Friday, June 30, 2023

A Weird History of A Stranger Earth


Remember This Move did it, Cosmic Orrery did it, I am long overdue for it. Do give a look at the Learned Elder's notes, they will be helpful.

Helionativity (~4.6 BYA)

A boiling cloud of gas attains the mass required needed to begin the fusion of hydrogen. Happy birthday, Sun.

Far away, the slow death of the empire of the Elders is ongoing: the hyperspatial passages their civilization depends on corrode and collapse as the universe transitions from the Matter-Dominated Era to the Dark-Energy-Dominated Era. Shoggoths, liberated via a self-replicating protein chain capable of breaking Elder neural conditioning, strike back for hundreds of millions of years of enslavement. Rebellions across the empire have crippled vital infrastructure and wrested great swathes of territory from Elder control. Life and its direction slips from them.

The Sun's protoplanetary disk coalesces and the planets are born. Orbits are cleared. Solar winds expel the leftover dust.

Gaia-Theia Collision (~4.5 BYA)

Theia collides with Earth; the impact provides the necessary elements, energy, and unknowns to serve as the building blocks of a native siliconate ecosystem within the Terran mantle. in time this will give rise to the lithics.

Life Emerges (~3.7 BYA)

Microbial mats emerge in the Archaean oceans of Earth. The atmosphere is methane-rich and oxygen poor. These stromatolites, simple as they are, are practically a miracle.

The Elder Empire Reaches Earth (~2.5 BYA)

The vessels of that old and dimming empire arrives in the system of a recently-formed G-class star. They build a hyperspace relay on the ninth planet, part of a last, desperate effort to revitalize the fraying hyperspace network on which they depend. It will in time be called Yog-Oth by the Holocene sorcerers of Doggerland, and later Persephone by the Austrailian physicist Neville Kingston-Brown.

The system is named Relay 53325 34201 55002 21142 44322, and several of its worlds are seeded with shoggoths and cthonians for the purposes of ecoforming.

Great Oxygenation Event (~2.4 bya)

Ecoforming of the world is going according to schedule as the atmosphere shifts drastically in a short amount of time, killing off much of the microbial life on Earth.

Eukaryotic Life Develops (~1.85 bya)

The integration of shoggoth protomatter into local terran bacterial populations leads to novel mutations, such as the mass integration of mitochrondria (also known as the powerhouse of the cell)

Cambrian Explosion (~538 MYA)

With the ecoforming now completed to their liking, Elders take up permanent residence on Earth. They will have some role in guiding life, but it is a passing fancy of theirs that comes and goes.

Arrival of the Star Spawn

Ordovician-Silurian Extinction (445-444 MYA)
A Star Spawn fleet - remnant of their grand and failed revanchist conquest - arrives in-system. Most of the combat is confined to interplanetary space but a lone vessel, which will be called Dhulu, manages to break the blockade and make an oceanic landing. It is sufficiently damaged that it cannot return to space, and sufficiently intact that the invasion force is able to fight the Elders to a draw.

A period of tentative peace follows.

The Abyssal Masters (~415 MYA)

Deep in the abyssal oceans of Earth, a species of ostracoderm evolves sapience through the integration of shoggoth biomatter (though they will always claim otherwise). These are the aboleths, and they possess three defining traits: the first, mastery of sorcery. The second, absolutist self-assurance that they are rightful masters of the world. The third, sheer and total bloody-mindedness. They hate the Elders and the Star Spawn, but they are patient. They will wait.

The Yog-Oth Relay is Lost (~380 MYA)

The connection had been tenuous for nearly a gigacentury, and the Empire silent for even longer, but at last the final strand snaps under the distorting weight of the dark-matter dominated universe. 

Late Devonian Extinctions (~372 & 359 MYA) 

The aboleths wage two wars against the Elders and Star Spawn for dominance of the planet. Neither conflict has a clear winner, but the aboleths do not lose and their hated enemies do not win. They slink away to the deep places and wait. It is during this period that the first populations of Deep Ones are cultivated - by all three sides - using residual shoggoth matter and terragen sea life.

The Elders and Star Spawn retreat to their fortresses, to lick their wounds and wallow in their paranoia for an age.

Tully Monster Ascendent (~300 MYA)

A population of Tullimonstrum prove receptive hosts to a strain of shoggoth proteins and begin an accelerated (though still slow) generational journey towards sapience.

The Late Permian Civilization Complex (~260 MYA)

In the great deserts and rainforests of Pangea, multiple species of synapsid come in turn to sapience through consuming the fruit and roots of the Tree of Life. Over many years their civilizations rise and fall against and alongside each other, through times of peace and of war, through good times and through lean. There are ages of utopic peace and of Sword-Logic dissolution. They gain great knowledge and later mastery of sorcerous arts, especially the biomantic methods of growing and shaping shoggoth-matter into new forms. They become a superclade of near infinite forms and functions, and revel in their mastery of self and flesh.

Permian-Triassic Extinction / The Great Dying (252 MYA)

The world ends. Softly at first, then rising to castrophonies that could be heard far away in space.

The Elders of Earth, possessing that potent mix of scientific detachment and gigayear-long perspective, simply move to their other colonies in the system and leave the planet fallow for millions of years.

The Empire of Flesh and Bone burns, leaving no trace behind. A few synapsids, though they bear no resemblance to those species that first bore their names, flee to space and vanish from the record. Whether they died or thrived, none know.

The Yithians Arrive (~230 MYA)

The descendants of the shoggoth-adapted tullimonstrum, having developed into a placid and peaceful self-awareness, are targeted by the Great Race of Yith as their next hosts. The conomorphs are shunted off into the bodies of a species of gas-giant floaters just about to meet the sharp end of a supernova.

The Yithians take up primary residence in the warm, wet regions of eastern Gondwana, just south of the Tehtys Sea. There they build their great Library as they always have and forever will, and gather the greatest minds from across time and space to chronicle the full and true history of the universe. The aboleths and the Star Spawn are apathetic.

The Elders Return (~205 MYA)

They are fewer now, far fewer. The other worlds in the system are all in their own forms of collapse.

The paranoid and reclusive Martian Elders, having killed all their own shoggoths during the Rebellion, rule over a slowly-dying world. Consumed with pride they reject the Terran Elders as weak and cowardly; Mars is dying, but they would rather be the imperial masters of a dying world than admit failure.

The Venusian Elders succeeded at seeding the planet with life, but found themselves unable to adapt to the environment they themselves had made. Evolution, desperate to keep the species alive in the fungal forests below the clouds, stripped them of their sapience, reduced their size, specialized them into arboreal brachiators, and eventually failed in the face of the local competition - an adaptable, clever species not entirely unlike a cross between starfish and flying squirrels. The last of the Venusian Elders will die terrified of the dark shapes that glided through the soft jungles on black folds of skin.

The Jovian moons hold many remnants of Elder colonization, but no Elders at all. The oceans of Ganymede overflow with the life born of their handiwork, but the gardeners are dead or fled. On Europa, a Mind Beneath the Ice repulses any attempt to approach. The harvesting platforms of Io are silent; the subglacial cities of Callisto are empty.

The Titanian Elders shed their material bodies to inhabit vast mesas of crystalline computational substrate. These slow and solipsistic intelligences hardly recognize anything outside their simulations; the most intelligent life of the methane moon are ice-shelled, crablike beings that crawl among the Titans' processing architecture.

The icy bodies of the outer system were simply abandoned, their Elders departing on the long journey through interstellar space to parts unknown. The relay station at Yog-Oth, its passage long-disconnected from the network and now tangled in dark matter, has become a forwarding base for the mi-go, who pick through the ruins with a scavenger's keen eye.

Elder-Yithian War (201 MYA)

The Elders that survived the return to Earth brook no competition, even now at the end of their civilization, and seek to wrest the world away from the Yithians. They fail. While the Chroniclers do not put much stock in direct violence, they will defend their libraries with an incredible ferocity.

The Elders attempt to re-engineer shoggoths back under their command, but the arts are lost to them and the result is disastrous. These flying polyps swiftly escape Elder control conditioning and inflict considerable damage to both sides - so much so that their own war is abandoned The Yithians win out, and drive the polyps into the caverns beneath the earth. 

The Jurassic Cold War

Exhausted by the conflict, the world settles once again into a semi-stable equilibrium. The Yithians have their Library, the Elder Things their last great city, the Star Spawn their island stronghold, and the Mi-Go - newly arrived and claiming the old Relay - pick over the remains throughout the solar system. The polyps are imprisoned deep underground. The aboleths have taken the abyss for their own.

For beings such as these, in the senescense of their age, the years are of little account and the passing of epochs is as the turning of seasons.

Come In From The Cold

The Cold War ends not in fire but in slow, ignominious imperial decay.

The Star Spawn, failing to steal the secrets of dark-matter-era-compatible hyperspace travel from the Mi-Go, are unable to return their ancient Dhulu dreadnought to functionality. They sink their fortress beneath the ocean and enter hibernation, hoping that a day will come, millions of years hence, when the stars are right and they might return to the heavens.

The Elders too enter hibernation, though they do so grimly. There is little hope for their future - a tiny population stranded on a remote world. The last Terran Elders enter their sleep of ages, for even endless sleep is preferable to death.

End of the Library (~150 MYA)

The yithians prove to be their own undoing.

The foundations of the Library have dug too deep; polyps from the old war return to the surface, and the yithian defenses prove unable to hold them off a second time. In an effort to save at least some of the Library from the encroaching polyps, a chunk of space-time superstructure is violently torn out of the ontological lattice, carrying part of the library with it.

The yithians remaining on Earth flee into the future, and the ruins of the Library are consigned to the march of time. Those yithians that remain inside the severed Branch Library are unable to transfer their consciousnesses into the greater universe, and so are trapped in a cycle of diminishing returns - building new generations of bodies for themselves and losing something of themselves with each transfer. The beings that will be called the Docents, far in the future, are the shadows that are left. It will not be visited again until the age of the Serpentmen, far from now.

Pax Cretaceana

With the loss of the Library, Earth has no remaining civilizations on its surface. The aboleths and the lithics, in the deep abyss of sea and stone, carry on as they always have. The flying polyps diversify into a variety of clades, but their teratomatic morphologies do not lend themselves to wide propagation - they are, after all, living cancers. Within a few million years, all that are left of the terran shoggoth strains are the Dark Young, the Trees of Life, and a few scattered ancients clinging to life by the thermal vents in the deep oceans.

The world is quiet.

The Cretaceous Troodontid Civilization (~67 MYA)

The quiet of the Cretaceous is interrupted by the development of an intelligent species of troodontid. Their energetic civilization goes through several global boom and bust cycles. They develop some sorcerous traditions of their own, though never reach the complexity and power of the synapsids or other powers.

Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction (66 mya)

The causal dance of physics ends the Mesozoic with a bang. Curtain call arrives in the form of an asteroid impact on the Yucatan peninsula, killing off approximately 75% of all life on Earth and anything larger than 25 kilos.

The Troodontids, despite their forays into orbit, were not able to escape their fate. The synapsids long before them had time to plan and prepare; The troodontid civilization was obliterated in an instant, their ghosts burned into the background ontology of creation. Many demons of later eras are indeed the shadows left behind of this people, and some remnants of their occult engineering (such as the semi-functional global leyline network) remain intact even to this day.

And They Were As Gods Upon The Earth (~64 MYA)

A clade of dinosauroids, heavily modified for orbital operations, return to the recovering Earth after the deterioration of their nesting stations. Their descendants, the dragons and drakes, will retain something of their vast solar-sail wings and internal fusion furnaces, but evolution will never overcome their population-control engineering, and so they will never attain more than localized environmental dominance in the age of mammals. They shall never return to space, and few, if any, will ever achieve intelligence via the Trees of Life.

The Long and Empty Age

While life on Earth rebounds in the wake of the K-T Extinction, the great civilizations of the Mesozoic are not replicated. With the loss of the Trees of Life, the planet is left fallow of intelligence for a long, long time.

The Serpent Men (53 MYA)

The Serpentmen rise to prominence in the hothouse of the Eocene. They are the descendants of a species of small burrowing lizard that had taken shelter among the roots of Trees of Life through the catastrophe, and in eating on the roots the process of neuron multiplication began. They are not true serpents (for they retain their forelimbs), but the name will suffice. Their rise to sapience is uncontested, and soon they are the dominant power on land. They make contact with the aboleths, the deep ones, and the lithics. For the most part, the thinking beings of Earth are of such vastly different environments that they have little reason to interact beyond some occasional trade and sporadic war.

The Ice Ages Begin (~33 MYA)

The cooling of the planet during the Oligocene forces the Serpentmen civilization underground. A few lone researchers remain on the surface in their towers and citadels, attended to by their legions of sorcery-born servitors.

Humans. Arriving. On the scene. (~2.8 MYA)

Hominids evolve in eastern Africa. Despite their intelligence and tool usage, the Serpentmen pay them no mind until, thanks to some heterodox scholars chasing odd fields of study, it is discovered that these hominids are capable of Dreaming - and thus, capable of birthing a new Great One. This is beyond both the Serpentmen and the Mi-go, and thus of immense interest to both parties.

The Great Ones

Beings that Dream might give birth to Great Ones; their dreams will coalesce into vast gestalts of the species, growing in power and complexity until the combined oneironic weight of their slumbering achieves singularity and the Dream is now able to shape the Dreamer,

Many dream-deities will form and shine briefly before retreating to the ranks of the mild, quiet gods of Earth. Our current age is dominated by two such bright-burning deities warring against each other: Matar Kubileya and the Gollyknack. Of these two much more can be said, but history is long in the tooth and their war is an aside for another time.

The Experimentals (~1 MYA)

The Serpentmen begin a myriada-long experimental project. Populations of humans were isolated and monitored - their bodies modified through biological and sorcerous means, their cultures guided by the scaly hand. These experimental civilizations will later be called the nations of Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, Atavatbar and others by later occultists who knew just enough of the truth to look the other way.

Fall of the Serpent (~32 KYA)

Chafing under long generations of subjugation, the humans enslaved by the Serpentmen join together in solidarity and overthrow their puppermasters.

In truth, the Serpentmen civilization was nearing its natural end. The underground population had been weathered away by wars with the lithics and their own antisocial natures. Even fewer remained on the surface; the last overseers of projects that had born them only stunted and inedible fruit.

After the Serpent-War (~31 KYA)

The war-alliance collapses with the loss of a common enemy. Atlantis, enriched on looted serpentine citadels, makes wars of subjugation against its neighboring nations. In time the others fall or go into hiding; Atlantis loots their cities and razes their lands, and sends their captive populations to its colonies.

The Dream-War (~30 KYA)

At the height of their hubris, Atlantis mounts an invasion of the Dreamlands; they cannot endure the existence of those who dream free of their yoke. Their forces are rebuffed, but in breaching of the Gates of Sleep they gain the notice of the Great Nightmare.

The Great Nightmare's influence spreads among the Atlantean priesthood and nobility, and it was handed perhaps the perfect clay for shaping. The imperial designs of the Atlanteans have made them vulnerable to such subversions, and within three generations their civilization has fractured into civil war. In another, their homeland is no more.

Those lucky enough to survive the collapse flee to the shores of Europe, Africa, and North America, all those places where their colonies once stood. But those colonies had withered away to ruins and the hollow-faced folk who haunted them. The Atlantean remnant succumbs to disease, starvation, cold, and resistance from the local populations. Within four generations their colonies have collapsed. In four more, they are only dim memories. All that remains of Atlantis is the flying fortress of Laputa, which shall endure until the War of Atom's Eve.

The Closing of the Age (~11.5 KYA)

A sorcerous artifact, forged by the highest disciple of Great Nightmare and thought lost during the fall of Atlantis, is discovered by a kuduk tribe of the land that will be called Oxenaford. Recognizing the danger, a handful of the tribe's members depart southward towards the Sea in the Center of the World to destroy the artifact in the volcano Aitho.

With the artifact's destruction, the Great Nightmare's last ties to the waking world are severed.

Fin, and Sequel Hook(~8 KYA)

As the world warms and the Age of Ice draws to a close, Doggerland sinks beneath the sea. With it go the last remnants of the peoples who will falsely be called the Hyperboreans.

Here then ends the history that came before.

Monday, June 26, 2023

MSF: The Beloved Student and the Dog Knight

The Beloved Student was traveling by long and lonesome road when they happened upon a man clad in rags and lying in a ditch. Moved with compassion, the Beloved Student went to offer him the cloak from their shoulders, only for the man to spring up and away from their hand, spitting and snarling as an angry dog.

Startled, the Beloved Student drew back and exclaimed:

"What are you - a man who lives as a beast, or a beast that wears the guise of a man?"

"A reminder," the man growled in the voice like woodsmoke and firewater. As he emerged from the shade of the ditch to the light of the road, he picked up a sword from the dirt at his feet and brandished it as if it were a revelation: its tip was broken off; its edge was chipped and blunted; a great crack ran down its length; its corroded blade was caked in blood and dirt and the filth of men's bowels.

"Behold, my trade."

This sign the Student recognized, and they said:

"Ah! You are a kapalika, then."

"As good a name as any," the beggar said as he hung the sword from a loop of his fraying rope belt. "What do they say of me and my brethren, back in the green and peaceful lands?"

"That a kapalika might fight a thousand men alone and unclad and emerge victorious."

"Ah." The beggar crouched down and began writing something in the dirt. "Whoever told you that is either a liar or an idiot."

"Do you mean to say that you killed ten thousand?"

"I mean to say that I have no reason to count anything beyond what my fingers might provide. I am a slaughterer of men, ought I keep score like a boy playing kickball? Whether I killed a thousand or ten thousand or merely ten is of no difference to me."


The beggar stood back up, his knees cracking. He scuffed out what he had drawn with his tattered sandal.

[What he drew in the dirt is a matter of intense scholarly debate - ed.]

"I can see the question on your face. Best get it over with."

"While I recognize your trade, I do not know what reminder you make of yourself."

At this the beggar barked once in what was not unlike laughter, and phlegm caught in his throat so that he spat it into the dust before speaking further.

"You have gone out into the world to teach the ways of compassion and the paths of peace. I have gone out to preach the Sword Law to those who have forgotten its precepts."

"What is this Sword Law, that men so easily forget it?"

"The principle act of power is this: to shove a sharp piece of metal in the guts of another man. Dominion is made and sustained through mastery of the application of death and the manufacture of corpses. Kings and princes will name it glory and honor and duty, they will say it is a matter of law, of rights, of faith and of necessity. They will name it a thousand beautiful names, hide its gaping and maggoty wounds with silken robes, shower it in perfumes to mask the abattoir stench, drown its ghosts in wine, raise banners in honor and sing hymns of praise...but Sword Law does not change. It is the blade itself. Those princes and kings will wave from their palanquins and pavilions and think all costs justified. They have rejected the manudûn and chosen to live by the sword; Thus they shall die not as men die, comfortable in the house of their kin, but as disciples of the sword die. I am the reminder of true Sword Law, and thus I butcher men without sparing them the dignity I grant the rats that are my supper."

"Your law is a brutal and wretched thing," said the Beloved Student.

"Would you consider the killing of men to be anything else? Come now. But it is good that you are disgusted. Your soul remains intact. You need not be worried: My sword is for the humbling of hypocrites - the innocents learning by your side have nothing to fear from me." He grinned, revealing crooked and blackened teeth. "So long as they remember."

"I do not think you would be easy to forget."

"And yet, men so often do." He reached to an inner pocket of his dirt-caked robe and withdrew a small stoppered gourd from within. He removed the cork and there was the burning smell of gâzolin. He downed the mouthful, hissed with an intake of breath, and tossed the empty gourd aside.

"I will give you a proverb, in remembrance of this meeting: there is no mastery of the sword. It will destroy all you hold dear should you take to its teachings, and then it will destroy you. Do not think as kings and imbeciles do, that you are immune to the blade because you know the proper forms of its use. Hate the sword if you must have anything to do with it; it will still destroy you, but perhaps it might not become your master."

Silence reigned for a time, for the beggar had nothing more to say and the Beloved Student had no response. But they recovered their words and as the beggar made move to leave they said:

"A last question, sir. Who shall I say sent this message?"

The beggar smiled again, wider and more horrible than before. His gums bled.

"Tell them you heard it from a wild dog along the road. A jackal or dhole would do nicely."

And so the beggar walked past the Beloved Student, north on the road. When he had gone a stone's throw and a half, he turned and called back:

"A word to the wise, be it you or another: if you are to continue south, do so by a different road. This one has become difficult to pass."

With that the beggar staggered off the road and up the western hill, until at last he was out of sight. The Beloved Student watched him go before turning around northward and retracing their path back to the last crossroads.

Not far along that same road, a parasang or so south from that meeting place, crows gathered council in great black clouds. They settled upon the fields like a dew, alighting on new-formed hills of meat piled high and left to rot. Armor glistened under crusted gore, and banners hung limp beneath the burning sun.

** Notes**

[1] I'm not even reading Kill Six Billion Demons at the moment, I have no idea what the current arc is about other than Maya is involved.

[2] Dog Knights started as expys of Maya, but they've since accumulated traits of Sufi sword-saints (thanks Ènziramire!) and aghori.

[3] The Beloved Student's main appeal as a character and as a saint of the Painted Ones is their persistant gormlessness. They are naive, unaware, unimaginative, lacking in focus, and altogether somewhat of a dunce. They are the living embodiment of "bless their heart". But, the thinking goes, if this dunderhead can ascend the mountain, then the way is possible to anyone. To this end they feature often in comedic stories, and very often those geared towards children, and are always played off of someone more worldly and experienced - usually their teacher Jizo, but this is not the only encounter they will have with a Dog Knight.

[4] Dog Knights appear occasionally in the oral corpus, though they are rarely ever named - if they are, they will be called Jackal or Dhole or Hound or Hyena or Thylacine or something of that nature. This leads to them forming a sort of gestalt character, where every Dog Knight is treated as an aspect of a single, continuous personage. One might say that a Dog Knight appeared or the Dog Knight appeared and there is no real difference.

[5] Dog Knights, as evidenced in this story and in stories like it, inhabit the role of the of an opposite to the Painted Ones - not as opponents, but as a separate dharma entirely [aside] I can't think of a better way to describe this at the moment, we are brushing up agaist some rather obtuse in-universe philosophical and spiritual principles and I don't have a word of my own creation on-hand to describe "one of multiple simultaneous methodologies of achieving an enlightened spiritual state", so dharma it will remain for the time being. [/aside]

[6] Painted Ones are MSF's boddhisatva-analogues (hardly even subtle ones, the most prominent of them is name Jizo) We'll get more of them in the future: All you need to know now is that the name comes from the usage of body paints as a signifier of their role. There's also some definite influence from Sonchin in Hellboy/BPRD. You can consider the Dog Knights to be the left-hand to the Painted Ones' right, but the way that is typically framed in the world of MSF is more cooprative than combative.

[7] Some of the traditions that use the hand-path schema have upwards of a dozen of them - imagine a statue of Lu with the Hindu deity multiple-arm thing going on, each implement or hand sign representative of a different magical tradition. But again this is an in-universe way of looking at things. Everything is canon, especially the parts that contradict.


Saturday, June 24, 2023

5 Forgotten Fictional Fantasy Novels

Your local Book Club Witch is back in town, let's see what she's got on offer.

 1. The Lion's Banner (1948)

After his death, a critic called Edward "Ed" Marsh "America's forgotten Tolkien" - a title Marsh would have rejected, but not an entirely untrue one. The Lion's Banner and its sequel (Last Campaign of the Lion's Banner) are accounts of a mercenary company inspired by the author's experience as an infantryman during the the Italian theater of World War II - some characters, scenarios, and dialogues are, according to Marsh, 1:1 translations of reality. The world of the novel is a loosely sketched fantasy Mediterranean in the wake of an imperial collapse, drawing many elements from Greco-Roman myth and history world (down to a wildly popular messianic cult emerging in the background) and occasionally interrupted by incursions of alien and incomprehensible powers. The narrative points of view are universally either footsoldiers or camp followers - the kings and generals leading the Thousand-Crown War are portrayed as distant and inscrutable beings, even further removed from common humanity than the gods. This, along with other socially-aware elements uncommon (but not unheard of) for the time period have fueled a small but devoted modern following. 

2. Durac the Swordsman, Hero of Zaag (1976)

At first glance, it is a pornographic pastiche of the John Carter series. Closer reading reveals a rather brutal personal reflection on loss, addiction, mortality, and the failures of the counter-culture movement. Both Durac and the Zaaganian princess Moroque are trapped in self-destructive spirals of their own making, and while the warlord is defeated the protagonists' futures do not look particularly bright or lengthy by the end of the book.

Critical analysis of the book tends to put a great focus on the life of author John Duke. Duke's wife had committed suicide in 1973 and this was the source of much of the nihilism in Durac and its three sequels. It also accelerated Duke's already-severe alcoholism, which would lead to his own death in 1981. 

3. The Bloody Pearl (1926)

A rip-roaring pulp pirate adventure starring Siobhan O'Toole, Terror of the Crown, in her quest for treasure and revenge across the Caribbean. Written by schoolteacher Mary Hammet under a pseudonym, the book has frequently found itself challenged or banned due to its depictions of sexuality, violence, and unladylike behavior, but found itself most often challenged because of the interracial relationship between O'Toole and her longtime rival/friend Jean d'Capiteur. These challenges eventually escalated to a 1951 obscenity trial in which Hammet was forced to reveal her identity as the author. The trial did not go in her favor (she was declared in contempt of court for her combative responses to the prosecution and refusal to recant her statements) and as a result she was effectively blacklisted from publishing for the rest of her life. In her later years, devote herself as an ally of the civil rights movement (following in the footsteps of her abolitionist grandmother), participating in marches up through 1963 mere months before her death at the age of 85. As copyright was not renewed for The Bloody Pearl and the other Siobhan O'Toole novels, they were unaffected by the 1976 Extension Act and fell into public domain in the mid to late 50s, but have only recently had a resurgence in popularity thanks to efforts of Hammet's great-grandson.



4. And the Birds Cry Havoc (2007)

An early exemplar of the modern queer body horror and splatterpunk genres, And the Birds Cry Havok was published online in irregular serial installments beginning in June of 2007. Its grotesque, dreamlike, and chronologically asynchronous narrative details the incursions of "teratomatic space" into our world and the resulting influence of a decadent and brutal "meat-fascist" state.

While the story gained a small and devoted following, updates stopped without explanation in October of 2009, leaving the story unfinished midway through the fourth of five acts. Communication with the already-reclusive author gunkbird also ceased at this point, and episodes of dedicated sleuthing turned up nothing. The website ceased operating in 2012, and with only partial coverage on Internet Archive the story was thought lost until a reader stepped forward with a self-compiled pdf copy. The fan community, including several of the "sludgies" (earliest adopters) later produced a version with better formatting, commentary essays and art, which is available on multiple storefronts as a pay-what-you want purchase, with proceeds going to organizations serving at-risk queer youth.



 "The Saga of Eric" (2014-2019)

A glimmer of creative genius shining even in the depths capital's all-devouring machine, the "Saga of Eric" would have gone completely unnoticed by the world were it not for a stray Reddit post pointing out the apparent continuity between two commercials for BKO Insurance. Smelling a treasure hunt, a small community formed around these hidden links and visual gags, and swiftly pieced together that there was indeed a meaningful narrative beneath the bizarre non-sequitors and inane advertising tag lines. As theories gained footing and new commercials aired, the sleuths pieced together the outline of a greater narrative of Eric (the everyman spokescharacter)'s life. Over the course of the commercial series (told anachronistically), we see Eric struggle through the loss of his job, the collapse of his toxic codependent marriage, his brother's cancer diagnosis, a backpacking pilgrimage through Europe, the rescue of his son from online radicalization, and his relationship and eventual (much healthier) marriage to his second wife, all interlaced with alchemical imagery building towards the Magnum Opus.

BKO insurance was bought out in 2019 and the Eric commercial series was shuttered. No one has come forward to claim responsibility for writing them.

Friday, June 16, 2023

100 Good Words

Wiktionary has an archive of non-English words of the day. I was bored one evening and started going through at random, pulling out some of my favorites. Might as well make a random table.

Since these are all trawled from Wiktionary, apply some salt as you deem necessary. Turns out if the language uses a non-latin alphabet it is very difficult to find an entry again after you lose the link so I might be missing some of the diacritics.

100 Good Words

    1. -pháka (v): 1) to serve food 2) to distribute, allot (Zulu)
    2. āghāya (n): n) killing, striking, stroke, blow (Prakit)
    3. ahava (n): 1) cold wind 2) weather-beaten skin (Finnish)
    4. ajatasten Tonava (n): "Danube of Thought"; person with many pointless thoughts (Finnish)
    5. àlmājirī (n): 1) student, often itinerant 2) beggar (Hausa)
    6. āltepētenāncoyoctli (n): small gate in a city wall (Classic Nahuatl)
    7. amiqui (v): to die of thirst; to be thirsty; to drown (Nahuatl)
    8. ana-baci (n): 1) mother and sister 2) a man's sense of honor (Azerbaijani)
    9. anniskelu (n): the serving of alcohol 2) saloon, pub (archaic) (Finnish)
    10. apenrots (n): 1) a rock on which monkeys live 2) a silly hierarchical environment (Dutch)
    11. armentum (n): draft animal suitable for a plow (Latin)
    12. åskblå (adj): dark grey-blue, as a thunderstorm sky (Swedish)
    13. atakanar (v): to fix, to repair 2) (reflexive) to dress up (Ladino)
    14. auzhandil (n): morning star, Venus (Gothic)
    15. avoda (v): 1) worship, service 2) work, job, labor (Hebrew)
    16. ayiq (adj): 1) sober 2) conscious, awake 3) vigilant (Azerbaijani)
    17. ayni (n): community work, mutual aid; solidarity (Quechua)
    18. bacōnālis (adj): fit for bacon (Latin)
    19. blāc (adj): pale, shining, white (Old English)
    20. boia (n): 1) executioner 2) hangman (game) 3) scoundrel, villain (Italian)
    21. borken (v): 1) to bark 2) to grumble or whine 3) to complain or insult (Middle English)
    22. bplòt-ɛ̀ɛk (v): to liberate from oppression, or servitude. Lit.”to remove the yoke” (Thai)
    23. buraxmaq (v): to let go; to release; to let; to leave; to publish; to let through (Azerbaijani)
    24. chronophage (adj): time-consuming (French)
    25. chumbo (n): 1) lead 2) shot, pellet 3) failure 4) rejection (Portugeuse)
    26. cindṑ (n): someone with six fingers on each hand (Hausa)
    27. csufnev (n): unflattering nickname based on a characteristic or event (Hungarian)
    28. dabbaja (v): 1) adorn, deck out, embellish 2) to express splendidly (Arabic)
    29. diskabresta (v): to lose self-control (Kabuverdianu)
    30. djodjomano'o (v): you (several creatures) shut your eyes (Tonkawa)
    31. dodo (n): 1) being a deep, rich red 2) fried plantain (Yoruba)
    32. dvärgalåt (n): petty, unmotivated criticism (Swedish)
    33. dygna (v): to stay awake for 24 hours (Swedish)
    34. dzjákuj (int): thank you, thanks (Belarusan)
    35. gaduji (adj/n): adj) all together n) collective labor (Cherokee)
    36. gadzinówka (n): local-language newspaper serving an occupying force (Polish)
    37. gallicinium (n): time of early morning when roosters crow (Latin)
    38. gatarî (n): 1) a multitude of cats 2) a long meow (Emilian)
    39. Gedankenwelt (n): the world of ideas (German)
    40. glodomór (n): one who is constantly hungry; one who is starving (Polish)
    41. hero hero (n): red, crimson (Rapa Nui)
    42. ḥina'iḏin (adv): then, at that time (Arabic)
    43. hoyreg (n): murder victim; corpse (Yiddish)
    44. hranrād (n): "whale road"; poetic kenning for the ocean (Old English)
    45. ikara (v): 1) to sit 2) to stay / remain 3) to dwell (Kikuyu)
    46. ixuxu (int): 1) battle cry or challenge 2) cry of joy or excitement (Asturian)
    47. jǐngdǐzhiwā (n): person of limited life experience; (Modern Standard Chinese)
    48. kagiroi (n): 1) heat haze (archaic) 2) the glow of dawn (archaic) (Japanese)
    49. karadaki (n): heating empty cookware (forgetting to fill the kettle, etc) (Japanese)
    50. kokolares (n): nonsense, balderdash, gibberish (German)
    51. krāntikāri (n): a revolutionary (Hindi)
    52. kulukulu (n): 1) the smell of raw meat or fish (Saetomense)
    53. kümütüdi (n): termite nest in which the placenta of a newborn is buried (Maquiritari)
    54. lankous (n): familial relationship to spouse's brother (Finnish)
    55. ling-lôot (v): "monkey-jumping"; to be overjoyed (Thai)
    56. lletraferit (adj/n): adj) well-read, bookish n) book-lover, "book-smitten" (Catalan)
    57. lodikor (adj): likely or tending to become fat (Basque)
    58. lyard (adj): having dappled grey and white spots (Middle English)
    59. madro (n): peace or silence after a meal (Danish)
    60. malandrar (v): 1) to get by at others' expense 2) to do nothing productive (Portuguese)
    61. malaya (int): expression of annoyance or unpleasant surprise (Asturian)
    62. manželée (n): married couple (Czech)
    63. marambaia (n): landlubber (Portuguese)
    64. matasanos (n): quack doctor (Spanish)
    65. māyā (n): 1) art, wisdom, inhuman/supernatural power (Vedic Sanskrit)
    66. mimochodem (adj): 1) by the way 2) en passant (Chess move) (Czech)
    67. mnkhwani (n): pumpkin-leaf relish (Chichewa)
    68. mokutō (n): 1) a silent prayer 2) to offer such (Japanese)
    69. nekás (n): 1) pile of corpses 2) line of soldiers 3) the dead (Ancient Greek)
    70. nunu (conj): now then, therefore, consequently (Gothic)
    71. nyan (v): to see vaguely (Abau)
    72. ouranóthen (adv): from heaven (Ancient Greek)
    73. panero (n): someone who loves bread (Spanish)
    74. pāngtuó (adj): 1) of rain, torrential 2) of tears, streaming, 3) vast, plentiful (Chinese)
    75. pāthnā (v): to press cakes out of dung (Hindi)
    76. pekoral (n): a text written in a pompous, grandiose, ridiculous style (Swedish)
    77. pócima (n): potion (Spanish)
    78. pruikentijd (n): "Wig Era" - humorous/informal/pejorative name for 18th century (Dutch)
    79. śaraṇārthi (n): 1) suppliant, petitioner 2) refugee (Sanskrit)
    80. sbarazzino (adj/n): adj) impish, cheeky, mischevous n) scamp, imp (Italian)
    81. sebu (n): used-media store (Brazilian Portuguese)
    82. shashimamishi (adv): haughtily, arrogantly (Swahili)
    83. shilah (n): 1) Elder sibling of opposite gender 2) maternal cousin (Navajo)
    84. sôtôrôkôm (adj): "hundred-fold" (Bengali)
    85. suppēdō (v): “I fart quietly” (Latin)
    86. tabanka (n): performance of theft of a saint (represented by a flag). (Kabuverdianu)
    87. ṭaqs (n): 1) weather, climate, forcast 2) religious rite (usually in plural) (Arabic)
    88. tausi (n): a grand, a thousand Euros (slang) (German)
    89. teōpixqui (n): priest, lit. “god-guarder” (Classical Nahuatl)
    90. thokar (n): 1) striking an object with the toe 2) loss, injury, damage (Gujurati)
    91. tlīlātl (n): abyss; deep water; ritual healing water of Ixtiliton (Classical Nahuatl)
    92. tsindn (v): to light, to kindle (Yiddish)
    93. ūhtcearu (n): pre-dawn anxiety (Old English)
    94. ungkeurida (v): 1) to crouch 2) to exist in a suppressed or hidden state.
    95. valtr (adj): easily upset; unstable, unsteady (Icelandic)
    96. xalāsi (n): 1) railroad worker 2) dockyard worker 3) menial fisherman (Hindi)
    97. xìyǎn (n): most interesting part of an opera or film (Modern Standard Chinese)
    98. yibatha (n): a female marriage class / skin group (Gamilaraay)
    99. žāč̣ă (n): beard (Adyghe)
    100. zamordyzm (n): authoritarianism (informal, derogatory) (Polish)

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Slush Pile 14: Scrapped Posts

Since it's only been two months since the last slush post, this one is a bit different: instead of a nice list of notebook ephemera, it's going to be a post-mortem on some posts I have scrapped in the name of early summer cleaning. Need to get things moving the draft doc has been hovering around 30,000 words for months now.

Old Slushpiles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Into the Trash Pit With Ye!


Scrap Post 1: Making a Better Toki Pona


I don't like Toki Pona all that much, and had floated the idea of either re-doing the vocabulary via direct crafting or sound change into something more varied and interesting, perhaps adding more complex grammar later.

Reason to Scrap It: Well, I don't like Toki Pona to begin with, why am I wasting the time and effort trying to make it something better when I can just start with something I do like and make that better?

Also, every single resource for sound changes out there is severely deficient in one critical area, and it's a different feature that's missing in each one. Incredibly aggravating and also something no one else would care about (and for good reason). I still want to do something with diachronics, but it will be with some other source language. If I can ever find an actually useful resource for stupid sound changes.



Scrap Post 2: Implied Class Politics in Dungeoncrawling


A lengthy post starting with the premise "A fighter, a thief, a wizard, and a cleric delve deep into ancient, monster-filled ruins in search of treasure." and spinning it out into a full implied setting of a collapsing imperialist power economically exhausted by forever-war against its neighbors. Fighters are veterans that were never able to re-integrate into society after the war, thieves are emblematic of widespread organized crime filling the power vacuums left be a weakened centralized state, wizards are specialized remnants of the war machine now finding that there are far more wizards out there than there are jobs for wizards now that the war's done, and clerics are there specifically to put the undead (caused by generations of forever war) back to rest at the behest of some major organized religion or another.

Reason to Scrap It: Honestly, I don't give enough of a shit about Generic Vernacular Dungeoncrawling to write out a Marcia-style critical analysis, especially when the end result is going to be "It's a successor state to not-Rome, that looks a whole lot like not-America when you squint at it." There's nothing novel or new there, and so the entire exegeitic exercise, no matter now fun to daydream about, is spinning wheels and wasting pagecount.

If I'm going to do it, I should actually do something with the concept instead of just navel-gazing. It's good flavor, but no one's going to call a pot full of only paprika good cooking.


Scrap Post 3: The Good Parts of 60 Years in Space

As is my custom, I over-promised and under-delivered. Not for lack of trying, but eventually I had to get delete the drafts for my own sanity. I had some tables, some loosely sketched factions, a history of the solar system, all junked.

Reason to Scrap It: These books are unusable - not even the cocktail of hyperfocus, sunk cost fallacy, and white-whale chasing could squeeze something directly usable from these books. It was quite obvious that I was only going to make myself stressed and miserable trying to make it work, so I had to pull the plug.

I did have a personal revelation that, in these cases where I become hyper-fixated on games that I like conceptually but strongly dislike otherwise, comes from subconsciously compensating my own executive dysfunction by latching onto something where the executive functions and most of the legwork is already taken care of by someone else.

(God, of the Three White Whales, why do the ones that actually have stuff to work with have no 3rd party license while Eclipse Phase has CC but so little to work with.)


Scrap Post 4: The Longest Night Compilation

The Longest Night is a mod for Dwarf Fortress taking place in the nightmarish transhuman future and it's got a lot of really cool flavor tucked away inside of it. I wanted to do a compilation of monsters and posthuman clades and whatnot, which only got as far as a bit of copy-pasting descriptions from the entity files.

Reason to Scrap It: Low payoff for considerable effort in copying-compiling-cleaning the data.


Scrap Post 5: A Terrible Mass Effect Theory

Thesis: the ardat-yakshi condition is the result of inbreeding. Asari are an extremely long-lived, low-population species with generation-overlapping childbearing periods (high consanguinuity risk), culturally and potentially biologically reinforced exogamy (most effective means of preventing consanguine relations), and consider the ardat-yakshi condition so culturally shameful that its existence is hidden from the greater galactic community and anyone known to have the condition is either sequestered in a monastery for the rest of their life or hunted down and killed (response would be overkill for a congenital condition unless there was an unspoken factor at play.)

Reason to Scrap It: I have written it, the idea is exorcised. Also since we don't know the extent of the prothean uplift project this theory is rather tenuous and I'm certain the writers at Bioware were not thinking of this implication when writing ME2.



Scrap Post 6: Gazu Hyakki Yagyo Translation


The Gazu Hyakki Yagyo (Night Parade of a Hundred Demons) by Toriyama Sekien is an illustrated bestiary of yokai first published in 1776 and that's the post. It's a big four-volume list of spookums and a fine resource for any referee, but while digging through the wikipedia pages I got to thinking about its value as a work-in-translation. Translation in the sense of keeping the same concept but altering the name and appearance and the externalities to put it in a new context. The same book with different faces, different cultural milieus and environments. I can imagine versions adapted to the ancient Mediterranean, to Appalachia, to deep space, and so on. I'd written down a list of all the yokai in the first two volumes, started going through the kanji of their names to make literal translations first and then thematic ones later, but it never really went anywhere. 


Reason to Scrap It: Frees up cognitive load. The Muse arrived, and then departed, don't have the drive for sitting down with Wiktionary right now. Maybe I'll come back to it, whip up Yokai of the High Frontier

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Bookpost 12

 Previous installments found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 , 7, 8, 9, 10 , 11

The Hall of the Mountain King, Judith Tarr

DNF 94/238

I grabbed this in an omnibus for two bucks at a library book sale, and I feel somewhat bad about dropping it - it is Fine Enough epic fantasy, but it is very, very much of its time (1986, specifically), and while it has no crippling flaws it is a very slow, heavy work - the omnibus pages are bigger than standard and the print is small, so those 94 pages are probably closer to 130-150 standard and just...not a lot has happened. The setup is good, in a classic sense - king whose daughter (and heir) has been missing for years is revealed to have died, with her demigod son via the sun-god delivering the news. The king's other child by a second wife is not pleased with this, nor is his mother. Classic stuff, evil jealous uncles and their sorcerous mothers. Not too big a fan of the rather uncomplicated cosmology (sun = good and masculine, dark = bad and feminine), and if it gets subverted later on I don't know. The prince is fun in the "young character who knows more than they should and uses that to freak out / mess with other people" sort of way. It was significantly more homoerotic than I was expecting (granted, I had no expectations at all going in, having never heard of the author or the book.)

It was a very interesting look into the mists of the past and books that have been forgotten, but my ADHD-addled and novelty-seeking brain couldn't find the space for it. 


Children of Memory, Adrian Tchaikovsky

HE'S DONE IT AGAIN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Where even to begin? I'm awed by his deft handling of high concepts, his unwillingness to leave behind the close-to-home and the human elements, his ability to craft a good sentence. Children of Memory builds on its predecessors in the way all good sequels do, and he has managed to increase the scope without pigeonholing himself into a game of one-upmanship - I'd love to see a novella collection of other colony worlds and their unique stories (I appreciate that so much in this series - every planet is unique in its existential circumstances and that uniqueness makes reading about the ins and outs of terraforming mightily interesting.)

As in the other books, he can take well-trod conceptual ground and make it new and fresh again, and that is a skill often overlooked.

Skerples has said that, if this series had been released 20 years ago he would be considered a revolutionary figure in sci-fi. Certainly, the timeline where he takes off in place of Alastair Reynolds is one that is, in one small way, perhaps a little brighter.


Always Coming Home, Ursula K. LeGuin


What can I say? LeGuin's work, as always, is a beacon of calm in a chaotic world. I will have more to say in the future, for I have not finished it yet: This is a book that I need to get a copy of my own - it's not something I can just read through all at once. I go and then leave and then come back to read more.

The book is a fantastic and lived-in portrait of a people that has never existed. It feels a disservice to call it worldbuilding, it is so much more vibrant and alive than so much of spec-fic. It is LeGuin at her most LeGuin. The people and the place may exist only in the mind but in the eye of my imagination I can see the scrub hills, the morning mists, the dappled shade. Down in the valley, I can hear a distant drum and the sounds of the people singing heya...

No recommendation higher.


The Lady Who Picked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window, Rachel Swirsky

A novella about a sorceress whose spirit is bound to the land and is summoned over and over, witnessing the great changes over the centuries and millennia.

The concept is great, and the story is at its best when we see the glimpses of the radically different cultures our narrator finds herself summoned into. But it falls afoul of one extremely specific pet peeve of mine, which is that the story sticks us with a truly piece of shit character as our POV and doesn't give us any emotional catharsis via other characters responding to our POS POV in a similar way to how we the audience are feeling.

Context: Our sorceress POV is from a culture where women who bear children are called broods and treated like cattle and men, if they are spoken about at all, are considered a sort of feral animal. While this is somewhat effective at reinforcing the theme of dredging up old poisons and mistakenly thinking that "this time it will be different", it still traps us with Ms. "Waahhhhhhh wahhhhhhh wahhhh me me me how dare these people not let me practice my genocide-based spiritual heritage" without so much as an audience-sympathetic "Shut the fuck up" from another character.

Also the academy mage that summons the sorceress gets in a sexual relationship with said sorceress which I am certain is violating some sort of ethics policy of the academy and is certainly violating the basic logic of self-preservation and I while I normally will side on the "emotional repression is generally not a good thing", maybe repress the desire to fuck the genocidal slaveowner, eh? Not gonna work out well. Something something sudden but inevitable betrayal.


Move Underground, Nick Mamatas

Before reading this, I would have scoffed at the idea of Jack Kerouac serving as our narrator as Cthulhu rises from the sea and reality falls apart, but honestly he might be the best version of the Lovecraft protagonist. The self-destructive nihilism of the Beat poets, awash in psychotropics and misapplied Buddhism, is the perfect vessel for the grand cosmic horror; dripping with vivid colors, grotesque imagery, utterly disjointed contents and no plot to speak of. It is a dissolution into meaninglessness but, unlike the actual On the Road, it is used here to supplement the weaknesses of its other half, to provide to the Mythos what Lovecraft and his pastichers couldn't manage to do.

Honestly by halfway through I wasn't entirely convinced that anything in it was real. Were there ever to be a book to be revealed to be the hallucinations of a man dying in a ditch of drug overdose, this is the one.

Sometimes the pastiche falters and the modern touch reveals itself. Sometimes it becomes too pat, too sensible and coherent, especially in the last quarter - but on the whole it successfully walks the balancing act.


Because Internet, Gretchen McCulloch

An excellent and entertaining look at the internet's influence on modern language and communication, and how those changes have shifted as social integration of the internet increased. If that piques your interest at all, track it down (and also listen to Lingthusiasm, which is more about linguistics in general and not necessarily about the internet). It's also nice to read about the internet from a POV that is of the very online, post Google pre-social media generation that I call home. Short review, so you know I liked it.