Nov 162018
 

Cultist simulator is a game about starting your own cult, gathering lore and occult treasures, avoiding agents of the Suppression Bureau, summoning monsters and maybe ascending to immortality. Sounds fun, right?

Well, the first time I played, I was a menial laborer at a hospital who gets laid off. I had one scrap of occult knowledge which kept giving me cosmic Dread. I got a new job as an accountant, but my boss kept making me work overtime for no extra money. What tiny money I made was sucked up by illness and buying random books of lore. I died of existential dread.

At no point did I come close to doing anything magical. I was too busy trying to survive. The game has no tutorial and very little in-game help. The lore itself is based on an entirely new mythology created for the game, so any of your own experiences with occult stuff in the real world is useless here. Every part of this game is a damn mystery. It is extremely frustrating.

Yet, I kept trying. On my third play-through, I was  given the option of playing a wealthy heir.  No longer worried about starving to death or unreasonable bosses, I had some room to experiment. I still had the same “oh shit, I better figure this out quick” mentality from my past games which gave me the discipline to experiment with purpose.

Things started to come together. The lore and mythology made a little more sense. I learned to deal with existential dread. I discovered how to make friends. The game was still mysterious but step by step, I slowly began to make sense of it. Small achievements in retrospect were huge accomplishments at the moment because it was something hard won and bitterly learned.

Which is kind of what dealing with the occult in real life is like. Well played, Cultist Simulator, you have recreated the “What the fuck is all this?” that I felt from the first time I started reading about magic.

On that third game, I ascended to immortality. It wasn’t easy but it was fun. I’m on my fifth game and even though I know a lot more, it is still a fun and exciting challenge.

Part of what makes it so much fun is that mythology I mentioned. The designer created his own gods, magic system and secret histories. You learn tantalizing tidbits from the books your character reads. Piece by piece, the world comes into focus, but the order in which you get the pieces is random.

For example, the book, “the Locksmith’s Dreams, Volume One” reads like this.

The parallells in mystic dreams experienced by carpenters, masons and other artisans, and what they purport to reveal about the architecture of the world. Sometimes mordant, sometimes funny. No-one has ever explained why Galmier devoted herself to this quixotic exploration of artisans dreams.

“‘Time and again we hear of the Wood, which rises from the world’s foundation. All trees reach for light. What does the Wood reach for? Is there a difference between light and Light? I think the key to dreams of the Wood might be one of these – the one that isn’t exactly real.”

Yeah, I eat mysteries like that up.

Cultist Simulator is fun, but the thing I love most about it is that it is full of little inspirations. My brain bubbles when I play this game. Story ideas pop in my head. This is a game that simulates the experience of learning something obscure, but it also creates that fertile space where your brain is creating its own mysteries. A game like that is precious.

Nov 142018
 

Man, that midterm election was stressful! I pretty much became a nervous wreck leading up to it and even after the good news, I was in a state of anxious shock. Did Democrats really take back the House? Did the GOP only pick up a seat or two during the worse year for Democrats? I was in denial of how good we did but it eventually sank in.

I began my second draft of my Sex Gladiator story and that is going much faster than I expected. It doesn’t need as much editing as I thought, probably because the very nature of an interactive story has me frequently referring back to earlier parts and making corrections/adjustments as I see them. After a week and a half, I am at the 31% mark in my second draft. If everything goes this well, I should be ready to publish it in January.

Holidays permitting, of course. Next week I will be in Florida with family. The last week of December I will be in Seattle with friends. Weirdly, my wife thinks friends and family during the holidays should take priority over gladiators fucking other gladiators in front of a screaming audience.

Speaking of holidays, I will not be posting a Vaquel story for December. I need a tiny break from writing a short story as I wrestle this 1,773 page book.

I will be posting more reviews and hopefully semi-deep thoughts during the coming weeks and during my vacation. I have too much weird shit I want to share with you.

Nov 072018
 

Explorer’s Log: I have arrived at the star system designated The Queen Says Something Once, Why Say It Again? by Royal Astronomers. There are ten planets here. Five are gas giants, four are barren with no atmosphere and one planet, the fifth from the sun, supports life.

The biologically active planet is suspicious. There are signs of massive climate change in the last ten years. Simple organisms are in abundance, but complex life forms appear to be centered on one continent. All of the life forms appear to be compatible with each other, but there is little genetic similarities between the simple and the complex.

None of the life forms have developed technology or even simple tools, but scanners have detected a large metal structure on the inhabited continent. I will land and investigate. End Explorer’s Log.

Explorer’s Personal Log: This planet is probably someone’s personal garden. I just hope they don’t mind outsiders coming to visit. And if they do mind, I have no problem telling the Royal Navy to send a conquest ship here to teach them some manners.

Vaquel Di pushed her way through the forest. The limbs of the tress swung back and forth according to some strange biological function that she hadn’t bothered to study. Branches with giant yellow leaves slapped against her breasts, arms and hips and the thin purple spacesuit that Vaquel wore provided little protection. The glassteel helmet she wore prevented the branches from smacking her face or messing up her short pink hair. That was the only reason she hadn’t used her herbicide grenades and massacred the tress.

The forest opened into a clearing and Vaquel sighed with relief. Inside the clearing, a large metal structure squatted in the dirt. Judging by the depression in the ground and the scorched trunks, Vaquel realized it was less of a clearing and more of a landing crater for whatever the structure was.

“Hello?” Vaquel yelled. “Anyone here? Just a friendly space explorer checking out a technological anomaly on a primitive planet! Anyone?

There was no answer. Vaquel approached the structure and took out a scanner from her belt. She found a few landing struts which confirmed that this was some sort of drop pod. The scanner detected energy signatures inside along with life forms. There were no windows or even a door. She saw ports for sensors but was unable to tell what exactly they were sensing.

“What are you supposed to do?” Vaquel said out loud. “Were you supposed to spit out more inhabitants for planet? Or do you carry supplies for whomever seeded this planet? Was there a malfunction? Or are you waiting for something?”

The structure didn’t answer. Something from the trees did.

“Toom?”

It was a yellow humanoid, the same color as the leaves that filled the forest. The humanoid was short and barely came up to Vaquel’s breasts. Two large eyes on stalks peered from a round face. The creature had a round mouth and no noticeable nose. Broad shoulders supported muscular arms. It stood behind a bush in a defensive manner

“Gat?” the creature said.

“Hey there,” Vaquel said. “Aren’t you a cute little thing! Is this pod yours?”

“Toom?” the creature said.

Vaquel smirked. “Probably not,” she said, answering her own question. “You got the eyes of a beginning tool user. Fuck, you were probably seeded here along with the other animals. That’s okay. I like fucking primitives. Why don’t you come out from those trees?”

The creature stepped out from behind the bush and entered the clearing. His legs were just as thick and muscular as his arms. A large ball swung between its legs. Sticking from the ball was a small phallus. It was barely the length and girth of Vaquel’s end finger.

Vaquel sighed. “Looks like you got an unfortunate evolutionary trait there, primitive.”

“Gat?” the creature said. He approached Vaquel and stared at the swelling of her spacesuit where her breasts were.

“Vaquel,” she said, tapping her breasts.

“Vell?” the creature said, poking Vaquel’s mounds. His eyes widened as his finger sank into the swell of her breast.

“Close enough,” Vaquel said. She poked the creature’s chest. Hard muscles resisted her finger. “What are you?”

“Wharu?” the creature said.

“Okay,” Vaquel said. She poked the creature again “Wharu,” and then poked herself, “Vaquel.”

The creature poked itself, “Wharu,” and then poked Vaquel’s breast again. “Vell.”

“You’re a quick learner, Wharu,” Vaquel said. “You wouldn’t know how to get in this big thing here, would you?”

“Toom?” Wharu said.

“Yeah, you probably don’t.” Vaquel said. She turned around to face the structure. “Maybe I can generate a key signal to open a hatch.”

Wharu walked around to face her. He poked one of her breasts and then the other. Using both hands, he alternated between breasts to poke.

“I’m trying to work here, Wharu,” Vaquel said. “I mean, I don’t blame you. Almost everything in the galaxy loves my breasts. Here, have a good look so you can satisfy your curiosity.”

Vaquel pressed a button on her belt. A seam appeared in the purple spacesuit between her large mounds. She pulled on the seam and both of her large brown breasts popped free.

“Batoom!” Wharu said. He recoiled almost in fear but his eye stalks stayed focused on her breasts.

“That’s a new word,” Vaquel said. “Don’t be afraid. Go ahead and touch them.”

Vaquel took Wharu’s hand and placed it against her breast. She closed his fingers around her soft flesh. Wharu resisted but soon he squeezed on his own. As he squeezed, his eye stalks shook with excitement.

Batooooom,” Wharu sighed.

Wharu moved his hand and examined the black nipple on her breast. He gave it a poke, and then pinched it. When Vaquel shuddered, Wharu’s eye stalks weaved in the air.

“Toom?” he asked.

“Yeah, that was nice,” Vaquel said. “But look, I really do need to work and that is hard with you standing in front of me. How about we try this?”

Vaquel took Wharu by the shoulders and repositioned him. She had him face the drop pod and then she stood in front of him, facing the drop pod as well. Reaching down, she took his hand and brought it around to her chest. As soon as she squeezed her breast, Wharu wrapped his other arm around her to do the same.

“There you go, have fun,” Vaquel said. Her breasts now cupped by the primitive, Vaquel examined her scanner and toyed with a few key signatures.

“Batoooom,” Wharu said behind her. His eyes stalks extended so he could look over her shoulders and down at her large brown mounds. He ran his hands over her breasts and gave them playful squeezes. When they jiggled in his grip, he made excited yipping sounds.

“Everyone loves breasts,” Vaquel whispered. As nice as the primitive’s hands felt, Vaquel’s attention was on her scanner. There were faint signals in the neta class of frequencies. Maybe one of them was a responder.

Wharu shook Vaquel’s breasts with increasing speed. The brown mountains quaked in his hands. He slapped the breasts together and yipped at the slapping sound they made. Sometimes he lifted their breasts and let them fall, as if mesmerized by the effect that gravity had on them.

Something poked the back of Vaquel’s thigh. It felt like a stylus for one of her consoles. Was it a fly? No, wait, it was the primitive’s penis.

Vaquel sighed and went back to work. That was a real shame about Wharu’s organ. Maybe later, she will wrap a finger around it and give it a pity-tug. For now though, there was increased transmissions on the neta-band, but there was also activity on the yeta-band as well. Maybe the key signal was a combination of the two.

Wharu’s fingers concentrated around her nipples. His fingers rubbed in tight circles that was quite pleasing. Rubbing turned into pinching and pinching turned into twisting.

A shudder ran through Vaquel’s body. The twisting reached delicious levels of discomfort when another idea occurred to her. She adjusted the scanner to transmit a key sequence using alternating neta-band and veta-band frequencies.

KOOSH! A crack appeared on the side of the drop pod. Air hissed out and motors whined as a wall section lowered slowly to the ground to form a ramp inside the pod.

Wharu jumped but his hands clung to Vaquel’s breasts. The frightened primitive whimpered behind her. His powerful hands crushed her sensitive tits.

“Relax, Wharu,” Vaquel said. “We got this sucker open. Let’s go see what’s inside. Maybe we can find out where you and your fellow life forms come from.”

Vaquel took a step forward but Wharu’s strong hands on her breasts stopped her. She gently pried one hand from her tit. As soon as she let go, the hand slapped back onto her breast. His fingers trembled in fear.

“Okay, let’s try this,” Vaquel said. She pressed a button on her belt. The area of her spacesuit that covered her buttocks parted. As she held down the button, the hole widened until the brown curves of her ass were revealed.

Vaquel peeled one of Waru’s hands off her tit and then guided his hand down to her ass. His fingers sunk into her firm round buttock. He must have liked it because he kept his hand there. Vaquel did the same with his other hand.

“Okay, let’s go exploring,” Vaquel said. She took a step forward and Wharu followed, his hands holding onto her ass for comfort and reassurance.

Lights flickered to life inside the drop pod. Vaquel ascended the ramp and was relieved to see that the ceiling was quite high. Whomever designed it did not have Wharu’s height in mind. Thee was plenty of room to walk around.

Glass compartments filled with yellow bodies lined the walls. The bodies were similar to Wharu except for the slits between their legs and slightly more developed mammaries. They all appeared to be asleep or in a state of stasis. Vaquel counted twenty in all.

“I think I found the rest of your species, Wharu,” Vaquel said. “Their tits are nothing to talk about, but maybe their sex can accommodate your tiny cock.”

Wharu took one hand off Vaquel’s ass and walked around her. He still had one hand on a brown buttock for comfort. He peered at a container and tapped on the window.

“Poomta?” Wharu asked.

Vaquel shrugged. “I don’t know why they haven’t come out. Let me see what the hold up is.”

The space explorer walked over to a shelf that was at knee height. A control panel displayed letters similar to Constantia. The interface was remarkably intuitive and Vaquel was able to query the status of the drop pod systems.

“All chambers are empty,” Vaquel read. “My ass. I bet there is a communications breakdown. I’ve seen it before on my ship. It only takes one sensor malfunction to throw off a sequence of actions.”

“Gat?” Wharu asked.

“Oh right, you’re a primitive who thinks a stick is science fiction,” Vaquel said.

Vaquel bent down to look at interface shelf. There was a maintenance panel underneath. A slight push caused the panel to open. Inside was a mess of disconnected cables, open ports and the withered remains of a small rodent.

“I think I found the problem,” Vaquel said and she tossed the rodent corpse out. “Let’s see what happens when I plug this shit back in.”

The angle was awkward from a squatting position, and even more awkward with Wharu holding onto a buttock. She pried the primitive’s hand from her ass and Wharu whimpered. Even when she turned around and laid on her back, Wharu tried to slide his hand between the floor and her ass to grab another handful.

“Let’s give you something else to touch,” Vaquel said. She pressed another button on her belt. This time a seam opened over her crotch She pulled the fabric apart to reveal the pink hair of her pubic bush. Moist brown lips glistened underneath.

That got Wharu’s attention. He squatted down between her legs and poked her pubic mound. His finger sunk through her pink hair, onto her lip and then between her lips. When he felt the wet heat inside, he quickly yanked his finger back.

“Vuw!” he yipped.

Vaquel took his moist finger and brought it to her lips. She stuck her tongue out and give his finger a long lick. When her mouth closed, she licked her lips and gave him an exaggerated smile.

“See? Yummy!” Vaquel said. “You try.”

Vaquel pulled gently on Wharu’s head. The excited creature bent down between Vaquel’s thighs. He eagerly pressed his lips to her sex and then his tongue took a tentative lick.

The primitive shuddered. His eye stalks vibrated, and the pupils dilated. “Poomta-vu!” he cried. He took another lick and then another.

“That should keep you busy,” Vaquel said. She pulled the top half of her body into the maintenance space while her hips and legs remained outside. The internal lights gave her plenty to work with. She started to match cables to ports according to color.

Wharu nuzzled Vaquel’s pussy. He rubbed his face along the damp curls of her pubic bush. His lips nibbled her pussy while his tongue lapped at her juices. The more he tasted of Vaquel, the faster his tongue moved.

“Whoa!” Vaquel moaned and nearly dropped a cable. “You learn quick!”

Wharu grunted in response. His lips pressed harder against Vaquel’s sex. The nimble tongue stretched and widened as it licks the walls of her pussy.

“Fuck!” Vaquel cried out. Maybe she had underestimated the primitive’s body. His cock was disappointing, but his tongue was adaptable. The tongue reached depths that few biologicals ever could.

Vaquel tried to focus on the cables in front of her as Wharu licked her. There were a bunch of white cables but their input heads were four different shapes while the remaining ports appeared to be too big for any of them. There was something she was missing, but it was hard to figure it out with a tongue flicking inside of her.

If Wharu was aware of Vaquel’s troubles, he showed no signs. He grinded his face up and down the lips of Vaquel’s pussy. His tongue was a thick snake inside of her, wiggling and thrusting as it pulled more of her sweet juices into his mouth. He made happy slurping sounds between her brown thighs.

Vaquel writhed beneath Wharu’s mouth. She stared up at the cables and ports, not really seeing them as the primitive’s thick tongue fucked her pussy. A glimmer of an idea about the cables would form in her head, only to be snuffed out by the next sensation between her thighs.

Wharu grunted into her sex. He reached into the maintenance space and grabbed her round breasts with his powerful hands. His fingers squeezed tightly, holding onto her tits while his lips and tongue fucked her.

“Oh fuck,” Vaquel groaned. She felt her orgasm coming. Her hands went to Wharu’s head and pressed him tighter to her pussy.

There was no need for Wharu was going nowhere. He held onto her brown mountains and thrusted with his tongue. The thick appendage delved deep into Vaquel’s sex, then pulled back into Wharu’s mouth to swallow her juices and then plunged back in. Growling with desire, his tongue fucked her endlessly.

“Glory to the Queen!” Vaquel cried. Her orgasm exploded like a plasma grenade between her thighs.

Wharu kept licking.

Vaquel moaned. She wanted to savor her climax but Wharu’s relentless tongue was too good to stop. She laid limp on the floor of the drop pod and let the primitive enjoy himself.

High on pleasure, Vaquel stared up at the empty ports. An idea formed as Wharu kept licking. She took two of the cables and tried to plug them in, side by side, into a large port.

They fit perfectly.

Machines hummed inside the drop pod. Wharu was startled and pulled away from Vaquel’s sex. Vaquel slid out from inside the maintenance panel and pulled herself up on unsteady knees.

The control panel relayed a stream of information in Constantia. “Malfunctions detected. Awakening Process Interrupted. Launching Repair Drones.”

“I think that did it, Wharu,” Vaquel said. “Looks like you are going to get some new friends.”

“Poomta!” Wharu yelled. He jumped up and down on three legs.

Wait, three legs? Vaquel studied her alien friend. The tiny proboscis of a phallus had lengthened considerably since the last time she saw it. The massive organ now stretched down to his knee. It was also much thicker, almost as thick as one of Vaquel’s wrists.

“Queen’s tit,” Vaquel said in awe. “You turned out to be a grower.” It must be a result of licking her pussy.

Wharu ignored Vaquel and pawed at a glass compartment. Inside, the female primitive began to stir as her chamber was filled with blue gases.

Vaquel licked her lips. Soon, Wharu would have his own kind to fuck. It didn’t seem fair that only got to experience his mouth.

“Hey, Wharu,” Vaquel said. “I want to show you something.”

Vaquel bent over the display shelf. She presented her brown ass towards the yellow alien. Spreading her legs, she slid her fingers up and down her pussy lips.

Wharu turned away from the hibernation chambers. He came over to Vaquel and sniffed the air. When he tried to bend over to lick her pussy, Vaquel stopped him.

“No, no, use that!” Vaquel said, pointing to his enormous cock.

“Toom?” Vaquel said.

“Queen’s tit, it looks like your education isn’t over,” Vaquel said. She reached around and grabbed his cock. It twisted in her grasp. Pulling gently, she placed the head of his phallus to her sex lips and pushed it in.

“Poomta-vu!” Wharu cried. He grabbed her thighs with his powerful hands and pushed with his hips. In one strong thrust, he pushed the entire length of his cock inside Vaquel.

“Fuck!” Vaqeul said. Her body shuddered as the thick phallus filled her. She slammed her hand down on the control panel and then winced as a display window cracked. Oh well, it seemed to still be working.

“Hu, hu, hu,” Wharu moaned. He stood behind her and his fingers dug into her thighs.
“Well, fuck me, Wharu!” Vaquel said. “Do I have to show you how to do that too?” She pushed back against him and then slid forward. When he didn’t do anything, she tried repeating the motion.

Wharu grunted and then his cock twisted one-hundred and eighty degrees inside Vaquel. As she cried out, his cock twisted back into position and then kept gong another one hundred and eighty degrees. Throughout the twisting, Wharu stayed where he was, pressed tightly against Vaquel’s bottom.

Vaquel groaned and relished the sensations. Wharu’s strange cock twisted one way and then the other. Her sex clenched tightly around the thick phallus, enjoying the feeling of his organ drilling inside of her.

Wharu leaned forward with his long arms. Both hands cupped Vaquel’s brown tits. With unerring accuracy, he trapped her nipples between his fingers. Her nipples were pinched as he squeezed her heavy breasts.

“Fuck!” Vaquel cried as the thick cock twisted and spun and inside her. Natural instincts took over and she humped the shifted phallus. Her body undulated from Wharu’s grip on her tits down to her buttocks against his crotch. She reached down between her thighs and played with her clit as the weird cock rotated in her pussy.

“Hu, hu, hu,” Wharu grunted. His cock pulsed with increasing frequency. The head of his phallus widened.

Things were beginning to get too tight inside Vaquel but she refused to stop. She humped faster. She clenched tighter around the twisting manhood. She pinched her clitoris.

“Huta!” Wharu cried and then his cock vibrated. A rush of hot liquid filled Vaquel’s sex. It was like a bucket of seed had been ejected into her pussy all at once.

“Glory to the Queen!” Vaquel cried. The sudden rush of hot seed sent her over the edge. Her climax curled her toes and clenched her eyes shut.

Vaquel was still shaking when Wharu pulled out of her. She looked over her shoulder as the yellow primitive. His giant erection was gone and, in its place,, was an empty tube that hung down to his legs. It looked like an empty sausage wrapper.

“Queen’s tit, “Vaquel swore. “Your cock was ninety-nine percent semen. No wonder so much of it is running down my legs.”

A bell rang. Twenty chambers suddenly opened and twenty yellow primitive women stumbled out. Their eyes stalks were dazed and looking in opposite directions.

“Toom!” Wharu whispered, looking at twenty females of his species. His limp phallus began to fill again.

Vaquel looked at the control panel that she was still leaning on. “Awakening completed. Self-disintegration has now started!”

“Oh shit,” Vaquel said. “Wharu, we go to get out of here?”

“Gat?” Wharu said. He was poking the breast of a female. She was poking his hardening cock.

A klaxon blared. It was incredibly loud and hurt Vaquel’s ears. Red lights flashed and the entire drop pod began to shake.

Wharu screamed. So did the others of his species. As a hard, they stampeded out of the drop pod.

Vaquel snorted. “Don’t worry about me!” she shouted at the fleeing primitives. She straightened up and winced from the strange screwing she had received. Trying to rush and failing, Vaquel descended the ramp and walked a few more steps before collapsing into the soft grass.

She was alone. The yellow primitives had run into the clearing and kept going. They disappeared into the trees in a panic.

The drop pod shimmered. A dozen disintegration fields activated. Vaquel watched the pretty colors flare and then fade away, leaving nothing but a crater where the drop pod had been.

“You can come back, now!” Vaquel yelled.

There was no answer

Vaquel laughed. “Oh, I see how it is. You got a bunch of women to fuck, Wharu. You have a whole species to start. Shit, who knows what they got for your twisty cock between their legs. Go knock yourselves out. I mean, I just helped you guys get started, it’s not like I expect a reward or anything.”

Seed oozed from her sex. Vaquel placed her hand on her pussy lips and trembled. She was still sensitive from the licking and fucking he gave her.

“Okay, I guess you did give me a reward after all,” Vaquel admitted.

One hundred years later,

Whatunna the High-Priestess stood before her people. A hush fell over the crowd. Every eye-stalk was turned to her.

“Bring forth the Lonely One!” she cried.

The crowd parted and a man came forward. The muscles on his arms were thick from living alone. His manhood twisted with need between his legs.

The Lonely One knelt in front of the High-Priestess. He pressed his mouth to her sex and the High-Priestess moaned. The crowd stomped the ground un unison, filling the village with a clap of thunder.

“On this day, we remember the Goddess, The Twin Mountains That Walked!” the High-Priestess announced. “For she found the First Man, and she saw that he was lonely! So she took him to the Garden of Vell and there, he found the First Mothers!”

The crowd stomped the ground again.

“But behold, the First Man did not know what to do with the First Mothers! The Twin Mountains That Walked showed him the way, by hand, by tongue and by cock!”

The crowd stomped the ground again.

The High-Priestess shuddered as the Lonely One licked a sensitive spot. “And once the First Man knew what to do, The Twin Mountains That Walked released the First Mothers from the Garden of Vell. They went into the forest where the First Man taught them what he had learned!”

The crowd stomped the ground, a little too quickly.

“And so on this day, we celebrate The Twin Mountains That Walked in the way that she demands!”

The villagers stomped the ground one last time before mounting each other in an orgy that will last the night.

Oct 312018
 

Haunting on Hill House is a tight ten episode series on Netflix about a doomed family who once lived in a very doomed house. The series is split between the past, when the family used to live in the haunted house, and the present, where the surviving members of the family try to deal with the PTSD of their experiences. They are pretty haunted.

Haunted house stories follow a set pattern. There is the naive family who has no idea what is going on, followed by creepy incidents until everyone realizes they are haunted, which usually leads to some investigations into the history of the house and ends with the collective decision to somehow fight the ghosts. The flashback style of the show short-circuits most of that. There never is an investigation phase for one thing.  For most of the series, half the characters never realize there are ghosts. There is still a fight with ghosts at the end, but the rest of the series breaks all the usual patterns to present a unique kind of ghost story.

Well, maybe not that unique. The director, Mike Flanagan, got his start with Absentia. If you ever saw that soul crusher of a movie, then you are moderately prepared for Haunting of Hill House.  See, there might be supernatural weirdness and ghosts in both stories but the real horror is grief and how we deal with it. Flanagan uses Hill House to tell the story of each family member dealing with the death of the beloved mother. One resorts to drugs, one uses major denial and fictionalizing the events, one uses meaningless relationships, one turns to controlling her life and family and the other, well, the other is still dealing with a ghost that keeps harassing her at the worse moments of her life, but you get the idea.

But I don’t want to give you the feeling that this is all sorrow and woe. There is a lot of really creepy ghost shit. There is not a single jump scare as it uses slowly creeping dread to make sure you are afraid to walk down a dark hallway alone.

There is also a lot of strength. These characters have gone through Hell, and those who fight are some of the most inspiring characters you will see in a ghost story. Once you understand how truly fucked these characters are, every triumph they accomplish is just that much more amazing.

I can safely say that Haunting of Hill House has been the highlight of this October. Creepy, smart and infused with real emotion, it is all the best that horror can be.

Oct 292018
 

Last week I finished the first draft of my Alien Sex Gladiator interactive novel. I started it in December, thinking it would only take until June to write it. At 559K words and 1776 pages later, I see I grossly underestimated how big this thing will be. Oops.

Did I mention that it is just a first draft? That means I need to edit the sucker. There is a saying that by the time you finish something, you get a lot better at doing it. That means you have a higher skill level than when you started, which means the early parts of the book probably need to be upgraded to the same quality as the rest of it.

This might be the biggest project I have worked on. I have been in the protagonist’s head for nearly a year. He is a simple brute with occasional random acts of empathy, but not many. He is a jock, which is something I never really relate to. It has been weird. He feels like a fictional cousin, someone I think I know well but is still an alien to me.

Editing is for next month. I have three days left of October and I am taking them for me. I am going to cram some spookiness before I have to go bck to the alien gladiator arena. To that end, I will watch the Witch, maybe the Craft and probably Sabrina. I need to walk in shadow and dance in moonlight before returning to the hot sands of the arena.

Oct 232018
 

Halloween is a strange franchise. The first movie is arguably the greatest slasher movie of all time. The sequels however, are among some of the worse in movie franchise history. There have been attempts to recreate the magic of the first movie by bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis a few times, but rarely do those movies work. Rob Zombie tried rebooting the franchise in typical Rob Zombie style, to debatable success. Now we have Halloween 2018, a movie which is a direct sequel to the first and ignores 40 years of sequel history.

To my great delight, it works. I would say this movie is as good as the original, which is something I never thought I would be saying. Maybe it is John Carpenter’s new music which makes the movie feel so sinister, or maybe it is Jamie Lee Curtis’s involvement as a producer which gets the important parts right, but whatever the reason, the movie is fun, scary and chilling.

One element that worked for me is Jamie Lee’s character of Laurie. Ever since Terminator 2, we as audiences have been taught that if a woman survives a killer than she transforms into a bad ass in later movies. That’s cool and I am all for it, in this movie, Laurie comes across as a bad ass AND someone deeply traumatized by what she went through. Sure, she shoots guns, trains in fighting and has a secret bunker but she also has shaking fits when she sees Michael and breaks into tears during confrontations. Every cool thing she does to fight back is made ten times more impressive by the fact that you know Laurie is scared shitless doing it. That’s a powerful detail that resonates with me, and is true of most trauma survivors I know in real life.

Another element I enjoyed was the obsession some characters had with finding out what makes Michael Myers tick. These characters are fixated on the fact Michael has never spoken or explained his actions. They pester Michael and other characters to provide clues for Michael’s psyche, as if there can be some great rational theory that explains everything. This quest for answers is a human thing to do, but it is also a movie audience thing to do, as the audience craves anwsers. Studios crave anwsers too, which is why we get reboots with extended scenes about Michael’s childhood.

But the theme of Halloween almost anti-intellectual. Laurie, the heroine, and the late Dr. Loomis, the therapist who knew Michael best, simply state that there is no understanding of Michael because he is pure evil. It is a the opposite of everything we are taught in a world that puts psychological forensic science on a pedestal.  It is also against out forgiving nature to think that every bad person has a reason. The idea that some people are just monsters is too frightening to comprehend. The movie even takes time to wipe out the theories put in past movies that Laurie is related to Michael. They want to make it clear that Michael has no reason, rational or irrational, for hunting Laurie.

As for the rest of the movie, I really enjoyed it. Michael, who is really just a bastard in a mask, is terrifyingly efficient in this movie. He is like a shark that finds a deadly object, then finds someone to use that object on, and then looks for a new toy and a new victim. Rinse, wash, repeat. Sometimes he mutilates the bodies and poses them in Halloween theme displays. Why? Who the fucks knows.

So you should go out and watch the movie in theaters while you can. After you do so, be sure to pick up the soundtrack so you can never rest easy in your house again.

Oct 172018
 

Cthulhu City is a tabletop role-playing game about a mysterious city that sits on the east coast. The city doesn’t appear on any maps. The city isn’t in any history books. The city can be hard to find until one terrible night, you find yourself in the city and now find it impossible to leave. The city is called Great Arkham, but you will know it as Hell on Earth.

I feel like there are as many Call of Cthulhu inspired games as there are Great Old Ones in the stars. Some are Suck, many are Okay and others are even Quite Good. The Gumshoe line of games from Pelgrane Press aspire to be more than just Quite Good and transcend into Art. Cthulhu city is no different.

It takes Lovecraft’s original bunch of small haunted towns and asks what would happen to those small towns if they got absorbed into one terrible city like New York or Chicago? Innsmouth, for example, is no longer a small fishing town but the name of the neighborhood that has the docks. It applies this kind of logic to places like Dunwich and Kingsport; transforming familiar places into really neat evolutions.

A normal writer would have stopped there and called it a day but Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan goes further. He makes the city truly alien and sinister with little touches like the giant basalt buildings that clearly predate human civilization but stand alongside skyscrapers and no one finds that weird. There is the mysterious Transport Police, who technically exist to keep people with infectious diseases from coming into the city, but the buildings they spray down with their “disinfectants” tend to melt the next day. Or what about the Church of the Conciliator, who is the dominate religion in the city, that teaches that Christ did not ressurect, but instead is dying and yet dreaming of a time when humanity will be merged with the Will of the Divine?

There is a mystery in Chtulhu city and one of the brilliant innovations of this game is that it is up to the gamemaster to decide what that mystery is. Does Great Arkham exist in other dimension? is it a shared hallucination? Some terrible result of a world-bending spell? The gamemaster decides, and the players investigate. To help you, the book provides three to four versions of EVERY non-player character, so you can decide, per campaign, if wise Dr. Armitage is a rebel hero, secret traitor or something far worse.

The game is contained in one nice beautiful tome. It took me about three months to read it all because I had to digest it in bits and pieces. Even though I don’t have a gaming group at the moment, the book is a wonderful source of inspiration for all things great and creepy. I recommend it to any Lovecraft fan and hold it up as an example of how to improve on Lovecraft’s original work.

 

Oct 122018
 

Z Nation is a zombie apocalypse show on the SyFy channel. I am personally sick of all things zombies, but Z Nation is in its 5th season and I keep coming back to it. Why?

My pitch for Z Nation is imagine Walking Dead if it was fun. It is created by the same studio that makes Sharknado but the show never hits that level of campy stupudity. Instead, it opts for the kind of wild hijinks you except in a tabletop role-playing game where people have a loose grasp on biology and physics. yes, early on there is a tornado with zombies in it but later there is a guy who collects zombies of famous dead people. There was a wonderful group of survivors who were trapped at a team-building exercise and now can only communicate through the talking stick. There types of zombies that range from plant monsters to zombie bears. This show has imagination.

The other reason for watching Z Nation is that they have a black woman, named Warren, who is their leader and resident bad-ass. It is refreshing to see a black woman in charge in a genre show. Warren has so many great moments over five seasons that she is one of my favorite action heroines in any show.

The other great character is Murphy. He is a prisoner who received an experimental dose of zombie cure in the early days of the apocalypse. After surviving twenty zombies bites, Murphy becomes the most important man in America and now the heroes need to transport him to a lab on the other side of the country.

There are other great characters like Doc the aging hippie, 10K the not-psychotic sniper, Addy the tomboy who’s good with gadgets and others. People come and go in this series like any zombie show, but these characters all have meaningful moments and die much more heroic deaths. No one gets their brains bashed in on the side of the road by a nutjob with a bat.

So yeah, if you are burned out on zombies, or burned out on sad people hacking parts off of each other, give Z Nation a try.

Oct 102018
 

Phantasm 2 opens with a young woman talking about the dreams she is having. Because this is the 80’s and the woman is blonde, she has psychic abilities. Her dreams recap the events of of the first Phantasm and adds the helpful bit of info that the main villain, the Tall Man, is coming for her.

We cut to the last few minutes of the first movie where Mike gets pulled through a mirror in his bedroom. never fear, because Reggie, the middle-age balding icer cream vendor is there to save him! Well, not so much as Reggie gets trapped in the kitchen with an empty shotgun and surrounded by the Jawas of the first movie. Reggie solves this problem by turning on the gas on his oven real high, grabbing Mike and then jumping out the window as his house explodes in fireball. Wow!

Except none of that happened. We see Mike, all grown up and looking sour in an insane asylum. See, he imagined all of that. Whoa, something happened and then it turned out to not be real? You just got Phantasm’d!

Anyhoo, Mike gets released from the asylum by pretending to be sane and the first thing the kid does is dig up the local cemetery. Turns out there are no bodies in those graves, which even Reggie thinks is suspicious. Reggie still isn’t sure about Mike and his psychic visions until Mike has a vision of their house exploding with all of their family. Two seconds later, the house explodes and kills all of their family. Well, Reggie is on board now. It is time to go hunting a Tall Man, his Jawas and his killer flying spheres.

After the dreamlike quality of the first movie, the sequel is pretty straightforward. Mike and Reggie go from town to town, following the Tall Man’s trail. They load up on weapons and make a few of their own because that is what you did in the 80’s. Just ask McGyver and the A-Team. They run into a few traps before finally finding psychic girl from the beginning of the movie. when she gets kidnapped, they launch an attack on the Tall Man’s new funeral home, which is just as deadly as the first one. Things blow up and damsels are narrowly saved.

You could argue that this movie is more of an action movie rather than the horror movie that the first one was. There are a lot of fight scenes and close calls. This movie had the biggest budget of any of the Phantasm movies at a whopping three million dollars and it shows in the bigger explosions and stunts. This movie hads a mythology of the Tall man slowly killing small towns across America and you can tell the studio really wanted to make this into a franchise.

There are still some creepy moments though. The shots of abandoned small towns are unsettling. The Tall Man has some human henchmen, called Gravers, that are never explained. Their wiliness to participate in these atrocities heightens the malice. The Jawas are still almost laughable except for one or two scenes that remind you that they are reanimated corpses.

The small budget means there is a lack of even background actors, which gives the movie a desolate feel,. Every set looks empty because there are at most four characters in any scene. I know if this was deliberate, but it reinforces the idea that America is slowing dying off. It also the closest the movie gets to feeling like a nightmare.

All in all, this feels like the dumber bigger brother to the classic of the first movie, but still a lot of fun to watch. Reggie is the only guy in horror who looks like a regular joe and that means a lot.

As for the Tall Man, he’s still a creepy mother-fucker.

 

 

 

Oct 082018
 

RAINN (Rape, Assualt, Incest National Network) does a lot of good work and it is a good place to start if you need someone to talk to or resources to look up.

1in6 is a group dedicated to the issue of male victims of sexual assault.

Selhelpline is dedicated to victims in the military.

Remember that you are believed. You are loved. Remember that we will get through this.

 

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