June 2015


Goblins’ origins are obscure and surrounded by many myths and legends, but it seems likely that they evolved in a similar arid environment to that of the orcs as they share the chlorophyll-laced skin of the latter, though they lack similar dentition. They also have only four fingers and four toes on each limb, a trait unique to their biology.

Another uniue biological curiosity is that unlike other sapients, goblins do not undergo a growth spurt at puberty. Instead, they continue to grow at a steady rate that slows slightly as they age. Their often impoverished and violent lives mean that the average goblin is shorter than man-sized, though particularly old or renowned goblins are able to reach impressive heights: Aepebo Manbynk (“Treeboy”), the great leader of the Goblin Revolt, was six-foot-five by the time he was captured and executed.

Goblin religion is a unique variant of the Sepulcher of the Creator, the faith embraced by a significant portion of humans. Goblins believe that they were created by the dark lord Muolih, the fallen left hand of the Creator, as his servants. They regard this as an act of blasphemy that forever stained their people, and so with the deaths of Muolih and the Creator in the Greatwar of legend, goblins generally hold themselves bereft of purpose and of any divine influences whatsoever aside from minor spirits. They believe that, due to Muolih’s taint, they are owed nothing and entitled to nothing but what the can get for themselves.

As such, goblin culture is based around achievement; individuals are born without a name and must earn one through their deeds. Unnamed goblins are referred to using a variety of workarounds: the word bac (“you there”), adjectives (“tall,” “sister”), and as often as not, simply “goblin” or “gob.” A goblin who has earned a name is stripped of it upon surviving a defeat but is allowed to keep it if they perish during said defeat, a cultural convention that leads to the often suicidal disregard for self seen in goblin battle formations.

Stereotyped as crude, stupid, and weak, goblins are actually as intelligent and creative as any other sapient. Their low position in societies and their unique culture of self-depreciation belies their general aptitude for construction, chemistry, and mathematics. The arquebus is their most notable arm, and goblin arquebusiers (ottaobynk, “gun boys”) were and are common sights across battlefields.

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The hearse arrived at midnight, rolling quietly down the cul-de-sac. A thing of night even in daylight, it was like an oily distortion in the dark air, recognizable only in the dim lights reflected in its gloss and the pair of rheumy beams it cast forward.

It pulls up in the dark, further than can be seen. Up to the house where the police cruisers and an ambulance clustered, flashed, a few hours before? Not the way things were usually done, but perhaps. A false alarm might have turned into the real thing, with nothing left to do but summon the last limousine.

A lone relative, without a car, dropped off from a ceremony where they were the soule mourner? The kindness that one ought to be grateful for turned into icy unease by the thick empty weight of the compartment behind. They rode in the same car just last week, only not like this. Not like this.

Suppose that the late hour and the light are just right that it’s the great Hearse itself, the one driven by the Man in Black who awaits at each crossroad. Come to collect, trading scythe for side panels and robes for road but still inky, still inscrutable, still inevitable. Cut him off in late-night traffic if you dare.

Sleep comes on heavy wings; the hearse does not reappear. A metaphor, if nothing else, of the uncertainty at the end of our own rides therein, no matter how certain we be of our destinations.

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And, yea, did He cast out his Palms. And, yea, upon those same Palms were the Marks of which much has been written, the Stigmata. On His left Hand He bore the oozing Facsimile of a 1, and on his right Hand bore he a similarly crimson 0.

By rapidly alternating His hands, could he replicate any Program in existence. At this Sight, yea, the assembled Debuggers and Programmers did fall to their Knees (excepting those many whose Fat precluded this, who instead, yea, fell into their Chairs or Rascals).

In the fullness of Time, though, a thorough Examination was made and the bearer of the Stigmata was found to have an additional one on His ankles, that of the Number 2. And, yea, did they cast Him out from among their Number, rejecting His Code and His rights.

For, as any Coder will tell you, there is no such Thing as 2.

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“This is our rare book room, where we keep our most valuable tomes untouched and raw, just as they were when they came to us, with only a bare minimum of alteration to keep them–and us–safe. Let’s move on.”

“What’s that room next door? The one where the books are all burned and mangled on the outside, but some of the pages look like they might still be readable?”

“Oh, that’s our medium-rare book room. If you think that’s something, wait until you see our well-done book room!”

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On Tuesday, our town passed a rather grim milestone: the 20,000th prisoner was incarcinated here. Now, many people have written about mass incarcination throughout the media, and there are a lot of understandably intense opinions on the subject from all parts of the political spectrum. What I’d like to do here is to take a step back.

Academic exercises about our “carcinal society” tend to seem very remote and ivory tower to average citizens, especially those that do not known an incarcinated person or persons. This, along with a relatively simple “crime should equal incarcination” philosophy winds up completely obfuscating the issue.

So what exactly is mass incarcination? When you boil it down, incarcination is nothing more or nothing less than feeding those convicted of crimes to gigantic land-crabs. And mass incarcination is feeding a lot of those convicted of crimes to a lot of giant land-crabs.

Now, surely you’ve all seen Cl-Clickrr, Tecumseh County Incarcination Crab #3, making its scuttling rounds outside the city limits or carefully guarding its clutch of gigantic eggs in the hollow near Collie Hill. You might have even seen an escapee, stained with digestive juices, that was able to escape incarcination when Cl-Clickrr attempted to regurgitate for its young.

But have you ever thought of the lasting effects of incarcination inside Cl-Clickrr?

What of the few that are paroled after serving their time submerged in hemolymph, that no longer have any hair or limbs? What about those who come home with an insatiable lust for crab meat and wind up robbing a Red Lobster? Those institutional men who immediately violate their parole or cover themselves with rotting shellfish?

Mass incarcination destroyes lives, destroys homes, destroys societies. All it does is protect the powerful giant land-crabs with a vested interest in the status quo. That’s why we need a saner system, one with fewer giant land-crabs, one with fewer convicts fed to those land-crabs, and one with land-crabs bred for rehabilitation rather than digestion.

Only then can we reap the benefits of other societies that have reduced or abolished giant land-crabs altogether. Only then can we shed the embarrassment of being second only to China and its infamous pandarisons in the feeding of our own people to gigantic organisms.

It’s time, people. It’s time.

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“I am Senior Subject Librarian Lea Manhardt, and from now on you will speak only when spoken to. The first and last words out of your thesauri will be “Ma’am”. Do you bookworms read me?”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am!”

“This is a library! They can hear you in the crypt under the chapel. You will WHISPER, you filthy bookworms, and you will do it so quietly that my cat will not be able to hear you, and she’s woken up by her own farts! Now whisper like a castrato!”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

“If you filthy bookworms leave my library, if you survive basic training, you will be an open book. You will be a font of knowledge and expertise fit to advise the lowliest hobo and the freshmanniest of freshmen. But until that day you are trade paperbacks. You are the lowest form of literature on Earth. You are not even books, you are pamphlets. Handouts! Ephemera! You are nothing but beat-up, stained romance novels at an old lady’s estate sale, do you read me?”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

“Because I am like unto a hardback book with archival quality leather binding, you will not like me. I am not an easy read. But the more you hate me, the more you will retain. I am hard read but I am a fair one, and my orders are to weed out all the paperbacks and self-published poetry from this sorry box of library donations. Do you bookworms read that?”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

With apologies to Stanley Kubrick and R. Lee Ermey

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A volcanic wind blew in from the northeast all week, a direction from which it rarely blew, and bore clusters of nascent thunderstorms upon its wings.

“Shit,” said Carl Escobedo, worksite manager for Joyeuse Construction. “Another storm brewing. Pack it up, people! I want those holes sealed well enough that this place floats like a cork!”

His boys, as annoyed as he was at the constant disruptions the storms brought to their renovations, nevertheless did as they were told. As he was putting a tarp in place over a glassless window, Escobedo was approached by one of his carpenters, Richat.

“The boys are getting kind of anxious, boss,” Richat said. “All this rotten weather when we’re trying to work, and on this of all places…they’re starting to say it might be something unnatural.”

“Yeah, it’s unnatural all right,” Escobedo snapped. “Unnatural bad luck that’s pushing my bottom line on this job into the red. Just get everything sealed up and punch your card.”

“If you say so, boss.”

That day’s storm was a humdinger, with three hours of roiling lightning and torrential rains. When it cleared, around 3pm, Escobedo’s crew returned to work…without their boss. Thinking that he might have been caught by the storm and forced to take shelter inside, they unsealed the place.

No trace of Escobedo was ever found aside from his Joyeuse ballcap, hanging on an antique doorknob.

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To create an admirable and untiring Servant is the whole Purpose of Pumpkinhead crafting. If done with Care and Dilligence, the resulting Creature will posess both Loyalty and Strength and be easy to repair with even the simplest Tools.

First, one must craft the Creature’s Body. This is the most important Step, as the Wood chosen will greatly affect the Temperament and Personality of your Construct. Yew is the traditional Wood of choice, but Oak, Elm, or even Maple can be made to work if One does not mind the Scatterbrained, Delicate, or Mercurial constitution they impart–Yew being the choice Wood due to its imparting of both Flexibility and Strength.

The Body may be of any shape, but it must be capable of being clothed. Some ambitious Conjurers have made Pumpkinheads in the Form of Arachnids or Centaurs and had Clothing tailored for these; normal Raiments will generally suffice.

After coating the Wood with a Resin made from the Ashes of a Fire Temple’s Pyre, One must then carve the Pumpkin itself. The Gourd must be large and Hollow enough to contain a lit Candle, but that is all; many Conjurers coat the Gourd in Wax to give it Strength and protect against Rot.

The Candle itself is of utmost Importance. Its Wax must be native Beeswax, and it must contain a Wick soaked in the Oil of an Elderwood Tree. It must not be lit until the Ritual is complete.

Assemble the Pumpkinhead over a sacred Circle. The Body must be Complete and Articulated and fully Clothed before the Gourd is placed and the Candle lit. Once this has been done, Command the Pumpkinhead to arise and give it a Name. If it responds, the procedure has been a Success.

Pumkinheads must have their Heads replaced regularly. The exact Form is immaterial, and many Conjurers take the Opportunity to revise their Creation’s Features. The Pumpkinheads themselves, especially those made from pricer Woods, will often request a new Head with specific Features; it is of course up to their Creator whether said Request is honored.

The Pumpkinhead will endure until its Candle is extinguished. Heads, Limbs, and Clothes may be replaced, and an extinguished Candle can be re-lit or re-dipped in the same Wax to prolong its life. Pumpkinheads seem to regard their Extinguishment in the same way a Mortal regards Sleep, though should the Candle be destroyed the Pumpkinhead will forever expire. Even if a new Candle is created and placed within the same Body, it will be as if an entirely new Creature had been created and whatever Memories and Experiences it had will be lost.

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“Eyon,” said Gob. “Listen to me.”

Startled, Eyon fell silent. He had never heard Gob call him anything but “Master” before.

“Answer Gob this, Eyon: why do we, the gobs, have no king?”

“I…I don’t know,” stammered Eyon. “B-because his line died out?”

“We, the gobs, have no king because we believe that a person is defined by their actions. Not by their family. Not by their line. By their actions.”

“So then, to have a king, you would need someone to…act like one?” Eyon said.

“Not how one acts, Eyon. By their actions. Listen to Gob: we believe that anyone who would be out king must take kingly action. They must protect the gobs in time of war, see that they are provided for in time of peace, and act with wisdom and justice and kindness otherwise.”

Eyon rubbed his eyes. “But we’ve had good kings before in Pexate that did that,” he sniffed. “Good kings.”

“Perhaps we have, but we the gobs also hold that anyone who is king that ceases to act as one is no longer king, has that name stripped from them, and is cast down. As Gob has been cast down, from there to fade away or prove themselves anew.”

“You’re saying that the old kings of Pexate, even the best kings of Pexate, wouldn’t lose their name and their throne if they stopped being good, and that’s why they were never kings of the gobs?” Eyon said.

Gob said nothing, instead resting his hand on the hilt of his sword.

“No…no,” Eyon said. “You mean that they never did anything to earn the name in the first place.”

“Yes,” said Gob. “Now you and Gob must ask this question: what are you and Gob going to do to earn our names?”

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“You’re a terrible pilot. Maybe even the worst I’ve ever seen.”

“Your opinion has been noted, Myassa,” Jai said. “Would you like to add anything else to try and undermine my authority in spite of the fact that I’m signing off on your paychecks?”

“The only reason I’m here is money, and the only reason you’re here is money,” Myassa continued. “I don’t know how or where you got it, or how many bribes it took, but the idea that you and this ship are on the verge of qualifying for an ISG license is a cosmic joke.”

“Because you don’t have a ship? Because you don’t have an ISG license and no one will hire your sassy assy unless they’re a rich unlicensed boob like me?” cried Jai.

“Pretty much,” Myassa said. “If I weren’t blacklisted, I’d be running the show. A much better show with a much better stage and lighting and direction. So it really wouldn’t be functionally the same show at all.”

“Again, noted,” said Jai. “And what would you like me to do about it all the way out here, exactly? I can’t send you packing and I don’t think you can afford to buy me out.”

“I just want you to know, as you’re lording it over this hunk of junk and what passes for its crew, that sooner or later the money’s going to run out. And when that happens, you’ll be left where you deserve to be. Nowhere, as a nobody. Capice?”

“If you’ll excuse me,” said Jai icily. “Captain Nobody needs to finish landing this hunk of junk.”

“Just don’t sink it in the drink, if you don’t mind, while Taos is doing the heavy lifting,” Myassa replied. “The last Captain Nobody I read about had a bit of a problem with that about twenty thousand leagues deep.

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