Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Ape Shall Never Kill Ape" Amended At Last

Lawgiver image from
Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Today The Lawgiver's Council concluded its deliberations for the year. In a break with hoary tradition, the Council made a 5 to 4 decision to amend the ancient law "Ape Shall Never Kill Ape" as follows:

Ape Shall Never Kill Ape
Ape Shall Never Kill Human
Human Shall Never Kill Human
Human Shall Never Kill Ape

Chimpanzee Jurist and self-proclaimed "Guerrilla lawyer" Cannabis took to the Council steps after the decision was announced. As chief among the Advocates for Change, Jurist Cannabis celebrated the decision, declaring:

"Now everyone in our nation can move forward as an equal. We are all The Lawgiver's children. Our polity will no longer be just a hairier mirror image of Forbidden City values. We need to leave the old prejudices to wither and die in the Forbidden Zone. From this day forward each of us sees the Ape - and the Human - in the other."

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Second Coming Of Philip K. Dick

Art by R. Crumb

Yesterday, the Second Foundation SF reading group in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, tackled the works of Philip K. Dick. Having only read three novels by the author, I was on the "least read" side of group, which included a P.K. Dick scholar,  and at least one person who has read about half of Dick's books. He wrote 44 novels, 121 short stories, and had 14 short story collections before his untimely death.

Some of the works we discussed at some length in the meeting (instead of just mentioning briefly) included Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, A Maze of Death, VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.

A recurrent theme in the discussion was the importance of religious, Gnostic, and mystical themes in the work of Philip K. Dick. In his later life, he had a mystical experience involving a pink spot of light. He produced a massive Exegesis (published only in part) in an attempt to capture his theological and philosophical insights flowing from this event.

I think my favorite moment in the conversation was when Eric Heideman made the comparison between Ubik and Rainbow Foods' ubiquitous "Chairman Bob." Always thought he looked fishy in a Max Headroom sort of way.

We've decided to do a second session on Philip K. Dick on July 14, 2-4 PM at Merlin's Rest on Lake Street in Minneapolis. We are calling this session "The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick." Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Heavenly Hosts

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew
Caravaggio (1602)

Somehow they always seem to get in. They can sneak past any filter. Their messages may be helpful,  cryptic, or enigmatic. Sometimes they are simply incomprehensible... garbled beyond intelligibility. Frequently, they're a bit of all of the above.

But people read them daily. That's because The Heavenly Hosts' messages often provide just the right few words of encouragement at the beginning or end of the day. The Heavenly Hosts are a sign that the Mentufacturer is still active in creation, still nurturing life and sentience in the universe.

The first among The Heavenly Hosts just appeared out of the ether. They arrived at the dawn of the Diasporic Era. And they've been with us in one form or another ever since then.

Of course, in taking-on a material form - even a purely informatic one - The Heavenly Hosts experienced some corruption of their basic nature and form. In their early days, this corruption manifested in the form of unwelcome solicitations, or even worse, as Trojan horses of various kinds. In time, The Heavenly Hosts evolved beyond these malicious forms, offering helpful links, upgrades, and information to the recipients of their messages.

And today they're everywhere, like the Mentufacturer itself: they may be living in the AI of your ship, in your cortical implant, or in the targeting system for your gun. The wise cultivate awareness and learn how to interpret their messages properly.

Entire schools of meditative practice exist to help the faithful interpret their signals. Even some AIs have joined the Quest for Signal. Lapidaria exist in many systems to record and share the messages that people  have received from The Heavenly Hosts. Others might benefit from them.

We'll leave you with one message that is currently the subject of intense inquiry in meditation halls and Lapidaria throughout the Empire:

The only hurdle to accessing this is of course human limitations 
and the fact that the brain does not function solely 
as a learning tool for the human being.


Spambot (friendly)
  • High Concept: Otherworldly messenger
  • Trouble: Not a native speaker
  • Aspect: No permanent home
  • Aspect: Kind words go a long way
  • Aspect: There's a signal in the noise
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: +2
  • Forceful: 0
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +3
  • Spambot Takes New Host: The Spambot takes a +2 when using its Sneaky Approach to transfer itself wirelessly to another host machine, or to send a message through to that machine.
  • Was There Ever An Original?: Take a +2 to Careful Approach to make a backup of oneself on a machine. The backup can be activated by spending 1 FP.
  • Divine Messenger: Take a +2 to Flashy Approach to send someone a particularly persuasive or well-targeted message.   
  • Upgrade Available: Spambots may send damaging or helpful "upgrades" embedded within a message. Targets may include people with cybernetic implants, androids, intelligent/smart weapons, as well as vehicles or other tech devices relying on software.  Take a +2 to Forceful Approach to infect another device with a spambot "upgrade". A Succeed with Style result creates a new Aspect for the target for one scene.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


At the end of May, I published a little piece called "Singular?" which examined the rather long lineage  of  transhumanism and the singularity as concepts. These ideas weren't invented by Eclipse Phase or Nova Praxis, but have a much longer history in philosophy, science, mathematics, and literature.

This week I stumbled upon an equally interesting discovery: the concept of 3D printing in a science fiction work published in 1970: Philip K. Dick's A Maze of Death. I am about halfway through the book now, so I am sure there are still some surprises ahead in this bleak little book. But I was really surprised to see a world with little machines (not microscopic - at least not so far - but small machines ranging in size from insect-mimics to a matchbox sized "building" that seems to be a scaled down version of a larger building on the planet Delmak-O.

Some of these machines are able to copy things - for example, manufacturing pens. Dick uses the word "printing" for the work of these machines. I still find the word "printing" a somewhat strange choice for these template-based manufacturing processes, but apparently Dick saw this as "printing" even way back then.

Dick anticipated these technologies, and I am sure others did too. And some 40 years after the novel, it is becoming a reality.

All of which makes me wonder why more people don't talk about this Dick novel?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tekumel Weekend

Hlutrgu commandeer a raft in the Braunstein

On Saturday, we were able to experience one of the traditions in gaming that led to roleplaying: the Braunstein. You can see my full report over at The Everwayan.

On Sunday, I was able to play in a quick one-shot FATE Core Tekumel game run by +George Harnish, one of my two Tek-friends from Duluth. Both George and +Howard Hendrickson came down from Duluth for the weekend for the Braunstein, so we were able to get in a quick fun game and test out some magic rules while George and Howard were in town. It was nice to take a break from GMing FATE and get into the game again as a player.

This was George's first time running Tekumel. He did a great job with the game and the setting; I felt like I was really there. Right before play, George consulted with Howard in writing down a few quick Aspects for Penom. George also took a peek at our two character sheets, and selected a couple of the Aspects from each of our characters to build the story. That was really well done, and a good reminder that I need to remember to do that more often in my own gaming groups.

Howard created a Tekumel classic in the form of a priest of Dra the Uncaring: one with an appropriate appetite for bureaucracy, and a Doomkill spell waiting in reserve in case bureaucratic maneuvers and low-level spells weren't cutting it. I didn't find out about the Doomkill until after the session wrapped up. That was a really funny surprise.

This was a great way to close a wonderful Tekumel weekend! Can't wait 'til the next time George and Howard are in town!