Hey, sorry, I’m back.

No excuses for me, I was just lazy. Preoccupied. Doing. Uh. Things. Yes.

But now Steam’s free weekend is over and I can get back to actually being a productive human being.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12004094/1/Exposure

In the meantime, I wrote a fanfiction of a favorite videogame series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., based off the Tarkvosky movie Stalker, which in turn was based off the soviet sci-fi classic A Roadside Picnic, all three of them about a Zone of Alienation.

 

A Roadside Picnic had mysterious and apathetic alien visitors, Stalker was about a mysterious “wish-granter” at the heart of the Zone, and the videogames featured conspiracy theory level soviet mind control experiments set in the deserted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a plot that while not terribly engrossing, was set in the most immersively bleak and desolate backdrop of Chernobyl, from the creaking rusted hulks of the Rassorva vehicle graveyard to the hauntingly beautiful radioactive Red Forest, and the eerie emptiness of Pripyat, amid a world where the laws of science no longer apply and the Zone itself is a living entity bent on destroying not just you, but your soul as well. The ‘stalker’ name here doesn’t refer to someone who aggressively tails an imagined romantic interest, but to the peculiar brand of crazy lunatics who delve into the Zone and its dark crevices in search of mysterious ‘artifacts’ which have supernatural properties and present a new frontier in technological advancement for mankind— and which are buried deep in anomaly fields, areas of distorted reality where anything from fire spouts to blackholes could appear, and utterly annihilate someone clumsy enough to stumble into them. All three were grim, desolate, and uniquely Eastern European in character.

Or, more humorously: Drink vodka. Trust no one. Eat lots of bread.

The story I wrote takes the premise of BBC Documentary producing a live-footage documentary of the Zone, and so sends a presenter and a film crew with a satchel full of batteries, cash and flash drives to film the Zone, and pays for a team of stalkers

Anyways, I thought the story itself was good on its own merits, so I published it on Fanfiction.com. You can find the link both here and at the top of that wall of text.

—-

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12004094/1/Exposure

I Must Speak

How many of you think Israel is a repressive state?

Because I’d like you to take a moment to reflect on her neighbors.

Egypt– is only recently a democracy, and just barely.

Syria– is currently a geographical term for “sh*t hole.”

Turkey– is devolving into a theocratic dictatorship and may be funding ISIS by buying their oil.

Saudi Arabia– sentences homosexuals and atheists to death.

Iran– funds Hezbollah and imprisons apostates (though I will concede they are socially more progressive than Saudi Arabia, and it is mainly the Iranian government which concerns me, not its people.)


Contrast Israel, in which homosexuality is not illegal, apostasy is legally irrelevant, the military warns bombing targets beforehand, and despite constant terrorist attacks which have brought other countries to martial law, maintains some of the highest liberty ratings in the world.


The Jewish people have a country of their own for the first time in two thousand years, enduring constant persecution and suspicion, hatred and exile, and only three years before Israel’s founding, near-extermination of European Jewry at the hands of the Nazis. When they arrived, it was a desert; now, Israel is a vale of greenery, wealth and prosperity amidst a waste of mismanagement and violence perpetrated by medieval extremists and selfish warlords.

Take a gander at various articles surrounding the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Notice that there were two states, Palestinian and Jewish. Notice who started the war.

Why are those who support freedom and protection for minorities and national sovereignty so quick to turn on those who need their help the most?

This is why I study history– when we ignore the past, we are all too eager to repeat the savageries of those who came before and blunder gladly into murder. We forget that freedom is not given, but earned in blood and treasure. We forget that when we ask the strong to give us bread and liberty, we receive crumbs and chains. That is why I can never accept socialism or the statist line– taking the easy way not only stagnates us, but weakens us. It is hardship that makes us stronger and makes tomorrow brighter. Israel’s story is not a story of salvation by mighty men, but determination against the odds, solidarity among brothers and sisters, and faith in destiny. With looted German weapons and indomitable courage, Israel stood up against those who would see the Jewish people struck from the face of the Earth, and not only survived, but thrived.

Do not shirk the Israelites or their friendship, for there is no ally like the Chosen People. Do not shirk hardship, but overcome it, for true men and women are not cast like bricks, but forged under fire, and quenched in storms. Do not fear hard times, but embrace them. Faith, Duty, and Vigilance will carry us unto the dawn.


If these sources are unsatisfactory or I have left something insufficiently cited, let me know, either in the comments or in a PM. Feel free to discuss and debate this, and remember to keep an open mind.
Turning the Sand to Land
http://www.csmonitor.com/1987/0519/dsand.html

Israeli Independence War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Arab%E2%80%93Israeli_War

 

Musings

Musings

What was it that Teddy Roosevelt said? The “strenuous life” makes us better?
Our inborn talents do not define us. We define ourselves by what we make of them. Weaknesses are not merely something to be coped with, but a factor of our being that we can change, through faith and perseverance.
Also, this guy has a novel. Highly recommended.

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Sometimes, becoming stronger entails purposefully becoming worse so you can set aside talents and struggle to conquer weakness.  Focus is shifted from successful comfort to audacious evolution.

In this way, an inner pilgrimage can be made without outwardly having to take a single step.

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Music and My Thoughts

Warning: I am not a musician. Many years ago, my Latvian piano teacher told me I had the musical skills of a potato. Had I at the time known that Latvia worships the potato, and her comment was in fact the highest praise she could offer, I might be doing something very different with my life right now.

But I had a thought on music, one that’s probably very intuitive: different cultures produce different music.

But even within styles that originated from a very specific geographical / cultural environment, like rockabilly, rock and roll, swing, jazz, etc., they mutate dramatically upon encountering a new culture.

For my example, I’ll use ska, a brassy style of rock&roll-ish music which came from 1950s Jamaica. Here is a classic example of original Jamaican styled ska:

And here’s what happened when it came to Russia:

While it’s a bit early for me to form a conveniently sized theory of musical nationality, and there’s doubtless many more examples I can bring up from different genres, I thought it worthwhile to post my thoughts, because for some strange reason some people want to hear them out.

What do you think about this? What are your imagined characters of different cultures’ interpretations of musical styles?

 

The Writer Inside You

The Writer Inside You

We’re all the heroes of our own personal stories. 5 minutes talking with someone could give you the start to an epic spanning decades. Just watching someone at a coffee shop could give you a short story.
It’s all about observance. Give the rest of her stuff a read.

Chronicles of Nowhereland

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” -Orson Scott Card

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Half-Lucidity: Getting into Character

Half-Lucidity: Getting into Character

Actors, singers, dungeon masters, and roleplayers all talk about getting into character, stressing how vital it is to the quality of the performance / game to have good roleplaying. And we know what it is, or at least what it looks like, just by intuition. But how does one get there, without years and years of practice or innate talent (or psychopathic manipulation)?

The answer is (not-entirely) simple: what would your character do, and why?

Roleplaying will come more naturally if you understand your character’s background and why their personality has turned out the way it has. This requires some more effort on the development side, but will reward you with increased immersion. It’s one thing to have your character obsessively collect puppies and paint them sky blue. It’s funny a few times, but after a while, with no apparent reason for it, it can quickly become a mere annoyance.

But what if he had a strong reason? Strange as it may be, what if his reason for painting puppies is because he’s secretly part of a doomsday cult that believes the world will end under an invasion of blue dogs, and he is setting up the end of the world by painting the dogs blue and indoctrinating them into hyper-aggressive dog soldiers when no one else is looking? Not only is it more interesting and possibly generating its own involved storyline, it’s also freaking hilarious, and evolves from slapstick to an inside joke.

Here’s my example:

Jenny has decided (or been coerced by her impatient and demanding DM) to expand her horizons and roleplay someone besides the standard-issue lithe, manipulative rogue type. So, she goes with a gruff male fighter named Jeff, because she wants to use the line from 22 Jump Street. But her DM isn’t satisfied with that. ‘What’s his personality like? Why is he a fighter? Why is he going out to save his village?’

Now, the easy way out is to make him a gruff mercenary who is (naturally) grizzled by his years of experience, and is saving the world for dimes and dames. But such a character is so cliched it’s difficult to play him well without spending an exhaustive amount of time developing the history of an already matured character.

So Jenny makes Jeff a nervous, withdrawn momma’s boy. And before her DM can pester her again, she preempts him and thinks about why he might be this way, and how on earth such an individual would become an adventurer.

“Jeff was never really any good at anything. He was always middle of the back, and never stood out. He wasn’t really that strong, or smart, or clever or talented. The only thing that others ever noticed about him was that he was always there, rain or snow, sleet or hail. He knew he would never stand out here, and he feared the loneliness of growing old without someone beside him or real friends. So though he’s not really brave, strong, smart, or any adjective that would indicate a hero, he’s got a heart of gold and a will of iron, and no matter how many times you knock him down, he’ll get back up, again and again. The strongest warriors are those that don’t quit. And though he hasn’t received a lot of love from his village, and has little to keep him from leaving, he wants to be the hero. He wants to save the day. And he wants something to matter enough to him that he’d die for it. Realizing that nothing will matter that much if he doesn’t try, he’s decided to risk it all, do or die to be reborn a hero.”

Jenny’s DM stares at her, and slowly begins to grin.


More important than mannerisms, accents, quirks or oddities, knowing why your character is risking his or her life is the most important part of roleplaying in D&D, and roleplaying in general. Embedding yourself in the character’s desires and emotions will allow you to more easily perform their associated verbal tics and make player decisions that feel like they really matter. From this proceeds a story that makes more sense, requires less DM prodding, feels freer, more organic, and much more entertaining.

Quirks are just icing on the cake (very much appreciated and iced cake is preferable to plain cake).

P.S. Doing young or inexperienced character with a fairly shallow background is actually better for roleplaying than some guy who’s had decades of experience and taken every sort of blow a man can take. Those young characters can still have traumatic events that define them, but their youth and relative inexperience means that the adventures they undertake can still leave a mark on their still impressionable minds. Plus, the younger the character, the less time you have to cover when making your background.

First off, Sorry.

Second, sorry again. I really should have been keeping up, particularly since exams are now two weeks behind and I have no reason to leave the place a derelict convention center for dust bunnies and internet gremlins.

And I might say (I’ve said it!) that I just haven’t had anything to write, but the truth is that I have LOADS of ideas to write about, in or on, so many I can barely keep my head on straight…. I just haven’t written them.

Instead I’ve been using my trusty keyboard to waste my time in videogames like the brutally unforgiving FUI (Fighting Under the Influence) medieval combat simulator Exanima, or the cerebral and pacific, The-Martian-Videogame Space Engineers, as well as the usual and classless timesink of YouTube.

Which provoked a curious thought– that our millenial generation and the one coming after will be the first writers who might credit video games as inspiration for their works. My first stories when I was young were based off my father forcing me to play Doom III to conquer my fears (my Bruce Wayne bats moment, if you will), and for a few years after, tended to contain the same excessively graphic gore and simplistic storylines as their inspiration– mass-market shooter games and Diablo II. They grew in sophistication after playing Bioware’s inimitable Dragon Age and Mass Effect, as well as doses of classics like Steinbeck, and modern commercial fiction in the vein of Douglas Adams and  Terry Pratchett— but it was from those two games that came my two main fiction universes, Lagan and Galaxia.

Now that I like to call myself a writer, there’s a knot of shame when I boot up a computer and immediately gravitate towards my Steam library. “I should be writing stories, not playing them,” I tell myself. “I’m not living the life of the mind, I’m living the life of the button.”

And yet I feel not an ounce of shame when I spend three hours de-rusting a spade.

Granted, computer screens are said not to be healthy for our eyes, and my posture approximates a turtle’s neck rather than a man of backbone, and its few games nowadays which spark brilliant literary epiphanies, and at least a clean spade looks pretty and doesn’t require electricity, but irregardless it all makes me wonder if the life of the mind is not all its cracked up to be.

Not wonder, argue. Of course we should be thoughtful in our daily lives, and not consign our higher faculties to the dream realm while wandering aimlessly through the concrete jungle. But perhaps that is just the thing– to stop living inside our heads, but live in the world. The life of the mind is only a life when the mind is left to freely wander– confined indoors to slave over a keyboard, the life becomes a prison, and we are the inmates, chained by the illusion that a busy mind is a fruitful mind.

At any rate, I’ve talked long enough. Hopefully I’ll post tomorrow.

Or I’ll post whenever I bloody well feel like.