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500 Words on Trolls

Courtesy Bewytchme.com

Yes. They’re real. They’re disgusting. They think they’re always right. But they don’t live under bridges; they live on the Internet.

‘Trolls’ is modern shorthand for people who use the broadcasting power and, occasionally, anonymity of the Internet to spew their opinions at people. No matter how ignorant or misinformed those opinions might be, these people like nothing better than to put themselves out into the world as experts in their fields. There are times when you can’t grok the context or tone of plain text when presented, but in the case of these folks, there’s almost always an air of smugness and faux superiority. I don’t know how they do it; but they do.

As succinct as ‘trolls’ is as a descriptor, I feel like a better, more descriptive one already exists. Guttersnipes. Think about it. It fits perfectly. People take aim at a topic or comment they wish to inflict themselves upon, and fire off idiotic rounds of so-called ‘knowledge’ into an unsuspecting crowd that had neither the desire nor the need to hear what they have to say. That covers the ‘snipe’ part – the ‘gutter’ part comes from the fact that it’s one of the best places to live when you surround yourself in shit. Much like pigs.

The thing about the perspective of a pig, is that they likely see things around them in the context of pigdom. When the farmer comes by, unless the pig is Babe or a MENSA member, pigs likely belive it’s just a bigger pig who happens to walk upright and always carry a slop bucket. When you’re a pig, all you see is other pigs. Pigs, however, are better than trolls.

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” – Winston Churchill

Trolls don’t see you as equals. Like cats, but without the benefit of cuddly fur or attractive purring, they look down on us. They think they’re better than us, more enligthened, better informed. Let’s overlook the fact that a lot of their opinions tend to come from FOX News, or hate groups like GamerGate, or some place even more idiotic like 8chan. Any intelligent creature can expose themselves to this sort of hateful, ignorant, inflammatory dross and recognize it for what it is. It takes a particularly loathsome human being to simply parrot those things.

The worst ones are the ones that backpedal. When they get called on their bullshit, they start to take up a less controversial position. They will make a racist remark, and then when called on it, will say something like “I’m colorblind”. That way, they maintain their supposed moral superiority and can accuse their accuser of being overly sensitive. It’s bullshit, and these people live in it.

How do we deal with them? Don’t feed them. If you engage them, you will find their positions intractable and their smugness insufferable. They may consider silence a victory. Some fights, we just can’t win.

Image courtesy Bewytchme.com & GU Comics

NaNoWriNOW

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

Hey, you out there!

Yes, you! Aspiring novelist! Getting geared up for NaNoWriMo? Got some ideas? Pencils sharpened, pens inked, paper at the ready? Excellent!

I wish you the best of luck.

I won’t be participating this year. Or… maybe ever.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the concept. It’s a structured event to shake would-be writers out of complacency and the motivation-sucking doldrums of everyday life, and makes them write, dammit. I mean, if you are a writer, you should be writing. Otherwise, this fellow is going to yell at you. And you don’t want that. Trust me, you don’t want that. It’s all shotguns and dogs and beards and whiskey breath and using “fuck” as a preposition and oh god the nightmares.

I kid, I kid. He actually does brush his teeth.

But that’s why I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo. I have one novel that’s been in final draft hell for far too long, and another idea that is so eager for me to start writing about it I can feel it lingering in the back of my mouth, like the somewhat cottony feeling from last night’s drinking binge that can only be washed away with more precious booze. So I’m not going to wait for November to start writing that novel; I’m going to start right the hell now.

Well, as soon as I finish this post, but you get the idea.

As I’ve said, I don’t want to disparage NaNoWriMo. I say if you want or need the impetus to get that idea moving forward, go for it. I’ll be happy to cheer you on and give all the advice and support I can.

I just don’t feel I can wait for the new month to roll around.

I have, in a very real sense, waited long enough. Too long.

My time to write is now.

Game Review: Poo

I know a lot of people who have a fondness for Cards Against Humanity. I can’t deny the appeal of a social lubricant with an unlimited number of players and a puerile sense of humor. The fact of the matter is, though, that there isn’t much game there. In my humble opinion, if you want to play an actual game with your friends, and still laugh at the goings on just on the face of the cards in play, look no further than Poo, a card game by Matthew Grau, who went on to design a follow-up dubbed Nuts. More on that later.

Courtesy Wildfire Entertainment

You and your friends are monkeys at the zoo. And you’re bored. To amuse yourselves, and possibly the tours of school children walking by, you’ve decided to start flinging poo at one another. As monkeys get absolutely caked with the stuff, the keeper hauls them away to get hosed off. The last monkey standing (that is to say, least covered in poo) is the winner. The premise, really, could not be simpler.

Gameplay is simple, as well. On every turn, the monkey in question plays a card from their hand, either to fling poo or to clean themselves off, and then draws to replace the card played. Out of turn, other players have cards that allow them to defend (for example, using your buddy’s face to block an incoming wad) or cause mishaps (“Nope, sorry, that was just a fart!”), also drawing to fill their hands afterward. There are also special events, like poo landing on the lights or the tiger getting loose. With clear rules listed on the cards, written in conversational language, it quickly becomes clear that this is definitely a game that anybody can play.

Courtesy Wildfire Entertainment

Experienced gamers will recognize that Poo is, like so many other games, an exercise in hand and resource management. Timing is everything, from how long to hold on to that Dodge card to the correct moment to let fly with The Big One. While there is definitely some thought involved in these decisions, it can’t be said that Poo is a very strategic game, nor is it meant to be the sort of experience that goes on for hours. It’s quick and funny, an icebreaker or a social game, which is good because of its other flaw: player elimination.

In a social setting, say around a dinner table or with a round of drinks, player elimination is not a big deal. Conversation and kibitzing adds to the flavor of the experience for those left standing. In other environments, though, player elimination can be troublesome. Poo mitigates this with hilarious art and its blatantly worded cards, but it definitely benefits from a more casual setting than some other games. Like Cards Against Humanity, this is more meant to break the ice between people, or pass the time amusingly while waiting for food or in a queue, but unlike Cards, there’s definite gameplay, split-second decision-making, and humor based more on the content of the cards themselves than the context of how they read for a particular person.

Courtesy Wildfire Entertainment

Poo comes in a standard tuck box, which can make packing or unpacking the game slightly problematic at times. Still, it’s sturdy and travels very well. The follow-up game, Nuts, is similar in theme but sees players hoarding their resources rather than giving them away. I haven’t played Nuts myself, but if Poo is any indication, it will likely be an improvement on an already memorable and very good design. If you have a group of friends you see often, or if you want to introduce your family to gaming using a brand of humor most people can get behind (since everybody poops), I’d definitely recommend Poo.

Flash Fiction: Strong Yet Subtle

Slane Castle

For this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge over at Terribleminds, Picking Uncommon Apples, the random number gods bestowed upon me 28, 18, and 31. Here’s what came out of those choices!


Ravenna slipped through the opened grate with the sort of smooth ease that only comes from years of practice. She heard the soft splashing behind her and closed her eyes for a moment. After a quick check of her surroundings, she turned and knelt by the hole in the floor, reaching down to take the stretching hand. As soon as he could, Barnabus set his other hand on the side of the hole to pull himself up, though he still needed Ravenna’s help. She suspected that, unlike her, he had not spent his childhood running through the forest, climbing trees and rocks, and learning how to hide.

“My apologies,” Barnabus said quietly, trying to kick some of the moisture off of his boots. “I misjudged the height of the run-off tunnel.” The tall, gangly man looked somewhat uncomfortable in the trousers and vest, since Ravenna had insisted his normal attire, a colorful robe decorated with the moon and stars, would be impractical.

Ravenna held a gloved finger to her lips, then took another look around. Coming up in the castle’s dungeon was risky, given that it was patrolled by guards and could contain all sorts of means to betray their position and purpose. However, she had also chosen to come at night. There was soft snoring from a nearby cell, but otherwise no sound. The stone corridor was lit by a torch on either end, and to her left, she saw the stairs spiraling up.

“Come on,” she whispered, walking forward in a deliberately cautious fashion. She glanced over her shoulder as they approached the stairs. Barnabus, for his part, was trying to do the same, his dark eyes wide. He took a few steps closer to Ravenna, making full use of his long legs.

“Are we sure he wouldn’t be down here?”

Ravenna shook her head. “He would have been if that serpent hadn’t slowed us down. Lord Lamborne’s auction has already begun. He’ll be in the grand feasting hall.” Ravenna was going to say more, but she heard a scuff of boots on stone above them. She held up her hand towards Barnabus, then waved him towards the inner wall. The stairwell had no alcoves or decorations, no means to hide. Ravenna set her teeth and braced herself, crouching down even further.

As soon as the slick, polished boots of one of Lamborne’s guards came into view, Ravenna seized it with both hands and pulled as hard as she could. The man, already heading down the stairs, was taken completely by surprise by the loss of balance, and toppled past Ravenna and Barnabus. Both of the intruders looked down at the guard’s crumpled form, and after a moment of ensuring he was not rising to follow, returned to moving up the stairs. Ravenna reached for one of the daggers sheathed at the small of her back, and Barnabus reached up to grab her wrist.

“No killing,” he murmured. “The queen was quite clear.”

“Who said anything about killing?” Ravenna flashed Barnabus a dangerous grin and turned back to the opening into the hall ahead. The small dagger whispered free of its sheath. Another guard was walking on the opposite side of the hall, in their direction. Ravenna began to bounce a bit, timing the steps of the guard, and held out her free hand to Barnabus.

“Wait here.”

Barnabus nodded, folding himself into the wall as best he could. Ravenna sped from the opening to the stairwell, her braid of long red hair coming loose as her boots hit stone. With liquid grace, she seized the guard from behind, the dagger rising to his throat. After a brief moment, Ravenna released him, and then clubbed him with the hilt of the dagger. The guard slumped to the ground.

“The feasting hall has two guards at the door and two walking the perimeter,” she told Barnabus as she sheathed her weapon. “But nothing on the balcony level.”

“Perfect.” Barnabus rested his hands on the pouches hanging from the belt around his waist. “Can we still get there from the wall?”

“If we’re careful and quiet.” She looked at him. “You’re not as clumsy as I thought you’d be.”

He shrugged. “Unlike some others of my profession, I do like to get out and enjoy fresh air now and again.”

With a wry smile, Ravenna lead the way from the hall and along the wall that dominated the outer perimeter of the keep. The feasting hall was set near the southwest corner, and its interior was alight and full of noise. Ravenna and Barnabus avoided the guards on patrol and, with the help of Ravenna’s grappling hook and sturdy rope, scaled the wall to slip in through a window on the second story. The feasting hall’s interior had small balconies on the longer walls, and while there were stairs up at either end, all of the activity was on the floor below.

“There’s Crown Prince Rudolph,” Ravenna whispered, pointing towards the dias at the back of the hall where the high table was set. “Do you have your distraction ready?”

“Yes,” Barnabus told her, reaching into one of his pouches. He produced a small, mottled orb, gray with black spots. “Something strong, yet subtle.”

She blinked at it. “That tiny thing? I thought you were a wizard. You said you’d distract the crowd – can’t you do it with fire or thunder or something?”

Barnabus looked annoyed. “I can, but I’d rather not cook us along with our reward. This, on the other hand?”

He tossed the orb into the crowd. On impact, there was a burst of light and smoke, and out of the sudden fog flew a murder of crows, cawing and flapping at the startled nobles. They clamored and ran for the exits. Barnabus winked at Ravenna.

“The Crow Egg,” he told her. “A specialty of mine.”

“Okay, wizard,” she replied with a grin, “color me impressed. Now, let’s get the Crown Prince and get out of here.”

From the Vault: Change the Scene

I am recovering from a long and exhausting but very fulfilling weekend. While I regather myself to make more concerted efforts, I’m doing writing in multiple parts of the house, so this seems appropriate for a From the Vault moment. Flash Fiction tomorrow!


A nook for writing.

I’ve been finding it difficult to write lately. I have a ton of ideas chasing themselves around in my head, projects to complete and new novels to start, yet I’m running into some serious roadblocks. I have to assume that I’m not alone: a lot of writers are pre-occupied with many things, from life events to other endeavors to all sorts of personal issues. You should be writing – we all should – and if you’re not writing, something has to change.

If nothing else, you have to change your scene. A lot of writers have a particular area set aside for their craft. Away from foot traffic, secluded in some way, or just portioned off from the rest of a room, it is their fortress of solitude. When I move, I will be taking my writing desk with me, and it will be in a different corner from my computer desk. Even if it’s just across the room, that separation is crucial.

When life gets tossed into upheaval, it can be difficult to maintain the things that are essential to both our futures and our happiness. There’s a great deal of immediate tasks to deal with when changes occur in life, and not everybody has the same reaction time. To get back to the good places from where we can be productive and happy, sometimes the scene has to change.

I’m going to keep working on getting myself to that place. That’s how I’m going to beat back the dark things and stay on track with my goals.