Here are fairy stories as they were meant to be told before they pandered to pleasant untroubled dreams. Behold, the complete tales of the brothers Grimm. In a mad push to prevent a cultural dilution by the French during the Napoleonic wars, Wilhelm and his brother Jacob scoured the countryside for local stories and fairy tales. These were stories as told true and untainted by the human heart. Dark tales, scary tales. Tales where really bad things could happen if you wondered too far into the woods. Tales where people did unspeakable things and witches were made to dance to their deaths in burning iron shoes. These are not safe tales. Beware if you enter unprepared.
The first of my planned updates to my story generator is complete. I have made the output simpler to understand, have improved the content that feeds into the generator and have done a fair bit or re-coding to allow me to re-use elements on other projects. The output from the generator is just what I’d always wanted from such a tool which is probably why I decided to write my own in the first place.
I moved away from clunky text lists into much more elegant JSON containers and have started adding more sophisticated elements for me to maintain and update the back-end. I’ve also added in 5 wildcards from a lists file I maintain and add to regularly. The list file is predominantly a list of nouns, of things that came to mind that I may – at some point – like to include in a story or make into a story. The wildcards are elements which could be included in your story just to mix things up a bit.
I realise the page looks a bit bland. I’m exploring ways to add a visual component to the experience but that’s for later. For now I hope you like the changes!
One of the greatest boons to travelling for work is the quiet. The blissful lack of noise in the evenings. A rejuvenating time filled with books, reading, good wine, and writing. This is in direct contrast to the norm of arguing children, the infernal television, dirty dishes, and school lunches. Not to in any way discount the exhausting latter, but I do so enjoy the former from time to time.
Not to write, for many of us is to die. We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of the day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audience would know.
A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever that is, would melt out of shape in those few days.
But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
~ Ray Bradbury (Introduction to Zen in the Art of Writing)
I like using story generators for my writing practice because you just never know what you’re going to end up with. This is a great thing because it forces you to adapt, to try writing about something that’s not in your zone of comfort, that’s different enough to make you feel incomfortable and when I’m uncomfortable is usually when I’m growing. I couldn’t find an online story generator I liked (no disrespect to the vast number of far more comprehensive ones out there) so I threw one together in php to suit my needs.
It’s fairly rudimentary but I’m continually updating the topic lists as I go and, to date, it’s served me pretty well. Feel free to try it and let me know how you go. Suggestions for future iterations are welcome.
You will find the link in the right panel now or follow the following link: Story Gen
One of the annoying consequences of getting older is the transition of your dreams from the fascinating to the mundane. I recall dreams in my teens and early twenties where I visited strange other worlds, saw in colours I could not describe on waking, wandered the airy interiors of giant organic helical alien towers and had the ability to fly. These were but a few of the fantastic memories I have of what filled my thoughts during those long deep slumbers.
These days the dreams seem pedestrian by comparison. Last night I awoke in a cold sweat having dreamed of someone emptying my wallet of all my cards just prior to me having to go on a business trip. I mean how awfully mundane!
To be fair, there was a brief modicum of redemption. I did dream about being at a work conference where we were attempting a live link up with a machine intelligence that had lain undiscovered because of our need to anthropomorphise the criteria of what it means to be intelligent. In other words we just didn’t have the frame of reference to understand that an artificial intelligence would likely arise to be very different to what we’d recognise as intelligence. Anyway, fascinating look at this link up with these machine avatars that looked like pale reflections of something ultimately albino Geigeresque. Unfortunately a work salesman stepped up and tried to do the corporate pitch as the first human hello. Completely killed the mood and I woke in abject horror.
In any event, I think there’s a short story in there … albeit without the salesman!
I’ve just learned that Iain Banks is dead.
Dead because the cells in his body went haywire and we couldn’t fix it. We can spend trillions of dollars killing one another in the name of all sorts of causes but we can’t fix those little building blocks of life that we’re all constructed from. I knew he was sick, I knew it was an inevitability but the insidious nature of cancer means the hope that there is still time. The slap in the face, the shock and tears, those came from reading Neil Gaiman’s tribute.
Those who knew him described him as funny, exuberant, full of life, fiercy intelligent. I hadn’t met him in person; I was never that fortunate. I did however travel the galaxy of the far flung future on immense sentient starships with outrageous names and intellects and met all sorts of wonderful characters doing all sorts of unbelievable things.
Iain M. Banks opened my mind in ways few authors ever have – his books are remarkable and he will not write another. An important part of the human collective has passed away; a man whose work will continue to inspire and have us reaching for a future I desperately want to live in.
I am surprised by how hard I’m taking this. How disappointed I am in our species which channels orders of magnitude more into death than life. In cancer as an inevitable end for so many great people. Into the fact there will never be another quirky GSV to ferry me away across the galaxy.
So long Iain, in the world I choose to live in the only, and inevitable, outcome was that you were whisked away by the Quietly Confident before the end. Happy travels.
Sometimes, during a creative writing exercise, entire scenes arrive in my head fully formed and gravid. I seem to be able to spin the words into a single harmonious thread that begins and ends with barely a break and almost never an edit or rewrite. Sometimes the end product is light and inspirational, sometimes I tap the dark places that exists deep down in each and every one of us and the stories are scary and taboo. Either way I write until the ink is done. What remains, the story and the characters, seem to have a core of truth to them. I want to go back and explore what will happen to the people and places spun from imagination. This is one that scared me a little but I know I will have to come back to soon – I have to find out what happens at the top of the ladder. Readers of the incredible Dark Tower series may recognise the Crimson King in the image above, king of spiders say true.
‘I don’t want to go!’ The boy said, his eyes blazing fiercely in the candle light.
‘I know.’ The woman put her hand on his shoulder to reassure him. ‘I know.’ Her eyes glistened, pain visible on her face, she knew what she was asking.
‘If you don’t we’ll starve.’ The unwashed sullen man said. ‘You want your kin to starve boy?’
‘Ted!’ The woman snapped. ‘There is a way to go about this. He knows the consequences so back off!’
Ted dragged the tin cup unsteadily toward himself and quaffed a mouthful of the homemade spirits. He belched and a smell of paraffin and old leather filled the small dug-out.
‘I’m scared of the monsters.’
‘I know … we all are … ‘
‘They won’t hurt me will they?’
The woman gave the child a hug. ‘No, no they won’t. They may scare you but they won’t hurt you.’
‘If you go … they’ll hurt you?’ He asked. There was a desperate searching quality in his eyes. A last ditch attempt to change the very nature of things born from his childish hope that believing in a thing could change it in the end.
The hope in his eyes died as it did every night.
‘They’ll take you back to the dark places and they’ll …’ His voice faltered and he looked down at the floor.
‘But they leave children alone?’
‘Because they’re clever bastards!’ Ted belched again. ‘Because they know children grow up to be adults. Because they know if they eat all the children then one day they’ll all go hungry.’
‘That’s horrible!’ the boy said.
‘Yes it is love.’ The woman said, ‘but Ted speaks the truth. Ever since the fall it’s been that way.’
He was silent for a bit, digesting the information that he knew already. It was the same every night.
‘Mother, when will I be big enough for them?’
She tried to hide the fear that crept in behind her eyes but her tears betrayed her. The truth was, with the children out of the shelters scavenging for food there would probably come a time when the tasters would decide they were big enough. And then they would not return. It was the lot of most, except for those who would be chosen to stay behind, to continue, to endure.
‘I don’t know. Not for many years still.’ She said it with all the conviction she could muster.
The boy stood and she did not miss the way he held onto the table.
‘Okay!’ he said more firmly.
She led him to the ladder, the one leading up to the narrow opening where he would slip out into the night. The one too small for them to squeeze their bloated chitinous bodies through, the one protecting them from the spines and the long lancing grippers.
‘Okay!’ he said, more softly and began to climb before his nerve failed him again.
Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I love Google+ but I’m considering shelving it. The problem is that it does not play well with others. Google+ wants you to jump ship and lock you into the Google ecosystem at the exclusion of other channels. It seems to have taken a leaf out of Facebook’s, well, … book.
For long time users of social tools like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr and Foursquare this is completely out of the question. Many of us use each tool in slightly different way, have a number of important social interactions in each ecosystem and, through the magic of in-app sharing or sites like ifttt can get them cross posting pretty efficiently.
Twitter: 140 character mini mind-dumps. Social interaction on a broad scale across a number of interests.
Facebook: Closed ecosystem of real friends and family members. I share photos of my kids with these people. I would invite any of these people to my house for dinner and a glass of wine.
Tumblr: When I have a bit more to say and Twitter just won’t do. When I want to share a photo, video, quote or short creative paragraph.
WordPress: Personal branding. This is where my long, thought out articles go. This is where I market me; my photographs, short stories, or novel.
Foursquare: A little geo-location fun. Useful for saving lists of top restaurants/coffee houses and for exploring what’s around you.
And then there is Google+.
I love the quality of content on G+ – there are so many interesting people and topics of conversation. I love the notifications, and the iOS app, and the concept of circles of interests. I seriously could make this the source of truth, replacing Twitter and probably a lot of what I use Tumblr for. But, it would still need to play well with all the other tools listed above. It would still need to cross post to Twitter because I have spent years interacting with amazing people there and I’m not going to cut my loses and just move on. It would need to talk to Facebook so I can share interesting content with my friends and family. It would need to post up to Tumblr and WordPress so I can target those platforms from time to time.
But it doesn’t, or not that I can see. Please someone show me a way where I can use a #fb tag in a Google post to target Facebook without having to rely on flaky 3rd party RSS workarounds. Please show me how I can post a tweet and update Google+ without having to copy-paste between two apps or websites.
Until Google+ realise that they are losing more people by closing their ecosystem than they would by embracing a truly social model I am forced to cut my loses and stick with my traditional, if somewhat wired together, social model.
Come on Google, what have you got to lose?