Blog on back-burner

I’m making videogames at the moment, so I’ll be scarce here for a while. Y’all behave!

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How was I born? – Omae wa mo shindeiru

Soo… yeah. It’s come to this post, I guess.

If there’s one thing I, as a feminist and a self-righteous Force for Justice, am ashamed of, it’s this. I like Fist of the North Star. I don’t wanna like it – I can think of tons of reasons to dislike it – but even so, at irregular intervals I find myself googling “Fist of the North Star wiki” or “best Kenshiro clips”.

Don’t know what Fist of the North Star is? Don’t worry, you’re not missing out on anything. Basically, it’s a bunch of manga and anime where impossibly jacked guys beat each other up with impossible violence, while damsels weep in the dust. There’s nothing to see here. Move along.

Except… why on earth do I like this turdheap?

One thing must be the martial arts. I mean, I love martial arts! And the martial arts depicted in Fist of the North Star? They’re so wildly fantastical I wanna cry and laugh at the same time.

Another thing must be the overflowing emotions! Kenshiro weeps as he cradles his loved one in his arms, when moments ago he decimated an army of thousands with his bare fists! How’s that for melodrama? This show is full of big muscles, but they shrivel in comparison with their emotions!

Or… maybe it’s the sparse setting? Kenshiro and his enemies inhabit a dry wasteland. Everything is scrubbed clean, except the elements needed to sustain the struggle: the man, the man’s girl, and the man’s enemy! Primitive!

Okay, that’s all surface. What’s really underneath all this? Why do I actually like Kenshiro, Laser Jesus, and Big Buttface?

Maybe because it’s so… base. Y’know, I pretend to be a hoity-toity intellectual at times, “I like Tolstoy, I like Proust!” I pretend to be clever, I pretend to be classy, I behave like I KNOW DEM THINGS, GIRL.

Okay. No. I’m a jackass who likes Fist of the North Star.

And I decree that’s okay. It’s good to be in touch with the base. It’s good to love what is base. Because the base serves also to cast in proper light what is… uh… un-base. Y’know, the base tells us what the “high” is. (I’m not wording this very well, but bear with me.)

Also, there are a lot of people in this world who genuinely like things we hoity-toity intellecuals do not like. Or, at best, like to hate. And as soon as you cease to understand and to sympathise with “the other guys”, you let go a bit of what makes you human.

To be human is to understand all things. To be human is to love all things. Even the basest, dirtiest, cruellest of things.

How was I born? – A postcard from dreamland

Greetings, fellow sunflowers! This is Alice.

In each installment of “How was I born?” I’m gonna introduce y’all a piece of fiction that has a special place in my heart – a piece of fiction that made me who I am. Previously, I’ve introduced many things that have been quite well known. I apologise for that. Today, though, I wanna talk about something a little less known.

9: The Last Resort is a videogame developed by Tribeca, published in 1996. I was about eleven when I got it. To date, I still don’t know who had the twisted sense of humour to give that game to the preteen me.

is pretty weird, you see. It’s not the weirdest videogame in existence, and it’s quite mild in content. It’s still pretty weird though, and remember, I was about eleven years old when I got it. For me it was acid.

Have you ever played Myst? is a bit like that. You wander about in a rambling old mansion, solving puzzles. In-game, you inherited the mansion from your uncle, who had envisioned it as a holiday resort for artists, but the mansion has fallen low since its glory days. Its power stems from the titular nine muses, and it’s the player’s task to recover the muses and restore the mansion.

is bizarre. The mansion is filled with things steeped in pop surrealism. The walls are hung with odd little paintings, living statues guard doorways, fish swim backwards up a ladder into nothingness. The foyer is ruled by Hanuman in jester garb, who oversees a grand steam-powered piano. In the corner there is a worm on a stick, for no reason. The kid me loved all of it.

A couple of years ago I actually went back and popped the old disc of back into my machine, installed it, and had a whirl in Thurston Last’s old mansion. Can you guess what happened?

Everything felt smaller than when I was a kid. There were less details than I remembered. Everything was a bit more mundane. Cue slow disappointment.

Through the years, this game has stood as a milestone to me on my voyage to weirdness, but I hadn’t actively ever played the game since those golden days of my eleventh year. And I think there’s a lesson there.

Sometimes, our memory makes the things we love.

In fact, Imma go so far as to say our memories actively lie to us. They gild the things we were impressed by as children, and as we age, successive layers of filmy gold gather and cement, turning very ordinary things into stuff of heart-shattering beauty. And I think that’s okay.

Our memories don’t lie to us out of malice. Quite the opposite.

the game was dross. But the memory was, and continues to be, a shining wonder. In just such a way, things of fiction don’t mean anything by themselves. Only when they take root in a human mind do they have a chance of blossoming.

Then, years pass, and the sapling grows. Sometimes it becomes a mighty tree. And is any tree at all like the seed it sprang from?

That is what I want to remember as I write. That I cannot create the tree. Only the seed.

It’s okay to forget

Hi peeps! Alice here.

I think one of the must-haves for a modern writer is a notebook. Y’know, something you carry with you all the time, where you jot down all the cool ideas you have, all the observations you make, etc.

If you don’t have one, you can be sure there’s a blog out there telling you to get one. And you can get a personalised one. Y’know, one that suits your writer identity.

I don’t think it’s really necessary, though. All dem ideas you have, all the observations you make? It’s okay to just forget them.

I mean, I don’t pack a notebook all the time. Sometimes I do, if I have a project going and I know my brain’s gonna produce material relevant to it. But I never carry one just to write down all the random ideas I get.

Why bother? Ideas come and go. I mean, I don’t store my farts in a jar either.

In fact, I feel it’s good to forget – to just let life and thoughts slip by. When I was younger I did always carry a notebook around, and all those damn books are full of stuff I never use. So why bother?

When I sit down to write, when I set my mind to the task and begin to haul the story rope out of the ocean of wonders, I get new ideas anyway. 

That’s what ideas are like. They’re sand, they’re air. There ain’t one good enough in this world to put down in a notebook. They’re all dispensable.

They attract their ilk, too. Sit down, write a story, and you start piling up ideas. Many of them are not good, but as you progress, they’ll gather more of their kin. They’re like moths, and you’re the fire-keeper. As long as you keep the flame of writing going, ideas are going to flutter around you. Just be patient and capture the ones that fit.

Yeah… for the record, I don’t suffer from fomo either. The more I miss out, the better.

How was I born? – Monsters everywhere

Hello! This is Alice.

Time to continue my “How was I born?” series. In each installment I’m gonna introduce y’all a piece of fiction that has a special place in my heart – a piece of fiction that made me who I am.

Today I wanna talk about comics. When I was a kid, my parents were pretty laid-back in what they let us borrow from the library. Long story short, my older brother introduced me early on to some pretty grisly material, like Judge Dredd, Sláine, and – our topic for today – Nemesis the Warlock.

Nemesis the Warlock is a pretty confused tangle of sci-fi fantasy stories from the British 2000 AD magazine. Pat Mills started it in 1980, but it took until 1999 for them to finish it up. For the purposes of my post, I’m only gonna talk about some of the early stories with Kevin O’Neill as the artist.

So what’s going on? The title character, Nemesis, is a Satan-like freedom fighter who battles the genocidal Torquemada, who wants to eradicate all non-humans from the galaxy. It’s pretty heavy on machismo, racial hatred (duh), and all-out adoration of violence. I… wouldn’t really recommend it as reading material for preteen girls like myself. But hey, it happened, and for some weird reason, I kinda loved Nemesis.

Particularly those stories that were drawn by Kevin O’Neill. His art was hellish. People and landscapes were twisted, fuming with gas and fire. Gnarly limbs waved grotesque weapons, backed by attitudes equally gnarly. It was a land of monsters. And best of all, the hero was a monster.

Now, the concept of “monster” is not easy, and I’m kinda gonna be cheap here and avoid the really heavy bits. What I loved about Nemesis was that he was physically monstrous – far from your average preteen idol, he had hooves, he breathed acid, he drank foul liquids. What did little me naturally think? He DAMN COOL!

Also, the comic didn’t hide the fact that it was for the aliens – for the ugly ones, for the monsters. Yeah, you can kinda argue that, since they try to make Torquemada into a cool guy too, but the overt sympathies are for the monster, anyway. And even today, I am for the underdog and for the monster.

I don’t truly know if Nemesis the Warlock paved that path for me, but I like to think so. Then again, it could be that I was wired to like monsters from the start.

There’s another can of worms, though: Nemesis was also monstrous because of his morality. Like his Greek namesake, he was for vengeance. He wasn’t above slaughtering humans in his quest to “save” the galaxy. In fact, I think it’s implied that he likes the killing bit.

As a kid, I just thought that was cool. Today, that kid Alice strikes me as kind of… well… frightening.

The lure of retribution is strong for us humans. No matter how righteous we get, or what loving pretenses we nurture, it’s deep in us to want to get even. To make the bastard pay. I’ve mentioned it before how a lot of our action entertainment is based on revenge. Seriously, how many action films have you seen where the hero fights her way through hordes of enemies to tell the villain that she forgives?

I would like to see such a film though. I don’t like the Nemesis that sleeps inside me.

How was I born? – Final Fantasy VI

Hi peeps! Alice here.

In each installment of “How was I born?” I’m gonna introduce y’all a piece of fiction that has a special place in my heart – a piece of fiction that made me who I am. This time, it’s another videogame, and one I’m sure many of you are familiar with.

Final Fantasy VI came out for SNES in 1994. It’s a Japanese fantasy game, in which you guide a band of rebels as they battle a corrupt steampunk empire bent on enslaving the magic power of the gods. It’s, uh… a cool game.

I’m sorry. My brain seems to stop working when I try to talk about this game.

I was very young when I played it for the first time, and when you’re young, you go head over heels about the stupidest things. Me? I was about as rational as pudding when it came to Final Fantasy VI. I’d swoon, sigh, squeal, and quiver for joy at various parts in the game. (Like walking in the Phantom Forest. Or descending into Darill’s tomb. Or Interceptor. Oh gosh, I’m crying now.)

The thing is, we’re vulnerable when we’re young. We can be impressed by stuff that’s dumb, reactionary, or just plain evil. And those impressions can last for ages, or even shape our future. That’s why children’s literature, for example, is super important. Way more important than adult’s literature.

Today, I’m thankful for Final Fantasy VI that it wasn’t dumb, wasn’t reactionary (mostly), and certainly wasn’t evil. Instead, even today, it’s my guiding star for what a great fantasy story can be – for the heart especially.

Many of the things in Final Fantasy VI seem designed to touch the player’s heart. The big moments, like in the opera, play up the emotions. The wonderful soundtrack does its best to assist. And peeps, previously I would’ve scoffed at this kind of… how to put it… tear-jerking cheapness. That somebody’s out there, exploiting me for my soft-heartedness. But… but.

I think it’s not just about rousing our emotions, but also what you rouse them for. If you just jerk tears for the fun of it, you’re a jerk. If you fire up hearts for the sake of racial supremacy, you’re evil. But if you do all that for a cause you believe in, a cause for the betterment of humankind, then… isn’t it all right to exploit emotions?

It’s like propaganda. When we say that word, we get the feeling that it’s bad. But propaganda can be used for moral, as well as immoral, causes.

I feel that Final Fantasy VI roused my emotions for good causes. It’s fighting against slavery, racial prejudice, greed for power, and environmental destruction. It even goes so far as to say we should keep on fighting after we’ve lost. (Because, spoilers spoilers, you lose in the game by default. Then you keep on playing.)

So yeah. I dunno what more to say. Thank you, Final Fantasy VI. You made the immature kid in me a better adult.

How was I born? – On Chrétien de Troyes

Hello, my fluffy lovelies! This is Alice.

In each installment of “How was I born?” I’m gonna introduce y’all a piece of fiction that has a special place in my heart – a piece of fiction that made me who I am.

A few weeks ago I was talking about The Knight. This week, we return to that theme, but we go way back. Like, turn back the clock a thousand years.

This French guy Chrétien de Troyes lived some time in the twelfth century,  and he was among the first to write Arthurian romances. Y’know, stuff about knights. So this guy like the ur-knight guy. To put things in perspective, Le Morte d’Arthur came out three hundred years later.

I first found Chrétien when I was starting my ill-fated sojourn in the university. I wasn’t much for real hard studying, more for bumming it out in the library and grabbing stuff off the shelf that caught my fancy. One of these things was an omnibus, containing Erec and Enide, The Knight of the Lion, The Knight of the Cart, Cligès, and The Story of the Grail. (Okay, so, I’m not talking about a single piece of fiction, but anyway…)

Before this, I had kinda known who Lancelot was, and that Arthur reigned in Camelot, and they was looking for some cup called the Grail. Dusty, boring stuff.

But after Chrétien, my mind was swept clean. I was reborn. Knights weren’t just shining cardboard figures any more. They came alive, and they were weird. They staked their whole lives on rash promises made to disguised ladies. They attacked strange castles, just because they were there. They blundered in the night, went mad, dressed as women, killed their friends, served strange sorcerers, and delivered ultimatums to kings.

In short, they did all kinds of dumb stuff, and they did it GLORIOUSLY! They just didn’t seem to have a shred of intelligence sometimes, and they were okay with it!

I think that’s what made me fall in love with knights then. They weren’t, by definition, good, kind, brave, strong, or humble. Really, anything with arms, armour, and a horse could be a knight.

In fact, anything without those things could be a knight, too. That was awesome then, and that is awesome now.

Knighthood was something given, or something taken – much as it was like for Sir Able in The Knight. It didn’t require either virtue (as hereditary knights might be assholes) or heritage (as brave individuals could rise up to be knights). A knight could be anybody.

Yet that did not empty the word of its meaning, somehow. It retained its magic. In fact, it made its power even clearer to me. Knighthood wasn’t predicated on outward signals, the shining armour, the shield, the sword, the horse. Knighthood was intangible. Knighthood was a spark inside you. Knighthood was power.

And anybody can have power. Even dumbasses like Lancelot. But dumbasses can, at times, beat the odds and do something good. Earn the title they took. For it’s one thing to call yourself a knight, and wholly another to act like it.

That there is a deeply human tangle. To have power, to be an asshole, yet surpass yourself, do a good deed, and afterwards keep being an asshole.

That’s what made knights real to me. I drink to your health, ya dead old French cretin.