Feb 242020
 

There was a spell book in my elementary school library. I don’t recall it explaining a mythology or philosophy, but my vague memory of the spells suggest it was certainly Wiccan. That is pretty amazing considering that it was a small town school in the South. It was the early 80’s, so the Satanic Panic might not have been around. I highly doubt the book is still there, but I wonder.

The book had spells for money, health and of course, love. Even at nine years old, I had some insane crushes. I remember thinking the book could finally get a certain blonde girl to notice me. There was just one problem. The spell involved burning a note, and I was deathly afraid of fire. No love spells for me. Another spell involved burying something in the ground. My distaste for worms and dirt in general ruled that spell out.

The thing that I remember most was believing in the book. I had no doubt that the spells would work if I would just put the work in. I knew that David Copperfield was doing optical illusions, but for some reason, I thought magic spells in a book were as real as the book about rockets.

Later when I was a jaded teenager, I came across the Necronomicon in the Waldenbooks. I had started reading H.P. Lovecraft earlier that year and recognized the title. Now, I knew Lovecraft was fiction and I knew this alleged Necronomicon couldn’t possibly be the dread book of the Mad Arab. This was also a few years after my atheist epiphany so I didn’t believe in God, the Devil, spells or Cosmic Horrors.

I still bought the book. I was curious and liked Lovecraft enough to want to have even a fake facsimile of the famous dread book.

It was shit, of course.

But because the book was so serious about itself, I felt that tiny glimmer of belief that I hadn’t felt since I read that one spell book in elementary school. The force of conviction the book had convinced me for one tiny second that maybe this was real. That belief cracked and died when I recognized the Sumerian mythology it was trying to pass off as hidden truths. Other parts were poorly done as well and I remember finishing it with a monumental level of contempt.

Flash forward to today. I am working on a writing journal game where the player writes about their relationship with a demon lover they summoned. The game is written entirely in-character as if this is a real book of magic. There are dread warnings. There is a little bit of work involved in making your journal. The player is writing the Journal as a tool to hold onto their sanity as well as providing a sort of black box in case anything happens to the player.

In short, it is a bit full of shit, but I hope it also evokes a mood. I hope when people play it, they feel that delicious thrill of making something special happen. I hope when they write about their demon lover, it is with the same intense emotion that I felt when I cracked open the books of magic from my youth.

Jan 242020
 

Recently I have been reading Cthulhu Apocalypse by Pelgrane Press. It is a role-playing game supplement about playing adventures after a terrible disaster has killed 99% of the human population. It has some clever ideas, like setting the campaign in 1936, and focusing more on the players still investigating things rather than have adventures to find food that day. I highly recommend it, even if you don’t play rpg’s, as it explores the apocalypse from some different angles.

One of those angles is the idea of maybe a natural disaster killing off humanity, and the monsters are slowly coming out to see what happened. It is a cool idea. The world is more of an empty graveyard with mysterious sights and sounds as opposed to a zombie world where hordes lurk everywhere. It is a lovely lonely idea.

It reminds me of one of the best all time apocalypse stories ever written. Called Footnotes on a Species Once Called Humanity, it was written by Derek Pegritz in 2006 and was posted in parts on his personal website. It takes place after Cthulhu has risen and his spawn are stomping around the earth. The narrator and his town has fled to a cave complex in the mountains. It protects them from being stepped on by giant monsters, but the psychic aura of the monsters reaches deep beneath the earth and drives most of them mad. Or maybe they went crazy because humanity was over and they were trapped in the dark. I don’t quite recall, but I do remember the narrator was alone and trying his best to keep his shit together. It was a stark nihilistic story and I loved it.

Isolation is something that appeals to me a lot but I have seen the negative effects it has on my psyche. My family was a hostile environment growing up, and even as an adult, I find myself avoiding sharing my feelings with others. It takes a lot for me to open up, it takes a lot for me to socialize and it takes a hell of a lot for me trust. My instinct is to avoid people, but when I am alone, I get depressed and fragile. Finding that balance is a struggle. I want to be that hermit in the lighthouse, but I know I need to be the friendly guy at the bar in order to stay sane.

So reading “Footnotes” was a weird mix of happy daydream and dreadful nightmare. Part of me envied the narrator’s ability to survive on his own wits and discretion while the other part of me agonized over the thought of being utterly alone without anyone to care whether you live or die. The character was in hopeless isolation, but hopeless isolation is sort of my natural habitat.

You can’t find the story online anymore. I have tried looking for other copies but there aren’t any. It almost feels appropriate. The story that has most imprinted my views on apocalypses and survivor stories has itself, not survived.

Jan 172020
 

Alpha Centauri is one of my favorite games of all time. Created in 1999, it is a spinoff of Sid Meir’s Civilization games. In Alpha, you play factions of colonists on a distant planet. Before the even land, the colonists have broken into different factions based on opposing ideologies. The game deals with themes of transhumanism, environmental responsibility and the ethics of exterminating that shithead who keeps invading your lands.

I had the itch to play it again but I held off. Like all Civilization games, Alpha Centauri can be really addictive. There is always something more to do. You can sit down and plan to play for only an hour, but then “one more turn” kicks in and the next thing you know, it is 3am.

So I decided to try something really stupid. I would play Alpha, but I would only play ONE turn a day. That’s it. One turn and shut it down. That way, I won’t get suckered into it.

The whole idea is stupid. I am not sure how many turns it takes to play an average game of Alpha, but I know it is in the hundreds. The early game especially goes by fast as it can take you six turns to build a single unit. That is six days of looking at a progress meter grown and doing nothing else.

So of course, I had to try it.

It has been twelve days and I have to say, it is delightful. As a porn writer, I know all about delaying gratification but this takes it to a new level. Every turn I play is the most thoughtful experience. I don’t want to rush my turn, so I think about everything. Is my resources properly placed? Do I still plan to explore west when I get a unit? What does this button do?

Now granted, things took a turn when I made a colony unit, sent it forth and had it destroyed by my first contact with another faction. The white hot rage I felt demanded instant revenge. In a normal game, I would have built a bunch of units and sent them out to crush my enemy, and I would not have stopped playing until revenge was satisfied or thwarted.

But this isn’t a regular game. I gave the order for a scout unit to pursue the attacker and then I logged off for the day. The next day, still pissy, I set up orders to make another scout. The first scout was still en route to the last known location of the enemy. The day after that, units are still in production while one unit is moving. My rage has dulled to a bitter calm. The day after that, my bitterness has turned to skepticism that I can really fight a war with just scouts. Now I am considering just setting up a border and resuming colonization. It all depends on how soon I meet the enemy.

If I ever do have the fight, win or lose, the feelings that accompany it are going to be intense.

I wonder what other recreational activities might benefit from a little slowing down?

Jan 102020
 

I acquire books at a faster rate than I can read them. This is true of most book lovers. My to-read shelf gets heavier and heavier and will need to be upgraded soon.

A few years ago I discovered Games Workshop’s Horus Heresy series. It was gothic science fiction but a bit lacking in female characters and any subject other than WAR. I got hooked and at some point I realized I had spent six months reading nothing but fiction that came from a miniatures company. That was sad.

So I instituted a rotation policy. Simply put, I listed six types of books I liked to read. When I read a book, I fitted it into one of those six slots and put a little check mark on my list. I wouldn’t return to that book type until I filled the other five.

Mostly. I am not super strict about it. If I read a wonderful trilogy, I’ll devour it and list it three times in the appropriate slot. The rotation isn’t a solemn vow; it is an attempt to be more mindful of what I read.

The slots change but here is my current rotation.

Porn is my first slot. I enjoy porn but I also need to keep reading it as a writer of porn. Most of my porn books these days come from Kindle. The rest are paperbacks, usually printed in the 1990’s. There are some truly great porn paperbacks out there, but sadly most of them are stuffed with filler. When reading paperback porn, I usually dedicate thirty minutes a day to reading it, while I read another book for fun.

Tanith Lee is in my second slot. She is one of my favorite all time writers but I realized I had only read a small fraction of her work. Every book is full of flowery prose and wonderful mood, which can make them feel like something you save for a special occasion. I’m trying to resist that impulse and just read more of her.

As a side note, this slot used to be for Ian Fleming’s Bond books. They can be hard to read one right after another but work much better spaced out.

My third slot is for the Destroyer series written by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. It is an action series with over a hundred books. It is also racist, misogynistic, and super conservative. I can’t recommend it in good conscious but the series has my favorite father/son relationship of all time, as well as being wonderfully paced and full of great pulp ideas. They are short enough that I can read one in a day and often serves as a good palate cleanser after a much more thoughtful book.

My fourth slot is simply Horror. My current stack has Richard Laymon, Joe Hill, Brian Keene, Bryan Smith and Clive Barker.

This slot used to for Lumley’s Necroscope books. The average book was five hundred pages long, and there is over a dozen books. You can see why that series needed its own slot.

The fifth slot is for non-fiction or role-playing games. I highly recommend all writers read more non-fiction. Real life is bizarre as fuck.

I don’t play role-playing games any more but I can’t resist buying some of the cooler ones. Kickstarter has also tempted me into spending way too much money for some truly gorgeous books. I justify reading these game books because they almost always inspire my writing in some way.

Finally we have the Wild Card slot. Wild Card is anything that doesn’t fit into the previous slots. Tim Powers fits that description a lot. Science fiction books end up here, and more rarely, fantasy books.

So there you have it. I have heard that other people have a similar setup. What is in your rotation?

Nov 212011
 

Phone rings.

Me: Ahoy?

Lady: Hello Mr. Richards, I am hear to talk you about (Audio gets too quiet to hear)

Me: Say again? You got really quiet.

Lady: I am calling from MoneyBuddy (Not the real company name) and I was calling to (audio gets too quiet to hear)

Me: Yeah, your voice got really quiet again.

Lady: I am calling to let you know that there is a problem with your account because of the blog you have.

Internal Me Dialogue: Aha! The evil anti-porn fascists have finally noticed my little bastion of sexual freedom and are trying to shut me down!

Lady: The blog is called “Erotiterrorist”, did I say that right?

Me: Sure. (Hell, I came up with the name and I don’t feel that I have any right to dispute how it sounds)

Lady: Well sir, you have material relating to (audio gets too quiet to hear)

Me: Say that again.

Lady: (audio gets too quiet to hear) concerning rape.

Me: Did you say rape?

Lady: Yes, you have a review concerning rape.

Internal Me Dialogue: Are you shitting me? I recently reviewed a dirty book where I said that I was put off by a rape scene. Am I being censored for even stating that a rape existed? What kind of Orwellian nightmare is MoneyBuddy running here?

Besides, I am very anti-rape. I wouldn’t have anything promoting rape, except maybe Erishella who to be honest is a bad girl but all of her victims like it so I would think that is a fuzzy line especially when it comes to the campy space opera fiction that I write.

Me: So you are saying that I have a review concerning rape?

Lady (audio gets too quiet to hear)

Me: Again, I really can’t hear you.

Lady: You also have a few articles about rape.

Me: Really? (In a terribly skeptical and disdainful tone. I haven’t had a good sexual freedom argument in ages)

Lady: You have an article called, Rape Dogs of Sharpbaldes Island

Me: ….

Internal Me Dialogue: Oh snap. She got me there.

Lady: Did I pronounce that right?

Me: Yep, so what does Moneybuddy want me to do?

Lady: In order to comply with our Acceptable Use Policy and avoid the limitation
of your account, you will need to remove those items from erotiterrorist.blogspot.com …

Internal Me Dialogue: Remove a story about freaky nasty dogs that were imported as a punishment and were later turned into a protected species? Hell no, that shit was funny.

Lady: . . . that violate MoneyBuddy’s Acceptable Use Policy. Example/s: rape themed blogs and reviews as well as remove MoneyBuddy as a payment option, as well as all references to MoneyBuddy, including the MoneyBuddy logo and/or shopping cart, from erotiterrorist.blogspot.com.

Me: (click, click) Okay, I just did it.

Lady: Oh. Well, we’ll do a review and everything will be restored.

Me: And the money in my MoneyBuddy account is still there?

Lady: Yes, you can still access it. You just can’t close the account until we unfreeze it.

Me: All righty. (Hang up)

So yeah, no more MoneyBuddy donation button but hey, I got to hear someone else say the words, “Rape Dogs of Sharpblades Island” in a very serious tone of voice, so that is a win.