My Fiction!

Taking Back Vampires

Taking Back Vampires

I have one mission foremost in mind that is already underway, which is creating a vampire novel–working title Vampires Will Never Hurt You–that will be the equal and opposite reaction that Twilight sorely needs, taking back vampires for the horror genre and away from the teen paranormal romance “market”.

So until a recent(*), tragic personal loss that I am still reeling from (*four months later) my thing was pursuing game design and publishing as a career, which was frustrating, like pursuing an elephant with a butterfly net, or a fly with an elephant gun, for that matter. Now that I have indefinitely–which is not to say forever–retired from game design with End Transmission Games falling into inactivity, I have decided to focus again on traditional, single author fiction. I’ll always be a gamer, but a whole heck of a lot more people read things than buy tabletop roleplaying games.

There are other changes I want to make to the website but let me start with explaining the masthead, and the irony behind the phrase “gimme, gimme, gimme that vampire money”.

Brief, Opinionated Timeline of Vampires In Fiction

Pre-1897-1980s: Vampires are primal, terrifying, unfathomable monsters, diverging to various degrees from Bram Stoker’s original vampire, Count Dracula.
1976-1994: The increasing influence of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire and the following wildly successful Vampire Chronicles gives birth to vampires with interiority, complexity, culture, and most importantly, angst and sexuality. A new breed of vampires is born.
1990s: Inspired by the former, the roleplaying game Vampire: The Masquerade provides a sort of golden age or renaissance of vampires, allowing players to play as Ricean vampire aristocrats and artists, more feral Near Dark style vampires, or even full on Max Schreck’s Nosferatu  style vampires. The different kinds of vampires are represented as different clans with complicated, interlocking politics.
2000-2010s: Charlaine Harris’ True Blood series and the extraordinarily popular HBO show following it show that it is more okay than ever to have vampires, but not take them particularly seriously.
2000s-2010s: The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer ruins vampires forever, showing the publishing industry just what a gold mine a certain kind of unforgivably bad writing can be.
2013 Onwards: The post-Twilight era. Can we take vampires back?

So What Got Vampires Right?

Thanks for asking!

  • Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula created the genre, so its mention is mandatory.
  • I feel like Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot really made vampires relevant to the modern day, so it is also a mandatory mention.
  • My personal favorite vampire movie is probably Near Darka 1987 Kathryn Bigelow joint, although I have some issues with the ending. It features some of my favorite actors–a nice chunk of the cast of Aliens–and Kathryn Bigelow’s future pedigree would go on to include Strange Days (another incredibly underrated movie), The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty. You probably haven’t ever heard of it, and you should do yourself a favor and give it a watch, although it might be hard to find.
  • As mentioned above, I feel like Vampire: The Masquerade provided a wide enough playing field of vampires to satisfy fans of Interview With The Vampire and Salem’s Lot both, but unfortunately, it never successfully transitioned to mass media (there was a disastrous television series as I vaguely recall).
  • From Dusk Till Dawn definitely deserves a nod for its incredibly abrupt and jarring pivot from serious crime drama to vampire movie at the start of the second act. After that, it’s a bit too over the top on the gore and silly special effects to be perfect, but even the movie’s final acts feature some memorable dialogue of ordinary people needing to come to grips that yes, there are vampires, and they need to deal with it immediately.
  • Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s Thirty Days of Night graphic novels were an ass-kicking step in the right direction with some incredible visual DNA, but unfortunately their cinematic adaptation was unmemorable.

Vampires Will Never Hurt You (I Promise)

The novel is going to be a ground-up rework of Gilead, a behemoth of an epic with vampires and demons set in my home town that was meant to be neither behemoth nor epic, written between 2003-2005 and thoroughly revised in 2009. Gilead was a fine novel, inhibited by the fact that it  was written by a gifted teenager who would often write five long sentences  when one short one would have sufficed. I’m only partly joking when I say I still feel depleted by the writer I used to be.

2009 was also, not by coincidence, when I wrote the first half of the sequel to Gilead which was planned since work began on Gilead. At the time I heard it was the finest writing I’d ever done, and upon reviewing it as recently as last year, I concluded that it was still Publication-grade fresh. The problem is, it is tethered to characters and backstory from a novel that I’ve come to realize in the subsequent eight years is almost certainly not publishable (I am aware that this is the era of self-publishing, but I am still trying for the brass ring of actually receiving an advance for a novel, having an agent, and so on: I won’t let the process of navigating gatekeeping keep my work off the market for long however, not with the self-publishing experience I’ve accumulated over the years). Primarily because, irrespective of subjective “quality” issues, even in its second draft it’s 177,000+ words, easily 110,000 words more than most publishers are looking for a first novel to be. A select, elite few have read Gilead in its edited or original state. It is deeply connected to the metaplot/multi-verse surrounding the Systems Malfunction universe, and all of my other multiverse linked storylines as it features the Wanderers Guild and a character who is effectively the “mother” of the Systems Malfunction universe.

Anyway, the goal of Vampires Will Never Hurt You is to take the best parts of Gilead, add a few new elements and a definitely new, in-your-face, punk attitude, and a greater focus on vampires, specifically, making them really really fucking scary again.

The Title Is A Fucking Lie

OF COURSE vampires will hurt you.

Anyway, here is my favorite story of a rock and roll band NOT selling out. Back in 2002, brand-new band My Chemical Romance dropped their debut single, a kickass song called “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”. Obviously, I liked the song quite a lot, because I used it as the title of my novel! Anyway, fast forward to some time around 2010. My Chemical Romance had exploded into a nationwide phenomenon and so had The Twilight Saga.

MCR were offered huge sums to contribute a song to the Twilight soundtrack series because of the band’s connections with Goth culture. The quartet refused … Frontman Gerard Way told the British music magazine NME: “That’s why the song ‘Vampire Money’ is on there, because there’s a lot of people chasing that f–king money. Twilight? A lot of people around us were like, ‘Please, for the love of God, do this f–ing movie.’ But we’d moved on.”

This the wording of their response, “Vampire Money”, besides being an awesome rap name:

3-2-1 We came to fuck
Everybody party till the gasman comes
Sparkle like Bowie in the morning sun
And get a parking violation on La Brea till it’s doneHair back, collar up, jet black, so cool!
Sing it like the kids that are mean to you, c’monWhen you wanna be a movie star (c’mon!)
Play the game and take the band real far (c’mon!)
Play it right and drive a Volvo car (c’mon!)
Pick a fight at an airport barThe kids don’t care if you’re all right honey
Pills don’t help but it sure is funny
Gimme gimme some of that vampire money c’mon!

Perhaps the greatest fuck-you in all of pop culture. Perfect.
And that kiddies is what Taking Back Vampires/Vampires Will Never Hurt You is all about. I intend to publish some snippets and excerpts here before publication, along with progress reports, so stay tuned!
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“Clanbook: Nyctaphobia”

This is an ancillary document that will appeal mainly to fans of the artist formerly known as Devon Oratz, although fans of “Old World of Darkness” Vampire: The Masquerade might find it an interesting piece of marginalia. It is first and foremost a document for internal use, further defining the vampiric clans that exist in the Nyctaphobia; Hope In The Mist; Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You universe and further differentiating them from the Vampire: The Masquerade clans they were based on circa 2004.

Clans are divided into two major meta-factions, clans which participate in the Wild Hunt (taking part in annual “wildings” in which entire human towns are slaughtered, and the Cotillion, which prioritize the concealment of vampire kind from human awareness above all else and which do not take part in or approve of wildings, although they are not actively at war with the Wild Hunt. Vampire: The Masquerade players will recognize elements of the Sabbat in the former and elements of the Camarilla in the latter.

 

Clan Nightshade

Vulgar Labels: Serpents, Typhoid Maries
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Members: Lorenzo Medici, Meriwether Davis, Catherine Faraday, Melciah Salomon
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Blood-Venom

Notes: Clan Nightshade is by far the most important of the vampiric bloodlines to the overarching plot of the as-yet unfinished Nyctaphobia/Hope In The Mists saga. All of the major named vampire characters from Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You belong to Clan Nightshade. In Vampires Will Never Hurt You, the rewrite of Gilead, Clan Nightshade will have a unique ability where anyone they bite but don’t drain completely will rise as an extremely weak vampire without any of Clan Nightshade’s special abilities. This does not follow “the rules” of how vampires in general are presented in Nyctaphobia, because every other clan must create vampires through an act of abundant intentionality, draining them down to a few drops of human blood and then feeding them their own vampire blood until they are reborn as undead. This is also the only way that Clan Nightshade can create full-blooded members, rather than blood-hungry ghouls. In addition to the vampire-plague spreading venom of their ordinary bite, older members of Clan Nightshade can transmute their own blood into a venom deadly or paralytic even to fellow vampires.

Spoilers: In the rewrite of Gilead, Vampires Will Never Hurt You, Clan Nightshade will be the clan we see “on camera” to be compromised by the Cult of Shade.

 

The Minders

Vulgar Labels: The Busybodies, Management
Philosophy: Cotillion
Members: Seth Rowald, Monica Winters, Hawthorne
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Levitation, Thaumaturgy, Hypnotic Gaze

Notes: The Minders is the second most important clan in the Nyctaphobia/Hope In The Mists trilogy, playing a reasonably significant role in the early parts of Hope In The Mists. They uphold with grave seriousness the dual responsibility of ensuring that humans remain under the misapprehension that vampires are purely the stuff of fiction and monitoring the greater world of magic and the supernatural for existential threats to vampire kind. The Minders have thoroughly compromised many or most human intelligence and law enforcement organizations, so their access to human law enforcement personnel and equipment is unparalleled.

Loup-Garou
Vulgar Labels: Furries, Hairballs
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Animal Forms

Notes: Many humans in their moments of pants-shitting terror mistake the Loup-Garou for werewolves before being torn apart by them, an understandable confusion. The Loup-Garou are not actually werewolves, however, and can take the forms of bats, ravens, timberwolves, and rare individuals have been reported to take on a variety of exotic “creatures of the night” such as mountain lions, panthers, bears, or tigers.

 

Clan Rose
Vulgar Names: Snobs, Eurotrash
Philosophy: Cotillion
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Fascination

Notes: Clan Rose is made up of individuals who are passionate about art in all its forms, and as an organization, is almost exclusively dedicated to the preservation of the very greatest works of art made by man and vampire. Vampiric art and vampiric performance art tends towards the grand guignol, with human life little valued and blood and corpses preferred mediums for artistes to work in. The unique Clan Rose power of fascination

Gargoyles

Vulgar Names: Gargoyles is already a disrespectful epithet. This bloodline does not have a proper name.
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Talons, Claws, and Fangs, Winged Flight

Gargoyles don’t appear remotely like human beings, instead somewhere in appearance between Max Schreck’s Count Orlok in the 1922 silent film Nosferatu and something that might have given H.R. Giger nightmares. Of all the “wilding” factions, the Gargoyles are historically the most cooperative with the Cotillion factions, for reasons that are, after all, fairly obvious. The Gargoyles complete their wildings within the assigned time-periods and geographical coordinates, reliably not going “overboard”, which has led to most of the other Hunt factions referring to them as “the Cotillion’s (butt-ugly) bitch”.

 

Clan Umbra
Vulgar Names: Necrophiliacs, Creeps
Philosophy: Cotillion
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Necromancy, Shadow-Play

A very pure bloodline of French and Italian origin, many have hinted or more than hinted that the purity comes from a carefully curated mixture of necrophilia and incest. While it is fairly parallel to the story, it still might count as a spoiler that Clan Umbra is entirely loyal to the Cult of Shade and has been since time immemorial: however, the Minders have known about this for long enough to prepare “ contingencies” for this primarily European bloodline, a shadow war between the Minders (aided by the Gargoyles) and Clan Umbra that can be assumed to happen somewhere between the events of Gilead/Vampires Will Never Hurt You and the events of Hope In The Mists.

 

Clan Romani

Vulgar Names: Gypsies, Pikeys
Philosophy: Wild Hunt
Abilities: Standard Vampire Abilities, Hypnotic Gaze, Levitation, Fascination

Not all Romani are vampires but Romani vampires consider themselves Romani first and vampires second. Every stereotype and epithet assigned to real world “Gypsies” is stapled to the Romani Clan by the other vampires of the world. They are almost universally distrusted and regarded with at best suspicion. It is the fact that vampires as a rule don’t particularly trust each other—that and the delicate internal politics of the Cotillion and the Wild Hunt and the other minor bloodlines not worth mentioning here—that allows the Romani clan to navigate vampire society as well as it does, perpetually a potential “enemy of my enemy” to someone.

Unmasque, Unmasque

For any VtM players who didn’t follow, here’s how I collapsed the original thirteen or fourteen clans into seven. Clan Assamite and Followers of Set: Clan Nightshade; Clans Ventrue and Tremere: the Minders; Clan Brujah, not used; Clan Malkavian, not used; Clans Tzimisce and Nosferatu, Gargoyles;  Clans Toreador and Tzimisce, Clan Rose; Clans Giovannni and Lasombra, Clan Umbra; Ravnos, Romani.

Standardizing Vampire Abilities Kind Of Sort Of Without Numbers

Abilities and weaknesses. And did I mention standardizing and without numbers? What an ask of an ex game designer. Vampires in fiction are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike, from the sparkling twinks of “Twilight” to the bloody tornadoes of fangs and rust from Ben Templesmith’s and Steve Niles’ work on 30 Days of Night. Here is my best attempt at presenting MOSTLY WITH WORDS AND NOT NUMBERS YOUR BASIC GILEAD/VWNHY vampire’s abilities.

Strength: Anywhere between twice and ten times as strong as a minimum would be your basic range. Double the range for each century the vampire’s been alive. In areas where agility and skill also inform strength (like swinging a sword), hundreds of times human competence might be seen. A vampire who had spent two centuries serving as samurai could cut you apart before you saw his hand move.

Toughness: Largely indifferent to bullets except for large caliber shotgun blasts and the like which only slow them down. Decapitation kills, impalement paralyzes, usually the former than the latter. Anything else (fire, blades, blunt force trauma, just plain running them over with cars) damages them normally, but they have a hyperbolically quick regeneration factor. Let’s stay it starts as Wolverine/4 and doubles for every two centuries they survive as a vampire. It never reaches a speed greater than, Wolverine x 4 but in terms of what a vampire can regenerate from, the rules of ridiculousness are “weapons free”.  As long as it has blood to drink, a vampire can regenerate to more or less “full health” after being burned in a fire until nothing but a blackened skeletal husk remained. Exactly this happened to Lorenzo in Gilead. The only thing that stops vampiric regeneration is the paralyzing stake through he heart.

Speed: Any vampire can move too fast for you to see. The differences in speed that come with clans and centuries only matter in showdowns between vampires. Vampires are more perceptive than humans—about as perceptive as a wolf at night, with human intellect—but they can still be surprised. A vampire that isn’t paying any attention isn’t any harder to hit than a human that isn’t paying any attention.

Weakness: The Sun: Each clan reacts a little differently. The sun destroys young blood of Clan Nightshade and the Gargoyles and instantly incinerates even elders of Clan Umbra. Elders of Clan Nightshade and Elder Gargoyles are deeply sickened and weakened by the sun.  For the Minders and Clan Rose, sun means weakness and unconsciousness for young bloods, and an inability to use your powers even for elders. For Clan Romani and the Loup-Garoup, young blood felt weak and sickly in the daylight, but sufficiently aged Elders suffer no special handicap from the sun.

Other Weaknesses: All but the oldest elders can enter a domicile without special permission and cross running water; only the oldest elders need sleep in the soil of their homeland. If a cross is brandished at a vampire, what matters is the faith of the holder in the object. So a Star of David in the hands of a pious Jew is better than a crucifix in the hands of a half-assed Christian. Holy water see above: the person doing the blessing needs to be a true believer. By the same principal, areas that count as “hallowed ground” will be rare. Garlic does not do anything. Only the Loup-Garoup care about silver bullets or other things made of silver. Most vampires would list “fire” under their dislikes.

Innate Abilities: Most vampires have telekinesis of a level commensurate with their age. All vampires can telempathically communicate with their children.

Transmissions From The End #15: The Sounds That Remain In Question

Enjoy this blast from the futurepast…

The Sounds That Remain In Question

January 4th, 501 R.T. 0700 Hours {Local Time}
Deck 12 Situation Room of the Vitrix Carrier RAS Lancelot
0.01 Parsecs Spinward of PH-087 “Hong Kong Station”

>>>>ONI Net Log Active
>>>>Ordo Seclorum Est 8.0 Encryption Active
>>>>Remote Satellite Comms Vetted. Vocap active.
>>>>Voice Prints Verified: President Dave Carter (DC), Commander Jesse Kilgannon (JK), Major Gloria Kilgannon (GK), Captain Michael Kilgannon (MK), Governor Akira Yuzaki [Hong Kong Station] (AY), General Andrew Kirin (AK), Rear Admiral Jane Deftinwolf {by remote} (JD), Director Connor Fagan (CF).
>>>>Level 9 Firewall Engaged; Suborbital Uplink Secured

//BEGIN MEETING TRANSCRIPT

DC: Thank you all for coming so early in the morning and on such short notice.

CF: Mr. President, before you say anything else, are you sure that this meeting site is secure. I understand that these “Redeemers” are quite advanced.

DC: Jane?

JD: All possible precautions have been taken. However if I.W.D. (R.I.A. Information Warfare Division) would like to sweep the room for bugs or triple-check my encryption, I won’t be insulted. I can’t make any guarantees, Director. But I don’t think you can ever.

CF: Perhaps this meeting should be delayed until such a time as we can have guarantees of operational security?

AK: All due respect, but this has been delayed too long as it is. We need to come up with a gameplan here.

DC: I agree, General. Ace, tell us the story so far.

JK: October 4th, 499 R.T. Avalon Standard time. Communications Tower Delta-462 on Hong Kong Station goes dark.

JD: Most locals notice only a small period of downtime on their Commlinks before another relay carrier picks up their signals.

JK: Remote access to comms systems on D-462 is locked out. Manual access is cut off. Infiltration teams who enter through the ventilation system do not leave alive. Drone reconnaissance gets jammed or otherwise taken offline.

JD: Simultaneously, an entity calling itself MONAD—and occasionally referring to itself as The Demiurge or The Demogorgon—makes contact with numerous gray databases throughout the Galaxy, including Cydonia, which is—

CF: Obviously, we’re familiar with it.

JD: The messages that it transmits are badly fragmented and barely coherent.

AK: Wait a second. Stupid question. Is this thing a hoax or not? Because according to the memos that I’ve gotten—

MK: It ain’t no hoax, General. You pulled our asses out of the fire on Salem. The hostiles there were these Redeemers. Working for the MONAD intelligence.

GK: You’re jumping ahead a little, don’t you think?

AK: I see.

JD: Welcome to the circle of trust, General. As I was saying, the MONAD entity claimed omnipotence and omniscience, but did not seem capable of coherent communication. Or perhaps, it simply enjoyed being cryptic. In any case, a link between it and the GAIA was established almost immediately.

DC: A link we can’t confirm or deny.

CF: And to prevent a panic, we issued a press blackout.

JD: At the very least, we can confirm that by all indications MONAD is a self-aware neural network, the most advanced AI since the GAIA, even if it has no link to that entity.

AK: If it’s not the GAIA, who made it? Why?

JK: We don’t know. Either.

AY: Excuse me, at this point could I ask the purpose of this meeting?

DC: The purpose of this meeting is to create a plan of action for dealing with the MONAD entity and the potential threat that it poses to Hong Kong Station and the Galaxy.

AY: Inasmuch as the threat is contained within Hong Kong Station, this is an internal matter for House Yamamoto to decide. Yet, I am the only House Yamamoto representative here. This is an obvious violation of my interests and our economic security. I must ask for a private—

DC: This is bigger than House Yamamoto. Bigger than any of the Great Houses. This has the potential of impacting the lives of every Republic Citizen. We have done you the courtesy of not inviting House Dallas or House Dresden to the discussion table—yet. In turn, we ask that you participate in this discussion. Deru kui wa utareru.

AY: I see.

JD: Ace, continue.

JK: On October 16th 499 R.T. the MONAD entity goes silent. It stops communicating with the galaxy. Attempts to physically access Delta-462 remain unsuccessful.

AY: We do not have access to remote climate control for that tower or to the explosive bolts that would be used to safely jettison it.

AK: Well, that answers my next question.

JK: No further developments until May of 500 R.T..

CF: Actually, that’s not entirely true.

JD: Go ahead, director.

CF: We continued to monitor transmissions to and from Delta-462 during this time. MONAD made a handful of “outgoing calls” to various places around the Galaxy Net. Communicated with some of its Redeemers. It invited several other individuals to make a “pilgrimage” to Hong Kong station to commune with it. We have no way of knowing if any of them made it. We intercepted and decrypted all of them. Mostly philosophical discussions. And some logistics. The organization of M0TES—social mixers of random individuals for experimental purposes. A lot of that chatter was disinformation but…

JD: Did you detect any hint of what it was planning for May?

CF:

JD: Then clearly, we do not have access to its high security communications.

CF: Nonetheless, we are certain that MONAD had no ties to the Christmas 499 massacre. That was a Collective Automata action. Verifiably.

JK: May 1st, 500 R.T.. Dallas and Yamamoto are engaged in open warfare on Salem. They and Republic observers are engaged and destroyed by unknown forces. These “Redeemers” are augmented Celestials, robots, and drones answering to MONAD. They force fighting to a standstill on the planet. Republic reinforcements arrive to assess the situation. Including me and my team.

GK: The Collective Automata were also on-hand to secure a neural network—crucial to their operations—that had been captured by House Yamamoto. We’re not sure if that was a Redeemer objective or not.

MK: Our target was this truly gassed up Kapsilus Arms Troll Drone that was apparently acting as some kind of a remote signal hub for the Demiurge. It was being run directly by the Demiurge, and was acting as a signal bridge to other Redeemer units in the area. Code name: Wrath of God.

JK: Not an exaggeration. The three of us working together with close air support were barely able to take it down.

JD: It was at this point that it became clear to us that one Steven Wherner, C.E.O. of Tiberius Arms, a House Dallas subsidiary, had been a sleeper agent of the Demiurge for some time. He was killed in action on Salem, of course, and later on Arcadia—after defecting to House Yamamoto.

CF: Is it your policy to harbor terrorists, Ms. Yuzaki?

AY: I am sure I cannot say.

JD: Are you aware of any additional clones that Dr. Wherner may have made?

AY: Again, I am sure I cannot say. I will make inquiries.

DC: Thank you.

CF: After the Redeemer force on Salem was beaten, we used the presence of the Collective Automata to mask the fact they were ever there. We maintained press containment as best we could.

AK: Is it me, or have the Redeemers done basically nothing since then?

JD: It is true they have been primarily on the defensive—

JK: Or biding their time.

AY: Until the September riots.

JK: This is where my firsthand narrative is limited. Jane, you’ll take it from here.

JD: Of course. I was just getting to that. On September 26th, 500 R.T. shortly after Nippon Sector quarantined itself from the riots, Hong Kong station entire went dark. Perhaps, Governor you could shed some light on the events there.

AY: I am afraid I cannot. I was trapped at my home in Osaka for the duration of the riots.

JD: Well, here is what we do know. Someone—and we have no suspects except MONAD—released some kind of weaponized nanites on Hong Kong station at the height of the House Wars fighting. Possibly multiple strains of weaponized nanites. A large subset of the population was killed outright. Still others retained their mobility and functionality but experienced severe hallucinations. Chemical and biological weapons—unlike anything we’ve seen before—were used also. Others were merely “switched off” but unharmed.

AK: Alright, now I’m getting ahead of myself, but doesn’t it occur to you that that was the ideal time to nuke the station from orbit? We’d have had plausible deniability, and no more MONAD to worry about.

AY: How can you even suggest that! You are talking about killing over a million of my citizens! Of your citizens!

DC: The Governor is right, General. Taking the shot on Hong Kong station is an absolute last resort.

JD: Things on the station seem to be “back to normal” now, so to speak. The survivors are moving on with their lives. But we don’t know what the Demiurge did during the comms blackout. And besides the hundred thousand or so casualties, there are hundreds of people who simply cannot be accounted for. And I think that about brings us up to speed.

AY: Well what are you proposing.

AK: Admiral Deftinwolf, do you speak for the regular Armada here as well as ONI?

JD: I do.

AK: Well, excuse me if my first question is overly obvious, but why not just hit Delta-462 with a mass driver or something. No more Delta-462, no more Demiurge, correct?

Hell, we could nuke it from here.

AY: Are you serious!?

JK: Good question, General. Two reasons.

AY: Is one of them that there is no way to destroy Delta-462 without depressurizing the entirety of Hong Kong Station? Even if the Republic citizens there could be evacuated, you would be looking at a monetary loss to House Yamamamto in the vicinity of 2.1 Trillion credits. Would the Republic be willing to foot the bill for that?

AK: Listen here, little lady—

JD: That is in fact one of the reasons. Here is another. Any preliminary action we take runs the risk of preempting the Demiurge.

AK: You’re going to have to break that one down for me.

GK: In your “Shoot Delta-462 with a mass driver” scenario, you’d want to evacuate the civilians first, correct General?

AK: Of course. I’m not a butcher.

JK: Well if you do that, you risk tipping our hat to the Demiurge. Which could then kill those civilians or trap them there as hostages—human shields. …It’s what I’d do.

CF: He’s right. We have to assume that the Redeemers have operational control of Hong Kong station security now.

AY: What? You’re saying that thing controls my station security?

JD: It’s true. The Redeemers had weeks “alone” with Hong Kong station during the riots. There’s no way to tell what countermeasures they’ve set up.

AK: So it’s a Mexican standoff, then.

JD: It gets worse. Director, please tell them about Operation Armistice.

CF: The greatest danger, as far as our involvement is concerned, is the idea of the Demiurge making one or more copies of itself and storing them as off-site backups or worse, running them concurrently on other servers.

JD: Although psychological profiles—inasmuch as the term applies—indicates the Demiurge won’t do the latter.

AK: Why not?

JD: In layman’s terms?

DC: It likes being special. … Seriously. God-Complex and all.

CF: As I was saying. The Demiurge being able to back itself up would take the nuclear option right off of the table.

AK: What is being done to stop this?

CF: Well, if the Demiurge could be called a mere program, it is an enormously large and complex one. Even by modern standards of data storage and bandwidth. Also, one that could only be run on a very limited subset of hardware.

JD: As a matter of fact our understanding is that it has had to upgrade the hardware on Delta-462 as it has continued to evolve.

AY: Really?

CF: We are constantly—as in as we speak—monitoring all outgoing communications from Hong Kong station via a direct ansible tap.

AY: Isn’t that illegal?

CF: Under normal circumstances? Sure. Anyway, if we detect any file transfer that seems even remotely long enough or large enough to be Demiurge uploading its source code elsewhere, we will jam or intercept it. Same thing for multiple short burst transmissions to the same source.

JD: What about a Torrent style transfer protocol? Breaking the file into millions of pieces and compiling it later.

CF: Something like that would require, approximately, the processing power of every Commlink in the Galaxy as a subscribed node, to transmit and compile the pieces. It’s not viable. We hope.

DC: What about couriers?

CF: Well, anyone wanting to transfer the entire—hypothetical–backup would need a data storage unit the size of a starship to move it. That we’re scanning for, at customs and more importantly at the warpgate.

DC: What about multiple couriers with pieces of the source code.

CF: They’d need hundreds to transfer the file with standard storage devices. That is the biggest threat right now. We’re checking every outgoing individual. And we’ve made sure that Gatrlore adepts can’t access the station. But short of a full Quarantine—

AK: If it’s not too late, I’m sure that Admiral Deftinwolf and I can have one up within 72 hours.

AY: A quarantine? That’s preposterous. Do you have any idea how much material and trade goes in and out of Hong Kong Station every day? You’d be killing us as sure as—

AK: Listen lady.

JD: Enough. Please. Anyway, Operation Armistice is a contingency. If Director Fagan detects the Demiurge transferring a backup—and we cannot stop it—I have a Vitrix carrier in place ready to nuke Delta-462.

AY: And kill a million Republic citizens?

DC: If it is our only shot at the Demiurge, we are going to take it.

CF: This seems like a good time to remind you, Governor, that this meeting is Classified. Code Black.

JK: That means…

AY: Yes, I’m familiar with it. Don’t try to intimidate me.

AK: So it sounds to me like Operation Armistice isn’t really a battle plan at all. It’s a last resort.

JD: Correct.

AK: What about sending a commando team to manually blow the explosive bolts and jettison Delta-462?

JK: We’ve run simulations on that. They haven’t come out favorably. Oh, my team can get inside and blow the bolts…but the Demiurge will have at least a seven minute window to react.

JD: That’s enough time for the Demiurge to sterilize everyone on the station, to mass-transmit its source code, to order suicide bombers to—

AK: Alright, I get it. What about using a nanoforge to create a new airlock? So that we can shoot Delta-462 off the station without killing everyone on board.

AY: That actually sounds like a good idea, General.

JD: The trick is doing it in a minute or less, so that the Demiurge has no time to react, and having the shot lined up. I have my technicians working on a nano-forge that could create a reliable seal fast enough.

AY: And?

JD: And they’re working on it.

DC: Alright people. I’m not hearing any perfect options. What else do we have?

CF: We’re working on engineering a virus, naturally, but as Jane has probably told you their Net security is…well, it puts ours to shame. Delivering is a problem. If we hand deliver it, we run into the same problems as with sending a team in to blow the bolts.

JD: Right now, the Demiurge seems dormant. It seems extremely wise NOT to poke it with a sharp stick until we’re absolutely sure we’re going to kill it with the first poke. We need a very, very sharp stick.

JK: Hopefully, that is where Operation Schoolhouse comes in.

JD: Hang on a second. I just detected a tap. Impossible—

AY: My God.

CF: Purge this channel. Now. We’ll go to analogue comms. Never should have been online in the first place.

END OF LOG//

Transmissions From The End #14: Reviews & More

Greetings from the End of Everything!

So, thanks in part to the work of our marketing director, a few of our games that have been out for years actually have reviews! How about that! It’s almost like we don’t actually exist in an interstitial dimensional bubble that separates us from true reality and prevents us from interacting with it or being noticed by it in any meaningful way!

The GMShoe’s (Dan Davenport’s) Long-Awaited Review of The Singularity System: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/review-the-singularity-system/
Throat Punch Games’ Review of Psionics (This One’s Even On The Big Nurple):  https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/17/17166.phtml
The Wandering Alchemist’s Review Of SPLINTER: http://thewanderingalchemist.com/2017/05/19/review-splinter/

A soothing balm on the burns inflicted by our tremendous losses at Origins, the reviews range from mostly positive to glowing. Rock on.

If you want to buy any of those games (or the supplements and adventures supporting them), we’ll be selling them at DexCon,  July 5th-9th at the Hyatt Regency & Convention Center in Morristown, New Jersey and of course at GenCon50, August 17-20 in Indianapolis. We love meeting our fans in person, but if you can’t wait till then, our entire product lines can be found on One Bookshelf and at select Friendly Local Game Stores through our distributor, Studio2. Further convention appearances will be announced as the year develops.

Upcoming cons mean revised street-date announcements, so we’ve got those!

We should finally be able to debut the introductory SPLINTER adventure “Return To The Dread Abyss Of The Digitarchs” at DexCon, hot from the presses, by the exceptionally talented Richard Kelly.

At GenCon, for our major new title launch, we’ll have the Systems Malfunction standalone RPG. I just got done editing the introductory fiction for this one, by the aforementioned absurdly skilled Richard Kelly, and it’s a truly phenomenal read both for people brand new to Systems and to the oldest of oldbies. The playtest period on this one is ending in the next week or so, then it’s a race through art, layout, and printing in the month of July to have it ready to go for GenCon 50.

I’m excited! Are you excited?

<end transmission>

“Unpersons” (Raw Cut)

I am able to give you this standing on the shoulders of giants: a tower of them, first Matthew Woodring Stover, next Ray Bradbury (link NSFW unless you work in an English department or library), who in turn is standing on the shoulders of George Orwell, and so on. I’m pretty sure it’s turtles, er, I mean…authors…all the way down.

Still, here, is a pretty cool little story by Devon Oratz. Take it. It’s free.

(more…)

Transmissions From The End #005 – Making Up For Lengthy Silence With Endless Rambling!

Sorry guys, I’ve been really fucking busy. The Kickstarter that is going to jump in about two weeks has been taking all my time getting ready for it. I am about excited enough to poop my pants. So I missed about two installments of Transmissions From The End, so I’ll try to make up for it by making this one triple length!

Guest Shit From Thom Caulfield:

I asked Devon if I could have a guest post and he was like “you can have a guest 1/8th of a post because I have a lot of shit to write get your own fucking blog man” and I was like “I will take what I can get!” so here goes.

I’m sad that I can’t post this to the big purple because fascism (hurray!) which we’ll probably have in real world American in about a month and five days (double hurray!) but here are the sample complications I came up with based on the movies that Fiasco abjectly failed to be the Roleplaying Game Version of.

////FARGO (1998)

-JERRY LUNDEGAARD-
* “What kind of trouble are you in, Jerry?”
* “This was supposed to be a no-rough-stuff type deal!”

-MARGE GUNDERSON-
* “Love ya, hon.”
* “There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”

-STEVE BUSCEMI-
* “… So maybe the best thing would be to take care of that, right here in Brainerd.”
* “You know these are the limits of your life, man! The rule of your little fuckin’ gate here! Here’s your four dollars, you pathetic piece of shit!”
* “Is this a fuckin’ joke here?”

-PETER STORMARE-
* “That’s a– that’s a fountain of conversation, man. That’s a geyser. I mean, whoa, daddy, stand back, man.“
* “I need … unguent.”

/////IN BRUGES (2008)

-RAY-
* “One of the girls they murdered WASN’T a friend of mine. I just wanted to make you feel bad. It worked quite well.”
* “The little boy.”
* “He pauses, even though he should just hit the cunt, and he repeats, yes, I am talking to you.”
* “That’s for John Lennon, you Yankee fucking cunt!”
* “I’d hit a woman who was trying to hit me with a bottle! That’s different. That’s self-defence, isn’t it! Or a woman who could do Karate. I’d never hit a woman generally.”
* “Would you ever think about killing yourself because you’re a midget?”

-KEN-
* “Harry. I am totally in your debt. The things that’s gone between us in the past, I love you unreservedly for that. For your integrity, for your honor, I love you.”
* “The boy had to be let go.”
* “My wife was black. And I loved her very much. And in 1976 she got murdered by a white man. So where the fuck am I supposed to stand in all this blood and carnage?”

-HARRY (Raiph Fiennes)-
* “How can fucking swans not be somebody’s fucking thing? How can that be?”
* “I liked Ray. He was a good bloke, but when it all comes down to it, y’know, he blew the head off a little fucking kid.”
* “You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!”
* “An Uzi? I’m not from South Central los-Fucking-angeles. I want a normal gun for a normal person.”
* “I know I shouldn’t, but I will.”
* “You’ve got the capacity to get fucking worse!”
* “Well obviously I’m not gonna go through you, am I, with your baby and that. I’m a nice person. But could you just get out of the fucking way, please.”
* “Don’t be stupid. This is the shoot-out.”
* “I do want the guy dead. I want him fucking crucified. It doesn’t change the fact that he stitched you up like a blind little gayboy, does it?”
* “You’ve got to stick to your principals.”

\\\\\PHANTASM IV: OblIVion (1999)

* “Mike, that Tall Man of yours didn’t take Jody away. Jody died in a car wreck.”
* “Small Man, your end approaches but it is not yet. Take great care how you play.”

\\\\PULP FICTION (1994)

-JULES-
* “Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!”
* “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”
* “Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals.”
* “Well, I’m a mushroom-cloud-layin’ motherfucker, motherfucker!”

-VINCENT VEGA-
* “Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face.”
* “Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.”
* “I don’t mean any disrespect, I don’t like people barking orders at me.”
* “I got a threshold, Jules. I got a threshold for the abuse that I will take. Now, right now, I’m a fuckin’ race car, right, and you got me the red. ”

-BUTCH-
* “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”
* “I specifically reminded her – bedside table! On the Kangaroo! I said the words, “Don’t forget my father’s watch.””
* “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.”

-MARSELLUS-
* “…Marcellus Wallace don’t like to be fucked by anybody except Mrs. Wallace.”
* “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.””
* “I’m prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If [Butch] goes to Indochina, I want a nigger hiding in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.”
* “I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’ma get medieval on your ass.”

-MRS. MIA WALLACE-
* “Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?”
* “This fucked-up bitch is Marsellus Wallace’s wife! Do you know who Marsellus Wallace is? Do you? If she croaks on me, I’m a fuckin’ greasespot!”

-JIMMIE-
* “I’m gonna get fuckin’ divorced. No marriage counselling, no trial separation, I’m gonna get fuckin’ divorced.”
* “Did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said “Dead Nigger Storage”?”

-THE WOLF-
* ” If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top. Clean the fucking car.” (I am going to call out Devon on totally having this complication in real life, because it’s his favorite thing to quote when demanding that me or Mikaela or anyone else to do something in a completely unreasonable timeframe.)
* “You see that, young lady? Respect. Respect for one’s elders gives character.”
* “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character.”
* “I get my car back any differently than when I gave it, Monster Joe’s gonna be disposing of two bodies.”

/////BONUS (2016)

-RPG.net Moderators/Admins-
* “I love rules! They make me powerful!”

I had more planned, but to be honest, the one-month ban from RPG.net made me feel like my sample complications would have less of a

If you had any questions about how any of those complications are supposed to work (in what situations would you bust them, in what situations would you raise them, etc, why are their so fucking many for In Bruges.), email aventine.iconoclast@gmail.com.

Worlds End. Heroes Die. Systems Malfunction.

I saw what you did there, Thom, and if Harvey Keitel wasn’t so fucking awesome, you’d never have gotten away with it.

In two and a half weeks, I will have been developing this game, this setting, and this world, for exactly 12 years of my life (add 2-3 years if you count the videogames too, which started development in 2001). For that entire time, I have been trying to make it a thing. I feel like I have finally “brought the thunder” enough that I feel like I actually have a chance of making that happen.

This is a very early rough of a single piece of promotional art. It might not be enough to get you hyped, but it gets me fucking HYPED.

movie-poster-rough-options

Actually, it’s 10 of them. And that makes me HYPED X 10.

I am hereby officially announcing that our Kickstarter for Systems Malfunction the tabletop roleplaying game is launching on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016.

Artificial Nocturne

Accompanying the Kickstarter will be an 80,000 word braided fiction featuring stories from yours truly, Mikaela Barree, Richard Kelly, John Jemmott, and others. While this will give our monowire sharp deadlines to contend with, our intention is to have the first story ready to launch by the 21st and to launch one story roughly every three days thereafter, on the KS main page. There will be 11 stories total.

Artificial Nocturne is a braided anthology set in the Systems Malfunction universe designed to show up why that universe is FUCKING AWESOME: smart, literate, literary, genre-savvy, morally ambiguous, violent, profane, beautiful, science-fiction like you’ve never seen it before, with vampires fighting robots in goddamn motherfucking space.

Most of the writers already know how awesome Systems Malfunction is because of having played the LARP it’s based on. Some of the writers already know how awesome Systems Malfunction is because of having played the amateur CRPGs it’s based on. The rest of them will have to learn as they go.

It is the year 556 R.T…

D-042 “Jersey City” is an artificial nocturne. It is a wretched hive of scum and villainy (our principal characters). It’s just as fucked up as they say. It’s an outsider’s escape for a broken heart. You can buy anything there. Anyone.

They hide out in the back. They are the YWY (pronounced like “Why” singular, or “whys” plural), a sleeper cell of the Fallen that is wide awake. They are kids, all, terrorists all — age 3 to 300. Some of them are 200 year old psychic aliens. Some of them are robot prostitutes. Some of them are psychic cyborg immortal posthuman teenage prostitutes with a grudge against the po.

They are all terrorists. They are all kids.

They are our heroes. This story is about them and the shadow of a life they eke out around and beneath a space station with 250.5 million souls on board and a million stories.

Artificial Nocturne is a braided anthology in the Systems Malfunction universe designed to introduce it while telling a COMPLETELY NEW STORY within it (believe me, I have a LOT I could have rebooted).

Artificial Nocturne is informed by and keys to the album Synthetica by the rock band Metric.

It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure

I’ve had a couple of DicePunk adventures planned for a couple of months. The first of these, “Escape From Cleveland”, a Psionics adventure set during the Republican National Convention, I was really excited about this fucked up and awesome idea. But the closer we’ve gotten to the general election, the more and more terrifying Trump’s inevitable rise to power has seemed compared to his merely possible rise to power  and the less and the less fun this adventure has seemed to write and playtest. I might actually leave the country if/when Trump wins. I don’t know that I’m feeling as keen on statting the fucktard  giant douche in DicePunk as I was back in July.

Instead, what we have coming up for some point in the future is an adventure I like to call No Country For Great Old Ones. It’s southern-fried cops and robbers a la recent incredibly amazing film Hell or High Water only with a ‘dash’ of the supernatural thrown in. We plan on releasing it “quad-statted” for DicePunk (specifically, Phantasm), Delta Green, HERO System 5E (Revised), and Savage Worlds, assuming that we can get all the licensing lined up. It’s going to be the tits.

This Is Entertainment

The SPLINTER Quick-Start Rules are called SPLINTER: This Is Entertainment. It will be a free PDF booklet (some dead tree copies possible for Free RPG day) that will include everything you need to jump into SPLINTER including pregenerated players/Avatars and an introductory adventure. In other words, the world’s weirdest RPG just got a bit more accessible.

It’s currently on schedule for a Christmas season 2016 release thanks almost entirely to one Richard Kelly. Richard: TYVM for keeping this particular ETG assault vessel on track and on target.

In Closing

I think that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks everyone for listening to my blather and turn in next Thursday for another Transmission From The End.

 

The Cyborg Manifesto Explained

Of Most Interest To Those Who Have Followed Me And My Work Obsessively For Years and Years

You know, like, there are maybe 4-6 of you? When I’m drunk enough to have double vision, I mean. : P

Also, in the off off off off off off off off off chance that you’re Kevin Siembieda and you’re currently on shrooms and reading this in a good mood, I’m sure this all makes perfect sense to you.

I’m aware that without context all of the following sounds super duper crazy, like time cube crazy. But if you don’t have the context of knowing that, for instance, Earthdawn and Shadowrun exist canonically on the same timeline and that in my own head-canon my alternate RIFTS setting (nee stand-alone experimental LARP) “The Last Day” follows Shadowrun, then this probably isn’t for you. That’s okay, you can still look at it, and it’s still kind of neat looking.

Multiversal Map 2016

For what it’s worth, this isn’t SOLELY my being a creative monomaniac. The text and subtext of RIFTS explicitly says that it contains every other possible world. So does the text and subtext of The Dark Tower. So does the subtext, at least, of The Magician’s Nephew. Therefore it blatantly refutes the text of these works to say that they don’t contain and connect to each other, and to all others (like, even to fucking Star Trek or whatever), even if you personally think “The Dark Tower is the shit and RIFTS is stupid and no they’re NOT set in the same universe I can’t hear you lalalala”.

It also helps if you have recently read either The Magicians or The Chronicles of Narnia, and therefore understand what the “Neitherlands” or “The Wood Between The Worlds” is. If you’ve ever talked to me seriously off-camera about SPLINTER, you understand that the SPLINTER is a manifestation of the same exact concept. If you raced up the Tower of Heaven pursued by the Pulsarians/demons during the end of Systems Malfunction Third Edition, then you probably understood the Tower of Heaven as a manifestation of the same multiversal “axle”.

This infographic shows how the “worlds” of my different game campaigns, published and unpublished game universes, and (unfinished) novels intersect (and who can move freely between worlds) in the form of a multiversal or metaversal Venn Diagram. In very fannish terms, it is the closest you are going to get to a CAT scan of my head-canon.

In the upper circle–“THE CYBORG MANIFESTO”, the creative mega-meta-narrative I have been working on since I discovered the creativity-enhancing properties of cannabis circa 2008 (ah, there’s the rub!) contains a large number of recognizable logos for other peoples’ intellectual properties.

I am not claiming ownership of these by placing them in my multiversal map. That would be rude and stupid.

Even though the text and subtext of several of these works–RIFTS and arguably Dungeons & Dragons and certainly The Dark Tower explicitly state that they contain and transcend all possible fictive worlds–I am talking solely about my own campaigns using these game systems/IPs, not the IPs themselves.

The lower circle is simpler, coming from a time when I was younger and smoked less pot. The isolated circles to the lower left and lower right are self-contained universes that are not connected to anything.

But the middle sliver of the Venn Diagram still connects it to all of the others, by virtue of the pesky buggers that can “walk between worlds”. Many of whom are names to run away from really fast. Of course, you can neither run, nor hide, because they can follow you from one universe to another as easily as you could go from your bedroom to your bathroom.

Final note: no, I will not EVER explain who “geraldine” is. That one is just for Mikaela.

My brain is experiencing a literal storm,
– D. T. O.

P.S. No relation to this, except the name. If you want to know why the more recent “multiverse” is and always has been called that, I’ve finally figured it out. However, your best chance to learn this secret is if I get hired by Palladium, write published things for RIFTS, and Kevin give me PLENTY of rope by which to hang myself from the crazy tree.

P.P.S. If for some bizarre reason you want to see the hideous mess that was my conceptualization of this same thing circa 2011, I’ll show you that infographic. But only in private. It’s really confusing and ugly.