June 2014


TOM: And we are back with this nail-biter of an MMOFL battle with the Grimomar Goblins against the Wyndstorm Warriors. And I see that the Warriors are putting their all into this attack; just look at those mana bars deplete.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. Offensive lineman Harry “The Bulldozer” Calhoun attacks his opponents with his +2 Shoulderpads of Fiery Torment. Looks like about 20 hit points of damage to me.

TOM: We’ll have to check the tape for that, but he’s definitely getting an XP bonus from that one.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. And is that quarterback Dequan “Golden Arm” Washington readying a pass? Yes, protected by the tanking of his offensive line, he is readying a throw. Is that the uncommon Ball of +1 Passing we’ve seen him use before?

TOM: No, it looks like the rare purple ball “Oblate Spheroid of the Thundering Darkness” the team won last week.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. A bold move, that ball only has five charges.

TOM: There’s the pass, and…it’s good! A 110-yard touchdown to receiver Dan “The Shiv” Jablonsky, who stealthed and snuck into the endzone unbeknownst to the opposing team. And that looks like an automatic 200 hit points of damage to every member of the other team.

CARL: That’s right, Tom, they’re falling like flies. The players have already broken ranks to loot their fallen corpses.

TOM: Oh, but what’s that horn and the sound of drums in the deep? It looks like the mighty doors hidden beneath the stadium are being opened.

CARL: That’s right, Tom, it looks like it’s time for a boss fight, and if the strategy guide is correct the team will now be facing Grogthank the Devourer, Demon of the Seventh Eye.

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Muolih, the Spreading Darkness, He Who Was Cast Down, was destroyed and scattered to the winds at the conclusion of the Greatwar. Though Muolih was forever a disembodied spirit gnashing at himself in the great everdark beyond, his defeat did not spell the end of his influence. There were his lieutenants, of course; foul fallen beings like Phonru the Devourer from whom the Creator had turned His loving gaze, but they were no more than shadows of Muolih’s power: minor warlords who could carve out a fief and little more.

Far moreso than any who sought to carry on his dark work, the great legacy of Muolih was in the servants that he left behind. The Goblins, or Gobs, are by far the most numerous and prevalent, having been fashioned by Muolih in his darkpits as a counterpart to the Fairies and Pixies who are bound to nature and the Creator. The secret of their origin has been lost to time, but Gob legend holds that they are the direct descendents of Fairies and Pixies who were won to Muolih’s cause and altered to serve his needs.

Bereft of purpose after their master’s defeat, the Gobs were nevertheless highly adaptable and intelligent and were bound to artificial constructs like metal and steel in the same way that Fairies were bound to nature. This long-ago loss and continued flourishing (after a fashion) has had an indelible effect on Gob religion and culture, which tends toward dualism and extreme privation as exemplified by the Code of the Gobs that most follow:

These are the laws of the People, known to some as the Goblins or the Gobs.

The People are stained with the sin of their creation and must therefore earn the right to all which they possess.

The People have no name, for as a people they have not yet earned one. Hence they must be referred to only by the names given to them by the Multitudinous Enemies.

The People must earn names and pronouns for themselves through their actions. Only the People who have earned a name will be remembered to their families and to history.

When a member of the People is defeated, or disgraced, they lose their name. It must be earned back through a trial equal to that by which the name was first won, or lost.

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In 1936, the commune of Maquiatauro found itself on the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. Both the Republicans and the Nationalists coveted the town’s strategic location, but the citizenry threw in their lot with the anarcho-syndicalists of the ConfederaciĆ³n Nacional del Trabajo (CNT).

Opposed to both the Nationalist rebels and the Republican government but nominally allied with the latter, the CNT redistributed land, founded agricultural communes, and perhaps most importantly for Maquiatauro’s traditional culture, reopened the Plaza del Toros bullring for the traditional sport of bullfighting under the ownership and management of the matadors, picadors, and the communal farms which had taken over the traditional estates and provided the bulls for the ring. The Republican authorities were uneasy about this, as many of them saw bullfighting as a cruel and backward sport with no place in modern Spain, but they were in no position to act on these feelings.

In 1938, the front lines shifted dramatically around Maquiatauro in response to the great Nationalist drive at the Battle of Teruel and the Republican counterattack in the Battle of the Ebro. The CNT anarcho-syndicalists refused to allow Republican troops in the city but with a crack Nationalist unit massing nearby, the Republic feared that the town’s militia would be unable to mount an effective defense. As a result, both Republican and Nationalist troops moved on the city almost simultaneously.

This led to one of the most bizarre episodes of the war. The Plaza del Toros had been prepared for a major bullfight when the shooting started, and the Maquiatauro anarchist militia melted away between the two invading forces. The front lines soon reached the bullring. Incensed at the interruption and fearing reprisals no matter which side won, the bullfighters released all of their bulls into the arena and opened all its doors.

The ensuing panic among battle-hardened Republican and Nationalist troops in Maquiatauro, including instances of bulls charging and overrunning machine gun nests and bitter enemies joining together to battle the rampaging beasts with bullet and bayonet, would be remembered for years as the Gunning of the Bulls.

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Welcome, traveler, from the howling Interwilds. Pull up a metaphorical chair and sit awhile.

Have you come stumbling in from an algorithm that wrongly identified this as a place where you might find what you seek? You are welcome here.

Has this waystation amid the great Interwilds piqued your interest enough to give it a cursory look? You are welcome here.

Did random chance, bidden or unbidden, bring you to our doorstep, digital though it may be? You are welcome here.

Are you yourself an algorithm, a being of code and codex designed to spread information at the behest of your masters? You are welcome here.

To all from far and wide, you are welcome here. Just remember to wipe your feet.

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“Yeah, I’ve got the goods if you’ve got the cash.”

The money changed hands quickly, the product even more so. After all, it was illegal to sell, illegal to buy, illegal to use. They said that it was bad for you, one of the worst things, but that didn’t mean there weren’t addicts willing to buy and pushers willing to sell.

Coming out of the alleyway, the buyer looked both ways to make sure the coast was clear, and then opened their handwrapped brown package to reveal the treasure within:

HAPPY 1000 DRAGON CHOCOLATE NOUGAT CANDY BAR (PRODUCT OF CHINA).

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People have been complaining, and rightly so, about Warner adding Batman to the upcoming and most likely terrible sequel to Man of Steel. Yes, it seems like they are trying to lead up to a Justice League movie too quickly, doing in two movies what took Marvel five. Yes, Batman being rebooted again not even two years after his last movie is as creatively bankrupt as creative Lehman Brothers, regardless of whether Bennifer Batfleck has the chops to play the role (he couldn’t be worse than Clooney, right? RIGHT?).

I dispute none of this. But my question is this: in an era of creative bankruptcy and a Hollywood studio system that seems more anxious to make explosions that play well in Guangzhou than anything worth watching, why is it that the tag-team brands that are revived are always the most stale and predictable ones?

I guess what I’m saying is: Hollywood, Robocop vs. Terminator has been a thing since 1992. The last Terminator failed. The godawful Robocop remake failed. What’s it going to take to get Original Robocop pitted against Original Terminator? Peter Weller and Arnold Schwarzenegger are game and the fans would lap it up.

Do that, Hollywood, and we’ll give you a pass for Zack Snyder Presents: Half-Assed Justice League. Maybe.

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I had known my friend Wilfred Barnham since we were youths, and his father came from Puritan stock older than mine, yet a cloud had always hung over him due to his parentage. His mother, as I’d heard my own aunt whisper, had been a debutante from a small town south of the Mason-Dixon line, and she had died not long after Wilfred’s birth, as the couple had been traveling to his father’s estate in Providence. The rumors always seemed to suggest that the elder Barnham had been seduced by a hardscrabble woman of ill repute who intended to drag herself to the upper crust and prosperity using their child as an anchor, but Wilfred maintained–often angrily–that they had truly been in love, that his mother had been a model of Southern hospitality and manners, and her sudden death even now hung over the elder Barnham like a pall.

It was partially in response to those society rumors, and partially the same wanderlust and yearning for answers that takes hold of all young men, that led Wilfred to undertake a journey to his mother’s hometown of Calhoun, Mississppi, in the summer of 1913. It was not long after our final days at school together, and even though the postal service in the backwater bayous of that oft-rebellious state was not the best, Wilfred promised to write me as I undertook my first readings to become a law clerk.

The first news I heard of him was that August, scarcely a year before the war started, and it was surely not the news I had expected: a terse telegram informing me that Wilfred Barnham had taken his own life, hanging himself in the closet of a hotel in Jackson, Mississippi, not far from the rail line which would have borne him safely home and on which his passage was already booked. It was devastating news, to be sure, but worse was to come. Through my family, I sent inquiries to the elder Barnham about attending a memorial service or perhaps arranging for flowers to be sent in my name should it be too remote. His reply was a tersely handwritten note, informing me that Wilfred had been promptly cremated and his ashes scattered, that I was better off saving any funerary monies for a worthier cause, and that he would speak no more on the subject. This I attributed to what must have been overwhelming grief on the old man’s part, Wilfred being his only child and the only reminder of the lost Southern love he had once cherished.

And there the matter rested, until two weeks later. A letter arrived at my address in Providence and was forwarded to me at my lodgings upstate; as I had feared, the post had delayed Wilfred’s missives so much that the news of his death had arrived before the news of his life.

“WE ARE THE DREAMS OF A DEAD GOD,” the letter declared in a ragged hand recognizably Wilfred’s, “AND OUR CITIES BUILT IN THE BLEACHED BONES OF ITS MAJESTY.”

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