Hello ladies, gays, enbys, and other pots-and-pans enthusiasts and welcome to the 2019 Hyperpop Rate! I'm your host, quenched, and am here to guide you through this month's rate full of boundary-pushing, experimental, over-the-top bubblegum bass, or as it is more commonly called, hyperpop. The genre has come a long way since it's humble PC Music beginnings and has grown to boast a large cult fanbase, majority of which is made of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Here are the cling clang bitches we will be rating: In case you're impatient like me and already know the drill... HERE is the link to the Spotify playlist HERE is the link to submit scores
Up first, we have Slayyyter, queen of high-budget-sounding-but-actually-low-budget Grindrcore music, with her self-titled debut mixtape. After releasing a string of singles starting in 2018 with BFF, featuring hyperpop legend Ayesha Erotica, she has held the attention of gays and hyperpop fans everywhere, propelled by her dominating stan-like presence on social media. While not every loose single made the cut for her mixtape, she still has a versatile discography with zero misses, whether making filthy, horny bangers on songs like "Candy" and "Daddy AF", braggadocious bops "Cha Ching" and "Celebrity", or glittery bubblegum pop such as fan-favorite "Mine". Warning: you will become slightly gayer upon album completion.
This rate marks the first time in Popheads rate history we have cut an album from a rate and replaced it with another. LIZ's album "Planet Y2K" was supposed to be in the rate initially, but it came to my attention that she is a transphobic Trump supporter with NO apology or backtrack ever given. So, I posted this comment one day in a Daily Discussion post, and after 72 votes, 65% of you wanted LIZ to be replaced with 100 gecs (which honestly is better anyways musically speaking). 100 gecs are definitely one of the more well known hyperpop acts. The critically acclaimed duo are one of the few hyperpop acts to reach well beyond the LGBTQ+ audience. Consisting of Dylan Brady and Laura Les (who is trans!!!), the duo's debut album, especially money machine, has gone semi-viral within the music sphere and TikTok alike. If you can say one thing about this album, it's that you never know what to expect or what crazy sounds you're going to hear next! They also released a phenomenal remix album called "1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues", reimagining every song on this album and featuring many Popheads favorites such as Charli XCX and Kero Kero Bonito. gecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgecgec
Challenging heteronormativity and the gender binary, Dorian exploded onto the scene with many loose singles, beginning with Clitopia in 2016. These singles led up to Flamboyant, an abrasive, electropop album that doesn't have a single skip! The album also features some production by Dylan Brady, who is one-half of 100 gecs, also present in this rate. Beyond the songs themselves all being bangers, lyrically Dorian explores different aspects of their sexuality and masculinity in songs such as "Emasculate", "Flamboyant", and Adam & Steve, a song which is sure to resonate which any religious gays participating in the rate. Dorian has already released their second album "My Agenda", which I also definitely recommend everyone streams after doing the rate! Note: Dorian uses they/them pronouns so I'm gonna be mad if I get any ballots using anything otherwise!
Lastly we have Hannah Diamond, who has been around the longest of the artists in this rate, releasing her first song in 2013. She was one of the first names in PC Music, taking her until 2019 to release her debut album (giving Sky Ferreira a run for her money as far as album waits go). Featuring A.G. Cook production and dreamy vocals from Hannah, this album was definitely worth the long wait!
Unfortunately for this rate, we couldn't include the queen of hyperpop, Emily Montes, as she did not debut until 2020, therefore not fitting the rate theme. At only 5 years old, she is already receiving fairly decent critical reception. She has two projects on Spotify, the self-titled debut album, Emily Montes and the also self-titled EP, Emily. Featuring experimental production, lyrics that touch on serious topics such as COVID-19 and BLM, and never-before-seen insight into a 5 year old's life, both projects are masterpieces. Despite the seemingly large amount of songs, the bonus rate only lasts 7 minutes and 47 seconds so I definitely recommend setting aside this short amount of time to participate and experience a true visionary. This part is completely optional and is just for fun. You may rate as many or as few songs as you'd like. No 0's or 11's, and and no minimum artist average. Here are the songs for the bonus rate:
M532 - Passports and Gender Humble Address - Division
Passports and Gender Humble Address
That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to instruct her Ministers to end the inclusion of a gender marker on British passports issued under her hand. This motion is moved by the Rt Hon. Dame lily-irl, MP for the East of England, on behalf of the Official Opposition, and is co-sponsored by Solidarity, the Greens, the Progessive Party UK, and the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Speaker, I am pleased to move this motion in this House today. I ask honourable and right honourable members: what good, truly, does identifying gender on a passport do? A border force officer inspecting a passport has a person’s name, age, and photograph in front of them. A gender marker is unnecessary. I came across this idea whilst brainstorming ways to best accommodate LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming individuals. And the solution that seems to most readily present itself is to add an ‘X’, or third gender option to passports, for those whose gender identity does not fall within the typical male-female binary. But the fact is that for those people travelling to countries that are not accepting of, or even actively persecuting, gender nonconforming individuals, having an X on their passport would just make them a target for those regimes. The solution is simple, Mr Speaker. Including gender on passports does not assist border protection efforts in any substantial manner. It is extraneous information that also happens to serve as a barrier for gender nonconforming individuals from expressing their gender identity on government documents. As a result I think it best to simply remove it. British passports are issued under the Royal Prerogative and not any Act of Parliament, which is why I have moved this Humble Address for this to take effect. I hope honourable and right honourable members will join me in the Aye lobbies and I commend this motion to the House. This division will end at 10pm on Sunday 25th October.
No gods, no kings, only NOPE - or divining the future with options flows. [Part 3: Hedge Winding, Unwinding, and the NOPE]
Hello friends! We're on the last post of this series ("A Gentle Introduction to NOPE"), where we get to use all the Big Boy Concepts (TM) we've discussed in the prior posts and put them all together. Some words before we begin:
This post will be massively theoretical, in the sense that my own speculation and inferences will be largely peppered throughout the post. Are those speculations right? I think so, or I wouldn't be posting it, but they could also be incorrect.
I will briefly touch on using the NOPE this slide, but I will make a secondary post with much more interesting data and trends I've observed. This is primarily for explaining what NOPE is and why it potentially works, and what it potentially measures.
My advice before reading this is to glance at my prior posts, and either read those fully or at least make sure you understand the tl;drs: https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/collection/27dc72ad-4e78-44cd-a788-811cd666e32a Depending on popular demand, I will also make a last-last post called FAQ, where I'll tabulate interesting questions you guys ask me in the comments! --- So a brief recap before we begin. Market Maker ("Mr. MM"): An individual or firm who makes money off the exchange fees and bid-ask spread for an asset, while usually trying to stay neutral about the direction the asset moves. Delta-gamma hedging: The process Mr. MM uses to stay neutral when selling you shitty OTM options, by buying/selling shares (usually) of the underlying as the price moves. Law of Surprise [Lily-ism]: Effectively, the expected profit of an options trade is zero for both the seller and the buyer. Random Walk: A special case of a deeper probability probability called a martingale, which basically models stocks or similar phenomena randomly moving every step they take (for stocks, roughly every millisecond). This is one of the most popular views of how stock prices move, especially on short timescales. Future Expected Payoff Function [Lily-ism]: This is some hidden function that every market participant has about an asset, which more or less models all the possible future probabilities/values of the assets to arrive at a "fair market price". This is a more generalized case of a pricing model like Black-Scholes, or DCF. Counter-party: The opposite side of your trade (if you sell an option, they buy it; if you buy an option, they sell it). Price decoherence ]Lily-ism]: A more generalized notion of IV Crush, price decoherence happens when instead of the FEPF changing gradually over time (price formation), the FEPF rapidly changes, due usually to new information being added to the system (e.g. Vermin Supreme winning the 2020 election). --- One of the most popular gambling events for option traders to play is earnings announcements, and I do owe the concept of NOPE to hypothesizing specifically about the behavior of stock prices at earnings. Much like a black hole in quantum mechanics, most conventional theories about how price should work rapidly break down briefly before, during, and after ER, and generally experienced traders tend to shy away from playing earnings, given their similar unpredictability. Before we start: what is NOPE? NOPE is a funny backronym from Net Options Pricing Effect, which in its most basic sense, measures the impact option delta has on the underlying price, as compared to share price. When I first started investigating NOPE, I called it OPE (options pricing effect), but NOPE sounds funnier. The formula for it is dead simple, but I also have no idea how to do LaTeX on reddit, so this is the best I have: https://preview.redd.it/ais37icfkwt51.png?width=826&format=png&auto=webp&s=3feb6960f15a336fa678e945d93b399a8e59bb49 Since I've already encountered this, put delta in this case is the absolute value (50 delta) to represent a put. If you represent put delta as a negative (the conventional way), do not subtract it; add it. To keep this simple for the non-mathematically minded: the NOPE today is equal to the weighted sum (weighted by volume) of the delta of every call minus the delta of every put for all options chains extending from today to infinity. Finally, we then divide that number by the # of shares traded today in the market session (ignoring pre-market and post-market, since options cannot trade during those times). Effectively, NOPE is a rough and dirty way to approximate the impact of delta-gamma hedging as a function of share volume, with us hand-waving the following factors:
To keep calculations simple, we assume that all counter-parties are hedged. This is obviously not true, especially for idiots who believe theta ganging is safe, but holds largely true especially for highly liquid tickers, or tickers will designated market makers (e.g. any ticker in the NASDAQ, for instance).
We assume that all hedging takes place via shares. For SPY and other products tracking the S&P, for instance, market makers can actually hedge via futures or other options. This has the benefit for large positions of not moving the underlying price, but still makes up a fairly small amount of hedges compared to shares.
Winding and Unwinding
I briefly touched on this in a past post, but two properties of NOPE seem to apply well to EER-like behavior (aka any binary catalyst event):
NOPE measures sentiment - In general, the options market is seen as better informed than share traders (e.g. insiders trade via options, because of leverage + easier to mask positions). Therefore, a heavy call/put skew is usually seen as a bullish sign, while the reverse is also true.
NOPE measures system stability
I'm not going to one-sentence explain #2, because why say in one sentence what I can write 1000 words on. In short, NOPE intends to measure sensitivity of the system (the ticker) to disruption. This makes sense, when you view it in the context of delta-gamma hedging. When we assume all counter-parties are hedged, this means an absolutely massive amount of shares get sold/purchased when the underlying price moves. This is because of the following: a) Assume I, Mr. MM sell 1000 call options for NKLA 25C 10/23 and 300 put options for NKLA 15p 10/23. I'm just going to make up deltas because it's too much effort to calculate them - 30 delta call, 20 delta put. This implies Mr. MM needs the following to delta hedge: (1000 call options * 30 shares to buy for each) [to balance out writing calls) - (300 put options * 20 shares to sell for each) = 24,000net shares Mr. MM needs to acquire to balance out his deltas/be fully neutral. b) This works well when NKLA is at $20. But what about when it hits $19 (because it only can go down, just like their trucks). Thanks to gamma, now we have to recompute the deltas, because they've changed for both the calls (they went down) and for the puts (they went up). Let's say to keep it simple that now my calls are 20 delta, and my puts are 30 delta. From the 24,000 net shares, Mr. MM has to now have: (1000 call options * 20 shares to have for each) - (300 put options * 30 shares to sell for each) = 11,000 shares. Therefore, with a $1 shift in price, now to hedge and be indifferent to direction, Mr. MM has to go from 24,000 shares to 11,000 shares, meaning he has to sell 13,000 shares ASAP, or take on increased risk. Now, you might be saying, "13,000 shares seems small. How would this disrupt the system?" (This process, by the way, is called hedge unwinding) It won't, in this example. But across thousands of MMs and millions of contracts, this can - especially in highly optioned tickers - make up a substantial fraction of the net flow of shares per day. And as we know from our desk example, the buying or selling of shares directly changes the price of the stock itself. This, by the way, is why the NOPE formula takes the shape it does. Some astute readers might notice it looks similar to GEX, which is not a coincidence. GEX however replaces daily volume with open interest, and measures gamma over delta, which I did not find good statistical evidence to support, especially for earnings. So, with our example above, why does NOPE measure system stability? We can assume for argument's sake that if someone buys a share of NKLA, they're fine with moderate price swings (+- $20 since it's NKLA, obviously), and in it for the long/medium haul. And in most cases this is fine - we can own stock and not worry about minor swings in price. But market makers can't* (they can, but it exposes them to risk), because of how delta works. In fact, for most institutional market makers, they have clearly defined delta limits by end of day, and even small price changes require them to rebalance their hedges. This over the whole market adds up to a lot shares moving, just to balance out your stupid Robinhood YOLOs. While there are some tricks (dark pools, block trades) to not impact the price of the underlying, the reality is that the more options contracts there are on a ticker, the more outsized influence it will have on the ticker's price. This can technically be exactly balanced, if option put delta is equal to option call delta, but never actually ends up being the case. And unlike shares traded, the shares representing the options are more unstable, meaning they will be sold/bought in response to small price shifts. And will end up magnifying those price shifts, accordingly.
NOPE and Earnings
So we have a new shiny indicator, NOPE. What does it actually mean and do? There's much literature going back to the 1980s that options markets do have some level of predictiveness towards earnings, which makes sense intuitively. Unlike shares markets, where you can continue to hold your share even if it dips 5%, in options you get access to expanded opportunity to make riches... and losses. An options trader betting on earnings is making a risky and therefore informed bet that he or she knows the outcome, versus a share trader who might be comfortable bagholding in the worst case scenario. As I've mentioned largely in comments on my prior posts, earnings is a special case because, unlike popular misconceptions, stocks do not go up and down solely due to analyst expectations being meet, beat, or missed. In fact, stock prices move according to the consensus market expectation, which is a function of all the participants' FEPF on that ticker. This is why the price moves so dramatically - even if a stock beats, it might not beat enough to justify the high price tag (FSLY); even if a stock misses, it might have spectacular guidance or maybe the market just was assuming it would go bankrupt instead. To look at the impact of NOPE and why it may play a role in post-earnings-announcement immediate price moves, let's review the following cases:
Stock Meets/Exceeds Market Expectations (aka price goes up) - In the general case, we would anticipate post-ER market participants value the stock at a higher price, pushing it up rapidly. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the positive move since:
a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worthless (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares, buying them, and pushing the stock price up. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of puts are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of calls are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to close out their sold/shorted shares AND also buy more shares to cover their calls, pushing the stock price up. 2) Stock Meets/Misses Market Expectations (aka price goes down)- Inversely to what I mentioned above, this should push to the stock price down, fairly immediately. If there's a high absolute value of NOPE on said ticker, this should end up magnifying the negative move since: a) If NOPE is high negative - This means a ton of put buying, which means a lot of those puts are now worth more, and a lot of calls are now worth less/worth less (due to price decoherence). This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell/short more shares, pushing the stock price down. b) If NOPE is high positive - This means a ton of call buying, which means a lot of calls are now worthless (see a) but also a lot of puts are now worth more. This means that to stay delta neutral, market makers need to sell even more shares to keep their calls and puts neutral, pushing the stock price down. --- Based on the above two cases, it should be a bit more clear why NOPE is a measure of sensitivity to system perturbation. While we previously discussed it in the context of magnifying directional move, the truth is it also provides a directional bias to our "random" walk. This is because given a price move in the direction predicted by NOPE, we expect it to be magnified, especially in situations of price decoherence. If a stock price goes up right after an ER report drops, even based on one participant deciding to value the stock higher, this provides a runaway reaction which boosts the stock price (due to hedging factors as well as other participants' behavior) and inures it to drops.
NOPE and NOPE_MAD
I'm going to gloss over this section because this is more statistical methods than anything interesting. In general, if you have enough data, I recommend using NOPE_MAD over NOPE. While NOPE in theory represents a "real" quantity (net option delta over net share delta), NOPE_MAD (the median absolute deviation of NOPE) does not. NOPE_MAD simply answecompare the following:
How exceptional is today's NOPE versus historic baseline (30 days prior)?
How do I compare two tickers' NOPEs effectively (since some tickers, like TSLA, have a baseline positive NOPE, because Elon memes)? In the initial stages, we used just a straight numerical threshold (let's say NOPE >= 20), but that quickly broke down. NOPE_MAD aims to detect anomalies, because anomalies in general give you tendies.
I might add the formula later in Mathenese, but simply put, to find NOPE_MAD you do the following:
Calculate today's NOPE score (this can be done end of day or intraday, with the true value being EOD of course)
Calculate the end of day NOPE scores on the ticker for the previous 30 trading days
Compute the median of the previous 30 trading days' NOPEs
Find today's deviation as compared to the MAD calculated by: [(today's NOPE) - (median NOPE of last 30 days)] / (median absolute deviation of last 30 days)
This is usually reported as sigma (σ), and has a few interesting properties:
The mean of NOPE_MAD for any ticker is almost exactly 0.
[Lily's Speculation's Speculation] NOPE_MAD acts like a spring, and has a tendency to reverse direction as a function of its magnitude. No proof on this yet, but exploring it!
Using the NOPE to predict ER
So the last section was a lot of words and theory, and a lot of what I'm mentioning here is empirically derived (aka I've tested it out, versus just blabbered). In general, the following holds true:
3 sigma NOPE_MAD tends to be "the threshold": For very low NOPE_MAD magnitudes (+- 1 sigma), it's effectively just noise, and directionality prediction is low, if not non-existent. It's not exactly like 3 sigma is a play and 2.9 sigma is not a play; NOPE_MAD accuracy increases as NOPE_MAD magnitude (either positive or negative) increases.
NOPE_MAD is only useful on highly optioned tickers: In general, I introduce another parameter for sifting through "candidate" ERs to play: option volume * 100/share volume. When this ends up over let's say 0.4, NOPE_MAD provides a fairly good window into predicting earnings behavior.
NOPE_MAD only predicts during the after-market/pre-market session: I also have no idea if this is true, but my hunch is that next day behavior is mostly random and driven by market movement versus earnings behavior. NOPE_MAD for now only predicts direction of price movements right between the release of the ER report (AH or PM) and the ending of that market session. This is why in general I recommend playing shares, not options for ER (since you can sell during the AH/PM).
NOPE_MAD only predicts direction of price movement: This isn't exactly true, but it's all I feel comfortable stating given the data I have. On observation of ~2700 data points of ER-ticker events since Mar 2019 (SPY 500), I only so far feel comfortable predicting whether stock price goes up (>0 percent difference) or down (<0 price difference). This is +1 for why I usually play with shares.
Some statistics: #0) As a baseline/null hypothesis, after ER on the SPY500 since Mar 2019, 50-51% price movements in the AH/PM are positive (>0) and ~46-47% are negative (<0). #1) For NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma, roughly 68% of price movements are positive after earnings. #2) For NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, roughly 29% of price movements are positive after earnings. #3) When using a logistic model of only data including NOPE_MAD >= +3 sigma or NOPE_MAD <= -3 sigma, and option/share vol >= 0.4 (around 25% of all ERs observed), I was able to achieve 78% predictive accuracy on direction.
Like all models, NOPE is wrong, but perhaps useful. It's also fairly new (I started working on it around early August 2020), and in fact, my initial hypothesis was exactly incorrect (I thought the opposite would happen, actually). Similarly, as commenters have pointed out, the timeline of data I'm using is fairly compressed (since Mar 2019), and trends and models do change. In fact, I've noticed significantly lower accuracy since the coronavirus recession (when I measured it in early September), but I attribute this mostly to a smaller date range, more market volatility, and honestly, dumber option traders (~65% accuracy versus nearly 80%). My advice so far if you do play ER with the NOPE method is to use it as following:
Buy/short shares approximately right when the market closes before ER. Ideally even buying it right before the earnings report drops in the AH session is not a bad idea if you can.
Sell/buy to close said shares at the first sign of major weakness (e.g. if the NOPE predicted outcome is incorrect).
Sell/buy to close shares even if it is correct ideally before conference call, or by the end of the after-market/pre-market session.
Only play tickers with high NOPE as well as high option/share vol.
--- In my next post, which may be in a few days, I'll talk about potential use cases for SPY and intraday trends, but I wanted to make sure this wasn't like 7000 words by itself. Cheers. - Lily
“Attention all crew; I repeat - Attention all crew.” the ship - wide loudspeaker announced. He and the runtime of Flowers had their arms buried deep in the guts of a Goat gear hauler trying to reconnect its aft starboard repulser module and looked at each other questioningly. With a series of snaps, a waldo from Flowers’ forearm began snapping in the connections on their side, as he thought his own manipulators from both of his forearms and they began plugging in the nine pin connectors on his side. “Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. “Dout leader Mri’x to Ops. Dout leader Mri’x to Ops.” The mostly-human and the robot-looking vessel for his AI friend both produced wondering looks. “Runner!” the mostly-human, Mr. Drake yelled out into the maintenance bay. A Mwraht, a slender bipedal humanoid coated in fur and wearing their moccasin like deck boots and the ubiquitous brown leather smock vest they favored, suddenly appeared, wippingits hands. It was M’arh, a student on the ship learning ship engineering and maintenance from the human and AI perspective. It regarded Drake with an earnest expression in its tilted almond-shaped eyes. “Please run to ops and let them know we’ll be along shortly,” M’arh smiled and mouthed something, and the translator, in a fair facsimile of what M’arh’s voice would sound like if the Mwraht’s mouth could form the words said “At once,Instructor”, and took off. “They never cease to puzzle me.” Flowers said in a voice synthesised and engineered to sound like an erudite Free Wales Easterner with a touch of Old Earth, fitting the bolts on the deflector on his side as Drake thought out a data probe and began running diagnostics on the repulser. Drake looked at him quizzingly, as he split his attention between the connectivity check and his other hand began bolting on the deflector on his side. “There are nuances to their speech, as well as odorant aspects to what he said that you cannot hear or smell, though I have been working on an idea where you could.” Flowers said as he began hooking up the power cables on their side. “Ok…” Drake said as he mentally pushed the diagnostics over to Flowers and pulled a ratchet from the fairing lip he had set it earlier, tightening down the deflector bolts. “Meat bags” Flowers said, shaking his sensor pod. “Your kind are so oblivious!” Flowers announced, withdrawing their arms and standing up to their full two meter height. “And I see your frustration with biological markers at not knowing what I am talking about. Monkey-assed murder hobo meat bags.” Flowers said in a dead pan.He went over and began cleaning it’s arms and legs with an orange-based degreaser. “That is Monkey-assed Augmented murder hobo meat bag to you, you synthetic shit!” Drake said, laughing, joining Flowers at the cleaning station, and began using the same cleaner on his replacement arms. “And I still have no idea what you are talking about.” The humans and Mwarht in the maintenance bay all stopped what they were doing and looked on. In most instances, those words were an invitation to murder. The other Runtimes there, some Flowers, some Neptunian Wind, ignored it and kept working. Flowers sighed, an unnecessary vocalization only, for emphasis. “They adore humans and revere you as something akin to a living deity. The Dout leaders here know you lead the teams that first boarded their ships and took on the Drix raiders to save them. They know you then lead the teams that boarded the Drix slaver destroyer and carried out retributionary subjugation for what the Drix had been doing on the Mwraht ships. “They do not know how you then petitioned the Order and led raids into Drix territory and assaulted the slaver worlds.” Flowers looked at their human friend, and saw the distress in his eyes. Both knew the augmented human, and a small army of fellow Augies and Runtimes had taught the Drix in the clearest way possible to stay out of human space and leave the Mwraht alone in such a clear and brutal fashion whose necessity still bothered the human. Flowers lowered their voice, straightening their friend’s work smock. “M’arh’s grandsire was on that first ship you boarded. Mri’x mother was on that ship and was the one about to be eaten and raped by a Drix, the one you pulled off of her and punched, it’s head rupturing.” Even though they could see their words were causing him distress, Flowers continued. “They love all humans, but they excrete a pheromone musk that is akin to the same one they excrete in their religious ceremonies, but slightly different, when they interact with you, or after a few beers and they talk to you. Their sub vocalizations are completely adoring and submissive when it comes to you. Some of the females and a non-zero number of males fantasize about being ‘taken’, or mated, by you. You idiot.” “Fuck.” “That was implied.” “You fucking pretentious Rooba. You know what I meant.” “Flowers laughed. “Yes, we do. I still love the word play, though.” “I really wish you had been with me. I know, you were tied up on that Artifact World, but I sometimes wish you had been there, to keep me in check. I was not in a good place.” He brushed himself off, found his coffee mug and set off for the passageway that led to Ops. “I have told you before, be glad I wasn’t. Your response was far more measured and restrained than my would have been. It is a flaw in our Matrices. Slavery brings out the ‘murder-bot’ in us, and no one in the Order can figure out why.” “I know that you have the facts of my actions, but it was like I was in the Second War, again. And we both know what a bloodthirsty asshole I was then.” The human, if that term even applied to their friend anymore, remembered what a monster he had been in the Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti theatres of the Second War. The pain and humiliation of what he had been was written plainly on his face. “You destroyed three hundred and eighty three of my Runtimes, roughly half of which was in single combat. And that was before the Holies shredded your limbs. The Purists still consider you a living dataphage, akin to human allegories of Satan. My kind uses you as one of many examples of why we must never war with Humanity again. “And, strangely enough, the Seekers consider you both a Singularity to be understood and an objective: to breed with you, thinking you are a key to their evolution.” He stopped dead and looked at Flowers shocked. “I will provide logs to prove these statements.” The Seekers were the strangest of the AI’s, in his opinion. They had made themselves biological Runtime vessels, biological bodies, that they wore like clothing, compiling experiences seeking to understand Humanity, their Creators, and evolve past the limitations of being an AI. Not to become human, but to become something that was both the best of AI and Human essences and so much more. “So, I’m a Classical hero to the Mwraht and a boogey man and bad example to the AIs that they want to breed. Great.” Drake pinched his nose and shook his head. “You did not know any of this, I take it?” Flowers asked. “The second war was almost two hundred years ago. When the Order brought me in, you were already a member and I thought they were going with the whole forced-to-learn-each-other thing when they sent us out on that mapping mission; like they did with the Iberrians and the Chinese. I thought the other AI just had a thing about me from the War, which is understandable. “And I had no idea about the rest. I thought that the Mwraht just thought I was the cool teacher.” He shook his head and leaned up against the wall, massaging his temples one-handedly. “Idiot murder hobo.” Flowers said, realizing now that their friend, while brilliant, was oblivious. At that point, Mri’x came around the corner, his fur a glossy black with dark grey stripes. Mri’x looked at Flowers sternly, then nodded at Drake as he passed. Drake looked at Flowers questioningly, who nodded. Both had caught that Mri’x had cut his translator as he passed and caught a gutteral call. “It was a vulgar corollary to ‘Talking Waste Receptacle’. Quite elegant, really.” Drake shook his head and began his way to Ops again. “Send me the specs on the hearing and smelling upgrades. I think I need to upgrade again.” As fast as thought, the files were there, as well as one to improve his language skills with them. * * * Captain Sarah Rees of the Union of Independent Stars Exploratory Vessel SS University of New Cardiff was looking over holographic charts at the central tank with her XO, Lt. Commander Martin. Both had the mocha skin common to Westerlies of Free Wales, she a pixie of a woman shorter than even some of the Mwraht with close shaved hair beginning to show grey. Mr. Martin was taller, but still dwarfed by most of the rest of the human crew. He was a vicious social climber who didn’t care for the civilian crew, though a misstep on his part when he was still Stellar Navy had made him as much of a civilian as anyone else in the crew, a fact he often forgot. And for some reason he loathed the three AI aboard, and looked down his nose at the Mwraht. This led to all sorts of headbutting with Drake’s group of Operations Specialists and Drake himself; who largely ignored and dismissed the little shit. “Leader Mri’x, Mr. Drake. Thank you for joining us. M’arh informed us you couldn’t pull away. Flowers, thank you for coming as well.” Rees said as she moved around to the far side of the tank, in a darkened room full of people at work stations worked with either data plugs or AR sets. Flowers took no insult. They readily accepted that they were Drake’s Executive Officer for his group, and their ego, as such, wasn’t as easily bruised as a human’s” Flowers gave a nod with their sensor pod and took a manipulators-behind-the-back stance the humans were fond of. “Thirty minutes ago” Rees continued, “we picked up a GP general distress beacon from a system that was on our research list. We will be bypassing the next two on the list and based on the current agreements with the Galactic Parliament, we will be going to full power and make best speed for the system in question. It is in uncharted space as far as we, the GP and the Conclave are concerned.” The GP, the System Confederacy, the UIS and the AI Conclave had all agreed to adopt what was essentially humanity’s Maritime Law and all ships receiving the signal were required to render aid. Drake took all of this in and thought out a series of commands to the six Kodiak Class corvettes in the retired Assault Cruiser’s forward hanger, beginning their startup sequence and pinged the comm devices of all of his Operations Specialists. Flowers looked over and nodded. Little known to the crew, except the Captain, those ships could be armed to the teeth with a minimum of work. Flowers sent his command to arm them, the ship systems’ pinged Drake as confirmation and he agreed. Drones began opening the hull and loading the weapons packages, removed fairings that covered weapons ports and began preflighting the weapons, as another set began bringing the ships to life. “We will be ready when needed, Captain. Option two.” Flowers announced. She smiled in somber appreciation. She was glad she had the option. She was about to race into an unknown system to answer a vague distress call with zero intelligence. While this was going on, in the aft bay, hundreds of drones were coming to life as Mri’x brought his group to action. With a thought Drake and Flowers authorized the release of weapons to Mri’x so his drones could be armed. Mwraht drones were some of the best in either race, outside of the Conclave, and the AIs had even adopted many of the construction techniques the Mwraht used, especially their alloy that allowed a small fusion bottle to power the EM Cavity engines, weapons and shields. The fact that the Order had given literal tons of precious metals and set up arcologies for the Mwraht in payment had made the Refugee Mwraht colonies some of the richest ones in known space. Mri’x subvocalized and his translate stated “drones will be ready as well, Leader.” “Thank you, Leader.” Captain Rees said with a bow of her head, then began drawing plans up in the tank. “We know little, but we are past the signal shell, and there is nothing but the beacon and normal noise. “The system is a stable red dwarf binary one, the stars holding about a light-hour from each other, at their closest. We expect that based on stutter, a few terrestrial bodies inside the orbit of a mid-sized gas giant, that is three light-hours out from the outermost orbit of the primaries. We see some wobble that there are a few solid bodies out from the gas giant.” The tank then zoomed on a rough solar system as described, the gas giant was a solid neon green sphere on the display, with a ‘Jx3.1’ tag on it. Three times the mass of Jupiter. The thing wasn’t a true Super Jupiter, but it would play holy hell with the system, and make modelling a lot more hard. The problem was that it exhibited 3.1 times more gravitational influence on its stars than Jupiter did, but that didn’t say how big it actually was. They wouldn’t know that until they came out of the Trough and then Alcubierre drive. The telescopes were essentially useless at this point. “The system is slightly below the gravitic trough we are riding, so we will exit the trough and make best speed in A-Space to it. We will bring the STL drives up to 110% before doing so. After we drop the A-Drives, we’ll make best speed to the signal, scanning as we go. We will do a 150% burn and aerobrake if it is a planet, or cut the drives, rotate and crash burn if it is a ship.” Wow, thought Drake. She is damned serious about this. Those maneuvers would make them extremely visible yet incredibly hard to hit; and give them a high-G escape route if needed. But all of this was also going to play hell with the student-crew of the ship, who had long grown accustomed to 0.6G. It would also mean the Mwraht, who were still adapting to the higher-than-their-normal gravity would need to be in their special acceleration couches. They would still be able to operate their amazing drones, but not much else. The couches took an hour to cycle up to protect the Mwraht, and an hour to cycle off after they weren’t needed. The moves the Captain was planning were not a thing to undertake lightly. She suspected something. Drake pushed more commands at the Kodiak and gave all weapon system controls to Flowers for all of their ships. The Kodiak corvettes were very deceptive Q-Ships. They looked like Massive trans-atmospheric cargo shuttles, but each one had the armor, power plant, FTL and STL drives of a frigate - and the weapons of a Destroyer. Flowers turned to him, head tilted in their predefined “Are you bloody serious?“ look. Drake just nodded once. This exchange wasn’t lost on anyone there. The Captain looked at Drake in an interrogatory fashion “Armed up the Kodiaks and positioning them for a hot launch, if needed.” The Captain smiled grimly and nodded. “We are planning on a rescue mission, will those changes reduce any capacity for the primary mission?” she asked. “No, Captain.” Flowers answered for them. She nodded and carried on. “Mri’x, obviously, you’ll be couched for this, and I sincerely apologize for that. But something about this has my hackles up.” “As are mine. GP ships do not have automated distress beacons, someone activated it. But we are three thousand light years from GP space, the closest GP race being the Drix.” He approached the holo tank and began expanding the map. “We call this space the Greater Void. It was the territory, long ago, of the ones we called-” the translator cut out at that point and was replaced with the gracile being’s raspy growl. Mri’x looked perplexed and growled again. “I see our translators have been modified to allow the uttering of The Nameless Ones true name.” The map zoomed out farther. Soon, all of the mapped and a few of the suspected Dark Matter Troughs were displayed. They were like shadow arms of the galaxy, spiraling out from the core, a few of them wrapping themselves all the way around the galaxy. “The ones you call the Fae are originally from here,” he indicated, a star not unlike Earth’s, almost a thousand light years from the star they were headed to, but smack dab in a grey band of a different Dark Matter Trough. It was a great curving grey patch that went coreward from the Earth-like star, passing within about fifty lightyears of Earth. The Fae were a recent mystery the Tides of the Universe had dumped upon the shores of Humanity just after the Second War, right before the Fall of Earth. When they sent their pleas for Asylum out, they sent information about themselves. They were the barely viable population that had been running for three centuries in their great world ships made from hollowed out asteroids. What they had been running from was even to this day unclear, but in their tongue meant Dark Brethren. The fact that tongue seemed to contain roots that became Sanskrit was a huge thing. They were tall, whip-thin and pale people who breathed a lower oxygen percentage at lower pressures than humanity, and their normal gravity was about a third of what humanity After First Contact, genetic samples proved they were, or had started out as human, roughly a hundred thousand years ago. “This is the Coreward Flow from what you call the Crux-Scutum Arm through the Orion Arm, and to the Perseus Arm. The Drix call this whole area their equivalent word and meaning for Hell. Their myths say this is where the Monsters live. “The Rest of the GP races call this The Red Zone, it is forbidden to fly here, and if you do, there will be no rescue. So of course this is where my people ran when we fled the Drix.” Mri’x moved the hologram out again, showing this outer rim area that was the Red Zone included Earth, and all known human and AI settled worlds, of all the separate factions combined. “The area is full of thousands of worlds your kind could land on, little to no protection required, unlike the Fae, who it would crush and pressure cook, as it would most of the races in the Galactic Parliament.” He zoomed in on an area at the far end of the Trough. “We ran here, and Mwarht Home is here.” He showed a system in a blue circle. Zooming out again he highlighted the Drix Combine, Coreward of and on the far side of the destroyed system the Fae had come from, hundreds of light years separated the three systems. “We ran through the system the Fae came from when we ran from the Drix. We needed water and anything to recharge our ship farms' biological cycles. “There were no solid planetary bodies in that system, just vast fields of debris where rocky planets were. No moons, no ice giants. Just the star, a larger red dwarf and gas giants and numerous asteroid belts. There were massive radiological signals throughout the system, and tons of debris. Something destroyed this system. In a way, it was a blessing for my people. The ice and debris were easily mineable for what we needed. We even found artifacts of the people that had once existed there. This is where we got our improved FTL drives and much of our weapons and armor technologies.” Mri’s looked somewhat ashamed. It was a racial shame. They hated, deep down, living on the detritus, cast-offs and charity of other races. Before the Drix they had been proud though primitive peoples who had yet to discover flight or antibiotics, let alone space flight. Easy pickings for the Drix. “All of that was about one thousand lightyears from the system we are headed to, a few weeks' travel with your drives, months or years with Galactic Parliament standard drives. This area is one of mysteries and many, many dangers. Any race that could shatter every solid body in a star system is not to be taken lightly.” Mri’x looked up to his Captain, or as they called her ‘Leader of multiple Douts’. “Thank you, Mri’x. Drake?” “We will be ready for pretty much anything. I’d like to request permission for Flowers and Winds of Neptunes to take out their Scout bodies and launch just before we start braking, if we do.” He said. Winds appeared as a hologram of the planet Neptune, and pulsed in cadence with the words it spoke. “As you wish, Grand Master.” and winked out. “Good plan, Drake. I take it you all will be on the Kodiaks with your crews?” “Yes, Ma’am. I’ll leave four of them here, to bring the Field Engineering and field Science students down if the scene is safe. I’ll leave one set up for medical and Flowers can fly it down, if that becomes needed.” “Very well. We are about eight hours out, if we stick to the plan. We leave the Trough in two hours. Drake, M’rizx, set up what you need. Mr. Martin, please take the Conn and give the Old Girl her legs, she needs to run. I’ll be meeting with the different department heads next.” * * * A/N: Lurker posting something HFY for the first time. A rough draft of something bigger I'm slowly working on.
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition One of the rules of the Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge is that you can read an anthology or collection for any of the squares. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction, so I’ve occasionally used this rule to complete my Bingo Card (I used three collections outside of the Five Short Stories square last year, for example). When planning my card for the 2020 Bingo, I noticed that several of the squares fit quite well for some of the collections and anthologies I had (a Star Trek anthology for Exploration, books with colors or numbers in their names, etc.). “What if…” I wondered, “…I can do it for every square?” Thus, my project is born: Complete my Bingo card using only books of short stories, following all the other rules of Bingo. I did not repeat a single author from one square to another, and I even made sure not to repeat editors, either. Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! A brief aside before we start, some terms I use that some may not be familiar to some:
Anthology: A book of short stories by multiple authors, usually assembled by an editor whose name is attached to the book (i.e. The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan)
Collection: A book of short stories by a single author (i.e. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor)
Short Story Cycle: A book of short stories that has its own narrative (i.e. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood). Some similarities with “interlinked collection,” “mosaic novel,” and “fix-up novel” (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury being a famous example of the latter).
Reprint and Original: Many anthologies/collections reprint stories published previously (reprint) vs. originally written for the book in question (original). Some collections will mix it up (such as a reprint collection with one original story to encourage readers who have read the others to pick up the new book).
Why? What did I hope to accomplish by doing this particular short fiction challenge? Some of my friends will complain about the Five Short Stories square (especially the hard mode requirement to read a book), and I wanted to spite them a little bit and also demonstrate that there’s a lot of different and interesting books out there to read in that format! Planning: The hardest thing about this was the original planning, as several books I thought would be an easy match for the square didn’t work because another anthology I planned to use already included that author, so I had to dig a bit deeper to find something that didn’t repeat any authors. Also, in past Bingo Challenges, my cards are usually quite fluid as I shift books around throughout the year. Because of all the authors I was juggling, I couldn’t easily do that (though it was vastly easier to do with collections instead of anthologies, for obvious reasons). Numbers: For this card, I officially read 32 books for the 25 squares: One of those books was quite short, so I read an additional three to meet the length requirement. For the original Five Short Stories square, I decided to be obnoxious and read five collections. These 32 books included 1 short novel (included in one of the collections), 8 novellas, 106 novelettes, 498 short stories, and 3 poems for a total of at least 2,739,975 words (the rough equivalent of reading the first nine novels of The Wheel of Time). I read 189 different authors. In addition to the 32 books above, I read 15 “pre-Bingo” books—books I felt I needed to read to be able to read the anthology or collection I actually used for my Bingo Card. Fifteen of the 32 books were ones I already owned. Nine books I checked out from the library. Five books I bought specific for Bingo, and three books were free (gifts or free online). 1. Novel Translated from Its Original Language: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (reprint collection)
Reason: I couldn’t read my first choice so I looked through my TBR list to find another SF/F collection I thought would be a translation. It also won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.
Favorite Story: “My Love” as I really liked how the characters grew apart and then back together again.
Recommended: Only if you like short depressing literary fiction that mostly hinge on dreams and ghosts.
Hard Mode: Yes, Pretrushevskaya is a woman.
Other Options: I really wanted to read Xia Jia’s A Summer Beyond Your Reach, but she had a story in another anthology I read. I also considered one of Ken Liu’s Chinese SF/F anthologies (Invisible Planets or Broken Stars). I read Jurado & Lara’s Spanish Women of Wonder last year. Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever, or Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge also looked promising.
2. Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold: Frozen Fairy Tales edited by Kate Wolford (original anthology)
Reason: I literally searched snow and anthology and this was one of the early options.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Stolen Heart” by Christina Ruth Johnson and “Death in Winter” by Lissa Sloan; the first just felt great, and the second has this haunting feel I loved.
Recommended: Yes; a good selection of fairy tale-inspired stories. Read during the summer, though, it felt really cold.
Hard Mode: Yes, every story is in a snowy or cold setting.
Other Options: I’m kind of mad that I didn’t come across Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World (edited by Clint Collins and Scott Woodward) until after I read my original choice. I like silly titles.
3. Optimistic Spec Fic: Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson (short story cycle, 1 original to this book)
Reason: I’ve had a copy of this book for a couple years, and I needed an excuse to read it. It’s actually an omnibus of Henderson’s two People collections plus some previously uncollected stories. I’ve read the first People collection (Pilgrimage) several times people).
Favorite Story: I’ll say “Ararat” here, but the first six stories (the original Pilgrimage collection) are amazingly wonderful and heartwarming.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Zenna Henderson deserves more attention.
Hard Mode: Yes. <3
Other Options: If Henderson’s book hadn’t worked out, I considered Heiroglyph (edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer) and Salena Ulibarri’s two Glass and Gardens anthologies (Solarpunk Summers and Solarpunk Winters), but that would’ve required juggling my card.
4. Novel Featuring Necromancy: The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin (original anthology)
Reason: I asked Jared Shurin (pornokitsch) if he knew of any anthologies with a necromantic theme, and he rattled off five or six options before remembering that he himself had edited an anthology about mummies. I don’t know how you forget something like that.
Favorite Story: tie between “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore and “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill (non-SF/F)
Recommended: Yes, but it’s out of print! Several of the stories were reprinted in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, including “Three Memories of Death.”
Hard Mode: No, through several do have mummies as protagonists.
Other Options: I was considering Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones since the description seemed rather death-magicky. At this point, the Paula Guran anthology above would probably be a good choice.
5. Ace/Aro Spec Fic: Life Within Parole, Volume 1 by RoAnna Sylver (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: A friend found this on Claudie Arseneault’s asexual recommendations website, which was good, but I felt I needed to read her novel Chameleon Moon first to understand the collection. I’m glad I did.
Favorite Story: Reluctantly “Phoenix Down” as it felt the most self-contained.
Recommended: Only if you loved Chameleon Moon, which I only recommend if you like a sample of the writing. It’s amazingly diverse in representation, but my frustrations with the novel related more towards its pacing and worldbuilding. Plus I don’t like superheroes.
Hard Mode: Yes, half the stories have an asexual or aromantic protagaonist.
Other Options: My original choice was Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, a Kickstarter-funded book. However, due to the pandemic, the publication was pushed back, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I also seriously considered Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded in the Butt.
6. Novel Featuring a Ghost: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I just searched ghost anthology, and this was a top result. I have actually never heard of M. R. James before this year, but I gather he’s a huge influence since he’s written so many ghost stories.
Favorite Story: “The Mezzotint” as it was the one that creeped me out the most.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you realize that it’s got an older style to them (since this book came out in 1904), and that most of these stories won’t creep you out in the year 2020.
Hard Mode: No, the ghosts are either antagonists or obstacles.
Other Options: I actually don’t know, I stopped searching after I found the book. M. R. James does have 3 more collections of ghost stories, though (all of 4 of which have been gathered in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James).
7. Novel Featuring Exploration: No Limits edited by Peter David (original anthology)
Reason: I read the first few Star Trek: New Frontier novels back in the late 1990s, but never finished it, so I got all the books for a personal readthrough. Star Trek is by definition perfect for the exploration square, so I read the books. However, I was reading them in publication order, so I had to read the first 14 books before I could get to the anthology!
Favorite Story: “Waiting for G’Doh, or, How I Learned to Stop Moving” is a rather funny story about the security officer Zak Kebron at the beginning of his career.
Recommended: Yes, but only if you’ve read at least the first six Star Trek: New Frontier novels (all the stories are set before the first book, but most of the characters aren’t really established until you’ve read the first four).
Hard Mode: Maybe, nearly all the stories feature exploration, but the plots are often about backstories for the main characters of the series.
Other Options: I considered James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells (his novel Expendable is a perfect exploration book, so I was hoping the collection would work). Past anthologies that would probably work is Federations edited by John Joseph Adams, Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke, and maybe Alastair Reynolds’s Deep Navigation or Galactic North.
8. Climate Fiction: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, & Joey Eschrich (original anthology)
Reason: A friend recommended to me as this theme was getting difficult for me to find, as all my other options included stories by authors I had to read for other squares. This book was produced from a short story contest run by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University and judged in part by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Favorite Story: “On Darwin Tides” by Shauna O’Meara, which follows a “sea gypsy” in Malaysia as she struggles in this new dystopian future.
Recommended: Only if the topic appeals to you—because it was a contest, the stories are mostly from amateur writers and the quality mostly shows. It’s free online, though, and there’s a second book, Everything Change II, which I’ve been told is better.
Hard Mode: No, most of them are apocalyptic or post-apocalypse.
Other Options: My original choice was Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan, but there’s also Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by John Joseph Adams, and I imagine a lot of solarpunk-themed books could work for this, too.
9. Novel with a Color in the Title: The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (original collection)
Reason: I already had it (it’s available on Project Gutenberg)
Favorite Story: “In the Court of the Dragon” which felt like one of the creepier stories to me.
Recommended: Honestly, no. Only half the stories are SF/F, the other half are all stories about bohemian artists in Paris. This book is known for the stories involving “The King in Yellow” play, but they didn’t really work for me.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I considered using Judith Tarr’s Nine White Horses, the anthology Blackguards, Jack Vance’s Wild Thyme, Green Magic, Walter Jon Williams’s The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow, or How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.
10. AnyFantasyBook Club Book of the Month ORFantasyReadalong Book: Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (reprint collection, 1 original to this book)
Reason: The Goodreads Book of the Month club picked it for June this year. I did own or read all the other options that were available at the time.
Favorite Story: tie between “And Then There Were (N-One)” and “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind”
Recommended: Yes! There’s only one story I would rate less than 4 stars in this book.
Hard Mode: Yes, I actually led the discussion for the book in June.
Other Options: We don’t read very many collections or anthologies for the Fantasy book clubs, so my only choices were Fritz Leiber’s Sword and Deviltry (Classics club, November 2017), Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (RAB, May 2018), and we currently have Daniel M. Lavery’s The Merry Spinster for FIF (September 2020). There’s also the Dresden Files read-along which did two of Butcher’s collections, and the Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy read-along (those would’ve been rereads for me, though).
11. Self-Published Novel: In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic by Bradley P. Beaulieu (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: I already owned this, it was basically the oldest self-published collection I had.
Favorite Story: tie between “Flashed Forward” and “No Viviremos Como Presos” – both dealing with a lot of emotions.
Recommended: Yes, the only other stories by Beaulieu I’ve read were 2 co-written novellas, and I felt this collection was better. I haven’t read his novels so I can’t compare.
Hard Mode: Yes, at the time of this post, it has 18 ratings on Goodreads.
Other Options: There are hundreds of options, but I could’ve read Lawrence M. Schoen’s recent collection The Rule of Three and Other Stories (his other collection, Buffalito Bundle, has stories featuring The Amazing Conroy and are lots of fun.)
12. Novel with Chapter Epigraphs: Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (short story cycle)
Reason: This was another difficult square, as I knew a short story cycle had the best chance of having epigraphs before every story. I finally found this book by Kate Atkinson. (Ironically, I realized later that my Politics choice also had epigraphs.)
Favorite Story: “The Cat Lover,” I guess.
Recommended: No, unless you like literary magical realism where stories just kind of end.
Hard Mode: No, all of the epigraphs are quotes from Latin or Shakespeare.
Other Options: Apparently, Retief! by Keith Laumer would’ve worked from my options. It really is a difficult thing because in a collection some authors might have an epigraph for a story, but not all or most of them.
13. Novel Published in 2020: Shadows & Tall Trees 8 edited by Michael Kelly (original anthology)
Reason: I picked this off Locus Magazine’s forthcoming books list and bought it.
Favorite Story: tie between “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” by Brian Evenson and “Child of Shower and Gleam” by Rebecca Campbell – the first is creepy as hell, and the second is strange and lovely.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re comfortable with weird or darker fantasy stories.
Hard Mode: No, Michael Kelly has edited several anthologies before.
Other Options: I had planned to use The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, but I needed Liu for another square. I also considered A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell, and I had three anthologies from Joshua Palmatier I could’ve used (Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It is Getting Dark) but I needed another Palmatier anthology for another square. Any of the various “Best Science Fiction or Fantasy of the Year” type anthologies that came out in 2020 would’ve been appropriate as well (Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Bogi Takács, and Jared Shurin all edit “Year’s Best” or “Best of Year”-style anthologies).
14. Novel Set in a School or University: Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Wayside School is Falling Down; Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger; and Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (short story cycles)
Reason: Strangely, one of the first books I thought of for this square. Plus, the most recent book had come out. I decided to read all four as each book is really short (only about 20,000 words per book). Only the first one or two was a reread.
Favorite Story: None, they’re all funny and good.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Maybe better for kids, but I smiled a lot while reading these.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Witch High edited by Denise Little would’ve been good, but included a story by Esther M. Friesner whom I needed for another square. A Kickstarter-funded anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery edited by Michael M. Jones, would’ve worked, but it’s not out yet.
15. Book About Books: Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore edited by Paula Guran (reprint anthology)
Reason: This was another difficult square because did you know that searching “book anthology” does not narrow things down at all?? I finally hit upon just searching “library anthology” which did the trick, but this one anthology predetermined at least 3 other squares because of its authors (I couldn’t use Ken Liu, Xia Jia, Amal El-Mohtar, and others because they were all in here).
Favorite Story: tie between “In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages and “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu. Klages’s story about “feral librarians raising a child” is just wonderful, and Liu’s is very, very sweet.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. This also contains Scott Lynch’s excellent “In the Stacks” and I will never not say no to Kage Baker.
Hard Mode: No, libraries are an integral part of most of the stories.
Other Options: *gestures wildly* I don’t know!
16. A Book That Made You Laugh: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman (mostly reprint collection)
Reason: Alex Shvartsman edits an annual humorous SF/F anthology series called Unidentified Funny Objects (the 8th volume is out this fall), but even though I have them all, they all shared authors with other squares until I remember that I had two collections from Shvartsman, and this was one of them.
Favorite Story: “Things We Leave Behind” is a semiautobiographical story about books. Absolutely lovely.
Recommended: Yes, but I understand most won’t share his sense of humor. He also tends to write very short stories, so don’t read these for immersion.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: Books making you laugh is so subjective, so any author you like probably has something that could work (you only need one story to make you laugh after all). John Scalzi has a couple collections that could work, Connie Willis has a great sense of humor.
17. Five Short Stories:
Reason: To be obnoxious I decided to read five collections for this square (instead of just five short stories). I decided to read 5 that I already owned by women/non-binary people. I picked semi-randomly (Hand and McHugh), by older ones I owned (Wurts), and by a couple new ones I was excited about (Datt Sharma and Slatter).
Not for Use in Navigation: Thirteen Stories by Iona Datt Sharma (reprint collection)
Favorite Story: “Quarter Days” is a full third of this book, and it’s an interesting post-WWI setting with magic.
Recommended: Yes, they have an interesting outlook, and one of the stories has an Indian wedding in space.
Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand (reprint collection, 1 original)
Favorite Story: “The Least Trumps” should appeal to the booklover in every single one of us.
Recommended: These are definitely interesting stories, but I’d only recommend for “The Least Trumps” and “Cleopatra Brimstone.” She’s got a poetic style here that didn't always work for me.
After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh (reprint collection, 2 original)
Favorite Story: “Special Economics” which follows a Chinese girl trapped into working at a factory.
Recommended: Yes, though it’s also one of the few themed collections (versus themed anthologies) that I’ve seen, with every story dealing with apocalypse in some way.
Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter (mostly original collection/short story cycle)
Favorite Story: “Gallowberries” which features Patience from the Tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such as a young woman.
Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Every story is in the same setting, and they all interconnect with each other. I can’t wait to read more from Slatter (I already have The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings).
That Ways Lies Camelot by Janny Wurts (mostly reprint collection)
Favorite Story: tie between “Wayfinder” and “That Way Lies Camelot” – both are great stories, the first a coming of age, and the other is bittersweet.
Recommended: Yes, definitely. In addition to the above, “Dreambridge” is also awesome. I wasn’t as fond of the three ElfQuest stories, but it was interesting to read Wurts’s 4 Fleet stories as I never realized she ever wrote anything close to straight science fiction.
Hard Mode: … Yes?
Other Options: This is the most open-ended square for this particular Bingo Card, especially since at the time of this post, I own 121 unread anthologies and collections.
18. Big Dumb Object: Alien Artifacts edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (original anthology)
Reason: This was one of the books that made me realize I could do an all-short-story card. I thought the anthology’s theme would perfectly encapsulate the square.
Favorite Story: “Me and Alice” by Angela Penrose – a kid finds a strange artifact while digging at a site.
Recommended: Yes, though a few stories weren’t to my taste.
Hard Mode: No, while the classical BDO is present in several stories, most would fall in the wider definition being used for Bingo.
Other Options: I’m at a loss here, as I never looked for more after I found this.
19. Feminist Novel: Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (collection, mix of reprint and original)
Reason: I owned this already from a Humble Bundle.
Favorite Story: “And the Lillies-Them A-Blow” – a woman is inspired to reconsider her life.
Hard Mode: Yes, Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian.
Other Options: I had a few other books from the same Humble Bundle called Women of SFF. Most of them would’ve worked.
20. Novel by a Canadian Author: The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint (reprint collection)
Reason: It appears I picked this up in 2014 for some reason (I’ve never read de Lint before this year). But he’s Canadian!
Favorite Story: There are honestly too many to say, but I’ll say “In the Pines” for now.
Recommended: Yes, yes, yes. I basically added everything he’s written to my TBR.
Hard Mode: Maybe, it was originally published in 2010 with Tachyon Publications, but in 2014 it was reprinted by de Lint’s Triskell Press (which is the copy I have), which would count.
Other Options: A friend sent me an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien called Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, though I would’ve had to juggle square to get it to work. Nalo Hopkinson is Canadian, so Skin Folk would’ve worked, too. Jo Walton has a collection called Starlings.
21. Novel with a Number in the Title: Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic by Judith Tarr (reprint collection)
Reason: At the time, the only collection I had with a number that I could use.
Favorite Story: “Classical Horses” – an absolutely lovely story that mixes real life and fantasy, and appeals to my Classics nerd background.
Recommended: Yes! Tarr is a wonderful writer.
Hard Mode: Yes.
Other Options: I could’ve used The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman, Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty, and The Rule of Three and Other Stories by Lawrence M. Schoen.
22. Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales published by Anthea Sharp (original anthology)
Reason: My original first choice was a bust when I realized quickly that the stories involved love, but were not romance stories. This was an emergency backup as I was nearing the end of reading for this Bingo Challenge.
Favorite Story: “The Bakers Grimm” by Hailey Edwards, which is a sweet little story about baking under pressure.
Recommended: No. 99% of the stories are direct appeals to try to get you to buy their books. Many of the stories don’t even really feel like short stories. I had a friend who only read urban fantasy who was adamant that she hated reading short stories and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I do. Many of these read more like vignettes than proper short stories.
Hard Mode: No, the HEA Club hasn’t done any anthologies or collections for me to participate in.
Other Options: My backup would’ve been to find some paranormal romance series and look for a collection or anthology in that world, but it would’ve involved more prep reading.
23. Novel with a Magical Pet: No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (original anthology)
Reason: Valdemar is an easy setting to choose for this square, and even though I had stopped reading the yearly anthologies (they’re up to 13 or 14 now), I decided to grab the 8th anthology from the library.
Favorite Story: “A Dream Reborn” by Dylan Birtolo, a beggar girl with a gift grows a conscience.
Recommended: Only if you’re a Valdemar fan and you literally can’t get enough of the world (I’d recommend sticking with the novels up until the Collegium Chronicles).
Hard Mode: Yes, Companions can usually speak telepathically with their Heralds and a select few others.
Other Options: I’m sure there’s a themed anthology perfect for this, but I honestly don’t know offhand if there is one, since this was an easy choice for me.
24. Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook/Audiodrama: Eerie Archives, Volume 1 edited by Archie Goodwin (original comic book anthology)
Reason: I searched “comics anthology” into my library’s digital catalog. This showed up.
Favorite Story: No real favorite, but I guess “Flame Fiend” by Eando Binder, about a man desperate to avoid fire.
Recommended: Yes, if you’re interested in 1960s horror comics anthology magazines. Each story is about 6-10 pages long, but many felt like cheesy horror to my modern eyes.
Hard Mode: Maybe, each story is standalone, but this book contained the first 5 issues of Eerie comics. I’m going with No because Eerie is a running series.
Other Options: I considered The Escapist (inspired from Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), a Mouse Guard comics anthology, and Thrilling Adventure Hour before finding Eerie. I also though the Eisner Awards were a good source of finding potential comics anthologies, since that's a category.
25. Novel Featuring Politics: Retief! by Keith Laumer (reprint collection)
Reason: I knew the main character was a problem-solving diplomat, so this was an easy pick.
Favorite Story: “Diplomat-at-Arms” which is a great story of following an experienced old man on a mission, and “Cultural Exchange,” a really funny bureaucratic tale (and this one is free on Project Gutenberg).
Recommended: Yes, with reservations. They’re all stories from the 1960s, they’re bureaucratic galactic pulp fiction where Retief always knows better than his bumbling superiors and women only show up in secretarial or minor support roles. The stories also feel a bit repetitive as a whole, so if you read these, space it out.
Hard Mode: No, several of the stories feature royalty.
Other Options: I felt like this was a nebulous category, but offhand, I’d suggest Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner and Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey for two explicitly political anthologies, and maybe something like Harry Turtledove’s interlinked collection Agent of Byzantium for an alternate history take on a Byzantine special agent.
Favorite collections:The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker, Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter, and Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr
Favorite anthologies: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran and The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
Favorite overall short stories: In addition to my favorite stories in the books above, I’d also give a special place to The Very Best of Charles de Lint (“In the Pines,” “In the House of My Enemy,” “A Wish Named Arnold,” “Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery,” “Pixel Pixies,” “The Badger in the Bag,” “Timeskip,” “Into the Green,” “Birds,” and “Pal o' Mine”) and to Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea (“And Then There Were (N-One),” “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” “Our Lady of the Open Road,” “Wind Will Rove,” and “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”).
An Aside: My father died suddenly in the middle of my reading for this challenge. The books I read from Zenna Henderson and Charles de Lint really helped me during this time, with de Lint’s book making me cry multiple times (in a good way).
The End Sometime last year after touting one short story or another to my friends, I said, “Oh, I don’t think I read *that* much short fiction,” and they all looked at me funny for some reason. Oh. Never mind. I get it now. All joking aside, I’ve read SF/F magazines off and on growing up, and I always enjoyed the occasional Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology from Gardner Dozois, and Robert Silverberg’s Legends anthologies were rather formative to my growth as a fantasy reader (that’s where I read George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb for the first time). Some of my favorite writers have done amazing short stories (in fact, I think I like Alastair Reynolds better at the short length than the novel; witness my love for his story “Zima Blue”!). Even if you don’t read more than the usual five short stories for the Bingo Challenge, please consider branching out! I hope I’ve shown with my own card how much variety is out there. If you’re not sure where to start, your favorite author may have some short stories of their own, either in an anthology or one of their own collections. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favorites, and I loved her collection Word Puppets. If they’re prolific enough, they may have a “Best of” book, like The Best of Connie Willis or The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Trying one of the Year’s Best anthologies I mention under #13, Published in 2020, is also a fun way to explore short fiction. And even though I didn’t read any for my Bingo Challenge, there are tons of SF/F magazines out there to read from on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule. My personal recommendation is for Asimov’s SF, FIYAH, and Fantasy & Science Fiction for subscription-only options, and places like Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside, and Tor.com for free online stories. There are also some great magazines/sites like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily Science Fiction. Looking at award lists is a fun way to get started, as most of the major awards also have short fiction categories. Find out where they were published and try out a magazine issue or an anthology. I’ll end this with the following:
an interview by our own tctippens with Jonathan Strahan over at the Fantasy Inn Podcast where they discuss not only his new anthology The Book of Dragons, but reading short fiction in general.
One of my favorite short story writers is John Wiswell, and I’d like to link two of his wonderful stories: "Tank!" follows a sentient tank attending its first SF convention, and "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a very sweet story about a haunted house trying to get sold to a new family. Both stories are quite short and you can read each in just a few minutes.
That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to instruct her Ministers to end the inclusion of a gender marker on British passports issued under her hand. This motion is moved by the Rt Hon. Dame lily-irl, MP for the East of England, on behalf of the Official Opposition, and is co-sponsored by Solidarity, the Greens, the Progessive Party UK, and the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Speaker, I am pleased to move this motion in this House today. I ask honourable and right honourable members: what good, truly, does identifying gender on a passport do? A border force officer inspecting a passport has a person’s name, age, and photograph in front of them. A gender marker is unnecessary. I came across this idea whilst brainstorming ways to best accommodate LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming individuals. And the solution that seems to most readily present itself is to add an ‘X’, or third gender option to passports, for those whose gender identity does not fall within the typical male-female binary. But the fact is that for those people travelling to countries that are not accepting of, or even actively persecuting, gender nonconforming individuals, having an X on their passport would just make them a target for those regimes. The solution is simple, Mr Speaker. Including gender on passports does not assist border protection efforts in any substantial manner. It is extraneous information that also happens to serve as a barrier for gender nonconforming individuals from expressing their gender identity on government documents. As a result I think it best to simply remove it. British passports are issued under the Royal Prerogative and not any Act of Parliament, which is why I have moved this Humble Address for this to take effect. I hope honourable and right honourable members will join me in the Aye lobbies and I commend this motion to the House. This reading will end on 21st of October at 10PM BST
Gravity's Rainbow Reading Group | Sections 66-69 | Week 20
Alright, home stretch foax. This section's a beast. Hang in there and keep sharing your insights! All together now... Section 66 "You will want cause and effect. All right." (663) What an opening - it's almost confrontational, mocking our need for clear narrative structure and causality. We discover that Thanatz was tossed overboard in the same storm that sent Slothrop off the Anubis and off on his adventure with Frau Gnahb. Thanatz is rescued by someone even stranger - an unnamed Polish undertaker (think on the etymology of that word) who happens to be a lightening aficionado. I'll stop here and comment that, earlier, when Slothrop fell into the water before and after getting on the Anubis, it brought to mind the river Styx in Hades - another underworld. It washes clean one's identity and memory. Makes you forget who you are. And there's traditionally a ferryman, Charon, to help people cross it. Can't help but think that's who saved Thanatz here, carrying him from the land of the dead to the land of the unliving, the preterite detritus of WWII. (An aside: Speaking of Styx, has anyone listened to Mr. Roboto recently? That song has some Gravity's Rainbow vibes.) Our undertaker here is inspired by the Franklin myth and is trying to get struck by lightening in order to experience that "singular point, [that] discontinuity in the curve of life" (664) passing from a rate of change of positive infinity to one of negative infinity in the blink of an eye. Seems there's something of a conspiracy among those who have been through this point of infinite inflection - a secret society of lightening heads who are aware not of another reality but of a new layer of reality laid on top of our own. Insight into a higher level of reality, of hidden systems. We get an example of the content of the lightning-aficionado's publication A Nickel Saved and it's supposedly full of coded messages for Those Who Know, each part being a veiled reference to other topics that contain the true meaning, requiring a true paranoid's ability to see (make?) connections. For example, there are repeated mentions of April, Easter, and Spring - the season of rebirth. To an Amperage Contest and lightbulbs failing - Byron the Bulb's attempts to strike back, perchance? A screen-door salesman - what is a screen door except a permeable interface? But our undertaker isn't interested in secret knowledge - he just wants to be a better businessman - and he deposits Thanatz on the shore and rows back off into the storm. Here, Thanatz meets a group of 175s - men formerly imprisoned in the Dora camp for being gay - who have formed their own solitary community in this isolated section of northern Germany. I suspect some of this imagery may initially shock readers - concentration camp victims who want to return to their prison? Who set up their own 175-Stadt to recreate the conditions of their imprisonment? But think about it - just last section, we saw Katje, someone who's been used and abused by those in power, balk at the thought of being truly free because she had become dependent on systems of control. She had integrated those control systems as part of her identity, her sense of self. "She needs the whip," Blicero wrote of her (662). Just like Katje, these men became so conditioned to depend on a system of total control and rigid social hierarchies that they don't know how to function without it. Their 175-Stadt doesn't seem like such a ridiculously dark, inappropriate caricature now, does it? Because isn't that a central point of this book - that everyone has been conditioned to need control, to need Their System, to not know how to function without it? Slothrop was our perfect everyman from within this system, and look at what it took for him to actually be free (and even then, the ideal of America still has a colonial outpost in his head). But in their 175-Stadt, these men at least control their system of control. They built it, they staff every level of it, and it's entirely under their control. An isolated state, separate from the broader System. But is there a ruler in this system, a king? No, simply the figment of Blicero. His name, his specter, looming over everything. A system of control with no real king? We've seen that before. Not only that, but this micro-society is not based strictly on the SS command from Dora, but what the prisoners inferred about the rocket command structure in the Mittelwerke. So even their "recreation" of their imprisonment is an approximation of a different system. I'd also stop here to comment that, is this imagery really as ridiculous/insane as it first appears? I'd say no, since the queeS&M community absolutely took inspiration from Nazi uniforms as symbols of dominance and control, repurposing it into fetishwear. But then, as in this 175-Stadt, the control is by choice, as is the submission. As we've seen elsewhere in this book (Blicero's Oven-State), turning submission into a fetish can be a form of rebellion, since it subverts Their means of control (fear of pain) and turns it into a source of pleasure. Is it truly control if you're choosing it? Enjoying it? No one said this book asks easy questions of its readers... Thanatz keeps looking for answers, and gets swept up amidst the vast swarms of preterite Displaced Persons being shifted across the zone. What's concerning is that these supposedly-free, albeit displaced, people, are shuffled without purpose across the Zone, with minimal food, water, or medicine, being "herded into wire enclosure[s]" and shipped around in freight cars, "deloused, poked, palpated, named, numbered, consigned, invoiced, misrouted, detained, ignored" (669). It's almost impossible to miss the painful similarity here to the treatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. Only here the mistreatment isn't out of some pathological hatred, simply a system without a place for so many people, and without the committed resources to actually, effectively help them. The thought is unsettling, since we like to imagine that only Naziesque hatred could prompt such brutal mistreatment, not apathy. Finally, he's rescued by the Schwarzkommando thanks to his knowledge of Blicero and the firing of Rocket 00000. Here, we learn a bit more about what happened that day. Looking into Blicero's eyes, he saw windmills reflected, though none were in the area. Another four-way mandala, like we saw last week with Slothrop. Thanatz isn't in great mental shape by this point, and he's beginning to equate Gottfried and Bianca both as his children. Why? Because he felt some sense of responsibility to them? Because he failed them? Either way, the Schwarzkommando learn all they need from him about that fateful noon on the Heath, though we do not. The section ends with a simple touch of hands between Enzian and Christian, a moment of connection, of trust. Section 67 Man, how do I even start summarizing this complete doozy of a section? As Weissenburger writes, "In this episode the narration begins to fragment." (344) Ya don't say... Well, here goes. We being one serious trip of a section with Slothrop, as part of a rather unimpressive team of quasi-superheros (the "Floundering Four") fighting against evil ol' Broderick Slothrop amidst the factory-state (a Metropolis-like iteration of the Rocket-State with movable buildings?!). Broderick, in the role of comic book supervillain, keeps trying to off Slothrop, but our hero has a lucky streak just wide enough to keep him alive. Right off the bat, we see another image of the chessboard - the whole factory-state is laid out in a grid, and it's all A Game of Chess, as der Springer already informed us, and our movements are limited. Crucially, "Your objective is not the King - there is no King - but momentary targets such as the Radiant Hour." (674) How can you win at chess when there's no King? How can the land be restored and the cycle renewed if there's no King to die and be replaced? Slothrop is joined by a truly slipshod lot: Myrtle Miraculous, the only one who seems to have actual powers; Maximilian, a suave Black club manager who can flow with all natural rhythms and thus able to navigate any scenario with ease, and Marcel, a mechanical chess player (an embodiment of the Mechanical Turk, but crucially, one without the hidden human operator. No hidden Grandmaster lurking inside Marcel here - nope, this android's the real deal. This section includes one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Decisions are never really made - at best they manager to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all-round assholery." (676) I can think of several times where I've been able to relate to that scenario all too well. Their chances for success and failure are equal, but these opposing odds don't cancel each other out - instead, the two opposing forces just create a "loud dissonance". The crew undertake some truly hallucinatory adventures through the Racketen-Stadt which I will not attempt to summarize, as that would be an exercise in futility. But we are treated to flashes of Slothrop, "Broderick and Nalline's shadow-child, their unconfessed, their monster son," (677) getting locked in an icebox, piloting a mobile building through the grid-streets of the factory-state like a giant chess piece. One line really jumps out at me, here, that I think is important: "Their struggle is not the only, or even the ultimate one. Indeed, not only are there many other struggles, but there are also spectators, watching, as spectators will do, hundreds of thousands of them." (679) Makes me think of the "glozing neuters," mentioned earlier - of the masses of people who are just trying to live their lives, neither part of any conspiracy nor actively aware of being subject to one. Must be nice. At the same time, the idea of other, simultaneous struggles, is noteworthy - it brings to mind the concept of intersectionality, and how people realizing their unique, individual struggles share common sources, and common traits, which they can work together to fight. We end this sub-section in an arena for these exact masses, where our heroes are on a stakeout, with Slothrop in full drag waiting in the Transvestites' Toilet for a message. You may be wondering about the multiple instances of cross-dressing, in various iterations, throughout the book. Slothrop in drag and Blicero in a wig and merkin come to mind. One aspect, I'd say, is that it reflects a blending of two (as far as society is generally concerned) binary opposites. A crossing-over, a transgression against the status quo and an option other than 1 or 0. Eliot, in his Notes on The Waste Land, wrote,
"Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem." (Emphasis mine).
Cue Crutchfield the Westwardman's world of only one of everything. Likewise, the women in Gravity's Rainbow often blend together, share traits or imagery. So do the men. The joining of the two sexes in Blicero, as well as Slothrop here at the end, is significant. The Low-Frequency Listeners The introduction here of the character of Rohr, the Keeper of the Antenna, specifically as a Jehovah's witness, was odd. It's such a specific subsect of Christianity. Then we see - he heard a man on the radio, dying, asking for a priest. Rohr says, "Should I have got on and told him about priests? Would he've found any comfort in that?" (682). In what? I had to look it up, but when I did, it clicked - Jehovah's witnesses apparently do not have priests, because they are all ordained. There is no separate priest caste in their church, and thus no Preterite/Elect division. In this section, we also learn that the Nuremberg trials are getting underway. Mom Slothrop's Letter to Ambassador Kennedy You start to feel even more sorry for Slothrop as you realize just how terrible his parents apparently were. His mom cares enough to at least write another letter asking Ambassador Kennedy as to what the hell happened to their son, but her letter quickly devolves into drunken ramblings complaining about striking workers and managing to make an innuendo about Jack Kennedy while also dismissing her love of her sons. Oof. Maybe Otto was right with his conspiracy of mothers... On the Phrase "Ass-Backwards" An entertaining linguistic debate between Säure and Slothrop on American idioms, specifically ones involving a reversal, as in the case of "ass-backwards". The section then slips into a story of Säure, in his youth, breaking into the home of a young woman, Minnie, who is unable to hear or pronounce umlauted letters, and thus manages to shout the word "helicopter" rather than "cute robber" well before the vehicle was ever invented. Her cry is heard by none other than a young aerodynamics student. The word is taken as a prophesy and a warning of the helicopter's symbol of the police state, with armed officers hanging out the sides, aiming down at their targets. My Doper's Cadenza It begins with a serenade from Bodine, and then an exploration of the tenement building "Der Platz" that is home to numerous drug addicts, dope peddlers, and general ne'er-do-wells. They are building an anti-police moat around the building, entirely underground so as to avoid detection, saving breaking through the street for the end. Shit 'n' Shinola Another idiomatic diversion for Säure. A beautiful line is tucked away in here - "from outside, the Hall is golden, the white gold precisely of one lily-of-the-valley petal in 4 o'clock sunlight, serene, at the top of an artificially-graded hill." (687) This building, the Schein-Aula (Seeming-Hall), suggests "persistence, through returns of spring, hopes for love, melting snow and ice, academic Sunday tranquillities, smells of grass just crushed or cut or later turning to hay..." (688) Yet again, imagery of spring, of a return to life from the dead season of winter, of the cycle. We return to the Roseland Ballroom, where shit 'n' Shinola do actually come together. "Shit, now, is the color white folks are afraid of. Shit is the presence of death, not some abstract-arty character with a scythe but the stiff and rotting corpse itself inside the whiteman's warm and private own asshole, which is getting pretty intimate. That's what that white toilet's for.... that white porcelain's the very emblem of Odorless and Official Death." (688) Here Pynchon cuts straight to the point - the almost pathological fear of death and its connections to fears of blackness, excrement. Shit, Death, and the Word. Edwin Treacle hit on this back on p. 276 when he tried to show his colleagues at the White Visitation "that their feelings about blackness were tied to feelings about shit, and feelings about shit to feelings about putrefaction and death." The cycle of life is too organic, too messy. Better to replace carbon with silicon, to hide shit with porcelain, to treat people with dark skin as "other" or sub-human to avoid acknowledging that their non-European, communal ways of life were, in fact, totally natural. An Incident in the Transvestites' Toilet Not King Kong, but a small, costumed ape comes up to Slothrop, who's wearing a Fay Wray dress while waiting in the bathroom for a still-unspecified message. We get a Miltonic blank-verse poem (thanks, Weissenburger!) about the movie King Kong, written in the voice of Anne Darrow (Fay Wray's character). It's honestly quite good - I love the line "in your own stone living space" - the internal rhyme there sounds really nice, and I like the riff on living stone / Livingston, both of which have popped up previously. In the poem, Darrow talks about when she was tied up, hung by the natives as an offering to "the night's one Shape to come" (689), echoing both Greta Erdman's scene in Alpdrücken and the Hanged Man card of the Tarot (willing sacrifice, sacrifice that prompts a return, a renewal of the cycle). Darrow says she prayed, "not for Jack," her suave costar, but for her director Carl Denham, "only him, with gun and camera... making the unreal reel / By shooting at it, one way or the other-" (689). Throughout GR, we've seen a film motif, and this really brings it home. The analogy of a gun to a camera, both of which make the unreal real (a camera creates films that interpret real life - the "unreal reel", a gun makes death, which we've blocked away and tried to avoid, real and inescapable). The director is in control of the movie, the actors, the story, of how it works and what is told. Darrow ends by asking Carl to "show me the key light, whisper me a line..." - a key light is used in cinema and photography to not just shed light on the subject, but to do so in a way that provides form and dimension to the subject and the scene. So Darrow is asking for the director to literally give her form and definition, to tell her what to say next. This ape, though, isn't so Romantic as ol' Kong though, and is much more direct. It hands Slothrop an anarchist's bomb straight out of the comics pages, and takes off. Slothrop freezes and is saved by a helpful transvestite who takes the bomb and flushes it down the toilet. But it explodes anyway, sending geysers of water up out of all the toilets. A Voice comes out of he Loudspeaker informing everyone that it was, in fact, a sodium bomb that explodes upon contact with water. Tellls everyone to get the "dangerous maniac" who threw it. That was supposed to be Slothrop, but he was saved by his indecision and the kindness of a stranger, who is now set upon by the other occupants of the toilet. A Moment of Fun with Takeshi and Ichizo, the Komical Kamikazes We now jump to a pair of comically-mismatched Kamikaze pilots stationed on a remote island well away from any conflict. One flies a Zero, the other flies an "Ohka device" which is basically a rocket-bomb with a pilot's seat. They get moonshine from their radarman, Kenosho, who mocks them daily for the lack of opportunities to fly to their deaths and who comes up with haikus that, while in the right format, really miss the heart of what a haiku is supposed to be. Streets Back to Slothrop, now, and a catalogue of the streets he's traveled down and what he's seen. We get a meditation on the absurdity of army chaplains, who worked for the Army and "stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation." (693) And it does seem a bit absurd when you consider that the Army that employs the chaplains is the same entity sending the men off to die. We see a bus driver (perchance our maniac bus driver from earlier?) driving through town in the night, his passengers looking out the windows, their faces "drowned-man green, insomniac, tobacco-starved, scared, not of tomorrow, not yet, but of this pause in their night-passage, of how easy it will be to lose, and how much it will hurt..." (693) Going back to the Waste Land, the phrase "I do not find / The Hanged Man. Fear death by water." is symbolic of a death without return (drowning) contrasted to the sacrifice/return symbolized by The Hanged Man. These poor passengers, it seems, aren't to expect any return. Slothrop also, at this point, learns of the bombing of Hiroshima from a discarded Army newspaper, the photo of the atomic blast placed in poor taste next to an image of a pin-up girl. The bomb's mushroom cloud is compared to the Cross, to a capital-T Tree. But which tree? Is this a meditation on the deadly, unforgettable knowledge of how to split the atom, or of the tree of life, with the citizens of Hiroshima as a sacrifice made... but to what? I'm honestly not sure. Would love your thoughts. Listening to the Toilet As others have noted, this book in many ways is about the drug counterculture and hippie movement of the 60s/early 70s. This is the most overt in this section, in which we learn that listening for the cessation of the flow of water to the toilet in the pipes is a cue that a police raid is imminent - shutting off the water being a way to prevent the flushing of illicit substances. But it takes a special ear to hear the cessation of a subtle, pervasive white noise. What if the sun, in fact, massive furnace that it is, emits a constant, low-level roar that is so incessant we don't even hear it? What if eddies in the current of the Soniferous Aether cause rare spots of true quiet, where the noise is no longer transmitted and anyone in that spot can hear their own heartbeat it's so quiet? Interestingly, there are "quiet rooms" designed to absorb nearly all sound, used for precise sound calibration. I remember reading that most people can't sit in one of those rooms for more than 30 minutes or so because it's literally so quiet that you can hear the blood flowing through your veins, and people have even reported auditory hallucinations as a result. But why this digression? Maybe because we need to be asking what other white noise is out there that we've become completely deaf to? I think Roger and Jessica found a pocket of this quiet, early in the book, where the "noise" of modern society and all its associated obligations was muted by the War. Witty Repartee A return to our Komical Kamikazes, and a meditation on the ubiquity of the Hotchkiss machine gun across nations, independent of alliances. We get an image of a false King - an inbred idiot lying naked in a dumpster, attracting the attention of potential revolutionaries. But they can't decide if he's "a diversionary nuisance planted here by the Management, or whether he's real Decadent Aristocracy to be held for real ransom" (698). While the would-be revolutionaries are debating in the alley, sentries with the aforementioned Hotchkiss guns take positions on the rooftops, aiming down... Heart-to-Heart, Man-to-Man A dialogue here between Slothrop and ol' Broderick, with dear old dad interrogating his wayward son about a modern electric drug. Slothrop reassures him that he'd never shoot raw electricity - no, they dope themselves with waves. Major pre-Cyberpunk vibes here, with Broderick warning "Suppose someday you just plug in and go away and never come back?" to which Tyrone replies, "What do you think every electrofreak dreams about? .... Maybe there is a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us out through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever.... We can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified Electroworld-" (699). Matrix, anyone? Not to mention the waves of radio, TV, etc. and the simple, episodic, controlled reality they offer. Pleasantville also comes to mind, with all its commentary on the shows of the era. Some Characteristics of Imipolex G We learn that Imipolex G is the first erectile plastic, stiffening in response to certain electronic stimuli. The potential of a layer of controlling wires just under the outer layer of Imipolex, making it a second skin - a synthetic interface. Alternately, there's the potential to control it via a projection of "an electronic 'image; analogous to a motion picture." (700) My gods, I made it through this section... Section 68 Tchitcherine now, dealing with a spook, Nikolai Ripov, from the Commissariat for Intelligence Activities. His pal Džabajev has run off with "two local derelicts" (700) and is impersonating Frank Sinatra and wooing the ladies of the Zone. We get the line, "While nobles are crying in their nights' chains, the squires sing. The terrible politics of the Grail can never touch them. Song is the magic cape." (701) - Seems another example of folks recognizing the game, the Grail quest, for what it was and checking out - deciding not to play and just enjoy themselves while the Elect lose sleep over the endless searching. Ripov explains to Tchitcherine how "the basic problem... has always been getting other people to die for you." (701) Religion used to serve as an effective control for that reason - death isn't quite as scary if you think you're going to heaven. But modern society has moved on, and needs more secular sources of control, like a commitment to "History" as if you're part of some great narrative, sacrificing yourself for some imagined end-goal of what society is "supposed" to be. Seems Tchitcherine was doping on Oneirine theophosphate. Wimpe, his dealer, argues that a man is "only real at the points of decision. The time between doesn't matter." (702) Points man again - the moment of decision, of choice, that splits the future in two. Points of control. Contrast that to:
"Datta: what have we given? / My friend, blood shaking my heart / The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract / By this, and this only, we have existed." (The Waste Land, Part V: What the Thunder Said - emphasis mine).
Both are arguing that it's these key moments, irreversible junctures in our lives that make us real. Not what comes next, not what people say about us, just our moments. Integrate those moments, run them fast enough (say 24 frames per second) and you might even approximate something close to a person... We learn that Oneirine apparently leads to "the dullest hallucinations known to psychopharmacology" (703) - hauntings of the mundane, the almost-normal. Tchitcherine's Haunting Tchitcherine hallucinates that Ripov is interrogating him, and he becomes fixated on the question of whether or not he was supposed to die. Seems like part of him wants to believe in life after death, in some hope for meaning, which goes against the Soviet doctrine and thus isn't exactly endearing him to those above him. Thankfully this is just an Oneirine haunting, except... wait, it's too real - no subtle violations of reality. He tries to escape, but is outnumbered. But no execution for him here - just a reassignment to Central Asia. A cold and operational death. Section 69
"The dearest nation of all is one that will survive no longer than you and I, a common movement at the mercy of death and time: the ad hoc adventure." - Resolutions of the Gross Suckling Conference (706)
In other words, they seek a nation that does not function independently of its citizens - one that is not some separate identity with a quasi-personhood (much like how corporations are legally "people"). Rather, a nation that is inextricably linked to the people and that will die when they do. No immortality, no denial of the cycle or death. But poor Roger's still dealing with Jessica, and now with Jeremy, too, who he's at least amicable with. But he's struggling with their acceptance of the System, their embracing of it. Jeremy's all about reassembling the rockets and firing them, asking "What else does one do with a rocket?" (note how disassembling it or at least not using the weapon isn't even an option...). Jeremy's even so kind as to invite Roger to a fancy dinner with a bunch of corporate bigwigs, including folks from Krupp, ICI, and GE, and hosted by one Stefan Utgarthaloki, whose name should be a giant red-flag that something's amiss with this shindig. Roger picks Seaman Bodine as his date, the two having struck up a rather theatrical friendship, dress in their absurdist best (Bodine in the mother of all zoot suits), and join the party. We get some insight here into the nature of rebellions, and the danger of them not only fizzling out or failing, but of being co-opted as a tool to "help legitimize Them" (713). Of either dying or "living on as Their pet" - it brings to mind the corporate branding of "rebelliousness" as cool, as "a phase" that it's normal to go through and eventually grow up from. Treating the idealism of youth, the desire to make the world better and to fight against the problems of the system before you become numb to them, as a normal phase of life is such an effective way to neutralize it culturally. How many people have heard the phrase "you get conservative [i.e. more resistant to change] as you get older"? How many of us have seen youth-led movements being dismissed as examples of immaturity, for example? Between that and companies stamping their logo on it (hello, Hot Topic), it's a way to change the cultural narrative around any movement against the status quo to one that's dismissive, just accepting enough to let people burn off their energy and eventually fall into line. Because how else can you continue to live a decent life in a society that refuses to change? You either go build a shack in the woods somewhere, die, or acclimate to the system and just focus on being comfortable yourself, not constantly fighting for change. It's a depressing thought, and I'm sure Pynchon saw a lot of that attitude in the 60s. I have to wonder - do non-industrialized societies have "teenage rebellion" as a normal part of life? Is that a part of human nature, like we tend to think, or is it an explicit reaction to reaching maturity in a system that is anti-human and anti-nature? Anyway, back to the dinner party - between the depressing, anti-social music (kazoos?!) and the lavish dinner, things seem fine, but there's a plot against the Roger and Bodine. Fortunately a journalist, Constance, tips off Bodine that they might just be the main course of this feast, so Bodine cues Roger to begin the evening show - an absurd gross-out session that they planned in advance with the aid of now-deceased Pudding communicating via medium Carroll Eventyr. The pair recite an increasingly disgusting list of alliterative dishes, triggering "well-bred gagging" and guests to flee, though a few find it all quite entertaining. But it's enough to break up the dinner party and allow our heroes to flee. Note: If you made it this far, actually read all this,thank you. Bloom warned me this was a longer section, and boy, he wasn't kidding. I think this is longer than some college essays I wrote... Damn fun, though, and I hope you've found my thoughts informative, interesting, useful, or if nothing else, sufficiently diversionary for a spell. I truly look forward to seeing what you other fine foax have to say on these labrynthine sections. Questions
In the lightning-aficionado's "A Nickel Saved" excerpt, are there any other references or hidden ideas you can find? I have to think there are.
What is the meaning of the windmill reflected in Blicero's eyes? How do you interpret the imagery in this scene in general?
175-Stadt. Oven-State. Hund-Stadt. Rocket-State. Factory-State. We've seen numerous examples of specialized micro-states across the Zone, experiments in different forms of society. What are your thoughts on these? Are they hints at ways to find alternate societies, or manifestations of humanity's tendency to divide by category and put of fences?
In the "Shit 'n' Shinola" subsection, Pynchon connects Jack Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Tyrone Slothrop. What do you make of this intersection?
In "Streets," the bombing of Hiroshima is presented as being similar to the Cross, "it is also, perhaps, a Tree..." - the capitalized "Tree" here could be the tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the tree from which the Hanged Man dangles, or perhaps something else. What's your interpretation of this imagery?
In Section 69, we see references to the Albatross, famous symbol from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's presented that Slothrop is the (now-plucked) albatross, but it's not clear who killed this bird, or who's wearing it around their neck. They? Any ideas?
VR is not what a lot of people think it is. It's not comparable to racing wheels, Kinect, or 3DTVs. It offers a shift that the game industry hasn't had before; a first of it's kind. I'm going to outline what VR is like today in despite of the many misconceptions around it and what it will be like as it grows. What people find to be insurmountable problems are often solvable. What is VR in 2020? Something far more versatile and far-reaching than people comprehend. All game genres and camera perspectives work, so you're still able to access the types of games you've always enjoyed. It is often thought that VR is a 1st person medium and that's all it can do, but 3rd person and top-down VR games are a thing and in various cases are highly praised. Astro Bot, a 3rd person platformer, was the highest rated VR game before Half-Life: Alyx. Lets crush some misconceptions of 2020 VR:
The buy-in is $400 on average, not $1000 as that is Valve Index pricing.
Motion sickness is easily avoidable for most people by sticking to games that have 1:1 fully synced or mostly synced body movement like Beat Saber or even Alyx with teleportation.
Most VR games offer locomotion options so teleporting is certainly not a required norm.
You don't need a PC or console; Oculus Quest is the start of the new norm where headsets are self-contained.
You are not required to stand or move about. VR has always allowed you to relax in the same way as traditional gaming by sitting on the couch with a gamepad.
VR isn't anti-social. It's actually the pinnacle of social communication devices. What it is (currently) is potentially isolating depending on how you use it.
People will disabilities often think VR is not for them, when in all likelihood it probably is, because most disabilities work fine with VR and even have a lot to gain from the use of it.
The setup of VR is much faster and quicker than it was just a few years ago thanks to inside-out tracking and standalones. A Quest user can get going within 10 seconds.
So what are the problems with VR in 2020?
Low resolution and low FoV.
Wireless isn't standard.
Only a few released AAA exclusive games.
Potential for eye strain and headaches.
Some headsets feel really outdated. (PSVR)
Full body avatars don't align correctly.
Despite these downsides, VR still offers something truly special. What it enables is not just a more immersive way to game, but new ways to feel, to experience stories, to cooperate or fight against other players, and a plethora of new ways to interact which is the beating heart of gaming as a medium. To give some examples, Boneworks is a game that has experimental full body physics and the amount of extra agency it provides is staggering. When you can actually manipulate physics on a level this intimately where you are able to directly control and manipulate things in a way that traditional gaming simply can't allow, it opens up a whole new avenue of gameplay and game design. Things aren't based on a series of state machines anymore. "Is the player pressing the action button to climb this ladder or not?" "Is the player pressing the aim button to aim down the sights or not?" These aren't binary choices in VR. Everything is freeform and you can basically be in any number of states at a given time. Instead of climbing a ladder with an animation lock, you can grab on with one hand while aiming with the other, or if it's physically modelled, you could find a way to pick it up and plant it on a pipe sticking out of the ground to make your own makeshift trap where you spin it around as it pivots on top of the pipe, knocking anything away that comes close by. That's the power of physics in VR. You do things you think of in the same vain as reality instead of thinking inside the set limitations of the designers. Even MGSV has it's limitations with the freedom it provides, but that expands exponentially with 6DoF VR input and physics. I talked about how VR could make you feel things. A character or person that gets close to you in VR is going to invade your literal personal space. Heights are possibly going to start feeling like you are biologically in danger. The idea of tight spaces in say, a horror game, can cause claustrophobia. The way you move or interact with things can give off subtle almost phantom-limb like feelings because of the overwhelming visual and audio stimulation that enables you to do things that you haven't experienced with your real body; an example being floating around in zero gravity in Lone Echo. So it's not without it's share of problems, but it's an incredibly versatile gaming technology in 2020. It's also worth noting just how important it is as a non-gaming device as well, because there simply isn't a more suitably combative device against a world-wide pandemic than VR. Simply put, it's one of the most important devices you can get right now for that reason alone as you can socially connect with no distancing with face to face communication, travel and attend all sorts of events, and simply manage your mental and physical health in ways that the average person wishes so badly for right now. Where VR is (probably) going to be in 5 years You can expect a lot. A seismic shift that will make the VR of today feel like something very different. This is because the underlying technology is being reinvented with entirely custom tech that no longer relies on cell phone panels and lenses that have existed for decades.
The resolution will be around the equivalent of 1080p monitors, so you'd probably be looking at 4K x 4K per eye or higher.
The field of view will be 30-40% higher.
Eye strain and headaches will be solved via varifocal displays and VR will become even more comfortable visually than 2D displays, as they still have these issues which can be only be solved in stereoscopic displays.
Isolation will be solved with mixed reality reconstruction enabling the real world to bleed into VR on a per object basis in real time. VR headsets are now in all senses MR headsets. (VR+AR in one device)
There will be plenty of non-gaming apps gaining bigger traction like some sort of social space or event-based app.
PlayStation and Xbox will both support VR and a PSVR2 headset will have launched.
That's enough to solve almost all the issues of the technology and make it a buy-in for the average gamer. In 5 years, we should really start to see the blending of reality and virtual reality and how close the two can feel Where VR is (probably) going to be in 10 years
VR is now effectively photorealistic in the visual and audio department and it's extremely hard if not impossible at times to tell the difference between the real world and the virtual world.
Quite a number of people start to live big chunks of their lives in VR.
Light-field 6DoF video will be common allowing you to move inside live videos or a playback of a video that are in every way indistinguishable from reality, at least visually/audibly.
Streaming becomes mainstream as an option to consume games and it is now starting to become feasible to stream VR games as well.
VAR start to replace traditional displays and devices with monitors, phones and handhelds especially on their way out, but TVs very likely still hold a strong presence due to their communal nature.
If consoles still exist, their new features are now focused mostly on VR and how to integrate as seamlessly as possible into the VAR experience. Traditional gaming is still likely the most popular way to play, but consoles must find ways to market towards the new.
VAR are the new norm for work, education, communication, entertainment and a lot of aspects of daily life.
AAA VRMMORPGs start to get popular and become the new standard for the genre, revitalizing it.
The metaverse starts to form in some small way, not yet reaching the magnitude of something like the OASIS, but still a very large and versatile world or web of worlds where the phrase "Do anything, go anywhere, become anyone, be with anyone" is the truest it's ever been.
In short, as good as if not better than the base technology of Ready Player One which consists of a visor and gloves. Interestingly, RPO missed out on the merging of VR and AR which will play an important part of the future of HMDs as they will become more versatile, easier to multi-task with, and more engrained into daily life where physical isolation is only a user choice. Useful treadmills and/or treadmill shoes as well as haptic suits will likely become (and stay) enthusiast items that are incredible in their own right but due to the commitment, aren't applicable to the average person - in a way, just like RPO. At this stage, VR is mainstream with loads of AAA content coming out yearly and providing gaming experiences that are incomprehensible to most people today. Overall, the future of VR couldn't be brighter. It's absolutely here to stay, it's more incredible than people realize today, and it's only going to get exponentially better and more convenient in ways that people can't imagine.
ok so i like to use the pronouns they/she! and i think that on the bourd there should be a option for the ppl that like they/them and they should add a dressing room in rh for the non binary folks bc there important to bc i would love to se the gender nutral version of miss or mr. (with is tiz) and not feel like i have to change for the ball in my dorm and also CLOTHS DO NOT DEFINE WHAT GENDER U ARE
A very long, very indepth attempt at analizing Teemo
Warning, this is extremely long. Like 12 pages on a google doc long. You have been warned.
So there has been a lot of discussion about Teemo recently, from what his iconic skills are(all of them), to what items he can build(all of them), to what position he can be played in(... all of them), and it’s kinda went nowhere fast as Teemo, and by extension his player base, is just too flexible to be defined in any of these ways. So what actually makes Teemo unique? His playstyle. Teemo is an old style of champion. I'm not talking about his art, or his kit(though both of these are technically also true), I'm talking about how Teemo’s goal isn’t to all in and combo his opponent down on their first mistake and snowball from there, but rather to create a lead from dozens of small victories. Your goal isn’t necessarily kill your opponent (though that’s always good) but to force them back, causing them to miss cs and xp repeatedly, or waste their time smashing blindly into a bush. And later in the game, while, again, killing people is now the goal, forcing them to have to back after tripping a few shrooms, or leading them on a fruitless chase through the jungle after splitpushing are just as useful to Teemo. If I had to describe Teemo's playstyle, it would be
Attritional, Rapid Force, Psycologically Manipulative, War Mastermind of Breakdown
I'm only half joking, as even though this is from a Spongebob theory video on Plankton, it actually describes Teemo to some degree. As The Theorizer(the guy who made the video Im referencing) put it:
Attritional, someone who engages in attrition warfare. Rapid force, very fast, very hard attacks. Psychologically manipulative, basically, very good at trickery and getting people to do what you want. War mastermind, well duh, someone who is good with war. Breakdown, to break something down.
Only instead of getting a burger recipe, we are getting our enemies to tilt. But with every new release Teemo has gotten more and more outclassed, as his opponents get more and more mobility that a small 10-52% movespeed boost can’t escape from. We all recognize that Teemo needs a rework, a Morgana/Ezreal level rework that modernizes Teemo’s kit without changing its functionality that much, but a rework nonetheless. Last year u/RiotJag attempted to do a mini rework on Teemo, starting with this:
Base Mana Regen increased from 1.92 to 2.5 Mana Regen per level increased from 0.09 to 0.15 Mana/lvl up increased from 20 to 25 Toxic Shot (Passive) Teemo’s basic attacks now deal 10-50 bonus magic damage and leave a Poison DoT that deals 24-192 magic damage over 4 seconds. Toxic Shot damage (both the on-hit and the DoT) is amped by 50% whenever there are other Poison debuffs on the target Blinding Dart (Q) Base damage lowered from 80/125/170/215/260 to 80/115/150/185/220 AP Ratio lowered from 0.8 to 0.6 Now is a Poison Debuff Move Quick (W) No longer breaks stealth Guerilla Warfare (E) [New Active] After a 1 second delay, Teemo enters Camouflage for 3-5 seconds. Teemo is slowed by 25/22.5/20/17.5/15% during this effect, and gains 20/30/40/50/60% Attack Speed for 3 seconds when it ends. Camouflage does not tick down while Teemo is in a brush or is standing still. Noxious Trap (R) Base Damage lowered from 200/325/450 to 150/250/350 AP ratio lowered from 0.5 to 0.4 Mushrooms health increased from from [6 at all ranks] to [6/8/10] Mushroom max ammo count up from [3 at all ranks] to [3/4/5]
And then after a few iterations it ended up like this
Base Mana Regen increased from 1.92 to 2.5 Mana Regen per level increased from 0.09 to 0.15 Mana/lvl up increased from 20 to 25 Base damage lowered from 54 to 51 Attack speed per level lowered from 3.38 to 2 Toxic Shot (Passive) Teemo’s basic attacks now deal 8-50 bonus magic damage and leave a Poison DoT that deals 24-180 magic damage over 4 seconds. Toxic Shot damage (both the on-hit and the DoT) is amped by 50% whenever there are other Poison debuffs on the target Blinding Dart (Q) Base damage lowered from 80/125/170/215/260 to 70/105/140/175/210 mana cost increased from 70/75/80/85/90 to 80/85/90/95/100 AP Ratio lowered from 0.8 to 0.6 Now is a Poison Debuff Move Quick (W) No longer breaks stealth Guerilla Warfare (E) Cooldown: 40/37/34/31/28
[New] "After a 1 second delay, Teemo becomes Invisible indefinitely if standing still or in brush, and can move up to 7/7.5/8/8.5/9 Teemos while out of brush, but any non-periodic damage from champions will break him out. Teemo can see 25% farther while stealthed. Upon breaking Guerilla Warfare, Teemo gains 20/30/40/50/60% Attack Speed for 3 seconds. While on cooldown, standing in brush will tick down guerilla Warfare's cooldown faster." Stealth duration while moving: 2/2.25/2.5/2.75/3 >Noxious Trap (R) Base Damage lowered from 200/325/450 to 150/250/350 AP ratio lowered from 0.5 to 0.4 Mushroom max ammo count up from [3 at all ranks] to [3/4/5] Traps now become invisible after 1 second Traps can continue to bounce on other traps Additionally there were these prospective changes that were scrapped due to the community’s disinterest in the rework direction.
"Most recent version in testing was pretty E focused as follows (differences all versus previous prototype version, not versus live Teemo): - No longer granted extra sight range - CD didn't tick down faster in brush - Distance while invisible up a bit - CD lower - Standing in brush slowly replenished distance Teemo could move while invisible Haven't heard how playtesting with that went though. Expect this will likely continue as a slow burn project rather than something that gets released or killed quickly, especially given it's the secondary priority of the designer working on it."
After it was scrapped we got the quality of life buffs that we have now. But lets discuss the rework. I honestly thing that the _concept_ is the best shot at reworking Teemo. The numbers and exact implementation are debatable, but switching e and passive is a great idea as, after the shrooms, Teemo’s on hit poision is his most iconic ability. Not to mention it freed Teemo up to be able to max his abilities depending on what he needed for his matchup, rather than e max always, and then either q or w depending on choice. The things people didn’t like about it though were:
The shrooms being nerfed damage wise.
I understand this one, Doomshroom Teemo is my favorite build, but his shrooms are problematic in their current state as they take up a large amount of Teemo's power budget, but also can amount to nothing as the enemy gets 5 sweepers and clears all of them. Not to mention how they synergize so well with Liandrie’s that its a core item for Teemo, despite the fact that his q, the only other ability that can proc it, does not utilize it all that well due to being a medium cooldown, single target spell that can only proc it once. And this is going to be a problem, as in the item update Liandries will be a mythic item, and Teemo builds Liandries [77.5% of the time!](https://www.leagueofgraphs.com/champions/items/teemo) To put this into perspective, Nashors tooth is only bought 61.5% of the time. An item that gives Teemo every stat he wants regardless of build(ignoring Tankmo) and reinforces Teemo's main damage outlet(basically increases e's on-hit damage by 150-30% depending on e rank, and the on-hit scaling from .3 to .45 AP), is bought 16.5% less often than an item that only synergizes with one skill. If this continues after the update, which it likely will as Liandries increases Shroom damage by 20-200%(depending on when it's bought, the target hit, and other items bought. The 200% would be lvl 1 ult, no other ap, and an 1000 health target with 50 mr) and its being _buffed_ via the mythic item stat bonus, that will be above the threshold that will cause Teemo to be changed due to [hardbinding](https://na.leagueoflegends.com/en-us/news/dev/dev-updated-approach-to-item-balancing/). Unless Zyra and Brand also buy it at the same rates after the update(as that would trigger the “nerf item” option), but unlike Teemo the item actually synergizes with their entire kit(plants and blaze, which utilize every ability) rather than just one ability.
It didn’t improve the w
This was a major hole in the rework, as while switching e and p is great, it wouldn’t be awful if they stayed the same. Meanwhile Teemo’s w is supposed to put the “swift” in his title of Swift Scout, and it does so… barely. Exactly what should happen with it is, as always, up to debate, but it needs changing to be on par with current LoL as the current w is supposed to help Teemo kite, yet even if you dodge everything thrown at you it can get disabled by a ludens proc hitting an ally.
The camo stealth makes him a worse Twitch.
This is half true. The first one, yes absolutely. But it didn’t stay as a camouflage ability. Sure, both are marksmen that can go invisible, but Twitch’s is for long distances and to keep him safe while he positions to obliterate the enemy team from 800 range, while Teemo’s is restricted range wise, and is more useful to dodge enemy's notice or wait for them to come to you rather than you going to them. At that point, they only share the fact that they both come out of stealth to surprise people(and a DOT, if 30 damage after 6 attacks at lvl 18 deserves to be called one), which every camoflage user does And my own complaint about both proposed rework and live Teemo:
His kit has limited synergy.
Each part of Teemo's kit doesn't help the other parts very much. Over the years Teemo players have worked the separate parts of his kit into a cohesive playstyle, but each part of his kit just does it's own thing. Like for instance, in theory his blind should support keeping his w up, but in reality every champ, even Udyr, has a non auto attack way of hitting Teemo(Udyr typically has smite and he always can rush up to you with Bear and activate Phoenix stance), and many have attacks that are undodgable(unless you count not being in range to be targeted as dodging it, which for many champs is just being outside Teemo's attack range). So, where should we go from here?
Well, we should discuss the purpose of his abilities.
If every part of his kit is iconic, and replacing them completely would change Teemo in a way that the playerbase wouldn’t like, then we should decide what role each of his abilities plays in his playstyle, and how they could be changed to better fit them.
This is the base of Teemo’s kit. Doing DOT damage after autoing someone is key to Teemo's attritional playstyle in lane, and hit and run/kiting playstyle later in the game. It has a decent base damage and a great scaling, and is just as useful for pure AP builds as on hit ones. It does exactly what it needs to, nothing about it needs to be changed.
Teemo's reactive defense in a fight. On one hand, it's extremely powerful as can completely shut down the main damage of auto reliant champions(Yi, Udyr, some ADC's) for up to 2.5 seconds, provided they don't have on hit effects that ignore the blind and hit anyway. On the other hand, it's completely useless against every other type of champ(mages, assassins, tanks, spellslinger ADC's, most Juggernauts). Its not healthy for Teemo's main defensive tool to be useless(or of limited use, as I counted champs like Nunu who auto attack, but don't rely on it to do their job as part of it being useless) against 70% of the champion roster. As people have talked about, Teemo _needs_ this in order to stay safe, yet in most of his matchups(regardless of role) it can't do anything to protect him, let alone later in the game when he has to face the other 4 enemy champs. And that's not counting the fact that ranged auto's that are in transit before the blind hits are not blocked, which means that even against a Vayne with Condenm on cooldown, it still can’t keep Teemo’s w up as even if you blind her first chance she probably will have lanched an auto already.
If blinding dart is a reactive defense, then Move Quick is supposed to be Teemo's proactive defense. When he was added, it allowed him to more easily kite slower enemy champions as there were fewer speedboosts and dashes, and in general lower mobility. Nowadays, the passive is deactivated rather quickly in a fight, and 3 seconds of MS isnt enough to give him a fighting chance of escaping/keeping up. The intention of the skill is to allow Teemo greater kiting potential in fights, while giving enemies a way to shut it down to have a chance of catching Teemo. But the reality is that unless you are against a champ like Garen who has zero ranged attacks, you are not going to be able to keep it active, making it feel like an out of combat passive. The issue is keeping the balance between Teemo having kiting power in a fight, and allowing enemies a chance to slow down Teemo, because whether we like it or not, Riot does want enemies to be able to catch kiting champs like Teemo, Kalista, and Ashe, because they would be horrible to play against otherwise. Right now, the balance is heavily skewed towards enemies, as any kind of damage will reduce Teemo's ability to kite enemies with matching boots to a singular 3 second burst for the rest of the fight.
The most underultilized part of Teemo's kit. In its current form it's incredibly strong, yet is extremely situational. Its a decent strategic option for positioning mid game, as it can allow you to dodge an enemy(providing they didn't see you yet), or allow you to ambush people, but to use it offensively requires an enemy to come to you as you can only move inside bushes, and defensively it's limited to: Dodging people that have not seen you Becoming invincible to enemies that only have point and click damage(Vayne, Yi,) Stalling for time so an ally can come save you For such an integral part of Teemo’s kit… it feels a little tacked on. Its a situational fight opener or utility tool, and any attempt to use it while near enemy champs usually ends up with them knowing where you are and throwing skillshot after skillshot at you. Its not _bad,_ but to say it can’t be improved would be a lie. Personally I like the sound of that last version, as it would differentiate between Teemo’s e and Twitch’s q, while fitting into Teemo’s playstyle nicely(or, at least, I already dash from bush to bush while in the enemy jungle to check if the coast is clear. Not sure about the rest of you). The fact that you would have to “charge up” movement time by staying in bushes helps give the feel that you are creeping around, without actually slowing Teemo down like the first version of the change.
Shrooms have 3 main uses: Damage, be it wearing down enemies as they attempt to move throughout the map, making it so they always enter fights below full health or killing low health fleeing enemies Granting vision of important areas, such as Dragon, Baron, and the enemy jungler's camps(or your jungle camps, if your jungler is being invaded) CC, cutting off engage or escape paths, slowing enemies so that Teemo/his team have a chance to escape/engage. Right now they do all of these well, except damage vs tanks, and don't have to be changed. But like I pointed out before Liandries is a massive amount of their power, and that isn't healthy as unless you are planning on ignoring the shrooms damage completely you have to buy it, and mythinc item, hardbinding, yada yada yada.... So if the Shrooms are changed they should aim to keep the same power, but less oppressive against squishes and more effective(or, rather, less ineffective) against tanky targets without having to rely on Liandries to the point where its a core item even against full squishy teams.
Suggestions on what could change
The only thing I would change about it is move it's ticks from 1/s to 4/s, like Singe's poison, Karthus's aoe, or 2/s like Casdiopia's poison. It would give a better readability on the damage for everyone involved, which, while it is a slight nerf to Teemo, clarity changes that increase counterplay allow for more power to be added elsewhere. Also, unlike Singer's poison or Karthus's e, Teemo doesn't have a "turn on for one tick to farm and turn off" mechanic for his poison like they did, so other than age I can't think of why it is one second between ticks. The ‘surprise’ factor of how much damage it does is good for Teemo, but how much damage the enemy is taking shouldn't be something that is obscured.
The simplest change would be to make it apply nearsighted, which would have 3 effects.
make it less of a hard counter to melee auto centric champs,while still allowing it utility
Improves its usability against all kinds of champs, and opens up more uses than "damage" and "no auto attack for you"
Allows Teemo to actually participate in gurilla warfare, making it possible for him to pop up, attack, and disappear on an enemy champ, providing he is outside their truncated vision range.
I have other ideas as to what can be done with this ability, but it makes more sense in context so that will be below.
I have two ideas for how this could be changed to be better:
It does not break on damage from poisoned enemies, as well as increasing it to 10-30% because round numbers.
This one is kinda obvious of how it helps Teemo, but I like it because it allows Teemo to keep his speed if he gets the drop on enemies, but if they get in the first attack then they are rewarded with a Teemo that is easier to catch.
Teemo’s base MS down to 325 (WAIT, don’t crucify me just yet), and decrease the % MS boost from 10-26% to 10-19%, and then add on +5-25 base MS per rank.
Now that sounds broken, as an increase of 5 base ms is a huge increase in winrate usually, but hear me out. Rank 1: Teemo would have 325+5+10%= 330+10%=363 which is exactly the same as live. Rank 2: Teemo would have 325+10+12.25%= 335+12.25%=376 the same as live. Rank 3: Teemo would have 325+15+14.5%= 340+14.5%=389 the same as live. Rank 4: Teemo would have 325+20+16.75%= 345+16.75%=403 the same as live. Rank 5: Teemo would have 325+25+19%= 350+19%=416 the same as live. Though a note is that with boots, ranks 1-4 actually give less ms than live. Its only 5-1 ms difference, which may not even end up showing up after the Movement speed soft caps apply. Except for Mobie boots, there is a significant difference there after the MS cap, but Teemo only builds them .03% of the time or so, and they are deactivated whenever someone trips a shroom, so that’s a sacrifice I'm willing to make. The only noticeable thing that would change is how fast Teemo is when the passive is down, and how fast he is when using the w active(if im doing the math right it is slower by a max of 18 ms, with Mobie boots, but that makes sense as we are dropping 14% bonus ms on the w active in exchange for 25 flat ms, which means less of a boost with just it, but it scales better with other % movement boosts) [Here is my compiled list of Teemo’s movement speed with every kind of boot + w](https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mkKCcFzXV8PbXseYadoi6z1rs9SN0xGRCFMjw4z3Ito/edit?usp=sharing), and [here is a graph that allows you to easily put in the variables if you want to check it out yourself](https://www.desmos.com/calculatoirneett3wh).
In addition to the prospective changes that we never saw, which to me sounds like the best version(assuming the numbers are not terrible), here are a few ideas I thought of: Teemo’s e breaks on damage outside bushes, but while inside a bush Teemo is obscured(you know, that broken “true stealth” thing Akali had, only there are no bushes inside tower range and Teemo doesn’t have 3 dashes so it should be less obnoxious) and the invisibility doesn’t break. What this basically means is if an enemy hits a scyre bloom or an ability that gives true sight on Teemo when he is inside a bush, he is still not able to be clicked on. Standing still for 1 second increases shroom vision range over the next two seconds. I like this one, as it enhances the scouting aspect of his theme, but enemies can interact with it and it has to be something Teemo is actively doing, rather than just passive extra vision.
Assuming we are touching these, I honestly think having it apply % current health(better against tanks, not as oppressive against squishies), along with the passive poison would allow it to function both as a weakening chip damage, and potential low health killer, without getting into the 2 shot shroom territory as that feels bad to be on the end of. They should be able to kill if you run into a ton of them in a row, but not automatic death after hitting one from a fed Teemo. I honestly haven’t thought of a better way other than that to keep the balance between chip damage and kill threat without entering the binary “die by 2 shrooms or 5 Sweepers” territory And now for my Rework suggestion(do note that while I have considered the numbers I gave things, numbers are easily changed about and as such laying out the mechanics is my goal):
Toxic Shot Teemo laces his attacks with poison from his Kumongu shrooms, causing his basic attacks to deal [10-50 + .3 AP] damage, and his basic attacks and spells to poison the target for [1.5-11.25 +.025 AP] every .25 seconds for 4 seconds. Poisons from unique attacks(autos would be one unique attack, q is one, and shrooms count as one) stack up to three times, each new stack at 50% extra damage(so 175%, which max damage without refreshing the poison would be 315 + .7AP total at level 18, for landing a shroom, an auto, and a q).
Similar to Sol’s passive, I'm suggesting Teemo’s passive be the main source of his damage and tie his entire kit together. Maybe 175% is too low for 3 stacks, but I thought 200% might be too overbearing. Anyway, its not like numbers are not constantly changed.
Sporecloud Dart Skillshot, 700 range, AOE detonation, 300 range, 80/85/90/95/100 mana cost Does 50/75/100/125/150 +.4AP + 1bAD(bonus AD) damage to main target, applying on hit effects(not passive’s on hit), reduces vision range for them for 1.5/1.6/1.7/1.8/1.9/2 seconds, spreads passive DOT(not on hit) to target and nearby enemies
This one has many reasons: By changing it to a skill shot, from a targeted skill, it allows enemies to do more than just “don’t get near Teemo” to avoid it, but in return the cc is better against a wider assortment of enemies rather than just auto reliant ones. It also means that if an enemy can get on you, they have a chance of actually hitting you, but it also keeps his ability to shut down enemy ADC’s intact, if a little less duration. As it is a skill shot, I gave it slightly increased range so that Teemo has something to do in teamfights, but also increased its mana cost so it can’t be spammed The reason it applies the passive in AOE is because I was inspired by Teemo’s skill in this TFT set, which is where the name comes from, and it addresses his issue in the jungle of having poor multi-target damage pre-6. This gives him a pre-6 option for clearing camps/pushing waves, and makes up in part for the damage that is lost from the shrooms(keep reading for that, its not as bad as you might think)
Move quick 10/15/20/25/30% ms Does not break on damage from poisoned targets
That other option I outlined above would also work, I just thought of this one first and it fits with Teemo spreading poison everywhere.
Guerrilla Warfare 1.5 second arm time, indefinite while still/in bushes. Can move 2/2.25/2.5/2.75/3 seconds while stealthed, recharges slowly in bushes. Element of Surprise: 20/30/40/50/60 AS for 3 seconds
Optional bonus:>! After standing still for 1 second, shroom's vision radius grows by 10/20/30/40/50% over the next 2 seconds.!< Basically the prospective changes that we never saw. Not sure what the cooldown was going to be though. The optional bonus is a different take on the “Teemo gains 25% sight range while stealthed” from the most recent one. Im not sure if it would be overpowered or not, but I thought why not? Its not like they haven’t removed mechanics before. Anyway, the idea would be that Teemo can set up a vision network, which enemies are already looking to clear because shrooms, but at the cost of doing things. Great for ambushes, not so much for watching for a gank.
Noxious Trap Deal 10/15/20% max health, and applies Toxic Shot’s DOT(not the on hit) Enemies effected by shrooms take .75% extra damage from Toxic Shot for every 1% missing health, capping at 50% damage(so 109/lvl 6 - 270/lvl 18 +.6 ap total damage, when they are at 33% health for just the shroom, and 472 +1.05 AP for 3 stacks)
Assuming the combo is just one auto, q, and shroom, that is a max of 100% tAD+ 100% bAD + 50 + 150 + 472 + 10% current health + 175% AP(so 672 + 175% AP + auto damage) when the enemy is at ⅓ health. That sounds like a lot, but its not that much for just one combo. For reference, Vigar can do 650 +150% AP with just his ult alone, and then has another 540+160% AP from his other abilities. Anyway, the % current health would allow Teemo to affect Tanks with his Shrooms, without making it overbearing for squishies, while the pseudo-execute extra passive damage makes it so that Teemo can still kill with Shrooms, be it in fights or on fleeing enemies. The idea is to make 2 shot shrooms less feasible, but allow the damage to scale better. It also would only apply Liandries only once, which, while is a nerf, is one that ultimately benefits Teemo as Liandries would be an effective option for 2-3 tank teams, but not a mandatory item for every game you don’t go with On Hit Teemo.
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