Peering Back In and an Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Heavy Weight of an Unwoven Twine

I’m writing late to state that I finally started working on my Twine game in earnest.

It was a long time coming and it is a long time going. This particular odyssey began in the wintertime when I finished reading Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and I felt this burning urge to create my own game. Yes. The urge is that bad and it’s something that neither medical science nor organized religion can cure. No, my only bet after that is embracing the spiritual practice known as my creativity and delving into a place I know fondly as “What the Fuck.”

“What the Fuck” and I go way back: so much so that I usually use it for punctuated emphasis. But here it has become its own pronoun. Its own self.

So first off, I do have to say though that when you start to make a Choose Your Own Adventure Game of any kind–on paper or electronically–you begin to realize that you will have a lot of work ahead of you.

The first issue was figuring out what kind of story I wanted to tell. I mean, the fact of the matter for me is that I more or less know what I am going to say. It is the details that are challenging. It is not so much what I am going to say, it is how I am going to say it.

I do have a few things in my favour already however.

The main thing is that I know that there will be alternate branches and pathways in this story: and this aesthetic will determine the narrative structure. I won’t leave it at that, though, because I know how entirely boring talking about structures can sound. I actually started working on the idea of this game months ago: specifically writing the different worlds and places that I planned for “you”–the player–to visit and interact with. I typed up said Notes in the Draft section of my gmail account and then printed them out: to which I started writing extra places and notes on the margins.

All of the above has been the easy part. Now I am going to tell you the rest of my experience so far in fulfilling this promise–this challenge–to myself.

After I finished my notes on planes and worlds that embodied some key concepts that really stick my head, it occurred to me that this sucker had neither a title to its name, nor a name to its title. Pick one. ;P You might think that, in the initial stages that I was in, this would be nothing but in actually it is everything. I mean, sometimes I even have difficulty defining a Blog post I’m working on, so you can only imagine what this this like.

A title to a work summarizes and focuses everything that you are trying to say in a clear way that gives the reader, or in this case the player-reader, a sense of your own slant: your own vision. So for a while, I had nothing. I realized that I couldn’t flesh out what I had if I had nothing. Then, to make things even more messed up, I had parallel game ideas start to manifest at the same time: each vying for control over my Notes and trying to unify with one dominating over the others. It is an internal struggle that still threatens to manifest even at this time.

I’m not finished yet. So in addition to not being able to find a name to unify these warring idea-states, I also realized that I didn’t know what my narrative perspective was going to be. Quite simply, you know that second-person “You” pronoun? Yes. You. I’m talking about you. I was stuck between making “you” neutral in a futile attempt to make the illusion of a one size fits all, or a “you” that was more specific and had particular experiences that you, as the person and not the player-reader, do not necessarily have.

This was the state of creation at that time. I left it for a while and then, one day, I was sitting at my parents’ computer and I remembered a place: a particular realm that I wanted to make. So far, I gave my game idea a lot of working titles and names. “Hell” was at least part of one of these.

I was thinking to myself, not for the first time, that I am better at creating hell than I am at heaven. And then I thought to myself, “Matthew: how would you make a utopia?” A perfect world … I mean, we all know here that there is no such thing: at least not on the human plane. But I started thinking about what the closest thing to a utopia there was that I could get behind: something hard but something to work at.

Then I thought of a word I hadn’t remembered in a while. I wrote it down on a pre-scribbled piece of notepad paper in front of me: one of many that tend to form around me in my hazardous capacity as a writer with ideas. And it was then that this idea for a world or a state of being became part of the title for my game.

Hell still remains. You can thank my year-long reading of Paradise Lost for that and my own twisted mind. But I had something else now. I had a much clearer goal and something to work towards. I realized it was always there: I just had to name the bloody thing. Anyway, I still had some issues starting this because the ideas were still not recognizing the title that wanted to unify them into its twisted weird Twine narrative empire. They were still fighting.

So I did something else.

I did what I call now a “work-around.” I sat down and wrote out a list of books and other media that I could relate to. I imagined them as places or references that I could get the reader to relate to: making the outline of a ground that we might have in common. Then I went to sleep. The next day, I began working on the introduction to the game. Actually, that is a lie. It was the second introduction. I wrote the first introduction a while ago before I came up with the working title. It … got my point across, but it was too heavy-handed, kind of contrived and full of jargon. Still, it had some good points and some of those things will have a place in this version of what I am making now. Actually, I am making one world where you can choose to go that has Jargoning in it.

But I wrote the second introduction which hopefully sets the mood for the exploration and struggle that is about to happen. I made that and finished creating the Jargoning World.

And that is when the second level of difficulties have reared their heads.

You see, I am already feeling that this second introduction will potentially have to be rewritten. There is so much that I have to say. But I am also hoping that I can use another place to expand on it. If not, well, hopefully I will have enough of the writing done at that point to revise the beginning accordingly: Time Lord style. I’m also writing a lot of notes on a lot of the margins of this work. Bear in mind: I am writing this all down on note paper before typing it out. Think of this, all of this, as my first draft.

I am in the next part of this Project before I realized that I really needed a Travel Chart linking all of my worlds together: and where you can travel from where. So I did that, somewhat messily, and I know that will change as well: especially since I forgot a place to add already. :p I began to realize that all of these places that my game interrelate in ways I didn’t consider and it is mutating into a writhing nervous system that I need to keep growing and keeping track of.

Then I added another element that I want for the Ending and I am hoping that the Twine software–of which I have not really experimented with–will accommodate me. Yes, I did say that: though the tutorials make the overview look simple and I have played Twine games before I have not even experimented with Twine yet.

So this is the State of Chaos. And it also tells you something about me as well. I originally wanted to make a straightforward game that was, albeit, epic. Then I wanted to narrow it down into something more personalized and accept it as an early and not necessarily refined experiment. Now I realize I might well be writing a Twine novel.

I can never do anything simply. Ever. It tells you a lot about me.

I both love and hate it when this happens. I’m almost kind of … afraid. Because that is a lot of effort and it can take a lot out of me: something I know from experience.So far I’ve only worked on short stories, vignettes, and even some poetry. I have not worked on an epic work in a while and it can be terrifying: especially at the stage in my life right now. Even as it can be glorious.

It also helped, and didn’t help, that I played some awesome games these past couple of days and realized that I might be out of my depth, and even should I finish all of this–and I intend to because I feel like I really do have something to say–I don’t know if I will be making another one. It might be a one-off. And here I start to question if anyone would even bother to play it, or if I should be spending my time trying to find something that will “pay off” for me: whatever that is.

In the end though, I think my major hurdle is how personal this game is to me and I can’t not make it. So there it is. A whole post with vague details about an unmade Twine game with massive emphasis on creative process and no pictures to say that it is happening.

And despite and because of all this, I am still excited to be doing it. I will keep you all posted as this world continues to unfold. Until another time.