vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
Dropping universal grammar in favour of the general human learning heuristic is a wonderful thing.

I had long used the uniqueness of this human faculty for language as a sharp line between us and all non-human animals. This is important to the faith. But to relegate our capacity for language to a combination of things that can each be found in lesser or varying amounts in other species demolishes that wall.

And yet... we're still the only species that has language.

The UG is not the Logos. If it does not exist, it cannot even be a pale shadow of it. But the foregoing has suggested otherwise. I feel like a good friend has just thrown out an idol in my home that I wasn't even conscious was there.

The mystery remains, and the gatekeepers of heresy will not prevail against it.

A generalized learning process seems to imply that, literally, we just learn rules. Surely the effect of this, especially given some of the examples provided, is to blur the line between descriptive and prescriptive? And yet this does not give the no-split-infinitives pedants free rein: there are rules, after all, and then there are *rules*. There are the customs of one particular tribe, or of one particular subculture, within which *and only within which* "everyone" "typically" does (or says) something a certain way, and to blame someone for not talking proper in a situation where it would be actually improper to do so is unmitigated knavery.

I don't know where to go from here on this. It feels like there's something bigger, at least for myself, but I can't quite seem to recall or articulate what it is.
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
(a slightly cleaned up version of a Facebook post)

But before that, here's a great talk by Fr. Seraphim Aldea on Elder Sophrony and what prayer is and is not. Takes a bit to warm up but worth it.

What struck me most was the emphasis on the encounter and having to shed any (merely cerebral) notion of who or what God is - right after I'd read Melinda Selmys' praise of atheism as the most pious anti-pietism and Simone Weil's related thoughts - including the following editor's footnote:
God does not in fact exist in the same way as created things which form the only object of experience for our natural faculties. Therefore, contact with supernatural reality is at first felt as an experience of nothingness.

All this left me wondering how far the forgetting went. Do we even throw out the name of Jesus (i.e., that particular set of syllables by which we refer to Him in our own language)?

Googling that brought me this Evangelical polemic against apophatic theology, which addresses the concern quite directly and says that such mystical obfuscation is incompatible with the notion of a truly personal God that one can relate to in the ordinary sense. It's long, but I only really have one rebuttal: the approach endorsed in place of the apophatic has left me with no way to discern if any given thing I am seeing, or whatever I think I may be seeing, is God or self-delusion.

Of more interest is the other article on the site respecting Orthodoxy, not really because I find it interesting but because it works as a surprisingly good springboard for clarifying how Orthodox theology differs from other Christianities I do not believe.

This is not intended to be a full rebuttal, but to highlight some of what I think are the most salient points:
The Reformed Protestant position does not eschew tradition as useless, as Brown rightly states, it simply rejects it as authoritative. "Traditions" are necessary in terms of the particulars of living out our faith, and may even express themselves in the distinctives of denominationalism (within the pale of orthodoxy with the small "o") but the essence of the faith is clear and centered on the Biblical truth of the gospel. The Orthodox Tradition obscures the gospel, for it is itself obscure and contradictory, subjective and mutable. It solves nothing that it claims to solve, for the presence of Tradition as an Interpreter of Scripture only serves to set back the problem one step: if the Bible needs an infallible Interpreter, who interprets the Interpreter?
This is a bit of unfortunate polemic: Mr. Carrino describes himself as "an avid student of Eastern Orthodoxy" and reasserts that authority throughout the articles, and yet here is a rhetorical question that has a simple and explicitly stated answer in Orthodox doctrine: the Holy Spirit abides in and is active within the Church to guide that Tradition. Indeed, that point could have been inferred even if he had somehow not seen it in his studies: whatever your theological basis, some point up the chain must have God directly involved, or the theology is self-evidently false no matter what it says.

The same inference could, of course, be made for a Bible-centered Protestantism: all the chains lead up to the Bible, which is given to us by God. But both would agree that the faith does not come directly from the transcendent God (whether the Father alone or the Trinity), but rather through the incarnate Christ. And the most obvious way for that to have happened would be this: Christ proved He was God through His resurrection, then dicated the Scriptural canon to the Apostles, if not physically delivered bound copies of complete Bibles to everyone right on Pentecost.

But the Bible itself does not record anything remotely resembling such an event anywhere. Instead, we see in Acts that the Holy Spirit possessed the Apostles and had them saying things (as He previously "spoke by the prophets") that, per Paul's descriptions later on (in the Bible if not chronologically), were handed down to others... which is exactly what is alleged by the Orthodox Church to be the source of its authority to interpret Scripture. Even going by Scripture as the sole binding authority, the clearest and simplest explanation for the data favours the Orthdox position more than the Reformed one.

A few other points:

Thirdly, no authorized canon of the Church Fathers exists.
This, of course, is a substantial misunderstanding, but its genesis is easy to understand if you assume the writer is lumping Orthodox and Catholics together and has no idea why the former are so resistant against reunification with the latter. The Orthodox approach to being a Church is less like a gatekeeper that elects bosses to say what's wrong and right, and more like the sort of emergent "hivemind" that has given us the use of the word "Anonymous" as a singular proper noun. A flock of sheep, a school of fish, a colony of bees will have a similar dynamic, if in the former cases much less hierarchical (and accordingly much less like a body).

Mr. Corrino's use of disagreements and squabbles within the Church as a sign of Her lack of authority is one and the same misunderstanding: even ants and bees have freeloaders and rivalries, but no one thereby denies the reality of the colony (also known in A. mellifera as simply the Bee). Indeed the little inconsistencies between the four Gospel accounts reflect this known variable perfectly. The heuristic is simple to articulate, if at times difficult to implement: find a pattern to discern the teaching, or if no pattern exists, then there is no teaching. Any biologist, linguist, marketing consultant, stock broker, lawyer or duck hunter can do this.

"Authorized" implies authority - more accurately, a narrow "gatekeeper" sort of authority, in the sense of people (priests, bishops, spiritual fathers) telling you what to do. Such authority does exist in the Church - but it is only that, telling you what to do, not what is right. What is right must be experienced and demonstrated, whether directly by each Christian or by the commonly - not necessarily always universally but repeatedly, frequently, predictably, typically - lived experience of those who have lived the Christian life in communion with the Church. That is a very different thing from appointing people to organize everything so anything can get done.

The heavy emphasis on the substitutionary nature of the sacrifice within the pre-Mosaic period as well as in the Levitical system is not only clear, but essential to any proper understanding of the earlier covenants.
There are people who have rebutted this old canard much better than I ever could. Suffice it to say that this "heavy emphasis" simply does not exist when you read the actual prescriptions, except only for the scapegoat which of course is clearly not sacrificed, merely gotten rid of. (And even that is more of a symbol than a substitution.) A comparative approach with other sacrificial ritual systems - whether offering a chicken to the ancestors or the old champagne on the boat, or even the way "sacrifice" is used in modern military rhetoric - would clarify this rather quickly.

As for the arguments that certain Scriptural passages support a juridical view of salvation:
  1. Having believed in both at different points in my life, it is clear that the juridical imputed salvation is but filthy rags compared to theosis and is frankly insulting to think that such a morality play is the ultimate plan for us from the God that both loves us as His prize creation but also made the solar flare and the cuckoo wasp.

  2. The passages themselves can be read both ways, and "worthy" and "undone" suggest to me actually something far more ontological, arete-related, than being liable for something.

I mean... do you really think Wayne and Garth are confessing a horrible crime to Alice Cooper in this scene? (also note the top comment: "Me and a friend did this for Scott Travis from Judas Priest after a gig. Best 10 seconds of my life." This is not that pale a shadow.)
vaecrius: A round squishy plush lobster bursts out of the blue. (cock lobster)
"scavenged by the cloud people obviously (they fly in columns to hide their numbers)"

Having no idea if there are in fact already a Cloud People in the SWverse (Google suggesting that the best answer is "no")...

They continually grow gas sacs on top throughout their lives, replacing damaged or worn out ones. The sacs are larger and more numerous towards the top, creating a vaguely mushroom-like shape.

The burdened, the injured, the very young and very old, the pregnant women, are all towards the bottom where it is warmer and less exposed to harmful rays, dry conditions and alien forces above.

They have a ring of eyes around their heads and numerous tentacles (some with eyes on them) haphazardly surrounding their mouth and breathing-speaking-hole. (They squirt their poo upwards through a tube between the gas sacs to be carried away by the currents. There is etiquette to this, lest others be sprayed.)

There are hardier, more rudimentary eyes on top between the sacs. These generally only give some vague information about light and shadow and a bit of colour with general direction.

Stereoscopic vision is a conscious effort. They usually use their two biggest eyes automatically; those with better training can use any arbitrary set of eyes, though no one has managed more than five at a time.

They copulate and give birth through the mouth. Children cling to the mother underneath her sacs until their own are big enough to let them float.

They keep their belongings strapped to their sides, on modular adjustable harnesses that wrap around their gas sacs.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Learning to the read the Scriptures, in which its stories reveal things to us about God is difficult. All Christian reading of the OT must be read through the lens of Christ. Those who do this in a backward sense fall into error.

The Fathers said that the OT is a “shadow” of the truth. Too many people try to read it as though it was a clear, literal presentation of the truth. It is not. That is the witness of the Fathers. It is shadow.

The New Testament is “icon of the truth” according to the Fathers. It is a faithful image and can be used to understand and clarify the shadow. The age to come is the truth itself, the fathers said, when all things will be clear.

Frankly, at a certain point in Christian history, an alternative gospel was created. This was not the gospel of Pascha, the primitive and abiding witness of the Orthodox faith. Instead, it was the story of the wrathful God and the infinitely indebted people of earth. We are the bad guys, deserving of every possible punishment. Etc.

The scope of Scripture and the message of Pascha is utterly foreign to that story. The true Paschal story is of a people who are in bondage, held captive. They are to be pitied rather than blamed. Christ comes to destroy the false debt of death and set us free. He leads us into the promised land. He tramples down death by death. He becomes what we are that we might become what He is.
Fr. Stephen's comment to his article "Getting Your Mind Right"
vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
[saved as an oversized Tumblr post. Click here for that conversation in full.]

Read more... )

If the foregoing is too long to read, or if it seems rambling and out of context, I invite the reader to consider:
  • Were the Pharisees infected with a fungus that clouded their judgment?
  • Where is the proof of the existence of the seven sickly cows that ate the seven fat ones? If they never existed, is Pharaoh's dream thereby not inspired by God?
  • Are Judas Iscariot and Joseph's brothers blameless because they were only doing the will of God in their evil acts?
  • When the Mosaic law forbids the flesh of bats in the explicit context of clean and unclean birds, are we required to reject any taxonomy that does not include Chiroptera in Aves?
  • Are we required to hold that every one of Christ's parables actually happened?
  • How can you slay someone before the foundation of the world, when clearly death does not exist until some time after?
  • If Adam had no concept of death, why would God warn him that he would die? If he had a concept of death, where did it come from? If Adam had no concept of death and God's warning was a deliberate setup to help him learn what death was, then what is so important about death that God would do such a thing?
  • If Adam and Eve died the day they ate the fruit, and they did not conceive until after they did this (and consider the time it takes to sew enough fig leaves together to wear as a garment and to process the shock and horror of what had happened after the banishment before anyone could possibly be in the mood for sex - surely more than one day all told), and the death of the Fall must be one and the same as biological death, how did Eve's body manage to gestate Cain, Abel and Seth?
  • If Christ has defeated death with his Pascha, how come people still die?
  • [EDIT not found on Tumblr: What are the waters above the heavens?]

Some of these points are petty and others are central to the faith, with others in between. I have made minimal effort to sort them. The point is that there is enough room in Scripture, if a strict historical exegesis is made a condition of the faith, to allow the simplest Marie Henein treatment to be much stronger grounds for apostasy than the modern evolutionary synthesis on its own.

(That Youtube link calls for further comment, if for no better reason than lest I play right into another commenter's insinuation that I myself am an apostate. I think, without having any great knowledge in that field, that the archaeological data is more or less as the author characterized it - and yet I remain a Christian. This is because I believe that God revealed Himself to Israel through those pre-existing myths and took on the particular god Jehovah to lead them to Him. Consider the parallel between this and God appearing again among a whole host of this time not gods, but Jewish rabbis and self-proclaimed Messiahs, distinguishing Himself from them by words and deeds of authority of which the others prove ultimately incapable. Scripture is filled with these appropriations from pagan gods, most notably Psalm 104(103):3 (among many other similar references) and Acts 17:28. To try to explain away all of them is to do more violence to the text than denying the historical accuracy of certain specific texts or to admit that some were written in a (subjectively, at the time) self-serving manner. It is a kind of textual violence that we never see the apostles doing in the NT, and even if you rope in a convert here and there I do not believe it is constructive in preparing anyone for their long-term salvation.)
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
This started off as a comment to the discussion here, but it both grew and degenerated into its own thing. Hopefully a bit more coherent than my last meditation on this.

With respect to the contrast between the perspective in Byzantine icons (and even most medieval art) versus the "realistic" style of post-Renaissance work, one thing that always strikes me is how much the former resembles the perspective in video games before 3D "photo"-realism became the norm.

For a particularly striking example: doorways in tile-based or isometric CRPGs (scroll down to "Chestyrre approaches a house to the south" and the second screenshot after that) and the door leading out to the world at the bottom of the Pentecost icon. The fact that even current games show a need to go "back" to this portrayal underscores the point about different needs.

(Also this icon of the Fall reminds me of the style of the Golden Axe games, but the latter is more of a technical limitation than a design decision, so not quite as good an example even if in my view more visually striking.)

This excellent discussion shows how much even "photo"-realistic depictions, literally mathematically perfect by Renaissance perspective rules (an unaided computer cannot do otherwise), need to be tweaked and adjusted to begin to function in a way that allows the most basic interactions one might expect in real life. Of note: a personal face-to-face interaction is the most difficult; violent games routinely render the player's own weapon (i.e., the player's primary means of participation) with a different perspective. And, of course, the first comment about monitor size and distance - which is entirely applicable to icons. And, of course, the way the person's face changes with the different FOV.

And, of course, actual photography requires a great deal of preparation and overhead before the machine you're using can reasonably approximate what you see.

So with all that in mind I can think of two main ways in which this manner of perspective works:

First, by drawing emphasis on what actually is necessary to depict, without cutting them off unrecognizably, obscuring other elements or requiring a great deal of irrelevant white space. (Consider, for instance, how tiny Jesus would be on your typical Transfiguration or Anastasis icon if rendered with modern perspective rules!)

Second, of which the first may be a subset, is the proper positioning of each element so that the player viewer might interact comfortably with it.

I write this with one specific example in mind: the Theotokos icon on the iconostasis in our church, which is based on this one (top row, second from the right). The ordinary manner of venerating this icon is to bow before it and kiss the Mother of God's right hand, as one might a priest in receiving a blessing. (Christ's feet are also kissed but that is another matter.) Her hand, however, is ostensibly also supporting Christ's weight; she'd have to move it and adjust Him for this purpose. The priest can simply swap hands; the icon cannot be animated to show the Theotokos doing this. (We might be able to do it now but the result would start dipping into the uncanny valley.)

This leaves us 3 options:
  1. Theotokos holding Christ in her left hand, stuck in a "kiss the ring" pose. Very effective for this 5-second exchange and nothing else (i.e., the rest of the 0.5-2+ hours that you're in there facing the icon).

  2. Theotokos holding Christ in her right hand, Renaissance perspective. You venerate Mary, bend awkwardly and kiss Christ's arse. Humbling, maybe, but inappropriate (and not in a good way).

  3. The in-between perspective we actually see on the icon so venerated.
This may be related to the (relative!) lack of statuary: this sort of trick simply does not work with a 3D model. Another trick: a picture of someone looking at you always looks like it's looking at you except at the most oblique angles, but a lone statue looking at what is in front of it is more often than not staring into nothing in particular (which at best makes the depicted seem remote and distant, at worst evokes Psalm 135:16).

Unrelated to perspective but related to design, one thing that always strikes me about the labels on icons is how difficult they are to read - even the ones in English are heavily stylized, longer words broken up and longer phrases mashed together in very reader-unfriendly ways, to the point of not being immediately recognizable as text, or at least text in one's own vernacular. This, I have come to believe, if it weren't deliberate before, is a bug-become-feature: we don't want to be reading any text without conscious effort - the immediately obvious focus should be the image of the person represented.

I'm sure there are other more concrete examples, but nothing in particular springs to mind now.

(And I don't think I'll really "get" anytime soon those icons that (trigger warning: literal graven image) are embossed shiny metal everywhere except a little window through which is a painting of the person's face.)
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
NIV: If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

This is what I grew up with and has been burned into my mind. The fire is bad, and you escape it by the skin of your teeth.

So imagine my surprise when I see Fr. Stephen quote it: If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. and then come up with the following?
First, it is clear that he is speaking specifically about the Judgment, for he calls it “the Day.” And what fire is this that reveals on Judgment Day? Is it not the eternal fire? And, how is someone saved by fire? For clearly, some are. Who is not saved by fire?

This verse should rightly puzzle us. Particularly that “but he himself will be saved…”

Of course, there are many who will say, “He’s only writing here to Christians.” This fire that burns and saves – is it the same fire that the “wicked” enter? If it doesn’t save everyone it burns, why not?
Emphasis mine. We are not saved from the destruction of the fire, but rather the fire in destroying saves us.

I went and looked at some other translations:

King James: If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Young's Literal: if of any the work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; and himself shall be saved, but so as through fire.

Darby: If the work of any one shall be consumed, he shall suffer loss, but *he* shall be saved, but so as through [the] fire.

KJ21: If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as fire. ("Why not become pure flame?")

Most of the more reliable names on BibleGateway say "as through fire" or "as by fire". I'm assuming the Greek has whatever the Greek for ablative is and no explicit preposition.

I am wrong. It is "dia pyros": εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός.

"saved as through fire"... it *can* mean someone escaping the flames, but what pre-existing pagan myth of passing through fire could Paul be referring to if not?
After death, the gods transformed him into an immortal, or alternatively, the fire burned away the mortal part of the demigod, so that only the god remained.
Thetis attempted to render her son Achilles invulnerable. In the well-known version, she dipped him in the River Styx, holding him by one heel, which remained vulnerable. In an early and less popular version of the story, Thetis anointed the boy in ambrosia and put him on top of a fire to burn away the mortal parts of his body. She was interrupted by Peleus and she abandoned both father and son in a rage, leaving his heel vulnerable. A nearly identical story is told by Plutarch, in his On Isis and Osiris, of the goddess Isis burning away the mortality of Prince Maneros of Byblos, son of Queen Astarte, and being likewise interrupted before completing the process.
(I was under the impression that there were two heroes and only one of these happened to Achilles. Nope, it's both.)

Meanwhile, the entire first page of Google for {ancient greek rituals passing through fire} is about child sacrifice, which I was certainly not expecting!

But it doesn't change the fundamental type-and-shadow theory, even if the first result is an expressly Scripturally-proscribed example:
Early modern scholarship tended to accept the Biblical and Greco-Roman accounts of child sacrifice at face value, although there were early suggestions that the biblical account might refer to a symbolic practice, among them an essay by John Selden of 1617 with the suggestion that the phrase h'byr b'sh lmlk "making to pass over the fire to Molek" might have entailed a februation (purification ritual) rather than human sacrifice.
(tangential interesting point: In 1841, both Georg Friedrich Daumer and Friedrich Wilhelm Ghillany published influential works on the topic. These authors came to the conclusion that the Biblical text reflect an original identity of Molek and Yahweh, and that the cult of Yahweh grew out of that of Molek by the abolishing of human sacrifice. The authors find numerous instances of vestigial references to human sacrifice, most notably the law that all firstborns must be "consecrated" or "given" to Yahweh (Exodus 13:2, 22:28). Relatedly, I can't help but notice how little time Jesus spent rebuking the Sadducees rather than the Pharisees - it seems close-but-not-quite is worse than not close at all.)
Firewalking has been practiced by many people and cultures in all parts of the world, with the earliest known reference dating back to Iron Age India – c. 1200 BCE. It is often used as a rite of passage, as a test of an individual's strength and courage, or in religion as a test of one's faith.
The article also mentions that this is done by Eastern Orthodox Christians in Greece and Bulgaria - the only Christian group on the list. Also of interest: reference to judicial trial by fire.

I feel like I've missed some big ones as well (the alternate water/baptismal story of Achilles is implicit in the above). Thoughts?
vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
n. A comment which bears only such relevance to the topic as can be used as an excuse to make it, which is given without any apparent regard to whether it is giving any insight or information that the person whose post you are commenting on might reasonably want or need, based on the content of their post. A comment which main use is an ego-feeding territory marker.

fire hydrant
n. A forum filled with dog pee, possibly set up for that purpose.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
Gabriel Loup posted earlier on the ZDoom forums (off topic, link may be dead in a few months) a mental exercise of sorts:

So, I went to the Zandronum forums and I found an interesting topic that I'd like to discuss further, what if Doom games were shorter than what it really is? Imagine if Doom 1, 2 and 64 were 10 maps, each. This gave me the idea of maybe porting some of the Maps of Chaos Doom 1 maps into Doom 2, and having the entire series play in a progressive sort of order, but I have no idea how to port Doom 1 maps into Doom 2 properly, without missing textures, so that will be for another time.

Here, for the record, are his.
Read more... )Dunno if he's pulling a Matthew 1:17 with D1.

Which got me thinking of my own. If I ever make my own mapset, this could be an interesting progression, sort of a Machete Order for Doom...

Read more... )
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
About time I started jotting down some of these thoughts that have been in my head about this.

Basic premise: The original Doom games (Doom 1 and 2) are a divinely inspired allegory of a man's repentance from sin.

As all pale shadows of the Truth, this is not a perfect analogy: in particular for this first post, no weapon in Doom is strictly necessary (except rocket against Icon of Sin).

(I should note that this does not work with the lore in Hideous Destructor at all, unless one were to assume an extremely unreliable narrator in the setting fluff I've written for it (which granted isn't too off base).)


There is much to be said for this - the basic plot, the aesthetic, the progression and changing appearance of the levels (especially in the first game, (as far as I can tell at the moment) getting weaker with each new official IWAD), even the monster designs (I am assuming that things represented as demonic influences in the game are exactly that, or at worst they are temptations in this world and our own brokenness) - but it's an unchewably big enough bite that this first post will only be one tiny nibble: a brief summmary of the role of each weapon.

Read more... )
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Trimming a few of my inflammatory political posts. You know, the "all these fucking evil zombie shits need to be driven into the sea" ones.

Also ditched a few where it was literally nothing but me being a smug pedant about some thing or other. (There's still a lot more.)

Got rid of some linkdumps that were just linkdumps with no interesting comments that weren't just one-liners directly in response to the things linked.

Many musical linkdumps have been purged. Most of the links and embeds are glitched or deleted anyway.* It's... humbling to see just what sort of fleeting lust passes for "awesome" and "greatest shit I've ever heard" that I post and then promptly forget about a week later. The old tag "aural masturbation focus" was much more accurate.

*ahahahaha what the fuck. Almost every single YouTube embed I've got on my blog is linking to the wrong video.
vaecrius: A round squishy plush lobster bursts out of the blue. (cock lobster)
Previous: A large, heavily armed Imperial squad come across an small, unrecorded hamlet that had been recently massacred by unknown hostiles. They investigate and discover an old sarcophagus that turns out to contain a living man who is either an Imperial noble, or an eldritch monster from the depths, or both.


Timín wakes up to the stink of death. It is everywhere in the darkness around him. He gets up, moves around, leaves the "house" he is in - the corner of the wall that happens to have a bit of roof over it still - and wherever he goes, it is there. It's seeped into his uniform.

He can still see the faces. The bloated and blue, green slimy bug-eyed stares, wall-eyed but still somehow looking right into him, women and children, old men and maidens. They cry out to him in his sleep: How long? How long must they lie in the darkness of the pit? How long must they go unavenged?

Suddenly the corpses are yellow and brown. The pit is the wine-dark sea, and he is inside an old photograph of the Xiniënar teleport station, before it was burned. The bodies arise - tens, hundreds, all along the docks and the catwalks and down the halls and climbing over the turnstiles - and stare at him. Timín is in an Imperial uniform, an enlisted man, in a style no one has used in decades. The name tag says "Cpl. Gitimurka". It is not his name. His spear is dripping with liquid screams.

How long must they go unavenged?

He hears himself narrating in his long-dead grandfather's voice, that mendacious red-jowled old cunt, tinny and warped in a holo-recording long since dumped somewhere in the bottom of the bay: "There were thousands of the skinnies around us! Damn near woulda killed us all if Captain Arramas hadn't blown down the wall to our nine while we were runnin'! We scrambled up the rubble and found three of their necros turning the whole place black with their zombies, poppin' up everywhere! You ever seen those mattresses they pull out of the poor-house, they rip 'em open, the bed bugs just pour right out? Imagine that with a whole lotta dead jellies. Was a glorious day for the Empire, that!"

Zombies. Skinnies. Jellies. Bugs. Young men and maidens, old men and children.

How long?

He looks over at what's left of his 40. Captain gave him a direct order not to touch it in the morning. Captain is asleep. Still dark. No one would know.

He does not touch it.

Read more... )

*(Potentially) Relevant setting fluff*
Read more... )
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Further yet again to my garbled... garblings (as clearly there was no muse inspiring me in any of that), here is something by people who have done a much better job. Content warning: endorsement traditional Christian views on gender and sexuality, which may well include the ones you, the reader, consider terrible and hateful, or make you think of same )
There's a lot more and to quote all the good stuff would be to quote almost all of it. Little of it may make much sense outside of Christianity, or at least it won't make sense within modernity (while possibly making a good deal of sense in some pre-modern pagan societies).
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
The current setting, predating my conversion to Christianity, held that necromancers could freely enter and leave Hell with their magic. What they could do there or take back was a matter of sophistication and understanding and strength of will. Each necromancer's view of Hell would be unique: Sam has her snowscape, others might see a world of lava and ash, others might find themselves adrift in an endless, lifeless, sunless sea.

Now, unless we simply posit that the setting is in such a totally different universe that life and death don't work the way they do here, as well as abandon all plotlines involving the nascent cult of the Lord of Being, we need to tweak this. [2015-11-18 And, of course, it turns out Civil Deism posits reincarnation so the hades theory wouldn't really be part of Sam's repertoire anyway...]

We can keep everything, but as a layer: the hellscape is not actually true, or at least what the necromancer sees is not actually hell/hades. The "hellscape" would actually be a magical construct formed by the necromancer and the spirits they deal with. What the necromancer believes to represent the souls of the dead is actually a vast cosmic spirit-memory the deceased have left in the world by their words, deeds and thoughts - in this world, momentarily made visible and tangible. The necromancer never actually leaves this world, which is why it is so easy to come and go. The true Person of the deceased is never interacted with in this construct, though much information may be gleaned, sometimes to the point where you think you are dealing with the person themselves. For pure information-gathering purposes, and depending on the quality of the memory, it can be virtually equivalent - like a fossil wherein the entire impression has been filled with rock and none of the organic matter remains.

To talk to a "spirit" in this place would be to gather together an impression that then coalesces into its memory, aided by the speaker's own pareidola if not even actual (non-human) spirits "guiding" the process.

Much more chaotic, uncontrollable visits to this underworld may occur during teleport accidents.

Pure elemental magic is powered by the energy released through the annihilation of these patterns. Where mana is heavily mined, there is an ineffable deadness in the air that everyone feels but no one understands how to measure and some insist, with experimental supporting evidence (which experimenters often get money from the same firms the insisters work for, but let's nevermind that), that it's all in people's heads, or it's just an aesthetic negative reaction to the appearance and sound of the machines. yeah, metaphysical fossil fuel economy. But with malaise, ennui and possible perceived or actual de-existing instead of toxic smoke and global warming. And no plastic from byproducts.

I'll have to think of the geopolitical consequences of this.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
A rewrite of this, as a response to this.

Next: After some more exposition, a random encounter ends in violence.
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.


The sleepers dig unclothed in the pit. Naked and unashamed, they span the little abyss with their forms, waist deep in mud. Groundwater and rot, all too easily smelled by the masked men behind. They have been digging for a few hours now: one could see the tiles, the cobblestones, the foundation and a few old soil layers, then where the water table begins and the sleepers slowly work against boulders and packed clay.

A banner is erected on the ledge behind them: the rich azure, silver and gold of the Empire flickering in the wind, warning off any who dare intrude into the business of the Atharan crown. Atop rests its eye: blinking imperceptibly in the early afternoon sun as it stares through the air around them, the psionic scanner picks up only a few crows, as they occasionally dodge a bored Imperial soldier's slingshot. Its display is perched on a convenient boulder propping up the flagpole that the sleepers had dug up early on, and is not very ergonomic in any way; but whoever had put it there, it seemed wrong to move it afterwards.

It is before this little altar that the men's leader stands bowed, sun-crossed blue cape limp over his shoulders as though asleep, half watching, half staring blankly past, the ethereal screen. Nothing bigger than a crow for miles, save the squad and the one in black standing next to him directing the sleepers. The one in black occasionally asks him for an update; he tells her about the crows. They have long since tired of trying to speculate about what had happened to this place - at least until they have found their buried quarry.

For the past hour there has been nothing worth being seen. Then the one in black grimaces, rubs her temples and walks closer to the sleepers. There is a small commotion as the one in black redirects them, cursing something unintelligible about boulders.

The sleepers dig around it. Another two hours pass as the pit must be widened. After much repositioning and straining and three attempts at a haphazard pulley system set up by the squad engineer, it is lifted up.

It is not a boulder.

Read more... )

*(Potentially) Relevant setting fluff*

Read more... )
vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
(This had been in my notes backlog for a while - might as well post it now since it also relates to the whole writing-about-stories kick I've been on (or rather Fr. Stephen's been on and I'm just following him).)

Given a sufficiently large number of people, whenever theories about what makes a good game are discussed, you're sure to run into some ignorant hack who will proudly declare, "I know! A game is good because it is Fun!" and act like he's found some perfect insight that would blow away everything. It shows a contempt not even worthy of being called obscurantist, but it does invite a certain reality check: your theory of what makes a game good must address the preferences of those who are wholly ignorant of your theory, or what you are doing is groundless and pretentious (in the sense of pretending to things it lacks the authority for).

Between the Skinner box approach, the feminist critiques and my own buying/modding habits, I think I've boiled down to the following that a game must do:
  1. Engage
  2. Emulate
  3. Edify
If your game does all three, and they do them in a way that does not offend the player, that player would probably think your game is "fun" on some level.

Engagement is simple enough: the game must provide some kind of stimulus-response-"reward" interaction with the player's input that gets dopamine running. It does not matter if any pleasure is involved (though pleasure may be necessary to get the player started): rage, self-righteous zeal and simple "need" to keep going are all sufficient.

Emulation generally takes the lion's share of the work and is the most likely one to be noticed at the game-buying stage. This may include the game's world-setting and story, as the word may suggest, but participation in a fictional world is not necessary. Emulation may also include the social context of the intended player: whether in collaboration or competition, with friends or strangers, in person or online, whether the game should be a "safe space" for any given identity group. In other words, it is everything in a given game that draws the player into participating in a given narrative or social arena, be it the study of a living ecosystem, glory in combat, or (ostensibly) happy competition with family and friends at a gathering.

Edification has seen a resurgence in discussion in recent years, mostly for negative reasons. Whether any explicit thought is put into it, an activity that sets up a behavioural reward system within the context of getting a reader to participate in a specific narrative of human conduct by definition must be drilling some moral or ethical message into that reader's mind, in a way that is much more easy to implicitly accept - or, rather, much more onerous and unrewarding not to accept ("win the game" as opposed to "type in some cheat codes and fuck around for hours in places the player was never meant to go") - than in a book ("read the book" as opposed to "read the book and scribble long notes in the margins and between the lines with a fine red pen detailing every reason why you think the author is full of shit").

As far as appeal and getting people to play goes, I suppose edification can be subsumed into emulation. Or perhaps emulation is too broad to be a useful category and edification too narrow. I will revise once I get another alliterating trio.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
First, Fr. Stephen's post about something not directly related to stories* at all (though, of course, all things are at least indirectly related to stories*):
Someone commented with a recommendation for John C. Wright,** which led me to this blog post:
Meanwhile, Fr. Stephen posts the following:
Characters in good stories (particularly good children’s stories) are more than simple individuals with complex and unpredictable behavior. Such individuals would be of no more use in training a child, than reciting random numbers is for teaching math. What we want in a character, is, well character. We need them to be a certain kind of person (or dragon, etc.). People, including children, make sense of the world through the stories they know. Children without stories are forced to stumble through the world without a clue.
The underlined portion describes the modern approach to fiction we are all too familiar with. It speaks well of us that most of us fail miserably. (I am thinking particularly of the anti-Mary-Sue pontifications that I'm sure anyone reading this already knows - which tend, if followed literally, to produce characters as described in the underlined portion.)

In the comments, someone comments with a link to this:
Which includes an excellent example*** of how to write fiction in imitation of Scripture. (Dr. Guroian didn't have time to mention Psalm 68(67):23; there's bound to be other stuff in there.)

The above led me to read the following two book synopses, listed in the order I read them. One left me feeling nothing; the other had me immediately searching for a copy.,_a_Life_in_the_Woods
The former tries to stand for so much, but nothing in the story does so - it's just a bunch of stuff that happens. In contrast, every moment in Bambi is fat and heavy with meaning just being there. (Interestingly, the Bambi synopsis has no separate "Major themes" section; such things are irresistibly inferred through both the plot and the book's reception.)

And now for something completely different:
Basically the literary equivalent of playing an FPS.** *****

*I had typed "fiction writing" and then moved on, then came back to add the parenthetical thinking I had typed "stories", then corrected what I previously typed accordingly. Maybe that's the problem: we're (I'm) not even trying to write stories anymore.

**Yes, I am aware of both these authors' involvement with certain recent controversies. I do not make this post with the intent to endorse their positions on such matters and I am endorsing their work inasmuch that I am willing to read past their real and perceived flaws, as one must always do when reading anyone.****

***In other news, misleading description of the day: Cinderella: a young girl uses her mad freerunning skills and commands an army of dinosaurs to secure her reign as queen and execute vengeance upon her enemies.

****Re: flaws, more Wright than Correia. The latter's explanation of the Sad Puppies movement makes a lot more sense than what (admittedly little, but Correia describes it accurately) I'd been reading before getting his side of it. The former's explanation of his stance re: enemies, taken at its best, is indistinguishable from a pagan perspective despite the claims to Christianity, and the best thing I got out of it was the realization that Christ's admonition to Peter about swords could also be read as a prophecy about what would happen with the Western Church over a thousand years later.

*****2015-11-01 19:14 EDIT:
But we have to be taken back to when Parker was fourteen years of age to fully understand what moves him throughout the story. In that year, at the fair, Parker set his eyes on a tattooed man whose entire body, from head to foot, was covered with images. O’Connor writes: “Until he saw the man at the fair, it did not enter his head that there was anything out of the ordinary about the fact that he existed.”
I was able to finally see the Guardian. He was a giant of a man. Every inch of his skin had been covered in strange tattoos. The ink lines moved like living things. He looked right at me across space and time.
...a perfect arabesque of colors... (this song was one of the first that had randomly come up as I read the essay)
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
In response to this comment:
I’d be very interested in the atheist-to-orthodox “take” on this sort of discussion.
I'm not even sure if I count, since I was brought up as a Christian before I became an atheist (de facto in my teens, explicitly in my twenties), but it did get me to try to articulate just what might've been going on in my head in the months leading up to my visit of St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Mission on the evening of February 1, 2014.*

Read more... )

*a date that I've always remembered as January 30 or 31 until I checked the day of the week just now. The reading of the life of St. Brigid I remember more distinctly.

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.


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