Stitches, Meetings and Silver Keys in Downtown Toronto

Well, I have been fighting off a cold for some time now and it seems as though in these days two days I’ve finally lost that battle and I’m now in the process of surviving. Sometimes I wish I was like one of Vampire Maman Juliette’s vampires to that regard who, from my understanding, are immune to such annoying things as sickness. But, sadly, there is already one vampire in her world named Matthew and having two would just be redundant.

No, I’m still mortal–for better or worse–and annoyed at my body right now because I have so much to do and not an infinite amount of time to do it.

So, how about some good news? The third and final part of my article The Stitching Together of a Mythos: Kris Straub’s Broodhollow came out a few days ago. It really made things come full circle: especially since it talks a bit about Kris Straub’s story “Candle Cove”: which is what got me interested in his work to begin with. We’ve been talking a bit on Twitter as well: which is really awesome. And in addition to getting a few more Twitter Followers–which is always excellent–I may have opened some … new avenues up for future exploration. I need to just develop this possibility further and I’m not sure how well I will do with portraying current events–even of a Geek kind–but let’s just go at it one thing at a time.

This passing week has been a challenge for me on some many different levels, but I did go to an interesting meeting before an evening Torontaru at the Get Well Bar: which I went to for the very first time. Unfortunately, already having gotten lost (because neither of the places I went to were right along the way–between Ossington and Dundas Street West–and where there is Toronto, there is always construction and the TTC to contend with) I didn’t think to actually use some networking time to–you know–network (aka talk to people) and it only occurred to me after I was heading home. But I did more or less what I had to and, besides, the Get Well Bar was over capacity and I was already feeling tired and a bit ill and there were few people I even knew there. The Bar’s game cabinets were amusing though the first little while I was there before I left and couldn’t get back in. I still never figured out how to get the Barbarian to fight in Gauntlet and I died in Frogger: a lot.

So I have been mysterious about two things so far. Upon risk of making this the most boring Mythic Bios post ever, I will leave it at that until I get more information. Instead, I guess I’m going to lean on my fall-back and become retrospective.

I’ve been to Ossington and Dundas Street West before. It’s less that I have a specific memory and more that I have found myself in the general atmosphere before. The buildings are old and run down, but there is new life and–life–in all of them. Many of them are stores or bars and you can make out some apartments above them.

At one point, after I was at the Get Well Bar–which is an ironic name given that I’m sick though it has nothing to do with anything really–I was sitting at Subway near the window. Here I was, finding myself sitting downtown watching people walk and interact beyond the glass. I saw a few couples holding hands and a few pairs of friends talking. One man was carrying his meal in layers of containers wrapped in a white plastic bag. And there was an old man I saw pass by twice and an older woman walking by.

And it made me wonder as night time already took over the faded gold and pink sky I’d been walking through earlier in my quest to find that meeting place: was this part of the city like this–like all of this–thirty or forty years ago when those older people I saw were my age or younger? Was it always like this? And would those couples still be together and those friends still meet up? Would they be as old as the people I saw that night: remembering all those times they passed through this area of the city talking and laughing and thinking it would all be the same the next day when–one day–it is going to inevitably change somehow? Would Toronto’s proclivity towards construction eliminate so many familiar landmarks that no one would even recognize this place with most of their mind or would the gritty aura of it transcend the loss of a mere few buildings that were hosts to so many other things in the past?

And it occurred to me that people lived here–actually lived here–and it was like seeing some of the Scott Pilgrim video game in real life. Is the Scott Pilgrim game really Ossington and Dundas as well as the Chinatowns? I tried to live in Toronto but, more than that, I tried to understand it: to find its spirit and companionship. I tried to find its life as it could relate to me and embrace it and–to this day–I’m not sure if I ever succeeded. A lot of the time I just found “being lost” and “afraid of the dark” as my common feelings towards being downtown: with some “dazed and confused” and the occasional and inexplicable … magic, I guess.

I think everyone of us gets nostalgic and sometimes yearns for and broods about the past.  Sometimes it’s almost like there is a choice between having some awesome moments and watching them disappear into memory forever … or never having a life of any pain or joy and watching other people’s and feeling nothing but envy, when you really get right down to it, a sense of hollowness: of having wasted your life. The first is magic, as far as I understand it and the world feels a little greyer when it finally fades. And no matter how much you want it back, you either can’t or it will never be the same: and that’s not always a bad thing.

It does make for good writing, though, such as my short story Stop 17.

I’ve been angry at Toronto and in love with it and disappointed in what I thought I found occasionally. But as I was sitting in that Subway shop, that night it just seemed like another … place to me: just a place I visit from time to time.

I’d like to leave you all with one more thing. Leeman Kessler has succeeded in resurrecting a homunculus of H.P. Lovecraft to answer all of your questions. As such, Mr. Lovecraft was good enough to answer a question that has been close to my heart for a very long time. Have a good night everyone.

Con Fail

This is what it was like to be me, on Sunday, attempting to look for the Toronto Fan Expo.

Me and my Head

You find yourself walking out of Union Station through the Toronto Train Station to get to the Skywalk. Unlike the other times you’ve been here, there aren’t any cosplayers or people with Fan Expo bags to follow, but you make your way to the Skywalk.

You know that, in the past, all you had to do was open the glass door on the left-hand side in order to take some escalators down the stairs in order to get to the lobby. All you would have to do is get your prepaid ticket scanned, get a wristband, wait in something of a line and get in. And because it’s Sunday and almost 3 pm, you think that you won’t have to wait very long. You would get in, meet with your friend from London, Ontario and explore for about two hours. The only issue would be the line that might form as you are all leaving like last year’s.

However, it is precisely because of your knowledge of last year that you know that the door is locked and you have to go the long way around, down stairways and across a street or two to get to where you need to go. You get out of the Skywalk and you are outside on the roof. You wander around. Finally, a really nice young lady–whose costume you can’t even recall now and who isn’t a staff member or a volunteer–asks if you’re lost. You admit it and she points you to where you need to go: a Pavilion entrance down below the Convention Centre.

So you travel down the steps. Your thin tight black Dr. Who T-shirt is sticking to your body in the summer heat. You walk to the Pavilion entrances and notice that there are either “Priority,” “Vendor” or “Re-Entry” entrances and exits. So much for that. You keep walking: past a large Aquarium, the line to see the CN Tower and even the Blue Jays booths. You still don’t find the entrance.

You go back and move onto the streets. In fact, you follow a large group of people across a street or two. You even notice some signs that say “Fan Expo” on the sides of walls. They are few, and scattered, and far between. There are no arrows on them pointing anywhere or even a map. You walk past a place where someone, who may or may not be a staff member is talking with a driver. You find another sign. You follow it to a dead-end.

You go back to a park area where you see a young woman standing in a grove of trees dressed and posing as Saber from Fate/Stay Night. It is very awesome and you see her friends taking pictures of her. You try to ignore the lonely feeling, wishing that you could contact your friend or someone that can help you, and continue on. And then you see that you are back in the same place you started at: the Pavilions. A small train ride, that you passed before, nearly runs you over as you are clutching your ticket papers in your hands: which you’d gotten out beforehand so you would be ready for the booth and your wristband.

You have been steadily losing your patience. Finally, you get fed up and go through the Re-Entry to ask the people in charge where you need to go. The security woman in her red uniform is nice enough, but her directions are long and vague. She mentions the Aquarium as a land mark that you’ve passed more than twice. You are tired and hot. It has already been something along the lines of twenty minutes or so that you have been lost in the non-Euclidean geometry of this part of the city or, let’s face it, Toronto itself.

Or at least it might as well be non-Euclidean because this is a vast space and you have spatial issues and difficulties with direction to begin with. You can’t follow the vague map on your papers–if that is what it even is–which has no written directions whatsoever. You keep to the Aquarium and because there are no signs indicating where the Fan Expo ticket-scanning booth is, you walk up some stairs and find yourself at a Hotel.

Then you see two men and a child. You see they have Fan Expo bags like everyone else. You ask one of the men where the ticket booth is. He points vaguely in back of you and asks if you are going to pick up a wristband for sentimental value because the Expo is essentially over. You say that is impossible because it says, specifically on your sheet that they close at 5 pm. He says that this is not possible.

It is 3:45 pm by this point. You walk back down the stairs and across the Blue Jays booths to see if you can find this place. You are feeling a weariness begin to creep into your very being. At 3:55 pm or so, knowing that by the time you find this fabled ticket-scanning place you will have less than hour assuming the vendors weren’t packing up at this point, you realize that this venture is over.

You can feel the bitch-face–that cold unsmiling mask–forming over your features to cover the growing rage you feel inside. You pass by two kids that have shirts with the words “Game Over” and you can’t think of anything more appropriate than to call this waste of an outing. The anger is doused by pure exhaustion and sheer disappointment as not only do you realize that you have wasted $45 for a Sunday ticket to an event you couldn’t even access, and time you could have used to rest, but you also know that your friend is probably heading back to London by this point.

Seeing all of the cosplayers, con-goers and young couples with their loot is just another slap in the face: as though their mere presence this point just rubs in the fact that you couldn’t partake of any of this. You look at the papers in your hand and feel like a fucking idiot. Everything around you feels as cold and as impersonal and uncaring as the business that Fan Expo has begun to represent to you and so many others you know. You’ve already folded the un-scanned papers and now you just crumple them into one fist.

Under your breath, you whisper the words, “Con Fail.”

Then because you went so off-track trying to find this booth, this booth that you wonder ever existed to begin with, you can’t even find the Union Subway Station again and, when you do, you end up sitting in a subway car that takes too long get there, pauses at points and decides to go out of service at Eglinton without even waiting for another back-up car to be there. And all that time, you get to sit there and see more Expo-fans sitting around with their comics and their bags: just reminding you of everything you did not experience that day before your week begins.

You are told later, after you post on Facebook, and after a polite but brutally honest letter to the latter that is probably buried under a high volume of many other incoming emails that Hobbystar–the company that has “organized” the Fan Expo–is going to have new ownership and perhaps things will be better next time. Perhaps they will have volunteers around the streets with signs, or clearer signs on posters, or perhaps just greater organization itself. At the very least, they could have a ticket booth is not in the centre of Pan’s Labyrinth or long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Because right now, just as then, you vow to yourself–having already had issues with Hobbystar and knowing that your other friends have experienced the same–that you are never going to try to go to Toronto Fan Expo again.

This message has been brought to you by Con Fail. I’m glad that everyone else, who managed to make it to the Expo had one. I just wish I had been one of you. As it is, I’m pretty ashamed that I had to spend valuable time and space writing this piece out when I have so many more interesting things planned, but it just had to be said.

Clouds and Mirrors: Dr. Who’s The Snowmen

Imagine Calvin and Hobbes, with A Christmas Carol, a Sherlock Holmes detective mystery parody, an English fairy-tale, some steampunk, and a hint–just a pinch–of true love in a whole lot of wonder.

And those were some of the most immediate feelings I had watching the Prequel to “The Snowmen” Christmas Special of Dr. Who.

Now, I am going to go into “The Snowmen” Episode itself: into Spoiler Territory.

First off, from the trailers and the title alone, I got a major Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons vibe: especially from the beginning when a young lonely boy–Walter Simeon–has a snowman of his own creation begin to talk back to him in 1842. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Walter because most of us have been there: where we don’t understand children our age–or even relate to them–and would rather have imaginary friends instead. Unfortunately, Walter made a very bad imaginary friend who would continue to be there with him for the next fifty years: essentially becoming a giant steampunk snow globe and, well, mutating with more snow being added onto it.

Also, a word of advice: if someone ever offers to feed you, it would probably be prudent to figure out of there are more words in that sentence: you know the ones after “I will feed you …” as the now-Doctor Simeon’s workers discovered to their chagrin.

Anyway, then we get introduced to Clara. And then we get reintroduced to The Doctor.

Clara goes outside of the bar that she is working at to see a Snowman appear there pretty much out of nowhere. We then see The Doctor walking by in passing and she accuses him of making it. The Doctor looks very different now: as much as the same Regeneration can. He looks … tired, and subdued. Really, he is very sad and he has reason to be when you take into consideration what happened to his last Companions. He wants nothing to do with anything save for the bare minimum of contact with some of his allies.

So after he gives her some advice, he leaves. But even when very depressed and angst-ridden, The Doctor says interesting things or his mere existence is a curiosity in itself. So what does Clara the barmaid–and later as it turns out part-time governess do? Well, it’s quite simple.

She follows him.

So we go from a the beginnings of a weird horror story to what is now a Christmas fairy-tale adventure as Clara continues to stalk The Doctor and discovers more strange and new things about him. The Doctor has a Sontaran friend/servant named Strax that attempts to get a memory-worm The Doctor has to erase Clara’s memories under his order. Strax is hilarious in that he often advocates militaristic force in all situations and speaks something like this, “Impudent human scum. Prepare to be destroyed … I mean, may I have your coat please?” The Doctor also refers to him as a Potato more often than not.

Of course, with such a mentality Strax keeps touching the memory-worm and forgetting where it is: though there is evidence to believe that the former clone soldier isn’t quite as “stupid” as he attempts to act and often does these things to annoy people if it amuses him: especially The Doctor. Also, Clara doesn’t really want her memory erased, but plays along with interacting with The Doctor: which is consciously what he doesn’t want to happen–he doesn’t want to make a new bond–but subconsciously continues to converse anyway.

This won’t be a part-by-part dissection of the entire Episode, just to let you know. The Doctor realizes that robbing Clara of her memory wouldn’t be a good idea because she needs to remember to “not-think” about the Snowmen so they don’t multiply and try to kill her … conveniently enough.

But while The Doctor is trying not to get involved with the world or–really–people, there are two other people trying to figure out what Dr. Simeon is up to. So if you watched the Prequel link above, you’ll know that there is a Silurian woman named Madame Vastra and her human maid-wife Jenny Flint who essentially solve crimes in the Victorian era.

Dr. Who has always, aside from being an epic show of crazy linked ideas has–at least in the twenty-first century–been very open-minded and progressive. I mean, Jack Harkness is an omni-sexual being and there is such a wide array of civilizations and times out there in the Whoverse that something like different kinds of sexuality is just a given really. So a primordial lizard woman and a human woman being a couple–and being married–in Victorian times is not very shocking to me.

In fact, aside from Vastra–and even then people rationalize her existence as having something of a “skin-condition” (I find it hilarious how the people of Earth’s past never react at all to aliens in Dr. Who or even The Doctor when he or his Companions are wearing entirely different styles of clothes from that time-frame: it just goes to show you how most humans are either oblivious, more open-minded, or simply do not give a damn than even we believe)–two women having a relationship and even having an arrangement not unlike marriage in Victorian times is not unheard of at all. It is pretty telling that for the past while and it seems especially now in 2012, same-sex marriage has been gaining a lot of acceptance and support in–or at least is now really challenging–the social consciousness of many places. But really, I just like how these two characters work together and understand one another: actually complementing each other’s strengths and actions.

These two confront Dr. Simeon about his activities and he doesn’t seem bothered by this (in fact he doesn’t seem to have much emotion at all), and he states that it doesn’t matter what they do because, get this:

Winter is coming.

Oh, Steve Moffat. That reference to A Song of Ice and Fire was hilarious. My Mom didn’t know why I was laughing so much.

So Vastra and Jenny eventually find Clara: whereupon they ask her why she is so interested in The Doctor. By this point in the game as it were, Clara has seen the TARDIS after climbing a spiralling ladder like Psyche chasing Cupid, or Jack going up the beanstalk, into a cloud where it is resting and she knows that there is some bad stuff about to happen at the house that she is a governess at: particularly with a pool that is frozen over after a previous governess died in it. One of her wards has been having dreams of this former governess coming back to punish her and her brother. She knows she needs The Doctor.

Vastra and Jenny force Clara to answer the former’s questions with one-word answers. At one point, Vastra flat-out asks Jenny why she thinks The Doctor should help her. Of all the words that she could have chosen, she spoke one word.

Pond.

Yeah. Of all the words. That one.

So this does get The Doctor’s attention. So he starts parodying Sherlock Holmes: figuratively and literally. He beats the giant snow globe with a stick. Then he later he does more sleuthing where, despite himself he goes up to the manor where Clara is staying after exchanging hand gestures at each other. After Clara and her wards are being confronted with a snow-version of the former governess that drowned, The Doctor pulls a Punch and Judy play by having the wee-little puppet man of Mr. Punch use his sonic driver on her.

Because, you know, “That’s the way to do it!”

Doctor PUNCH!

In fact, making another popular cultural reference, this whole episode was–like many of them but particularly this one–a Tragical Comedy, or a Comical Tragedy. Yes, I am a Neil Gaiman fan. It also doesn’t help that Mr. Punch is an enduring English symbol and archetype. Or maybe it does.

It turns out that Dr. Simeon and the Snow Globe want the Ice Governess: to use her as a prototype to make a race of ice people that will supplant humanity. Clara and The Doctor lure the Ice Governess away. This is not before The Doctor tells the children’s father that he is Clara’s “gentleman friend,” though far less eloquently and more abstract-awkwardly as he usually says things and Clara herself decides to take matters into her own hands and kiss him. Because she seems to have a special kind of impulsive streak tempered and complemented by daring and a strange form of intuition. Not deduction like Vastra: Clara is pure intuition with a devil-may-care attitude. Right: that is my last Punch and Judy reference for today.

Finally, in the TARDIS, after Clara surprises The Doctor by not being predictable about her first impressions of said TARDIS, The Doctor finally seems to give into something that he really wants and gives her a key. You know the key: the one to said TARDIS. You also know what that means. This is a big thing for him to do: after everything that has happened. I honestly don’t know how he survives losing everyone he cares for, and I can understand why he has periods where he wants nothing to do with anything.

I also understand how he can’t not stay away when events conspire to bring him and this strange Victorian girl: who speaks Cockney and free in her pub job, and “proper crisp English” with a hint of mischief as a governess for upper middle-class children … and who is also immensely beautiful. Yes. I said it.

Their relationship unfolds fast, but what is Time to a one thousand year old Time Lord and to a human being, who only lives, let’s face it, in a brief moment of said Time? It’s everything.

That is the point where the Ice Governess comes after them and drags Clara and herself to a death by falling off The Doctor’s cloud.

Because the Universe seems to be a bitch to The Doctor like that.

Of course, it’s not so simple as all that: Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy as it all may be. The Doctor ends up having his confrontation with Dr. Simeon and his Snow Globe. Dr. Simeon is the proprietor of the Great Intelligence Institute. There was something really ominous about the name “Great Intelligence”: as though it had more significance than being a one-off Dr. Who monster. The Doctor critiques his antagonists as stating that making a world of snow people is “Victorian values” incarnate: at least overt values.

See, that is the thing about Victorian times. There was how you were in public and how you were in private. Some people understood that you could be different in different spheres and there was an implicit understanding that what you did in private was your–and yours–own business. Of course, there is other side of it: in that some people chose–or felt forced–to embody stratified notions of gender and social interaction in all aspects of life.

The father of the two children that Clara cares for does not think it proper to show affection or even take of them himself, for instance. In addition, there were real laws in place that forbid overt or “discovered deviant behaviour”: otherwise known as displaying affection or sexuality in a non-sanctioned manner. Think of Vastra and Jenny’s relationship, or even the fact that Clara did not use her Cockney accent with the children often: to the point where they called it her “other voice” or the other voice of the lower class of Britain perhaps? Perhaps only in a society like this one can an accent be considered another voice.

Now consider that Dr. Walter Simeon grew up in this strange schizophrenic culture. The adults were sad and even considered it unhealthy that he wouldn’t interact with his peers at all. But while Clara flouted and manipulated the rules, and Vastra and Jenny were exceptions and lived as “an open secret”–with a great deal of geniality, politeness, honesty, and a whole lot of “none of your business,” Simeon dealt with it by deciding that human beings were “silly” and that he didn’t need anyone.

The Great Intelligence is a highly psychically-receptive being. It took all of these impulses from Dr. Simeon and anyone around it: shaping itself. Of course, it goes deeper than that. The Doctor talks about how the snow that is the extension of The Great Intelligence only mirrors living beings around it. But there are a lot of mirrors in this entire Episode: especially The Doctor and Dr. Simeon. Both–in a lot of ways–are scared and withdrawn little boys that do not want to interact with the Universe as it is. Dr. Simeon patterns the Great Intelligence with his need for order and an inner emptiness.

It actually reminds me of another mirror that The Doctor’s other mirror possesses:

His new Control Room desktop-theme is much different than the other recent ones. It is apparently reminiscent of the Fourth Doctor’s TARDIS room, but there is something more angular, far sharper in angle and just …. colder about that blue light in there. The inside of his TARDIS represents his past mood and mind after the loss of his Companions. Bear in mind, this is the first time we have seen this desktop of his and it is no coincidence that it looks as cold as the season of 1892. The fact is: Winter came to more than just Great Britain. If things hadn’t been challenged, The Doctor’s life would have been what the Great Intelligence wanted to make the world: a land of “always winter, but never Christmas.”

I also feel I need to make special note here: I do not say that Clara or any of The Doctor’s Companions are mere mirrors of him. Writing about mirrors reminds me of something that Virginia Woolf stated with regards to how women had–and are–perceived only entities in relation to men. This can be applied to Dr. Who and his trend of female Companions. All of them, especially Clara, are entities and fully actualized people in their own right: something that Dr. Who writers Davies and Moffat attempt to express. Whether or not this is successful is something that can be debated at length, but I personally think is something a very fine distinction that needs to be made: that just as The Doctor gives definition to them, they give definition to him as well. As it is, even though The Doctor’s desktop remains as it is so far, The Doctor himself is brought out of that mood by the warmth of another–exemplified by Clara already asking where the kitchen is in his TARDIS–prompting him to express his own and no longer deny what he is feeling.

Then you have Simeon, or the impulses that drive this otherwise emotionless man, that can only seem to function around extensions of himself … or hollow shells. Even the wrathful Ice Governess, the result of his and the Intelligence’s progress is just a mirror–a symbol–for the repressive aspect of the Age of Victoria. But as it turns out, it is Dr. Simeon who becomes the hollow shell when The Doctor’s attempt to destroy Simeon’s memory–as the thing that fuels the Great Intelligence as its mirror–backfires and the Intelligence possesses Simeon. However, as with most of The Doctor’s enemies, it made one miscalculation.

Ignoring the rest of the human emotional spectrum.

Remember Clara? Well, she is dying. And the Intelligence feeds from emotion and memory. So as Clara is dying, everyone in the manor–the children she cared for, their father that cared for her, and the others–grieve and their feelings manifest on the Snowmen and turn into water.

Or, as The Doctor put it, he can no longer stay on his cloud … because it has turned into rain.

So the Great Intelligence seems to dissipate and Clara dies.

Or do they?

In the end, there are some … interesting details about Clara. You know, even without knowing these things before hand, I knew–from her very interaction with The Doctor–that Clara would be special. Each of his Companions is special, but she will be more so.

We have essentially been watching The Doctor grow up from his first incarnation onward. Each Companion has been integral to this. It is strange to watch The Doctor interact with his future wife River Song in temporal-reverse and she will only associate with him so far because she has intimated that he has a long ways to go before he is the man she paradoxically will meet later.

I’m going to intimate some more and possibly be very, very wrong. Now we’ve seen how The Doctor acts with his other female Companions. We know he had a family on Gallifrey ages ago: though they may have all been artificially Loomed. I believe he has been married before and is no stranger to having a romantic relationship. But consider that his whole world was destroyed. He has struggled with survivor’s guilt and has a certain kind of detachment to cope with it. Even when he travels with others it just reinforces that safety protocol of distance.

I will say this now and possibly be wrong, but the only time I had seen him look at someone like he did with Clara was with Rose.

And that says a lot.

Just that one scene where they looked at each other as he gave her that silver key.

All right, I admit it. I am a romantic. But I want to express one main thought: Clara made this entire episode. Period.

So as this look at “The Snowmen” comes to a close, I just want to say a few more things. I looked up The Great Intelligence. It has in fact been in the Whoverse before and … has Lovecraftian origins even. That just makes me smile. And that is it. It is good to see The Doctor up and out again. I look forward to seeing him try to figure out the physical–if not the humanly unique and individual–mystery of Clara Oswin Oswald and where he might have … seen her before…

And where he might see her again.

A World Coming Together, A Possible Paradigm Forming, and Other Stories That Find Themselves On Their Way

This is Red-One. She is the protagonist of the comics collaboration that Angela O’Hara and myself are undertaking. One day, to inspire herself, Angela decided to create this digital art piece. It is a conceptual drawing of Red-One at about seventeen years old or so, and she is definitely quite beautiful.

So, I did end up naming the characters that we are working on. That might seem strange given that it is supposed to be a silent comic, or a comic without words, but it is a point of reference for us to work from and it adds more character and background to work with too: to bring across onto the page through facial expression, body language, and action.

We have also decided on a structure for the comic. It will be about twenty-four pages and it will have panels. There is just too much, even with the basic story structure that I’ve already made, to dedicate a page each to a different action. Panels will actually give us more room by giving us more pages to work with in expressing the narrative. Like I said, I do have a basic story outline finished and I am going to attempt to do at some point is take a scene from what I wrote, expand on it a bit, give it to Angela and experiment with panels and the page layout.

Panels and page layouts are diabolical in that they both seem to be the same thing, but they’re different. For instance, you can make one panel and then have to decide what goes on in that panel, whereas the page layout is actually how more than one panel–or lack thereof if you want to get experimental about it–is arranged as an overall pattern on paper or screen.

I have attempted with previous works to include panel breakdowns and detailed layout structure for each page into script form–this without an artist partner–and I have to say that it is challenging at best. Luckily in this case, I can hopefully communicate the essentials of what I want to see to Angela, talk through it, see a few versions, and come up with a happy medium. Angela has also been working on a few more conceptual drawings and eventually things will be coming together.

So there is that.

Another thing I have been doing lately is that I am looking into published other works while this collaboration continues. That is to say, I am going to now actively–again–send out stories to electronic and material magazines in order to get more things published. I have a few candidates and a few ideas with regards to what I am going to send. I think I’ll go into that a little now.

I’ve had at least three Lovecraftian story ideas that I have been building on in a purely note-written or scribbled way for a little while now. When I’ve finished one or more, I might send some to Innsmouth Free Press, or Weird Tales (which right now is closed to Fiction Submissions, oh well). I love the fact that Lovecraft is not only public-domain, but there is so much potential to his ideas. His stories are mainly “congeries” (he loves that word, among others)–or connections–of seminal ideas: of things that have informed so many other works long since his time.

Lovecraft’s mythos is not the only thing I am focusing on however. I’m also contemplating sending a science-fiction story of mine to Strange Horizons. There is also a story of mine that I meant to finish long ago, set in Toronto, which I may send to Broken Pencil’s Death Match Contest or directly to the magazine itself.

In addition, I have a few stories I’ve already finished that I realize may be tapping into a niche that is emerging or has been emergent for quite some time now. The niche, paradigm, or Zeitgeist (the “Spirit of the Times”) I’m thinking of is the 1980s-and onward geek nostalgia that is becoming more prevalent every day as well as the usage of allusions and literary references to video games and comics. I have actually been experimenting with this for a long time and I have been polishing off what I have.

I guess the danger is whether what I relate to in this regard will become obsolete sooner than I can do anything with, or even in the future. I mean, will years from now someone know what Google is if it is referenced into a story or will it be some small obscure technical footnote somewhere? Or is our society changing so much with regards to technology that Google and other programs, and even video games will become part of a historical documentation: if only an electronic one? I’m pretty sure cultural shifts celebrating “retro” elements come in cycles, but you can never really predict these things. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.

As for me, the reason I am making strange stories like these–tapping into this–is because I can relate it and it interests me. I can’t tell the future (which is probably for the best) but I’m doing my best to express the forces that have influenced me in the way they have influenced me: if that makes any sense.

So these are my goals along with a few others. I hope to be able to Blog more about these other developments and also be able to keep up with the challenges that I have set myself.

I Would Have Gotten Away With It Too, If It Weren’t For Those Meddling Squids! A Review of Cephalopods: Co-op Cottage Defence

I played this game for one day–just one day–and I hate green Squids.

Not the luminous blue ones, or the black ones. Not even the exploding fiery orange ones. The Greens. Just the Greens.

So I made an unexpected trip to Canzine 2012 this past Sunday: where I was reintroduced to the Comics Vs. Games-premiered The Yawhg, given a paper ninja-star, and talked with a few artists and game creators before finding The Hand Eye Society’s Torontron game cabinet arcade machines outside. I always loved arcade games when I was younger and I never got to play with enough of them. So finding these there was just an added bonus.

My friends and I started to play this game that I later found out was called Cephalopods: Co-op Cottage Defence by Spooky Squid Games. At the time, however, I found myself controlling a 16-bit sprite with a shotgun in a house along with my hammer-wielding friend as we were being surrounded by floating Octopi.

I didn’t have time to admire the Lovecraftian settings of the house’s interior: such as the book with the Squid imagery or the almost Victorian laboratory feel. I also didn’t realize that the hammer-wielding sprite–that the character was a female scientist–nor that her clearly non-human shot-gun wielding companion was a clockwork automaton of her own creation. All of these revelations came later when I looked at them online.

No, instead I was either killing mass-Squids that electrocuted and devoured heads, or hurriedly knocking Squids unconscious with my hammer as I was trying to repair the walls of the house to offer us protection against these tentacle-armed hordes.

This game was fun. I admit, I really liked killing those Squids. I also felt some satisfaction in repairing the walls and seeing those plus numbers come up: which probably represented how much time or durability it had before it fell again. There was another quality to the game in that, aside from the two-player cooperation that is utterly necessary to your survival, you also need a certain amount of coordination as well. Essentially, it is integral that your gun-shooting companion fires as the most of the Squids while you repair the most isolated of the walls: such as the walls that are not being massed by tentacles of doom coming to suck your face in the middle of the night.

However, there is also the option of exchanging tools: throwing your gun or hammer to your friend. It takes timing and coordination and, sadly, we did not manage this. Sometimes the sprite’s maneuverability was a little awkward and stiff. I remember at least a few times I tried repairing a plank and not realizing I had to get very close to it to do anything with it. Apparently, according to the Game Over text, we had something to the effect of having as much coordination and teamwork as a bunch of “golden weasels.” Suffice to say, it wasn’t complimentary, but certainly made us laugh.

But then, as the game went on (after each time we died I mean), it began to occur to me that something was very … eerily familiar about it. It was the Squids that obviously made me start to think this. And I knew I had seen them somewhere before: these 16-bit luminous deceptively cartoonish tentacled monstrosities. I knew it was from some research I did before but I didn’t know the name of the thing. Then much later I realized they were related to this:

Night of the Cephalopods was something I had read about when I was looking at Spooky Squid Games (god I love this studio’s name) for my article Dreams of Lost Pixels and if this is anything like the game I played tonight–and the voice-over narrative actually happens in this game–I may well download it. This is a big thing for me because, like I have said many times before, I don’t often play games. I watch them being played sometimes, and I play a lot of selective games on older Nintendo consoles, but this game makes me happy. In fact, Spooky Squid Games seems to really love H.P. Lovecraft as a thematic influence of theirs and it is one of those influences that makes me want to write a Lovecraftian story tribute of some kind.

My friend today was talking about going to some Indie (Independent artist) Jams sometime: to make ad hoc independent creative collaborations together. I remember Comics Vs. Games and I’d love to collaborate as a writer with a video game artist. I would really love to do a Game Jam sometime. Just as long as it is not a slime. If Cephalopods has taught me anything, it’s that I hate being stuck in slime … and Green Squids.

Oh, and even though I only played the game today and for a little while, I want to give it a five out of five.

The Man That Makes Horror into a Science-Fiction of the Ridiculously Sublime

H.P. Lovecraft envisioned a universe where humanity is a small minuscule particle of sanity in a vast morass of evil and madness. In this kind of universe normalcy is an exception and not the commonality: where humanity is either ignored by vast alien intelligences, or horrifically used by malign entities.

Even trying to understand this vastly liquid and alien universe beyond human understanding is dangerous because the person that tries will go utterly insane … or cease to be human entirely. This is a view of the universe created by Lovecraft in his works and you can see how difficult it would be to make a television program out of such a thing or even a movie.

And what’s worse is that Lovecraft was born before the time of Gene Roddenberry: the latter who decreed in his Star Trek science fiction universe that all aliens have to be portrayed as humanoid in order to convey similar human expressions of emotion. Lovecraft’s creatures aren’t even that, and the most polite things you can say about them–when you can envision what they are from how they are described–is that they are the stuff of nightmares. We don’t even have the monster to relate to in this strange place just behind our own existence.

So how can a viewer relate to a universe that is terrifying beyond human comprehension?

I believe that a human answer to a Lovecraftian universe is Doctor Who.

The Doctor is basically Christmas-incarnate with nonsensical wonderfulness, ingenious bluffing skills, and a bad-ass core of fire and ice. And when I say he is Christmas-incarnate, I don’t mean that he’s Christian but that he is just the embodiment of an event that you look forward to at least once a year.

He is a renegade Time Lord on the run that understands time and existence far differently than we do but is light-hearted enough, and wise enough, to appreciate the little things that the grandiose horror of such inhuman non-humanoid horrors like the Daleks miss every time. The Doctor lives in and adapts to an intrinsically frightening, potentially nihilistic universe by being as ridiculous and as tangential as possible: while unifying everything into a haphazard way that–quite miraculously and somehow–works.

It may be that he is insane: and by our human standards he might be. Hell, even by his former fellow Time Lords’ standards, he is probably considered crazy. It doesn’t hurt that he Regenerates into different people each time when he dies, refuses to fight with a gun, and that he travels through time and space, or that he is over eight or nine hundred years old his time. He is the weird. He is the strange. But he is also the laughable: the person the viewer laughs with but also sympathizes with.

The Doctor is the Other with a very humanoid face: but he is still the Other. I appreciate the irony of this statement on at least two levels in that I use the Other as someone who is other than human, and that there is a possible back-story to the Doctor’s character in that he was once an older Time Lord and founder Time Lord society called The Other. But more than that, The Doctor–whose real name we never know and we fear the unknown–is portrayed as the champion of normalcy and sanity against the more destructive and twisted elements of the universe that humanity doesn’t understand.

At the same time though, he challenges normalcy and sanity through his mostly human Companions: changing their lives forever in what they see with him. He shows them that the alien universe, for all it challenges human preconceptions, still has wonders and isn’t always evil. Sometimes, it is quite relatable–the other aliens, worlds, and stars–and although not humanocentric, humanity is definitely a part of the strange and entertaining mosaic.

I’m sure that there have been other articles and essays about The Doctor and the Lovecraftian. Certainly, some older series of books put them both in the same universe: including run ins with the Great Old Ones and so forth. But even if you look at The Doctor’s universe and the villains within as influenced by Lovecraftian literature, I think the thing that really hits home for me–when I look out at how large and terrifying and insensible the world can be–is the image of The Doctor as a hero: armed against all that strangeness and eldritch horror with only his telephone box-fixed TARDIS, his sonic screwdriver, some strange suit, a new face, daring, and a whole lot of curiosity.

And somehow, when I think about it like that, he is one of the few heroes that can make me smile–make me glad to see him–each and every time.

Now, I wonder who or what will be the answer to a Vonnegut universe …