athelind: (Magnum Opus)
Okay, I'll bite. What's the Rune Star Tapestries?

It's the blanket title for the Sword & Sorcery Magnum Opus* I've been tinkering with on and off since the early 1980s. It stars several of the characters I played in [livejournal.com profile] godhi's Corongond Campaign, the first big, ongoing tabletop RPG campaign I was ever involved in.

Yes, characters. It was the Dawn of the Nerd Age, before Dallas Egbert was lost in the steam tunnels, in the days of the Great Dice Famine. In those days, playing more than one character at a time and having characters who jumped from campaign to campaign was still fairly common. Game mechanics have matured and evolved a great deal over the last four decades, but in that cusp between the Seventies and the Eighties, between Carter and Reagan, between Eldritch Wizardry and the Player's Handbook, gaming culture was equally embryonic, and many of the customs and conventions now taken for granted had yet to emerge. Many off-the-cuff, ad-hoc decisions made in a convention hall's game room about how a fantasy world might function went on to shape not only game settings but fantasy literature as a whole.

(Had we known we were setting precedent as binding as the Common Law, we might have made different decisions.)

I have dithered around with these ideas and these characters for almost four decades, developing and discarding settings that just didn't work, haring off after misguided attempts to write a "proper" Quest Fantasy Trilogy despite a set of decidedly improper protagonists. After the untimely demise of my friend, Jim, who was an important part of that antediluvian tabletop chronicle, and who never stopped encouraging me to bring my characters to a wider audience than the gaming table, I realized that it was well past time to get serious about this saga.

For the last few months, in fits and starts, jotting down notes at work and in the evenings, I have striven to do just that ... and I'm ready to start sharing.

That's ... informative. But what IS the Rune Star Tapestries?

Well, let me tell you what it *won't* be:

It won't be a Trilogy Quest, where the protagonists have basically One Big Adventure to overthrow One Big Bad, and that's it, they're done. That's the end of their story.

It certainly won't be an Everlasting Gobstopper: those Neverending Series of Thousand-Page Doorstoppers, which drag characters through tragedy after indignity without ever really *accomplishing* anything. [Cue Portentious Violins over Clockwork Maps.]

It won't be a Grand Epic about Destined, Prophesied Chosen Ones.

I plan a throwback to the classic days of Sword and Sorcery: an episodic, picaresque collection of short stories and novellas about a trio of well-meaning troublemakers, three misfits seeking their fortune in a world of magic and high adventure. I feel no obligation to write them in chronological order, any more than Howard or Lieber did. It will be character-driven and setting-driven: the core theme will be exploration and discovery, as Our Heroes seek out interesting and exotic locales and interact with them.

And those ad-hoc decisions I mentioned, up above, that turned "Dungeon Fantasy" into its own subgenre? It just might be a chance to play with some of the eccentric, off-the-wall wildness that didn't wind up as Common-Law Precedent for the ISO Standard Fantasy Setting.

The most quintessential fantasy cliche is the tale of a Heroic Knight-Errant who rescues a Fair Princess from the clutches of a Wicked Dragon.

The Tapestries begin when a Plain Servant Girl rescues a Noble Dragon from the clutches of Errant Knights and would-be Heroes.

They take refuge with a band of Goblins, and that's where their adventures *begin*...


*Yes, that icon is Opus with a Magnum. Thank you, Derrick Fish.
athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
This is a link to someone else being smart:

Don’t worry guys, everything isn’t a Mary Sue, by Kelly "Coelasquid" Turnbull.

Kelly is a professional animator who also does the invariably-entertaining webcomic, Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. This essay not only deconstructs the currently-hip notion that any protagonist who bears any resemblance to the author is a "Mary Sue", it also discusses at length how to use Maslow's Hierarchy as a tool to write convincing characters and conflicts.

I thought it needed sharing -- and preserving for future reference.


Cross-Posted to Kirby Dots & Ditko Ribbons: Mary Who?
athelind: (green hills of earth)
As if to demonstrate that Life Goes On, I just had an Archimedes moment: I ran out of the shower, towel wrapped 'round my waist, shouting "EUREKA!"

You see, I finally figured out a series of graphics that would explain to observers just what I was seeing in all that Elkhorn Slough data back in 2004-2005. I was trying to get a coherent article out of three or four different studies, each of which insisted that the Big Erosion Hotspot was in a different part of the Slough. Unfortunately, because their studies found erosion and deposition occurring at opposite ends of the Slough, the PhDs responsible for two of the papers each had ... issues ... with the other.

Bear in mind that these gentlemen were supposed to be my co-authors.

Bear in mind as well that I'm the only guy who looked at all four and a half data sets spanning 15 years.

Of course, any hypothesis that reconciled these supposedly-contradictory datasets was going to get lambasted from both ends.

Of course, after staring at all that data for three years, I came up with one:

Elkhorn Slough would experience Big Erosion Events that would dump a lot of sediment at the head of the Slough, and it would work its way down to the mouth over a period of years, thus giving the pattern of "Erosion here, deposition there" in one study, and "Erosion there, deposition here" a few years later.

I just figured out how to make maps that show the bulge of sediment moving down the slough.

It's clearly visible in the "flip chart" of cross-sections I carried around with me during that whole project, but I just figured out a way to display the data in four or five Q&D maps, rather than making people scrutinize Excel graphs for three years to see the pattern emerge.

So, yeah, "Eureka".

And you know what's even better?

When I rattled this off to [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby, who's an engineer, he said, "oh, yeah. that's plug flow."

So:
  1. I still have all that data on my desktop hard drive.
  2. And I have an open-source GIS program that I've been wanting to figure out.
  3. And I want closure, dammit.


I may have material for a Master's Thesis here.


athelind: (facepalm)
[livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte says, "Now the true test would be to enter some text from a particular author, and see if it comes back with that author's name"
[livejournal.com profile] athelind grauphs, "LOL!"
[livejournal.com profile] athelind grauphs, "I think it's just a very noisy algorithm with huge error bars. it's not ENTIRELY fatuous, since it tells me that I write like H.P. Lovecraft much of the time, in circumstances where, yes, I'm deliberately trying to write like HPL."
[livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte says, "My point is, does H.P. Lovecraft write like H.P.Lovecraft?"
[livejournal.com profile] athelind grauphs, "Indeed. And there's public domain HPL stuff online to use as a test case."
[livejournal.com profile] athelind grauphs, "... dammit. go to lunch. I'll test it."
[livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte says, "thank you."

Plugging in the text of "The Colour Out of Space", we find that H.P. Lovecraft ...

H.P. Lovecraft writes like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!



... writes like Stephen King.

I totally need an Athelind Rolling In the Hoard Laughing icon.


athelind: (Warning: Memetic Hazard)
[livejournal.com profile] wordslinger might find this amusing, as it's tangentially related to her much more rigorous project of stylistic analysis.

To be honest, I was going to blow this one off for two reasons:

One, because the results have been so varied that it's become a matter of parody;

And two, because I didn't think I'd produced a body of work with any degree of consistency in recent years. Certainly, I haven't cranked out any fiction in a long while.

I changed my mind for two reasons:

One, because [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte reported remarkably consistent results from his LiveJournal entries;

And two, because I realized that my comics blog was a deliberate attempt to maintain a consisten "voice" throughout its long-form entries.

Out of ten long-form entries, I got the following results:

One J. D. Salinger:

I write like
J. D. Salinger

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




Four H. P. Lovecraft:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




And five David Foster Wallace:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!



...to which I can only echo [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte's reaction: who?

Illiterate Philistine that I am, I've never read Salinger. The Lovecraft results, however, did not surprise me in the least; like HPL, I have a penchant for purple prose, archaic adjectives, and gratuitous grandiloquence. I suspect that if the algorithm were keyed to identify italics, my writing would have shown even more kinship to that of Unca Howard. One of the HPL-tagged episodes did, in fact, have several FULLY CAPITALIZED PASSAGES, though that was more in emulation of Jack "King" Kirby; I rather doubt that the meme-encoders included his Groovily Bombastic Scriptage in their algorithms.

Were I in a more frivolous mood, and had more respect for the underlying algorithms of random internettery, I might dig out some of my college papers (aside from the one that got repurposed as a KDDR entry) and see how they test out; even when I'm writing serious technical discourse, my florid style often bleeds through, and I can never resist a good chain of alliteration.


For the record, I analyzed this post, and got H.P. Lovecraft again. Given that I found myself deliberately emphasizing the Lovecraftian tendencies of my style as I wrote, that's not only unsurprising, but quite probably biased: "gaming the game", as it were. So, grains of salt all around, and 'ware your blood pressure, all and sundry.
If the meme-writers had my sense of humor, any text that referenced the "I Write Like" page itself would be weighted toward Douglas Hofstadter.

athelind: (hoard potato)
Every so often, there are grumbles about why it is, in the furry fandom, that art gets a lot of attention, while prose is largely overlooked.

It's pretty straightforward to me.

You can glance at a piece of art -- or even a thumbnail -- and tell whether or not it's worth a closer look.

On the other claw, you can't tell if a story is going be worth your time until you've already spent a significant portion of that time.

The "entry fee" is much lower for art.

This isn't just the furry fandom, either. It's part of internet culture. People make careers out of web comics, and become fairly well-known; prose fiction on the web doesn't get the same audience.

athelind: (Default)
Every so often, there are grumbles about why it is, in the furry fandom, that art gets a lot of attention, while prose is largely overlooked.

It's pretty straightforward to me.

You can glance at a piece of art -- or even a thumbnail -- and tell whether or not it's worth a closer look.

On the other claw, you can't tell if a story is going be worth your time until you've already spent a significant portion of that time.

The "entry fee" is much lower for art.

This isn't just the furry fandom, either. It's part of internet culture. People make careers out of web comics, and become fairly well-known; prose fiction on the web doesn't get the same audience.

athelind: (big ideas)
Odd. I've made light NaNoWriMo in years past -- honestly, I've outright mocked it. However, it just occurred to me that this year, in my own peculiar way, I actually participated.

I've had a mental block as a GM for several YEARS now, in no small part because of poor preparation skills. For last part of of November, however, I've been busily writing away, hammering out the background for a one-player superhero game I'll be starting tomorrow.

I'm sure I haven't gotten anywhere near 50 kwords, and it's more a series of timelines and outlines than prose -- but that's what one needs for a game setting. I've come up with interesting characters, long-term plot twists, and dramatic scenes, both as backstory and to be played out as the game progresses. In the last three days, I had a surge of inspiration, tying together three or four disparate elements and themes and bringing them together into one grand, intricate scheme.

And the oddest thing?

This is all building on notes and ideas I worked on last November... only to set them aside at the end of the month as other ideas took center stage.
athelind: (Default)
Odd. I've made light NaNoWriMo in years past -- honestly, I've outright mocked it. However, it just occurred to me that this year, in my own peculiar way, I actually participated.

I've had a mental block as a GM for several YEARS now, in no small part because of poor preparation skills. For last part of of November, however, I've been busily writing away, hammering out the background for a one-player superhero game I'll be starting tomorrow.

I'm sure I haven't gotten anywhere near 50 kwords, and it's more a series of timelines and outlines than prose -- but that's what one needs for a game setting. I've come up with interesting characters, long-term plot twists, and dramatic scenes, both as backstory and to be played out as the game progresses. In the last three days, I had a surge of inspiration, tying together three or four disparate elements and themes and bringing them together into one grand, intricate scheme.

And the oddest thing?

This is all building on notes and ideas I worked on last November... only to set them aside at the end of the month as other ideas took center stage.
athelind: (hoard potato)
A post that [livejournal.com profile] the_gneech made early this morning brought this to mind, and I thought I'd expand upon and share the thoughts in my earlier comment.

Some thoughts on the applied use of clichs and tropes: )
athelind: (Default)
A post that [livejournal.com profile] the_gneech made early this morning brought this to mind, and I thought I'd expand upon and share the thoughts in my earlier comment.

Some thoughts on the applied use of clichs and tropes: )

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