Thursday, 29 January 2015

STRANGE GRAINS - D&Difying 'The Art Of Not Being Governed'

This is everything I could easily D&Dify from 'The Art of Not Being Governed' by James C. Scott.

Yeah! Free to question your civilization-centered discourse!

My god Robert E Howard would fucking love this book. I half suspect he came back from the dead and wrote it.

“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?”

"Some subjects were no doubt attracted to the possibilities for trade, wealth, and status available at the court centres, while others, almost certainly the majority, were captives and slaves seized in warfare or purchased from slave-raiders."

(He never actually proves that its over 50%)

1. So ALL cities are over 50% slave populations, don't really see that expressed much in D&D.

"Virtually all hill peoples have legends claiming that they once had writing and either lost it and it was stolen from them."

"The Lahu, for their part, speak of once having known how to write their language and refer to a lost book. They, in fact, have been known to carry papers with hieroglyphic marks which they cannot read."

"Seven villages came together on the same mountain and swore to jointly oppose their Tai overlord. The oath was written on a buffalo rib, which was then solemnly buried on the mountaintop. Later, however, the rib was stolen, and "that day we lost the knowledge of writing and we have ever since then suffered from the power of the _lam_ [Tai overloard]"

2. Language and writing are actual treasures that you can actually seize and if you do then that people loses that language and loses that writing. It's a high level treasure and to either take or return a language from or to a people is a high-level quest.

"Thus precious commodities such as gold, gemstones, aromatic woods, rare medicines, tea, and ceremonial bronze gongs (important prestige goods in the hills) linked peripheries to the centres on the basis of exchange rather than political domination."

"aromatic woods, tree resins, silver and gold, ceremonial drums, rare medicines."

3. Ceremonial Gongs as quasi-currency based on prestige. (This also brings up the possibility of certain tones as a kind of currency.)

"To cite the most celebrated instance, Hsinbyushin, after sacking Ayutthaya in 1767, brought back as many as thirty thousand captives, including officials, playwrights, artisans, dancers and actors, much of the royal family, and many of the courts literati. The result was not just a renaissance in Burmese art and literature but the creation of a new hybrid court culture."

4. We have come for your artists. Wars declared specifically to abduct or commandeer the artistic cultural cores of city states, adding them to your own. Biggest culture wins.

(Scott does not go much into the attractive or generative power of art, probably because its something civilisation does well and the whole book is basically about civilisation being a bit rubbish.)

"Perennial manpower concerns favoured easy assimilation and rapid mobility and, in turn made for very fluid permeable ethic boundaries..... The manpower imperative was everywhere the enemy of discrimination and exclusion"

6. Moving up quickly in the City-State. So far, so D&D.

7. Another interesting thing that comes up later is hill peoples having permeable ethnic boundaries and an 'ethnic bandwidth' rather than a set race or culture – pretty interesting compared to the D&D race and culture selection process. You could start play with a diagram or something of your potential ethnic expressions, knowing multiple languages and able to shift your expression according to the circumstances.

Story Gamers would *love* this. I can almost sense the RPG.NET thread that is offended that all games aren't already like this. “I mean for god’s sake its 2014! Hasn't Mike Mearls read Scott?! God I am so tired of educating people on this.”

"The altitudinal dimension, however, was reversed, with the Inca centres at higher altitudes and the periphery being the low, wet, equatorial forests whose inhabitants had long resisted Inca power. This reversal is an important reminder that the key to pre-modern state-building is the concentration of arable land and manpower, not altitude per se."

8. In the Scottian analysis GRAIN=STATES and that’s basically it. Anywhere you can grow grain and communicate easily ends up being a state, where you can't - its barbarians. (This is over-simplifying, but not by much).

So all you need to do is work out where the arable land and communication channels are - that’s where your kingdoms will be.

So if you invent a new strange kind of grain that, for instance, grows under sheets of ice, or propagates in clouds, then that’s where the Cities are. So you just design your world starting from the phenotype of the grain and working on up and the stranger the grains then the stranger the world.

9. Scott also regards new crops as political factors which change societies by shifting the balance of power between peoples in the way they are grown. Which they are really. Potatoes are political and you could have a D&D game where the first potato is the treasure sought or set in a tumult as a new crop sweeps across the land and re-writes the agricultural power structure.

Each Dwarf is a state, or the memory of a state.
The deep memories of the Dwarves mean that what seems like dourness is actually heroic wrestling with deep history and struggling towards life.

"..this was especially so at the core and when the kingdom faced attack or was itself ruled by a monarch with grandiose plans of aggression or *pagoda-building*." - my italics

10 Insane Pagoda Building projects that bankrupt kingdoms., an entirely real thing I knew nothing about till now

"The late eighteenth-century mobilizations of Burmese King Bo-daw-hpaya (1782-1819) in the service of his extravagant dreams of conquest and ceremonial building were ruinous to the kingdom as a whole. First, a failed invasion of Siam in 1785-86 in which half the army of perhaps three hundred thousand disappeared, then a massive labour requisition to build what would have been the largest pagoda in the world, followed by mobilizations to repel the Thai counterthrust and to extend the Meiktila irrigation system, and, finally another general mobilization for a last and disastrous invasion of Thailand from Tavoy sent the population of the kingdom reeling."

"Despite their syncretism and incorporation of animist practice, Therevada monarchs, when they could, proscribed heterodox monks and monasteries, outlawed many Hindu-animist rites (many of them dominated by females and transvestites), and propagated what they took to be "pure" uncorrupted texts.

11 Transvestites in the hills doing animist rites.

12 Apes are simply men who became apes for political reasons. If you make certain political choices and end up in exile then you just become an ape. Therefore all apes have strong political views which are very important to them and this depends on the kinds of Ape.

13 There is an empire of cooked men. To join it you are forced into a pot and boiled. You come out like boiled meat but alive. As you rise through the hierarchy then you are cooked in more and more intensive ways. The Emperor is carbonised. No one wants to be cooked so the Empire keeps grabbing people to cook them. The punishment for not grabbing enough guys is to be promoted.

"While a grain-growing population whose granaries and crops were confiscated and destroyed had no choice but to scatter or starve, a tuber-growing peasantry could move back immediately after the military danger had passed and dig up their staple a meal at a time."

14 Potatoes of rebellion. Potatoes, and all tubers are banned by law, symbols and tools of rebellion and enemies of the state.

15 Some tribes avoid state control by taking off their heads an burying them in jars to make themselves useless slaves. They feel their way around by touch and retrieve their head once the agents of the state have passed. Others are simply out of focus, you can't really see them clearly up close, you can at a distance but the closer you get the more blurry they are.

"Another response to the pressure to create a political structure through which the state can act is to dissimulate - to comply by producing a simulacrum of chiefly authority without its substance. The Lisu of northern Thailand , it seem, do just that. To please lowland authorities, they name a headman. The Potemkin nature of the headman is apparent from the fact that someone without any real power in the village is invariably named, rather than a respected older male with wealth and authority."

16 There are no goblin chiefs or kings, and actually no Goblin government, and no Goblins. ‘Goblin’ is just a name that the people trying to kill them gave them, they don’t really recognise it, but the Goblins pretend there are and set up false kings to fight and die for false nations in order to confuse those who would control them.

Goblins don’t act chaotic because they are dumb or crazy, it is a political choice.

"The more turbulent the social environment, the more frequently groups fission and recombine, the greater the likelihood that more of the portfolio of shadow ancestors will come into play."

17 The Shadow Ancestors, in a D&D world, would be an active force rather than a mere reaction or creation of the living. Different groups of ancestors of different descents pulling the actions of their descendants one way or another depending on their power. Wars fought to re-arrange ancestral power.

"The Lisu, aside from insisting that they kill assertive chiefs, have a radically abbreviated oral history. "Lisu forgetting, Jonsson claims, "is as active as Lua and Mien remembrance." he implies that the Lisu chose to have virtually no history and that the effect of this choice was to "leave no space for the active role of supra-household structures, such as villages or village clusters in ritual life, social organizations, or the mobilisation of peoples attention, labour or resources."

18 Radically forgetting tribes. How far can you push that? Ancestor free tribes, then further away, one-year tribes, then in the reaches of the deeps, the one-day, impossible even to understand as they remember only for one day.

Under Scottian analysis, dispersed egalitarian communities create religious structures based around individual charismatic figures and has a kind of 'wide-low' spiritual world with the numinosity dispersed into lots of little places and things, centered hierarchical stratified societies create religious structures based around hierarchy and institutions and a spiritual world that is as ordered and pyramid-shaped as the society.

18 These gods and spiritual worlds are actually real and rather than man creation them, it really depends what kind of god or system you end up under. The Hierarchal god wants people to build empires and actually makes people do that, the animist network wants people to disperse and not form hierarchies and so makes people do that.

"Egalitarian, acephalous peoples on the fringes of states are ungraspable. To the command "Take me to your leader" there is no straightforward answer. The conquest or co-option of such peoples is a piecemeal operation - one village at a time and perhaps, one household at a time - and one that is inherently unstable. No-one can answer for anyone else."

"They are millenarians, forever generating warrior leaders, sects, 'white monks', and prophets, all persuading themselves that the Karen kingdom is, once again, at hand. Animists talk of the coming of Y'wa, Baptists of Christ, and the Buddhists of the Arrimettaya, the future Buddha. Somebody is imminent, Toh Meh Pah is coming, something will happen."

19 We can apply this stuff to Orcs and Gnolls if we like. It makes sense that a group with a very flat hierarchal structure would 'auto-generate' prophets and millenarian figures when it needed to operate on a wider scale. An interesting thing is how commonly these prophets bring together peoples from different ethnic groups and how often they are not core members of any of those groups but kind of 'barbarian-cosmopolitans of mixed backgroupd or mixed education or just full-on outsiders. Which fits quite neatly into a D&D game.

It also creates the idea of Orcs as merely Democratic Men. Extremely Free men.

Here's some more Robert E. Howard for comparison:

" What united the rebels was the belief that the python-god, a shared highland deity, had returned to earth to inaugurate a golden age. The dieu-python would destroy the French, and hence all taxes and corvee burdens, while those who followed the ritual prescriptions would enter the golden age and share French goods amongst themselves."

No, sorry, that was Scott. Like I said, hard to tell apart.

"Stepping back from this historically deep and remarkably widespread incidence of millenarian activity, there is a realist school that would regard the entire record as an abject failure of essentially magical solutions."


There is so much more in the book than this but there are limits to the notes I will take when I am doing this for fun. I might still try doing a proper actual review of the book because it is worth it.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

BLATSITSU! - An introduction

Except from

'BLATSITSU! - A fighting style for battling impossible things.
For gentlemen, scholars and ladies travelling without chaperon.

(2nd edition with additions by P Zenithal.)

by Junglangsing Leptoblast

It has been my fate and pleasure since my very early years to be subject to adventure. I have wandered and roved the wide world, seeking always some fresh discovery or unknown thing. Danger has been my constant companion, danger in a plethora or unexpected forms, whether from the common beasts of the forest and field, from the storms and winds which wracked the sky, from the turpitude and greed of men, or from, occasionally, the vagaries and inconsistencies of my own character.

But it is not of these dangers that I wish to speak, but of a particular kind of threat, the danger of the tetramorphs, those remarkable and unusual beings known commonly to men as 'monsters'.

The division betwixt animal and monster, and even between monster and man, must perforce be both permeable and loosely drawn. Is the Sanguine Crane a monster? In most circumstances, not at all. But, if it should come upon you in the morning while you sleep, and hunger for your blood, then certainly it is.

Is the Bedlam Bird a monster? It is and must be considered so at all times, so cunning and malignant a beast it is.

However we are to arrange such definitions, it has been always my desire and joy to seek out those creatures noted for their unusual nature and even for their potential danger, and to make what account of them I could. Combat, of any kind, has never been my intention. I am a scholar, not a warrior. Nevertheless, chance or dark circumstance has many times, in many places, lead me to affray. A rough milling indeed between the stones of violent time!

It would be a poor scholar indeed who sought out such circumstances, but a poorer one still who failed to learn, and make what devisements they could for the sustaining of their life in the field of wild peril and unexpected mischance.

It is the fruit of just such experience which this volume seeks to condense and lay before you as one coherent physical and psychological system which, if followed correctly, will gift the learner with the sum product, not only of my long experience, but of my careful analysis. BLATSITSU! is not only a mere fighting system, (perhaps the most comprehensive ever devised) but a pattern of thought, an attitude and way of being.

The greatest weapon, and sweetest boon of man has always been: THE MIND. And BLATSITSU! seeks to train not only the body, but the mind, body and spirit as one. It is an intellectual as well as physical journey and the deeper the efforts made in its employ, the deeper shall be the rewards.

I am no genius. BLATSITSU!, though an original creation of my own, has deep roots in the fighting styles of many cultures renowned for their martial ability. Over my long years I have been lucky enough to study with the exemplars of several of these styles. I have learnt the Hand of the Yam from the Yam Man of the Phyrrous Plains, I have taken instruction from the silent Rapier-Men, I have visited also with the Swamp-Drunk tribes of the Melanic Moors and learnt something of their 'Drunken Bog-Dance' style.

Yet there are still other cultures, not so famous for their martial abilities, who may still have much to teach us. Not all who posses knowledge are inclined to advertise the fact. I have also studied the slow-time trench-fighting style of the heralds of the dark, I have spoken with the shadows and learnt the true shadow-boxing, I have had converse with the Considerate Ones and learnt from them many secrets of war in the world beneath our own and the power of the 'discretion-punch'.

From all of these source and from many more, I have condensed the core lessons and attitudes and combined them into BLATSITSU!, a fighting style devised specifically for battling impossible and unexpected things.

The primary style of BLATSITSU! assumes its practitioner will have access to a basic dueling stick. However, as a scheme for training both mind and body, BLATSITSU! is an attitude so much as a fighting style, one based on boldness, innovation, subtlety and environmental awareness. Chapters clarify the use of BLATSITSU! when armed only with hand and foot, (the true BLATSISTU! practitioner is never truly disarmed), when tied up, when imprisoned and when asleep.

It is in the field of the unconscious that the mental and physical practice of BLATSITSU! combine to the deepest effect. You will never be in so much danger as when in a dream and the battles fought there can be of deep consequence in the waking world

This second addition of BLATSITSU! has been amended and increased with comments and recommendations from a young correspondent, one P. Zenithal, who contacted me after the original publication of the first edition with questions regarding the use of BLATSITSU! by a female practitioner.

I was at first quite surprised, I had assumed that no woman travelling with a chaperon or protector would need or require such an Art. However, after the exchange of several letters I became persuaded that it is no longer an unusual circumstance for women, young or old, to travel without male accompaniment, and in some cases into the very deeps of the wilds themselves.

There is no doubt that, should they come into contact with Tetramorphs, a woman would be in as much need of BLATSITSU! as any man. These creatures (with a few exceptions) are no respecters of gender.

As BLATSITSU! encompasses a coherent learning program for both mind and body, and since it is a mental attitude a much as a physical program, I believe it should apply equally well to both men AND women. The subtitle has therefore been changed. BLATSITSU! now advertises itself for not only Scholars and Gentlemen, but also any Lady travelling alone. After reviewing Ms Zenithals comments and finding them an excellent match with both the spirit and practice of BLATSITSU!, I have incorporated them into a new chapter addressing difficulties and opportunities likely to be faced by the female practitioner such as: 'What do do with your skirts in a fight', 'Fighting with an umbrella', 'Scissors and their uses' and 'Hair'.

I have also added some comments regarding the criticisms made of BLATSITSU! by several individuals both uninformed and unwise. BLATSISTSU! does not encourage 'low level alcoholism' though unlike most conventional fighting manuals it does acknowledge the uses of alcohol both in training the awareness and in loosening the muscles and encouraging improvisation. Neither is it 'a rag-bag of techniques arranged around some made up monsters', every creature described in BLATSITSU! is quite real and the techniques described are ones I have myself tested in the field. Furthermore, BLATSISTSU! is no mere list of techniques to be matched with each opponent like some petty accountancy of harm, but a system of improvisation and creation so that, no matter what strange and unpredictable threat the practitioner is faced with, they may formulate their OWN response to their PARTICULAR circumstances.

BLATSITSU! demands a great deal from its practitioners, but, if you follow the instructions and processes within I guarantee that you will discover for yourself its enormous transformative power. And remember, even if you should be small, apparently weak, of no matter what gender or shape you may be, if you have a MIND and a BODY then BLATSITSU! is for YOU.

"That ever was thralle, now is he free;
That ever was smalle, now grete is she"

It is true. It is BLATSITSU!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

More Curseling Riddles

Man just never riddle with Curselings.

You make me
but cannot escape me
I have no boundary
Time and Space obey me
But I die before dawn.

A Nightmare

Once I destroyed all
I and my white brothers
Two armies ranked, we fought for life
Nothing survived us.
Then, I met a foe to hard or sharp or sweet.
Now I torture you until you cast me out.

A Broken Tooth

I will take everyhing one day.
But no day.
Till then I wait behind closed eyes.

Darkness / Night

I want one thing: for you to live.
But don't listen
Or I'll eat your life whole.


You don't like me clothing you
But you will wear me in the end
And become me after that.
We will catch sunbeams
And sleep in the stillness.


I am never really with you.
You might think you have found me,
But the closer you attend
The more distant I seem.
I flee between the stars.


Don't worry, I always pass cleanly
Though I seem dirty.
I want to be with you!
Not this still one.
(I have to keep moving)
I have already forgotten how it all went down.
(I have no memory)
Though others might not have.

Gold from dead hands

This is the greatest partnership!
I cost you nothing
I always listen
I never complain
You can make me with a knife
And fuck me all night.

A Dead Wife! (Curselings always laugh after this one.)

The wild beasts know me still.
The poor never forgot.
You made a golden wall to keep me out.
And built a golden store in case I came.
I was inside the wall.
I was beneath the store.
When feasts are done I feast on you.


It wasn't us!
One gave us our command.
Our ten servants did the deed.
Of two, now one remains.
How then can we be guilty of the crime?

A murderers hands.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Swamp-Drunks of the Melanic Moors

"Why are they drunk, and on what? This was my question. I was soon to find out.

From the conversations of the rich I had thought the Melanic Moors and the tribes of Swamp-Drunks there to be little more than an irrelevant scattering of primitives living in the marshlands all around the bay.

As I listened more and spoke less, and descended deeper into the city, I found that knowledge and news of the Drunks and the Moors bubbled beneath the surface of the cities conversation like a cyst beneath the skin. Stories of the tribes of the Moors: the Dismals, Great-Dismals, Thesingers, Morokie-Men and the feared Fluke Boys, as well as the doings of the notable characters of the Moors: 'Her-Face' Shah Lun, Nine-Hundred Wilson, Chthonic Jones and Tenberous Djang, were on the lips of all classes, though only the poorest would speak directly to me on the subject, the rest spoke only amongst themselves, as if they guarded an open secret.

It was only from an apparently-homeless woman sitting on a disused landward dock of one of the poorest towers that I was able to learn exactly why the Swamp Drunks are drunk so much." - Z

"The Melanic Moors cannot be navigated by the conscious mind. The Moors themselves are a several broken archipelagos of reeds and black water, a maze of creeks and waterways, lakes, wetlands, insects and broad floating islands, a baffling labyrinth of reed beds, sunken forests, acidic mangroves and dismal pools. No-one can be sure exactly where they start or end, whether one environment or several linked. Even without any other-natural quality, they would present an incredible challenge to navigation. But some unknown quality of the Moors, some secret force, makes their pathways impossible to rationally understand. Any sane intelligent person attempting to move through them will find themselves travelling in circles, faced with impossibly branching paths, drawing maps that make no sense, unable to describe or understand where they are or should be. If they are very lucky they will go insane before they starve to death.

Only a deranged mind can move safely through the moors. You must be mad, drunk, drugged or half-asleep. Only then, with the conscious analytical part of the mind baffled and closed off, may you move by clever instinct, as the animals do, and find your way. 

It is for this reason that the tribes of the Melanic Moors are named 'Swamp-Drunks' and it is this that makes up one of the few points of continuity between the baffling miscellany of cultures in the Moors.

There, insanity is valued over sanity, the inability to hold your drink or drugs is thought highly of, rather than the other way around. (Anyone who can get drunk easily is a cheap and reliable guide.)  It is common for childhood to be valued over adulthood, dreams over reason, instability and intuition over reason and reliability. Though by no means absolute amongst all Swamp-Drunk cultures, these factors do present a common theme.

Professional guides usually keep a bottle of strong spirits on them at all times in case of emergencies. Some tribes specialise in certain drugs, some keep insane people to guide them, small families can be seen floating past on reed beds, guided by half-asleep children." - Leptoblast

"There is an extensive economic relationship between the City and the Moors.

The population of the Moors is sparsely distributed but the Moors themselves are huge There are reaches of which even the Deep-Drunks do not speak The total population may be very large indeed.

Trade directly with the Drunks is banned and there are regular attempted punitive expeditions in response to some outrage or act of piracy. As well as a flickering state of inconstant conflict. The two cultures are bound closely together.

I estimate as much as a third of the total mainland trade of Juaki comes from this illegal source.

The Moors supply, or transmit from further on: rare and or aromatic woods (for example gaharu, sandalwood, sappan and @orn wood), puccoon-Silks, Virid Steel, Caged Fruit Hounds, the leaves of the Catastrophe Tree, the feathers of the Blathering Bird, the Sanguibe Crane, of Hornbills, Peacocks and Kingfishers, Snapkegs and Snapkeg parts, rare forms of art, war-puppets, bezoar stones, dried organs of swamp fauna, aloe wood, hostages, edible birds nests, honey, beeswax, rice, opium, rubies, riddles, sapphires, liquid shadows in the shells of snails, a variety of spices, the services of Hex Dragoons, diseased spines and many other things.

In the other direction flow all kinds of manufactured goods: machetes, axes, tools, pots and pans, lamps, fuel, candles, sheets, clothes, weapons, fast shallow draft boat, sail, drugs and a truly staggering amount of alcohol.

All of this is carried on secretly, or semi-secretly. Yet the trade is so vast and so important to both cultures that, though they both feign independence from, and contempt for, each other, if it were to ever cease they would both be ruined.

The balance of power shifts endlessly between the two. The borders of the Moors by the bay are dotted with the abandoned watch towers of failed alcoholic colonisation. Now more usually bases for smuggling operations. At times explosive tribes have threatened the towers of Jukai. They are swiftly absorbed, incorporated into the cities history, government and mythology." - Ashkott

"The Mystery of the Moors! A tantalising secret sought by many and postulated, theorised on and discussed by courtiers. No man is without a theory of his own: The 'Second God' theory, supposing the Moors a kind of Twin to the Forest of @orn, the 'Ten-Shadows' theory put forth by Stammel claiming the Moors as the seat of some ancient power, a mere emission of the reeds, a special kind of pollen, the bite of a specific moor-bound insect, a simple curse of Subtle Art, great black gates down beneath the deepest pools leaking forth the logic of some other world, space stolen from the world and worked into an alternative mirror-land. 

No-one knows. But the discoverer would become famous throughout the world!" - Leptoblast

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Redacted report of an unknown subject

SC: '''''''''' '''''''''' ''''''' '''''''''''' '''''''' '''''''''''''''''''' valuable ''''''' dangerous object and risked the wrath of Iksladzord ''''''' ''''''''''''' bug ?!

SUBJECT: Well now its true you never asked me our-right direcly just ta 'steal' anything, but you know folks usually don't. What Ah'm sayin' buddy is that the assumption of theft kinda goes along with the whole 'breakin-an-enterin' situation. If you wanted me to break into this creatures abode and not steal anything then well hell, you shoulda told me that.

SC:  ' '''''' '''''''' ''''''' ''''''''''' '''' '''''''' '''''''''''''''''''!?!

SUBJECT: Like "Get in there, take a look around AND DON'T TAKE NOTHIN ''''''' YOU DUMBASS", cause any other way you say it kinda sounds like "find this place, get in there and take a look around".

SC: ''''''''''''''' '''''''''' '''''''''''''''''' '''''''' ''' context ''''''''''''''''''''''' ''''''''' '''''''' '''''''''''''''''!

SUBJECT: The context is implied you horses ass! You hired a thief to not steal!

SC: '''''''''' ' '''''''' '''''''''''' ''''''''''''''' revoking '''''''''' fee ''''''' '''''''''''''' '''' legal action ''''' ''''''''' ''''' '''''' deniability '''' ''''''''' ''''''' ''''''''' '''''''' ''' ''''''''''' ''''' '''''' ''' wiped from the record and disavowed.

SUBJECT: Hell son you do get frantic don’t you?

SC: I am '''''' '''''''''''''' ''''''''''''''''''''' of '''''''''' You will not '''''''''' '''' '''''' '''' “son”!

SUBJECT: Alright buddy, sorry “'''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''”. You won’t mind if ah actually disclose that information you sent me to acquire?

SC: '''''''''''' ''''''''' '''''''' '' ''''''''''''''''''''' ''''''' '''' ''''' ''''''

SUBJECT: No. Well it’s done now so ah may as well tell you what ah saw.

It was pretty much right where you put it on the map, we went up that golden river for a long while, curvin off into the streams that fed the streams that fed the streams. Then we see the gates. Big stone river gates came up just before the river got too small for a boat to manage. They was somewhat encrusted with the discards of Time but the lock behind em worked well enough.

Once we got through the lock was a long canal. Hell of a thing. Stone banks, straight like an arrow, stagnant quiet and overgrown. We poled up that pond for a long while with those queer trees with the red leaves growin closer.

SC: '''''''' '''''''' '''' ''''''' ''''''''''''' ''''' Rhodopsin ?

SUBJECT: Yeah ,those leaves had fallen and made the canal kind of a still red road. Ah reckon it was Autumn for those trees regardless of what season it was for everythin else.

Ah kept an lookout for Owls and singin' women like you said, and we battened down and kept still and under cover in the night. Guess we got lucky. Took us a day or two and then I see it risin' up over the trees.

SC: ''''''''''''' ''''''''''''''' ''''''' '''''''''''' '''' ''''''' '''''''''''''

SUBJECT: Well it’s difficult to say exactly, looked kinda like one of those kids toys you get to teach em shapes, but fitted together. Like a puzzle you was just in the middle of solvin', but it made a pleasin' form so you just kinda left it like that. It was wood, mainly ah think but ah can't be sure. There were stone foundations ahm certain and stone within. On top of that there was kinda like a suspension-bridge getup included with wires or somethin' comin out like bones in a birds wing.

SC: '''''''''''' ''''''' '''''''''''''''' ''' '''' '''''''''''''''''''''''''''' ?

SUBJECT: Yeah the whole thing looked kinds ay-symmetrical. Like it was fallin or foldin into or outa itself. It looked like some parts we sorta hangin or balanced against other parts with these fine fine wires. Looked kinda beautiful actually. Whole thing did.

SC: '''''''''''''' ''''''' ''''''''''''''' ''''''''''' '''' ''' vulnerability '''' ''''''' '''''''''''' ?

SUBJECT: No ah had the same idea but ah don't reckon you could. When ah got up close a saw that they were cables, woven with metal like it was wool. Very strong indeed. You would need a lot of force to break one.

Well we could see it and we thought we were close so we kept goin'. Turned out we weren't that close at all. Place was just so fuckin huge you could see it from three miles off. Bigger than any castle tower I ever saw. No idea how it stayed up.

At the end of the canal was stone docks. Strange and well made, and beyond them was the Palace.

SC: ''''''''''' '''''''' ''''''' ''''''''''''''''''' '''' ''''''' '''''''''''' ?

SUBJECT: Old too, but clean, like your grandma's house. It was dammm quiet there and somethin kept the trees from growin too close. You had a good bowshot an-then-some from the walls to any cover. And the ground was flagged and almost-flat. The floor was waved and smooth like the surface of a swellin’ sea. Real odd. I guess that’s how they like it though.

Well it was getting pretty late. Ah didn’t want to stay right outside the place and we reckoned last night we had heard the cry of Owls, so ah decided to just get on in there, get the job done, see what was what.

SC: '''''''''' ''''''' ''''''' surface ''''''''' '''''''' ''''''' outer '''''''?

SUBJECT: looked kinda like a loose shell of stone. Like a tortoise shell you know but with all the bits of the shell separated and hangin in some kinda frame of wood and wire. Those shell parts were about six feet wide ah think, larger the further up you got. The shell pieces moved a little, they weren't quite securely fit, not like a brick or a flagstone. Turned out later they could move around quite a bit. Ah looked behind one and all ah could see was a great complexity of suspension. Every time the wind changed the shells moved a little and ah don't think no rain or snow could have got in there, not because it was solid but because it kinda responded. It was a little like a skin and a little like feathers in the way it moved and a lot like a wall.

SC: ''''''''' '''''''''' '''''''''''''''''' ''''' '''''' ''''''''''' Art?

SUBJECT:  No ah don't think it was magic. You could kinda see that everythin got attached to everythin else at some point and it never seemed to put out more than got put in, if you get my meaning, which is the clearest sign of magic to me.

That was the basics of it. The bigger frame was made of wood and metal and light strong stone, all carved and cut very exactly and arranged with each other with great ease and fluid thought. Ah never saw any person or thing mix together materials so complexly and in such diffuse ways. it wasn't like it was impossible, ah reckon people could do it, but it wouldn’t make sense to them to do so as you'd need to plan every single tiny flourish, right down to the carvings and the tiny joints, and then snap it all together in sequence and if any single thing went wrong then maybe the whole thing would be screwed, so I don't see how we would ever make a thing that way.

There wasn't much goin' on there with colour. Almost everything was its natural shade, just polished and worked right down to the fine details. You touched it and it was smooth. No splinters, no cracks.

SC: ''''''''' '''''' '''''''' '''''''' '''''''''''?

SUBJECT: Well its always been mah principle that if you're breakin into a place you do best to start at the top and work your way down. So that’s what ah did. I myself am just about the best climber that I have ever seen and it took me a good half an hour to get to the top of that thing. Up its sides and those suspended iron ropes.

SC: '''''''' ''''''''''''''''''''?

SUBJECT: A vent that  popped open to let gusts of air come through. It’s warm in there, and dry too. Which aint that much of a surprise considering what lives there.

SC: '''''''''' ''''''' '''''''' '''''''?

SUBJECT: Whoo boy! It is crazy in there.

SC: ''''''

SUBJECT: Yeah, well…its like a nest of poles but the poles are straws.

SC: '''''''''''''''''' ''''''''''''.

SUBJECT: Like kinda how if you grab a bunch of straws and get em in a box without breaking them, till they are all mixed up in there then you take the box away and they still hang together, keeping its shape, its like climbing through a maze of those, its gots its passages and its roads, like how if you were small and climbing through a skeleton then the ribs would be a ladder and the spine a kind of passage, but its still pretty crazy. There are rooms, kind of, hard flat floors suspended or hung up amidst the pyolns and there are the tops of stone towers. The towers are real real thin but they stay up cause they were made as one with the rest, all the cables and the suspensions, and all the forces and the weights balance out just right. The stone tops of those thin towers are floors where work is done and things are made, like workshops. There are iron cauldrons there and winches and cranes. Sometimes it seems like the whole thing is just a nest of cranes and carriers. The forging inly happens on the ground floor though, or below, that’s where the big crucibles are. Its light at the top  - there are panes of glass (huge panes) in the roof and they let through light, and the forges down below are a deep red, but in the middle it can get pretty dark, and night was coming on so it was hard to see. It feels alive inside, but still, if the outside was like an old persons house, or the clean house of some fellah thatjust died then the inside is like a workshop where they guy has just stepped out and you feel he’s coming back soon cause there are things happening.

SC: '''''' ''''''' ''''''' '''''''''''''''' '''' ''''''''''' '''''''''''''''?

SUBJECT: No, it could have been a day or a year or ten since something did something, but it felt occupied, “''''''''''''' '''''''” ah says (it’s  always been a habit of mine to name myself in my own mind whenever ah address myself, its kinda for the record you know, ah got multiple gods watchin’me, “''''''''''''' ''''''' ''''''''''''''', you know sure as hell this goddamm ''''''''''''''' '''''''''''' aint gone, or if he is, it aint for long. By dammn ah know an empty house when ah feel on and when ah don't, that’s professional intutition you might say.

Shit ah aint mentioned the poles yet.

SC: '''''''''' '''''''''''' ''''''' '''''''''''?

SUBJECT: I mean, they was all carved up, everything in there is, everythin is carved and cut and decorated, right down to the size of your fingernail there. Most curious arrangements, lines and waves, vivid but unreal, unnatural but fine and beautifully expressed

SC: '''''''' '''''' '''''''' '''''''''' ''''''''''''''''' ''''''' '''''''''''''?

SUBJECT: Climbin! There aint barely no way to get anywhere except by climbin around. Some climbs are easier than others, but you know the spaces this thing slides through are pretty huge. Bigger than a man is by quite a way, so the routes it made for itself to curl and wave around and through the house it made won't work for you. You gotta kinda scamper and improvise from flat surface to flat surface. And don't fall!

SC: ''''''''''''' '''''' ''''''' '''''''''''''' ''''''' ''''''''''' '''''''''''?

SUBJECT: Well I encountered these, I guess you'd call them 'chests' cept they was spherical and metallic and made of kinda layers of material all locked together like a puzzle. I got to thinkin "''''''" for its always been my habit and iron-shod personal law to name mysself in mah own head in case it mah memory was suddenly wiped "Old '''''''''''''' ''''''', this whole place is like one big puzzle made by that creature that lives here, and those look ery much like smaller puzzles made by the same hands. And if you was that creature and you had things to keep, well maybe you'd just keep them in a thing exactly like that, because by damn you wouldn’t have no problem opening them.

SC: '''''''''' '''''' ''''''' '''''''''' ''''''''''?

SUBJECT: Hggmm. Well ah happened to have with me.. tell me son. you ever heard of a 'Thieves Eagle?'.

SC: ''''''' ''''''' ''''' '''''' '''''''''''''''''''''! '''''''' '''''''''''''''' ''''''''' ''''''' ''''''''' ''''''' '''''''! '''''''''''''''''''! '''''''''' ''''''' '''''''''''''' '''''''''''' '''''''' ''''''''''''''''''' '''' '''''''!

SUBJECT: Ah found mine. Just warmed her up and she got one of those spheres open right away. Found your doodad there inside.

SC: '''''''' ''' '''''''' '''''''''' '''''''' ''''''' ''''''''''''''''''''''' Iksladzord?

SUBJECT: Yeah he turned up pretty much as things started to go to shit. Never seen anything like it before and never want to see anything like it again. Huge! And those goddamm hands! Ah don't reckon he saw me straight away be he sure as hell knew something was up. The way he moved through that place. Incredible. Course he made it for just that purpose. Ah knew ah wouldn’t last a second against something like that, he was arming his teeth for war right enough, with all kinds a crazy weapons, and wherever he went he would kinda reach out with his teeth and feel the strands and the pylons. Ah knew to pause dead still whenever he did but it still seemed like some kinda secret information was makin its way back to him. maybe he could feel mah heart beatin, ah don't know.

SC: '''''''''' '''''' ''''''' ''''''''''''''?

SUBJECT: Hah, weeelll. Ah kinda made a commotion.

SC: ''''''''''''''''''''?

SUBJECT: Ah found a way ta turn over the feeds for one of those forges on the ground floor, got boiling Iron spreading all over the place. Knocked the safeties out so the floor went up. Whooo he was pissed off I can tell you. Ah ran for it. When ah looked back that thing was pulling some kinda leaver. Musta had it prepared, water from the canal was gushing in from some kid of hydraulic system. That thing had a whole safety plan worked out ahead of time! Hell of a mind ah tell you, hell of a mind.

When that water hit the iron it calmed the fire down but the steam was explosive in the extreme, whole place was full of it. I coudn't see shit and ah reckon even that thing coudn't sense shit. Must have pulled some other leaver cause the shells that made up the walls just kinda rippled open to let out the steam.

It was dark out there by then. Out I go and runnin back to the boat quick as ah can. From there we just pole'd it you know? No sense on sticken around I thought.

SC: ''' ''''''''''' ''''''' '''''''' Iksladzord '''''''''' '''''''''''''''' ''''''''' '''''''''''''''' '''''''''' '''' ''''''''''?

SUBJECT: Shit it's not like ah leave a callin' card in the places ah steal from with the name of the guys that hired me on it. That Thieves Eagle might still be running around in there (she got away from me, they always do) but hell, no-one at all can catch them, and it ain’t like they learn in the egg.

SC: '''' '''''''', ''''''''' ''''', '''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''' '''''''''''''''''''''' '''''''' ''''''''' '''' ''''''' '''''''.

SUBJECT: Ohhhh. Oh shit, well that aint good.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Shadow Archipelago

(Note: I use the word 'Civilisation' a lot in this post. I use it to mean '(often relatively) densely populated society dominated by urban centres' and only that.)

In his book 'The Art Of Not Being Governed' James C Scott talks about the uplands of South East Asia.

To cut a very complex argument down (also because I haven't finished it), his theory is an attempt to turn on its head the standard narrative of civilisation in which centres of agricultural power gradually expand, drawing to themselves various people with the strength of their highly organised society, before  reaching the hills and mountains where they find dispersed ancient peoples, relics of a past age from before civilisation, people made hardy, uncivilised but independent and freedom-loving by the mountains in which they live.

In Scotts re-telling of this story Civilised centers essentially bully captive or near-captive populations into doing what they want. They fill flat valley-areas with grain-based agriculture, not because it is more efficient but because it locks people in place and makes them easier to control.

Then various peoples decide they want nothing at all to do with Civilisation and, as this is before the modern era and civilisations find it very hard to project force in highly complex mountainous terrain they bugger off to the mountains and build societies defined by the fact that they are very hard to centrally control.

So, in this version, the mountains don't make people independent, independent people go to the mountains. Mountain agriculture isn't necessarily that much less efficient than plains agriculture, its methods are chosen for political and semi-political reasons. To make the people who use it harder to find, harder to count and harder to control. And there is an economic relationship between the mountains the valley even if they are politically separate. And the mountains aren't full of ancient peoples, some of them may be ancient, but some may be quite recent indeed.

And, this is the part where it gets very interesting for me, even their forms of social-remembering may be specifically arranged to make them harder for the state to make use of. He mentions that all the societies he talks about have legends about how they could once write and had a written tongue, and in many cases that writing was stolen from them.

Oral cultures are more plastic, more personal and, crucially, are hard to reveal to strangers unless you specifically decide to.

This lead me to think of the nature of memory and of what civilisation does.

We live inside a kind of global Mnemarchy. Oral cultures are pretty good and you can do a lot with them but there is a hard limit to the amount of information they can carry. Civilisations are the guardians of deep-memory-in-detail. What we know, we know of densely-organised peoples, the history of distributed peoples is generally lost to us.

Again, oral cultures can carry something a long way into time but in terms of the amount of information they can carry, the level of detail they can carry and the distance into time they can carry it, writing, inscription and the products of civilisation win out.

So anyone who talks about history in the modern world is pretty much talking about the written history of civilisation. When we see any other kind of history we see it through the written history of civilisation. Like my buying 'The Art Of Not Being Governed', a book about distributed oral cultures, written on paper, by a guy employed by a university, produced en-masse, bought on the internet and distributed through a highly structured logistics network. It's a very civilised thing.

This is where it gets D&Dable.

To D&D something, or genre-fy it generally, we can take an effect, or something which is primarily an effect, turn it into a cause and then spin the dials on it.

Let’s accept Scotts argument about memory, in fact lets over-accept it and assume its the most important thing. People go to the hills and build societies where they carefully half-sabotage their own cultural memories, oralising what was written, embodying what was disembodied, turning record into behaviours and what can be read by anyone into something that can only be understood by a few, to make themselves hard to understand or control by the Civilised valley.

So the Valley Civililisation becomes the guardian of a certain kind of 'national memory' a structure for arranging and understanding knowledge of the world and making an identity of it.

What about the *opposite effect*.

Some people try to avoid the Valley Civilisation by going to the hills and making their memories shorter, more personal, more plastic. What if there was an opposite place, a place opposite to the hills where people went, maybe because, like the hill people, they wanted to, or maybe because they were forced to, or simply it was a natural progression of their nature.

These groups might not be driven by the expansion of the Valley Civilisation but perhaps separated when it goes through its periodic (but almost inevitable) contractions.

And in this place, rather than changing their own memories to make them more plastic, more personal, more embodied, less comprehensible to outsiders, they went the opposite way, they built huge icy labyrinths of total memory in which they lived. Absolute memories. Memories that could not be contradicted. Memories that could not actually be lived with comfortably in the Valley Civilisation.

And where is this place they might go? Well it has to be the opposite of the Mountains and in South East Asia, that is the Sea. The sea is wring because it’s actually very easy to travel by water instead of in the mountains, and maybe there isn’t an actual physical archipelago where you need one, but this is D&D and you might not be able to build the kinds of thing you would need in the 'real' world anyway. There is always they Plane of Shadow.

An archipelago of Shadow Islands, only part real, strung around the city at a distance, just far enough and strange enough that it is almost impossible, or very hard, to project military force there. But related, like the hill peoples, in some kind of cultural contact with the centre, defining the centre by what it is not. Changeless where the centre is alive, absolute where it is adaptable, locked into an unforgiving history and identity while the centre is strangely mutable by comparison. Like there is a certain level of forgetting you need to do to have a functional civilisation and they won't do it.

Not the remnants of an ethnic group that nearly got wiped out, but perhaps the remnants of the people who did the wiping out, and are still pretty much fine with that.

And all different, ancient histories and ethnicities and philosophies and ethnic or racial groups strung out like a ring of shadowy pearls around the City State.

An archipelago of eternal White Russians and loyalists to fallen crowns and adherents to once nation-shaping faiths now lost or changed. Each very small, yet many, an archipelago of hidden Taiwan’s holding alternative histories, almost like parallel political and cultural worlds. Expressions of what could have been if things had gone a different way, thousands of them from the long long history of the state as it grew and changed and fell and grew again, and shrank and grew and fell again and was re-built. All those other histories that were lost, distant but somehow keenly yearning.

The default idea is undead, and yes they might be there, but it’s almost more interesting to think of them as frozen or undead cultures, but full of living people.

(Some Arab cartographers called the Atlantic the 'Sea of Shadows' which I rather think we should have kept as a name.)

The islands are half shadow and you can only really reach them when there is certain light and certain shadow on the sea, which is rare, the shadows of certain storms and certain great waves against certain stars or certain faces of the moon. Or perhaps it simply takes a long long time to reach the shoreline of a shadow isle and if you go there, though the visit may be short for you, you come back years later.

But they are there and you can almost sense them as you sail past or through the oddly-stilled patches of sea.

Would the communicate with each other? It seems like they wouldn't be able to stand each other, demanding as they would the sole representation of the true history and true self. But, perhaps over time they might. They have something in common after all, they all remember the same place and I suppose each one would consider itself the 'real' nation and everything else relics or shadows of it and therefore no offence.

What would they trade in the Shadow Archipelago and what would they build? I don't know, art perhaps. Music. What would you pay to hear Roman music as the Romans heard it? Or to see a Greek play as the ancient Greeks saw it. The Spartans weren't allowed to write but they were famous for their music and their dancing, what would it be like to see that, or to own a Tang Dynasty vase made only a week ago?

Perhaps they would go mad and become fierce. And they would always be a strange threat to the Civilisation that birthed them, small as they are, with their alternate histories and alternate sense of self.

They would know a lot about certain things, scholars would try to get there.

Scott would say the closeness of the hills placed a kind of natural limit on the ability of the state to control its populations. If it comes down to it they can just go away and this puts a kind of pressure valve on what they can do. What would the Shadow Archipelago prevent or allow. Perhaps it would govern or control the amount of forgetting they could do.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Our Rainbow Problem

So our Monster-Manual project has been cursed. When Scrap is scanning in the pages, what should be super-kewl rough and raw monster pictures are turning up with these pretty rainbows.

This happens when there are grey and black dots. It didn't happen before and it seems to happen mainly on pages with some colour. It's a scanning issue.

Does anyone know what this is and how to fix it?

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Rawson on Indian Sculpture

So, this was written in 1966 and may or may not be full of mildly sketchy Orientalism. If anyone who actually knows anything about Indian history or Indian Art wants to offer a dissenting view about the facts then please do so in the comments.

(click the book)
Add caption

First some D&Dable description:

"As a consequence, his countryside is filled with places where divinity dwells. these places become his shrines, the terminals, as it were, of the transcendent power supply from which, by appropriate rituals, he can draw the strength he needs to carry on his life. Every village has its holy spot, or shrine. Among the fields or along the roadside there are others, all marked with dabs or stripes of red paint. A small village hallows may be : the stump of an ancient tree, with two contorted branching arms, cased in earth and painted with bands of red and white; an anthill from which a mysterious sound was once heard emanating, daubed with red dots; a raised plinth under a tree upon which are piled fragmentary stone statues of an earlier age, ploughed up from their fields by the peasants: a huge boulder cased closely in a wall on three sides, its fourth face wholly painted vermillion: five small stones on the bare earth at a hedge corner, crudely splashed with the same colour."

Alright, fuck it I'll Last Gasp it for the nerds that got this far.

"Chalukya pillars have fantastic sequences of turned transverse mouldings. Temples of the north may have a profusion of pinnacles punctuated by ribs, slots and flanges. The foliage undulates in endless profusion. All these multiplied motives have one thing in common - rhythm. They are like crystallized rhythm.

Indian music emphasises its rhythms, which are extraordinarily complex and subtle, by the use of inventive drum-beats. The rhythmic patterns embody sequences whose numerical relationships carefully avoid he simplified time-sequences of western music. From this subtlety of time comes much of the expressive power of Indian music. The crystallized rhythms of architecture are exactly the same. Their proportions are subtle: and one has to follow out their rhythmic sequences for them to have their full effect. They are not a matter of mere texture."

1. Now this *sounds* very correct indeed. Looking at Indian temple sculpture does feel a bit like listening to Indian music and looking at western religious spaces does feel like listening to choral music. But is it true? Or is is a convenience of thought?

"One icon particularly reveals the omnipresent power of Vishnu, Narasimha, the man-lion. one of Vishnu's young saints had a controversy with an odious king, his father. The king denied the omnipresence of Vishnu, striking a stone pillar, which he declared inert and non-divine. From the being of the pillar the form of Vishnu materialized and, with the hideous mask of a lion, tore out the entrails of the king, and vanished."

Oh Vishnu.

(The flaw of our history being learnt through stone is the opposite flaw of the modern filmed biography.)

"The purely physical aspects of the technique of Indian sculpture can be dealt with fairly briefly, since most of them are rooted in methods common to the arts of the world. the first consideration is that Indian sculptures nearly always carve images that are related to a ground, i.e.. their works are strictly speaking reliefs. even though the figures in them may stand quite free from that ground.

The second is that the Indian carver only used points and flat chisels. Claws, bull-noses and gouges seem never to have been used. This is particularly important in connexion with the emphasis on convexity I discuss later. Because of course these three last chisel-types are generally speaking intended for articulating hollows into a sculptural surface.

The third consideration is that the Indians favoured the method of strip-cutting to reach their final surfaces. This involves cutting off the stone in a series of facets, each of which runs like a continuous band from top to bottom of the figure and corresponds to one outline of the silhouette.

Finally we must always remember that Indian stone sculptures were nearly always intended to be finished off with a finely modelled layer of lime-plaster, which was itself painted. This plaster skin was particularly important in the cave sculptures, hewn from a relatively coarse stone."

2. If there is one point on which I already disagree strongly with Rawson, it’s his disposal of the very methods and tools used to sculpt within a few paragraphs.

Does anyone reading have any direct experience with claws, bull-noses and gouges and the different way you would use them to interact with stone? I mean, the physical differences, the way you stand, the pressures applied, how it makes you transmit force into the stone. And also how it makes you think about and regard the stone.

My own suspicion is that it would be unwise to separate tools and aesthetics in such a way. Especially since one of Rawsons themes is the 'fullness' of Indian sculpture. If using a particular tool makes it feel like you are 'revealing' a figure inside the stone then could using another one, to gouge and scrape away 'inside' the figure, make it feel less like a whole being and more like a complex space to be worked?

"Long tradition and the synthesizing habit of the Indian mind have combined to set up a system of conventions which allied visual art and poetry very closely. in fact, Indian sculptors never developed units of form - basic indivisible forms - covering less ground than the terms of poetic speech.

The classing Amarakosha Sanskrit dictionary, for example, gives separate terms for the upper arm the forearm, the hand and the elbow: but the wrist is merely 'karabandha' the hand 'attachment'. Triceps, biceps, vastus exturnus, ridge of the ulna and so on were not named in the poetic consciousness, so they were never developed as units of form in visual art."

3. Again, this is interesting and *seems* correct, but is it true?

"I have mentioned the most striking characteristic of the forms employed by Indian sculptors - the fact that *all* the units of form into which the surfaces of Indian sculptures are divided are *convex* and the only true concavities in the whole of Indian art are special cases   ...... skeletal or demonic figures ..... the free-hanging parts of draperies."

"From all this it will be clear that a unit-surface in sculpture is determined by the continuity of a single linear development. In Indian art the appears as a continuous, unbroken contour as the form is revolved about the vertical axis: or as a continuous unbroken light-line in the highlight. Indeed, it is for their property of bringing out a clear form by means of such a light-line, combined with the darkening effect of a transparent weave where the form turns away from the eye, that ladies wear sheer nylon stockings. A classic example of emotional emphasis my plastic means!"

4. Throwing this one in partially for the lively metaphor but also because of light. Rawson talks later about the effect of strong sunlight on sculpture. The stronger and more direct the light, the more fully you 'lose' anything thrown into shadow. So, in India you need to compose a form with a strong light line and any details places where shadow falls will probably be lost.

When I compare this to northern European sacred architecture it seems correct. Cathedrals, and the whole Gothic style are pretty much about painting with layered gloom. We have a lot of gloom up here and we learnt to use it. The closer you get to the equator, the less gloom you have to work with and the sharper the line between light and dark so your sculpture has to work with that.

Is that stupid?

I could go on but it would mean quoting the whole book. There is stuff on time, more on the intersection of theory and sculpture, stuff about theatre and dancing. Really there is something interesting on every page. I would strongly recommend it.

5. Biggest differences sticking out so far

Depth of shadows means sculpture maybe doesn’t need to be as deep as you can have the shadow infer that.
Intersecting smooth harmonies and tones.
TAKE THE SKIN OFF, then draw the muscle, then put the skin back on.
No smiles.
No dancing unless a deamon is poking you.
THAT particular named person with thier personal history becasue YOU WILL BE SEEING THEM AGAIN WHEN GOD ENDS THE WORLD.
Clothes to the max, more drapery = better.
Control sexual desire for religious ends.

Bright as fuck
Sharp shadows
Deep deep sculptures
Smooth unbroken lines.
Dense interlocking rhythms.
Fullness, unbroken bodies.
Women - loads.
SMILING - people seem to be having a great time.
Dance it up baby.
Perfect and therefore, rather general people
Clothes, why bother, fuck drapes, put some jewellery on.
Use sexual desire for religious ends.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Command Structure of Aa+t

(This post makes use of letters and sounds that cannot currently be described with the technology available to Blogger. Available figures have been used as stop-gaps. For reference '+' is the lower case version of '@'. Scrap is working on the technology to communicate this to you more fully.)

The Ark-Eater Prime eats Arks and has the right of first consumption of any religious relic found on Aa+t, this right supersedes even the Navarch itself, the only circumstance in which it does not exercise ultimate sovereignty.

The Ark-Eater commands the Grist-Things, specialist officers with particular duties, and the Fistulix, through the First Fistulix.

The Fistulix command the Mid-Ship Souls and they command the Basic Souls.

The correct form of command is that any direct order from superior to immediate inferior, that is, from First Fistulix to Second Fistulix, or from Ocular to Ocular Gap, is given with the Prefix 'Mister', and then the Title of that post. This is done regardless of the gender shape or form of anyone involved. In the case of the relationship between a Grist-Thing and their immediate inferior this may be shortened to the second part of the title, but the prefix of 'Mister' may not be ignored. So the Bonesman may refer to their Mate as 'Mister Mate' or the Quibbler to their Regrettable as 'Mister Regrettable', but never simply 'Mate' or 'Regrettable'.

The Navarch need only extend this privilege to the Ark-Eater Prime "Mister Ark-Eater" or "Mister Prime" are both acceptable, but will often pay the Grist-Things the respect of using their title as well i.e. "Neatly done Mister Visceral".

Nevertheless the Navarch communicates mainly with the Ark-Eater Prime and its Murder Man, it is rare for other members of the crew to receive a direct order from it, although it has the right of Full Command of Aa+t.

Personal names are used only in cases of unusual closeness or assumed failure. To hear you name spoken by a Superior means either that they are very happy or very upset. If this is done in public then it is almost always a reprimand.

The First Fistulix has a superior position to, though not technical command over, the Grist-Things. Any order given must be given "with civility", that is, phrased as a request and with the correct title used in full, along with prefix. i.e. "Mister Bonesman would you kindly flense me a bucket of clavicles."

This is extended even to the Grist-Things Mate, who are considered to be extensions of the Grist-Things position.

When an order 'leaps the chain', and is given directly to an inferior two or more positions down then the prefix of 'Mister' need not be used. Only the basic title, or, in the case of basic Souls, simply 'You' or 'That'.

This can lead to complex situations if the number of Bonesmans Mates, or Eradicators Mates is massively expanded, (not an unusual occurrence in cases of Moon Ape invasion or damage to the wheel) then the First Fistulix will address a members of this sometimes huge mob of uncertain Souls 'with civility' - "Mister Mate would you kindly suppress those Apes by force", whist addressing the Third Fistulix, someone who would usually outrank by far a Basic Soul, with near contempt: "Dammn you Fistulix, slaver those groins!"

Likewise, a Grist-Thing formally outranks any Fistulix other than First, but any orders must be phrased 'with civility' in the same manner.

There can be brutal arguments between the Grist-Things mates and mid-ranking Fistulix over precedence and authority. Though technically the Grist-Things Mate does have the advantage so long as their orders are phrased correctly. Even the Regrettable Quibbler may order a Fistulix, though they would be unwise to try.

Basic Souls are made up if three ranks. The first and lowest is the 'Rational Soul', so named because they are used as rations by the rest of the crew. This encompasses 90% of the population of Aa+t in most circumstances.

Above them are the 'Hungry Souls', these are formerly Rational Souls who have feasted upon their own kind. This marks them out as potential recruits into the command structure of Aa+t.

Above the Rational Souls are Old Souls. This includes any individual who has sailed with the Navarch on multiple journeys, yet has not been promoted. An unusual position indeed. While Hungry Souls and Rational Souls are made up of the basic population of Aa+t, the Old Soul can be almost any kind of Soul at all. They are extremely evil.

Most Old Souls hunger for promotion, either to Mid-Ship Souls or A Grist-Things Mate. If they fail to be promoted over several trips they are commonly referred to as 'an Old Old Soul'. There are some very old old souls who are actually happy in their position and have sailed with Aa+t longer than some members of the crew, they are a source of strange tales and disturbing wisdom.

There exist also Centrifugal Souls. They occupy an unusual position, not only physically, but also within the command structure of Aa+t. They consist of any individual who has found their way to the weightless centre of Aa+t and hangs there suspended yet alive. By the custom of Aa+t, these creatures exist outside the hierarchy, meaning they can neither command, nor be commanded. Therefore they cannot be Rational Souls, therefore they cannot be eaten.

No member of the crew of Aa+t may forcibly remove any Centrifugal Soul from their strange position, they may only request, 'with all due respect and observance of form' that they come down. Though once they do come down they can then be considered Rational Souls and eaten.

Most Centrifugal Souls simply starve to death.

Though all Grist-Things technically occupy the same rank, in reality there is an informal order of precedence.

The Murder Man is usually ranked first amongst them. In cases of the death or demotion of the Ark-Eater Prime, they are usually replaced by either the First Fistulix or the Murder Man. For this reason there is a constant rivalry between them.

The Murder Man is in primary charge of the Navarchs supply of 'rations', which brings them into direct contact with the Navarch itself. Often they become extremely skilled at Navigation although, obviously, nowhere near as effective as the Navarch. They will usually hide these skills well, if they are seen to be too able or to know too much, they may be rationalised, yet, if Aa+t is in danger and the Navarch requests assistance, to make anything less than a total effort would have disastrous implications. The position is a complex one.

The Bonesemans chief responsibility is providing bones for the wheel, a vital task. Since the Navarch may request almost any kind of bone and in any numbers, this is a difficult position to fill and is one of the most common vehicles of promotion in Aa+t. If the Navarch orders 'one hundred skulls for the wheel', the Bonseman must hurry and recruit mates from the ships souls to complete the order.

Skill in retrieving bones can provide ready advancement into the rank of Bonesmans Mate, especially smaller and more unusual bones that are difficult to retrieve by brute force. A salamanders cochlear bone, for instance.

The Visceral is in charge of feeding the crew. An uninteresting position unless Aa+t should start to run low on souls, in which case the Visceral has charge of deciding which members of the crew are eaten and in in which order. A rank which grows in powerful the longer the journey goes on.

The Ape Eradicator is in charge of defending Aa+t from infestations and 'minor' attacks from the hull. Most commonly infestations of Moon-Apes who climb in through the stern and steal Souls. Though they can also be employed against any other threat which rides the hull of Aa+t.

Like the Bonesman the Ape-Eradicator may recruit as many Mates as are required to fulfil their duties, sometimes a very large number indeed, depending on the number of Apes. This makes the position another excellent vehicle for promotion, one of the few which does not necessarily require consumption of Souls.

The Ape Eradicator and its Mates are one of the few ranks expected to go outside onto the hull of Aa+t, leading to dangerous levels of total insanity. "As mad as the Eradicators Mate" is a common phrase.

The worst circumstance any Ape Eradicator can conceive is if Apes should enter Aa+t from the prow, in full view of the Navarch.

The Navarch is quite capable of defending itself, but the presence of Apes at the prow and not just the stern indicates a very large infestation indeed, one that should never have been allowed to grow as large as it has. In this case the Ape-Eradicator is almost always  be demoted or 'Rationalised'.

(Defending Aa+t from interdiction is the responsibility of the crew and 'all souls that can be compelled'.)

The Ocular has charge of maintaining awareness of the inside of Aa+t, usually reporting directly to the Ark-Eater Prime. The Ocular Gap is often projected or launched into the centre of Aa+t in order to get a better view. Though often tied to a long rope or some other device by which they may be retrieved, this does technically make them a Centrifugal Soul, at least while they retain their position. For this reason, they may refuse to come down if they wish, though the consequences can be dire.

The Quibbler queries orders, plans and processes and keeps a ships long, as well as a record of everything inside Aa+t that is not souls. It is not known for whom the Quibbler keeps its records, its certainly not the Navarch, although the Navarch does acknowledge the quibblers rank and role and if a Quibbler is killed the Navarch itself will interrupt the chain of command to appoint a new one in a private talk.

The Quibblers position involves keeping track of threats not only from inside or outside Aa+t, but from dangerous treasons in the crew itself. Most murders and assassinations are considered a reasonable and normal part of the process of commanding Aa+t, unless they occur with too great a frequency, but anything that could threaten the position of the Navarch (unthinkable) or endanger the journey itself might be considered a 'meaningful treason' and lead to a drum-head trial before the Navarch itself at which the Quibbler will give evidence and act as prosecution.

The Quibblers job also involves it keeping track of what would commonly be considered 'treasures' recovered from Aa+t. These are of little interest to the Crew, but often form the basis of plots by Rational Souls to take Aa+t by force.

The Regrettable Quibblers or 'Regretables' act as agents for the Quibbbler. This is another excellent vehicle for promotion inside Aa+t, as, loathed as much as the Quibbler themselves, but lacking the direct protection of their rank they often die in 'accidents' or 'dissapear'.

Thursday, 1 January 2015



You tried to finish me Year, but I have mastered you and now, with your death, know this: I will eat your child. I will eat 2015 and you WILL NOT STOP ME. NOW DIE!

You tried to stop me finishing my ONE HUNDRED MONSTERS, but this very night know that you have failed. In publishing nothing is ever actually  finished. There are only endless problems that feed upon each other and must be fought and crushed in an unending cycle of sisyphean horror. But lo the most recent problem has been truly crushed and our mighty work still lives! You shall not take this child from me 2015! It shall be born and stand by my side as I conquer.

And behold, it is my (our) most gigantic Thing yet. Estimated 93,000 words.

You tried to make my blog sporadic and a bit rubbish 2014, aye you had some success in this. Your scheme of giving my regular employment was a device worthy of the Great Deceiver. But now my latest work nears its end, I shall rise to post again!

It is true you have taken from me my Great Work, the tome called Veins Of The Earth, and cast it upon the tides of the Warp, but I shall re-discover it in time.

The Deep Carbon Observatory and the False Machine book (which someone at my sisters wedding read, which was odd), were thrust forth into this Dark Millennium and they shall battle by my side.

I remember well how your predecessor, 2013 took from me the Medusa's Maze which must, on some strange benighted world, still live. One day perhaps we shall meet again.

5th edition was brought forth into your horrors 2014, and also 5th gate happened and god a lot of shit went down in quick succession in the middle of the year really, but once your dark forces were opposed. Also Zak failed to kill Fiddlin' Joe on the VornWelt, by the random table he fell and by the random table Rose Again.

That SAVAGES thing might still happen.

Will I ever get round to writing Lanthanum Chromate. POSSIBLY I WILL.

Also Zak brought forth R&PL, possibly the greatest Bunnies and Burrows supplement ever written

 (WTF can't the Pale house turn into animals? You nearly had the whole set man, you nearly had the whole set.)