The Horror Doctor

So I actually did it.

I wanted to put a few more things on my Blog before linking it here, but I finally made The Horror Doctor.

I find when you make a Blog, a lot of it is about creating content, but it’s also about organizing and curating it: to make it accessible, or at the very least to know what kind of theme you are going for. In my case, I just had a lot of thoughts about horror and weird stories, and some of these just didn’t completely fit on Mythic Bios.

Or maybe that’s not entirely accurate. You see, I’ve written a lot on Mythic Bios. And I mean … a lot. So much so, that I feel like for something like the Horror Doctor, I needed something more streamlined, more specific, with which to deal with that particular content. It’s not a replacement for this Blog by any means, and it’s not meant to be.

What is interesting is that in creating The Horror Doctor, I’ve gotten to apply a few things I’ve learned over the years writing for Sequart, GeekPr0n, and this Blog. At the moment, The Horror Doctor feels like something between a review and fanzine, but it also inherits a lot from what I’ve attempted to do on Mythic Bios: in showing my creativity and analytics in process. Whereas Mythic Bios has sometimes showed my “behind the scenes” or “backstage” elements of my story writing, I kind of drifted away from it over time.

The Horror Doctor kind of reminds me of my first days making Mythic Bios into an online Blog, where I was just inspired and driven to write an article on here almost every day. It changed, of course, over time given that you need to pace yourself, and not overwork your brain to death. Even now, I’m slowly down a bit, but I have a few thoughts that I can still write down.

But I guess The Horror Doctor was a long time in the making. Essentially, it’s me writing reviews and creative homages to films and other horror and weird properties that I’ve watched for the first time, or had thoughts about in recent times. I’ve said it a million times already, but it’s like being Victor Frankenstein — with hopefully minus the deadbeat creator aspect — in that I am pretending to be a mad scientist without an MD (or a PhD for that matter) dissecting and reassembling different subject matter under my constantly growing auspices.

Why I made it, well … watching Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In on Shudder helped, but in a way it’s the end result of spiritual inspiration from Kaarina Wilson. I’ve wrote about her a lot. I don’t know if or when I will stop writing about her, to be honest. We were originally going to make a collaborative blog together on Blogger called twosides. In the end, she wrote more in there than I did. But after she passed away, I realized I was still logged onto there as a co-creator. I read all the stuff she made, which wasn’t much, and I remembered that she wanted us to work together on something. I also recalled how much she believed that I could write about horror: to the point of encouraging me to talk to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival about writing for them.

Neither of these things happened. Originally, I was going to write in our old Blogger account and create The Horror Doctor there. In retrospect, there are probably more than a few subconscious reasons I chose that Blog name, but the fact is Blogger was just too basic — too old — to do anything with.

Of course, WordPress has changed over time as well. I know it’s not the same as I when I started back in 2012, but it is still kept up and updated, and I know how to use it on a basic level. I decided to start fresh, to make my own domain for both my Blogs, and a place for all of my things. So even though I feel like when I watch some horror classics or obscurities for the first time, I am watching it for both myself and Kaarina, the creation is all me: this is what I have been primarily doing with my time during this Pandemic.

I don’t know what else to add. I think The Horror Doctor is a good place to practice my writing ethic. I have already taken to curating but also rewriting and editing works there, taking my time, and considering what I want to do. It’s another step towards … something.

I will be reblogging some of my horror content from this Blog onto The Horror Doctor into both my “Dissections and Speculatives” and “Strains and Mutations” Categories (reviews and fanfiction), so there will be some interlap. In the meantime, I hope that everyone is holding up well. Take care all.

There are a few of you that have followed me for a long time here, some of you who still remain, or just discovered me. If you are into horror and weird stories, graphic  explicit, and twisted things, and you like how my brain works in general — and you like all of these things — please come and read my work at The Horror Doctor. Hopefully, if you are not educated by someone still learning the genre, you will at least be entertained.

A Traveler’s Account of Katrina Elisse Caudle’s Darkmoon City

On the surface, Twine is about making games. But that is just one way of looking at it. To be more specific, Twine software allows one to hyperlink from one page or another through the click of a word. Words link together different pages and, ultimately, different ideas. Now, take that bare-bones concept and link together not only Twine narratives, but short stories and real time events. Essentially, in doing so, you would be creating a reality from multimedia.

Someone at the Toronto Global Game Jam made this suggestion to me after I showed him the Twine game I made at that particular event. However, what he didn’t realize is that others have already thought of this idea, and have utilized it.

In creating Darkmoon City, Katrina Elisse Caudle is one of these people.

I am not entirely sure how I found Darkmoon City, back when it was called Faerie Dark and focused more on its own content and less on outside activities. Katrina’s site itself has evolved quite a bit. At one time it was a textured grey interface in which you had to input the names of the Twines or stories that you wanted to see in a search bar. It was arranged in such a way that inputting the title of the work was a lot like participating in an agreed-upon ritual or the casting of a particular spell or evocation that would interact with the world of words and code that Katrina embedded into that world. I will admit that sometimes it confused me and it was hard to search for what I wanted back then. I even had the odd error or two. But, eventually, I “said” the words and found a part of her world.

At the time, there was only one Twine game: one interactive hyperlinking story. It was, and is The Edyn Project. I played this game during a time when I was still beginning to figure out how Twine games worked and attempted to see the different kinds and qualities of such that existed. Essentially, you find yourself in the White City: the former seat of arcane learning before the plague that wiped magic, and a good portion of the global population, off the face of the earth. The Edyn Project is an attempt by various powers to utilize technology in order to create a utopia from a Dark Age.

It was here that I began to see a different world-view emerging: especially with regards to how the White City’s new bitcoin economy is supposed to function. To this day I’m still confused about bitcoin, but the game did succeed in introducing me to the layout of the City and some of its history: including the presence of an ambiguous artificial intelligence program guardian named Edyn. I didn’t know, then, that the game wasn’t completed yet and indeed I reached a point where I didn’t know what else to do and got caught in a looped event at one point when going back to deal with my character’s blood work.

I really got to know the world of the White City through its short stories. Liminal Creatures of Heaven depicted something of a creation mythos and a different cosmogony from that of our own solar system. It even has its own astrological charts and celestial cycles.

But it wasn’t until The City With No Animals that the spirit of what would become Darkmoon City really began to slowly and subtly set into my mind.

Imagine a world where animals no longer exist: to the point of them becoming legends and myth. Now imagine a world where homosexual, bisexual, queer and polyamorous relationships are not only seen as commonplace but as part of an unquestioned norm. Then consider a place where there are more than two kinds of gender, where people can alter themselves in an almost transhuman sense, all of this is an ingrained and understood part of that world as well. The pronouns of he, she, and they are simply there in sentence and conversation. Now add to the fact that magic once existed and is in the process of being replaced (or complemented) by science and technology of questionable nature and a new bitcoin economy while the vestiges of the supernatural remain as ghosts, and faeries, and other things.

Now imagine writing this world with characters that experience varying degrees of emotions while exploring old and new secrets, and each other. You would basically be creating a whole other kind of paradigm or mentality from our own world. Katrina basically does all of this. It takes some getting used to and sometimes there is even still a bit of culture shock, but once you watch the characters’ interactions with the world and each other you begin to focus on them a lot. What I really loved about “The City With No Animals” is the fact that Katrina captures well that feeling of sweet confusion when you are discovered by those you know are special and could be, or might not lovers even as she also depicts the warmth of intimacy between childhood friends. “The City With No Animals” is a long story of four-parts, it has a unique writing style, and it is definitely worth reading.

I said a whole lot of other things about this story to Katrina herself, but unfortunately much of this correspondence was lost and now I can only focus on my impressions of what I read from that time. Indeed, Katrina changed the layout and name of the site from Faerie Dark to Darkmoon City. I’m not sure if she reloaded all of the older stories that I can’t recall, but she did add some newer elements to the new layout that she has created.

In addition to another interactive Twine called Happy Birthday Smoke!–in which you play as a character from “The Edyn Project” who is discovering her uncle’s creation of bitcoin and thus giving you a tutorial into what it is for the very first time–there are the addition of more creation myths and legends in the form of new stories.

I mentioned earlier that Katrina has a very unique writing style. I think what really stands out for me is in addition to a world with different ideas of gender, economy, science and magic, there is this very fascinating blend of Far East Asian and ancient Western culture, philosophy and mythology that exists in her overarching, and interlinking, narrative. If each world of fantasy and science-fiction is part of a multifaceted lens looking at an alternative perspective of reality, then Katrina’s world of Darkmoon City feels like a pale violet-tinted part of the cosmological kaleidoscope. Her language and sense of pacing are languid, flowing, and beautiful: and they put you into an “alien” and external mindset intimately and to the point where you realize it may not be that dissimilar from your own.

There is one more thing I want to mention before I wrap this retrospective up. A little while ago, while Faerie Dark existed, Katrina had another Twine game called Chrysalis. There were a few interesting elements about this game. First of all, and as far as I know, it was the only game that required payment: the small amount of $2.99. Secondly, it was a Twine that incorporated images and audio into its structure. But the third and most important element that I want to look at is what the about was about.

Essentially, Chrysalis was a Twine game in which you visit a courtesan named Rabbit. Its premise is almost an answer to the questions that the Canadian comics creator Chester Brown seems to pose in his graphic novel Paying For It: what kind of world would result from the creation of a society without the stigma of paying for sex, or even on non-conventional relationships? What kind of morality would exist where an exchange of services for intimacy and learning is condoned, honoured, and even encouraged as healthy?

You had to progress by learning various lessons through interaction with Rabbit. Should you have not been interested or wanted to skip ahead, you were always invited to leave if the terms no longer suited you, or if you could not follow or respect them. I didn’t always understand the astrological elements within the game itself which, may or may not have made Chrysalis into part of Faerie Dark (or Darkmoon City now) or as a standalone in and of itself. Sometimes the audio did not work and it did verge into some specific areas of sacred sex and spirituality. Sometimes the audio segments seemed long as well. But what really struck me about that game, aside from being a creative attempt to depict a different form of society where sex work is an inherent part of the culture and you learn about intimacy, sensuality and just what constitutes as an important exchange between consenting adults, as well as navigating the places between different emotions and a process of personal growth, is how Katrina applied her own experiences and the paradigm of her creative world, and bitcoin, to the scenario of Chrysalis.

It was not an explicit game, but it was definitely a very involved and thoughtful meditation on pleasure. Sadly, my words aren’t doing this game any justice as I can no longer access this game. It came in the form of a code I purchased for Faerie Dark‘s search bar that now no longer exists. All that is left are Katrina’s above account and ethereal fragments of audio to give you some idea of what this game was like. But it, and the other stories, were an excellent look into the creative mind and imagination of Katrina and what could be.

Darkmoon City is still very much a work in progress, with its own Patreon page, and as a fellow traveller into the realms of fancy, I look forward to walking where the White City journeys from this particular foundation.

The Work Continues and a Peek at Coming Attractions

Yesterday, I was going to post up an article that I already made but then I started to think about I feel that everybody deserves something fresh.

The obligatory zombie reference aside, this time of year is generally harder for me. I mean, winter probably has a seasonal affect on everyone and makes them want to sleep more but more recently I’ve been lucky to wake up in the early afternoon never mind what can be considered morning. I mean, I am up in the morning technically, but I generally haven’t slept before then.

It hasn’t been solely due to procrastination or depression however. If there is one thing I have been consistently this past while, it has been busy. I’ve been experimenting more directly with Twine now and after two experiments, there is another one that I would like to implement sometime soon.

For my next trick, I want to make a story with Headings that you can Rewind to, and selectable options that will determine what endings you will get. I envision a few game-overs, one “normal ending,” and one “true ending.” I have been looking at some tutorials, though I am concerned that I will be going closer into the realm of programming or, at the very least, the kind of “user-accessible” programming that was available in Civilization II: Fantastic Worlds. Twine may well be a gateway drug back into the Hell Temple of coding for me. But I do have help and all I need to keep track of time.

And I have to watch time very carefully. I have a story that I need to write, a Dark Crystal entry that needs to appear, an article that needs to be edited, and … another article that I want to write on Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston: on one aspect of his life in particular. I am wondering how much material will exist out there on the latter and when I will have a chance to look at this.

But I also know that I have priorities. This entry is a short one, but it’s good because it will serve as a reminder for what I am doing and what I plan to do. I will be back soon and, hopefully, sooner this time. 🙂

In the World of Neil

I believe there is a particular place where all things coexist.

It is a place called the Universe: where ideas dreamt up by humankind become gods and need to feed off of our belief in order to have any power whatsoever. At the same time, there are other–older beings–that couldn’t care less about us (or more) and embody the cosmological constants and the very essence of what sentience truly is.

As strange as it all is if it only ended there it would be so simple: because there are other things too. There is the Presence, the Silver City, angels, demons and Lucifer. There are cities Underground and one great Faerie Market that never seems to die out as many claim nor want to stay behind a Wall. And sometimes things happen one way and then another: with everything dependent on memory, the manoeuvring of creepy puppets and the plurality of apocalypses–of different revelations–right next to one another.

When people are not meeting a young girl with a big dog and a balloon, they encounter ladies that can open doors, boys raised by ghosts that dance the Macabray, fleas and Other Mothers, young men learning magic, immortals of various kinds, pitiable monsters, worlds existing in people, places dwelling as people, and three women–always three women–that are alternatively kind, cruel and wise as the story takes them.

And the people–the regular people–are so much stranger. They make you realize there are no normal people. Not really. What’s more is that you also realize that history–that reality and the everyday life–has never been wholly real in the way that you understood it and all of this becomes a place where the mythological becomes normal and the seemingly mundane becomes utterly terrifying.

I’ve studied this place a long time, you understand and I always suspected but never confirmed–inside of myself–that they were all layers of the same multiverse: that they all fit together and the pieces click into place so immaculately well.

Until now.

Of course, they might not be and their creator reserves his right on the final judgment in the matter. But as a wise girl once said to the shadow of what America could have been–and could yet be–I believe. I believe in multiplicity, the levels, the nuances and, perhaps, after reading this newest book a few days ago, I believe in two more things: the World of Neil … and a nice cup of tea in the good company of some Hempstock women.

The Storyteller

An old story and an appropriate one given what I have been reading lately. You can tell what some of it was inspired by and I hope it can be appreciated for what it is. Enjoy.

He was the Oracle of Stories.

I didn’t know what was meant by that … at first. The man, if one could venture to even call him a man anymore, sat in a dark corner of a great library. Yet for all the library’s magnificence, the Oracle had chosen long ago to be placed in one particular part of the chamber. It was what seemed to be the oldest part of the structure, and you had to travel through a few smaller rooms and wings, and down a set of stairs before you came to the place.

I suspect it wasn’t so much that he chose to remain down here, as it was that whatever powers he possessed or had influence over him made him sit there, and not get up again. The Oracle sat on a stool on a wooden platform in the shadows between two book shelves. I didn’t know what to expect from him. To be honest, I had heard tales of other Oracles but I hadn’t had the privilege of meeting them. It was said that each one had been human at one time, but through a gift or a curse, they had mastered and eventually personified the great artistic pursuits they dedicated their lives to.

So when I met the Oracle of Stories, you have to understand that I had many expectations in place. Some of them were very much fulfilled, and even expanded on. The small figure sat there, surrounded by mounds of paper. At the time I first saw him, I saw his gaze: glassy and sightless from years of doing nothing but writing in the dimness of the room he chose to sit in. I knew that others came in, respectfully, to take his writings and add them to the library. They were beautiful, luminous works that branched into all areas of human understanding: of good, and evil, and all the places between and beyond.

He sat there, mutely, and all I could hear was the scratching of his pen. I had studied everything about the Oracle that I could, in hopes that one day I could even begin to approach his level of craft. I was just an acolyte then, a novice scribe with a mild smattering of talent: but just enough to attract the notice of my elders, and get this very rare chance. I remember them almost seeming to restrain their excitement, though I didn’t know why. There were a lot of things I didn’t know back then.

For instance, I knew the Oracle was old. His hair was long and silver, and almost covered his entire face. His form, though erect was thin and the flesh I saw lined. But it wasn’t wrinkled or infirm. I remember his face most of all. Despite the many years he had been down here, by choice or condition, the only sign of his great age were the lines on his forehead, and around his eyes and the flat eternal line that was his mouth. His hand, unlike the rest of his immobile body was a flurry of activity, moving across the parchments he was given like a crazed arachnid seeking to spill its blackened blood and secrets to be augured and divined over by the other adepts.

That was the only movement I and most others ever saw of him. Yet these details were only witnessed or helped by those adepts and masters closest to him: as anything could be close to him in this world. But I get ahead of myself.

There was no expression on his face at all. It was almost as though he was asleep, or lost in a very different place from you or I. I observed him, and his faded robes amid the books and volumes and scrolls around him. He had not spoken in centuries. So when I heard him finally speak, his voice was barely even a whisper.

“How can someone who makes stories be an Oracle?” he asked, so quietly that even in my shock I had to strain to hear his words, “How can anyone who makes stories–anyone who writes or tells them or passes them down–be telling the truth?

“I used to wonder that myself.”

He gave a raspy chuckle, “Nothing is constant, except for the written word. It’s true that when you first write it, when you first envision it there are many possibilities. And when you first read it, you can only guess where it will lead you. I suppose that’s what I found books to be my most trustworthy friends. My only friends. They were the ones that stayed true. Yes, books are a lot like old friends, only truer. At first they might surprise you, or maybe even disappoint you. But when you read them once, you only discover new things about them as you read through them again and again …

“Once, before I gave everything to my stories, I loved to hear, and read, and witness the stories of others. I loved to experience those of others more than experiencing my own. My own stories, those I lived were awkward, reluctant things of necessity and survival. More often than not, they were painful things. Ugly things with petty hopes that are sometimes never requited. Life is not as neat as a narrative would have it. Yes,” the voice droned gently, “I would have given anything to be rid of the burdens of the body, and the self to be able to immerse myself in the stories of everything.

“And I did. I’m not sure whose stories I tell anymore. Whether they are mine, or those I make, or those that have happened, or have been lost, or have yet to be, or are still happening, or could be happening. Some stories I tell would have it that the person I was met a Muse–perhaps Calliope herself–held captive and I let her go. Sometimes, I remember asking one favour of her. Or she granted me a boon for my deed. There may have been nothing that tied me to the world I had even then. Or perhaps I lost something already, and long ago. Maybe I lost something that I never found to begin with, and never would.”

Those last words were almost wistful as he continued, “But I think: when I am myself and not the stories that I make. When I am not the young woman wondering what to do with her unwanted child, or the couple happily united and ready to wed, or the young man cut down as he reached the zenith of his life, or the broken ruin who wasted all of his potential into the dust … When I am not the tyrant gaining sole satisfaction from the lives I crush gleefully into blood and pulp onto the cruel twisted curvature of my lips, or the child discovering it all for the first time … I think …”

He paused for a few seconds, with a look of befuddlement twitching on his features, “I think I …”

He stared blankly and sightlessly through the shelf in front of him for a very long time. Then, finally, he spoke again:

“I think I refused her power. I think I wanted her to be free. I think, when I was an ‘I’ that I saw a beauty in her that none of the world had, and I would never have again in my lifetime. But I didn’t want that at the price that her former slaver put upon her. I think … I know that I felt great revulsion over the things that he did to her, to make her give him her power and her blessing.

“And I think that what gave me even greater revulsion was that I was tempted too.

“So I turned her away.”

He paused again, “But she knew my heart then, when I had a heart. When my heart was just my heart. And as she left, she told that she would never leave me. Ever. And the hole in my heart, that was my heart for my entire life was filled and went beyond that fulfillment. And it was glorious, and it was power, and love, and pain of others until there was nothing but them and the stories …

“And I felt the need to write them down. All of them down. And I kept writing. Even as her parting kiss on my brow remained, I kept the stories flowing. I became them. I am them, everyday and for the rest of my life.

“And to this day they wonder how I do it. How can I sit here and molder in the stacks and continue on and not feel pain, or sadness, or hope. And I think … I believe I do feel these things still. But then I remember the sleep. I think of Sleep, the younger sibling of Death and I let these feelings go into Sleep. Sleep will always be there for me. No matter what may happen to this form. I will be in it forever. And, whenever the feelings gather, and cannot be swept away, I will tell them. My body will be the channel, and my mind and soul will contain only the stories. I will be the Oracle of Stories. I will be the Storyteller. The Storyteller will the story of the Storyteller once at a time. Until the teller becomes the Story and the Story …”

Then his words trailed off, and his hand began to twitch, and grasp his quill. And the writing resumed.

Just as mine finished.

I wrote his story down that day, for the many hours it took. I still don’t know to this very day if it was his actual story or just one of the ones that had taken over his mind and body. But it both awed and frightened me in its scope. And as I myself near the end of my life, of my story, I can die happy: having my own question answered.

All stories are true, as many wise storytellers have said throughout time. And I will always know why the Oracle of Stories is sometimes called the Storyteller.