Technical Difficulties!

Hi folks,

You may be wondering where today’s post is. (If you’re reading this after the fact or something feel free to skip this since it’s kind of a time sensitive thing.) Due to some technical difficulties this weekend I wasn’t able to access any of my drafts for today’s post until the middle of the day today and I haven’t been able to do much with it so far. I really like to give my story posts a good edit before I post them so I’m going to take the evening to do that tonight and schedule the post to go up tomorrow morning. Sorry for the interruption in the regular course of things and thanks for your understanding,



Nate Hates Vampires

It’s come up before. Now it’s time to actually talk about it. I hate vampires, and Halloween sounds like a great time to talk about why; because if there’s one thing this blog does well it’s overanalyze silly fantasy concepts.

I just don’t understand why people are so interested in vampires. Traditionally they’re villains and they’re not actually very good ones. For starters, in terms of raw intimidation power, they’re middle of the pack. Sure, they drink human blood and that’s just plain weird, and historically they have super strength and no heart beat. They don’t show up in mirrors, they sleep in coffins and killing them requires half a carpenter’s workshop but really, in terms of legendary monsters, that’s nothing special.

On the flip side of the coin, vampires have more holes in their defenses than a colander. For starters, there’s the well known stuff. They can be warded off with crosses or sometimes the Star of David or some other holy symbol. They can’t enter a residence without an invitation. They can’t cross running water. If they don’t sleep in their native earth, they don’t really get rest. They BURN UP IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT.

That’s right. 50% of the normal day is almost INSTANTLY FATAL TO THEM.

And that’s just the more commonly known stuff. A lesser known weakness of vampires is arithmomania, a burning need to count large numbers of similar objects. Yeah, you know how Sesame Street’s Count von Count counts everything? Yeah, all vampires do that. Well, except for the thunder and lightning bit whenever they laugh. Toss a bag of marbles on the floor and they’ll be far too busy counting them to defend themselves when you stab them with a pointy stick.

Now it could be argued that vampires have plenty of strengths to balance out their encyclopedia of weaknesses. But honestly I have my doubts about that. The traditional depictions of vampires tends to represent them as just very strong and hard to kill. There is the association with bats and wolves but that’s still not a fantastic power – any falconer or dog trainer can have trained attack beasts at beck and call. The mental abilities of vampires, things like mind control/hypnosis or controlling humans by blood, are not part of the traditional power set of vampires. I’m not sure if Bram Stoker introduced these abilities or just made them popular but before Dracula there’s not a lot of indication that vampires really did anything of the sort, nor can I see any reason to assume what is essentially a glorified cannibal should have fantastic mental abilities.

Now I know that it’s okay to put your own spin on an archetype. But for the most part I feel like a lot of those abilities got added simply because the stock vampire lacked punch and needed something that actually made it feel like it was menacing. The loss of free will is certainly menacing, so the end goal was accomplished, but the fact that such a thing seemed necessary indicates how lame they were originally.

The final aspect of vampires that I think attracts people to them is the way they’re frequently portrayed as mysterious and aristocratic. But any villain can be affably evil and in the case of vampires it’s, once again, not even a good fit. Traditional vampires were horrific creatures of appetite, not creatures of restraint. They were so filthy and caked in carrion that they reeked. The proper use of garlic was not to ward them off but rather to mask the smell so you could fight them without retching all over the place while trying to keep them from biting out your throat.

You see I agree with the theory that vampires, like zombies, are an attempt to explain the behavior we see in rabies victims when they finally flip out and go feral. Hydrophobia and fear of bright lights are both symptoms of rabies and canines and bats are both carriers of the disease, which might explain the connection vampires have with those animals. What rabid people are not is suave and charming.

So the modern use of vampires has nothing to do with the traditional folklore that they tend to come from. So what? We don’t need explanations for rabid people anymore, we understand rabies! That leaves the vampire mythos open to new ways of using it! PROGRESS! The new abilities and power level represent these things! Now vampires fill totally different places in modern stories than the traditional ones!

Yes. Yes they do. While traditional vampires are pretty much terrible villains for a story, the modern vampire is a thing of pathos and temptation. They’re not always villains and when they are they’re the likable, charming one that you can almost get along with. Only rarely are vampires a villain to be dealt with, like in Dracula.

So while on one level my objections to vampires are just a bunch of superficial griping about slapping together a bunch of weird stuff that seems totally unrelated and calling it a monster my most basic problem with vampires is one of themes. On a fundamental level vampires in modern fiction are being used to push forward themes that are very disturbing to me, and at times I wonder why they’re not more disturbing to others. Come back on Friday and we’ll talk about that some more.

Hello. I’m Nate and I’m an Idiot…

Hello, dear readers. This is a quick note to apologize for the lack of a story post today. Funny thing about that…

I’ve written in the past about what I call nonlinear writing, the process of writing the bits of a story that are most interesting to you and slowly filling in the gaps rather than starting at the beginning and writing straight through to the end. It’s a technique I employ from time to time to good effect but it does have one danger… It’s possible to never write chunks of the story you intended to.

Or in this case, to skip a part of the story fully intending to come back to it and not actually get back to it by the time I intended to post it. In truth the entirety of today’s chapter got skipped over while I charged forward into next week’s chapter (and finished it!) only for me to sit down last Friday to make this weeks posts and discover… I had nothing for today. I thought I could get that fixed by today but, long story short, I didn’t.

This week’s chapter is mostly finished as of this moment. But in order to do the last quarter of it justice and give the whole thing a good copy edit I think I’m going to need most of this evening. Rather than postpone the whole story by a week I’m going to scratch out those last few paragraphs tonight, let the whole thing sit for a while and watch Scorpion, then give it all an edit and schedule it to go up tomorrow. So tune back in Tuesday morning for the next installment of Thunder Clap and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Nate Chen

What?! More Vacations?!!

Yes, it’s true. Even though my Christmas break was only a few weeks ago I’m going on vacation again. I’ll be traveling to visit family this weekend, so the blog won’t be making it’s usual updates today or Friday. While I won’t be back by next Monday I have scheduled a post ahead of time to avoid interrupting the flow of the story. Water Fall isn’t really in a place where I want to pause right now, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep up even if I won’t have as much time as normal to work on the story in the next few weeks. So see you on Monday!

Uncool Things: The End of The World

As you’ve doubtless heard by now, calendars from the ancient Mayincatec civilization mysteriously end on December 21st, 2012. Most people believe this heralds the end of the world, as the Mayincatec civilization had incredible powers of timekeeping and foresight that allowed them to perform incredible feats such as worshiping feathered serpents as gods long after the dinosaurs were actually extinct. They also foresaw a number of significant astrological cycles like eclipses, which we now know happen at regular intervals. Unfortunately, they failed to anticipate the Spaniards, who are not cyclical (and who, by their own admission, no one expects.)

All in all this sounds like a pretty airtight reason to expect a cataclysm of some sort come Friday. (Although not to worry – not even the end of the world will keep me from my appointed posting time!)

Now the end of the world sounds pretty uncool. After all, you won’t get to open your Christmas presents this year, nor will you be able to party like it’s 1999 on the 31st. On the other hand, it also means you don’t have to worry about car or house payments!

Unless, of course, the Mayincatec were wrong…

But hey, when have ancient, extinct civilizations ever been wrong about the future?

So in order to prepare you for your local apocalypse, we suggest a few basic measures. First of all, learn the song. I cannot stress how important this is. If the world is ending, you want your last words to be as cliche and meaningless as possible, and nothing says that like REM.

Second, don’t stress out about having a bomb-proof shelter. Don’t worry about having enough food or being prepared for the new world order. The end of the world means the end of the who stupid world. There’s not going to be anything left to fight over. Again, get this: When the world ends there is. No. World. Left. So stop stressing! One way or another, when you’re gone, you’re gone!

So instead of blowing all that hard earned cash on pointless frivolities like canned food or guns and ammo, buy something truly worthwhile, like a Jacuzzi. If you’ve only got a few days left on earth you might as well spend them in comfort, right? Just be sure to order next day delivery.

Finally, consider just sleeping in. The most likely way for the world to end is in a spontaneous supernova. Given that it will take about eight minutes for the light from that event to reach our planet and it won’t take too much longer for the shockwave to to incinerate all life from the surface, there’s really no reason to be awake for it. There will be nothing to see, very little to do, and there’s no reason to live through the end of the world going through cardiac arrest or something. Why ruin the experience?

In conclusion, I highly discourage you from asking yourself any kind of meaningful questions at this juncture. There’s no reason to wonder if you really trust the kind of people who routinely cut out people’s hearts to mollify their deities, or if people who couldn’t figure out that something heavier than quilted armor and light bows would be needed to fight Conquistadors are really the people you should be taking long term planning advice from. You certainly shouldn’t ask yourself how you might be able to take advantage of end of the world frenzy.

That’s my job.

Enjoy your end of days!

Uncool Thing: Daylight Savings Time

Time for a little twist on things: let’s talk about Daylight Savings Time (summer time for you folks across the pond.) I loath Daylight Savings Time.

I’m sure there are at least one or two reasons to think about adopting DST. I’m told it somehow saves us energy, though given how much of our society runs ’round the clock now I find that hard to believe. Still, I’ll grant that the people who collect this data are probably right, George Barna I am not.

But that’s the only really relevant reason for it I’ve heard, for the most part people just want Daylight Savings Time because it gives them “more” daylight in the evening. For this, we change our clocks twice a year, wind up with ruined sleep cycles and stagger around like zombies for two weeks.

Maybe it’s a racket by the coffee growers. There have got to be at least a few people who go out and get themselves addicted while trying to shake off the blahs that come with having your sleep schedule kicked around by a full hour twice a year. Even if only a couple of hundred thousand people make extra trips to Starbucks twice a year it’s probably a noticeable bump in income. But maybe not.

A decade ago my home state of Indiana sided with the eminently sensible folks in Arizona and didn’t bother with DST. Unfortunately, then we elected our current Governor, Mitch Daniels, who pushed through a bill to adopt it. His reasoning was that, by falling into lockstep with the rest of the nation we made it easier for local businesses to work across state lines because out of state businesses wouldn’t have to try and remember what time it was in Indiana anymore. I suppose that’s well and good, but it doesn’t do much to explain why the whole country needs to be on Daylight Savings Time.

If you’ve ever seen the movie National Treasure you know that Riley Poole mentions DST first being proposed by Benjamin Franklin. Surely such a wise man had a good reason for proposing such a radical change to the way time was kept, right? Well, no, if you actually look into it he was satirizing the French and what he viewed as a bad habit of sleeping in while the sun was up. He also proposed taxing candles (which allowed people to stay up later) and window shutters (which helped people sleep when the sun was shining.) But if all people wanted was a life clock set by the sun they don’t need to go around screwing with the clocks twice a year. Just learn to get up earlier and never get out of the habit.

I’ve become convinced that the only real reason that the US bothers with DST anymore is because somewhere, in some insignificant little federal office, there’s a bureaucrat of no real consequence who’s only pleasure in life is drawing up the DST time change schedules every year and cackling about how he has the power to control time! Then he files his paperwork, sure that his tiny little moment of egotistical power will be backed by the full might of the Federal Government and moves on until next year, sure that no one will ever be the wiser to his clever little mind games.

Well, guess what, DST guy? I’m on to you. One day, you’ll get yours. Tell your friends at Starbucks that I won’t be joining them this year, either.