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Undead Son

On the hillside you'll hear my roar. . .

4/14/16 01:03 am - The New Iron Age

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My Sword & Sorcery fiction blog continues apace.  I have posted seven stories so far, as well as a like number of profiles of the originators and early practicioners of the genre.  I am having a blast doing it, and I think I am getting better.  It's been a long time since I wrote shorts stories on a regular basis, and I am enjoying the focus on it, the discipline of having a deadline to meet.

I also have a Patreon for it.  For those who might not know, Patreon is a great way to connect artists with the people who want to support them.  You pledge an amount and it comes to my account every month, once per month.  You can pledge anything from $1 on up, and stop any time you want.

I am really hoping to build up my presence and expand my readership.  So if you know someone who enjoys Sword & Sorcery fiction, then give them a link.  Support is totally optional, and all the content is free to everyone.

4/5/16 03:40 pm - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I get annoyed when people don’t like the things I like. I mean, we all do that. We think something is good, and so when someone else trashes it, we find that irritating. It indicates a fundamental disconnect between us and other people, and it is especially worrying when it is someone we know and like. We feel compelled to delve into it and try to figure out why our opinions are so far apart.

I’m not having that experience with Dawn of Justice. I am having the very different and much more infuriating experience of having people (a lot of people) trash something I really liked, and then by their comments make it plain that they were not really paying attention and fundamentally did not understand what they were looking at. It pains me to see so many reviews of this movie be so flippant, mocking, and only skimming the surface of the movie’s ideas and themes without revealing that they grasped what the movie was about or what it was doing.

So I will be right up front about this here: I loved Batman v Superman. I thought it was an intelligent, operatic, and thematically powerful superhero movie like we have not seen since The Dark Knight. And in fact, this movie is a lot more clear, elegant, and coherent in its ideas than any of the Nolan movies. I feel like the narrative on this movie was set by the nerdosphere long before it was released - largely by people who did not like Man of Steel – and the message that keeps getting banged out is that it is dumb, simpleminded, grimdark, joyless, and only exists to make money. I am going to explain how this movie is intelligent, complex, serious, and in fact far more deep and meaningful than anything simply made as a money vehicle ever needed to be.

Warning. Spoilers ahead.

Batman v Superman is fundamentally about exploring the existential crisis brought on by the very existence of Superman. It is every character in the movie reacting to the fact that Superman exists, he is real, and trying to deal with the fact of what he can do. This includes Superman himself. Because the fundamental question of Superman has always been “What do I do with my power?” In this movie, the consequences of the massive destruction at the end of Man of Steel are played out, in contrast to how everyone bitched about it in the wake of that movie. “Superman caused too much destruction, Superman doesn’t kill people.”

It is obvious that Superman himself feels this way, and he spends a lot of the movie quite conflicted. He wants to live his life and do the things he feels need to be done. But he is having trouble deciding what the right thing is. He has all this power, but he is finding it cannot solve all his problems. He wants to help the world, but he is finding it is not that simple. Some people view him as a godlike savior, while others see only the destruction he has caused and could cause again, and they are afraid. Superman does not want people to be afraid of him, but the way he acts is not helping this any.

Because Snyder depicts very well the sheer power Superman possesses, and how utterly terrifying he would be if he really existed. The way the sonic boom of his approach sounds like thunder makes him appear like a god, and he is portrayed like a force of nature – too powerful to control or stop. Even though we know he is Superman, and therefore a good guy, the movie succeeds in making us wonder - in making us picture what he might do if he wanted to

Batman, in this movie, is shown as much more in line with the more gritty reimaginings of Frank Miller (who this movie borrows a lot from) as a man on the very edge. I was among those who were skeptical of Affleck in the role, but he works. As Bruce Wayne he is the requisite well-dressed, square-jawed good guy, but as Batman, he is something else. This is a Batman who has been at this for a decade and has lost his way almost completely. He no longer really believes that he is changing the world for the better, and he no longer gives a single fuck about not killing bad guys. Everything he does is calculated to induce terror in his enemies, who seem more like his victims. He has nightmares and cannot let go of his parent’s deaths. We see a more realistic depiction of a man so traumatized that he would do this night after night for years.

Because the crux of the movie is right there in the title, but not in the way that the simpleminded perceive it. It is not just about the physical battle, but about the fundamental ideas and ideals of two very different heroes being brought into conflict. In this sense Superman is a perfect foil for Batman, because his very existence brings everything Batman does into question. What is he accomplishing? What does Batman even mean in a world with Superman? We see, at the beginning of the movie, Bruce Wayne watch the climactic battle from Man of Steel at the ground level. We see him witness the destruction and the human cost, and so we believe that he would decide that Superman is too dangerous to be left alive. This Batman is at the end of his emotional rope, and grasps the killing of Superman as a way for him to really make a difference, to make the world safe.

Because this movie is about faith, and beliefs, and what they do to people. Lex Luthor is played a bit manic by Jesse Eisenberg for my tastes, but when he finally digs down to his reasons for hating Superman, they make thematic sense. Lex had a horrible, abusive childhood, and so the presence of Superman offends him. He says it very clearly. “I understood that if God was all good, he could not be all powerful, and if he was all-powerful, he could not be all good.” Lex is driven to prove that power must corrupt, and therefore resolves to either corrupt Superman by forcing him to kill Batman, or kill him. I love this. I love that they give Luthor a reason to oppose Superman that makes ideological sense, and not just that he is a power-hungry madman.

Batman has lost all faith, and it is especially telling to me that in a scene (which infuriated purists) where he uses the Batplane to gun down bad guys, he does not even change expression. This is a man who has lost all belief in anything, and he is driven into battle with Superman by an almost all-consuming despair. He wants his life to mean something, so that the death of his parents will mean something, and he seizes on killing Superman as the one thing he can do – and that maybe only he can do.

And people have mocked the moment that stops the fight. Superman, defeated and about to be killed, begs Bruce to save his mother, who has been taken hostage by Luthor. Tellingly, he uses her given name, and here Snyder takes great advantage of the canonical fact that both men have mothers with the same name. We previously saw the flashback to the killing of Batman’s parents, and we saw that “Martha” was his father’s last word. People have made fun of this as such a slender thread to stop Batman with, but they are not getting it. This is Batman’s pivotal moment, this is the very point where he realizes he has become everything he despises, that he has become the remorseless killer he always hated, and he is transformed in that moment. He comes back from being a man who was dead inside to being Batman again. He turns away from death and begins to once more fight for life.

So does this movie have issues? Yes it does. It moves slowly at the beginning, it spends probably too much time in visions and dreams that are mostly there to set up sequels. It does not treat some of its female characters very well, and even though Lois and Wonder Woman get hero moments, Martha Kent is used as a plot device and Mercy Graves gets killed off rather pointlessly.

You could argue that a lot of Superman’s problems could be helped if he communicated better, but that is all part of the thematic through-line of Clark’s increasing alienation from humanity. His feelings of isolation and otherness, which make him question what he is and what he is doing. Really, both heroes follow the arc that they have lost their way, and only by crashing into one another - by having their very existence questioned – can they rediscover what makes them who they are.

So if you don’t like this movie, fine. I get that. Maybe it’s not what you want from a movie, maybe you like the lighter Marvel style better. That’s fine too. But don’t try and say this movie was stupid, or mindless, or silly, because that is just making you look stupid. I have seen far too much criticism of this movie by people who only engaged with the surface, and are essentially mocking it without really understanding its ideas or what it was doing. This is a slow, brooding, serious movie about some rather deep themes. It’s not The Avengers – not done in primary colors with a lot of jokes to leaven it – but silly me, I think there is ample room for more than one approach.

I thought this movie was pretty damned close to a masterpiece, and I am looking forward to the Director’s Cut, because I think that will be even better.

3/7/16 04:38 pm - In a Moved Sort

Moved today.  I have been packing and painting and shifting stuff for a week and then some, but today was the big day - the bed, and the internet hookup.  That's what signals that I have iofficially hung my hat somewhere else.

It was a very hard weekend.  I spent the whole thing shuttling back and forth, packing and carrying boxes and other sundry things.  So much stuff.  It was hard physically, and emotionally.  Last night it was really bad.  I finally unhooked the cables and moved the computer, and it felt awful.  I got here and sat in the car and just lost it for a bit.  44 year old man sobbing in a car at midnight.  So dignified.

My stuff is here, but this does not feel like home, and it may be a good while before it does.  Right now it doesn't feel like it ever will, but, well, that always happens when you move.  I know it will change.

I just can't believe it's over.  20 years of marriage, 25 years as part of my life, and now here I am again sitting alone and wondering what the hell happened.  Life just goes on without you sometimes.

3/4/16 12:41 am - A Troublesome Episode of Discourtesy

Without further ado I present a slice from the upcoming Call of the Crimson Empire:


Kasar stepped off the transport and shouldered her way among the crowd on the steps that led down to the wide boulevard.  This was a far better sector of the city, and she held her head up among the well-dressed gentlemen trailed by their bodyguards, the ladies in their piled hairstyles and glimmering fashions.  She knew her own clothes were plain and marked her as an offworlder, but she would not hesitate or hide her face, not even here.

She stepped onto the wide golden street and looked up, hoping to see the red banners of the Guard, but the places were bare.  Strange.  The current of the crowd was against her, and she had to push her way through, grunting minimal apologies as she made her way upstream.  Bodyguards glowered at her, and she glowered back.  She had to remind herself to keep her hand of her sword-hilt.  This was not the Outworlds.

At last the crowd thinned away, and she climbed the broad steps to the plaza that swept along the front of the Hall of Heroes.  There stood the tall, columned front she had seen in so many stories, the statues of great Guardsmen standing shaded in the red sunlight.  Again there was a lack of banners, and she felt annoyed.  This was the seat of the Imperial Guards, where were the flags and banners?  Where were the red-cloaked heroes themselves?  She crossed the wide plaza and found she was alone moving closer to the sprawling edifice – no one else was near.

Puzzled, she mounted the great steps and passed into the shadow of the building, and there she found no red-armored warriors, but only two men in armor so dark blue it was almost black, and black cloaks that hung behind them like funeral shrouds.  Their helms hid their faces, and they leaned indolently on their pikes.  She did not care for how they looked at her.

“How,” she said, stopping before them.  “You are no Guardsmen.”

“Oh, and what tells you so?” one of them said, smirking.

“Well, any fool can see you are not.  Guardsmen wear red, and you wear black.  As well, you both have a bitter, untrustworthy look to you.  I dare say you would not make suitable guards for anyone, let alone the Empress.”  Kasar looked them over, saw pistols and swords as well as their pikes, but the way they stood spoke of insolence and ease.

“Have you not heard that the Empress is dead, offworlder?” the other one said.  “Assassin’s slew her in the night.”

Kasar hesitated, well aware of how men like this enjoyed playing jokes on the unwary.  “I heard a rumor of such after I landed, but I do not credit that at all, and you must think me a fool.”

“Perhaps a fool indeed,” the first man said.  “You are right we are no Guardsmen, and well for you we are not.”

“How so?” Kasar said, becoming annoyed.

“Because the Imperial Guard have been proved the most base and vile traitors to the Empire.  It was they who conspired to murder the Empress, and even now they hide among the populace, fomenting unrest.”  The second man stepped closer, watching her face.

Kasar’s hand curled, itching for her sword.  “So I see you do think me a fool,” she said.

“You are the one who has come to this place, on this of all days,” the first man said.  “Pray tell us why you come to the Hall of the Guards on such a day as this?”

Kasar narrowed her eyes, not liking the feeling that she was being played with.  “I came to join the Imperial Guards.”

They laughed at her, and both of them hefted their pikes.  “Well,” the first one said.  “Let it be not said you are well-timed.  You come to the seat of the Guards on the very day when they have been outlawed for their complicity in the murder of the Empress, and you say you came to join them.”  They both laughed again.  “I cannot decide if we should arrest you, or simply give you a thrashing for being impudent.”

Kasar laid her hand on the hilt of her sword.  “I am Kasar, of the Kell line, of the House of Calyx.  I am not given to allowing nameless brigands to jape at me.”

The forst man leveled his pike at her.  “We are knights of the Black Legion, girl.  We do not allow brats from the outcast worlds to insult us without consequence.  If you beg – and beg prettily – we might allow you to walk away with no worse than a spanking.”

Kasar’s vision seemed to go red, and her sword was in her hand in a flickering instant.  She squeezed the trigger and the proton field sprang to life around the blade, shimmering a vibrant blue, the two men activated their pikes a heartbeat later, the long points snapping to electric life.  Kasar drew her dagger as well, and it hissed as it’s short-interval red field came alive.

The first man laughed.  “I haven’t seen anyone take a stance like that in years.  What do they teach you out in the dirt worlds?”

Kasar did not lower her guard.  She had studied with the finest Terashian swordmasters.  These men might mock her, but she would not flinch.

They came at her as one, trained to fight as a pair.  Their pikes were much longer than her blade, and seemed to give them great advantage.  They had some cause to be confident.  One of them moved to draw her guard while the other slipped aside and stabbed at her side.  Kasar parried, whirled and parried low with her dagger.  The fields crackled and spat as they collided, and she felt the vibration crawl up her arm.

The first one thrust at her face and she ducked rather than counter.  A sharp move to the right and she had him between her and his companion.  Even as he backed away she moved in close and he had to sacrifice his pike haft to block her sword as she cut at his head.  The ceramic haft sheared apart and the tip flickered and died.  She feinted high, then dropped to one knee and caught the back of his leg with her dagger as he jumped back.  He cried out and fell, blood gouting from his thigh.

His friend was on her then, and she parried fiercely, lunged and forced him back.  He gathered himself and attacked again, and she slipped around a pillar to throw him off.  He lunged around it as she doubled back and caught him off guard.  One sweep of her sword and she chopped the head off his pike, left him holding a useless haft.

He yelled and backed away, drew his sword and brought it to blue-arcing life.  A touch and he activated a small hyperfield on his left arm – a ghostly buckler.  One that size would not stop a determined attack, but it would slow and deflect.

Kasar sneered at him.  She held up her dagger, turned it off, and then twirled it in her fingers before sheathing it.  “I do not need both hands to teach you manners,” she said.  The other guard was still groaning and clutching his bleeding leg, she narrowed her eyes at him.  “And you be quiet, or I’ll silence you myself.”

She and the other man circled, watched, and then closed.  Their swords flashed and flared in the shadow of the great entryway as she met his angry rush, parried, countered, and struck low.  He blocked with his buckler and she slid her blade up and over, gashed his side.  He grunted and slashed wildly at her neck, but she met his attack strong and their blades sang together.  They glared over the locked and spitting swords, the blue light of the fields illuminated their faces.

He tried to shove her back but she gave way, letting him throw himself off-balance, and before he could recover her sword was through his chest, emerging blue and crackling from his back.  He coughed and his sword fell ringing to the steps, skittered down as the field flickered out, leaving only the golden gleam of ninth steel.  Kasar pulled her blade free and let him fall, gasping and holding the wound.

Kasar flourished her sword, deactivated the field, and sheathed it.  “Indeed, if you fight no better than that, you would need a legion to acquit yourselves.”  She looked at the man with the wounded leg, saw he was afraid she would kill him, and she scoffed.  “Take your lesson, and cherish it.”

“You will die for this, girl,” he said.  “You will be hunted down without mercy.”

“Let them come,” she sneered.  “I’ll not have it said I want for courage, or for steel.  Let them come.  There is room for many upon the edge of my blade.”  She turned on her heel then, and walked away, her boots ringing on the empty stairs.  If there were no heroes here, she would seek them elsewhere.

If you like it, please check out the campaign!

3/2/16 02:25 pm - Not quite

So the campaign was supposed to end today, you may notice it has not.  It was only 2/3rds funded and so i stretched it out another ten days.  That puts off me getting paid another 10 days, and that is not going to make things easy, I won't lie.  I am moving, and that means all kinds of sudden expenses.  I don't like stretching the date out - it feels dishonest - but I didn't see a lot of choices.

But I'm not willing to just amdit defeat.  I have run a lot of these things and have not lost one yet.  I realize I may be dealing with the fact that I have poisoned the well with the lack of fulfillment on old campaigns, and that some people may not trust me again until I can make good on that.  No way I can fix that in time to make a difference on this, and promises are all I can offer.  Also, this is no longer a two-person operation.  Naamah was always kind of the rock star online, and I was the also-ran.  Some people may not want to contribute if it is not at least partly for her.  I get that.

I always try to watch my signal-to-noise ratio and not just flood my social media channels with messages to "buy my shit".  I don't want to be one of those.  I try to be engaging and interesting enough to warrant attention, and hopefully, money.

So not there is another $1000 to go and ten more days to get it.  Please, if you can, help this time, and it will all be wine and roses on the other side.  I'm going to post some excerpts from the new book here over the weekend if I can manage it.  Packing and painting is occupying a lot of my time.  I will do what i can.

Here is the link: Call of the Crimson Empire

2/27/16 01:46 am - Today

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Today was a long, stressful, exhausting day.  I have not been talking about it much here for various reasons, but I have been working mightily since the first of the year to get my housing situation squared away.  I need to move out of this house so Naamah can stay here with her Bearfriend, and everybody can hopefully be happier.

This was easier said than done.  I started by looking for apartments, but rents are just too high in Tulsa.  I was looking for something in the $400 range, and was not finding much that was not just horrible.  I mean, one place I looked at almost gave me nightmares.  Ugh, what a shithole.  I spent a few weeks looking and basically found that there was nothing decent below about $650, which is just too high.  I mean, that's higher than my house payment, which is just ridiculous.

(Let's pause here so people in less economically depressed parts of the country can goggle at the housing prices, and what I am calling "too high".  Everything in context, people.)

So I started looking at houses instead.  My dad had offered to co-sign for me on a lease, if needed, and help out with deposits and such.  Co-signing on a house is a much bigger deal, so i was hesitant to ask, but he agreed, and I found a nice little place, in much better shape than the exterior would suggest.  The neighborhood is iffy, but I have lived in worse, certainly.  It's not a great house, but it just needs a little love.  And at about $38K, the price was quite good.

Today we did the big double-closing.  I sold this place to Naamah's dad, and then my dad and I closed on the new place.  This house - the house I have lived in for 7 years and am in right now - is no longer mine.

I have mixed feelings about this.  I am rather excited to have a new place that is all mine, that can be whatever I want it to be, that I can lay out and decorate all for me.  I am looking ahead to a new life on my own with a certain amount of hope, that it will be better for us both.

But I am also, on another level, extremely sad.  When Naamah and I bought this place back in '08, it seemed like our lives were finally on an upward path, and that we might finally be able to stabilize and have the kind of life we wanted.  It was a very hopeful moment in our lives.  A moment was all it proved to be, but I still remember working so hard to get this place painted, to get in here by Xmas that year.  We finally had a place we chose, a place that we could make the way we wanted.

It didn't happen, and here we are, 7 years later, splitting up for good.  We'll still be in each other's lives, and we will hopefully always be friends.  But the closeness we used to have is gone, withered away.  Now, at 44, I have to kind of find out who I am again.  A daunting prospect.

So I had a day that was not really physically demanding, but emotionally it was like running a fucking decatholon, and I am completely exhausted.  Now I have to face the prospect of all the BS that comes with moving, but it all kind of pales compared to the emotional weight of this day.

2/24/16 11:30 am - Getting down to the wire

Just 8 days left in the campaign.  I can maybe extend it some, if I have to, but not too far, since that delays the payday.  Come help out if you can!

LINK

2/21/16 11:53 pm - Tor Torus Molok

TTM Card

A red-skinned giant from the desert world of Sard.  Tor is human, adapted to a harsh environment, but the Zor consider him to be an alien being.  A man of vast temper and humor.  He is an outlaw on his homeworld under sentence of death, now as a Guard he uses his strength in service to the throne.

Tor stands almost eight feet tall, and possesses great strength due to the high gravity of his home planet.  His body is immeasurably durable, and his ability to withstand high gravity makes him a deadly fighter pilot. There is nothing he will not do for his friends.

The campaign still has a shot, 51% Funded and with 10 days to go!  Come and lend a hand, spread the word!

2/17/16 11:05 pm - The Month Of Stress

I am currently at about the most stressed I have ever been.  I have a house I am selling, a house I am buying, a campaign I am running (that is not doing so well), a book I am writing, plus all the usual various and sundry thing there are to stress about.  Mandy has been having issues with her medications, and has not been in the best shape.  Though I am trying to help her, and we have a new arrangement that may offer some hope there, so fingers crossed.

I am just tired.  Tired all the time, even if i sleep, I am tired when i get up.  I always have too much to do, or things that I can't do anything about, which is actually kind of worse.  Everything feels like a balancing act, like spinning plates, hoping one of them does not fall and take the whole mess with it.  Everything is so much, and I just want a break, but it will be a month, at least, before I can even maybe get one.  And there is a lot to do before then.  Miles to go.  I'm just getting to old for this kind of shit.

2/15/16 03:22 pm - Ugh

Spent the weekend clambering around on rooftops painting over peeling spots, and now I am sore and tired from it.

New story up today at New Iron Age.  Head on over and check it out.  Also maybe check out my PATREON.

Book campaign is at 27% with just 16 days left.  Halp!
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