Experiments in Ontological Relativism

and Other Brain Farts

A Conversation on Deiculture

Posted by Jason on April 26, 2012

“So this is where you, er,” I began, “this is where you grow… gods?”

The old man scratched absently at the stubble on his chin and leaned on his hoe. “Yep, this is where we grow ‘em, all right. These here cosmoi been in my family, oh, ten, twelve generations. Been a god-farming family since long afore the rest o’ the town sprang up these parts.” He fell silent in contemplation for a moment, taking his straw hat off and fanning himself with it.

I blinked, not entirely sure what to say to that. “I had no idea the… industry went back that far.”

“Oh sure!” He brightened. “Deiculture goes way back. Weren’t no civilization afore it started. ‘Course, it weren’t like this back then.” He gestured toward the finely delineated cosmoi, each neatly squared off from the others and surrounded by split-rail wooden fences. “Was mostly as folk’d drop a wild idea or two into whatever cosmos they’d happen to be passing, come back later and find a god or two’d sprung up in the meanwhile.” He chuckled. “Weren’t much to speak of, them gods. All wild ‘n’ animalistic. You’d barely even call ‘em anthropomorphic! But we’re smart critters. We figgered it out right quick.”

“So, uh, there’s a lot to it, then? To growing… gods?” I resisted the urge to shake my head. Or maybe pinch myself, I wasn’t sure.

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Jason’s Wiki Game That Needs a Better Name: Rules (First Draft)

Posted by Jason on April 10, 2012

In a previous post, I discussed my thought process and inspirations for designing an asynchronous, collaborative, semi-competitive worldbuilding game played using a wiki. Now it’s time to get down to the delicious crunchy bits and actually lay down some rules.

But first, fun with caveats! This is my first draft of these rules. They haven’t been playtested or reviewed. They’re probably full of holes and bits that don’t work as well in real life as they do in my head. Also, though I’m a long-time avid gamer, and rules make me squeal with boyish delight, this is my first attempt at writing a game of my own. Parts of it may not make sense to you and may need further refinements, but that’s what the comments box is for, right? Last, I also tend to over-caveat everything. Uh… hm. Maybe I should have put that one first. Anyway…

Setup

1. Accumulate a group of players.

You don’t want too large a group, as things will quickly become difficult to keep track of, but more players means more opportunities to build on. I’m going to guess you need at least 3, and probably no more than 10.

2. Set up a wiki.

This isn’t terribly difficult, and there are lots of good instructions around the interwebs. If you don’t have your own hosting site, there are a number of very good free wiki hosts (e.g., PBWorks, Wikia, Wikkii).

3. Decide on a genre and general theme.

I was tempted here to steal adapt Microscope‘s palette creation rules here, but I’m not sure that something that formal is necessary. If you are familiar with Microscope and wish to use those rules, please feel free! The important thing, though, is that the group collectively decides on a genre for the game — for example, science fiction, high fantasy, Lovecraftian horror, space opera, pulp, noir, spy thriller, and so on.

If there are any specific elements that anyone would or would not like to see included, note those too. I’d also recommend choosing a general theme or mood for the game, whether that be serious, silly, gritty, tongue-in-cheek, dispassionate, or some combination thereof. This gives everyone an idea of what to expect and can probably help avoid problems later on. This may also affect whether you…

4. Choose In-Character or Encyclopedic style.

See below for more information on these two styles of play. I had originally envisioned the Encyclopedic option as being the default, with In-Character as an optional rule. But the more I considered it, the more I realized that there is a lot of fun to be had either way, and it’s largely a matter of preference. Choose as a group which one you will pursue. Alternately, if some players strongly prefer one and others strongly the other, it is possible to mix and match with some players writing in one style and others in the other. Again, it’s up to group consensus as to whether this is allowed.

5. Generate the seed text.

The seed text is a sentence (or a few sentences) which gives a jumping-off point for the players to begin writing. Let’s look a little bit more at that…

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Posted in Games, Non-Fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

My Suspension of Disbelief while Reading The Hunger Games

Posted by Jason on March 26, 2012

So I’ve finally started reading The Hunger Games. Yeah, yeah. I’m slow. Oh well. I’m about halfway through the first book (as an aside, does anyone else occasionally find it confusing when “The Hunger Games” is used to refer to both the title of the first book as well as the series as a whole?) and so far, I’m finding it very good… for the most part.

There’s one thing that I find keeps consistently destroying my suspension of disbelief, one thing that keeps pulling me out of the story and setting off the “that just could never happen” bells in my skull. A flying snowman moment, if you will. It’s only one thing, and maybe I’m the only one bothered by it, but it’s sort of central to the story.

It’s the children.

See, I just can’t buy that a society, any society, would tolerate watching children killing other children for entertainment without revulsion and protest at the very least, and armed uprising at the worst. True, there are some explanations given for it in the novel, but I don’t find them satisfying. Now, I freely admit that this may be my problem and not a problem in the novel itself, but that’s part of the point of writing this. I want to try to explain why this bothers me so much, and see if I’m the only one who thinks this is an issue.

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Posted in Non-Fiction, Reviews, Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

On Kindness

Posted by Jason on March 8, 2012

I know, I know, I still owe you guys the rules for my new wiki game. I haven’t forgotten; they’re about halfway written, I just haven’t finished them up yet. Mostly due to laziness. But that’s another post.

I was having a conversation the other day on the topic of… well, just generally being nice to people. Later, thinking back on it, I came to the realization that there are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to kindness to others:

  1. Being nice is the default state, but niceness can be revoked; or
  2. Not being nice is the default state, but niceness can be earned.

I realize I run the risk of oversimplifying here, but it seems to me that option 2 is probably the most natural for humans in general, but most systems of ethics and morality are basically trying to get people to go with option 1.

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Jason’s Wiki Game That Needs a Better Name: Background

Posted by Jason on February 10, 2012

For a while now, I’ve been kicking around ideas for an asynchronous, collaborative, semi-competitive worldbuilding game played using a wiki. At this point, I suspect you’ve either gone cross-eyed or else have gotten really interested. For the non cross-eyed among you, I’m going to take a stab at creating just such a game. I’ll put the rules in my next post, but first let me talk a little bit about my inspirations and goals–because I know how much the ladies love that.

To put first things first, I should give credit where it’s due. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using a wiki as a gaming platform since I stumbled onto Lexicon years ago. For those who are not familiar with it, Lexicon involves the players taking the role of scholars writing an alphabetical encyclopedia on some fictitious topic. Each round is indexed to a letter of the alphabet, and the entries for that round must start with that letter. There are also rules for linking back to other articles and adding “phantom entries” for others to fill in. I’m not going to go over those in depth here, largely because I will be stealing adapting some of them for my own game.

Perhaps even more influentially, I found a competitive variant called (I believe) Smacktalk that since seems to have disappeared from the web–or at least which my Google-fu is not strong enough to find. As I recall, after each Smacktalk round, the audience voted for their favorite entry of the round, and the player with the fewest votes was out. This was repeated until there was one person left, who presumably then took a victory lap around the wiki.

The last major inspiration came when I stumbled onto Microscope. Microscope is a game of collaborative worldbuilding, where each turn a player adds something new to an existing timeline. It’s essentially an elaborate variation of “Yes, and…” but with a focus toward developing a fictitious history. One of the things that particularly struck me is its non-linearity; on your turn, you can expand on any point in the timeline, leaving you free to jump around in your chronology at a whim. The things you create can vary in scale from an entire era down to a particular scene, which is role-played by the group.

Each of these games is great in its own right, but still not exactly what I was looking for:

Posted in Games, Non-Fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Yes, Virginia, There is a Blog

Posted by Jason on January 31, 2012

I know, I know. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I haven’t forgotten that I have a blog. I just haven’t been writing much lately, at least not in terms of fiction. And since this was set up to be primarily a fiction-only blog, well… You see my conundrum.

I do want to get back to writing fiction, even if it’s just short vignettes to post here, and I have some plans in the works to make that happen. In the meantime, though, I’m finding myself writing and saying things that I am pretty proud of and that I want to have a centralized place to share.

So I’ve decided to open this blog up to more than just fiction. I’d sort of started down that path already with reviews, but I think I want to make it a little more expansive. From now on, I think opinions, thoughts, ruminations, gaming, hobbies–your more typical blog fare, I suppose–will all be fair game here. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. The sweet, delicious pudding. Mmm…

For those of you who read this blog but might not keep up with me other places (I think there’s maybe two of you) I’ve also been writing recently for TheSecretLair.com. It’s a fantastic site, and I’m privileged to be just one of the many talented bloggers there. I thought about cross-posting my articles here, but I decided against it. Since I’d rather drive traffic there and help increase their numbers (as the kids say),  I think I’ll post a notice and a brief snippet here when I write something new for the Lair.

You can see all the articles I’ve already written for the Lair here, though I highly encourage you to read everyone else’s stuff too (hint: it is good!). Most recently, I’ve been writing a series on the History of English. Y’know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Now I’m off to churn the brain-mill and see if I can excrete some new original content for this place. It will ooze forth from my face-holes… like pudding. Mmm, pudding.

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NaNoWriMo Day 3 (and 4)

Posted by Jason on November 5, 2010

Yet again, I managed to write on day 3 and not on 4. I meant to post this yesterday, but I was hoping to get a little more down so that there wasn’t quite so abrupt an ending. Oh well. Comments are always welcome!


Forgive me for being so detailed, for, though I could write of the wonders of your beauty for days on end, you are no doubt wondering what this other matter is that has me so excited. In the due course of time, our Ark arrived at Angelorum, and we stirred from our months-long dreaming to see that blue-brown orb perched in the firmament like an exceptionally subtle gem on some immeasurable jeweler’s velvet. The countours of its continents were, of course, familiar to me as they are to all members of the Order; I found myself searching the coast-lines, half expecting to see the ruins of the great ancient cities. They were, of course, invisible from such distance, and I felt like a silly schoolboy for letting my eagerness overwhelm my reason.

 I exchanged my usual rough-hewn but functional habit for ceremonial vestments, affixing with the proper invocations first the symbol of the Order on the right shoulder, that of my Chapter on the right, the seal of my Mentor’s house at my collar, and the Raven-and-sun crest which is my own over my heart. I left my cabin to be greeted by Proctor Silas, similarly arrayed. I had thought myself childish in my eagerness to reach Angelorum, but the delight of expectation which shone on the Proctor’s wrinkled face far exceeded my own.

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NaNoWriMo, Day 1 (and 2)

Posted by Jason on November 3, 2010

So I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo a go this year. I first heard about it three years ago, but every November since has made it impossible to participate. This year, I’ve got some things going on, and I don’t think I have much of a chance of reaching 50,000 words. Even so, I think it’s worth doing if it gets me writing again, and even if I reach half that number I’ll be happy.

I debated on it for a while, and I decided to post my (hopefully) daily progress here. This blog is intended to be a look at works in progress, raw and unedited, and things that I’m not sure what to do with yet. This is definitely both.

I’m not entirely sure where this is going yet, but my goal is just to enjoy the ride. I always enjoy feedback, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, none of this will be edited until after the end of the month. That is, assuming I make it there!

Since I didn’t get to write anything yesterday, this is my progress for days 1 and 2. I’ve already done some more today, and you’ll be seeing it soon. Anyway, I hope you get some enjoyment out of this!


6 [TK-MONTH], Anno Ordinis 1093

 My Dearest M——,

 I hope these words reach you with as much joy and excitement as that with which they leave my pen. Indeed, I write in such a frenzied hand that I fear you will not be able to read them, such is my hast in eagerness to set down that which I have to say. There, a deep calming breath and a steaming mug of the Licorice Tea that I love so has calmed my excited tremors and steadied my hand. Ah, a marked improvement already! Now, as you are no doubt wondering what has worked me into such a state, perhaps I should begin where last I left off.

 No doubt you will recall that, in my last missive, I told you how I had been chosen to accompany the Proctor on his sabbatical journey to Angelorum, the homeworld of our Chapter—and, indeed, our entire Order. After the great lengths to which I went in that previous letter to expound the loathing with which I viewed this assignment, the tedium of the long months in Fuguespace, the unbearable doldrums of such a ruined—if sanctified—backwater, you must be quite perplexed at the tone which I here adopt; indeed, my change of heart surprises none so much as it does me. Yet, I think, there is quite an excellent reason for it, which, if you’ll allow me to proceed in due course, shall become clear to you, my dearest one.

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Posted in Fiction | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Thoughts Spurred by the Recovery of the Dune Encylopedia

Posted by Jason on September 3, 2010

This is a comment I originally posted on this article at tor.com. The article, in brief, points out that the incredible–and incredibly neglected–Dune Encyclopedia has emerged online. If you haven’t already, go download it now. Now! I’ll wait.

Alright. So anyway, the mention of the canonicity (or lack thereof) of the Encyclopedia set off more than a little nerd rage for me, and I spilled the below thoughts and memories. It occurs to me that I might have been a bit unfair. But then, only a bit.


I came here to say more or less what’s been said. I consider the Encyclopedia to be more canon–or at least truer to the original works–than the horrid schlock now clogging SF shelf space.

I remember that I bought House Atreides when it first appeared, and was incredibly enthused at the idea of new Dune material. I breathlessly read the introduction, with its mention of Herbert’s newfound Dune 7 notes, and became even more excited.

Then I read the rest of the book.

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Posted in Non-Fiction, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Review – Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni

Posted by Jason on August 13, 2010

As promised, here’s another review. This one’s a bit longer… but then, so was the novel!

Also, what do you think of the reviews? Should I do more? Less? Other?

Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni

Cover of Angelology, by Danielle TrussoniThere are lots of kinds of logic floating around in our brains. There’s the true/false of Boolean logic, sure, but there’s also narrative logic, musical logic, and, for many of us, a big dose of movie logic. This novel contains an awful lot of movie logic.

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Posted in Non-Fiction, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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