Monthly Archives: July 2013

Loki Short Fiction Contest + Story

I just sent in an entry for iocthulhu’s “July for Loki Short Fiction Contest”. You can read about the contest here. Seriously, ENTER! She’s only gotten TWO entries so far (including mine), don’t let me win all the swag (and I would very much like to win swag).

Anyways, here is the story I entered for the contest (so you know what you’re up against lol). As usual, it’s completely unedited (yes, I know I shouldn’t use prepositions at the beginning of sentences) and contains cross-dressing.

Read it after the cut.

Continue reading Loki Short Fiction Contest + Story

The Dreaded Crescent

No, this isn’t a post about how I loathe certain phases of the moon (except tangentially), it’s about that other crescent moon, the one we all love (or, more often I suspect, love to hate).

I’m talking, of course, about Llewellyn Publications.

Like many baby Pagans, books published by Llewellyn were one of my first points of contact with Paganism in general and solitary and coven-based eclectic Wicca in particular. I started with Teen Witch and Thorson’s Way of Wicca and kept reading from there.

Llewellyn gets some praise and a whole lot of criticism. Besides the obvious churning out the same generic Wicca-flavoured Paganism 101 stuff WITH DRAGONS! or WITH STEAMPUNK! etc. I’ve heard complaints about how they expect their authors to follow rigid content and formatting guidelines, which, again, from what I’ve heard, doesn’t really allow for straying too far off the 101 path, which means that some authors probably had some amazing ideas that got squashed along the way.

So, yes, there are some very good reasons why a whole lot of people don’t recommend that newbies start out with books that they’ve published. Besides the issues I’ve already mentioned, the books generally aren’t known for being particularly well researched, either (understatement), and I think that’s putting it mildly.

And yet, I have not one, but several books with the crescent moon on the spine, some of those books have been very useful to me spiritually, and not all of them are from my fluff bunny days. In fact, I just ordered one yesterday.

I think this is where you really have to do a little digging and use your thinking caps, because there is good stuff to be found that has been put out by Llewellyn even if it is that one in a million book.

Also, the Tarot of Vampyres is published by Llewellyn.
The Tarot of Vampyres is the shit, okay? I adore my Tarot of Vampyres, and it has an AMAZING companion book.

Like it or not, Llewellyn books are accessible. They don’t cost nearly as much as your average academic book, and, as has been mentioned here and wherever this topic pops up, not everyone knows what to do with academic sources. To put this in perspective, for my BA in religious studies, my textbooks cost somewhere in the range of $300 – $500 per term, which is cheap compared to some other fields. In contrast, the average Llewellyn book is what? $15 – $25 CAD? (Keep in mind that this was at least half a decade ago, so adjust for inflation) and we’re only just beginning to write accessible, informative books for newbies. I speak from experience here, as I’m sure some of you do as well, academic books are fucking expensive and a fucking pain in the ass to read.

Given the choice between the $20 Llewellyn book and the $60 academic one, which one do you think someone on a student budget is going to choose?

Anyways, I suspect that’s pretty obvious to everyone and you’ve probably heard these same points before. My point is that, yes, Llewellyn publishes a lot of crap, and yes, if you are of a reconstructionist bent, you would be well advised to stay away from anything they publish. I do think, however, that those of us who are a little more flexible when it comes to such things would be missing out on a whole lot of good stuff if we wrote off the publisher completely, which is why we need to teach people how to think critically and evaluate sources and such, hopefully without having to earn a bunch of degrees.

Here’s a tip: bibliographies and recommended reading lists are your friends, you can tell a lot about a book by looking at it’s sources. Also check to see if a bunch of those sources are Internet-based. Michelle Skye’s books, for instance, use a ton of Internet sources (she’s a good writer, not so great with research). One of the first things I do is that I also look at the author’s credentials. This might seem like common sense, but I think you would be surprised how often people don’t look at these things.

Oh, and this might be a personal quirk, but I also like to look at the index. If I pick up a book on, let’s say, sacred sexuality or neo-tantra and there’s no mention of LGBT’s anywhere in the index, either the person in charge of making it was very neglectful, or it’s probably not a book I want to read.

I suppose my ultimate point is that I feel kind of conflicted when it comes to Llewellyn. On the one hand, they do publish a lot of crap, like, seriously a lot of crap, and I definitely don’t support forcing your authors to cut content to make it appeal to a mass audience (unfortunately, this seems to be more of a mainstream publishing in general thing). However, I think there definitely is some good stuff mixed in with all the crap, it’s finding the good stuff that’s difficult, and, not to toot my own horn, but I’m looking to include a chapter on critical thinking and research in my “Paganism for the Godphoneless” book, because it cannot be stressed enough.

Oh, and you know what? Most of the Llewellyn books on my shelf aren’t half as bad as All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are Her Rituals, because that book is bad even for erotica.

tl;dr version: Llewellyn is generally bad unless you can find the one book among all the 101 rehashes that isn’t. There is a need for more accessible academic texts and more well-researched popular books. Thinking caps should be worn at all times. The Tarot of Vampyres is the shit.

Review: RPG Maker VX Ace

I’m sure most gamers have thought, at some point in their lives “Boy, I’d like to make my own game, but I don’t have the programming know-how to do it!” Well, at least, that’s what I told myself.

Enter RPG Maker VX Ace, a program that is made of hopes and dreams–and rainbows, there have to be some rainbows in there as well.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with RPG Maker in general, it’s software that lets you make 2D sprite based RPGs in the same style as your average SNES JRPG, The main selling point for the software is that you don’t need to know anything about programming to use it (although you can change the script itself, it’s not needed and in fact is HIGHLY discouraged unless you really know what you’re doing). I had heard of RPG Maker before this, of course, but I hadn’t known that particular selling point. (For the curious, the original Corpse Party on the PC was developed with an earlier version of RPG Maker).

RPG Maker gives you all the tools a good 2D JRPG needs: map-making tools, the ability to design and tweak characters, enemies, skills, items, classes, all the way down to deciding the probability for item drops, to allowing your characters to continue the game after losing certain fights, to adding mid-battle dialogue. It’s all here, and you can access all of it with a few clicks. If you don’t want to sink a lot of time into creating your game, the database includes pre-made classes, skills, and enemies, and you can add or subtract from the list as you see fit. I can’t possibly devote space to talking about all the things it lets you do, because there are a whole bunch of buttons and i didn’t even scratch the surface to make my test game, but trust me, there’s a lot here.

Mimics! MIMICS EVERYWHERE!

If the program has one flaw, it’s that there’s so much stuff in it and no decent tutorial to teach you how to use all of it (the official tutorials, as of this writing, stop guiding the newbie at event theory, which is where you really need a guide. I would have also liked the ability to generate a completely blank database from the get go (which I can still do, but it requires going through all the lists and changing the minimum and maximum amount allowed). As it was, I found the stuff that was there helpful, but distracting. I also thought the character generator was very limited. Even though I can paint the character portraits myself, it would be nice to have a feature that lets you select a bunch of different colours on a colour wheel. (Note: I don’t have any of the content packs, for all I know, one of them contains the option to make characters blue-skinned). The lack of customization in that area probably won’t matter as much if you plan on using your own music and images, though. Of course, if you’re not a musician or an artist like me, what’s there isn’t bad (and you can DLC music packs for it).

The other issue I have with the program is that while it’s features are ultimately as simple as figuring out what you want to do and pressing a button, figuring out what all the buttons do can be daunting, and, as I mentioned, the tutorials on the official site are unfinished, so I had to do some looking around for free newbie guides (not hard to find). One of the things I really had trouble with was identifying what the different tilesets were supposed to be, I was only able to figure it out because I’ve spent that much time playing games of this nature. I’m sure there’s a guide out there somewhere, but I had finished making my maps by then. (Making a map is as easy as selecting the appropriate tile and drawing the map.)

I’ll give you an example. One of the puzzles in my game is a riddle puzzle where a door will open if the player picks the correct answer. This is how I did it:

First, I made sure I was in Event Mode (the two other modes, Map and Region, are used in map-making and restricting encounters to certain areas of the map).

Next, I created a switch, switches have two settings: off and on. When a switch is turned on, whatever you’ve set to occur when the switch is on will happen.

After creating the switch, I set up the riddle itself (the idea is that the player will interact with a statue) and I set the switch to turn on when the correct answer was chosen.

I went to the door itself, creating a conditional branch that said “If switch is on, open the door.”

Finally, i put in some text for the statue to “say” after the switch was turned on to prevent the player from solving the riddle again. (Something like: “You already solved this riddle, dummy!”

If it sounds very complicated, it isn’t, really, but it can be frustrating when you have no idea how anything works to find the best tool for the job. Once you get the hang of it, there’s nothing to it, but it is definitely daunting to newbies.

Overall, if you’ve ever wanted to make a game but thought it was impossible because you lack experience with programming, this is a great tool if you aren’t afraid to wade through a whole lot of information and if you don’t balk at the price tag. (I picked this up on Steam for around $25, but consider that you are also paying for the rights to use all the content, so the full price seems fair when you put it that way, it does seem like a lot at first though.)

In sum:

1) Gods, you sure can do a lot of stuff with this!

2) How do I use all these features?

As a final note, please feel free to download and play my test game! (See the linked post for more info.)

Test Game is Finished!

I just finished the final playtest of my test game using RPG Maker VX Ace, so now it’s ready to play!

You can download the game here.

Instructions:

Download the files. (I saved it to desktop.)

Open the file to extract the game files.

You should see a folder entitled “Ryan’s Amazing Adventure” open it.

Click on the RG553 file named “Game” (it has a dragon head) and the game should run.

Play!

It is a very short game and will take you less than ten minutes to complete. (My longest playthrough was 8 minutes.)

Bur, just to make sure you see all the cool things I’ve done with it, here’s a quick walkthrough:

Controls:

Arrow keys to move

Enter to interact with objects, people, etc.

Watch the opening cutscene (press enter to see more dialogue). You now have control of Ryan, Simply head down the stairs and down again to exit his house (there’s nothing in the house to interact with besides the bed).

Once outside, a cutscene will start and you’ll meet Madilyn, who will join your party. Madilyn is a priestess who has powerful healing magic. She and Ryan will talk and mention something about fixing a boat. Ryan will say they ran out of wood, and Madilyn will say that you need ten Morph Logs to fix it. Madilyn will also suggest talking to someone named Winter.

Head down the steps and to the left, the blonde woman by the well is Winter, who will also join your party. (Note: You won’t be able to leave town until you’ve talked to her.”

Above Winter is an old lady. Speak to her and say “That’s bull!” for a reward (choosing “yes” makes her tease you). You can also loot the chest here for an Elemental Cloak. You won’t be able to equip it, but you can sell it for a lot of money.

If you like, you can also talk to the hyperactive child, but nothing comes of that. You can also visit the merchant, who is hanging out near the tent.

Now that you have Winter in your party, you can exit to the World Map. There’s a boat to your left, but clicking on it just makes Ryan say that you don’t have enough logs to fix it.

How do you get logs, you ask? By fighting the Man-Eating Plants in this area, just walk around in the fields (the light green portions of the map) and battle the enemies until you have 10 (or more) Morph Logs. (Note: If you’re having trouble with them, Winter’s spells deal a ton of damage.)

Once you have the required number of Morph Logs, interact with the boat again and Ryan will fix it. Hop on the boat (press enter again) and head down and to the left to the island dock. Enter the Temple Ruins.

The Temple Ruins

When you enter the ruins, a mysterious voice will give you a clue that will help you get to the next area. If you like, you can head to the right and read the sign. Open the chests there if you dare–each one will give you 100G and a potion. You can also open the chest in the upper left room for more goodies.

Now to solve the riddle. Before the path leading to the exit, you’ll see two statues. Interact with the silver one to be presented with a riddle. Select the right answer (“Fire”) and you may proceed to the Fire Cavern, the last area of the sample game.

The Fire Cavern

Inside the Fire Cavern, take the lower path and go right. You will see a man. This is Morris, a cultist who is looking to resurrect an evil deity. Be sure to save your game before talking to him.

(Note: If you’re low on HP or MP, you can use Madilyn’s magic–specifically, any of the Heal spells– or rest in Ryan’s bed to completely heal your party.)

Once you are ready, talk to Morris, he will exchange banter with Winter and then you’ll fight your first boss battle:

Boss: Morris

Morris isn’t that tough, the real threat is his pet, Cerberus, who can attack twice in one turn and hits very hard with his physical attack. The best strategy is to ignore Morris and focus your attacks on Cerberus. Ryan’s Triple Attack is a good choice, as are Winter’s spells (which are ridiculously overpowered), They CAN quickly decimate a party that doesn’t have a whole lot of health, so don’t be afraid to use Madilyn’s Heal magic.

Once Morris and Cerberus have been defeated, watch the closing cutscene. Congratulations! You’ve beaten the game! A Winner is you!

Notes

So this is just a very small sample of the kinds of things RPG Maker can do. I should reiterate that I did everything in this game without even touching the original script and I have absolutely no knowledge of programming languages and whatnot.

Most of this game was based on the tutorial exercises on the official website, since those tutorials aren’t complete, I had to hunt down some newbie guides to help me out. Fortunately, the RPG Maker forum is very active and full of helpful people.

Oh, playtesting, playtesting is very important. I playtested this game like a fiend and you’ll probably still find things wrong with it.

Yes I know the animations are terrible and the game is ridiculously easy.

Anyways, I’ll be following this up with a review of the program. For now, let me know if it worked for you and I’ll see if I can’t make it longer next time.

Review: Witches: Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful

Let’s review another anthology, shall we? The theme of this anthology is (in case you can’t tell from the title) witches, in all their varied forms, and, unlike the last anthology I reviewed, I recognize the majority of the authors who contributed to it. (The list includes Mercedes Lackey, Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, and Ursula K. Le Guin.)

 Once again, I’ll be going story by story, giving my overall impressions of each.

Before I begin, please note that some of these stories may be triggering for racism, rape, pedophilia, cannibalism and suicide (thankfully, not all at once).

 Walpurgis Afternoon by Delia Sherman

 This is a charming story about a house that appears out of thin air in a quiet neighbourhood…and gardening, lots of gardening. I really like the spin on “magic”. It brings to mind the quote from Arthur C. Clarke:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In this case, just replace “technology” with “science”.

 Nightside by Mercedes Lackey

 Stop me if you’ve heard this one. In an urban setting, a woman with extraordinary powers teams up with a French vampire in order to solve crimes. If you said “Gee, that sounds like Anita Blake…” you would be WRONG! Well, you would be right, but in this case, the author is Mercedes Lackey and this story is set in the world of Diana Tregarde, first published in 1989. It was urban fantasy before urban fantasy became a dime a dozen.

 I liked this story. I liked how the word “vampire” isn’t mentioned once in the whole thing and Lackey leaves you to figure it out through subtle hints as opposed to “He’s a vampire. Did I mention he’s a vampire? Yep, he’s so a vampire.” The only real issue I have with the story is that the plot can basically be summarized as “Two white folks beat up an Asian guy” which is…yeeeeeah (it makes sense in context, sort of)….

Anyways, I’m definitely intrigued and I’ll definitely take a look at those novels.

 The Cold Blacksmith by Elizabeth Bear

This is a story about how Weyland Smith tries to repair a broken heart (literally). He can’t seem to do it properly so he goes to consult a witch about it. It’s short and a little sad, but not a bad story by any means. In fact, in some ways it seems like an exercise in myth-making.

 Basement Magic by Ellen Klages

(TW: racism)

I didn’t really like this story because it seemed kind of…typical. You have a girl learning magic in order to protect herself from her stepmother, only the magic is conjure and she learns it from their black maid. It’s just so predictable, and I can’t help but think that it reinforces the whole “magical POC” stereotype.

Mirage and Magia by Tanith Lee

 Finally, a Tanith Lee story I actually understood. This story is about a fictional town (seems to be a mixture of Chinese and Japanese cultures) plagued by a witch who blinds young men after they stay the night with her. It’s a story about vanity, heartbreak, and revenge, and I really liked the imagery. Seriously, if they made this story into a movie, the costume and set piece porn would be amazing.

 Lessons with Miss Gray by Theodora Goss

(TW: racism (or, at least, archaic racist language)

I didn’t really like this one that much. For one thing, what is it with this anthology and its obsession with pre-Civil Rights times? (Okay, maybe two stories isn’t an obsession, , it’s just weird, and this one makes use of a couple different n words (seriously, the word “negro” is used five times in one paragraph). I suppose it makes sense for the time period (one of the main characters is black) but it was just that one paragraph.

 The plot is basically a group of girls learning to be witches under the tutelage of the titular Miss Gray. The narrative voice is interesting, as it is first person omniscient, but it doesn’t really seem like it “fits” in the story, and I was left wondering whether the narrator was one of the girls or something/someone else entirely. It’s just sort of meh.

The World is Cruel, My Daughter by Cory Skerry

(TW: brief mention of rape, suicide)

 This is a dark take on a familiar fairy tale (I’ll give you a hint: it involves a tower and long golden hair) that I quite enjoyed, it’s also, the editor notes, one of the few stories in the anthology with an evil witch. I liked it, and I liked the spin on one aspect of the tale.

 Ill Met in Ulthar by T.A. Pratt

 I love this story! Our main character, Marla Mason, is called to an institution specializing in magic users who have gone insane from magic use. She ends up having to enter a patient’s mind to disrupt his fantasy that he is a mighty hero out to destroy the forces of darkness, and she needs to stop him before his thoughts become reality. It pokes ALL THE FUN at epic fantasy/sword-and-sorcery stories, and I really, really enjoyed it. Marla also makes a great protagonist (and antagonist). She’s confident and capable. Just, the whole concept is great.

 The Witch’s Headstone by Neil Gaiman

 This is a touching story from Neil Gaiman (wait, what? He doesn’t write touching stories….) that’s set in the world of The Graveyard Book. Usually I like his stuff, but I found this story to be kind of slow. Basically we have Bod trying to find a headstone for a witch. The title’s self-explanatory.

 Overall, I thought this story was kind of meh, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that about any of Gaiman’s works.

 Boris Chernevsky’s Hands by Jane Yolen

 No anthology about witches is complete without a story about Baba Yaga, and this short but sweet tale delivers. It’s basically about a man who wishes he had jugglers’ hands, and so everyone’s favourite Russian witch shows up to help him out.

 Bloodlines by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

 This is a story about a Latin@ family of witches where witchiness is passed down through the maternal bloodline. It’s one of those spurned lover/revenge stories, , but pretty much everyone in it is a POC and I believe the author is one as well, which is a definite change from all the white people writing POCs in this anthology. I also really liked the bond between the main character and her cousin.

 The Way Wind by Andre Norton

 I was kind of surprised that I ended up liking this story because nothing much really happens in it. You have a town full of outlaws (and other subversive folk) and the Way Wind, a phenomenon that apparently blows strangers into the town every year, of course, a mysterious herb-seller is blown into town, and then, predictably, there’s a witch hunt. I don’t know, maybe it’s because the story seemed so typical that I found it was easier to enjoy than some of the other stories in this book.  I’ve heard some really good things about her Witch World series so I’ll probably check it out after reading this.

 Poor Little Saturday by Madeleine L’Engle

 I couldn’t really get into this story. It’s this boy meets girl thing and there’s a witch with a bunch of familiars. Oh, and a witch hunt, again. I guess it’s not bad compared to a couple of the other stories in this collection.

 The Only Way to Fly by Nancy Holder

 This is a cute story about an elderly witch looking to reconnect with her fellow witches before having no choice but to go to a retirement home. It’s a very short story about learning to live again and the ending isn’t a downer for once!

 Skin Deep by Richard Parks

 This story is about a witch who puts on different skins in order to access that skin’s talents and abilities while having to contend with the bits of the skin’s consciousness that are left. It’s sort of like shapeshifting but not really. It was interesting, but I kind of think it went on a bit too long. Still, great concept.

 The Robbery by Cynthia Ward

 I don’t know how to feel about this one. I was basically left with the feeling that the protagonist was a huge hypocrite and how she dealt with her house being robbed smacks of disproportionate retribution. Really, arthritis? Well, I guess its saving grace is that it’s short.

 Marlboros and Magic by Linda Robertson

 This story is meant to be a prequel to Robertson’s Circle series (Vicious Circle et al.) starring Demeter Alcmedi (grandmother of the main character in the series) who decides she’s going to get her landlord to okay a smoking area in her nursing home by….casting a spell that makes everyone “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em”. Hilarity ensues as the spell goes awry and the residents start smoking more than just tobacco.

 To be completely honest, I think I would have liked this more if the dialogue didn’t irritate me to no end and I was skeptical of how smoking weed seems to have made everyone super horny (I was under the impression weed gets people to relax, chill out, not run naked through the halls and have threesomes).  It could have been much better, honestly.

 Magic Carpets by Leslie What

(TW: racism, abuse)

Okay, seriously, what is this anthology’s obsession with a particular period of time where “negro” was an acceptable way to refer to black people? Anyways, I digress, this story is about two girls who are abused by their father. One of them gets fed up and runs away with a (sigh) “Mexican”. Oh, and something about baseball, and avocados. The witch in the story gives one of them a magic glass and somehow she can fly. Yeah, I kind of lost patience with this one. There’s probably some big symbolic thing I’m missing.

 The Ground Whereon She Stands by Leah Bobet

 This is basically the trope Fertile Feet turned up to eleven. A woman decides she wants to fix the fact that wherever she steps sprouts flowers all over the place (due to an enchantment, of course) and goes to see her friend Alice, who has some skill with plants. I’m sure you can see where this story is going, if not, the story all but comes out and says that Alice and our narrator were going out at one time.

 Afterward by Don Ward

  So, there’s this witch, and she’s not really a bad witch. Well, she kind of says she’s a bad witch but her idea of rebellion is helping people (her reasoning actually makes a whole lot of sense). Oh, but then people burn her anyways and it’s really terrible, and you feel sorry for her and angry at the ignorant fucks in her area.

 April in Paris by Ursula K. Le Guin

 A college professor on “vacation” (actually unpaid leave from teaching) in Paris is summoned by a magician who can only seem to use his incantation to summon anyone from any time period who is somewhere near where the room currently is/was. So the professor is all like “Okay, I’ll just live with you now because my life sucks,” and they live together in an absolutely platonic relationship (I was kind of disappointed, actually).  I like this story, it’s kind of absurd but not trying-too-hard absurd, and the writing is great. (Le Guin is an SFF genre staple for a reason.)

 The Goosle by Margo Lanagan

 (TW: rape/pedophilia, more rape, cannibalism)

 This is an extremely dark “sequel” story to the tale of Hansel and Gretel, slotted firmly into the horror genre. I am not kidding when I say that those trigger warnings are there for a reason and that I very nearly became physically sick while reading this. It’s such a shift from the other stories (The World is Cruel, My Daughter, is not half as dark as this) and I’m pretty sure this was written on some sort of drug. It’s like H.R. Giger, Neil Gaiman, and Clive Barker were all doing acid together and this is the result of a really bad trip.

 Usually I love horror stories, but in this case, do not want. DO NOT WANT!

Note: You can find this story online, but trust me, THOSE TRIGGER WARNINGS ARE THERE FOR A REASON! (In case you thought “Let’s check this out in case Gef is exaggerating,” because Gef is definitely not exaggerating this time.)

Ugh, I feel ill just writing this. I need to go take a bath.

 Catskin by Kelly Link

 After that last story, I’d found that I’d run out of fucks to give, and Catskin is just….I don’t get it. It’s a revenge tale that reminds me a bit of the fairy tale “The White Cat” (probably because there is a cat who is white in it) and there are people who turn into cats except not they’re really cats underneath their human skin or something. The only thing I really liked about this story was the fourth wall breaking. Seriously, I don’t care how craptastic a story is, if you break the fourth wall, I will be entertained.

 But in all honesty, at this point I was out of fucks.

In sum, this anthology started off strong and then….I don’t know what happened to it. My guess is that drugs were involved somehow. This is seriously the only explanation I can think of for how the stories went from WHEEEE! FUN! to “OMFGS WHAT DID I JUST READ???”

 I’m beginning to notice a pattern with these anthologies. I should find that fairy themed one I liked and review it. It’s on one of my shelves somewhere….

Remember When I Said I was Making a Game?

Awhile back, I mentioned possibly making a game using StoryNexus. Well, I kind of lost patience with StoryNexus, so….yeah….

All is not lost, however, because I bought this today:

For those of you who aren’t familiar with RPG Maker, it’s a program that lets you make 2D RPGs, like the ones on the SNES. The nice thing about it is that you don’t need to know complicated programming scripts to use it. I’ve been messing around with it all day, and so far it’s simple to use (especially if you’ve played a bunch of 2D sprite-based JRPGs, like I have) but it throws a lot of stuff at you and the online tutorials sometimes don’t bother to explain things.

But this way I can make fun games for you to play. They probably won’t be balanced worth shit, but at least they’ll be semi-playable.

Seriously though, I’d love to turn something like The Tithe-Boy into a game.

Aaaaaand now I’m done with the Steam Summer Sale, for reals this time.

The Thirteen Houses Project: Alyssum

[TW: The following post discusses slut-shaming, sex-negativity and misogyny. There’s also a bit of fat-shaming.]

[Once a month for the next twelve months, I will be doing a post on the 13th of each month based on one of the Thirteen Houses of the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers from Kushiel’s Legacy.]

Fair warning, I go all over the place in this post. Please excuse all the jumping around.

It’s the 13th, so that means another post in the Thirteen Houses Project. This month, I’ve chosen to cover Alyssum House.

Alyssum House’s motto is “With eyes averted,” and the House canon is modesty. Alyssum House holds that when Naamah lay with the King of Persis to secure Blessed Elua’s release from prison, she “trembled to lay aside her modesty”. Innocence and shame (or the illusion of such) is the bread and butter of this house.

In Kushiel’s Justice, we learn that men and women enter Alyssum House through separate doors and there is no mingling of the sexes. Each patron is then asked to whisper their desire into the Second’s ear, who then goes to fetch the adept, or has the patron choose from a lineup. As the adept Mignon says “There are those among us who believe that Naamah trembled at what she did when first she lay with a mortal man–at the audacity of it, at the shame of it, at the glory of it.” (pg. 60) Unsurprisingly, Imriel compares adepts of Alyssum with those of Valerian, who are also embrace shame as a part of their particular art (although in a different way than Alyssum).

Being ex-Catholic, I consider myself to be well-acquainted with both shame and modesty. Although men and women alike are expected to be modest, unsurprisingly, women are the ones who usually hear the most about it. As girls. we are taught to dress modestly lest the boys turn into lustful cockmonsters, because, as we all know, boys and men are animals who aren’t capable of controlling themselves, amirite? Of course, to be “shameless” is equally a bad thing, because being shameless is for sluts and whores, not “good girls”.

In and of itself, dressing modestly (or, shall we say, conservatively) isn’t a bad thing, it’s all the kyriarchal garbage attached to the idea that stinks.

The other side of the Alyssum coin is shame, and Alyssum House, Imriel muses, is one place where adepts and patrons alike can be purged of it (or, you know, get off on it). Shame is, as Mignon says, a “spice”, the thrill of doing something forbidden, and this too, is one face of Naamah, maybe a strange face to some, but love, Imriel notes at the close of his visit to Alyssum, takes many forms.

However, shame is also something that can hurt. We can be made to feel ashamed of ourselves (and not in a “Baby, I’m so hot!” kind of way) over a variety of things. My parents like to poke fun of my *ahem* “Mennonite ass” (I know, sometimes my parents can be terrible). Fortunately, I am way too proud of my amazing squishy posterior to care very much, but other people may not feel the same way, and remarks like that can hurt, they can hurt a lot.

So, while Alyssum House definitely isn’t one of my favourite houses, there is, I feel, something to take away about shame, and, more broadly, about how something can be shameful, audacious, and yet, glorious. (That quote, by the way, is typical Carey.)

Image: “Sweet alyssum” by Pharaoh Hound.(Wikipedia)

That’s it for this post. Next month, I’m leaning towards Byrony House and discussing my complicated relationship with money, or perhaps Camellia and perfection. Hmm, decisions, decisions….