going to be a short post this time around, but don’t get used to it: I’ll be writing your ear off again soon enough. 😉

In fact, that’s what this entire post is really about.

So, a week ago now the first part of my article The Stitching Together of a Mythos: Kris Straub’s Broodhollow got posted by the fine folks of Sequart: which I followed on Twitter only to find that Kris Straub himself had retweeted it. After a brief Twitter exchange my day–then–was made. I thought that, if it ended here, it would be okay.

A day or so later, I posted a few comments on Amanda Palmer’s Blog. She wants to have some feedback with regards to a non-fiction book on the topic of asking that she was, ironically, asked to write. As I was responding to her second book post, I had an epiphany about something. When Amanda asked what I wish I asked for, I rambled a whole lot and then, not as satisfied with the answer I gave her on this post I went on Facebook and Twitter to state that I realized “that, after commenting on @amandapalmer’s Blog, most of my regrets aren’t about things I didn’t ask for.”

A day later, I opened my email to see that on Twitter I got a retweet from Amanda. I have a friend named Amanda and then I did a double-take and looked at this Amanda’s last name.

Another day. Made. In fact, I was told by a dear friend I’d never talked with on the phone before or even seen that–at least for the moment–I gained more Nerd cred than she has: though I have to say she is definitely one to talk and will beat me in no time. ;p

Then not long after that, Miguel Sternberg of Spooky Squid Games was on Twitter complaining about being in a house with no tea with the hashtag #canadianhorrorstories. You have to understand: I couldn’t resist. I ended up writing this: “Short two sentence horror story: The last man on Earth sits in a house. There is no one at the other side of the door with tea.”

Suffice to say, this got retweeted as well.  I wrote a bit more, but he tweeted his screams of terror at me far before that part and that was satisfying in and of itself.

But then I thought: all right. I am totally on a roll here but I have work that I need to do. I’d finally finished playing Christine Love’s Hate Plus and I had to write something for it: I just had to, you know? So I did. It was long and I stayed up late into the night to watch my brain shrivel into the corners of my skull from exhaustion. I’d written a previous article about Christine’s games and I thought nothing of it. I thought I would get a few views or what-not–maybe more because the game had just come out relatively recently–and that would be about it.

So for a day this seemed to be the case. I added stuff and made some corrections and what not. I even added images and had the damnedest time finding a particular image of *Mute in her uniform. So whatever.

The next day …

I’ve briefly exchanged tweets with Christine Love occasionally but this was the first time she had ever retweeted me. Ever. And then I went on my Blog–and this was a few days ago now or however you reckon time when it is very late past what some would consider night–and I see, and I am not joking at all here, I see this … large number of visitors and an even larger volume of views. You get alliteration from this no matter what word you use. And some unintentional rhyme too. See, this is what happens when I write when I’m tired.

Anyway, now that I’m writing up this post to all of you I just have to ask: how many days equal a week made?

I’m feeling really good right now. It’s still confusing and scary, but I can see the hints of opportunities coming up and all of these things–which may seem trivial to some people–are signals that indicate that I am travelling on the right path to … to something. I made something for Andrez Bergen a musician and an excellent writer as well that will … come up on October 9th. I am corresponding with a friend that may be able to help me find some more contacts and connections that I need to begin the process of supporting myself.

I also have two projects that are really experiments to see how much you guys want to see me … make something. One of these would be shared with the public: though I need to look into the logistics of it more. As for the other: I may or may not attempt some …. self-publishing. We shall have to see on that. But the first will definitely be in the form of a question that I will share with all of you whom might be interested.

I might also be … doing something else too in addition to everything you might already know I’m the process of working on. But I have to make some decisions. It seems lately that I am always having to make decisions. A while ago, some friends of mine who were in Vancouver entered their Master’s Program and I entered mine–at least in part because I also wanted to gain that prestige and knowledge (with no little debt)–to feel like a part of what they were feeling if that makes sense: to prove I was equal to them and, more importantly, capable of delving into places by myself.

For a while, especially after still being in debt and a change in circumstances I began to despise academics and wanted to distance myself from it. But it seems as though it will never really leave me, but not only have I learned that I can deal with it on my own terms through this Blog and Sequart and other places but I now feel close to my distant friends in space and time in a different way.

Because, here is the thing: even though I know this is still going to be hard as fuck, I don’t just want a made day, or a made series of days, or a made week, or even made years.

I want a made lifetime. But more than that: I want to make my lifetime.

And now I think it is beginning because, when you come right down to it, it never really ended.

Thank you Kris Straub, Amanda Palmer, Miguel Sternberg, Andrez Bergen, Julian Darius of Sequart and Christine Love for giving me those little extra nudges towards where I need to be. You are inspiring. I also want to thank one of my former Humanities Professors Markus Reisenleitner for endorsing me on LinkedIn. He actually showed one of my posts–Worms and Bicycles Or How People Make For Strange Stories–to his students and that was very encouraging. And I want to thank Gil Williamson for publishing my science-fiction story To Serve on Mythaxis Magazine.

But lastly, I want to thank all my friends and loved ones and all my readers for always being there in some form or another and encouraging me to keep making this Mythic Bios possible. You will be hearing from me soon. I promise.

Looking Outward