June 2014

The Nichol test, named after famed gadfly and author S. Beadle Nichol, is a simple measure of a film’s stupidity and pandering to the basest animal parts of the human brain. Nichol laid out several scenarios that could lead to a film “failing” the test, though the most well-known criteria was (and is) that a passing film may not contain a sword-wielding robot riding a dinosaur.

Critics have long maintained that this is a restrictive criterion, and that many films simply take place in milieus in which robots, swords, and dinosaurs are simply more likely to appear. They cite massively profitable and genre-defining films, like Technosaurus (1977), and films with strong positive dinosaur models who are nevertheless incidentally ridden by sword-bearing robots, like The Passion of Mecha-Annie (1988).

Nevertheless, and despite Nichol’s well-publicized ambivalence on the matter, the Nichol test continues to be used. The latest film to fail the Nichol test, Transfourmers IV: Extinct By Dawn, is perhaps notable as the first to fail based solely on its poster, which features a prominent sword-wielding robot riding a dinosaur, albeit one in a pose which the producers have described as “empowering.”

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“Bad news, sir.”

“What is it?”

“You recall that promising zygote we were going to check on?”

“Oh yes, the one that was a son of someone with a strong family history of athleticism? 1006-288-A? His maternal grandmother was an Olympian and his paternal grandfather was a minor-league player.”

“Well, we had been concerned that the father was unknown but preliminary testing had indicated that it was from someone with a strong lineage as well, perhaps even a current or former player or the son of one.”

“So the bad news is that the sire isn’t as promising as we thought?”

“Oh no. As far as we can tell, they are every bit as promising. When this child is born, they will have the perfect makings of a star player assuming that they have the mental aptitude and proper training.”

“Wonderful news, then, not bad! We’ll arrange for the mother to be approached about placing her son in the player-training creche alongside the candidates from the rest of our supervisory project and the kids from The Farm.”

“Well, the final tests also show a genetic predisposition to Finona-Marante Syndrome.”

“Oh! Well that is bad news, and a shame. So if they did become a player, they would only have a useful lifespan of a few years before the stress of Finona-Marante Syndrome would force them to retire.”

“So it’s not worth our investment, sadly.”

“Sadly not. Keep an eye on the boy after he’s born just in case he shows aptitude as a coach. Assuming, that is, he’s born at all after the Athletic Foundation withdraws its offer.”

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The visible part of a transdimensional, interdimensional, inconceivable entity. Various species of Anglerlures have differently evolved lures for different kinds of prey throughout the multiverse and planes of existence. The reason for this is rather simple: matter is very rare in the places between places, the betwixt and the between, and so is thought. Anglerlures must prey on beings, and preferably sapient ones at that, with a proboscis-lure to maintain both their inconceivable mass and their inconceivable spirit in the face of total resource starvation.

As their proboscis-lures have generally evolved to resemble that of their preferred prey, one would expect Anglerlures on the various alternate Earths to be drifters, murderers, and the like–“people” in the margins of society preying on the weak and the helpless. And, indeed, some are. But not most. Rather, they prefer a steady diet of thought with the occasional supplement of flesh rather than the inverse, and it is in business and politics that they find their most ready sources. Not the high levels, naturally, as their lack of a past would become too much of a liability. Anglerlures active on multiversal Earths tend to be middle-level managers at corporations and the community organizers or protestors who often oppose them.

In both cases, the social structure allows–nay, demands–subservient adulation on the one hand and vehement hatred on the other. There are cases on record of Anglerlures engineering strife on both sides to engorge themselves on thought with occasional morsels of flesh, and such strife also promotes the creatures’ ability to find a mate. The particulars of the latter are largely unknown and mercifully so; what little data exists is so disturbing that it bears neither elaboration nor repetition.

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Minosian fools. Do you not see? The compact that we, the Many of the Abyss, made with the citizens of the circles city was always already the seed of their demise. We demanded from them a single child be made to suffer the most heinous tortures so that the rest of the city might know peace and prosperity; that very act and the acquiescence to it that every adult in the city undertook with their coming of age tainted their every last action with the stain of the Abyss.

And what of the price I asked? If any kindness or compassion were to be shown the child, the lives of every come-of-age adult, their souls, and their flesh would be forfeit to me. Grist and blood and sinew to be reshaped to serve the will of we, the Many of the Abyss. They sought to protect against that, building a fortified dungeon to hold the child, erecting a barrier to keep others out, and making judicious use of cantrips and magicks to erase the very memory of anyone who left the city or had birthed a sacrifice-child.

But there is no protection, no plan, no magicks that can stand against our most potent weapon: time.

In time, the child would be shown a kindness and the compact would be broken. It was inevitable, whether in centuries or even millennia. And by binding themselves to we, the Many of the Abyss, at their comings-of-age, the citizens were already perfect vessels for our howling birth upon your plane. For the Many of the Abyss are eternal and patient, and we have built up our dominion here from a single plane-tainted ant to a gestating army which will remake the world in our image.

What can you, fools of Minosia, do against such will, such power, other than break upon it as a wave upon stony shores?

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The Crimson Emperor Neris II, for reasons of his own, sent the crack 7th Imperial Legion not to some far-distant battlefield but to a little-known place in the hinterlands of his own domain, a morass known as Mossfallow Fen.

Neris II was the first Emperor by that name since Neris I nearly 250 years ago, and that emperor’s disastrous reign had long overshadowed the name, despite it being the most common given name for noble-born boys for generations in either direction. Emperor Joron III, Emperor Doricus IV, and Emperor Testarossa II had all borne the proper name of Neris but had chosen to drop it in favor of another of their many names or even a nickname. But the Dowager Empress had insisted that her son would make the name noble again, and many at court felt that his rash, impulsive, and overwhelmingly forceful responses to any perceived threat were the result of the burden of his name.

So none dared question Neris II’s deployment of the 7th Imperial Legion to Mossfalow Fen, and when he bypassed the usual Imperial command structure to do so, his bureaucrats obligingly stepped aside. The 7th Legion departed without any of its usual command staff or Imperial Commissioners. Only the Prince-Elector of Kryne, one of the Emperor’s closest confidants, accompanied the troops, relaying his orders directly to the men through their officers.

One month later, a single Legionnaire from the 7th returned to the Crimson Emperor’s court. He was Centurion Joeax, of the Southern Marches, a sunlit and breezy land far removed from the dour overcast of Mossfallow. It is recorded in the histories that Joeax commanded an auxiliary unit of archers in the 7th, and that he arrived apparently uninjured but without his bow, riding a horse with the tack of a much senior officer and armed with a long cruciform heavy infantry sword rather than the short stabbing sword issued archers for personal defense and lat-ditch melee.

Joeax was quickly borne to Neris II, and the emperor demanded that his audience with the man be utterly private. It was a brief meeting, not more than fifteen minutes, and at the end the Emperor’s advisors found that their liege had slain Joeax with his ornate sword of office–the first time it had been stained with blood since the Great Rebellion. In a rage, Neris II demanded that every man, woman, and child who had contact with Joeax and might possibly have heard or intuited part of his message be put to death.

1000 people died in the subsequent purge, and at the Emperor’s orders his scribes and historians did their best to expunge all mention of the 7th Legion from the record. At this they failed, presumably because most assumed that the Legion had risen against the Emperor and that the latter’s overthrow was imminent. But no such challenge arose; Neris II ruled for a further 10 years, but within six months of Joeax’s execution he had sunk into howling insanity with only the briefest periods of lucidity, leaving his son the future Doricus V as regent.

Not one of the 10,000 men of the 7th Imperial Legion including Prince-Elector Kryne was ever seen again save Joeax, nor was a single item of their equipment ever recovered, though many enterprising souls scoured the muck of Mossfallow for the site of a presumed battle. Emperor Neris II had been successful in one sense: not a living soul ever discovered what news Centurian Joeax had borne to his liege.

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I located a large public area, like a library, and then lay in wait until someone left their car keys unattended on a table. You’d be surprised–shocked, even–how often people do this. When I was really lucky, someone would leave their keys behind entirely and I could take them on the pretext of turning them in to the lost and found. I never took anything else, like a laptop or even cash, because the cops knew about those theft rings and were far less likely to believe my excuse.

Once I found a set of keys, I’d go out to the parking lot and try the automatic unlocker key fob to see what vehicle responded. Sometimes I even went so far as to try the key in every lock that matched the key’s design. Then I’d drive the car to a safe spot to take stock.

There usually wasn’t much money, but you’d be amazed at the things people leave in their cars or (if they’re slightly smarter) their trunks. I could usually drive to a local pawn shop and get some cash for the things rattling around inside before selling the car to a local chop shop or abandoning it.

A simple con, but it’s what kept me going those long lean months in the middle of my darkest days.

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With unlimited information
And unlimited free time
Never underestimate
How willing someone is
To dedicate their life
To ruining yours

– Charter of the Republic of Slon, Part IV: Aphorisms

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