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    1. Not Hungry

      Usually it's simple. You feel unhappy. And you feel hungry. There is a hole in your stomach. There is a hole in your soul. You fill the holes with burgers, and ramen, and shawarma, and fried...

      Usually it's simple. You feel unhappy. And you feel hungry. There is a hole in your stomach. There is a hole in your soul. You fill the holes with burgers, and ramen, and shawarma, and fried chicken. Then the holes are filled. Then the unhappiness turns into being not-unhappy. Being generally-content.

      You're such a good boy! You've finished everything on your plate! The plate that you've bought yourself! Using the money that you've made! Such a good boy!

      But what do you do if you are unhappy… and you don't want to eat? The realisation is horrifying. You thought that you have found a solution. A flawed solution, a patch, but a patch that always works, arteries be damned. Now it doesn't. You are unhappy. And unhungry. Oh no.

      Maybe switch from big nasty burgers to something like candy? Maybe this sweet exotic soda will help? A Japanese chewing gum? A Korean chocolate breadstick? It numbs the pain, but the pain is still there. That's when the desperation comes in. Will it ever end? Will it ever get better? Can the others help you? Can they even understand you? Are they even real people? Did they ever suffer? Do they know the pain?

      If you're lucky, then it's pretty dark already. Go home. Add way too much Mayonaise to your supper. Add too much sugar to your evening tea. Make yourself even more tired. Tired enough to sleep. Tired enough to hope, that tomorrow you'll be hungry again.

      15 votes
    2. April is National Poetry Month. It's also National/Global Poetry Writing Month, where participants write a poem a day for every day in April. I'm doing it this year, and was wondering if any other...

      April is National Poetry Month. It's also National/Global Poetry Writing Month, where participants write a poem a day for every day in April. I'm doing it this year, and was wondering if any other tilderiños were as well. I'm a little late on the post, but there's still time to catch up!

      10 votes
    3. So, a little background, my profession is technical writing. I want to write a novel but I'm struggling a little with getting the creative side of my brain going. Technical writing seems to...

      So, a little background, my profession is technical writing. I want to write a novel but I'm struggling a little with getting the creative side of my brain going. Technical writing seems to further inhibit my creativity with all its rules.

      I'm looking into local writers' workshops but they're all full at the moment. In the meantime, I was wondering if anyone here has any advice for exercises or things I could do to stimulate my creativity and free my mind from all the rules of technical writing. Thoughts?

      8 votes
    4. Hey everyone, thanks to you who posted in the original Workshop Wednesday; I think it went really well! Here we are for week 2 (sorry it took me til noon, I was busy this morning!) Some questions:...

      Hey everyone, thanks to you who posted in the original Workshop Wednesday; I think it went really well! Here we are for week 2 (sorry it took me til noon, I was busy this morning!)

      Some questions:

      • do we need a new topic every week? Or will one be enough?
      • any other comments/suggestions?

      Please begin your comment with [META] to discuss these. Otherwise, I'll copy and paste the guidelines from last week.


      What's a workshop?

      Basically, a workshop is when you have a bunch of people with poems or stories they've written, and everyone gets together, reads everyone's work, and comments on it, sharing what they got out of it and what the author could do to improve the work for publication. I used to do a lot of them in college, and I've missed the dynamic since graduating. I thought others might also be interested, so here goes nothing.

      How this'll work (for now, anyway)

      Each week, I'll post a "Workshop Wednesday" post. If you have a poem or (short) story you'd like workshopped, post that as a top comment. Then, read others' top comments and reply with what works/doesn't work/questions you have/ideas you have for the piece that could make it better. If you post some writing, try to comment on at least two other people's pieces as well -- we're here to help each other improve.

      11 votes
    5. So I was talking to @cadadr in this thread about starting a workshop on Tildes, and since today makes for an alliterative title, I thought I'd start one now. What's a workshop? Basically, a...

      So I was talking to @cadadr in this thread about starting a workshop on Tildes, and since today makes for an alliterative title, I thought I'd start one now.

      What's a workshop?

      Basically, a workshop is when you have a bunch of people with poems or stories they've written, and everyone gets together, reads everyone's work, and comments on it, sharing what they got out of it and what the author could do to improve the work for publication. I used to do a lot of them in college, and I've missed the dynamic since graduating. I thought others might also be interested, so here goes nothing.

      How this'll work (for now, anyway)

      Each week, I'll post a "Workshop Wednesday" post. If you have a poem or (short) story you'd like workshopped, post that as a top comment. Then, read others' top comments and reply with what works/doesn't work/questions you have/ideas you have for the piece that could make it better. If you post some writing, try to comment on at least two other people's pieces as well -- we're here to help each other improve.

      Going forward

      Since this is the first one, obviously we can change the format or do something else. Please start meta-discussions with the word [META] so that we know it's not a poem you're trying to workshop!

      I'm excited. Let's do this!

      21 votes
    6. I have a slight struggle that I wonder if anyone else can relate to. I'm a creative "type" in that both my job (scientist) and hobbies (many, over the years) require constant innovation, in...

      I have a slight struggle that I wonder if anyone else can relate to. I'm a creative "type" in that both my job (scientist) and hobbies (many, over the years) require constant innovation, in addition to the usual labor, to keep them going.

      I have a note/journal app where I store my ideas. Sometimes these are ideas with acute utility e.g. an experiment design that I can test out the next day at work or maybe an idea for a paper. Other ideas are what I would consider "highdeas" - insights or thoughts that seem amazing when you're stoned but after you sober up they're kind of nonsense. The former are productive and the latter are non-productive forms of creativity (barring any offshoots of the latter that prove useful later on).

      But then sometimes I get idea in-between. Say, an insight into how certain human behaviors are a certain way or maybe a rant on a topic/issue in my lab work that is interesting but not valuable enough to publish or bring up in a formal meeting. My question / discussion topic for you, is, what do you do with these sort of self-ascribed interesting ideas that have no immediate value? One option is to write them out on a forum, as I am currently doing, but I would end up writing all day. Does anyone else keep track of these? Do you schedule a follow-up with these intermediate ideas for future inspiration? I currently use Joplin which is great but I don't think there are any features to stimulate creativity in this manner.

      23 votes
    7. The Ceremony

      This is a short, experimental story I wrote. Hope it's interesting. As I opened my eyes the whirl of indistinction calmed and I was standing there in a room paneled in wood, rich and dark and...

      This is a short, experimental story I wrote. Hope it's interesting.


      As I opened my eyes the whirl of indistinction calmed and I was standing there in a room paneled in wood, rich and dark and polished slightly. It was time for the oath. She stood at her lectern with her book open in front of the priest, who turned to the needed page and bid her to sing, which she did, sweet and calm and certain, without dramatics or pomp. Why would she need it? It was what she was to do. She smiled, I think, her form was not clear except for the vague impression of her gently rounded cheeks and lips the color of a rose too pale a pink to be said red. And now the priest was across from me and my book opened to its song page. Seven squares, (or was it nine?), filled mid grey onto the paper ruled across with needle fine lines the color of rust. It was old, plainly, but still strong. I felt looking at the page a feeling I had never known, not quite joy or determination or happiness or fear but an immensity as if I had for a heart now an infinitely faceted gem in whose faces you could find any color if you would only let it catch the light. It was like madness melded together with a certainty so strong anything less than “it is” fails to reach it. I feared I could not voice it, and said as much to the priest. To point at the page and utter “Sing.” was his only response. And I did, tremulously and weakly, but I sang, and through it came a sweetness despite me. And it was done. Through the haze now I remember the ascent up the stairs and my body collapsing onto the white couch my head landing in her lap, and her final exclaim “_______! We are!”.

      6 votes
    8. I'd love to hear about how you create your favorite works. Of anything. How did you write your best music? How did you create your favorite character in a story you wrote? Anything of the sort....

      I'd love to hear about how you create your favorite works. Of anything. How did you write your best music? How did you create your favorite character in a story you wrote? Anything of the sort.

      I'd love to hear all the different processes people have. It's really quite an interesting topic of discussion, for me.

      Personally, I grab a cup of coffee and listen to instrumental music (mostly avant-garde jazz [Coltrane, Washington, etc]) while creating the world of the story I'm writing. There's something very productive-feeling about being wired on caffeine while also having a constant noise in your ears. It's how I compose some of my better characters and settings.

      Due to my constant writer's block phenomenon, sometimes I'll smoke some pot to get past it. It's almost like phasing through a wall you can't jump over. There's something lifting about it.

      16 votes
    9. I am super happy right now. For the past few years, I've taken on so many futile projects, dead ends, I've ripped things to shreds because I stopped liking them. Finally though, I am content with...

      I am super happy right now.

      For the past few years, I've taken on so many futile projects, dead ends, I've ripped things to shreds because I stopped liking them. Finally though, I am content with one of my creations and hit 100 pages, already reworked and refined! :)

      Sorry, but I'm super happy at the moment.

      32 votes
    10. For those that don't know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month of November. That translates to roughly 1,600...

      For those that don't know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month of November. That translates to roughly 1,600 words a day. More info on NaNoWriMo here.

      I first tried it two years ago though I fizzled out at around 10,000 words and moved on to another WIP. Last year I didn't formally participate though I made an effort to write something every day. Not sure about my word count.

      This year I'm doing a series of short stories in a shared setting since I've been doing more short form writing as of late and I've been mulling over the idea for a few weeks now. It's a nice way to experiment with different settings and themes within a "singular" work. I've made some notes on plot hooks, settings, characters, and ideas I wanted to explore, so it's only a matter of writing the stories now. Maybe I'll even share excerpts as I go along.

      So has anyone else made plans to do it this year?

      18 votes
    11. This will be my third attempt over the last 5 years but it'll also be the first time I have real time to dedicate to actually doing this. I'm really, really excited. I have a Chromebook now so...

      This will be my third attempt over the last 5 years but it'll also be the first time I have real time to dedicate to actually doing this. I'm really, really excited.

      I have a Chromebook now so I'll likely be writing primarily on Google Docs. What are your writing plans? By hand? Scrivener?

      19 votes
    12. Each November hundreds of thousands of writers attempt a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Results vary, but it's a ton of concentrated writing and storytelling practice and always a blast,...

      Each November hundreds of thousands of writers attempt a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Results vary, but it's a ton of concentrated writing and storytelling practice and always a blast, especially if you're in a region with meet-ups. More information at nanowrimo.org.

      Is anyone here participating? This will be my fourth year (after a good ten-year break) and my third as a Municipal Liaison (regional coordinator) setting up events in coffee shops and libraries. Are you already planning what you'll write, or just letting inspiration strike on the first? Any great tales from years past?

      15 votes
    13. I've seen the occasional poetry thread, but I thought I would post some more traditional writing. This short story is background lore for my ongoing web serial, Codex, which takes place a thousand...

      I've seen the occasional poetry thread, but I thought I would post some more traditional writing. This short story is background lore for my ongoing web serial, Codex, which takes place a thousand years after these events.


      The research team looked like ants in the scry-screen, crawling around the laboratory as they completed the ritual’s final steps. When the spell was powered on, it let out a brief flash of brilliant orange light that made Tarrel wince and shade his eyes. The ants milled about as if their hill had just been kicked over, swarming this way and that, huddling over the piece of enchanted metal.

      Tarrel stood up and left the viewing room. Renna looked up as he entered the laboratory and waved him over, a broad smile on her face. She held out her hand, offering him a bracelet made from some shiny metal; it looked like two flat chains had been woven together into a thin, knotted band. “Is that the eternium?” Tarrel asked. “Why a bracelet, and not a sword or spear?”

      Renna stepped away from the five other people as an argument developed over one of the experimental readings. “It’s a gift.” She gave him an impish grin. “You’re allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you know.”

      The eternium was slick against his skin, as if it had been greased, and it had a mirror-perfect reflective surface that threw the bright overhead lights back into his eyes. He angled it away from him and stared at the gleaming metal, trying to dredge up the appropriate emotion, as if he could summon it into being by sheer willpower.

      Logically, it should have been easy -- he had all the pieces: a beautiful girlfriend (if occasionally annoying), a prestigious research position, and a talent for magic that made most other wizards look like fumbling idiots. And of course, he was a Raal, entitled to all the benefits that came with higher civilization: immortality (or a very long life anyway), near-absolute freedom to do as he pleased (as long as that didn’t impinge on others’ freedoms), safety (from physical harm). Any non-Raal would kill to be where he was, and it was a safe bet that most Raal who knew him were at least a little envious of his status. But happiness, like an improperly drawn ritual, refused to manifest… and all Tarrel could feel was a bleak sense of anticlimactic fatigue as he looked into the shiny mirrored surface.

      Renna moved closer and touched his arm. “Hey. What is it?”

      He forced a smile onto his face and slid the bracelet onto his wrist. “Nothing.” The rest of the team was gathered around an Aether screen. Part of Tarrel wanted to join them, plunge back into the soothing distraction of work, but all at once he couldn’t stand the thought of doing so. He turned back to Renna, forcing the words through numb lips. “Let’s go out together.”

      They could have taken a teleportation circle or a flier, but Tarrel wanted to walk so they strolled the floating streets of Ur-Dormoth together. It was nighttime, but the walkways were all lit with bright white mage-bulbs. Aircraft hummed overhead, like gigantic wingless insects, disappearing into the night as they left the city.

      “Ever been to a mite city?” Tarrel asked as they walked.

      “No.”

      “I have,” Tarrel said. He brooded for a moment, staring out at Ur-Dormoth, sprawled across the clouds like a tangled pile of glittering lace. “They’re cramped, and squalid, and they stink of death. It’s like being in a corpse.”

      Renna shrugged, seemingly unconcerned by the fate of however many millions of less fortunate people lived on the land below them. “Why do you bring it up?”

      “I don’t know,” Tarrel said. “Have you ever wanted something and really worked for it, only to find that once you had it, you didn’t want it anymore?”

      “I’m not sure I understand,” Renna said. “Why would you work for something you don’t want?”

      Tarrel sighed. “Never mind.”

      They went to the Eyrie, where Tarrel tried to look interested in the menu before giving up and ordering at random. The food arrived a few minutes later, looking decadent and delicious: creamy soup, flower-shaped pastries, a platter of fried onions. Tarrel ate mechanically, doing his best to appear as if he was enjoying it, but all he could think about was the emptiness he felt inside.

      “How’s the food?” Renna asked.

      Tarrel glanced at the pale white soup he was eating and tried to decide what to say. “It’s good.”

      Renna leaned back in her chair. “I knew you would like it.”

      “How long do you think it’ll be before we can start mass-producing the eternium?”

      Renna blinked, caught off guard by the sudden change in topic. “A few more weeks? Once we do, the applications are immense.” Her eyes were practically glowing with excitement. “What would it be like to live in a tower taller than the highest mountain?”

      Tarrel stirred his soup, wishing he could share her energetic happiness. “That’s a long way to fall.”

      Renna chuckled, a delicate sound like tinkling crystal chimes, and tossed her sleek white hair over her shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll have protective enchantments. It would be quite the scandal, to be the architect responsible for the first death in centuries.”

      “They don’t let you Merge,” Tarrel said, only half paying attention to the conversation.

      “What?”

      “Murder. If it’s deliberate, your thread is cut. No children.” Tarrel made a snipping motion with his free hand. “But if they think you meant to kill, then it’s a life for a life.”

      Renna stared at him. “How do you even know that?”

      Tarrel shrugged, already losing interest in the topic. “Memory spell.”

      “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

      “It’s too difficult to cast for most people,” Tarrel said. Though that would change, if he ever got the framework functioning.

      “What’s the framework?” Renna asked.

      Tarrel realized he had spoken out loud. “Just a project I’ve been working on. You speak a command, and the framework casts the appropriate spell for you. All the power of a ritual, none of the difficulty.”

      “That seems pretty useful. How’s it going?”

      Tarrel blinked, not sure if he had heard her correctly. “Useful?” His lips twisted. “Nobody else seems to think it would be.”

      “Are you serious? The applications for research alone would be immense. Imagine never having to cast another scrying spell.”

      “They said it would be too inconvenient, or that the magic would lack power, or any of a hundred other excuses.”

      Renna reached across the table and put her hand on his. “It sounds amazing to me.” Tarrel met her eyes, searching for any hint of insincerity, but all he found was honest admiration. “Can I see it?”

      Tarrel shifted in his seat and looked away. “I, uh, sort of abandoned it. Nobody seemed to want it and I ran into some thorny problems, so it seemed like I was just wasting my time.”

      “Well take it out of storage! Don’t worry about them, once they see what it can do they’ll all change their mind. Your legacy would be etched in the stone of history, right up there with Elmar the Great and the Risen Kings.”

      Renna frowned and held up a hand to forestall his reply. “One moment. Someone’s trying to talk to me on the Way.”

      Tarrel watched, but Renna’s expression gave away little. Half a minute passed before she finished. “What was it?” Tarrel asked.

      “The research lab.” Renna’s face twisted in disgust. “Apparently they decided to run another batch of eternium, but someone messed up one of the protective spells.”

      “Oh,” Tarrel said. He knew he ought to say something more, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to care about the fate of the researchers. If they couldn’t even cast a simple set of wards, they deserved what they got.

      “They’ll be fine,” Renna said, apparently mistaking his silence for concern. “At least as long as nobody screws up their healing magic too.” She hesitated, then stood up. “I’m sorry to cut this short, but I really ought to be there.”

      “It’s fine,” Tarrel said. “I’ll head back to my house. Maybe work on the framework some.”

      Renna smiled. “I still want to see it.”

      She walked over to the teleportation circle in the corner and activated it, vanishing with a soft pop. Tarrel was left in the deserted restaurant -- or not quite deserted. There was a man, washing the tables with a cloth. Tarrel watched him as he worked his way across the room, until he was near enough to talk to.

      “Why do you do that?” Tarrel asked.

      The man looked up. He had a rough, honest face. “Why not?”

      “You could let the golems do it. Or, if you wanted to make sure it was done properly, you could use magic. Why do it by hand?”

      “Sure. The golems would probably do it better than me, and a spell could do it faster and better. But that’s not the point. Haven’t you ever found pleasure in work?”

      Tarrel was on the point of saying no when he reconsidered, remembering all the times he had thrown himself head-on into inventing a new ritual or improving an old. “I suppose so. But my work isn’t something a golem can do and, when I’m done, I have something at the end.”

      The man chuckled. “And when I’m done wiping a table, I have a clean table.”

      “Only until someone comes in here and dirties it again,” Tarrel pointed out. He paused, struck by a sudden thought. Was that the problem, the reason for the hollowness all his achievements seemed to have? Even as one of the brightest researchers of the century, his name would inevitably be forgotten, in a hundred years, or a thousand, or ten thousand. But if he was able to create a new paradigm for magic… then he would be remembered.

      “If I’m still around, I’ll get to enjoy cleaning it again. If I’m not, well, like you said: the golems can do it better anyways.”

      Tarrel blinked, startled by the man’s voice. “Uh, right,” he said. He stood up. “I need to go.”

      He took the teleporter back to his house and went down to his private laboratory. White mage-bulbs flared on as he entered the spacious room, illuminating the Aether screen set into one wall and the stone floor, still etched with an old circle. He cleared it, resetting the solid granite slab to its original, perfectly smooth, state.

      Tarrel spent the rest of the night hunched over the Aether’s display, tweaking and changing the framework. Every so often, he would stand up and etch it into the granite floor with an eye-searing burst of brilliant orange light. Each time, the spell failed in a new, unexpected way, and Tarrel was sent back to the Aether to try to find the source of the problem.

      The days merged into weeks, which flowed into months. Tarrel enchanted himself with restorative spells so he didn’t have to eat or sleep. Such behavior was considered unhealthy by most people, but it wasn’t the first time Tarrel had lost himself to the grip of work, and he no longer cared if his friends whispered behind his back or shook his head when he wasn’t looking. Like Renna had said, they would change their mind soon enough.

      Renna knew enough to recognize the signs of Tarrel’s obsession, but she didn’t stop coming over to visit him. The door chimed regularly at noon every third day. They sat on one of Tarrel’s couches for ten or twenty minutes, talking until Tarrel could no longer keep himself away from the laboratory and made his excuses. For him, the time seemed one long hazy blur, interspersed only by slight, inching progress as obstacle after obstacle rose up to meet him and was defeated.

      Eight months later, Tarrel stood before the granite slab and powered up the latest spell. “Fire,” he said, envisioning the unlit torch in the corner igniting. He didn’t really expect anything to happen and was thus shocked when it erupted into orange flame. His hands trembled with excitement as he stood up and approached the crackling brand. Magic! By talking! At last, it was working.

      “Freeze,” Tarrel said. A chill swept over him as the torch’s flames guttered out. Water condensed on the blackened stump, then froze solid into a glittering sheen. A smile spread across his face and something warm and… happy rose inside him, like winter ice cracking and melting as summer approached. Renna’s words came back to him: Your legacy would be etched in the stone of history and he threw his head back, laughing.

      Further experimentation revealed that the framework had exceeded his wildest expectations. He refined the spell, reducing the energy it consumed and increasing its potency until at last, it was fit for use in a globalization ritual. Everyone in the world, if they had the basic training necessary to use magic at all, could now access the framework.

      Tarrel reached into the Way, calling for Renna. She responded at once, as if she had been waiting for him. What is it?

      Come to my house, Tarrel sent back. I have something to show you.

      He severed the telepathic link and stood up, unable to stop grinning. The eternium bracelet gleamed in the corner of the laboratory where he had tossed it and he went over and picked it up, turning it over in his hands. General Yenja had been excited about the eternium project. What would she think of the framework? But that was a matter for another time -- right now, he wanted to see Renna’s face when she saw what he had built. Tarrel slipped the bracelet onto his wrist and hurried up the stairs. Behind him, the mage-bulbs blinked out and the laboratory plunged into darkness.

      Renna knocked on the door several minutes later. Tarrel glanced at it. “Open the door,” he said.

      It swung aside, revealing a harried-looking Renna. “What is it?” she asked as she came inside.

      Tarrel grinned and pointed at a glass of water sitting on the table. “Watch this,” he said. “Freeze the water in that cup.”

      The surface of the water turned frosty and opaque, spreading downwards with a deep cracking sound. All at once, the glass shattered, spraying shards and chips everywhere. Tarrel jerked, surprised, then broke out into a laugh. “Sorry,” he said. “I should have been more specific in my wording.”

      Renna touched the solid cylinder of ice, setting it off into a lazy spin. It twirled across the table until Tarrel caught it with one hand. “How do you like it?” he said.

      “Impressive. Can I try?”

      “Sure. I put it in the Way, so you should be able to access it just by thinking about it.”

      Renna gestured at the ice in Tarrel’s hand. “Melt.”

      Nothing happened and Tarrel chuckled. “It takes some getting used to. Try starting to cast the spell normally, then use the framework.”

      “Melt.”

      This time, the frozen water turned warm and started to dissolve, gushing all over Tarrel’s hands. He tossed it back onto the table before it could soak his clothes. “Freeze.”

      Nothing happened and he gave Renna a rueful smile. “My mana cache is empty. I didn't even notice but I've been using the same one for all my research.”

      “Here.” Renna withdrew a fat diamond pendant from beneath her shirt and held it out to him. “Take mine.”

      “No,” Tarrel said. “I have a better idea.”

      He reached out with his mind, drawing on the inert mana present all around and concentrating a small amount of it, refining it into the potent stuff that was normally used for spells. Only a drop, just enough to kickstart the spell he had in mind. “Refine one nex’s worth of mana. Put it into my cache, then cast two copies of this spell, using mana from the cache.”

      It was the longest framework-boosted spell he had cast, but it went off without so much as a tug of mental effort. A thin trickle of mana pulsed through him, then died off as the spell became self-sustaining.

      “Did you just -- ”

      “That’s right,” Tarrel said. “I just revolutionized the mana collection industry.”

      Renna frowned. “Maybe you ought to slow down.”

      “Slow down? Why? I feel great.”

      “That’s because you’re using those invigoration spells.” Renna looked around. “Do you feel that?”

      It was an tingle, like an electric wind brushing over Tarrel’s skin. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the diamond cache, shielding his eyes as it began to glow an intense white. “Behold,” he said. “The future of the Raal.”

      Renna stared at the diamond. “That doesn’t look right. Your new spell -- ”

      “Not a new spell -- a new paradigm. For centuries, we have cast magic in essentially the same way. Spells have gotten better, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of researchers like you, but it’s time for something different. Instead of engaging in a mental wrestling match, we shall simply give an order as if the magic is a servant.”

      “Your refinement spell has a -- ”

      Tarrel slammed his fist on the table. “Shut up!” The framework turned his order from wish into reality and he felt a sudden spike of shame. Using magic on a fellow Raal? What was he doing? But she wouldn’t see. He continued in a calmer voice. “It’s people like you who delayed this project by almost fifteen years. All that time, wasted.”

      He felt the pulse of magic as Renna broke through the framework’s silencing spell. “Listen to me,” she said. The urgency in her tone gave Tarrel pause. “That diamond is about to overload. It’s the same mistake you made with the ice.”

      Tarrel glanced at the incandescent diamond cube, mentally going over the wording he had used with the super-refinement spell. The same mistake he had made with the ice? The air around him felt… thin and weak, while the space around the cube seemed to shimmer and warp. What was going on? And then he got it.

      He stared at Renna, horrified. “Quick. Give me your cache.”

      He began the transfer spell, reverting to the more familiar mental casting in the moment of crisis. It was still incomplete when the cube exploded with a chiming sound that reverberated through his bones. Pain stabbed up Tarrel’s hand and he screamed, flailing around and spraying blood from his two missing fingers. Threads of orange refined mana flickered all around him like a hazy fog and the room dissolved into panic as the magic ran wild.

      Renna’s hair stood straight up. She had time for a single terrified scream before lightning discharged from her body. Bolts radiated out in every direction, crackling and splitting the air apart, disintegrating her body into hot black flakes. Some of them landed on Tarrel’s face and he stumbled back, staring at the black scorch marks on the floor.

      Tarrel’s weight vanished all at once and he floated off the ground, crashing into the ceiling before gravity reasserted itself and threw him back to the floor. The awful ringing of the broken cube continued to echo through the room, growing in strength instead of fading. It tore through his head as he wrapped his ruined hand in his shirt and sprinted for the door -- only to have the space in front of him warp and elongate. The door receded away, until it was like he was looking down a long corridor.

      The first rips began to appear, fuelled by the still-continuing refinement spell as it pumped refined mana into the shards of the diamond cube. It was as if reality was a sheet of glass, fracturing and splitting. Black cracks shot through the room as the chiming hammered through Tarrel’s body. They began to glow, dim white at first, then growing in strength. They pulsed. Flickered. And as Tarrel’s hand reached for the door handle, they exploded.

      Pure, white light surged out into the city, spilling from the research laboratory where Tarrel had conducted his fatal experiments. People screamed and fled. Some tried to cast spells, only to have their magic go awry in a wash of strange effects. Teleportation spells transported heads without their bodies. Flight enchantments sent their users hurtling into buildings. Wards imploded, crushing that which they were meant to protect.

      Ur-Dormoth was just one city out of hundreds, but the Way, a global telepathic link which united all Raal, was irreversibly tainted. Less than a year passed before Tarrel’s name was forgotten, but in the end he got his wish: an eternal, undying legacy -- in the form of a vast, magical wasteland sprawling across a quarter of the continent.

      7 votes
    14. Rhetorically speaking, "I don't want to sound rude" can have the opposite effect as the one intended by the writer (when I'm on the receiving end that's almost 100% of the time). It basically...

      Rhetorically speaking, "I don't want to sound rude" can have the opposite effect as the one intended by the writer (when I'm on the receiving end that's almost 100% of the time). It basically states, from the get-go, that the opposing argument is so deeply flawed, requiring such a strong, ruthless counter-argument, that there's a good possibility that you might offend your interlocutor's sensibilities. Even if you're so fucking right that your answer erupts from the depths of your logical mind with the power of a thousand volcanoes, that's not a good way to create rapport. At this point, no one knows your reasoning yet. You may sound like a douche bag. You may be right, but not as right as you think. You may also be very wrong, and in that case you not only promised something you couldn't deliver, but you also made it hard to take the conversation forward. Because, by belittling your interlocutor, you created an environment where getting it wrong is not admissible, and he/she will apply the same rule to yourself. Even in the case that you're right, your behavior discouraged further questions. All because you wanted to be nice! Communication is hard.

      16 votes
    15. hey everyone! i was sitting down to write some today, and i kept coming up with lines and lyrics that were great, but for absolute vapid-type songs (gucci gang type stuff hahaha). i thought it...

      hey everyone!

      i was sitting down to write some today, and i kept coming up with lines and lyrics that were great, but for absolute vapid-type songs (gucci gang type stuff hahaha).

      i thought it would make for a fun challenge. whether you want to write a short story, a poem, maybe a little stageplay script - what's the largest amount of words you can use to express absolutely nothing?

      whether it be something like the lyrics for lil pump's "D Rose" or something like the internet-famous article "The Rumor Come Out: Does Bruno Mars is Gay?"

      how long of a piece of writing can you make, whilst saying absolutely nothing?

      6 votes
    16. Out Here

      Space. Mankind’s last great mystery. Our modern day ‘Wild West’. What a privilege to be born during this golden age of space exploration, to have the chance to strike out and see a universe so...

      Space. Mankind’s last great mystery. Our modern day ‘Wild West’. What a privilege to be born during this golden age of space exploration, to have the chance to strike out and see a universe so full of absolutely nothing.

      There is nothing out here, there’s a reason it’s often referred to as a void. Okay, yes, the more astute members of you will point out space isn’t truly empty, planets and nebulas, and even us, the humans and our crafts. But for the sake of the scale upon which we view it, its empty.

      Just look at me, stuck out here, stranded, in dark space. For those of you still catching up on your terminology, that’s what we call the space in between galaxies. Yes, those galaxies, the big ones that contain untold numbers of stars. No, I don’t know how I got out here. If I did, I would have done something to reverse it.

      All I can tell you is that I’m out here with a busted ship that only has enough power for life support and basic functions. Ugh, I bet you the caravan has already made it to Port Dalle, and Swiv’s drinking that blasted sludge he wouldn’t shut up about. They’re probably raising a ruckus at the bar, starting brawls and revelries alike.

      And here I am, alone. Well, I have Ping. That’s what I call that eternal pinging. If you listen closely, you can hear it, every few seconds ever so faintly. Ping, ping. I can’t tell if the universe has given me company or is taunting me. My headache leans towards taunting.

      Ping.

      I tried turning it off, I really did. But I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It’s almost as if the entire ship resonates with the noise. It’s not a big ship, kinda, cozy. I think that’s the word. I have to duck down to pass through the doors. The bed’s a few inches too short. But I make do, plenty of room in the storage closet if I push the tools to the side. Well, I might have jettisoned them. But, hear me out! It’s not like I’d be able to use them anyway.

      ‘What are you doing on that blasted ship if you can’t fix it?’ You may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t supposed to break. I was only supposed to be here to press the on and off buttons.

      Ping.

      They just didn’t include any for that blasted noise. Maybe it’s coming from behind this service panel here, it seems to be louder in the bridge, if you could call this glassed in closet a bridge.

      Bang. Ow.

      Note to self: pulling on random panels is a bad idea.

      Ping.

      Yeah yeah, keep on pinging, you stupid pinging, thing, a-lator.

      Ping.

      That was not a request for you to ping more frequently!

      Ping.

      ...

      What did I do to deserve this? All I ever did was try to lead a semi-normal life. As normal a life being some intergalactic space trucker, shipper, can be. I payed taxes, obeyed the law mostly, didn’t cheat. I mean, I’m not a bad person. I didn’t do anything wrong! Or did I?

      I mean, there are several possibilities. Maybe one of the times a delivery was late it costed someone more then a few extra minutes of paperwork. Maybe I inadvertently stood in the wrong spot, ruining some poor tourists prized photo. Maybe I-

      Ping.

      Maybe I’m dead, and this is my eternal torture.

      Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t such a thing as fate or karma or metaphysical legacies. Maybe, this is just some freak thing that occurred because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time? How’s that sound? Must be hard imagining not having someone to blame for all the things that go wrong, huh? Well, I’ve been stuck here for who knows how long. No one’s coming. And there’s nothing wrong with the ship except some inexplicable power loss.

      Ping.

      Maybe whatever’s making that noise is the cause?

      Ping.

      Pong.

      How do you like dem apples, huh?... Well, I guess you like them. Seeing as you haven’t immediately thrown them back at me. Maybe this’ll keep me entertained for awhile, huh?

      Out here, you take whatever you can get to pass the time. There is literally nothing.

      I even look out at nothing. I mean, sure, I see some of the Milky Way nearby, as well as light clusters that are the other galaxies. But I’m so far off the beaten path that the ship’s computers don’t even register any gravitational pull, and they’re tuned for the center of the Milky Way to set a universal constant for direction. Uh, simple speak, the big thing at the center of our galaxy? That’s down.

      There’s some velocity. So the ship will drift for millions of years, preserved in the inky cold of this wonderful frontier, until it get’s close enough to, something, so it's pulled in and crashes or burns. What? It’s not like anyone will find it anytime soon.

      I suppose you can’t really see the futility of existence yet. Me? My days are numbered, and I’ve already run out of gum.

      Ping.

      Pong.

      Where was I? Right, existence. It’s a funny thing really. Out here, with nothing to do or see, you start to question if anything was really real. Everything turns into this far off dream, the distant past of another person. Here and now, its just you, and the void. Well, that, and the flimsy metal contraption keeping you safe from said void, but even that’s debatable.

      Isolation was the worst punishment we were able to come up with for criminals, after all.

      Eh. I’m waiting my time. You don’t want to hear a condemned man ramble on, or maybe you do, you sicko, you. You want stories, you want to hear the high flying adventures of traveling this wasteland. Tales of explorations and intrigue. Maybe even a little romance mixed in.

      There really aren’t any. Space is, well, space. Big, and-

      Ping.

      -empty, and boring. As for the people, well, the Captain Buck and his intrepid crew all work for the military. The only civilians that do this are either, criminals, insane, or desperate. And any combination of those.

      So there it is. The reality of this grand fantasy you’ve always held in your head-

      Ping.

      -laid bare at your very feet. Not very palatable, huh? Makes me think of that paste you get fed out here. Chemically infused with all the calories and nutrients you need to live. Tastes like they blended cardboard and water into sludge and called it food.

      That’s not even the worst example. There was this one time... one time that...

      Ping.

      Ah, thank you Ping. There was this one time a station had a rodent infestation. Nasty stuff. You know what they did with the buggers? (Not the Editor, Editor’s Note: Not actual bugs.) Used them for meat! You had rodent steaks, and ground rodent. Didn’t stay at that station for long.

      Oh, look. A red light is blinking. Must be time to party.

      Ping.

      Ping agrees it’s time to party. Where’d I put the people to party with? Oh yeah. They’re all back in inhabited space. C’est la vie.

      Vie la c’est? Why are you asking me?

      You know? I’ve done all the talking up until now. I think it’s your turn to tell me a little abut yourselves.

      Yeah?

      Really?

      No.

      Ping.

      Ping doesn’t believe it either. He’s even making this slight hissing noise. Just like a cat. Maybe Ping’s a cat that goes ping? Or a ping that cats?

      Having trouble understanding that one? Do what I do. Don’t.

      Stuff doesn’t have to make sense. I mean, does it make sense for some random guy to be stuck literally nowhere? No, it doesn’t. He should be back home wondering what dinner will consist of. Well, truthfully, I’d probably be stuck with the nutrient paste still.

      Ping.

      I agree Ping, that paste is a travesty and insult to the human palate. At least include something that gives it some flavor. Maybe lemon juice? And some water, and sugar. You know what? Take the nutrient paste out all together and give us lemon, water, and sugar. We had a name for that back home.... I can’t seem to...

      Ping.

      Oh, right! Lemonade. Life’s gift you didn’t ask for. Well, would you look at that? There some ice dust outside. Almost like some rock had a gas bubble inside and it leaked. There you have it folks, the lemonade for today; ice dust!

      You know, I’m getting kinda sleepy and light headed. I have been up for quite some time now. Why? Well, you and Ping are such good listeners, I couldn’t just walk away. No, it was my responsibility to entertain at the expense of my own health. I hope I did a good job, I don’t like to disappoint people. Only peaches disappoint, you expect them to be all flavorful, and they tase like the fruit has been soaking in water.

      Well, guess this is it for now. Nature calls, and I don’t think I’ll be awake for much longer without really going off my rocker.

      Ping.

      Yeah, good night Ping.

      Ping.

      ...

      Ping.

      7 votes
    17. I've finally finished writing something. It's been about four years since I actually finished something nicely. I'm entering the editing phase, which generally takes longer... But I'm a bit...

      I've finally finished writing something. It's been about four years since I actually finished something nicely.

      I'm entering the editing phase, which generally takes longer... But I'm a bit excited.

      Hopefully this is an acceptable thing to talk about, and I'm going about things the right way.

      So... To spin off into discussion, here's two things:

      A part of the story:

      The ground rose up and struck Raul in the face.

      He blinked, stumbling backwards, seeing his master standing nearby.

      The old man was glaring, his hands clutched around a brightly coloured stone.

      Raul opened his mouth to question, but the old man was whisked away to a distance hillside, and the boy found himself tumbling head over heals backwards down a hillside.

      He scrambled onto his knees, staring as he found himself on the shore of the lighthouse.

      His master placed a solid hand on his shoulder, and muttered gibberish.

      Raul glanced up, but found himself staring at the light of the lighthouse.

      Spinning.

      A bright light, round and round.

      Lightning struck him, and Raul screamed, stumbling backwards.

      The rod lay in front of him.

      He tore his gaze away with effort, and saw his master, hands outstretched, the stone of red, gold and silver floating between them.

      Almost as astonishing, the stone was clean.

      A hammer hit him between the eyes.

      Raul found himself stumbling behind his father, watching as the old man struck stone, separated it, revealing the river of solid copper within it.

      "Boy!"

      I'm hoping I've got the grammar at least semi-right. My illness means I can forget words, or my brain can replace words at random with others that it thinks are related.

      Any guidance or critique is welcome. (I'd give a bigger quote... But this is probably more than enough to discuss.)

      The build script I'm using:

      #!/bin/sh
      
      set -e
      
      if [ -z "$1" ]; then
        echo 'Please provide an output file name.' >&2
        exit 1
      fi
      
      tmp=$(mktemp)
      
      echo 'Building...'
      
      cat title.txt > "$tmp"
      echo '' >> "$tmp"
      cat LICENSE.md >> "$tmp"
      echo '' >> "$tmp"
      cat Prologue.md >> "$tmp"
      
      for file in 0*.md; do
        echo '' >> "$tmp"
        cat "$file" >> "$tmp"
      done
      
      for file in 1*.md; do
        echo '' >> "$tmp"
        cat "$file" >> "$tmp"
      done
      
      echo 'Converting...'
      
      pandoc --toc "$tmp" -o "$1" 2>/dev/null
      
      rm "$tmp"
      
      echo 'Done'
      

      title.txt is basically just YAML markup for pandoc. The other files should be fairly obvious.

      I'm silencing pandoc's output, because I make use of a self-reference to add comments to the Markdown, that get killed by the parser and never make it to the output:

      [//]: # (This is a Markdown comment. Isn't that cool?)

      However, as all the references point to themselves, pandoc warns.

      I'm using pandoc this time around, because it produces fairly clean files. I've used GitBook and Calibre in the past, and though the ebooks they produce work and look okay, the amount of crazy markup they produce means the books lag on some ereaders.

      However, that does make a lot of back and forth. Building, checking output, rebuilding, etc.

      20 votes