How was I born? – Yours is the drill

Oh my god, I can’t write this post. Like… this is the end. This is the best, the brightest, the most awesome story ever told, the thing that pulled my soul from living fire with fuming tongs. The thing that made me.

Well, not really, but this is the final post of my “How was I born?” series. Today is all about drills, galaxies, and robots with drills as big as galaxies.

Yup, so, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a neat little anime series from 2007. Humanity has been driven underground into isolated colonies, each eking out a desperate existence, digging and suffering, while the Earth’s surface is ruled by beastmen, the cohorts of the despotic Spiral King.

Enter our fire-hearted heroes, Kamina and SHEEMON! Ruled by their indomitable passions, they break out of their underground prison and ignite a rebellion, fighting first the beastmen, then the beastmen’s boss, AND THEN THE BEASTMEN’S BOSS’S BOSS.

They do so by piloting giant robots that combine into gianter robots! This show is full of them! Also, it’s full of big passions, big boobs, big butts, and BIG, BIIIIGG DRILLS.

If that last sentence made ya think it’s a porno, well, IT IS. But not the way you think.

First of all, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is like, the archetypal shounen anime – a show made for boys. In every episode, there’s a big fight, usually a big explosion, and it’s all peppered with the token girl character, Yoko, showing cleavage. So, uh, yeah. It’s not what you call “high cultuer”. And yeah, it’s grimy. BUT IT’S ALSO KINDA AWESOME.

When I said it’s a porno, I meant it. You see, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a determination porno. Kamina and SHEEMON are always fighting as the underdogs, underpowered and underleveled, and they always pull through by sheer will-power. (Usually preceded by a bout of self-doubt by SHEEMON!)

Ya think that’s cheesy? Yeah, well, it is. You can pretty much predict what happens in each episode. But like soap operas, kung-fu films, and, uh, porn, they do the same thing over and over again and it still works!

I mean, this is a show that can’t be spoiled. Even if I know exactly what’s gonna happen in episode 11, I’m still crying. Every single time. Why does it work? And why does it work even though it’s a misogynistic pile of macho turd? Why is it awesome even so?

I admit I’m not too analytical when it comes to this show (I’m too PUMPED UP), but I’m guessing there are two things at work here.

First, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann doesn’t take itself too seriously. It pokes fun at its characters, its story, its genre ancestors, you name it. It’s not a very serious show – as if you couldn’t tell when Kamina’s robot catches fire and he turns it into a flaming dive kick of men’s burning soul!

…and at the same time, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann takes itself seriously. Yes, that’s right. It does both, simultaneously. It laughs and cries at the same time. It is heroic and mock-heroic in the same scene.

That’s one of the things that makes it great. If it were only comical, you couldn’t take it seriously, well, uh, because nothing’s for keeps. Conversely, if it were only serious, you couldn’t take it seriously either, because it’s just so goddammed ridiculous. They solve the problem by being both at the same time, which is both genius and deeply natural.

The best heroes are clowns and queens in the same body. That’s what humans are, really. We’re not creatures of either-or.  We’re heaps of odd angles. We’re bags of contradicting passions. And both our heroism and our clownishness shine that much brighter because we have all those sides.

That’s why heroes have their weak moments in films. That’s why, when the underdog comes through, it’s always awesome. That’s why Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann works, even though it puts out the same formula for each of its twenty-six episodes.

So that’s the first thing. The second thing ties up with the first.

Like I said, this ain’t a perfect show. There’s a lot to hate here. But the thing is, there ain’t such a thing as a “perfect series” or a “perfect book”. I’ve touched on it when I talked about knights, and barbarians, and videogames of yore. Things just aren’t ever perfect. They’re always stained in some way. And that’s all right, peeps. That’s just all right.

Art is created by humans, and humans are flawed. If you’re under the illusion that only a perfect creation can be loved, poop it out as fast as you can.

Perfect things are dead. They are stale, inert, lifeless. Even if they could exist – and I’m sure they can’t – they would not suffer human touch upon their sleek surfaces. To enjoy a perfect creation would be made impossible by the perfect thing itself.

What we love always has an aspect of decay in it. What we love is always partially of the dirt, the worms, and the rot. Who we love are, always, part-time killers, robbers, abusive alcoholics, selfish loafers, rapists, heartless business magnates, bullies.

When I say that, though, I also mean the opposite. Nothing is all bad. Nobody is all bad. We’re wired to not believe it, but this is true: there is more to every murderer than OMG THIS GUY IS TEH EVIL. I’m not gonna say something cheesy like, “There is good in each one of us,” because that’s simplifying the issue, but I mean something like it.

Now, back to Gurren Lagann. Early on in the series, our hero, Kamina, dies. Like, he’s killed. And it isn’t retconned. He doesn’t come back. He’s killed, he’s dead.

That’s where the story really starts. That’s where all stories really start. Something irreplaceable is lost. And then we’ve got to come to terms with it.

That’s what my perfection rant is about. Life is sucky. Our loved ones die. And they don’t die meaningful, heroic deaths, either. They just randomly die. Or we get diseases. Not as punishments for our sins, but randomly. We just get cancer. Or we fall down, randomly, hit our head, and spend the rest of our lives as quadriplegics.

That shit just happens. Life isn’t perfect. Things don’t have meaning.

The thing is, we can push through that, because we can create meanings. We can overcome the suckiness in our lives (partially, at least), because we decide what things are. Fiction is, literally, just that. We create the world into what we want it to be.

That’s why let nobody tell you that fiction is not “real”. Fiction is the only thing that is real.

Okay, so, fiction isn’t real the way rocks are real. But, hey, I said stuff is imperfect, right? Fiction is the best shot we’ve got. Warts and all, we gotta love it, because it’s all we have.

In Gurren Lagann, they really hammer home that point. Our heroes don’t beat their enemies because of their mighty robots, or because they’ve trained so hard, or because they get lucky, or because they’re brilliant tacticians. No, the heroes win because they decide that they’re gonna win.

Reality – whatever that is – doesn’t urge you on when you’re knocked about. Fiction does. Fiction is the small voice in your ear, saying, “Get up. We will win.” Fiction pulls us to our feet. Fiction dusts us off. Fiction creates us. We are nothing but fiction.

Gurren Lagann is that. It’s ham-fisted, it’s juvenile, it’s laughing at itself snot running down its chin, it’s brave, it’s desperate, it’s big, it’s meaningless, it’s a wizard, a pauper, it suffers from incontinence, and it’s the galaxy’s best fighter. All in one bag.

That’s fiction, and that’s us.


Anyway, I got nothing more to say. This is the end of my “How was I born?” series. These are the pieces of fiction that made me. Good night, peeps, and remember… yours is the drill that will pierce the heavens.

How was I born? – Giant Robots AND EVERYTHING

If there’s one thing that can compete with knights for my undying love, it’s GIANT ROBOTS. So welcome, peeps! Time for my penultimate “How was I born?” episode! On today’s menu is Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still.

So what’s going on here? Giant Robo is an anime miniseries, airing originally from 1992 to 1998, comprising six episodes that tell a single story. The plot? It goes something like this.

Kusama Daisaku is a preteen kid. His father created the WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL ROBOT… the eponymous JAIANTO ROBO. Now, Daisaku teams up with an international police organisation, the Experts of Justice, who battle the nefarious BF Group, who are bent on world domination!

Our heroes, the Experts of Justice, are comprised of Chinese magicians, superheroes, blue Amazon ladies who turn into horses, immortal private investigators, and the aforementioned JAIANTO ROBO who can only be controlled by Daisaku. Their opponents, the BF Group, are made up of sorcerers, ninjas, and an assload of gigantic robots that shoot lazers and throw rocket punches. Also, they create a floating Death Star that will destroy everything, unless the Experts of Justice, with Daisaku, can stop it!

Throw in, for good measure, teleporting Chinese chicks, mad scientists, nuclear accident analogies, and a dude who will DESTROY THE DEATH STAR WITH A SINGLE PUNCH. (And Alberto. There’s a guy called Alberto. He’s the best.) And this is neither a comedy nor a parody. It’s all played straight.

Soo… yeah. You think I’m pulling this out of my ass? Nope.

Apparently some Japanese guy was a prolific manga artist, and he wrote a lot of comics. Some were about giant robots, some were about Chinese heroes. Some were about something else.

Then another guy comes in and decides, “Yo, this guy is great! I’m making an anime that combines everything he ever did!

That’s Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still. Seriously, it has everything. It has wildly mis-matched everything. There’s retro-futuristic robots and lazers rubbing shoulders with medieval Chinese boys whose drums cause soundwaves powerful enough to destroy ninjas. And they all just coexist like it’s cool.

Ya know, I was kinda taught to believe that fiction should be consistent. Like, when you do world-building, you should make sure the pieces fit together. And I’m kinda awed at how Giant Robo blows that clear out of the water. For me, that’s big.

Like, there are rules… and then you can disregard the rules if you know what you’re doing. (And you’ve got eggs of steel.)

Those are the rules we’re taught. There are more insidious rules too, rules that we’ve internalised and so don’t even realise they’re there. They’re rules that whisper into our ears. They tell us to be “proper”. They say, “That’s not what real writers should do.” Or, “That’s childish and stupid.” Or, “That’s okay, I guess, but you should tone it down a bit.”

Giant Robo sorta blows those rules out too, with their insidious whispers. Giant Robo does what it wants, because it’s honest to its wants and it doesn’t give a damn.

There’s something that the wonderful and all-wise Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen wrote once that’s stuck with me forever. I paraphrase, but it was something like, we’ve all got our own poetics in us. Our own language in which we write. And shame be damned, that language is ours, no matter how gross, fantastic, outlandish, weird, shy, rude, or disgusting it might be. It is our language. It is what we write in.

Giant Robo, its giant robots and ninjas, is what happens when that language is interpreted to its fullest. It’s not “immature” nor is it “over-the-top”.

It is its own truth.

How was I born? – The Knight of Lodis

Hey, more knights, yaaay!

Um, hi y’all, Alice here! The end of my “How was I born?” series nears completion. Only a couple more to go! This here episode is devoted to a little videogame in the Tactics Ogre series, called The Knight of Lodis (2002 for GBA).

So this is a neat little strategy game, kinda like the better known Final Fantasy Tactics. You got your cute little group of soldiers that you manoeuvre around a cute little map to battle your cute little enemies. After that, a cute little cutscene unfolds, you do cute little training sessions, and battle a cute little demon angel in the end!

Seriously, everything is cute and little in this game! Like d’aaaww, lookit your iddle dragon-training knights with their iddle winged helms!

Then you get to the story and the cuteness ends. You’re part of a military order of religious nuts, you go to further the oppression of a small island country, battle its brutal regent lord, kill your battle-brother, and just barely prevent the resurrection of the aforementioned monstrous demon angel. Afterward, your deeds are forgotten by history.

Soo… yeah. Dis game look cute, but the contents? Dark as the international petroleum business.

And, since I’m a creepy bitch, I love it! However, I don’t love it just for the sake of its cuteness (though it’s a factor), or its darkness (also a factor). I love it because it does something grander. On a meta level. Kinda. Lemme explain.

So Knight of Lodis is a videogame, right? It’s pretty fun. It looks attractive, building your army is cool, not to mention digging for treasure and trying to storm that goddam Ostorea Castle! It’s fun. It’s entertainment. As in, it wants to entertain us.

(Your mileage may vary here – dying pathetically in Ostorea for the twentieth time may not be your idea of entertainment, but it was fun for me, at least.)

However, despite being entertainment, Knight of Lodis doesn’t shy away from a mature story rife with heavy themes. And to boot, it isn’t self-flagellant in its darkness (like ooh, ooh, things are so grimdark here, they eat babies, ooh, ooh!), nor does it rub any undue complexity in the player’s face. It’s pretty low-key about its maturity, really.

Like, it’s entertainment, but it still assumes you got a brain. It lets you use that brain, too. But it isn’t like, “Oh, you gotta figure this puzzle out in order to GET ANYTHING!” It’s just, yo girl, dis world pretty complex, like da real world, jus’ try to get your army around as best you can, alright?

Okay, so, I’m kinda excited and can’t put this into writing very well. What I wanna say is, The Knight of Lodis recognises that there’s no line between “serious art” and “entertainment”. It’s all one big category where everybody’s fucking everyone else.

Like, you can have a brain and be pretty. You can be a killer and be loving to strangers. You can be a Red Cross volunteer and molest children in your spare time. And, folks, you can be genuine in all the categories. Y’all understand? It’s not like, you’re a brainiac under that nail-polish shallowness – like one category is a fake, and beneath that you’re the true you.

No, the true you is both. The true you is like, I wanna paint my nails and have fake eyelashes and bling on like crazy, and these new cancer meds need more tests, Imma be in my lab.

So, like, Knight of Lodis was one of the first games to tell me that. Like, you can overclock cuteness with your angel knights and contemplate the lure of authority at the same time.

I know Knight of Lodis isn’t the only game (book, film, you name it) to do that, ‘course. It’s just that for me, it was the first. Or the one I remember, anyway. If you’ve got your own games, novels, or films that did the same to you – please, tell me, I’m all for finding new ones!

Okay. Until next time, peeps. And remember, it’s always AND, never OR!

How was I born? – Seven Swords

Heya peeps! Alice here. Time for another peek into the favourite things of my heart.

So, 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. Today it’s a film: Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords (2005).

Seven Swords tells the story of seven magic swords, their wielders, and how they fight villains. Each of the swords is funky in an over-the-top way (like the “two-bladed” sword), and all of the villains are painted white, dressing in black leather and spikes. During its most coherent moments, the plot is still a jumble, and the characters try to display grand emotions while falling, mostly, flat. Soo… yeah. Seven Swords is not really a great film.

Why did I pick it, then? Well… I’m not sure. I’ve got a soft spot for Chinese films, particularly wuxia, but there are tons better than Seven Swords. Why this film, oh, why?

I think because, ultimately, it’s like a showcase of the things that made me first fall in love with wuxia, back when I saw A Chinese Ghost Story. I was fourteen, maybe? To me, that stuff was just wild: everybody was flying, swords were spinning faster than I could comprehend, blue light flooded the forest, there were demon trees, Taoist magic, and crazy old geezers doing spins and kicks. Like… whaaat… and… woooow.

Seven Swords is full of that stuff. Say what you will, its direction and cinematography are jammed with the most garish and striking scenes and images. It’s so over-the-top and unapologetic that I’m like, “Okay, film, you got me there, you’ve got the eggs.”

I don’t really know what it says about me that I like this kind of film. I mean, okay, I love fantasy, and wuxia films are fantastical to a bizarre degree. And I guess that’s a part of it. The bizarreness.

I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but it feels like nowadays people are churning out fantasy that’s firmly rooted in reality. I mean, realistic, gritty fairy-tale retellings? Yup. Fantasy protagonists burdened with everyday affairs? Yup. Heroes with psychologically appropriate responses to violence? Yup.

Don’t take me wrong, nothing bad in that by itself. It’s just that maybe I’ve had too much, and I want something else.

Something like Seven Swords. Y’know, fantasy that doesn’t pretend any connections to any world except its own land of make-believe magic and make-believe emotions. Like, instead of, “Emma felt the pangs of regret as she let the dead daisy slide from her soot-smeared palm. Had she unwittingly become an agent of this ecological destruction?” I’m looking for, “OOH, I’m so hungry Imma eat the WORLD! And I can grow spikes from my hands! SWISH SWISH SWISH! Oh HI MOM! You’ll be my bride, and give birth to my DAUGHTER, WHO IS ALSO MY SISTER! I’ll teach her my DRAGON MAGIC!”

So, yeah. Psychological realism is all cool, folks. But it’s not the be-all and end-all of writing. Humans aren’t psychologically realistic either, after all.

All they are is psychologically real.

(Or maybe just psycho, and real.)


Fun fact: when writing this post, every time I wrote “Seven Swords” I tried to misspell it as “Sven Swords”. So, HÄR KOMMER JAG MED SVÄÄÄRDET, HAI-YAH!

Don’t try so hard

Hi peeps! Alice here. So here’s something I’ve said before, but in our overcharged atmosphere, it bears repeating. Endlessly.

Don’t try so hard. Work a little less. Don’t try to achieve your dreams. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t achieved success. Do a little bit of nothing. Procrastinate. Ooh, that’s right, procrastinate.

When did that become a dirty word? Procrastinate. Do a little bit of nothing. Get bored. Skip doing things. Spend time staring at the dust on your floor. Procrastinate, then procrastinate some more, and then some more.

Procrastination is good. Procrastination is heavenly. Procrastination is magic. Procrastinators are my new heroes, because they understand the deeper truth of the world: there’s no point in trying so goddam hard.

Also, fuck all this noise:

Society telling you to work harder and fulfill your dreams. People telling you that perseverance leads to success. Tips to optimise your schedule. Society shaming you for not working, doing, or being enough.

They’re all lying.

God created us imperfect; procrastination is when He smiles upon us. Heed the call.

How was I born? – Hot medicine

Heya my little marshmallows! What up? Time to get ahead with my “How was I born?” series!

First, a shout-out to Madame Writer! This one’s for you, my friend. Remember that time we talked about Mononoke, and I said I was gonna do a post about it? This is it, at long last.

Soo… I’m bit of an anime fan-girl. Was since I been seventeen or so. I’ve suffered through a fair few animes, and despite my fan-girlness, I don’t hesitate to say most of them sucked. Occasionally, however, I’ve come across a gem.

Like Mononoke.

Now, don’t confuse this with the Miyazaki flick, Princess Mononoke. Despite similarities in name, they’ve got zero to do with each other. Mononoke, our topic of the day, is a 2007 TV series, made as a spin-off of another series from a year earlier, Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales.

Mononoke takes place in 19th century Japan, and plays out kinda like a supernatural horror whodunit. We got our investigator, the sweet, hot, awesome, deadpan guy known only as “the Medicine Seller”. He’s got a special mandate to seek out and destroy troublesome Japanese ghosts. Then he does just that, first finding the people the ghost is bothering, then interrogating them to find out stuff about the ghost, then finishing by destroying the ghost. Simple!

Weird fact: I didn’t discover Mononoke through Ayakashi, as you might think. I first watched Ayakashi about halfway through, then dropped it out of boredom. Later, I found out about Mononoke from another source and fell in love with the Medicine Seller and we lived happily ever after it. Then, through whatever perversity, I got back to Ayakashi and watched it to the end… finding, to my surprise, that the last three episodes deal with the Medicine Seller’s adventures!

So, what makes Mononoke so great that my loins boil every time I think about it? A bunch of things! Like, the art is trippy. You think horror’s gotta be dark in colour? Wait till you see them red ribbons! EEEeeeewww!

The awesomeness of the visuals isn’t restricted to the acidic art, though! The animation is a sight to behold, too – oddly, because it’s so restrained. Often, though there’s barely any movement at all, there’s a sense of kinetic magnificence. The animators clearly made a decision, and it was not to animate. ‘Course, when they do make stuff move, you see that they know what’s what.

And then the direction! The cuts! The angles! Ooh, aah… and the goddam expressions the people wear! Like, y’all ever read Blacksad? The expressions are awesome like that, except in a way all their own.

Anyway, as dazzling as all those visual fireworks are, that’s not what really grabbed my heart and squeezed it dry of its juice. It’s not the creepy stories either, or the bodily horror. It’s not even the sweet, hot, awesome, deadpan lead character.

It’s the fact that I know fuck all about what’s going on.

In Mononoke, they sure don’t lead you by the hand. They tease, they imply, they omit, they plain-out hide. It’s up to you to figure the puzzle out, and they keep mixing the pieces. Sometimes it’s easier, like in “Umibōzu”, and sometimes it’s plain impossible, like in “Noppera-bō”.

It’s just head-spinningly awesome. I love it when I don’t know what’s going on.

I also love it when I have to use my own brain to figure it all out. And I love it even more when, despite all my efforts, I don’t discover everything there is to discover! I love it when things stay mysterious.

Needless to say, Mononoke stays tasty through multiple watchings.

As a writer (and reader), there are two take-aways here. First, we gotta trust our readers that they will get our hints – we mustn’t explain things through. Not even when our readers demand us the answers. Especially not then.

Second, we gotta trust ourselves, trust that we’ll get through without hints. We don’t have to know every goddam secret to enjoy a thing. In fact, there’s a great power in being comfortable in a situation where you know jack.

Peeps, you see, life is chaos. And in chaos, you can’t know everything.

How was I born? – Dark Souls

Hello peeps! Alice here. Time to continue my “How was I born?” masturbation introspection!

Lemme admit, I kinda wanted to leave it at the last post. Y’know, the one with Kenshiro? That’s in a way the end-all of any discussion – the grimiest and lowest point I can get.

However! When I thought up this little masturbation parade introspective series, I listed no fewer than twenty books/shows/videogames that’ve made me. And looking at that list, I still have seven to go!

Soo… here goes. The Dark Souls episode.

Dark Souls is a 2011 videogame by FromSoftware. In it, you’re an undying knight on a quest to rekindle fire in a world slipping into darkness. You navigate torturous fortresses, fight maidens, save monsters, and, y’know, do knight stuff.

There’s a lot to talk about with Dark Souls. The setting, the mood, the story. Architecture in videogames. Light and mist. The deconstruction and reconstruction of the chivalric quest. You guys know I love knights, so this is my game, right?

Except, Imma skip all that discussion and make a confession instead.

I’ve never played Dark Souls. I just watched videos of it on YouTube.

It all began a few years ago, really. I was stressed out with studies, a little depressed, and bored as hell. I needed to get my mind off things, and I needed to waste time. I don’t know what led me to click on a video of some bloke playing Dark Souls, but I did. Turns out, it wasn’t just the perfect drug for my condition. It was also some of the best fantasy fiction I’ve had in a long time.

Maybe some of you think, “Geez, what a fake. She ain’t even played the game.” But peeps, we’re past that point already. The damage has been done, so to speak.

What I find wonderful and interesting, instead, is how much humans glean from things experienced in unintended ways. Dark Souls wasn’t made so that some poorly-adjusted chick could watch it being played on YouTube. Yet here I am, having done just that, and I certainly don’t go discounting my experience. I felt what I felt. It was real to me.

Videogames aren’t designed that way, but anybody who’s leaned over their big sister’s shoulder while she was tapping away at Super Mario Bros. 3 can attest to the thrills. Today, of course, there are entire channels meant for people who wanna watch other people play. I think that’s a testament to how people take art and start to experience it their own way.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, there is no single way. If the emotions are real (and they always are), and if you don’t hurt anybody (duh), then there is no wrong way, either.

Sometimes, people get hung up on “the true way” to do something. And I get that – the want to be pure, the want to be right, is powerful.

However, if all we ever did was according to the one, pure, right way, stuff would be stale as balls.

Soo… do stuff your way, honeycakes, I guess is what I’m saying. Take a peek at what “the true way” is s’posed to be, but don’t get stuck on it.

Yeah, who knows, maybe I’ll even play the damn game one day?

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.

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.