Three Haiku

I wish I could say this was inspired by something more monumental, like a big life event or existential epiphany, but the truth is far simpler: The Ghost of Tsushima is just that great.

In every way, the game is an (A+) work of art. While the duels among cherry blossoms and battles amid flames are thrilling in their own right, I’m in it for picking flowers, petting foxes, writing poems. If it weren’t for all the swinging massive razors and duty-bound murder parties, I’d HELLUV been a samurai. But since those things are kind of a package deal…oh well.

May I present, some amateurish poetry…

  1. Haiku
    Pause, breath, and reflect.
    Flower on a windy cliff,
    breathe and be nourished.
  2. Moon
    A light amid dark
    Silent, blossoming brilliance
    Gate to the cosmos
  3. Supper
    Food in my belly
    Warmth spreading through my body.
    This is just the best

Ah, we have fun, don’t we?

Til’ next time, everyone.

Path of Paine

Wow, hi guys!

Can I lead up at the top that I appreciate you? Whoever you are, though I don’t know your name, your voice, your favorite food, or whether you prefer high-five’s or fist-bumps – I think you’re pretty great.

Out in California, right now we’re all collectively preparing for fire season. Mostly that means expecting power outages, preparing (at least mentally) go-bags we can quickly pack or grab in the event of an evacuation, and taking stock of what things are important enough to warrant inventory space and which might need to be committed to flames (worse case scenario, obviously).

Most of us have an idea of what we’d bring, and what that does is highlight what matters to us. It also usually highlights how many things of ours are…just things. And when that happens, it leads to a deeper appreciation for what we have. This could lead into a never-ending rant about how Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and how I think it suffers the incredible irony of being severely underappreciated whilst getting crushed under the stampeding boots of Christmas shoppers- BUT we’ll leave that for another day.

In a largely roundabout way, what I mean to center on is that it’s a common thing for most go-bags to include a small stack of a person’s favorite books. Now, while fiction is my first love, and my treasured collection of Witcher novels would need to be pried out of my cold, dead hands, another that would need to come with me is Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.”

Enormously controversial in its day, I’m sure it could still be seen that way nowadays. In short, Paine describes it simply as his thoughts on religion. No wonder why then, in the mid-eighteenth century, the book landed him in some pretty hot water (and, actually, totally in jail). The second half of the book was written from prison, and it’s essentially his dissection of the Bible and the reasons why, in his view, it’s complete cockamamie nonsense.

I don’t love it for its second half. I love it for the first half.

The first sixty-eight pages (of my edition, anyway) are Paine outlining his own personal form of Deism – deism being a viewpoint that sees the universe as having a supreme, creating intelligence, but one that is separate from and does not intervene in the material world (Creation).

And while I want to, I’m not going to quote anything here – because I insist you read it yourself (found easily enough as a pdf right here —> Here!); and if you do, scroll down to pages thirty-three and thirty-four to get a taste of the root of his outlook.

In brief, he doesn’t see God necessarily as being a big bald-headed man in the clouds with a big floofy beard. Whatever name you want to give the force greater than understanding, more universal and common but as mysterious as consciousness itself, doesn’t matter so much.

But what is important is that the worship is in seeing. It’s in listening. In feeling. In smelling. In tasting. Taking in the world around us, trying to comprehend it, but above that – appreciating it.

Not to get too ‘woo-woo’ on us, but do you ever take a moment to recognize that you exist?

Just the fact that you, the awareness behind the eyes, inside the body, and behind the thoughts of whoever you are – are real. For no discernible point or purpose, from a mysterious some-say-unknowable origin, as a cosmic phenomenon…you exist. AND you’re able to contemplate that fact. Cogito, ergo sum, after all.

Worship is in appreciating what’s in front of you. What’s in you. What’s happened, or all the unknowable things that will happen. All of the heart-breakingly beautiful shapes and creatures on the planet, or those things our astronomers have shown us out in the cosmos.

It’s such a warping thought to know it’s so large that to even try comprehending the full breadth of it is unimaginable from the start.

Anyway, I’m feeling lost in the weeds now. We’re FULL rant. But…gah, things to think about right?

TL;DR – I appreciate you, things are awesome, good to think on that sometimes, woo-woo.

See you guys next time.

Keep Swinging the Axe

First things first: it bugs me to no end that often times spellcheck will give the little red squiggle to “axe” if you spell it with an ‘e’ at the end, but “ax” is perfectly fine even though “axe” is already perfectly fine.

Whatever.

That was stupid.

What’s up everybody?

I’m not sure what reminded me the other day of the following story, but I’m glad whatever it was did. Back in 2016 was when I tried submitting my first-ever piece of fiction to an outlet. I didn’t know how to format it, hadn’t really tried writing like that ever before, never tried researching a market before, or had any practice addressing editors – I just went for it. You know who the outlet was?

Tor.

For the uninitiated – they’re big; at the very least much, much, much, MUCH bigger than a kid trying his first EVER tale had right to reach for. But they were cool, polite, and cordial when they dutifully rejected the piece I rushed to compile for their submission window.

But I thought that was how you did it. I thought you went for the big fish. Adjusting my approach (still incorrectly), I then thought it was about thoroughly researching a market, tooling a piece of fiction tailored to them specifically, and spending months finely polishing it for them before perfectly and carefully crafting the impeccable cover letter to whet their appetite for the fruits of your labor; like a sniper lining up for a half-mile bullseye: check the wind, curvature, your breathing, your trigger discipline, time it between beats of your heart.

Turns out, a better approach is a lot more like laying down on the trigger of an uzi. Spray and pray, til you’re empty, reload, rinse, repeat. Tenaciously.

There’s a publisher called DreamForge that’s pretty great, and on their site they have an essay that attempts to outline why a story submitted to them might be rejected. And the answer in a nutshell is thus: any of a million reasons.

It could be that they find it poorly written; could be too many typos; could be they didn’t understand it; could be they didn’t care for the expression of the stated genre; could be they find it doesn’t fit their project’s theme tightly enough; could be word count conflicts with their budget; or it could be that it’s well written, but the editor wasn’t quite in the mood the day they read yours; or they love your story about kickass ninja vampires fighting ogre assassins on the moon, but they just happened to read and accept another story in their stack about kickass ninja vampires fighting ogre assassins on the moon right before finding yours.

The point is that it’s sort of a lottery, if you’re an independent writer starting out. Making sure your work is well-written, cleanly done, strong in concept, and appropriate for the market you’re submitting it to are all the right ways to increase your chances, but in the end you’re still competing with an unknown amount of other writers, of unknown quality, against unknown standards and tastes – a gamble.

Captain Picard said it best:

It is possible to commit no errors and still lose ... " ~ Captain ...

This tortuously long preamble brings us to a few summers ago in 2018. I was working in an optics lab at the time, preparing to leave that job for a writing sabbatical. I was feeling burnt out, tired of my day-to-day, and wanted to embrace the daydreams I kept cooking up. The budget I wrote up figured I had about a year to do that before reality would come calling. (Reality would catch up way quicker than that, and I’d find myself caring for my ailing mother two weeks after leaving my job – but we’ve talked about that life-asteroid to death already.)

About a month before leaving my job, Mandy and I were at a friend’s birthday party. Also present was a young woman we’ll call Delilah. Before I say anything moving forward, I want it clearer than crystal that I’ve nothing but fondness, respect, and best wishes for her, for reasons we’ll lay out here and in great part for the lesson my encounters with her taught me.

Turned out, Delilah was also going into writing freelance at about the same time, or had started about a month or so before. She talked about how (I believe I’m getting this right) she was a housewife at the time, and wanted to pursue it while she had the time. She went to an event or workshop of some sort down in San Francisco, delivered a stand-up set she’d prepared, met an editor, and snagged a gig for a that outlet.

On the one hand, easy-peasy; two weeks into freelance writing and you’ve bagged a job and a contact. On the other, it takes guts and no lack of panache to do what she did.

So she shares this with us and while the group dissolves a little into its various chat circles, I overhear Mandy and Delilah talking. Mandy’s sharing that I had an intent to pursue something similar, and Delilah’s asking questions. I’d wandered away, but was told later than Delilah’s response was more or less: “Oh…that’s his plan? I wouldn’t, if I were him.”

Even though it was just birthday party hearsay, probably said off-hand, it was a little dismissive remark that stuck with me. It bit me with this sort of stinking moral superiority that would gnaw at me for months later. The first five months of my sabbatical were literally nothing but hardship and rejection; and every time, I would think of Delilah’s quick-won success and her “I wouldn’t if I were him,” remark.

And every time, I would close my eyes, tell myself to shut up, and get back to it. I didn’t have a network, hadn’t made contacts, was learning through trial and error, had a lot outside of writing work on my plate, but dammit I would make it work out.

Then, luck struck, and I had my first story picked up. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck twice and I had a second acceptance, which came with being an interview on the podcast where the story aired (as well as a follow-up appearance later to talk movies). And since, I have had three more fiction sales, some traction in fiction contests, and been fortunate enough to work for a few local papers and magazines. It’s been hard-won, organic, independent, and with large amounts of tenacity and dumb luck.

A year after that party, the birthday boy had another (as is usually the case with birthdays), and we bumped into Delilah again. We caught up around a little campfire circle and naturally were each asked about how well writing was going. Delilah recounted how it was going well, but [paraphrasing] “her editor had relocated to a different outlet and gone radio silent, so that was dead now and a bummer; and while she was going to produce a podcast with a partner, said partner was being a c*** and so hadn’t come to fruition yet.”

When the question came to me, the host of the party (birthday boy’s wife) did me one of the greatest compliments/blessings I’ve received in my life.

“And you were going to be a writer too, right?” came Delilah’s question. And the host interjected with, “He’s been published, in fact,” then motioned for me to explain.

Doing me that honor, saving me that modesty, and acknowledging that achievement all in one swoop has been, to date, one of the deftest moves in etiquette I’ve witnessed in person; and I was thrilled to be its subject.

I did my best to continue that modesty through my explanation, but I’m sure some pride leaked through. I give myself a pass, though, because the truth is I was proud of it, and especially in that moment I felt vindicated. The slow, steady, organic grind of failed attempt after failed attempt after failed attempt finally becoming a small success triumphing over – at least as was the way my mind viewed it – over the model of quick but fleeting satisfaction…felt great.

But in that was also a lesson. And the markets and guidelines I’ve seen all point to an average acceptance rate of somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3%; but usually it can be more like 1%. That means, if you do everything right, you can hope for or expect one success for every one hundred attempts.

So, try one hundred times. And after that, try a hundred more. So on and so forth until you can begin to count your successes. And be okay with them being small, they’ll get bigger.

At least, this is what I tell myself. But I will say that the math checks out.

My plan was to join the California Writers’ Club after my third independent fiction sale, and while I still plan on it because I’m eager to see what opportunities that might afford, the struggle of the independent author has been one I’ve come to enjoy the fruits of.

Ah, I just remembered what kicked this all off, actually. The other day, I was looking on my body of work (which feels hilarious to say, given how tiny it is) and feeling unsatisfied where I used to feel proud. And so mentally running back through the journey of the past couple of years was a good chance to review, take stock, and realize the accomplishment it is; especially as any beginning writer would likely agree, five months is actually a startlingly turnaround for one’s first printing. So I recognize the element of luck in this experience.

In the end, the message doesn’t really change. Help or not, friends or not, network or not: keep swinging the axe, keep trying.

Hasta.

The Best Joke

Did you ever hear about the three-legged dog that walked into the saloon?

He looks at the bartender and cocks his hat to the side. Bartender asks, “what can I do ya for?”

The three-legged dog answers, “I’m lookin’ fer the man what shot my paw.”

FIN

Yup, that was pretty dumb, or so says the numbers. When I was first told it, I literally threw my head back laughing and literally slapped my knee. Ever since, whenever I’ve retold it, though, doesn’t seem to resonate the same way with others.

But, ah, such is the fate of puns, no?

Been a bit of an absentee lately, BUT it’s only because of good news. Recently sold not one but TWO pieces of fiction, and as well have been doing some work for a few local papers and magazines (solicited, to boot!); all while trying to get this book done and manage…well, life.

Beyond that, not a whole lot of noteworthy occurrences to share…

Um. Sat at a cafe a little while ago. Got yelled at by a homeless man and watched a kid take a whizz on his mom’s car. Bold, too. Just right out there in the parking lot.

Anyway, that’s my lot. See y’all soon.

On Ravens’ Wings

Black, majestic, with the bluish, opalescent shine off the sun.
The bluster of wind, the soft down of the feather, the impossible freedom of being alight in an empty sky.

Even perched atop a lonely tree. Alone on a hilltop, overlooking an empty valley. Dominion over sky’s reach, bird’s eye view.

Black of feather, black of night.

Omen, teacher, watcher, hunter.

To be so small, to ride on ravens’ wings, to see a vast world and erase bounds, may be to learn the lesson of rivers and valleys, which know no maps.

Non-Lucid [Horror-ish] Dreaming

Hey all,

Since this has become- I just realized the greeting looks like the beginning of a letter. That’s how you know I was writing emails just before doing this. Let it serve as a reminder that this whole thing, this whole “The Light of Day” project is basically the raw milk of online blogging. I edit embarrassingly little. It’s mostly just a stream of consciousness that I type out as I think it – like these words are talking to you. Which…which is sort of how words…are supposed…to work…

ANYWAY.

Since this has become a bit of a dream journal as of late, I think we’re gonna roll that out again. This time, though, I can kind of track where the dream came from, which won’t make it any less fantastical once we get into it, but that’s beside the point.

Two things we should probably highlight before we delve into this:

  1. I have a warm fondness for the scoundrel archetype. That doesn’t necessarily mean troublemakers, pranksters, or ‘yee-haw!’ wildcards. Scoundrels, to me, are the characters that exist for themselves. They can be the main protagonists, but serve better as part of the auxiliary cast. Their motives serve themselves entirely. They might help the heroes, and might hinder the villain, but mostly as part of happenstance, coincidence, or convenience. They aren’t mean-spirited, they’re just sort of selfish survivalists.
  2. These past few weeks have been rough. I’m not going to use this to bitch, bark, or “woe is me,” cause that’s annoying for all included. Just letting it serve as context for how said stress wound up personified in the dreamscape.

I was standing on the rain-slick battlement of a castle during a stormy night (because of course it was). Around me was a small gaggle of faceless knights who I presume were supposed to be my friends, family, and/or securities (as opposed to “insecurities”). In a Battle of Helms Deep fashion, across the murky field stood an absolute army of vampires.

Why vampires?

Good question.

I don’t know, but they were vampires. And none of that nonsense, sparkly, Twilight vampires. Good, classic Magic: the Gathering-style vampires. Fangs, claws, black armor n’ shit.

Anyway, the vampires charge, all screaming obscenities for some reason (that part seemed excessive even to me as the dreamer), and we clash on the field of battle. Pretty quickly, it turned into one of those scenes wherein, one-by-one, the heroes slowly fall to the insurmountable numbers of the enemy, but I stood there on the battlement cleaving away, just, bushels of vampires.

I’m ducking. I’m dodging. I’m slashing with my sword. I’m getting bit. I’m getting punched. I’m throwing expert Muy Thai knees like a fuckin’ ninja in medieval-fantasy armor.

But the whole time, no matter how much success I find, the horde of vampires just keeps coming, and I realize that going at it, fighting them all off myself – no matter how expertly I feel I’m doing it – just won’t suffice forever.

So I keep at it, fighting like a choreographed badass, until an idea strikes me.

I shout orders to my few remaining knights to line the grates by a nearby looming castle wall with some sort of explosive. What came next when I gave the order to light it, was the deus ex machina-style victory, wherein the hero remembers that the big fuck-off wall in the background was some kind of long-forgotten damn, and in demolishing it, we flood the valley with running water that drowns out the vampires and saves the day.

I think…I think it’s supposed to be some kind of metaphor for how the power is within you “all along,” and you just need to know how and when to tap into it.

Or maybe it was just a killer dream about vampires.

I leave it to you.

Happy Thursday.

Peace.

“Toss a coin to yer Witcher!”

(Hey-o. Little re-post here, for those that missed the action.)

If the title reeled you in, there’s a 50% chance that we’re kin – in the same tribe of mindset, reverence for the world of the Continent, Northern Kingdoms, and Nilfgaardian Empire, and someone with the time to read a seven-book series (eight, if you also went through Season of Storms, but that’s more for funsies anyway) not affiliated with a magical boy named after a fuzzy plant-keeper.

That said, that means there’s also a 50% chance that you’re going to stop reading after the next two sentences, because you’ve had enough “the books were better blah blah bibbity blah” talk in your life. And that’s okay.

But I’m finally finding myself on the other side of that line.

For all the ignorance this statement may thickly paint me with: I made it through Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings all on the movies or episodes alone. I, like many of you (probably) endured the same, “Ah, but the books were better!” talk, and like many of you (probably; I include you so I don’t die on this hill totally alone), gave it the same, “Ah, let it go! They did what they had to for an adaptation!”

But…this time, I can’t.

I played The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (twice, actually; 100% completion both times, and rp-walked the whole time like some sicko) when it exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, heard it was a series of books, and voraciously tore through them twice. Two collections of short stories, a standalone novel, and a saga of five more. Their spines are lovingly bent, pages affectionately coffee-stained. And in the case of a house fire, they’re on my short list of “will suffer major burns to retrieve” possessions.

So when Netflix announced a Witcher television series, I was cautiously optimistic suuuuper guarded. And when it came out and everybody started raving about how it was the greatest thing since soy sauce on mashed potatoes (not a widely popular thing, but a friend of mine turned me onto it eight years ago, and I’ve NEVER looked back; gravy can suck it on a 8-hour shift – soy sauce is where it’s at), I was worried.

What if it’s nothing like the books, and so everyone’s falling in love with a false prophet?

What if, worse, it takes direct inspiration and then turns it, further lying to the people??

What??? Andrezej Sapkowski saw the first two episodes and LOVED it? But he a CD Projekt Red had such issues. What could that mean???

So I watched the first episode, and I’ve never been more distracted in my life. Remember way back when we went over the Art of Being an Audience? Well, I sure-as-shit did not practice what I preached. But, it’s not a live performance, so I give myself some leeway.

The entire time, I wasn’t in the story, but floating above it. Watching an adaptation of a story I know so intimately (as much as is humanly possible, given how complex and long it is), every scene I was just distracted by being able to see the scissor marks and tape-job that they’d done with the original story.

For the uninitiated, the world of the Witcher is shared through two collections of short stories that serve both to offer little one-off, character-building adventures as well as do some world-building and establish canonical history for the groundwork/foundation of the five novels, which tell the story.

And so, knowing that, I couldn’t help but fixate on every stitch I saw on what was essentially The Blood of Elves (the first book) interlaced with stories out of The Last Wish (the first the short story collections), plus the new characters the show fabricated all on its own.

That, and – without even getting to the disservice done to the dryads of Brokilon – the stories they did take from The Last Wish were super diluted compared to their literary counterparts. Stregobor’s reveal had more impact than just turning the townspeople on a mutant. The adventure in Dol Blathanna hinted at the elves’ history with humans in a much shallower way than original tale. And Pavetta and Duny’s wedding ceremony was super turned into a comedy of coincidences with a forced fight scene rather than a cunning orchestration devised by Calanthe. Don’t like Dara, don’t like what they did with Foltest, and don’t know what-the-fuck was up with that psycho-doppler “we like children best” ass-hat. Aaaaaaaaaugh-

Phew.

Now…that’s enough of The Bad. We’ll say that the Dryads of Brokilon stuff was The Ugly all unto themselves. But, The Good…?

Dude, even in this super distracted first viewing of the season, even I couldn’t help but love the music. That, they nailed without question. Plus, I loved coming in on the joke that was all the buzz surrounding “Toss a coin to yer Witcher!”

For all the shit I could scrounge up for the Blavikin story, that fight scene made my nipples hard.

And for the wedding stuff with Pavetta, for the crap I could give that part of the adaptation, that fight also hardened these- okay, enough with nipples. It was good. Very good.

Some of the references were taken straight off the page. Like when Geralt’s fist-fighting with Torque in the field, that whole “I’m a sylvan! | You’re a dick!” conversation is basically verbatim, and I love it!

Also, the show captures the sense of humor found in the books and games with unreal accuracy. It’s that dark humor, sort of dry-and-sardonic flavor of giggles that serve to remind you that, while it’s telling a bit of a gritty/gory tale, we’re here to have fun. The humor is the wink to let you know that we’re enjoying this together and to not be too serious with it.

I wanted a more faithful recreation of Villentretenmerth, but every second he was on screen being a telepathic golden dragon was a goddamn treasure.

While they could have done better with the Foltest storyline, that striga was so phenomenally well-made and deliiiiciously creepy! Oh. My. God.

And, not least of all by any means, Henry Cavill is…he’s just…he’s such a darling. I heard from friends and saw in interviews that he played the games, devoured the books, and was a super-fan in his own right, and Jesus Christ does that ever show in his performance. He captures Geralt’s angsty curmudgeon attitude so well, especially since he himself is such a charismatic and seemingly-cheerful man. He plays the annoyance true to character, and has perfect comedic timing whenever he delivers his classic:

*sigh*
“…fuck.”

One of the best services my experience was done with regards to the show was actually a comment by my buddy Chris. He said that it has the feel of a passion-project. Sort of like one of those old Sci-Fi channel productions that didn’t have the biggest budget, but made up for it with heart and authenticity.

That…was absolutely true. And it’s what carried me through seeing it the first time. Because whenever I got distracted by a “What the-?”, “Who the fu-?”, or “Why the fu-?” question when the show deviated from or adapted the lore, that un-quantifiable feeling kept bringing me back to it. I kept feeling like I was watching a production made by and starring people who were as big of fans of the original works as I was – and THAT made me feel like we were all in it together.

So, I played my part as an appreciative viewer.

‘Kay. That’s not entirely true. It took about six total hours of raving conversations with friends and now an overly-long, ranty, raving blog post to get it out of my system.

Changes have to be made to suit the medium. Liberties have to be taken. Taken straight as it is from the page, the show either wouldn’t work, or would be 1,000,000,000 hours long and cost the GDP of Canada (1.653 trillion USD as of 2017, for those wondering). Eventually, I re-watched the first episode.

The verdict? How had the opinion changed with a less distracted and more forgiving, compromising Evan…?

Well, I cried twice in tender joy, so I guess we could call that a good thing.

All in all, if the show brings a wider audience to appreciate the world so many of us have already come to love, the better.

Also, word on the street is that Sapkowski and CD Projekt Red have kissed and made up, so we’ll call that our story book happy ending. And if the show was in any way a part of that, all the more reason to love it.

Live. Love. Accept change. All rather than being an obstinate butthole about it like I was.

Hasta, y’all.

Oh Valley o’ Plenty! OooOOOOooh!

If the title reeled you in, there’s a 50% chance that we’re kin – in the same tribe of mindset, reverence for the world of the Continent, Northern Kingdoms, and Nilfgaardian Empire, and someone with the time to read a seven-book series (eight, if you also went through Season of Storms, but that’s more for funsies anyway) not affiliated with a magical boy named after a fuzzy plant-keeper.

That said, that means there’s also a 50% chance that you’re going to stop reading after the next two sentences, because you’ve had enough “the books were better blah blah bibbity blah” talk in your life. And that’s okay.

But I’m finally finding myself on the other side of that line.

For all the ignorance this statement may thickly paint me with: I made it through Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings all on the movies or episodes alone. I, like many of you (probably) endured the same, “Ah, but the books were better!” talk, and like many of you (probably; I include you so I don’t die on this hill totally alone), gave it the same, “Ah, let it go! They did what they had to for an adaptation!”

But…this time, I can’t.

I played The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (twice, actually; 100% completion both times, and rp-walked the whole time like some sicko) when it exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, heard it was a series of books, and voraciously tore through them twice. Two collections of short stories, a standalone novel, and a saga of five more. Their spines are lovingly bent, pages affectionately coffee-stained. And in the case of a house fire, they’re on my short list of “will suffer major burns to retrieve” possessions.

So when Netflix announced a Witcher television series, I was cautiously optimistic suuuuper guarded. And when it came out and everybody started raving about how it was the greatest thing since soy sauce on mashed potatoes (not a widely popular thing, but a friend of mine turned me onto it eight years ago, and I’ve NEVER looked back; gravy can suck it on a 8-hour shift – soy sauce is where it’s at), I was worried.

What if it’s nothing like the books, and so everyone’s falling in love with a false prophet?

What if, worse, it takes direct inspiration and then turns it, further lying to the people??

What??? Andrezej Sapkowski saw the first two episodes and LOVED it? But he a CD Projekt Red had such issues. What could that mean???

So I watched the first episode, and I’ve never been more distracted in my life. Remember way back when we went over the Art of Being an Audience? Well, I sure-as-shit did not practice what I preached. But, it’s not a live performance, so I give myself some leeway.

The entire time, I wasn’t in the story, but floating above it. Watching an adaptation of a story I know so intimately (as much as is humanly possible, given how complex and long it is), every scene I was just distracted by being able to see the scissor marks and tape-job that they’d done with the original story.

For the uninitiated, the world of the Witcher is shared through two collections of short stories that serve both to offer little one-off, character-building adventures as well as do some world-building and establish canonical history for the groundwork/foundation of the five novels, which tell the story.

And so, knowing that, I couldn’t help but fixate on every stitch I saw on what was essentially The Blood of Elves (the first book) interlaced with stories out of The Last Wish (the first the short story collections), plus the new characters the show fabricated all on its own.

That, and – without even getting to the disservice done to the dryads of Brokilon – the stories they did take from The Last Wish were super diluted compared to their literary counterparts. Stregobor’s reveal had more impact than just turning the townspeople on a mutant. The adventure in Dol Blathanna hinted at the elves’ history with humans in a much shallower way than original tale. And Pavetta and Duny’s wedding ceremony was super turned into a comedy of coincidences with a forced fight scene rather than a cunning orchestration devised by Calanthe. Don’t like Dara, don’t like what they did with Foltest, and don’t know what-the-fuck was up with that psycho-doppler “we like children best” ass-hat. Aaaaaaaaaugh-

Phew.

Now…that’s enough of The Bad. We’ll say that the Dryads of Brokilon stuff was The Ugly all unto themselves. But, The Good…?

Dude, even in this super distracted first viewing of the season, even I couldn’t help but love the music. That, they nailed without question. Plus, I loved coming in on the joke that was all the buzz surrounding “Toss a coin to yer Witcher!”

For all the shit I could scrounge up for the Blavikin story, that fight scene made my nipples hard.

And for the wedding stuff with Pavetta, for the crap I could give that part of the adaptation, that fight also hardened these- okay, enough with nipples. It was good. Very good.

Some of the references were taken straight off the page. Like when Geralt’s fist-fighting with Torque in the field, that whole “I’m a sylvan! | You’re a dick!” conversation is basically verbatim, and I love it!

Also, the show captures the sense of humor found in the books and games with unreal accuracy. It’s that dark humor, sort of dry-and-sardonic flavor of giggles that serve to remind you that, while it’s telling a bit of a gritty/gory tale, we’re here to have fun. The humor is the wink to let you know that we’re enjoying this together and to not be too serious with it.

I wanted a more faithful recreation of Villentretenmerth, but every second he was on screen being a telepathic golden dragon was a goddamn treasure.

While they could have done better with the Foltest storyline, that striga was so phenomenally well-made and deliiiiciously creepy! Oh. My. God.

And, not least of all by any means, Henry Cavill is…he’s just…he’s such a darling. I heard from friends and saw in interviews that he played the games, devoured the books, and was a super-fan in his own right, and Jesus Christ does that ever show in his performance. He captures Geralt’s angsty curmudgeon attitude so well, especially since he himself is such a charismatic and seemingly-cheerful man. He plays the annoyance true to character, and has perfect comedic timing whenever he delivers his classic:

*sigh*
“…fuck.”

One of the best services my experience was done with regards to the show was actually a comment by my buddy Chris. He said that it has the feel of a passion-project. Sort of like one of those old Sci-Fi channel productions that didn’t have the biggest budget, but made up for it with heart and authenticity.

That…was absolutely true. And it’s what carried me through seeing it the first time. Because whenever I got distracted by a “What the-?”, “Who the fu-?”, or “Why the fu-?” question when the show deviated from or adapted the lore, that un-quantifiable feeling kept bringing me back to it. I kept feeling like I was watching a production made by and starring people who were as big of fans of the original works as I was – and THAT made me feel like we were all in it together.

So, I played my part as an appreciative viewer.

‘Kay. That’s not entirely true. It took about six total hours of raving conversations with friends and now an overly-long, ranty, raving blog post to get it out of my system.

Changes have to be made to suit the medium. Liberties have to be taken. Taken straight as it is from the page, the show either wouldn’t work, or would be 1,000,000,000 hours long and cost the GDP of Canada (1.653 trillion USD as of 2017, for those wondering). Eventually, I re-watched the first episode.

The verdict? How had the opinion changed with a less distracted and more forgiving, compromising Evan…?

Well, I cried twice in tender joy, so I guess we could call that a good thing.

All in all, if the show brings a wider audience to appreciate the world so many of us have already come to love, the better.

Also, word on the street is that Sapkowski and CD Projekt Red have kissed and made up, so we’ll call that our story book happy ending. And if the show was in any way a part of that, all the more reason to love it.

Live. Love. Accept change. All rather than being an obstinate butthole about it like I was.

Hasta, y’all.

Walking in a Dreamscape

Think just how vast the ocean is.

If you have a fear of heights, you should have a fear of open water. Deep blue and dark, though it might be, bobbing there on the surface, you’re hundreds and thousands of feet above land of any kind. The amount of odds, ends, and creatures between you and the ground aside, all that open space is enough to lurch the stomach into the throat.

So when we’re bobbing there, out on open water, surrounded by nothing but the horizon on all sides how is that the primary thought: the emptiness that’s holding us aloft to the open air. The chilling cold of the water can constrict our chest and make us forget for a moment that we’re floating, suspended in an unending space, but the thought is always there.

And what’s below us? Do we dare a glance? Maybe see the leviathan’s maw in the moments before they snap closed over us?

But instead, are we just reminded of the empty vastness that stems below us, too?

We break the surface again, as a fin – at first like a shark’s – does the same. We watch it rise, except, when we expect it to crest and dive again, maybe it keeps rising.

And growing.

There’s no titanic splash. No seismic, rumbling growl from the earth as it continues to grow massive and crawl skyward. It just cleanly slices the water until it’s risen a mile over us, flaunting its size as a reminder of how small we are.

How far does it span? Does it stand as a monolith in the water? Does it span the horizon in its entirety? Or does it encircle us?

How about we see the edge, but its tail runs the curve of what we can see. We dip our head under water, to see its bottom purchase on the sea floor.

But what if we can’t?

Not because it’s too dark to see the bottom, but because the fin doesn’t have one, as though it doesn’t exist below the waves? And once that’s the case, what do we do? Do we swim away from it? Along it? Dare to get closer?

With little other options, let’s say we do: we make for the edge of the fin.

It’s as tall as the Himalayas, stretches about as far, but is no wider than the door of a house.

What’re we hoping for? Are we going to see if its sheer cliff face has handholds and footholds? To see if it’s as hard as stone, or soft like flesh? Does it have lichen and small things on its surface we can’t see from this distance, and how far away is it, anyway?

Does anything change as we get closer to the fin? Does it make noise, or change shape? Sink back into the ocean?

Maybe we do hear something, the growl we were so worried about earlier.

Does it come from the fin, behind us…? Or maybe behind it.

I’m seeing storm clouds. Storm clouds that form as we’ve almost rounded the edge of the fin. And now that we’re closer to the fin, what did we say it’s like?

Covered in creepy crawly things? Lovecraftian and great, but no; because that’s also gross.

I want to say it’s climbable, but I think I prefer the fin smooth – so no shards for handholds.

What about features we can’t see? And not those you can feel, but the ones you can feel?

What if, while we’re up next to this colossal…thing, in an endless sea, while we look at it, we suddenly have the sensation of recognition, of eye contact? Not the feeling you’re being watched, exactly, but observed and met?

And things happen fast from there.

We tread water at the edge of the fin, able to see along either sides of the ocean it’s bisected. We see lightning crackle from the storm clouds to our left and thunder rumbles in answer. Maybe, like a horn of summons, small dots – like little black beetles crawling over the edge of a table – appear on the horizon to our right.

Not beetles, ships. Galleons, and Man-o’-Wars, with three masted sails.

Maybe there’s another boom of thunder, and like a starting pistol, that starts them racing in our direction.

Do we wait for them to close in on us? Do we swim around the fin? To we brace against it, the eyeless monolith that’s seen us?

As the ships get closer, what if they change? Turn? Maybe they flip, so the hulls are on the surface of the water, and the oars sprout from the sides to look like legs, finally resembling the giants beetles we thought they were.

Fight-or-flight kicks in, and we think to dive below, to escape. But no avail, because the masts of this beetle line form a net, set to scoop us up anyway.

But now we aren’t alone anymore, under the water. A school of, what, fish? No, jellyfish! Like a living, writhing cloud of bubbled heads and ribbon’d tentacles below us, floating up faster and faster as the net of the beetles approaches. Soon, we’re enveloped, and expect to feel a thousand stings and paralytic burns, but instead, maybe it’s just a low, gentle hum – like we’re being sung to.

They grab our arms as they continue floating, rising upward. We breach the water’s surface and float out of reach of the beetle-ships just before we’re overtaken! Huzzah!

But the jellyfish carry us skyward, like a crowd of balloons.

Only they don’t let go, and the fear of heights returns. We rise higher and higher, up along the massive fin in the water, and feel it watching us as we’re lifted away.

Maybe we’re lifted above the fin, so we can see the storm clouds on the other side and the curtains of lightning beneath their layer of wool.

We’re lifted higher and higher, but what’s above us? A ceiling of glass, a mirror? Can we see it through the crowd of jellyfish that carry us? Maybe they part and we see…stars. Stars against black. Open space.

True vast emptiness.

We start kicking and thrashing against the arms that hold us. It isn’t fun anymore and we’re safe from the beetle-ships, but maybe it wasn’t worth this to have been rescued. And do we see anything in the luminous undersides of the jellyfish?

“Faces” came to mind first, and while excellently mystical and creepy, rule of thumb is to not go with the first idea.

Hands? No.

A song? Feel like we’ve said that already.

How about memories? Yeah, memories.

But are they yours? Our own? Someone else’s from another place, even another time? Are they happy ones, regretful ones, proud ones?

We break the hypnosis and see the fin is so small now, just a long, gray plank set on its side in an endless puddle. So far away.

Or is it?

Maybe as we kick our legs, our foot touches something?

Maybe in this place, even the rules of perspective bend, and we kick the fin we thought was so far away. Maybe now, instead of the massive thing we knew it was, it’s within reach, about a foot tall, no wider than an inch.

We kick it, and it falls to its side, laying atop the water like a…well, a long, gray plank.

After that happens, the ribbons and their memories let us go, and we softly land on this long, gray plank. Endless ocean all around us, the tiny dots of the beetle skittering harmlessly along the surface.

What’s left to do but walk?

END

(Hey all. Thanks for going on these weird mind trips with me. I’ve talked with friends before about story writing: resolving plots issues, narrating, finding a voice, and the dreaded what-happens-next question. The best answer I’ve thought up so far has just been to define storytelling as the art of asking questions, then picking through the answers. Trying to decide which answers you like best depends, ultimately on what kind of tale you want to weave. Fantasy? Maybe the most fantastic, imaginative answers are the ones you want. Mystery? Maybe the least expected, but ultimately most realistic are the flavor you need. So on, and so forth.)

(I dunno, or maybe I’m just thought-vomiting onto my keyboard. Either way, thanks for obliging me.)

(Later.)

A Legacy in Bone

What if we were in a dark room? Mm, let’s call it a dark space – no definite walls or borders. Sightless, pitch, and silent beyond your own sounds.

When you think, what comes into being first? Does grass slowly sprout under your feet, does it tickle? Do you smell the grass before you even feel it, and is there light enough to see? I like to think the smell precedes it, that yes, it tickles, and there’s an ambient light we didn’t know was there that now shows the grass.

Now that there’s grass, what’s in it? Are there flowers, weeds, brambles, or small rocks? Or maybe something less nature-y. What if we saw a glass marble first? Then a scrap of cloth – and what kind of cloth is it? Burlap, cotton, wool, maybe velvet? Maybe it’s none of those things, and instead we see…a discarded street sign.

Nothing big like a stop sign or anything with a name or number. Maybe it’s just the “All Way” little rectangle that goes beneath a full stop sign, just sitting there in the moist grass.

As we walk forward, does the grass stay soft? Or does the spongey soil beneath it harden or get gravelly. And if so, what does it give way to? Cracked salt flats? Concrete? Glass?

We’ll say concrete.

Do we walk into a street intersection at, say, midnight? Nah, let’s not put a time on it, we’ll just say it’s still dark. A new moon, stars that are still invisible in a city’s light pollution. Or maybe there’s a single street light.

No?

Alright, four street lights. One on each corner.

If we step into the center of the intersection, do we see anything down each of the roads? Are there apartments, houses, businesses? A park, anything at all? Are they all different, or are they all the same, like mirrors?

Maybe two ways have some of those – a couple parked cars in front of an apartment complex, with houses across the street, and the other has an empty lot and a business on the corner (a liquor store). We’ll say the other two are just dark, no street lights to tell.

But what happened to the grass? Is it still there? Maybe only when we think about it, or maybe it’s gone, with only a few sprigs here and there in the intersection.

Is there anything else in the square with us? A small bauble, like a gemstone or snow globe? Is there another street sign? Or maybe something bigger, like a body?

Hmmm, is the body a person, or an animal?

Animal sounds good.

Now, is it alive or dead? And if it’s dead, how long has it been? Forever and the carcass is just stone? Did it just breathe its last breath before we showed up? Or maybe it isn’t alive, but it’s warm anyway.

We’ll go with that, the gray middle ground. It isn’t dead, really; but to call it alive would be weird too.

Ah, we never said if it’s a person or not.

Why not…a caribou?

Cool, it’s a caribou.

So there we are, with a caribou that’s neither alive nor dead, in the middle of an intersection without a name or time.

What happens when we get close to the caribou?

It’s warm, but it’s not breathing, right? Do we feel anything when we touch it? Do we touch it?

Maybe we do, and feel it’s hide, its fur is surprisingly course. At least it’s more course than we would have expected, having never touched one before.

Let’s say its eyes are closed, and we pet our way from its still side up its neck to its head. What if, once we’re there, we see small somethings on its antlers? What would those be?

Not faces (creepy).

Not gems or sparkles (we tried that already).

Keeping with the color palette so far, how about small flower buds?

And speaking of color palette, what color do we see them as: pink, like cherry blossoms? Maybe their opal blue, with little flecks of pink in there to compromise? Can’t be red, like blood. Can’t be green, because we already have grass. We could make them iridescent, shimmering all manner of colors we can describe and cannot.

I’m leaning opal, kind of a personal bias.

When we examine them closely, are they just buds; do they stay that way? Or do they bloom?

It’s more fun if they bloom, so let’s have them bloom.

When we do, what’s inside? Is it like the skin of a bubble, do they shimmer like diamonds or beads, or does something sprout? And how big do they get? I’m seeing an opening at the center of the bud no larger than a pearl, but as something we can peer through; something that, despite the smallness of the window, we can see an impossibly large interior.

And what’s through that window?

First thought was mountains, like taking on the point of view of an eagle.

Second was the bottom of a waterfall, and a sudden wrestle with the water.

But what I like most is this: it’s dark, with a light somewhere far away. And as we get closer, we come to see they’re streetlights. They’re streetlights that corner an intersection at night. In the middle of that intersection is a caribou, neither alive nor dead, with someone kneeling beside it.

We go like this until we fall into another one of the buds upon its antlers and see another intersection with another caribou, only this time the caribou is alive.

Within these buds is another darkness, with another intersection, with another caribou, but only three lights are lit. Inside another, the two streets that were dark are now lit and the ones that were lit have gone dark. Inside another, the buds are purple and fully flowered. Inside another, we lie in the middle of the intersection, neither alive nor dead, and it’s the caribou that comes to us.

And the possibilities repeat, and spin, and zoom an infinite number of times in an infinite number of ways with changes that are either drastic or small and minute.

Now, do me a favor?

Picture making eye contact with your self in the bathroom mirror – alright, it doesn’t have to be a bathroom mirror, but a mirror nonetheless.

It’s kind of funny, right? That everything from the street sign and the grass, to the intersection and the caribou, and all of that never actually happened, but it sort of did.

Feel lucky to be alive, and thankful for everything that’s real, and isn’t.