Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/13/21: Ancient Empires

 

Over the summer as I was immersed in Narnia I read a lot about the Old Testament, and in turn about the ancient civilizations of the Near and Middle East. Most people know of Ur, Assyria, and the Phoenicians, but there were many others more obscure — Adiabene, the Girgashites, Hayasa-Azzi. Some were kingdoms, others city-states. Some might have been only a single tribe of like ethnicity.

Looking for a 4,000 year old civilization to pull out of your hat? Here’s a few.

 

Ancient Middle Eastern Civilizations

Zith-Ronem

Bithcarmid Empire

Athan Luda

Aslumei

Duam Lom

Arsnannid Empire

Chulah-Boenai

The Kingdom of Nibaron

Tarhia

Betmna

The Ebbagites

Tarram-Raaith

Zian

Midath

Huzonis

Aadan

Parthachian Empire

Ebumel

Kingdom of Koshenal

Umram

City of Sabna

City-state of Ebbaveh

Upper Merthaean Kingdom

Mamarna

Charonian Empire

Babyanis

Thebuan

The Uthean Lands

Emael

Abbolita

Kushdanni

Thaanis

 

* simper *

Seena Owens as a Babylonian Empress in the silent film classic Intolerance, 1929.

 

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/6/21: Teen Movies of the 1980s

The 1980s were, perhaps, the Golden Age of the teen movie. Exemplified by John Hughes, these slightly raunchy, traditionally romantic movies had wholesome names like Sweet Sixteen and Pretty in Pink that belied the nasty origins of their conception. Which came from the pages of The National Lampoon, of which Hughes was a writer. Yes, that National Lampoon, the bastion of hip, white maledom demonstrating its privilege like a dick wagging out of a fly. What Hughes did was strip it of its satire and injected sentimentality.

I hated these movies. Even their titles sound porny. Which sounds strange from a porn writer, I know. But I dislike the disingenuousness of them.

Though beloved by teens in their time, the movies were aspirational, not actual. In fact, the plots were likely wish fulfillment on the part of the male writers and directors. The suave teens in them got to have the fun, sex-filled adventures the creators never had in the prudish 1950s or politically unstable 1960s with its threat of The Draft. If they were about teen girls, they were pining after an older or wealthier boy, getting their wish at the story’s conclusion sexist and dull, no matter how alluringly packaged they were.

Anyway, if you need to reference a 1980s teen movie in your work, here’s a list of imaginary ones.

 

Forgotten Teen Movies of the 1980s

Valley Babes

Fresh Pink

One Wild Guy

War Drive

My Private Boy

The Bad Date

Licensed to Dance

Roller Genius

Private Games

Some Kind of Risky

Revenge of the Crush

Rebel In Pink

Real Boy in a Red War

Love Club Admirer

A Little About What Drives Nerds Nuts

Fast Love at Sixteen

 

 

 

Now That’s a Reindeer!

Extinct prehistoric deer Sinomegaloceros, which boastged a triceratops-like frill over its head.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 12/30/20: The Best of
xxxxTwittersnips (SFF Novels)

A selection of randomly generated SFF novel titles that appeared in my Twitter feed 2017 – 2020. Any one of them would make a fine book.

 

SF, Fantasy, and Steampunk Novels

Rebellion’s Acolyte

Shadows of Stinging Grass

Dowsing the Dragon

Harry Potter and the Brawler of Blackworth

Harry Potter and the Assassin’s Blade

A Ring of Dust and Shadow

The Last Werehawk

How Bright the Protector

Court of Dogs

Reign of Daggers

The Skinwalker’s Kiss

The Bear, the Barbarian, and the Belfry

The Electric Covenent

The Girl in the Phantom Slippers

Thermoprison

 

Headless Juggler


Not sure what this is or what it means. But it’s cool nonetheless.

Experiments in AI-generated Writing

Over the past few years there has been a lot of attention devoted to the idea that AI — artificial intelligence —  will eventually be writing fiction. There’s tons of example in the Twitter and YouTube communities, mostly due to the efforts of comedy writer Keaton Patti, who uses predictive text to compose random, hilarious bits of writing based on infomercials, Hallmark movies, and the like. They’re entertaining, but often attributed to a bot forced to watched movies or TV commercials.  Nothing could be further than the truth. Predictive text as exists on a cell phone and a neural network trained to read, and generate, text are two different things. Neural network text tends to meander off topic, according to Janelle Shane, and shows a lack of meaning and context. In other words, it doesn’t quite all fit together. At the present point, anything it generates still needs human tweaking to become readable, and amusing, and not a random word salad.

Before InferKit went to pay-only ($20 a month to use the engine, which I can’t afford) I generated a ton of random nonsense. Every once in a while the neural network came through out something unexpected. Like this bit of a top-secret memo.

To: RvB-Scot

Just remember the following; His Majesty’s Air Force bombed CERBERUS to bring her up to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). And being a Black Uncle Tom, it worked brilliantly.

… or this piece of literary fiction (tweaked by me.)

All over, the redwood forests are burning. Woods are stripped and harvests burned; I saw the sun fall like a dragon’s breath. The sound of the fire makes me paralyzed and the whup whup whup of burning wood, some flames with faces like babies.

I was able to string a group of thematically connected phrases into song lyrics that could have been written by the Canadian rock group Rush.

CONNECTION AND SPEED

Hopelessly lost on the moon,
Few like ourselves left,
Full connection, stretch right.
Natural force rewarding power.
The laws of magic are with us.
The stars ride with us.

Mostly, though, the random pieces — paragraphs and sentences standing out in a list — were parts of reviews for movies, albums, books, or DVDs.

On the Slopes also features songs such as “A Lighter Shade of Blue,” “Sweet Simple Kettle,” “Moon to Go Blue” and “Let Me Take Your Picture.” During this trilogy of 5 discs, the Twilight movies will only appear on one side of the disc. However, each (side) of the 1 disc is an animated horror movie.

 

In a scene worthy of a filmmaker’s wildest imagination, the cousins marvel as the hypnotic beings merge into a grinning formation: Three dwarfs, a gothic crossdresser, a recently deceased mermaid and a magician.

 

PULSIVE ARTIST PORTRAITS, by Olafur Eliasson.
Scenes from the author’s experiences of living with and, increasingly, alongside the disabled.

The review below was as long as it got.

Teach Me to Read It  comes from Scottish author Ewan Morrison (my usual fave.) It’s a historical tale of swordfighter Ewan Marnin, who goes on a treasure hunt around the world. This limited edition features scenes from all the books, though here I only saw the action from Journey to the Sunset in particular (maybe it was because it was the one I read first?)

Predictive text generates more coherent pieces. Using the Harry Potter keyboard from the robotnik.com site, I generated this short Harry Potter chapter, which sort of makes sense if you squint at it sideways.

Harry is not quiet with his magic

Harry looked sideways. Hermione said, “Ron ‘s hair seems down in the middle. ”

Harry said, “Ron is just finished.” Simpering like a child, he added, “You know the worst thing he had picked was bangs.”

Then Ron angrily shook his hands. “You think poorly of magical theory.”

Harry stared. Snape silkily said, “So, Harry, again you shouldn’t believe in every detail. ”

Ron had never been touched by Professor Snape. He turned quickly and there were the dementors!

Harry quickly reached for his wand and tapping it lightly, he cast a dark twinkling.

Ron attacked and pulled out fistfuls of cards from his pocket. Snape looked positively petrified.

The dementors were closing in. Once Harry had seen the flash, he felt empty. Harry said to the ceiling, “Come out of earshot.” His scar seared and he flung his robes, loosely. A large chunk of parchment soared into the air and the three dementors curled up and then turned into solid wood.

Ron said, “Harry, you should do something very quietly once again.”

Harry stepped up. He looked delighted. His wand pointing straight at Ron, he said, “You need a short pause.”

Meanwhile Professor Snape was trying to restrain himself without enthusiasm. He asked, “What did you do?”

Harry said, “Nothing whatsoever.”

Snape took Harry by his feet and walked him to the kitchen. At the table a little pink feather quill had appeared. Harry felt overwhelmed and his head was pounding grimly. Did Snape look at him? Snape whispered, “You had never managed to find the right words of magic.”

Harry said, “Professor Mcgonagall suddenly understood I was trying desperately to be able to make tea, so she opened her fingers to indicate the kitchen.”

Worldbuilding Wednesday 12/23/20: Christmas Songs

Harry Potter seduces Professor Snape

Harry Potter seduces Professor Snape with the Christmas gift of a book

Most Christmas songs are recognizable by their titles. There’s something Merry, something Snow, maybe something God or Jesus. Sometimes there’s an anomaly, like “I Want a Hippopptamus for Christmas.” But mostly it’s white bread.

Here’s some titles yet to be used for your self-created Christmas tunes.

 

Christmas Carols

Young Father Christmas

The Old Gray Sled

A Shiny Christmas All Around Us

Peaceful Mary by the Fire

Twenty Boughs of Holly

March ‘round the Eggnog Bowl

The Fifty Bells of Christmas

Ho Ho Ho in the Snow

A Jack Frost Holiday

Krampus Down the Mountain

In the Snow is a Manger

Old White Pine Tree

What Reindeer Said This?

Jolly Joyful Old St. Nick

The Bright Town of Bethlehem

Blessed Are the Elves Who Work on Christmas Eve

Father Christmas is Coming

Snoopy’s Sleigh Ride

Young and Jolly Sinter Klaas

Peaceful are the Wise Men

Ho Ho Holly Evergreen

Hang a Child’s Silver Star

 

Reindeer Heart

reindeer heart

Fresh, nutritious reindeer heart. If it was Rudolph’s, it would glow.
Recipe here.

Rogue Reindeer


Since it’s near Christmas, let’s look at the world of fantastical reindeer.

This caribou man, opposite, was included in an AD&D manual as a decorative illustration. He wasn’t listed as a monster with his own stats, which was too bad. (He’s definitely Quebecois because of the hairy chest.) A homebrew gamer did decide to go ahead and tackle Rudolph, however.

 

Rudolph the Red by Pikeyfaux

I’m not sure why Rudolph’s alignment would vary so, unless he was up against opponents who didn’t believe in the spirit of Christmas, like Mr. Scrooge or The Grinch.

Is Santa on a crusade against evil here… or on a campaign to foment evil? It’s hard to say. Refer to his official AD&D entry.

Mostly, though, reindeer-human hybrids represent a more pagan Yuletide.

Reindeer Princess, by Artgerm

Shamen Shapeshifter, by Stephanie Lostimolo

Now, on to reindeer centaurs.

In Greek myth centaurs were horses with the torso of a man from the waist up situated where the horse’s neck and head would be. But fantasy artists have been playing with them for ages using different animals. Reindeer have taken their turn.

Combine this idea with Santa Claus, and you’ve got a winner.

The most sinister winter monster of all, however, is the Wendigo, which many artists represent as a skeletal being with the skull of a reindeer, or some other cervine, as its head. In some Native American cultures it’s a symbol of madness and cannibilism. It’s the dark side of the cheery sleigh-puller as Krampus is the dark side of Santa, and it celebrated as such.

The closely related ijiraq is a similar creature from Inuit lore that kidnaps children.

Reindeer by Tobiee

A peryton is a legendary creature depicted as a deer with the wings, feathers, and tail of a bird. It’s also a fake legendary creature. It was invented in 1957 by author Jorge Luis Borges in his Book of Imaginary Beings, supposedly from a long-lost Medieval manuscript. References to it have never turned up elsewhere. To make things more confusing, other beings mentioned in the book, like the kraken and phoenix, are “real.”

Since then, perytons have slowly eased their way into fantasy media, including the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons where they’re the least threatening monster ever, despite their penchant for eating human hearts.

This version of a peryton uses a reindeer and a bat instead of stag and bird.

A mer-reindeer, anyone?

Illustration by Margot Rogers

Or would you prefer a reindeer gryphon?

Ardea rangifer, by Kuroi-kisin on DeviantArt

Or a dragon reindeer?

Reindeer Monster, by Drawfluent

As terrible and powerful as all these reindeer creatures are, rest assured they are still below humans in the food chain.