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Topics - Francis Buck

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I think this project is interesting enough to warrant its own thread.

TRAILER
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2enbYOMtR4I

So just this week, FromSoftware (Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro) announced their largest project to date -- an open world action RPG in a brand new 'high fantasy', with story and worldbuilding being co-created by Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R.R. Martin.

If you're totally and completely unfamiliar with the FromSoftware's more recent trend of titles (starting with Demon's Souls and then going through the Dark Souls trilogy, along with the masterpiece fusion of dark Victorian/Lovecraftian cosmic horror Bloodborne, and most recently the Edo Japan set action game Sekiro), then this may not mean much to you -- but now (or whenever this game comes out) might be the time to give the developer's next entry a shot.

Miyazaki is already a proven master worldbuilder and creator of dark, epic fantasy settings and lore -- the Dark Souls games mythos, as well as Bloodborne, contain what is genuinely the best 'serious' dark fantasy worldbuilding, lore, mythology -- from gods and monsters to articles of clothing and weapons -- that I have ever played personally, and is literally the only stuff I can think of that I'd actually say is able to rub shoulders with the great epic fantasy worlds of literature (the works of Tolkien, GRRM, RSB, etc.).

So perhaps it's not SUPER suprising that when Miyazaki reached out to G.R.R.M for a little help on creating the vast new world and setting for Elden Ring, G.R.R.M. accepted it. You don't even need to have played Miyazaki's games -- simply read some stuff online, or watch any of the countless 'lore' videos online -- to get an idea for just how special the worlds he creates already are. Few games have the sense truly being in a world that was old long before you ever got there, and which -- similarly in many ways to unravelling the metaphysics or backstory of TSA -- are always experiences that treat the player like an intelligent adult, where the more effort you put into solving the riddle of some mysterious ruined fortress (and usually a complex and tragic tale for whatever eldritch abomination likely dwells in it) or dungeon, the more one is rewarded with layers upon layers of history, complex yet original mythology, and some of the coolest and creepiest characters and settings you're likely ever to come across.

If you're interested and want to learn more, there's a solid interview with Miyazaki here:
https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2019/06/09/hidetaka-miyazaki-and-george-rr-martin-present-elden-ring/
Quote
Regarding the collaboration with George R. R. Martin, can you further explain how this collaboration came about and in what role it has served throughout the project?

Miyazaki: I suppose the start of this collaboration came from the fact that I myself am I huge fan of Mr. Martin’s work.

I loved “A Song of Ice and Fire” as well as the “Tuf Voyaging” series, however if I had to pick a favorite I would probably say “Fevre Dream.”

I personally see “Fevre Dream” as a masterpiece among vampire fantasy and had even previously recommended it to all new employees.

Me being such a known fan of Mr. Martin caused our executive business director Eiichi Nakajima to reach out to him with the expectation that we would get turned down.

However, we were then given the rare opportunity to talk one-on-one with Mr. Martin which was an incredibly fun and stimulating experience. It was then that I strongly felt that I wanted to work with Mr. Martin.

I am still unable to put into words how grateful I am to Mr. Martin for agreeing to our offer.

The actual collaboration itself begun with Mr. Martin ever so politely confirming what sorts of themes, ideas as well as many game-related aspects I had envisioned for the game.

This allowed us to have many free and creative conversations regarding the game, in which Mr. Martin later used as a base to write the overarching mythos for the game world itself.

This mythos proved to be full of interesting characters and drama along with a plethora of mystical and mysterious elements as well. It was a wonderful source of stimulus for me and the development staff.

Elden Ring’s world was constructed using this mythos and stimulus as a base. Even I myself find it hard to contain my excitement from time to time. We hope that everyone else is looking forward to the world we have created.

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General Misc. / DUNE movie cast revealed
« on: February 15, 2019, 12:36:52 am »
Put your stillsuits on baby because this movie is gonna be HOT.

Slated for release in 2020, the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert's 'Dune' is being directed by Canadian master Denis Villeneuve (whose impeccable track record includes Bladerunner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners, and Enemy). Word is that the film will be a two parter, and actually follows the story of Paul Muad'dib from both the first book and its follow-up, Dune Messiah.

The casting revealed so far is:

Timothee Chalamet as Paul

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica

Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto (in talks)

Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck

Zendaya as Chani (in talks)

Stellan Skarsgaard as Baron Harkonnen

Dave Bautista as Rabban

Javier Bardem as Stilgar (in talks)

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho (in talks)

Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother

Assuming those still in negotiation go through, this is a pretty great cast for the movie in my opinion, and there are still a few big characters to go, including Feyd-Rautha and Duncan Idaho.

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So after going for a minimum of three years spent reading primarily non-fiction with maybe 5 fictional works (including TGO and TUC), specifically material that was completely new to me, I decided that needed some fixing. Around the end of summer and up to this moment, taking recommendations from various people and sources, I've read roughly 8 books, all them recent or on-going fantasy. I specifically looked out for whichever books were the most unanimously considered the best of the bunch and went after them. I was not particularly impressed with any of them, in that none seemed to really stand out from the genre enough to actually rub shoulders with the greats (and it would be disingenuous of me not to say that my own personal standards of "great" may not align with others, and if anything my standards are probably a bit too high). This changed very abruptly when, less than a week ago, I finally got around to reading "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" by Seth Dickinson.

And it totally blew me away. I immediately bought and read the sequel, "The Monster Baru Cormorant" (which did know existed until finishing the first book and seeing an excerpt for the sequel at the end).

For a generic non-spoilery synopsis, here is Amazon's description:

Quote
In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

This series closest comparison by far is probably stuff by K.J. Parker -- it is "hard fantasy", with virtually no apparent supernatural elements, although there's still a sprinkling of speculative-fiction ideas. I think it could fairly be called "science-fantasy". The plot is definitely heavy on the court-intrigue side of things, but make no mistake, there is some spectacular action sequences in both books.

I call this a "must read" because it's so topical, dealing heavily and deftly with themes of gender, race, and sexuality, all the way up to politics, economics, philosophy, spycraft, brainwashing, and more that I can't bring to mind.

The prose is very strong, with not in-frequent spikes of greatness and some serious quotability. The dialogue is whip-cracking superb and there's a lot of humorous touches all over, which help alleviate the sometimes extremely dark and disturbing subject material.

And the characterization is just plain superb. The titular Baru Cormorant is utterly distinct from anything I've seen in the genre, using her genius at accounting (among other talents) to win battles instead of a sword -- though there are plenty of other characters who to satisfy that craving. Baru herself is just captivating to inhabit, feeling at once like an extraordinary individual that is also fully human. Her sheer unpredictability is mesmerizing, particularly as the stakes continue climbing up, and up, and up...

But ultimately, man, these series is fucking SMART. It's smarter than you think it is, even after you've realized it.

I really can't sing this series's praises enough. It is quite easily the best new work of fantasy I'm aware of, and there are still (I believe) two more books yet to come. However I would not let its incompleteness dissuade you -- these books are at once deeply interconnected while also having strong resolutions in and of themselves. I felt totally satisfied (and totally floored) by the ending of the first book before even realizing this was a series at all.

It's also something I'd very much like to hear the reactions to from fans The Second Apocalypse, particularly on how it deals with things like gender and sexuality (although there are a number of other small similarities to TSA).

The author himself wrote a sort of essay on his goals with the series, which I would NOT suggest reading in its entirety (the author gives several "spoiler warnings" as the essay goes on), unless you don't mind any spoilers whatsoever, or if you're just interested in hearing more about the series from the guy who wrote it. The post can be found here: https://www.sethdickinson.com/2015/11/24/the-secret-design-of-the-traitor-baru-cormorant/

That being said, I did want to include one snippet from it which I think is very informative about a particular aspect of this series, and which I find an interesting juxtaposition to how other "grounded" and/or comparatively realistic fantasy series (including TSA) have handled the issue:

Quote
For the past several years the Internet has been having a conversation about who’s allowed to be the protagonist of our stories. In some stories, the argument goes, it is ‘unrealistic’ for certain types of people to star — because they’d face too much oppression to act as an interesting character. Women in a generic medieval setting, for example, might be too confined to the roles of ‘housewife’ and ‘prostitute’. Non-white people might be seen as alien, or simply absent, erased from the demographics. Queer people never appear (since many writers don’t do enough research on the relatively recent construction of modern gender) or face brutal punishment.

These arguments don’t work out factually. They’re historically inaccurate, and moreover, historical accuracy isn’t always what we aim for.

But I wanted to say, okay, let’s say you have a world which is an absolute hellhole for those who aren’t part of the narrow power majority. You can still write a protagonist from the bottom of the power structure, stack the deck against her, and make her compelling! You have the power! You’re closing your eyes to great stories you could tell.


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Philosophy & Science / Peter Watts: Conscious Ants & Human Hives (video)
« on: December 10, 2018, 11:24:52 pm »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4uwaw_5Q3I&feature=share


This a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in consciousness, future technology, etc.

Awesome talk done by marine biologist-turned-science fiction author Peter Watts, best known for Blindsight and short stories such as The Things (both of which are available online for free, along with several other of his novels and numerous shorts - links below for the uninitiated). Some of it -- maybe a lot of it -- will be old hat for a few of you, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to find another example that squeezes so much mind-blowing (possibly soul-shattering) ideas on consciousness, hiveminds, technology, and the scarily not-too-distant-future of just one little way it might all come crashing together, all in one 45 minute video.

There were several scientific papers/studies/experiments referenced here that caused me to immediately google and save them for later reading just because they were so fascinating/horrifying (admittedly, one of them in particular is the only instance I've seen that takes a serious look at what's probably the most conspiracy-theory whack-jobbish of my own pet theory/opinions on the potential ubiquity of consciousness - confirmation bias achieved!).

If you're interested in some of the stuff RSB talks about on his blog but have trouble with the accessibility of it (or lack-there-of, at least for one such as myself), this treads some very similar ground and is much more digestible -- even if a lot the actual ideas themselves remain firmly counterintuitive and outlandish (and all the more wonderful/troubling for it, given that the scientific evidence backing the main concepts at hand).

As mentioned, some links to Watts' hard-as-nails, ultra grimdark science fiction:

Blindsight - https://rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm

The Things - http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

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Writing / With Teeth by Francis Buck (TSA short fanfic)
« on: November 11, 2018, 09:54:07 pm »
So I wrote a thing. I have more planned but probably won't ever get to it. Either way, here is the thing.

-----------------------------------
w i t h
T E E T H



I can enchant the trees and rocks, and fill
The dumb brown lips of earth with mystery,
Make them reveal or hide the god.    I breathe
A deeper pity than all love, myself
Mother of all, but without hands to heal,
Too vast and vague—they know me not!    But yet
I am the heartbreak over fallen things,
The sudden gentleness that stays the blow;
And I am in the kiss that warriors give
Halting in battle, and in the tears that fall

–Ancient Celtic poem


   Her earliest memory is of the Green.
   She's not sure when that became the name for it, as the notion for her encompassed not just the color itself, along with every hue that cannot be called blue or yellow, but also some greater entity. There were countless, seemingly infinite facets of the memory when she explored it, yet ultimately each detail was but a sum of its parts. Everything was part of the Green, in the end. Or in the beginning. There is no difference between the two. 
   By virtue of some hidden utility in her intellect, she was capable of recalling this one memory with perfect clarity – like awakening from a slumber it was indistinguishable with death. The memory was was only a moment – not quite frozen in time so much as one that looped at some elusive interval. Dreamlike, but only for the shattering experience of becoming Aware. But the feeling, the passion...sensations more vivid than any moment in her waking life ever was.
   Home.
   The perception of vaulting heights and a cloistered, swaddling nest of life. The lukewarm embrace of neverending twilight, and even while the Sun burned steadfast above, its life-giving abundance could not fully break way through the floral aegis.
Fern leaves rustled gently all around, wide and heavy, dark with a gluttony for starlight. The looming redwood trees, altogether mighty as any god, stretched their innumerable arms far above, yet for all their ancient, long brewing power, could only graze the sunbeams. The true contest lay in the lower canopy – that shadowy cathedral of twisting branches, where creatures of all variety leaped and flew and slithered and swam their way toward whatever cryptic motivations drove them.
   Few flowers bloomed beneath the darkness of that sacred shade. They were devious creatures, ceaselessly humming with the miscreant plots and schemes they contrived together, each of their tiny and beautiful heads thinking their alien thoughts, whispering to each other in a nameless tongue, individually bereft of a soul yet nonetheless forming a kind of crude, larval sentience. 
   The girl had not yet learned to walk when this memory occurred and so beneath the her feet and hands and knees she felt the musky detritus, laid as a blanket over rich velvet soil that was black as the void. It was soft and moist and forgiving beneath her infantile weight, but even then she could sense the vast expanse of the all-hungering earth that yawned below; an invisible embrace so gargantuan that it tugged at the very heavens, warping the cosmos as an impregnable boulder displaces the water of a stream – indeed, even the river of time itself felt the stubborn attractor of the Ground-Almighty.
   That same ground was her cradle, and surrounding her were the downy furred, gently breathing cushions of her siblings. A fleshy uncalloused paw lay across her shoulder. A cool, wet nose flared against her side – her brothers and sisters. Her foster family, her forest family.
   Nothing of that recollection was so vivid as the untouchable safety she felt there. The clearness of the memory had always been a sort of mystery to her, long into the feral days of her childhood. Eventually things fell into place, as they often do with age. This memory of the Green was but the first time she had glimpsed existence with another eye.

                                                   
----------

    Imagine the girl: skyclad, so pale as to be alabaster were it not darkened by the elements. she sprints upon all fours with uncanny ease. The world around her is a verdant blur and shadowy-black, dashing through the underbrush of the Forest, crashing across a puddle from the light rainfall earlier in the dawn, the water not yet drank up by the unquenchable thirst of the woodland earth. Still fresh and clean, glass beads exploding in miniature from the splash of her calloused hands and feet – the former wide-palmed and long fingered, the latter abnormally flexible, as though a new joint had formed at each sole, so that her toes and heel become sharply adjacent with every step before one muscular leg kicks out and backward, the propulsive foot snapping loose in the air and instantly drawn forward, exchanging the exact motion with the other limbe. 
    Flora snaps in her wake, the stems of flowers and spidery ferns lashing bare white flesh with bands of reddish-pink until she is bright and brindle-skinned. Black hair snakes in a wild mane trailing almost to her ankles, so long it seems almost a tail that whips and ripples according to the rhythmic lunges of her quadrupedal gait. Loping like a wolf, leaping like an ape. She is fleet. She is flight. She is wind, breath, as though somehow the animus – the very Thing-in-Itself – could actually be incarnated.
   Most of all, the girl was, of course, Aware.
   Razor-fine senses cast out to the very precipice of her mortal limits. Absorbing the Forest as an extension of herself...a soul-that-is-a-body-that-is-a-heart-this-is-a-place, and as such becomes a totality – whole, if only for a solitary instant in eternity – and all the more Holy for the girl's utter ignorance of such.
     In the five years that she has dwelt within the heady bosom of the Forest, only thrice has the girl fell briefly into the gaze of the frightful Giants, strange and lumbering creatures in her own eye, yet in truth were naught but bold but hopelessly foolish Men who dare range into the Woods of Wycitta, legendary for being so hoary, so vastly dense with darkness and, aye, haunted.
     The girl never once suspects, much less recognizes, these trespassers as her kin.
     The first thought for all three souls upon glimpsing her eluding them was that they'd stumbled across some unknown breed of Sranc, revolting for being so mannish...only to recall that no Son-of-Nin'janjin ever flees away from the presence of Men. Ultimately, it was the profound quality of gracefulness possessed by whatever manner of thing they'd seen that most affected them, and then infected them, as though the very trees of the Forest assailed, a tale to scare children crashing into reality, shocking for the immediacy and irrevocability. The whole of Creation capsized, where what was once Law a moment earlier became obsolete, and now all new Laws were erected, ones that made all things hostile. It was the same for all three of the Transgressors; Wycitta transformed about them, it seemed, paradoxically becoming more alive even though terror, suffering, futility, and most of all death now seemed to hang like a tangible net of thin hempen-rope cast upon the wood. The trees became cyclopean and eldritch deities, outrageously wise and unflinchingly merciless, the bushes and flowers into tangling and ensnaring, the canopy above utterly black and featureless save for the hint of shifting light, branches binding and winding into each other with mighty creaks and groaned monstrously, a sound too wet, too animal, and yet all of the chaos and madness inducing movements where as one thing, a vast, lunatic soul, ceaselessly weaving their bloody black tendril branches around their hearts – from within their hearts, even!
     All three had fled the Woods of Wycitta riven with the mostly finely distilled horror any had ever known. Each thought they just nearly reached the treeline, freedom – light, how it had never before seemed so precious a thing, yet each was brought screaming to the ground by hooking fangs and vice grip jaws. Great, hulking wolves, known to the lonely nearby folk as the Wyrgi set upon the Men with the fervor of the starved, ripping thick chunks of muscle and sinew from their legs, yanking long strips of flesh from arms with only scraps for hands. Wyrgi was an ancient word, perhaps one borne in this region, pregnant with a dreadful connotation of bottomless hunger and terrible wrath. So did the Wyrgi feast as only the Wolves or Wycitta can feast, and who love no flesh more than that of hard, courageous Men – the only Men who came into such a foreboding place – and yet all the same were they reduced to sobbing and twitching rags of viscera. The infamously savage wolves served as the gatekeepers of that elder woodland, and while the townfolk knew this much by mere instinct, none suspected just how literal their duty was. The Wyrgi were unnaturally vicious and cunning, even cruel, taking sport in the evisceration of their prey, knowing where to take from a body to deny them a quick demise, at times even in the way of bored cats, or the most ruthlessly patient of Scylvendi reapers. The girl came up and joined them in their sport.
     She was raised by the wolves, you see.       


 
Wolfmother! Wolfmother! The World is blight
Wolfmother, o how tears cloud our sight

Come bow before thy soul most bright
Be wife to Virgin-King of Lights
Rise as Queen of Witches and the Wight!

Wolfmother stirs, eager to the fight
Wolfmother grins, hungry for spite
Wolfmother roars with Jaws that are Night
Oblivion awaits within her bite

But lo! the Queen-of-Witches comes, and then the Wilder-Sprite
With cloak of scars, thieving us our Fright
With teeth like stars, devours all Delight



     

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https://www.sciencealert.com/huge-mystery-sarcophagus-unearthed-in-egypt-alexandria

"A Massive, Black Sarcophagus Has Been Unearthed in Egypt, And Nobody Knows Who's Inside"




Also they found the salted remains of Kellhus with it:



I think we members of the forum should step up and take our rightful place as the Mandate of the 21st century, just as Seswatha (or "R. Scott Bakker" as he goes by nowadays) always intended! Who's up for an on-foot slog to the arctic circle?

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The Unholy Consult / [TUC Spoilers] Esmenet the Angelic Ciphrang
« on: August 26, 2017, 04:13:20 am »
Been meaning to make this thread for a while now, but I was motivated to do so after catching Duskweaver's great thread on a similar topic, but I recommend you all read if you haven't already: http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=2402.0


I'll keep my hypothesis short and sweet...

Esmenet is a mighty Ciphrang. Like Cnaiur, who is a veritable Prince of Hell, so too is Esemenet a "Princess of Heaven", shall we say - and perhaps our only example of the elusive "angelic Ciphrang" which RSB mentioned in an interview years ago.

Consider:

-Mimara's JE can not only see the morality of a person but also their destiny and fate in the Outside.

-It's also capable of distinguishing between someone is merely damned (or saved), and someone who is actually one of the entities dishing out the damnation (or salvation).

-Note that when Mimara sees the Scalpers, or almost anyone that's damned up until TGO/TUC, she sees their souls being passed between demons in Hell and so forth.

-In contrast, when Mimara sees Cnaiur, and later the Ordealsmen at Golgotterath, she sees them as the demons, rather than one simply being fed upon by them. This is especially true in Cnaiur's case, who's not merely a Ciphrang but a so-called Prince of Hell, and again from an AMA/Q&A with the author, we know that certain people's souls are so strong they begin to "turn" early...perhaps when they're closer to their own death?

-As we also know, the Outside and all of its inhabitants exist atemporally. People don't so much become a Ciphrang, but rather some people always were a Ciphrang.

-This could also explain some of Cnaiur -- and now perhaps Esmenet's -- more extraordinary qualities. For example, Cnaiur's in his mid 60's by TUC, yet he's physically just as powerful as he always was, perhaps even more powerful, and in addition, he seems to have not aged almost whatsoever.

Compare with Esmenet, who should be in her fifties, yet is consistently described as being just as beautiful and healthy as she was 20 years ago. There's even a sequence in TGO where Esmenet actually sort of freaks out about it and wonders what kind of "abomination" would be so unnatural. It's even more poignant when you remember how the last Empress of the Three-Seas, Istriya, also had rather unnatural beauty for her age by the end, because she actually was was an abomination who had been replaced by a skin-spy.

Finally, it seems fitting that out of the original cast of series, we get two of them who end up on opposite ends of the moral and cosmic spectrum...

ETA: Thanks to Madness for grabbing this quote from the author:

Since only demonic (as opposed to angelic) Ciphrang can be summoned and trapped in the World, practitioners of the Daimos can never trust the reports they receive: the so-called Damnation Archives in the Scarlet Spires are rumoured to be filled with wild contradictions. The Damned themselves only know that they are damned, and never why.

8
The Unholy Consult / [TUC Spoilers] The Survivors
« on: July 10, 2017, 03:16:46 am »
Given the ambiguity of the ending, a surprisingly large number of the core cast may still be alive, in one form or another. On the other hand, virtually everyone could be dead. Since we are unlikely to get an answer to this whatsoever until the next book, I imagine there will be a lot of discussion on the possibilities.

In terms of who survived Golgotterath, I think there are some which are nearly guaranteed, at least as much as anything can be guaranteed in this series.

My own thoughts, after only a cursory re-reading of select scenes, is listed roughly from most to least likely:

(click to show/hide)


   

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