baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2015-01-23 04:16 pm

*blows dust out of keyboard*

written today over lunchtime

"Hey, you," said the unearthly horror.

"Go away," I said.

Its bristled, wet protuberance squirted a puff of foetid air into my ear. "I hunger," it said in a voice like gravel scratching your best pie pan.

I slapped it aside. "You can't have my soul or my dried fish."

"I only wanted one of those things," it wheedled, but I ignored it and focused back on the bushes.

There was a heavy whump beside me, followed by a series of quieter, rhythmic thumps on the ground.

"Go and bother the urchin girl before I carve a psalm or three into your filthy hide," I said through my teeth, still not bothering to make contact with the acidic red pits it called eyes.

"She's awesome," the unearthly horror said. It did not move. The thumps continued. My target had gone by now.

I stood up in one graceful motion and kicked the abomination in the rear. It was worth the time I spent later sewing the trouser leg beck together.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2014-09-16 05:32 pm
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Poem: Dissection

Young Baskerville's foray into meta-poetry or satire or something. (© 1999)


by Herm Baskerville, 1999

Settle down, class, please. The lesson has begun.

The poems we will be dissecting today will look
Like this one. The poems we have in school
Have been pre-killed to avoid distress, and are preserved
In formaldehyde. And if anyone feels faint at the sight
Of alliteration, you may go outside.

You can get the necessary instruments from the tray
At the front. You need one poem, one white tile,
One scalpel. It doesn't matter if, like this one, it is a little blunt.

Let us make a start. We haven't much time, so I suggest
That we go immediately for the heart of the poem.
Watch, and make a small incision here, between
Verses three and four: just there will do.
Yes, that's fine; try to make the cut as neat as mine.
And try to keep the punctuation
On the white tile, and not on the floor.

Pay attention, please. Notice the neat form of the simile,
Just peeping out from behind the extended metaphor.
Here we have the colon, and further down,
The semi colon. Can anybody guess
What this is? Yes, it is an internal rhyme.
And here is the inner or hidden meaning, visible
If we just hack our way through the outer meaning.

Oh, there's the bell.
Quickly put everything away. Just tip the pieces
Into the bin. If you haven't had the chance
To open up your heart, it doesn't matter.

Terry Pratchett said he liked this. So did my English teacher, but let's keep the credit to the one who inspired my love of writing rather than teaching a curriculum optimised to suck the life and colour out of it.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2014-08-15 11:38 pm
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So, don't use iThemes Security aka Better WP Security.

In my experience, iThemes Security, the module formerly known as Better WP Security, is kind of terrible. Significantly, it doesn't uninstall cleanly and will lock you out of your own site at the drop of a hat.

Before I fully got rid of its screwups (and I'm not even sure I have, completely), I had to muck around in phpMyAdmin and drop two database tables it created. (These can be spotted from their prefixes, which will be something like itsec or bwpsec.) From help threads it seems much of the time you'll also have to delete whatever lines it's added to your .htaccess and wp-config, also manually, but in my case I didn't find anything I needed to remove.

On paper it does look like a desirable mod to have; if you do use it, at the least I recommend against activating any of the file- or folder-renaming functions. Pretty sure those are what screwed me up…

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2011-11-16 04:20 pm
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Mac tips: How to change your default editor; make MacOS always use LibreOffice, TextMate, Notepad++

If you have installed a new editor like LibreOffice on your Mac, you may have been given the option while you installed it to make it your default. If you didn't take that up – perhaps you only wanted it as default for certain doctypes, or perhaps a certain office suite stole the default back – you can change it manually.

"Open With…" does not work globally

You might find instructions to open the context menu (right-click) on a document, go to "Open With…" and tick the "always open with" checkbox. This friendly checkbox is a LIE, my friends. In fact this option is pretty much useless: it only changes the editor for that particular file.

Going through "Get Info" works

This method changes it for ALL files of that type.

Open the context menu (right-click) on the file and, instead, choose "Get Info". You're looking for the options with the heading "Open with:". Choose your preferred editor from the list and then hit "Change All…" to apply this to all files with this extension.

You will still have to do this separately for every different file extension – .doc and .docx, .html, .shtml and .xml, for example. Still the only solution I've found.

MacOS screenshot showing the "get info" dialogue box with default file editor options highlighted

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of ghostly blue and lilac (Hellhound blue)
2011-04-18 04:38 pm
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Riddles are shiny.

(Reposting this old piece so I can more easily find it. One line tweaked to make it generic.)

I found a fragrant pebble;
When I smelt it, out he came.
He turns quite green with envy
If left out in the rain.

I could trade him in for silver
Or beat him 'til he's thin;
Reduce him to a third
if I boiled him in a tin;

But cruelty's corrosive
So I treat him as a friend,
In hopes that I'll be hearing
A purr there at the end.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of ghostly blue and lilac (Hellhound blue)
2011-03-22 02:39 pm
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Pony with ridiculously short legs, a horn, and feathered wings, using her ultimate attack

Mayflower, the shortest-legged pony in the UK, uses her ultimate Crataega Operandi attack - Equipulchritude.

So this is, um, Mayflower the (real) Shetland pony using her ultimate attack, which is coincidentally similar to Problem Sleuth's.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2011-03-22 01:23 pm

Unicolt pictures

"What you doing, Aunty?"

Just a collection of reference pics for a future minor character – the son of a genetically uplifted horse, who commissioned a bunch of magogeneticists to give her foal a horn. She wanted him to be special. That's also why she named him Moonflower Etheriel Bliss. *facepawheaddesk* Mares.

Baby pic!

These following are all pics of one cremello chap and right for colour, but I don't know that he'd the right breed/build. (I know the horses in this setting are roughly Percheron-derived, but I haven't the expertise to recognise one if it came up and ate a stick at me.)
He still knows how to play
Our cheeky boy Levis
Levis as a 4yr old
Baptiste Levis Strauss
On the go

Here's a pic that I particularly like (source unknown; the url on the picture is sadly domainsquatted now, so I can't find out any info about it), although this might be overdoing the feathers. You know, just a tad.

feathery light-coloured horse

Possible reference picture for Moonflower Etheriel Bliss, the poor boy.

And finally, amusement courtesy of Second Life, because whatever daft idea you come up with, someone is bound to have done it before in Poser…

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2010-12-03 01:19 pm
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The BEST new telly format EVER enGENDERED.

Inspired by @spellingwitch2's (understandably) furious tweets about "Bridalplasty", the new TTLY AWESOME show on E!1, I have come up with the next killer format.

@Suitov: @spellingwitch2 I've had an even greater idea!1! It'll be called Last Trans Standing. The winner gets their gender reassignment paid for! #
@spellingwitch2: @suitov OMG. If they hear that they will probably take you up on it. That's more like a medical procedure though. #
@Suitov: @spellingwitch2 Yes it is, but don't worry, the challenges will be so humiliating that only the truly self-hating and shameless will win. #
@Suitov: @spellingwitch2 And to make sure we show no semblance of sensitivity, the presenter shall be a drag queen! I will elevator-pitch this now!1! #

This consititutes my official claim to this idea which is an AWESOME idea and this blog post is PROOF that I thought of it first! It is © FOR EVER and I want 50% royalties when it is made and subsequently inevitably voted the best telly format ever engendered.

1 So ttly awesome, in fact, that E! Online's own link to it doesn't work, or else I would supply it. A related page.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2010-11-11 06:00 pm
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Godmoders and Fun (feat. back-and-forth with David from @OngoingWorlds)

So I was idly tweeting with another online writing enthusiast, David Ball of Ongoing Worlds

David: (to someone else about a different writer) I think he's got multiple characters in his head
Herm: Oh boy do I know THAT feeling. :)
David: Do you have multiple personalities? Or do you just mean you write about lots of characters? Or are they both the same thing?1
Herm: My characters are a lively bunch, but when it comes down to it, everyone is certain who's the writer and who the puppets. :)

David: Have you ever known a player who uses his name for the character? I always thought that was weird.
Herm: Not as such. Known people, self included, who use character names as their screen names. Can be warning sign but not always.
Herm: I knew one guy who invented a race of super-elves and used the species name as his handle. He also really thought he was one.
David: Haha let me guess they were better and much more powerful than normal Elves? Was he a god modder?
Herm: He tried so hard not to be a powergamer while his immortal psychic swordsman interacted with everyone else's humanoids… ;)
Herm: He was a good writer and a good friend for a while but he just couldn't play a human. When he did, it BECAME an immortal elf.
David: oh god! He should have read my article about god modding…

David: So what's the different between a god modder and a powergamer? Is it just a different term for the same thing?
Herm: Yes, as I understand them. But I've seen others say "godmodding" to mean "writing another's character w/o permission".
David: Ahhh, good point it does also mean that. Maybe i'll do a follow-up article to distinguish the two

By which time I'd already decided to do a bloggy ramble myself.

First off, and tangentially: maybe it's just because I'm an old-timer, but we always said "godmode"/"godmoding", not "godmod"/"godmodding". I always assumed the etymology2 was "someone whose character is overpowered to a degree inappropriate to the setting – like using a God Mode cheat on a video game"3. Possibly the urge to rhyme won out in popular parlance. God-mod. Mod-nod-plod-oddsbodikins.

I say I say I say, what's personal, enjoyable and best done in private?

Of course you can be a good writer and also have the powergaming flaw, just like you can be a nice person but incredibly obnoxious when you're with more than two or three people. Some of us are naturally more suited to solo writing: after all, the protagonist or antagonist of a novel can be comparatively overpowered without tripping the same Mary Sue alarm in the reader, and without having to worry about discourtesy to the other writers.

So, if writing about immortal planet-building elves is your bag, and more importantly if it's your only bag and not shared by your friends, perhaps it's best bagged in private. That way you can use both hands and it's less messy.

All the same, if someone really wants to play with others, I won't say they shouldn't. (It helps if they're into it with the right reasons or attitude, which I'll cover later.) But that does come with a certain expectation of communication, cooperation and gentlefolkly behaviour towards all writers involved.

Be chivalrous.

Communication is a perennial problem in roleplaying games and I can't offer any advice beyond the obvious: do it. Do lots of it. Chat around the roleplay; chat about things you liked or didn't understand. Make yourself approachable and encourage questions or requests from others. And act on what you hear.

In extreme cases, yes, that may even mean making your precious character behave out-of-character in order not to distress another writer who may have some personal issues of his/her/their own. (If you're a good roleplayer who can think on your feet, even this can be avoided very easily. "Suddenly Cecil dropped his fork and had to stop talking for a moment." Done.)

The writer I mentioned earlier on had a degree of my own social impairment and didn't grok that. It was overridingly important to him to be true to himself, and his characters were too personal to him for an accommodation like that to be thinkable.

I think a lot of roleplaying etiquette problems stem from people taking either their characters or their writing skills over-personally.

One of the two of us is real. On balance, I don't think it's the guy with the wand of fireballs.

I've recently been involved with a fan roleplay for the first time ever. During that I've come across people with different opinions about how a character should behave. The person playing that character reacted in a very upset fashion to criticism along the lines of "I think that was out-of-character for him", describing it as the most hurtful thing it was possible to say to a roleplayer.

I don't agree with that. Between two fans of a series, what is in or out of character in any uncanonical situation is a judgement call, and just because one of the two fans is actually roleplaying the character in question, their opinion doesn't override that of someone else who likes the series. Of course, where one person's opinion does override the other is in the course of that particular roleplay – the character from the series 'belongs' to each of you, but the fan iteration of him is being played by one of you, and that's who has the final say about whether he ends up hanging from a bridge.

If you feel the game is wandering so far off track that it's no longer enjoyable for you, the other choice is to leave as amicably as possible, which the other player ended up doing. Their parting comments, although expressed fairly politely, were what caused that strong reaction from the player who felt accused of OOCness – and that strong reaction caused alarm bells for me.

As well it might. I've been guilty of the same.

Lessons can be learned. Blame can be shouldered. (With a smile!)

I'll take a fairly recent example. The vast majority of what I write and roleplay is original fiction, not fan stuff. When someone described a character of mine as (paraphrased) an arrogant know-it-all, I was very upset. Now, this could be an understandable reaction from a writer who had been trying to play the character as approachable and humble as well as highly intelligent: after all, essentially the comment signified that I'd failed to do this, which was a straightforward failure in my writing skills.

But being honest, I couldn't separate that from feeling hurt more personally. The character in question began as a bit of silly wish-fulfillment – a villainous Gary Stu, if you will. I've developed him over years into something I, while trying not to be presumptive, think is much more of a rounded and realistic fellow than he used to be, complete with healthy differences in outlook from his writer's. But still, unlike other characters of mine where I would take criticism of their personality flaws with humour and often agreement (and even secret glee that I as a writer have expressed those flaws well), with this one character there's still that bit of personal resentment that insists my friend is criticising me.

But it's a childish bit of personal resentment, and it's wrong.

It's not that I think the character's perfect – indeed he's deliberately far from it – but I suppose arrogance is an accusation that hits close to the bone for me personally. My upset was understandable, certainly, but it was wrong. And it needed putting in its place. After a bit of weeping and angsting and canvassing my other friends saying "Do I really write Suitov as arrogant, baw haw?" I got over it. I'm still not sure if I accept the criticism as it was stated, because the collective feeling was far from unanimous, but when I write the character now I bear it in mind. With any luck, Suitov is less likely to be taken as arrogant these days than he was before.

A point to all of this. I know I had one.

Pairs of things.

Authors do take their characters personally, that much is obvious, but it's (a) not a positive trait and (b) not an immutable fact. Nobody is stuck with a thin skin. Part of playing with others means, to put it brutally, jolly well blowing one's nose and growing a pair. Whether breasts, balls or whatever secondary sexual appendages we neuters get to have, when you play with others you will either end up growing a pair of something or you'll always fail to fit in anywhere without upset.

If you don't want criticism, you can always write your novel, send it off and then prepare yourself for the possible shock of your life when you hear back from the slush pile editor. That's cool. Many people work best that way. Writing solo is a different kind of writing, as we've covered above.

But, if you've chosen to roleplay with others for fun, you will need to accept the basic tenet that fun needs to be had by all writers involved.4 They're not there to carry you or stroke your ego. They're not there purely to set up really cool lines for your character to say.5 You're all there with the aim of forming a kind of gestalt lulz machine, cranking out fun and jollies for all in the vicinity.

Happy pretendy funtimes.

To finish with, I could do a lot worse than to link you all to the legendary article entitled Internet Drama and You. Even if you just skimmed my lengthy post here, I urge you to read Wade's in full. It's funnier than this one and it's written by another Deadpool fan. If that hasn't yet convinced you to read it, it also has ILLUSTRATIVE PICTURES. Come on! I mean, pictures!

1 I could deal at a bit of length with the similarities and differences between dissociative identities and being a writer, but that's not the topic of this post. I know some multiples number among my friends, so as a courtesy to me, no flaming David for his well-meaning curiosity. :) (Or, frankly, anyone.)

2 Yes, I do theorise uncontrollably about etymology. For someone lacking a classical Greek and Latin education, I'm weirdly interested in the epidemiology of words. I put this down to two of the racial flaws I took at character creation, "Half English Teacher" and "Half Geek", which infused my genes with two hefty doses of pedantry. Come to think of it, even as a toddler I wouldn't say a new word until I knew how it was spelled.

3 Wikipedia has more about God Mode and debug modes. Even modern video games use this term sometimes. The command console in Oblivion, for example, toggles god mode with "tgm".

4 But not necessarily all characters involved, of course. (Sorry, Weft.)

5 There's an element of that, of course, but Crowning Moments of Awesome, Snarkitude or Being the Universe's Butt Monkey are there to be shared – appropriately, according to character type. Two badass characters in play means two characters who both need to be given scenes that express their badassery.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2010-11-05 06:24 pm
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The Kettle Chronicles: the Black Dog by I. S. Morgan

I may or may not be working my way through Wikipedia's list of Black Dogs in popular culture. Regardless, I read this book recently.

The Kettle Chronicles: the Black Dog by I. S. Morgan has a hideous cover, which it proceeds to defy by not only not sucking, but also being quite a charming little book.

This is a historical story (I hesitate to call it a novel, it's so short) set around a spooky event in the Suffolk town of Bungay in 1577, popularised at the time by Abraham Flemyng's pamphlet entitled "A Straunge and Terrible Wunder". (This pamphlet is real. I own a modern copy.)

Flemyng, let's be clear, was a churchman with a Christian axe to grind. Though he was not present in Bungay on the Sunday in question, when loud thunder accompanied the deaths of two of the congregation, nevertheless he wasted no time in reporting the attendance of a diabolical black dog and dressing the whole thing up as an expression of God's wrath. Of course. This sort of thing always happens in out-of-the-way places that Flemyng's London-based target readership have probably never visited.

However, the pamphlet also makes its way back to Bungay itself and is duly read out with great relish by pub landlords all over town, and soon half the congregation is claiming that they did remember seeing a black dog…

The book follows Captain Richard Brightwell as he investigates the affair on the orders of the area's bishop. The book itself was supposedly compiled with the aid of notes made by Captain Brightwell's attendant scribe, John Kettle (the titular Kettle Chroniclist, and another character based on a real historical figure). Also present are a manservant, Humphrey, whom one could reasonably accuse of slyness – all in a good cause, of course – and a gentle seven-foot-tall mute monk named Augustyn, sent along to act as bodyguard and general human shield.

The Kettle Chronicles: The Black Dog is a short book with a lot packed into it. The writing style is eccentric and works rather well, I think, but Your Mileage May Vary. The historical references are both slyly applied and explained by endnotes (the automatic numbering of which seemed to have undergone some form of MS Word fail in my edition).

Of course the central mystery is concerned with the supposed Black Dog, whom the locals know from legend as a "shilly-shally" named Black Shuck, and who is usually more likely to accost people on lonely roads and give them a scare than to burst into churches and wring the necks of two town feoffees.

The storyline takes in both mundane and supernatural events. The tale, including its frequent humour, is focused on the human characters' interactions with the denizens of the town.

There is a romantic subplot. This manages to be portrayed slyly and not boring, and does not dominate proceedings. It's not really necessary either, other than a bit of human interest.

A short, obscure book, but one that definitely belongs in my tiny collection of Black Dog and ghost dog literature.

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baskerville: Chibi (manga) picture of Weft as a catboy, dressed in feminine colours and obviously very annoyed about the whole deal. (Weft not a kitty)
2010-09-27 06:00 pm
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On writing/RP, sexual subtext and pairings.

My Hobby: Wryly smirking at people's obsession with homoromantic subtext, while writing three major male characters who are exceptionally guilty of it.

(To be fair, one doesn't realise it and would be appalled if he did, one is above caring about such things, and the third describes himself as omnisexual but is really just foul. With him it's not so much subtext as nobody believing a dog is really chatting them up.)

Being as how my own orientation points strongly towards the siblinghood and bromance side of things, while I'm not above flirting with the idea (especially for laughs!), the relationships I really want to write about are complicated, banter-filled, occasionally fraught or downright confusing to both participants and onlookers, but never all-sex-all-the-time.

That being said, do note what I'm very carefully avoiding denying outright, and therefore please don't take this as a cue to stop speculating or indeed writing slash fic, because that would just be no fun at all.

That's not to say some of my characters don't enjoy happy, normal romantic-sexual relationships too. Suitov is seeing Jaina, and Paraskive is cougaring (she'd slap me for that, and quite right too) a delightful postman toy boy named Alisander. One of these relationships will end badly owing to Suitov being, well, honestly, pretty bloody idiotic for a supposed genius, and the other may be strained when their island is put under martial law, but we'll see. And among my backstory and minor characters, of course, there are plenty of successful hetero, homo and even xeno relationships. (Instarrian boys loooove them alien womens. Quite often for a price.)

There's the added complication of pairing roleplay characters up. If you pair yours off with someone else's, and they're infrequently around, it can cause frustration and slow down a plot. If you pair one of yours off with another of yours, it can become a bit like brainwanking, restricting the opportunities for other people's characters to engage with yours. I don't have an easy answer for this one. I sometimes write an NPC partner in for a character, or make it explicitly asexual or celibate, simply to avoid having to write too much about romance.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2010-08-13 07:49 am

Lax morality! Faithless rakes! The continuing adventures of Geek Boy and Waggypants!

In which (three short updates) we see a little glimpse of Young Suitov's values. Wait, he has what now?

Suitov was currently standing at the top of the steps, in the early morning light, raking the gravel of the driveway. This was accomplished without touching it physically. When one is fifteen and a new mage, one tends to do things the flashy, inefficient way for the sake of it.

One Dog Night continues. (I really need to find a better name. They've been together for, what, a couple of days now, and the story's continuing for at least another couple.)

N.B. There is an overlap of a sentence at the end of some posts. That's just to do with where I break off writing. Will be fixed in a final edit.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2010-07-30 12:37 pm
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Via Article_Dan:
Get Lamp: a documentary about text adventure games (aka interactive fiction)

Looks cool. AND as part of that project they've made a video for MC Frontalot's nerdcore track, It Is Pitch Dark, which is all about Zork and similar Infocom zaniness.

Text games are so frotzing cool. I mean, I'm crap at ones you can't finish in a sitting, and do not mention that FRIGGING Babel Fish puzzle, but they're great. In the past I've even tried my hand at writing a few in Inform 6 (sadly these died in a hard drive crashycrash episode, except for a few copies of the compiled games that may still survive somewhere).

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baskerville: Suitov Iceheart's face in profile. He's a pale-skinned, dark-haired young adult male wearing black and gold. (Suitov)
2010-07-26 02:48 pm
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Not everyone likes the summer… especially not Winter Lords.

"You look ill, Rige," Lottir understated.

"Really? Where does it show?" asked Lord Suitov of Applestone, who was sweating bucketfuls, trembling slightly, breathing so hard he was almost panting, and apparently undecided about whether or not to throw up.


Just about universally requested by my readers, when I asked what I should post more of, were fiction excerpts. That made me happy, so here you are.

In this one we get to see both more of Suitov as a young man, and more of the drawbacks of those atavistic Nordic genes of his.

It's not particularly hot here at present, but I've had the image of… well, what he does at the end… in my mind for a long time.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2010-07-01 03:47 pm
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Sensible advice on introducing pets.

I sent my father some advice on introducing a dog to new cats with no bloodshed. This is actually quite straightforward to accomplish, and you can get the general gist from my abstract:

The cat's unshakeable belief in its own inherent superiority, and ability to convince the dog of the same in the face of overwhelming evidence, is one of the reasons it is such a successful parasitic lifeform. The cat seeks to displace the dog's benign mutualism for its own ends without the host's knowledge.

I recommend Hillaire Belloc's exhaustive treatment, a classic for anyone interested in the subject. Meanwhile, in the realm of speculative fiction, many of the terrifying parasitic alien lifeforms in Neal Asher's novels are rather reminiscent of the cat or its passenger-cum-co-conspirator, Toxoplasma gondii.

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baskerville: Chibi (manga) picture of Weft as a catboy, dressed in feminine colours and obviously very annoyed about the whole deal. (Weft not a kitty)
2010-05-13 05:40 pm
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Contest! (involves kitty and doggerel)

The prize for the answer is braggin' rights. Nowt else.


My mistress bids me wait in durance stern.
With ignorance she blocks my path to joy;
Unjust delays are wrought at every turn,
My every plea set back by falsehoods coy;
Or else she seems to wilt, or then relent,
Yet in the granting, buck my earnest wish
With pale commital, watered-down assent –
A day-old tin of bleak and joyless fish.
Such cheapest chicken wafted at my face
That any cat would balk to call a meal!
There's gravy when I wanted jellied plaice
Or tuna when I becked for curried veal!
That witch! that crone! a wight with no remorse!
I shan't be coming back for second course!


What colour is the cat who writes this complaint, AND WHY? No marks will be given for an incorrect reason. (Hint: You don't need any foreknowledge of my household to work this out.)

Comments will be screened for a couple of days to let everyone guess.

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of fiery red (Hellhound red)
2010-04-25 09:07 pm
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The Barking Ghost, reviewed

Another blogger has reviewed The Barking Ghost [warning: complete spoilers], a Goosebumps book that I picked up a while ago from a used book stall.

It's the shortest and lamest member of my Black Dogs book collection. I'm currently trying to muster the energy to start The Kettle Chronicles: The Black Dog again; it's historical fiction about the Bungay Black Shuck incident, which ought to be epically fabulous, but it's written somewhat densely and the story is mostly about some human characters for whom I have little interest, so I only got partway through.

*skims the rest of the Wikipedia article* WAIT WHAT Shuckie is mentioned in Northern Lights? One of my favourite books of all time mentions one of my favourite historical persons of all time and I somehow have not NOTICED THIS?

Oh, since you're here, have some Black Dogs in popular culture.

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baskerville: The smiling face of a big grey dog resembling an Irish Wolfhound. (Great Grey Dog)
2010-03-31 02:55 pm

A writerly exercise: "How could you get me so damn wrong?"

An important step in making sure you have a rounded character instead of a Mary Sue, or so I've read, is making sure your little puppet is not omniscient, isn't correct about everything and is sometimes pretty failtastic at telling important information from unimportant.

Recently, in the interest of characterisation and hopefully the occasional plot idea, I've been mentally listing ways in which my characters are wrong about other characters. I don't mean factual things here, but rather those impressions that you form of people for whatever trivial reason and, thanks to confirmation bias, are hard to dislodge.

Some of them are secret for the sake of spoilers (although, for the record, even Suitov thinks Weft is gay), but here are some examples.

Suitov is wrong about:

Malfina: "It's a pity her gameplan for her life could never involve me. I gave up asking her the question; I imagine she was bored of hearing it."

Jaina: "She is emotionally fragile and I have to protect her. She couldn't cope with knowing about everything in which I'm involved; I'm not sure I could rely on her understanding."

Basaltine: "He will come to regret giving up his lifespan to match mine."

Sebastian: "The man is a ridiculous fraud playing a game of his own devising and not caring a whit for those around him. Sounds like a lot of fun, actually."

Himself: "I am not 'evil'. I am not cold-hearted. I feel as deeply as others do. That nickname 'Iceheart' is just a silly reputation on which I capitalise. I do have principles, some of which I will not break for any reason."

(Suitov has quite a balanced personality overall, and is intelligent and well-informed, but that doesn't protect him from sometimes being plain wrong, sucka.)

Weft is wrong about:

Sebastian: "He can do anything! Everything he says is true. In fact, I'm not worthy to hang around with the servant of a goddess. I wouldn't be surprised if he despises me."

Nico: "She has an irrational grudge against my organisation. Either that or our enemies have been telling her lies. She thinks I'm weak and she probably despises me."

Jaina: "She luuuuuurves Suitov so much that she won't listen to anything against him. They could never be happy together. I try to warn her off and she despises me."

Himself: "I'm worthless. Anything I try to do on my own initiative will end disastrously. Everyone I ever love will die horribly and it's my fault. I ruin everything I touch and I deserve to be despised."

(Classic example of an attitude problem saying more about the perpetrator's attitude to himself.)

Basaltine is wrong about:

Sylvie: "She could be my girlfriend. It could so work! We'd be awesome!"

Ferrl: "And she could be my girlfriend too. I'm her type!"

Helmine: "She so wants me!"

(Basaltine has a definite advantage in nosing out lies and motives, but hey, even a doggy character needs silly self-deception. A good-natured and hopelessly optimistic doggy personality provides that in spades.)

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baskerville: Black dog head facing left on a background of ghostly blue and lilac (Hellhound blue)
2010-03-30 03:57 pm
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Mythology Engine: a data-driven site all about stories.

I've been eager for more news about this proof-of-concept project, now called the Mythology Engine, because I'm enchanted by the idea behind it.

The Mythology Engine is envisioned as a guide to stories on the web: a database of characters, places and, crucially (the most unusual bit) events in fiction and drama.

Now, in its complete form this would be a paradise for pedants and canon geeks, but it can be a lot more than that. The ideas is that the site would let you (points quoted from the introductory blog post):

  • Catch up on stories you've missed
  • Explore stories and characters and help you understand plots and relationships
  • Find the stories you are looking for and share your favourite moments or characters

That's right. In addition to solving arguments, giving you ideas for what episodes to watch to see more of your favourite character or showing you what she meant by "This is exactly what you did last time!", this site could be the most advanced, most thorough spoiler experience ever created. (Naturally, however, the pages are in fact very polite in hiding spoilers.)

The proof-of-concept, unsurprisingly, uses Doctor Who. Not just because it's popular, but also because a show whose central theme is time travel ought to be an especial challenge to represent in a sensible form. See what they've come up with…

More about the Mythology Engine at BBC Blogs.

The bad news: as I've said, this is just a proof-of-concept and I don't know that there are any plans to make a full version.

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baskerville: Suitov Iceheart's face in profile. He's a pale-skinned, dark-haired young adult male wearing black and gold. (Suitov)
2010-03-28 05:49 pm
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Bedtime story

"Rigey, tell me a story!"

"What do we say when we ask for things?"


"Oh, all right then. One story."


Heheh. You like?

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