Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The classic tale of a demon who came to buy a soul and ended up helping the person (for free) long term because prep-work -- Story Idea

[Originally posted on Facebook and came to me after I was directed to the entirely unrelated tale of Todd the demon.]

I find myself imagining a completely different situation. Someone calls on a demon to sell their soul for something or other. Trouble is that to sell a soul you need informed consent and while the person is informed their mental state is too fucked up to meaningfully consent.

Deep, deep apathy-style depression, too deep to do the basic drink-eat-sleep stuff. So the demon's all, "Ok, first we have to get you hydrated, then a good meal, around then you'll probably pass out all things considered, after that you definitely need a shower, maybe I'll clean the place up a bit, then we get you to a therapist, and hopefully at that point I can buy your soul."

This starts out with having to physically move the person around their house and bring them the water and cook them the food because the human is just too out of it to move.

But getting out of the bad mental state is a very long process and somewhere along the line the demon completely forgets (well, stops caring) that the original point of all this was to buy a soul, and instead is just hanging out with a friend who is trying to recover from debilitating depression.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Is there anything for simulating the effects of an extreme ice age?

It's relatively easy to simulate sea level rise.  Contour maps are perfect for that.  Want to simulate an X foot rise in sea level?  Look at each "X feet above sea level" contour.  Unless it marks a depression (an area completely surrounded by higher land) that's part of a new coastline.

It's crude, but it'll get the job done.  You get a new map, be it of the entire world or just one part of it, with the new sea level.

It is, theoretically, equally easy to simulate drops in sea level.  You just do the same thing with an ocean floor contour map.  I haven't actually seen any sea level drop maps out there, so I don't know if it's been implemented.

Ice, however, is complex as all fuck.

At first it seems simple enough,  It depends on temperature and precipitation.  Those two things affect each other which is the first complexity that you'll notice, but it's just the beginning.

Salt water, fresh water, dry land, and ice all react to solar heating differently.  And with both kinds of water it also depends on how deep the water is before we get to the wet land beneath it.  That in itself would be an annoying problem to tackle, but temperature and precipitation are as much determined by those things as they are by the movement of the air and water initially heated by those things.

So now we're talking about ocean currents and wind patterns, which are themselves determined by temperature, precipitation, and solid things that get in the way like land and ice.

And just to add some more feedback loops, land and ice are changing this entire time.  That mountain range that was blocking the wind might end up being a non-factor if the ice sheet (a thing known for being flat and non-mountain-like) rolls right over it.  And there aren't going to be any constants in coastal areas because the more ice there is on land the less water there is in the sea, which means more dry land and changing coast lines which is going to change the wind patterns and the water currents and also need to be factored in when thinking about the initial solar heating because as noted dry land does not react to the sun in the same way as sea water.  (Nor as ice.)

And, in short, the whole thing is a massive fucking headache.

But I very much want to be able to get some kind of simulation, however rough, of "drop the temperature/solar output by X and the world looks like Y with the ice sheet being Z thick at [point on ice sheet you clicked on]" for . . . reasons.

Good reasons?  Of course not.  Just reasons.

And I'm pretty sure no such thing exists, but considering that we haven't had a snowball earth in a long time it's not like I can just look up historical recreation maps and see various levels of extreme ice age with the continents in their current positions.

And that's annoying.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Back to School -OR- The Stupidest Time Travel Scheme Ever (Kim Possible)

[The beginning of something I've had in mind for a while, not sure if anything will come of it.  In large part I don't know if anything will come from it because all I have is the premise.]
[Picks up near the end of So the Drama.  If you want immediate canonical context, click here for the crappy low resolution video of said context that probably won't get me sued.  For more in depth context you'd need more of the plot of the movie.]

They were in the last van.  Shego wasn't entirely sure why they had saved Drakken for the last one, but she was still in pain from the reason she'd been placed with the final seven henchmen to be carted away: it had taken that long to dig her out from under the rubble of the control tower.

The EMTs had been positively amazed --to the point they wouldn't shut up about it-- by the fact Shego wasn't dead five times over --once from the kick that turned her into a projectile with enough force to shatter the tower, once from the impact that did shatter the tower, once from the electricity that coursed through her body when she hit, once from the multi-story fall after she separated from the tower, and once from the tower landing on top of her.  Their incessant ramblings about what she'd suffered did nothing to lighten Shego's mood.

The moment they gave the “Ok” to the police Shego had been loaded into the final van, only Drakken sat farther from the door than she did, in spite of her being the last one placed in the van.

“This is not over!” Drakken shouted in a particularly whiny voice. “Aw, this can't be over.”

Shego just glared.

“Deal with it, dude,” Stoppable said, slamming the door closed, “it's--”

The van sped away, but it wasn't hard to guess what Stoppable had been about to say.

They'd been traveling three hours, this was not a time when they'd be thrown in a local jail, when Shego finally deinged to speak to Drakken.

“We could have won if you had bothered to tell me the actual plan.”

“Shego?” Drakken's voice had nothing but confusion.

“Do you want a list?”

“Maybe?”  Now there was fear.

“I didn't know we had a mole in her inner circle until you had me go to Middleton and even then it wasn't you who told me, it was the synthodrone.  If I had known maybe he wouldn't have been so useless.”

“Synthodrone 901 served his purpose,” Drakken said defensively.

“He didn't keep her from learning about the plot, he didn't keep her from stopping it in Middleton, he didn't keep her from stopping it in general, and he didn't provide any useful intelligence.  We had a spy who accomplished nothing.”

“He wasn't a spy, he was a--”

“If he were a distraction then you shouldn't have had me bring him to our base of operations!” Shego snapped. “I could have taken him to the Caribbean lair, let a few clues slip, and she'd have thought that was our base of operations.  When the signal actually went out she'd be stuck on an island and wouldn't have been able to reach our command tower on a moped.”

“Well . . .” Drakken was back to fear.

“By the time a boat or plane got her passed the robots and back to the mainland we'd have been able to set up, at least, a secondary tower.  Maybe even a tertiary one.  Then she wouldn't be able to stop us just by taking out one tower.”

“Multiple overlapping global control systems . . .” And now Drakken was being thoughtful.

He wasn't supposed to be thoughtful, he'd royally screwed this up.

“The only thing the synthodrone did was keep her mildly distracted for a short time and then deliver an electric shock.  A shock that wouldn't have been necessary if you hadn't screwed up the planning stages.”

“I don't--” And he was back to being afraid with just a hint of defensiveness.  Good.

“It was never going to be enough to dangle a 'syntho-hottie' in front of her for an absurdly short period of time and think that that could keep her from listening to the buffoon when he found out you were using his favorite restaurant as a part of your scheme.

“You didn't need to have everything on an accelerated time-frame just so you could threaten her prom date.  If you were going to get someone close to her they should have been an agent who established a relationship with her over an extended period before the plan came to fruition.

“It didn't even need to be a date, we could have had an agent becoming her friend, made a few fake plots for her to foil while the the agent got close to her, worked on dividing loyalties and maybe sabotage that damned hair dryer grappling hook or something.

I could have done a better job than the synthodrone!”

Drakken's eyes seemed to light up.  This was not good.

“What did you say?” he asked.

“It was just an example,” Shego said, now she was worried.  “I don't do undercover and Kim hates me, which makes me a horrible choice for such a mission, but even with those two things against me I still could have done a better job than the drone did because he was just that bad.”

“No, you're right,” Drakken said.  Shego could tell from the way he said it that this wasn't the good kind of being right.  New schemes were developing inside of his mind and they were the worst type of scheme there could be: ones that used her.

Not included her, used her.

“You would be perfect.”

“Drakken,” Shego said in a voice that would make any normal person run for cover.

“You could become her friend, do girl things with her that the buffoon never would, since you're her equal in combat you could join her on missions as a partner rather than sidekick, rendering the buffoon and his rodent obsolete, you could become essential to every aspect of her life so that she came to depend on you without even realizing it, and then, at the critical moment, KABOOM!

“This is so much better than a made to order syntho-hottie.”

This was a disaster.

It was time to change tack.

“Do you want me to tell you why that won't work?” Shego asked in a civil voice.

“But it will work!” Drakken shouted in glee.

“You already tricked her into liking a new acquaintance.  She'll be suspicious.  She's known me since she took your nano-tick, so there'll be no convincing her I'm not her enemy.  I graduated from college with a two year degree in child development--”

“Why didn't you tell me you had a degree in that?” Drakken asked. “You could have helped with my research.”

“The slumber parties were not research,” Shego said, “and my point is that I can't pass as a high school student.”

“Oh but you can,” Drakken said in a way that truly disturbed Shego.  “And you'll soon see that all of your concerns are easily dealt with.”

“The electricity confounded my powers,” Shego said, completely serious now; “if I try to use them I could very well vaporize the entire van along with us inside of it.”

“I fail to see-”

“If you don't abandon this line of reasoning,” Shego said, “I'll risk it in the hopes that I can beat you until you've been knocked into a different train of thought.”

“But Shego, this was the closest we've ever come to world domination and you're right that you'd do a much better j--”

Blinding green light filled the van.

* * *

“They got away!?” Possible asked.

“Isn't it traditional to actually go to prison before breaking out?” Stoppable asked.

“Shego!” Drakken called, pulling her attention away from the screen she was watching the intercepted conversation on.

“Shego, the time has come to tell you of my greatest scheme yet.”

“Are your burns even healed yet?” Shego asked.

“Enough of that,” Drakken said quickly.  “Walk with me.”

She sighed and followed him through their traditional fallback lair, the Caribbean lair.

“Shego, what do you know about time travel?” Drakken said.

“I hate time travel,” Shego said reflexively.

“But do you know why?” Drakken asked in a very smug way.

Of course she knew why, she hated time travel because . . .  because . . .

“Last year, in late summer, there were ripples through space-time that I have determined were a result of a failed attempt to change the world via time travel--”

“Is this going somewhere?”

“Whatever happened was so paradoxical that it effectively wrote itself out of the space time continuum but echos of the experience lingered with a select few individuals,” Drakken said.  “Strong feelings that seemed to come from nowhere.  You yourself ended up disliking time travel, while I developed an irrational fear of control collars--”


“They don't exist yet,” Drakken said with a wave his hand.  Then he added, “And I hope they never will,” with a shudder.

“Ok . . .” Shego said.

“Because of your sudden distaste for time travel I shelved the work I'd done on the space-time ripples--”

Shego didn't believe that, so she asked, “Like you gave up on cloning after I told you, 'No cloning'?”

“Fine,” Drakken said as if he'd just been forced to make some major concession.  “I couldn't find a way to use time travel to our advantage without inevitably causing a paradoxical collapse, especially since I was only able to locate half of the item that served as a locus for the temporal distortions.

“I can only safely send one person through time and even with minimal equipment that person would have to weigh one hundred and fifteen pounds or less.  That rather limits any grand schemes.”

Shego knew she didn't want to know, but curiosity compelled her to ask anyway, “So why are you bringing this up now?”

“Your idea of a long term sleeper agent has made me reconsider the possibilities that are available to us.”

Shego recognized this as very not good, believed that Drakken's burns from the van incident must not have been severe enough, and was very eager for her powers to stop being on the fritz so she could properly dissuade him from this line of reasoning.

“It is true that Kim Possible would wary of new friends now, it's true that she's been able to recognize us since first meeting us, and it's true that you're too old to be a high school student.”

And it was true that Shego had an immense sinking feeling.

“Before she met us, however, she had no reason to be suspicious, she wouldn't recognize us, and once I've used my juvinator to make you the appropriate age . . . well, more than half of all 15 year old girls weigh less than 115 pounds.”

“You're planning to send me to high school for two years?” Shego asked.  Drakken took a step back.  He seemed to finally be getting a sense of her mood.  She could always beat him with her bare fists.  She didn't need powers to beat him up.

“Now, Shego . . .” Drakken said while speeding his backward motion.

* * *

In the end, Shego was convinced, but not by Drakken.  Part of the equipment that could be sent back with her was a small handheld computer with positively amazing storage capacity, and she'd carefully decided what to load onto it.  The in depth history of every stock market on the planet, digital copies of every single book that was made after her arrival and every patent that had been granted or applied for, winning lottery numbers, archaeological finds, so on, so forth.  She didn't need a a computer to record the locations of a plethora of priceless objects that were being protected by security that was, to her, a bit over two years out-dated.

Everything would be thrown off track fast, the only winning numbers she could count on were the first ones, releasing a runaway bestseller before the real author even wrote it would shake up the literary world, it would be difficult to tell how long she could play stocks before the market completely changed, archaeological finds wouldn't be a problem, though getting permits might.

Drakken's limited time travel would only allow her to go back to early December 2001 --Shego considered this a very good thing as it meant she'd only have to endure half of freshman year-- and by that Christmas she'd be so rich she wouldn't know what to do with the money.

Drakken thought she wanted the schematics for his holo-technology to create fictitious parents for her cover.  In fact she needed it so that when she won every lottery on the planet the people who sold her the tickets, and the people who gave her the jackpots, would see adults instead of a 15 year old girl.  Different adults because if the same adult won everything people would be suspicious.  Same reasoning for books and inventions.

She'd convinced Drakken that she'd need to able to be inside of the of the holograms sometimes because people would expect the “parents” to be able to touch things, and he'd come through for her on that point.  So no worries about physically picking up the tickets, shaking hands, or anything like that.

Shego was a thief, and she was about to steal a lot of people's futures . . . pasts . . . whatever; she really did hate time travel.  Still, it would be the greatest job she ever pulled.  The only problem was that Drakken would be able to stay in contact with her, and yank her back if he felt she was betraying him, so she'd need to also go through the motions of his stupid plan.

Well, that wasn't the only problem.  Even if she could cut herself off from Drakken, the juvinator couldn't go back with her, meaning she'd be stuck as a teenager.  Still, the past would be her playground, and Drakken had rigged up something to let her know how much change was too much, so she didn't have to worry about the universe getting fed up with her changes and spitting her out.

So it was that before summer's end in 2004, Shego was sent back to early December of 2001.

- - -

Time travel, the "echoes", and the "juvinator" are from the movie a Sitch in Time.  Most of what Shego says to Drakken is picking out holes in his So the Drama scheme.  Given the nature of the plan and the hope to avoid a catastrophic paradoxical collapse, Shego would be in deep cover and never actively working against Kim until she caught up to the time when she left which covers three seasons (the entire original run) of Kim Possible.  Surely there's nothing that could possibly go wrong with such a plan.

Again, Shego was not convinced by Drakken's actual plan, it's just something she'll endure in order to use time travel to get absurdly rich with minimal effort.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Setting a price -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, though really ought to go with this post.]
[content note: mention of child abuse, slavery, starvation]

Shasta returned from the stable and sat by the door. Men did not visit Arsheesh with any great frequency, but it had happened often enough that Shasta had found the most comfortable position to sit in, and a favorite crack to place his ear against.

Arsheesh spoke the way he did when anticipating a particularly good day for fishing or selling. It was how he spoke when he anticipated a windfall with greed in his heart, but Shasta didn't know that any more than he knew there were villages besides the one that lay about a mile to the south.

The words Shasta heard were, ". . . what price could induce your servant, poor though he is, to sell into slavery his only child and his own flesh?"

The truth was that Shasta knew almost nothing of slavery.

Some of Arsheesh's guests had mentioned slaves when talking about this or that, and the traveler from the north had told stories of people who had unbelievable numbers of slaves, but that was all he knew. The part of the village he had been to was visited only by free men and slaves so trusted they had been rewarded with the trappings of freedom. Shasta didn't even realize he had ever seen a slave, and he didn't know where they came from.

For him they had been like some sort of magical being, one he wished he had access to when he spent his days working with barely any pause.

The idea he might become a slave shocked Shasta so much that his mind seemed to stop.

Arsheesh continued, and Shasta heard, but his thoughts and his feelings were numbed to the point he barely noticed that he heard. "Has not one of the poets said, 'The bond between father and son is stronger than folded steel, and one's offspring more precious than water in an endless desert."

"One of the poets has said that," the man replied, "however the selfsame poet also said, 'It is more difficult to hide the truth than it is to conceal the tallest tower or the greatest army.' Not his best work, perhaps, but he did say it."

"My lord?"

"The boy looks nothing like you," the man replied, "his name gives me pause, and I have seen the mark of your 'bond' upon his 'precious' skin."

"It is true that I have been strict with him, but one of the--"

"The poets said many things, and imparted great wisdom, but none of the things the poets have said will excuse you if you fail to tell me the truth. How did you come across a boy so obviously foreign --boreal*-- so far from our northern border?"

"It is true that he is not of my flesh," Arsheesh said --Shasta knew he should feel something, but no feeling came-- "but I have raised him as my own and--"

"You are trying to drive up the price," the man said sharply. "Tell me his origin."

"I have never taken a wife, I knew that I would never be able to afford one, and so believed that I would be without child forever, but one day, the year after the Tisroc, may he be blessed with long life, came to the throne --beginning his august and beneficent reign-- the gods delivered to me a child."

"The gods work in myriad ways, many poets have said," the man said, "How did they deliver you this child?"

"The fish were scarce that year and I was forced to travel further than my humble boat could be wisely taken," Asheesh said. "Many times I found myself at the mercy of the southern current. On one day I saw another boat caught in a similar fate. When I approached the boat I found a dead man and the boy, then a baby. It was fortunate that he was old enough to eat, for there was no sign milk --only water-- and the man had clearly starved himself to keep the baby fed."

"Truly it must have been the doing of the gods," the man said, "if you came across such a scene in the short time between when the man starved to death and the babe did the same."

"I took the child both as a blessing from the gods and because they command that one befriend the destitute," Asheesh said, "but was forced to leave the boat and the dead man in the southern current."

"Before the gods delivered the boy to you, they entrusted him to the man who starved," the man said. "There is no more reason to believe that they wish the boy to stay with you, than there is to believe that they wished the boy to stay with him. It takes only a glance to see that you've had ten times the cost of his bread in labor because you took him. Perhaps it is the will of the gods that someone else benefit from the boy."

"You yourself have wisely said," Arsheesh said, "that the boy’s labor has been, to me, of inestimable value. This must be taken into account in fixing the price. For if I sell the boy I must undoubtedly either buy or hire another to do his work."

Wait, what? Shasta thought.

"Fifteen should be a reasonable price," the man said.

"Fifteen!" Arsheesh cried out in indignation that didn't seem to be fully real, "Fifteen! For the prop of my old age and the delight of my eyes! Do not mock my gray beard, Tarkaan though you be. My price is seventy."

I'm a dead fish, Shasta thought, for he recognized this as the same kind of argument Arsheesh had over the price of this or that fish in the village.

Shasta walked away from the door, stumbling a bit and feeling numb.


* Yeah, it's a Latin word, but I wanted to invoke the idea of "oriental". Shasta is exotic and strange and comes from a culture that civilized Calmorene citizens don't need to learn any actual facts about because it's enough to know that it's this mysterious place of the other. (Which appears in entertaining stories which include fantastic things like talking beasts and lion gods and ice witches and . . .)

For Arsheesh that would have been his first major selling point if he hadn't thought he could get a higher price by trying to get the monetary value of a father's love. For the Tarkaan it's just a quick way to say, "Totally not one of us, drop the 'father-son' bullshit"

Latin directional adjectives:
boreal == northern
austral == southern
occidental == western
oriental == eastern

Northern and southern both have alternatives, where oriental and occidental are pretty well your only major options for eastern and western. This is because of the sun. At their roots oriental and occidental are rise and set, so the east/west connection was obvious. The sun is lacking in any daily impressive-looking north/south action, so other names needed to be found. Boreal and austral both have their roots in winds.

By the way, the Tarkaan here isn't Anradin. That happened about a hundred years later and far to the west. There was no fisherman in that story, for there were no fish in that place.

Also on that "other time, other place" note, the origin story of Shasta provided by Lewis goes with another story. I've kept Shasta the same age by pushing back the date of his discovery to a time when he would, barely, be able to be sustained on solid food.

I know that a northerly wind blows from the north to the south (that is, a northerly wind causes air to move southerly; there is a reason people get confused) because winds are named for their direction of origin.

I do not, however, know ocean current terminology. In fact, I'm not sure there really is one. Currents, being things that persist where winds do not, have names. Thus I decided to just go with what felt right. The southern current is a current that flows south and is useful if you're making a southern journey but annoying as all Hell if you're a fisherman who navigates by going due east to reach his fishing grounds and then due west to get home.

The southern current is actually an immense eddy that dominates this part of the coastline, it's much faster, and much smaller, than the northern current that gives rise to it. Somewhere, far to the north, part of the northern current smashes into an outcrop of land that forces a large amount of water to make a U-turn, it also forces the water into a smaller space, same amount of water moving + smaller space = faster flow this flow continues because, in a place to the south, the northern current is pushed far away from the coastline, the southern current flows south to that place, turns again, and much of the water rejoins the northern current.

Does any of this make sense? Narnia is a flat world. It doesn't so much have to make sense as it needs to sound plausible. I think --I hope-- it sounds plausible.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Stranger Comes -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, though really ought to go with this post.]
[Content note: child abuse]

One day a man came from the south, upon a great horse, who was unlike any man Shasta had seen before. His turban was of clean silk and over it he wore a helmet with a single spike at the center. He wore a shirt of chain mail, a round shield studded with brass hung from his back, a curving scimitar hung at his side, and a lance was in his right hand, while he held the reins with his left.

This was the first time Shasta had seen any instruments of war, and he didn't truly understand what he was seeing. To him the brass studded shield was no different than silver inlaid stirrups: they made the man seem other worldly, strange, and impressive.

His beard was strange to Shasta as well, for it was crimson.

The horse Shasta barely took note of. It was dappled with a flowing mane and tail.

Shasta didn't even notice the man's armlet, but Arsheesh knew by the design inlaid in its gold that this man was a Tarkaan. So great a lord had not visited this scrap of coast in a generation, however any properly educated Calormene subject knew how to respond.

Arsheesh dropped to his knees and bowed so low his beard touched the soil, then hastily gestured to Shasta to kneel as well.

"I require lodging for the night," the man said, and Arsheesh was quick to agree to provide it. To Shasta this was nothing new, he would sleep with the donkey again. The same as he did when a man from the village paid a visit. Arsheesh knew that this was very strange. A Tarkaan almost never traveled alone, had no reason to be in this place, and if he needed lodging would prefer the inn at the village to the south, not the isolated home of some fisherman.

Arsheesh, though, also knew not to ask questions. He rushed into the house to make it presentable, pausing only to order Shasta to care for the horse and its saddle and say, "Please allow this humble servant a moment to tidy my inadequate dwelling."

"Do you know anything of lances, boy?" the man asked Shasta. Shasta simply shook his head.

"The shiny end doesn't touch the ground," the man said, "and don't touch it yourself unless you like bleeding." In truth the lance was not nearly that sharp, made for thrusting instead of slashing, but the man thought that Shasta would be more careful if he believed the metal to be more dangerous than it was.

Indeed, when Shasta took the lance he treated the metal tip as though it would bite him if touched, and carefully moved the weapon into the stable.

When Shasta returned the man had dismounted. He approached Shasta with the horse's reins in his hand, then stopped. He was looking at something on Shasta's neck, or perhaps his shoulder. Shasta was about to look at his shoulder to see if he could understand what the stranger was looking at, when he realized what must have caught the stranger's eyes.

It had been three days ago, and Shasta had done something wrong with cooking dinner. He didn't really know what, but he always seemed to find some way to mess things up. His shame would still be written on his body in purple or brown. He was never good enough for Arsheesh, and now here was this man, someone Arsheesh obviously looked up to, looking at where Arsheesh had made Shasta's failure visible.

Shasta tried to turn to hide the sign of his shame, but the man reached out his free toward Shasta to turn him back. Shasta flinched. He couldn't help it. He hadn't meant to. It just happened. The man's hand had stopped at the flinch, frozen in mid air.

The man pulled his hand back and offered Shasta the horse's reins. "He's well trained," the man said. "He'll give you no trouble."

When Shasta took the horse to the stable, the man walked to join Arsheesh inside the house.

What Shasta Believed -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, though really ought to go with this post.]
[Content note: child abuse]

Shasta believed himself the son of a fisherman.  He believed that sons worked hard for their fathers without reward or praise, never complained, always obeyed, accepted punishment without protest, and loved their fathers without condition.  He believed he was a bad and broken person because he could not love the fisherman, Arsheesh, no matter how hard he tried.  He believed he was worthless because Arsheesh often found fault with him, and beat him frequently.

He believed that he would only ever have one friend, the donkey that pulled Arsheesh's cart, laden with fish, south to the nearest village most afternoons.  He believed there was nothing strange about a fisherman never taking his son to sea or teaching him to fish.  He believed it unremarkable that in all his life he had never heard a word uttered about his mother.

He believed that he had been born in Arsheesh's house and that he would die there, having never gone father from the house than the mile or so away that the southern village lay.  He had only been to the village once or twice, and it made him believe the world a squalid place, for all that he saw there were men in clothes as plain, ragged, and dirty as Arsheesh's own.

Or, at least, he believed that most of the world was squalid or boring.  To the east was the ocean, which meant nothing to him as he was never allowed on Arsheesh's boat.  To the the south lay a village that simply had more men like Arsheesh, to the west was rocky land that was mostly barren, except for the occasional small plant or sprout of grass beside the trickling creek.

But to the north . . . to the north there lay mystery.

The western waste transitioned to grassy land to the north, it was here that Shasta took the donkey for grazing, but he was never allowed to go too far north.  The land gradually rose into a hill, blocking any hint of what lay beyond.

Arsheesh never answered Shasta's questions of what lay to the north, which only made him more curious.  He had been told not to ask, he had been beaten, he had been given platitudes so twisted and incoherent even Shasta knew that Arsheesh wasn't really trying.

The one Shasta remembered best was, "Oh my son, do not allow yourself to be distracted by idle questions.  For, as one of the poets has said, 'Application to business is the root of prosperity, but those who ask questions that do not concern them are steering the ship of folly towards the rock of indulgence.'"  Shasta didn't even know what all of the words meant, but he knew that the opposite of a root was not the steering of a ship.  A branch, perhaps, but not steering.

Shasta believed that Arsheesh was hiding something from him.  He knew that something lay to the north, for once, and one time alone, a traveler had come over the hill.  Seeking shelter for the night, he stayed at Arsheesh's house.  As was always the case when another man stayed at the house, Shasta slept that night with his friend the donkey, but before he did he listened by the doorway to hear what the traveler from the north might say.

The traveler had told stories of people who lived in gleaming palaces who never worked, sat on soft cushions, ate foods that defied belief, commanded armies, fought wars, had thousands of slaves to do all of their work for them, and so much more.

Shasta didn't believe any of these things were real, but he wondered what must lie north of the hill to allow the traveler to even imagine such things.

So it was that when Shasta worked alone during the day, when his indoor work was done, when he had run out of things to say to the donkey, finished with his inside tasks, and set himself to the endless task of repairing and cleaning Arsheesh's nets, that Shasta looked to the north and imagined what great secret might lay over the hill.  He believed that Arsheesh was keeping some great secret from him.

As with so much Shasta believed, he was wrong.  Arsheesh neither knew nor cared what lay over the hill.  The road led south, not north.  The best waters for fishing were almost due east, why he had chosen to live at the creek instead of with others.  He'd never had cause to go north of the hill, and he had no interest in what might lay there.  He did, however, have an interest in keeping Shasta from wandering too far, so when Shasta asked he gave dull non-answers if his mood were pleasant, and beatings when it was not.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Setting the Stage for the Susan Era story -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's, but it would more at home in the now-closed comments to this post.]

First you must understand that this was a unique time in the history of the lands.

Yes, it was during the Golden Age when Peter was High King, but that doesn't bring understanding. To understand you must realize that the Golden Age took time to establish and was fragile from beginning to end.

When the White Witch's regime collapsed so too did the combination of magic and border guards that had kept humans out of Narnia while sealing Animals for a century. The beginning of High Queen Susan's reign was a time of chaos. Aslan had left with the victory that signaled the changing of power from Jadis to four children who knew little of Narnia and less of ruling.

In those early days many humans migrated back into Narnia, the land of their ancestors, a rare few were even old enough to call it the land of their birth. Many Animals left, as to them Narnia had been nothing but memories of pain and cold.

Those who traded in captured Narnian livestock, long reputed to be the best in all realms, were no longer limited to the handful who escaped, or were expelled by the queen --already bound--
along with an ice shipment. They took many Animals who had immigrated into Archenland, and for the first time were able to journey into Narnia itself to capture their living wares.

Of course such practices were forbidden in Archenland, but Calormen had always been all the market the Animal traders had ever needed. Exotic Narnian Animals were highly sought after in Calormen, and the prices they would fetch made the need to transport them through Archenland but a pittance.

Once a satellite state of Narnia, Archenland had spent one hundred years in fear that without their patron, isolationist under Jadis, Calormen would simply take them over. Ignoring the trade in Animals, and not taxing the trade in ice, had been a way to keep Calormen content enough to not bother conquering them. That was how they justified it.

When Narnia reopened the Animal trade was firmly entrenched, had well established routes, and ensured a steady flow of Animals from Narnia to Calormen. By boat and over desert many were delivered into bondage. Those Animals who survived in Calormen had learned quickly to be silent, for fear they be executed as abominations born of unnatural magic.

In these times many Horses and Donkeys were taken, and they would come to ally themselves with many girls, boys, other youngsters, and adults as well, to escape Calormen.

It was only once the Kings and Queens of Narnia could again assert their power, and promise protection to Archenland, that the trade began to fail as old laws were once again enforced.

The kings and queens of Narnia made great efforts to protect their lands by forging alliances with neighboring countries, and Archenland once again became Narnia's closest ally. Sometimes, however, diplomacy failed.

When High King Peter was forced to take Narnia's entire army to the north, High Queen Susan and Low King Edmund took unprecedented measures to ensure peace in the south. They traveled with the Crown Prince of Archenland in their company, and indulged Calormen by immediately accepting an invitation to visit its capital that normally would have required months of diplomatic and logistical coordination.

It was a calculated risk, but for a century Calormen had demonstrated, via its stance toward Archenland, that it was content to allow the continued existence of kingdoms that bowed to its whims.

Only Low Queen Lucy remained to actually administer the country of Narnia, for High King Peter was involved in a war to prevent Narnia from being taken by the north, and High Queen Susan and Low King Edmund were engaged in diplomacy to prevent Narnia from being taken by the south.

It was the most volatile moment in Narnia's Golden Age, the memory of Aslan was fading, a war raged, and the vast empire of Calormen loomed like a cornice ready to bring devastation upon everything in its path if perturbed.

Into the center of this stumbled a party that included not just a boy or girl with a Mare, Stallion, or Donkey, but a Mare with a girl, a Stallion with a boy, and a donkey in tow.

It is true that there was no human child who was neither boy nor girl, nor was there a talking Donkey, but most of the characters from most of the stories could be mapped onto one of the five travelers. This alone might have made it into the story the others were subsumed into, but that it was a story from Narnia's Golden Age in which the fate of not just Archenland, but also Narnia, hung in the balance made the story irresistible.

There had been many Brees before, Bree was a common enough name for a mount, and there had been girls called "aravissa" rather than their actual names, but here there was a Bree, a girl actually named Aravis (after one of the girls from an earlier story) the first Shasta and the first Hwin to appear in such an adventure, and the nameless donkey that somehow seemed to stand for all donkeys and Donkeys alike.

When Bree the Liar combined many existing tales into his own, largely fictitious, adventure some years later, it was this story that he stole the most from.

It was at this time that our story began. While it would affect the fates of Narnia, Calomen, and Archenland between, it started by a stream that was little more than a trickle far to the south of any place or person who might be expected to affect the course of any of those three nations.

For it was in this place that a boy named Shasta would learn that everything he had believed was a lie. Normally such a thing would mean little to anyone but the boy, but that was the pebble that started the rockslide.

The Matter of Aravis -- Index

The idea is that the reason for inconsistencies and non-sequiturs in the source text is that many different stories were combined (bashed together) into the existing The Horse and His Boy narrative because of sexism and racism.

Also because Archenland has a truly horrible history when it comes to their treatment of royal twins, and they'd rather pretend it only happened once, and any additional stories are just corruptions of the one, AND ONLY ONE, time the twin thing happened (which happens to be one of the rare times they're not to blame.)

In theory all of my HHB fic can be adapted into this, and I definitely plan to, for instance, include all three versions of "the comportment of a slave" by modifying them so they're conversations between different people at different points in history that represent the changing nature of slavery in Calormen.

At the moment, though, all I've really written post deciding to go through with the idea is the core story that mostly follows along with the book.


Things written about the conception of the idea well before I decided to actually run with it.

Story inspired by Ana Mardoll's Rabadash's Ride:
Susan Era story:

Monday, May 22, 2017

When Shasta asked Corin where Susan was -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

The march was slow as the whole endeavor would be pointless if the cavalry arrived, exhausted, ahead of the, likewise exhausted, infantry, and so Shasta found himself with a lot of time to think about what he'd volunteered for. It had seemed to make sense at the time. Everything, even Aravis' suffering at the claws of a lion they'd foolishly mistaken for Aslan, would be for nothing if Anvard fell.

Sure, they'd started off looking for nothing more than freedom, but they'd become caught up in this larger flow of history and they'd all chosen to deliver Aravis' message to Anvard and warn Queen Susan of the looming danger even though they'd have been safer waiting till the battle was decided and crossing only then.

The message and warning were delivered, but neither would matter much if Anvard fell and the Tisroc were convinced to send more troops to solidify the conflict.

It had seemed to make sense to do everything in his power, including joining this hastily thrown together army, to make sure Anvard survived the assault and the Calmorene troops never had unfettered access to the passage to Narnia and Queen Susan.

As the horse --a magnificent creature that treated him well, but not someone he could possibly talk to; even Hwin would only be able to manage the most basic communication with an ordinary horse-- drew him closer and closer to the inevitable death and bloodshed, he was beginning to doubt the wisdom of volunteering.

Maybe it would have been better to leave the fighting to the other volunteers, like the Badgers and Weasels who had as much intelligence as any person paired with the fighting instincts of their wordless brethren.

Shasta was in need of some kind of reassurance or comfort, and his mind returned to Queen Susan. Not as the person they had to warn about Rabadash's assault, but as the woman who had been kind to him in Tashbaan. It wasn't his place to call on the High Queen of Narnia to quell his fears, but maybe she would anyway.

"Where is Queen Susan?" Shasta asked Corin.

Shasta was confused at the reaction his question provoked. A flury of emotions, none of them good, seemed to contort Corin's face. Just for a moment though. Then, composed, he said, "At Cair Paravel."

Why would she have stayed there? She had as much to lose as anyone. Unless--

"She’s not like Lucy, you know," Corin continued, and didn't give Shasta time to say that he didn't know before adding, "who’s as good as a man, or at any rate as good as a boy."

That made no sense. If anyone preparing for battle were given a choice between Shasta, a boy, and Aravis, a girl, they'd chose Aravis. They'd be right to. Shasta would chose Aravis over himself. Obviously girls could be better than boys, so too could they be worse. It depended on the girl and the boy in question.

Shasta had lived most of his life as a common slave with no education. One who hadn't even realized he was a slave until the end. If he could understand this, how could Corin --prince and heir to an entire well off kingdom-- not?

"Queen Susan is more like an ordinary grown-up lady," Corin said as if it meant something.
There was something harsh in his voice, but Shasta couldn't place it. "She doesn’t ride to the wars," after a pause Corin's manner became more pleasant and he said, "though she is an excellent archer.”

The only thing Shasta had learned from that was that Queen Susan was an excellent archer. Still, Shasta thought he'd figured out the answer on his own. Queen Susan was Rabadash's target. If she showed her face on the battlefield she'd be in much greater danger than anyone else. It made sense for her to avoid the battle.


* *

Shasta is actually wrong here. His reasoning is fine, but he reaches the wrong conclusion none the less. He's missing out on some important facts, you see.

Susan stayed because her state of mind wasn't fit for fighting after Corin's violent outburst toward her (because she turned down Corin's offer of marriage), which was what Ana suggested here and what I ran with on the "why Susan stayed and Corin went" fic.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Birds before Battle -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.  As a reminder from last time, Susan stayed at the castle, Shasta was allowed to join without subterfuge, and Corin was allowed to ride with the army when he might otherwise not have been (since he's theoretically under the protection of Narnia) because he needed to be separated from Susan.]

"What draws your eyes, Shasta?" the horned Rabbit to his right asked.

"All the birds."

"They've been told there is a battle coming," the Rabbit said. "Eagles, Hawks and Vultures can't quite converse with their wordless brethren, but they can get the gist across. It's considered polite to let the wordless, those which resemble you, know about potential feasts."

"He means the dead people and horses," Corin said with a strange and disturbing glee.

"Will they feed on . . . us?" Shasta asked.

"If we die," Corin said.

"Only the wordless would," the Rabbit said. "It's generally considered very rude to dine upon one whom, in life, you could have conversed with."

"But . . ." Shasta was having difficulty figuring out how to communicate this. He knew that some animals ate their own kind, but he didn't wish to sound like he was saying those like this Rabbit did. Finally he settled on, "But wordless eat wordless."

"Their ways are their own," the Rabbit said, "and quite unlike our own."

~ - ~

If Al-mi'raj were a species rather than an individual, the horned rabbit would be one of them.  WanderingUndine thought of a jackalope and I can definitely see where that's coming from.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Going Forward

Ok, so, I need money to pay down debts, that hasn't changed.  What if I didn't?  Where would I go from here if I had money and it weren't spoken for, as it were?

I cannot stress enough how much I need new shoes.  Even if the soles don't come off entirely the current shoes are like begging to sprain an ankle before I've even managed to fully recover from the break.  Most of the seams and other connections are busted, the soles are worn straight through at their centers, the whole thing is a mess.

What with changing seasons and so forth the shoes I was looking at are no longer available online, but these look like they'd work.  Way out of my price range, but this is a "what if" post.  I also need inserts because my feet are weird.  As in I was once having ski-boots fitted and they called everyone in the foot section over to look at my weird feet.  It's nothing terribly debilitating, certainly not deformed, but I do need inserts and not the cheap kind.  They run about $50.

Once damage control on my feet is over we get to more interesting stuff.

I seem to have reconnected to my creativity so hopefully that will mean more fiction, original and derivative in the future.  I cannot stress how much I would like that.

I want to return to the deconstructions (I've got three stalled right now) and I'm thinking of just starting them over from the beginning.  In some cases this will mean minor revisions, in others it will mean total rewrites.

I've never talked much about fabrication here, but it's something that I've done in the past and I want to get back into.  Mostly before I've made puzzles of the style pioneered by Erno Rubik and his cube.  (The technical term for the category is "Twisty Puzzle(s)".)  Definitely have a lot on that front that I've been waiting years, and in some cases over a decade, to do.  But there are also other creation things I'd like to branch out to.  The problem: It's even more expensive than the damned shoes.

Alumilite is what I know and use and while they offer small volume options, if you're going to be doing a lot of stuff you want to buy the large sizes and the prices start to be $90 for this, $165 for that, $85 for that other thing, $98 for yet another, $63.25 for thing N, $42.50 for thing N+1, and so forth.

* * *

All of the above means that I'll probably stay in the ankle sprainer shoes coming apart in every conceivable place with the holes worn straight through the bottom and also never return to making shit.

But, on the plus side, moving forward I'll hopefully have new fic and decon posts and stuff.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spear of Athena story in general outline

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

It's an idea I'd had before that came back to me when on a long walk yesterday (the longest I've done since breaking my ankle), group of women go on an epic quest that's about a myth whose origin is obscure but seems to be vaguely Amazonian (mythological variety) and definitely Hellenic since it's for the spear of Athena.

As is often the case in these stories they have an evil counterpart.

Complications arise because the good group ends up crossing paths with an assumed male person and eventually is forced to let that person travel with them since the alternative is to leave assumed male person to be killed off by evil counterpart group. Assumed male person is treated as a prisoner, though, and leader of quest is very against person's presence.


They locate the sanctuary in which the spear is located, each member of the group tries to take up the spear but can't.

This seems impossible since destiny was on their side and their quest was definitely foretold to bring the spear's chosen warrior to it.

Evil counterpart group announces their presence by saying that the the quest did, since clearly one of them is chosen and without the good group to follow they'd never have located the spear.

Cue low tech battle. These are people racing --as though the fate of the universe depended on it-- to find a Mycenaean era spear that is assumed to be magic. They're fighting with spears, swords, and knives. Mostly swords since it's easier to get fencing lessons than spear fighting lessons.

Assumed male person manages to get rope binding hands together cut, but the one who does that is immediately forced into a fight and none of the other good people will disobey their leader to arm assumed male person.

Dodging bladed weapons while completely unarmed and unarmored is a short term solution at best, and assumed male person gets backed up against a wall next to the spear no one could budge. In a moment of desperation, assumed male person grabs the magic spear to use its shaft to block an incoming sword blow.

Everything stops.

Quest group leader: That's impossible! You have to be a woman to wield the spear!
Assumed Male Person: Who says I'm not?
*Assumed Male Person says some ancient Greek words (introduced earlier in the story) agreeing to contract the spear offered by allowing itself to be lifted*
*Assumed Male Person gets a makeover including sensible, if Mycenaean era, armor, secondary weapons, skill that ought to require years of training, and results like she'd been on HRT for a year*

Battle is quickly won.

All of primary quest group is accepting except now-deposed leader who insists this is some sort of sacrilegious blasphemy.

Quest Group Member: So, I've felt like there was this thing between us for a while now but didn't say anything because I found you woefully unattractive.
Assumed Male Person: That's interesting, because I've felt like there was this thing between us for a while now but didn't say anything because I found you woefully unattracted.
Quest Group Member: I'm attracted now.
Assumed Male Person: So, you want to go out on Friday?
Quest Group Member: Friday I'm busy, how's Saturday?
Assumed Male Person: Saturday's good.

Spear of Athena is presumably used to do good and noble things.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why Susan Stayed And Corin Went -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Shasta was sent for after his message arrived, so he's at Cair Paravel while the army is mustered and it's determined who will go where.]
[The first scene is set at the end of a scene proposed by Ana: Corin--who is characterized as selfish, violent, and determined to get his way in all things--requests an audience alone with Susan, who grants it as she thinks of him fondly as a child. He puts himself forward as a suitor, explaining that if she marries him she won't need to be afraid of Rabadash anymore. Susan rebuffs him, laughing at the jest; Corin, in a fit of rage, attempts to harm her.]

Corin, glaring up from the floor in a rage, shouted at Susan, "I'm trying to save you, you stupid--"

"You are testing my ability to be gentle," Susan said with such force Corin was stunned into silence. "I've beaten you once, if you don't get out, now, and never attempt anything like this again, you'll see what happens when I stop being Susan the Gentle of Narnia and start being Susan the Pissed Off of Moðrheim,"

* * *

"I'm too . . . distracted by what happened to be of use in battle," Susan said.

"I would be too," Edmund said.

"So you'll just stay here," Lucy said. "We can do without our best archer given that we'll still have our second and third best. Though I do wish I'd convinced Peter to leave the rest of the top ten here as well."

"That can't be helped now," Susan said. "We have to work with what we have."

"When our new army leaves Cair Paravel," Edmund said, "Rabadash might again try to abduct you in a sneak attack. If we want to save our allies we can only afford to leave a handful of guards."

"I'll survive," Susan said. "The question is what to do with Corin."

Edmund nods. "We don't have time to deal with him and his actions right now."

"We take him with us," Lucy said. "With the regular army in the north, we're taking any volunteer who can fight anyway. He meets that description."

"And he'll jump at the chance to go because he'll see the battle as entertainment," Edmund said.

"Exactly," Lucy said.

"If he accepts that he's lost me," Susan said to Lucy, "he may set his sights on you."

"I'll be surrounded by soldiers, in my own tent with my own chosen guards, and not taking social visits, what with the emergency and all," Lucy said simply.

"There is one problem," Edmund said, "if he falls in battle, how do we explain to King Lune that we got his only son killed?"

"We'll stick him at the back," Lucy said, "and if that doesn't protect him, well accidents do happen in wartime."

"Lune may never forgive us," Susan said, "but he can't afford to alienate Narnia so soon after an attack from Calormen. Besides which, we've no intention of letting him die, and if the worst does happen, even Lune will agree that it would have been cruel of us to prevent Corin from defending his own home when we allowed others who were significantly less qualified join the battle."

"It can't be said to be unfair to let him join the fight," Lucy said. "Consider the messenger, if someone with such obvious similarities, but far less training, is eligible then Corin must be. Fairness dictates that."

"About the messenger," Susan said, "what will we do with him when this is all over?"

"He and his companions were instrumental in warning both Archenland of the impending attack and us of Rabadash's true motives," Edmund said, not because the others didn't know, but because he wanted it at the front of their minds.

"Without his warning," Susan added, "Rabadash's attempt to abduct me may well have succeeded."

"Justice dictates he be rewarded," Edmund said. "Archenland may have use for a body double for their prince, a position in which he would be well taken care of. If Lune does not offer appropriate compensation to the messenger, though, I have already arranged for he and his four* companions to be well taken care of here in Narnia."

"In case we don't survive to give such orders after the battle?" Lucy asked.


"With any luck, the other four should be here by the time you all return alive," Susan said. "I'll make sure they're given every comfort until decisions can be made. I understand it was the girl's message that allowed Archenland to prepare in the face of the attack, if anything she's more of a hero than the messenger who came to us."

"With all of that settled, I must return to the matter at hand," Lucy said. "The Ravens, Crows, Magpies, and Jackdaws have delivered our call, the volunteers are arriving, and I'll need to work on forming them into a serviceable army."

"That I can help with," Susan said.

"I'll look to our provisions," Edmund said.


* They didn't abandon the fucking donkey. I cannot stress this enough. A donkey may not words-think like a human or Animal, but that's no reason to abandon it. The donkey came with them.


Assuming I mashed up the Norse correctly Moðrheim translates to "(the) Home of Wrath".

For those who didn't follow the narrative of Lewis' actual book, Aravis (not Shasta/Cor) was the one who learned about the attack on Anvard.  So it was her message even if he delivered it the last tiny leg of the journey.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Intro to the Susan Era Story - The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

By now you know that many tales have been combined to form the story "The Horse and His Boy" commonly told around campfires. I hope you begin to understand why.

How even the great storytellers of old could be moved by prejudice to claim that there was only ever one great maiden who rode a talking Mare on an epic quest that changed the very course of history, how the kingdom of Archenland worked to suppress knowledge of its nigh unbelievably long history of grievously mistreating twins of the royal house, how every mount named "Bree" became a warhorse in retelling even if he were a simple donkey in reality, how after a time any runaway would take up one of the famous names Aravis, Hwin, Shasta, or Bree out of belief that it would bless their journey.

You've heard the tale of the one who left Calormen an Aravis and arrived in the Narnian sphere of influence a Shasta. You also know of some "boys" who became Aravisses.

You know of the king who was deposed when the child he meant to kill rescued the long imprisoned mother that had saved nir, allowing child and mother to lay bare the attempted filicide before all of Anvard while Narnians and Calmorenes were in attendance. You know of a future king callously sold into slavery by his own father simply because he seemed to be female at birth.

But through all of this you must have wondered where the core of the campfire story had come from. Why was it set when it was set? Why did it involve Susan, the High Queen of the Golden Age, who was said to be so gentle that even in battle she made each death she caused painless?

Let us now tell that story, and tell it faithfully.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monthly Financial Post

I'll make it through the month.  I'm not in immediate danger of losing my home or some such.

That . . . kind of gets rid of most of what I usually talk about in a monthly financial post.

That said, I did want to bring up some things related to, you know, walking again.  My shoes are falling apart.  I very much doubt that's helping the recovery of my left foot (though I can walk at full speed again.)

I want to get good shoes that will last me years, I also need to get inserts without which the very process of walking in shoes damages the back of my foot (ankle height, but I'm not sure that part is really considered ankle) profusely.  The ones I have are old and damaged to the point that, while they prevent the worst damage, they actually cause problems in other areas.

Good shoes plus special inserts would be round about $150.

Unfortunately I'm more focused right now on the fact that I had to make use of deferred interest things a bunch starting about six months ago, most of it deferred for six months.  This is always the problem of kicking things down the road: eventually you catch up to the place you kicked it.

By June first I need $85.09 to avoid retroactively applied interest.  I am, strangely, not on the hook for anything from July, but come August things get bad, September is worse, October is more in the ballpark of catastrophic for reasons that date back even further (one year deferred.)

If not for all of these things, I'd be trying to pay off a $1,484.86 debt because it's where I'm being charged the most real-time interest, but that's sure as fuck not going to be happening right now.


So that's the general financial state of things.  The world isn't ending right now, the future is bleak, and I'd really like to be able to buy decent shoes.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Matter of Aravis -- Conception

It started, I think, almost a year and a half ago.  I certainly don't remember any inkling of this idea before Ana Mardoll said in a post:
It's not that The Horse and His Boy could have been a better story with another author; it's that there's like four better stories in here and all of them would have required Lewis to let go of his virulent sexism and racism in order to get within throwing distance of any of them.
The underlining is something I added to draw attention to the key part of what set off the line of thinking.

Certainly that comment from Ana is what led to me writing:
I would like to put forth the possibility that they're all how it really happened and the problems of the work we have result from the fact that it combines the disparate narratives of various Women and their Horse allies from various points in Narnian (world, not country, who the hell names their country the same word as the word for the whole word?) history because a certain racist and sexist person couldn't believe that more than one brown Girl could possibly have had adventures of note with Talking Horses.

Or indeed that more than one brown girl could have had adventures of note period.

If we could disentangle the various narratives we might be able to piece together the many adventures of Mares and Girls that were had in those lands, with at least one of the Girls being named Aravis.
I never stopped thinking along those lines.  Closer to a year ago, I wrote:
I would like to revive my idea that this is an amalgamation of several stories because our dear narrator couldn't cope with how many female heroes on talking horses there were in wardrobe-world history, much less female people of note.

At least one of them was named Aravis, others might have had similar names, and by the time of the Rillian story we see such shades of in this bizarre forced together text it was just a case of:

Runaway Girl on a talking horse who doesn't want to reveal her real name: I'm Aravis.
Person who knows the stories of old: Oh, ha, ha. And I suppose that's Hwin you're riding.
Runaway Girl on a talking horse: However did you know?
What is the Rillian story?  Go and read Ana's post that started this all.

Anyway, the reason that I bring all of that up now is because I've finally gotten something that takes that interpretation into account written, and I wanted to let people know where it was coming from first.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The time has come again for me to beg you to nominate you for meaningless awards related to Kim Possible fan fiction

One must remember that everything went to shit in August at which point I was already in the midst of a creative dry spell, while that didn't occupy all of my time until the final weeks, it did stress me the fuck out from the start, which didn't help with the whole creativity thing I try to do.

However, at some point last year I did get some shit done.  Including some Kim Possible stuff.

Specifically I got this done:
Any story that was updated in 2016 is eligible for awards.  How much of it is eligible depends on common sense.

If a category is about the whole story, then decisions should take the whole story, even parts written before 2016, into account.

If a category is about only part of a story (one character, one relationship, one line, so forth, so on) then a) that part of the story had better have appeared in the written-in-2016 section(s) of the work and b) only that part of the story should be taken into account (but still do include any pre-2016 portions of that part of the story.)

Also, I'm not eligible for these categories as there's a rule to prevent the same author from winning the same category two years in a row:

  • 1) Best KP Style Name
  • 15) Best Drama Story

That's my general non-specific pick-your-own-favorites version of my self promotion.  I'll be more "Here's what I think should be nominated" in the moment, but first let me get to the actual mechanics of the nomination process.

The way you nominate, and I can't nominate myself which is why I do this begging of you, is basically to copy the category list (can be found at bottom of this post, under the really big break) into something that can edit text, put in zero, one, or two nominations per category, and then emailing the resulting filled out list to:
sharper1988 [at] aim [dot] com.

For those looking for other authors to nominate, meet the self promotion thread at

What follows are:

  • After the first break: my own recommendations of my work to nominate, though some might be stretches (looking at you best comedy)
  • After the second break: those recommendations put into a complete but otherwise blank form
  • After the third break (the big one): a completely blank form

Obviously I'd like you to send an email with any of those nominations you think worthy to the address listed above.

* * *

2) Best Original Character (include the story/series and author they're from):
          - Leela Place Possible (Place) from Being more than a Simulacrum by chris the cynic

3) Best Minor Character (include the story/series and author they're from):
          - Joss Possible from Being more than a Simulacrum by chris the cynic

6) Best AU Story (include the author they're from):
          - Life After by chris the cynic

11) Best Comedy Story (include the author):
          - Life After: Terminology by chris the cynic
          - Life After: Dancing by chris the cynic

13) Best Friendship Story (include the author and it might be good to indicate the people involved to give context for voters later on):
          - Being more than a Simulacrum (Place and Joss) by chris the cynic

14) Best Action/Adventure Story (include the author):
          - Bent, not Broken by chris the cynic

16) Best Unlikely/Unique Story (include the author):
          - Life After by chris the cynic

18) Best Novel-Sized Story (include the author):
          - Being more than a Simulacrum by chris the cynic

24) Best Single Line (say what story it appears in and who the author is, and please provide some context on this line to help people understand why it's cool):
          - "The dogs were big, the dogs were scary, the dogs were fast, but they were incapable of changing direction as quickly as a human being who could reach out, grab onto something, and pivot around it as if they hated their shoulder with a fiery passion and were just begging it to become dislocated." from Life After (Part I, Chapter 3) by chris the cynic

28) Best Story Overall (say who the author is):
          - Forgotten Seeds by chris the cynic

29) Best Writer:
          - chris the cynic

* * *

1) Best KP Style Name (include the story/series and author they're from):

2) Best Original Character (include the story/series and author they're from):
          - Leela Place Possible (Place) from Being more than a Simulacrum by chris the cynic

3) Best Minor Character (include the story/series and author they're from):
          - Joss Possible from Being more than a Simulacrum by chris the cynic

4) Best Villain (include the story/series and author they're from):

5) Best Songfic (include who the author is):

6) Best AU Story (include the author they're from):
          - Life After by chris the cynic

7) Best Crossover/Fusion (include mention of what is getting crossed over or fused and who the author is):

8) Best Alternate Pairing (include the story/series it shows in and the author):

9) Best KiGo Story (include the author):

10) Best Kim/Ron Story (include the author):

11) Best Comedy Story (include the author):
          - Life After: Terminology by chris the cynic
          - Life After: Dancing by chris the cynic

12) Best Romance Story (include the author and it might be good to indicate who is focused on romantically to give context for voters later on):

13) Best Friendship Story (include the author and it might be good to indicate the people involved to give context for voters later on):
          - Being more than a Simulacrum (Place and Joss) by chris the cynic

14) Best Action/Adventure Story (include the author):
          - Bent, not Broken by chris the cynic

15) Best Drama Story (include the author):

16) Best Unlikely/Unique Story (include the author):
          - Life After by chris the cynic

17) Best One-Shot Overall (include the author):

18) Best Novel-Sized Story (include the author):
          - Being more than a Simulacrum by chris the cynic

19) Best Short Story (include the author):

20) Best Series Overall (include the author):

21) Best Writing Team (clarify who the members are as well as providing their combined nickname):

22) Best Young Author:

23) Best New Author:

24) Best Single Line (say what story it appears in and who the author is, and please provide some context on this line to help people understand why it's cool):
          - "The dogs were big, the dogs were scary, the dogs were fast, but they were incapable of changing direction as quickly as a human being who could reach out, grab onto something, and pivot around it as if they hated their shoulder with a fiery passion and were just begging it to become dislocated." from Life After (Part I, Chapter 3) by chris the cynic

25) Best Reviewer (and tell us why you like them, whether it's number of reviews, insightful reviews, funny reviews, or something else):

26) CPNeb Kimmunity Award (who, and try to say why just in case people aren't familiar with them):

27) Kimmunity Achievement Award (Who? Doesn't need to have necessarily published in 2016):

28) Best Story Overall (say who the author is):
          - Forgotten Seeds by chris the cynic

29) Best Writer:
          - chris the cynic

* *
* * *
* *

1) Best KP Style Name (include the story/series and author they're from):

2) Best Original Character (include the story/series and author they're from):

3) Best Minor Character (include the story/series and author they're from):

4) Best Villain (include the story/series and author they're from):

5) Best Songfic (include who the author is):

6) Best AU Story (include the author they're from):

7) Best Crossover/Fusion (include mention of what is getting crossed over or fused and who the author is):

8) Best Alternate Pairing (include the story/series it shows in and the author):

9) Best KiGo Story (include the author):

10) Best Kim/Ron Story (include the author):

11) Best Comedy Story (include the author):

12) Best Romance Story (include the author and it might be good to indicate who is focused on romantically to give context for voters later on):

13) Best Friendship Story (include the author and it might be good to indicate the people involved to give context for voters later on):

14) Best Action/Adventure Story (include the author):

15) Best Drama Story (include the author):

16) Best Unlikely/Unique Story (include the author):

17) Best One-Shot Overall (include the author):

18) Best Novel-Sized Story (include the author):

19) Best Short Story (include the author):

20) Best Series Overall (include the author):

21) Best Writing Team (clarify who the members are as well as providing their combined nickname):

22) Best Young Author:

23) Best New Author:

24) Best Single Line (say what story it appears in and who the author is, and please provide some context on this line to help people understand why it's cool):

25) Best Reviewer (and tell us why you like them, whether it's number of reviews, insightful reviews, funny reviews, or something else):

26) CPNeb Kimmunity Award (who, and try to say why just in case people aren't familiar with them):

27) Kimmunity Achievement Award (Who? Doesn't need to have necessarily published in 2016):

28) Best Story Overall (say who the author is):

29) Best Writer:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

And then my computer languished for three days

So, malware got passed my security and promptly did what I always figured malware should do (for a value of "should" that comes from the perspective of the malware maker, not common decency or such) but have never previously seen malware do.  It put the kibosh on anything that could possibly get rid of it.

I mean, if the shit actually makes it where it's going then it bypassed the current security, so the current security is unprepared for it or the user gave it permission to ignore the current security pretty much by definition.  In either case the logical thing to do would be to take steps to keep it safe from the current security and prevent the installation or running of any different security programs.

That's where whoever made it was smart.

Where they were annoyingly unsubtle was in completely fucking over any attempt to run the internet by making the fact that there was malware installed completely unmissable.  If they'd limited it to those self embedding link-ads it might have been a while before I knew it was there because lots of pages do have links and links generally look like links, if they'd limited it to quietly stealing my information while giving no overt indications of existence I might not have noticed until the next time I tried to install computer security software which could have been a long time indeed.

Anyway: unmissable.

So I knew not to do important shit with the computer until it was dealt with, which because of the anti-anti-malware stuff took a while.

I think the end process took three separate antivirus programs, which it was hard to verify were real and not just what the malware wanted me to do what with it hijacking the fucking internet.

First I had to get a special stripped-down just-for-this-purpose thing that the malware wouldn't notice was an anti-malware thing because that was the only such thing that could be installed and run at that stage.

That, by the way, is what took the longest damned time to verify was bona fide.  Part of making it slip under the malware's radar was ripping out the things usually used to certifiably demonstrate "yes, this is really anti-malware, not malware disguised as anti-malware."

And the internet wasn't working right, and kept on getting hijacked and redirected and . . . it was god damned hard to make sure that wouldn't make things worse.

That only did enough work to let likewise stripped down to slip under the radar, but not as stripped down as the previous thing because the previous thing opened up additional possibilities, software be installed and run.

Which in turn made more things possible so at that point I had enough freedom to install any damn security I felt like.  And then I had to scan the full computer.

And then I had to realize that certain programs were internally borked to the point of needing to be reinstalled, and the fact things were still wrong wasn't actually an indication that there was independent malware still on the system but instead because they'd been borked.

That last bit took me way too long to realize, and involved trying multiple full system scans with a menagerie of programs before I did.  Full system scans take for-fucking-ever.

Honestly it was probably less than 48 hours, but it started one day, went through the next day, and was resolved the day after that (today), which was enough for people to say Jesus was dead for three days, so I figure it counts as three days of computer fucked-up-ness.

So for those days my computer has been sitting doing nothing but staring at its figurative navel going, "Is that an infection?  Can I think these thoughts?  How can I think these thoughts?  Why am I thinking those thoughts that I don't want to think?"

Thus: languishing.

So, yeah, that happened.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

I'm free -- (followed rambling update and recap and such)

So, pizza existed and thus I am no longer a hostage.  I am home.  Woo!

There are still some things to be officially closed, there's a lot of paperwork to do, and some of the stuff that was resolved was in that, "We're not going to go to trial on account of you being clearly and unmistakably innocent, but if you get arrested any time in the next six months we'll totally bring this up again in hopes that by then you will have lost the proof that you're innocent," way that District Attorneys do.

That said, the things that required me to put my entire life on hold, not live in my own house, and so forth if I didn't want my sister's family to be torn apart, are over.  I can return to my life, assuming I remember what that consists of.  The great stress is over, so hopefully I can be creative again, so on, so forth.

It took eight months, two weeks, and one day.

~ ~ ~

There are lasting damages, and I don't just mean trauma to my sister's whole family and the fact my four year old nephew is terrified of police now.  The neighbors tried to trick the police into shooting my sister (through her six month developed fetus, for fuck's sake) during fence repair and expansion.

I have previously said that it was a rose bush, I was wrong.  All of this started over cutting a single branch off of a lilac bush that had been illegally planted on my families land (years ago) after the neighbors illegally cut down the trees my grandfather had planted at the property boundary.  It's difficult to say, but I think they were trying to move the property boundary some 15 feet in their favor.

It's called usucapion.  The idea that if you use something for long enough, and no one disputes it, it becomes yours.  The idea is in fact about property boundaries.  You don't want to have to tear down all the walls and rebuild them three steps to the left just because someone found a 500 year old map proving that your triple great grandparents were slightly wrong about where they built stuff.

The thing is, it was always subject to abuse which is why Justinian (yes, we're talking Eastern Roman Empire, Vandals and Ostrogoths here) reformed that shit.

Anyway, my sister wasn't trying to make waves, so the fence in question was being erected well onto our property.  It required removing a solitary lilac branch from one of the illegal plants.

That's when the neighbors went apoplectic.  Interestingly, in spite of going off and giving justifiable cause for a combative response, according to the witness statement he filled out, the paterfamilias of the family thought my sister responded to him quite calmly.  It was only after he took (and copied) a boundary survey he had only ever been given permission to measure that he felt . . . well, the various conflicting accounts get a bit distorted at that point.

It is definitely the case that after taking the boundary survey, which wasn't just a boundary survey, by the way --more value than a mere boundary survey-- but for our purposes the fact that it was a bona fide boundary survey is what matters, went into his house, closed the door, and gave no indications he'd return things got heated.  It did, after all, appear that he was stealing the boundary survey.  It's not as if he said, "Instead of bringing a ruler out here, I'd like to bring it in there," and got a response of, "Well well taking it out of our sight and camping out with it is in no way implied by measuring, but sure, you can do that."

The various statements the neighbors gave to the police indicate that he never actually measured it.  He copied it which is probably eventually going to mean hostilities between himself and my aunt.  She was the one who paid for the survey, non-boundary parts included, and she has very strict rules about what is allowed to be done with it.  Mostly she wants to be paid before anyone is allowed to get a copy.  Her stance is that she paid for it to be done, and if anyone else is going to benefit from her investment she wants compensation.

If said paterfamilias had asked if he could make a copy he likely would have been told about my aunt's stance and thus avoided the almost inevitable showdown.  He's got time though, my aunt's taking a break from all this right now, so her wrath will not descend upon the neighbors for at least a few months.

As a frequent recipient of her wrath myself, I don't envy the guy.  This is the woman who made her eldest daughter homeless in winter in fucking Maine and justified it as tough love.  She's scary.

But, anyway, a single lilac branch.

* * *

That got off track, didn't it?

This started on August 20th of last year during fence repair and expansion.

For a while we tried to keep that up in spite of the omnipresent threat of the neighbors trying to have us killed.  Also worries about what might happen if they decided to indulge in their hobby of lobbing things (golf balls, baseballs, hockey pucks, apples, I'm pretty sure there was one softball which kind of surprised me since I don't think they play it, so forth) through the glass greenhouse while we were on the shrapnel side of the equation.

And we know for a fact that they were trespassing onto the property by going through the woods so we couldn't see them coming, at the time.

But four hours after the August 20th incident was over and statements were being given to police (as in, if the police record keeping is to be believed, four hours to the minute after the first written statement, but I personally think they were rounding), after my sister had inquired about how to lodge an excessive force complaint, the first officer on scene (the one who put a gun, then taser, to my sister's pregnant belly) decided to call DHHS and say that he had just realized my then three-year-old nephew had been unsafe more than four hours prior when the whole thing went down.

Just so everyone is clear, according to his own written statement, the stuff he told them wasn't true.

Unfortunately we can't line up what he said to DHHS with what he said in his incident report because DHHS usually only paraphrases him in the documents they have shared.  There are a couple of direct quotations, but it's mostly paraphrase.

That's not important right now.  Various things happened when DHHS got involved.

This including my older nephew's father finally admitting he was the father and dropping the whole "I think god did it to her, like he did with Mary" routine he had been doing for three and a half years at that point as part of his, "I will only ever pay zero dollars and zero cents in child support," ploy.

When going through papers an official report on the child support stood out to me because instead of saying "none" or something to that effect, it broke the nothing he had paid down by month.  Just so you know which part of zero was in this month as opposed to that month.  That's probably why what he paid will likely never be a simple "nothing" in my mind.  It's monthly installments of $0.00 and you can look up each month to see what the $0.00 paid in that month looked like.

For a time DHHS considered awarding full custody to that guy, who had no home in which to keep a child and repeatedly un-potty-trained the kid because it was easier to stick him in diapers and walk him around town until he shit himself, then keep walking, than it would have been to let the child use bathrooms (which were, in fact, available in the places he was walking.)

As things eventually worked toward their ends the full custody to Mr. un-potty-trainer was dropped (but he does have partial custody now) and DHHS forced my sister from her home via the threat of taking away her child for good.

Then they claimed she was currently married to someone she'd never married, which for a while seemed impossible to disprove because while there is such a thing as a divorce certificate there is no such thing as a "never married in the first place" certificate.  They also altered her recorded address which still manages to cause lasting trouble.

Their reasoning was that any time you sleep in a place other than your house (a couch in a friend's house, a mattress or bed in relative's house, a desk in a Calculus C class) that place automatically becomes your legal address and doesn't stop becoming your legal address ever.

Why your address doesn't revert back to your actual home when you return there and sleep in your own bed has never been adequately explained.

But, for a time, she wasn't sleeping in her own home and instead had to crash in our parents' homes.  Given the location of the one she spent the most time in, it was impossible to do real farm work of any kind.

At this point I want you to think back.  What started all this?  A solitary lilac branch being trimmed as part of fence repair and expansion.

Focus on fence repair.

Do you know what happens to farm animals if fence repair is stopped?  They go wherever the fuck they damn well please.

Oh, sure, you can hold off on necessary repairs for a little bit, but for that long?

My sister was forced to get rid of all of the animals except the chickens.  Even Bones.

I talked about lasting harm.  That's thing one.

For almost three quarters of a year there has been no farm work done, the livestock is all gone save chickens.  Free-range fox-ready chickens.  (There are five at the moment.)

No livestock.  No plants.  No livelihood.

My sister is beyond broke because of all of this.

* * *

Other problems include relationships.  Some may never mend.

Even for the ones that do, it's been a lot of time under incredible stress.  The fractures that causes don't go away overnight.

The four year old may be afraid of cops, the man who raised him with my sister, father of his brother, is afraid of the entire state of Maine.  My sister's home is her boyfriends trauma.  That's a god damned mess.

* * *

Random note about cops.

When my sister was telling part of the story to someone the person said, "Fuck cops" it turned out there were a lot of cops behind him.  Estimates place it at around a dozen.

This awkward situation was defused when the cops, Portland cops, were told that the discussion was about Cape Elizabeth.  Portland cops gave nods and sounds of understanding.

* * *

It could be argued that this means my sister should leave Cape.

We were there first.  My mother was a child when my grandfather built that house, greenhouse, and so forth.  I grew up on that farm at least as much as my house because my parents both worked and someone had to watch us kids, the horrible neighbors weren't there yet (their house was actually owned by a good friend), neither were the bad cops in the department (not sure about the town.)

They're neophytes, and it might be arrogant, it might be narcissistic or stupid, but fucking asshole newcomers won't drive us from our land.  Our home.  I can say "our" because my sister feels the same way.  She's not going to let some random new-on-the-scene jerks who have twisted ideas about what Cape Elizabeth means to them drive her from her home.  We may only have three generations at the farm, but that's the immigrant side of my family.  That side of my family only has four generations in America (the United States, the continents, the hemisphere, whatever you want to define it as, only four generations here on that side.)

The possibility still remains that my aunt can drive my sister from the farm, turn it into a housing development, and finally make the transition from "tippity top of the middle class" to "actually fucking rich" (the very, very bottom of rich, but actually fucking in the category none the less.)

My aunt has the potential to do that because she owns half of every molecule of the property.  As for any others, my generation of the Witham family (Witham-Rose family I guess, since my sister dropped her last name and upgraded her middle to her new last) will no more be driven from our homes than we will be driven from America.  Fuck the neighbors, fuck bad cops, fuck Trump; but we will not be moved.

My house and the farm are the homes my sister and I grew up with.  She's as attached to home as I am.

When we were children we had serious conversations about which of us would go on to live in our house, and which would live at the farm, because the idea of either stopping being ours was unthinkable.  None of those conversations ever reached a conclusion, and they didn't matter anyway.  It just sort of happened that I ended up with the house in South Portland and she ended up with the Farm in Cape Elizabeth.

I don't know if she remembers those conversations, I barely do, but it's always been a given that we'd do everything we could to keep home.  The fact home was two places didn't change that.

* * *

I broke my ankle in the very first steps of cleaning my home.  Cleaning being a necessary prerequisite to repairing and maintaining.

Now that I have free time again, I think I'll get back on that.  While my ankle had me out of commission I got the news that will actually allow me to really make a difference: my mother and father have both renounced all property that remains in my house.  I can keep it, move it, or trash it as I see fit.

It's going to take a long time, but this place will again become a place where people, not just me, can live.  More than that, a place where thriving is possible.

* * *

So that's where we are.  The horror has passed, but there's a lot of work to do.  Now that work can start being done.