Out

Sometimes I can still hear it.

It’s the end of the night and Dead Can Dance’s Rakim drifts and rhythmically rumbles through the musty air before the undulating chant of the female singer through the night. The DJ knows what he’s doing. The frenzy of Electric Body Music with its violence of movement and the wry painfulness of clarity that is Alternative Rock have taken their course and had their place in their club.

Now the bar is closed and the black-jacketed, white dressed, neon colour-haired patrons are fewer and dancing with each other in pairs: slowly in tempo with the music. All of reality itself seems to wind out like a wavering road as the woman sings and the man chants in a deeper voice, with stranger words, accompanied by the hollow tap of drums and waves of languorous, synthesized sound.

Everything downtown, far away from where I sleep at the time, unfolds a path in front of me as I watch them dance. I see everything that has happened before and I know that even before being here it had already been in my head: this simultaneity. It gestates through countless songs, and observations, and the weird jerking near-violent movements and pseudo-martial forms that I called dancing. This feeling will continue to grow long after my long bus ride home.

“A million faces, a million lies,”  VNV Nation’s Chrome wavers out before I ever knew its name, accompanied by a weird looping music that somehow taps my heart.

“The streets are cold, the lights go by…”  Like a strange, throbbing, secret whisper it tells me about walking downtown the first time by myself at night, the passing of the streetcar away from Brock, a lost white grin and electric blue eyes, words on a screen leading nowhere, that summer on Euclid Avenue, friends at a Noodle Shop, wishing my friends were there in a bar dancing, a worn convenience store open past three, Higher Ground and Eglinton, cold darkness, past chances, taken chances, lost chances…

When that music comes on, it’s as though my life isn’t linear but multiple-choice: my thoughts fragmenting but somehow being pulled back together again. Then I remember EBM and rock music and it’s as though I’m fighting against the inertia of my life in the epic battle I’ve always fought in my mind: alone and proud.

But then at the end of the night, my favourite night of the week, my Friday night, after dancing through the endless possibilities and talking mutely with people over thundering percussion, I’d see the reality of it. Two men in glistening black leather kilts dance with a white-blonde girl between them. A tall girl moves with a shorter darker one. Then Rakim winds down for the night, the male singer’s last reverberating, “Since forgotten…”

I remember these Friday Nights well as I skirted the rim of the dance floor and danced in the middle of it in my own bubble of space. I interacted with the people much in the same way, just as I still in some ways do. I remember that I don’t relate well to groups. I am like the girl in “Tonio Kroger” that tries to dance like others, on the periphery, but unlike her I know I have my own dance that few can or could care to match. Perhaps I’m getting too old to dance now, too hermetic to move as often. Maybe I already had my chance to find something special in the night.

Yet sometimes, even now, I have this insane urge to contemplate another Gothic Picnic in High Park drinking the liquid essence of fruit salad and watermelon juice alongside white-painted people wearing black leather and lace. Or maybe I’d dress up like the Crow again and go downtown to lose myself in the role while dancing: laughing at those who think I’m Heath Ledger’s Joker instead.

At the very least, I can take comfort in knowing that I can still dance well in one place: through the diaphanous smoke screen of my own words. Right here.

The Crow

I Write on The Black Tunnel Wall

There is a story I read in Rosemary Sullivan’s Shadow Maker. It is a biography of the Canadian, and particularly Torontonian, poet Gwendolyn MacEwen. Towards the end of Gwendolyn’s life she approached a bank for a loan which, unfortunately, she was refused. In a fit of rage she apparently stormed back to her apartment, picked up all the books she had ever written, or ever written in–including those given awards by the Canadian government and literary societies–threw them down on the teller counter, and proclaimed that she made all of these books and that she just wanted her money.

There is, of course, a lot more behind this story such as Gwendolyn’s ultimately fatal alcoholism, the fact that she only had her sporadic university teaching salary and reading profits to live off, the job opportunities she was denied because she never matriculated out of high school, and always having to deal with the stigma of being a female writer and creator and fighting for recognition from the fifties to the late eighties, or even the argument that Canada didn’t value the arts and its poets nearly as much as it should. There is an entire book or two speculating and detailing all of these things.

I am also, obviously, not Gwendolyn MacEwen. I am not an alcoholic, I graduated from a Master’s Program, and I do not claim to have created any works coming anywhere near close to Gwendolyn’s but I have been unemployed for quite some time and, as such, I am on Ontario Works: a Provincial job search form of welfare. I’ve also mentioned that I suffer from situational depression. In retrospect I’ve probably had this for quite some time but it’s only in unemployment and the struggle to keep writing that I came to really call it what it is.

Systems are not perfect: especially bureaucracies. Bureaucracies and many of them do have some really good workers that attempt to help people to the best of their ability, are systems that function in quantitative ways. They want numbers written, blocks marked out, NIL scratched down in key squares: with “concrete evidence” or “statistical proof” of some sort before they will begin to help you. Coming from an academic background myself, I’m unfortunately no stranger to the bureaucracies of academia or even OSAP loans, but it becomes very clear when you leave those places and go into “the working world” that you are in a different place where quantifiable data is given more precedence over quality.

When I first came into Ontario Works, I was presented with a work sheet–a long letter-sized piece of paper–that I had to fill out once a month: to show how many jobs for which I actively searched. They have an initial section where they ask whether you’ve attended classes at school, or gone to a job search seminar, or gotten a job, and if so what are they and such. And then on the other side is the very long lined list of jobs you looked and applied for and, below that, is an additional comments section.

And for all that space and everything I had to fill in, that was it: just one small space for additional comments.

That is the mode of reality that I had to deal with for a very long time. And I won’t lie: it was depressing. It was made all the more frustrating by the fact that I knew this sheet didn’t even exist in the Toronto welfare system: that it had been considered an anachronism and was actually made obsolete. In the program that I had been under, had I not been so depressed and had to move back to Thornhill, I would have actually gotten paid for volunteer work while looking for a job. To go from that model to the one I found myself in was galling and it just rubbed the salt into my wounds even further.

For the work that I do, and make no mistake I do work, the jobs I can apply for with the skills and interests that I have are limited. As someone who is an extreme introvert and has social anxiety issues, along with tension headaches, stomach issues, and learning disabilities with regards to mathematics, retail jobs are not an option for me. I also know that if I work some job I don’t like, I will simply not do well in it because, frankly, I just don’t care.

And then there is the stigma of that to consider. People on welfare often feel like, if they aren’t flat-out told, that they are lazy and that they should accept any old job because, frankly, they are lazy. Thankfully, my counsellors at Ontario Works are not the people who communicate this sentiment and have, with what resources they have, actually tried to talk me through and help me with this.

But then there is that other critic.

I’m not talking about my friends who I, up until now, haven’t even told I’m on welfare, or my family that sometimes wonder what I’m actually doing about this, or all the people–anonymous or otherwise–that have their own opinions on the matter on the Internet. No. I’m talking about me.  I have to catch myself and be careful to remember not to impose what I think the system’s view of me is over who I really am. Because I am often tempted to think that the system, society or what not, views me as that stereotype: a lazy, free-loading unemployed shut-in bum that has done nothing worthwhile with his life while quite a few of his friends have jobs and families and should just “suck it up” (a phrase I find utterly infuriating) and do something that I hate for the greater good.

And then to remember that I was once a student that had very high marks in my classes, the respect of many of my teachers, who was always told that I wrote well and who believed that academia would take care of someone like me from cradle to grave only to have to compare it to my current reality of living at home again, in debt, and in this living situation…

It’s that nice litmus test between anger at the world and anger at myself.

Me and my Head

But one day, something happened. It was around the same time I was doing my best to fill out those worksheets. I realized that I could talk about the things that I was, in fact, doing that didn’t seem to apply to the criteria on the sheet. Of course, there was very little space and my handwriting got cramped and bad as per usual. So I began typing out my additional comments. In fact I made a whole section called Additional Comments.

Over time, and through a succession of workers, my Additional Comments varied but mostly got longer in description. For the past year or so, I have been telling Ontario Works about the conventions I’ve attended, the networking I’ve been doing, the writing I’ve undertaken, and the recommendations and praise that I have received. I have even told them about this very Blog: this Mythic Bios of mine.

Because, unlike the stereotype of the unemployed lazy bum, I have been writing. I have been writing almost every day. I write until it is late at night to the point of there actually being sunlight. I write until I rhyme. Sometimes I can get myself to go out and network with important people: to have them remember my name and know me. I made a whole lot of business cards for that very purpose. I made a Patreon account. I have looked over and edited other people’s works. I have made friendships and relationships during this period.

And even though I have not been paid yet, I must reiterate that I work. Some people clock out for the day. I clock out when my head feels like wool and I can’t concentrate any more. I read, research, write, edit, and attempt to maintain my own schedule. I am not useless. I have made more things than most people can dream of and one day, I hope to profit from all of these endeavours.

And perhaps it’s not that important. Even though my current worker has started calling my Additional Comments my Reports and knows that I am genuinely attempting to earn money from the places where I’m at now and I no longer have to use those worksheets–all now regulated to NIL–due to my disabilities and my therapist’s evaluation of me, perhaps the system doesn’t give a damn about my efforts beyond statistics. Maybe no one cares about anything I do if there are no crisp dollar bills next to my words.

But you see that’s the thing: I care.

Every time my worker sees my Reports, every time my parents glance at them, every time I have the excuse and the medium to write about all the achievements and contacts I’ve garnered it is a victory for me. It is me, to myself, proving that I’m earning my money, that I’m actually doing something and there is meaning in all of it.

It may mean nothing to anyone else. It may not even help me. But it means something to me. When I write these, it is just another way of saying “Look at me world. This is what I’m doing. This is what I’ve done. This is what I’ll be.”

Originally, I wasn’t even going to write about this. I had a review I promised Anthony Martignetti and I had a good Monday when Elfquest retweeted and Shared my article When I Recognized Elfquest. I wanted to talk about welfare and money after it was all over: after my loans were paid off, after no longer needing Ontario Works and beginning to function as an independent force again in my own right. But I am just tired of feeling shame and fear. I just wanted to tell all of you, more or less, what is going on and what all of this means to me. Realistically speaking, I will need help for quite some time and I know there are others out there like me, who fear waking up, who feel that sick pit of dread in their stomach whenever they have to pick up that phone, who despises dealing with bureaucracy and puts it off as long as they can, who have to fight against that feeling of futility, who wishes they had help and who–ultimately–need to read this.

One day, you will not be in this situation any more. You only needed help to get to your next destination and there is no shame in that. All of this will just become another story to tell your friends, your loved ones, and yourself: to remind you of where you were, and how far you have come.

Looking Outward

On August 27, 1987 the mythopoeic creator Gwendolyn MacEwen, who should have been the Poet Laureate of Toronto, if not all of Canada itself, slammed her books down on a counter and said, “I did this. Now give me my money.” I’d like to think that, when she did that, she was really throwing her works against her Black Tunnel Wall: on that last work she never finished and what metaphors it might have represented.

And every month, because I can never forget, I write on my own Black Tunnel Wall, covering it with words, one Report at a time.

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Also, this is my Patreon Page. If you have the funds, or the interest, and you want to see what I can really do as a writer, please support me. You can also access it on my About Page. Thank you.

When I Recognized Elfquest

It took a long time for me to discover the World of Two Moons.

Back in High School, my Mom started me reading Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. It was a fantasy series with a world of magic and puns and where practically everyone had a magical Talent of some kind. At one point in the series, Piers Anthony got a letter from a mother whose twelve year old daughter Jenny was in the hospital paralysed from being hit by a drunk driver. She was very fond of the world of Two Moons: with the Wolfrider Elves and their wolf mounts: so much so, that Anthony actually created a character from that world named Jenny Elf and transported her to the world of Xanth. This was the first time I’d heard of this place, and for the longest point it was almost the last time.

This was until about a year or so before I started working. I was finishing off my Undergrad at York and I came back to the world of comics with extreme prejudice. I came to Cyber City Comix near Bathurst and Clarke where I found the DC Archives volumes of The Spirit and a strange series called Elfquest. Elfquest looked particularly strange and vintage: from the covers alone they looked like 70s adult versions of my childhood fantasy cartoons mixed with Tolkien on a beautiful manga binge for good measure. They were colourful and compelling and beautiful and also very expensive.

Little did I know that Elfquest and the World of Two Moons were one and the same, or that they would be relevant to me. I did, however, have the nagging suspicion that we’d meet again at some point. But it was not at that time. Not yet.

A lot more things happened with me. I finally moved out and got into Grad School when I discovered the black and white versions of the books at the Seneca Library at York. I was just going to read them there, but I didn’t for some reason. I kept putting it off …

A few months later, I found out that Labyrinth Comics were having a comics sale in Seneca. I planned to stop by the place after I picked up my OSAP grant and loan. Unfortunately for me, that particular day I found out that the Faculty of Graduate Studies had changed my status to part-time without my knowledge and as such withheld my loans from me: just as they had before because my previous government ID expired. I was in at a very low point at this time when I came back from the Student Financial Building to Seneca, not expecting to find anything, not really expecting to be happy for a very long time …

And then I found it. I found the first Elfquest Archives volume for $30. I put down a copy of Mark Millar’s 1985 and decided to buy this. I didn’t quite know what to expect at this point but I was glad to begin with the first volume.

Then I read it.

Somehow, something in me knew that I would relate to some aspects of this series. And that something, somehow in me was right. The DC Archives edition of Elfquest were coloured and vibrant in precisely the way that its creator Wendy Pini planned it along with her husband Richard. Her paneling is not unlike Will Eisner’s comics work in The Spirit and is varied and far beyond the traditional boundaries of squares and rectangles: bringing you closer into the world she made.

I was treated to a world that had been in existence since the late 1970s: that strange, weird and somehow marvelous place that made other things like Star Wars and Wizards.  The premise was that ages ago a floating castle containing a race of Elves crashed onto a world populated by primitive and superstitious humans. These beings drove them out of their fallen castle and their descendants had to adapt to and survive in their new environment.

One of their descendants are the Wolfriders: short, powerful Elves (not unlike a friend of mine’s drawings of other beings in our shared world) that are linked to and ride on wolves as hunters and warriors in their forest. Wendy Pini’s drawing style was this vintage hybrid of manga and North American comics illustration that just really somehow managed to touch that 80s childhood part of my heart. But what was more was in addition to magic and a really varied world, she also touched upon new elements that I was also dealing with in my life these days as well. She touched upon these in a way so poignant that tears almost came to my eyes. Suffice to say, after starting to read this series in colour, I could not in good conscience go back.

I wouldn’t do justice to Elfquest by simply summarizing it or trying to explain what the Wolfriders and their Tribe are like. They have close bonds with their Wolves, who they hunt with, and each other. Especially each other. If there is a positive archetype or ideal for the concept of “Tribe,” they would be it. In many ways, they are like humans, though not necessarily like the barbarian humans we initially see in their world, but in others they really aren’t. They are savage, and merciless but at the same time fiercely loyal, sensitive, and honourable. And they are so incredibly close with each other. I am very glad that the people at DC at that time decided to include the comic strip that others before them would have rejected in the first Volume of the Archives. And Wendy Pini was not afraid to talk about just how different Elf relationships could be: reminding the reader that for all we can relate to them and some of their ways, the Elves of Two Moons are definitely not human.

It’s sad sometimes to realize that Sending doesn’t exist in humankind, just as it is humbling to realize that Recognition as a visceral feeling of affinity with another being is weaker in us though when it’s not, it’s really not. Even so, the Elves get into conflict and this spans a great deal of a world. A world I really wanted to follow.

Unfortunately, a while ago I learned an unfortunate fact about the Elfquest Archives. The first was that they were out of print. And second was that while I could buy Volumes 3 and 4 for $30 as well, Volume 2 somehow has become especially rare. I have seen some of these copies go for over a hundred if not two hundred dollars or more. This is money that not even the creators get, but only the comics store owners. It was very disappointing and infuriating: especially since I remembered being in Cyber Comix and realizing that they were all there and I could have bought them all at that time.

But the good news is that the Pinis have taken all their Elfquest comics and put them on their website for free. That’s right. All the Elfquest run to date is online for free. You just have to look it up online and it’s right there. Granted, I know I would have liked my own complete book copies and it saddens me to know I probably never will, but you know: I’m just glad I found them at all. I have even started reading beyond what the DC Archive books contained. Coincidentally, I find that out of all the Elf characters, I relate the most to Cutter’s fierce heart, Rayek’s brooding ambitions, and Skywise’s sense of curiosity and understanding.

Personally, though, I can see myself as the leader of a group of Gliders that left the Blue Mountain in the early days before Voll fully settled and sought to reclaim magic for ourselves, and continue to evolve as opposed to languishing in stagnation. I always liked the idea of having a bird mount, even though I am not adverse to wolves on a spiritual level.

It’s funny how you find something when it is time and when you Recognize its significance in your own life.

A Surprise Post Appears! La-Mulana, an Age, and Solo Jamming all Entwined.

I have been meaning to write here for a very long time. So I am going to write behind my own designated schedule and wave hello at all of you.

So I am still alive and I am hoping to write here again a lot more often now. For those of you don’t know, I went on something of a hiatus to finish a short story that may have me see actual print: as in something actually published in print in addition to my poem in the art book Klarissa Dreams. That is all I can really about that at the moment, but please stay tuned.

In the meantime, however, I have been busy with other things as well. So where do I even begin?

Well, I participated in the Unwritten RPG Kickstarter Campaign. I essentially made an Age for them. In case you don’t know, Unwritten is a table-top RPG based on the universe of Myst: in which you must go through several Descriptive and Linking Books that connect to other worlds. The D’Ni civilization figured out a way to write Books that allowed people to link to other worlds or gradations of a particular world: or Ages as they are called. I read the books and played two of the games in my formative years and for about a decade I had an idea for an Age and a people.

There were some changes I had to make, but what resulted is pretty impressive based on a creative collaboration with the team. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can show people that I was part of the Guild of Writers and I finally made my own Age. My nineteen year old self would be proud of what the thirty-one year old me has become capable of doing: at least to that regard.

I also admit one other thing. So you know the game I vowed never to play? Well, I am playing La-Mulana now. In fact, very soon the La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter will be making more Fan Art Updates and my Twine story The Treasure of La-Mulana will be featured in one of them. I will be on the look out for that and at some point I will link that update to all of you. It’s funny. I have gotten to know quite a few people through this game and it is perhaps one of the few sources of real community that I’ve felt in a really long time, if not ever. I am not a game-designer in the programming sense. I am a writer. Of course, Christine Love herself said the same thing and look at the places she is at now. Granted, she has programming knowledge and I don’t. But that’s ok.

In fact, I hit another milestone relatively recently. I attended the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam. As some of you know I participated in the event last year, but armed with a basic understanding of Twine, I registered as a Solo Jammer and completed my first Twine game as such. I go into a little more detail about that on my G33kPron article Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam, but given what this Blog is about I wanted to talk a little shop about my game.

The Looking Glass was an experiment. After my Treasure of La-Mulana fanfic, I realized I could tell an extensive story with Twine, and use the hyperlinking transitions to control how much text the reader sees, and how much I wanted to pace the narrative. My Haunted Twine was an earlier attempt at this, but it was a lot clunkier and it still has issues that I need to address in future works. But I wanted to add more of an interactive element besides clicking on words this time around.

In addition, I was following a person’s experiences with a particular game online and, as my brain often works, I combined a few ideas together and came up with a concept and a few notes that you can see in all of their natural idiosyncratic handwritten glory down below.

I had a choice between this and a game about a serial killer. I was at first happy with neither of these concepts as I wanted to make something very personal and me for this Jam, but when I realized that my version of a “choose your own adventure” Twine game about my experience at the Jam itself would not be good enough at this stage in my development, and not really feeling the killing thing by the second official day of the 48-hour Jam I went with my original, very complex yet simply elegant idea that I should have taken more than two days to do. I may create more games like this one in the near future. In fact, I may be personally showcasing this one at the Toronto Global Game Jam Arcade in April. We shall see.

So now that I have at least four working Twine games or stories, I decided to expand a branch of Mythic Bios to contain them. You can find it on the menu bar above or click here on this link. I thought I would only make two relatively big Twine novels, but it seems my brain had, and needed, other plans. Perhaps sometime in the near future I will see what will be done with those.

And seriously ladies, gentlemen and other sentient beings, this is it for now. As I said before, I hope to be writing here more often again and I have some plans, as always. I have a few posts that are overdue and I want to fee more time to explore while continuing some of the work that I have been cultivating in my long self-exile. Poor January only had one post. Let’s see how many posts February will have as result shall we? 🙂

La-Mulana 2

Oh and before I go, please support NIGORO and Playism’s La-Mulana 2 Kickstarter Campaign. The universe of La-Mulana is both an archaeologist’s and a gamer’s dream and worst nightmare: it will challenge your ingrained assumptions about gameplay and mechanics. It also has a really nice unfolding story and a quirky character about it that few other games I’ve seen can match. So please check it out. You will not be disappointed and we might get to unlock some goodies without the spikes.

Mostly. Err …

Take care everyone.

Experiences from the 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam

The 2014 Toronto Global Game Jam last weekend was definitely an event to be remembered.

The TGGJ, which is the Global Game Jam’s location in Toronto, was held at the George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology. We took up the fifth and sixth floors of the college where its Digital Media & Gaming Incubator is situated.  The GGJ is an event held all around the world, where teams are challenged to make a complete game in 48 hours. Think about that: we programmers, sound designers, graphic artists and writers had only two days to make fully functional games. Bear in mind that I am a writer and I have little to no programming experience and that I only really got to learn Twine, a text-based hyper-linking free bit of software, only a few months ago (and even now I only know how to use the basics).

We spent the first part of the Jam finding our assigned computer work rooms. I actually deposited my belongings, including my sleeping bag, into the spare classroom on the sixth floor. While it is discouraged for the most part, according to the event organizers Randy Orenstein and Troy Morrissey, I decided to sleep where my work would be (as I did last year, when I decided to try out this event for the first time without even the knowledge of Twine and hoping to find some people in need of a writer).

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About 300 Jammers registered and participated in the Jam itself. After settling in, we were eventually called down to learn this year’s game theme.  Every year the Jam gets a different theme to work with: which is, essentially, the prompt which we were going to shape our games around.

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The theme of this year’s Game Jam was, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

That is a pretty open-ended theme, isn’t it? So I wrote it on one of my business cards and went upstairs.

TGGJ 14 Grab Bag

Earlier, at our assigned computer workstations, we were given gift bags. These bags had a variety of candy bars and snacks, mostly to maintain energy, but they also had a schedule for the events of the next two days as well as a schedule of when we were to upload our games onto the Global Game Jam site.

Contents of TGGJ 14 Grab Bag

This was, more or less, a similar format to how last year’s Toronto Global Game Jam worked. There were, however, some differences. For instance, while this year also had its Team Jammers and Solo Jammers (pre-established designer groups and solitary game-makers), there were two additions that didn’t exist last year. The first was “Team Random.”  Team Random essentially was a group of people who didn’t have teams and were looking to collaborate with people at the event. Last year, I was in Team Random, though we were not named as such and there were much fewer of us. I actually like the fact that this year the organizers actually went out of their way during announcements to ask who was looking for teammates and they seemed to have a more organized structure in mind for dealing with that. Last year, as I said, I didn’t even know how to use Twine and there was some anxiety there at the time.

The second addition this year was the Floaters. Floaters were an assortment of independent programmers, sound designers and artists that were either free to join other teams, give them advice, or even contribute some of their expertise to certain parts of other people’s projects. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to use any of their skills, though I did talk with a few, as I basically started my project solidly after the Friday introductions.

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On the Friday I had written up a considerable amount of notes, but I still wasn’t sure what I was doing. I almost switched away from the idea I had made so many notes for but I was stuck. The fact of the matter was that I had a story in mind that was pretty complex and a challenge to make. But by the middle of Saturday I had a decision to make and so I began writing out my story.

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I wrote it directly into the Twine boxes that you can see right here.

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And so, from roughly 3 pm to 12 pm on the following Sunday I wrote out and built my Twine story while socializing at times and drinking a whole lot of tea and sugar generously donated by Starbucks. There was a raffle for some cool free stuff (we got a ticket in our grab bags and, no, I didn’t win anything) and the session finished off with the announcement of  a wedding having occurred between the duo that made up Team: “I’m a Pretty Princess” (who actually came back and continued their work) and me having finished my first ever Solo Game Jam (I was the sole member of “Team Eldritch”).

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The Global Game Jam encourages Play Parties to showcase all the games that were created during the event along with their creators. Last year, the Toronto Global Game Jam had an Arcade and there is going to be another one this summer as well. I know I will be there with my “choose your own adventure” text game which you can find right here on the GGJ site:  The Looking Glass. This year the Global Game Jam site extended the time we had to upload our submissions. It is an improvement over the first attempt that I linked on G33kPr0n months ago and I hope to keep exploring this world of creation and community.

And you had better believe I will be doing this again next year.

Matthew K TGGJ 14

Photo Credit: Uber Events and Promotions

You can find more of Uber Events and Promotions‘ TGGJ Group Portraits at this flickr account.

Correction: The GGJ (the Global Game Jam) is an event held all around the world. The TGGJ (the Toronto Global Game Jam) is local in Toronto.

Disappointments and Achievements in the Year 2013

This was the year in which we apparently cancelled, or postponed, the apocalypse.

So I said I was going to make a post before the New Year and here I am. I’ve started this post three times already and I trying to find the best way to continue it.

I suppose I will start off by stating one of my greatest disappointments. After all the fanfare on my part, and the reading, and the note-taking, and the hints, and the story sketches I did not end up sending an entry to The Dark Crystal Author Quest.

The fact is, after all that, I just took on too much. I went as far as writing a crude introduction, far too late, and then I realized that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring the energy and attention to a world that deserved more. So, I’m sorry to everyone who might have been eager to see what I could have brought to the world of Thra but the only things you’ll see now are my story sketches and perhaps the introduction I made when it’s not so fresh. And I also offer my apologies to The Dark Crystal. You deserved better. And you will get it. After spending time on the Community Forums, I know at least that you will get far better than me.

It wasn’t a total loss. I made some friends and acquaintanceships on the Forums, and the task of writing notes and questions to myself about Thra kept me from going insane this summer and onward. That, along with my other story project and this Blog for a time kept me busy and feeling a certain sense of accomplishment roughly ninety percent of the time.

So while I failed my Challenge, I did learn a lot from its failure. For starters, I am never going to work on two major projects at the same time again. The second is that if I do again, I will type up all my notes first and then figure out what to do. The third will be to go out during the more temperate climate to do some writing and not get bogged down by distractions: to give myself a sense of space. In the end, it is one thing to work on a major project and then some minor ones, it is a whole other thing to juggle multiple ones at once. I am no Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to that regard and even they have had issues with that. Anyone would.

With that unfortunate, but necessary news out of the way I’d like to talk about what I have actually managed to do this year. I went to my first ever Toronto Global Game Jam and made a working board game with some collaborators, and I also attended my first ever 12-Hour Comics Marathon at the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery and completed something there too. I began writing for Sequart and, later, G33kPr0n as well. I got to cover events like the CanZine Ghost Arcade, the first WordPlay Festival, and Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market. I even wrote a review of the first day of the Toronto Afterdark. I wrote an article on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Overture #1. I met Neil Gaiman before that. I’ve tweeted with Amanda Palmer, Anna Anthropy, Christine Love, the Gaming Pixie, I wrote a review of the creative process behind Broodhollow and tweeted a bit with its creator Kris Straub, I travelled all the way to Quebec to meet some friends, and I created my first three Twine stories Level-Up, Haunted, and The Treasure of La-Mulana. I made the acquaintance and friendship of Andrez Bergen and I geek out with Julian Darius sometimes. I began reading the books of Anthony Martignetti and started to see more examples of how to incorporate one’s life with mythology to tell a story.

I’ve probably missed a whole lot of other events, but suffice to say I have been busy. It hasn’t been easy and sometimes I still feel as though I haven’t accomplished nearly enough. I know where I want to go, but I don’t always know how to get there.

But look above. I wasn’t totally useless, not everything was completely futile, and I actually did some very cool things, while I also went to many more. So there is that. I’d say, if I had to sum up 2013, I basically did a whole lot of Work. And I don’t see this coming year being any different.

So I will say right now, goodbye 2013. You had your annoyances and stresses, but we had some challenges together as well. Perhaps we planted something together that will begin to show some fruit by the time of your successor.

As for the rest of you, I will see you all, in some form, during the New Year and hopefully back on track. You know, it’s funny. The parting image that I’m going to leave you with is something that was taken in 2007 by a friend of mine I haven’t really talked with in ages, during a time of great transition in my life. There was so much I didn’t know then and I was only beginning to learn.

It seems that, to this regard, nothing ever really changes.  Until next time, my friends.

Looking Outward

Battle of the Bazaar in Bento Miso’s Winter Market

About three weeks ago, I went to Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market and since then I’ve been trying to focus on what struck me the most. I was made aware of the first Bit Bazaar, the Spring Fair, through the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and its second Comics Vs. Games creative jam and exhibit. It is an opportunity for video game creators, art-makers, and food distributors to sell their wares and have some face-to-face relation with their current and potential fans.

Bento Miso itself is a collaborative work space for independent video game developers, graphic artists, game journalists, start-up businesses, and other individuals and groups. It is also inclusive and it attempts to make itself into a minority, women, and LGBTQ-friendly safe environment. It also functions as a community space and, this year; it was really in full swing. The Bit Bazaar Winter Market covered two floors this time around: with food and drink vendors upstairs with a wide variety of games, and Torontrons and various comics artists, designers, and other exhibitor tables selling various products and awesome samples on the main floor.

What stands out for me is what the organizers and planners of the Winter Market did this year. Henry Faber, the co-founder of Bento Miso, the game designer Damian Sommer and others created a card game called Battle of the Bazaar. Essentially, what they did was they made forty-five cards (with a forty-sixth one being a rule card) that represented a majority of the exhibitor tables, specifically the main games, comics, creations and foods of the exhibitors and gave them numbers of power and special abilities. The particulars of the rules can be found on Bento Miso’s site, just as Daniel Kaszor of the Financial Post‘s “Post Arcade” goes into more detail on its creation in an interview with Henry Faber himself but what I would like to note is that each of these vendors and exhibitors possessed their cards. In order to get all of them for yourself, you had to go to each of their tables and either get one from them, or trade cards.

It was potentially a very useful tactic when you think about it. In addition to creating cards that embody the works of their exhibitors, as well as displaying the website information of all those involved (kind of like creative contact cards), the cards make up an interesting game, and the collecting of them made for a potential ice-breaker. It is true that you could go to a table near the entrance that sold the entire decks but part of the fun is collecting the cards and interacting with the exhibitors that had them. It definitely made for some interesting conversations of my own. When I wandered upstairs I began playing Apotheon, in a player verses player death-match with ancient Greek black-figure graphics (the kind you would find on pottery) in which you have to throw weapons at your opponent. After my opponent killed me brutally with a pleasant and friendly smile on his face as I barely figured out how to use the controls, I got this awesome looking “Thetis” card from the exhibitor table and it was how I became aware of the cards and eventually figured out what they were about.

I spent a lot of time at the Golden Gear Games table where I played Fate Tectonics: a game where a pretty 16-bit goddess sprite hovers over you as you attempt to build a world out of land pieces and you hope that she won’t strike you down with lightning if you get the puzzle sequences wrong. I actually bought the game in the form of hollowed out Gameboy cartridge USB port, along with some pins, a poster and a delicious brownie. I also went back and forth from that table to trade some cards with them (once I got their “Worldbuilding” card of course). Towards the end of my time there, I saw the software and game developer Alex Bethke who not only helped make Fate Tectonics but also collaborated with Dames Making Games in creating three interactive animated short stories in the form of comics. I even had the opportunity, after briefly speaking with Cecily Carver of Dames Making Games, to converse with Katie Foster on her multimedia game The Disappearance of Emily Butler. It is about a girl that returns to Newfoundland and discovers parts about her past that are more than she bargained for. What is really interesting about this game in development is that it is a point and click adventure that has an interactive comics element, with Foster being one of the Dames in Games that Alex Bethke and Golden Gear Games has created an electronic comic for. All of these interactive comics can be downloaded as the Swipe Comics Anthology Vol. I  app for the IOS: which Katie Foster had on display at her table. It is truly remarkable and as someone who is fascinated in the comics medium and its interaction with video games, it is definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on for the near future.

I traded cards between these the DMG table and Golden Gear Games, making my rounds and finally making it to Christine Love and Nadine Lessio’s Interstellar Selfie Station where I got and traded some cards with her. I’ve written on Christine Love’s games at Mythic Bios and even mentioned her Twine Workshop at the WordPlay Festival that helped me in my own creative endeavors and I was definitely going to meet up with her. Her card is “*Old Mute” and after you use its power, it makes all of your subsequent, future cards have a minus one to their score. If you have played her Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus, you will realize just how appropriate this power truly is.

After passing by many other tables towards the end of the evening, I finally caved in and came to the Pianocade Table to find out what was being soldered and put together there. Basically, I got to play with a Wii Remote that created various sound effects depending on what buttons I pushed and how I swung it. Eventually, I came across Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Asteroid Base‘s table. I’d seen this game in passing at my first CanZine Festival and I actually had a twitter conversation with Jeannie Faber, another co-founder of Bento Miso and the Event Director of the Bit Bazaar. I was actually looking forward to meeting Jeannie Faber but we never had the opportunity to run into each other and as that table was very busy, I ended up just taking a card.

As the night drew to a close, I’d managed to accumulate forty-one of the forty-five Battle of the Bazaar cards. I didn’t get to converse with everyone, but I now have leisure to look at their information and get a better sense of what their products and wares were about along with what they as individuals or teams actually do.

On the Battle of the Bazaar card “Bento Miso” card, there is this specific description. It states, “At the end of the game, if you haven’t won a round, you win the game.” Three weeks ago now I didn’t get all the cards, do everything I wanted, or even knew what to do but I think as I walked out that night, watching my fellow geeks, couples, groups of friends, and families interact I felt as though I won the Battle of the Bazaar anyway: just by simply being there.

If you are interested, Bento Miso is selling packs of its Battle of the Bazaar cards, but there are only eight decks left for $26 plus $3 dollar shipping so you’d best hurry now. They are definitely cool to have.

WordPlay in Toronto

So last week  Jim Munroe, the comics writer of Therefore Repent!, novelist, and the co-producer of the controversial Pipe Trouble game, invited me to the first-ever Toronto WordPlay Festival of Writerly Games on November the 16th. The WordPlay Festival is an event that the video game arts Hand Eye Society, of which Jim Munroe is also the executive director, in cooperation with the Toronto Public Library and with support from the Toronto Arts Council, celebrates and examines “the use of words and writing in contemporary games.”

This is not the first time that the Toronto Public Library has cooperated with either Hand Eye or the Torontonian video game scene. Not only did Jim Munroe create an interactive alternate reality game in the Library back in March of this year (in which you are part of the Literary Resistance attempting to prevent the book-burning culture from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 from ever happening) but last year the North York Central Library hosted both a Gaming Journalism Workshop for Gamercamp and a Writing for Videogames Workshop by Kan Gao: the creator of the beautiful independent Adventure RPG game To the Moon.

In fact the introduction to the Festival in the Atrium was made by Ab Velasco, a Communications Officer for the Toronto Public Library who, among things, helps facilitate special events at the Library including the Toronto Comics Arts Festival, and workshops such as Kan Gao’s and Gamercamp’s (where I first saw him). In fact, he mentioned that there is even an initiative in the Toronto Public Library system to make game-making technology free and available to library patrons as well providing eventual access to a 3D printer. This is pretty amazing news and you can tell that Ab Veslasco is having a major hand in these developments.

The Festival took place at the Toronto Reference Library and it was divided into two segments. There was a panel and a discussion that took place in the Atrium, while the WordPlay Showcase opened up its terminals with over-twenty text and story-based games to the public in Learning Centre I.

robothorse

The panel was called “Where Prose Meets Play.” It was moderated by Jim Munroe, and its other panelists were composed of freelancing conceptual artist and illustrator Rachel Kahn, game designer and animator Matt Hammill, Canadian writer, computer programmer and creator of Dinosaur Comics Ryan North, and Canadian science-fiction writer Peter Watts. Essentially, the entire first Panel looked at a wide-range of topics including the differences between storytelling for prose, comics, and writing for video games. It was some really interesting stuff: from Peter Watts stating that he had to write some very obvious descriptive passages for games that wouldn’t have worked in prose, to Rachel Kahn talking about how architecture and environment can tell a story. What I really found interesting was the discussion that examined the line between allowing a player too much freedom or giving the player too much structure and how it would be utterly fascinating to make a game, be it electronic or in book form, that allowed a player to choose the ending to their story.

WordPlay Panel

After a half-an-hour intermission there was a discussion with the Chicago-based group Cardboard Computer who created the magical realist point-and-click game Kentucky Route Zero. It was basically an interview facilitated by Miguel Sternberg, the founder of Spooky Squid Games and the creator of They Bleed Pixels, with Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbitt.

WordPlay Discussion

Unfortunately, I was not able to fully get into the discussion due to two factors. First of all, I had never heard of, nor played the game though there were some interesting thoughts that the creators were spinning around such as making a game about a character whose choices are limited by debt (a fact of life that many of us are all too familiar with nowadays), and a game level that takes place in a museum or archive filled with old video games. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that I am combining two different ideas mentioned in this discussion into one.

The other reason I had difficulty getting into the Kentucky Route Zero Discussion is due to the fact that the acoustics in the Atrium, even with microphones, were not that effective and announcements from the Library would drown out the speakers at key points. This also affected my following of the panel before it, and it is my only complaint about the Festival’s arrangement.

But since then I have done a little bit of research on Kentucky Route Zero. It is a game in five acts that, according to the WordPlay Festival bookmark, has literary influences from a writer named Flannery O’Connor. Once I looked up who this writer actually was, I saw that she utilized what is called the Southern Gothic Style: writing that relies a lot on heavy regional influences and grotesque characters. The game itself is apparently about a mysterious highway underneath the caves of Kentucky and the strange people that travel it.

I want to make a point of mentioning that not only did WordPlay occur one day after the release of the PlayStation 4, but it also featured a premier of its own. Off to the side of the audience were two desks with half-empty glasses and brick sandwiches (yes, you read and saw that right, they were actually brick sandwiches) and two Oculus Rift headsets lent to the event by the Toronto independent game designer and community work space Bento Miso.

WordPlay Brick Sandwich

Now, I’d heard of this next stage in virtual reality gaming but I didn’t really think much of it. I mean, I’d heard that these systems can cause dizziness and nausea, and I still have memories of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and so many other virtual reality promises and hopes throughout the years that eventually rendered me to the point of apathy.  But I knew that since I was covering this event, I felt compelled to try it out. I didn’t actually get to checking out the Oculus Rift until much later. In fact, I only came to them as the Festival ended and the Reference Library was closing for the night. I thought I was too late.

However, a very helpful volunteer or Cardboard Computer staff member got me an Oculus Rift and I got to play, for a while, a Kentucky Route Zero intermission level or chapter entitled “The Entertainment.” It was strange because by the time I got to it the table and items on it, including the brick sandwich, were being packed up and I had nothing to touch, but I was … impressed. Unlike the rest of Kentucky Route Zero with its pixilated 2D graphics and third-person perspective, this was first-person and it was pretty cool. Cardboard Computer made  a three-dimensional room which, like its original game looked like it was made from angles of paper or “cardboard,” but it also attempted to play with light and shadow and the distance of sound when you move your head. But I think what I found the most intriguing is the fact that there are dialogue boxes containing narration that give you physical cues as to when you should look up and listen in on a conversation. It is like being able to explore but there is also a story that subtly acts like a script when “your part” comes up. That line between free choice and structure is a theme that comes up again as it gets explored and played on in this game. I just want to add that playing an Oculus Rift for the first time with a Wii remote was an interesting experience for me as well.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I got to check out the WordPlay Showcase with that whole collection of story-based games featured on each terminal in Learning Centre I. During the Discussion with Cardboard Computer I ran into Ian Daffern again, a fellow writer and creator whom I actually collaborated with in  the 2013 Toronto Global Game Jam–my first–and he told me that he created a Twine game called TRUNKED.

Now, I have really wanted to talk about Twine on G33kPr0n for a very long time and I always take time to mention them elsewhere. Twine is software that allows writers that may not necessarily have much programming knowledge, to make interactive text-based games or stories. So I only managed to play his excellent game twice (where I died once and then actually realized that my gut instinct about a certain item could help me) before the next and final part of the Festival began.

I am referring to Christine Love’s Hands-on Workshop: Make Interactive Fiction Workshop.

For me, this was the highlight of the WordPlay Festival. In addition to the fact that Christine Love is the creator of many intensely story-based games such as Digital: A Love Story, Analogue: A Hate Story, and Hate Plus that I truly respect and adore, I was also getting the excuse to use Twine for myself and make something. After Christine Love took about fifteen minutes to run through the basics with us, she then gave us five minutes to come up with an idea, and gave us the rest of the hour before closing time to implement it. I managed to make a template to follow for what will hopefully be a series of future Twine stories to come.

WordPlay Workshop

You can even see me in this photo if you look closely. I’m asking someone for help.

But just as there is a fine line between freedom of choice and plot for a player to navigate there, this article has also been a fine line between coverage of an important event and my own personal experience.

Anna Anthropy in her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters talks about the importance of developing game-creation software and technology that is available and easy public use. She has often advocated and created many games using Twine software. It is an idea that can go beyond, or change video game industry culture and allow people who ordinarily don’t have voices in video games to express themselves and let people interact from their perspectives. It is something can change games as a medium and also the very nature of what they are. For me personally, I always felt sad because I always felt limited in what I could with games due to a lack of visual artistic ability and programming knowledge.

But what Twine allows me to do is use my own skill with words to make the games I always wanted. And having an interactive teacher, as opposed to some tutorial videos, gave me some of the basic keys to the kingdom of making interactive worlds and that, for me, is golden.

Finally I just want to also ask you, the readers of G33kPr0n, to  please check out all the hyperlinks provided above, look at the rest of Hand Eye’s Fest Pics and Showcase Links and even consider making some Twine stories of your own. If I can do it, so can you. I learned a lot from this event and I can best summarize that feeling in the title of my own very short Twine game.

Level Up

Photo Credits: Stephen Reese

My First Twine Game: Level-Up

I know that in my last post, I asked for all of your help. And very soon, I am going to show you how you can help me. There is just a little more work to do, but once that is taken care of I will explain everything in my next post this coming Thursday.

But right now, I want to talk about something else in this belated post of mine. This Saturday, at Christine Love’s Twine Workshop during the first-ever WordPlay event, set up by the Hand-Eye Society, I made my first ever Twine story. The reason I call this my first story is because, technically, it is not a game.

So here is what I am going to do. I am going to paste the link of my creation onto Mythic Bios and then, afterwards, I am going to talk about the Creative Process of it a bit. This is my experiment–my first Twine by action if not in planning–and for what it is, I am extremely proud of it. So without further ado, and without images or sounds or other fanfare allow me introduce to all of you, my loyal readers to …

Level-Up

All right, now that you played through it I want to talk about what went on behind it. Basically, a little while ago I had a story sketch in my head that almost–almost–became an entry for Mythic Bios. Really, like a lot of my creative works, it grew from a single sentence. This single sentence formed in my head and I needed to create a home for it. Then I found out, and signed up for Christine Love’s Workshop. If you have been following this Blog for a while, you will know that I have the utmost respect and enthusiasm for Christine’s storytelling and her game-making. So you will understand that I could not allow the opportunity of attending one of her Workshops to pass.

And when I was accepted onto the reservation list, I realized that I wasn’t just going to learn how to make a Twine game. I was going to make one right there, at the Toronto Reference Library, in about little over than an hour.

You have to understand that I generally plan out my stories in advance, or I take a lot of time actually making them. But Christine took the time to talk about the basics of Twine in fifteen minutes and, the next thing I knew, we had five minutes to think of an idea and then the rest of the time to implement it.

And I did.

What you are about to see here is what happens when a world is being processed in your brain for a lot longer than you thought it did. It seems I am almost always world-building in the back of my head: even when I should be doing something else … or especially then.

But this isn’t a game. This is a story fragment that somehow functions well. I made up for my lack of knowledge and technique with Twine by attempting to create the right transitions or hyperlinks. Basically, I was aiming for making a rhythm for clicking through the story from one screen to the next.

Yet, as a friend of mine who is now working on his own Twine as part of my Challenge to him observed, what I didn’t really do with the medium of Twine at this stage I attempted to do with descriptive storytelling and dialogue. Also, my second-person perspective–you–might have gotten into the mind of the character in question. Or maybe you won’t. You’ve also see that it is extremely short and lacks sound and images: hence the storytelling that is my strength.

So allow me to thank Anna Anthropy for introducing me to Twine through Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Christine Love for her Workshop and giving me the excuse to finally go beyond the theoretical and do something hands-on with the software I plan to work with, Gaming Pixie for her support and to all you for all experiencing my very first, and not my last, Twine story. It is not part of the two that I have been planning for ages, but I have to remember my priorities at this point. Also, anyone who can guess which line helped to form the entirety of the story will get bonus points from me.

Take care, my reader-player audience. I will be back here this Thursday … with news.

Looking Outward

Song Hunter

If they listen, they can tell he’s listening to the music again. It beats and wavers from the basement that Friday night as he sits at their computer. Sometimes it is a combination of industrial sounds and chiming. Other times it seems to encompass the night. There are even moments when they can make out voices, though the hard percussion and beats of the music are muffled by the floor between him and them: making the vocals only vaguely decipherable at best.

So they don’t really know what the music is, or what might–or might not–mean to him.

They don’t see him hunched over and cross-legged on the swivel chair. He sits there staring at a blank Google screen. His hands are clasped together and his fingers are entwined in front of him. They feel cold.

He listens to the music and its rhythms: as though trying to find something, trying to go back to the night beyond the basement, to the city, to a club that doesn’t exist, and another one that changed … trying to go back in time.

As he listens to VNV Nation’s “Space and Time” again, he tries to remember the remnants of a train of music. The beats are faint in his head, but they do not translate into words or anything tangible enough to work with.

One, you love the goddess,
two, you bring the night,
three, your song has ended,
and four is the god-killing light.

The half-imagined refrain of “spread the lay, Judgment Day …” faintly thunders like echoes or receding footsteps through his mind. He can’t find the song’s name: not through the typing of half-imagined fragments of lyrics on Google, or sifting through Electric Body Music on YouTube. Sometimes he wonders if the song and the dancing pale bodies were just figments of a long-standing delusion: the same one on which he had been out of this house, out of this basement … dancing …

Spread the lay,
Judgment Day …

Somehow, he thinks if he can find that song it will all come back in some way, somehow … the bouncer with the golden eyes, the concrete stairs, the welcoming dark beat …

Old dark nights two years gone sit like uneasy ashes in the pit of his stomach, rustling the occasional word, the remains of a memory, when all of it was still real …

Huddled in his sweatshirt and old sweatpants, he tries to remember the feel of black leather on his shoulders, and the luminous lights of downtown and clanking tracks, and the anticipation that far outweighed the anxiety.

And then, clicking on the mouse in one chill hand, he finds something. An 8-Tracks.

It belongs to a DJ that went to a club he knows well, though it was long gone before he ever walked the streets of Toronto on his own.

It’s music from Sanctuary.

That is when he knows. He can’t skip too many tracks: the application won’t let him. Instead, he sits and waits it out. Each wailing note and synthesized tone brings him closer. Queen Street. Floor-length black leather coats. Floating must. The night bus on the way home. A girl’s head on his shoulder.

But music creates videos inside his mind: replaying scenes that may or may not have happened. He isn’t sure yet. He isn’t sure …

Then there is the silence. And the hollow beat. He checks the list to see what it is called.

Front 242’s “Headhunter V1.0.”

Finally. Finally, he knows its name. He knows who made it. He can call it up on YouTube and the Web with impunity. He can play it whenever he wants.

And he plays it. He waits until the song comes to its crescendo and he finally–and truly–hears it.

One you lock the target,
Two you bait the line,
Three you slowly spread the net,
And four you catch the man!

As the song tells him to “Lock the target, bait the line, spread the net, and catch the man,” over and again, he listens to the rest of the music. And, for a few moments, he’s back.

He takes the bus the bus from his apartment, to the subway and to the Spadina streetcar. Sometimes he goes to the Velvet at Queen but usually it’s the Neutral Lounge. He goes there every Friday night. Sometimes he’s there with friends, sometimes meeting friends but more often than not he goes there alone …

Except for that night when he got off the streetcar. He’d been reading Soseki’s Kokoro–a novel about an old man eaten away by the shadow of guilt and youth being the loneliest time of all–when he met an unexpected Cheshire smile, electric blue eyes, the inside of a red car smelling like cigars, and something wonderful.

Until it and everything after was eroded by shadow.

Lock the target, bait the line,
spread the net, then catch the man …

Something dead stirs inside him as he finds himself back in the basement. While he is reminded of the freedom that going to that club first held for him, he also recalls the disconnect of watching the beautiful people dance and hearing nothing but the music, the fear that he would lose this place, and the emptiness underneath it all. It never seemed real. He never really belonged.

He will never dance there or anywhere as he once had. The music of the clubs is now regulated to the speakers of the computer that doesn’t belong to him and his once aggressive movements have become the nervous twitches of a burnt-out recluse. But even as the pang of what he lost reverberates through him again, he remembers the hollow feeling and the fleeting nature of happiness, and how even if he could go back–even when he could–there is nothing waiting for him there now.

Perhaps there never was. Perhaps he was just as alone there as he is here, as he was in the apartment that the people upstairs helped him take apart that last night.

Perhaps it was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Maybe it had all meant nothing.

So he sits in that basement, listening to dead music from a dead life, staring at a blank screen and reliving glory days that never happened, still remembering–like Lucifer–the time when he thought he was an Angel but always knowing that his own fall had been a slow and gradual matter of becoming an unmovable object colliding against the unstoppable force inside himself.

The real and imagined lyrics of the song he looked for, for so long, begins to coalesce in his head now: the real words hard, and his own become shadowy echoes interlapping with one another inside the dark core of what he now knows what he truly is.

One you lock the target,
one, you love the goddess,
Two you bait the line,
two, you bring the night,
Three you slowly spread the net,
three, your song has ended,
And four you catch the man!
…is the god-killing light…

Spread the lay,
Judgment Day …

Photo Credit: Sevres Babylone