Teasers and Appeasers

As of today, I’ve managed to write a little over five-thousand words for Stroka Rezak.  One can imagine that it leaves me rather elated.  I took a break today, but I fully intend to write another five thousand before the week is up — maybe more.  This project is driving me quite bonkers, because I’m constantly fighting the urge to brag about everything I’ve designed for it.  Close to a year or two’s worth of world-building has gone into it, and I’m sure far more will follow.

What I can say, is it follows numerous characters’ stories rather than just one.  I can almost assure you it will be one hell of a wild ride.

To those interested, I recently finished work on what I believe and hope will serve as the prelude.  This will be utilized as the submitted excerpt to be shared with any who would like to see it.  Without further ado, I give you: chapter zero, “In Before the Dawn.”

            It hurt.

            This is not the first time you have come here.

            The voice seemed to seep out of nowhere and everywhere; every syllable rebounded against the agony inside me.  My heart was clutched in an icy chill.  My throat ached and my maw arid.

            This will not be the last.

            I made to move, but in meekest weakness.  I felt heavy and the voice threw me into a sea of surreal sensations.  Things writhed in my nerves, twisted in my skull and wriggled within my stomach.  My mouth wouldn’t open, and I couldn’t feel my fingers.  Either I didn’t want to see, or lacked the sight; veiled.  Every breath brought an indescribable weight; like barbed wires wrapped my insides and sealed my lungs.

            I felt movement, the ground beneath me shifted.  Wait.  That seemed wrong: I was unable to tell what it was; as though I were falling in place, entirely displaced but going nowhere.  Cold iron rested against my skin, a new sensation bled into my nerves; comparable to being soaked in cold water.  It grew through my nerves, climbed my spine and washed over everything else in waves.

            Red swirled into my sight, a distant and fiery-seeming light.

            Squirm and scream, the voice remarked in mirth.  Its tone was deeper than a crevice, echoing in my chest, like it hijacked my heartbeat; warped with an unreal resonance. When you wake, it will all just be a bad dream.

            It cackled.  Why?  What did it do to me?  How had I ended up here?

            A stygian shape slithered into the crimson, a shadow in which all darkness appeared to be draped upon as robes.  My eyes immediately moved to its orbs.  Could they be defined as such?  Every fiber of my flesh sought to scream or flee; to be free of such evil scrutiny, and averting my stare was impossible.

            I felt as though I would be pulled into them.  They were like two circular holes, not spheres, split in the center by a chasm of glimmering alabaster.  Every moment, that slit of silver seemed to expand, shimmering and rotten ribbons of light flailing outward; only ultimately to be swallowed.

            The Evil, as all I decided it could be called, reached for me.  My agony amplified.  Weep and writhe, the world in your eyes is made of lies; bleeding pus at the seams; nothing is as serene as it seems.  You will survive, but when you take your final dive, you’ll return to me.  Free.  It drew away, twisting its body back.  There were other voices now, muffled murmuring made louder every moment.

            The words Evil whispered were nonsense to me.  It admired my condition with amusement, and derived from it a sick, sadistic joy.  I should have seen it coming, but when it chose to strike me; I was still taken by surprise.  Again, a new agony pooled into my midsection; the other voices exploding in volume.  Darkness abated, red withdrew; I saw white and blue – shadowy fog eating at the corners of my sight.

            I screamed; the rush of pain too much, but instead I choked out a garbled noise.  Warm fluid splashed out of my mouth.  The horrible creature remained for a few moments more, but steadily took shape.  Something much less horrific; a face of the world I knew, gazing with concern whilst it pressed a hand against the source of my suffering.

            “She’s awake!”

            “Don’t move, just stay on your back, you’re going to be alright!”

            Wherever I was, I was being carried on a stretcher; through a hallway and brought into a large room.  There were several people there, and I didn’t recognize any of them.  Pain shot through my body again, and when I tried to breathe in, I felt it once more: the “wires” from before.  My head felt numb and I understood now why I couldn’t move.  They were restraining me, but such was my weakness that I couldn’t struggle even if I wished.

            Linen mask-faced figures stepped over and I saw one with a needle.  It filled me with alarm, but I knew that to fight would be futile.  I felt the sharp stab of pain as the syringe pierced my arm, and then the room began to swim.  Shadows rapidly returned as all dimmed.  Fear again.  White grew to be red, and blue gloomed into black.

            And I heard the creature cackle, formed from all who stared down at me; until my eyesight was entirely engulfed.

I’m eager to hear all your opinions on the section above, though I won’t make any apologies for how little is going on up there.  After all, it’s just a teaser.

Soldier Sympathony

I haven’t written anything in for a while, and recently I spied a Facebook post made in support of the United States Armed-Forces.  It occurred to me that this is among those things which I feel strongly about.

When most people think of a soldier, they quickly surmise that the war-fighting warrior fights solely so their administrative superiors succeed in any imagined endeavor.  They are the sword-wielders.  In modern warfare, and many times in fantasy warfare, armies are only the brethren of the blades they’re burdened with.  Soldiers are the sword; which can do nothing but cut what it is swung into.  Leadership is always the true wielder.

There is a group working to protest at soldiers’ funerals, saying such sickening nonsense as “thank god for dead soldiers.”  This disgusts me.

When I look at a soldier, of any military and any nationality, I see such with respect.  Their cause may not be so laudable, and sometimes they themselves are less so; though I will still salute them.  Why?  It is very simple.

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Here you go, reason ONE.

In signing with the military and deploying, every soldier sacrifices the comfort of family.  Even if they don’t get along with many of their family members, they’re leaving their flesh-and-blood behind and taking the chance that they may never be seen again.  This is always the case, no matter what country’s army they serve.  It’s like driving through an ever-changing minefield each and every time you leave to go work.  There’s even a probability of that family being denied closure, if anything should happen to the respective warrior.  Hearing the word that your family member has gone MIA is probably one of the worst things you can be told — your sibling, your parent, or your child; whichever, has disappeared.  You must wake up every morning and go to sleep every night without knowing if they’re dead, alive, or injured.

Likewise, the soldier may miss out on extremely important events taking place at home.  Children’s first words, relatives dying. . . the list could go on endlessly.  In giving themselves to the cause of an old man or woman they may never meet face-to-face or even be acknowledged by, they’ve pawned their family.  We who have not joined the military, haven’t.  I salute the soldiers for the pain of separation they carry on their soldiers every waking moment.

Moving along.

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Reason TWO.  This is not your child.

A soldier signs up and goes to war, so you don’t have to; neither do you ever have to think about the possibility of your child’s only family consisting of the AK-47 on her back nor bequeath the harrowing hell that is modern warfare onto your family members.  No, it wouldn’t be cool; and no, video games can’t even begin to give you an idea.

I salute the soldiers for the burden they carry in my stead.

Now, granted, there are many more reasons than merely these — I’m merely stating those two which are the most resounding to me.  Feel fully free to give me your own reasons in the comments below, and god bless our soldiers.

~A
Heretic Fox

P.S.: Sympathony is a fictitious portmanteau of “Sympathy” and “Symphony.”  I’m going to do lots of that in the future.  😀

Conceited Elitism (aka “Why I am a Better -insert here- than you are.”)

Let’s talk about something running rampantly throughout modern society.  Elitism.

Professionals of any field know the burning rage conjured up when encountering the “elitist know-nothing,” but we can always take comfort in being able to sock them one in the face, if need be.  Writers, editors, bloggers, and forum-goers have no such pleasure.  This gets considerably worse when reputations are thought to be on the line.  Yes, yes, I’m well-aware that internet reputations are scarcely what they seem — ever.

Arguably, the most odious of all seem to come from “role-playing communities,” of which I’ve had the great fortune to be part of on many occasions.  In any sort of gathering, there are inevitably going to be those who want to show off.  With swollen prides and bloated egos, role-players will brutalize the English language in countless ways, then judge others based upon self-designed criteria for “skill.”  I could, in length, blabber away on all the things I believe are the fine points of role-playing; but in the end, I acknowledge only one thing as a genuine “rule.”

In using the imagination leisurely, there is no correct or wrong way to play a role; only creativity.

Not very many — that I have met, at least — would agree.  In striving to demonstrate their superiority, elitists might argue concepts such as an absolute necessity for perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all the glorious rules of the English language.  They will often demand such “levels” of skill be exemplified in the form of essay-sized posts, full of: beautiful, poetic terminology only seen in Old-English tomes — while also attempting to utilize the thesaurus so brutally, it becomes another language entirely.

Some of these things are very attractive to me, personally.  I wouldn’t be entire opposed to using all of them, it would give me a wonderful opportunity to learn some new words, see what little tricks others employ when stringing words together, and also relax my compulsive need to correct every mistake I spot.  Unfortunately, it is usual for the idealists that incorporate them to vehemently push the rules onto others like a religion, refusing to so much as acknowledge anybody else not a part of their fanaticism.  That is something I will only partially be opposed to, and only because I hold a terrible grudge against proselytizing.  I respect those who have a great passion for their hobbies, as long as they never insist theirs to be the only “proper” way to enjoy it.

So, why do I bring this up?  Excuse me for digressing: in these communities, you have the elitists, and then you have what I refer to as the “pseudo-elite.”  Pseudo-elitists are simply people who have become entirely blind to their own faults, and though they share the mentalities of the self-declared elite, they are scorned by both sides.  These “false elite” can be compared to the bourgeoisie; also known as the French upper-middle class.  They attempt to lord over others, pointing out everything wrong with someone’s works, while raising theirs upon pedestals of fools’ gold.  While emulating the elite, they fail to actually replicate the skill of those they attempt to be.

A perfect example comes from another blogger; something I read a long time ago.  Mind you, this is not their own writing, but a sample of something they-themselves have witnessed:

“You shouldn’t use said too often to say what a character has said when he is saying something, especially if you can identify the speaker in another way,” Ken said smugly.

“Is it better if find other words for said?” the editor pontificated questioningly.

“No,” said Ken knowingly, “it’ll just sound like you broke out a stegosaurus to try and help your writing; right after you mentioned the pecker shaker.”

“I guess I’ll just go back and try to figure out what followed the butt before the dick of the time travel clock,” the editor mused confusingly.

“Oh, and be careless when using adverbs because that’s not really showing, it’s still telling” Ken said approvingly.
–From the blog of Divertr Publishing, on “Proofreading”

Although not an exact depiction of what you find among the “pseudo-elite,” it does allude well to the kind of things they’ll do.  If you’re not feeling rather dumbfounded after reading the quote, I want to shake your hand, slap you, and then shake your hand again.  This particular article by Divertr Publishing demonstrated how spell-check can be heavily abused, as can the thesaurus, in order to create the illusion of “superb writing.”  For those who are unfamiliar with the majority of terms, they might be impressed.  For the educated eye, the first big word to be used — “pontificated” — is going to be as much a punch in the face as the worthless, repetitive filler-words in the first two lines.

What does it mean, to “pontificate?”  Let’s have a quick look, over at our good friends, “www.dictionary.reference.com.”  It looks like the closest definition to the use here, is “to speak in a pompous or dogmatic manner.”  I see, so the editor in the quote above is asking the question quite insultingly?

Wait, but Ken doesn’t seem to notice the disrespectful tone, and presumably answered very listlessly.  Now the editor is confused?  What?  Somebody hit rewind, I think I missed something.

You see, kind reader, how the confusion nigh-literally bleeds out of the script and leaves us all puzzled?

Another prime example, and something far more familiar, is the self-contradicting business letter Divertr Publishing shows to the blogger’s readers, found here.

Now, that one is the rage-inducer for me.  I offer my sincerest sympathies to all of those who have been contacted by that business.  As soon as the “pseudo-elite” begin to offer their “esteemed services,” I’m ready to foam at the mouth.  I do bare some ill against the publishers, but I can do nothing but fully acknowledge their legitimacy.  Those other editors, cited in the letter, I will completely ignore and likely forget the existence of, within a few days.

In concluding my lengthy rant, I implore the readers to never pontificate “the right way” to write.  Offer corrections where they are wanted, or have a genuine education on how to before you make the claim of literary papacy.  None of us are without mistakes, and under no circumstances should any of us be teaching others how to make mistakes.

Phylogeny of Fantasy Races

Have I ever mentioned that I really like detailed worlds, and more so those that manage to blend realism with fantasy?  Well, here is something that becomes infinitely important in the the management of those two.  It’s also a much easier way to do some world-building, once you have all the necessary knowledge to properly utilize.

Genetics… a fun subject, and for some, a hobby to study.  For those of you who do not know, phylogeny is the historical tracing of physiological development for a species, as well as the explanation of biological functions, how they came to form in a species, and tracing the gradual extinction of traits or new mutations.

For animals, this means an explanation of why they have things like sharp teeth, thick or light fur, or other such things.

But, for humans, this means an explanation of traits like skin-color, facial structuring and shapes, and the likewise.  These are almost always the effects of things like environment, diet, and except for a rare few, typically come as a result of changes to the surroundings.

Let’s take, for example, my favorite people.  Semites — which refers distinctly to the Middle-Eastern ethical peoples; although in common days are more widely thought of as referring to the Jewish people (of whom there are many ethic lines, not simply one, and it is considered very disrespectful to refer to Jews as a singular and separate “race.”)

A few very common traits to the Semitic people, are: dark skin, pronounced nostrils, and very often bold lashes.

The dark skin is very easily traced to the very constant exposure to sunlight, the body absorbing the light and thus causing differences in the pigments in order to compensate for sunburns and ultraviolet-rays.  It is also better suited to distribution of heat across the body, making it much easier for life in the desert and adaption to the extreme temperatures of day and night — the skin-color to actually retain heat better, allowing for compensation against the chills of the desert night-time.

Skin color is incredibly important in regards to the sunlight in an environment, darker skin-tones best for hot and very-sunny regions; while a more pallid tone pulls heat better and intensifies the rays of the sun.  The body will always try to best prepare itself for reception of heat, although the human ability to craft clothing lessens the power of these traits.  Thicker-haired skin aids in warmth, whilst thinner hair will actually serve the purpose of “heat-sinks.”

We move on to the trait of the wider nostrils, which is best noticed as a common feature of people living in hotter areas or at a higher altitude.  The reason is as simple as breathing.  Hot air is more difficult to breathe, and the wider nostrils also help regulate the ability to inhale and exhale; likewise permitting the body to better cool itself.  Higher altitudes have lower levels of oxygen, thus permitting the nose to draw in greater volumes of air to compensate.

Finally, let’s take a look at eyelashes.  Much like whiskers, eyelashes act to shut the eyes whenever they receive the slightest touch — thus warning the eyes that an object is near them.  This is incredibly useful in regions where there are lots of sand, because in the slightest and weakest gust of wind — sand is going to be going everywhere; a palladium against something going into your eyes is irreplaceable in such situations.

Put these three traits together, and you can easily determine that this is the physiological strain of those best suited to living in the desert — hot, constant sunlight, and sediment rarely not whirling about in the air.

When creating a fantasy race, or even creatures, consider their environments and then research into the real-world equivalents of things best-suited to living in those kinds of environments.  Remember though, the much more adapted to specific environments anything might be, the less adaptable they’ll be to opposite environments.  Sentience and the ability to craft are the only things which permit a living creature to be exempt from such rules, as they can manufacture their own compensations.  This will slow the process of evolution, however.

Simply something to consider when building your world straight from scratch, yet still yearning to leave it entirely believable.  Well, maybe not entirely, but definitely a little bit more.

~A
Heretic Fox

Day Hundred-or-Something; Sheesh I gotta keep up with these . . .

Hello, everyone!

I usually find myself puzzled at what to write, on blogs. Somehow I picked up the trait of never distributing my opinions. Well, today I thought of something I felt strongly enough about to share.

Biased writers.

I think I’ve made mention earlier that a regular hobby of mine is to get with a close friend or two and role play. One of my best friends — whom I’ve pretty much watched grow up — has gotten into college. It makes me feel like my beard ought to be a great deal grayer. I’m not so quick to say I had a hand in his upbringing, but I do look on with pride at his capabilities.

College does interesting things to people. It makes them realize that there really is a world out there. And quite frankly, that world sucks. The pride of an ephebe is not easily swayed from pursuing a path it declares. He has taken a particularly great shine to democracy and the liberty to choose who governs us. It shows. In all of our games together, he now strives to bring down the organizations of yore; royalty brought to their knees, powerful religious organizations stripped of their power, and the free man made to realize that he has all the power he should ever need — right at his fingertips.

However. . . he has demonstrated an issue commonly arising amongst writers of every kind. Author bias.

We’re taught in basic English courses that there is no better way to convince somebody of your written opinion other than to provide genuine and powerful evidence to back it up. This is crucial in debates, too. I never liked competitive debates or answering essay questions in black-and-white viewpoints. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but I have at least three opinions from different directions about everything. Or no, I guess that comes from being a philosopher? *Groan.* Well, before I start to bore you with off-topic badinage, let’s get a few things straight.

A writer is the all-powerful force of the worlds we create. Ultimately, it is we who decide what happens in a story born of our ink and toil. Ask me, however, what I think an artist is, and I will tell you: to show us the world through the eyes of someone else. I often feel like a writer is gifted best with the ability to truly share the thoughts, feelings, and senses of anything. Why then, would we want to command the characters we design, instead of only being their voice?

We are observers in our own creation. The characters aren’t just things we’ve imagined. When we write for them, we give them breath and their world comes alive for them. Isn’t it just, to give them a world as vibrant as our own? Case in point, democracy has done great things, but it is only as strong as the weakest human moral. A religious organization with too much power can be a terrible and frightening thing, but for every fanatic, there is someone amongst them who wants only to do good in the world. Kings have come and gone, and many of them have been cruel, greedy, or barely considerable as human beings. Yet in the presence of a good King, his followers have a living being to put their faith and trust in — a man who will be their strength in times of war and their prosperity in times of peace: not a faceless coalition of aged men and women who have learned how to tell us what we want to hear, so they can tell us what we want to do.

Every coin has two sides, even if they’re made to look the same. For a book — no, for a world that comes alive every time a reader sets their hands upon our works, the same should ring true. Don’t you think so?

Rant-fully yours,
A – HereticFox

Day Five

Alright!

I’m a little bit behind on my posts, so I apologize for that.  Most of it was spent writing for my upcoming novels.  Unfortunately, that means there isn’t a great deal to chat about.

This last weekend, however, I rediscovered my immense fondness of British cinema and writers from the UK.  My father and I managed to catch a film featuring the fantastic Colm Meany, by the title of “3 and Out.”  The film, which also goes by the alias “A Deal is a Deal” is about a suicidal vagrant and a twisted joke.  Desperate writer Paul Callow (MacKenzie Crook), is trying to find an escape from driving subway trains for a living in the UK Underground.  Coworkers Ash and Vic tell him about a rule known as “3 and out.”  So Callow eventually finds Meany, offering him fifteen hundred quid to jump in front of his train.

Things get twisted around and the deal turns out to be nothing Callow could have prepared himself for.  It’s a definitely recommended movie, released only four years ago.  IMDB has it rated at 6.1/10; which I would argue is a terrible depreciation of a wonderful story.

Thanks for reading!  I assure you all I’ll have something deeper to discuss in a couple days.