#dungeon23, Days 10-20: Medium Lunar Fragment

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series #dungeon23

This post is part of a series detailing my participation in #dungeon23. Feel free to follow the link above to check out the series in order, or see the first post in the series if you don’t know what this project is.

Days 10-20 were a bit of a challenge, mainly because our admins at work cheerfully made this week a hellish mess for anyone teaching a winter class. That is to say, this is rough, and yes, there were days when I jotted down a few days’ worth of entries to “catch up”; there were days where I got a cool idea but was simply too busy to write it down. Life happens, as they say. 

Even under those circumstances, it was useful to pause and look one by one at locales on the mini-hexmap I’d created on Day 10 and think about how I could detail each spot with a few salient details, add a few more, and create opportunities for development—a possible combat, sure, but also details that could provide clues to what the hell had happened to the moon overall, and breadcrumbs trails leading characters toward other locales of interest within or outside of the area covered. 

It’s a grisly fragment in some ways: an artificial lake set up to keep the residents of the area hydrated has gone terribly wrong, flooding part of the fragment and leading to spillover onto the lunar surface on the opposite side of this fragment. (As the entire fragment has been enveloped with air, fungal blooms are now spreading on the outside.) There’s a sinkhole, a shattered “temple” structure with a sage and some broken AI, lots of bots trying fruitlessly to repair damage they were never build to handle, some nanobot swarms doing their best to keep the thing going and find a way to knit the moon back together, and signs of a lot of displaced residents having suffered from the flooding and/or fled the fragment on foot, to the edge. 

I think it was Connie Willis who commented once that anytime you answer one question in a story, you need to create two or three more unanswered ones in order to keep the story going. I know that’s an elementary insight, one most of us understand on some level—we’ve all experienced mystery in narratives, after all—but having it stated explicitly gives you a specific approach to consciously try.

Another thing I’m trying is to develop a kind of consistency of mood for each chunk of this project. One shortcut to that is to listen to a piece of music at the start of the week, and repeatedly when the effect fades in my memory. 

This week’s piece was Charles Ives’ haunting work:

Moments of chaos and peril spattered onto a canvas that is eerie and inspires terror—in the old sense of the word, meaning that feeling of smallness and insignificance you get when you look at stuff like mountains and enormous waterfalls and gargantuan sinkholes—is very much what I’m going for here. Not that players necessarily would experience that, but it’s the mood I was trying to infuse into this leg of the project. 

Next, it’ll be a very different piece of music, and a very different fragment. I’m curious how it’ll all hold together. I think I’ll be doing one of the other lunar fragments that this one connects directly to. Quite possibly one of the bigger chunks (on a larger hexmap earlier in the book). That said, I may also experiment with building a few hexflowers for procedurally generating large fragments, since the “small hex” pages in the notebook I’m using have pages that are perfect for that kind of setup. 

We’ll see, I guess. I start the next leg tonight. 

For fans of chickenscrawl, here’s the page I filled over days 10-20:

The Books of 2022

Update: Ooops. I published before I was done. I’ve updated it, making small revisions here and there, and adding the two remaining books I meant to mention. I was going to write about some honorable mentions, but eh, nah. I’m not giving awards, just mentioning books I liked. 

ORIGINAL POST: Here they are:


I guess I’ll say a few words about which books were the standouts for me last year. You can see that below. Continue reading

Shiver by Junji Ito

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series 2023 Reads

I’m continuing with posting about the books I’ve read. The tag has changed to #booksread2023, but not much has changed: the posts get published with some lag—though I’m trying to shorten the lag a little, too.

I’d had a reservation request on file with the local branch of the National Library for Shiver since sometime in early December. It took someone a long time to get it back to the library, apparently. I assume it was in a pile with some lengthier books, because personally it took me less than 24 hours to finish this one.

Shiver is a collection of short manga narratives, each a different flavor of horror. There’s one piece from the Tomie series, which I’d read recently and didn’t reread. The rest were new to me, though I have no idea if any of them were part of a larger narrative. (Ito’s work being so often episodic, it’s possible for several of them to be: I wouldn’t know.)

I enjoyed Shiver about as much as I enjoyed the other collection of short comics I read, Smashed. When it comes to Ito’s work, I think I slightly prefer the longer narratives, but this was a good collection. A couple of the stories, like “Honored Ancestors” and “Greased,” seemed to me like they were just begging for a thoughtful academic analysis. “Honored Ancestors” especially seems like it’s ripe for feminist interpretation: horror, after all, is about disempowerment, and feminism is about recognizing and addressing it. There’s something about the parasitic ancestors controlling the mind of a young man who “needs” a “wife” to keep his family line going—and about the horror his girlfriend experiences when she sees the parasitic ancestors in the big reveal—that feels very, very much like an overt allegory. 

“Long Dream” has also stuck around in my head for a few days. It feels a lot like a Twilight Zone episode, and come to think of it, that’s not something I’d say about a lot of Ito’s stories, because a lot of them are too visually over-the-top or to have gotten the Twilight Zone treatment. 


The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

This entry is part 55 of 56 in the series 2022 Reads

Update: This was scheduled to publish on January 1st, but somehow my blog didn’t publish it—I’m not sure why. That’s why it’s appearing now. (But it was the last thing I read in 2022, technically.)

Original Post: As with other posts in this series, these #booksread2022 posts get published with some lag. I’m trying to be more punctual, though, and this one’s very recent. This is the last prose book I finished in 2022, though not the last thing I finished reading in 2022. (Look out for one more post in the next couple of days.)

While I’ve read a few of Ken Liu’s short stories here and there over the years, I hadn’t gotten around to his first collection until I noticed that my local library (yes, in Sejong City) had a copy on the shelf. I snapped it up and then… slowly made my way through. Why slowly? Partly it’s just how busy I’ve been, partly that I had to return it and it took a few weeks before I got a chance to borrow it again, and partly it’s just that this is how I tend to read short story collections now.  

It’s a good book! I was surprised at how many of the stories actually are fantasy, though perhaps I shouldn’t be given that I know his novels are in that genre. It’s just that the few short stories of his that I’ve read online were all SF, and I assumed most of his short work was in that genre. There’s a self-conscious foregrounding of history, identity, of the tensions of liminality, and many of these stories very self-consciously explore big questions. I also found the title apt: there’s a meticulous craft to the way the tales twist and turn and fold on themselves, like the zhezhi creatures in the title story, and like the origami tiger on the cover of the Saga Press edition that I read.   

Continue reading

About the Wizards of the Coast OGL Thing

I have not much comment, but this song has been running through my mind since the news cycle started to cascade through the Discords and other social media I’m on:

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s elfgame stuff and you would probably know if you cared, but just in case, well, see here, I guess. Social media is on fire with memes and hot takes and links to thinkpieces about it, and I don’t need to add to that. 

But since I’m trying to start blogging again, okay, a few thoughts:

I agree with everyone paying attention that the terms of the leaked OGL are really gross—in a way that’s all too familiar to creatives—and that literally nobody should sign on with it. (Seriously, when someone tells you that you retain copyright, but they also effectively and for all intents and purposes own your creation, back away. When someone demands 25% of the income—not even profit, income—for a creative project, back away.) Sadly, that may be part of the point. But not signing on doesn’t mean stopping creating things: it simply necessitates declaring independence. You don’t need to use the OGL, as some have pointed out

(What the trad RPG/old school world could use right now is a totally independent SRD/Open License that nobody can ever revoke, that presents the core rules common to old school games with a particularized expression that nobody owns and which anyone can use, that is explicitly and irrevocably free. An OGL isn’t necessary, but it can help lower the barrier to entry for someone who’s interested in designing game materials that can work across a range of existing rulesets, rather than looking to design rulesets. I’ve thought for a while it might be handy to loosely systematize some things as a way of aiding interoperability—you know, like web protocols and MIDI did—and I was even considering trying to devise such a thing myself, except it looks like maybe Kobold Press has taken up the task? Maybe? We’ll see, I guess. I think it’d be a good thing to have even if WotC backpedals away from the OGL 1.1 and from deauthorizing the OGL 1.0(a), to be honest, because, you know, not doing so now doesn’t mean they cannot do so next year.)

Other than that, I don’t have much to say, except to roll my eyes at Wizards of the Coast.