Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The One Law Part 3

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Twenty minutes later, Vincent finally arrived at the rally point. He was wearing the face mask. The inner layer scanned his face using microsensors. The outer layer took the data and randomly changed some elements, presenting a different face to the world.
The other killers were already there. Thunder grumbled across the sky. Rain fell in thick sleets, drenching his face but sliding off the nanofibres in his clothes and shoes.
“Sorry!” Bobby said. “I got lost! I’m so sorry!”
I’m at the rally point. Everybody’s here. Where’s the SDU?
Max snorted. “Don’t you have a map app?”
“It kept sending me round and round in circles,” Bobby groused.
It wasn’t a total lie. Vincent was searching for signs of the SDU. He saw nothing.
5 minutes.
Max shook his head. His eyes were still glassy. He must have taken another snort. “Come on, let’s go,” Max said.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The One Law Part 2

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Kowloon Edge Cafe was the most distinctive building on the block. Against a row of faded reds and greys, it was the only patch painted in black and saffron. The block stood in the shadow of the Kowloon Arcology, a strange amalgamation of concrete and metal blocks fused into an oddly coherent whole.
Thick dark clouds gathered overhead. A message from the Hong Kong Observatory appeared in his eyes: a thunderstorm was expected within the hour.
He parked his motortrike in front of the cafe. As he pulled off his helmet a trace of ash graced his nostrils. The signs on the doors and windows promised cheap rates, fast Internet speeds and ‘secure browsing’. The last was an underworld promise to breach the Great Firewall. The price of access was just thirty Hong Kong dollars an hour, and a payload of malware to capture your online and cybernetic data for the highest bidder. Bobby’s first job was to refresh and randomise the viral cocktail every couple of hours, and Vincent’s first task was to pass on the compromised data to Cybercrime.
The door sign said ‘closed’, the smarttint windows were set to maximum opacity, but strips of light peeked through the gaps around the door. Bobby pushed the door open.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The One Law Part 1

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Vincent Lam had won the war against sleep a long time ago. Now he lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling, counting off the hours and the minutes before Mad Max Wong summoned him.
He got bored at exactly seven minutes past midnight. Time to do something more productive, he decided. He rolled off his bed and clambered to his feet. He didn’t bother switching on the lights. His window faced Building H of the Kowloon Arcology, and greedily drank the spilled golden glow of the unsleeping city within a city.
He took the eight steps to his fridge and grabbed the first can he found. It was, of course, Tsingtao Liquid Amber. The man he pretended to be favoured that beer. The rationale was simple: Vincent hated it, therefore Bobby Song loved it.
He popped the tab. Closed his eyes and sucked down a mouthful of mild bitter brew.

Friday, October 5, 2018

H P Lovecraft and Robert E Howard: A Contrast in Horror

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When one thinks of horror in the pulp age, the figure of H P Lovecraft inevitably comes to mind. A doyen in the then-emerging field of weird fiction, he conceived of many modern horror tropes, and through his prodigious works brought to life the genre of cosmic horror. But another pulp giant also contributed immensely to the horror and weird fiction: Robert E Howard.
Hailed as literary geniuses and masters of the craft, Howard and Lovecraft were contemporaries who contributed to some of the same publications. They struck up a correspondence, discussing everything from politics to religion to writing, and exchanged ideas and themes which echo on in their works. Indeed, Howard set some of his horror stories within the Cthulhu Mythos, such as The Fire of Ashurbanipal.
Despite that, however, both men brought radically different worldviews to their writing. Lovecraft writes of the insignificance of man in an indifferent cosmos populated by unfathomable beings of immense powers, knowledge of which would surely shatter the mortal mind; Howard believes in a moral universe, where the strong, courageous and virtuous prevail over even the deadliest and foulest of eldritch abominations.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Appendix N: Robert E Howard, Masculinity and Morality

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Robert E Howard stands astride the world of American literature as a forgotten titan. With hundreds of stories and poems to his name, he built a bibliography that dwarfs any ten modern writers by the age of thirty. He wrote in a vast array of genres, from Westerns to spicy romances, light-hearted humourous tales to gritty detective tales. Most of all, he is remembered for creating the genre of sword and sorcery, in the colossal figure of Conan the Cimmerian.
There are many reasons why Howard is recognized as a grandmaster of the pulps. His prose is vivid and masculine, engaging the senses and focused on driving the story forward; his long experience crafting poetry lent his best stories an air of glamour, exoticism, and haunting, otherworldly beauty. His characters are memorable and the action scenes unparalleled. Whatever he set out to accomplish in his fiction -- to transport the reader to a land beyond the reach of recorded the history, to excite him with tales of derring-do, to inspire passion and romance and laughter -- he achieved. His sheer output alone cemented him as one of the most prolific writers in history.
But beyond the surface, Robert E Howard provides a vision of moral clarity and masculinity.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Lessons from Short Manga

Japanese manga is (in)famous for long-running series. Popular titles like One PieceHajime No Ippo and Naruto span hundreds of chapters and dozens of volumes. Even lesser-known titles may be graced with lifespans running to the low hundreds. This phenomenon is perfectly understandable: in the cut-throat profit-driven world of Japanese manga, the easiest way to make more money is to extend a well-loved series indefinitely. In such an environment, it's easy to overlook short series. Yet short series, done well, offer an experience refreshingly similar to the old pulp stories.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Green Bliss Part 11

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11. The Green God

The Temple of Aruk was unlike any temple James Wood had ever seen.
A mossy mound four stories high, from a distance it looked like a hillock, one of countless others in the forest. But it was no natural feature: it was a face.
First he saw the mouth. A gaping cavern that fed into the darkened depths of the temple. A faint light emanated from the mouth, illuminating yards and yards of vines and roots spewing from the hole and crawling across the ground and the mound, as though in imitation of a scraggly beard. More vines burst from a pair of smaller openings above the mouth, flowing around the mouth to form a moustache of vegetation. Two larger holes went where the eyes would be, overflowing with leafy branches that curled up to crown the mound. Deep within the eye sockets burned hellish red light.
And the vegetation pulsed.
The branches and roots and leaves and veins shifted and rustled and twisted and writhed in unison, their movements rippling across the mound, as though moved by the beating of an unseen heart, or in syncopation with an unnatural breath.

Wood’s insides squeezed tight. This was no temple. It was the living face of Aruk.