Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Anyone know of any good Canterbury Tale readings?

So, when I have a long period in which I require background noise, it's not uncommon for me to put on the full concert video of The Last Waltz.  It's four ours and twentyish minutes long, and it's good music.

The break in the middle with poetry reading, however, utterly fails to impress me except for one part.  A guy walks out and with no introduction to his reading whatsoever starts reciting a poem in a Germanic language I originally couldn't place, and it's fucking beautiful.

I know now that the language was Middle English (it sounded really damned familiar), the guy was Michael McClure (he is announced, but it was kind of iffy to me as to exactly what his last name was), and the poem was the introduction to The Canterbury Tales.

For any who are interested, here is the reading:

I finally got around to looking up if McClure ever recorded a larger reading of The Canterbury Tales, and the answer is, unfortunately, no.

So, I was wondering, anyone have a reading they recommend?  It is the case that Chaucer's work isn't fully in verse, but where it is . . . with the proper reader it's not just poetry, it's a form of music.

For my own part, I can't read Middle English for shit.  There's a reason I didn't initially recognize the reading as English.  If I were to try to do a reading it'd be a horrible discordant thing that bashed Chaucer's language into more or less my own modern American English and destroyed its beauty in the process.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A New Path Forward: A day in the aftermath (Equestria Girls)

[If you don't want to jump right in and trust my skill as a writer to make the pertinent information clear, I made a whole post to help with that.]

[Key points being that a) Equestria Girls is the human universe of the My Little Pony multiverse, thus everyone is in human form and is human unless otherwise noted, Luna is a vice principal not an immortal moon goddess, Sunset Shimmer has recently been beaten and has cut ties with her canonical friends, and . . . that should cover everything.  More than what's needed, really.]

[This is a sequel to Dainn's Anon-a-Miss, which Dainn gave blanket permission to do provided credit was given.  It does not, however, treat the epilogue as canonical because that would introduce timing issues.]

* * *
* * * *
* * *

“Breakfast is getting cold, wake up!”

Sunset groaned and rolled until her legs fell off the bed.  Once she was laying belly down and had her feet on the floor, she pushed herself upright, then she stumbled out of the room.

“It was supposed to be one night,” she said as she made her way to the kitchen.  She kept her left hand on the wall for balance and support.  “You let me stay here one night, the guilty are punished the next day, I go home.”

“That was before I saw what you looked like,” Luna said.

Sunset collapsed into the chair across the table from Luna.  “Nothing you can see is even bothering me right now.”

Sunset didn't even look at what was on the plate in front of her, she closed her eyes, planted her elbows on the table, and held her head in her hands.  The world was suffering.

“Ok, so I probably should have guessed that you had a concussion when you told me thirty people beat you up,” Luna said.  “I honestly didn't think of it.”

“When do I start sleeping again?”

Actually Sunset was sleeping a lot.  Several times a night and sometimes a time or two during the day.  The problem was that she wasn't sleeping well or long.

Sunset heard Luna sigh.

“Brain injuries are extremely hard to predict,” Luna said.  “We've had students bounce back in three days--”

“It's been more than three days.”

“--and others took months.”

Sunset gave a flat, “Yay.”

“I haven't done any kind of study of the matter using the student body as test subjects,” Luna said, “but recovery times have definitely gone down, in aggregate, since doctors started recommending 'brain rest'.”

“Brain rest being the thing that means I can't look at anything with screens,” Sunset said.  “Have I mentioned that computers and TV rank highly among the things that make the lack of magic in this world bearable?”

“Several times,” Luna said.  “This is the seventeenth time you've mentioned TV, alone or in combination, and the twenty-third time you've mentioned computers, under the same conditions.”

Sunset opened her eyes.  She was still resting her head in her hands, so her view was straight down at her plate of breakfast.  Fake bacon and eggs.  The bacon-like thing gave her a distraction and she took it.  She might have mentioned computers twenty-three times, but she'd never told Luna about pig farming.

“In Equestria no one would even think of eating pigs.  We use them to till the soil; it's why they're usually found on farms.”

“I'm not sure if anyone does that here,” Luna said, “but I do know that people rent out sheep and goats to be organic lawn mowers.”

“Yeah, caprinae are good at that.  Not just grass either,” Sunset said.  “Take an overgrown field, put a fence around it, drop off some sheep or goats, and pretty soon the brush will be cleared away.  Then you bring in the pigs.  Once they've done their part, you've got land that's ready to farm.”

“You know a lot about farming?”

“No,  I just know a little about a lot.

“Even though I was studying magic, my teacher made sure my general education was very broad,” Sunset said.  She smiled looking back on it.  She finally took her head out of her hands and looked up at Luna.  “I resented her for that.  I was only interested in magic, because I only wanted to become more powerful.  My physical strength was average at best, so magic was the path to power.  Everything else was a distraction.

“Now . . . almost everything I know about my motherland comes from her insisting that I know at least a little bit about everything.”

“Not from living there?”

“Before I met her I knew some of the streets of one city, I knew how people ignored you when you weren't wanted, I knew fear and hunger and loneliness.  After she took me in I knew the inside of one castle.  She tried to get me to make friends, but I didn't think that was even a real thing.”

“You didn't think friendship was real?”

“My whole life had been defined by the strong doing whatever they wanted to the weak.  People who operated in groups were stronger than they had been as individuals.  I thought 'friendship' the name people gave to such alliances when the members didn't want to admit that they were so weak they needed a gang to support them.”

“That's terrible.”

Sunset nodded.  “I was pretty terrible.”

“I wasn't talking about you,” Luna said.  “I was talking about the situation that could lead to a child believing such at thing.”

Sunset shrugged.  She didn't see herself as a victim of her circumstances.  Others had faced the same and not become monsters.  Besides, it was just how things worked.

“It's like that in this world too,” Sunset said.

“It's terrible here too,” Luna said.

There was a silence that Sunset used to finally start eating.

“Do you know why we let new students into the school with no questions asked and no paperwork?”

Sunset shook her head.  She hadn't even known they did that until Twilight showed up and was treated as an ordinary student in spite of obviously not belonging.  If she'd known the school acted that way at the start she could have saved herself a lot of trouble by not forging the necessary documents to enroll officially.

“Free lunches,” Luna said.

That threw Sunset a bit and she just looked at Luna, unsure of what to say.  Plus she was chewing.

“As long as they aren't harming our students,” Luna said, “anyone who is the right age can walk through our doors, stay where it's warm and dry, and get one absolutely free meal every school day.”

Sunset had food in her mouth again, but she also had something to say, so she swallowed in a hurry.  That proved a mistake as it hurt a bit, but at least she could speak.

“That sounds monumentally unwise,” Sunset said.

“The school-board would have our heads if they knew,” Luna said, “but I think the secret's safe with you.”

Sunset was pretty sure Luna wasn't doing it on purpose, and that somehow made the fact Luna just admitted to trusting Sunset with a secret without hesitation feel even better.  There was a twinge of sadness about others who had been quick to think no secret was safe with her, but mostly there was satisfaction that at least someone trusted her.

Of course none of that had to do with the topic of the administration of a school choosing to allow random kids who weren't actually students to come in and roam free.  On that topic Sunset said:

“Even so, how can you be sure it won't explode in your face?”

“We don't know it won't,” Luna said.  “So far, though, the problems we've faced with the student body have been from students who are actually legally enrolled.”

Sunset nodded, “The Dazzlings and I forged the paperwork needed to make our enrollments legit.”

“True,” Luna said, “but I wasn't thinking about magic.”

“For the first three years and change I didn't use magic,” Sunset said.

“I'm not going to lie and pretend you weren't that bad,” Luna said, “and a lot of people would disagree with how Celestia and I feel now, but I think you were worth it.

“I wish we'd been able to do something about you, but you were too good at keeping anything from pointing at you directly.  You only acted in person around people who would never give us your name, and what you did electronically always pointed to someone else.”

“Thank so much for that trip down memory lane.”

“Your deadpan snarking needs work, maybe we can get you in a remedial class,” Luna said.

It made Sunset smile even though she didn't want to reward such a corny line.

“There was, however, going to be a 'but',” Luna said.

“You're a butt!”

Luna laughed.  “I'm sorry we can't watch that movie together right now.”  Luna glanced at something, “And for that matter I can't be here for much longer right now.”

“That why you woke me up today?” Sunset asked.

“I wanted to make sure you ate,” Luna said, “but before I go let me finish that thought.

“We might not have been able to act against you –because for any given thing we usually had about a dozen suspects and we knew that they weren't all guilty– but that didn't mean we couldn't do anything.  We worked to help your victims.  Yes, that includes the ones who could have told us who you were but flat out refused.

“I think you did a lot less lasting harm than you believe.”

“That's mildly comforting,” Sunset said.

“I have to go now, the school-board called an emergency meeting.”

“You're still refusing to deal with the parents?” Sunset asked.

“Celestia and I have office hours.  If someone wants to yell at us about how babysitting duty is too harsh of a punishment for attempted murder, they can wait until we're in the office.”

“Aren't you technically on call--”

“If they care so much then they should be willing to show up on a school day,”  Luna said.  Then she switched to serious mode and said, “Now I really have to go.”

* * *

Sunset's boredom was interrupted by her magical journal glowing and vibrating.  That meant inter-dimensional text messaging.  Inter-dimensional text messaging that included no screens.

Sunset took a look.

I'm going to make the pendants, the message from Twilight said.

That was very good news.  The sirens might have tried to take over the world, they might be unrepentant, and they might be parasites that could only survive on the suffering of others, but they didn't deserve to die a slow painful death via magical starvation.

Sunset hadn't actually promised to get them the magical amulets they'd need to sustain themselves, she'd only said she'd talk to Twilight, but she'd never planned on leaving it at merely trying.  It was a huge weight off of her to know she wouldn't have to think up a way to convince Twilight to help.

Thus, this was very good news.

It took Sunset a while to actually respond –damned concussion– but she finally wrote, That's good, back at Twilight.

You didn't write me anything while I was thinking it over, Twilight wrote.  Are you ok?

I have a concussion, Sunset wrote, it's hard to think sometimes.

Cue freakout in three, two, one . . .

A concussion‽  You said you were just scratched up!

Of course Twilight would write out an interobang.  If Sunset wanted to keep up she'd have to break out the asterism.  That was for later, though.

At the time the symptoms hadn't set in, Sunset wrote.  They operate on a delay for some reason.

That's because Never mind.  You should have told me when you found out, Twilight wrote.

Why?  Sunset asked.  It's not like I got injured again, and I'm healing now.

Because  That's not  I strongly disagree with your decision not to tell me, Twilight wrote, but right now just get some rest.

I will, Sunset wrote.

Good bye for now, Twilight wrote.

Sunset marked the end of the conversation with an asterism.

Sunset didn't open her eyes when she heard the door open, or when she heard it close again.  In fact she pushed herself deeper into the couch.

She did ask, “How was the school-board?” though.

“As expected,” Luna said.  “A few of them are up in arms about how we're handling the situation, but they're not going to act against Celestia and me because they they really don't want to draw attention to the fact that so many of our students were involved in such a serious crime.”

“But this could be a teachable moment,” Sunset said, further burying herself in they couch.  “Never has there been a more perfect reason to make students sit through assemblies about the negative impact of crowd psychology, scapegoating, extrajudicial punishment by an informal groups, escalation of commitment, and the desire for quick action over accurate information.

“You could do a whole series.  Every day a new sensitivity slash 'don't commit murder' assembly.”

“Are you finished?”  Luna asked.

“Maybe,” Sunset said.  “I'm not really sure.”

“Is there some reason you prefer pushing the cushions out of place then lying between them and the rest of the couch to actually lying on top of the couch cushions?” Luna asked.

Sunset wasn't sure, her head seemed to feel better when she actively pressed it against the couch, but that that pushed her into the couch, and pushed the cushions out of place, was a side effect, right?  Or was it part of why her head felt better?

This would require some serious thought.

* * *

Sunset woke up and it was very dark.  She wasn't sleepy.  She was weary.  She was tired.  But she wasn't sleepy.  She wanted to growl at the gods of all things neurological . . . and possibly wage a medium sized war on them.  She could try to rest but not sleep, but that would leave her painfully bored.

She couldn't watch a movie because she'd had her two hours of screen time for the day and, as much as she hated the whole brain rest thing, she had to admit that it worked.  Things did get worse when she used things with screens and better when she stayed away.

She couldn't read a book because the LED lights in the house were too bright and the only other lights were CFLs Luna hadn't gotten around to replacing yet.  Florescent lighting was as bad as screens.

She tried to think of something else to do, but found herself with few options.  If she wanted to heal quickly, and she desperately wanted that because every waking moment involved suffering and the best she could hope for was distraction, not relief, there wasn't much she could do after dusk's twilight faded.

She got out of bed and hoped that Luna was still awake.

* * *

She found Luna just outside the back door, in the snow, looking through a telescope.

“Are you the goddess of the night here too?” Sunset asked.

Luna jolted a bit in response to to Sunset's voice so Sunset said:


“There is nothing to be sorry for,” Luna said.  “I'm just not used to having company.”

“Looking at something interesting?”

“The Andromeda Galaxy,” Luna said.  “Despite how far away it is, it would look six times larger than the moon in a world where the sky was actually dark enough to see the whole thing.  As is we can only see the core with the naked eye, and that just looks like a fuzzy star.

“Since the moon isn't out right now, the sky's a bit darker.  Unfortunately there's nowhere you can go that's free from human light pollution.  Not unless you take a boat far enough into the ocean to have the horizon block out light from the continent.”

Sunset thought about that for a bit.

“The light pollution thing doesn't surprise me,” she said; “after all of the time I've spent here, the universe still surprises me.”

Luna was definitely confused when she asked, “What about the universe surprises you?”

“Everything,” Sunset said.  “That it exists.”

And Luna's confusion obviously wasn't cleared up based on the way she repeated, “That it exists?”

Sunset was going to explain, and then realized it wouldn't make sense.  She thought up another way to explain it and got as far as opening her mouth before stopping, deciding that wasn't going to make sense either, and dismissing it with a, “No.”

She ran through a few more possible approaches in her head before reaching the conclusion, “I'm going to have to explain Equestrian cosmology from scratch for anything from there to make sense to you.”

“Ok,” Luna said in a way that Sunset recognized as inviting her to say more.

“This could take a while.”

“I'm not busy,” Luna said.

“Equestria is . . .” Sunset realized she had to stop right there.  “Ok, the planet, if you want to call it that, doesn't have a name.  The ponies of Equestria call the whole world Equestria because the ponies of Equestria think everything is about them.  They use the term 'everypony' to mean 'everyone' or 'everybody' without ever considering that the language is exclusionary to zebras, donkeys, dragons, griffins, changelings . . . and everyone else who isn't a pony.

“But, I was talking about the universe, not social things.

“The nameless world that Equestria is a part of can be represented quite well as the surface of a sphere and you will find globes there, but for our purposes tonight it's actually easier to think of it as flat.”

“A flat surface in spherically curved space?” Luna asked.

“It's significantly more complicated than that,” Sunset said.  “The complications aren't what matter when discussing the goings on in space though.  What matters is that if you shine a light on the outside of a sphere the light can only directly hit half of it at time.” Sunset held out her right hand in a fist.  “If the sun is shining on this part,” she covered the left half of her fist with her left hand, “it necessarily follows that it can't be shining on this part,” she covered the other half of her fist.

“It doesn't work like that on the other side of the mirror.  So it's easier to think of the world as the top of a flat surface, say my palm.” Sunset said while opening her right hand and flipping it to palm up.

"When the sun is above the surface plane,” Sunset used her left hand to illustrate the sun, “it shines on the whole world, or my whole palm as the case may be.” She moved her left hand below her right, “when it's below the plane it shines on none of it –just the back of my hand, which we don't care about at the moment.”

“So your point is that if the sun is up it's up for the whole world and if it's down it's down for the whole world?” Luna asked.

Sunset nodded.  “The sun, the moon, the stars, meteors, whatever,” she said. “The entire world sees the same sky.

“And when I talked about the sun being in different places, that wasn't some sort of metaphor.  The sun and moon do move around the world there,” Sunset said.  “They bring day and night respectively.  Unlike here the moon is never up in the daytime.”  As soon as she said it Sunset realized it wasn't true.  “Well, one time it was.  That was after I left Equestria so I didn't see it for myself but apparently about half of the sky was night, about half of the sky was day, and the thin area between the two 'about half's was twilight.”

“So the day runs on magic,” Luna said, “like half of the other things in that world.”

“Right,” Sunset said.  “Anyway, it's very much not just the sun and moon that revolve around the world.  Everything is centered on the world.

“We have a lot of the same terms, but they don't mean the same things.  Stars are not other suns.  The galaxy isn't a huge thing that makes the world seem tiny in comparison, the word 'universe' is pretty much interchangeable with 'galaxy', and while planet refers both to the world and to the things in the sky that sometimes have moons orbiting them, the two things aren't even close to alike.

“The sun and the moon go around the world for a value of around that doesn't work if you're thinking of the world as a sphere, farther away is a partial shell that contains the stars and planets.  They really are as about as small as they appear in comparison to the sun and moon because they aren't much farther from the world than the sun and the moon themselves.

“The sun and moon there are of equal size and at an equal distance from the world, by the way.”

“That's all very different,” Luna said, “though it doesn't explain why you said the existence of the universe surprises you.”

“There's the world, there's the sun and moon, there's a shell of stars and planets, and that's all there is.  The universe just stops.  That's the galaxy, one world with a shell of stars around it.  That's everything.

“The idea that there could be other suns –other worlds, not tiny ones but ones comparable to the world people live on, around some of them–  and not just one or two but an entire galaxy of them, is mind blowing.  That there's more than one galaxy here, that space seems to go on forever and be filled with stuff, that there could be other people on worlds beyond this one, it's just so . . . amazing.”

“You should have told me you were interested in astronomy,” Luna said.  “I have so much I can show you.”

“Until this fall I wouldn't have cared,” Sunset said.  “It was a distraction.  I didn't have time for wonder, I wanted power.”

“But you care now,” Luna said, clearly doing her best at being encouraging and even succeeding a bit.  “Until you're back on computers we'll want to stick to books, but there are some incredible books out there with photographs that you wouldn't believe.

“Obviously the view through my telescope can't compare to the pictures professionals take, and it's also the case that those photographs are often enhanced by converting infrared or ultraviolet details into colors we can actually see, but I've always felt there was something special about seeing with my own eyes,” Luna said.

There was silence for a few moments.

“Wanna look?” Luna asked.

Sunset was vaguely aware that 'wanna' was the most informal thing she'd ever heard from Luna, but she was more interested in actually seeing a galaxy.

When she looked through the telescope the view was truly amazing.

* *
* * *
* *

More notes:          (which will be long, rambling, and completely unnecessary)

Yes, Canterlot High is canonically a place where a teenager can show up, hobknob with the principal, participate in school activities, and generally have free run of the school (without ever being asked why she's not attending classes) without any documentation whatsoever.  The first Equestria Girls movie (which gave the setting its name) ran on that fact.

The ponies of Equestria routinely use the name of their nation as the name for the whole world.  (In their limited defense, it is their nation that runs existence which is especially unmissable when it comes to managing the day and night cycle.)

The cosmology depicted in the show makes perfect sense for a flat world, so of course they use globes because . . . bwah?

Ponies are shown to be vegetarian but not vegan, hence Sunset being willing to eat eggs but not real bacon.

It's not uncommon in fanfiction to have the sirens' defeat leave them facing starvation.  This is probably because the magical gems that were shattered upon their defeat were originally parts of their bodies (one in embedded in each siren's chest) and specifically the parts they used to feed (they had mouths, but it was stated they fed on negative emotions via the magic gems.)  Being banished to the human world separated the gems from their magic-stripped bodies, but didn't change the fact that they fed on negative emotions.

Dainn took this route in the fic that this follows.

Dainn's fic basically serves as an extended alternate version to the Equestria Girls Holiday Special tie-in comic.

The comic has a crescendo of hate that's reached the level of violence in the halls, and then things are figured out over the course of a couple of minutes, everyone is forgiven, there's an after-school-special style message about how once you've unleashed something online you can't really re-leash the kraken, the end.

Dainn's fic has that two minute solution not happen and picks up from that alteration as the crescendo of hate and violence is allowed to continue unabated until it reaches "angry mob out for blood" levels.  The resolution does not include everything reverting to the mean.

Instead of repaired friendships with the human five, Sunset's left thinking that the only people she can count on in two universes are pony-Twilight (human version has yet visit Canterlot High, but is canonically already on the case) and four humans: Celestia, Luna, and her two former underlings (Snips and Snails) who came through when she needed help on the whole not-dying front.

It's the concept of seeing what happens to the universe going forward when Sunset Shimmer, now basically the main character of the setting, is no longer friends with any of the canonical five that got me writing on this project.

The title refers to the fact that the only sure thing is that the canon path forward is literally impossible at this point.

Given that Equestria Girls is set on more or less earth and Friendship is Magic is set on a world that's nothing like earth, I figure that there should be things where the characters respond with, "Whoa, that is fucking amazing."

Also note that Sunset has only ever seen Equestrian night as done by Princess Celestia, because the actual pony-goddess of the night was banished to the moon at the time.  (She was evil for a while, it's a thing they do.)  So she probably hasn't seen Equestrian night at its finest.

The, "I was only supposed to stay for one night," thing is because that's how long Sunset was supposed to stay with Luna in Dainn's fic and because I don't see Luna or Celestia leaving the severely beaten girl on her own.

Sunset did in fact see a doctor who told her about concussions, symptoms, and how long they last.  But that doctor isn't at the breakfast table for Sunset to complain in the general direction of.

I can probably make more notes.

Not that it matters to this story, but the Equestria Girls Holiday Special, and Dainn's Anon-a-Miss by extension, operate on the premise that all of Sunset's friends would simultaneously fall for the same trick a second time when the first time nearly destroyed them and would have resulted in them becoming mind-controlled cannon fodder in an extra-dimensional war if it hadn't been rectified.

Thus when Sunset is framed for being a jerk they ditch her with incredible haste and vitriol, which leaves one wondering if the friendships were ever real in the first place.  They do it publicly thus falsely outing her as the guilty party, which is what leads to her being bullied.  (At that point she'd only just managed to shake pariah status, so it hit her pretty hard.)

What she's blamed for is being behind "Anon-a-Miss" (where Dainn got the name for his fic), an internet profile that's leaking people's personal information.  At first just odd embarrassing things, but before long its stuff that ruins friendships and fucks up families.

Did I mention that Sunset is a reformed villain, because she was totally the villain of the first movie.

I told you I could make more notes.


* Basically: "As far as you know your phone wasn't taken from you, so the fact your phone was used to do something that's completely out of character for you means you're utterly fucking guilty and I don't need to listen to a word you say because it's totally impossible that you could be innocent.

"Fuck off; I don't want to hear your voice."

Backgound info for "A New Path Forward" which you hopefully don't actually need to know.

This goes with the story A New Path Forward.

First off, if I'm doing my craft well you should be able to jump into A New Path Forward without knowing any of this and simply taking what the story provides itself.  That said, I wanted to give background for any who wanted it up front and in case I don't do things well.

It is, for the record, really, really hard to sum this crap up quickly.  Since I've completely given up on making an opening note explaining this, I'm not even going to try for "quickly" anymore though I will attempt to stop short of "absurdly long".  I will probably fail.

I'm not going to note where this diverges from canon.  This is about the story's canon.


~ * Location in Time * ~

A New Path Forward serves as a sequel to Dainn's Anon-a-Miss (except the epilogue) but not in a way that should make Anon-a-Miss into required reading.  As the title suggests it's about what happens moving on, not what happened before.  The title comes from the fact that Anon-a-Miss left off in a way that would necessarily have to make everything different in the aftermath so things can't follow remotely the same track as the canonical path.

Anyway, location in time.

What this story takes as more or less canonical (I will not be holding myself to exact wording or any such thing) are the movies Equestria Girls and Rainbow Rocks, all but the last seven pages of the comic Equestria Girls Holiday Special, and the pre-epilogue parts of Dainn's Anon-a-Miss (which begins where it diverges from the Holiday Special.)

It story starts during winter break which is before the movies The Friendship Games and Legend of Everfree would have taken place.

~ * About the Setting * ~

The Equestria Girls universe is the human-verse of the current My Little Pony multiverse.  Other than humans and certain animals being significantly more colorful it's basically a bog standard earth-type setting when taken in itself.  The thing is, it can't really be taken in itself.  It's connected by magical portal to the pony-verse that is the setting of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic which has allowed individuals and magical objects to cross over into it in spite of its lack of experimentally verifiable native magic.

The human-verse of Equestria Girls is the sort of parallel universe where there are alternate versions of individual people from the main (pony) universe.  They generally have the same name, voice, and coloration along with similar personalities and relationships.

The Equestria Girls stories take place in and around Canterlot High School and the local population largely mirrors Ponyville of the main universe.  Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle are not from Ponyville originally (Sunset never was, Twilight moved there in the first episode of the series as a result of events the human-verse had no parallel to) and as a result neither of their alternate versions has been encountered at this point in the timeline.

Transitioning from the pony-verse to the human-verse gives one the form of a native creature (usually a human, but Spike the baby dragon became a dog) and strips one of their magic.  Inanimate magical objects, however, retain magical power.

The sorting algorithm can do weird things, which we'll get to when talking about the sirens later.

There are only four known non-natives living as humans in the human world.  Sunset Shimmer and the three sirens.

~ * Characters * ~

Sunset Shimmer was originally a unicorn in the pony-verse.  She was a magical prodigy and Princess Celestia's personal student.  They had . . . different moral frameworks.  She took off to the human-verse and became a villain.  She reformed following her defeat and eventually saved her school and world when the next villains, the sirens, came along.

When A New Path Forward begins she's just recently cleared her name after being framed for going back to her evil ways (but stupider and less magical), completely estranged from her canonical friends, recovering from being severely beaten (indirect result of the framing), and reconnected (as friends this time) with her former lackeys from her villain days (who helped her after the beating.)

As an aside, thinking about the idea of what happens when Sunset is entirely separated from her canon friends is what drove me to start writing the story.

Snips and Snails are Sunset's former lackeys.  After her defeat, which dragged them down too, Sunset assumed they'd want nothing to do with her.  They thought she didn't want to have anything to do with them, believing she'd traded up to better friends.  The mob that beat Sunset dragged them along (with the expectation they'd be accomplices in the beating), which gave them the opportunity to help her.  (They didn't save her, they gave her the opening needed to save herself, and then followed her plan when she figured out how to do it.)

Twilight Sparkle was a unicorn who became Princess Celestia's personal student not long after Sunset.  By the time she actually met Sunset she had leveled up to alicorn princess.  She's the one who stopped villain-Sunset.  By the time of the story she's gotten the title "Princess of Friendship", she's figured out a way to open the portal at will, and she's the only one in the pony-verse Sunset is in contact with (via a pair of books that use magic to make it so whatever is written in one appears in the other.)

Celestia and Luna are sisters who are the human counterparts of the rulers of Equestria.  They're Principal and Vice Principal of Canterlot High respectively.  Their school has recently been afflicted by magical happenings, and more recently an entirely mundane plot that almost got one of their students (Sunset) killed by other students as well as inciting less violent but still severe conflict amongst the student body.

They've basically locked down the school in response, shutting down all extra curricular activities.

They're also responsible for the ones who attacked Sunset getting the less severe extralegal punishment that Sunset wanted, where letting the legal system run its course would have had those students facing second degree attempted murder charges.

Adagio Dazzle, Aria Blaze, and Sonata Dusk were originally sirens in the pony verse.  In this context that means flying horse-fish-things with gems embedded in their chests who can cultivate hostility with their magic singing and then feed on the resulting negative energy.  They can also use their magic singing for more direct influence, causing people to do what they want instead of engaging in general hostility.

When they were banished to the human world the gems stopped being parts of their bodies and started being pendants.  When they were defeated the pendants were shattered.  Without the pendants they can't feed on negative energy and when the story starts they are slowly starving to death as a result.  (Physical food can slow down how long it takes for them to die of starvation, but only magically feeding on energy can actually keep them alive.)

They haven't reformed, and Adagio and Aria aren't very nice people regardless, but Sunset agreed to try to them get new pendants (by having Twilight back in magical pony-land make them) so that they won't have to die.

While in theory new pendants could allow them to go back to trying to take over a world or two, given that defeat in the human realm breaks their pendants and that the only possible source of replacements wouldn't take kindly to another attempt at world domination, Sunset doesn't consider it a major risk.

Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Applejack and Pinkie Pie are the alternate versions Twilight's pony-verse friends.  The helped her defeat Sunset, agreed to look after Sunset and teach her about friendship when Twilight asked them to (after Twilight saw Sunset was truly penitent), worked with Twilight to defeat the sirens (though that initially failed until Sunset stepped in) and rejected Sunset with incredible haste and vitriol when she was framed.

They're not going to be in the story much.  As noted above, the driving force behind the story is what happens when they're out of the picture.

The angry mob . . . is't actually very important to this story, but takes a lot of words to explain.  So just remember this section may be big, but it doesn't really matter that much going forward.  And the parts that do matter even a little will be explained covered in a fair amount of detail because getting the police to put an attempted murder case on hold as part of blackmailing the guilty into accepting a lesser punishment is complex and difficult.

That said, let me repeat, it's not very important to this story.  I'd be perfectly able to tell the story I want to tell if Anon-a-Miss had ended with them carted off to prison and never seen again.  It would be different, because changing things changes other things due to the interconnected relationship of all things, but it would still be pretty much the story I want to tell.

So have you got that out of all of the things here you don't need to read this is the one you really, really don't need to read?  Because now we finish with the long explanation.

The angry mob was a group of students led by one named Gilda who thought Sunset was guilty of that thing she was framed for that I keep on mentioning but not explaining.  Short version: being an internet personality called Anon-a-Miss (where Dainn got the name for his story) who was spreading around people's secrets, breaking friendships, making people targets of bullies, screwing up families, and wrecking lives.

They lured Sunset into a trap and beat her.

They didn't start out with intent to kill, but somewhere along the way they realized that, given how far things had gone, if Sunset ever told anyone what happened they'd be completely screwed.  Even then none of them were quite able to bring themselves to do the deed directly, and intended to leave her (bound) to freeze to death in an abandoned building with no hope of escape or survival where they hoped she wouldn't be found until the trail had gone cold.  (Thus second degree attempted murder, because there was intent to kill but that wasn't the plan ahead of time.)

From a legal standpoint they're getting away with everything, though they left enough evidence that all that needs to happen is for the case to be allowed forward and they (almost) inevitably would end up convicted of attempted murder.  Thus: blackmail.

What they're being blackmailed into as punishment, at Sunset's choosing, is making sure the ones actually behind Anon-a-Miss aren't harmed.  Not even a shove in the halls.

The guilty party happened to be three kids from the middle school adjoined to the high school so this protection means that the angry mob gets to spend the next four and a half years, until the three graduate high school, devoting their lives to protecting the people who actually did the thing the angry mob tried to kill Sunset for allegedly doing.

Sunset is apparently a fan of specially-tailored psychological punishment.

(Still less time than five to fifteen years for second degree attempted murder.)

How it's possible to blackmail the angry mob into this --which is to say: how it's possible to put a police investigation of attempted murder on hold when it already has the evidence necessary to convict everyone-- is nepotism and intrigue (involving Celestia and Luna.)  Mostly intrigue.

~ * Final Summary * ~

Word count doesn't equate to importance, as I noted when I pointed out that the angry mob is of basically no importance to the core story in spite of requiring the most words to explain.

So here's my quick summing up of the previous summations.

  • This takes place in the human world so, other than the fact that they might have naturally purple skin or blue hair or some such, the characters can be assumed to be just like ordinary humans unless otherwise stated.
  • The center of much of what will happen is the high school Sunset Shimmer attends which is run by Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna.
  • Sunset Shimmer is one of four (known) non-humans currently living as a human, the other three being the sirens who are currently dying of magical starvation but Sunset has promised to try to (get Twilight Sparkle to) help.
  • The bridges between Sunset and her former friends have been burnt to a crisp.
  • Sunset is recovering from being injured.  Celestia and Luna are dealing with the fact that their school degenerated into a hive of scum and bullying villainy at the drop of an electronic hat and the fallout from blackmailing the students who attacked Sunset into accepting an extralegal punishment.
  • The story starts in the winter break following Rainbow Rocks, and is thus before when The Friendship Games would have been if things had not diverged from canon.
  • That's more or less it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The nine realms (structure of the universe)

[I still think about the question of what the nine realms are.  A lot.]

In the wonders of Judeo-Christian theology we know that there are ten commandments, but there are closer to twenty commands.  Debate, therefore, is over how to group them together to reduce the number to ten.

The nine realms of Norse cosmology have the opposite problem.  We know for really fucking sure that there are nine of them, a complete list exists nowhere.  Moreover, the closest we get to an indirect list only mentions six things.

The indirect list comes from someone asking what the word for wind is in each realm and the answer taking the form of the word for wind from each species.  The realms are described as homeworlds.

We get what Humans, Aesir, Vanir, Jotuns, Elves, and those in Hel call it.

Jotuns and Elves each live in two different places, so we can expand this to eight and produce:
Midgard - Humans
Asgard - Asir (the gods)
Vanaheim - Those other gods.
Jotunheim - Regular (frost) Jotuns
[where the fire Jotun live] - Guess
Lojosalfheim - Light Elves
Svart√°lfaheimr -  Dark Elves/Dwaves
Hel(heim) - Dead people of all races

[where the fire Jotuns live] is usually left out of this list, and Dark Elves/Dwarfs are only included because people were all, "What the fuck?  Where are the Dwarfs!?"

This still doesn't get us to nine so people throw in the two primordial realms based on the belief that mist and muspel (no one knows what the fuck that means, by the way) don't have words and the fact that they're well attested as realms.

This gets us to ten, which is too many.

I mentioned that [where the fire Jotun live] tends to be omitted, so that leaves 9 and is responsible for the most common reconstruction.

It's even what I used for my Norse origin story in my Four Realms setting.

There's a problem, though.

If we can collapse [where the fire Jotun live] into Muspelheim then we should also collapse Hel(heim) into Niflheim.  Which puts us back to eight.

I really, emphatically, do not buy that Hel(heim) is a separate one of the nine than Niflheim.  I can believe that it's a separate realm in general.  Lonespark convinced me that when Hel was sent to Niflheim and set up her domain she totally could have spawned off a new realm instead of having Helheim forever remain a location within Niflheim.

There's just . . . problems with it being one of the nine.  When Hel was sent to Niflheim to become queen of the dead, she was given authority of all nine of the realms so that she would take the dead from all of them.  The nine existed when Hel was in Niflheim, meaning the nine existed before she would have had a chance to split off Helheim into a new realm.

Someone traveled the nine realms before going to Helheim, which works perfectly fine if Helheim is a merely a location within the realm of Niflheim (or a realm unto itself that's too minor to be listed with the nine) but doesn't work if Helheim is one of the nine that they traveled because they can't have visited something before they've ever gone there.

I'm not going to look this up right now, but if memory serves a comparison of locations in Helheim to ones in Niflheim will reveal that some of those locations are very definitely in both, which only works if the two places overlap.  Having Helheim be within Niflheim makes the overlap complete and thus makes the whole thing make sense.

And, we have the fact that Hel is never given the story of creating a realm, but she is definitely sent to Niflheim to set up her kingdom there.

That mini-rant over, let me mention something important.

You'll notice that most realms are [something]-heim.  Heim just means "home".  It does not denote a realm/world/thing.  There are many, many heims.  A thing being a [something]-heim doesn't make it a realm.  If it did then every home, including the one I'm in right now, would be a realm.

Those who don't separate Helheim from Niflheim usually get to nine by treating the Dwarfs and Dark/Black Elves as separate groups.  This is unsatisfying because they're demonstrably the same group.  They have the same members, they do the same things, they're just different names.

And from there, there's not a lot to go on.

That list of races: Humans, Aesir, Vanir, Jotuns, Elves, dead people, is presented as an exhaustive list of the the speaking populations of the various realms.  That's got to be the strongest thing we have to go on.

What we add to reach nine has to either not be home to speaking things, or be an additional home to one of those things.

No matter how much I think about it, the absolute best I can come up with is what I said before: the fire Jotuns have a realm of their own that is not Muspelheim.

Literally no one believes this.  Well . . . that I know of.  But the point is, if no Norse Pagans are known to believe it, and it's the only answer I have, I'm probably flunking mythology.

Doesn't change the fact that it's the best I can come up.

Here's the problem with this view:

The fire giants are the children of Muspel and Surt, who very much seems to be their apparent leader, is stationed at the frontier of Muspelheim to protect its interior.

That's not a lot (there isn't a lot about fire giants) but's it's sure as fuck enough to make it seem like the fire giants live in Muspelheim.

Granted it doesn't actually make sense because there's no reason to protect the interior of Muspelheim.  Only those who live in Muspelheim can survive inside of it; it's invasion and infiltration proof.  It therefore follows that any threats it needs to be protected from would come from within, not from the frontier.  (Unless they're afraid of an army of expats coming back and attacking them.)  But even if it doesn't make sense, it's there.  It's one of the few concrete things that's said about the fire giants beyond their eventual role in Ragnarok.

Surt lives at the frontier of Muspelheim so he can protect the interior.

Now I can rationalize this and the "Sons of Muspel" language into a form that doesn't mean the fire giants live in Muspelheim.  But that's me arguing against the most obvious interpretation of the myth on the grounds that I have aesthetic objections to it.

Children of Muspel don't have to live there.  The stars are actually from Muspelheim but they sure as fuck aren't there now.  Most of what was created by Muspelheim ended up outside of Muspelheim.  The entire universe save Muspelheim and Niflheim was created by those two realms and none of the things so created ended up in those realms.  Later creations of the younger realms did.  Notably Hel and the dead people she rules, but this makes me even more adamant that Muspelheim shouldn't have a native population.

Niflheim, Muspelheims counterpart, is entirely populated by dead things.*  Life doesn't live there.  Muspelheim is every bit as extreme as Niflheim, so life shouldn't exactly be abundant there either.  And it can't have dead people because Niflheim has got that covered.  The dead from all nine realms go to Hel's domain which resides there (unless snatched away to an Asgardian mead hall (or, possibly, captured by Ran's net.))

As for Surt, maybe the reason he's on the frontier is because his people don't live in Muspelheim and he doesn't want to be too far from them. And maybe the reason he's guarding it with a flaming sword isn't because of threats to beings that live there, but because of threats to the heat and light that originates there.  Muspelheim is the original source of all heat and all light and it's possible that something very bad would happen to the universe if it cooled down.

Maybe he's there to whack any cold things trying to enter (snowballs, comets, whatever) with a flaming sword that'll melt the everloving fuck out of them.

Like I said, I can totally rationalize why the evidence doesn't necessarily mean the fire giants live in Muspelheim.  Like I also said, it's arguing against the most obvious interpretation.

Still, this is in the service of the best explanation for the nine realms that I, personally, can come up with.  The fire giants have their own realm which is not Muspelheim.

Eldjotanhheim is a thing even though I totally made the name up.

That gives us our nine realms home-worlds that only need six races between them:

Following the order from the list of races we get:

1 Homeworld of the Humans (and possibly certain dead people if Ran lives in the oceans there)
2 Homeworld of the Aesir (and certain dead people)
3 Homeworld of the Vanir
4 Homeworld of Jotuns of the frosty kind (and possibly certain dead people if Ran is there)
5 Homeworld of Jotuns of the fiery kind
6 Homeworld of Elves of the light kind
7 Homeworld of Elves of the dark kind
8 Homeworld of Mist (and the dead people not taken by previous parentheticals)
9 Homewolrd of Muspel (whatever that is)

Muspel, whatever it is, doesn't speak, thus doesn't have a word for "wind" thus isn't listed with the races.  The Homeworld of Mist (which doesn't speak) is mentioned by way of telling what the dead people who reside in Hel(heim), which is a location within said homeworld, call wind.


* Part of me wants to say that as Niflheim is where a being ends, Muspelheim is where one begins, with hugir originating in Muspelheim, eventually traveling to the seven realms of the living to be embodied, and ending up in Niflheim after the body dies.

I don't even know if hugr (thought/mind) is supposed to be warm or bright or otherwise spark-like, and there is absolutely NOTHING to support this view beyond a desire for some kind of parallel between the two primordial realms.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I fucking love the universe

This is not a statement that I'm currently well adjusted or that my situation is good.  I'm talking about the whole thing.  The parts of it that directly affect me are such a small part of the universe that it doesn't make sense to hold them against the bigger picture.

So, the Andromeda galaxy is the most distant thing that can be seen with the naked eye.  (There aren't many things 2.5 million light years away that you can see, not even if you squint)  I'm writing a story in which someone is in their back yard looking through a telescope.  It seemed a natural thing for them to be looking at.

Andromeda is this one.

So I looked up what it looks like through an amateur telescope.  Someone took a crappy YouTube video of just that, which was helpful.  The side bar had a link to Deep Universe: Hubble's Universe Unfiltered which is just some guy with a PHD and geeking out, and therefore awesome.  Would be more awesome if he didn't have to explain a lot of things I already know, but that's understandable because it would be a good deal less awesome if I didn't understand what he was talking about.

Around 27 minutes and, say, 15ish seconds in (it felt long to me, but nowhere near that long) he mentions galaxies 13 billion light years (ish, in an expanding universe it's more significantly more complicated than that) away.  As he repeatedly mentions in the video, that means the images are therefore of 13 billion years in the past.  Travel time and all that.

The universe is, we think, less than 14 billion years old.

Let me do an aside here.

As a classicist what I think of as recent, modern, and/or newfangled is at odds with how a lot of people view the world.  Shakespeare isn't just recent, it's cutting edge.  Chaucer is really really new, Beowulf still has that new epic smell.

As someone who's interested in astronomy (never as a career or a calling, sweet Jesus am I glad there are astronomers out there taking awesome pictures) I have ideas about what constitutes a short period of time that are at odds with humanity as a species.

Ok, that's the whole aside.

So if the galaxies in question are that distance and thus that age (not verified at the time of the video some six years ago) then we're talking about things less than a billion years after the universe was created (we think.)  "Less than a billion" is also known as "hundreds of millions" and that means, "A really fucking short time."

Moving away from what we thought in 2011 to what we think now as defined by shit I can find on the internet, the oldest observed galaxy is 400 million years after the big bang.

400 million years and there was already a fucking galaxy formed.  That's more than a hundred million years less than it took to go from, "Proto eye that all eyes come from," to, "Here are your glasses, Chris."

And even moreso if you want to talk about eye creation in totality rather than proto-eye to modern-eye.

So, in less time than it takes to create an eye, in way less time than it takes to create a vertebrate (about 13% of the time it takes to create a vertebrate), a galaxy had been created.

From nothing to "Whoa, there's a galaxy here," on a scale of time that's really fucking short when compared to life on this planet.

I fucking love the universe.

And the current record holder for earliest galaxy is only holding the record because it's basically sitting on the limit of how far Hubble can see.  When we get something better up there we're going to find more.

Something better is scheduled for 2018 and is looking like when all is said and done it'll cost 10 billion dollars.

That's cheap.  We should make more of them.

The F-35 program is projected to cost $1,508 billion.  (Otherwise known as 1.508 trillion, but I wanted standard units.)

So if we spent ten times what the something better costs, it'd be less than six percent of what we're spending on a fighter jet program.  We're not really planning to get into a major air war with any powers capable of fielding fifth generation fighters.

And the thing is, spending that ten times wouldn't merely get us ten something betters.  A fair amount of the cost of a project is designing, testing, redesigning, retesting, and so forth.  You don't need to do that after the first one so we'd either get more than ten something betters, or have money left over.

The depressing part is that no one ever appropriated 10 billion dollars for the something better.  They appropriated way too little and that worked out about as well as you'd expect.  You can't build solid awesome and shoot it into space for 1.6 billion.  Can probably do "really fucking cool" and launch it into space on that budget, but not solid awesome.

Usually when things at NASA can't be done on an impossible budget and time frame, appropriations stop, the project is scrapped, and nothing comes of it.

I have a suspicion that the only reason the James Webb Space Telescope hasn't met that fate is that congress wants one example of a NASA project they didn't kill.  Though they've still got a year to change their minds and ax it.

Like I said, this part of the universe has a lot of downsides, but this is such a small part of the universe that it doesn't change the fact that I fucking love the universe in general.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Explaining the Bay of Naples to aliens

[This was originally posted on Facebook and was inspired by these musings from the internet about what aliens might find strange about humans, if we drop the assumption that all other life must be like us.  While the musings are good in general, the two that most inspired this were the actual mention of Pompeii at the very end and an alien freaking out in response to the fact that we explored the poles with humans instead of specially built drones:]
Alien: . . . and they didn't die?
Human: Well, the first few did.
[Anyway, Bay of Naples]

Alien: So it took out multiple cites --not villages, cities-- from the most advanced human civilization in existence at the time, in a way so violently legendary that you named Super Death Eruptions after it, and then you went and set up bigger more populated cities there just because?

Human: Well, no. First the people who survived by virtue of running like Hell in the lead up went back, dug down through the ash layer--

Alien: The literal tons of Death Ash that had the cities covered deeper than a height of three humans.

Human: Well, just on the good side, the other side wasn't buried in ash so much as smashed by a fast moving mountain.

Alien: Right, the Super-Heated Death River composed of rock and --

Human: We call it a--

Alien: It's more than a flow, it's more than fire, and it does more than simply break things!

Human: Whatever, first people went back to the city destroyed on the side that didn't get smashed, and dug in the ground to get their valuables.

Alien: Everyone in the entire area was eradicated by a force so beyond your comprehension you wouldn't even begin to try to understand it for nearly two thousand years --see, I can do human terms-- and they just strolled back over so they could dig in the Death Ash that had killed off almost everyone they'd ever known in hopes of finding their old shiny things?

Human: And after that we realized that the ground--

Alien: The Death Ash that left your expired species-mates without proper funerary rituals between three and four human heights beneath your feet.

Human: --was really good for agriculture, so we figured why not?

Alien: Because it would kill you.

Human: Well since then it's only had, like, little eruptions that were only mildly deadly and merely burned and melted through the towns and cities.

Alien: And you didn't, maybe, take this as a sign that the area wasn't safe?

Human: Well it's a really nice place, and people go their for fun--

Alien: To a massive Death Mountain!?

Human: Well there was a societal collapse, unrelated of course--

Alien: I refuse to believe that that could in any way be obvious.

Human: So after a while we sort of forgot about the ruined cities.

Alien: At this point they were massive unmarked graves.

Human: But when we rediscovered them we sent people there to dig th--

Alien: You rediscovered that this place was Death Incarnate and your response was to send people into the kill zone?

Human: Well how else would we dig up the buried cities to get good looks at them?

Alien: But they were deadly!

Human: Yeah, while digging we found these cavities in the ash and weren't sure what they were, so finally someone decided to just pour in some plaster to get a better feel for their shape, it was a very low tech time, and we found out that that they were the impressions of the dead people.

Alien: They were what?

Human: Well by the time the bodies had decayed the ash was packed pretty solid, so it kept their shapes preserved, now you can see the faces of the dead people, preserved more or less in the state they died.

Alien: And you still didn't evacuate?

Human: Hell no! It's a major tourist attraction.

Alien: It's-- a-- why? Who would-- WHAT!?

Human: Walk the streets of the fallen city, look at the people who fell with it. Reconnect with history. You know, the whole--

Alien: I most certainly do not know. Why do you people always run toward death and destruction?

Human: Well it's pretty, and it gives us a sense of connection with the past, and--

Alien: Past failure; the place is the worst kind of doom.

Human: Even if we didn't have parts of the city excavated to look at, nothing gives you hot springs like an active volcano. That was why Pompeii was a city instead of a nothing settlement in the first place. People came to go in the springs.

Alien: The spawn of the Death Mountain Volcano?

Human: Yeah, you should try it some time.

Alien: I'm not even going near your planet!

Human: It's a really nice place.

Alien: That planet--

Human: I meant around the volcano. It's a great spot to go for a nice relaxing vacation.


Human: It's renowned for how laid back and relaxed the population around there is, and it's got--

Alien: Please tell me you at least have an evacuation plan.

Human: Well that depends on whether there's a lead up or not. If its a quiet that build takes us off guard, well the biggest city around is only three minutes out as the pyroclastic mass flows so--

Alien: You can't evacuate a city in three minutes with your technology.

Human: True. So evacuation plans only work if the mountain gives us some decent warnings. And some people won't evacuate anyway, they'd rather bet on the chance that it's a false alarm than leave--

Alien: The Horrible Death Zone!

Human: Exactly. I think you finally get it.

*Alien too shocked to say anything*

*Human walks off*

Alien (to self): I "get" none of this.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chatlog -or- Not that kind of necromancy

[Random thought about a text message conversation between parallel worlds that briefly grazes the topic of how you might want to be cautious when you don't know the lay of the theological land as well as you did back home.]

24601: Hey.

Abelian Cue: Hey

Abelian Cue: Whatever you're typing, break it up into smaller chunks.

Abelian Cue: You seriously don't have to compose a novel before hitting submit.

24601: Do you know any kind of necromancy --not stupid fiction "I raise a zombie army" scare-quotes "necromancy", actual-definition learning secrets from the dead necromancy-- that isn't evil "sell your soul and fray your morals" magic which I would be able to learn without blowing myself up?

Abelian Cue: Why?

24601: I need to talk to the native-to-this-universe version of me, but she died about a decade before I arrived.

Abelian Cue: That would explain why you never had to deal with a double.

Abelian Cue: Wait, _she_!?

24601: Don't get hung up on the gender.

24601: It's seriously the least important concern right now.

Abelian Cue: Why do you need to talk to her?

24601: Complicated emotional shit.

24601: Can you help?

Abelian Cue: Necromancy just has a bad name because idiots don't know what "-mancy" means.

Abelian Cue: Very few forms of divination are inherently evil.

24601: So you can help?

Abelian Cue: Maybe.

24601: Thanks.

Abelian Cue: Also maybe not.

24601: That's what "maybe" means.

24601: Could have gone without saying.

Abelian Cue: Just because the living world there keeps to a close parallel doesn't mean the afterlife there is anyone like the one back here.

Abelian Cue: *anything

24601: I am aware that things might not work.

24601: I have reason to try.

Abelian Cue: You'll explain it.

24601: Of course.

Abelian Cue: I'll dig up the right books.

Abelian Cue: See if I can get a decent ritual prepped.

24601: That's all I ask.

Abelian Cue: I'm still going to want an explanation when I cross over.

24601: I said I'd give one.

Abelian Cue: If I'm not satisfied with your reason . . .

24601: Yeah, yeah.

Abelian Cue: . . . I will head back to this world without giving you a thing.

24601: Of course.

Abelian Cue: You don't poke gods who are strange to you without good reason.

24601: It's a good reason.

Abelian Cue: We'll see.

Monday, August 7, 2017

I Can See!

It's difficult to describe the experience of getting new glasses for me.

My vision doesn't change with any great speed, and (with the exception of outright losing them) neither do my glasses.  Whether my eyes get better or worse (they've actually been on a getting better streak) my vision gradually gets worse as my eyes stop matching my prescription and my glasses are ravaged by the twin horrors of time and having me as their owner.

And then, one day, I get new glasses based off of a new prescription that matches how my eyes are right now and . . . the world changes.

It's sort of like switching from craptastic resolution to UHD, if the craptastic were scaled by blurring instead of nearest-neighbor count-the-pixel methods.

It's sort of like switching from 2D to 3D.

It's probably sort of like many things.

But it's exactly like nothing else.  Suddenly the world appears with a focus and clarity that I didn't even know was possible because I lost it too slowly to notice and had forgotten it could look like this.  I mean, I obviously know that it can look better than the prescription before the one I got six years ago (and lost down a toilet) as modified by scuffs and scratches to the lens.  That could almost go without saying.  But that doesn't mean I have a sense of what that looks like.

Part of this is doubtless my very non-imagey imagination.  I can't conjure up a memory of seeing the world correctly that includes how it looks, because I can't conjure up how anything looks.  A sense of how something looks, an idea, a feeling?  Sure.  All those I can do.  But an actual thing to see?  Nope.  Can't do it.

And so when I get new glasses the world I experience changes in a way I find myself ill-equipped to describe.

I can see.  I could see before.  I can see in a way I couldn't see before.

The world is different now.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Final vote for those meaningless awards that I nonetheless really want your vote for

Annual Kim Possible Fannie Awards time again.

So, I asked to be nominated, and I was; I asked to be voted for in the preliminaries, and I was; now the final stage of this drawn out project has come round at once.

Nominating and voting are both anonymous so I have no idea if anyone here actually did any of that stuff, but I would guess that me asking here made a difference of some sort.

So, here's the deal: the absurdly large field of nominees has been winnowed down to five or six per category, now it's time for the final vote on which of those five or six should get the award.

* * *

The voting process is back to sending an email, to [kimmunityfannies (at) yahoo (dot) com], or a PM, to this account, this time it's limited to one vote per category (or no vote if you have no strong opinion.)  The full list of nominees can be found here.

What follows are the categories in which I or my work was nominated, as well as other ones I have strong opinions on.

It was easier to create an exhaustive list than try to decide for each one whether I/my work really truly deserved to win each thing, but I will say that I'm not actually going to be voting for my thing in category 1 (Best KP Style Name).

Also, I think either GerbilHunter or HopefulHuskey deserves to win Best Reviewer (24), but I haven't figured out which I think deserves it more.  (Hopefully I come up with a better way to decide than flipping a coin.)  So I listed them both since "strong opinion" but someone can only vote for one of them.
  1. Best KP Style Name
    • Leela P. Poossible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  2. Best KP OC
    • Leela P. Possible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  3. Best Minor Character
    • Joss Possible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  4. Best Villain
  5. Best Songfic
  6. Best AU
    • Life After – Chris the Cynic
  7. Best Cross-over
  8. Best Alternate Pairing
  9. Best KiGo
  10. Best Kim/Ron
  11. Best Comedy
  12. Best Romance
  13. Best Friendship
    • Place and Joss – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  14. Best Action/Adventure
    • Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  15. Best Drama

  16. Best One-Shot
  17. Best Series Overall
    • Touch Series – AlyssC01
  18. Most Unlikely/Unique Story
    • Life After – ChrisTheCynic
  19. Best Novel-Sized Story
    • Being More Than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  20. Best Short Story
  21. Best Young Author
  22. Best New Author
  23. Best Lines
    • (ChrisTheCynic – From Life After) – As it was he was staying alive mostly by means of having arms. 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.
  24. Best Reviewer
    • GerbilHunter
    • HopefulHuskey
  25. CPNEb Kimmunity Award
    • SharperTheWriter
  26. Kimmunity Achievement Award
  27. Best Story
    • Forgotten Seeds – ChrisTheCynic
  28. Best Writer
    • ChrisTheCynic

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Species Dissonance (MLP:FiM + EG)

I did warn you that Sunset Shimmer fanfiction might appear at some point, granted I wasn't really expecting it to be so soon or to skip the entire story just to address a point about . . . yeah.  So, anyway, I have this fragment.

Things it would be useful to know:
  • Sunset Shimmer was a unicorn pony in Equestria but then spent her teenage years as a human in ??? (definitely not the earth we know since skin and hair color match My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fur and mane colors which are generally not real life human colors.)
  • Luna is an apparently immortal co-ruler of Equestria, god of night, and can visit the ponies of Equestria in their dreams.  She's what the series calls an alicorn: she has the wings of a Pegasus, the horn of a unicorn, and the *mumble mumble* of a non-Pegasus non-unicorn pony (called an "earth pony".)
  • Both Luna and Sunset originally appeared as villains until Twilight Sparkle, with the help of five friends, slammed them with the rainbow magic of friendship which instantly reformed them but didn't help so much with aftereffects of being evil like feeling guilt or being shunned.
  • The following takes place while the two are in Equestria (pony form both) and sharing a picnic with each other.

* * *

Luna leaned forward, into what would have been a wonderfully romantic first kiss if Sunset had met her in the middle instead of jerking backward.

Luna pulled back herself, "I'm sorry, I thought . . ."

It isn't often one sees their immortal god-pony ruler at a flustered loss for words, but this had been bound to happen eventually.  Sunset had known that it would, just as she'd known the right thing to do would have been to keep their relationship from ever reaching this point.  She'd just felt too drawn to Luna to keep an appropriate distance.

"It's not--" no, wrong words.  Sunset tried again, "You didn't do anything wrong, it's just that I . . ." how exactly could she explain this?

There was a long, very awkward, silence.

Sunset sighed.

"It would be easier to show you," Sunset said.  "Could you visit my dreams tonight?"

"I could," Luna said.

Sunset closed her eyes and nodded.

"Please do that," Sunset said.  "I can show you my problem --mine, not yours-- and you'll at least know that nothing is your fault."

"I will," Luna said. "However, I do not believe you have done anything wrong."

"There are things I should have told you," Sunset said.  "But I was . . . I'll just show you tonight.  Thank you for the chance."

It was tense as the two ponies finished their food, Sunset felt she'd ruined the picnic and royally-- nope, wrong choice of words.  Massively screwed everything up.

Luna would probably hate her when she learned that Sunset had known from the beginning that the relationship couldn't work, but Sunset considered that . . . acceptable, if it meant Luna knew that she wasn't at fault.

* * *

Sunset's dreams were only somewhat visual, a lot of it was made of thought-stuff and abstraction.  She didn't necessarily see that Twilight was over there so much as have a feeling indicating that the concept of "Twilight Sparkle" was located in the concept of "over there".  What was visual didn't really mesh well with itself as her mind tried to construct a world from the perspective of a human and of a pony at the same time.  She'd never really noticed how disjointed it could be before.

Things, though, were coming into a sharper focus than they ever had before.

Then other people, human and pony alike, started fading away and she became aware of another presence in this world.  She glanced down at her own body, noted her hands, and then focused on the other presence.

Soon she and Princess Luna were face to face and everything other than the two of them had drifted away into insignificance.

"I'm seeing a human form, I presume," Luna said.

"You're seeing me," Sunset said.  "I may have been born in Equestria, but I finished growing up as a human in the human world.

"This is who I am."

"I see," Luna said.

"It doesn't bother me to be in a pony body," Sunset said, "but being human has left other marks on me.  I . . . I'm only attracted to other humans." Sunset looked away so she wouldn't have to see Luna's reaction. "I want to love you." That wasn't right. "I do love you," that was right, "but I can't find a pony attractive.  I just . . . there's nothing there."

Sunset looked at her feet, in her shoes.  Her very human feet.  "I can tell that you're beautiful, but I don't feel anything.  I wish that I could control my attraction, because I love you and I want the same kind of relationship you seem to want, but I can't.  I'm just . . ."

Luna said nothing.

"Unless you have one Hell of a strange kink that happens to be incredibly useful as part of a vanishingly unlikely coincidence, there's no way a relationship between us can work and I am so, so sorry for leading you on," Sunset said.

There was silence.

Luna finally broke it by asking, "Are you finished?"

Sunset nodded.

"Please look at me."

Sunset looked at the majestic blue Alicorn with starlight in her mane and tail.  Beautiful, but Sunest felt no attraction.  Luna was just a pretty a pony, no different than a pretty duck, a pretty squid, or a pretty flower as far as Sunset's human-conditioned libido was concerned.

"Perhaps what matters," Luna said, "is not what kink I have, but what I'm willing to do for the one I love."  Luna's form melted away and was replaced by a young woman --college age, like Sunset-- with skin the color of Luna's fur and hair like a starlit night, the same as Luna's mane had been.

Sunset worried a bit that Luna hadn't really come to visit her and this was merely a good dream.  Still either way the correct response was to treat it as real.

"You--" Sunset tried, and failed, to start.  "You're really ok with . . . with taking on a human form for me?" Sunset asked.

"I don't pretend to know if this will work," Luna said, "but I am willing to try."

Luna took a step forward and the world around them sprang from nothing to a perfect memory of their picnic as it had been when Luna had leaned in for a kiss.

"Now," Luna asked.  "Where were we?"

The kiss was something Sunset could happily spend eternity feeling.

When they broke off, Luna said, "If the real world is this good, our next date should be in the human world."

"And if it isn't?" Sunset asked.

"We'll always have dreams," Luna said.

"I love you," Sunset said before kissing Luna again.

* * *

It wasn't long after Sunset woke up that there was knocking on her door.  She opened it to find Luna, pony-Luna not dream-Luna, standing just outside.

"I'm very busy today, and will not be able to spend time with you," Luna said, "but you requested I verify that what happened last night was more than just a dream."

* *
* * *
* *

Ok, so . . . canonically Twilight Sparkle has no problem switching from pony-attraction to human-attraction in a real hurry, because what would a movie be if it didn't have an awkward semi-romantic subplot?  (Better.  It would be better.)

That said, I'm not really on board with the idea that jumping through a magical portal rewrites what you're attracted to so that it matches the dominant species in the dimension.  I'm not entirely sure why I'm not on board with that idea given the other out-there things that I have absolutely no problem accepting as part of the story universe, but I'm just not on board.

If we flip things and have Sunset, who is presented as almost exclusively human in spite of her pony origins, go to Equestria I'd can definitely see her looking at ponies the way an average human does: with zero lust.

Luna being a dreamwalker presents the possibility of dealing with the problems that would create in a romantic relationship in a novel way.  Where I took the story allowed me present Luna as someone who isn't tied to a specific way of how a body should be either in terms of her own identity or in terms of her lover's form.  Granted Twilight Sparkle's experiences in the Equestria Girls movies try to set that up as default, but I feel would be a good deal rarer.

Another Year Older

Today is my birthday.  Well . . . today is my birthday unless you're not reading this on August 3rd, or you're more into a "First [day of the week] in [month]" thing in which case it's this Saturday, or it could be the third day (or first Saturday) after the second full moon after the Summer Solstice in which case next Wednesday (or the following Saturday.)

Pretty much regardless of how you look at it, if you're in any way linked to the solar year my birthday falls on some day near now.

I considered a flippant, "What did you get me?" but the truth is that you all have kept me from becoming homeless, bought me Cadbury eggs for Easter when I said I couldn't afford any this year, got me playing cards when I asked for them (it'll be a while before I ever need a new deck again even if I use them for all of my bizarre projects I had in mind, if I can remember what those were), got me a gift certificate for really nice socks that one time, bought me video games so I didn't lose my mind to boredom while a broken ankle and need to elevate forced me to be laying on my back (with my foot above me) nigh constantly, got me a fucking console to play the games on before that, and done so much more.

I know what you've gotten me, and I am so, so grateful.

And, apparently, still never spell grateful correctly on the first try.  (I feel like it should have a "great" in it.)

If you particularly want to get me anything, which you don't need to do . . .

Let me emphasize that: "which you don't need to do".  I'm not expecting anything, I'm not asking for anything, this is more me using the post to think "out loud", in a figurative kind of way, about things I could use.


At this point I could use Lego "system" bricks (the standard height ubiquitous square and rectangular Lego bricks) because they're really useful in mold making (you need to pour the liquid silicone into something and wait for it to dry, a container that can be constructed to whatever size you need is incredibly useful.)  Also base plates.

Still on the Lego front, at some point I want to work on collecting one of each (in terms of form, not color variations) Lego hair, hat, or head piece.  Though that's a more distant project with no ETA whatsoever.

Some day I'm going to want a vacuum chamber for casting purposes (bubbles can be a real problem under certain circumstances.)  The expensive part of such a thing is the vacuum pump itself.  The rest can be made from cheap materials.

It's a dream of mine, that I doubt will ever come true, to have a decent gaming computer.  Did you know that you can buy two to three gaming consoles (with money left over) for the price of one high end PC GPU?  I don't think I'll be buying the parts needed to make a gaming PC until I'm rich, but I'd totally welcome second hand stuff from people who just upgraded.  (The GPU is but one example.)

If there's a book anywhere on earth (I haven't found one yet) that talks about types of angels and gives detailed accounts of what's believed about each one in various traditions and folklore and such, damn would I want that.  The best I ever seem to find is, "This book has a lot vague stuff about the author's beliefs and maybe two pages briefly saying X group believes in Y angel-type which I'll describe in the least descriptive way possible (and then never touch again) in one short, mostly disappointing, paragraph."

Bookshelves, but this is (above and beyond the rest) in the "thinking out loud" category because even if someone did want to help out with that shipping costs are terrible.  Well a GPU or vacuum pump would probably be expensive enough that they'd rival bookshelf shipping costs.  Like I said, thinking out loud.

Um . . . yeah, brain not work.

Using the post to create a list of stuff has failed.


Have a post.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Some thoughts about the origin of flight

We don't really know how flight came along.  We just know that it did, and it did multiple times.  [pre-post edit] I'll be sticking to non-insect flight. [/edit]  There are many theories, and here's my totally non-scientific one:

It was hopping.

Feathers and stretched membrane are both used in thermoregulation and mating displays, so the things that would eventually become flight among non-insects definitely show up for their own reasons, but there's a long way to go between "I've got feathers/membrane" and "I can fly".

So how did the building blocks of flight become flight?  I really think it was hopping.

A lot of people say gliding and I just don't buy that.  If "flying" squirrels or "flying" fish ever develop actual flight it's going to be something totally unlike the flight we're used to in other non-insects.  Truth be told, I'm not sure what flight that evolved from their gliding starts would even look like.

Moreover, I don't see a natural progression from gliding to flying.  I can see it for hopping.

You've got your membrane or feathers on your limbs for whatever reason but it's not enough to let you fly.  Can you use this for anything beyond what it first appeared for?  The answer is, I think, yes.

Once there's enough of it to really push air, you can use it for something.  You can use it to assist in hopping.  The ill fated bird that I tried to save after my cat caught it and injured it couldn't do something that even resembled flying, but do you know what it could do when it tried to fly?  It could hop like nobody's business.

It didn't have enough properly powered flight surface to fly, but it sure as fuck could hop on a level that could in no way be attributed to its legs.

And that's what I've always assumed came before flight.  Hopping.

It makes sense to me.  The building blocks of wings end up allowing animals to power hop as a complete byproduct, unrelated to the evolutionary pressures that created them, but once the animals have that power they use it and then it becomes a selective pressure of its own.

The longer one can hop the better able one is to survive, so as soon as you have wing-powered hopping you've got selective pressure that makes the best wing-powered hoppers most likely to pass on their genes.  Combine that with random mutation and a metric fuckton of time and you've got animals that are able to stay in the air for longer and longer as evolution marches on, and then, eventually, you have an animal that isn't a wing-powered hopper anymore.  It's an actual flier.

That's where I think wings come from.  Non-flight related things have a byproduct of arms that can be flapped to extend the duration and distance of one's hop.  Those with the best hop duration and/or distance survive more, and finally it reaches a point where it's stopped being hopping at all, the flapping limbs have grown so strong that they can actually achieve flight.

I have a great deal of difficulty seeing gliding leading to flight in the same way.  The problem is, basically, that no matter how great of a glider selection makes one into, gliding doesn't have any inherent mechanism that would lead to power.  Flight requires power.

Using flapping to extend a hop is all about power, with gliding eventually falling out (in some cases) as a side effect of the machinery developed to do that.

A flapping hop naturally points in the direction of flight, a glide doesn't.  Longer and longer glides, yes, but not flight.  Likewise, starting with a flap can lead to body parts well equipped to glide, but I don't see how starting with a glide would lead to body parts equipped to flap.

So there are some thoughts on wings.

[Which was the original name of this post.]