Editorial Phase, RAAR!

Scenes From Arinn’s Desk: the Big Premium Lore Book for the Sword of the Stars universe is currently in the Editorial Phase, and I am busily polishing the chapters. Ten years of work and fifteen product releases, all compressed into this compendium of concept art, illustrations, lore and team interviews.

Pretty big project. I’m really glad we will have it in the hands of our crowd-funding supporters soon.

Hiver-pages

Here’s some of the pages from the Hiver chapter–as you can see, my red pen is busily at work making improvements…

Tarka-pages-01Some of the lay-outs for the Tarka chapter. Kinda like this one…great anatomical concept art from Lindsey Wakefield.

Tarka-Pages

 

Colors on the painting by Justin Adams need adjustment, though, for print quality.
Liir-pages

The Liir chapter is presently very…blue.

Mindi-page

Not all aquatic subjects are too dark, though–this concept page for the Mindi race looks great!

Zuul-pages

The Zuul pages are kinda dark. But on the other hand, the Zuul themselves are a bit dark…

Morrigi-pages (2)

My only complaint on most of the Morrigi chapter is that the images need to be bigger!

Morrigi-pages (1)

Kinda like these portraits from Jesus Garcia.

Suulka-pages

 

We have a short chapter on the Suul’ka, our Big Bads in the SotSverse…

Loa-pages-01

The chapter on everyone’s favorite AI Rebellion is working fine so far…

Loa-pages-02

(Seriously, love the Loa chapter.)

The-Pit-pages

And at the end, we have a chapter on our independent titles! There is concept art from Sword of the Stars: The Pit…

Groundpounders-pagesAnd Sword of the Stars: Ground Pounders, too. :)

Upshot is…we’re very close, guys, and I want those of you who have been patiently waiting until I was well enough again to finish my work to know that I really appreciate you, and your support. We’ll order a full printed proof from the printer when our editorial phase is complete, and then it’ll be time to order the limited print run, have the team personally sign each copy, and send them out to you!

Pretty big project. I’m really glad we will have it in the hands of our crowd-funding supporters soon.

 

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Yay, Lunch Truck!

Seen On My Walk: the Mount Pleasant Lunch Truck!

photo 1

A little known Vancouver secret, the Mount Pleasant Lunch Truck can be seen nearly every working afternoon (and sometimes in the evenings!) parked at the corner of 8th Avenue and Ontario, in front of a hipster brew pub called 33 Acres.

What’s cool about the Lunch Truck is not just that you can usually get a good lunch for less than 10 bucks. The Lunch Truck is not always the same truck! In fact, it is many different trucks, selling a variety of different cuisines. Perogies, pizza, tacos and burritos–all sorts of exotic treats from a variety of strange and distant lands can be served out of a truck, as it turns out, to the general delight of all us office drones.

photo 2

Today’s Lunch Truck was Salvadoran! I decided to try it, and got myself the kid’s menu version of the pork pupusa (like a hot pocket made out of corn meal batter) with “fries” made from deep fried battered cassava-root (called yuca frita). I also bought a cool, weird South American version of cream soda in a bottle for Mister Bear–Kolashampan.

photo 3

Upshot is: Salvadoran food was awesome! The pupusa actually comes with vegetarian alternatives, even, and yuca frita dipped in that mild salsa on the side is THE BOMB.

Yay, Lunch Truck!

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The Modern Prometheus

i-frankenstein-movie-aaron-eckhart

 

You are the son of a man who gave you life for no other reason than his own cruel narcissism. Father could not look at you, from the moment you were born, without hatred and disdain. He hated the fact that you lived. Hated to see himself reflected in your barely comprehending eyes.

You were the beaten Judas Goat standing in for his relentless loathing of his true self. You were the sum of all his imperfections. Only by reviling and blaming you, by declaring you monstrous and unworthy, could he express the unbearable pain he felt when he looked in the mirror.

His message to you, from the earliest memories you can recall, never changed. “You were a mistake. I should never have made you. You should not be.”

Deprived of love and of any hope of love in the future, you did what any dutiful son would: you imitated your parent. Father hated you; you hated Father back. He told you that you would always be alone, that no one would ever love or befriend you. You reacted with anger, and vowed to take from him what you would never possess.

You destroyed the woman who loved him, the woman he idealized, strangled her innocence before he could destroy her himself. He could never forgive you for that. Father would hound you, harry you, too weak to destroy you but too crazed to leave you in peace, until the end of his days….until the day you finally turned to see him drop in his tracks, felled by old age and madness, cursing you with his last breath.

You buried Father and you lived on…but your life was dark, empty, without meaning. Friendless, despised and unable to even imagine that there could be fellowship from mortal men and women, you kept to yourself and took comfort in solitude. You would have been content to simply be left in peace. But instead you found yourself trapped on the battlefield of an ancient war which to you made no sense at all.

You are a child of Science. You see yourself as a moving, thinking suit of flesh–perhaps without feeling, without conscience, without a soul, but alive nonetheless. You are the product of random chance and of Man’s will, not God’s, and you know this in every particle of your stolen flesh and bone.

But in the world around you the old Armies of Faith are still endlessly warring for the souls of people who increasingly do not believe in them. Why? You do not know, and do not care. You only defend yourself with violence from the demons who want to steal your power, to harness your mysteries, to use the sins of your Father to burn the world and destroy its people. Those on the side of the angels are not your enemies, but neither are they your friends–they regard you with suspicion and distrust, and many of them would sooner see you dead than let you empower the Foe.

But why should you care what happens to the rest of the human race? Isn’t all the world your enemy? Doesn’t all humankind see you as a monster?

No. You find to your genuine amazement that there is one person who does not. There is one woman whose mind shines like a diamond, whose eyes see beyond the shame of your origin. She can see you for what you are, can look at your stolen body and see…a person. A man.

A man in pain.

Her soft hand traces every scar, every rivet and seam, without revulsion. Her eyes turn toward you, standing before her without even a rag to hide your shame, and she does not turn away. She is the only one who can see that YOU are the miracle…and that Father was the monster.

And now finally you have something worth fighting for. Now something matters other than you. At last you have something to care about, something that transcends the brute needs of flesh and ego. In her presence, bathed and healed by her humanity, a part of yourself which has lain dormant for years…ignites. And you are no longer a monster, an abomination.

You have a soul…and you will fight for it.

In the end you stand triumphant, scarred but unbowed, a humanist savior for humankind. You are the Modern Man, and you owe no allegiance to divine powers, but you nonetheless bear the torch that will drive back the darkness, and you will go to your death battling the demons that plague the human race.

You are the Modern Prometheus. And if I had a brother, this would be your story.

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On the Value of “White Satire”

park-versus-colbert

 

In general, I don’t try to comment much on issues that confront People of Colour in the modern world. And I certainly don’t try to mediate disputes between media celebrities. A friend of mine asked me today what I thought of the #BuildNotBurn hashtag currently trending on Twitter, and by extension what I might have to say about the disagreement that eventually led to it, the #CancelColbert hashtag which was started by Korean-American activist and comedian Suey Park.

First let me say: I’m quite impressed with Suey Park, and by her use of Twitter as a medium for public debate and education. Her #CancelColbert hashtag and the issues it raises and the debate it sparks are good things, not bad ones, because this is a world that dumbifies us to DEATH. Opportunities to think, discuss, listen and learn are to be welcomed, not condemned. Suey Park achieved much the same level of discussion with her #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag, and that was a good thing too.

As a writer who has created a few Asian characters in her fiction, not one of whom has been a sidekick, I feel pretty warm and fuzzy about Park and her hashtags. I like being able to pass a Privilege Check once in a while. In exactly the way that I used to feel good when the school nurse would check everyone’s head for lice, and I didn’t have any. No, perhaps it is not particularly to my credit, but it feels good NOT to have lice on one particular day anyway. Yay, hygiene.

So, take as a given that I have nothing by respect for Suey Park and her views. And I would further add that if you are the sort of person who thinks it’s okay to use terror tactics like rape and death threats to silence Suey Park, or any other person who makes you briefly uncomfortable by interrupting your lifetime of mental and physical masturbation for the five seconds it takes to form a rational thought, or feel a moment of empathy?

Then I think that you should be carried off by Winged Monkeys. And then recycled into pet food, to brighten the lives of small dogs owned by elderly NON-WHITE dowagers in Wisconsin.

It is an Absolute Fact that a lot of the “Supporters” of Stephen Colbert, and “opponents” of the #CancelColbert hashtag, are not rational human beings but completely insane shitweasels. Ms Park, like any persecuted comedian or intellectual, has my sympathy.

I still think that Stephen Colbert is not entirely to blame for the actions of those fans. In fact, I think he is sincere when he asks them to STOP attacking Suey Park, even though he cannot break character to do so. He’s asking them to stop being shitweasels, not just for her sake, but for his own. Because attacking her in his “defense” is by far the strongest evidence that his art has truly failed, and that people really, truly, do NOT get the joke–that his satirical comedy has failed to achieve its objectives.

Some of the supporters of Suey Park have posted interesting thoughts and reflections which are well worth reading. I read an essay today from Mia McKenzie, “On Colbert and White Racial Satire: We Don’t Need It”, which raised some interesting questions–albeit rhetorical ones.

“Whether you like The Colbert Report or not, whether you were offended by that joke or not, the question I’m asking is why anyone—particularly people of color—is invested in The Colbert Report in particular and in white racial satire in general. What is white racial satire doing for us that is so important? Important enough to outright dismiss, at best, and rail against, at worse, people who speak out when they are harmed by it?”

I think this is a valid question. And I think she has valid answers and arguments. I will not try to summarize them or claim that I hold any common ground with her, I will just let you read her essay, and then make my own points.

White Satire is not a sacred cow, or a perfect tool to end White Privilege. It can be a useful tool, but any tool is just tool: it is neutral, it has no innate value. You can take a hammer and nails and either build a house or commit a particularly gruesome murder–and if you don’t believe me, just ask Jesus. I hear his step-Dad was a carpenter.

What makes the difference between good use of a tool and bad use is the outcome. The outcome often depends on the skill and the intentions of the wielder–but in the case of comedy, the willingness of the audience to engage with the comedian’s true intentions also counts a great deal.

The fact that Colbert “supporters” are making rape and death threats against Suey Park are ample evidence that Colbert is FAILING AS AN ARTIST. A sizable percentage of his audience do not get the joke. Which means that he is, by definition…kinda bombing, as a satirist.

He has failed to make some of his audience see that HE IS THE JOKE. And by extension, THEY ARE THE JOKE. That White Privilege is bullshit. That racism is wrong. His comedy has failed to instill any understanding, and the associated respect for other people. And you can tell, because when he and his audience are challenged by an Asian woman demanding respect and empathy from them, the audience immediately acts like people defending their privilege–they’re angry, defensive, and violent.

Does this mean that White Satire has no value?

No. honestly I don’t think Mia McKenzie is right that White Satire is completely without value or useful purpose. I just think that sometimes, art fails in its intentions. And that when it does, the artist and some parts of the audience may need to face that failure.

And I say this as a person who actually enjoys White Satire, at times. And who engages in it quite a bit myself. I am not a professional comedian, but I do use my White Satire to make people laugh.

The difference is that I use White Satire jokes specifically to make People of Colour laugh. At me. And at my Whiteness, specifically. And at Whiteness in general.

Example:

A black male philosopher that I follow on Twitter (I do not want to link to him or quote him without his permission, because he has explicitly said in the past that he doesn’t appreciate it when white people do this) admits one day…that he is just plain uncomfortable around white women.

It isn’t anything they’ve done or said to him, it’s just the weight of the violence, the threats associated with connections between black men and white women historically. Lynching, antagonism, devaluation of black women, etc.. The whole package makes him feel weird and bad, and makes him not want to talk to white women or be around them.

My response: “But I have this chiffarobe that totally needs busting! What could go wrong?”

I consider this a successful White Satire joke. Not because a room full of white people laughed, but because ONE black man laughed. I know he did, because he told me so. As he put it, “You are a trip. I legit laughed out loud.”

That’s a win for White Satire.

A white guy standing up in front of a room of white people to tell race jokes about non-white people? Maybe not so much. Even if the white people in the room all laugh, if the non-white people in the audience don’t laugh too? YOU LOSE.

This principle actually inspired one of the few crimes of heckling that I’ve ever committed. (Yes, I know heckling is wrong. Patton Oswalt explained it to me later. I get it.)

Annoying White Guy comedian is standing up on stage at an open mike, and has just finished telling a bunch of annoying jokes about fat women. But then he launches into an extended joke about having sex with women of various ethnicities, and whether sex acts with non-white women will achieve some sort of magical result.

“If I have sex with a Jewish chick, will I get a raise at work?”

“If I have sex with an Asian chick, will she fix my cell phone?”

“If I have sex with a black chick–”

“Yeah,” I interrupted loudly from my table, my tone dripping derision. “Like THAT’S going to happen.”

Some of the people in the audience around me laughed, but that was irrelevant. What mattered to me was that the one black guy in the room actually cracked up. Because that one stupid heckle was one of the biggest laughs he had all night.

Yes, heckling is wrong in principle. But at the time, I was out of patience with Annoying White Guy. I was weary of his crappy privilege humor. And yes, I know the right answer if you’re not enjoying comedy is just to leave. But at the time, I didn’t feel like being pounded with “jokes” that were just more of the same white male abuse that I saw in the world around me every day.

Upshot is this: white comedians are not necessarily doing anyone a favor by making them the butt of a joke. And satire is a difficult art form. If you take on satire as a privileged person, you better make DAMN sure that you’re the punchline, and that the whole audience gets it. That you’re kicking yourself, doing “Whiteface” as comedy. Not taking yet another opportunity to kick other people.

Otherwise, as my friend Alex points out, you’re not a satirist. You’re just another bully.

White_Satire

 

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On Jill, in a Dress

55 Cute Hedgehog Photos – A Gift Set for Jill

One of my invisible friends (which is what I call the wide group of pretty awesome apes that I have never met in person, but know through their participation in forums and social media), celebrated her birthday recently. It was an occasion for joy and merriment, and her invisible friends had a small invisible party on-line for her, as is right and proper. It was a Bring Your Own Hedgehog Party (Jill is fond of cute hedgehogs, as I am fond of otters). So I went out hunting a wild hedgehog photo and tucked it under my arm so as to wish her a happy birthday.

Jill is the sort of person who also has real family and friends as well as invisible friends, and some of them also attended the Invisible Friend Birthday Bash by bringing some photos of Real Jill to social media, like Facebook. Jill’s Mom was there, and posted some cool old photos of Little Jill when she was born, or when she was a teenage girl. And it was pretty neat for some of us to see them, because most of the photos of real Jill that we see are of Big Jill, who has grown up to be a pretty awesome lesbian who lives in Seattle and seems to spend a lot of time having adventures with her sexy-cool partner and just generally having reasons to smile.

Anyway, one of the old photos of Real Jill was Jill about the age of 14 or so, dressed in a beautiful pale pink formal gown. I think that what we’re seeing here is Jill preparing for a genuine old school “coming out” as a debutante–that old American ritual when young middle-class girls were invited to begin thinking of themselves as soon-to-be-women and start to consider things like dating, college, marriage, and the future that lay ahead of them.

And…invisible Jill actually had a moment of doubt, looking at this picture. She wasn’t sure she wanted to tag it so that her new invisible friends could see it. Something about it made her cringe. She admitted that the Real Jill in the photo at the time had felt pretty great about being herself that day, just as Real Jill feels pretty great about being herself today…but the gulf between those two days is pretty wide. She is a very different person and has a very different life than anyone might have anticipated on the day the old photo was shot.

My vote was for tagging the photo. And my argument in favor of tagging it was this:

You were happy about who you were then, and you are happy about who you are now. The fact that there is a wide difference between the two states is not necessarily a bad thing. If your life was a novel, it would be a very good thing! It just means that the story of your life is a good novel rather than a crappy one. Lots of character development in your arc.

There are some other messages in the divide between the Real Jill of age 14 and the Real Jill of today, though. And I also see these as positive messages, in many respects. Because the Real Jill who once put on that virginal girlie dress, and glowed in a moment of familial love and societal affirmation from the cis-hetero-normative world?

Well, that Jill has no cause whatsoever for doubt about her identity now. Her decisions and the person she is today are grounded in success, not failure. She tried on the dress, and she had her moment in the sun, however briefly, playing the part of Everyone’s Girl. The fact that she tried it on and found a reason to smile at her debut, that she is obviously at peace with herself and her loved ones at that moment in the past…must give her a very solid foundation today. It goes a long way to explain her amazing strength and peace of mind about who she is.

Her decision to put that dress into a box, and all of its associated socio-sexual symbolism and expectations of herself and others, was not grounded in anger or being rejected or feeling like a failure, obviously. She wore it, she looked good in it, she felt the joy and experienced the warmth associated with wearing it well…but in the end it didn’t fit.

No need to cringe about that.

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Damsel in Distress: Tamiko Hoshinara and The Pit

Tamiko Hoshinara and all her possible rescuers in Sword of the Stars: The Pit!

Tamiko Hoshinara and all her possible rescuers in Sword of the Stars: The Pit!

 

Note: I originally published this entry as a guest blog at the web home of author Liz Strange, who published it with some concept art images and screenshots from the initial release of Sword of the Stars: The Pit. Since the original post is now looking a bit ratty and illegible with its image links broken, I decided to re-post it here with a new image.

Many thanks to the fans who still link to the old article on Twitter and such. I hope this one will make a better link in the future.

__________________________

As a game developer and a story teller, I have to walk every day through the minefield of tropes and clichés that make up the medium and the genres in which I work. I write horror, science fiction and fantasy, and my most popular universe is a space opera setting. If tropes really were mines, I’d be riding a pogo stick through No-Man’s Land in the middle of World War I.

My general strategy as a writer is to deal with all Tropes fearlessly. The past is a playground. My team loves genre fiction and games, but we can only offer respect, never reverence. Sometimes tropes are made to be subverted, or inverted, or outright kicked in the nads. I’ve twisted a great many of them over the years.

Cold emotionless reptile race? Nope! Passionate and expressive reptile race who love chocolate, poetry and jokes. Insect race with spooky hive mind? Nope! Dedicated and thoughtful individuals who value nothing above family ties.

Needless to say I’ve had a lot of fun with the background fiction and the meta-story of the universe as a whole. But due to the restrictions of game mechanics, there were some tropes I never really had the chance to work with. Take, for example, the Damsel in Distress.

Last year, my team and I started working on our first truly nostalgic game. Sword of the Stars: The Pit is an old school adventure. The art style is an homage to the classic 8-bit adventures that we all played as kids. The mechanics of the game are a spin-off from games like Rogue and hearken back to ancient computer dungeon-hacks of yesteryear.

As a player, you identify with a colorful little sprite who dives into a dungeon and spends the game battling monsters, collecting loot, crafting new items, and dying, dying, dying, in a variety of horrible and hilarious ways. Your objective in games like this is to work your way toward the bottom of the Pit toward the always-distant, nearly-impossible-to-reach goal…in this case, you’re searching for a nigh-mystical Cure for a terrible plague which rages on the planet’s surface (a plague which was unleashed by the evil bio-scientists in this very same Pit).

The direct story content of this game is very light. There are three playable characters, two male and one female, and each of them had to have a compelling reason to dive into this nightmare and continue to fight to reach the bottom of this horrible labyrinth. They would be fighting for the Cure, of course—the chance to heal humankind and save the world. But when you reached the end of the game, achieved victory and discovered the Cure, what form should it take?

This was an issue that was debated by the team for quite a while. There were all sorts of possibilities. We all agreed that the Cure would be in a medical stasis pod, frozen in a timeless state. But it seemed a little lame to open the pod and just have a test tube or a beaker pop out—even if it might glow a bit.

I was the one who insisted that we should go old school all the way. We should invoke one of the classic tropes of our industry, a symbol which was present in so many of the games that we were paying homage to, in The Pit: the Cure should be a Damsel in Distress.

And so I created Tamiko Hoshinara.

In many respects, Tamiko is a classic DiD. She has a personal relationship to two out of the three playable characters in the game: the Marine (Travis Hudson) was her fiancée, and the Scout (Toshiko Hoshinara) is her twin sister. The third playable character, the Engineer, has no personal relationship with her at all prior to entering the facility, but he is actually the one who is most likely to get to know Tamiko well in the course of the game. He has the best technical skills, and is most likely to be able to hack into all of the alien computer terminals he encounters, and find the messages Tamiko left behind.

“If anyone human can hack these consoles, I hope they find this message. My name is Tamiko Hoshinara. I was seized from the Planet Albuda IV by some sort of strange robot that emitted a sickening gas.”

True to her role as a Damsel, Tamiko is most definitely trapped. She was captured on the surface, dragged down into this underground research facility, and she’s been used like all of the other living things you see as a test subject for awful experiments. The reason that she remains alive is that she’s been made immune to the Plague…and as most bio-scientists know, a living body makes a great storage receptacle for antigens and immunity to a disease.

That being said, the fact that Tamiko has been victimized does not mean that she follows the standard victim script and waits patiently for rescue. The messages she has left in the data banks of the facility are the result of her attempted escape. And she has some good advice for you, if you’re willing to take it. Instead of crying “Save me, hero!” she says:

“If you find this message, please GET OUT of this facility while you can! I have no idea where I am now, but I can feel the weight of stone above me. It has to be at least a kilometer from the surface.”

Like Tamiko, however, the player cannot back out of the Pit—the hatches to floors above seal above you over time. The only way is forward, and the only escape is victory. The situation is bleak, and often appears hopeless (don’t forget the dying, dying dying). But the messages Tamiko leaves behind also reflect her courage and her determination to figure out what’s going on, whatever the risk.

“I’ve been trying to look inside the stasis chambers, to see the things that are sleeping inside. Some of the capture dates seem to go back hundreds, even thousands of years.”

Tamiko is not a completely helpless or useless human being. You can tell she definitely spent at least a few days playing “Die Hard” in this hell-hole.

“I managed to destroy one of the bigger robots and pulled out its Cybernetic Brain. It’s an amazingly powerful processor. I wish I had an Engineer with me…I’m sure we could rig it to do something useful.”

Eventually, of course, things went wrong. But Tamiko didn’t go down without a fight:

“You can only meddle with the door locks twice before you trigger an alarm. I found this out the hard way. Bleeding now, and I’m out of ammunition for this weapon. I don’t think I can hold out much longer.”

Damsel in distress or not, Tamiko eventually realizes that she’s become immune to the Plague and she is a good enough scientist to understand the implications.

“They want to keep me here, locked up in a stasis chamber forever. I can’t let them do that. If I can break out of this Pit, I could save thousands of lives on Albuda IV alone. Maybe billions, if the Plague somehow spread beyond the system.”

Winning the game, regardless of which character you choose, is about saving the Damsel. But even Tamiko would agree that her life as an individual is irrelevant, in the greater scheme of things. The player has to save Tamiko, not just because “Hey, she’s cute”, but because she is a wellspring of life for every human being who has been exposed to this disease. And whether you free her as her twin sister, her future husband, or as a friendly stranger, Tamiko is the alternative to death—not just for the player but for all humankind.

She’s not just a Damsel in Distress, in other words. She’s a symbol of universal salvation.

Stick that trope in your pipe and smoke it.

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Hiver “Reincarnation”

Hiver_Skull

Due to the quirks of Hiver physiology, death as we know it is not necessarily the end of a Hiver’s life. A great deal of short and long-term memory is stored in crystalline form in a Hiver’s brain case, and these chemically stored memories can be extracted intact for days, months or years after death.

With the help of a Princess or Queen, who passes these crystalline deposits through her own digestive tract, the memory of the fallen Hiver can be re-implanted and re-born in a freshly laid egg. The result is a new Hiver child which has many of the memories, skills and experiences of the Hiver who died.

Such a Hiver is called zok’an, “Beloved”–the word also carries connotations of immortality. Once re-born in this fashion, a Hiver is entitled to add the infix zok to his or her name. Examples include the legendary Hiver warrior Rizokis, “Beloved Blades”, or the contemporary Hiver Prince Chezokin, also known as “Chezokin the Thrice-Born”.

This form of limited reincarnation is also central to the spiritual beliefs of the Hiver population, who conceive of the Divine as a female Hiver, constantly devouring and renewing the universe. This biologically useful quirk may have had an evolutionary function in the past, allowing Hiver clans to preserve valuable skills and knowledge despite high rates of mortality, giving the kin group access to information which would otherwise have been lost. Occasionally, however, this practice has led to unfortunate incidents. Hivers exposed to a lethal plague can be carried back to a Princess or Queen for renewal, resulting in a predictable disaster for all.

~ “Chapter 2: Children of the Goddess”. The Sword of the Stars Premium Lore Book

Just posting the excerpt above along with some images for Hiver fans who enjoy the Hiver versions of “reincarnation” and immortality. There is always a bit of confusion in the minds of some fans as to what a Hiver brain crystal was supposed to look like, and how much space in a Hiver skull they’re supposed to occupy, so…eventually I decided to come up with an answer.

I picture a Hiver brain crystal, if found outside the body, as being a deceptively ordinary looking lump, the way a thunder-egg or geode looks before you crack it open. Once you do open it, you’d find the beautiful and complex crystalline interior, looking something like the interior of this bismuth egg.

I love Hivers. :D
Hiver-memory-crystal

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Renewal

Arinn-old-passport

I had to give up something I truly loved today: my old passport photo.

I don’t think I need to belabor too much what most of us already know: 99% of all bureaucratic photography blows. The photos that are attached to our driver’s licenses, passports and other official documents suck. And it isn’t just because the lighting is terrible, or the colors of the background are unflattering to all members of our species, or that these photographers inevitably catch us at one of the worst possible angles to make us look our best.

These photos suck as more than craft–they suck as art. They capture a person that doesn’t exist. A cipher that we create for public officials and bouncers and cops, for the benefit of people who only look at this photo when they’re probably already annoyed with us. These photos are proof of an identity that most of us really don’t much like. And we submit to being photographed in this way only because we have to produce some kind of photo evidence so that someone who isn’t a friend of ours can see if we actually ARE who we claim to be.

We’d never allow these photos to be taken if we didn’t need to travel via car or leave the country. If we didn’t need them as a evidence that we should be allowed to walk in the door of a club, or to buy a six-pack of beer or a pack of cigarettes, or be let off with a warning, or be given our freaking mail.

But every so often, the Gods of Bureaucratic Procedure smile on us, and we actually manage to get a driver’s license photo or a passport photo that looks good. I’ve been driving since I was sixteen, for example, and I’ve had two Driver’s License photos that didn’t look bad. And I carried this passport photo for a decade quite happily, at least in part because I loved this photo.

In retrospect, I think I also kinda loved the person I was at this age. She was working pretty hard on feeling good about herself in various ways, and she had been taking very solidly good care of herself for almost two years, and she had the body and the face to show for it. But she was also captured at a moment when she was feeling free, unburdened, hopeful. And I haven’t felt that way on every day that has passed since.

I knew it was probably time to renew the passport about this time last year, which was the first time that a border guard looked at my passport and said, “This doesn’t look like you” before he handed it back to me. I’d already changed a lot, and I was in the midst of a lot more serious changes.

The passport photo I had taken today is not nearly so “pretty” as the old one. And I’m not going to show it to you, because I think it blows–not because it won’t pass inspection from a cop or a bouncer, but because it doesn’t FEEL like me, to me.

The woman in it was always going to be ten years older, of course, but she’s also been through a lot of amazing stuff in that decade. Some of it was really hard, brutal–pain for myself and my loved ones, tragic deaths of friends and close family, the end of some relationships that had been deeply important to me, the bittersweet transformation of other relationships into something that was still beautiful, but not what we had hoped it would be.

But this was also the decade that I obtained two university degrees. The decade that I helped to found a new game development studio and worked consistently as its Lead Writer. The decade that I created a universe. The decade I wrote my first novel. The decade that I won my first fiction contest and published my first collection of short stories. The decade that I visited Europe for the first time, saw Paris and Stockholm and Copenhagen and Athens and Florence and Pisa and Rome. The decade that I worked summer after summer on a major archaeological excavation. The decade that both of my beautiful daughters became adults.

In the end, it has been a decade in which I’ve gone through tremendous growth as a person. And I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve grown to have a healthy love and respect for me.

I’ve also learned that photographs don’t define me unless I either take them myself, or decide I like them. The passports and driver’s license photos of life don’t matter: what matters is your selfie.

Arinn-on-March-14-2014-selfie

Today, this is me. ;)

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She Walks In Shadows

Pretty excited about this news: the first all-female anthology dedicated to the works of H.P. Lovecraft is fully funded on Indiegogo at the moment, and moving toward a Stretch Goal.

I’m already on the contributors list for this anthology, which means that I will be one of many female Mythos authors attacking one of the many female characters in the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

The anthology will be edited and published by Innsmouth Free Press, the partnership of Paula Stiles and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. ALL WOMEN< ALL LOVECRAFT, ALL THE TIME RAAAAR.

Please jump in and support the anthology if you haven’t already.

Women love squid!

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Kaiju Big Battel

…because sometimes the Internet is just fun.

My favorite part is when the Cosmic Chicken shows up around the 4:30 mark. But then, everyone loves a cosmic chicken, don’t they?

To learn more about LIVE WRESTLING IN GIANT MONSTER SUITS, in rings made to resembled little cardboard cities, with miniature referees hiding in the set pieces…click the link.

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