The Mystery Blogger Award!

A while back, we got another one of those social bloggy award things.  And you know what, it’s time to run those down.

So our blog award today comes courtesy of noted friend-of-Aether Red Metal, and I think this one, the Mystery Blogger Award, is in fact one that I haven’t gotten before.  Given how award winning this blog is, that’s becoming more and more of a rarity.  So, Red Metal, thank you for the easy content and the opportunity to express myself.  And hey, you like video games, or movies, and hate traditional media critics, you should give his site a looksee.  You’ll probably like what you see there.

Jumping in, we’ve got 11 questions to run down.

  1. What’s the most unusual work you’ve ever experienced?

I had to think long and hard about this one.  There’s a lot of values for unusual that we could go with here.  Maybe the works that make a point of being unusual?  Or how about the ones that have a whole bunch of elements that only seem connected by PCP?  Or maybe we should take a look at the things that have never been replicated, or the ones that came out of strange circumstances, or the ones that speak to me in a way I don’t think they’re going to to another human being alive?

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In the end, I just kind of settled on the Sword of Truth series.  This is not the most unusual work by many of the metrics I listed above, but it is very notable for being the absolute best example I can think of for when editors look at something, figure ‘eh, it’s still making money’, and let the creator just have whatever they want out of it.  For a long time.  It’s a huge novel series, I think twenty one novels as of this current writing, and I kind of checked out of it at around book 10 so it could be going even stranger places than I remember.  It starts out as something of a more typical fantasy novel, albeit with a side villain that rapes little boys serving a biggest villain that will make little boys come to a familial love with him so he can murder them in magic rituals and also the lead character spends a lot of time being captured by murder BDSM practitioners and the titular Sword of Truth is a magic sword that makes people really really angry and apparently that helps them find the truth, so you know, your value of typical may vary.  Then, it got successful.  Then, author Terry Goodkind got to do whatever he wanted with it.  And author Terry Goodkind loves two things; 1: writing incredibly detailed, lavish descriptions of settings and actions that end up stretching the plot so long that he runs out of space and time at the end of the book and has to rush to wrap everything up in as few pages as possible, and 2: creating incredibly strange situations so he can force his sometimes stupid political views down your throat.  Over the course of the series, the hero has murdered the local equivalent of the senate because he grew tired of their politics working against him, slaughtered a bunch of pacifists, decided that it’s foolish to believe in the afterlife in spite of the fact that he has been to the afterlife and has regularly spoken with the spirits of the dead and the devil equivalent, has a personal army of torturers, marries someone that comes from a clan of women that reproduce solely by raping men they’ve turned into mind-slaves and forcing them to kill any male children that result, and he’s the hero.  Anyone that has a problem with any of that is wrong and evil.  You’re expected to take it all as completely, unambiguously capital-r Right.  Also, he’s a magician, but his magic works by emotion and need which is basically a means for the author to write in whatever the plot needs to move forward without bothering to justify it.  Like, it’s in his magic that he just instinctively knows whatever to do without needing to learn it or actually figure things out…3

It’s actually kind of interesting to see, this is how far someone can take stuff like this.  The thing that makes this unique, is that it’s sometimes actually rather well written.  Like, the author is not like most that’ll devolve into just going on screeds all the time, where it largely seems to be that they don’t have skill beyond the central idea.  Terry Goodkind has real fantasy writing skills when he feels like using them.  He just doesn’t, most of the time.

  1. What is the best work you have experienced that no one else seems to know about?

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Here’s another one that’s taking some thought, and I can go a couple of ways with it.  Orwell is the one that rises to the top of my mind, though.  It’s a 5 episode game, kind of visual novel-esque, where you’re working for the government of a rather oppressive country, basically spying on people’s digital communications and passing information you find there on to a handler in order to try and track down a gang of terrorists.  It’s very well written and plays with its medium very well.  The story branches in a few select moments based on what information you choose to pass on, if anything, and the choices actually do seem meaningful and nuanced in a way that constantly had me questioning the choices I was making and the outcomes I was pushing for.  It had a central mystery that I kind of got wrong in rather glorious fashion and enjoyed every step of my process getting there.  And it brings a surprising amount of tension for a game in which you’re staring at fake e-mails and chatlogs all the time.  I had a rather great time with it, but it’s not one I’ve heard of from anywhere else.

  1. If you could go back in time and go to the premiere of a classic film, which one would you choose?

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The 2013 Lone Ranger.  Which is an odd one, given that the film is really not great, but it’s a personal one.  I worked on the film.  It was a rather small capacity, but there’s one scene that would have been very different if I wasn’t involved.  However, I’m not in the credits, nor was any acknowledgment ever forthcoming.  The production company originally working on the film was happily working with my organization, then a dispute caused Disney to can them and get another production company on it, who were just coincidentally wanting to do the exact same scene in the exact same area with the exact same resources that the original production company was planning, but if they publicly acknowledged my organization or anyone else who was involved in that, they’d basically be admitting they were stealing work.  So yeah.  It’s not something I’m bitter about, but it’d be nice to have my part in it recognized, so that’s why I’d want to head to the premier.

  1. If you decided to write fiction, which genre would you choose?

This is an easy one.  I have written fiction.  And I go for speculative fiction stuff.  Sci-fi, fantasy, or magical realism that’s kind of heavy on the magic.  I enjoy constructed worlds, or having places that aren’t where I’m currently living.

  1. What is the most disappointingly predictable plot twist you’ve ever experienced?

The Passion of the Christ.  Jesus coming back from the dead at the end.  C’mon, totally saw that coming.

  1. What do you consider to be the strangest title for a work?

Let’s talk Touhou.  I’m not sure what their naming conventions for their games are, but I’m pretty sure it involves an English dictionary and a dart board.  Let’s see, some examples:

  • Antimony of Common Flowers
  • Faith in the Goddess of Suwa
  • Immaterial and Missing Power
  • Shoot the Bullet
  • Undefined Fantastic Object
  • Double Dealing Character

Granted, I’ve never played any of the games, so maybe there’s a way to parse the titles and have them make sense, or interpret what the content of the games are, or something.  I’m betting not, though.

  1. Where in a theater do you prefer to sit?

In the middle, and high enough up that I’m either looking straight at or down at the screen.  Looking up doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to others, but it’s not my preference.  I hate spending the whole film looking slightly to the left or right, however.

  1. Do you have any graphic novel/manga series you’re currently following?

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Yeah, a couple.  Now that they’ve been releasing omnibusses for it, I’ve been catching up on the Grant Morrison run on Batman, which I think is one of the best runs Batman’s had.  It does some really interesting things, treating everything that’s ever happened to Batman as canon, but largely shuffling aside the stories and characters everyone knows in favor of the weird, the obscure, and the cringeworthy stuff, so much so that the Batman fans are just as lost as the newcomers, and then interpreting those into the current bits.  It also brings up some consequences for that weird not-supposed-to-be-canon time Batman got raped in the 80s, had the original Robin take a role as a rather different but frankly excellent in his own right Batman, and introduced some really interesting villains on top of Batman’s usual rogue’s gallery.  Unfortunately, some of the greater DC universe stuff at the time lended some things that didn’t really mesh well with the traditional street level Batman, and I’m not as much a fan of the Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman Inc. lines as many others are, but overall, it’s a frankly excellent run.

I’ve also been reading through the X-men, started with the originals some time ago and am just now getting caught up to the modern era.  They were never as great as they were when Chris Claremont was writing them, although there are some quality stories in there over the years as well.  And I picked up basically all the published works of Hiro Mashima a while back through Humble Bundle, and I’ve been working my way through Fairy Tail.  It’s kind of a typical shonen thing, and it suffers a bit from the author obviously going by the seat of his pants, but it starts to get pick up a bit and try a lot of new things around the middle of its run that have me interested, so far.

  1. When it comes to reviewing films, which do you feel are more effective – traditional, written reviews or video essays?

Written.  In general, I prefer written reviews.  More content in less time, they don’t require presentation or editing skills to get ideas across effectively, and it feels a bit easier to explore the ideas being presented.  I’m well aware my take on things and what’s important to me doesn’t exactly match up with most other people’s, so I prefer to be able to get my own take on the review and filter it through my own preferences, and that’s a lot easier to do when its written.

Although I kind of wonder, given that this question is posed to a bunch of bloggers, if there might be more of a tilt that direction.

  1. What aspects of old-school game design do you wish would make a comeback?

I’d like to see more turn-based RPGs gone through a modern lens.   To some extent, turn-based battle systems have largely gone a way, and in a lot of cases I’d say rightfully so because a lot of developers would just end up leaving them rather mindless in design, just hammer the A/X button until you beat the game.  But I do think there’s definite potential in the structure.  Zeboyd Games has shown that by bringing some more activity and strategy into the turn based structure, Shin Megami Tensei manages it by putting enough pressure on you that you have to strategize within it, and the Mario RPG’s action commands inject energy.  It’s never gone away completely, there’s always our Pokemons and what not out there, but I’d like to see it more, albeit with modern sensibilities and creativity in mind.

  1. What aspects of old-school game design are you glad went away?

Lives and continues.  Frankly, I think doing away with those really opened up the medium as a whole.  Repetition is not good for entertainment, being sent back to the start upon enough failure would ruin storytelling, and severe consequences for failure means that the challenges need to be simpler and easier to maintain interest.  Doing away with those let developers up the complexity, give more long-term storytelling, and expand their games a lot more.  We’re better with saves and checkpoints, overall.

War Never Changes. Let’s Play Fallout!

War never changes.

Ages ago, they had the War to End All Wars. That was supposed to be the end of it. With that one, we as a species were supposed to end it wiser, safer, saner. With that, we knew the horrors of war, we knew what it did to people, and we knew we wanted no more of it.

Not even thirty years later, we did it again. Ironic, isn’t it? War never changes.

Our species grew with time. We grew in numbers, and we grew in technology. We were smarter, living better lives. You’d think we’d be above it all, after all that. But war never changes. As we grew, so too did our needs. There wasn’t enough to go around. It got to the point where we were making war for the same resource we were consuming in war.

War never changes, but war changes people. Three quarters of the way through the 21st century, October 21st, 2077, war changed the world forever. We don’t know how launched the first bombs. Or who launched the last bombs. Maybe it wasn’t even man at all. Maybe this was the act of an angry God, hitting the reset button on a humanity who by that point was just making war to get what they needed to sustain their war. Whoever it was, it doesn’t really matter by that point. That war came to an end, along with the rest of the world. Nuclear bombs impacting all over the place, both the blasts and the fallout changing it forever, scarring the world in ways few would survive.


At least, that’s what I’ve been told. To be honest, we don’t really know what’s out there. Whether there is anything out there. War never changes, but war hasn’t hit us, these past 84 years. My grandparents were some of the lucky few to make it into a vault. Vault 13, specifically. In Southern California, if that matters to anyone. Safe from the blasts, completely isolated from the outside world, or whatever’s left of it. Here, we had internal conflicts, but things were relatively peaceful. My grandparents lived out the rest of their lives here. My parents were born here, and have lived out their entire lives in the safety of the vault. That was the plan for me as well.

Until recently. Our enclosed, self-sustaining vault suddenly became not so self-sustaining. Our water chip, which was a vital part of the machine that recycled and purified Vault 13’s water, broke. It couldn’t be repaired. We had no replacement. Our cisterns hold months and months of water, but we still had another 120 years before it’d be safe to leave the vault and rehabitate the world. Our water would not last. We’d need a replacement.

Ed was the first to be sent out into the world, seeking salvation. He was a hard, hard man, a survivor, and one who kept up his skills and his edge even in a world that didn’t need them anymore. He was also the single closest person to me in the entirety of Vault 13. Months passed, and we didn’t hear from him again. Then, we sent out Talius. A bit of a somber fellow, but one who was gifted, showing a high level of competence at nearly everything he did. Again, months passed, and we never heard from him again.

It’s time to send someone else out, in search of a new water chip. We only have 150 days of water left. Things are getting desperate. And now, it’s my turn.

A part of me worries. Ed was one of the baddest men I knew, and he’s still vanished, like something’s happened to him. I’ve got the skills. My life, such as it is, has prepared me far beyond the cushy, soften bodies and minds of some of my fellows, but even so, not know what’s out there, aside from that its still in the aftershocks of nuclear bombardment, it’s fearsome.

It doesn’t matter. I have to go. The overseer is not giving me a choice in the matter, however much I want one. I have to find out what’s happened to Ed. I have to save our water supply.

Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe the 84 years has been enough for most of the Fallout to pass over. Maybe the total bombardment has left whatever remains to wise, fearful, and sparse to pose any real danger. Maybe the world outside is now just as peaceful as the world inside.

War never changes.

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