Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Courteous Force Awakeneth - FQ Book 6 Prome & Canto 1

[It's only just hitting me how fucking wierd book five of the Faerie Queene is. Its a s if Ted Hughes was involved in the Mai Lai massacre and worked in a chapter defending it in idealised terms into an epic poem meant to be about other stuff.

And Sir Walter Raleigh was apparently also at the same massacre, ordering heads chopped off, which was eventually used as (a small) part of a court case against him which eventually got him executed.

Its as if Oliver North was also Gore Vidal, and also this famous exploring pirate guy was there.

Seriously, what the fuck was all that about. I mean I know what it was about, because I've read the notes and the wikipedia pages. But what was it about?]

Anyway! On to Book Six;

The reason for the title is becasue the opening of Book Six is essentially The Force Awakens of the Faerie Queene. Do you guys remember how much fun we had in Books One and Two? And how bored we were in the non-Britomart parts of Books Three and Four, and how Book Five went totally to shit?

Well so far it looks like we are getting a soft-reboot to Book One. "We're looking for a Redcrosse type" says the casting Director, except, you know, not Redcrosse."

Enter Calidore, the Knight of Courtesie.

But first the Proem;

We begin with Edmund talking about he has weary steps but forgets his tedious travel when 'nigh ravisht with rare thoughts delight', which matches my impression of his personality.

I have never seen anyone writing allegory who would not be better off just writing fantasy, but I digress.

Then a standard appeal to the Muses to conduct him in 'these strange wais, where never foot did use, Ne none can find, but who was taught them by the Muse.'

Then some stuff about the importance of courtesy, with the usual fallen world imagery and argument about these rubbish days we are having these days with these damn millennials damn discourteous headless irish just kill him Walter alright?

This is a decent verse. Present courtesy is mearly 'fayned showes' which 'carry colours faire, that feeble eies misdeeme.';

"But in the triall of true curtesie,
Its now so farre from that, which then it was,
That it indeed is nought but forgerie,
Fashion'd to please the eis of them, that pas,
Which see not perfect things but in a glas:
Yet is that glasse so gay, that it can blynd
The wisest sight, to thinke gold that is bras.
But vertues seat is deepe within the mynd,
And not in outward shows, but inward thoughts defynd."

And then finally some stuff about of course you would go to Elizabeths Court for Courtesy since it is the most courteous fucking place on earth.

And now we begin.


What do we know about Calidore?

He has 'gentlenesse of spright, and 'manners mylde', a 'comely guize' and 'gracious speach' enough to 'steal mens hearts away.' He is also 'full stout and tall' and 'well appov'd in batteilous affray'. High CHA high STR, seems a bit min-maxed, seems a bit bland.

Spenser tells us that everyone rally likes Calidore;

"For he loathd leasing, and base flattery,
And loved simple tuth and stedfast honesty."

Its hard to be both honest and direct and also liked, this must be where the marvellous alchemy of courtesy comes into things.

Calidore is out and bumps into Artegall coming home from Book Five, they exchange knightly news, Artegall tells Calidore what he has been up to and asks for his quest. Calidore replies that he has been sent out after the Blatant Beast which 'often hath annoyd, Good Knights and Ladies true, and many else destroyed.'

Luckily Artegall just saw it a few pages back, which makes Calidore very happy indeed since he thought he would be looking for ages (he will, its a 12 Canto book and he only gets it at the end).

Calidore is on the way to where Artegall saw the beast when he enters the main action of the Canto.

A 'comely Squire' is tied to a tree and emitting 'shrill cries'. Calidore frees him and gets this explanation;

"Not farre from hence, uppon yond rocky hill,
Hard by a streight there stands a castle strong,
Which doth observe a custome lewd and ill,
And it hath long mayntaind with mighty wring:
For may no Knight nor Lady passe along
That way, (and yet they needs must passe that way,)
By reason of the streight, and rocks among,
But they that Ladies lockes does shave away,
And that knights berd for toll, which they for passage pay."

The Lady of this castle is Briana, 'Then which a prouder Lady liveth none:' and she loves a knight -Crudor_ and he won't get with her until she makes him a mantle of Knights beards and Ladies hair. Therefore she gets her Seneschall Maleffort to go get her that hair.

The notes say Briana probably means 'strong, Crudor 'cruel' and Maleffort 'ill attempt'.

This squire was passing by with a Damizell when Maleffort comes upon them, ties up the squire and chases the lady. And AT THAT MOMENT;

"Thus whiles they spake, they heard a ruefull shrieke
Of one loud crying, which they streight way ghest,
That it was she, the which for helpe did seeke.
They sawy that Carle from farre, with hand unblest
Hayling that mayden by the yellow heare,
That all her garments from her snowy brest,
And from her head her lockes he nigh did teare,
Ne would he spare for pitty, nor refraine for feare."

Calidore goes off to stop this and the carle replies in somewhat salty fashion;

"Art thou the caytive, that defyest me,
And for this Mayd, whose party thou doest take,
Wilt give thy beard, though it but little bee?
Yet shall it not her lockes for raunsome fro me free."

They battle for a handful of verses which are pretty good but not exceptional enough to repeat here. The Carle eventually realises he's going to lose so just runs for it, off back to the castle.

"They from the wall him seeing so aghast,
The gate soone opened to receive him in,
But Calidore did follow him so fast,
That even in the Porch he him did win,
And cleft his head asunder to his chin.
The Carcasse tumbling downe within the dore,
Did choke the anteraunce with a lumpe of sin,
That it could not be shut, whilest Calidore_
Did enter in, and slew the Porter on the flore."

Calidore takes on the whole castle and either kills them or gets past them, its not clear, then he gets into the central bit where Briana gives him shit in rather entertaining wize;

".. who with uncomely shame
Gan him salute, and fowle upbrayd with faulty blame.

False traytor Knight, (said she) no Knight at all,
But scorne of armes that hast with guilty hand
Murdred my men, and slaine my Seneshall;
Now comest thou to rob my house unmand,
And spoile me selfe, that can not thee withstand?
Yet doubt thou not, but that some better Knight
Then thou, that shall thy treason understand,
Will it avenge, and pay thee with thy right:
And if none do, yet shame shal thee with shame requight."

Calidore gives her a lecture about how forcibly shaving people isn't curteous.

"Wherewith all full of wrath, she thus replyde;
Vile recreant, know that I doe much disdaine
Thy curteous lore, that doest my love deride,
Who scornes thy ydle scoffe, and bids thee be defyde."

Calidore points out that that dude is not currently here.

"Cowherd (quoth she) were not, that thou wouldst fly,
Ere he doe come, he should be soone in place."

Well fine, so call him, replies Calidore. So she sends a Dwarfe with a ring of hers to fetch Crudor.

Crudor does turn up the next day and Calidore issues out, and downs him in one blow. Briana wails on the battlements 'And made such piteous mourning therewithall, That from the battlements she ready seem'd to fall.'

But Crudor is not out yet, he awakes in a sleepy Sunday-morning fashion;

"Nathlesse at length hem selfe he did upreare
In lustlesse wise, as if against his will,
Ere he had slept his fill, he wakened were,
And gan to streach his limbs; which feeling ill
Of his late fall, a while he rested still:"


"Then there began a fearefull cruell fray
Betwixt them two, for maystery of might.
For both were wondrous practicke in that play,
And passing well expert in single fight,"

Its a classic, well-told and completely unoriginal spenserian fight which nearly ends with the much-loves hero vs hero dual-blow, but doesn't, because Calidore is a bit faster and whacks him on the head, 'That him upon the ground he groveling cast'.

And its here that things change a little as compared to Arthegall, because when Cruor; 'Cryde out, Ah mercie Sir, doe me not slay, But save my life, which lot before your foot doth lay.'

Calidore actually does give him mercy, and a lecture instead of a beheading;

".. By this now may ye lerne,
Strangers no more so rudely to intreat,
But put away proud looke, and usage sterne,
The which shal nought to you but foule dishonor yearne."

"In vaine he seeketh others to suppresse,
Who hath not learnd him selfe first to subdew:
All flesh is frayle, and full of ficklenesse,
Subject to fortunes chance, still chaunging new;
What haps to day to me, wo morrow may to you.

Who will not mercie unto others shew,
How can he mercy ever hope to have?"

Well, well, well, we have come a long way from Book Five, even though we have actually only come 13 pages from Book Five.

He gets a load of promises from Cruor about behaving like a proper knight, then takes him to Briana;

"Whereof she now more glad, than sory earst,
All overcome with infinite affect,
For his exceeding courtesie, that pearst
Her stubborne hart with inward deepe effect,
Before his fee her selfe did project,"

She offers him the Castle, which he graciously gives to the Squire (no mention of the damizell), then hangs out with them until his wounds are healed, leaving Briana and Cruor happily together.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Danger! Danger! Anticlimax Ahead! FQ Book 5 Canto 12

(No-ones going to read to the end of this so I'm putting this here;

Scrap and I are up for Reddits r/rpg/ Game of the Month for February. If you are on Reddit and you'd like to go there and vote for us then hit the image;

Ben Milton is also on there, so it looks like Scrap and I will have to hunt him through the Under-Earth and eat him. Apologies.

Ok, back to the Faerie Queene)

The end of Book Five is a classic Spencerian Anticlimax Canto. Artegall finds and fights Grantorto, who is a giant wielding an axe, except not a multi-armed GIANT giant like Arthur fought but just a large man.

He wins by the middle of the super-short Canto, then sets up shop with Irenae to govern this 'Island', using Talus as a murderous Robocop. This only lasts a handful of verses, just long enough for Spencer to make yet another point about how when his ex-boss ordered those Irish prisoners executed, it was totally justified. 

Arthegall is then unexpectedly recalled (just like Spencers ex-boss) and then we get into the much-better second half of the Canto, Arthegalls meeting two extremely well-described Witches and their creature the Blatant Beast, which it seems may be a major adversary for whomever the knight of Canto six is.

Even though the Witches have more life a verve to them, they are still a lot like numerous other Spencerian monster/baddies we've seen in this book.

The opener does have a few gems of verse, of which I will try to bring you a handful here;

Talus being apparently salt-immune (I was hoping he would glitch in the sea), and still doing most of the work;

"But nathemore would they from land refraine,
But when was nigh unto the shore they drew,
That foot of man might sound the bottom plaine,
Talus into the sea did forth issew,
Though darts from shore & stones they at him threw;
And wading through the waves with steadfast sway,
Maugre the might of all those troupes in vew,
Did win the shore, whnce he them chast away,
And made to fly, like doves, whom the Eagle doth affray.


But ere he marched farre, he with them met,
And fiercely charged them with all his force;
But Talus sternely did upon them set,
And brusht, and battred them without remorse,
That on the ground he left full many a corse;
Ne any able was him to withstand,
Be he them overthrew both man and horse,
That they lay scattred over all the land,
As thicke as doth the seede after the sowers hand."

Irena gets dressed for her execution, or possibly marriage (also, slight callout to Spensers sweating lady fetish);

"Then up she rose and on her selfe did dight
Most squalid garments, fit for such a day,
And with dull countenance, and with doleful spright,
She forth was brought in sorrowfull dismay,
For to receive the doome of her decay.
But comming to the place, and finding there
Sir Artegall, in battailous array
Wayting his foe, it did her dead hart cheare,
And new life to her lent, in midst of deadly feare.

Like as a tender Rose in open plaine,
That with untimely drought nigh withered was,
And hung the head, soone as few drops of raine
Thereon distill, and deaw her daintie face,
Gins to looke up, and with fresh wonted grace
Dispreds the glorie of her leaves gay;
Such was Iraneas countenance, such her case,"

Here is Grantorto;

"Who came at length, with proud presumpteous gate,
Into the field, as if he fearelesse were,
All armed in a cote of yron plate,
Of great defence to ward the deadly feare,
And on his head a steele cape he did weare
Of cooour rustie browne, but sure and strong;
And in his hand an huge Polaxe did beare,
Whose steale was yron studded, but not long,
With which he wont to fight, to justifie his wrong."

From the notes; "Grantorto is armed like an Irish galloglas or foot soldier, whom Spenser describes in his View of the Present State of Ireland; 'in a long shirt of mayle down to the calfe of his legg with a long brode axe in his hand'."

"Of statue huge and hideous he was,
Like to a Giant for his monstrous hight,
And did in strenght most sorts of men surpas,
Ne ever any found his match in might;
Thereto he had great skill in single fight:
His face ws ugly, and his countenance sterne,
That could have frayd one with the very sight,
And gaped like a gulfe, when he did gerne,
That whether man or monster one could scarce discerne."

I was particularly pleased to read 'gerne', since I grew up near Eskdale, site of one of the few remaining Gurning competitions in the United Kingdom.

Then the fight happens, it isn't long.

If you've read a bunch of Spenserian fights before, nothing really stands out. I have been talking a lot about Spensers Naval metaphors, where someone or something is shown to be like a ship doing something, but I rarely show them, so here is one from the Arthegall/Grantorto fight;

"He shund his strokes, where ever they did fall,
And way did give unto their gracelesse speed:
As when a skilfull Marriner doth reed
A storme approching, that doth peril threat,
He will not bide the daunger of such dread,
But strikes his sayles, and vereth his mainsheat,
And lends unto it leave the emptie ayre to beat."

And then Arthegall wins and etc, etc.


The last fifteen verses are ALL witches, and they are a pleasing return to form;

"When as two old ill favour'd Has he met,
By the way side being together set,
Two griesly creatures; and, to that their faces
Most foule and filthie were, their garments yet
Being all rag'd and tatter'd, their disgraces
Did much the more augment, and made most ugly cases.

The one of them, that elder did appeare,
With her dull eyes did seeme to looke askew,
That her mis-shape much helpt; and her foule here
Hung loose and loethsomely: Thereto her hew
Was wan and leane, that all her teeth arew,
And all her bones might through her cheekes be red;
Her lips were like raw lether, pale and blew,
And as she spake, therewith she slavered;
Yet spake she seldom, but thought more, the lesse she sed."

This is 'Envie'. The other;

"Her face was ugly, and her both distort,
Foming with poyson round about her gils,
In which her cursed tongue full sharpe and short
Appear'd like Aspis sting, that closely kils,
Or cruelly does wound, whom so she wils:
A distaffe in her other hand she had,
Upon the which she litle spinnes, but spils,
And faynes to weave false tales and leasings bad,
To throw amongst the good, which others had disprad."

This is 'Detraction', and she is unlike Envy;

"For what so Envie good or bad did fynd,
She did conceale, and murder her own mynd;"

Wheras Detraction;

".. what ever evill she conceived,
Did spred abroad, and throw in th'open wynd.
Yet this in all her words might be perceived,
That all she sought, was mens good name to have bereaved."

I'm pretty sure we've seen quite a lot of monsters and evil witch-women in the Faerie Queene who are a lot like Envy and Detraction. Wasn't there that woman that followed a Knight about shouting slander at him?

In fact yes, I think she was called Sclaunder.

Also wasn't jealousy itself a character in book Four? I think Malbecco eventually went to live in a cliff and turned into PURE JEALOUSY.

The two witches mark Arthegall as he passes by and set on him the Blatant Beast, which I think is some kind of 4Chan, Fake News, Trump/Russia monster that does reputational damage?

"Thereto the Blatant beast by them set on
At him began aloud to barke and bay,
With bitter rage and fell contention,
That all the woods and rockes night to that way,
Began to quake and tremble with dismay;
And all the aire rebellowed againe.
So dreadfully his hundered tongues did bray,
And evermore those hags them selves did paine,
To sharpen him, and their owne cursed tongs did straine."

So its looking like the next Book is going to be Spenser dealing with his deep feelings about that time his boss got his reputation destroyed because of all the murderous stuff  which he was pretty much ordered/not ordered to do in Ireland.

So its going to get wierd, even for the Faerie Queene. And topical.

Friday, 26 January 2018

A Review of The Peregrine by J.A. Baker

This book has some of the best prose I have ever read.

It can be hard to read. It is an intense reflective meditation with only a handful of human-specific acts. No human speaks to another in the book, or meets another. Baker does everything he can to avoid the rest of mankind and the season of shooting, in spring, when men come, sends him hiding in the woods.

The absolute entirety of the book is him facing out at nature, in depth. More depth than any single moment could afford any single mind. Baker has merged moments across decades, giving us one dense year, he has seized images and sensations from day-long wanders into crystal thoughts. What took him a decade to experience, we read in a week, or a few days (or over a month in my case), what took him a day to gather we read in an hour, what took him an hour we feel in a moment.

It's intense and inhuman, like drinking a strange, strong drink in little draughts. I had to put it down a lot. Like a huge panoramic landscape in text form, except that some optical illusion has been used to add more detail to the image than the eye could easily take, so the viewer has to glimpse and come back, then glimpse again.

It is a very timeless book, almost shamanic. Like staring into a deep mirror. The mind rebounds a little.

Few books I've read have made me stop and think about such a wide variety of other things while I was reading it, I will include some here, I think at least a third of my time reading the book was spend not actually reading the book.

There are no characters but Baker and the birds, and almost no action but trying to get closer to the birds.

It's impossible not to see the various Peregrines as Knights. Beautiful, dominant, insanely hyper-specialised murderers. And fastidious too, they wash every morning. All birds have parasites and, as the killer, the parasites of every kill are likely to jump directly to the Peregrine. Thus the regular baths.

This is something I hadn't considered previously relating to the aesthetics of apex predators as compared to scavengers. Predators feel clean, scavengers feel dirty. One element adding to this might be the leaping parasite issue; the killer must bathe or clean regularly or carry the vampiric gift of its prey; the scavenger can afford to look like shit, all of the bugs have fled.

But yes, the Peregrines as knights, proud, haughty, indifferent. Almost quasi-lazy much of the time, or at least not seeming to actually do anything. And they play, they play in the air, they fly out into storms for no reason, they whirl and swoop and fool around, much in the same way that T.H. White describes the Norman aristocracy.

And for its absurdly hyper-specialised and highly effective hunting style, masters of the dive and of open-air predation on other birds. If they have the height to dive upon them they can kill anything with wings they meet.

Though not always in close woods. There, the small manoeuvrable sparrow hawk rules, like some kind of petty noble in a hilly dukedom.

Towards the end of the book, a Peregrine duels a Sparrow hawk. It doesn't need to do this, it does it either for fun, if such a word can be used for a Peregrine, or because its hunting algorithm has fixed on the competitor, or for some more abstruse reason.

The Sparrow hawk avoids the Peregrine in the close woods, the larger bird doesn't have the room to dive upon it, or the manoeuvrability to reach it. It can't get in amongst the trees at speed. But the Sparrow hawk doesn't know this. It doesn't know that it is safe, and it makes a mistake, and that is the end of that.

The Peregrines do seem to have fun. They fly and act in highly individual ways, they ride storms and huge pillars of air for no observable reasons, they seem to have particular neuroses about certain places or patterns. It might not be unreasonable to call them persons.

Crows are thieves, or rude mechanicals. Crows are the only birds to majorly bother the Peregrines in any way. They persistently mob them in pairs, go after them, execute little flapping duels. I don't remember reading about many crows being eaten.

But Baker is not a Crow, and doesn't want to be one. This is not a crow story. There are almost no manipulations. Little is grasped. He does ride a bicycle at one point but we don’t hear about the steering, only the hawk like sensation of speeding downhill.

Where the Peregrine flies birds of every kind explode out of the ground, or flee from the air, like a dragon passing by, and of all these only the Crow goes right after them and dicks them about, and seems to survive.

Owls are often unwitting comedians, though not at night. Baker goes home at night but in the evening the Owls transmute from fools to utterly silent stealth-predators.

The poor Woodpigeons are the churls. Their fate is to be eaten by Hawks or shot by men. There are thousands of them in Autumn and by the end of Winter an apocalypse of cold, snow, hawks and guns has reduced them to a tiny rump of fearful refugees.

And then there are the minor guest appearances, the magical Hummingbird, the sombre Heron, the often-eaten gull. The freaky snipe with its tripped-out escape patterns.

So these are our characters and these are their lives.

And then Baker. A guy who wants to, emotionally and spiritually, fuck the Peregrine.

That’s a little fleshy. Let's say he wants to become one with it, to be possessed by it. All in ways that would be immediately intelligible and quite obvious to someone painting the wall of a cave 40,000 years ago.

Baker tries to get closer to the Peregrine. He lets them get used to him. Since any wild Peregrine is a sensory sphere of Superman or Daredevil-esqe full-spectrum hyper-sensitivity attached to a killing algorithm that seems like it was developed by an evil AI from the future, attached to a thing that can fly, this is hard.

He gets closer, the bird backs away. It's like a romance. A comedic interlude sees him get too close by mistake. The hawk must have been dreaming and he takes a poor turn and they end up only a few feet from each other. The hawk nearly has a breakdown, almost unable to process the seismic closeness of the ape. Even Baker is upset. They are both embarrassed.

There are a few interludes like this, with various birds, they tend to freak out of they find Baker where he is not meant to be.

Baker traces the kills of the bird. He is close enough, soon enough, to feel the warmth of the blood from a kill. He says at one point that he could almost eat from a particular kill.

The kiss comes in the midst of apocalyptic winter.

The winter in the Essex marshlands in this book is close to Blood Meridian, or the Book of Revelations. Birds freeze in place. The poor dammed woodpigeons are highlighted on the white ground, the earth is turned into a perfect killing ground for hawks, all that carefully evolved camouflage made irrelevant.

A Heron freezes standing up. A Hummingbird dives for a target beneath clear ice and, unable to perceive it, bounces off in incomprehension. It survives but all it can do now is starve. All most birds can do is starve. Except for the predators. A manic owl pops out from a snowbound hedge and trips right up to Baker like an arctic explorer cracked from scurvy coming up to a Polar Bear.

This is all deeply enrapturing and a bit upsetting, Baker says the eye can love what the brain and heart can hate, but he makes us love it too, though we see it only with our minds.

Barker enters a barn and picks up a whole frozen owl from its rafters like a sculpture. A non-yet-dead bird bangs off the roof and falls into the snow outside. The Peregrine has not finished its kill.

Barker goes out into the snow and sees the prey with blood welling from its eyes. He finishes it off, as he does for several birds he finds too wounded to live. The Peregrine comes and feeds.

And that’s the kiss. That is as close as they get, in action and in meaning. Baker does get a little closer physically later in the book, but of course he can never get as close as he wants or needs to be. He cannot become. He has to cycle home at the end of the day.

A curious and almost unconnected element of my reading this book is that I could never get very far into it without thinking about Artificial, or Mechanical intelligence. The idea of the Peregrine in particular, and of the birds generally, being a kind of model for a non-human intelligence and awareness took deep hold of me.


Well they fly around for a start, interacting with our world in ways that can be measured and predicted, but also having access to another dimension where they rule, and from which they can pop out at any time.

I think it was the mixture of deep beauty, post-human skill and superhuman awareness, deep sophistication across a very narrow, hyper, hyper-specialised field of experience, and a clear kind of awareness and personality of some kind, and an awareness of man in some way, combined with the fact that the Peregrine, and birds in general are just really fucking weird and stupid and don't know what's going on.

Crows do, but then Crows make me think of a General Intelligence. They make me think of us.

I doubt most birds would even recognise the concept of 'bird'. I strongly suspect that they have no understanding of what other birds are, or that other birds are a version of them.

In one captured moment a wading bird just walks right over another species of bird, like a big dumb dump truck, as if it isn't there.

And yet they communicate in this deeply woven web of movement and song. The birds always know when the Peregrine is about. They listen to each others songs. They are hugely aware but they do not understand. I mean they don't even understand like a dog understands.

That strange, glassy, smooth, frantic, manic, subtle, beautiful, somewhat alien mixture of awareness and situational competency far beyond human limits, combined with just being completely headfucked like a broken machine when something happens from OUTSIDE CONTEXT.

The algorithmic flocks of birds make me think of mathematics. I feel they are mathematical animals, and perhaps we are too, but they are just far enough away that we can feel the numbers in them.

Yet they live. Maybe in the same way that a genuinely thinking machine might live. Sensing, acting, understanding, with a personality and particularity all its own, and yet living tangentially to us.

I imagine mankind living like crafty crows in a world of metal birds. The idea of the Peregrine, in that world, is terrifying.

Reading about the Peregrine made me think about what it would be like to be hunted by something designed specifically to kill you, that was specifically more intelligent than you in regards to the patterns you would use to escape. Yet that did not comprehend you. I think about the Sparrowhawk in the woods, safe but not understanding it was safe.

Well, its a remarkable book. If you care about prose you should get it, and get through it.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

What if it was all a dream?

Suppose the following;

The cosmos is the dream of a particular, single meta-being. This being is unconscious now, we don't know how long it’s been asleep and we don't know when it will wake up but we know, absolutely, that it *will* wake up.

All this is known without question, it's provable in some simple and obvious way.

How would this affect human culture?

In Lovecraft this is a nightmare scenario, but in real life probably people would just adapt to it. It’s a rather rough religion but its noticeably more hopeful than pure materialism (unless you are Sam Harris and the illusion of transcendence is the REAL monster).

If you knew that you were a fragment of another beings sleeping imagination, would it change, in any material sense, anything you do or anything about the way you act?


There would, I think, be three kinds of death.

The first would be the mild death, this would be like a character being cancelled from a TV series or serial comic, only to come back in another form or in another continuity.

Because everything is the giants dream, no-one and nothing is ever truly completely lost, they could, in theory, just be brought back into reality and all our thoughts and memories would accept this as normal like people in dreams don't react to any strangeness in the dream.

So one attitude to death is that the person isn't really dead or fully gone, because nothing ever is, and you, or someone exactly like you, may interact with them in some future continuity or reality. They are 'dead for now', or 'dead in this continuity'.

The second death would be the 'fully forgotten' death. In this case, the giant has completely lost interest in that person and is no longer going to re-create or renew them. They are like an unpopular character, or a character on an old 1950's TV series where the original tapes have been lost, and no-one recorded them, but a few people sort-of remember them. In this case the dream goes on but they are utterly void.

An interesting thing is that people in the dream wouldn't know if any particular death they witnessed was a type one or a type two death. So a prayer would be for the life of a particular loved one to be so interesting or relevant to the giants dream that they are certain to be brought back at some point, in some reality, in some way. And the aim of a life might be to be worth remembering (for a Giant meta-being, whatever that means).

And then the final death would be 'The Giant Wakes Up', a kind of apocalypse for this reality in which everything goes.


When the Giant wakes up will its dreams then become thoughts or will they be wiped out and forgotten like most of our dreams?

Would it be so bad to be a forgotten dream? It could be like being transformed into a being of mighty extra-reality purpose. Dreams are a bit idle and purposeless but perhaps, when we wake up and the substance of dreams transforms and becomes thoughts, they become filled with energy and direction? In this version of the apocalypse, everyone and everything gets broken down and re-energised, but now full of illumination, drive, direction and unquestioning purpose, everything would become what it was meant to be and maybe that would feel pretty good? If so it’s good for the giant to wake up.

Or, maybe we are transformed like a caterpillar, mulched up into goo & genetically re-combined and the new thing made of our substance isn't really us in any meaningful way so we pretty much die like idle forgotten thoughts. In this case the great waking-up is pretty bad (though still divinely mandated so just shut up and deal with it "materialists").


In this reality the status and nature of dreams is a vital subject. Do dreams affect us once we wake? If we remember them do we learn anything? Do they affect us even if we don't remember them?

Some think the dream is a prophetic one, and an important prophecy as well, so that everything we do has, not only serious purpose in the outer world but also a kind of transcendent purpose, even in that reality, that we are engaged in seeing into the future of a reality beyond our own.

Others think it’s important for us to generate some vital new idea, like a generative dream that a scientist or artist might have, and argue that this must be the reason as why else have a dream of such complexity? The Giant must be dreaming of something consequential, dangerous and important. If we can somehow embody or represent that idea, we can maybe make a thought that will save another world.

Some people think we should work to make sure the Dreamer has a pleasant dream as this makes them less likely to wake up, thereby extending out existence, and if they do wake up they will have pleasant memories and will be in a better mood when they go about their 'day' whatever that is, so our lives will have some positive effect on 'the real'. Some want the giant to have a pleasant dream because, why wouldn’t you? If you can’t do anything else you may as well make things more bearable for your meta-creator.

(A minority points out that we have no idea how long the 'sleep' has gone on since all our thoughts, memories and records could have been created a moment ago and we wouldn't realise, and could be re-created on a moment-by moment basis and we wouldn't know that either, so any conception of the 'length' of the dream is meaningless.)

Others think fuck no, make it a Nightmare. It’s hard to wake up from a nightmare, you always remember a really nasty one. If we are going to have an effect on the real, it may as well be a strong one, plus fuck the real if they made us like this, but also (calm voice) could a 'bad' effect also be a 'good' effect, like a moral lesson? like a Scrooge situation where whatever it is wakes up and realises they should be less of a dick.

The Mundanes say all of these suppositions are stupid and that this is a commonplace dream of a hyper-being, they use statistics to confirm this.

And of course it’s always possible that someone, somewhere, is the point of view of the Dreamer. Some say that’s stupid as why would an omni-intelligence incarnate as a micro being in a dream of such scale. The dreamer must be aware of all things that are happening everywhere as the dream is built around them. Others say, no, it could happen, you could dream you were an ant in a hive and dream the whole hive at the same time. Also who the fuck are we to say what may or may not be possible for a hyperbeing capable of imagining the whole cosmos simultaneously (presuming they are actually doing that and not just imagining a small section of it and 'painting the backgrounds'.)


Thinkers try to understand the nature of the outer-world by examining the nature of this one
just as our dreams mimic and transform the 'real world' is this reality a surreal version of another? By examining the dream, could you work to understand the Real?

Our dreams have weird physical laws and strange, unpredictable events, so if our 'reality' is proportionately more 'dreamlike' than the Real, but looks the same, does that mean the Real is a place of ultimate Iron-hard mundanity from our point of view, and all this "physics" shit is actually pretty whacky compared to the real entropically-locked Cosmos?

And if the Real is really more real in exactly that way, then does that mean that Cosmos is dying faster than our own? And if it is like ours, and dying, then is this the death-dream of a Final HyperBeing? and the reason we haven't woken up is that the giant is having a heart attack or orbiting a black hole or something and that there will be no waking up except into ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION?

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A Gyant, aSphinx and a biscuit FQ Book 5 Canto 11

This is a Big Fat Canto cause', again, Edmund has got his logistics squeezed towards the end of the book and very likely run out of space for things to be in.

So be it. If it’s a bad book then at least there is a lot of it. Sometimes, all we desire is that the burger be big.


PART ONE; Arthur beats up a Multi-Armed Gyant 

The baddy whose Seneschall Arthur beat up last canto finds out about it;

"Nathlesse him selfe he armed all in hast,
And forth he far'd with all his many bad,
Ne stayed step, till that he came at last
Vnto the Castle, which they conquored had.
There with huge terrour, to be more ydrad,
He sternly marcht before the Castle gate,
And with bold vaunts and ydle threatning bad
Deliver him his owne, ere yet too late,
To which they had no right, nor any wrongfull state."

'his many bad' is just a straight-up rap lyric son

I forget which element of Catholic Spain this guy represents but he is a multi-armed, multi-torso’d Gyant, which, sorry, I probably should have brought up before now.

No-one dicks about, Arthur rides out fully armed and we are into a fight scene by verse five. The gyant flies at Arthur;

"As if he would have overrun him streight,
And with his huge great yron axe gan hew
So hideously uppon his armour bright,
As he to peeces would have chopt it quight:
That the bold Prince was forced foote to give
To his first rage, and yeeld to his despight:"

Then we get one of those likeable 'monster manual' verses from Spenser which, no-matter which way you think about it, I'm pretty sure can't directly symbolise anything about Spains invasion of the Netherlands, I think he's just into the monsters;

"Thereto a great advauntage eke he has
Through his three double hands thrise multiplyde,
Besides the double strength, which in them was:
For stil when fit occation did betyde,
He could his weapon shift from side to syde,
From hand to hand, and with such nimblesse sly
Could wield about, that ere it were espide,
The wicked stroke did wound his enemy,
Behinde, beside, before, as he it list apply."

And yes Edmund did just spell 'side' two different ways in the same line, suck it pedants! You're probably Catholics anyway!

Arthur perceives the gyants 'uncouth use' and 'gan to watch the wielding of his hand' so 'ever he saw the stroke to land He would it meete, and warily withstand'.

The guy has about nine arms but only bought one axe - cue your own joke about southern Europeans and planning.

No Scrap I do not want to hear about how the gyants body pattern and assumed motion and joint action would make a single axe the only practical choice. (She stopped reading this months ago.)

"One time, when he his weapon faind to shift,
As he was wont, and chang'd from hand to hand,
He met him with a counterstoke so swift,
That quite smit off his arme, as he it up did lift."

But the guy has, well, a lot of arms, but the pain does trigger 'fury and disdaine' and encourages the Gyant to combine ALL his arms in one SUPER BLOW which is really, really at this stage, a lot like a scene from an Anime;

"Gan into one assemble all the might
Of all his hands, and heaved them on hight
Thinking to pay him with that one for all:
But the sad steele seizd not, where it was hight,
Uppon the childe, but somewhat short did fall,
And lighting on his horses head, him quite did mall."

Another poor dead horse.

Arthur jumps right off and prepares to fight on foot, the Gyan laughs and we get another, very Anime closeup;

"He wox right blyth, as he had got thereby,
And laught so loud, that all his teeth wide bare
One might have seene enraun'd disorderly,
Like to a ranke of piles that pitched are awry."

The Gyant uses exactly the same tactic again, Arthur blocks with his adamant shield but is knocked staggering.

This pisses him off so he takes off two of the gyants arms, 'Like fruitlesse braunches, which the hatchets slight, Hath pruned from the native tree, and cropped quight.'

This drives the gyant crazy with anger and Arthur uses the momentary distraction to cut him in half;

"Through all three bodies he him strooke attonce;
That all the three attonce fell on the plain:"

Hooray, a murder and only 14 verses in. There are 65 in this Canto.

Belgium is finally saved and bows to Arthur, which is meant to mimic the event mentioned in the notes for Canto 10 I showed you about that guy who accepted a governorship when he shouldn't have..

Belgium tells Arthur, there is another fight to have.

PART TWO - Arthur Fights a Freaky Inquisition Monster

"Then wote you, Sir, that in this Church hereby,
There stands an Idole of great note and name,
The which this Gyant reared first on hie,
And of his owne vaine fancies thought did frame:
To whom for endless horror of his shame,
He offered up for daily sacrifize
My children and my people, burnt in flame;
With all the tortures, that he could devize,
The more t'aggreate his God with such his blouddy guize.

And underneath this Idoll there doth lie
An hideous monster, that doth it defend,
And feedes on all the carkassas, that die
In sacrifize unto that cursed feend:
Whose ugly shape none ever saw, nor kend,
That ever scap'd: for of a man they say
It has the voice, that speaches forth doth send,
Even blasphemous words, which she doth bray
Out of her poysnous entrails, fraught with dire decay."


Arthur goes to the big gold idol and whacks it with his sword, once, twice, thrice;

"And the third time out of an hidden shade,
There forth issewed, from under th'Altars smooke,
A dreadfull feend, with fowle deformed looke,
That strecht it selfe, as it had long lyen still;
And her long talie and fethers strongly shooke,
That all the Temple did with terrour fill;
Yet him nought terrifide, that feared nothing ill.

And huge great Beast it was, when it in length
Was streched forth, that nigh fild all the place,
And seem'd to be of infinite great strength;
Horrible, hideous, and of hellish race,
Borne of the brooding of _Echidna_ base,
Or other like infernall furies kinde:
For of a Mayd she had the outward face,
To hide the horrour, which did lurke behinde,
The better to beguile, whom she so fond did finde.

Walter Crane you legend

Thereto the body of a dog she had,
Full of fell ravin and fierce greedinesse;
A Lions clawes, with powre and rigour clad,
To rend and teare, whose sting without redresse
Full deadly wounds, where so it is empight;
And Eagles wings, for scope and speedinesse,
That nothing may escape her reaching might,
Whereto she ever list to make her hardy flight.

Much like in foulnesse and deformity
Unto that Monster, whom the Theban Knight,
The father of that fatall progeny,
Made kill her selfe for very hearts despight,
That he had red her Riddle, which no wight
Could ever loose, but suffered deadly doole."

The reason I've typed out almost all of this description is partly because its very cool, and partly because this gothed-up mutant super-sphinx is meant to be the Spanish Inquisition, who we previously read had gone fucking nuts in the Low Countries multiple times.

The linking of the Sphinx to the Inquisition is the first time I have found the presence of allegory, as allegory, in this book, elegant, informative, inventive and enhancing to the art. The join of the riddling beast with the unanswerable question and the guys with the brands that nobody expects is very neat.

So, is this what the renaissance courtier period reader would be feeling all the time? Is that how allegory is supposed to work? Because I have found it rather rubbish thus far, or at least, I have greatly enjoyed the invention and the imagination and the words, but the two sides of the allegory have never felt like they worked together to me, as if they enhanced and reflected each other and became a new whole like a good work of art. I have been simply regarding them as parallel paths with different virtues and annoyances till now.

I will cut the fight short. The Sphinx grabs Arthurs adamant shield. They wrestle. He cuts off its paws. She wails so loud the temple quakes. She comes at him with the tail which strikes him so hard it gets a whole ship metaphor. He cuts it off. She spreads her wings and flies at him with her mouth, he shields himself and;

"Under her wombe his fatall sword he thrust,
And for her entraile made an open way,
To issue forth; the which once being brust,
Like to a great Mill damb forth fiercely gusht,"

Belgium is saved.

PART THREE -  What's Arthegall Up To?

Arthegall is on his mission to rescue whatsherface from Grantorto when he comes upon 'an aged wight, wayfaring quiet alone'. This is a knight he recognises, one who came to the court of the Faerie Queene with Irene (that’s her hame) when first she asked for help.

Arthegall asks for news. It's bad;

"She liveth sure and sound;
But to that Tyrant is in wreched thraldom bound."

She had gone to 'the salvage Islands syde' to meet Arthegall, at the time and the place where he promised to be, but he was not there and Grantorto has got here.

And Grantorto has set a day for her execution, if no champion appears to defend her.

"Now sure and by my life,
Too much am I too blame for that faire Maide,
That have her drawne to all this troublous strife,
Through promise to afford her timely aide,
Which be default I have not yet defraide.
But witness unto me, ye heavens, that know
How cleare I am from blame of this upbraide:
For ye into like thraldome me did throw,
And kept from complishing the faith, which I did owe."

Yes, there were all those women you needed to murder with your robot. But enough of this, on! On to Grantorto and the rescue of Irene!

Right after this encouter with a Frenchman.

PART FOUR - The House of Bourbon.

From the notes; "The episode of Sir Burbon is a retelling of recent French history. Burbon figures Henri de Navarre, head of the house of Bourbon. In 1589 Henri was designated king of France bye Henri III, the last of the Valois kings. Navarre was of Protestant persuasion, but altercations about his Protestantism and the long delay in crowning him led him in 1593 to embrace Roman Catholicism with his famous remark 'Paris vaut bien une messe' (Paris is well worth a Mass). He was crowned in 1594."

And you can guess what Spenser and his audience think of that.

Arthegall & Talus find;

".. a Knight in daungerous distresse
Of a rude rout him chasing to and fro,
That sought with lawlesse powre him to oppresse,
And bring in bondage, of their bruitishnesse:
And farre away, amid their rakehell bands,
Crying, and holding up her wreched hands
To him for aide, who long in vaine their rage withstands."

The Knight isn't doing too badly but the crowd have batterd his shield & forced him to throw it away JUST LIKE HENTI NAVARRE THREW AWAY THE PRTESTANT FAITH;

"For from the day that he thus did it leave,
Amongst all Knights he blotted was with blame,
And counted but a recreant Knight, with endles shame."

Arthegall tries to help this knight but the 'rude rout' assails them both with 'outrage bold', untill the murdering riot-control robot does his thing;

"... vntill that yron man
With his huge flaile began to lay about,
From whose sterne presence they diffused ran,
Like scattred chaffe, the which the wind away doth fan."

The Knight says hello, give them his name Burbon,

and tells them that the chick is Flourdelis, his love;

"though me she have forlore,
Whether witheld from me by wrongfull might,
Or with her owne good will, I cannot read aright."

She was into him but Grantorto 'Entyced her,' with gifts and 'many a guilefull word';

"O who may not with gifts and words be tempted?
Sith which she hath me ever since abhord,
And to my foe hath guilefully consented:
Ay me, that ever guyle in wemen was invented."

Arthegall asks him what about the shield though? Burbon tells him, well, things were getting pretty rough, and people really didn't like the shield really, and really the shield was making me enemies, so I let it go for a bit.

Arthegall thinks this is terrible;

"As to abandon, that which doth containe
Your honours stile, that is your warlike shield.
All perill ought be lesse, and lesse all paine
Then losse of fame in disadventrous field;"

Burbon explains how actually this is fine, its all going to be fine. It's going to be fine. It's fine. Really. It's fine;

"Not so; (quoth he) for yet when time doth serve,
My former shield I may resume againe:
To temporize is not from truth to swerve,
Ne for advantage terme to entertaine,
When as necessitie doth it contraine."

This goes down as well as you might expect;

"Fie on such forgerie (said Arthegall)
Under one hood to shadwo faces twaine.
Knights ought be true, and truth is one in all:
Of all things to dissemble fouly may befall."

The biscuit man still needs help getting his girl, now surrounded by raskalls, so Arthegall and he tool up and go full Peterloo on them, including this unusual line;

"Those knights began a fresh them to assayle,
And all about the fields like Squirrels hunt;"

But mainly the robot takes care the the oppression for them. The lady is freed and biscuit man goes to embrace her;

"But she backstarting with disdainfull yre,
Bad him avaunt, ne would unto his lore
Allured be, for prayer nor for meed."

Arthegall rebukes her and essentially bullys her into not flinching when the Biscuit grabs her while Talus murders everyone until even Arthegall;

"... seeing his cruel deed,
Commaunded him from slaughter to recoyle,
And to his voyage gan againe proceed:
For that the terme approaching fast, required speed."

Horaaaaaaaaa a y.

Monday, 22 January 2018

... thousands can think for one who can see

More Ruskin, this time from 'on genius'

(Some line breaks added by me.)

"...Then, as touching the kind of work done by these two men, the more I think of it I find this conclusion more impressed upon me - that the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion - all in one.

Therefore, finding the world of literature more or less divided into thinkers and seer, I believe we shall find also that the seers are wholly the greater race of the two. A true thinker who has practical purpose in his thinking, and is sincere, as Plato, or Carlyle, or Helps, becomes in some sort a seer, and must be always of infinite use in his generation; but an affected thinker, who supposes his thinking of any other importance than as it tends to work, is about the vainest kind of person that can be found in the occupied classes.

Nay, I believe that metaphysicians and philosophers are, on the whole, the greatest troubles the world has got to deal with; and that while a tyrant or bad man is of some use in teaching people submission or indignation, and a thoroughly idle man is only harmful in setting an idle example, and communicating to other lazy people his own lazy misunderstandings, busy metaphysicians are always entangling good and active people, and weaving cobwebs among the finest wheels of the world's business; and are as much as possible, by all prudent persons, to be brushed out of their way, like spiders, and the meshed weed that has got into the Cambridgeshire canals, and other such impediments of barges and business. And if we thus clear the metaphysical element out of modern literature, we shall find its bulk amazingly diminished, and the claims of the remaining writers, or of those whom we have thinned by this abstraction of their straw stuffing, much more easily adjusted.

Again: the mass of sentimental literature, concerned with analysis and description of emotion, headed by the poetry of Byron, is altogether of lower rank than the literature which merely describes what it saw. The true seer always feels as intensely as any one else; but he does not much describe his feelings. He tells you whom he met, and what they said; leaves you to make out, from that, what the feel, and what he feels, but goes into little detail.

And, generally speaking, pathetic writing and careful explanation of passion are quite easy, compared with this plain recording of what people said or did, or with the right invention of  what they are likely to say and do; for this reason; that to invent a story, or admirably and thoroughly tell any part of a story, it is necessary to grasp the entire mind of every personage concerned in it, and know precisely how they would be affected by what happens; which to do requires a colossal intellect; but to describe a seperate emotion delicately, it is only needed that one should feel it oneself; and thousands of people are capable of feeling this or that noble emotion, for one who is able to enter into all the feelings of somebody sitting on the other side of the table."

John Ruskin - from _Modern Painters III_, 'Of Modern Landscape'

Friday, 19 January 2018

Carnivorous Intelligence

I asked G+ if an obligate Carnivorous species could ever develop a city-based society, and I got a loooot of answers. I've compiled the best responses below and tried to arrange them by general theme.

This means some peoples arguments and points got chopped up a little. It's worth taking a look at the thread. It's public and you can find it HERE.


Zzarchov Kowalski - "It is 100% to have a carnivorous species survive using agriculture, by growing plants to feed livestock. It would certainly need to be very efficient and it would have fewer specialists for technological improvement (perhaps requiring conquest or trade or enslaving omnivore species).  But lets do the math.

High end grains can get 10 million to 15 million calories per acre (rice, corn and potatoes for vegetables),  while low end like wheat is about 4 million.

A pig will need about 910-915 thousand calories to produce about 200 thousand calories,  or 1/5th efficiency.  Pigs are about 3.5 million calories per acre.

So an Acre of Corn/Potatoes and an Acre of Pigs (one of the more calorie efficient livestock)   would equal what another culture could do with an acre of wheat.

So Humans with Wheat living would have twice as much food as say Cat People who farm corn and pigs and thus have far more non-farmer craftspeople, artists and researchers.

If they lived next to each other, they humans would quickly steal corn and shoot way into the lead (unless instead of Corn and Pigs it was some noxious weed that can only be eaten by giant grubs which just happen to be the same as corn and pigs for calories)."

Timothy Linward - "There might be obligate carnivore ant species. I struggle to think of obligate carnivore social mammals - wolves and baboons both being omnivores with a meat preference. So the development of social structures at all seems a leap. Then again, could an ethnologist tell us if Inuit have (had) cities? (I'm assuming that the Inuit diet is all based on seals, whales, fish and birds, I could well be mistaken.)"

Aaron Parr - "A pure meat eater has to eat almost 10 times as much as an herbivore for the same amount of energy. You lose 50% - 90% of the energy each time you go up a trophic level in the "food chain". So in reality a civilization of a purely carnivorous species would be destroyed by a competing omnivorous species because they would lack the numbers.

But maybe if they were smaller and smarter and had another edge... they'd still dominate."


Dave R - "Note that nomadic pastoralism (herding) can support a people on a carnivorous diet.

Note too there's an argument that the very first settlements preceded agriculture, that sites such as Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori were built by hunter-gatherers as religious or ritual gathering places.  Settling them year-round came later, and agriculture came later still.

Substitute herders for hunter-gatherers building a central religious site that only gradually becomes occupied year round and you're there.  Population density is still a problem.  I think you'd have to stipulate only the priest caste and their servants would count as a settled city, with tribes of herdsbeings making periodic pilgrimages to the center.

I can make a stronger case for carnivorous sentients becoming herders in the first place.  Herding can grow out of hunting, without any detour through farming."

Jacob Hurst - "One other possibility could be a fully mobile nomadic civilization that controls huge territory in order to follow the ever mobile migrating creatures on which they feed. Perhaps this is the reason for the traveling fey seasonal courts?"


Gregor Vuga - "It would be possible if there was a great aboundance of wildlife to hunt as well. The earliest civilizations formed around agriculture but many of the earliest societies formed around river deltas where there was lots of fowl and game as well as fish, crabs etc."

John Bell - "Possibly. Fishing or foraging for insects might be sufficient, especially if they cultivated them. You would probably see a lot of smaller, fast-breeding animals with small agricultural footprints, like guinea pigs, rats, chickens, etc. form the bulk of the food source, rather than cows, deer, etc."

Scrap Princess - "what about something like buffalo herds? Massive populations grazing even greater landmasses?"

"like the Inuit  lived primary of meat right so you just have to have a situation where everything they were catching was more calorific by several magnitudes? Like if we say a Innuit community was about 100 people if was doing okay and ye olde city is 10,000 , the seals and whales just need to be 100 times the size"

Justin Akkerman - "What about something like the salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest? Massive hit of calories once a year that gets smoked and preserved that allows the support of a more complex society than would otherwise be possible"


Scrap Princess - "Yeah if you include insects it's plausible right? Like something like mealworms or compost worms that can eat garbage and double their population in a month or so?

Also rotting things can make more nutrients available from otherwise undigestible material like bone or cellulose.

Humans haven't made a bone sauerkraut but it's not to say some fantasy race wouldn't.

Apparently it's one of the reasons dogs bury bones "

Jacob Hurst - "They could also be farming fish or insects like crickets/meal worms like +Scrap Princess? said. Could bee living around some sci-fi relic that's basically a self contained ecosystem that starts with something like algae and spits out pure protein bars at the other end. Like they sorta did in Snowpiercer.

That way daily consumption is accounted for and "fresh meat" is thus more of a special thing."

"Or maybe they've tapped the breasts of some sleeping mother of monsters, and their diet is basically 100% dairy"

Dan D - "Give them meat-plants and they'll be good to go."

Chris Tamm - "ants have done it - hunting more viable in warmer wet climates and can support huge populations,  stealing young and fattening them is the start of agriculture and more sophisticated and deliberate herding would happen.

Someone has taught apes to breed birds and steal their eggs deliberately. Insect harvesting could be viable - one of easiest protein sources  and breeding larvae was done by aztecs - people have done this in desperation or novelty mostly but it works. i always having bugs harvest your crops for you would be good, bugs eat crops then you eat them

aztec aquaculture bred fix, axolotls, grubs, ducks and all kinds of critters out of desperation for protein. The carnivorites would grow plants for their animals and livestock. Eventually they breed something that likes being kept in  a dark box getting all it can eat. Eskimos struggle to get more diversity than barley and seaweed for non meat. Carnivores do nibble some greens and berries and eat the vegetable matter in the guts of animals. Perhaps feeding a creature tasty herbs then killing them and eating them.

they could just worship the meat god who gives them more meat than they could ever use""

Matthew Adams - "Genetically manipulated meatbags (beeffalo, or buffedalo, roaming the plains)

Factory farms supporting factory farms. For example factory farming meal worms and crickets which become the feed for chicken or pig factory farms. Feeding the meal worms or crickets might require agriculture performed by an untouchable caste, or instead of meal worms or crickets they use maggots implanted in the dead (no cemeteries, just bone houses)."

Aaron Parr - "It is possible but tricky. For land based food production, you'd need a really impressive culture and religion and economy at the center to draw all those pastorialists in for the slaughter of their animals near the central city hub.

But with really rich seas it would be more likely as you can have a port city and lots of fishing from there. Growing herbivorous fish (like tilapia) in aquaculture tanks also produces a lot of protein from the power of the sun and adding processed sewage to the water. Sounds nasty but in a 3 part processing system this works really well, efficiently and is very productive.

So for the fantasy angle I would go with an amphibious humanoid that likes to eat giant squid and whales, and builds cities on the sea shore. They are social because their prey is so big that it requires organized hunting efforts of many individuals. Since carnivorous beings benefit less from population density they would also need a really rich and amazing culture to maintain a large population center with specialized niches in the economy. Some say this is true for humans as well... all that city culture has to be enough of a pull to offset the downside of crowded conditions, cholera etc...."

Lord Mhor - "This would be particularly efficient if one of their enslaved food species was itself intelligent enough to engage in its own agriculture, and could feed itself before in turn being harvested for meat."


Connor W - "As others have noted yes, but with these further stipulations:

-Much smaller populations, like 1/10 the size (simple application of the trophic level "rule of ten")

-Arguably more advanced social capacity. Cooperative hunting would require complex social structures like language early.

-There is a theory that when humans became omnivores and ate more meat the protien density allowed for much larger brain sizes

So super smart, very socially complex small societies.

"Perhaps initially physically more impressive, but as they have developed a society they have gotten less dependant on their bodies (like us).

Definitely lazy though, think of lions that live in zoos."

Kyle Latino - "If they were cold blooded and/or hibernated for a season or two a year, I think it would be plausible enough."

Jacob Hurst - "Perhaps may also have a structured/ritualuzed fasting regime that's deeply ingrained in their culture. Not everyone needs to eat every day, or perhaps even every week for some carnivores.

Maybe that's when the specialized work/art/research is done? During the fast."

Claytonian JP - "Vampires. The oldest ones are apes that uplifted the rest of us inadvertently at first, then purposefully later.


Matthew Adams - "+Lord Mhor's vampire aliens using religious indoctrination to control the herds. When men reach the age of thirty, and women the age of thirty five, they enter the pyramid for a month, and emerge as these super scary carnivorous beings that are beautiful to look at. They rule over the younglings who believe these beings are their loved ones transformed when in reality the younglings are consumed or butchered  in the pyramid and a member of the super intelligent carnivore race emerges from the underground nursery to replace the meat. Logan's Run on weird drugs."

Gus L - "What about a carnivorous plant people?  They'd need far fewer calories of meat, as the could still photosynthesize.  Meat just becomes a source of extra energy and minerals?

I think it'd work for lizard/snake people as well - they would lay around a lot saving energy while the crops grow to feed their food."


What would it be like?

World of Natural Abundance

It would probably need to start out with more meat than our world. I don't know exactly how much of the planetary biomass has been in the form of meat over history, I tend to imagine Dinosaur times and Pleistocene times as being more meaty as they have all those megafauna, but that could just be a smaller number of bigger animals.

But lets go with Megafauna as the idea of them has more poetry, a world of BIG Dinosaurs, Giant Sloths, Moa, giant seal-things, big Whales and etc.

Pastoral Origins

Our predator civilisation probably started out as predator nomads and only slowly settled down.

If humans and the predators co-existed at the same time then possibly humans would have become civilised first and the predators would have been the ultra-terrifying Barbarian hordes from a D&D game.

But, if they genuinely did exist in the same ecosystem for a long time then the effects of intelligent predation on human development are almost impossible to predict. We might be a very different species. We might even think that being eaten was natural, or even good (see below).

Amazing Hyper-Culture

Almost everyone agrees that a Predator City would have to be a fucking amazing place to be, simply in order to attract the numbers of pastoralists and other types they need to supply food.

Think here of something like a Super-Byzantium. Better and more beautiful art. More and better philosophy. Bigger libraries with more knowledge. More beautiful, poetic, coherent and transcendent religion or religions.

Going to this place or being allowed to live there would be almost sensorily overwhelming to a standard human. In the global culture it would simply be *the* place, the place of places, like a New York of New Yorks, the place that stories are set, that we expect decisions to be made, the super-creative, super-compelling hyper-city, almost a place of dreams, as well of nightmares as it runs directly on blood.

An Edge

A lot of commentators think the intelligent predator species would need some kind of an edge over an omnivorous generalise like Homo Sapien and the usual genre possibilities are brought up, but the simplest is simply that they might be more intelligent.

What if this species had an average IQ of 150?

Assume they are a little bigger and a little stronger than us as well. But the main thing is intelligence.

The average member of this society would be in the top percentile for Homo Sapiens. One of their stupider members would be standard for us. A smart one would be nearly incomprehensible.

If we evolved alongside them we would probably worship them as near-angelic beings, closer to whatever the godhead was because they prove themselves physically and intellectually our superiors in every way, relentlessly.

We might not even both asking complex questions of each other, we would just ask them and Homo Sapiens resources would be dedicated not to finding stuff out, but to getting access to the Predator Culture.

A Meat God

We would probably, generally, think it was OK, or at least not immoral that they eat us. After all, we eat pigs and whatever because we are smarter and better than they are, in contact with a species that we were certain was better than we were, we would probably think it reasonable that they eat us.

This probably wouldn't be warfare, just a quasi-slave situation. We might feed them low-status people, in some cultures high-status people might fight for the right to be eaten by them, or to sacrifice family members to them (to get closer access).

Like Matthew says, we would all probably worship a Meat God. The God of Abraham is pretty much a Pastoral Herder God. The fact that the Priests of the Meat God were genuinely more insightful, more penetrating, that their scripture was more transcendent than anything we could come up with, means we would probably just go along with it.

Strange Forms of Forced Abundance

This increadible sacred hyper-culture based largely around, maybe one single city, or maybe a handful, would have developed a huge number of strange agricultural methods to produce protien.

Stealing from the above comments;

INSECTS - Growing larvae on pretty much anything. Giant insect farms. Using insect swarms as harvesters - send out the specially bred locusts to eat the grain, when they come back, eat them.

AQUACULTURE - A huge area of complex fish and amphibian farming. Like the artificial islands around the Aztec Captial but extended with artificial deltas, dug lakes, a level of buily hydro-geology greater than the Chinese River Valley civilisations but dedicated to animals rather than rice.

MEGA-BREEDING - Gotta keep those giant mega-fauna from the pastoral era around to feed high-status individuals. Brontosaur and Mastodon herds guarded by specific Homo Sapiens clans. Moa herds, Hippo herding (losses are acceptable).

CONSTRUCTED MEAT WEBS - This is probably, in real terms, the most inefficient and unlikely method for actually providing calories, but I have become enamoured of the dark poetry of it, and it would be really good for storytelling and gaming. So, monkey trained to steal eggs. can we extend that idea? Homo Predator managing Homo Sapiens who rule over Homo Florensis who farm the Guinea Pigs in the walls of the Predators Castles. Birds trained to bring the locusts that fed on the crops. Partnerships with Killer Whales to herd oceanic megafauna.

The thing with this predator-ruled world is that, like its ruling city, it would be both a dream and a nightmare.

With a small dominant species with a very high IQ controlling everything, centralised government would be easier to arrange. Since they would depend deeply on interconnected food webs they would pay a huge amount of attention to the stability and sustainability of the environment. They would be gardeners of the planet, much more than Homo Sapiens.

And culture would be genuinely better, more advanced, more refined, more coherent, more spiritually fulfilling, perhaps more scientifically and theoretically advanced with less futile mistakes and fewer catastrophes.

And we would be high-status prey organisms. We would be food and we would probably think that was fine, and from a very distant viewpoint, we might be right.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Superman has a mission in Belgium FQ Book 5 Canto 10

And Thor needs to return to Asgard.

Once again, the super-powered Arthur needs to be separated from the normie trash he's been following around so they can do something in the last Canto. In this case he needs to go and save Belgium in an even-more-allegorical part of this highly allegorical poem in which too little happens without much interest and takes a long time doing it.

The opening verses are perhaps notable in their hypocrisy;

"Some Clarkes doe doubt in their devicefull art,
Whether this heavenly thing, whereof I treat,
To weeten Mercie, be of Justice part,
Or drawne forth from her by divine extreate.
This well I wote, that sure she is as great,
And meriteth to have as high a place,
Sith in the'Almighties everlasting seat
She first was bred, and borne of heavenly race;
From thence pour'd down on men, by influence of grace.

For if that Vertue be of so great might,
Which from just verdict will for nothing start,
But to preserve inviolated right,
Oft spilles the principall, to save the part;
So much more then is that of powre and art,
That seekes to save the subject of her skill,
Yet never doth from doome of right depart:
And it is greater prayse to save, then spill,
And better to reforme, then to cut off the ill."

This in the least-merciful of all Books of the Faerie Queene, defined largely by the murder and mutilation of women by a fucking robot.

Though I will give props for "devicefull art".

Anyway, the rest of this Canto is about an English intervention in the Low Countries.

Some princes turn up. Their mother Belge is oppressed by the Seneshall of Grantorto. Arthor goes to find her living in a bog. They go to the main city where the baddy has built a big castle and set up an idol to false gods with a Rancor under it. Arthur fights the main baddy and kills him in two verses. Three more guys come at him as one and he kills them. Problem solves, Belge restored except I think he still has to fight he Rancor next Canto.

Just enjoy this attractive Walter Crane deal

It's so predictable, tiresome, reductive and boring that, even though it is long, the notes at the back are shorter and more interesting so I will give you those instead;

7 Belgae: The Belge Episode (10.7-11.35) treats the oppression of the Low Countries by Spain. Belge's seventeen 'sonnes' are the seventeen provinces which comprised the Low Countries. In 1580 five of the provinces threw off their allegiance to Phillip II (see stanza 8.1-2) and in 1584 offered Elizabeth the sovereignty, which she refused. In 1585 she sent Leicester and an army of seven thousand to id the provinces. Although the expedition arrived too late to save the besieged city of Antwerp, the provinces were overjoyed with Leicester, to whom they offered the governorship, which he accepted. His acceptance infuriated Elizabeth, who recalled him. When he returned to the Low Countries, the effect of British intervention had been dissipated, although some victories against Spanish oppression had been achieved. Most notable was the battle of Zutphen, in which Sir Philip Sidney was mortally wounded. Spenser models some details of this episode on Orlando's rescue of Olimpia in Holland (OF 9.17 FF).

8-10 fell Tyrant: Gerioneo, with his triple body, represents Phillip II's power, which controlled Spain, Portugal and the Low Countries. The name is derived from Geryon, a monster mentioned in Aen 7.662 and Natalia Comes, 7.1. For other references see Var_., p. 250. Milton, following Spenser, makes the association of Geryon with Spain (PL II.410-11). As one of his twelve labours Hercules had to steal Geryon's cattle, guarded by his herdsman Eurytion and the two-headed dog Orthrus, whose parentage Spenser derived from Hesiod, Theogony, 306-9 or Silius Italicus, 13.845. Spenser makes Echidna the mother of the Blatant Beast (VI.6.9.9).

23 4 cities sackt: the Duke of Alva, Philip II's governor, had ordered any city that would not support a garrison of Spanish troops to be sacked and every inhabitant killed (1572). See Gough, p. 297.

25 1 Citie farre vp land: probably the besieged Antwerp that Leicester came too late to rescue. According to Gough, Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at the time.

25 6 Shut vp her hauen: the Duke of Alva built a bridge across the Scheldt river to keep supplies from Antwerp.

27 2 inquisition: suppression. The word bears some of the weight of the Roman Catholic Inquisition, the heresy-hunting court introduced into the Low Countries by Charles V and enforced by his son Phillip II. In 1568 the Inquisition condemned to death all the inhabitants except for a few, specifically named.

28 The description of Gerioneo's chapel and altar is Spenser's depiction of the Roman Catholic Mass, in which the central part of the liturgy is still called the 'sacrifice' (l.6), the memorial re-enactment of Christ's Last Supper (Matthew 26.26-8). Protestants regarded the re-enactment as a symbolic memorial, while Roman Catholics saw it as an actual renewal of Christ's sacrifice, the wine and the bread becoming the body and blood of Christ. The theological point was a primary source of dissension amongst Protestants and Catholics, who sacrificed both flesh and blood in support of one side or the other of the controversy.

28 9 agrize: horrify.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Hyqueous Vaults & a Hipster Conversion Chart

TLDR: I could have dome with a bit more Hipster Bullshit.

The Hyqueous Vaults is currently available as a free download on Lulu.

There are plans to release it as a PoD.

Unusually, it was released and reviewed by two seperate people who both do good dungeon and adventure reviews and who both liked it.

Melan reviewed it HERE.

And Bryce reviewed it HERE.

This puts us in the interesting position of being able to look, not just at the adventure but also at two pretty intelligent and in-depth responses to the adventure.

I want to be clear; whatever I say about Hyqueous Vaults should be taken IN ADDITION to these two reviews. I don't fundamentally disagree with any of the main points in either of those and those points are almost completely positive about the adventure.

So this is my minority report. My response was slightly colder than Melan and Bryce.

If you read it on its own then it will seem more negative than it is. My comments and responses are personal and not absolute.


Firstly its very toyetic, very gamey. Arranged for play and less pseudo-natural or pseudo-historical.

Melan touches on this a little; "more fantastic than strictly realistic" and "the balance of encounters, while overall good, is heavily weighted towards ‘specials".

Nothing wrong with that since D&D is, in fact, a game. No D&D environment can be truly or absolutely naturalistic, there will always be joins and inconsistencies somewhere.

But its useful to talk about one of the main benefits of naturalism and simulation which is that (near-paradoxically) allows intelligent and paradigm-shifting 'ride the iceberg' play.

If the Orcs need to poop then you can climb up the poop hole, and this is an idea anyone can have.

If the dungeon-dwellers need light, if they have general logistical needs like food or something more abtruse, then this is a process you can interrupt, attack, infiltrate or simply manipulate, and again, this is an idea that anyone can have simply by thinking about the imagined world in a coherent way.

"Oh we could pose as a lamp-oil seller."

"Oh we could poison the food supply."

"Oh we could hide in the water when they are fishing and grab a fishing line and drag them in."

And so on and so on.

The more toyetic and arranged for play an adventure is, the more "boring" and unexplained elements are left off the table to speed up "interesting" choices, the more mild inconsistencies there will be that preclude boundary-breaking thought and out of the box solutions and the more difficult and uncomfortably incoherent the adventure or setting will become in response to such activities.

Boredom is Freedom is what I'm saying.

Again, not a failure, but a polarity to manage, an axis where you can't get everything from every range so you have to choose which benefits and flaws you would rather have, and in which the 'goodness' of the adventure should be judged on how well those flaws are mitigated and what advantage is taken of the benefits and where the adventures position on that axis refers more to rightness of fit with any particular group.

Things that make this Toyetic are;

  • What is the Hydra eating and how did it get in there?
  • How are all these weirdos so close to each other for so long and not in continual & absolute war? (Common to many Dungeons)
  • The capital letters trick in the secret message (you better give them the printout).
  • Light - where the fuck are the lanterns? How are people down here seeing anything?
  • The percentages on the spectral candles (oh you need ANOTHER prime rod).

The adventure does have good opportunities for 'classic' out-of-the-box dungeoneering (i.e., you can think out of the box here the same way you thought out of the box last time), unusually good for most adventures. You can hide, turn allies, form partnerships, trade things and deeds that people want, get behind people if you are lucky and get strange & unlikely benefits & game-transforming effects if you take risks are are unusually lucky.

The opportunities for out-of-the-box out-of-the-box thinking, (so you jumped out of the box, which was in a bigger box, and you jumped out of that too) are there but lessened somewhat by the lack of naturalism and simulation.

There should probably be phrases for the kind of oblique, lateral strategy which is uncommon in a lot of mainstream D&D but a solid aim of a lot of OSR design, and for really What The Fuck strategies and tactics, so we can differentiate between them.

Although since a What The Fuck strategy is, by its nature, deeply unpredictable, I really don't know how you would design for it.


The only other thing about Hyqueous Vault is that its pretty Normie.

The Normie/Hipster axis isn't quite the same as Jeff Rients' Retro/Pretentious designations for games. Those could refer to rules systems as well as contents so Dungeon World would be a somewhat pretentious game but also a High Normie game.

There are a lot of things that go into making an adventure Hipster, I'll do a conversion chart at the end of this post. Normie is a lot easier to define, it's simply how much the adventure makes use of known quantities and elements, you could say - how likely is this to have an Orc in it?

If this is done badly then its deep Normie Trash. You will see this in a lot of Bryces reviews; In this room are d6 Orcs. In this room are 2d6 Gnolls.

If its done well the same elements become 'Classic', by which I suppose we mean familiar elements used with energy, imagination and precision. Bryce is particularly fond of this quality in adventures.

"In this room are 3 Orcs roasting a Goblin over a spit. The Goblin is alive and is trying to fake the Orcs voices to generate an argument so it can escape."

Not genius but a bit further along the axis from Normie Trash towards 'Classic'.

Firstly, Hyqueous Vault isn't full-normie, the Eel-Men are pretty good and quite creepy and interesting, the spectral candles are a novel & strange idea; a lot could be done with them, it has a big ameboid thing and in general the rooms towards the rear move more into Hipster territory with time loops, indoors cyclones and Mysterious Studies on a Cyclopean scale.

Secondly, where it does use known elements it generally injects a degree of energy and imagination.

I like the interior and back cover art by Alex Zisch, its has a strange, spiky, angular feel along with a dense scratchyness that I enjoy. The front page cover by Brian "GLAD" Thomas is of greater technical capacity but is definitely on the Normie side of the scales with Zisch on the Hipster side. The aesthetic tension between the two artists being a pretty good guideline to the aesthetic range of the adventure as a whole.

Would I Run this.... eehh maybe, probably not?

Would I have fun playing in it? Prrooobably yes.

For anyone wondering how to Hipsterise their product I have written this handy...


  1. Monsters are now humans wearing masks of those monsters OOoooO.
  2. Monsters are now really into riddles.
  3. Hot Goth Chicks - but maybe with no faces. Freaky!
  4. Drugs are now involved - these baddies get HIGH.
  5. More specific lighting.
  6. Add Swears.
  7. Add Impossible Moral Choices - do you want to rape the dog or murder the cat? Well you will have to do one or the other to escape!
  8. Any small monsters are now lobotomised children.
  9. Any normal children are now Undead Children - spooky!
  10. It turns out you could have saved the Undead Children but you only get the ability to do this at the end of the adventure when you have already hacked most of them to pieces and there was no real way for you to know this.
  11. Add Colonialism.
  12. Try having more and better art.
  13. Would Gary like and understand the art? If so, adjust till this is not the case.
  14. Could you get a tattoo of whatever it is? If not, adjust till this is the case.
  16. Is the art/map/text layout subtle and difficult enough to arrange that it could kill a friendship? If not, adjust till this is the case.
  17. Could you safely had this to a 12 year old at a Con? If yes, go back & start again.
  18. Is it non-Euclidian? If not, why not?
  19. ADD DEEP TIME. Years? Why not Eons?
  20. Does the pattern of risk to reward make rational and predictable sense? If so, alter until they are partially, but not fully, out of synch. The main treasure isn't really treasure but an ancillary hard-to-get thingy has a lot of specific but hard-to-cash-in value.