Poetry: Fury of the Dark World

You gave us a killing disease
Did you think we would let you get away?
Letting you just do as you please
Just because you live in the light of day?

Did you think we would let you get away?
We found away to rip through the veil
Just because you live in the light of day,
We come at night, and leave your corpses pale

We found away to rip through the veil
When you gave us a killing disease
We come at night, and leave your corpses pale
We’re not letting you do as you please.

Art: Ink Dragons

InkDragons

Here’s something I drew to celebrate finding my ink.  I wanted to try just sitting down and drawing again, and I felt like drawing some dragons.  I don’t like how the dragon in the foreground turned out; it seems that ink brushes don’t do well with that kind of detail.  I concentrated on the overall silhouette with the other dragons, and I think they came out much better.

The Agent: Concept

I’ve mentioned before that my old project was inspired by the Inquisitors from Warhammer 40,000 and the Spectres from Mass Effect, a group of interstellar agents given the power to supersede the law by a galaxy-spanning government, and what it would take to keep such people under control.  An interesting aspect of both of these orders is that they can loan out their superlegal authority to others.  While many of Inquisitors and Spectres loaned their authority to large organizations, the emphasis is on those that lead a small team of specialists.

I, too, have conceived of specialists to aid the Agent.  My conceptions of these specialists are not fixed, changing over time and liable to change in the future.  However, the basic idea of these subordinates, at least in terms of abilities and relationship to the Agent, have been relatively stable.  However, before I can describe the subordinates, I must first describe the Agent, because the subordinates were created to play off of the Agent.

Typically, a cell of a particular agent of Unity will be shaped by the needs, personality, and activities of that agent.  After all, the agent is the one choosing their subordinates, from a combination of independent contractors and people noted as potential agents themselves.  So, in order to explain the cell, I will have to describe the Agent, and what makes them…different.

Imagine, if you will, a potential agent gaining fame for their deeds.  Imagine that agent gaining enough fame to earn a promotion.  Imagine that the fame came all at once.  Imagine that the fame came all at once because of an accident.  Imagine the subordinate received a promotion due to that fame and that accident.  Imagine that the promotion came unusually early in the agents career, perhaps even prematurely.  Imagine that the agent was sent to another planet on promotion, before they could even think of selecting subordinates of their own.  Imagine that the agent, upon arriving in their new home, was simply given a set of subordinates.

This is where the Agent finds themselves.  Newly promoted to full agent status, sent to a world they had never heard of, and in charge of people they have never met.  This is our main character.  These are the eyes through which the reader learns of the setting and comes to know the other characters.  This is also the one who’s at the center of the world’s problems.

In terms of personality, I see the Agent being defined by boundless curiosity and a desire to help others.  There is also a seeming lack of fear, but that just might be them being too interested to care that they should be afraid.  Add some other strange habits, the ability to explain the finer points of interstellar relations to the character, and an embarrassment about how they acted when they were a teenager, and you have the basic thrust of the Agent’s character.

And now that you have an idea how the Agent acts, you can make sense of the people around them.  This post is getting kind of long, so I’m going to get around to describing the rest of the cell at some other time.

Subtle Matter

Many philosophical systems – and thus, many fictional universes – divide the universe into matter and spirit.  Matter, of course, is the stuff physical objects are made out of.  You can see it, and you can touch it.  Spirit, however, is different.  In particular, there is little agreement as to what spirit is.

Spirit, the word, is derived from the Latin spiritus – breath.  The word is linked to the concept through a metaphor: like breath, you can’t see spirit, but you know it’s there.  Frequently, spirit is connected to the mind, with spirit being the source of thoughts and ideas.  In Plato’s philosophy, I’m given to understand that there was an resolved problem in how the purely mental Forms could actually manifest and interact with the physical universe.

This brings us to another question: do minds have location?  Are they in a specific place, like the pituitary glans inside our brains?  If they were, what would happen when we die?  Would our souls be trapped, or would they fly away, to where ever or what ever it is that they are called to?  And if minds do have location, it’s still not clear how the two substances of the world actually interact with each other.

So much for philosophy; now, let us continue to fiction.  Many works, such as Bleach and Exalted, postulate that spirits can inhabit mundane reality, unseen and untouched by all but a few.  Here, spirit seems to act as nothing more than a subtle form of matter, even through the implications of philosophical dualism.  Interestingly, however, both of these works also postulate the existence of several spirit worlds, where only spirits reside, and the subtle matter is the only matter that exists.  I feel that it is noteworthy that both of these works deal a lot with the spirits of the dead.

Ghosts can be considered a bit of a special case.  Unlike other kinds of spirits, ghosts use to be a part of mundane existence.  Having died, they can no longer continue to interact with the world as they used to, and are, at least implicitly, expected to move on to another world, a world that they now belong in.  This world would naturally be made of the same substance that ghosts are.

I began this essay to figure out what it was that bothered me about how Bleach and Exalted dealt with the problem of matter-spirit dualism.  I now understand what the problem is: despite the fact that both works want death to have meaning, and as such, treat being a ghost as being substantially different from being alive, they both treat the afterlife as little more than an interesting place to have a sword fight.

There’s no thought given as to why every world has a spiritual component, but only mundane existence has a material one.  The seeming primacy of spirit goes unexplained, and the significance of matter goes unexplored.  Both works simply ask us to accept that the world as presented, without regards to how the metaphysics link to the work’s themes.

It’s not like I’m saying it was a bad call; sword fights were what people came for, after all.  I think I just want to put a bit more thought into my settings than the above.  In Occulted, for example, I decided that subtle matter was the source of the preternatural powers; the part of the world you’re unaware of until you are.  My other projects, however, have other themes, and they need their own relationships with spirit and matter.

Art: The Agent’s Office, Redone

TheAgent'sOfficeRedone

I redid the piece from last month.  I moved the camera closer to the agent, to emphasize the person more.  That means that you can’t see any of the furniture between the desk and the door, which was the most awkward part of the original picture.  Other than that, I mostly concentrated on making sure that everything was in perspective and straight.  Some of the lines are uneven, because I didn’t quite make sure that the ruler was square with the paper.

I also changed the view out the window, to make it more interesting to look at.  To do this, I decide the building should be at an angle to the window, so I made the top of the building slanted, and decided that the bottom of the building would be interesting if it slanted in the opposite way.  A few minutes after I got done inking, I realized that I should have been using a two-point perspective system for the outside.  This lack of realization is the reason there’s so much wrong with the windows.

“Context is Everything”

About a month ago, I mentioned that the closest thing I had to a theme for the old project of mine was the phrase “context is everything.”  I think I want to explain a little bit more about that, both in the context of morality and the origin of the phrase itself.

As an ethical statement, “context is everything” means that an action is right or wrong depending on the context that the action is taken in.  Morality can’t be codified into a series of rules (if you try to, you get D&D alignment arguments).  You must look at the action, the intent of the action, the results of the action, other options to the action, and the people affected by the action.

Although it’s possible for two people to come into conflict despite neither of them doing anything wrong, it’s still possible for people to be evil.  I think it’s best to think of everyone as a person, and try to understand why they do the things they do.  It’s only then that you can actually judge their actions.

Those of you familiar with anthropology might see similarities to cultural relativism.  Indeed, anthropology was one of the major inspirations for this project.  The idea of learning about people by going out and living with them, and doing things the way they do, is…I can’t really describe what it is.  But even though I have no interest in doing fieldwork myself, I’m still happy to read ethnography and learn, just a little, about how different other people’s lives can be.

As to the origin of the phrase?  It comes from the Buddhist doctrine of interdependent origination.  Each person is defined by the context in which they exist, even if they are aware of the forces that shape them.  The person acting and the person observing themselves acting are equally real.