TV Tropes Monday: Tarot Motifs


Tweet of the Day:  You’re Allowed to Avoid the Frost Trolls

As of late I have been fascinated by the Tarot. It summons forth ideas about Destiny/Fate and that one can both know these things and perhaps control them. Because if you can ascertain you future you can also defied it. Flip the bird to forces that should be beyond your control. The very act of divination creates a sense of order out of the Unknown and makes it knowable if not controllable.

But a Tarot also creates a tapestry of ideas through a language that appears to be simple yet it subtly complex. In the Tarot things are not what they appear to be. Major Arcana (the trump cards) suggest immediate symbolism, like the Fool, Death or the Devil. Yet the Fool can be just that, a fool, by virtue of ignorance, yet also be the hero, by virtue of ignoring the very fact that he doesn’t know. He is the every man, who knows just enough to be a wise man but never enough to be a god. Death is an end, but that end is also change, sudden, dramatic, inevitable change, but not necessarily danger. That role tends to be fulfilled by several Swords in the Minor Arcana (numbers X and under). And the Devil? Again like Death, change, but also rebellion and freedom rather than evil.

And when you put the cards together they create a story, or at least the framing of one. Will the hero follow the path of Destiny or defy it? What if there was nothing in the tapestry until such time as the cards were laid down upon it? In other words, nothing was certain until the magic of the cards, or the belief of those participating in the reading made it so.

All very intriguing if you ask me.

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Mass Effect/AEC: Chapter 8 (c.3)-Gehenna



Tweet of the Day: American Horror Story

Gehenna Desert,  Libertas, Sphinx System, Argos Rho Cluster, Attican Traverse September 10, 2197

Miranda, Nyte and myself laid on our bellies atop an outcrop that overlooked the vast chalky expanse of the Gehenna Desert. It took seventy millions years to turn the caldera of a volcano the size of the western Mediterranean into a vast salty dead zone with temperatures at around sixty degrees Celsius. Luckily our hardsuits kept the heat and the salt at bay.

“So…married,” said Nyte over the comm.

“Yes, married,” deadpanned Miranda.

“I never expected The Viper to settle down,” said Nyte

“The Viper?” I asked

“That was her nickname when we worked for Cerberus.”

“Let me guess. It was because of her sharp and venomous tongue,” I said.

“Yes and yes, commander.”

Miranda jumped in, “Excuse me?”

“Well she has mellowed out a bit. She will only snap your head off you really earned it,” I said.

“I’ll have you know that-”

The Black Widow scope cut through the heat haze that shrouded the flat desert valley. “Inbound convoy from the north east at five clicks and closing.”

Nyte voice turned cold, “That must be our targets.”

The convoy kicked up clouds of white chalky salt.

“Fifteen vehicle convoy. Total of five technicals, one in the lead, second in the middle, third in the rear, with the last two riding the flanks. No air cover or additional vehicles.”

“As expected. Team One, stand by,” said Nyte.

I swung the scope over to a cluster of prefabs two kilometers away. Figures moved into position for the ambush.

“So what is the cargo?” I asked.

“Political prisoners enslaved via implanted control chips to be sold off world,” said Nyte matter-of-factly.

“Ten two-tons trucks as people carriers that makes for about one-hundred and eighty total,” I said.

“And that is just the first load, they will keep them on location until they have enough to ship off-world,” said Nyte.

“How many?” I asked through gritted teeth.

“Two to three more shipments,” Nyte said. The convoy pulled up to the cluster of of prefabs. “Team One, engage.” Missiles streaked down on to the lead, rear and flanking technicals. The explosions tore them apart. The drivers of the other vehicles panicked and tried to flee, some of foot others by ramming the burning wreckage. A hail of gunfire cut them down. “I want a casualty report,” ordered Nyte over the comm.

“All guards eliminated, a few wounded among the prisoners, no deaths. Applying medigel now,” came the response from Team One.

A sonic boom cracked above our heads. The Kowloon class freighter came in at a steep angle, circled low over the area and landed near the buildings. The loading ramp lowered and Team One drove the surviving trucks into the freighter. The freighter took off the moment the last truck cleared the ramp.

Nyte got up, “Time to go. There is someone I want you to meet, Commander.” She led the way back to the aircar.

Miranda and I looked at each other, shrugged, and followed her lead.

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TV Tropes Monday: Cyber Punk is Techno

Tweet of the Day: Lara’s Fall 


Cyber Punk is Techno, because if you want to convey the strident sour notes of a technological dystopia, nothing says that like electronic music. But this trope shows that all art is a product of its times. Cyberpunk is techno precisely because that was how the collective ID of the 80s saw the future. Back then the future was slick chrome and neon graphics (because that what was the computers at the time could produce with limited color palettes), synthesizers (because you could pick up a Yamaha keyboard for a couple of hundred bucks at Sears) and ultraviolence (a way to codify the madness of the Cold War).

Of course what once was new became normal, then trite and finally retro. And so it goes….

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TV Tropes: Love to Hate



Tweet of the Day: Stranger Things: A Dungeons & Dragons History Check

I sign of good writing is when a story contains one or more villains that we Love to Hate. A good villain is one that the audience relishes even as they despise them. But creating such a character is not easy. Make him to likable and the edge wears right off. There is also the idea that understanding a character serves to excuse their positions or behavior. The only way to make an interesting villain is to flesh him out, give him depth and history. Give her reasons for what she thinks and acts the way she does. Start small, a simple emotion, such as love, hate or fear and work your way from there.

So here is to all those villains we absolutely love to hate!

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TV Tropes Monday: Butterfly of Doom


Tweet of the Day: How to Create an Enduring Book Brand

As a plot device, time travel can be…tricky. It opens up a whole universe of ideas and also opens up a bin full of plot derailments. It is no surprise then that many a time travel plot includes the following caveat, “Don’t touch anything or you will doom us all!” also known as, the Butterfly of Doom. Simply put, step on the wrong crack while in the past and your particular timeline will die. Of course, like many plot tropes, this one also serves a plot cloth for you to spin a few tales from, specially if your tapestry is made off of “what if?” style alternate history ideas. Said butterfly turns into the fulcrum of that change into the new timeline where dinosaurs take on Martians and Hitler dances in springtime.

I for one prefer the latter to the former. I am always weary of fix it tropes, the ones invoked when the author punted their plot into the stratosphere and is now trying desperately to wrangle it back into shape.

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Genre in a Shoebox



Tweet of the Day: Bustin’ Makes Boys Feel Sad- Why Ghostbusters is So Hated 

As I delved deep insight a dwemer (dwarves in The Elder Scrolls games) ruin in Skyrim, I remember how much I loved exploring the halls full of steam pipes, robots and weird techo-magical devices. Which is weird because the game I finished before that one, Dragon Age: Inquisition (the fourth installment in the Dragon Age series of video games) gave me a completely different vibe when I visited Val Royeaux and everything there clashed with my middle ages vision of the world of Thedas, from the dresses right out of an Elizabethan theater (Elizabeth I that is), to some contraptions that would not look out of place in the Victorian era.  Why am I comfortable with the former but find the latter hard to accept?

It is because genre in media is a double edge sword.

For the consumer and the critic, genres help classify, clarify and catalog the media they consume. It is much easier to search for new things to consume based on our previous likes. Just ask Nextflix, or Amazon, or Google, or any other search algorithm/engine. It also tempers our expectations about the media we consume. Science fiction means things like lasers, space travel, psychic powers. Romance means chance encounters in parties, long glances across short distances and characters that simply can’t spit it out (when it comes to feelings, everything else depends on the “heat” level of the story).

But for authors genre can be a straight jacket, inhibiting their imaginations, constricting the possibilities of the plot and shrinking their settings. nf if you stick to genre conventions you risk being seen as someone who merely paints by numbers. So how do you breakout of genre conventions? It is all about foundations. Going back to the example above, I first met the steampunk loving dwarves in Morrowind, they were part of a very weird setting, with dark elves that rode giant floating bugs/crustaceans, lived in homes inspired by sea conchs and whose wizard grew giant hollowed mushrooms which they navigated through levitation spells. The universe of the Elder Scrolls was nothing like what I experience in other fantasy themed stories and therefore my suspension of disbelief did not suffer in the slightest when I plunged into those abandoned ruins. My introduction to Thedas (the setting for Dragon Age) was quite different. While it skewed some genre conventions established by Tolkien, it still showed Bioware’s deep roots in Dungeon & Dragons. It looked, sounded and felt like D&D with as many references to 12th-14th century England as they creators could cram into a single disk. When confronted with their version of fantasy France that looked like something out of the 17th century I half expected the Musketeers to ride past chased by troops loyal to the Cardinal. This did not make Inquisition a bad game, but the clash was there none the less.

Audiences will break out of the genre shoebox if given a fair chance. It is all about the setup.

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TV Tropes Monday: Earth That Used to Be Better


Tweet of the Day: Reconsider the Party? 

There is one question that always comes to my mind when I’m reading sci-fi set on distant worlds and centuries in the future? Where on Earth is, well, Earth? Why? Because Earth, our beautiful blue/green jewel in the eternal night of space is our home and where all of us live today. It makes for a handy reference point for the setting. The answer comes in three broad categories:

  1. It is the Homeworld: Earth is the center of the universe, at least as far as humanity is concerned, and since most readers/writers are human, it will tend to be the center of the universe for everyone else.
  2. You maniacs, you blew it up! Or it goes missing. Humanity forgets that it exists or loses contact with Earth, so stop asking.

The third is Earth That Used to Be Better. The once proud (and only) home to humanity has seen better days. It is still very much there, just not that important, like the empty corner bed in a retirement home. A sad little reminder of where humanity came from but far from being a representation of where humanity in the current time of the story. It answers the question without putting to fine a point on it. It also explains the importance of where ever the story tends to take place, Maybe it is humanity’s new home, or the source of a particular MaGuffin, or what have you. The point is, it is not Earth, so stop asking.

Of course, returning the old homestead to its former glory might make for a handy plot point as well.




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