Wednesday 30 March 2022

Martyrs of the Glass Maze

 (A note on sources - As our eye turns deeper into the Prescience Wars, useful histories become less common. The Pogrom of Albraneth and the following Water Horse Wars left after them waht seems to be a near decade of relative peace and stability. Furthermore, the cultural transformation of the Pathist victories seems, (at least to our limited sources), to be less than total, something more akin to a political or dynastic change. This provided space for true histories to be written and published. We have one of these; 'Our World War' by Wood, and the epic poem "The Chaos of the Waves" by Eastsource-Tan and the later ritual retelling "The Dharma of Care" by Apsanalan, both likely drew from these sources. 

The Amber-Court wars, though they surges back and forth for many years, had no such civilisational colophon, leading directly to the Fall of the Amber Court and the full consumption of the world into the Red Shift, from which we were ultimately lead (Praise be to God), by the Sleeping King. Therefore few coherent histories appear. In addition to this, the closer on approaches the Red Shift and its ancidents, the greater the danger of Vermin Tales and other cognitive and causal dangers increases. We must be careful with our sources! 

Even so, the simple lack of time and stability, and the growing ontological collapse, are but little explanation for the shift in the tone and substance of our sources as the Amber Court Wars wove on. Instead, as I shall argue and you shall see below, the mind-set of the cultures involved was subtly shifting away from the previous conceptions of secular collective truth and towards a growing, though still nascent, conception of revealed divine truth.) 



"Many are the Martyrs and Many the deaths, few honourable, all true. Yet bless their memories, the seers orb robs men of honour but even those who die in shame may show the way and leave the sign by which truth shall be seen, so praise the dishonoured dead and learn their lessons well... 

Many are the Martyrs to the Glass Maze, dying not in honour, but in shame. How can it be? Men will ask in later times, that such were accounted martyrs at all? For those who served gods in lost ages died all in defiance, whether through war or torture, imprisonment or distain, though they fell in subjection and were pressed into the mire, these martyrs, those we would call as such, died all in clear decision, their deaths their own. All were offered mercy for conversion, all refused, so their deaths, like their lives, were the product of their own souls. Such has it been in latter times and such has it been for those we might call 'martyrs to the cause', whether the cause itself be good or no, for us or against. 

Yet, many will claim, how be it that these 'Martyrs to the Glass Maze' should be called so? For many died not by their own clear choice at all, nor died well, not in defiance, nor subjection, but in great confusion and despair, either by their own hand or by the hand of others. These, men will say, were no martyrs deaths. 

This we must explain and speak well, for here is the mark and the telling of the nature of our wars for never before in Time has man faced such a foe, not of any state or sultan, or worker of deeds for in those past times no enemy of any kind could take from the soul of man that final thing - to choose to die. 

Whatever the foe or the battle, even in the deepest dejection and without resource, still men’s lives have been their own. For those for whom no muscular force or working of will may serve, even so, no  matter the catastrophe, mortal hearts may choose to go down into dusty death, defiant to the last, contemptuous of their enemies, perhaps hoping to light by such sacrifice the spark of defiance in others, or to at least leave a mark in histories page, or even simply that they may pass from this world knowing, if only within their own minds, that they were thereby true unto the last to their people, their creed, king or faith. 

It is this very theft which marks the martyrs to the glass maze, the corruption of the Seers eye, that more-than demoniacal power which fumed forth from Frost more than a decade after the closing of the wars of Horse and Water, of the insidious conspiracy of the Amber Court and its terrible victories over a world and a people made weak by victories of their own, the sickening rebirth of the taint of Albraneth, now cancerously grown and armed, like a teratoma of the human soul, with teeth and nails. 

Many were the shames of the Amber Court Wars in their first years, near-total the losses, awful the tales and great the madness. 

For that purpose we here set forth as full an accounting as can be made, (times and sources notwithstanding), of the great and shameful manipulations of the Amber Court and its Twice-Cursed King. Few heroes shall you find amongst them but tales of shame and madness, fear and delusion, oof great lives spent like piss against a wall, their thoughts and efforts trickling to nothing of all human hope and heroism made null and nothing for those trapped within the glass maze of the Seers dreams. 

Here you shall hear in full of the Harrowing of Trulzch, how the great force and strong army of Corbin Trulzch which set forth to strangle the Amber Viper at its first striking, was lead astry, harrowed, lead through storm and wave, subject to suicide and madness and finally induced to besiege the city of Mir, within which were found only plague corpses which infected first the remaining forces of Trulzch, and then upon their sad retreat, the native populations of their lands. 

Here the lay of Trevelyan who was frozen into madness by Amber trickery, facing first this way then that, besieging, re-enforcing, manoeuvring, escaping, all to nothing till, driven past madness he finally attacked through the Salt flats of Zeltbahn and was drowned in the terrible wave of that year. 

Here you will hear of sorrow, madness and a loss of hope, for this is the fruit of the seer, this is the benison of the Amber Court, the gift of the Damned, that they should take not only lives but souls, strip man even of his bones of self, leaving not even ghosts. 

Aye there are few true heroes in these tales, but warnings and dark truths, though there are rays of black hope, as if shining from a darkened sun. 

You may read here the tale of Corbin Mir, how he executed his deluded staff, blinded himself by staring into the sun and committed himself to the attritional horror of the Holger Pass, inflicting upon the Amberites at that time losses greater than they feared, and the legend of Colonel Penrose, the first of the Iron Path to experiment with alterations on his own mind, of his great sacrifice, by pin and vice, saw and needle, of his memory of each day and thusly of his sense of self, a man lead by fury and righteousness alone, who feared no manipulation for he could not comprehend it, and therefore by its chains could be but little bound. 

We who have walked from the Harrowing and learnt is lessons. We are the Riders of Truth. We are the Heroes of Man and of Pure Causality. We are the children of the Iron Path and no matter the cost, no matter the suffering or ages spent, ultimately and eventually, we shall win and wipe the foulness of the Amber Court from the face and memory of the world. Will shall give mankind back its soul, and in pursuit of that, no suffering is too much. 

Read then of the Martyrs of the Glass Maze, and learn there the horror of your Foe." 


Transcript of the Introduction to a copy of "Martyrs of the Glass Maze", Pathist text of the mid-to-Late Amber Court Wars, recovered as antiquary treasure in the Ninth Crusade against Suleman lord of the Haeretici Ferrea. Full contents damaged and partially redacted due to potential CurseThought as prognosticated by Truly-Bound Daemons of the Eleventh Pussiance sealed as such by the Holy Inquisition may all who break this seal fall beneath the Eye of the Black Sun, amen.

Tuesday 29 March 2022

The Technique of Mughal Miniature Painting

Curiously, just before reading this I had finished a Clark Ashton Smith collection into which the enormous and specific work and attention paid to every aspect of a pure luxury good, as well as the almost magical-alchemical assembly of these wonderous, varied and specific materials - the fur of a young kitten, Lapuz Lazuli ground with rough salt and separated by grain, soft repetitive polishing with crystal or malachite, would seem to slot almost perfectly. 

While transformed-orientalism western idea of Luxurious Otherness has a pedigree which seems to flow all the way from 'Othello' to Jabbas Palace, the particulars of the creation and social milieu seem to cry out for some boutique D&D adventure - the Emperor calls for a painting and his artist, the 'Wonder of the Age', needs *this* specific kind of malachite, grains of gold and Lapis Lazuli and the tail fur of this specific kind of kitten, and you only have 50 days to finish the painting, and the artist has enemies who wish to sabotage him, and the Emperor might be about to be assassinated.. "Vorsprung durch Luxus"..

"The Technique of Mughal Miniature Painting

Miniature painters sat on the ground while working with one leg flexed to support a drawing board. (Plate 19). Their technique was deceptively simple: opaque watercolour on paper or occasionally on cotton cloth. Artists learned the trade secrets of their ateliers as apprentices, often from fathers or uncles, as this craft was frequently a family occupation. As children, they were taught how to make balanced, finger-fitting paintbrushes of bird quills set with fine hairs plucked from kittens or baby squirrels. They also learned how to grind mineral pigments, such as malachite (green) and lapis lazuli (blue), in a mortar; how to sort them grain by grain according to purity and brilliance; and how to prepare the aqueous binding medium of gum arabic or glue. Other pigments were made from earths, insect and animal matters, and metals.

(Plate 19)

To make metallic pigments, gold, silver and copper were pounded into foil between sheets of leather, after which the foil was ground with rough salt in a mortar. The salt was then washed out with water, leaving behind the pure metal powder. For a cool yellow cold, silver was mixed with it; for a warmer hue, copper was added. Because such pigments as copper oxide were corrosive, the paper was protected from them by a special coating. Some artists, such as Basawan (Plates 6, 8, 12, 13) were particularly admired for their manipulation of gold  which they pricked with a stylus to make it glitter - burnished or modelled by tinted washes.

Although artists did not make paper, they were connoisseurs of its qualities. Composed of cloth fibres, it varied greatly in thickness, smoothness and fineness. Akbar' painters of the late sixteenth century preferred highly polished, hard and creamy papers, while Shah Jahan's artists employed thin, extremely luxurious sorts, possibly made from silk fibres.

A complex, very costly series of steps involving many people was required to make a Mughal painting. Pictorial ideas usually began with the patron, who summoned the appropriate artist (or artists) to carry them out. Several of the most renowned Mughal aritsts were specialists, such as Govardhan, who was noted for portraits of saints, musicians, and holy men (Plate 24), or Mansur, famed for birds and animals (Plates 26-27). 

(Plate 26)

After the painter and patron had conferred, sketches, such as Figure V, were prepared. In this instance, the artist drew from life, which lent his sketch disturbing immediacy. Like others of the sort, it was intended not for the patron but for the workshop, as a model from which to paint, and it did not have to be formal and tidy. Mistakes were scumbled over in white pigment and redrawn.

(Figure V)

Later, in the artists studio, the drawing would either be copied or pounced (traced) onto the thicker paper or cardboard of the finished work (Figure V, Plate 23). 

(Plate 23)

Tracing was done with a piece of transparent gazelle skin, placed on top of the drawing, the contours of which were then pricked. It was then placed on fresh paper, and black pigment was forced through the pinholes, leaving soft, dark outlines to be reinforced by brush drawing. Sometimes the original drawing included notations of colours, in words or washes of pigment.

Unfinished paintings reveal the progress from bare paper to thin outlining in black or reddish brown ink and to the many stages of colouring, which were built up layer by layer to enamel-like thickness. Usually, gold highlights were the last step before burnishing. Burnishing was done by laying the miniature upside down on a hard smooth surface and gently but firmly stroking it with polished agate or crystal, a process comparable to varnishing an oil painting, which provided protective hardening and gave an overall unity of texture.

The length of time it took to accomplish all this varied according to the painting and period when it was done. Robert Skelton and Ellen Smart discovered a small marginal inscription on an illustration to the Babur-Nameh stating that Ram Das worked on it for fifty days (see Figure II). Other paintings published here must have taken considerably longer. After the artist had finished his picture and shown it to the patron, who had probably overseen its progress step by step, it was turned over to other specialists to be trimmed, mounted on splendidly illuminated borders, and bound into a book or album, according to imperial wishes. Occasionally, pictures were mounted on walls (Plate 17).

(Plate 17)

The social position of artists varied greatly. Akbar himself learned to paint as a child; and some of the artists were aristocratic courtiers who also served in diplomatic or other governmental capacities. Most court painters, however, were revered but humble craftsmen, whose talents had earned them privileged positions near the throne. A  few, such as Jahangir's favourite artist, Abu'l Hasan, who was honoured with the title "Wonder of the Age," grew up in the royal household.

Paradoxically, the lot of artists was often more secure, and probably happier, than that of princes. Arists painted on and on, from one reign to the next, while royalty rose to dizzy pinnacles of wealth and power, too often only to be imprisoned or murdered. Since all but a few Mughal rulers were keenly interested in painting, artists were generously rewarded. Salaries must have been ample, and when a patron was especially pleased, presents were lavish. Bichir painted himself in the foreground of a picture (Plate 22) holding a miniature of an elephant and a horse, gifts no doubt from Jahangir."

(Plate 22)

("Prithee allow me in thine painting sirrah".
Closeup of Bichir getting photobombed by some European dude..)

From "Imperial Mughal Painting" by Stuart Cary Welch

Monday 21 March 2022

Ok I'm going to re-write this

 In games YOU have been in, or which YOU have run, do YOU remember any particular experiences of;

- Too many options, not enough direction, decision paralysis.

- Sense of a loss of freedom, a muting of interest, feeling like you are just "going through the motions"

- Any "just right" states where the range of presented options and possibilities synergised really well and seemed to both guide and allow play.

In those situations;

- Can you describe the situation as it occurred?

- What games were they? (if it published adventures you don't have to name them if you don't want to.)

- Did you notice anything about the adventure design that made them that way?

Saturday 19 March 2022


(i kind of already know what it is, i'm not completely against it but i'm just sort of generally ambivalent and prefer to minimise it. I think on the whole I prefer an adventure with high possible interconnections and less-managed ones)


I've been talking with an internet friend about this adventure concept, a big house or mansion, full of strange artefacts. The artefacts are all potentially dangerous, potentially useful, dangerous to leave alone but also dangerous to interact with, like a fantasy S.C.P. essentially.

Talking about stuff like numbers of rooms and relative labrynthyness of the mansion, we disagreed, revealing likely intuitive differences in assumptions in adventure design.

My intuitive assumption was to - since it’s a house, to have a very open plan with immediate (in theory) access to most of the rooms, or at least, you need to explore to find them and then investigate, but there are relatively few locked doors or hard blocks sopping you from exploring most of the house, the difficulty being in investigating and understanding the collection and dealing with the rituals and mysteries of the house. Largely a very 'open' concept, in which you can go in any direction and where the difficulty increases as you interact with more things, largely as a consequence of you interacting with them.

We haven't got deep into this yet but my friend hasn't responded yet, but if I were to guess I would guess they were imagining a more... 'dungeonly'? experience? With more locked doors, more things and areas hidden away, a more controlled experience in which you were more certain to encounter or deal with this thing and then that thing e.t.c. with more 'difficulty walls'(?)

That’s my guess anyway.


It’s not like I *hate* it, in fact I think it’s necessary. I try to arrange my encounters so there is likely to be some kind of rhythm  between types of things, I try to loop and pierce dungeons somewhat, I try to build up (to a degree) to the really weird shit, (at least after MotBM). And truly, every dungeon is by its very nature as a literalised flowchart, an exercise of a kind in flow control. (Though this need not be the case as much for more naturalistic settings).

But at the same time something in me pushes strongly against it.

most dungeon design is a complex synthesis between 'game-ish' and diegetic elements, treating the adventure purely as a game, or seeing it as in inhabited world, you can make good adventures from either polarity of course and like I wouldn't mind (or don't think I would mind as I don't really play computer games) if I were playing a Nintendo game, being channelled around a long and encountering a series of interconnected boutique situations, but the moment I feel even the hint of those walls close in around me in an adventure I basically shit myself with resentment.

(Which brings up the complex question of is it bad because the walls are there or is it bad because I can sense the walls and actually I have been happy with a wide range of experiences which were actually very controlled but just so well controlled that I either didn’t sense it or didn't care).

Largely I am much happier with a sense of freedom, even if it leads to a less pleasant experience
at least, that’s the story I tell myself about who I am, a 3rd party analysis might get a different response. I am much much much happier re-interpreting a problem rather than "finding" the planned solution to one


It's a difficult thing to shape a query to but I would like to PROBE the blog readers for a deeper awareness of the polarity between these modes of thought. I couldn't really shape a strong defence or pro-statement for the more-flow-control side of the argument, too wrapped up in my own responses, 


I would like to hear from YOU PEOPLE

Specifically play or design experiences, games you yourself have been in and specific times where you yourself have thought thoughts equivalent to;

"There's too much flow control here."


"There's not enough flow control here."

what were the circumstances when you noticed this? 

Did you think it was a feature or a bug (did the adventure writer fail to attain their own goals or were their goals just different to yours?). 

What differentiates the two situations in your mind? (When would you think "Ah, more flow control would be good here in this situation", or the opposite.

Monday 14 March 2022

Choose Your Neo-Cyberpunk Team

  1. E-Girl Drag-Racer
  2. DogeCoin Millionaire
  3. Boston Dynamics Auto-Dog
  4. Christian V-Tuber
  5. Medieval Combat Influencer - all the skills and weapons of someone trained to *approximate* any form of medieval combat
  6. Post-Irony Smirkfamous Boomerstar - greetings fellow kids
  7. Meme-Powered Cryptocrat - I don't know what this is
  8. Semi-Sentient Camera Drone
  9. Single-Camera P.O.V Chat-Bar Gestalt Mind - an infinity of answers, but only for things *that particular* camera is pointing at, they tend to backseat
  10. Living Laptop - begs you not to turn it off but overheats if left on
  11. Sentient Chatbot - it can, in fact, help you with that
  12. Top 0.3% OnlyFans
  13. Viral Midas - everything they touch turns viral, more of a curse than a blessing
  14. Fedora Samurai - they did, indeed, study the blade, nemesis of tatami mats
  15. Cyrogenic Disney-Head L.S.D. Tulpa - enlightened, but not to the extent of accepting communism or beards on men
  16. Smash-Bros Pattern-Matcher - near-unbeatable in combat *provided it takes place across a single 2-dimensional axis*
  17. PrequelMeme Sorcerer - not a story the Jedi would tell you, reality warping powers contained by, and expressed through, the context of Prequel Memes
  18. Nokia 3310 Unbreakable Berserker Call Service - while the Nokia 3310 (and no other make or model) is to their ear and the call is active, they are Guts from Beseark (on the phone)
  19. UberEats Gunman - delivering both food and death to pre-arranged locations
  20. Self-Aware Tesla - all the powers of a Tesla, talks with Elons voice
  21. Oppengram App - app-accessible engram of Robert Oppenheimer, wrecks your data plan and eats memory, needs constant re-installation, still the worlds most intelligent man
  22. Bumfights Battle Royale Last Man - indefatigable, possibly unbeatable, severely traumatised, can't get in anywhere
  23. Nolanverse Geocacher - deep future and/or deep past time-traveller, simultaneously aware of your adventure, leaves messages, assistance to be discovered at precise times, you never meet them directly
  24. iPhone Telepath - can psychically read and manipulate the Apple Family of phones and some other apple products
  25. The UnCancellable Man - he can say anything, he can DO anything, otherwise has all the powers of a man
  26. Security-Camera Mentat - near preternatural awareness of watching (even hidden) cameras, along with incredible intuitions on whether they are recording and if so, where and how the data is located
  27. Neurochipped Marketing Dog - strong and fast hound with power of sentient thought expressible only when the correct match of product and audience can be connected
  28. 2-D 4-Chan Nekogirl - Animated dream image w big boobs, power shifts as channers wax and wane in interest, fascist tendencies, calls everyone a faggot, only exists in 2 dimensions
  29. Autocomplete Yogic Warrior - powers of bodily control, spiritual perception and ritual magic awakened by imponderable autocomplete search queries, focused into usefulness as search-query nears completion but fading rapidly as search done
  30. emoji spiritualist - able to communicate with the dead, provided you have their phone number, they can only send emojis, though dead sorcerers can send memes

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Timeline of the Prescience Wars

Its been a few months since, in a fit of reactionary anger, I decided I would write my own Horus Heresy, and it would have literally no satire! 

The Prescience Wars were intended to be the mythic foundational conflict of the Eclipse Knights Paracosm. Their Siege of Troy of Mahabharata. Something that existed deep in the borders between history and myth, and the ending of which set the scene for the more historical dramas, and fundamental nature of their ‘modern world’. 

Its proven more difficult than I expected and, largely, has had trouble reaching the promise of its pretty good first post ‘This Plague of Seers’. Still, some interesting things have come up. 



Since the last part of the Prescience Wars involved a total reality breakdown along with the use of memetic and ontological weapons, working out exactly when things happened is a bit difficult. 

There’s pretty clear synergy between very cubist epistolary storytelling and fictional worlds in which reality breakdown, madness and deliberate editing and obscuring of the record take place. Since these elements exist in the world being described, as well as they naturally would in the texts describing that world, you get the unreliable-narrator describing and equally unreliable reality. 

Interesting effects can be created, and in a more prosaic sense, you can fudge a lot of stuff while you are working things out. 

So, partly because its unfinished and partly for weird time reasons, the chronology if the early wars is arranged in-sequence rather than by date, with estimations of what happened in years-since-this etc. 




This Plague of Seers – Before the Wars 

This plague of Fairytale-like prognostication which seems to dissolve all social and moral bonds. How bad was it and how long did it go on? So far the only real description we have on it is from the unknown writer of ‘This Plague of Seers’. Can we assume they have a Pathist bent? 

It was certainly strong enough to trigger the massive and sustained backlash of the Iron Path. 

What on one level reads like a Fairytale fantasy world turning into a Low Fantasy world, its closest parallels are something like the Reformation or some equally huge mass-consciousness change that people can argue about for ever afterwards. 

The deep question of how and how much knowledge of the future should affect the present is built on an eternal human paradox, one that can never really be absolutely resolved in a general sense. Ends or means? What is free will? How much do we have and how do we use it?



The Early Prescience Wars 


The Canticle of the Iron Path 

 Scratched on a Temple Door in Albarneth, began the Iron Path and arguably, the Prescience Wars. 

Pretty obviously this is ripped off from Martin Luther. Even the technology level is similar. The world of the Prescience Wars might be a little ahead in this case, numerous printers in Albraneth are ready to roll and take the word of the Iron Path out before the initial Pogrom even begins. 

The ‘Iron Path’ develops a pretty logically-sound and practically probably impossible methodology of no-prescience-ever. Ignorance in this case, truly is freedom, or at least meaning. 

The flood of Prescient’s who leave Albraneth just before the Pogrom is a fun touch, but it immediately brought up a question which I am still exploring and have found no bottom to; if you are a Prescient, and you know a giant war against Prescience is about to begin, what do you do? 

The Amber Court is one answer to this question 



The Water-Horse Wars – beginning with the Canticle running to 10 or 20 years after 

Wars which got their name from later historians based on the three battles, which later proved to be decisive towards their end, all of which where strange situations in which cavalry forces assaulted naval forces. A rare event in history. 

These are almost completely unexplored so far. There must be quite a lot that could be done with them though, Reformation/Civil War armies marching about a post-Fairytale fantasyland? Cromwell vs Disney Sorceresses? 

While this is just the start of the modern-seeming Prescience Wars, it would also be the end of whatever culture or world-paradigm came before them. 

The three battles which end, or come close to the end, ofthe Water-Horse wars are all suitably bloody and horrible. They all have fragments stolen from real history too and the climax with the ‘Miracle of Hoogst’ – intended to be the rebirth of High Sorcery in the world. 

The theme of Magic vs Prescience emerges here for the first time. Fate vs Power, with each of them accelerating the other until reality itself breaks down. 

There are mythic references, or at least, references to myths in histories written directly upon these wars which infer a high likelihood of previous ‘Great Workings’, deep in the mythic past even for those writing at the time. The idea of historians of an ancient empire discovering an ancient museum, of time-squared if you will, discovering your legendary ancients also had their own legendary ancients, has always been tantalising to me, and its recursiveness and reference-within-reference seems to fit neatly into the pattern of the Prescience Wars.



The Time of Great Workings – begins 20 to 30 years after the Canticle 

A time of ‘High Magic’. The first being the ‘Miracle of Hoogst’ which ended the Water-Horse Wars. 

Actually the period immediately after Hoogst was meant to be pretty chill. After all there needs to be a reach of time stable enough for people to write history books so that my monk-scribe can find them in libraries in the far future after the Rise of the Black Sun and put them together in the ‘History of the Prescience Wars’. 

There also aren’t meant to actually be many, or maybe any, ‘Great Workings’, until the Amber Court kicks off in a few years time, opening a new phase of the wars and re-starting that arms race of magic and fate again. 

The ‘Early Period’ really dribbles to an end during this decade or so. 




The Middle Prescience Wars 

What happens when you ban prescients and start killing them off? They band together, secretly at first, then openly. Much worse for the Pathists; they organise and they have a philosophy, a unified direction and military forces to back it up. 

If the era of the ‘Plague of Seers’ was about the corrosive effect of unregulated prescience as a general disorganised cultural phenomena, directly randomly, or at least chaotically, differing each time depending on the combination of seeker and seer, the Amber Court is that force curdled into something new, a paradigm the Pathists feared from the beginning and which they adherently helped to create; a Prescient Empire dedicated to guiding the whole of humanity down a particular path. 

Who, or what, is influencing the creation of the Amber Court is considered in ‘Sumthing Lyk a Mowse’.



The Wars of the Amber Court 

Begin perhaps 15 to 20 years after the Miracle of Hoogst, so 30 to 40 years after the Canticle of the Iron Path at Albraneth,  and continuing all through the Time of Great Workings into the Red-Shift Wars and the Last Settlement of Xap. 

(Depending on which chronology we accept this may mean a conflict, or series of conflicts of anything between 60 to 2,000 years.) 

I actually know relatively little about these wars. I know they start with the Amber Court surrounded and outnumbered. It then wins successively, through some chancy battles, and eventually comes close to forming global empire, before the counter-reaction against that in turn leads to world revolution and the unleashing of utterly destructive magics. 

Its WWI, WWII and WWIII all rolled into one, with ontological and reality-effecting weapons taking the place of technology. 

The Five-Hundred Son of the Moon from “All They Murderare Forgotten” operate towards the middle to end of this period. Elements from the same pseudo South-American kingdoms as the Battle of the Metero Falls’, now very much changed and making some kind of deal with spirits for possession or joining in order to create a cadre of soldiers who, when they kill, kill even the memory of their targets. 

The record, always somewhat unreliable, becomes utterly deranged, (from the point of view of our Scholar, the Monk in the Eclipsed Kingdom in the One-Thousand, Six Hundreth Year of the Sleep), mind-plague, the ‘Vermin Tales’ and general ‘Cursethought’ hover round every element. 

Its easy to see how, in battling an enemy who can literally see the future, the Neo-Pathists reached for weapons that would make that self-same power irrelevant, or at least hard to use. Weapons which alter memory, reality, cause and effect, etc.. 

Even the name of the King of the Amber Court cannot be spoken or recalled. 

As we can gather from ‘A Glossary of the Amber Court’, the Court itself becomes more and more decadent over time, developing factions and weird philosophies. 



The Fall of the Amber Court 

Unknown date. The writer of the letter in ‘In theMemories of Stars’ claims to have had a vision of this. 

Whatever happened to finally bring about the last collapse of the Amber Court, it must have been intense and strange enough to effectively break reality and causality. 

Beyond this point and for an unknown, and perhaps unknowable reach of time, there can be no true recorded history as time itself is warped and altered. 


The Later Prescience Wars -  the ‘Red Shift’ 

The Red Shift was a period, or area, or modality, in which not only can no date even be estimated for events of the Prescience Wars, but even the sequence of the events cannot be discerned, causality itself having broken down.

Little can be known in full but according to the writer of ‘In the Memories of Stars’ this period contained; “horror, vague and terrible as if from scripture or nightmare. I read of shapeless legions, of lands I knew yet "turned from any Path and Broken", of rains of corpses, of generations cursed by dark foreknowledge, of lands where the babes were born dead, yet sentient and grieving themselves, of cities tipped into the "Fabric" and make alike unto curses, or worms or dragons of myth;” 

Within the “Red Shift”, the skies are said to have turned red and peoples, persons and places are claimed to have been encountered before, during and after it was possible for each agent to have done so as our understanding of causality would claim.

“Reality Dreamed” of, more prosaically, “Reality was drunk” 

(Imagine a Beksynski-paraverse come to live and flooding across reality).

Whatever records or indications exist of this era, they must be both deeply sought but obsessively feared and controlled by the Monks of the Eclipsed Kingdom. Since they relate to Unreality itself, and describe a period, or place, or era in which mindplague and vermin tales, and who knows what else, roamed freely and likely bread with and interacted with each other, dream and reality blurring into one in a timeless eternity, even the relation of the period ‘later’ might be both incredibly dangerous, but also powerful…



The Restoration 

During or towards the ‘end’ of the Red Shift, He who would become the Sleeping King of the Eclipsed Kingdom is born. 

Now we enter what the Eclipsed Kingdom would consider to be ‘History’, as opposed to myth. 

The King rises and rides through Reality, knitting together what was broken, restoring order, causality and meaning, separating dream from real. 

Many heroic events too numerous to mention; the Binding of Setebos, Conquest of the Otherworld, the Defeat of Summer etc etc 

How exactly this relates to the Coming of Azathoth, I suspect the religious thinkers of the Eclipsed Kingdom have doctrine on. By their telling, the Sleeping King was always the Prophet of Azathoth and all his power flowed from service to that Black God. 


Rise of the Black Sun 

God him, her and itself arrives. This is Year Zero for the Eclipsed Kingdom. 

The Sleeping King takes the thirteen poisoned daggers in his back and enters the eternal waiting sleep in which he still remains. 

God stays in His heaven. The Black Church of the Eclipsed Kingdom says that God is waiting for its Prophet, the Sleeping King, to complete his dream. Which to God, is little more than a moments wait, before it enfolds the world and reduces it to pure chaos.



Years of the Sleep 

672 YS – alleged recovery of ‘In The Memories of Stars’

Said to have been uncovered from the ruins of lost Samaris in the lands once called ‘Frost’ 



732 YS – First Block-Printing of ‘In the Memories of Stars’ 



1600 YS - The ‘Present Day’ 

One-thousand and sixth-hundredth Year of the Sleep 

Date of the writing of the article titled ‘Who Shall Rid Us of These Seers’, presumably 1600 years after the coming of Azathoth and the Sleep of the King. 

Somewhere in a tower of the Eclipsed Kingdom, a monk begins to set down ‘A History of the Prescience Wars’, the mythic pre-apocalyptic era which forms the deep history of the Eclipsed Kingdom. 

Whether, in gathering records and resources of such an infectious and in a way, still pulsating era, is a wise thing to do, we shall see. The Order of St Korbin no doubt would do hard work with their iron staves if they knew someone was writing such a thing. 




Some Questions of the Prescience Wars 

How would a prescience-guided army actually fight? Would its enemies just give up in despair, no matter how superior they were? Can numbers overwhelm Prescience? Is there some calculation or equation that gives you a rough estimate of the “combat power” of Prescient guidance in terms of troops and materiel? So to attack a fortified position I think the traditional guide is you need at least three, and hopefully five times as many as the defenders. Can you even calculate the effectiveness of Prescience? Presumably its somewhat logarithmic base on depth and accuracy. 


Have I thrown in too much jargon and lore for even me to keep straight? Honestly I can’t remember all of the technical terms from the Glossary of the Amber Court 


Why can’t I do character? My ability to create personality is basically zero. 


Deeper questions – is the argument over prescience and its relationship to moral action, which has been a big theme in a lot of mainstream genre stuff in the last decade, feeding into or off some particular strand of something in the cultural gestalt? 


Can I actually say anything sane and useful, or at least interesting, about the possible interactions between the Iron and Amber paths?

Friday 4 March 2022

A Review of 'The Strange Death of Alex Raymond'

This is a bit of a mad one but there is s fragment of info here for those who paint with sable brushes, see below; 'The Useful Part'.


Dave Sim is Schizophrenic, and really good at comics.

He got big in the 70s for creating one of the first self-published comics, 'Cerebus', about an Aardvark in a fantasy land.

It was good, then got very good, then got weird then insane. Sim either _went_ insane or revealed his madness. It was a hell of a ride to be honest.

I read almost the entirety of the then-available Cerebus in the early 00's. Liverpool Library had the whole set, Sim published them in hugh hardback 'phone book' volumes. They were there, (old even then), ranked up on a bottom shelf, looking weird and mysterious, being wierd and mysterious, because when you open them you find this intensely realised, visually intensely precise, quasi-medieval world, and this cartoon Aardvark hanging out in it, and then what is the Aardvark doing? Running for office, becoming pope, being a religious figure, dying in a bar? Huge books they were, densely realised complex politics, fictionalised visitations and analysis of literary and cultural figures, a weird matriarchal religious cult.

It's difficult to describe to people, when the craft of comics, not just the images or the writing, but the synthesis, is not deeply attended to, just how really intensely fucking *good* at comics Dave Sim was and is. I'm talking here about something that if it were broken down would be difficult to recombine in the minds as anything but a combination of minor and greater talents, lettering, conversational dialogue, portrait art, expressive art, the flow of time through panels, panel arrangement, composition, world building, but if you see it go as-one, it’s simply a different order of thing. People who knew about comics, the obsessives, all knew about him and as time went by they all knew he was nuts but still a genius.

Ok there's no way to tldr this but; Aardvark, acid trip, religious visitations, personal breakdown, misandrist feminist cult, alienation of former friends and lovers, self written into comic, protagonist encounters Sim as godhead, Sim encounters actual ("actual") godhead, structure of comic breaks down or changes hugely, turns out Dave Sim may be prophet of new (old) religion and also if I recall correctly modern culture is an act of vampirism where the female void preys upon the divinely inspires male light, Sim essentially forms his own religion from some combination of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, I suppose he is a one-man pure son of Abraham, and still carries out his devout observances today.

I don't know if Sim has ever come out directly and said he has been visited by the Godhead but I am pretty sure he believes he has.

Anyway, old story BUT, I happen to be visiting family down south and happen to wander through the nerd section of town and happen to see this strange book 'The Strange Death of Alex Raymond', by Dave Sim, and behold its only a single book, not an infinite series, and I, possessed by the spirit of Capitalism, take it home.


The boon of a ferocious mind. Alex Raymond, master of brushwork and the hyper-realistic style; in particular he performs what Sim calls 'Nightingale Lines', with a sable brush (Raymond uses nothing else), he creates these flows of ultra-ultra-ultra fine and precise brushwork, so fine in some cases they don't even show up in reproduction. All his contemporaries are amazed. Not just amazed but intimidated. Some decide to ignore brushwork themselves as they feel they can never match up. How does/did Raymond do it?

*simply by looking at the comics* Sim has worked it out

(or almost certainly worked it out, I judge his analysis here as more accurate than any of his "wilder assertations" in the book)

This is the most useful thing in 'The Strange Death of Alex Raymond' and, since Sim is Sim, and even its description is an act of beauty, I present the images below)

Ok that was the useful part.


"The Strange Death of Alex Raymond" is, or starts out as, a deep, deep, deep investigation of the photorealistic comics style of, primarily its three titans, Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), Alex Raymond, (Flash Gordon) and Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), who ruled in a great age of newspaper strips from the 30s to the 50s.

These guys were popular in ways that only 20th Century creators could be popular. The early age of mass production, but before communications tech advanced enough to splinter the market. We're talking millions and millions of readers. 

The book is centred on what Sim calls 'The Strange Death of Alex Raymond', (he died in a car crash), which Sim makes the central mystery of his investigation.

He never actually gets there. The book remains uncompleted, at least by him, due to either, or both, a wrist injury which cripples his drawing hand and Sim himself becoming utterly lost in his own web of connections.

But its also about something Sim calls 'Comic Book Metaphysics', which, to boil down that which cannot be boiled down, because Sim describes it in fragments and staring inferences, is what he thinks is the interrelating patterns of people, persona dramas, crises, imagined entities etc which weave between the work of the photorealistic school and their actual lives.

And not just them but everyone connected to them, and not just those connected to them personally but everyone who may be connected to their ideas, anyone whose ideas fed into theirs, anyone their ideas fed into.

Sim knows these things two ways, by study and my inference.

His study is that he has read every goddamn one of these comics, memorised every element, researched every life-line, looked up interviews, checked histories, examined timelines. 

His inference, which he would not separate from study, remember the level of attention and analysis it would have taken to first perceive the problem of Raymond’s 'Nightingale Lines' then to have, *within the pages of the comics themselves* devised and understood the solution, but to Sim, he can "read" the lives of these men from their work.

Which, because Sim is Sim, are largely about sexual jealousy and malfeasance, invisible power struggles, manipulation, cultural decay and, ultimately, as we go waaaaaay past the event horizon, actual witchcraft, the attempt to resurrect the Klu Klux Klan via sympathetic magic and the direct presence of the devil in the affairs of man, the devil here, operating though the sexual desires of women and the weakness of men.

He has no evidence for these things.

Lets take a look at one, very early, very mild example of Sim being Sim

These are from page 81 and 82, Sim argues that for a few years Raymond had been copying or adopting the style of Caniff, as an act of domination of course, because for Sim, everything is domination and submission, then Raymond wins becomes the president of the National Cartoonists Society, he is photographed shaking hands with Caniff.

Sim takes this moment and over several pages goes, well, this...

Obviously (OBVIOUSLY) this is an act of mental and moral warfare between the two men and obviously Raymond has been defeated, destroyed, revealed for the weak man he is by the superior and more purely manly power of Caniffs handshake...

Try to avoid laughing at this. Like with anything Sim-related, elements of high skill, deep perception and subtle analysis segue seamlessly into foolishness and into madness.

Remember how clever he was with the brush thing. Could anyone else have done that? Well this is just the other side of that.

Having a high IQ doesn't really help much with Schizophrenia. 

Imagine the pattern recognition of the mind firing and firing and firing, as it does in your mind, but more so. But with the Schizophrenic there is no, or only a weak, opposing synthesis. No voice or silent bar to so "no, this connection is bad, it doesn't make sense, it doesn't match with how reality works".

And under all that is fear, and an overwhelming sense of drive, of purpose, of importance, not just importance but of sacredness. To be in the grip of such power..... Well, if you've read the old testament you get my drift.

Think Sim hyper-analysing an awkward photo isn't really "nutso" enough? By around page 200 he's proved that Margret Mitchell, writer of 'Gone With the Wind' was either a witch or a direct servant of Satan and a descendant of witches, and was part of a plot, or a dark conspiracy to.. 

I'll just show you;

Think about the level of clarity, of talent, think of the carefully acquired skill. When he began drawing Sim was considered pretty bad, by the end of Cerberus he was thought of as excellent, by this point he's reproducing, warping, remaking, some of the greatest pages, the greatest illustrations from the high point of Photorealistc Comics, riding with the masters.

This is high art in many ways. What a beautiful, incredible capacity to perceive and create, and what an absolutely awful, really a nightmarishly pathetic man.

Think in real terms about what Sim has done through the whole of this book. Pried, or imagined he has pried into the personal lives of these figures light-years away from him. Secretly opened the secret boxes of their hearts, these real people who really lived, and tipped them over to show the foulness and shit within.

But none of it is real. He made it up.

He will never really understand that he made it up. To him it was revealed. 

In fact he was just trying to save the world from the conspiracies of the Devil. When he prays he may even pray for your forgiveness for, in thinking him mad, you know not what you do.

Its inspiring and wounding and wearying and ultimately like taking a beating, or listening to a man rant you can't get away from. (Yet he is ranting in visual music). It’s pretty much the same feeling I got reading Cerebus all those years ago. Its nasty and viscerally unpleasant. The mans heart is a sewer. Yet he is an innocent. He doesn't know, after all, and never will.