Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Ignorance is This

EDIT 09/11/2015: I fixed up some of the language to reflect my current understanding and education in relation to these words and their meaning, and also changed some of the less charitable word choices to be more forgiving. My position has not changed, so the meaning of this blog post has not changed, merely its attitude

I hate it when people misuse words. Words exist to communicate ideas, and when you try to warp their meaning, you make communication more difficult. But there's a certain kind of misused word that really annoys me, and that's the entitled misused word. Words like "terrorism" when it's used to fight wars; words like "nigger" when it's used to demean & words like "love" when it's used to control.
These words have meanings that are misused and misapplied in such a way as to benefit the speaker while confusing the listener. Of all the misused words, there is a certain misused word that I keep hearing ALL the time. It's starting to seem like people are building their whole lives around it, despite the fact that the word they are looking for doesn't exist.
The Word of the Day is: 'AGNOSTIC'.

Agnostic /ag'nostik/ n. 1. Someone who believes that human knowledge is limited to experience and that God is unknowable. ♦n. 2. Having to do with agnostics or their beliefs. 3. Claiming that all knowledge, or a particular question, is relative and uncertain.

I am an Atheist, myself. That means, I don't believe there is a god. Now, the opposite of Atheism would be Theism, which is belief is a god. This is a binary system. Do/Don't. It can't get simpler than that. You can try to complicate it with "Polytheism" or "Spirituality", but in answer to the question "Do you believe in God?" there are two possible answers, 'Yes' and 'No'. But some people seem to believe this exists on a sliding scale that goes:
Atheism - - - - - - - Agnosticism - - - - - - - Theism
There's this deeply ingrained belief that "Agnostic" means "I believe there 'might' be a god". This doesn't make any sense to me at all. Either you think something is or you think it isn't. As I said, binary system. Like a lightswitch, ON or OFF. Even if you try to hold a lightswitch in the middle, the light will always be either on or off. Even if it's flickering, at any one moment it's either on or off, it can't be both at the same time. More importantly, it can't be neither at the same time, it must be one or the other.

But let's stop on that for a moment, because this isn't about my inability to perceive their beliefs. I also don't understand how someone logical can still believe in God in this day and age, but people do. So let's move onto something more important.

Agnostic does NOT mean "Someone who believes their 'might' be a God". If you believe that is the case, then the definition is right up there, check it out. But more than that, I want to introduce you to another word: GNOSTIC.
This is the opposite of 'agnostic', and I'm gonna get Dictionary to give you the definition, so you don't go thinking it means "Someone who believes there might not be a god".

Gnostic /'nostik/ adj. 1. Relating to knowledge. 2. Having knowledge, especially knowledge of spiritual things. 3. (cap.) Related to or common to the Gnostics. ♦n. 4. (cap.) A member of any of certain sects among, or religiously similar to, the early Christians, who claimed to have superior knowledge of spiritual things.

The 'a-' prefix in agnostic, (generally) means "not", just like it does in words like asexual, amoral or asymmetric. It is the opposite of the word Gnostic and Gnosis is the Greek word for "knowledge", often used in the context of spiritual knowledge. While I could easily take this moment for the stealth insult of claiming all agnostics have no knowledge, this actually goes a lot deeper. Because even these supposed 'agnostics' can read this and think:
"Yeah, NOT and KNOWLEDGE, so it means I DO NOT KNOW. Makes sense to me."
But this isn't talking about what you do know, it's talking about what you can know. If you think "I don't know if God exists or not, but if you show me proof either way then I will believe/disbelieve accordingly", then claiming you are agnostic is not the full story. See, Dictionary says that agnostics believe "God is unknowable".
True Agnostics are, basically, those that believe that there is no evidence for God because of God's Nature, and that God is imperceivable in any way. It doesn't mean "I can't tell if God exists, so I can neither confirm nor deny" it actually means "I can't see, feel, know or understand God, the supernatural or the nature of spirituality".
You may note, that this doesn't make any claims about your position on existence, it's not fence-sitting, it is the claim that you can't know something without evidence. See, this isn't a sliding Scale, it's just another binary system. Rather than a sliding scale, the scoreboard looks like this:

Agnostic/Gnostic
Atheism/Theism

There's four potential beliefs here

Gnostic Theism
This is most religions. They believe there is a god, and they can understand that god's will and percieve what they call its influence on the world. These tend to be the more fundamentalist and irrational bible-thumpers; sometimes, literally insane.

Agnostic Theism
This is the belief that there is a god, but you cannot percieve or know him in any way, you just have to have faith. They are more likely to question religious claims. These are often called "moderate" theists; they are harmless and kind people.

Gnostic Atheism
This is the belief that, through science, we will come to understand everything about the universe. There are no gods, and it is impossible for there to be a god. These are often called "hard-line atheists" and they tend to be quite conceited.

Agnostic Atheism
This is the belief that there is no proof of a supernatural deity, and pragmatically speaking, there is no god. These are most commonly called "Skeptics", and while there are different degrees of skepticism, this tends to be the most scientific position.

I identify myself as an Agnostic Atheist, but these days it misrepresents my true beliefs, so I tend not to do that anymore in public forums. Because people think it means that I am still a 'little bit' theist. But I am not at all, I am just open-minded, and capable of accepting the concept of the supernatural; however as a logical man, I also know that possibility is not the same as reality, so I make a fundamental pragmatic assertion that when something cannot be observed in any way, then it should not be treated as though it can be observed in any way.
However, I was frustrated with the amount of time I had to spend explaining to people what Agnostic really meant whenever someone asked me about my faith, since people kept sticking to this "agnostic means I don't know" myth.

To be perfectly clear here - there is no one word for the "religious fence-sitter". I can think of a few words that I would choose such as ignorant, uneducated and foolish. But that's just name-calling which, while deserved, is deconstructive.
Sure, if you don't know the truth then you are definitely an agnostic. But that's still doesn't answer the question of faith. It's like if someone asked my favourite flavour of ice-cream, and I said "with sprinkles on top". It's the unimportant part of the wrong answer to the given question.

But it's impossible to have this answer of "I don't know" because it's a binary system. You either believe that something exists is or you don't. We all know that both are intellectually possible, but we do believe one. If you think I'm being unreasonable, allow me to explain my position.


Going back to the lightbulb analogy, when a lightbulb is first made, it is off. It's only after it's plugged into the power source that it becomes on, but it is still in that binary system, on or off. It's the same with people.
All born children are atheists, because they have yet no religion or belief, they are babies. It's the default position. In the absence of matter, there is a vacuum & in the absence of thought there is atheism, it's super simple stuff - I recognize that those words could be quote-mined by fundamentalists to insult atheists, but the fact is, it's true; atheism is not an arrogant position, it's just the default, logical position. It is in the most literal way, common sense. Even religion knows this, that's why they invented baptism, to introduce children to God, they know that all children are born without any theistic belief. But, baptised or not, the child is an atheist until it is presented with either religion, philosophy or science regarding the nature of the universe. But as soon as these issues are brought to your attention, you need to make up your mind:
Do I believe that a God created all of this?

I want to remind you, I am not telling you to be an atheist. I know that I'm right, but religious folks know that they are right as well, such is the fickle nature of knowledge. No matter how much paperwork, fact or support I have on my side, this is still a question of personal discovery and belief. Indoctrinated fact is still indoctrination, and everyone deserves the chance to question what they are told as truth. So you need to discover for yourself what you believe in. I'm not telling you what to choose, I am merely asking you to make a choice.

If you are over the age of 12, and haven't decided what you believe about the universe yet, you are ignorant. Literally, you are ignoring reality.
This is one of the most important questions in the world, and you couldn't come up with an answer? The worst part is, this isn't a question about fact, it's a question about faith. It's a question about what is happening in your own head!
If you don't know what you are thinking or believing within your own head, then you are just being ignorant, and I make no apologies for that.
If you still haven't made up your mind by now, you're not Agnostic you're Ignorant.

If you don't like being ignorant, then answer this simple question: Do you believe there is a God?

Take your time, because if you have finished primary school and answer with anything other than Yes or No, then you are both Ignorant and Incorrigible.


Now please, spread the Word! That is, the word 'agnostic' and what it really means. Or, hell, just link self-proclaimed agnostics to this page and let them learn the hard way, because I am getting sick of this misused language. People seem to think they can hide behind this 'I don't know' state of affairs. But the truth is, it's a cop-out for the weak willed. Just someone too scared to admit how they really feel or too spineless to put their foot down and make a decision. Some people are really proud of their agnostic beliefs, but I don't understand how anyone can feel proud about not having made up their mind.
So let's reintroduce the word agnostic to the masses, and represent this misguided subculture for what they really are: Indecisive Ignorants.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and in case you were wondering, my favourite flavour of ice-cream is strawberry ripple.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Perfect Page Paradox

I own three purple notebooks.

They were all given to me on birthdays, because the people around me know that I like to write and figure it's a good present. In a way, it is . . . my favourite colour is indigo, so purple is a good colour for a present & I do use notebooks all the time for keeping story notes in, so it's nice they consider buying me more fresh paper.
The thing is, I can't bring myself to write in any of them. It's a weird mental quirk, but it seems I'm not the only writer with this personal affliction. The Word of the Day is: 'BLANK'

Blank /blangk/ adj.  1. Not written on or printed on: blank paper. 2. Not filled in; incomplete: a blank cheque. 3. Lacking ornament or opening: a blank wall. 4. Showing no attention, feeling or understanding: a blank face; a blank look. 5. complete; utter: blank stupidity. ♦n. 6. A place where something is lacking; an empty space: a blank in someone's memory; a blank on an exam paper. 7. A printed form containing spaces to be filled in. 8. A mark, such as a dash (—), put in the place of a letter or word. 9. → blank cartridge.

I am a perfectionist. It's one of the biggest problems when you're a note-taker of any kind if you like things to be neat and tidy and perfect, it means that I have to keep certain ideas together, write notes in a certain way. For instance, I have many different colours of pen and sometimes I can't write ideas down because I'm writing in the wrong colour. It's goddamn frustrating!
Incidentally, I have to say, I fucking hate it when people say "I'm a little OCD" when what they mean is "I like to be neat". OCD is not this light-hearted quirk, it's a compulsive nightmare. I physically CAN'T function until I find the right pen, and if I don't then I want to start throwing things. This isn't some cutesy-poo quibble, it's an obsessive compulsion. I'm not OCD, but I have compulsive tendencies, and I can fully understand why it's called a 'disorder'.
[although it's odd considering that OCD sufferers often put things into order . . .]

The point is, I am a perfectionist. I like it when things are perfect and pretty. But the problem is, I think that paper looks beautiful. it's so pure and perfect, a canvas of white space. If it's fresh, it can even be uncreased, uncurled, unsullied & unsoiled: A perfect page.
But at the same time, I think that a page covered in writing looks amazing. Especially if it's printed from a computer, it looks like a sea of words that I can dive into. So, if you give me a piece of paper and ask me to draw on it, write on it or otherwise mark it . . . I hesitate.
Often I procrastinate and eventually give up, because I have hit an impasse. Because there is a chance that I might write the wrong words, make a mistake or otherwise make the page look like crap. To write on the page, or not to write?
I call this the Perfect Page Paradox.

It's the same reason why I can't write in these notebooks that people give me for my birthday, because it takes that compulsion and magnifies it by my respect for the gift-giver; not wanting to mar a book given to me as a birthday present from some deluded sense of nostalgia.

Thankfully, I'm not the only madman in this nuthouse. This is a common disorder among writers, which is more commonly known as Blank Page Fear, and often manifests when writers face the first page of the story they wish to write.
They see the whitespace looming before them and grow timid.

Some find it's an issue of false starts and faltering enthusiasm. Sometimes, the sheer act of creating something out of nothing feels like an impossible task. Sometimes it's just plain old writer's block, with the page itself becomes the target of your ire, seemingly mocking you with your lack of progress.
But very often, it's a combination of all these fears that feeds a cycle of self-doubt.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can find an easy way to bring myself to write in these purple notebooks given to me by friends and family . . . but I can definitely help out other writers who suffer from Blank Page Fear, as I have never struggled to start writing a story and conquering that phobia. See, for me, the first step is easy because I have a couple of tricks to get over it, which I am willing to share.

Keep Scrap Paper
Many artists have been known to come up with brilliant ideas that they have scribbled on napkins or written out on the back of an envelope. These are often impromptu notepads which they've been forced to use under the weight of their inspiration, but I find it's a great way to get yourself writing.
Because a great way to avoid ruining a pretty page is to use a crappy, scrappy page. That way any writing on it will be an improvement. If you don't have any spare, scrap paper ask your Mum or Dad (or parent or guardian) if they have any old paper from work you can use - it's a great way to recycle old paper.
Another good idea is to tear your paper into smaller pieces. Whether your paper is old or new, having smaller pieces means that there's less worry about "ruining a good page" by writing the wrong thing, since firstly it's already ripped, and secondly you can throw that piece of paper away, knowing you're not wasting an entire page with only one sentence on it. It's also easier to cover a small piece of page in notes, meaning the task ahead is less intimidating.
Don't bother with scissors, this isn't about a perfectly cut piece of paper, just fold your paper in half (where you want to cut) and scratch a sharp fingernail along the crease. Doing this creates a fault-line which, with the proper care, will easily tear apart in a straight line creating two equivalent pieces of scrap paper.

Write on a Computer.
This saves me a lot of effort, because the word documents are a beautiful thing, meaning I don't have to worry whatever about my stories. In fact, I don't think I'd write very well at all if I had to write stuff out by hand. Not only is my writing generally illegible, but when I write stories (or even these blog posts) on my computer I often write between paragraphs and sentences; fix up tense and spelling errors; fix formatting and spacing issues; change ideas mid-way through & even cut and paste to shift whole paragraphs all over the page until I've found the right structure. In fact, this was originally the last item in this impromptu list, but I moved it here since it fits the flow better up here.
If I had to write this out on a piece of paper, it would look like a footy coach's playbook with arrows, circled sections & big crosses all over the place. Never mind how much easier it is to use a keyboard compared to a pen, just without word processor formatting alone, I don't think I'd get much writing done.
But more than that, it's impossible to fear the white page because all you have to do is hold Ctrl+Z, and your screen looks perfect all over again. If you type the wrong thing, just highlight it with the mouse and fix it. Most readers will be none the wiser!
Of course, this doesn't help everyone. In fact, some people feel that the availability of a Backspace key makes writing harder, since they have an easier way to "hide their shame", by holding down Backspace to delete whole lines of old writing. It gives them a tool by which they can better second-guess themselves. For those of you that use the Backspace as a way to erase your guilt and shame, instead try highlighting it in red, or press enter few times to put the "bad" words on a different line. It's hard to start fresh, so if you force yourself to start new every time, you're giving yourself even more work to do. But if you keep a log of attempts that don't work, you might start to see a pattern, or identify the issue with the first line. Don't force yourself to keep staring at a Blank Page, or you'll wear yourself down into Writer's Block.
But whether you have trouble with the first page or not, by now you really should know how to use a computer. The world is fast evolving, with the realm of writing evolving along with it. There's all new kinds of writing to which computers avail us, and if you don't know how to type your stories up on a computer, I fear you're going to be left behind.

Write Every Day
If your issue is writing your actual story and not just note-taking, I find the best cure is writing every day. This has so many benefits either way, and if you want to be a writer it's perhaps the best advice anyone can give you, since it forces you to translate thoughts into words.
Remember, it doesn't have to be good writing. Keeping a journal (or blog) or just long, rambling stretches of inner monologue will help you to write.
If your issue is getting that first sentence done, then writing every day is like stretching before a run. Rather than being all creaky and clunky, trying to warm up your muscles as you go, you will instead hit the ground running and your own momentum will keep you going. The same thing works with writing. If you have the mindset to just keep going and going then you can easily put some distance between you and the dreaded first page.

Ruin it First
One of the biggest things that stops new writers from writing is their fear of failure:
  "What if I can't do it? What if it's not as good enough? What if other people hate it?"
This mindset is silly, because it's turning a muppet into a monster. Because the fact of the matter is: Yes, your writing is going to suck. It's about baby steps, people. When you first start writing, your writing sucks. I'm not going to sugar-coat it. But with time you get better. Yet another reason you should write every day. The more you write, the better it gets:
  "Practice does, indeed, make perfect. For writers, at least."
- The Absurd Word Nerd
Also, no matter how good you get, your first draft is also going to suck. That's why you have to proofread it, check it, then edit it & then check again. Sitting down and not writing because your scared you'll "fail" is like refusing to exercise because you might get sweaty, it's just silly.
But if you still find yourself paralyzed by this fear, I find the best trick is to fail first. Before you write your story, draw a big line down the middle of the page. Or, if you prefer, scrunch the paper up into a ball, then unfold it and write on it. Or write I LOVE JELLYBEANS, then draw a line through it. Why? Because then you've already failed. Whoops . . . oh well, there's nowhere to go from here but up. You failed, so what? Don't cry over spilled milk, just clean it up and get on with your day.
If you're writing on a computer, do the same thing. Mash the keyboard and write gibberish like: gm[p@j]op a sdfd aE%ASDFAGJ OPo$gmkl [asdf j#io[[p
Or just write the words "Text Goes Here", because these both just look silly, and are in desperate need of some improvement.
After a while, you won't need to do this stupid trick, because you'll get over this neurosis. Even if you write your first sentence and it says:
  "Once upoop a time." rather than freak out you'll just shrug (maybe giggle a little) then hold down backspace and start again. It's super simple stuff.


That's how I deal with Blank Page Fear. It's worked so well for me that I've gotten to the point now where I don't really deal with blank pages anymore. I open a word document and start writing straight away before the idea losing it's luminosity and when I open a new draft for a blog post, I find myself writing the first sentence, sometimes before I've even picked a Word of the Day!

So if you're paralyzed by Perfect Page Paradox, then procrastinate no more. Just put pen to paper and practice these pertinent points, and you'll be printing that pretty prose before you can say Peter Piper picked a pile of pickled peppers!

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and if you'll excuse me I'm going to fail at writing, and enjoy it!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

How to Kill Someone you Love

I love coffee. I love the way it tastes. I love the way it smells. I love the way it gets my mind turning, kick-starting my brain into gear. I just love it. So I make it at home, I get it from restaurants and sometimes I even get it from cafés.
I only ever drink my coffee cold, so when I get it from a café, they put ice in it. Usually, they put too much ice in it, because they're cheap bastards, so they give me a half and half mix of ice and coffee in a clear, disposable, plastic cup. So when I finish my coffee, and see the four or five large unmelted cubes at the bottom of the cup, I feel bad that I'm wasting water.
Ever since the drought in about 2006, when water was scarce, I've always felt bad about wasting water so there's always this moment, before I drop my cup in the bin, when I wonder if I should instead eat the ice. But, since my mouth is already cold (and I'm usually full by this point) I inevitably drop the container in the bin and feel a little bad inside.

The strange thing is, I feel bad when I waste a few millilitres of water, but I usually don't feel that way when I kill people. The Word of the Day is: 'DISPOSABLE'.

Disposable /dəs'pōzəbəl/ adj. 1. Able to be disposed of or thrown away. 2. Designed or intended to be discarded after one use.

I'm not a killer, I'm a writer. So, as much as I think it would be funny if future serial killers came here hoping for advice on casual murder, I'm just here to give writing advice. Because killing characters is weird.
Characters are an important, often necessary part of fiction. Their actions usually make up the plot of the story, and to remove them can make writing very difficult. So it's a good idea to not kill them.

But at the same time, if you're writing a story with a lot of supposedly risky, life-threatening situations, then it's a little weird if nobody dies. You can't really have a big, bad villain or monster or horrible event and call it "deadly" if it never kills anyone.
Well, you can . . . but then your villain would be all talk. He may be a very threatening villain, but unless he acts out some of those threats, then he's not going to be very convincing as a villain. Or, if you're writing some kind of apocalypse scenario, then a LOT of people will have to die, or be harmed and mutilated in some way or it isn't really an apocalypse, is it?

This isn't all stories, mind you, not at all! Killing people is a horrible thing to do, and in stories it can be incredibly inconvenient. So, just as in real life, you should avoid death as much as is humanly possible. But if you're writing a story, and you feel like there's a lack of tension, drama, narrative or character development that could be accomplished with a Character Death, then you're in luck!

Because I just so happened to have compiled a list of ways to kill fictional people. I call it:

The A.W.N. Guide to Character Death

There are a couple of ways to kill people in a story, imolation, mutilation, decapitation, strangulation, detonation . . . these are all fun methods, to be sure. But this isn't about how to write that, this is about the moment before that. Choosing your victim.

Red Shirts & Henchmen
In fiction the main characters are kind of important, since they are the ones that do everything. So, if you don't want to kill them, but still want someone to die, there are some options. Bad Guys have Henchmen, they are often soldiers that wear head to toe body armour or some other dehumanizing garb, and exist solely so the Good Guys have a steady flow of people that they can kill, to prove how awesome and deadly they are. But the Bad Guys need people to kill too, and these are known as Red Shirts, they are characters on the Good side that can die, to prove that the villain is mighty, but still keep the main guys alive.
The advantage of Red Shirts & Henchmen is obvious. They're simple enough to make, you don't even have to give them a name & it keeps the main characters alive, while having people still die. But there's a few disadvantages too. For one, unless your characters are part of an army or large organization, it's going to be hard to explain where they keep getting these disposable soldiers from. Sure, they could just be their friends or people they recruit, but it still begs the question of why these people are joining them in the first place. For another thing, it's very easy to make their deaths cheap. A favourite is to mention their family or loved one back home or say that they're two-days away from retirement just before they die. It may seem like you're trying to make them more human, but it's nothing more than a cheap way of making their death seem even more tragic. Also, it will make your heroes seem heartless, even if they 'feel bad', they still kept sending people to their deaths (good or bad), while they themselves are unharmed.
So it's not all great, but a Classic's a classic. And if you mix this in with some of the other examples, it's less noticeable.

The Sacrifice
When testing a car, since you don't want to risk hurting people that matter, you put a crash test dummy in their place, so they can feel the impact while the important people stay unharmed. In fiction, there are similar dummies. The only difference is we give them a name, backstory and character before we slam them into the wall.
The Sacrifice Character is the character who is created with the knowledge that they're going to get killed. TV Tropes has two versions of this, but they're basically the same thing. There's the Sacrificial Lamb, this is a character made to die, who dies pretty quickly in the story. This character serves a purpose, and their portrayal can make the story more powerful, but I consider the Lamb a bit weaker overall. For me, it's not much different to setting the hero's hometown on firestuffing their partner in the fridge or killing off their black friend. It's just a way of killing characters without having to write about them too much.
But the other version, the Sacrificial Lion, this is a personal favourite of mine. Basically the Sacrificial Lion is the character that, when you first write up their character sheet, there's a note saying "Dies in Chapter 58" or whatever, so that you know they are going to die. This kind of Crash Test Dummy is very clever. You can develop their character, make them friends or enemies & even make them a main character! But the point is that they are designed as a ticking time bomb that will die at some point so the story gets more dramatic, but as tragic as their death is, the rest of the team can function without them afterwards.
The problem with this long-lived Sacrifice is that sometimes the audience will notice. If you're writing a story about a starship that's lost in space, then a keen audience will start to be wary of the navigator onboard. Or if your main character is a boring high school student whose father is a superhero, and your story is called something like How I Became a Superhero, then it won't be as surprising when his father dies, if you get what I mean.
The point is, there are characters that are easy to kill off. Even if you know you've got a lamb for the slaughter, it's easy to downplay their character and pull your punches, so that it doesn't hurt as much when they die. But the point of the Sacrifice Character is to deliver that punch, so don't make them an easy kill. Also, by that same rule, don't make them too likeable, because that too can make people suspicious.

Hot-Blooded Murder
Okay, I'm not gonna lie, this is going to hurt. Simply explained, cold-blooded murder can be another name for 'pre-meditated murder'. Because everything is already planned, so there's nothing to do but commit the act. This is what the other two kinds of character death ask for. A death that is planned in advance, with no emotional investment. I mean, it's cold-blooded. But if you really want to give your audience a punch in the guts, and get them feeling for your story - then you can always kill a main character.
This is the death that is not planned, a death done "in the heat of the moment" within a story. This is most like real life, as many deaths are unplanned for and painful and thus it's the hardest to do as a writer, because so often we like our main characters. You develop them, build their backstory and history like they're your children. You write them and help them grow (or, at least, guide them through their adventure) and you get to know them, as does your audience.
So if you kill a main character, it should really hurt. It should really get you thinking and really cut you deep. Of course, even if you do kill off a character there are ways to make it less permanent. You can easily kill your character then have them come back, have them replaced or otherwise undo the undoable, but that's another matter entirely.
True, Hot-Blooded Murder is permanent.
This kind of thing should be done delicately. Sure, you can stick your hero on a lathe and spill his guts like confetti at a street parade, but no matter how they die, there has to be a reason for why they died. That's not to say every main character death has to be a Heroic Sacrifice, that's not exactly realistic. If you want, you can have your character die because they didn't look both ways before crossing the street. But there has to be a narrative reason for their death, otherwise your audience will think that you're an unnecessarily cruel writer, and will be disinterested in investing passion in your work, since you'll just kill characters for the hell of it.
Actually even if you do have a genuine reason for killing a main character, an audience will hate you anyway, but that's a risk you should be willing to take to make a story great. That's that it takes to Kill Someone you Love.


The reason I made this list in the first place, and the reason I'm thinking about character death and the word "Disposable" is that something has come to my attention which NEEDS TO STOP.
When writing fiction, there's a tendency to include what's known as the Token Minority, which is basically a character that is included to add variety to a team of heroes otherwise made up entirely of heterosexual, middle-aged, caucasian men. I personally think there isn't enough variety in fiction, so a Minority character is a step in the right direction (although it would be better if there were more Main Characters that were at the very least female). But this often leaves writers in the sad situation where these minority characters don't get a lot of characterization because they're 'just women' or 'just gay', so the writer doesn't bother to flesh them out. This means that, inevitably, if they have to fight a deadly monster, gay characters, black characters, female characters and other minority characters are the first to go.
Why? Because they're Disposable. They weren't any more important than the furniture, so they die. There's also a tendency to make them the first to turn evil or go crazy, simply because they are so otherwise useless to the plot.
I am sick of this. It occurs because of ignorance and continues because of laziness. So the guide above exists to show you that there are other ways to kill characters, rather than killing off those that you're too lazy to develop.
The world is a varied and wonderful place, and the fictional world can be too. The first step to achieving that is to stop killing off every character that doesn't fit the Aryan standard.

The second step is to write Minority characters that are well-rounded and exist as something more than Tokens that you can cash in whenever there's a serial killer in town. So do me a favour, next time you create a main character, I want you to pick a word from the following list, any word, maybe even at random:
Aboriginal, African, Asian, Autistic, Bisexual, Blind, Deaf, Female, Gay, ImmigrantIndian, JewishLesbian, Muslim, Mute, ParaplegicRussian, Schizophrenic, Transexual.
Once you've picked your word, I want you to make your character that. It's not that hard, some of these may even come naturally to you. The point is, I see NO reason why any of these kinds of characters can't have their own story, this is by no means a comprehensive list of minorities but so often these characters are ignored, and I think they deserve their chance to shine as a protagonist.
That way, if you have to kill them off, it will mean so much more for your readers.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, off to find my next victim . . .

Friday, 14 June 2013

Sorry Not Enough

I'm sorry that this post is late, see the thing is that I posted on the weekend, but then it was the Queen's Birthday, and the long weekend had me confused. So when I posted on the Monday, I thought that . . . Wait, did I post on Monday? . . . one, two, three . . . Oh, today is the right day? I'm not posting late?
That's confusing. Sorry about that, I guess I . . .
Wait, no I'm not! I'm not sorry. Sure, I was wrong, but that's what I genuinely felt. Whether or not it's wrong, or people see it as as waste of time at best, and an injustice at worst, I don't think there's any more need to pervert the word sorry any more than it has already. I'm also not sorry that I lied to you about 'forgetting the date' when in fact this was all an orchestrated scheme to introduce the Word of the Day: 'SORRY'.

Sorry /'soree/ adj. 1. Feeling sadness at having done something wrong; regretful: I'm sorry I said that. 2. Causing pity; miserable; deplorable; wretched: To come to a sorry end; a sorry-looking horse. 3. Sorrowful or sad; grieved.

Do you know why I start every post with a dictionary definition? It's because I truly believe that if everyone understood words properly, and used them properly, then there would be less misunderstandings in the world. Less arguments. Because there are both fundamental meanings and secondary subtleties to words. For example, some people don't understand why anyone says:
  "I'm sorry for your loss."
They think: "Why? You didn't do anything wrong."
But if you'll peer just one little paragraph upwards, you'll see that sorry can also mean "Sorrowful or sad; grieved". It's a neat bit of poetry, that was developed through usage of the word, or through it's inherent meaning. These people don't know what sorry means. But I'm not too concerned with that, since it's nothing more than general ignorance.
  "Idiots will be idiots."
- The Absurd Word Nerd
But something that is starting to really piss me off lately, is people who say "sorry" when they've done something wrong, with no idea what they're actually saying, and how ignorant they sound.

A few examples come to mind, which occurred quite recently. Eddie Mcguire, an Australian radio host, apologized for a comment implying that Adam Goodes, an aboriginal football player, could endorse the King Kong musical, despite being fully aware of an incident where a 13 year old girl refered to Goodes as an 'Ape', which upset Goodes enough that he left the field midway through a football game.
Holger Osieck, an Australian soccer coach, apologized after saying to a crowd of journalists "women should shut up in public"; this was apparently a private joke he'd shared in Latin, which he chose to translate.

I believe that these two are sorry. But not because they regret their actions. No, I believe that they are sorry that they got caught. But I know they're not sorry for the harm they caused, because they recant their words. So often they say something along the lines of:
"I didn't mean what I said, I don't believe what I said and I don't approve of others that would say such things."
But that doesn't fly for me. That doesn't make sense, because they said it, then mere hours later, they apologize. You don't start or stop being a racist/sexist overnight. After all, they can't be that opposed to something that spilled out of their own mouth. Either they are racist/sexist and they didn't realize how unpopular their views were. Or (more likely) they knew that what they were saying was offensive, and said it anyway.

Sexist and Racist remarks, we all understand, are not very nice, but in BOTH of these examples, the remark in question was a joke. Offensive Jokes are funny, just look at Jimmy Carr, that's his whole set. Mcquire and Osieck's jokes were in poor taste and they failed miserably, yes; but they were none the less jokes and were told with the intention of getting people to laugh (or chuckle mildly).
So, I feel the same way about this as I do about Stephanie Rice. This is old hat by now, but in 2010, Stephanie Rice apologized for a so-called homophobic remark, after a backlash from a 'tweet' she posted that said:
  "suck on that, faggots - probs the best game I've ever seen - well done boys" in response to the results of a rugby game.
I don't like how people harassed this poor woman for an offhand comment, and I'm going to explain why, but first I think Louis CK says it in a funnier way, so you should check out his opinion on the matter, but my position is simply this:
I don't think that 'faggot' means homosexual. Dictionary agrees, saying that a faggot is a 'bundle of sticks used for fuel, etcetera'. This is going off topic slightly, but the point is that I don't believe that Rice is homophobic. Check out her apology, and you can see that she is sincerely horrified that she might have insulted somebody. So as far as I see it, the only problem with her remark is that everyone else has decided to get offended by it.

Yes, decided, because I wholeheartedly agree with that Jimmy Carr quote:
  "Offense is taken, not just given."
Offense was not meant, nor given in Rice's case, but people chose to be offended, so they strong-armed her into a position where, despite having no ill will towards the gay community, she had to apologize.
It's disgusting, and it misses the point entirely.

See, bringing it back now to the sexist and racist remarks, I see the same thing with Eddie and Holger. Not that people misinterpreted their words, they knew EXACTLY what they were saying, but what they didn't understand was that people would be so offended.
Eddie Mcguire was one of the people who consoled Goodes after that girl insulted him mid-game, so I don't believe that he is a white supremacist.
Holger Osieck apologized for his offense, and the way he talks about his wife shows a great respect to her, so I don't believe that he is a misogynist.

To me, watching these people apologize is the same as watching a small child apologize. I get this image in my head of a little kid, drawing on the walls with a crayon; then when his dad finds him, he jumps up and runs away chanting "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!", because he knows that he deserves a smack, and that he's going to get it eventually, but is trying to lessen the punishment.

So as I see it, for both this hypothetical naughty child, as well as Mcguire and Osieck, the apology is meaningless. It's just words, trying to appease a greater authority while in reality they don't think that what they did was wrong. All they see is that they are in trouble. It's only wrong because they were punished. Even if they never do it again, I don't think they've learned anything.
Which is why I believe that the whole "say something bad, then apologize" schtick is starting to wear thin.

Because how can we tell the difference? If the knee-jerk response to offense is to apologize, then it's going to get harder to tell whether or not people are sorry for their actions. The prime example that comes to mind here is Kevin Rudd.

On Wednesday, the 13th of February, 2008, Kevin Rudd, not long into his Prime Ministership, apologized to the Indigenous people of Australia. He apologized for the past policies, crimes & harm committed against them, by the government, for not being white. It was a great day in politics . . . but from where I'm sitting, it was a terrible day for the Aboriginal people.

Because 'Sorry' doesn't do anything. All it does is acknowledge that the offender feels guilty.
Some people don't understand why Rudd apologized, since he didn't do anything wrong and has nothing to feel guilty for, but this is not true. Rudd was the figurehead of the Government, an undying body of the Australian political system which, in it's past, has sinned against these people.
My issue is not that he did nothing wrong, but that he did nothing right.

Rudd said that he hopes it would help to "Heal the Nation" and be the first step towards bridging the gap between our respective life expectancies, raising the standards of Aboriginal education and increasing their economic opportunities. And he said that he was sorry.
These are all very beautiful words,  and certainly Aboriginal people feel better and more accepted, and that's my problem.

Because these problems are too big for a 'sorry' to fix.

All of these sorrys are one tiny piece of a much larger puzzle. A history of homophobic, sexist and racist culture that just doesn't seem to die. So, rather than try to fix the problem, we attack the symptoms.
Every time we see a Racist comment or Sexist rant or an Injustice, we stamp it out like a rat in the kitchen, ignorant of the nest that lives behind the fridge. The problem isn't that one person said something and needs to apologize. It's that we live in a society with a deep, in-grained history racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, intolerant & supremacist views.
Just because the rats aren't running the ship doesn't mean that they've gone away. And the problem only gets worse when you pick on these ignorant fools, and think you've caught a rat, when all you've done is kill a mouse.

I'm sorry that the world is fucked, I truly am. But this zero tolerance policy towards Sexism and Racism is wrong. Because it's missing the point entirely.
These people who are getting in trouble, they're not intolerant, they are just victims of this new media-saturated world, where every comment from Social Media is put under the microscope and every off-colour comment sets off the Political Correctness alarm - even if nothing was meant by it.
Back in my post "The Dark Word" about using racist language, I said this:
  "Words are just ideas, put into a fluent and transmissible form. So fear of words is no different from fear of ideas. Sure, racism is a bad idea, and you should be afraid of prejudiced and proactive racists. But stopping people from using the word, isn’t going to stop the idea. It’s just going to make it harder to find."
I still stand by that assessment. If we really want to stop Racism and Sexism and Homophobia, then the trick isn't a zero tolerance policy. Because as I see it, intolerance towards intolerance, merely begets more intolerance.

In all of this nonsense, though, I think people are starting to see the problem. See, my issue isn't that the word 'sorry' is meaningless. My issue is that, although the media likes to hype up the apology, the apology isn't what matters. What truly matters is the forgiveness.

I don't forgive these people for making jokes in bad taste. They don't deserve it and they haven't earned it and Rice doesn't get my forgiveness, because she did nothing wrong.
Besides, in most of theses cases I'm not the one they should be saying 'sorry' to . . .

But not everyone is an idiot. Some people understand what matters here, and knows where the problem lies. Above I mentioned that Adam Goodes left the sporting field after a 13 year old girl called him an 'ape'. Later, he addressed the media in response to this event, and had this to say:

  "It's not her fault. She's 13, she's still so innocent. I don't put any blame on her. Unfortunately it's what she hears, in the environment she's grown up in that has made her think that it's ok to call people names."
  "I can guarantee you right now she would have no idea how it makes anyone feel by calling them an 'ape'. I think it was just the name calling that she was doing, and unfortunately it cut me deep, and it affected me so much that I couldn't even be on the ground last night to celebrate a victory, to celebrate Indigenous round. I'm still shattered, personally, it's tough. I'm loving the support of my friends and family, and people in the social media, it's fantastic, but I think the person who needs the most support right now is the little girl. People need to get around her. She's 13. She's uneducated. If she wants to pick up the phone and call me and apologise I'll take that phone call, and I'll have a conversation with that girl about, 'you know what, you called me a name, and this is how it made me feel'. And it's school stuff . . ."

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I can only hope that all will be forgiven . . .

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Foutre Sous-titres

I don't really 'like' Silent Film. Now, I'm not saying that all Silent Film is bad, there's a lot of history and culture to be taken from the grandaddy of modern cinema; and when I had to watch some old genre films for my Film & TV university class, I absolutely adored the 1928, experimental short film "The Fall of the House of Usher" for how it experiments with written sound, surreal imagery & special effects. I still enjoy it to this day for its ingenuity and I recommend you check it out yourself, since it's only 13 minutes long.
But the thing that I hate about Silent Film is that, since you can't hear what they're saying, the filmmaker had to add in the dialogue with what was called "intertitles", where the spoken words are written on a card that pops up and interrupts the movie. Some filmmakers used intertitles not just for dialogue, but also to explain parts of the story, or comment on the action.
The thing is, I like to read books, and I like to watch movies; but reading a movie is just as stupid as watching a book - it's not what I want from the medium. Which is why I'm thankful that intertitles aren't used anymore. But that hasn't stopped filmmakers from trying to turn movies into scripture.
The Word of the Day is: 'SUBTITLE'

Subtitle /'subtuytl/ n. 1. A secondary, usually explanatory, title of a literary work. 2. Film One of a series of captions shown near the margins of the screen, being a translation or iteration of the on-screen dialogue or action. ♦v.t. 3. To give a subtitle or subtitles to.

Now, I should probably mention foreign films, and get that out of the way first. If a film is from a different country and filmed in its native tongue, then certainly subtitles are a good option. Because there are only two other options, really:
Making the movie twice in two languages or 'dubbing' over the dialogue.
The only film I know of that was made twice for two languages is the original Dracula/Drácula films of 1931, and that just got confusing when every film critic claimed that the Italian film was better, since it was less prudish.
Whereas dubbing comes from the word "doubling" and in practice it requires creating a "double" of an original audio track using voice actors to either translate it, fix it or alter it; then using that track to overlay or replace a native audio track. I always have and always will hate watching dubbed films, because the human eye can detect a visual discrepancy as little as .1 millimetres and as quick as .01 seconds, so watching someone's jaw enunciate their native tongue while pretending that they're speaking the over-dubbed English audio track is just insulting to my visual calibre. Not to mention, it's very distracting. I'm very aware that I'm watching a movie, when they use this kind of cinematic trick.

But as for anime . . . most anime is made using just two frames for dialogue: open mouth and closed mouth. This is a good trick, since a lot of Japanese language & alphabet is based off of consonant-vowel pairs (when Anglicized), so it's a great way to save money; but also it means that you can use whatever audio track you want, and it will sync up just as well as the original Japanese did.
For this reason, I am on the Dub side of the internet "Sub vs. Dub" debate. Any complaints people have with dubbed are to be blamed on bad localization teams or bad translations. Sure, some people think that voice actors can't recreate the emotion, culture or feel of the original version, but as I see it they're called voice actors after all. If you had a good translator/voice actor team, you could make a translated anime just as good, if not better.

But I'm getting side-tracked. See, I'm not here to talk about Sub vs Dub or Foreign Films. I'm here to talk about Films made by English-speaking countries for English-speaking countries, which have subtitles.

When subtitles are used in these films, it's for one reason: to explain what I'm watching. If a Frenchman is talking, we use subtitles to translate his words so that we know what he's talking about. If we suddenly shift scenes from one place to another, or if we're going back and forth in time, we use subtitles to explain where we are or what the date/time is. This seems pretty straightforward, and most people don't have a problem with it. But I do.

The problem that I have with subtitles is simple: It's lazy storytelling.

I decided to write this post a while ago, when I first watched Iron Man 2. I really like that film, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe that it is a part of, but that film best illustrates my issue with Subtitles, so I'll use it to explain.
Let's begin with the first subtitle.

The scene opens with a view of a beautiful, snow-swept city when this subtitle pops up:
Moscow

This may seem like a good thing, because now we know "Oh, this is in Russia" thanks to the subtitle, but this pisses me off. Because after less than 5 seconds and more images of the city, this time up-close shots of trains and people wearing winter-clothes, there's a long scene staring at a store-front with a sign that says: ПРОДУКТЬІ

Now, I know I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell that's a Russian word. I can't read it, but I recognize those as letters from the Russian alphabet.
Next, the scene changes to a close-up of a television. On it, Tony Stark is speaking to the press, and the television screen has a "News Program" template over it, with more Russian words, and on the program, there's a voice-over translating Stark's words into Russian.
Then we see an image of an old man who, calls for his son, speaking Russian.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but even if they had left out the subtitle saying "Moscow", couldn't everyone clearly see that the scene is set in Russia?
If anyone wants to complain that "in Russia" is not the same as "Moscow", then they are wrong and should be punched. The movie has nothing to do with Moscow, it doesn't matter what city it is, because the movie was written by Americans and they wanted the villain to be Russian.

Movies do this all the time, and I don't get it. We're given a picture of the Eiffel Tower with a subtitle saying "France"; we're given a picture of the White House with the subtitle "Washington D.C."; we're given a picture of Big Ben with the subtitle: "England" . . . Thank you, Captain Obvious.
But I'm not complaining that it's obvious, because sometimes it isn't, like the Moscow example, since I don't know of any Moscow landmarks, at least none that I can recognize on sight. But the thing is, countries have their own personality. All you need is five seconds to look at a sign in the native language, have a look at the people in the streets or listen to the language for a second.
I mean, if you want to set your movie in India, and you don't know how to use the cinematic medium to show me that the film is set in India without putting a goddamn subtitle on the screen, then you need to quit your job and start writing fanfiction, because you suck at visual storytelling.
Hell, I've even seen books that open with this "England, 1960" crap, and it's got to stop; Because it breaks the first rule of storytelling: SHOW DON'T TELL

Oh, but I'm not done, because that's not the only kind of subtitles. So often, when someone speaks another language in film, filmmakers use subtitles to translate it. You may think that this is a good idea, and I agree that it's not as abhorrent as the "You Are Here" subtitling practice - but it's still unnecessary, and it's still lazy story telling. Let me explain:

Let's pick up where we left off in Iron Man 2 - an old man is lying in bed, wrapped in blankets watching the news. He sees Tony Stark announce that he's Iron Man, and he starts calling his son's name "Ivan" in a Russian accent, and we get this subtitle:
Ivan . . .
Well, that was unnecessary. Anyway, the camera then tracks down a hallway, and we get our first look at Ivan, with appropriate dramatic flair.
Then Ivan goes to his father, to see what's the matter. According to the subtitles, his father says: That should be you.
I don't think that needs to be in the film. Firstly, because that's kind of the entire point of the villain and why he hates Stark. Have you never heard of dramatic tension before? Secondly, Ivan says as much, in English, when he first meets Stark, so this line is unnecessary.
But then, Ivan responds to his father with: Don't listen to that crap.
Do you know what would be a great way of showing to the audience that Ivan doesn't want his dad to watch the crap on television? How about having him turn off the television. Mickey Rourke is a good actor, you could even get him to do it dismissively to show his disgust for Stark.
Then his father says: All I can give you is my knowledge.
These are his last words, because he then dies.
Then, rather than say "My Dad is dead, and I have nothing" or some other cliched crap they have to subtitle, Ivan elects to get teary-eyed, take a swig of vodka and scream in rage. Wow, it's almost like you can express something without dialogue . . .
This is a great scene (excluding the subtitles), and these are some cool final words, but they don't really tell us much. It may be hinting at the fact that he gives his son ARC Reactor technology. But just like the "should be you" line, this information is covered again in the scene when Vanko talks to Stark. In fact, just a few moments later we see Howard Stark & Anton Vanko's names written together on the reactor blueprints!

With very little tweaking, this entire scene, hell this entire movie, could be done without any subtitles, and it would better bring us into the world that it's trying to create. Now, for a lot of this, people might think "But I want to know exactly what he was saying", and since those last lines were his father's dying words, it would be interesting to know what they were. But I think it's better without subtitles for two reasons.
Firstly, it's Showing and not Telling. Secondly, I am a big fan of what TV Tropes calls the "Bilingual Bonus", wherein foreign words are spoken on screen and they aren't necessary for the story, but if you speak that language, you'll find a little joke or Easter Egg. This isn't a joke, but I think it counts either way.
In fact, Iron Man 2 does this later in the movie, when Ivan Vanko is talking to Justin Hammer and says something in Russian, but there's no subtitles. Apparently it's something along the lines of "I'm only working with a jerk like you because I have to," which is interesting, but it's not important. Without subtitles, we can still see that it's just a brief joke at Hammer's expense. So even the movie agrees with me that you don't need subtitles to tell a story.

This is just one example, but there are heaps. One that comes to mind is John Carter. There's an early scene when Carter first meets the alien Tars Tarkis, but they don't understand one another because they're from different worlds. For a joke, John Carter says:
"What the . . ." and we jumpcut to a scene of Tars speaking, with the subtitle: . . . hell?
This is a simple joke, but I think we would have got the joke without the subtitle, in fact it would have been funnier, since some people might have thought he said " . . . fuck?", and swearing is funny, ask a comedian.
Then a moment later they're trying to communicate, but John Carter doesn't understand, so Tars uses hand gestures, but they use subtitles to let us know what he's saying anyway!
He's explaining what he's saying, SO WHY DO WE NEED SUBTITLES?!!
Then Carter is forced to drink magic alien juice so he can speak their language anyway, and I let out a sigh of relief that we were done with the reading.

For moments like these, we are supposed to identify with the main character, so I don't understand the logic here. If the main character doesn't know what the other guy is saying, why should we? It brings us deeper into the world of the story, and we can understand better what they main character is going through if we go through it too. We don't need to know what they are saying.

Now, if you're writing a scene where someone's speaking a foreign language, but you want us to know what they're saying - do yourself a favour and watch some Silent Films, or films inspired by them and see how other, better filmmakers can tell a story without falling back on dialogue to explain everything.
WALL-E managed to evoke romance in robots with a vocabulary of less than a dozen words. William Hurt is the dramatic centre of The Skeleton Key, despite playing a paralysis victim with only one or two lines of dialogue. Robot Carnival is an early Japanese anime anthology film released in 1987 where almost all of the dialogue in each short piece is babbled gibberish (and the spoken dialogue is, apparently, inconsequential).
If those don't help, check out any of the existing films by Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton & Charlie Chaplin; famous silent film actors that could portray more with a facial gesture than these lazy script-writers could with half an hour of dialogue.

My point is, there are hundreds of ways to display an idea and to tell a story, you don't always have to communicate with dialogue, and telling a story with little to no dialogue is a great excuse for actors to show their mettle. Sure, it's a little more difficult to write, but that's no excuse for bad storytelling!
And to be clear, it is bad storytelling and bad filmmaking, because whenever you shoot a scene, and decide to use subtitles to show me what they're saying, you're wasting your money. You might as well go back to using Silent Film intertitles, because while there's a subtitle on the screen, I'm going to be reading them and ignoring the other 4/5ths of the screen which doesn't have writing on it - so, why bother filming that scene at all?
Hell, why even make the damn movie, if I have to read everything? Just turn it into a book and leave the filmmaking to the professionals.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd and I'm going to go see how hard it is to watch a book.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Peacemaker

Gamen Tremens

The bar was one of disrepair, and yet not disregard. Deep gashes splattered across wine stains and the stale smell of spilled beer and blood on the bar, yet the velvet-cushioned barstools were rarely empty. The coloured glass of the windows and veneer of grace exuded by the barkeep gave the drinking den an air of a church’s dignity; whilst the vulgar neon lights behind the bar, the portraits of naked men and women, very poor lighting and lingering stink of smoke gave the place a dirty and wholly unholy appeal. This place was a neutral zone. Avante Garde. A grey place in a war of black and white. A place with no 'sides'.

Over the soft jazz of an honest-to-goodness gramophone in the corner, a young woman leaned over the counter towards the barkeep, who was a young man, but his bald head, bowtie and shiny, blue vest seemed to drag him all the way from the 50’s.
     “What do you do for fun in this shithole?” the woman asks
     “I could give you an orgasm,” the barman states with a smirk.
     “I don’t think I have the time,” the woman says bluntly.
     “How about a short one, then?” Before she could answer, the man scoops ice from the sink into an old-fashioned scotch glass, flips two bottles from under the cabinet and pours them until the glass fills, then stirs with a metal spoon and slides a cut strawberry onto the edge before placing it before her on a napkin.
     “I was thinking more in the realm of danger. I’m looking for someone in particular.”
     “Then why don’t you try a sideroom?” says the man, “We don’t host games in this venue. But we also turn a blind eye . . . for your pleasure.” The woman nods and turns.
     “Oh ma’m. Your drink,” says the barman.
     “I don’t have cash on me,” says the woman.
     “I’ll make it on the house,” says the man, “if you tell me your name.”
Beclyn knew that she needed a clear head for the night, but couldn’t resist herself . . .
She steps back to the bar, grabs the glass and slams it like a true alcoholic. Her hair flicks back off of her shoulders, and she finishes the drink in two gulps, slaps the glass on the table and spits two ice-cubes back into the cup with a distinct rattle and clink.
     “The name’s Jones,” she says, “Miss Jones.”
With a pure evil smirk, she pinches the strawberry and turns her back to the bar sucking the bittersweet taste of creamy liqueur from her teeth.

Near the far wall, where even less light was available, there was a series of booths, split up by tables and padded doors, allowing a place for the creatures of the dark that it hosted. Chewing on the strawberry, Beclyn approaches the thing sitting in a booth.
The thing looked an awful lot like a man. But it wasn’t. Neither was it a woman. Rather, it was an incubus. A half-bred spawn as many of the demons here were. Beclyn could recognize him by his unashamed curses: glowing eyes; sharp teeth; sharp claws and the like. Things that he would hide outside a neutral zone, but inside this place he freed himself truly, unmasked. But even without this, his odd gestures and movements revealed his demonic nature. Like a wolf among cattle, Beclyn thought, they move like predators.

     “Ah, the Interminable Jones . . .” purred the demon, “why do I have the pleasure?” Beclyn’s nose wrinkled in disgust. She’d met this demon before. He was known as Jackal, and was wanted for three counts of rape in the state of Illinois.
     “I’m looking for Caviezel,” she said, not looking the thing in the eye,
     “Looking for a demon? How sinister . . .”
     “Just tell me where he is you goat-fucking piece of -”
     “Don’t forget your place, human.” the thing said deeply standing up in front of her, “We are on peaceful ground, here. Unhallowed. So mind your manners.”
     “I have business with him,”
     “Truly? . . .” the beast sneered, moving so close she could feel his hot breath with each syllable, “What business would a hunter have with a demon on neutral ground?”
     “The same as usual,” Beclyn says, “to put him in his place.”
The incubus chuckles,
     “I’d like to see that, Miss Jones, I truly would. Tell you what. Caviezel is hosting an . . . auction of sorts. Perhaps you could be my guest of honour.”
     “You would do that for a human?” asks Beclyn.
     “I do enjoy a good show,” he giggles,
     “Won’t you be in trouble if they find out you helped me?”
     “Ooh,” the incubus purrs, “Are you worried about poor little me?”
     “I just want to know where we stand. I don’t like owing demons favours.”
     “No one gets into trouble in Avante Garde unless they ask for it,” he says, eyeing her up and down. “You owe me nothing. Let’s just say I’m helping you in the interest of fair play.”
     “Then lead the way.”
The demon curls a coaxing finger to draw her closer and leads the way through the darker side of the room.

They made their way through the shadows, past saints and sinners alike, and found themselves in front of a door. The door was padded like the inside of an asylum, but the material was a red leather like a vulgar brothel. Beside the door stood a golem. A flesh construct, the body had once belonged to a large, black man. The only proof of his nature was his eyes. They had no colour, they were pure white.
     “Hello, Mister Nicely,” says the incubus, “could you open the door?”
     “Invitation,” boiled the golem’s voice. The demon held up its hand to reveal a small, round piece of metal. At first, Beclyn mistook the glint of metal for a coin, but peering closer, she recognized it clearly as a golden bullet. She didn’t recognize the symbol on it, but it was obviously sigilled. The golem leans forward to see it, then turns and opens the door. Beclyn notices a flash of light around the door jamb as the golem grasped the handle. Obviously the door couldn’t be opened by brute force alone.
     “Thank you,” says the incubus, walking past. Beclyn follows, but feels a cold, meaty hand press into her neck to stop her still.
     “Invitation,” burns the golem, staring into her face with glowing, empty eyes.
     “This little morsel is my plus one,” says the demon, lightly grasping the golem’s shoulder with his claws “So I suggest you let her in before I get Caviezel to tear the fire out of you.”
The golem lets go, but watches Beclyn warily following her with his cold, empty eyes as she follows the demon into a small room. The door slams shut behind them, muffling the sound of the bar outside, and Beclyn was standing over a round, wooden poker table. At the table sat four creatures.
At the far left sat a host, their movements were quite deliberate, as the demon was forced to command their possessed, human puppet – a man in a beige business suit and trousers, with horn-rimmed glasses and a red tie.
Beside them sat Caviezel. As a lesser demon, he didn’t have the power to hide himself: his ash-black skin was cracked and burned; his eyes a glowing yellow, his black widow’s peak hair was slicked back and he wore a charred white shirt and a black tie.
To his left, sat an imp. This little demon was barely a metre tall, his eyes were pure black, his ears a foot long each, he had two little horns and long, skinny limbs. He was so short, he stood on the chair to see the table, and he had a long, thin, spear-tipped tail.
Upon seeing the Hunter, Caviezel jumps to his feet.
     “Beclyn!” he screams, his hands bursting into flame.
     “I wouldn’t do that . . .” murmurs the incubus, stepping in front of Beclyn. “We’re on neutral ground, friend. Wouldn’t want to piss off Greyfield, would we?”
Caviezel’s hands extinguish, his claws still glowing orange from the heat.
     “A hunter? How dare you . . . especially, her.” says Caviezel, in his greasy, quiet whisper of a voice.
     “She’s here to play for me,” says Jackal with a devilish grin. He places his invitation, the bullet, onto the table and stands in the corner. Caviezel glances at the bullet, then looks to Beclyn.
     “You’re willing to play? For the Peacemaker?”
Beclyn’s breath is caught in her throat. So, he really has the Peacemaker?
     “Of course,” she says, smiling as she pulls back a chair and sits down in front of them. Caviezel smiles, his mouth pulling unnaturally wide on his face,
     “This will be a fun evening . . .” he says.
     “Where’s the gun?” asks Beclyn.
     “Be patient, human . . . we are awaiting our final guest.”
The others sit patiently at the table in silence. Finally, the door opens and Beclyn turns to see who is there. A small, young Asian woman steps through the door. She bows to Caviezel, then pulls up a chair to Beclyn’s right.
     “It seems everyone is here. Mr Nicely?”
The seam of the doorway glows brightly as it is sealed. The players were all locked in.
Caviezel stands, walks to a locked cabinet hidden in the dark behind him, and with a spark the door opens and he reaches into the dark. He turns back, a large handgun in his claws. He sits back at the table, holding the gun lazily in his hand. Beclyn couldn’t take her eyes off of it. It was larger than necessary, a revolver with a gold-plated cylinder, etched with all manner of twisted markings, like the twisting vines of a mystical plant. The barrel was also marked with these runes, and the wooden handle was covered in ornate, twisting words, which Beclyn knew to be in Latin.
Caviezel placed the gun on its side on the table, with one hand on top of it.
     “The Peacemaker. Our only item for this evening,” he says and with a decidedly evil smirk he adds, “the cost: survival. Please, can I see your invitations?”
The host places a golden bullet on the table,
     “Fields, I play for me” says the man. The Imp reveals a bullet between it’s little fingers and flicks it onto the table,
     “I proxy Sab Nac,” says the imp in a sharp, curt voice.
     “I represent myself, I don’t have a human name.” says the Asian woman, placing her bullet on the table. Behind Beclyn, Jackal steps forward and taps the table with a claw where he had already placed the golden bullet.
     “Beclyn Jones will play for me,” he says.
Caviezel passes the gun to the host demon, who proceeds to pick up his bullet and load it into the gun. As he passes the gun to the Imp, Jackal leans down to whisper in Beclyn’s ear.
     “I forgot to thank you, Jones, for taking my place. It’s rare that a human would play such a dangerous game . . .”
     “Russian Roulette?” asks Beclyn. Jackal just chuckles.
The Imp fumbles the gun to put the bullet in the chamber with his slender fingers before placing the gun in front of Beclyn. The gun was odd, not only was it larger than usual, but rather than six chambers for bullets, it had seven. But as Beclyn picks up the bullet, she smirks. This bullet was custom. Designed like a blank to explosively fragment Gold, Iron and Salt, this was a demon-killer. Not exactly safe, but survivable if you weren’t stupid. Beclyn slides her invitation bullet into place, leaving just one space left, and gives the gun back to Caviezel.
     “Let’s get started,” she says.
     “Not so fast, human,” says Caviezel, tipping back the revolving chamber. He pulls three silver, machined bullets from his trouser pocket and removes two of the golden bullets.
     “What are you doing?” asks the Asian woman.
     “Since we have a dragon and a human in our midst. Let’s make things a little more interesting . . .”
As Caviezel fills the remaining chambers, Beclyn glances at the Asian woman.
     “That’s a little more fair, don’t you think?” says Caviezel clicking the gun closed and placing it on the table, “let’s begin . . .” with a flick, the gun spins around with surprising stability in the centre of the table, like a spun bottle.
Three silver bullets. Four enchanted. Beclyn figured her chances were still good. The metal rumbles against the wood before coming to a stop, pointed directly at the possessed businessman. Beclyn could not but help feel sorry for the man. She cared nothing for the demon, but his host would feel everything that happened to his body, though he had no control. The man with glasses picks up the gun and with a flick, he spins the chamber. It spins with a whir, before stopping with a click. He pulls back the hammer and places the barrel directly to his temple.
     “NO!” yells Beclyn,
     “Silence!” says the demon, staring her down. He pulls the trigger.
BANG!
Fire and brain matter explode from the other side of his head, splattering over Caviezel as the host slumps over. Smoke and light pour from the bleeding wound as the demon falls loose and dissolves from the human plane. Beclyn could only stare at the remaining human host. It was a demon bullet, the host could have survived. But so close to the skull the fragments had minced his brain. Both the demon and his host were dead. That image was going to haunt her dreams for a while.
     “One down,” say Caviezel, “four to go . . .”
He takes the gun, barrel still smoking, and spin the chamber, before pushing back the dead host, making them fall back onto the floor with a thud. Caviezel, still splattered with the poor businessman’s brain matter, holds the gun towards his temple, then stops and presses it into his chin.
     “Hurry up!” screeches the Imp.
     “Be silent, proxy!” he barks, very seriously, “I have to do this right . . .”
Caviezel places the gun on the table, and picks it up backwards. Placing the barrel to his forehead, he holds the trigger with his thumb. Using an index finger, he cocks the hammer.
BANG!
The gun kicks back and a small hole tears into Caviezel’s head, just under his widow’s peak, which starts to bleed a thin stream of dark red. Beclyn's hopes start to rise, until . . .
     “AARGH!!” the demon screams, “Damned mortal bullet!”
Caviezel slams the gun on the table in anger and rubs at the horrid "flesh wound" through his forehead.
Thank goodness, thinks Beclyn, just two bullets left for me.
     “A survivor . . .” says the Asian lady, “consider yourself lucky.”
     “Easy for you to say, reptile” says Caviezel, “I’m the one with a hole in my head.”
the imp picks up the gun with its little fingers, and wipes the small speck of blood from the end of the barrel.
     “Would you like a bandage?” the Imp mocks
     “I’d much rather see you dead . . . pull the trigger, little devil.”
The Imp grabs the gun handle with its spike-tipped tail wrapped around the trigger. It brings it close to spin the chamber and cock back the hammer with its thin, spindly fingers. Then, with its long tail, it places the barrel to the top of its head.
     “Sab Nac protect me . . .”
BANG!
In a burst of red mist and sparks, the entire creature disappears before our eyes, dissolving into smoke, then its bones crumbling into a pile of ash, with a smoking gun sitting on top of the pile.
The dragon lady carefully picks up the gun by the handle, and blows the smoke away with a cool breath.
     “Another dead,” says the Asian woman, the dragon lady. She quickly spins the chamber, cocks the gun, then closes her eyes and puts the gun to her temple. She sits there a moment, quietly waiting. Beclyn notices her lips quivering. No, not quivering. She was whispering. Praying.
Do dragons have gods? Beclyn wondered.
Click.
The dragon lady opens her eyes and places the gun on the table in front of Beclyn.
Damn, I forgot about the empty chambers . . . Beclyn scolds herself, so that’s still two demon-killing bullets left, three empty chambers and two regular bullets. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
Beclyn takes the gun. She uses a finger to spin the barrel, then slowly presses the gun to her chin.
     “Ah!” she flinches, the hot barrel burning her chin. Stupid girl! If it’s a demon bullet, you shouldn’t put it that close anyway! You’ll die either way if you do that. Even a "blank" is made with gunpowder. . .
Beclyn closes her eyes, and considers praying . . . then suddenly opens her eyes.
     “You blew the barrel . . .” she says.
     “What?” asks Caviezel.
     “Not you . . . her.” says Beclyn, nodding towards the dragon lady. “And one in two is a hell of a chance . . .”
     “Stop wasting time,” says the lady, staring at her menacingly.
     “Dragons don’t have gods . . .” mutters Beclyn, “they are gods. But you aren’t immune to heat . . . so, you aren’t a fire-breather. What were you muttering under your breath?”
     “You won’t talk your way out of this, human. Pull the trigger!”
     “Seems a little dangerous,” says Beclyn, Beclyn points the gun at the dragon lady’s head. “what kind of dragon are you, anyway?”
     “You are violating the rules!” screams Caviezel,
     “Oh no, I think it is her breaking the rules, using magic.” says Beclyn. “It’s cheating when you already know the outcome. I didn’t even think your kind existed . . . I guess I was wrong, luck dragon.”
BANG!The dragon slumps back in her chair, and a thin ribbon of golden light smokes out of the hole in her head.
     “I thought as much . . .” Beclyn mutters
     “STOP THERE, HUNTER!” screams Caviezel, bursting his hands into flame and pointing them at Jones as he jumps to his feet
     “Don’t worry,” says Beclyn, spinning the chamber again, “I plan on playing fair . . .”
Beclyn holds the gun under her chin, careful not to hold it too close.
     “One silver bullet, and two demon-killers . . . I like those odds . . .”
Caviezel seems to calm as she holds the barrel of the gun under her chin. His hands extinguish and he sits down slowly with a smirk on his face. Beclyn closes her eyes.
So, is this how she dies? She thinks to herself, If I try to kill Caviezel, I’d have to do it on the first shot, and there’s only two demon bullets in there. I’d have a better chance playing fair. But is this really how I’m going to go . . . sorry, Sam.
BANG!

     “AARGH! SHIT, that STINGS!!” Beclyn grasps the burning graze digging into her chin, but just rubs the salt in deeper, “Fuck!” she slams the gun down on the table. Caviezel slowly chuckles.
     “Poor Beclyn . . .” he says, taking the gun, “sucks to get shot with the wrong bullet, don’t it? Then again, with only one demon bullet left . . . I like those odds.”
Caviezel opens his mouth as he spins the barrel. Then bites the barrel between his sharp teeth. He chuckles, then pulls the trigger.
BANG!
Caviezel slumps back. A ghostly, evil spectre, wreathed in flame, pours from his mouth to dissolve into the air in a puff of smoke.
Good riddance, thinks Beclyn. The room felt almost empty. It was such an odd feeling. So many lives, lost in a brief instant. Of course, the room wasn't as empty as it seemed. Jackal slowly claps his hands behind her.
     “Well done. Even I didn’t recognize the lizard.” Beclyn reaches across the table and pries the gun out of Caviezel’s dead fingers.
     “Actually, I didn’t,” says Beclyn, “I’m still not sure if luck dragons exist or not . . .”
Jackal cackles fiendishly, as is to be expected of a fiend.
     “So you tricked the devil? I’m impressed. But now, I’ll be having my gun . . .”
Jackal holds out his hand.
     “Your gun?”
     “Of course. You played in my place, so that means I’m the winner. Hand it over.”
Beclyn points the gun at Jackal. He just laughs.
     “Can’t you count, human? One human bullet. I can't be killed with that.”
Beclyn looks at the gun and back at Jackal, then sighs and lowers it.
     “That’s what I thought . . .” stepping forward to take the gun.
     “I don’t think so,” says Beclyn, quickly flicking open the cylinder, “I give you the gun, you shoot me? I’m not that foolish.” She knocks the final bullet into her hand, then clicks the gun closed. “I don’t want you playing dirty on me.”
     “You’ve spent too much time around demons.”
     “I’m starting to think so as well . . .” Beclyn holds out the gun, and Jackal carefully takes it.
     “That’s a good girl . . . Mr Nicely?”
There’s a flash of light, and the door opens, spilling light, freedom and music into the cramped little room once again. Jackal pushes past the golem, gun in hand, and walks off into the dim nightclub. Beclyn steps out of the door, and sighs as she watches Jackal walk off with the gun. It seems like he'd gotten the better of her this time.
     “Mr Nicely?”
     “Yes?” grumbles the tall, black golem.
     “Who is your master?”
     “Master Caviezel.”
     “That’s what I thought. Mr Nicely, your master is dead.”
The golem slowly glances into the room before turning back.
     “So he is.”
     “As I understand it, hellfire golems work under contracts, is that right?” asks Beclyn, matter-of-factly.
     “ . . . I am listening,” broils the golem.
     “I can offer you money, soulfire and access to a great many artefacts, but more than that, enter a contract with me and I will grant you unlimited freedoms to pursue humanity.”
     “An ideal proposition . . . and what must I do?”
     “I need you to get me my gun back,” Beclyn says, pointing towards the door, the incubus had recently left through. “Do that, and I’ll take your contract.”
     “I accept.”
The golem pats a hand on Beclyn’s shoulder, sending a burning sensation of pins and needles through her whole body as the contract is signed. Then the tall, black man begins to walk towards the door. Beclyn rubs her shoulder as she watches Mr Nicely leave.
     “I have been spending way too much time among demons,” she murmurs to herself. Beclyn smiles as she follows the golem out of the nightclub.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Jar Jar, you're a Genius!

It is absolutely freezing cold here at the moment, so much so that I can't leave the house without trousers and sheepskin boots. So I've been trying to use this opportunity to stay inside and write more fiction for this blog. Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well. I've been devoting a lot of my mental processing power to this BlogSerial of mine and I haven't had much time for other literary pursuits. I'm pretty sure you can tell it's been on my mind a lot, because I haven't stopped talking about it since I first introduced the concept of the BlogSerial a few posts ago.
This is because I'm trying to get everything right with this story, and I'm concerned about many aspects of this project - but one that worried me most of all was that it could, perceivably, be called fanfiction. And yes, technically it still can, especially since I'm a fan of the show that inspired it so there's no excuse not to. This worried me, as there's still a lot of stigma attached to fanfiction, and most of it is not undeserved, but lately I've come to learn that some works, despite being inspired by someone else's work, can be as good as the work that inspired it. In fact, I truly believe that just because a work is not original does not mean that it is unoriginal. The Word of the Day is: 'REVAMP'.

Revamp /ree'vamp/ v.t. 1. To renovate, redo, or revise: We've decided to revamp the entire show. ♦n. 2. An act or instance of restructuring, reordering, or revising something; overhaul: a revamp of the nation's foreign policy.

I've already talked about remakes and adaptations, and one might be inclined to think they are the same thing as a Revamp. Well, they are related, and there's definitely some crossover, but I stand firm in the statement that a Revamp is a seperate entity for one reason.

In the Words of Benjamin "Yahtzee" Croshaw:
  " . . . a good sequel is one that sees the original as a jumping-off point, something to build on, rather than one that merely wallows in the original and 'pays respect' . . ."

This is true not only of sequels but any continuation of a story or idea, and as I see it Revamps are concerned more with the former, whereas adaptations, reboots & remakes are concerned with the latter.
In general, an Adaptation is just a change of venue, moving from one medium to another, whereas a Remake or Reboot is a coat of paint, using the same canvas but a different colour palette.

Meanwhile a Revamp cuts the original into little pieces, then puts the bones back together and works from there. It isn't a remake, it's a restructured, reordered recreation of the old into something not only new but also original.

Let me give you a some examples:

A few months ago I started reading Darths & Droids, because I kept seeing references to it on TVtropes.org and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Darths & Droids is a "screen-cap" webcomic, made by taking still images from the Star Wars movies and turning them into comic panels. But the comic isn't just a remake of Star Wars in a comic form. The comic completely changes the dialogue, the structure, the characters & the concept of the original movies.
The story of the webcomic is about a group of gamers playing a Sci-Fi tabletop RPG that happens to be the Star Wars Universe. The creators have stated that they like to challenge themselves to find new ways to interpret the screen-captured material into something new, and I believe that one of the ways they have succeeded is by including the line "Jar Jar, you're a Genius!", despite the fact that the Jar Jar Binks character of the movie would never be praised in such a way (in universe or out). In fact, the creators were so proud of that accomplishment that it became a short-lived meme with many hits on Google (and now one more).

There's also Garfield Minus Garfield. This is simply the Garfield comic created by Jim Davis, but with Garfield erased entirely. It's an odd idea, but what's even stranger is the new story that this simple deduction creates. As the inovator of this comic describes it:
  "It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb."

The entire job of a DJ is getting someone else's hard work and changing it. Usually I hate the work of DJs, especially David Guetta who seems to think he's more important than the person who sang the song.
But in 2004, popular modern musician, Danger Mouse mixed together the The White Album by The Beatles, & The Black Album by Jay Z into The Grey Album. This kind of musical remix revamp, combining two songs into one, is known as a "mash-up", and if you're intrigued by the idea, feel free to check out "The Grey Video", a black and white music video mash-up of The Beatles' songs "Glass Onion" and "Savoy Truffle", and Jay Z's song "Encore".

In the realm of the remix, artists have discovered all kinds of new sounds they can use for beats, tunes & lyrics, and this lead to the creation of my newest favourite song:
Garden of your Mind
(This music video was created using clips from the old children's show Mister Roger's Neighbourhood, & Auto-Tune)

Speaking of children's shows, have you heard of the Samurai Pizza Cats? The show originally came from Japan but, according to legend, the translators didn't know the original Japanese script or storyline of the show so essentially they created a gag dub based off what they could understand and making fun of everything they didn't.
If you want more information, check out the The Big Picture episode: Found in Translation by Moviebob (since that's where I got my information from).

Or for something more mainstream (for the 90s at least) have you ever heard of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? I used to watch this as a kid (and apparently they're still making new series and episodes even today) but back then I didn't realize that the show was actually based on a show from Japan called Super Sentai.
The trick is that Saban, an American company, used all of the Japanese show's expensive special effects and costumed hero stunts, meanwhile reshooting all of the dramatic elements of the show with American actors and making up their own storylines. They did all of this to save money, but as a side-effect they happened to make a very entertaining show with childish drama; violence and kaijū-style city-destroying monsters.

Something I only learned recently is that somewhat-famous game designer Shigesato Itoi officially anounced that he will not be making a sequel to his famous EarthBound series for the Nintendo. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, the history is pretty dense so I can't explain it all, but here's a rundown fo the basics.
The only game in this series to see an official release outside of Japan is EarthBound, originally titled Mother 2 in Japan. However, the game was SO DAMN POPULAR, that non-Japanese fans created a translation of the original Mother (known as EarthBound Zero) & are working hard on translating Mother 3 (or already have done, I didn't do that much research).
They were, understandably, pretty disappointed when Mr Itoi officially declined their hopes for a sequel, but since I whole-heartedly believe that all good things must come to an end, I reckon the fans need to shut up and leave him alone.
However one fan, known as "Chaisu" didn't take no for an answer. Instead of bothering Mr Itoi, Chaisu and a friend of his started working on making the sequel themselves. Eventually Chaisu left the project, but his friend and a collection of dedicated staff have been working on the game ever since . The game isn't completed at time of writing (and may never be), but there's a website you can check out, dedicated to News & Updates on the development of the game, known as Mother 4.
What I love about this idea (other than the fact that the creators promise that you can download it for free when it's made) is that while it's obviously inspired by Shigesato Itoi's original games, the proposed story for Mother 4 has it's own main characters, it's own story & looks to even have it's own gameplay features.

Is that enough examples? Okay one more . . .

Coming full circle back to fanfiction, and of course the written word, I present to you:
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky [aka Less Wrong]
The premise is simple. This story is based on the Harry Potter Series, but set in an alternate history/parrallel universe where Petunia Evans, instead of marrying the cruel, prudish and fat Vernon Dursley, decided to marry Michael Verres, a handsome young biochemist and rationalist. Thus, when Harry arrives on Petunia's doorstep, instead of being abused he is treated like their own son. In fact, Harry Potter-Evans-Verres is raised by his adoptive father to follow in his stride and become a rationalist himself. However, this means that when he is invited to Hogwarts this time around he reacts a little differently to all of the magic, since he sees it as blatantly impossible.

I haven't read very much of this story, mostly since it's so damn long, but from what I've read I absolutely love this story. Why? Because this ISN'T Harry Potter. Sure, there's the same basic, style, characters & story structure of the original, but this isn't about making the same story again, it's about making something new because of the original stories.
Because someone read Harry Potter, and thought "What if I could make something more?"

Since this is the way I feel about this BlogSerial, I believe that I'll be able to create an original story and something different for the world to enjoy. I can't guarantee that my story will be better than the original, but I'm not worried about that since that's not what I'm trying to do anyway. What I'm trying to do is challenge myself and in the process create something interesting that will make you think; and if nothing else, I can guarantee that Duke Forever will make you think.

If you enjoyed reading about all of this revamped media, I encourage you to try it out yourself. There's potential issues with copywright, so you have to tread carefully; but if you just want to try something new and share it with the world then it's a great avenue for creativity.
Also, if you know of any more fanfiction that isn't crap, I'd love to hear about it.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd: New and Improved.