What hath God wrought?

You know, I could tell what I’ve been up to lately, but I think I’d rather just tell you about the greatest thing in the history of the universe, which is this Twitter account:

@fanfiction_txt - Real quotes from fanfiction/reviews. None edited, aside from length. [Account admin posts in brackets]

Just look at the material it highlights. This thing is gold. Gold!

  • Captain N: The Game Master Kevin and Lana are informed that Charles Manson has escaped from prison
  • Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts accidentally travels from their world to Afghanistan
  • Twilight acciedentlly cast’s a perminate spell that turns her in to a lb&sc railway class e2 tank engine
  • “Sometimes, I wonder where my life is headed, and all I see is this black hole of nothing.” Tails pauses, his shoulders shaking as he sobs.
  • Larry the Cable Guy was right. Communism is the only justice left in this dark age! Communism is the only way to save my country
  • Crazy Frog confuses everyone when he decides to join both the Bloods and the Crips.
  • Dane Cook and Disturbed frontman David Draiman find out they want each other…sex happens..duh
  • “Hi dad!”
    “Hi son! How was your day?”
    “Well, it’s pretty interesting. You’ve heard of Sonic the Hedgehog racing in NASCAR, right?”
    “Yeah
  • It’s up to the Powerpuff Girls to stop Obama
  • Donald Trump begins to panic after trapping a wasp under a cup

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’ve been working on the anime podcast project I mentioned before.

A People’s History of Middle-Earth

I finished reading The Last Ringbearer. It’s a story completely unapproved of by the Tolkien estate which tells the story of the end and aftermath of the Lord of the Rings trilogy from the viewpoint of the orcs. It’s pretty much only available through non-standard channels in English, though I understand it’s sold openly as a published book in its original Russian.

I quite liked the opening when it was a revisionist retelling from the perspective of the losing side, leavened by long digressions into the history of Mordor and the ecology of the land, but in the middle it turned into a standard fantasy quest, which I wasn’t into. It’s clearly deliberate parallelism to the One Ring mission. After that it turned into a Cold War spy novel before ending kind of ploinkingly with almost the same climax as the original trilogy.

Reading the book was an interesting experience. I’m not sure it’s something I can recommend, particularly since I don’t know who I could even recommend it to – the story keeps switching genres and I don’t know if a typical fantasy reader would appreciate this literary legerdemain. That, and a Tolkien fan would probably be really ticked off at how the story of Lord of the Rings has been cruelly hacked apart and sewn back together as a cynical propaganda piece by the victorious West.

The book ends with an essay from the author defending his fanfiction – I do not use this term pejoratively, but it really is the best term for this work – and criticizing the fantasy genre’s demand for Manichean struggles between good and evil. This leads me to believe that he may not be widely read in the modern fantasy genre. There are numerous English fantasy works that put a gritty spin on fantasy, the most famous probably being A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones in its TV incarnation). Those works may not be as widely known in Russia, but it seems such an obvious idea to put a cynical spin on fantasy that I’m sure there are Russian writers who are doing the same thing already.

Anyway, that’s that. I read The Last Ringbearer. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t like it. I just thought it was kind of okay.

Happy Belated Glycon Day

Alan Moore, scraggly-bearded and wild-haired comics curmudgeon.

Yesterday was Alan Moore’s birthday. Yesterday was also when I learned that there is a Japanese doujinshi (i.e., a fan comic)  which answers the question, “What if Alan Moore were a teenage schoolgirl?”

The beardless wild-haired and be-ringed She-Alan of Earth-2.

The comic is only a couple of pages but it additionally answers the related question, “What if Neil Gaiman was also a teenage schoolgirl?”

Teenage Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, thick as thieves.

I believe this comes under the heading Real Person Fiction (RPF), which is a thing I don’t understand at all. Every time I think I’m getting a handle on fan culture I come across yet another weird-ass thing like this.

 

Captain America versus Cuba

Over on Space Battles some people have been discussing what the 20th century would have been like if the movie version of Captain America had been around – Vietnam, the Iran Mossadegh thing, the Bay of Pigs. Then someone posted a comic book treatment of what Cap would do during the Cuban Revolution:

[Captain America]’s going to kick open the door to Fidel Castro’s guerrilla hideout and give the strongman a speech on ethics, individual responsibility and freedom and the ideal that the Cuban people should strive for. Then the two of them are going to go out and fight evil Batista’s fascist dictatorship and Rogers will train his ragtag guerrillas into diet Special Forces. During the War in the Mountains, entire battalions of Batista’s troops will switch sides after being given an eye watering speech on freedom and American history. Then in the climactic issue, Captain America leads his… I mean Castro’s… Rebel band into Havana and they storm Batista’s palace and suddenly realize the power behind Batista’s dictatorship was HYDRA all along working with the evil Mafia Maggia. Using American Judo Boxing, Captain America defeats the Supreme Hydra before Batista takes Fidel Castro’s brother hostage and is like… I’ll kill you all unless you put down your weapons! So Captain America puts down his shield and then Batista shoves Raul Castro aside and then takes aim at Captain America and FIRES!

But Che Guevara, the idealistic young man with a promising medical career who decided to become a freedom fighter and has become like a protege to Captain America suddenly leaps into the path of the bullet as Fidel Castro hoses Batista down with a burst of gunfire from his All-American ™ Tommy Gun. Che Guevara dies in Captain America’s arms, his last words being… “I would have liked to have seen the Washington Monument…”

Afterwards, Captain America makes another speech to Fidel Castro about some Latino dude he knew back in the Howling Commandos, because all brown people are kinda similar and then asks what Fidel Castro will do. And Fidel Castro is like I’m going to redistribute liberate the wealth stolen riches of the landowners fascist supervillains and foreign businesses Maggia criminal groups to help support the poor and working class Cuban people in order to build a better future by investing in infrastructure and education. And Captain America will be like, that sounds like the right thing to do! And Fidel Castro will respond… it’s the American way!

Fin

Genius at work

As I mentioned, I read The Count of Monte Cristo for that anime podcast I’m in. The novel was so long – 1200 pages – that I kind of had to take a break from reading for a while after. I don’t really have an analysis of the book so much as some scattered musings.

First of all, let me just mention that if anyone wants to read the unabridged English translation then I recommend the Penguin Classics Robin Buss version over the free Project Gutenberg ebook. It turns out that Project Gutenberg uses the first and original translation from back in the 19th century and so feels rather stiff and creaky. The Buss translation is from 1996 and it feels a lot more natural. The book was meant to be a sensationalist page turner when it was originally published and it’s the Buss version that made the story flow that way for me.

Overall I liked the novel but it’s clear that Dumas was being paid by the line. The story could have been a lot shorter and it’s striking how much of The Count of Monte Cristo isn’t actually about the count of Monte Cristo. That, and the story is full of garrulous characters and lengthy descriptions of people and places. Thankfully the book never goes full George R.R. Martin, though.

I find it interesting how short the chapters are, since most are only around ten or so pages. This is unlike a lot of modern novels, but it actually reminds me of the short instalments that are normal in really long fanfiction. This is an apt comparison since both this story and long fanfics are or were both released serially in sequential instalments.

The story itself is very cosmopolitan in outlook. Dumas shows off how au courant he is with contemporary theatre and literature, as besides the expected references to French texts, Dumas casually drops references to Shakespeare, James Fenimore Cooper, Walter Scott, Byron, and 1001 Nights. I wonder, was Dumas the Bourbon Restoration version of a movie nerd today making a film that drops allusions and references to a smorgasbord of modern pop culture?

Also, I did some very rough back of the envelope calculations to figure out how much the treasure at Monte Cristo was worth. I had to find out the exchange rate for livres to British pounds since the historical currency converter I use doesn’t have French currency. It turns out the exchange rate varied from place to place and the only one I could easily find was for Dover. I then had to convert the pounds to present money. With those caveats in mind and accounting for inflation, the count’s treasure amounts to $5 million US in 2015. It’s a decent number though not exactly fuck you money. Still, the economy was smaller back then and that fortune formed a greater percentage of the total amount of money floating around at the time.

As an amusing side note, the book mentions twice that Italian cuisine is the worst in the world, and it phrases it in a way that seems like a widely-held opinion. I wonder, would Dumas have been referring to Italian cooking as we think of it today? If so, what specifically did Dumas and his contemporaries have against it? Maybe it’s all the tomato sauces and the unfamiliar mouth-feel of pasta.

Finally, let me end in remarking that the novel contains more scenes than I expected of men trying to blow their brains out.

Da Durarara

Damn you, Mass Effect trilogy, why were you on sale on the PSN store? I’m doing nothing but playing Mass Effect 2 as soon as I get home and up to when I fall asleep with the controller in my hands. I finished the first game years ago and I quite liked it, but not enough to deal again with some of the wonky aspects that set my teeth on edge the first time around (i.e., driving the MAKO, dealing with the inventory system, the endless elevator rides, and so forth).

So to refresh my memory on the plot, I read the fanfic Of Sheep and Battle Chicken. I would have been pleased if it were the official novelization of the game, instead of the rather bad spin-off novels that were actually published. It explores and expands upon stuff from the game, and where necessary it invents things wholesale. The story also isn’t shy about changing things drastically from the game’s plot to make the narrative flow better, which I quite liked. It’s by no means perfect, since small but persistent annoyances such as mixing up “its” and “it’s” and slipping between past and present tense happen quite a bit, but they weren’t enough to stop me. The fic’s writer really poured a lot of creative juice into this endeavour, as evidenced by the reams of text about this fictional world’s setting, akin to Tolkien’s volumes full of hobbit apocrypha.

Anyway, that’s what’s been up with me lately.

Also, guess what? Hello Kitty is promoting Durarara. Ain’t that adorable?

Two great tastes

You know, I like Orphan Black and I like Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I don’t really see why both series should be featured in the same fanfic. Also, good holy crap but there are already thirty-one pages of Orphan Black fanfics on Archive of Our Own when the show is only a bit over a year old. I’ve forgotten what it was like to be in an active fandom.

Ships that sank

I don’t have a good track record in shipping, which in this context means the romantic pairing you favour in a given work of fiction. My tastes don’t seem to align with the majority, as this list of failed non-canonical ships should attest.

  • Zutara (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
  • Harry/Luna (Harry Potter)
  • Haruto/Rukino (Valvrave the Liberator)
  • Akihito/Mitsuki (Beyond the Boundary)

For comparison, Ships that Sailed:

  • Ranma/Akane (Ranma 1/2)
  • Edward/Winry (Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

I still think those failed ships were more narratively interesting than the ones that happened in canon. Ah well, such is life.

Fighting evil by moonlight

Did you ever watch Sailor Moon and wondered what the series would have been like if the main character had been a communist? Neither did I, and in fact I’ve never watched an episode, but certain enterprising sorts have answered the question no one was asking.

I bring you Red Moon:

Reaching Naru’s mother’s jewellery store in record time, Sailor Moon charged inside to see her best friend being strangled by something that looked like a reject from the late, late horror movie show. All around the grey skinned woman customers lay drained of their energy, unconscious on the floor.

“Halt! The people of this city require that energy to be able to work, and until the means of production are in the hands of the workers, society shall never be equal! I am Sailor Moon, and in the name of the working class, I shall punish you!”

I accidentally wrote a Cormac McCarthy fanfic

Lately I’ve been considering the moral underpinnings of the nut shot and how it relates to the debate on the existence of God.

I’ve asked around and found that most guys have taken multiple blows to the testicles over the course of their lives. This result was surprising to me since I figured that the crippling pain of the experience would discourage the possibility of repeats, but life throws us curve balls occasionally.

So, long story short, I wrote a pastiche in the style of Cormac McCarthy pontificating majestically about nut shots. Think of it as the opening for a magisterial work examining the experience of suffering.

I’ve titled this piece “So You’ve Been Kicked in the Testicles”.

So You’ve Been Kicked in the Testicles

The pain of being kicked in the testicles is not merely a physical pain but an existential one, which is to say that the pain is not contained in one part of the body but rather located throughout the entirety of one’s existence. When crippled by a blow to the groin, time loses all meaning and it feels as if one’s entire life has been spent with stabbing pains on the crotch.

Better and worse is the experience of seeing others receive a blow to the groin. It’s a sight uniquely tinged with both sympathy and hilarity in equal measure. There’s a recognition of pain, an empathetic understanding of living with the savage terror of existence in our uncaring universe, but there’s also the joy born of relief that the one so bedevilled is not oneself. The blow to the testicles lays bare the fiction of a just world, for there is no fairness in the disproportionate anguish caused by a random testicular blow. Faced with this fundamental injustice, how else can one react but with laughter?