Why is explorer lady wearing high-heeled pumps in the jungle?

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/27/21: Horror Movies

Nosferatu, or The Undead, was a 1922 German silent film that predates the more familiar Universal version of Dracula. Max Schreck played the titular vampire, Count Orlov; the actor had an unusually tall, thin, lanky build that added to the otherworldly look of the being, highlighted in this trailer for a restored version of the film. Unlike Dracula, Count Orlov’s fangs were not his carnivore teeth — they were his front incisors! They, with his pointed ears, bulging eyes, and clawed hands created a unique horror that’s still to be replicated.

If you’re looking for a made-up horror movie to stick in somewhere, here’s a list. I even hope some are produced one day!


Horror Movies

In the Mouth of Lucifer

I was a Teenage Banshee

The Stalking Cannibal

Dawn of the Fiend

13 Scorpions

Return of the Damned

Day of the Ghoul

Beyond Legend

Talons of the Crawling Hand

Eyes of the Puppet Master

Dracula vs. the Witch Doctor

Our Martian Eden

Scream, Dr. Jekyll

Birth of the Gorgon

Thirteen Corpses

Empty Graves

Casting the Runes

The Claw of Jupiter

Succubus and Gorgon

The Wicked + the Divine

The Borogravian Mirror

Underworld Embalmer

Who Left the Bones in That Box?

Spider Women from beyond the North Star


Wigged Out

Art by Stephane Rosse

This would have been only a slightly disturbing domestic scene but for the skull head of the man and the wig rest head of the tabby cat.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/20/21: The Best of
xxxxTwittersnips (Fairy Tales)

Russian fairy tales have a cast of characters rarely heard above in the West. I believe the pic above is of Alkonost and Sirin, two mythical, woman-headed birds with bewitching voices. Unlike the sirens, they used their singing for good, bringing happiness to those deserving. The cave full of giant gem crystals is an unfamiliar element as well, though the intrepid boy explorer is not.

Following are a list of imaginary fairy tales culled from my Twitter feed, 2017 – 2021.


Fables and Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales
Princess Apple Blossom
The Sleepy Little Seamstress
The Talking Pudding
The Goat-Girl’s Blessing
The Magic Cheese-Mold
The Terrible Bairn and the Forgotten Girl
Secrets of the Soundhole
Why Beauty is Blind
The City Where No One Was Ugly
How Death Was Wounded
The Monkey and the Apes
The Fable of the Peacock and the Ogre
1001 Arabian Nights Stories
The Tale of the Rok’s Foster Daughter
The Nine Lemons
The Adventures of King Absmas and His Brother
Nursery Rhymes
The Honey-Tongued Hummingbird of Hickenback Dell

The Drudgery of Ironing


Illustration by Jeff Drew

The alien certainly thinks so.

Fifth-Grade Zodiac

Being born in the shadow of the Baby Boomers, the interests of my older siblings and cousins were a big influence on my life, particularly those most popular of the Hippy arts: psychedelia and astrology.

I read every astrology book I could get my little hands on, but decided the signs could do with some improvement. So I created my own Zodiac, of fourteen months not twelve, and my own set of signs, of which five were animal, four celestial phenomena, and the rest sinister objects. I even drew a set of cards with the signs depicted in gur-roovy acid trip rainbow colors, as was still common in the mid-1970s, but my gur-roovy style of lettering left much to be desired in the way of legibility, so I’m recreating them here, childish errors intact. (I created my own planets to go along with the signs because the nine in our solar system had already been claimed.)



Month: January
Flower: Lily
Stone: Emerald
Animal: Whale
Bird: Loon
Fish: Angel fish
Color: Green
Ruling Planet: Cameiila

You are highly lithe and athletic. Your Personallity [sic] will conflict between friends.

No comment.



Month: February
Flower: Dogwood
Stone: Topaz
Animal: Bison
Bird: Robin
Fish: Manta
Color: Red-brown
Ruling Planet: Lianna

Born a Cadis you are truthful and fun-loving. You are very good at sports. Unfortunately you display your affection for people through violence.

Again, no comment.


Month: March
Flower: Honeysuckle
Stone: Spinel
Animal: Dolphin
Bird: Magpie
Fish: Siamese fighting fish
Color: Lilac
Ruling Planet: Simoon

Born a Uni you are a strong expressor [sic] of your rights. You are persistent. Unfortunately you are likely to be in bad health.

What a blow for people born in March.

(In an earlier version of this zodiac, the unicorn was an awkward fantasy creature I made up called a Clixnalon — a two-legged, bipedal antelope with feathered wings and a bird-of-paradise tail )

Month: April
Flower: Rose
Stone: Ruby
Animal: Lion
Bird: Chicken
Fish: Tuna
Color: Red
Ruling Planet: Coppercailie

Born a Vishini you are tolerant and patient. You are friendly. You are a gossip.

Why are the animal and bird of this sign both creatures commonly cooked for dinner?




Month: May
Flower: Bluebell
Stone: Diamond
Animal: Gnu
Bird: Crane
Fish: Flying Fish
Color: Blue
Ruling Planet: Sarina

Born a Grus you are friendly and active. You become bored easily and are often quite pickly,

Grus is an actual constellation. But it doesn’t lie on the ecliptic.

Month: June
Flower: Dogtooth
Stone: Opal
Animal: Bear
Bird: Eagle
Fish: Shark
Color: Violet
Ruling Planet: Belotsi

Born a Ki’ang you are agressive and a leader. You cannot tolerate stupidity. You are wise and loyal, but often hostile.

I created this sign after a prolonged period of fascination with the Aztecs. Later in life, I married one. But it didn’t last.

Month: July
Flower: Venus fly trap
Stone: Peridot
Animal: Coyote
Bird: None
Fish: Pilot fish
Color: Lt. Green
Ruling Planet: Senecca

Chingians are tricky people who can easily double-talk you. They make good thieves and are usually warm and loving.

I wonder what a carnivorous plant has to do with being a deceitful, warm, and loving thief.

Month: August
Flower: Anemone
Stone: Onyx
Animal: Snake
Bird: Osprey
Fish: Eel
Color: Yellow
Ruling Planet: Dole

Snake Children are very cunning and deceitful. They are usually graceful and lithe. They are thrifty and loving & caring.

I see that my fifth-grade analysis of those with a snake sign matches that of J. K. Rowling’s (Slytherin). But it’s harder to see how that co-exists with being thrifty and loving.

Month: September
Flower: Iris
Stone: Sapphire
Animal: Dragon
Bird: Vulture
Fish: Barracuda
Color: Deep Purple
Ruling Planet: Chicagonite

Dragon People are the king of the other sighns. [sic] They are loving, caring. 

I was born in September, so of course that month has the best write-up.

** Shows my Hawaiian influence, obviously.

Month: October
Flower: Pansy
Stone: Chrysoberl
Animal: Dog
Bird: Emu
Fish: Trout
Color: Gold
Ruling Planet: Alpha Centauri

Born a Quaser you are critical and a stay-at-home. You are very active and light-headed.

At my age then I didn’t quite understand what a quasar was. Only that the name sounded cool and had something to do with ultra-powered stars. The ruling planet is also the only space object that really exists (but it is a star and not a planet.) I’m not even gonna go into the four very disparate personality traits.



Month: November
Flower: Sunflower
Stone: Cat’s Eye Opal
Animal: Leopard
Bird: Owl
Fish: Shark
Color: Olive-brown
Ruling Planet: DEATH

Born a Scoptos you are solemn and quiet. You are a leader in many things. You are most likely fair and tall.

I cannot get over the fact the ruling planet of this sign is DEATH!!

Month: December
Flower: Sunflower
Stone: Ruby
Animal: Gazelle
Bird: Hummingbird
Fish: Ray
Color: Rose
Ruling Planet: Marina

You are highly dominating and attractive. Unfortunately your rude ways turn you off to many people.

This is the only personality description of all the signs that makes any sense.

Month: The thirteenth month
Flower: Concubine (I think I meant columbine)
Stone: Jade
Animal: Lygon (I think I meant liger)
Bird: Quetzalcoatl
Fish: Minnow
Color: Lt. Yellow
Ruling Planet: The sun rules you

As a Solal you are friendly and independent. You are never cold. You have a tendency to be stingy and greedy, and sensitive.

We are running into uncharted territory here with the addition of a thirteenth month. What season that month was in, I wasn’t sure. It was too heady a concept for me. So I simply let it lie with “the thirteenth month.”

Month: The fourteenth month
Flower: Crocus
Stone: Platinum
Animal: Giraffe
Bird: Hummingbird
Fish: Pukapuka (I meant the humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a, or reef triggerfish)
Color: All colors
Ruling Planet: Joma

Born a Rashi you are shy, sensitive and meat. You are a comfort and care.

My brain has been turned to mush by all this. How about yours?

But I adapted most of it as the zodiac system for the Escharne novels and stories.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/13/21: The Best of
xxxxTwittersnips (Local Color I)

Kintsukoroi, by Alsares Lynx

One of the things I’ve noticed about illustrations of dragons (and many imaginary creatures in general) is how closely they resemble dogs. The charming beast above is a sleepy German Shepard through and through, in spite of the wings, long tail, and feathered goat-featured face. This is not a criticism of the artist, mind you. It’s how mythic animals are made appealing and familiar through the the use of real-life analogs, making them seem more real.

Another way to bring the unfamiliar to life is by using off-hand mentions of familiar-sounding but nonexistent people, places, and things, what I call Local Color. Below is a list of many examples taken from my Twitter feed, 2017 – 2020.


Local Color I (Fantasy)

Gems and Minerals
Pixie Glass
Firefly Malachite
Tuberculosis of the Cheeks due to drinking alcohol
Screaming Argathera
Speckled Bubscratch
Torture Devices
The Coquette-mincer
Scarlet Trimmer
Concrete Buskins
The Wheel of Impressment
The Royal Masticator
Stars and Constellations
Weszar and Jorab, the Twin Archers
Anulior, the Falling Thief
Eubregeuse, the Healer’s Braid
Irulces, The Studious Beekeeper
Geltut, the Human-Headed Crow
Mirakneba The Gryphon
Villsturus and Valdkaa, The Twin Stars
Faunabi, a dim red star in the constellation of the Lioness
Vatrima, a white star also known as the Salamander’s Tongue
Secret Societies
Archers of the Ebon Hawk
Sons of the Midnight Eagle
The League of Celestial Illusionists
Elders of the Silver Maggot
Inns and
Pleasure Houses
The Bitter Stag
The Frolicsome Dragon
The Minstrel’s Manor
Twenty Ponies and a Sip
Elanara’s Saucy Dungeon
Noble Crests
Hippocampus holding an anchor on a field of yellow and white stripes
Scarlet serpent entwined around a yellow fish
Two crossed axes inside a hexagon
Mermaid riding a sea-lion
Wyvern’s head impaled on a pike
Mythical Realms
City of the Jade Dingo
The Lost City of Umbergay
The Medieval city of Fairmarvel
The City of Gnarlwood, ruled by Lady Ivorolor
Tarot Cards
The Gryphon: The creature holds a bouquet of flowers in its beak and its head is crowned with stars. In the background is a plowed field. The card implies good health, but when reversed, a broken bone.

The Steward: He wears a fur doublet and fights a cockatrice with an axe. Behind him, several people have already been turned to stone. It means a close associate will betray the subject.

Adaptation: Depicts an anthropomorphized rooster riding an ox. Its meaning changes with whatever card is placed at its right.

The Widowed Lady: A weeping woman dressed in black swings a censor trailing smoke. Behind her is peaceful farmland. Means ill fortune for the near future.

The Hawk: A brown and white hawk hovers above a burning furnace about which men work. Can mean either industry or the need to remain watchful.



It’s getting close to Halloween and things are about to get pretty horrible! No more horrible than this Japanese lady who seems to have been transformed into a sink, an open drain for her mouth.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/6/21: Insects

In fantasy worldbuilding, insects get the short end of the (walking) stick. What’s the last imaginary one you can remember? For me, it’s the odd bread-and-butterfly of Alice in Wonderland.

The intelligent insect races of science fiction are more memorable. The Bugs of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and the Buggers (Formics) of Orson Scott Card’s Ender series are two of the more memorable. Spindly, black, hairy, and multilegged, they are depicted as ruthless, avaricious adversaries without emotion and individuality. The same is true of the Tandu, a race from David Brin’s Uplift series who oppose the hubris of humankind for creating their own client races in intelligent dolphins and chimpanzees. (There is, incidentally, a whole encyclopedia of Uplift races and their relationships here, and it’s complicated.)

Alan Dean Foster is the only writer I know who bucked the tide and created an insect race friendly towards humanity. Known as the Thranx, his charming creatures are mantis-like and have an attractive odor. The same concept of mantid- or grasshopper-like insect men was adopted by TSR (now Wizards of the Coast) for their race of insect men known as the Thri-Keen which players may choose as a character.

Want to stick in some insects of your own to round out a world or two?

(NOTE: I’m including spiders and scorpions in the list even though, technically, they do not belong to the insect family.)



Chicken Cabbage Spider

Coffer Fly

Blue Oil Wasp

Monk Spider

Gilded Tigerfly

Heath Darter



Ox Tick

Sultan Kisser

Copper-Backed Millipede

Dune Mite

Goblin Bug

Harewhip Spider

Goodwife Flea

Zebra Beetle

Cattle Crawler

Jupiter Beetle

Spinster Fly

Patron Hornet

Empress Barrel Cricket

Valparaiso Barrel Cricket

Amber-eyed Mantis

Pudding Mite

White Slipper Butterfly

Choose Your Weapon

You’re stranded in Medieval Russia and can only pick one. Which is it?