Category Archives: Uncategorized

The USA is the Empire

Let’s sum up.

We destroy civilizations from the sky, using terrifying technology only we control.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

 

We torture…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senate_Intelligence_Committee_report_on_CIA_torture#Examples_of_torture_and_abuse_of_prisoners

…and it proves ineffective.

http://www.moviefanatic.com/quotes/refering-to-leia-she-lied-she-lied-to-us-i-told-you-she-would-ne/

Governor Tarkin: [refering to Leia] She lied. She lied to us.
Darth Vader: I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/09/cia-torture-effectiveness_n_6297720.html

 

We use killer robots.

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/24/-sp-us-drone-strikes-kill-1147

 

Our militarized police kill civilians without trial or repercussion.

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/09/08/how-many-police-shootings-a-year-no-one-knows/

 

But we’re the good guys. Right?

Fantasy Coins and OCD

I went and Kickstarted a project, “Fantasy Coins, LLC”, which makes coins for gaming. They’re really great, and you should go check ’em out. My use for such things is sadly lacking these days, so they’re just a conversation piece sitting around, waiting for an adventuring party to come by and earn them as a quest reward.

Many of the coins have text on them in runes and whatnot. Naturally, the desire to cryptoquip these bad boys was too much. Yes, sometimes when you get a bunch of word-obsessed nerds sitting around a table, they’re going to pull out loupes and translate some replacement ciphers. Especially if one of them know the old Norse runes by heart. (Not me.)

Unless noted, all of these are Irish proverbs which can be found on this site. The English is used on the coins, just with funky lettering.

First, the dwarven coins, which use old Norse runes.

  • Gold Front (face): A fool and his money are soon parted.
  • Gold Back (anvil): Nothing without effort.
  • Silver Front (helmet): What is seldom is wonderful.
    • Note: This is repeated in full twice, then only “what is seldom is”. 
    • Note: This forum post lists it as being in the original Gaelic, but it doesn’t appear to be,
  • Silver Back (shield): There is no hearth like our hearth.
    • Note: Perhaps meant to be “your”? But I couldn’t see a “y”.
  • Copper Front (door): May the wind be always at your back.
  • Copper Back (axe): May the road rise to meet you
    • Note: This is a traditional Irish blessing

Next, the elven coins. (The knotwork-style art on the obverses of these are a personal favorite, by the way.) Per the Kickstarter page: “the “Elven” writing is of our own creation which was influenced by calligraphic Arabic, Thai, and Japanese Kanji; arranged in English”.

  • Gold Front (pen): Things are not as they seem.
  • Gold Back (owl): Health is better than wealth.
  • Silver Front (sky): A good word never broke a tooth.
  • Silver Back (tree): Let none put faith in the first sown fruit.
  • Copper Front (bow): A good start is half the work.
  • Copper Back (stag): It is best to search while the trail is new.
  • Kickstarter Backer Coin Back: Fantasy Coin Kickstarter Backer

And now the stumper: the Fire element coins.

The runes seem to be the same used on the dwarven coins, but they don’t work in English.  To add to the fun, the fronts and backs of all of these have the exact same text, which makes cryptoquipping pretty tough. Hmmm…..

If I’m reading the spacing right, there is at least one word which starts with the same two letters. Unless it’s “eels”, I’m guessing this might not be in English.

The kickstarter page says “The writings are taken from ancient Celtic runes and a Sanskrit flare (sic) has been added to defy translation“.  I don’t think any of the symbols are from Sanskrit, so maybe the text is?

If you find the answer to this one, do let me know. And definitely check out the site: you’ll never have to use a Canadian dollar as a prop again!

iMax: Max Headroom Reboot C-C-C-Concept

imax

Yes, I want to write a Max Headroom reboot set 20 minutes in our future.

Citizen-journalist Jemison Carter has a reputation for finding trouble. Armed with a Google Glass, a smartphone, and a passion for revealing hidden truths, she streams her vidcast to fans the world over with help from her social-media-handler/hacker Ted Jones.

When Carter comes close to discovering a secret that massive video-hosting service WatchYou wants to keep hidden — Clickverts, a subliminal SMO tool which kills a small percentage of users — she only barely escapes being murdered by the company’s thugs. Desperate to find Carter, Jones feeds the reporter’s full social profile into an experimental mobile app to try and recreate her recent history. Carter’s tweets, posts, location tags, videos, comments, purchasing history, ad clicks, eye movements, scrolling patterns, etc. combine to form a virtual version of herself.

This garrulous, jumpy digital Carter comes alive in unsuspected ways. Within moments of resolving on Jones’s touchscreen, it lets itself loose on the local wi-fi, then the entire data provider network, then every satellite signal and cable connection on the planet. This newborn entity Max Headroom shows up in the cat video you’re watching on Facebook, in the Facetime call with your mom, in the targeted pop-up ads on your favorite news site,in a combination of peppermints on Candy Crush.

Carter goes global with the secret of Clickverts and causes a shake-up in the top echelon of WatchYou’s corporate structure, but nothing changes in the society at large. We still walk around staring at screens, seeing what the boost algorithms allow us to see and clicking where the casual-game behavioral psychologists want us to, but Carter, Jones, and their screen-jumping ally Max Headroom keep posting their version of the truth. B-B-B-Big Time!

Codemage — Back Cover Copy

Here’s another first for me: I just received the text which will go on the back cover.  So, people sit in a room and talk about good ways to describe my book? Um… rad.

It’s 1984. Fairies have broken into the human world. And they’ve discovered computers.

Punk hacker Robin Levesque’s job is to protect humans in the Annwn Simulation from goblins, piskies, and other fey beasties. Nothing she can’t handle with a Commodore 64 and a few lines of code.

When her brother is kidnapped by a headbanger who trades in blackmarket boons, Robin descends into a world more dangerous than any she’s ever known. The police are no help, and her bosses at the Eldritch Equipment Corporation refuse even to investigate. Then Robin herself is accused of magical crimes…

 

A First-time MUD Experience in 2014

I have spent a notable amount of my life in virtual worlds. One of my games, and my upcoming novel, are set in one, in fact. The big ones:

  • I dallied a year in World of Warcraft, which was essentially running around in a fantasy world and wondering when my friends were jumping on. Meh.
  • I spent many moons in Second Life, which allowed me to actually make stuff.  I built a few airships, and a little brass orb that followed me around and talked to people. This was fun.

Fun, but limited. At a certain point in WoW, I had done everything that didn’t require a three-hour minimum play time. I didn’t want to start paying for space in Second Life, and most of places I went were pretty barren.

This is what I want — to jump in as I see fit, be able to get together with friends, and see a ton of content, preferably user-made.

I recently read this article on MicroMUSE, a 1990-era text-based MUD which allowed users to build their own environment. Come on, now. Green-on-black text and freedom to create? This sounds perfect.

Having never played on a MUD (“played a MUD”? “been in a MUD”?), I figured it was time. I found a list and got to it.

I set up a character and played about fifteen minutes on a Tolkien MUD, right up until the NPC Numenorean who was showing me around ordered a beer and it came in a bottle. Napes.

Then I came across a cyberpunk-themed thing. Oh, why not.

So, this MUD, which I choose not to name, starts you off on a street filled with strip clubs, prostitution, and sex acts right out in the open. Fine. Sure. Dark streets, seedy underbellies, glowing neon. Straight pantone. But, the very first area you enter is the sex industry neighborhood?

Before long, an admin pulled me out of the game and put me in some sort of holding center until I wrote a history for my character. I did. Ah, but it was not good enough.

So I fleshed it out. And then received revision notes. This process took two days.

Finally, having passed this enforced-character-background barrier, I got back to it. Where “it” was wandering around from street to street watching kidnappings and harassment I could do nothing to stop. Just background text, apparently; the same way you might see “there is a tapestry on the wall”.

And here’s the kicker — the in-character chat was lame at best. Discussion of how fat a character is. Claims of sexual prowess. When I asked in the out-of -character help chat where I could buy a sword (this is cyberpunk, after all), I was told to look in stores. Oh, and anything can be a weapon in this game. And that’s an in-character question and should be asked somewhere else and here’s a link to the rules.

This is my problem with virtual worlds. The internet is other people, just like Hell.

I hear good things about Minecraft, but I don’t particularly want to play shared Legos. Something text-based seems perfect, or even something with basic graphics. Something we can jump in on from a handheld or phone. Where I don’t have to interface with anyone I don’t want to, but can easily join groups etc. Second Life without the graphics engine.

Wait, did I just describe Facebook?

 

Lend Your Talent… IN SPACE!

There are many things I love about being alive today. One of these is the ease of collaboration on creative projects what with this whole internet thing I’ve heard so much about.

I have a podcast.  A space opera adventure serial. Once every two weeks, I assume the persona of gentleman starpilot Zeno Stede and send a ~10 minute voicemail to his sister Tira back at the home station. It’s fun. Check it out, if that’s your kind of thing.

If that’s your kind of thing to write or read aloud, I’d love to hear from you. I’m sure Zeno wouldn’t mind lending the mike to a buddy for an episode. Or maybe you write or perform music, and think Tira might like to hear what the wetware bards of the Ghost Parade are playing these days. Maybe comics are your thing, or crocheted spaceliners.

We should chat sometime. This is the beauty of our era: we can! Email me at wakingcassandra at gmail dot com to discuss sans pressure or just to nerd out about space.

Tor’s Fiction Affliction – Genre-benders and Urban Fantasy

In my previous post, I looked at Tor’s Fiction Affliction lists of new titles in a given month, curious as to how many are first-timers. Here are the stats on genre-benders and urban fantasy.

Genre-benders seem to be where the newbies are. Five of the nineteen appear to be by first-time writers!

Three in urban fantasy, too.

Thus, there is hope. Next we’ll go on a little journey through the publisher who are putting forth these books, and see what their collective deal is.

 

Say Yes to Storynexus

Let me begin by saying that I am very much pro- Storynexus. I’ve built two worlds with this interactive fiction system, both of them parts of larger universes. I would recommend cobbling something together to any writer. Please find my reasoning below.

All the worlds should do this.

Seriously. The tool is easy to use, allows for as much complexity as you want, and lets people interact with little stories or epic arcs in-world in a casual gaming fashion. Somebody get on the horn with Norton Juster and tell him to spend a few weeks rocking some interactive Phantom Tollbooth action.

Using The Phantom Tollbooth as an example, the writer can let the reader grind around in Dictionopolis running missions for King Azaz or playing spy for Digitopolis and planning a coup. That damned Awful Dynne shows up at random intervals unless you find the secret to beating him, and Alec Bings needs your help to keep his head from driving into the ground.

Let me emphasize that grinding thing. You can let the players set the pace of the story. Somebody wants to kick it with Chroma the Great, trying out all of the results of the related cards? No problem. They can move on with the big plot whenever they want.

Put some on meat them bones.

In writing The Annwn Simulation 1985,  I got to play with some of the stuff which would have been useless in the novel. Magic punk bards on tour? What would have been indulgent padding in the prose piece made for one of the most fun game stories.

I built this world when I was stuck on my latest novel. The characters had started getting into the real meat of the story, and I just couldn’t seem to push through it. I was bogged down in world-building problems (aka plotholes). How did the fairies get to our world, exactly? And why can’t they go back? And is this simulation, like, housed somewhere or what?

It just so happened that Failbetter opened the Storynexus tool to the general populace around the same time. I took some time off from straight prose writing and spent the next month or so writing quests and cards. This forced me to operate in the world without having to worry about whether or not the MC’s beliefs and failings were coming through.

Give ’em what they want.

Letting the player run around making the choices — choices with actual consequences — as they try to solve the game’s overarching mystery is a very different challenge from novel-writing, but requires a very similar problem-solving ability. Sure, my MC chose her path. But what would her life have been like if she chose another one? What choices can I provide which will let the player feel like an actual participant in their fate? And you get to explore the paths the MC shunned, which is just rad.

A bit at a time.

You can out as much text on the cards as you want, but for the most part it’s better to keep things short. This means I could crank out a card during a break at work without having to worry about getting back into the scene or chapter or section or whatever. When you spend a year writing a novel, being able to get something actually accomplished and usable in less than half an hour is a really good feeling.

Build as you go.

So, you build up a few locations, some fun little quests, and a large story. You want to add more later, well you can go right ahead. The bones are there, so adding episodic content is just a matter of writing a few new cards.

 

My experience with the community has been very positive, and the players who have reached out to me have all been cool. My vote — get building.

The Catalog

Finally took some time to organize my writing folder. And just since I’m a wacko, here’s a catalog of what I found.

DHKA.com articles.
The old blog.
A coded story hidden in a book.
A book about fairies and computers.
A sci-fi book retelling an irish myth.
My first Nano novel – space opera
A sci-fi TV Pilot.
Some flavor text for an old game (Arcanum)
Several missions for a game which has yet to be released.
Interactive fiction — nightmares
Interactive fiction — Revolutionary War
A mission for Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (took runner-up for that one!)
Several issues of a magazine.
My version of Episode I.
A play about geeks.
A play in space
A play about nightmares.
A story about a barbershop.
A story I wrote for a WoW contest.
A story about time and Civil Service.
A story about living in virtual reality.
Three stories currently on sub.
And a whole bunch of false starts.

Feels good to go through it like that. Over a decade of stuff. But, I swear, the NEXT one’ll be the good one!

Props: Mur Lafferty

I posted some thoughts on audiobooks and authors a while back, and mentioned Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife series. She commented on my post, actually, which was this cool bit of community feeling for me. Wait, I talk about someone’s stuff and they want to have a conversation about it? What a time to be alive.

Here was this author, podcasting away and distributing her stuff online for free listening. Plugging away, working at it.

And now her mainstream debut is reviewed on Tor. This makes me happy. Grats Mur!