Thursday, August 11, 2016

Arcus Bodark in Kanto: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Poke-Mart Problems

My second day, and first morning, as a pokemon trainer, I woke up early. I went over to my PC and withdrew the one healing potion I had from electronic storage. I got dressed and pulled on the backpack that I had been slowly adding items I would need into in preparation for this day. On my way out I gave my mom a hug, and she reminded me that I could stop back in at any time, especially if my pokemon or I needed patched up. I hugged my brothers and sisters too, then I was out the door.

Route 1 was the one land based road out of town. It headed north to Viridian City, and while at the time I thought all roads looked like this, it was in horrible condition. There was tall grass accross entire sections of the road, other parts had washed out in ways that created little dirt ledges that could only be jumped down from above. It was also steep, and not an easy climb at parts. In retrospect, I wonder how much of the terrible conditions many of the roads in Kanto were in was due to the war, and that they just hadn't been fixed yet.

I hadn't spent much time truly outside of town growing up. The farm was on the edge of town, but that isn't the same thing. Outside of town, especially in forests or tall grass, you can be attacked by wild pokemon at any time. Just like humans find certain pokemon to be a good food source, most wild pokemon aren't going to give up the high calorie meal humans could be turned into. Of course some pokemon only eat plants, berries, or other pokemon, but they also can attack humans because of seeing them as a threat or invading their territory. In order to leave town, you either need pokemon of your own to fight off any attackers, or to be with someone else who does.

Being uncertain how strong my bulbasaur, Anther, was compared to the wild pokemon on Route 1, I was walking rather carefully and quietly. I avoided attracting attention as much as possible. That didn't stop a young man in a Poke-Mart uniform from noticing me.

"Hi, I work at Poke-Mart!" He yelled as he ran up to me, "We are a convenient place to shop so come visit us in Viridian City!" All of the pokemon in the trees and grass went silent at his yelling. I was sure we were going to be mobbed by a murder of spearow, however I think he took my trepidation for not understanding, because he continued yelling, "Here, I'll give you a sample!" as he handed me a potion. "The first taste is always free!" He twitched a little bit saying that.

I slowly started to back away into the next grassy area of the washed out road. As I left he waved and continued yelling, "We also carry pokeballs!"

I walked as gently and quietly as I could through the tall grass, hoping that the madman from Poke-Mart was just attracting all of the would-be attackers to himself. No such luck, however, as I stepped on a wild pidgey sleeping in the grass.

As it attacked I called Anther out of his pokeball and told him to tackle the pidgey. The enemy pidgey swept it's wings forward, sending a small gust attack at Anther, who in response to another call from me performed a second tackle attack. The pidgey released a second gust, but Anther charged in and tackled a third time and and the battle was over.

Anther looked at the dying bird briefly, and after a bit of thinking, fired a few seeds from the bulb on his back at the pidgey. The seeds instantly sprouted and began sucking the last of the life from the pidgey, doing a tiny amount of healing on Anther before the wild pidgey died completely.

"Good job at battling Anther," I congratulated him, "Also, it's really cool that you already learned leech seed, but if you could check first before using it more I would like that, we don't want to hurt things we don't need to."

Anther looked quizzically at me for a bit before nodding agreement. I wasn't quite sure what to do with the dead wild pidgey. I could try to field dress it and carry it with me, but the smell of the blood and raw meat would definitely draw predators. While our first wild pokemon battle had gone well enough, I was still feeling a bit cautious, and Anther was at least a little bit injured. In the end I just decided to leave it for whatever scavengers found it and moved along.

With Anther in his pokeball I continued the hours long, all uphill, tiring climb to Viridian City without attracting any more attention. On my way into town a teenage boy walked up to me with fliers.

"Are you aware of the different kinds of caterpillar pokemon in this area?" he asked almost accusatorily, then continued without waiting for me to answer, "I am part of a poison pokemon awareness campaign.and we are on a crusade to make sure that everyone is aware that there are two kinds of caterpillar pokemon in our area. Weedle has a poison sting attack and caterpie does not." He handed me a flyer that repeated exactly what he had just said. "Poison sting attacks kill pokemon every day; don't let your pokemon become a statistic!"

Then the anti-poison activist was gone, off to assault another passerby with awareness. I looked at the flyer to see if there were any hints on how to tell if a pokemon was a weedle or caterpie, but there was no information on that. There also was no information on what to do if my pokemon was poisoned. However, I was now aware; I just didn't have any information that would make it so that my awareness was actually useful.

When I stepped into the Poke-Mart, the manager was sitting with his head leaned over on the counter. He looked up when the door opened, "Are you from Pallet Town?" he asked with exhaustion in his eyes.

"Um, yes. Why?"

"Thank goodness, the only delivery that came in this morning was for Professor Oak in Pallet Town. I can't leave the shop, and I have no idea where my cashier is now, and if this package isn't delivered my sales numbers will be absolute zero, and I'll lose my job for sure."

"Okay," I said, still not sure why he was having me deliver a package from his store if they had the extra people to have a guy handing out free potions on the roadside, "Can I buy some potions and pokeballs? Also, what do you do if a pokemon is poisoned?"

"For poison you give an antidote, which we would normaly have at our low, low, everyday Poke-Mart prices, but we have nothing in but that one package right now."

I looked around and saw that all of the shelves were, indeed, empty. "Why don't you have anything to sell?" I asked.

"My cashier was watching the store yesterday afternoon. As far as I can tell from the note he left, a customer came in with a psychic pokemon, hit him with some kind of mind attack, and he had a 'revelation' that the key to business success was to give things away for free. He took absolutely every product we have and, over the course of yesterday and this morning, has been giving every single item away for free." The store manager looked like he wished the tile floor his chair was on would just swallow him up so he wouldn't have to keep figuring out how to make this okay.

"I think I met the guy you're talking about on may way up here on Route 1," I said, "And I'll take the package to the professor, he gave me my pokemon, so I suppose I owe him at least that much. Is it alright if I wait until morning though? I'm still rather new to being a pokemon trainer."

"Yes, of course you would want to be well rested and have daylight before heading back out. The last thing I need right now is a liability lawsuit. Thank you so much, and thanks also for the tip on where to find my wayward casheer. I'll let the police know to look around there for him. Hopefully they can find him and get his head fixed before he finishes giving everything away..."

As I left, the Poke-Mart manager picked the telephone up, dialed it, and lay his head back down on the counter as he talked to the police.

Anther and I walked, tired and a bit hungry to the Pokemon Center. The nurse fixed up what injuries Anther still had from fighting that wild pidgey, we got some dinner, and then we both lay down in the Pokemon Center youth hostel bunk beds in the back.

As Anther and I lay on the top bunk, and I tried to quiet my mind so I could sleep, I kept coming back to how the cashier was acting, and how it was because a pokemon had controlled his mind. I knew people controlled pokemon all the time, but it had never occurred to be before that day that pokemon might be able to control people. Mom was right, even on my second day of being a trainer I was learning things that changed how I saw the world.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Arcus Bokark in Kanto: Chapter 2

Chapter 2: A Mother-Son Talk

As I had left Professor Oak's lab, he had encouraged me to go and fight more with my pokemon, once it was healed, so that Anther could grow stronger. I walked to the family farm out on the edge of Pallet Town and went in to see my mom.

"Well, Mom, I've had my first pokemon battle, and I guess I won." I halfheartedly announced when I found her in the house.

"What do you mean 'you guess'?" She inquired.

"Well, the battle was with Regi Locust, and he wasn't paying much attention to the battle. He just spent the whole time yelling at the professor because the pokemon he chose didn't have the attacks he thought it would. I felt kind of bad for his pokemon." I thought for a moment before continuing, "I thought it would feel good to beat him, but I just feel like I hurt his pokemon and he didn't care about it."

"Well Arcus, not everyone feels the same way about pokemon and what their role should be. While you've grown up seeing that pokemon are something that we have to use to make a living, survive, and have food to eat, we treat them with respect. Just because something is part of your job, or something you are going to kill and eat doesn't mean it isn't worthy of your respect. We have a duty to the creatures we care for, and that duty is made greater the more we demand of them. The pidgey we have on this farm, we owe them a good and easy life. We owe it to keep them comfortable, free of fear, and free of pain, because we are going to take their lives or eggs so that we can eat and make a living. It's a harsh thing, and it's easier to pretend that we don't have that debt to the pokemon we depend on. It's easier to say that because we can control them that the responsibility only goes one way. It's easy to think that they owe us their lives, their abilities, and their service while we owe them nothing back. Believing we have responsibilities to pokemon or others who are not like us becomes very complicated very quickly. Some people prefer a simple life and a simple outlook. A simple life means just choosing not to see the terrible things that you are doing to keep your life simple."

She then asked me to call out my pokemon so she could have a look at it and fix up it's wounds, "Well, that is a cute little bulbasaur you have there. Did you give it a nickname?"

"Yeah," I answered, "His name is Anther."

"That is a nice sounding name for a nice pokemon," she thought for a little while before continuing on the prior subject, "Those differences in beliefs are the reasons why your father and I have never gotten on well with Regi's parents. They disagree with us on these and other issues. Remember though, while Regi was rased to believe as his parents do, and you were raised to believe as your father and I do, you both are on the edge of starting to grow up. Soon, it will be up to both of you to decide what you believe and how you will interact with the world. There are people who believe even further than I do. They believe that we have no right to control pokemon or take their lives, be it for food or for battle. That is a very complicated road to walk if you aren't going to be superficial about it. Some say we only have responsibilities to the smarter pokemon, or the cute ones. That seems a little bit arbitrary to me, but it seems to make sense to the people who believe that way."

I watched her making and applying a herbal poultice we used when the pidgey injured each other to the scratches, and giving Anther a few other herbs to chew on. He didn't seem to like the taste, but he chewed them anyways.

"What does this have to do with my battle?" I asked my mother as, being ten, this conversation was a bit deeper than I was used to.

"What it has to do with, is that you don't feel right about your battle because how Regi treated his pokemon went against how you believe people should treat living things." She patted the bandages over the poultice, working it in well, "You feel wrong, because he made you take part in hurting his pokemon for no good reason. Most pokemon like to fight, they gain great satisfaction and become more powerful by doing it. Him not even paying attention or even trying to give orders to his pokemon irks you though. It goes against what you believe people should do."

"Of course people shouldn't do that!" I said, "Even if your pokemon loves to fight, you should pay attention and do your best to do your part to help them win!"

"There comes my other point right there." Anther had swallowed the herbs and mother had began removing the bandages and poultice from the now healed wounds, "That is what you have been raised to believe, and while I definitely believe that is right, (which is why I raised you to believe it), not everyone feels that way. People have different values and beliefs about what is right and wrong. You and Regi are about to go out in the world and experience many things. You will meet other people with wildly different viewpoints. You will see and do things that will challenge your beliefs about the world. Your beliefs will likely change in one way or another. Either of you may change your beliefs completely. He may come closer to our way of thinking, but you just as easily may begin to see the reasons behind his. Either or both of you may adopt entirely new lines of thinking."

"But, how can what I think is right and wrong change?" I asked, now thoroughly confused, "What's good and bad doesn't just change because of what I believe. It's right because it's good and wrong because it's bad."

"I wish it were that simple." Mother sighed as she wiped the last of the medicine off of Anther, who was now wiggling his newly repaired little body, "I do believe that certain things are good or bad whether we believe it or not, but many situations are complicated. There are many situations where doing one thing does certain good things while having certain bad side effects, while doing another does other good things with other side effects. People disagree on what is more important. Depending on what good things someone believes are more important to seek and what bad things someone believes are more important to avoid, it can be very complicated to decide which action to take is the right one."

"What do I do when someone is doing something I think is bad?" I asked, picking up Anther to give him a hug.

"Well, of course the first thing you should do is try to explain to them why what they are doing is wrong. Sometimes people just haven't thought things through or seen things from a certain perspective." My mother sat down as she continued, "Usually though, that won't work and will let the other person know you may try to stop them."

She paused again, clearly thinking through how to explain the next part, "When talking doesn't work though, you have a decision to make and it won't be easy. You have to decide if what they are doing wrong is worth doing what is necessary to make them stop." Mother stopped again, this time to let what she had just said sink in, "There are many cases, depending on what the harm is of what they are doing, where it is better to just disagree and move on. There will be many times you will see wrong things happen, but that you won't have the power to stop it. If you see a person robbing an innocent, trying to stop the robber is definitely a good goal, but there is the question of whether you and your pokemon are strong enough on your own. It helps no one but the robber for you to just get robbed too. You also have to decide, even if you can win, what the cost of winning will be."

My mother looked to make sure I was still paying attention, "If someone is stealing from a glassblower's shop and you fight them there to stop them, even if you can win, if you destroy the shop in the process you have not done anything to help the glassblower."

I nodded that I understood that part and she continued again, "Also, think of the risk to other's safety as well as your pokemon and your own safety. Sometimes going for help is the right thing to do. If there is time, running to get the police can be very effective, especially since stopping people from doing bad things is entirely their job. Also, just getting friends and allies to fight beside you can be very effective for changing things you don't have the power to safely change on your own."

At this point, while Anther was falling asleep on my lap, my mother began to stand up and pace. "However, when you have two or more sides that both believe that the side they are on is worth fighting for, things can spiral quickly. Your father has never been one to be able to just let things he sees as wrong be. That is way he just can't seem to stop going on his journeys. We both had been on our journeys for a while when the last war broke out. By the time it got that big, most people didn't even remember what it was over in the first place. Two sides had fought over something, but they both kept coming back with more and more allies until entire countries were caught up in the fight. When it was that large, it wasn't about anything anymore accept what each side had done fighting the other side. Of all the regions that were involved, Kanto was hit hardest. Your father and I settled here and set up this farm to help rebuild the area, but the region still hasn't recovered. Many people and pokemon died, and many more had their lives forever changed, and really the war was mostly just over whether people could make others do what they thought was right. That is what almost all wars end up being about.

I was sitting, hugging my sleeping bulbasaur, stunned by what my mother was saying.

"I'm definitely not saying that right and wrong are meaningless, or that you shouldn't fight for what you believe in. What I'm trying to say is just that, while you are out in the world I want you to take a good hard look around. I want you to look at the world and find what you think is right, not just what someone else, even me, tells you is right. I want you to find out what you think is right so that, when times come that you have to decide what it is worth risking and doing to fight for what you think is right, you can decide well what to do."

Then there was just silence for a while as I thought over what my mother had said, and she sat back down and began cutting up meat and dough for pidgy-noodle soup. After a few minutes I asked, "Did you talk to Latia and Latio about this all before they left last year?"

"Yes, and I will be telling all of this to your younger siblings too when they leave for the first time."

"What happened in the war?"

"Many things that should never have happened, but all of those bad things have happened before and will happen again until we learn other ways to decide who can tell who what to do." She sighed.

"Do you ever wish Dad would stay home?"

"Sometimes, but really, at this point I'm used to just seeing him in bursts. If he ever came home and didn't leave again I'm not sure what I'd do with him. It helps me enjoy it when he is here to miss him when he's gone. Someday he'll stop going as far and long of journeys, but he'd drive us both crazy if he was stuck at home." She stood up with her cut up meat and noodles, "Now, help me get this finished so we can get you and your siblings fed so you can rest well tonight to get a good start tomorrow."

Friday, July 29, 2016

Arcus Bodark in Kanto: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: A Beginning

My name is Professor Arcus Bodark. After years of running around this world on pokemon journeys, I have decided it is time to begin recording my adventures for posterity. Hopefully I will have many more, but I am growing older, and I have seen too much of the damage that can happen unexpectedly. I have journals that I kept over the years, even since my first journey, but they are less than entirely coherent and I wouldn't want to bore or confuse any who may decide to read my ramblings down the road. I will follow these journals closely, but with the eyes of a man who has seen and experienced far more than the boy I was at those times.

I was born to two parents who loved each other very much, even though they saw each other only seldom. My mother was born in the Sinnoh region, and my father was from Unova. They met in the last war and settled together in the Kanto region after the dust had settled and started a pidgey farm. There was just too much wanderlust in my father to truly settle down, or at least that is what my mother often told me as I was growing up on our farm right on the edge of Pallet Town. I had two brothers and three sisters. The twins, Latia and Latio were one year older than I was; Keld, Shaymi, and Jira followed, each one year afterwards.

We farmed pidgey. This is not the most glorious of professions in the world, but it kept us fed and most of our needs met. Pidgey are not the strongest, smartest, or most beautiful of pokemon, but they produce eggs at a fast rate and taste delicious fried or roasted. While my father was out on journeys, fighting and adventuring with his pokemon, we were raising pidgey. Farming, especially livestock raising, leads to a rather utilitarian view towards life and living things. You get to know and accept the nature and inevitability of death early on. Farming means being surrounded by life and death in great variety. You come to terms with death, but realize that death in no way makes life meaningless. It adds to the vibrancy and significance of what you do with your life to have an awareness of death.

By the time I was ready to go out on my own in midsummer of my tenth year, I was sick and tired of pidgey. I saw all the beautiful and exotic variety of pokemon from around the world in town, on television, and in books. Then I looked at the flock of dull, brown birds with their clipped wings in our enclosure and was less than inspired. Of course, growing up surrounded by them day in and out could make even a school of milotic seem mundane, I suppose. Also, when you raise livestock, it is necessary to remain emotionally distant from them.  Some of the pidgey we raised would be sold to trainers or kept as breeding stock, but most were meant for the table. The breeding stock were fairly safe to become attached to, but you had to say goodbye to any that were sold, and those who didn't fall into those categories, sooner or later, had to be killed, plucked, dressed, and sent to market.

My mother offered to send one of the young breeding hens or cockerels with me to be my first companion, but the Professor in town was offering a rare pokemon to each ten year old in town who was leaving on their first journey. That was an offer that was hard to resist.

Before I left for the Professor's labratory, my mother insisted on having a prayer. She was always very religious, thus why each of us children had been named for various legendary or mythical pokemon she hoped would look over and inspire us. She kissed me on my head and told me never to be shy about returning home, be it for a rest or the rest of my life. Latia and Latio had already returned from their short journeys and wished me luck, and the younger ones looked up in envy that my time had come while they still had to wait for theirs.

It was just a short walk to the lab, but it was huge in my mind. Not that the distance felt long, but I was no longer a farm boy on a farm. I was an adventurer out on a pokemon journey, like my father. Now all I needed was my first pokemon.

When I entered Professor Oak's laboratory, there was one other kid waiting to start his first journey. Regi Locust from the ranch on the other side of town was not a friend of mine. He thought just because we farmed pidgey and his family raised tauros and some rare imported miltank that he was so much better than me. This irked me all the more because, at the time, I didn't actually disagree with him. Tauros and miltank were much more valuable than pidgey. Having miltank gave them a near monopoly on the market for fresh moomoo milk in the area, which of course only the wealthy could afford in Kanto. Tauros' meat was seen as a much more high class food than pidgey's. Also, pidgey had to evolve twice before it was able to hold a rider, while tauros were large enough to ride from the day they hatched. Regi Locust thought he was better than me and I didn't disagree with his reasoning.

I walked to the back of the lab, where Professor Oak stood, while pointedly not looking at Regi. "So, was your dad there to see you off?" Regi snarked, "Or is he still too embarrassed by his kids to stay home more than a few days every few months?"

"It's not my fault both of your parents don't have what it takes for life on the road and stay in boring Pallet Town all year, every year." I responded.

"Boys, really," the Professor interjected, "Standing there insulting one another's families is no way to solve your differences. That is what pokemon battles are for! Just pick your first pokemon from those on the table, and then you can solve your dispute like civilized gentlemen."

I was rather sure there was a hint of sarcasm in the professor's voice, but an opportunity to show Regi I was better just sounded too good.

"Tell you what," Regi sneered as he genuflected with false benevolence, "You pick first, that way you can't say I won because I got to pick first."

I stepped up to the table and looked at the papers and pictures under each pokeball describing the pokemon inside. There was an orange fire lizzard with a flaming tail called a charmander, a blue water turtle called a squirtle, and a green frogish lizard thing with a plant growing our of it's back called a bulbasaur. The papers said that if the flame on a charmander's tail went out, it could die. That sounded like a definite weakness to me. The squirtle looked like it could take a hit well, but it didn't look like something that could hit very hard. The bulbasaur, though, looked rather strong and sturdy at the same time; also, the fact that the plant part and animal part formed a symbiotic relationship, resulting in a half-plant half-animal creature sounded intriguing.

"I pick the bulbasaur!" I announced as I picked up it's ball.

"Then I choose charmander!" Regi picked immediately afterwards.

"Aren't you going to read about them before you decide?" I was flabbergasted that he would make such an important decision so quickly.

"I read all about them before you came," Regi replied smugly, "All three have their strengths and weaknesses, I just needed to know which one you were going to pick to choose the one that is strong against your weaknesses. Charmander, being a fire tipe, is strong against the grass type bulbasaur. Bulbasaur, being a grass type, is strong against the water typed squirtle. Squirtle on the other hand is water, which is strong against fire. This way, by letting you choose first, and being more prepared, I have won the battle before it even starts!"

"Whatever," I said, "If you need to steal advantage to win, that shows how good you really are. I don't need to trick you to win!"

"Alright then!" Professor Oak giddily interjected, "Now it is time for some rookie pokemon battling! Each of you let your pokemon out of their balls and decide if you want to name them!"

Both Regi Locust and I let our pokemon out. My bulbasaur and I took a long look at each other before I decided. "Well, you're part plant, so I think I'll name you after a part of a plant. I'm going to call you Anther!"

Anther smiled up at me and nodded his agreement.

Regi groaned, "That's just silly. Charmander, you are a charmander, and I'm not going to give you some silly name that will make you sound rediculous. I'm just going to call you what you are. Got it?"

Charmander nodded agreement with a grim, stoic face.

I looked at the sheet that said what attacks Anther knew how to do. "Anther, use tackle!"

Regi then ordered, "Charmander, use ember!"

Charmander looked confusedly at him and growled at Anther. Anther's tackle hit, but no fire was spit by charmander, just the growl.

"What in the reverse-world is wrong with you Charmander?" Regi yelled, "Use ember, not growl!"

"Tackle again." I told Anther.

Once again Charmander just growled and Anther's tackle slammed into it, however with a bit less strength this time.

"What's wrong with this pokemon?" the young Locust boy yelled at Professor Oak, "I keep telling it to use ember, but it just keeps growling!"

Once again the Charmander used growl, lowering Anther's power to it's attacks. As I ordered a tackle again, it hit, but once again was hitting with less force.

"Your charmander doesn't know ember yet," the professor replied, "Charmander only knows growl and scratch."

"Why in the world," Regi asked incredulously, "Would you teach a pokemon growl?"

His charmander once again took the use of the word as an order to use the move growl, while I once again ordered Anther to attack once again, but somehow, Charmander' growls kept making Anther's attacks weaker.

"Scratch would only be good as a back up attack!" Regi continued ranting at the professor, barely paying attention to the battle he was fighting. However, Charmander took the saying of the attacks name as an order to finally use the attack, scratch.  By this point, after all of those growls, my bulbasaur's attacks were barely doing any damage, but Charmander's scratch cut deep. After just being hit once, it was clear that Anther was hurting.

"Why in the world would you even call it a pokemon if it has an attack as useless as growl!" Regi screamed, going almost into a full tantrum. His pokemon looked back at him pleadingly, but without any other instruction took the mention of growl once again as an order, obviously trying to have faith that it's trainer knew what he was doing in telling him to growl again instead of scratch. By this time though, it's growls had already weakened Anther as much as they were going to and the next tackle hit, while not as powerfully as at first, with no less power than last time.

"Growl, growl!" Regi repeated mockingly at Professor Oak while throwing his hands up in the air, still paying no attention to his fading pokemon.

"Tackle again?" I said halfheartedly, not being sure about how my first battle was going. Anther, also clearly reluctant at this point, pretty much just nudged Charmander one last time and he fell over, defeated.

"While you were throwing a hissy-fit," the professor pointed out, "Your pokemon has blacked out from it's injuries and you have officially lost your first battle. Young Mr. Bodark is the winner."

"Of course he won! Because of you!" Regi Locust accused, "He wasn't given a flaming pile of poop without any fire attacks!"

"His pokemon didn't have any grass type tacks either." Professor Oak sighed, "He just kept focused on the battle and used tackle. Really, if you had just used scratch a couple times towards the end there, you probably would have won, but you were too busy whining at me."

"Whatever, Professor and Professor's Pet!" Regi pointed the pokeball at Charmander, "Return if you aren't dead." The fire pokemon, with it's tail flame barely flickering, flashed into energy and disappeared back into it's pokeball.

My bulbasaur looked up at me, confused and unsure about what was happening. "It's okay," I told it, "You did good. Here, come back to your pokeball and I'll take you to my mom to get those scratches patched up."

"I'm going too, I'm going to fight you sometime when I have real pokemon with real attacks, and then you'll see why you'll never be like me," the young Locust boy boasted, "You at least knew enough to not make me angrier by letting your little leaf-toad thing kill my pokemon while it was knocked out. Maybe sometime I'll show one of your pokemon mercy. Or maybe I won't. We'll see how I feel then."

As the angry boy left I couldn't help thinking that I hoped he was right, that I'd never be like him.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pokemon is 20ish years old, and I'm 32... why am I still playing this game?: Explanation of my next project

Pokemon was first released in Japan in 1996 when I was 12 years old, by the time it was released in North America (September for the show and video game, December for the trading card game,) I was 14.  I was on the upper end of the target market age range when I began playing the game, but it was surprisingly engrossing. When the second generation of the Pokemon games came out in October of 2000 I was 16, a bit out of the target age group, but the fun of the earlier games was still fresh enough that I picked up those games as well. It was shortly before the 4th generation of games came out that I played the 3rd, then immediately after, I played the 4th generation. The seventh generation is releasing later this year, and at the age of 32, for some reason, I still have been off and on playing this video game that is most definitely still designed for children.

I have played all of the main series games, and have (without cheating) caught every single one of the 720 different Pokemon possible to have caught in the main series games as of the current date without cheating. I feel only slightly awkward that as a 32 year old man I feel somewhat proud of that 'accomplishment'. It is something that I have completed, and really, as someone who is constantly starting projects and hardly ever finishing them, that is something in of itself.

Now, Pokemon Go has been released, even though it is still a bit unstable from the tech side. It has revealed a huge population worldwide, and not just kids, who are still enamored with the world of Pokemon. Pokemon Go has, at least for the moment, provided an outlet for people, many of whom are other adults, to publicly acknowledge that they are still into this series. We are able to look at it and admit that even though it is for kids, doesn't mean that just kids can enjoy it.

The property is being given a new breath of fresh air by the ability to walk around the 'real world' catching these cartoon monsters. It is helping us motivate ourselves to exercise and interact with others outside. Few video games have been able to make that claim.

For a while I have had a shortage of solid inspiration for my writing, but a few months ago I had an idea. The idea was spawned by reading about the "Nuzlocke Challenge". The idea was to make a play-through of a Pokemon game more interesting by introducing self-imposed rules to make it harder. There are many discussions on the rules of the Nuzlocke Challenge and the thousands of variations people have imposed on themselves, so I won't go into too much detail here. If you want to know more, Google is your friend.

The points of the Nuzlocke Challenge that are important to this post are that it creates artificial scarcity of Pokemon, and also introduces the possibility of them permanently passing on from battle. The amazing thing about this was less the element of difficulty this adds to the game, but more the degree of emotional depth it adds to the game. Players found that in a version of the game where your Pokemon risk death and aren't as easily replaced, you value them more. You form much greater emotional attachments to them, and value abilities that would normally be viewed as so-so.

The other aspect of the stories people, especially the originator of the challenge, tell of their Pokemon journeys. They are legitimately interesting stories that tell real human stories of the writer's interaction with these virtual pets. There are many of these stories that are rather compelling, despite being technically fan-fiction. Fan-fiction has a bad reputation. In large part this bad reputation comes from the fact that it is done by amateur writers in the worlds, and with the characters, created by other artists. It tends to have the effect of having a new screenwriter taking a book and turning it into a movie, then you add the fact that it is often someone with little writing experience or talent doing it as a hobby, with a complete lack of a special effects budget, and little to no editing. There are some works of fan-fiction that are rather good though. A couple of them have actually been commercially successful once they brushed the intellectual property of their original inspiration and became their own thing.

These stories of these challenges though are rather riveting not just because they are in a world we love. They are also about the real player playing the game and the real attachment they form with their Pokemon. There is real risk at each cliffhanger, because the author is not just choosing who lives or dies, that is decided by the in game mechanics. The characters are always just a lucky critical hit away from disappearing forever.

This is what is drawing me into the possibility of a writing project that is technically fan-fiction. A few months ago I had an idea of writing an in character narrative of a single character going through the Pokemon journeys of all of the regions in the game so far. Each journey through each region would follow an actual playthrough of the relevant game that would follow certain self imposed rules. If a Pokemon faints in a situation where it would be unlikely that the enemy would stop attacking just because it is the fair thing to do, such as, an attack by a wild Pokemon or a battle with hardened criminals. In these cases, if a Pokemon faints, it is dead. Also, the protagonist will behave based on internal motivations, not just what I as a player believe is the most powerful choice. Also, the game events will be described in character by the protagonist who is from the fictional Pokemon world.

I will, however, be taking some degree of artistic licence. Certain details will be changed to fit the narrative and make sense. For instance, distances and the time necessary to travel them will have a bit more verisimilitude. Stops to be healed will take more than a few seconds. The protagonist and his Pokemon will need to eat. As Pokemon are the only type of animals in the setting, any meat eaten will come from a Pokemon, (this is an aspect that seems to be true in most versions of the Pokemon universe, however, rarely dwelled upon as Pokemon is marketed to children.) Also, as time passes, it will make sense to take artistic licence with a few other aspects. The protagonist will not stay ten years old forever, and as he ages it will be necessarily to recolor his later adventures to account for him being older than is assumed that the game protagonist is. Certain other characters will also have to be aged appropriately, or certain aspects could get weird.

This is all, of course, assuming that I make it far into this project before losing momentum. Anyways, that is a look into the new project that I'm working on and why.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Finally a Physical Book

There is finally a physical edition of my first book Born and Reborn now available through CreateSpace. It will soon also be purchasable through Amazon directly, but it may take a bit to get the digital and print versions linked together there. I'm still working on additional distribution paths for this book, which will actually be much easier now that I have a defined path to link back to the physical edition.

Also, I am currently actively working on the second book in the Epic of Imsalan series (which as of yet remains unnamed) and may be seeking some feedback on certain aspects of that project on Facebook, the Forum for my writing, and my Blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Birth of the Dragulian

Sarii cautiously felt her way down the unseen stone stairway; away from the sweltering summer sunset above.  The deeper she had gone, the more the dimming red twilight of the surface had faded, until there was only the inky darkness.  A familiar metallic scent that seemed out of place wafted up the slowly winding, then straightening stairway.  Down below she could hear a slow drip, occasional shuffling, and whimpering, each muffled cry echoing in the chamber below.  Those must be the others chosen to serve the Empress.  Her resolve to strangle her fear strengthened.  She would not enter her new life a mewling coward whatever she faced below.  Her Lady had chosen her to be given as a gift to the Empress, to serve a special and honorable function her Lady had said.
The young woman tried to maintain focus, to be ready for an attack from anywhere.  Her Lady had told her confusing parts of why Sarii had been chosen.  Courage, intelligence, and battle readiness made sense.  That she had also been chosen for beauty was odd; attaining her skills had earned her more than a few scars, then an unkind puberty had left her skin a blotchy pattern of pock marks.  These were the reasons her Lady had given; however, and her Lady was not to be questioned.  Sarii had no idea what kind of ritual she was going to face.  She did know that if it were a trial by combat she would be ready.  She wouldn’t be in top form though.  She had drank no water for hours; in addition her left shoulder still pained her and did not moving right despite the healer’s best efforts.  She wouldn’t be at her best, but she would be ready nonetheless.
On reaching the level of the whimpers the stairs continued down for a few more steps and then her bare right foot found cool water instead of the next stair. She hesitated, shifting weight back onto her left foot.
“Remove your robe and enter the water,” a deep, smooth, male voice commanded.  In the darkness she allowed her robe to fall onto the last steps, then gently lowered herself until she felt the sandy bottom.  The pool was deep enough that the water came halfway up her shoulder blades.
“The gift of the Eternal Empress,” the voice intoned as a single drop fell into the water.
“The gift of the people,” a wet cutting sound, a sound of rushing then trickling water, some shuffling, the whimpering stopped, the water level rose slightly, and the metallic smell grew stronger.  The water became noticeably warmer.  Sarii's mind clamped down on an icy dagger of fear, she slowed her breathing, untensed her limbs, and relaxed her face.
Fear had no purpose here.  Sarii's father had always said fear only helps with three things; running, fighting, and doing something stupid.  If not kept in tight reign when doing the first two, they would become the third.  This wasn’t like any trial by combat that she had ever heard of.  She needed to be calm, to figure out what was expected of her.  If she died here she would still be dying in service to the Empress, but she had always hoped that she would die in a way that she could see glory in her death and know how she had served.  Even the noblest death in defense of her Lady would pale in honor next to the most ignoble death in service to the Empress, but like each time she had faced death before, she still desperately hoped it would not come yet.  If she assumed rightly what had just been poured into the unseen waters, then this was a place of death, and of unpleasant death at that.
“Immerse yourself, drink until you can drink no more, and then rise.” The man in the dark gave as his next command.
Sarii hesitated, then lowered herself down.  The water covered her shoulders, her neck, and then her head.  Her long dark hair soaked it in.  She was weightless, floating in the lukewarm water, unable to see or hear.  Her mouth opened, the water flowed in, and the taste took away what doubts had remained as to what had been added to the water.  She wanted to spit it out, to retch, to scream.  She forced herself to calm, then swallowed again, and again, until she could hold no more.  Standing, her head broke the surface.
She opened her eyes, and now she could see.  The room was a fifty foot wide sphere, a dome over stair stepped benches built into the floor and halfway up the wall.  Three narrow stone staircases came down, cutting through the sides to a four foot wide circular pool in the ground.  The light seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.  What Sarii focused on was none of these things.  What she saw was the half dozen bodies around the pool with their throats cut, and the half dozen figures laying them down now that the last of the blood had been drained out of the corpses into the pool.  The crimson bloodstained water dripped from Sarii’s hair and face, gasping for air and locked in a look of horror.
A warm feeling started in her belly and spread outwards, going down her arms and legs and up into her face.  Warmer and warmer as the six figures calmly watched her.  Warm was no longer the word, hot, then burning.  The skin out of the water felt like it was on fire.  She ducked back down under the water.  Although she could still feel the fire building and raging in her body, at least being submerged took some of the sharpness away.  Dull aches formed in her joints and muscles.  Her lungs took on an entirely different burn.  She needed air.
Sarii broke the surface gulping for air.  The six joined by another now were staring at the young woman.  The water was steaming now, and when her face felt the air, the pain was unbearable.  She took a few quick gasps then dived back down.
The pain in her face dulled with the going under, but the burning was still everywhere, and her joints and muscles throbbed.  Next her muscles began spasming.  Her body was thrashing out of control.  Unable to reach the surface, Sarii’s lungs tried inhaling water which then boiled in her lungs and came out as gouts of steam.  Eventually the water level lowered down enough that she couldn’t keep completely submerged.  The burning was agony, but the aches subsided.  Minutes that seemed like hours passed until the burning slowly stopped.
Sarii curled up panting on the dry sand at the bottom of what was once the pool. Her skin, no longer just scarred, but now red and blistered, itched.  The now eight figures gazed down at her as she rocked back and forth.  She rocked slowly at first, but then faster as she tried to resist scratching.  The urge was just too powerful.  Where just a few moments before her whole world had been pain, now it was an overwhelming need to scratch … hard.  The top layers of skin peeled away leaving smooth, pale, unblemished skin behind.  No scars, no pock marks, just smooth creamy skin.  She started to move, then stopped.  The soreness and stiffness in her shoulder was gone.  Once again she started to stand, still shaking.  Her entire body moved more easily than it ever had before, she felt … wonderful.  Standing took no effort, as if he body weighed no more than a feather.  Pains so slight she hadn’t even known they were there had disappeared.
Sarii’s eyes slowly rose to the eight figures standing above her.  Drifting back down her eyes came to the bodies lying on the floor.  Her face hardened and she looked back down at the sand under her feet, unconsciously rolling her left shoulder experimentally.  The sand was littered with flakes of dead skin.  Once again she was startled by the absence of the network of scars that had decorated her legs.  That brought her back to the thought of the six dead a few feet away.  Then a realization came to her, the blood was gone along with the water.  A shudder went through her as she remembered how she had boiled the water off.
Confused, wondering and upset, her mind jumped from one thought to another until her head was a riot of thoughts and emotions that would not stop.  For several minutes the men and women above studied her.
“You are now one of the Gulian.  Follow me.  You will be hungry, tired, and have many questions Daughter of the Night.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Prologue to Born and Reborn read by Christian Rayson

This excerpt is the prologue to the book Born and Reborn: Book 1 of the Epic of Imsalan by Christian Rayson. The prologue is entitled The Other Side of Dream.

Prologue: The Other Side of Dream

Harry Whittaker had hurt so much for so long, but the pain was gone now.  He stood up easily.  No one helped him and he needed no crutches or walker.  He stood firmly and strongly on his own feet.  He moved his arms carefully at first, extending them and gently rolling his shoulders, at any moment expecting his joints to painfully resist.  Then he began to swing them, and still there was no pain.  His shoulders rotated smoothly, with no roughness or grating.  He gently lifted one leg, then another.  They came up easily.  He went down into a deep side lunge, going deeper than he had since he was in his twenties.  There was a little pain, but it was just the feeling of going into a deep stretch without warming up properly.  His arms and legs were no longer flabby and atrophied; they were solid and well-muscled again.  His gut and chest were no longer drooping and wrinkled, they were firm and taut.

He looked around himself.  He was in a small grassy clearing of a forest.  He breathed deep the damp earthy scent that had a bit of spice he could not quite place surrounding him.  Lances of golden sunlight pierced the tree tops arcing over him and glittering insects flashed between them.  It was so familiar, but also strange.  He heard the soothing sounds of running water and the calls of birds,
frogs, crickets, and cicadas.

He walked towards the sound of water.  With each step he felt the rich loamy earth and soft undergrowth beneath his toes.  After a few dozen paces he came to a depression in the earth that a stream flowed through one side of, but on this bank it was a nearly still pool.  He looked down into the water, and among the colorful fish flitting below the surface, he was surprised by his own reflection.  It wouldn’t be right to say he looked young, but it wouldn’t be right to say he looked old either.  He didn’t look middle aged.  Any given age you tried to put his face would seem off, sometimes in both directions at once.  The surprise wasn’t from not recognizing his face.  It seemed all through his life this was the face he should have seen and the other face, ever changing as he grew up and then old, that he was used to seeing, was just showing a distortion of this true face.
“This has to be a dream,” He spoke aloud, “Even in my dreams I’ve felt my pains and aches for so long; if it's a dream I‘m not sure I ever want to wake up again.  I could be happy just staying here, I think.”

“This is a dream, yes,” a breathy woman’s voice replied behind him, “but it is not your dream, and thus you do not appear just as you see yourself, but as you truly are.  The pain you carried with you into your own dreams before was a remnant of how you perceive yourself and your life.  You cannot just stay here, however, as you have a journey to go on.”
“Who are you?”  He asked, turning to see the speaker.  She was a beautiful woman, about half a head shorter than Harry.  Her hair was midnight black and her skin was paper white.  It wasn’t just pale or not tan.  Her skin was utterly white.  There was no hint of blush, tan, or even a freckle.  Her skin was not a human coloration.  Her face also defied any attempt to place an age to her.  She was not young, nor was she old.  She just was.

“I’m your guide.  I make sure you can find your destination.”

“So I’m dreaming you?”

“No.  We are both in the land of dreams, but this is not your dream.  Nor is this my dream.  This is not any one person’s dream.  You are not dreaming me any more than I am dreaming you.  Actually, unlike when you are in a dreamscape that is your own you are not even dreaming yourself, thus why you are showing your true body instead of your interpretation of your factual body.”  The woman in front of him ran her fingers through her hair to pull it out of her eyes, and then the woman was a cat cleaning her fur.

“Wait a second; you were a human just a moment ago, now you’re a cat!  Or at least I thought you were, wait a minute, you still are.  Why did I think I saw a cat?”

“I am neither a human nor a cat and I am both and more.  I am who and what I am just as you are who and what you are.  I did not change, only the perspective of how you saw me changed.  In the waking world it is facts you see most easily and you must look through them to find truth.  In the world of dream truth is plain to see and you must look through it to find fact.”  As he stopped trying to decide if she was a woman or a cat and just relaxed he was not sure if he saw a woman, a cat, some hybrid cat girl, or the hints of other things he felt opening up behind the other images.  It was too much to take in at once.  He held the image of her as he first saw her firmly in his mind and that was all he saw.

“You seem to learn quickly both to see what is and to control what you see,” she laughed. “It helps at first to see only part of what something or someone is.  It is almost impossible to see anyone in their full truth at once, but as you grow more accustomed to seeing it will be less disorienting to view more of the truth of what you see.  As you learn it is good to choose to see a partial image so that it is easier to process, but forgetting that what you are seeing is only part of the truth is dangerous.  So, see only one or two aspects of someone or something if you must, but try to glimpse the other aspects when you can.  When you first looked at the place where we are sitting, what did you first see?”
“The pool of course!”  Harry replied, but as he turned to gesture he was not sitting on the ground by a pool with little colorful fish in a forest.  He was sitting in a chair in an empty hallway of a courthouse by a shiny metal water fountain where he could see his reflection.  The fish were now red, blue, yellow, and pink wads of chewing gum that had been left in the fountain.  He and the woman who was his guide were wearing black business suits.  Until that moment he had not realized that neither of them had been wearing anything a moment before.

“There are many different aspects to the truth of this place as well.  It can take on many appearances to you.  There are some facts you will glean from observing its many truths.  One, is that it is not an unpleasant place.  It is reasonably comfortable, relatively safe, and has what you need for now.  Another is that it is a good place to gather yourself for the next step.  One more fact shown by the truths of this place is that it is a good place to meet someone.  Lastly, it is not far from danger, and it will likely become unpleasant if you stay too long.  It is a good place to rest, meet me, ask questions, and then move on from toward your destination.”

“What is my destination and why do I have to go there?

“You already know both of those answers.  The inability to see them just means you are not yet ready to accept them.  Luckily, since you have a guide, you do not need to know the destination or reason.  You just have to go.”  She smiled her catlike grin.  Looking again, she was a cat grinning in an almost human manner.  Looking in the same way at his surroundings; it was a forest, a courthouse, a pool, a water fountain, and a city park at sunset.  It was more places.  Some were easier to see than others.  Some he liked seeing less than others.  Many of the ones he liked the least were the ones that showed him most clearly he would need to leave soon and the path he should follow.

“If you don’t have any more questions that cannot be asked while we travel,” she gently suggested, “it would be best if we left.  You can stay a little while longer, but the more quickly we get on our way the better it will be for you.”

“Well, I suppose since it is a dream I will wake up eventually, and I guess I would like to see where I was going before that happens.”  He nodded his head as he decided, “Let’s go.”
As they walked he chose to primarily keep the aspect of the truth of his surroundings that was a forest in his mind.  He liked it best.  He couldn’t see his path as clearly as with many of the others, and maybe that was part of its charm.  All of the aspects grew darker as they went though.  The forest literally grew darker and there were occasional thorns on the trees he passed and on the ground he walked over.  In the courthouse they had moved into the courtroom and the prosecution was presenting its case against him.  He had left the park and was now walking through a bad neighborhood of a large city.

In every facet of his journey he could see; his guide helped and supported him through the challenges.  She gave him a machete and helped him hack through the jungle they were traversing, helped argue in his defense regarding every crime he was accused of, helped him search for an ostrich feather large enough it would outweigh his heart, and together they poured through an ancient tome to find his name.  She used a pole to push their boat to the far side of the river.
There were times when it was hard or frightening.  They were chased by a pack of dogs, delved caves into the darkest depths of the earth, scaled a mountain that stretched to the stars, climbed a tree that held the entire world in which he had lived in one of its branches, and he wasn’t even sure whether they were climbing up or down.  They flew past stars, then out of time and space.
Through it all his guide stayed with him.  She encouraged him when he could do it on his own, made sure he had what help he needed when he fell a little short, and helped him back up when he fell.  Whenever he doubted he could continue, she was there with a smile and he had the strength to go a bit further.  After a few hours, perhaps days, perhaps years, perhaps eons, perhaps seconds; they were finally there.

“Do you know where you are now?”  She asked carefully.  For some this was the hardest part of the journey and could take the longest.  She had grown to know him well in their travels, and did not wish him pain.

“I think I do,” he responded softly, different truths of what he was seeing flashing through his mind's eye.  He had learned much on this journey, not the least of which was how much he had yet to learn.  Seeing himself in his true form that was an eagle, he preened his feathers thoughtfully before continuing, once again seeing the truth of himself as a man.  “I have passed from the waking world into the land of dream.  I have now passed through the land of dream and stand at the gateway to the land on the other side of dream.  We began where the waking world borders on the world of dream; we are now where the world of dream borders on the world of the dead.”

She breathed a sigh of relief.  She had grown to know how well he could see and how insightful he could be about the facts and the truths he saw represented, but even those with the keenest sight and minds could not see what they were not willing to believe.  “I know this next question may sound silly after the answer you just gave, but I must make certain that you understand fully.  Why did you have to come here?”

“I died.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  I lived a good life.”

“What does that mean, to live a good life?”

“I don’t really know, but I think I did it.”  He chuckled dryly, and then looked worried, “If I go there, will I be able to come back here?  It wasn’t always pleasant, but I liked it.  I liked being with you.”

“Not everyone who goes through ever comes back here, but many do.  I don’t know if those who don’t can’t or have reasons for not coming.  Just as seeing dream for what it is has allowed you to open your eyes and grow if you let yourself, seeing death for what it is may allow you to open your eyes even further and grow even more if you allow it.  Those who come back can only tell us about what they saw as much as you could tell someone in the waking world about what you have seen here.  You could get across basic ideas, but it would be incomplete and surreal.  The world of dreams; however, links all existences I know of.  Perhaps there are worlds on the other side of death.  Perhaps there are worlds on the other side of any of the other worlds dream runs to.  I don’t know.”

Then Harry asked hesitantly, “Will I be able to see you again?”



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Imsalan (Repost)

    We know magic is real.  We have next to complete proof it is not; but still, on some basic level we know it to be real.  This knowledge is so fundamental to us that no amount of disproof can dislodge it.  People always have, and always will, believe in magic and it's ability to shape our lives.
    We know that we are not alone.  Since earliest times almost every society has stories of people from a world beyond ours.  These stories merely disagree on the nature of these persons and the nature of where they come from.  Right now we primarily look to the stars for our neighbors, and perhaps we will find them there some day.  That is not where I would look though.
    Magic is real, and we are not alone.  Magic can not be found by a journey of feet however, it must be found where it lives.  Magical forces, and those who wield them, live in the first place we should look for them; Dream.
    Our universe is a bubble of stability in the roiling chaos of dream.  Outside of our safe predictable world is where magic dwells.  There are some other pockets of stability, places that are stable and safe enough to support societies, but they are rarely as stable as ours.  These bubbles of stability are where elves, dvergar, goblins, wizards, unicorns, and dragons live.  Most are tiny pockets, drifting from place to place through dreams and nightmares.  Others are larger; towns, valleys, cities, or even mountain ranges that are stable enough to hold together.
    One of the brightest jewels of these bubbles is more of a strewn web called Imsalan.  It is named for the massive pyramid city at it's center, but it spreads much farther afield than could ever be seen from the city gates.  Long ago a great empress had the vision to try catching the small pockets drifting through dream and build a vast network of roads connecting them; thus building a world stable enough to live in, but bordered on all sides and intertwined with Dream.
    Imsalan has many peoples, but most are divided into four groups.  The elves and other fey are the people of fire, the goblinoids are the people of water, the giants and dvergar are the people of stone, and the humans are the people of air.
    People can pass from Imsalan to our world, and they bring with them a spark of the magic from their world.  People can pass from our world to Imsalan, but that requires passing physically into Dream.
    Come with me.

(Repost from 5/15/2012; written "in universe" about the Epic of Imsalan setting of which Born and Reborn is the first book.)

An author with dyspraxia dysgraphia, isn't that kind of like a tone-deaf songwriter? (Repost)

    There will be many little confessions down the way, but this is the first one I want to get out there. I'm a bit cross-wired in the head. I suffer from dyspraxia and the related dysgraphia. No, dyspraxia is not related to dyslexia. The word looks the same, and can have some similar results (including its own form of dysgraphia) but what is known about how it works is quite different. The best, though not technically accurate, description of the difference is that dyslexia is problems with getting info in, while dyspraxia is problems with getting it out. Dyspraxia roughly means uncoordinated. Dysgraphia means I have poor handwriting. As I am typing my writing, it would seem that this should not be a problem. However, the causes of the poor coordination and bad handwriting are still a problem.

    My writing is still heavily affected by these, because the way dyspraxia and dysgraphia manifest in my cross-wired brain affects the way I process many aspects of language, and heavily affects my organizational abilities. My dyspraxia doesn't make it impossible for me to do anything. It just makes quite a few things way harder than they should be or take way longer than they should take. It makes me take longer to write or type, it makes me have to pause longer to think on correct spellings or grammar, and it makes it take more effort and energy than normal for these tasks. This all taking longer and more effort leads to it being more frustrating and easy for me to be distracted. Also, more time to finish can mean more time to be tempted to change plot or setting details. This often spirals into total rewrites. It takes longer to jot down ideas and notes.

    I have still chosen to try my hand at professional writing because, disabled or not, I love telling stories. I love teaching. I love opening minds to new wonders, ideas, and possibilities. I am heavily inspired in this by a professor who took me under his wing some years ago. He suffered from mathematical dyslexia, but he loved mathematics so much anyways that he had risen to being the head of a university math department. He is an incredibly gifted man in many areas; however, his passions drove him not just to excel at what was easiest for him, but to specialize in what he loved that was hardest for him. In school, English was my favorite and most despised subject. I loved the stories, the images, the characters, the themes, and the worlds. I hated the spelling, the grammar, the punctuation, and the handwriting. I loved to write long, complex essays and stories on a multitude of subjects. I hated how I would never have enough time to finish, and the bloody gashes ripped in it by the teacher's red pen. I don't know if there is a much more eloquent way to tell a child to not bother trying to learn than symbolically massacring their work with crimson ink. Then again, if some other color were the standard for correction, I might feel the same about it.

    There isn't really that much known about these disabilities. They aren't exactly the kind of thing that gets nationwide fundraisers for research. I work with kids and teens with many of the more extreme disabilities and disorders, and I have to agree that they need the help first. Mine is a disadvantage and an aggravation. As far as I can tell, the current thought on the dyspraxia related disorders is that they have something to do with the way short term memory functions, and that it is disruptive to my muscle memory learning things. It also is disruptive of other organizational connections in the mind. I am not an expert on these disorders in general. Really, with how varied it seems they can be, it seems not many people are. I just know what experts have told me and what I have observed from my own experiences.

    I will probably go into more depth about this later if it seems there is an interest. Right now though, I'm starting putting my writing out there. I feel it is important, especially since I am writing under a pen name, to have a place where anyone who enjoys my writing can learn about where it comes from.

    For years I have nurtured stories, worlds, and characters in my mind. I can't just keep them contained any longer. I've started a few times, but kept becoming discouraged or distracted by the way my life kept falling apart. With this post, I'm not trying to claim I shouldn't be accountable for flaws in my work. Point them out, please, if you see them. I'm merely asking for patience. I really am writing as quickly and correctly as I can.

(Repost from 12/03/2011)

What makes a human a human? Reproductive universal solvency. (Repost)


    One common challenge of writing Sci-fi or fantasy is the addition of the multitude of humanoids. Elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, orcs, vampires, werewolves, gods, grays, space elves, space orcs (some of whom are spelled with a K), shape changers, clones, sasquaches, warrior teddy bears, and a thousand other humanoids start filling your worlds quickly. It soon becomes hard to find a definable trait that makes the humans human. Elves are long lived, gracefull, wise, magical versions of humans.  Orcs are big, strong, brutal versions of humans. Grays are little super intelligent versions of humans. Gods are super powered humans.

    Often this isn't much of a problem because the humanoids are either rare or divided away from the humans, but eventually there comes the question, If all of these humanoids are unique, what is the human uniqueness?Compared to the elves it is often our vitality and intensity that is pointed to. Compared to orcs it is our stability and rationality that sets us apart. Compared to robots we are shown to be flexible and compassionate. Compared to a bestial species we are intelligent but weak. Each discription of humans is just the discription of the other race in inverse, which is natural since we are the baseline from which they are discribed. In games humans are often the best generalists. We aren't the best at anything in that setup, but we are rather good at everything. Other settings make us the most varied and versatile. I guess that works, but it kind of feels like a cheap answer to me.

    One tendency of humans, in myth as well as fiction, I have noticed is that we are portrayed as a genetic universal solvent. We are shown as being able to mix with anything. This is even being found in real world anthropology. It was long assumed that whenever homo-sapiens entered an area with other hominids, such as neanderthals, that the hominids were killed off. We now are finding that we just interbread with them and assimilated their genes. To use the phrase from the Star Trek Borg, "Resistance is futile."

    No matter how much enmity there is between two groups of humans, if it is at all possible for them to genetically intermix, they will. It takes incredible social and religious pressures to convince people not to go sleeping on the other side of the tracks, and often those pressures just make it more tempting to do so. If you think your herritage is entirely just one race, it is possible you may be right; but it is much more likely you just don't know your family tree as well as you think. Myths are full of heroes, monsters, gods, and godesses who sprung from something more or less than human joining with a human. The best known Vulcan from Star Trek was half human. Aragorn from Lord of the Rings was part elf. In folklore vampires that impregnate a living woman result in a dhampyr. Hercules and Persius were half god. The Spartans considdered themselves the descendants of Hercules. Countless rulers clamed to be direct decendants of one god or another. Those who believe they have been abducted by aliens often say they were impregnated and gave birth while on the ship. Even men who claim to be abducted sometimes say they carried a child, and on the whole we tend to primarily discount the notion of their abduction and seem almost accepting of the idea that if there were near humans out there, even a lack of a womb couldn't stop us from having their babies.

    Biology of whether humans and humanoids could actually reproduce aside, as it seems millenia of audiences take the possibility as a given, there is also the factor that humans would at least try to reproduce with anything. Any one individual human might not be tempted by any given creature, but somewhere out there is someone who will do anything to be with them in a reproductive way. If you have any doubts as to what some people can find attractive, you havn't spent much time on the parts of the internet where they don't block the icky stuff. Some people's ideal romantic partner isn't even humanoid; or plausable under our understanding of physics. If we ever make first contact or discover the entrance to Tyr Na Nog; whatever shape those we meet take, someone of our species will be chomping at the bit to welcome their genes into our pool.

    Really, if you think about it though, that isn't too bad of a trait for a species. Being able to pull the genes of other humanoids into our collective would be likely to have innumerable positive results as time went on. I think it would be cool for my decendants to have super cool magic powers or alien abilities. Also, hidden world fantasy becomes much more plausable under the assumption that long ago all the supernatural people interbred with us. Colonization of distant worlds becomes much more interesting if we integrate with the natives instead of fighting them. Make love, not war.

(Repost from 12/6/2011)

Darkness and Light (Repost)


    Darkness is not evil.  Darkness is only what we cannot see.  Some of what is in darkness is just there.  Some of those who dwell in darkness are there because they do not wish to be seen.  There can be many reasons to want to hide.  Some of those who dwell in darkness are there because they cannot leave.  Others stay because they will not leave those who cannot leave at the mercy of those who hunt in the dark.

    It is dangerous in the dark.  Even when there is nothing that wishes you harm, you may not see dangers to avoid them, or those who are dangerous may not see you to avoid you.  Many predators can see well or otherwise find their way in the dark.  They might take easy prey.

    It is easy in the darkness to decide you must be either predator or prey.  Even in the dark though, there is good and evil in all of us.  The prey may grow powerful and become predators.  Power does not make one a predator though.  The greatest power is needed to protect.  Keen sight is needed to see through the darkness.  Fortitude is needed to bear the injuries meant for the weak.  Greater strength is needed to restrain than to attack, because there is good in all, even the predators.  Patience and will are needed to protect without oppressing.

    Light is not good.  Light just means something is illuminated to be seen.  Just because it walks in the light does not mean it is not evil or dangerous, it just means it is either better at hiding its unsavoryness, or powerful enough not to need to hide.  Light can lead to complacency, and too much light can blind.  Evil and dangerous things can want the security of seeing around themselves just as much as the good and the weak.

    It is dangerous in the light.  It is easy to believe what you cannot see cannot be there.  It is easy to lose fear and respect for the monsters when you see them in the light.  Just because you see something does not make it not dangerous.  Just because you see much does not mean you see all.  Also, it is easy to forget that no matter how well lit it is where you stand, darkness is never far away.

(Repost from 3/18/2012)

What Chickens Taught Me About Heaven and Hell (Repost)


    I grew up in rural Kansas.  I didn’t just grow up in a small town, I grew up nine miles from the nearest small town.  While we didn’t do much “real” farming, I did grow up surrounded by animals.  There were dogs, cats, chickens, cows, the occasional bull, deer, coyotes, a peacock and a peahen for a while, rats, field mice, catfish, perch, snakes, lizards, all manner of birds, and a plethora of bugs.  I do agree that most animals are not really capable of what I would call evil.  After growing up with up to a hundred chickens at a time under my sister’s and my care, I do have to say that chickens are one of the best contenders to being an exception.

    Chickens are mean, brutal, sadistic creatures.  They will attack one another; not only for food, territory, and breeding rights, but just because they can.  Put enough chickens together with unlimited food and water and you will still find dead birds every morning from them pecking one another to death.  They don’t just attack each other either, they will attack anything they think they can get away with.  With roosters, this can include their caretakers.  The term “pecking order” comes from what passes for chicken social structure.  They have a line from strongest to weakest that is reinforced by the stronger birds pecking the weaker birds.  The weakest are then pecked by every chicken above them until they die from the hundreds of little wounds.  Chickens who are handled caringly and lovingly enough by humans can be taught to leave these patterns, and they are capable of caring for their young to a degree, but in a natural state chickens seem to wish to destroy anything that is not themselves or their progeny.

    There are people who are like chickens; people who hate others purely for not being themselves.  They run around looking for anyone they can peck at just for the sake of pecking.  They might fight to the death to protect their own children, but could care less about the man starving down the street as long as it doesn’t bring down their property values.  Some places become human chicken coops, with people like this milling around teaching the ones around them to fear everything and thus hate everything.  Enough people seeing the world through a chicken’s eyes creates a hell on earth wherever they gather.

    It is said that one man asked as he was dying if he could see hell before going to heaven.  In hell he saw a great feast that no one could eat because they had huge spoons tied to their arms so they couldn’t feed themselves.  In heaven he saw the same scene, but they were feeding one another.  Chicken minded people are what can make a heaven into a hell.

    No one wants to live in a hellish environment, but there are few who are willing to do what it takes to bring change in the other direction.  These people are heros.  They spread hope and love in the face of fear and hate.  They teach people that their environment can become better, and they don’t need to just hurt everyone they can before anyone has the opportunity to hurt them.  Heros can turn a hell on earth into a paradise.

    Many of the greatest heroes of legend don’t just turn their own environment into a paradise, after they fix their own land they descend into another hell to protect those there.  Those are the greatest heroes.

(Reposted from 4/4/2012)

Generational Armageddon: Teenagers are the End of the World (Repost)


    In the news, in the break-room, wherever adults gather to trade information; sooner or later the subject of the young ones coming into adulthood will come up.  It will come up, and it is the end of the world as we know it.  They have no respect, they don't know how good they have it, they don't understand what they are doing, and they are destroying their lives before they've even begun.
    In cafeterias, coffee shops, fast food places, and wherever else the young have claimed as theirs for the moment to sit and discuss the world; sooner or later the subject of what a sorry state it is in will come up.  The need for change of how the world is run will be discussed; the end of the world as we know it so that a new world can be born.
    In some symbolic traditions Death has a very interesting meaning.  That symbolic meaning is change that requires one thing to end for another to begin.  In these symbolic systems, Death is one of the few symbols that can always be seen as positive.  In these symbolic systems, this type of change is also the one that is met with the most fear and anxiety.
    In the Bible, there is one book that is hardest to interpret, fascinating for many, but most frightening in it's imagery to most.  This is the book of Revelation.  It is filled with destruction, death, and change.  It also has the triumphant return of Christ in all of his glory and the promised Kingdom of God on earth.
    Every generation looks at the way that the next generation is changing everything they have built and can see the world as they know it ending.  Every generation looks at a world they are born into, and envisions a new world they can build.  Every generation sees the symbols of Revelation and interprets them in their times to see that the world is ending.  Maybe one generation some day, the youth will truly end the world for good.  Maybe some day the symbols of Revelation will play out for the final time and there will be no further improvement for the next generation.
    For now, every generation tears down some of what has been built before and builds up something new.  We work to tear out the darkness in the world and build the City of God on earth.  Sometimes we come closer than others.  Every generation has change though, every generation tries with greater or lesser success to learn from those before them, every generation has taxes, and every generation dies.  Every generation has their Revelation, and for them the world ends as they know it so that they may enter the Kingdom of God.

(Reposted from 5/1/2012)

Oops, I kinda got lost in Star Wars land for a little bit. (Repost)

    I just noticed I haven't posted anything new here in three months now.  That is completely not cool, but a bunch of chaos has been going on in my life.  One of the most guilty perpetrators in the crime of stifling my writing however has been the MMORPG Star Wars the Old Republic being released.  This game has kind of swallowed up tracts of my life.  It's just gulping them down like a nine year old gulps down gummy worms.  Instead of tooth decay and early diabetes though, it has instead brought my writing to a dead halt.

    I've still been working on ideas, jotting down tidbits, and editing larger works I had been working on.  I haven't really made any substantial progress on either of the books I'm working on, nor have I finished a single short story or even a poem since that game came out.  It really is too good of a game.  I'm going to have to watch myself to make sure I keep turning words out instead of just basking in the creations of others.

    I love Star Wars.  I've loved it as long as I can remember.  It has such beautiful imagery, symbolism, and themes.  The worlds and characters almost reach out of the screen with the movies and out of the pages with the books.  Yes, there are some places in the franchise that just make me want to take George Lucas and shake him, but the creation as a whole is astounding.  One of my favorite aspects of Star Wars is that it isn't really sci-fi, it's fantasy in space.  It has many sci-fi elements, but at it's heart it belongs more next to Tolkien than next to Asimov on the shelf.  Star Wars doesn't reach out into the "what if?" and see where it goes.  Instead it tells stories that are patchworks of ancient elemental tales; and builds a mythology to contain them out of space ships, lasers, and new age mysticism.

    One of the best traits of Star Wars though, is it's ability to grow and self sustain.  If George Lucas died tomorrow, Star Wars would continue.  That I believe is a difficult trait to imbue a creation of any type with.  That is where it becomes alive.  It has enough power and potential that it can surpass the vision of it's author.  It has the potential to keep growing.  It can go beyond a single vision, and integrate the influence of all mankind.

    I do believe it is premature to say Star Wars is a mythology of the modern age.  Myth is a creation not of one man, or even a small group.  Myth is where a story is taken and changed by the imagination of a whole society, and through that gains life of it's own.  Star Wars can not be that, yet.  I do believe it could  become true myth eventually though.  Having even the potential for that makes something great.

    I can only dream that someday my mind could help shape the seed of a story that could stand the test needed for it to live on beyond me; not just being retold, but growing.

(Originaly posted on 5/6/2012)

Getting Back to Writing

I've been a bit distracted for quite a while now, and I haven't been doing nearly as much writing as I should have been. I also haven't been doing nearly as much promoting of the work I've already finished as I should be. So, I'm giving myself a kick in the hind end and getting going.
So far my book I've finished (Born and Reborn) has only been available through Smashwords and the places it was distributed to by Smashwords. This week I have finally done the work to have it distributed through Amazon/kindle as well. My next projects for that will be making sure it is distributed through Google books as well as physical editions through CreateSpace. After that I will be trying my hand at making audio and/or video versions of reading portions of my work. I'm uncertain where or when that will be, but I will keep everyone posted through here about all of that.
Right now, however, I am working on creating a more consolidated online presence of my writing online. What little writing presence I have online is a bit scattered and intermittent. Thus, I have finally gotten rights to my own domain (right here at christianrayson.com) where I am basing my new blog that will be the hub to all of my other places I am present online.
In order to optimize this new hub for my work, I will be initially re-posting a good deal of older writing of mine in order to get it in the new location. However, I plan on having more new stuff to post soon; right now I'm reorganizing the old stuff first though.
Anyways, please bear with the initial post spam, it really is for the best; I hope.