The Account of a Lifetime

January 11, 2014

Demon the Fifth: If you’ll let me be Eleftheria

Though my name is strictly Francis (coupled to my middle name, Thomas, my chosen-by-myself confirmation name, George, and my family names, Loch and O’Hanlon), I’ve been known all my life ‘out there in the real world’ by one name alone: Frank.

Sure, there’s sometimes variations on it, Frankie, most usually, but Frank is where it’s usually centred for me. (Xisor, on the otherhand, is fairly well known and persistent in online use. Though for a while there I was also meeting people who’d only known me online via the conversation “Are you ‘Frank’ from TheSinner?”, which amused me a lot. Apparently I speak exactly like I write.)

Anyhow, the point here is Frank. The phrases you’ll know, ‘Frankly,…’ and ‘If you’ll let me be frank…’ typically come coupled to honesty. But it’s not really honesty that the word and name resonates with, for me. Rather: free.

I understand that derives from the medieval Latin francus, being ‘free’ or perhaps ‘free from obligation’.

And that’s kinda what I wanted to discuss. It’s a concept that’s plagued me for a while, that’s always left me feeling a little isolated and a bit resentful, but nevertheless also empowered and whole. It’s a concept that stands up to inspection as its own thing, a blessing and a curse both. A demon, if you will; at least in the style of this series. I shall begin… (more…)

February 20, 2013

Those Special Chapters

Good evening scamps!

A discussion over on The Bolthole’s Shoutbox earlier this afternoon had me thinking (and splurging across the discussion with mentions) of my favourite chapters from books I’ve read over the years.

Perhaps not so uniquely, I’ve grown up with a trio of particularly special book series, books which I think speak to much of the cultural Zeitgeist of modernity, to speak floridly (or horridly). Basically fantasy, arguably mainly children’s literature but certainly adored by many.

The three series I refer to are, of course, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Harry Potter by JK Rowling and the more ancient The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.

Of course, there’s a great many other books out there than the three to which I’m referring (and one of those is so vague in my mind I’m feeling compelled to revisit it – perhaps due to lacklustre performance of its cinema edition!), so I thought I’d ask myself (and anyone reading):

Of all the books you’ve read, which specific chapters have stayed with you, vivid and perhaps lodged into your mind? Which just don’t seem to go away, or are always evoked at even the slightest reminder?

Though I forget the naming and specifics of the bit I’m trying to articulate for His Dark Materials, my mind still feels rather sharp when it comes to the other two. So, without further ado…

Shelob’s Lair & The Choices of Master Samwise

Agonising. Perhaps not so terrifying-scary as it’s made to appear in the film, but the stress and agony of Gollum, the sheer loyalty and bravery of Sam are near overwhelming. Though other scenes and moments in the series are perhaps more enchanting or singularly memorable, I can’t overstate how much I feel this duo of chapters totally and, almost entirely, encapsulates the whole saga. (more…)

January 9, 2013

Demon the Fourth: The Extinction Tower

This evening, I was most intrigued to read this thread over on the Bolthole. Directly, it links to Steve Vernon’s Advice for dealing with a bad review in the context of an author.

The Bolthole, being a place for would-be and fledgling write-y types to congregate and share their enthusiasm, to draw on one another for input, feedback, advice, criticism etc… well, we naturally would be inclined to sympathise. For the bulk of the Bolthole, that basically amounts to ‘imagining the completed, released story’, not really much of a leap of imagination: compared to myself, the vast bulk of folks are actually likely to be published. Some of them have a tremendous output even as amateurs. Wacky, hare-brained or embarrassing fan-fiction isn’t really something that’s to be found in the community.

Nevertheless, always one to see a different (and perhaps non-existent) angle to a conversation, I was reminded rather strongly and in quick-succession of a few thoughts and ‘bad reviews’ I’d had myself. Obviously, they’re not bad reviews: I’ve barely created anything, except any vaguely original thought that’s escaped my mouth – which I doubt there are many of.


August 27, 2012

Sceptic, Cynic, Stoic: Atheism+

I’ve been away this last week. I had some little opportunities to do some travelling and hobnobbing, so I seized them.

In the middle of the last week, I took the opportunity to spend a day out with many ol’ friends in Edinburgh. We dallied at the festival, perused some shows, drank coffee & tea, visited bookshops and all that jazz. Oh, we laughed. How we laughed!

This weekend, I was treated to an excursion to Glasgow to visit the big ‘Collectormania‘ event. There were hi-jinx and escapades and so forth, but largely it was an extremely enjoyable time to just geek out. That is: indulge in geekery, chat writing, chat TV, chat sci-fi and fantasy, to speculate and remember, to indulge and be inspired. It was an extremely enjoyable weekend!

However, perhaps the most endearing outlook of the entire weekend (excepting the acquisition of some lovely new [err, old] Star Trek books, including a long-desired copy of Robinson’s A Stitch In Time) was a brief conversation with an old friend which eventually hit towards the topic of Atheism+ which is broadly dealt with in Jen McCreight’s BlagHag blog posts ( Conception, Definition, Clarification 1, Declaration, Clarification 2, Greta’s Nuances). Suffice to say, it’s enlightening. Perhaps a tad more than that. It bears something of a story. Gather round, sit down, get comfortable. Everyone has tea? I shall begin…


June 20, 2012

Traitors & the Ruinous Powers

Filed under: Books & Media,Cogitations,Horus Heresy — xisor @ 7:56 pm

Rahzbad, in light of The Butcher’s Nails opened this little thought which precipitated a bit of speculation and thought on my part.

“Revealing no spoilers in the event that others have not listened, how much do you think the Traitor Legions/Primarchs know about their new found warp allies?” – Rahzbad

My response is thus to run through them in this regard:

Varying Knowledge

Angron & World Eaters:
I think he knows very little, I can’t imagine his legion are well clued up. But could they be fast learners? I think that might be a safe bet. It’s, of course, not necessarily the case. We know Angron’s getting a bit more canny and a bit more focussed, how much of his slide to Khorne is to be predestination, how much is self-determination and how much is… coercion by his brothers?

Mortarion & Death Guard:
Mortarion himself, probably very little. He may suspect a lot and become increasingly anxious/heel-dragging. We know, by contrast, that Typhon is reasonably ‘front line’ in his dabblings and devotions. Quite where the rest of the Legion sit is unclear – it could be a rather Night Haunter-style situation wherein the boss is the last one to ‘properly’ turn bad. (Excluding, of course, Herr Garro & Co.)

Alpharius & the Alpha Legion:
I think they know a fair bit more, but it’s tentative and their knowledge is always filtered through the prism of, in my esteem, Ch7 of Legion – they care only for one singular end: Humanity’s survival. That’s what they optimise against, perhaps in different directions and attempting different angles of attack (e.g. the whole are they traitors? are they loyalists? How could we tell?), so they’re likely learning much of their allies with a mind to slowing the decline of the species.

On the otherhand, they’re also likely to be happy enough (err, happier?) to set it aside when they realise they’re in too deep. In Inquisitorial terms, they’re radicals, at very least. Framing their knowledge that way seems fairly sensible.

Magnus & Thousand Sons:
I think he surely knows a hell of a lot. Especially after Prospero and his chat with Lorgar in Aurelian. That said, he’s also not necessarily fully invested in the Heresy itself. He’s got a schism going on within his legion with Ahriman and, indeed, it’s noted that at least by Battle of the Fang-era, his sorcerers are actually a bit rubbish/unambitious compared with those who left with Ahriman.

That said, he surely still knows more. His tragedy and fall is enhanced if his awareness of exactly how almost wrong or right he was. The curse of his knowledge is that he can see the stupidity of his failures all the more clearly? With that in mind, perhaps he can see even some of the ‘untruths’ that Lorgar is being fed/making true? Moreover, it’s perhaps likely that he’s unable to communicate his insight clearly to others? Alone in an ivory tower…

Lorgar & Word Bearers:
They’re the peak, the top. Surely. Erebus and Kor Phaeron ‘know’, but they’re learning from Lorgar’s revelations. Whilst it comes ‘divinely’ to Lorgar, Erebus & Kor Phaeron (like Typhon?) have to fight for every scrap, to wrestle with reality and unreality to make sure it works. Fortunately, they’re the most faithful too, so that’s alright. Obviously, all this is perhaps coloured by things that Chaos doesn’t want its servants to know/believe in, perhaps that Magnus might have been right, just not right enough, stuff like that.

Horus & the Sons thereof:
It’s a difficult one here. On one hand I think Horus & Abaddon are surely learning intimately as they go (contrast to the opening of False Gods where they have to fight at every turn with the Imperium – they’re ‘free of their chains’ now and able to ascend to the heights they should’ve been achieving during the Crusade?). In that regard, I can see them both learning and knowing the boundaries, perhaps without such vision and support as Lorgar, or clarity as Magnus, but with a more practical and… pragmatic touch than those two bookish types? It accounts for why Horus & Abaddon would be the best ‘vassals’ or ‘figureheads’ for Chaos – they’re not too concerned with the why, but the how.

Fulgrim & the Emperor’s Children:
In a counterpoint to Magnus, I think Fulgrim likely has even more profound insight, but he’s even more distanced with how to convey it. He can impart it, reveal it, but he can’t (or rather… wouldn’t?) teach it or translate it so formally. That would account for why the Emperor’s Children do as they do at the Siege: they’ve learned enough about Chaos that they see it’s not actually about winning? That’s not what the daemons, the gods are after…

Night Haunter & the Night Lords:
I think the case for them not caring is really rather profound, and well explored in both Lord of the Night and ADB’s books, without really being touched on explicitly. Their interests are already inherently chaotic and… devolved, counterproductive, it really doesn’t matter what the details of why they do what they do, only what they do and that they do it at all? A certain nihilism or solipsism in it, but I’m sure tons can still be said on them.

Perutrabo & the Iron Warriors:
Frankly, I really don’t know. I’ve a suspicion it might be a half-way between Lorgar & Night Haunter – a ‘well what have you done for me lately?’ contract. They delve ever deeper, but at a reasonably sedate pace, always trying to get the best cost-benefit ratio out of their Dark Pacts?


 Space Marine Supremacists & the Ruinous Powers

One of the points that grabbed Rahzbad particularly was the methods used by the Space Marine side of the equation. Whilst for Lorgar, Fulgrim and Mortarion (and perhaps Horus to an extent), they have very plot-centric reasons for learning, we have the Space Marine characters themselves who drive the quest in a very Magnus-style, but aren’t hamstrung by Magnus’ fate.

That is: Ahriman (think Rubric), Erebus (think Know No Fear, Nemesis, False Gods), Kor Phaeron (think Battle for the Abyss, Know No Fear), Typhon (The Lion) and so forth.

There’s an inherently… scientific (or perhaps rigorous?) approach here. They’re not approaching it as ‘true believers’ in an oddly subservient sense, they’re ambitious, frighteningly so. They’re shackling it, and gambling with it and really fighting for every scrap they seem to be getting.

If the Emperor and Chaos are at war with one another, I think the scientific ‘competition’ for knowledge of Chaos, for insight and access to power is really quite a startling point. Is it possible that the Space Marine vassals are not really doing anything that less ambitious than the Emperor, just with less inherent skill/advantage and with relatively bigger challenges facing them?

We think we know a lot about these characters, but what do we really know about their motivations, their ambitions, their worries and the cautions they take?

January 7, 2012

Our Destiny Is In The Stars

“Our lives are important — at least to us — and as we see, so we learn… Our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it.”
– The (First) Doctor

It’s a new year and a new dawn. And all that jazz. I’m a slow reader, I wonder if it’s the eye-muscles being silly buggers. I’d been warned they’re weak, it’d be bloody annoying if my hands fall off.


October 19, 2011

Call of C’tan

Filed under: Cogitations,Visions of the future — xisor @ 9:26 pm

In discussion with LordLucan there, I noticed a good ‘description’ of my feeling on matters new-Necronomical.

I suggested that Andy Chamber’s Deus Ex Mechanicus fits neatly with the new ‘shards’ C’tan concept. Or rather, DEM informs the new shard concept in a pretty interesting way, almost as much as it would if it were republished verbatim as if it were written wholly for the new lore.

We, nowadays, have a ‘Shard’ of the Deceiver, rather than the Deceiver itself. LL notes he still thinks he runs the place. I suggest: The Deceiver’s ‘prolific’ magnificence that it claims could be backwards-interpreted as some sense of dispersed self-awareness; knowledge of what other, perhaps non-battlefield, shards are up to. And even if not, why make such claims? Because even as a minuscule shard having escaped some shackles, he’s still the Deceiver, that’s why. And strictly its true. Even if he’s a shard-slave, he can still think he *should* be the master, and thus lie about it.


October 18, 2010

Dawn of the Demiurg

Filed under: Cogitations — xisor @ 12:54 pm

I’ve been working on the Demiurg for a while now. It’s been…alot of work. But I’ve been keeping rubbish time with them.

So, here, I shall unveil the last few points I really wish to outline before they get a proper, organised update in my book (not an actual book).

The Machination

This is important to me. It will be a Vehicle for the roleplaying game, riffing on the style of the big mining thing in Into The Storm, except it’ll be transcendent. And ‘for sale’. It’s *exactly* what the Demiurg sell to planets. A great big, awesome, clanking AI that can output more than most small cities in terms of industry and processing.

The Commerce Vessels

I need to get these pinned down so that RT players have something to use as their foils. The Demiurg are impressive, high-powered and high-functioning ships. But they are, for mysterious reasons, not optimised in performance. They’re supremely powerful and yet they are…somnambulent almost in their millenia-long turns around the galaxy (and beyond?). Getting a good idea of them down in RTis crucial, in my opinion, to fully fleshing out the look of the faction.

The Exterminators

Deathwatch. The Star Trawler’s buttress is a ship which I intend to be one of the first xenos vessels noted to have actually (if illegally) used the Halo-Jericho warpgate. A perfect opportunity is here for a Deathwatch team to track and study this starship. A tiny escort-transport of not insignificant power. What lies within its holds? What’s it doing?

Given that it’s for a Deathwatch focus, I want the Star Trawler to be an immensely potent Demiurg who, for whatever reason, is travelling on a tiny ship. I want its exterminators to be legion, I want it to be potent and cunning and also more than just a little dis-interested in the actions of the Astartes. Something to really give Deathwatch players the idea that something else is going on. A something else so serious that some creatures are simply ignoring them.

The Dawn of the Demiurg

Most of all, I want the DH adventure to come together. I have a few plot-hooks obviously seeded (including one for Dead Stars which I’m very happy with). I have an idea for an Ascension-level plot that could easily transcend all three games working towards unravelling Kao-Li. But, with the central adventure, I want to see the Demiurg placed solidly into the low-scale techno-cult. A vague overture of Ateanism and Logicians will permeate this sort of thing, with distinct parallels cast akin to the Tau Empire’s methodology in the Ultima Segmentum.

But, at its core, it’s about the impressive potency of a lone Demiurg. It isn’t a ravening monster, it isn’t an unholy threat transcending reality. It’s one clever and reasonably adept alien being capable of altering the local structure of the Imperium, and possibly more.

Personally? I’m quite excited.

September 3, 2010

The Only Thing He Ever Failed

It might be news to some of you, but it certainly hasn’t sunk in for me. In one week(ish) I’ll be embarking upon the latest of my adventures. I’ll first set forth from St Andrews and the venture happily ‘back’ to Stirling, albeit this time not as a drifter.

Well, not quite.

The Failure of CS

The thing is, way back in high school, roughly eight years ago, I suppose, I sat Higher Computing. I was the only pupil in a good, 20-strong class to get an A. But there was a black mark. I got 11/20 on the AI NAB, the passmark was 12. I felt the marking scheme wasa wrong as a question gave two answers which were (IMO at the time and still to this day) are both plausible (but one, which I picked, is surely more correct than another).

In any case, I failed and I had to resit. I was a good programmer though, so I hope to complete an MSc in IT with an extracurricular avidity for AI. Who knows, could this be a rematch?

I’m quite exhilerated, in all honesty.

In other news

Really need to reconnect with folks on Sanity Lost, feel like I’ve betrayed them by being preoccupied. Baron, I-D, if you catch this are you interested in 4pm GMT onwards semiregular MSN Dark Heresy runs? Got a nice group running (as per other blog entries!), rather fun.

Also got a fair bit of reading done. Not as much as I’d like, but at least some. Too many anthologies to qualify as novels, I’m sure!

I also found £60 I’d forgotten about last night. I’m rich (ish)!

Now, lunch I think…

July 8, 2010

Spectre of the Past: Part V – 2008 & 2009

One Day 12/01/08

It’ll be January and I won’t have exams. Ah, one day…

But, today’s the day of the first exam of 2008. Complex Analysis. Been revising for it and I feel…apprehensive. I almost know most of the stuff, but there’s every chance I’ll wake up tomorrow and know none of it.

Cauchy-Riemann Equations.
Trigonometry and hyperbolic trigonometry.
Buckets of trigonometric tricks
Cauchy’s Integral Formula
Residue Theorem
Singularities & Zeroes
Residues of Simple and higher order Poles
Contour Integration
Logarithmic Deriviatives and Logarithms of Complex Functions
The Argument Principle

Hmm, I can remember most names of parts of the course it seems, so perhaps with a night’s sleep tonight I’ll be ready for 9.30 tomorrow morning to actually sit the damned thing. Hopefully. Maybe, just maybe.

Aha! I knew I’d missed something. Laplace’s Equation, Harmonic Functions and the complex variable itself! Now I should be good to go. If only I’ll actually remember it all. Next two exams are Wednesday/Thursday being Atoms/Relativity respectively, which should be….insane on revising for. Then Pure a week on Tuesday. It begins again, I fear. Perhaps I’ve kept improving, perhaps this’ll reveal itself to be the cost of an extremely happy six months? An extremely bad set of exams? I imagine it weill. But then, my imagination can run wild sometimes. (more…)

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