Saturday, July 6, 2019

Spiderman: Far From Home appears to be completely ignoring it's premise

[This has been massively expanded upon, but the basic idea was originally posted on Twitter.]
[Nota bene: the movie isn't out yet right now, and the Twitter thread upon which it is based was written a week and a half ago when the movie definitely wasn't out.  It's about what seems to be true based on pre-release info.]

So, the short, short version my my Spider-Man: Far From Home commentary is:

This movie wants to tell a story that's impossible in the post-Endgame world, but it insists it exists in exactly that world.  Why?
I just saw an ad for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and it looks like it's ignoring the premise.  Hard.

The premise, remember, is that the population of the universe in general, and earth in particular, just doubled* without warning.

*Caveats aplenty, we'll link to them. footnote them.[]


We have a universe that's only five years removed from the greatest disaster in the history of the universe,[] and it just got slammed with a new one.

For Spider-Man, we're concerned with earth.  That's good because we understand earth.

There have not been five years of preparation for, "Ok, about 3.75 billion people are going to pop into existence out of nowhere, so we need to make sure we have food, shelter, infrastructure, and employment for all of them waiting."

Now, obviously, we're going to see a lot of killing and whatnot over other things, but food is what I want to concentrate on.

Carrying capacity isn't a set thing.  It changes.  Notably, it drops to match a reduced population.  Five years is more than enough time for that drop.

(Abigail Nussbaum adds:)
‏Also, note that said carrying capacity was already stressed to the breaking point by the disappearance of 3.75B people, with their labor and role in the supply chains. Those five years were spent restoring a broken system, which is now going to be broken again.
When the carrying capacity is lower than the population, you get famine.

Usually this happens because something happened to the food supply (crop failures, for example), but suddenly doubling the number of mouths to feed will very definitely do the job.  It'll do the job like nothing ever has, in fact.

Given time, the extra people can do extra work on extra agriculture to make extra food.

In the immediate aftermath, however, we're talking about the worst famine in recorded history.  (Immediate, here, is going to be measured in years.)

One reason that famine sucks so much, by the way, is that no amount of pulling together or cooperation can compensate for there not being enough calories to go around.  If you're eating the minimum necessary for survival and using all the food, there's nothing more you can do.

Until there's a harvest large enough to feed everyone left alive, you're kind of screwed.


There's a major threat to that harvest that we need to consider.

Those seeds you need to plant to make that harvest?  They're food you could use to keep your family alive.  Do that, and you have nothing to plant.  You need twice as many of those seeds as you thought, and now you're strongly considering making it so there are fewer.

There are shades of the 'tragedy of the commons' here.  If one person uses seed stock as food to keep themselves and/or their loved ones alive, that's not going to be noticeable on a global scale.  Sure, it'll suck locally when the crops that those seeds would have produced never arrive, but maybe the next town over lucked out and had a bumper crop.

It's never just one person.  Everyone counts on someone else being responsible, and the result is catastrophic.

Also, with a famine of this magnitude (and on a global scale no less), it's not actually that unreasonable, from a self-interest perspective, to eat the seed crops thus ensuring that things get worse come next harvest time.

There's a very good chance you, generic you, are going to die anyway.  Ditto for those around you.  If that's who you care about, you might as well stay fed as long as you can and forget about the future.  Sure, it'll screw over the world as a whole, but the world as a whole is basically trying to kill you at this point.

So that's a problem.  Things are a hellish famine-scape until there's a large enough harvest, people will be actively doing things to make it so that harvest doesn't come soon.

And, remember, even if no one ate the seed stock, there wasn't enough to begin with.

To get to the famine ending harvest, this is what needs to happen:
  • Field space needs to double.  It's not like the fields from before the first snap have been sitting fallow all this time and merely need to be sown.  They're five years gone.  What that means depends on where the fields are, but even those left untouched and relatively intact need to be cleared and tilled (many will need to be fertilized too.)
  • The capacity to grow, harvest, process, and distribute food needs to double.  This is mostly industrial shit, I know it not.
  • A large enough number of seeds to produce a population-feeding global harvest need to be set aside instead of eaten.  This is double what people had been setting aside, and given that people have been eating that, more than double what was set aside after the famine started.
  • Those seeds need to be planted, cared for, and brought to harvest.
    • There's an element of luck in this.  Just because everything on the human side is finally set up and working doesn't mean that nature will cooperate.
  • Now we're into the processing and distribution, which needs to survive "Hungry people want food now" and "Hungry people want food here."  (This is entirely apart from "Grudges, from the famine and before, mean that some people actively want other people to starve, and will work to see it happen.")
And --Woo!-- done, provided that the next harvest hasn't been sabotaged by anything leading up to this point.

One might wonder why I'm focusing on food and not animals.  We'll get to that.


To get us back on track with the original tweet thread, a recap: the population has suddenly and unexpectedly doubled.  There will not be enough food.

Yes, this includes if all crops were just on the verge of being harvested pre-snap so that, since they were alive, they snapped back, and since they were ready for harvest, they're quickly edible.  The system that converts "plants in certain fields in certain places" to "global food" isn't set up to operate on the necessary level anymore.  (Entirely apart from the other disruptions caused by doubling the global population.)

Depending on how you look at it, there is either too little food for the people supply, or too many people for the food supply.  While cutting back to the point of "starving, but not to death" and sharing as much as possible will stretch the food supply, there comes a point where it can go no further.  There aren't enough calories to keep all of the people alive.

Recap over, let's get back into the original flow of things.


One solution to more mouths to feed than the food can support is the Thanos solution: fewer mouths to feed.

Genocide is a very real possibility, but there's also less sinister things.  People will refuse to eat (and thus starve to death) so that there's more food for others.  Not "people may", "people will".  There has never been a famine like the one we're talking about, but there have been a lot of famines, and we know how people respond to them.

(Part of how we know that people will eat seed stock, even though it makes things worse in the long run.)

Random note back on the evil side: 'Hansel and Gretle'ing will be happening too.  It's not just that some people value their own lives over their children's lives, though there is that.  The thing about abandonment instead of murder is that it leaves the hope of "Someone else, someone who can feed them, will take them in" which makes it seem a lot less horrific in the eyes of the abandoners.

Quick note before we leave this point, I don't want to dwell on things like genocide, but do note that wars fall into the "things like" category in this case.  Sometimes it's the exact same thing, in the case of wars of extermination, but if you're fighting to take away what allows others to survive (food in this case) your success will kill them every bit as much as an extermination campaign.

Anyway, that's a quick rundown of the "fewer mouths to feed" angle.


There are, of course, other ways to approach the problem.  One is expanding what one considers food.  We've already mentioned that, to a degree, in the form of people eating seed stock.  That's only one part of it.

As I said above, the point at which there's nothing more you can do in the face of "not enough calories to go around" is when you're eating the minimum necessary for survival and using all the food.  I do mean all the food.

Long before we reach the point of cannibalism, we get people eating every non-human in sight.  This is why I've been focusing on harvests as famine enders to the exclusion of livestock, by the way.

At first, livestock is going to seem like salvation.  After all, half of all living things from five years ago just popped back into existence, that means half of the animal supply did.  Once they're all rounded up, they can be sent to slaughter to help offset the insufficient crops.

That's not the only reason they're going to be sent to slaughter.  With five years adapted to half population, there won't be sufficient animal food or grazing land, and the last thing you want right now is for the livestock to overgraze or otherwise run out of food.

Obligatory note that the slaughterhouses, and everything after, also aren't prepared to deal with this much supply.  That's industrial, I'm not getting into it.

Something like a cow is a way to convert not-food (grass, for example) into food (hamburgers, for example) and thus really valuable.  Couple that with the human-side food shortage, and eating the excess livestock to prevent a livestock food shortage is a good idea.

But it only lasts so long.  The first problem we're going to hit is that people who are eating meat at "snapped back and sent to slaughter" levels aren't going to instantly stop once the excess is gone (especially given that, you know, fucking famine.)

Once the excess runs out, we're right back to the "half as much food as needed" problem, except we overshoot.

It doesn't end there, it gets worse for farm animals.


First off, a lot of animals eat things that people can eat.

Know what chickens eat?  Mostly cereal grains.  Things like wheat and corn.  Things that people eat.  The rest of their diet?  Protein.  Either animal or plant protein.  Looking specific protein sources used in chicken feed, that's also human edible.

Does this mean that chicken feed is edible?

I have no fucking clue, actually.  I tried to look it up, couldn't find an answer.  That's not really the point though.

If you've got corn, as an example, would you rather it save people from starving to death, or be turned into chicken pellets?  Remember: the people probably pay better than the chickens do.

Why do the people probably pay better when chicken food would be in equally short supply?

Picture yourself as a chicken farmer (but not my sister, because that would be weird) and imagine that you had the option to starve to death (or let your loved ones starve to death) or feed your chickens.  Which would you do?

And remember:
  • Male chickens can be utter assholes who will leap into the air and attack you (or your children) with their giant scaly Jurassic Park feet, which happen to be tipped in vicious fucking claws.
  • If you decide not to feed the chickens, then it's time to kill and cook (starving the chickens would be cruel), which:
    • Means you have meat that you and yours can eat
    • Means you also have meat that you can sell.
That second half of the second point is important.  Meat prices will have gone up, you can sell at a premium.  You can sell at a premium and still be selling at below the market rate.  Your customer gets a deal, you get money with which you can buy food other than chicken, everyone but the chicken wins.

(Probably worth pointing out that immediately after the unsnap, what happens to the price of meat will be complex and difficult.  Once the unsnap surplus animals are gone, though, meat's going to be like any other food: expensive.)

As to the first point: yes, they will attack babies that have only just learned to walk.  Do not leave children (any age) alone with roosters unless they have been verified as rooster combat capable.  (When dealing with roosters yourself, be aware that they may wait util your back is turned to attack.)

Hens seem to be safe.

Back on track, if chicken farmers merely put off buying chicken food in favor of feeding themselves, that's going to drive prices down.  If they actually start killing and eating/selling the chickens, that's going to drive prices down more.  Meanwhile human beings are going to be paying ever higher prices for food, of which there isn't enough.

If chickens had access to money and could buy their own food, chicken feed prices would climb in the same manner as person feed prices, since chicken food is brought by people who themselves need to eat, that's not going to happen.

A second reason that things get worse for farm animals is simply that they're edible.

Just like people eat seed stock, people will eat animals that are needed for breeding to maintain herd size.  They'll also eat them early.  The fact that a cow will have twice as much meat in 6 to 12 months doesn't mean much if you won't be alive to see it.

And people will eat milk cows and things like them.  Egg hens are another example.  If I've got things right, it only takes a month for egg hens to lay enough eggs to equal the calories you'd get from eating them, but that assumes there's adequate food for the hens and that you can wait a month.

Keep your animals and they're a drain on your resources, kill them and they're a source of meat, money, or both.  When faced with starvation, a lot of people are going to be very interested in meat, money which might be used to buy food, or both.


The one spot of good news for Peter Parker in this livestock nightmare is that the plants he eats are probably produced by humans and machines, so people eating work animals isn't going to touch him.

The bad news is that pets will be on the menu.

There are going to be tough questions for students at Peter's high school.

Questions like, "Would I rather eat Fluffy, or Spot?" and, "Do I have it in me to butcher them myself, or will I need to get someone else --who would take some of the meat as payment-- to do it?"

It's not like pets are the only thing, of course.  Given where he lives, you can bet that Peter's diet is going to include rats and pigeons for a while.

They'll run low, of course.  They're in the middle of a famine too, and humans outnumber them.  But, for a while . . .

It really is the case that any animal is potentially on the menu, so we can imagine a scene where Spider-Man races to the scene of a major disturbance and discovers that it's neither normal criminals nor supervillains; it's just a crowd of hungry people who have decided that the NYPD horses and dogs are a viable food source.

We can imagine it because it's the kind of scene that has to happen in Spider-Man: Far From Home if it's actually part of the post-Endgame MCU.

We can also say, with a fair degree of certainty, that nothing like it will appear.  We aren't likely to see Peter and friends facing food riots or the government response.  We aren't likely to see the effect of the political instability that would necessarily exist even if this weren't happening a mere five years after the worst disaster in history.

Remember, there has never in history been a situation where there were twice as many people as the food supply could support.  Like the snap, this is superlative.  This is the worst famine ever.  It's the first worldwide one, too.

Peter and Pals are in New York City.  That gives them front row seating.

Even if they were somewhere less globally connected, since it's global, no matter how hard they try, there is no possible way that they can avoid being completely swept up in this disaster.

Until the food supply and population reach equilibrium this will be their lives, and they will be forever changed by it.

We aren't likely to see that.


Nothing in what's been released about the movie even attempts to address anything that happened in Endgame other than, "Hey, we're fresh out of Iron Man."  An Iron Man shortage is not the major problem left in the wake of Endgame.  (I'd also point out that Iron Man isn't the only hero they're out of.)

We know beyond all doubt that the world is falling apart in the worst possible way; Peter Parker goes on vacation.

Which, in the end, is sort of the problem with the MCU.

They wanted a connected universe.  They refused to connect it.

Every damned movie they set up things that must necessarily happen, or be true, or have consequences, and every time they ignored it as completely as possible in everything that followed.‏

I don't particularly want a "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends have all their joy and optimism crushed in the famine-ridden Hellscape that necessarily follows Endgame" movie.  I understand why they're not doing it.  But that's the only Spider-Man movie that can follow Endgame.

So, instead, we're getting a movie that doesn't follow Endgame.  And that's fine.  But why, then, are we being told that it does?  Why not just say, "This is a different continuity"?  You don't need continuity to have the same actors show up as the same characters, after all.

What's the last MCU movie that actually benefited from being in a shared universe?

If they'd just said, "Yes, we're (mostly) using the same familiar face for each character, but don't expect everything to line up," what would have been lost?

I ask because I don't remember the last time it felt like being part of the MCU continuity was lifting a film up instead of weighing it down.

And wow is that fucking uneven.  Sorry about that.  The plan was to have simple editing of the Twitter thread for readability and typos, then I massively expanded on some stuff, then I ran out of steam after the chickens.

Anyway, here's a massive footnote on why we don't know whether the population doubled.  This will be a straight cut and paste of the Twitter thread covering it:


[] So, I was writing a thread on Spiderman: Far From Home and how it seems to be ignoring its own premise, and I realized that I needed a separate thread on the caveats to the statement that the premise is "The population just doubled without warning."

So, caveats here.

Some of the people popping into existence are doing it less than idea places.  Think "a bowl of petunias and a very surprised looking whale" places.

Well over three hundred thousand would have appeared at airplane cruising altitudes sans plane, for example.

A more pressing concern is probably those who appeared in the middle of roads.  Over nine million would have done this in the US alone.  That's going to lead to secondary die off, in the form of everyone who gets offed in the traffic accidents.

We could obviously go on at great length, but it's important to note that for all of the people who suddenly find themselves off belay in mid air, or in the middle of the ocean with no boat, there are more who appear in places where they're safe and sound, physically at least.

Which brings us to the psychological toll.

A lot of people are going to be visiting their own (empty) graves and wondering if that's how it was meant to be, and (whether they do that or not) not everyone is going to survive thinking along those lines.

Kicking someone five years into the future would be a strain normally, but this isn't just any future.

Five years ago something happened, and the snapped back people are going to be hit with the full reality of that all at once and it's going to hurt.

Five years ago, no caveats, half the population of the universe disappeared.

We're primarily concerned with earth, and even then we limit ourselves to humans instead of talking about ecosystem collapse or intestinal bacteria, so for us it's really more that ~3.75 billion humans.

Those people who would later appear in the middle of the road?  They were on the road.  It probably doesn't matter whether they're driver or passenger, since a passenger going dust is going to distract the driver.

So on, so forth.

But, again, for every person in an inopportune place, more weren't.

They, of course, had to then deal with the biggest disruption in human history.

Most visions of the Rapture are lighter and fluffier.  In real history, the Black Death wasn't nearly so terrible.

It doesn't actually take that much to collapse a civilization; what Thanos did was more than enough to collapse every civilization. In fact, if that had been his goal, we would be well justified in calling what he did massive, absurdly over the top, overkill.

Which brings us to the wars and riots and so forth.

This is when you begin to understand precisely why the filmmakers curled up into a ball, whimpered, and finally gave the fuck up --instead opting to push it off screen with a time-skip-- in the face of what they'd created.

Every recorded war pales in comparison to the inevitable after-snap conflict.  All wars combined wouldn't measure up.

Before, alongside, and after that is the political maneuvering and restructuring.

When the bodies are buried and borders settled, earth will be unrecognizable.

The people who burst back into being are going to have to be faced with the fact that the world as they knew it ended, and there's this new thing in its place that they don't understand, don't fit into, and are ill equipped to cope with.

That's before we get to the people.

A lot of the non-snapped people they knew will be dead because of the aftermath.  Be it the immediate disaster or the riots or the wars or --and this one is brutal-- because they stopped receiving the care a snapped individual had been providing, a lot of the nonsnapped are dead.

Those who returned have to face that.  They also have to face the fact that everyone they knew who lived through it is fundamentally changed.

Other than the ones snapped and unsnapped with them, the people they once knew are gone.  Some died, the rest are different people now.

Certainly reconnection is possible, but in the face of people who have lived (and grown) five years through Hell in what was, to them, the blink of an eye, the unsnapped are going to have a hard time relating.

Which brings us back to the suicides.

The world they knew is gone, the new world doesn't have a place for them, they don't know the first thing about making a place, some of the people they care about are dead, others are so very different.

The psychological strain is high.

This also, by the way, is Flight of the Navigator.

David couldn't fit into a world where eight years had passed while he remained the same.

David, of course, had it comparatively easy.  He was the only one to disappear, so there was no major disruption to life on earth.

Anyway, all of that is why it's difficult to say whether "doubled" is accurate.

Half of the population disappears.  A bunch more die.  Time passes.  The population is now [something].  The people who disappeared reappear.  Many die.  Is the population now approximately two times [something]?

We can't really answer that.  We don't know how many died in the disruption.  We don't know if people have been breeding like rabbits.

It's almost certainly the case that the population doubled or more than doubled with the unsnap, but which of those it did is harder to say.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hypothetical trailer for a hypothetical game about running around (figuratively) in zero gravity

[Originally posted right here right now.]
[Just something quick and rough]
[Italics are voice over.]

So, you know how it is when you think you're living in a small town on earth that is, perhaps, too isolated for its own good but otherwise fairly unremarkable, and then your entire understanding of reality is shattered when the gravity fails?
[short scene of when the gravity failed, and the immediate aftermath (based on computer physics simulations rather than assumptions about what it would look like.)]
Yeah . . . that.
[adults looking completely freaked out, confused, and/or in utter shock]
[kids having fun 'flying' by launching themselves from building to building]
As near as we can tell, we're in some form of bio-dome or other on some kind of space station, with absentee landlords.
[A town meeting, in the high school auditorium.  Why?  Because the seats are nailed down, which gives people something to latch onto.]

"We're somewhat close to sure," a speaker says, "that the sea migrating into the sky will not cause the local fish population die off, provided that we implement some simple and straightforward safeguards."
Life goes on, because it kind of has to . . .
[People attempting to shop at a supermarket, which has been modified for zero-g by people who clearly had no idea what they were doing.]
. . . and some of us even attempt to understand things . . .
[Two floating people, anchoring themselves by holding onto a workbench.  Said workbench has clearly alien/future/{otherwise unlike what we know} technology strapped to it.]

One Person: "I'm telling you, if we hook the doohicky into the thingamajig--"

The Other: "Then the whole thing will explode!"

One Person: "Don't be so dramatic.  The worst that would happen is we'd void our warranty."

The Other: "We don't have a warranty,"

One Person: "Then everything's fine."
. . . but answers are kind of hard to come by . . .
"It was hard enough figuring out how high up the sky is, now you want to know what it's made of‽"
. . . and no one really knows what to do . . .
Public figure: "Provided we all stay calm--"

Random Heckler: "No one will notice you don't have a plan!"
. . . so any ideas at all, no matter how ill conceived . . .
Leader of a ragtag group: "We'll just steal some construction equipment and drill a hole in the . . . the . . ."

Member of group: "Sky/bedrock/wall/thing."

Leader: "Yeah, that."
. . . are kind of welcome . . .
[Narrator is on screen for the first time, and is talking to members of the rag tag group]

Narrator: "I just want you to know that I'm only doing this--"

Member of group: "--because you're bored and have nothing better to do, we know."

Narrator: "Look, I just want it to be on-record that I think this is a stupid idea that has no chance of working."

Member of group: "When we appoint a scribe, making that record will be the first thing we have them do; let's get on with it."
. . . given the lack of clear alternatives.
[Explosion rips a hole in what looks like reality itself, but clearly has to be the wall around the enclosure.]
Which is more or less where we find ourselves.
[Quick shots of gameplay involving human-powered movement through zero gravity in various environments.]

[Lots of the zero-g equivalent of running (toward, from, between), possible non-euclidean geometry (not sure on that one), and a distinct lack of combat.]

⁂   ⁂

So, where this comes from is long, roundabout, and only tangentially related to what this actually ended up being.  I'll have a separate post on the game Adr1ft (along with what I wanted, and didn't get, from it) in the near future.

The short version: I was thinking thoughts about a person (not vehicle) moving in zero gravity as a game mechanic, and how, properly implemented, that could be awesome.  Then, somehow, the idea of a terrestrial setting came into my head.  Given that terrestrial settings aren't particularly known for their lack of gravity, that's when the "not really on earth" part of the idea came in.

The idea proper started with what became the first two italic bits.

The first bit was never completely formed.  "You know how it is when . . ." something about the sudden realization that one isn't in figurative-Kansas anymore being brought about by the gravity turning off.  (Figurative-Kansas not mentioned, but hopefully that gets the idea across.

The second bit of, "Yeah, that," was always pretty clear.

Those two things were the start of the idea, the next thing I came up with was having people who had scavenged some of the habitat technology trying to understand it with the exchange of:
"I'm telling you, if we hook the doohicky into the thingamajig--"

The Other: "Then everything will explode!"
or thereabouts.  The rest of that particular bit grew pretty naturally.

Everything else I sort of hastily filled in in the process of writing.

The "hastily" is important here because none of it is particularly well thought out.  Nor is there any clear concept of how it fits together.  For example: Did the people at the work bench get the doohicky and the thingamajig on their own, or did they salvage it after the ragtag group blew a hole in the wall? No idea.

I very much don't know what would happen to a body of water if gravity turned off.  That means that I also very much do not know if there's any hope for fish.  (This is well before we get to the fact that fish, apparently, do very badly in zero gravity.)  I just needed something for someone to say in a town meeting.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Another update, another list of things that might come in the future.

It's been a while, clearly, and I just . . . I don't know what to say here really.  Things seem to be looking up.  Every time that things seemed to be looking up since mid February 2017, it turned out to be nothing more than false hope.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


[This was originally going to be a comment in the  open thread at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[It may or may not be the case that it reflects the fact it wasn't intended to be a full post.]
[This is what's been going on of late.]

I am so very extremely sick right now.  In two different ways.  I'm not sure that the sinus infection I mentioned two weeks ago [in the then-current open thread at Ana's] ever went away.  I think it didn't.  I think that it just got less bad, and I thought that meant it was going away, and thus never actually made a trip to any doctor about it.

If the above is correct, it reasserted itself like whoa this passed weekend.  If it isn't, then Sinus Infection: The Sequel is way worse than the original.

On Saturday night, it decided to ask for company.  No idea how it managed it (I haven't been around anyone who could plausibly have given me this sickness) but into my life was introduced some kind of evil gastrointestinal thing.

I'm not going to talk about the gastrointestinal thing beyond noting that amoungst its symptoms is abdominal pain that's had me crying out in incoherent non-words.  The reason that I'm not going to say anything else is that gastrointestinal == ick in a way that, say, muscle aches or fatigue really don't.

So, on to the rest.

No fever (I'm not dying of influenza, woo!) but a lot of flu symptoms can and will show up in other conditions.  Fatigue, weakness, headaches like I've never known (I thought Migraines were the giant scary monarch of headaches, but it turns out sinus headaches are worse, by leaps and bounds no less), and oh so very much muscle aching.

On that last point, from Monday evening through Tuesday noonish (times are approximate in that I wasn't keeping track, and so am sort of guessing) my everything hurt.  It's possible that some little used muscle somewhere didn't hurt and I just didn't notice the lack of pain (it would be like a "meh" needle in a pain haystack), but even if that were true, the muscles around it must necessarily have been aching because there was definitely no part of me that wasn't aching

And, of course, it wasn't just little aches.  I'm aching today, but wasn't planning on mentioning it because it's not an all-consuming kind of pain.

This has, naturally, completely disrupted my sleep.  In particular, the sinus headache medicine lasts for four hours, which is not, in fact, how long I prefer to remain asleep.  The rest obviously doesn't help either.

Yesterday, I got a ride to a walk-in medical place.  They mostly told me what I expected them to tell me, but I wasn't actually going there for information.  I was going there in hopes that they'd give me antibiotics for my sinus infection.  They did.

That was too late in the day to actually pick up the prescription, so I started this morning.  Two pills down and 19 to go.  (Three daily for a week.)

So, that's life right now.  It sucks, but it should improve.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

An origin myth from a world of talking ungulates

So, the good news is that I wrote a thing.  The bad news is that it's going to require some explanation.  (And isn't terribly interesting even if you do understand everything.)  It's incredibly rough, but --on the plus side-- it actually exists.

The setting is a deer kingdom that borders pony lands in a world where both of those things have human-level intelligence and can talk.  Also other things (hooved animals, basically), but those are the key players in this bit.  Also mentioned is a ponycorn princess who's a unicorn (pony) supremacist.

The one relating the story is a starving ponycorn.  The one she's telling it to is the king of the deer kingdom.  Since I haven't figured out his name yet, he's "[king]' right now.  The deer aren't starving because they can eat things that horses cannot.

All of that is only related to this bit in that it explains why the ponycorn has so very little energy that it's a struggle for her to even hold a conversation.

Lastly, important bit of horse terminology: "feathering" and "feathers" refer to the long hair on the lower legs of some types of horses.  The Clydesdale breed probably offers the most recognizable examples of feathered horses.

Ok, story time.

“Have you ever heard the legend of the deer with one horn?” Ametrine asked.

“I can’t say that I have,” [king] said.

“I’m not surprised,” Ametrine said.  “The story was known to ponies, but it’s not the sort of story . . . it’s not actively suppressed, per se, but it’s the sort of thing everyone knows they’re not meant to talk about or believe.

“My mother told it to my sister and I in secret.  She made sure we knew that we should only share it with people we trusted.”  Ametrine paused and closed her eyes for a moment. She was so tired, all the time.  “She wanted us to share it, though. She didn’t want the legend to die.”

[king] nodded solemnly, then said, “I would be honored to hear this tale, and see that it is not forgotten.”

“It happened long ago,” Ametrine said.  “So long that many details are lost, and any proof of its veracity is quite impossible.

“There was only one kind of pony in those days --the gift of the sky gods had not yet been bestowed upon Pegasuses-- and they were not far removed from the horses of the north.  Thick manes, shaggy fur, and lots of feathering at the hooves. The plains had yet to see repopulation.”

“That is long ago indeed,” [king] said.

“There was a cataclysm,” Ametrine, “fertile lands turned to dust and ash, it wasn’t a famine, but only because there were places to run.”

“This is a tale of the Death of Magic,” [king] said.

“It is,” Ametrine said.  “As the dead lands grew . . .” She had to pause again.  So tired. “As the dead lands grew, people came to realize that the disaster threatened to end all life.  When the reason why was determined, it somehow managed to seem worse.”

Ametrine’s head dropped and she almost fell asleep.  “Sorry,” she said when she recovered.

“You have nothing to apologize for, little one,” [king] said.  “You have done more than could ever be expected of you, with far less than you should have.”

“Thanks,” Ametrine said.  “I . . . I want to tell you this, though.”  She slowly inhaled, then continued. “Many were able to determine what was necessary to fix things, but none were able to do it.

“The only way to stop the Death of Magic was to repair and revive the failed magic at its core, that would halt the collapse and . . .” Ametrine’s head bobbed.  “And . . .”

“And with the collapse stopped,” [king] said, “the rest of the magic in the land would heal naturally.”

Amertine nodded.  “Yeah, that.” She gestured, but no words came.

“None could perform this feat, because it required an immense amount of magic to be channeled through a single being, as only a truly unified will could complete the necessary, seemingly impossible, task of repairing such damage.”

Amertine nodded.  “Uh huh.”

“Attempts to blend the minds of multiple beings --so that a group might have unified thought, mind, and will-- all failed," [king] continued.  "While such failures produced heartbreak, they were not so tragic as what happened when noble creatures attempted to channel such magic through themselves alone.”

Ametrine nodded again.

“That is where my knowledge of the story ends,” [king] said.  “The stories of my people do not record how the problem was ultimately solved.  It is a mystery to us.”

“Well . . .” Ametrine said.  “Well,” she paused a beat, then pushed on, “there were doubtless many groups who attempted to create a new form of being capable of . . . of channeling-- safely channeling that much magic.  At least one such group succeeded.

“They uh . . . they weren’t sure if it was . . . moral, to create a living thing for a set purpose, or . . .” Ametrine’s head collapsed onto the bed.  “Whoa,” she said.

“You don’t have to tell me this now,” [king] said.  “I will make time to listen whenever you ask me to.”

“No,” Ametrine said.  “Want to.” Apparently she and grammar had parted ways.  Still, she summoned all the effort she could muster, and returned to the story, “They knew that . . . expecting this of a child was wrong, so they created an adult, but though it was less bad than the alternative didn’t make them . . .”

Ametrine silently cursed herself for needing to stop.  It had been a pretty decent run. She’d almost made it to the end of the sentence.

“It didn’t make them feel better about . . . about creating a someone who would never have . . . a childhood,” she said.  “Still, it was the only thing they could think to do.

“So they crafted spells and found ways to make sure this new creature would have language, common knowledge, and the ability to . . .” She closed her eyes and lay her head back on her bed.  “I’m gonna take a second.”

She knew that there was probably some prohibition about making a king wait while one was his guest, but she was so tired and so weak right now.  So she took a break. While she didn’t know how long she took, she did know it was definitely longer than the second she had announced.

This time Ametrine didn’t bother opening her eyes, and left her head laying on the bed.  She said, “It . . . she was willed into being as an adult with all the knowledge and skill necessary to perform the magical feat.

“It’s said that she was beautiful,” Ametrine said.  “A creature of white and gray.” Ametrine took a long pause.  “She had a little bit of each species that had been involved. The beard of a goat, the feathers of a horse around her cloven hooves, the tail of a bison.”  Another pause. “But, mostly, she was a deer. Her overall shape, her posture, her bone structure, all of it was . . . deer. Even her spots . . . spots on an adult is a pony thing, but their pattern was pure deer.”

Ametrine considered opening her eyes, but decided against it.

“On her head was a single horn, which looked as though it had been created by twisting two horns or antlers together.  It was permanent, like a goat or bison horn, but colored like an antler.”

“A unicorn horn,” [king] said.  Ametrine nodded, and [king] continued, “I did wonder.”

Ametrine opened her eyes, looked at [king] again, and said, “The first unicorn horn, on the first unicorn.

“Her creators hadn’t told the magic how she should be shaped; she had just come out that way.  They also,” Ametrine took a moment to gather her energy, “hadn’t given any thought to reproduction.  My mother liked to think that she was surprised one most surprised of all --in a truly joyous way, mind you-- when she became pregnant, but that’s . . . speculation, not part of the story.

“When the Death of Magic was averted, and the land slowly began to heal, she took a pony as her mate.  Or maybe took ponies as her mates.”  Ametrine closed her eyes, took a breath, composed herself, opened her eyes, and continued, “Either way, her choice to make a life with ponies is probably why her story isn’t known among your people.

“Most of her features faded away over so very many generations, but my mother believed it was important to remember where we came from,” Ametrine said.  “It’s why she made sure my sister and I knew the story.”

“I understand why Princess Filigree wouldn’t approve of that story,” [king] said.

Ametrine snorted.  “That’s putting it lightly.  I’m not sure which part she would hate more, that unicorns aren’t completely pony, or that . . . that everything ‘pony’ about us originally came from ponies of the earth and stone.”

“My guess would be that she wouldn’t bother to choose,” [king] said.

“Sounds about right,” Ametrine said.  “Gonna sleep now; thank you for listening.”  She lay down her head and closed her eyes.

“I shall have ‘The Deer with One Horn as told by Ametrine daughter of Almandine Garnet of the line of Queens’ added to our historical corpus,” [king] said.

Ametrine smiled.  “I appreciate that.”

“I am honored you saw fit to share it with me, Storyteller,” [king] said.  “Now you should rest.”

Ametrine nodded.  She knew that she should express gratitude at being dubbed ‘Storyteller’ --it was a high honor for, and from, deer-- but right now she had no energy.  It was a miracle she’d managed to tell the story at all.

As she let the darkness of sleep take her, Ametrine decided that, if she lived long enough and could find one, she would have to cut a gem for [king] in thanks.

⁂   ⁂

This setting, which happens to be quite dark, was first described about a week shy of two months ago in an open thread at Ana's:
Since Sunday I've been constructing a story in my head about a unicorn and a Pegasus navigating a hellscape of ethnic cleansing and prolonged famine after all of the adults in their lives have been murdered.

It is in no way a good story. I have not been trying to create it. It's just happening. It's happening because I read a truly terrible My Little Pony fanfic and my mind rebelled.
Accidentally reading pro-Confederate BS in fanfic form can, apparently, be inspiring.  Anyway, at that point it hewed very closely to the source material (the terrible fanfic, not actual My Little Pony.)  It doesn't anymore.

The setting includes ponies with horns, ponies with wings, and ponies with neither, and all of them have a civilization or two, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.  In fact, the only reason they are ponies instead of larger horses is that I wanted them to be smaller than white tailed deer, which puts them firmly in "pony" territory.

I'm not entirely sure where this particular bit came from.  The features of the original unicorn in the above story, apart from the spots and horn being antler colored, are taken straight from those of traditional unicorns.  Granted, traditional unicorns have the tail of a lion, but bison are hoof-havers with the same general tail structure.

I think that a part of what went into this might be the fact that I'm never completely comfortable calling a ponycorn a unicorn.

Unicorns have cloven hooves.

The question "Can an animal with cloven hooves have a single, centrally placed, horn?" was a huge part of the debate on whether unicorns were even possible in reality.  The answer, by the way, is, "Yes.  Yes, they can."  (See: that deer that made the news that one time.)  Whether or not they can have it as a species-universal trait remains to be seen.

And I might be out of things to say.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

An update

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

After putting up the open thread at Ana's yesterday, I typed up what's been going on with me, since I haven't said anything there in weeks.  It's probably been longer since I said something here, so I figured I'd post it here too.

I've been bad.

[Depression, sickness, general terribleness at coping with life, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, and a pig.]

Depression is bad. I thought it was getting better, but then . . . don't know.

I haven't been doing a good job of keeping food in the house,* which has translated to not eating properly. I know I'm not drinking enough. Haven't been getting enough sleep either.

So that's all fun. It all links together and feeds itself with any one problem contributing to the others, and in tern being bolstered by them.

I've been sick. Got the first sinus headaches of my life.† Not fun. I've just realized that it doesn't feel like they've gone away yet. Not sure if they really haven't, or I've currently got a migraine doing a really good impression.

Anyway, I got sick, it lingered for longer than it had any right to, then --just as it was lifting-- I got sick again, and now it's seeming like I might have picked up some kind of secondary respiratory track infection because apparently two annoying and gross sicknesses in a row wasn't enough.

Remember how I talked about bullshit regarding primary computer ages ago? Haven't actually done anything about that since then. Just been depressed and stagnant and stuff.

Secondary computer stopped accepting a charge . . . a few days ago, I think? Need to pop it open and see if it's something I can actually deal with or if it's kaput. It uses star screws. It probably isn't the first time I've encountered something with star screws, but it's the first time I've needed to do anything with them.

There is good news on the computer front. Thanks to a generous and unexpected loan from my mother, a new primary computer is coming. ETA next Thursday. So, that's something.

I've been helping my sister more days than not for I~don't~know~how~long. Everyone's getting worn down to Hell, tempers are frayed, and . . . blah. She lives an hour and a half away. Being trapped in a car any member of my family for that long can seriously deplete SAN points.

I don't remember what we started on. It's been fences so long that whatever came before has been lost. We've got one (pretty damned large) enclosure constructed and functioning, and another that's only waiting for gates. Both are rigged for electric fence near the bottom (to prevent animals from digging or forcing their way under, and the one waiting on gates is at the top (to prevent attempts to go over.)

When I started helping her up there this . . . stretch, I guess, she had a lot of chickens, two ducks, two sheep, and a goat. I've gone on trips with her to pick up an additional goat and a pig. The pig is a black furred and skinned individual Lola. The new goat has giant floppy ears. (It and the old goat are both incredibly soft and pettable.)

The sheep and goats both like to repeatedly express how unimpressed they are with the universe and all its contents by loudly saying, "Meh," but drawn out.

Helping my sister has taken up a huge amount of my time, and it leaves me pretty well spent the rest of the time. I was actually planning on starting to clean my house right around when she first called me in (well, first called me in this year), I haven't had the time or the energy.

I don't even remember the last time I wrote something.

- - -

* Have food right now, since I just stocked up.

† That I know of, could be that I had them before and mistook them for something else.

⁂   ⁂

Update on being sick: I noticed today that my sister's daughter is responding to sounds of sickness the way she would any other phoneme: she's mimicking them.

Mostly it's been the sound of spitting out mucus.  Thankfully she's doing kind of a crap job; her rendition of the sound isn't disgusting at all.

It's interesting to hear what things sound like when they're being imitated by her.

When we got the pig, she did her best to reproduce pig sound.  If you truly want to reproduce an oink, I'm pretty sure you need to do it by breathing in through your nose, but for my niece sounds are made by breathing out through the mouth.  The results were definitely evocative of a pig, but in a very noticeably human way.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


[Probably in my universe with super people.]

Alex Amelia Miller made a sound.  It wasn't the first time, but it was the first time that hearing one of the sounds Alex Amelia Miller made caused Umheylik Kĭnd to think new and different thoughts.  The novel chain of thoughts set off by the noise eventually terminated at a solution to the problem Umheylik Kĭnd had failed to solve for the previous six hours.

Umheylik Kĭnd walked to the broken door separating nir from Alex Amelia Miller, forced it open, ignored the sound it made as it fell from its hinges and clattered on the ground, evaluated the status of Alex Amelia Miller, determined that the collapsed remains of what had once been a ceiling, which were covering her, did not in fact represent an impediment to movement, took hold of Alex Amelia Miller's arm, and pulled her to her feet.

While previous sounds from Alex Amelia Miller had been incoherent expressions of generalized pain and suffering, the sound now produced was quite coherent:

"Ow, ow, ow!  My shoulder!"

"I have need of you," Umheylik Kĭnd told Alex Amelia Miller.

"Ok, that's nice," Alex Amelia Miller said, "but couldn't you have been more gentle?"

"I don't see how that is necessary."

"Um, ok," Alex Amelia Miller said. "Umhey, you're being weird."

"That is not my name, Alex Amelia Miller," Umheylik Kĭnd said in response.

"You're being very weird."

"We have dallied long enough," Umheylik Kĭnd announced.  "We should go now."  Ne took hold of Alex Amelia Miller's arm again, and pulled her into motion.  Once they were both walking in the direction of the most likely possible exit, Ne released Alex Amelia Miller's arm.

"Kĭndy," Alex Amelia Miller said, "what's going on?"

"That is also not my name."

"Which is part of the weirdness," Alex Ameila Miller said.

"That has never been my name."

"That has never been a problem."

"We are in no great hurry, and even if we were, using correct nomenclature does not impede us," Umheylik Kĭnd explained.  "I fail to see the point in using abbreviated forms."

"Did you take any particularly bad blows to the head?"

"None that were particularly bad, no."

"Then what's going on?"

"I have need of you, Alex Amelia Miller.  As I said."

Alex Amelia Miller rolled her eyes.

Umheylik Kĭnd simply kept walking.  No response seemed necessary.

"Fine!" Alex Amelia Miller said loudly.  "What do you need me to do?"

"I require you to tell me what to do."

Alex Amelia Miller stopped walking.  That seemed unnecessary and sub-optimal, but perhaps there was a reason that Umheylik Kĭnd simply failed to grasp.  This was why Alex Amelia Miller was here, after all.

Umheylik Kĭnd stopped walking as well, turned to face Alex Amelia Miller, and asked, "Why have you stopped?"

"Why aren't you making sense?" Alex Amelia Miller asked in response.  That did not make sense.  Umheylik Kĭnd had said nothing but sensible things.

"What do you mean, Alex Amelia Miller?"

"I could bring up how you're talking in monotone--"

Was that true?  Umheylik Kĭnd did not know.

"--or focus on the fact that the way you structure your speech has also changed--"

That was true.

"--or your sudden fixation with using only full proper names--"

It was not a fixation, it merely happened to be simpler if each thing had only one designation, and the most obvious designation was it's full and proper name.

"--but I think I'll go with why the fuck you think that I should be telling you what to do in this situation."

Umheylik Kĭnd blinked.

"Did our adversary tell you what was to become of me?" Umheylik Kĭnd asked Alex Amelia Miller.

"Something about your soul being ripped out."

"That is an accurate description of what transpired."

"What‽" Alex Amelia Miller shouted for no obvious reason.

"In the absence of a soul," Umheylik Kĭnd explained, "I find myself unable to determine a course of action."

Alex Amelia Miller stared at Umheylik Kĭnd.

"My brain still contains my memories and knowledge," Umheylik Kĭnd continued, "but it would appear that, in the absence of a soul to guide me, they are of little use."

"I . . ." Alex Ameila Miller said.  "Um . . . come again?"

Umheylik Kĭnd had thought nir words were quite clear.  Apparently they had not been.  That suggested that a different approach was necessary.  Fortunately, memories of Alex Ameila Miller suggested that one approach was to be favored over others.  As a default was readily available, no true determination would need to be made.

"For example," Umheylik Kĭnd said, "after we were left to our own devices six hours ago, I attempted to continue to act independently, but I could not decide how to go about that."

"It's been six hours?" Alex Amelia Miller asked.

"Yes, Alex Amelia Miller," Umheylik Kĭnd said. "In that time, I could not decide what to do.  I had no preferences or direction.  I was able to winnow the field of possibility somewhat by narrowing the question to what my previous, soul-having, self would want, but it led to a dead end.

"I know that I would have wanted my current, souless, self to do the right thing, morally and ethically speaking, but I was unable to determine what that would be."

"You've lost none of your knowledge and none of your memories, and you can't tell right from wrong?" Alex Amelia Miller asked.

"It is surprisingly difficult to derive an ethical framework from first principles, Alex Amelia Miller."

"You didn't consider, maybe, going into the next room over, checking on your friend," Alex Amelia Miller pointed to herself, "and . . . I don't know, waking her up?"

"It was one of many things I considered," Umheylik Kĭnd said.  "I was unable to find an obvious way to choose between those possibilities."

"So you just left me unconscious on the floor for six hours?"

"That is exactly what I did, Alex Amelia Miller."

"I just . . . I don't . . ." Alex Amelia Miller turned to face away from Umheylik Kĭnd, " I don't even."

"It was trival to determine that inaction was not the best course of action, but with no means of determining which action I should take, I could not choose one."

Alex Amelia Miller turned back to face Umheylik Kĭnd and asked, "You spent six hours navel gazing?  Couldn't you flip a coin or something?"

"I have twenty seven coins on my person.  I could not determine which coin, or combination of coins, it would be appropriate to flip.  Even if I had, it seems highly unlikely that I would have been able to determine which possibilities to assign to which outcomes."

Alex Amelia Miller held her head in her hand.

"So why aren't you navel gazing still?" she asked.

"It was not difficult to conclude that my current indecision stems from my lack of soul," Umheylik Kĭnd said.  "It was, however, quite some time before I realized that there was a readily available soul in close proximity.  The possibilities for just action that include the two of us relatively uninjured and working together all involve us leaving this place, so I collected you and headed for the exit."

"Uh huh," Alex Amelia Miller said.  "Your 'collection' of me involved nearly pulling my arm out of it's socket."

"That is clear exaggeration, Alex Amelia Miller."

"If you want me making decisions for you--" Alex Amelia Miller said.

"I do."

"The absolute first thing is that that we go back to calling each other what we have before."

Umheylik Kĭnd thought this over.  Ne would be 'Umhey' and 'Kĭndy', Alex Amelia Miller would be 'A.A.' and, possibly, 'Mills' on occasion.

"I can do that, A.A." Umhey said.

"Much better," A.A. said.  "Do you know how to get your soul back?"

"I do not, A.A."

"Is it possible to get your soul back?"

"I know of no reason why it would not be."

"Do you know how to go about learning how to get your soul back?"

"I know of several possible avenues for research into that topic."

A.A. started walking in their original direction.  Umhey fell into step beside her.

"Will the apocalypse become irreversible if we put it on the back burner while we focus on your soul?" A.A. asked.

Umhey attempted to find an answer to the question.  It was very complicated.  Ne was well into the process of assigning variables to likely probability distributions when A.A. sighed.

"Never mind," she said.  "Do you know of any obvious reason why the apocalypse would probably --probabilities guesstimated to be greater than four in five count as probable-- become irreversible if it were not our first priority."

Umhey attempted to find an answer to the question.  It was still quite complicated.

"Only addressing situations where it's not irreversible right now," A.A. added.

The question became less complicated.

"And 'guesstimated' here translates to 'the best, no matter how bad, you can come up with if you're only allowed approximately 20 minutes to answer the question'."

The margin of error shot through the roof, but the problem became less complicated.

Umhey thought about it, and they both continued toward the exit.

* *
* * *
* *

When I go looking for a demonic name, I generally hit the ancient Hebrew (because that's where Christianity grabbed its principal mythology from.)  It occurred to me that I fall back on that too much.  That's especially true given that Yiddish is hanging out in the same alphabet and positively begs to be spoken.

So I looked some stuff up.  If I bashed things together right, "umheylik kĭnd" (אומהייליק קינד) means "unholy child".  Transliteration from Yiddish doesn't actually use "ĭ", but when I look at "kind" I can't see it as anything but the English word of the same spelling, and that's not how "קינד" is pronounced.

This was written quickly today after reading a fanfic where a character lost her soul but didn't stop fighting.  I've played with that sort of thing for a long time, and reading that fic made me again think about what it might mean to lose one's essential them-ness while still retaining, you know, their brain.

I think this could be better, but right now I'm just grabbing onto whatever ideas I'm actually able to have and write.