Monthly Archives: April 2014

Non-post post

Not much to report this week. Last week was Week Two of the kids’ Spring Break, so I ended up out of the house for a couple of days, socializing with them, seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier, etc. At work, I’ve been reading the second Hawkmoon book. I won’t be doing any more book reviews, as apparently no one is remotely interested in that (I got zero hits after the past post). I spent Friday night out at the local Hobby Town with some of my LFR friends. So, I’ve been socializing a lot and reading, and not writing.

On the upside, I got my tax refund, and have the most important repairs on my car completed, so now I can use the last portion to seed getting an iPad. I’ve been planning on getting the outline I’ve done up and running and updating it with some of the info I’ve posted here, as well as retyping my notes. I’ll need to export the outline, and that will become my first project once I get the iPad and can start doing some of this stuff while “working”.

I’ve asked the Boy about playing the WarCraft rip-off we were doing, and I convinced his dad to download and install the demo for WCIII. The Boy and his sister played it a bit, then ignored it for MineCraft, so I think that game has pretty much died.

That is pretty much all this for this week. Later.

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Book Review: The Jewel in the Skull, by Michael Moorcock

This week, I found myself not feeling like worldbuilding while I road around at work, so I started poking around in my Kindle. I had started reading the Coldfire Trilogy by C. S. Friedman, but I just wasn’t feeling like reading more right now. The introductory chapter was fine, but I had no interest in reading more right now. So I poked around some more, until I found a couple of Moorcock books I’d picked up for Kindle.

At first, I planned on reading the Swords Trilogy, the first three Corum books. I remember really enjoying that series, but sadly, that’s not what I had on the Kindle. I had the second trilogy. The first three books are more pure fantasy, not related to anything historical. The second three books are a retelling of the Celtic myths of Lugh Silverhand, with Corum as Lugh (as he is maimed in the first three books, and has made for himself an artificial hand between the two trilogies). I found that second trilogy dissatisfying, as the end rather sucks.

So, instead I started reading the History of the Runestaff series, the first four Hawkmoon books, which were also on the Kindle. I also have the paperbacks, and I’ve switched off between the two over the course of the weekend, finishing the first book, The Jewel in the Skull. I’ve only gotten a few pages into the second book, The Mad God’s Amulet, but I’m sure in a couple of days of broken reading, I’ll be able to move on to the next book.

I don’t know how many folks get on to Moorcock’s other incarnations of the Eternal Champion beyond Elric, the best known. Elric’s personality can be grating, not just because he’s a bastard, but because he’s a whiny bastard who ultimately kills his universe, then is killed himself, by his sword, Stormbringer. (BTW, I was amused while watching the A Game of Thrones “Purple Wedding” episode when one of the guests at Joffrey’s wedding suggests naming his Valyrian steel sword “Stormbringer”, an obvious nod by Martin to Moorcock.) Yeah, pretty depressing. Then again, that’s the British for you, and Moorcock is very British (although I understand he now lives in Texas).

However, while Moorcock puts the other characters he writes about through Hell (sometimes literally), they are not all doomed. Especially Hawkmoon, who I seem to recall eventually finds happiness, even if it takes him seven books to do it. I encourage any reader who hasn’t tried Moorcock’s other characters to at least try Hawkmoon.

It’s been fun reading these books again after 30-plus years. I’d read them originally in high school, when they were given me by my art teacher, Nadan Ben-Calif Chiladoux. (Yes, I knew the man’s full name. French-Arabic, which rolls off the tongue so wonderfully.) I’ve been reading them both as simply a reader and with a critical eye. I’m mildly surprised that I’ve been able to be critical without the joy of the reading being killed. The editing in this edition (the 1977 revised edition) is atrocious, as I’m finding lots of typos. The Kindle version is even worse, seeming to be a poorly done OCR of one of the later editions. I’d kinda like to see a White Wolf omnibus to see what the quality of those editions is.

Moorcock’s writing is entertaining. His characters are titans in their own way, and his descriptions aren’t shy in this regards. Count Brass, Hawkmoon’s mentor, is given a full two chapters of description, which includes his appearance, his personality, fighting prowess, political holdings, and family. His being and actions are Heroic, like a Shakespearean figure or Greek hero. Hawkmoon himself is fleshed out in degrees, first introduced to us as a survivor of a failed rebellion against the villains with PTSD. He needs to be brought back to reality, but the villains, scenery chewers all, now have him and are only interested in him as a tool. It’s not until he meets the aforementioned Count Brass and his daughter, Yisselda (the love interest), that Hawkmoon reconnects with his humanity and becomes the hero he is destined to be.

The novel is set in a distant future of an Earth similar to our own, maybe. Moorcock isn’t shy about his multiverse creation. Corum’s stories could be happening on Earth as well, as could a number of his other characters. Only rarely are his novels even remotely connected to the real Earth of today. Hawkmoon’s world is Post-Apocalyptic, set after the “Tragic Millennium”, in which Europe has fallen into a new Dark Ages. Technology and sorcery co-exist in this version of Earth, sometimes both melded into a techno-sorcery. “Flame lances” are carried by many soldiers, and “ornithopters” are the air superiority vehicle of choice for the villains, the Dark Empire of Granbretan. Weird technology is used to control Hawkmoon, creating the title object, the Black Jewel, implanted into Hawkmoon’s forehead, which is a camera for the Empire and will eat his mind should he betray them and they can flip the switch to bring the device to full life.

As a review, well, I’m sure I’m failing here. Even with the typos and such, I find the books entertainingly written, but they’d never with the Pulitzer. In them, I can see the beginnings of what are now tropes of science fiction and fantasy, and they deserve to be honored for that by being read by anyone who enjoys such works at least one.

As a worldbuilder, the books have a similar trapping to what I want for the StarSea, both in the technologies and the characters. As I said, the characters are writ quite large, being figures of immense potential and destiny, around whom the future of the world hangs. I like heroic games, rather than the gritty, low fantasy of so many other writers. Strange, seemingly magical devices should float throughout the ‘Sea, leftovers of ancient beings, as well as new creations of the knightly orders. In fact, the Dark Empire has it’s only knightly orders, although they are less savory that one would expect, which in all reality makes them perfect examples for the Arcane Order in the StarSea.

As an example how these books have influenced me, one idea I had in the shower this morning was for the Ür to have synced all of the worlds they conquered chronologically. In other words, if it’s 6AM in the capital city of Planet A, it’s 6AM in the capital city of Planets B, C, D, and E, and every other letter of the Alphabet. Summer occurs on every world at the same time, again because of the manipulations of the Ür. The Ür created the Giant races to maintain all of this. The Sun Giants, from their coronal fortresses, brighten the Sun in Summer and dim it in Winter. The Moon Giants maintain the changes of the moon’s phases, and keep the tides flowing in and out from fortresses similar to those of the Sun Giants. Comet Giants carry messages from world to world, keeping the others in sync. The Beacon Giants, on the other small bodies orbiting each world, keep the fires burning that allow the Comet Giants (and smaller beings) to navigate from world to world. Or so it’s believed.

The Ür left behind ruins on each world. One of those is near every capital. The Time Monolith serves as each world’s Greenwich, the point in which every world is synced to every other. Sunrise happens there at the same time on every world, or so it’s believed. As there is no interstellar communications, so no one can completely confirm this, but this is what the Ür claimed they’d done, those hundred of years ago, before their fall. (Ships can communicate with one another within a system and the world in question, but not beyond.) However, the People do have chronometers on every ship that show the same time with the capital city on every world. So, it does seem real to those who travel the StarSea.

Another idea I’ve had was related to the obstacles Friend Eric suggested a couple of weeks ago. One possibility I thought of was the simple empty spaces between galactic arms. Maybe the Ür had trouble initially crossing those voids, but eventually developed robot ships, or simply world-ships, that they sent into the voids to create way points for travel between the arms. Those worlds are still in use by the People of the StarSea, and some of these anchor worlds now have earth and seas in the valleys between the very regular geometric mountain ranges which are farmed by peasants to supply those visiting ships that pass through.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing this week. It’s gotten pretty late, so I’m going to close shop for tonight. Later.

Cosmos and Hyposmia

Completely unrelated to the usual subject of my blog this week is something I’ve thought about a couple of times in the last few weeks.

Watching Cosmos (A Space Odyssey) last night, I was impacted by the discussion of the sense of smell. Mainly because I don’t really have one. I would guess, from reading up on Wikipedia, that I’m not actually Anosmic (no sense of smell), but probably Hyposmic (having a diminished sense of smell). Yeah, I know you shouldn’t diagnose yourself, but this is an issue I’ve had as long as I can remember, so I think I’m safe here.

When I was eight, we got into an accident. This was in the days before mandatory seat belts. My brother and I were both ejected from the vehicle, but we both survived. However, I did hit my head (go fig), which is one of the causes of hyposmia. I don’t remember sensing odors after that (I don’t really remember smelling things before that, either). At least, I don’t remember pleasant ones. I can remember noting the smell of my first kiss’s breath (her breath was very clean smelling), and I can smell bad breath, flatulence, and body odor. However, I couldn’t smell the gas leak in my car a few weeks ago. I can’t smell old cigarette odors (part of how i got sick again this winter), or flowers. Trying to describe an odor to me is like trying to describe a color to a blind person. I have no references. Sodas and foods have different flavors for me, so I know I have some sense of smell, but not a strong one.

A few weeks ago, someone was talking about smelling lilacs, and I couldn’t smell them. I got jealous of the people I was with. I don’t get flashes of memory when an odor wafts by, because I can’t smell it. It makes me somewhat jealous of the rest of you who can. My memory is pretty much entirely visual, with some auditory (like song lyrics). Women’s perfume does nothing for me.

On the other hand, because I’ve never had a sense of smell (as far as I can remember), I don’t miss it, most of the time. However, on occasions when it’s discussed by others (like recently), I do. I wonder what it’s like. Something I’ll never know.


 

I was looking for an ethernet cable in some shelves I’ve got, and I found an old journal I started in high school. I haven’t taken the time to look at it yet, but I’m interested in giving it a peek. I know I have some stuff on a very Moorcock-derivative setting in there, but what else is there? I don’t remember any more. Hopefully, I’ll make time to take a look tonight.


 

I did get some writing in on the StarSea. After some comments on my Facebook, I started thinking about space obstacles and such, as well as starting to timeline who the Ür met first. That led to my rethinking who is what (that is, what the origins of some of my species are). The Starborn are probably going to become dragonkin, and the dragonkin are going to become half-Ür, or something like that. Humans are pretty much already set as the most likely species to have met the Ür first, as I’ve already had the idea that the Ür manipulated the spaces of humans to create the giant races. They’ll probably be manipulated in other ways as well.


 

I think that’s all for tonight.It’s late and I want to get out and watch the Lunar Eclipse. Later.

Realm Works Tutorial Video – Approaching Content Creation – YouTube

I kinda got to looking at videos about this program from seeing stuff about it on the Gamerati Facebook feed. I’d love to have something like this or Masterplan for the Mac. Sadly such a thing does not exist.

This video, in my opinion, is some great general advise for creating worlds and plots, not just in using this program, but even with just 3×5 cards.

 

▶ Realm Works Tutorial Video – Approaching Content Creation – YouTube.

Blech!

The past couple of weeks have been hard. After I got sick, my mother got sick, which resulted in two different trips (and stays) to the hospital. I have had issues with my paycheck, my car, and work. Work has actually been very busy, with all the GMC auto recalls, but I haven’t had much free time while there. Most of my time has been spent driving has been short, local runs from various locations to dealerships. Between all of these things, I’ve been a bit stressed and a bit distracted. And frankly, there have simply been days I’ve either been too tired or whatever to post. My reminders to post have come up, and I’ve delayed and delayed, until I simply decide it’s too late to post this week. These are terrible habits, I know.

Most of my writing has been on Wednesdays. I’ve gotten off early the past couple of Wednesdays, and I drop by the FLGS to wait for my Living Forgotten Realms game, and write while I wait. It’s kind of been convenient, but it is limited. I only get a couple of hours in, rather than the amount I have gotten in the past. I make do with what I can.

The FLGS recently started selling individual Pathfinder Battles minis, and I found one that I had to have, as it’s a perfect fit to the StarSea. Here’s the image of the figure:

Tsadok Goldtooth mini

Tsadok Goldtooth mini

And here’s the link to art the mini is based on: Tsadok on Obsidian Portal. I prefer the mini, all things considered. In fact, the art is pretty crappy. I like the coat (although I think the bell cuffs would look better as bell gauntlets), the breastplate and the weapons. I found him quite inspiring, even though I’m not really going to focus on pirates. Sure, you can play and write pirate stories in the StarSea, but my focus has been on philosophy, and I’m going to stick to that for now.

In those few hours at the FLGS, I’ve managed to rewrite my definition of magic in such a way that I can explain the mechanics of Corruption. I realized that if I make spell difficulties a little higher, players can be tempted to use Corruption to accomplish more difficult spells. Stress to a new track can be levied, similar to the magic rules of the Voidcallers in the FATE System Toolkit: the difference between the roll and the difficulty becomes stress, and the spell is successful, if the character chooses to invoke the World Aspect related to Corruption. If the character doesn’t have the stress to take the hit to his morality, he gains a consequence. If he does not repent his sins (i.e. do what’s necessary to “heal the stress track”), he becomes a corrupted villain in the GMs control. He can also take stress from doing things that display callousness or excessive hubris, for which I’ll need guidelines. The only other thing I need is a seduction system, or at least some hints for seducing the players.

I’ve also been trying to hammer out the astrography (I made that one up) and the path the Ür have taken through the StarSea, so I can determine how the races have been encountered and potentially enslaved and modified before being distributed throughout the StarSea. That seems like a lot of extraneous detail, but I feel that I need it, whether the readers ever see it or not. I feel I need it because I have a couple of race ideas that may have been modified by the Ür, or maybe even created by them.

Finally, I picked up the Cubicle7 Anglerre books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG before the license ended. There are a lot of good ideas, but I’m not sure I want to include as much rule and world creation writing as is in those books. I may refer GMs to those books if they want more info. However, there are some ideas in there I may incorporate myself. I have read through them thoroughly, as they’re pretty long, but a flip-through was enlightening.

The Boy hasn’t requested us to play his game, so I have written anything about it. I have a feeling that Kindle games have taken the place of that game, and I am totally cool with that. I think I need to discuss it with him before I totally drop it, though.

That’s all I really have at this time. Later.