Sunday, 1 August 2021

Trailing Corposant – I READ THE HORUS HERESY

If there is one thing I would like people to understand about the Horus Heresy series it’s this; there is an extended scene in which one of the main characters is anally violated with a 'Pear of Anguish', by his children, and he's into it.

 That's not really representative of the series or meaningfully informative, I just really had to get it off my chest.

 ------------------------------------------------------------

Yes, the legends are true, I have indeed read or listened to the audiobook of EVERY SINGLE Horus Heresy book which has been published as of this date.

Yes, even the Primarchs series.


Two years ago I did a post about every book I had read to that point. I don't want to just go over the same gags and the same analysis again.

My original plan was to go through the books from beginning to end, writing about what came to mind as I thought of them and anything I had been able to glean from them.

That is still somewhat the plan but thinking about the first book brought to mind the deep structure of the series and that brought other things to mind and so on, so I ended up writing a longish essay just about this one book.

Don't worry, I am not going to do this for every book in the series, nevertheless, this is going to have to be a sequence of posts rather than just one long one.



 

 

1 Horus Rising - Dan Abnett

 I re-listened to this one more recently. Its pretty good. I’m still not sure it would make a blind bit of sense to anyone who didn’t know anything about 40K.

 People; we meet the ‘main cast’. Loken, the Mournival, sneaky Erebus, the Iterator Kiril Sindermann, who might turn out to be the first Inquisitor, and the Remembrancer, Keeler, who may one day be the first Imperial Saint.

 We sort-of meet Horus. Abnetts way of capturing a superbeing is to pull a kind of multi-camera Rashomon thing where everyone gets fragments of interactions and we have to infer from these what is on the Primarchs mind. This remains the best way of writing about them as the series goes on but is gradually set aside.

 Loken encounters a demon but Horus tells him not to worry its just a warp-based predatory information hazard.

 Our merry Xenocidal and occasionally Genocidal crusade fleet meets the anti-Chaos multi-species Star Trek Interex people who are chill and who know exactly what Chaos is.

 The Imperial people definitely do not know and Horus, whatever level of knowledge we might assume him to have, clearly doesn’t know nearly enough.

 No-one trusts anyone else but just as the Interex are about to explain to Loken, maybe the only Luna Wolf who would directly meaningfully understand what they are on about, what chaos is; sneaky Erebus does a war crime, stealing a super-chaos sword, and murdering breaks out.

 

Minor Things;

 Are the Kinebranch aliens chilling with the Interex the Jokero? The Demiurge?

 

 

Big Patterns

 

Conflicts Across Time

The Emperor and the Chaos Gods are both reading the future and trying to make their preferred version the one that happens.

 The Chaos Gods, and, increasingly, the Emperor, are also present in the deep Warp, meaning they exist somewhat outside of time. This means their influence can cascade back in time and arrange events so their preferred state of being exists.

 They are also both trying to trick and deceive each other about what they are going to do and about which futures are likely. 

 

Multi-Conscious Beings

Relatively minor non-god characters can ‘divide their minds’ and commit themselves to plans which they themselves do not directly consciously know. This gets confirmed in the most recently published book; ‘Alpharius: Head of the Hydra’.

God-level entities can be assumed to have multiple layers or divided sections of selfhood, all prosecuting plans and desires which themselves have feints, multiple fallbacks, etc. They are all trying to fool or provoke each other into over-reaching and making themselves vulnerable.

  

Defeat Inside Victory, Victory Inside Defeat

A pretty common tactic for both the Emperor and the Chaos Gods is to, at the point of your opponents greatest commitment to victory in a high-intensity struggle, use that moment of distraction to hide away some strand of fate or consequence which will give you a big strategic benefit later on.

 

 

The Binding of Isaac

So, why did the Emperor set up his sons to fail? Why did he send them off into the Galaxy with the instruction of “get worlds get worlds get worlds”, without telling them about Chaos, without telling them exactly what they were and in fact, leaving the more psycho ones fully in charge of their legions?

Probably, the Primarchs, and to a lesser extent, the Astartes, are poisoned traps. Irresistible bait for Chaos.

E-Money knows he made them out of Chaos Juice he got from the Big 4, probably after promising them he would make mortal part-demon stable supersoldiers lead by bound-demonic bioweapons and use them to burn the Galaxy.

Of course he was lying to them and they were lying to him and he knew that they knew that he knew that etc etc etc.

The combination of the Imperial Truth dulling the power of Chaos, with more and more worlds being taken all the time, plus E-Money on Terra getting close to accessing the Webway, means Chaos must be under some kind of actual threat. The speed of the thing means the Gods have limited time to act.

E-Money knows they will try to take back their children and he is hoping that by seeming to limit their window of opportunity on them he can get them to *fuck it up*.

Which, to be fair, they nearly, and in a handful of cases, actually, do.

But even if the Chaos Gods do succeed in taking back their children, its likely that they will still be poisonous to their interests in some way. Likely E-Money intends to use the Primarchs to poison the Chaos Gods with humanity, not turning them good, but splintering and limiting their power through their obsession with controlling these Demon-Child Primarchs and via the effect of the Primarchs personalities on the Gods themselves.

God calls out for Abraham to sacrifice his only Son, and Abraham did fill his Son full of spiritual roofies and did sacrifice him, and knocked God the fuck out, and took His stuff.

Its possible that E-Dawg put Horus in position to fall precisely because he really liked him, trusted him, and thought that at the last moment he could bring him back, thereby making him a future super-weapon against Chaos.

 

 

What is the Horus Heresy a Story About?

A Father who abandons his sons?

The paradox of Sacrifice.

The actual binding of Isaac is a strange story. Though a lot of Bible stories are. God demands that Abraham be willing to sacrifice his own son, that he love and fear god so totally that he will not only murder a child whom we presume he is fond of, but in terms of the culture of the day, destroy his own future, his own continuity and the hope of everything he has lived for going on into the future.

And Abraham is willing to do this, and prepares and begins to do it.

Then God says “Ok, that’s enough.” The will to do it is sufficient. So long as you are willing, absolutely willing to do it, you don’t have to do it.

In the Horus Heresy is actively trying to destroy the Gods. To do this he steals their power and uses it to make sons. Whatever his plan with these sons, to conquer the Galaxy and install the imperial Truth, or some deeper more complex scheme, his final aim is not in doubt; destroy the Gods.

What the Emperor actually feels about his creations is hard to tell, but the most reasonable reading of the texts suggests that he genuinely likes at least some of them.

It’s also reasonable to say that he sends them all, the ones he likes and the rest, out into a dangerous situation, deliberately under-informed, with the full knowledge that something is probably going to go wrong, though he doesn’t know exactly how or when.

There they are, like bait dangling in a stream, false sacrifices.

He doesn’t intend to give them all up, or possibly even think he will have to.

Still, ultimately, he knows he will lose a few, and this is part of the design. They have been set up to fall, to be taken back by the Gods.

One strong reading of the Jesus story is about the end of sacrifice. A core tenant is that, as Jesus sacrificed himself, there don’t need to be any more sacrifices to God, neither animal or man, that period is done.

Jesus was another somewhat-mortalish creature composed of Godpower. In his case the Deity sent a part of themselves, perhaps knowing that he would suffer and be sacrificed, arguably as a point or bridge of understanding between God and Man.

The Heresy is something like an inversion of this. Again, the part-god sacrifice, but in this case Nietzschean man forms the part-God sacrifice as an act of trickery.

The result is Nightmare Stasis – the Kali Yuga forever, or at least 10,000 years. The Gods cannot consume reality as they desire, but man, all of man, suffers terribly

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Her Grace of Wyrms

I am moving house soon and the heat is driving me mental so posting will be slow. Here is some more development on the Queen Mab project with Alcopopstar which is still ongoing. 




You Hear
 
She treads the air upon blue flame which pierce the vault like spears, keening like kettles, roaring like rain or a river piercing rock.
 
The Silent Shroud - Her Grace can silence her step. She sings a song of interference which reaches out with a rhythmic throb, the only sign of her presence a pulse of pressure, until she drops the shroud and the scream of her blue tongues lashes forth.
 
 
You Smell
 
She passes in a stink of acrid pitch, a biting smell like curls of metal from a smiths work fallen into a hot forge or, (whisper it), the sharp tang of a tanners yard.
 
 
You Feel
 
Her gaze prickles like ant-bites and heats the skin like a boiled bath.
 
 
You See
 
A  perfect blackness, without depth or inner shape. Only the blue tongues of fire and the borders of her form are clear. Her shape is ever-shifting, never still, her edges crackling with angular sharpness like paper endlessly refolded into different forms; an hawk, a kite, an armoured angel. She dances through the air on tongues of blue flame twisting like a weavers hands.
 




 
 
Her Character
 
Her manner tilts between a cavalry commander and a bitter courtesan.
 
The teasing false solemnity of woman of great beauty, the arch and prickling vagueness of an artists model, almost flirtatious, then, a shift to the imperious violence of an impetuous knight or a bloodthirsty general. Her Grace moves constantly between a near-coyness, as if she were considering a kiss, to a barely-repressed belligerence, as if she were about to demand a duel.
 
Beneath all this lies an uncertain bitterness. For all her power and wrath, one might think she were a teenaged girl abandoned by her lover.
 
 
 
 
Her Desires And Demands
 
- From the Parliament, Elpizoi & the Pythians, she wants TROOPS, meat for the Crusade
 
- From Melinoe she wants FOOD and WATER for her Courtiers.
 
- From the Nome Queen she wants DRAGON BLOOD - for the old fraction engines to be awakened
 
- From Mab she wants ATTENTION and VALIDATION - "Do I not serve you my creator?"
 
- From Night she wants TARGETS - "Find me fat realms ripe with unearned wealth!"
 
 
 
 
 
Her Powers and Frustrations
 
A Mistress of Dragons who have slept too long. Gifted with startling powers of annihilation on a battlefield, or the skies of realms undreamed of, yet these do her little good amid the mouldering schemes and dim poverty of these shrunken times.
 
Much of her Power is born from possibility; if or when the Wyrms are loosed again to harrow another realm _then_ she will decide who goes, and who returns, she will be the arbiter of gifts and the mistress of favours.
 
Contrarywise; if Her Grace were to set herself to the direct destruction of any Court or Lady, she might do them terrible harm. Yet this would mean terrible destruction as she cut her way through the palace like a knife, followed by chaos, anarchy, broken oaths and the disapproval of Queen Mab.
 
Yet still, she might, she might do so, and from this might-be, much might be devised.
 
Unfortunately the nature of Her Grace is too-direct to take best advantage of this trade in possibilities. Schemes, she loathes, and wishes only to once again cut the sky above a trembling realm.
 
 
 
The Harrowings
 
When the time comes for a great Harrowing of the corrupted, earth bound and unwise, the Beasts of the Parliament, many dancers of the Symphony of Forms, the detritus of Midnights Realm, and all the flotsam of the palace are herded and driven and piped into the Wyrms and the Queen of Air and Darkness opens the way, tearing open a gateway to the sky of a defenceless world, a world to be liberated, its resources commandeered for the revolution and the most oppressive of its rulers and decadent parasite repressive class, brought back for trial and justice.
 
 
 


 
 
 
[DESIGN DIAGESIS]
 
 
[In game terms she is loaded with ship-killing and lady-killing weaponry, killing a crowd or a bunch of PCs is not going to be very hard for her, so the essence of dealing with her is going to be that the PCs are very much beneath her immediate notice - she is involved in super-war, constantly trying to organise shit, fending off endless requests for resources and attempts on her loyalty from various powers while also trying to get fuel, supplies, target information and TROOPS, legions for the crusade, from various powers.
 
She can’t employ her super killy powers in the palace, so she is FRUSTRATED - like a tank commander trapped in a party. Though she is super powerful and courted by all she is not very powerful socially, and in these circumstances, it all comes from a promise and a potentiality of what she might do either good or bad, for others, and since she is not politically adept - this makes her frustrated, so she is easy to manipulate, or fears she is, and so might have an interest in some low level drones she can bully into doing something useful for her - or at least into disrupting the schemes of others
and hopefully hastening the day when the Jacks meet and she can get a target for the next revolutionary crusade.]
 
 
[I imagine Her Grace of Wyrms as a pure A.I. starkiller hyperweapon, liberated from its creators by Queen Mab and allowed to destroy them. Intelligence and adaptability increased and given some kind of dimensional folding ability, like the ability to pack herself within a kind of dimension of herself.
 
Something like an f16 fighter or stealth fighter - matte black, anti radar, impossible to tell her depth, folding new or old parts of herself out of the blackness, like an angular black origami angel balancing on wings of vectored fire. Aer voice roars like that of a god, the boundary of her form is always changing, like paper being endlessly refolded, but usually in the shape of a woman wearing armour, or an ornate gown, or a winged creature or a shifting collapsing pattern of symmetrical jags. She is usually bilaterally symmetrical, crowned, balancing on jets of blue fire.
 
Light will not reveal her, no matter how much you use. Deep scans will suggest an opening to some impossibly deep space with the occasional wild ping of hard returns as somewhere within a flexing surface or edge returns and EM signal for a moment.

 
[PERSONALITY]
 
[yes a Courtesan turned murderous revolutionary, with all of the style and elan of a high fashion mistress, to which is added a near-deranges hyper-violence and a commitment to the cause of uplift and transhumanism - probably more than any other High Lady; for them it’s a cause they created but from which they are all slightly alienated by its unexpected consequences, mutual fuckery (and they fact they are all fucking insane and blitzed out of their minds), whereas Her Grace of Wyrms is a direct result of it and is actually a main 'hitter' for the organisation, their version of a military leader, who actively does much of the harm head-on and suffers much of the trauma thereof.]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 19 July 2021

The Shadow Speaks

 LATEST IN THE LONG-RUNNING SLOW-RUNNING SERIES

(I lost track of whatever our format was meant to be and have started just rambling about these guys)





THE UMBRA-TECHNICAL ELEMENTAL




God damn this was a good entry. Old Patrick, how do I get that energy back?

Honestly this reads more like a Neil Gaiman story or an eldritch episode of Cadfael than something you could put in a proper adventurer. Nevertheless- all of this is related to huge buildings, specifically; ancient buildings, which are places we might expect adventurers to spend a lot of time. So there must be something I can do with it.




Agnes Miler-Parker



TOP OF THE HEAD IDEAS

A umbra-technical of ruins who remembers the old building and tries to re-create it through seduction and shadow powers - assembling lesser spirits in mimicry of old ways, maybe even a relatively safe space for small beings of less power as being part of this mummery brings you under the aegis of that potent but disordered spirit - could easily imagine a fey seduction situation where moony individuals summoned away to the ruins.

To be in love with the shadow of a place is something we would expect from poets, in fact probably a fashion - but what would it be like if the shadow of a place was in love with you? Would it try to trap you there? Maybe it doesn't care if you live or die since time means little to it and it can love your bones just as well.

(Trying to remove bones from an ancient place angers the shadow of the place which then sets its shadowy history against you).

Powers - so begin with shapechanging - a huge raptorial creature, perhaps as big and dangerous as a dragon or a wyvern, but capable of melding in and out of space according to the umbral nature of it, but add to this a kind of power of illusion, an ability to warp the vision - but let’s say also to warp the mind - to bring scenes and elements of the past to life, but only those bound to this place, and not directly from life but from their description in stone - a replication of a record of history, rather than a fresh re-creation. So perhaps the character and nature of the *artist" and the _age_ will show through in these illusions. Do you need an art historian to decipher/fight them?




Franz Schwimbeck


THEY DON'T KNOW THEY ARE ILLUSIONS

The not-knowing of self could be extended to the elemental and all its creations. Like there is something shadowy about its consciousness as well as its powers, not just a ghost or entity lurking in a place but a power that does not know it is a power - that does not know it *is* at all, with each expression believing that it is what it seems to be and is doing whatever it does for its own imagined reasons, and all of this is influenced by the contents and nature of the building - its record in stone and what the elemental knows about that record.

This perhaps explains why it can be such a seductive lover for some people, it almost has no "self" or no awareness of such, so it is totally focused on, absorbed by, the object of its attention. 



Richard Tennant-Cooper


SOME IDEAS

> Ruin the Relationship!. Hot poetic heiress "in love" with the Elemental - they want to be together so to break up the relationship you need to make them no longer in love with the building.

> Seduce that Shadow!. Someone looking for ruins or has already fond them, says they want to study the ancient carvings, paintings etc. These are long-gone but if they can find a way to summon out the elemental of that place they hope to seduce it - but it is fractured and a bit nuts.

> The Lover Without a Self. Most shadow believes it is light - is there an adventure in that? It runs towards the sun and dies. The idea of a shadow that wants to die - lets say someone either is in love with the shadow or wants it to be more stable and needs to find a way to stop it running towards the sun each morning, so you have to persuade the shadow that it is not light, but it has no name or selfhood and takes on different forms depending on the situation. Ok this was a difficult idea to put in an adventure.

> Skeletons Up To Something. There are ghostly undead knocking around the cathedral at night, walking corpses and liches doing dark rituals, but hat disappear to nothing, but it turns out that its just the elemental, but then it turns out that there are actually evil undead doing conspiracies in the crypts and the elemental was inchoately trying to let people know.

> Rambo vs the Protestants. Have to defend a Cathedral or ancient temple from religious radicals who want to smash up its images for being heretical - PCs are massively outnumbered but if they are clever they can gain the aid of the elemental which inhabits this place and it will aid them with shadowy illusions drawn from its deep memories (but they can't communicate directly, and must do so by inference with its conjured selves).

> Its a cult!. A group charmed to the service of the elemental but they think its something else (and so does it) like a mysterious goth cult or something.

> Child of Stone - or more really child of the memory of stone. Some.one born of the union between an elemental and a woman - they have nebulous but highly situational shadow abilities, are massively drawn towards this particular place and strange dream-memories of being a building for 5,000 years. They actually know quite a lot of history though they don't understand it. The Hook? Maybe they are a noble, a future King or Queen and them being a massive wierdo is going to cause problems for the Nation. Can the PCs do something about it?

> There's a ghost of some old dude, we can't banish it, please investigate. [It’s the Elemental who in that form, _thinks_ it is the man, or even the ghost of the man], to get rid of it will you play along or do something else?

> The shadow that fled to the night and returned. The Shadow elemental of a place suffered somehow, or its building was changed, so it fled into the night and changed, becoming something more aggressive, savage, consuming and powerful, now it returns to the bones of the place that was changed and this now-modernised building is draped in the shadows of its ancient past, even silhouettes of things that are no longer there - people being taken in the half-dark, others being seduced and compelled, epidemics of blindness, only the undead in the walled-off crypt actually remember or understand what the threat is.

> Art Crime. The shadows that loved beauty - some building or place where its said to favour the beautiful and make them even more so, like if you are a hotty then if you go there you will be well-favoured, a fashion for high status women to be painted in this place, even though its not really for that - whole deal where you have to break into this cathedral, get this fancy woman and the artist in (maintaining their dignity, you can't just cart her over the wall), and distract the guardians of the building for as long as it takes the artist to paint her face at least - but you have to do all this non lethally, harming no-one, not offending the spirit of the place and also not irritating or annoying the principal, a kind of highly specific art-crime if you will.

> The Invisible Man - they want cycles of things repeated - perhaps one actually has a formal role within the maintenance of a great temple, and the hierarchy even knows they are a shadow elemental, though they do not - there is an office, an expected series of responses and interactions with others during certain hours but the rest of the time they simply 'don't exist' - in fact they become, and are, the shadows of the place and so in a sense know all that the shadows see - the enemy of the PCS is an "invisible man" who isn't even real and doesn't know that - or maybe that's the quest giver and the rest of the clergy know but they themselves don't - the missions are all about preserving the cathedral but "in disguise" so that’s not always obvious.


Friday, 16 July 2021

The Bug Under Your Tongue

A brief idea about language in RPGs and how it does or doesn't work differently compared to IRL assumptions.


So we've all had the idea that a game world should, like the real world, contain many languages.

This is difficult to make work neatly in D&D. There are workarounds and an intelligent DM with smart, committed players can accomplish nearly anything, but in general it’s hard to maintain table discipline when one or more PCs don't understand a language being spoke while others do, and while the players and DM understand much more.

Add to that the sheer number of languages in anything like an "accurate" game world. You enter one mountain kingdom or micro-culture and then have an adventure, learn a bit, then enter another, and so on and so on. So the partly ends up depending on magic, hiring translators, using trade languages which are usually only known by narrow classes in those cultures etc etc.

Interesting and fun if you are into that stuff, frustrating and irritating if you are not.

Other ideas are based more around the way a game actually plays and then doing the old RPG trick of taking a game artefact and reading it back into the diegesis of the imagined world 




Idea One - Animal, Ancient, Monster & Magical languages

I don't think I am the first person to come up with this but;

Most of the "normal" people you speak to have the "common tongue", but there are other languages, these either belong to people "far away" (i.e. you need to level up a lot to get there and once you do you are essentially embedded in another culture, OR they belong to animals, monsters and magical stuff.

Idea being that its a lot less essential to be able to speak the languages of these things, i.e. it won't necessarily logjam the game if no-one in the party can do it, but it’s a nice, situationally-useful benefit that a character can have.

Monster Languages may be just like normal tongues - knowing one is like learning French. Depending on the tonality of game you want, speaking to animals, can be a magical or pseudo-magical skill. If you want to expand that to being able to talk to rocks or rivers or whatever, with a Le Guin-style idea that in this world everything has a language of some kind and if you meditate long enough or experience the right things, you can learn it.

The utility of this is easily controlled by having animals and rivers and rocks simply act like those things and continue with their own behaviours and values.

Magical Languages and ancient languages have already been covered well in D&D by many people.







Idea Two - The PCs as Natural Translators

If it’s hard to run a game where people in the world understand each other but the PCs generally don't, perhaps it would be easier to play one where the PCs and the Players, understand everything (or nearly everything) while people in the world do not.

If there were some diegetic in-game reason that the Player Characters could understand the languages of the people around them, even though those populations might not be able to understand each other - how would that play and what kind of game would it create.



POWER

The first two kinds of game that sprang to mind were firstly, that the Players would naturally take on a kind of peacemaker/diplomat/travelling problem solver role. Since they understood everyone and understood their problems and how they relate, they would do some JRPG shit and go around fixing problems and settling disputes.

Then I thought that I was being soft-headed and that the PCs would instead use this power over others to become even more effective murder-hoboes. The language thing gives them what any manipulative scumbag desires, the ability to easily leave a social matrix once they have completely fucked it up and to move onto somewhere new, with no way for their old doings to follow them.

Or they could use this power to extract resources from a variety of communities and build some kind of palace-fort at the point where territories intersect.

Well who knows, maybe that was the experiment the Mind-Flayers were running when they gave the PCs language powers.





DIEGETIC REASONS FOR PLAYERS AS TRANSLATORS 
PLUS WHY NO-ONE ELSE CAN LEARN LANGUAGES
A MOTHERFUCKING TABLE ITS BEEN A WHILE EY?

Reasons the PCs Can Speak Many Tongues

1. The classic RPG opener; you woke up in a laboratory, have no idea who you are or how you got there. The place is wrecked and you escape. No-other subjects got out. (Until much later when you find the super evil/super good prime version of you which did).

2. Got infected by a magic bug which now writhes under your tongues. Bug may have a long-term plan but who knows.

3. Raised by creepy experimenters who did the whole "raise a baby in darkness/a grey void" thing t see if there was a "natural language". Good(?) news! There is and you speak it. Alternative version is a bunch of magicians adopted a range of children and raised them only speaking in the Enochian language or the weird glyph language to see if something useful would happen.

4. Demon did it! As  group you exchanged your memories for language facilities. The Demon decided to have some fun during the summoning and 90% of the people there died. Left a bit of a mess. None of you are quite certain if you are one of the summoners or one of the intended sacrifices who escaped.

5. Magic.. I don't know.. Bird? Wait! You are all actually mynah birds, parrots and corvids polymorphed by either a Wizard or pre-existing spell/curse/prophecy situation you all blundered into. Never human so nothing that took language from them doesn't affect you, plus natural language skills now you are human. Char-Gen is based on bird species.

6. You have a Universal Translator. Maybe it’s a semi sci-fi orb that goes about your heads like a psionic stone, or an actual box you got from the bodies of a Star Trek escape team or an ethereal guardian angel you got after accessing a hidden crypt.



Reasons No-One Else Can (much)

1. Literal Tower-of-Babel incident. All the local towns and forts are built of its stones. Even a major range of hills is made of the wreckage.

2. Magical Disease/Curse. The Plague of Unknowing. It passed a generation ago but those who survived and gained resistance had to develop languages using new pathways in their minds, and all of these are different, so they can't be learnt as conceptually-similar structures like before. People have "tongues" or ways of speaking but no "languages" exist any more.

3. Ethnoterror leading to Orwellian annihilation of shared history leading to crazed enclaves who just don't like "them whatever they are's!" but don't really know why.

4. Ah Ha, it’s the (increasingly complex) DAWN OF MAN, everyone is various different descent lines and you are just the first group to have worked out even the concept of a shared language.

5. Dang old Ballardian dream-apocalypse lead to complete ontological breakdown, everyone going strange and Stanley coming home from tesco "looking awful queer". Reality has since healed and is now stable enough that leaving the house is not like taking ketamine.

6. It’s a Carcosa, or a Tekumel. All these "people" are either the residuum of old lab experiments, created specifically so they can't understand each other, or are aliens from different dimensions or something, so their brains are literally totally screwy compared to one another. But none of them really remember this exactly.



Saturday, 10 July 2021

The Maker in the Game

Games Workshop, a company that designs little men, has a curious habit of placing the diegetic in-world designers of those little men, in the world in the world they are designing.


Don't know who did this but good work!
 
A lot of the imaginary soldier-boys were deliberately created by individuals in the imaginary world, and a lot of those individuals actually have miniatures themselves....
 
Let us look through a few
 
 
  
 

Belisarius Cawl and the Primaris Space Marines

 
10,000 years to make a slightly bigger marine! Well here you go, and they were all designed by one dude, and here is that dude, so now you can role-play them hanging out together on the tabletop...
 
Godhood - no
Creator on the Tabletop - yes
Creation on the Tabletop - yes
Method - SCIENCE! (upgraded mortals)
 
 
 
 

Nagash and the Dead Bois.

 
Vampires - immortality experiment/spiritual weapon gotten (possibly) lightly out o control.
 
Ghouls - the same weapon now mutated and even more out of control.
 
AoS ghosts - there used to be ghosts anyway but now they are organised, radicalised and ranked up by Nagash. Ghost ISIS!
 
Super-Skeleton Ossearch Bonereapers - essentially Nagashes 'Space Marines', Skeletons with more Skeletal power, but very specifically _designed_.
 
Godhood - Yes
Creator on the Tabletop - yes
Creation on the Tabletop - yes
Method - soul corruption, soul manipulation, soul recycling/upcycling.
 
 
 
 

Sigmar and Grungi - kitbashing best pals

 
Sigmar - god of beards and hammers but not dwarves, and Grungi, god of Dwarves until he "went out for cigarettes" - now best pals and hanging out in the heavenly realm making super-bodies for heroic souls.
 
The new stormcast even have Grungis 'makers mark' on them
 
Godhood - yes
Creator on the Tabletop - no
Creation on the Tabletop - yes
Method - soul upcycling/magical bodies
 
 
 
 

Teclis - soul-recycling eugenicist "ethnogroup optimisation specialist"

 
Teclis and Tyrion, the good (ish) elven gods, got togeher with the more goth elven gods and after somehow tricking Slaanesh into letting zirself be tied up, proceeded to stomach pump him/her of all the elven souls that got consumed in the death of the old world.
 
Results were mixed. Seems like it took Teclis a few tries to get 'proper' elves and the castoffs escaped into the sea in what was no doubt a heart-warming pixar film. Still, all the current elves are presumably descended from his stomach-pumping operation.
 
Godhood - yes
Creator on the Tabletop - yes
Creation on the Tabletop - yes
Method - soul recycling/upcycling
 
 
 
 

Fabius ("Fabulous Bill") Bile

 
A distaff member of this club. Famous for being an "ethnogroup optimisation specialist", most of his lore involves him trying to make new forms of mankind, though unfortunately none of these have ever been produced +specifically+ as minis.
 
Godhood - no but by now kind of yes
Creator on the Tabletop - yes
Creation on the Tabletop - not really
Method - SCIENCE! (plus mild [serious] sorcery)
 
 
 
 

Ahzek Ahriman

 
Not famous as a big designer, and not a deliberate creator, but after turning his friends to dust he can now hang out with them on the table.
 
Godhood - no
Creator on the Tabletop - yes
Creation on the Tabletop - yes
Method - magical accident
 
 
 

Genestealer Patriarch

 
Finally a father figure that sticks around and looks after the gene-line. Infects your gonads and controls your brain.
 
Godhood - no, but if feels like yes
Creator on the Tabletop - yes
Creation on the Tabletop - yes
Method - GENETICS (plus psychic parasitism)
 
  
 
------------------------------
 
 
What, if anything, does any of this mean?
 
Its curious no? - this repeated relationship of the creator and creation, the shaper and the shaped, inside a paracosm which is itself based around those things shaped
 
all of these little men have a designer, or more likely a gestalt of designers, but at every point there has been a human mind, or a series of them, deciding the shape and arrangement of every single piece of forM, specifically arranging all the symbols and symbology, thinking about the silhouette, the god angle profile, what they look like arranged as a group, the types of forms and shapes used and how they relate.
 
And in the world there are designers with personalities with specific histories and backgrounds, who are even aware of each other, and who are engaging in the same, or similar processes. You can imagine Sigmar and Grungi having a sit-down meeting with a whiteboard the same way the GW design team might have had
 
 
------------------------------
 
Replication of a thought process, or a role of creation, within the creation itself. Holographic. Ian McGilchrist would probably relate this to left-hemispheric dominance - the obsession with re-creating a 'model of reality'. It reminds me of homunculus theory - the man inside the man, and the recursive question of the nature of consciousness.
 
It also reminds me of the multiple D&D dungeons and modules arranged around models of the brain.
 
What is happening with all these imagined creators? Perhaps the mirroring of a function which is impossible to observe directly, but its imputs and outputs can be observed, so this replication and recursive repetition of the role of the creator - split into a thousand shards (ok maybe 5 to 10 shards max) is a kind of spectrometer reading of the emotional, psychological and cognitive role of creator.
 
A reading of a gestalt, of "Games Workshop".
 
So what do they have in common?;
 
 
 
Nothing from Nothing.
 
None of the creators create from nothing, most adapt something else - most of the 40k charaters start with basic humanity and alter it with science and a little bit of magic, but beneath all of their 'creations' is a prior - standard, forgotten human, a template for creation, to be morphed and altered in a huge range of ways.
 
The AoS fantasy creators start with souls or the pieces of souls - this is the molten plastic of their dreams.
 
Grungi and Sigmar pull mortal souls from the moment of death, Nagash corrupts, infects, and combines pieces of soul energy into something new. Teclis stomach pumped his, but everything comes from somewhere else.
 
A great curiosity of the Warhammer world is that there are, (i think) no *primary creators* - there is not Brahma or God of Abraham who simply says "Lo - let there be souls where there weren't before", instead, all of these changes and alterations are built either on a quotidian life imagined mainly through its inferences in the lore, or from relics of a recovered past.
 
 
 
Sketchy Creators and Hidden Flaws.
 
Almost all of the creators have a slightly-sketchy to very-corrupt relationship with their creations. The act of creation is almost never a clean on it seems, there are bad feelings involved.
 
Nagash, Fabius and the Genestealers are clearly meant to be bad, but Teclis is good-ish and essentially dumped an entire race for being "imperfect" and even the elves that passed quality control ended up going mental.
 
The Stormcast have their flaws, many are a bit odd to begin with and they buy immortality at the price of slowly becoming divine golem with each re-creation.
 
Space Marines - well read any Aaron Dembski-Bowden book for a deep dive on the strangled feelings in that relationship.
 
What a strange curiosity in that the accumulated inferences of these connected paracosm'(s) is that the act of creation itself is a violent act, in some ways an almost, (or directly) cruel act, for which both creator and creation must pay some kind of price, and which is never entirely morally pure.
 
Every creation is a little crime. Every act of selection and shaping carries some kind of moral cost, which every creator hopes will be paid off by the final result.
 

Monday, 5 July 2021

The Worship of Stone and Time - a review of Titus Groan

 THE PROSE

Holy fucking shit the prose is amazing.

'Lambent'?

Like sunlight on clouds.

The sheer scale of invention and the beauty of the embroidery of word and concept, it reads like someone had painted full-scale paintings of each scene and moment and then had a poet write their impressions of them. 

"She rose to her feet, 'God shrive my soul, for it'll need it!' she boomed, as the wings fluttered about her and little claws shifted for balance. 'God shrive it when I find the evil thing! For absolution, or no absolution - there'll be satisfaction found.' She gathered some cake crumbs from a nearby crate, and placed them between her lips. At the trotting sound of her tongue a warbler pecked from her mouth, but her eyes had remained half closed, and what could be seen of her iris was as hard and glittering as wet flint.

'Satisfaction', she repeated huskily, with something purr-like in the heavy-sounding syllables. 'In Titus it's all centred. Stone and mountain - the Blood and the observance. Let them touch him. For every hair that's hurt I'll stop a heart. if grace I have when turbulence is over - so be it; and if not - what then?"
Lucidity.

Every image and moment is clear, as if it were held before you, but each image and moment is also near-verse in its rhythmic and syllabic construction, and in its music. But almost every image or moment is also a touch sly. It is a book without clichés, at least in prose. YET - and this is the really difficult part, it is also a book without awkward inventions or interventions of humour;

"..He was only just in time, for the circle, like a golden plate, was balancing upon its rim on the point of the northernmost of the main crags of Gormenghast Mountain. The sky above was old-rose, translucent as alabaster, yet sumptuous as flesh. And mature. Mature as soft skin or heavy fruit, for this was no callow experiment in zoneless splendour - this impalpable sundown was consummate and the child of all the globes archaic sundown’s since first the red eye winked."

It reeks of paracosm, of a world and of scenes imagined so totally, in such detail yet with such precision and economy, reading more like multiple great acts of sub-creation than one, as if the castle were already there in Peakes mind, full and complete, the produce of many long years of imagining and detailing, as if it already lived, an internal stage and then he populated it with characters, and then placed them in each individual scene and - seeing that so totally in his mind, he simply looks at it, as one might look at a painting in a gallery.

No actually not as just anyone might look at a painting, but as a painter/poet might, someone who understands both the craft of painting, the arrangements of light and form but also the joint, weight and fixture of words. He works as well with sound and aural timber as with light and lens.

I'm going to go to a random page and pick out the first line that stands out to me;

"Where have you been since then? said Lady Groan, suddenly addressing her sisters-in-law and staring at them one after the other. her dark-red hair was beginning to come loose over her neck, and the bird had scarred with its feet the soft inky-black pile of her velvet dress so that it looked ragged and grey at her shoulder..




AN ELFIN PALACE

Gormenghast has no actual agricultural land around it, and no religion, (apart from the Countess in the quote above where she says God shrive it, though in the end she swears 'Stone and Mountain - by the blood and the observance', which if anything is the true religion of Gormenghast. Blood and stone.
So far there is not even a road.

So it is a castle in a dream, which synthesises neatly with the social world of the people inside; they, strange introverted apolitical (in terms of the larger world) nobles, their immediate servants and the grey, quantum, serving classes who no doubt are descendants of the Mallorys quantum squires. Their social and mental world is entirely within the castle, so its ok for the story and everything it means to be entirely within and about the castle.

But, there is an Outside.

There are poets and historians, a library full of them, until it is burned down. One character, Keda, goes quite some distance outside, and she gets work, so there are at least farms and rivers out there, and there is an immediate outside, the twisted woods, the mountain and the moors.

It feels very like a place visited in a dream or almost like an elfin palace in a story. There is a strange kind of slumbering half-magic, the countess and her near-unearthly abilities with cats and birds, the hugeness of Swelter, the arid slenderness of Flay, a strangeness bordering on dream. 

Leave Gormenghast a travel to the hills as you will find a monastery with William of Baskeville venturing the mysteries of the Aedificium. Go through a door and you enter the Halls in Clarkes Piranesi, the Addams Family are next-door-but-one, Edward Gorey lives down the street, at the turning to Cumbria or the Pennines or Wuthering Heights or Jamacia Inn. You would not have to step far off the path from any of these places to reach Gormenghast.

"Where is Gormenghast!" seems like the kind of imponderable, unsolvable, eternal question which might drive mad one of the residents of Gormenghast.

So what are they doing, this magical, ritual, impossible family? What do the rituals do?

The book itself is in two minds. There is a Kafkaesque horror to Gormeghast, at the core of which is that the rituals do nothing, that all of this, this great accumulation and sustainment, is dedicated to nothing and absolutely nothing, that it is a mad prison for everyone involved. It starts with terrible horror - the wonderful carvings, works of burning majesty, abandoned and ignored, forgotten, but, as the book goes on, it either reveals slender slices of an already-considered meaning. or falls more in love with the feelings of its cast. The ancient blood of the Groans, the continuance of the rituals.

The Countess Gertrude certainly believes in them, and she is strong.

Where did she come from? Who are her kin?

This is in the last lines;

"And then, as he stood quite still, his hands clasped about the handle of the feather duster, the air about him quickened, and there was another change, another presence in the atmosphere. Somewhere, something had been shattered - something heavy as a great globe and brittle like glass; and it had been shattered, for the air swam freely and the tense, aching weight of the emptiness with its insistent drumming had lifted. he had heard nothing but he knew that he was no longer alone 
...
The Castle was breathing, and far below the Hall of the Bright Carvings all that was Gormenghast revolved."



GROTESQUITEIES, MONSTERS AND VICTIMS

All the victims are monstrous and all the monsters are victims. Flay, who abandons a young man to starve to death in the initial scenes, but who later battles the monster Swelter and who is possibly redeemed. Steerpike, the hero-monster, Prunesqualler the primping tightening performing nightmare doll who it seems has a heart, the mad Count, the possible-witch or Giant Countess.

Who is there who is not wounded? Who is there who has no capacity for terror, or who has not dome something important utterly utterly wrong.

This I will stand by; there is no normal person in Gormenghast. Keda nearly is, but then becomes a tragic heroine.

What this means I know not but from such an assemblage of performing marionettes and horror masks one would hardly expect humanity, yet they are the most human people imaginable; all mad distortions of psychology and bone, and all with their sympathies and sorrows, secrets and desires



IS THIS AN ANIME?

yes because it has scenes but those scenes aren't scenes from a play, or a drama, (largely), also it has these flowing, idly slow-time manga-panel moments;

"A bird swept down across the water, brushing it with her breast-feathers and leaving a trail of glow-worms across the still lake. A spilth of water fell from the bird as it climbed through the hot air to clear the lakeside trees, and a drop of lake water clung for a moment to the leaf of an ilex. And as it clung its body was titanic. It burgeoned the vast summer. Leaves, lakes and sky reflected. The hanger was stretched across it and the heat swayed in the pendant. Each bough, each leaf - and as the blue quills ran, the motion of minutiae shivered, hanging. Plumply it slid and gathered, and as it lengthened, the distorted reflection of high crumbling acres of masonry beyond them, pocked with nameless windows, and of the ivy that lay upon the face of that southern wing like a black hand, trembled in the long pearl as it began to lose its grip on the edge of the ilex leaf."

It is a moment, but what is it? a scene? a painting? It is not the scene from a film, because the literalness of the effects requoted would make it mediocre, and the narrowing of time, the economy of need that a film has would either squeeze it out or make it a foolish frippery. It is a moment from a poem, but poems rarely have maps and a large cast.

It is a scene from an anime I think.

Gormenghast is already half-unreal, it is running on the surface of story under the real air - it must be half-real, almost stylised.

clearly Gormeghast is a well funded, overproduced and high quality anime series that bankrupts the company because not enough people watch it for the budget.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

The Empire of Gormenghast

 I am re-reading the Gormenghast trilogy, which is pleasing to me. Don't know how long ago I read it but I must have been through a lot of changes since then because the writing is amazing in a way I have no memory of.

That for later; for now the thoughts which idle through my mind before sleep are about the world around Gormenghast.

A tiresome enough conceit you might think and an irrelevant one as the book is such a coherent whole and with such a dreamlike sense of its own reality that subjecting it to something as mediocre as worldbuilding is a bum concept.

Nevertheless, this is part of what we do here and I may come up with something interesting so here we go.

(I am only part-way through 'Titus Groan' and don't remember much about 'Titus Alone' where he actually goes outside Gormeghast - so all this is even more of an extrapolation).



Ian Miller



THE SUPPLY OF TIME

the creation of Gormenghast requires a great supply of time, the building being composed as much of Time as of Stone,  of continuity, as others have pointed out – it’s in part a transference of a European aesthetic to a pre-maoist Chinese scale of cultural time.

Instead of rome falling, chaos, and 500 years of building castles and then letting them moulder, imagine something like the same culture, but with 5,000 years of building castles and letting them moulder, moulder until the culture lives in and off its own ruin.

Earl-Check;

Ok after brief check, the oldest Earldom in the U.K. the Earl of Arundel, has about 35 earls in total, the original founding is 1176 - just under 900 years ago. That makes roughly 24+ years per-earl. Titus Groan is born to be the 77th earl of Groan, suggesting, if things were equivalent - 1,848 years. Put the technology level of the castle at pre-electricity, say 1800?, so the equivalent date of the first Earl of Groan would be about BC 48, around the period of Ceasars civil war.

So a kind of castle/English country house/villa/fort, developing with a continuous culture from the birth of the Roman Empire to the War with Napoleon - with no cultural revolutions, invasions or replacements, and with a sustained base of economic power to keep it stable and even growing.

Yes that about makes 'sense' of Gormenghast, if we were trying to make sense of it. I don't think we need 5,000 years when almost 2,000 will do just as well. A noble family and house that had lasted intact, with preservation of records and language since the time of Caesar, we can maybe imagine some great roman-style castle on the borders of Rome-proper, with a defensible position and significant land holdings, a place where, even as napoleons armies marched, the family still spoke Latin in the classic style and still had records on crumbling wax tablets. It's on the border of possibility and imagination



Ian Miller



THE SUPPLY OF GORMENGHAST

There doesn't seem to be any political or economic activity relating Gormenghast castle to the outside world, there is not even a hit of any visible economic activity, though the castle must possess and disperse enormous, even gargantuan funds in order to use the resources it does.

There is not even a road to it mentioned in the first half of the first book.

The candles alone, think of it.

And no-one of noble caste in Gormenghast seems to be ever prevented from attaining any small physical thing they desire by lack of funds. By psychology, ritual and machinations yes, but not by poverty.

There must be, somewhere, a great, a huge and perhaps near-constant delivery into Gormenghast of all manner of foodstuffs, lighting, kindling, books, clothes and many other things, and a reverse flow of Gong, scraps, who-knows-what.

I choose to imagine that this occurs via underground river. Likely some ancient Earl of Groan built some form of underground docks, perhaps discovering an underground watercourse, or more likely diverting and remaking a pre-existing one. They did this because the humble and tumble of commerce, the endless deliveries the whinnying of horses (the DUNG) and brawling and carrying on of Cartiers, offended them, so they gave and order, and with the seemingly infinite power and resources of Groan, a cave or river was found, mined, expanded and linked to a dock deep beneath the castle, or perhaps under a far-distant wing. Now silent barges arrive at this lamplit underground dock, unload what they have, load up with waste and whatever else, and proceed on. Having entered at the 'upper port' far beyond the sight of Gormenghast itself, then now travel on to the 'lower port' perhaps a place near the sea, a village by a cave where an entire industry has grown up around the material waste and castoffs of Gormenghast, so long have their fields been fertilised by the castles Gong that the farmers have become accustomed to fragments of the castles half-digested history turning up beneath the plough; a bone, a fragment of parchment, a broken sword, once every century a gem or comb.

Anyway, a key theme of Gormeghast is that everyone knows their role and understands almost nothing beyond it - their world is as small as their social world, or as small as their work, and both are a ritual to be maintained.

So there are actually two sets of bargemen.

One set lives in the upper port, they receive goods and ship them down through the underground canal to the Gormenghast docks, (though they themselves don't sell, buy or own any goods, or even know what they are, they simply take the barrels and crates from the black timbered warehouse and load them into the barges). Having made the trip to Gormenghast, they greet the dock-keeper (an ancestral role) and leave the barges, walking the long underground (and dangerous, several days dark travel) path home beside the canal (every so often one falls in and drowns and there is a position in Gormenghast for a body-catcher who is meant to pull them out).

The men from the 'lower docks' the 'sea docks' travel up the canal in small coracles (moving against the flow) and find the docks empty, except for the barges full of waste, which they then transport home.

A third class of person has the duty of carrying the barges overland from the lower docks, around (behind) Gormenghast mountain. Back up to the upper docks, but this is a cursed occupation and neither the lowerdockmen, nor the upper docksmen, who know of each other only by inference and scratched illegal messages, are willing to communicate with the masked barge porters.

If one were to travel over the mountain from Gormenghast, one would find a sharp-pebbled track upon which single black barges moved, carried on the backs of desperate silent men who's only task and knowledge is to carry the boats. The black craft float across the landscape like leaden dreams. They only go one way. The supply seems infinite. No-one doing it knows why it is done. Men have gone mad, not from the terrible weight of the work, but from the seeming infinity of boats.






Ian Miller



THE 'RULES' OF GORMENGHAST

What are the 'rules' of Gormenghast and how would they be expanded to a world?

One serves power.
One may not look at power.
One must never go towards power.

Know your role - maintain it, and only that. Be content with your own small life, lived within the rituals, for there is nothing else and no way out.

No-one in Gormeghast seems to know anything, or at least, to mention anything about any kind of outside world - unless it applies to the history of Groan.

You could extend this to cover a nation, an empire, a world. Huge systems could be made up of colonies of people who only know what they do, and not why, who live by ritual and repetition without ever understanding or even thinking much about the context of anything outside that ritual.

A continent - an Empire made up to serve that nation, its entire economy and culture bent towards the sacred centre. A world shaped by that empire to serve it in turn.



Ian Miller




THE EMPIRE OF GORMENGHAST

A nation which rules, dotted with ruins, to which no-one ever goes, except for one ship, this loaded with wealth and fine goods.

perhaps instead of one ship one fleet goes to this nation. In the same way that Gormeghast is supplied by its underground canal this nation is supplied with rare outside goods by a treasure fleet - like the Spanish silver ships from the new world.

All of the wealth of this global empire is gathered together, and the gathering is managed by ancient mercantile interests - themselves bound in ritual. But these banks and tax farmers themselves don't keep the treasure, or even carve much off the top, instead their perceived power comes from the management of the treasure, as far as the rest of the empire, the rest of the world, is concerned, they are a kind of global government or bureaucracy - a mighty administratum to whom obedience must be paid, but as far as they are concerned, their only purpose and duty is to manage the tithe.

In distant lands and far-flung cultures, great slow, grinding conflicts might take place as a consequence of small matters in the taking of the Tithe, but all the Tithemasters know is that they must fulfil the ancient writ and send all that is claimed and all that is stated in the great treasure fleet to the ancient nation - centre and silent master of the world-empire.

None of them can ever go to the sacred nation, nor would they wish to, it is far above their narrow station. It is enough that the slow, wallowing ships of the treasure fleet be sent on the high tide of the summer seas, and when they arrive, the goods are counted, assayed and declared, (which takes perhaps half a year, leaving little time for the now high-riding ships to make it back to the city of the Tithe), and depending on the nature of the declaration, from 'Sufficient' to the wonderous 'Very Acceptable' to the nightmarish 'less than desired', great families and lineages of Tithemasters can rise and fall, purges and pogroms and revolutions, bankruptcies and ascendancies, all depending on the flags flying from the ships of the black treasure fleet as they make their way back to the city of the tithe.

On the shores of the sacred nation, in the city of the Black Ships the great guilds of assayers likewise live ritual-bound lives, they do not really understand where the ships are coming from, or the fundamental nature of the assay they are meant to make, but they have written documents, with extensive addendums and commentaries, making a kind of common law of how to assign value to various things, dating back 2000 years to the time of the first Groans, and in this city of the black ships, there are also terrible torments should a fleet prove 'less than desired' and great relief and celebration if it should be 'Acceptable' or even (only fifteen times in seventy generations) 'very acceptable'.

And in this nation, of which the City of the Black Ships is its greatest, and perhaps only, port, what becomes of the treasure?

The wealth of the Treasure has, of course, already been spent. All the Noble houses are in terrible debt, to each other, to the guilds of the city of the black ships, to various banks and agencies created to manage these debts.

Most of the treasure 'belongs' to particular lines of descent. So the Earl of Groan, for instance, as well as being the owner of the Groan Lands, is the in-absentia owner of the Groan Lands-Beyond, which in total make up a small but meaningful fraction of the worlds inhabited surface, although spread so widely and so partially (a building here, a field there) that even accounting for all of it is a lifetimes work), (the accountants of Groan being another often-inherited role).

Being based on ancient compacts and forgotten writ, this tax is paid often in kind, so for instance, a half-tonne of beeswax candles made by bees which have fed upon the mountain blooms of far Purloon. Acquiring such volumes of wax being enough to bring war and chaos to the towns of Purloon as they fight over the accumulation of wax and the management of bees in order to fulfil the tithe.

But this make up only a tenth of one percent of the Tithe owed to the House of Groan, and certainly almost no-one 'in' the House of Groan has even heard of Purloon or even smelled one of its candles or been lit by its light. 

The House of Groan is in significant debt, and that debt is being serviced by a trade in futures, based on the expected recovery of the Tithe each year from the Black Ships, and that Futures Market itself depends on the result of the Assayers etc.

So where do the candles go? It is not clear.

It is possible they are being stored in order to raise or lower their rating on the futures market, it is possible they have been destroyed, or melted in order to raise the perceived value of more arriving.

Ultimately, they may have been partially melted, mixed with paraffin or other substances, (because there is little demand in the world beyond for the smell of the mountain flowers of Purloon), and transformed into cheaper odourless white candles that burn with a guttering yellow flame, and then shipped out as ballast in the bellies of the black ships, in the hope that the sale of such might go some way to offsetting the terrible risks of the futures market, (which will not be so bad for we hope for a great bounty of candles from Purloon next year).

This example of the candles of course, being only a fragment, a grain of sand in the economy of the world of Gormenghast.



Alan Lee



THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD

Is Gormenghast castle itself the centre of all things, or merely one of a range of near-forgotten castles which ring the still-more occluded centre?

It is only one of a range. Forgotten even by the forgotten. The centre of the world - the castle of castles of which Gormenghast is but a sentinel, is unknown to the Groans. They know only that their duty is to guard it, which they have done for 75 generations.

Monday, 21 June 2021

What’s promised in Gong shall be paid in Gong.

You Hear

The Gongsongs, shanties of Gong and the Gong of times gone. [GONGSONG INSERTED BELOW*] The sloshing of liquid in barrels and tanks. The jangling of hanging charms. The cawing of crows. The squeezing of accordions. Or is that the wheezing of pedal-powered pumps, or levers pressing?

You Smell 

Need you ask? To the true Gongsman, no Gong truly smells the same, but to you, you poor sojourner, this sacred wisdom is a blank page. They smell of Gong and only of Gong, and a powerful scent it is.

You See


Blue flickering peat lamps, bedraggled crows held high on smelling poles hung with strange recoveries of the gongfarmers art and jangling charms to the Hydraulic Saints.

They labour beneath plastic tanks filled with sloshing Gong and struggle with patched together pipework and jury-rigged pumps to suck the gong forth. 

What is the texture of the gongfarmer? Need you even ask? It is wonderous, a wonderous texture - they bulge with muscle, they drip with mysterious fats, they bristle with patched magnificent hair. Strong as apes, twice as brave. 






Meeting Gongfarmers


What kind of being, what manner of entity - could, or would, consider such a path?  The great-souled Gongman - a wonder of the age. A stalwart of the Servile Class. Mad for the Gong he is, for Gongs his love and passion.

At labour or traverse they sing their old gongsongs playing accordions and singing their gongsongs. They tell strange tales of fatbergs and pulsing entities, of secret paths through fractured pipes, of the nightmare of zero-gravity gong. 

A creaking barrel, a translucent tank, a secret destination, a clever way in their manner, perhaps a sly look.

Who could argue with a jovial gongfarmer? And who would dare? They carry a sharpened blades of bone, rusted revolvers, baseball bats studded with old syringe needles, blunderbuss loaded with sharp gongfruit. 



Their Job, Service And Position In The Palace


"Blessed be the Pipes" say the Priests of the Hydraulic Church.

"Yet all pipes fail in time." replies the Gongfarmer, (though quietly, for such speech is blasphemy).
The Blessed Pipes return all foulness to the Crypt of Melinoe, where it is purified and made good. But what if the pipes should fail? 

Enter the noble Gongfarmer - penetrating to the centre of all things, extracting Gong and going gently on his way. Their only price? Why the Gong itself, for Gong is the Gongfarmers Gold.

The Gongfarmers scurry away with their caskets and barrels of Gong, and carry them to secret vaults of which only Gongsmen know; the Septic Banks. 

Here, in even vaster chambers, the Gong is left, allowed to settle and rest in anerobic conditions. Over time, this results in nearly-clean water which can be decanted and sold, to Drip Pigrims or others, and a thick layer of black gold; near-pure loam for the Nitrate Lords.




The Knowings Of The Gongfarmers


Health

GIVE US A LOOK AT YE GONG - I'LL TELL YE WHATS FINE OR FOUL
A wise Gongsman, familiar as they come to be, can tell much about the health of someone from their Gong, and unlike those who might call themselves Leeches or Doctor-Men, the advice of a Gonsman is free, except for the Gong itself, which they take in lieu.

Intelligence

The Gongsmen know much of the welfare of many peoples. Wherever Gong is collected, they can recognise the diet, regularity, substance and health of the population. Whether they strave or thrive, if they drink water or blood, be they sick or hale. 


The Gong of Darkness/Winters Gong 

HERE'S A TALE FOR YE, A TALE OF WINTERS GONG AND THE DARKNESS FROM WHICH NO GONGSMAN RETURNS!

Imagine, a black lightless void, with no 'up-and-down' or 'here-and-there'. Freezing cold, but not cold enough to de-liquify the Gong. And its your job to go in there and get that gong. Aye there's many tales of wealth to be won in Winters Realm, of vast isles of frozen gong, the smallest of which would buy a man his own halls, and each isle encrusted with strange treasures of forgotten realms. But seek ye not winters gong my smiling faces - BEWARE! For tis the gong of darkness, gong which none may seek and return alive.


The Septic Banks

All Gongfarmers guard with closed lips and terrible violence, the secret of the Septic Banks. The Gong must be left to settle for a good long while before it can become black gold and clear(ish) water, and the Banks are terribly vulnerable for all of that time.

The Gong Promise

Can a man truly be poor if he hath still Gong to give? Gong being currency, it’s hard to fall out of credit. For those who fall upon hard times and lack even that, the Gongfarmers will offer the Gong Promise; enough to sustain life;  water (of a sort), a little food, perhaps some simple weapons or basic tools - all they ask in return is a promise of Gong, by weight or by date. It may be your Gong, it may be others.

But beware the interest rates on Gong, the percentage required can rise so quickly that it become impossible to repay. And if your needs now are great, the future Gong you offer must be greater still.
One would not wish to be in debt to the Gongfarmers. They are clannish. Offend one and you offend all, and if you owe them gong, they will be sure the debt is paid. If that involves capturing and force-feeding you until accounts are settled, then they shall. 
What’s promised in Gong shall be paid in Gong.





* [The Gongsong "Ripe, rich brownfruit]

Our Hands and Hearts are all in Gong
Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.
We'll pump and squeeze for it won't take long,
Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.

Chorus; Oh, be black fruit, brown loot
Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.

Our Queens and Ladies do command
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
We farm the Gong and clear the land.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)

(Chorus)

Its through the Palace we must go
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
From throne of Night to Melinoe.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)

(Chorus)

So give us gold for old Queen Mab
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
She'll swear us all that we can grab.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)

(Chorus)

You've been through Queens and been through churls
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
So spring and dance you merry black girls
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)

(Chorus)

Burst and bubble, rich and rare.
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
We'll take you by your wet black hair.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)

(Chorus)

Struggle not, be bold my Miss
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
We'll squeeze and tread for a golden kiss.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)