Salutation not Valedictions!

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Welcome to the Works of Robert Madsen, the home and online heart of the various writings of the author Robert Madsen and the occasional artist of his association.  I, the administrator, am the completely unpaid exponent of the writer in question, chained now for nearly two years upon this work-station and to be occasionally savaged with the lash when the wages of my continuous exhaustion and near-starvation causes me to roll my face across the keyboard. Read More …

Sword of the Saints: Sinner Chapter Twenty-Six

The musty stench of immeasurably expensive tomes arranged sometimes delicately and here and there helter-skelter, as if in terrible hurry, pervaded the round-house abode overlooking the wide, wide harbor from the strangely comforting shadow of a marriage bed, cast in the god-like fire-eyes of little lavender-scented candles imported from the far-off semi-tropical, potent enough to sting the eyes, potent enough to cast dribbles of unwanted tears upon steaming cheeks still throbbing with the rage of a violence unrealized.  She pushed aside the now-familiar sandalwood divider, clutching his hand painfully with the unreasoning demand of a woe-besotted child as his armor jingled holiday about him.  Alone now, she rested him, against his failing will, upon her hitherto lonely bed, and towered high above him, her knotted hands upon her cheeks and a coy expression playing across the corners of her lips while he continued to pretend he was elsewhere.

“I appreciate it,” she began, meandering about the several lifetime’s of esotera at fingertip’s length.  “Everything you’ve done.  I understand it’s been hard on you.  Murder from beginning to end and no end in sight.”

“Trust me, my lady,” he replied enthusiastically despite the evident exhaustion of his eyes, “I did only as any true knight would or should.”

“I know everything my mother told you.  I know everything she expects of me.”

But he smiled the queer grin of a gambler and replied only, “Matron Barsica is a fine woman, and I certainly wouldn’t expect her daughter to learn such distrust towards her living ancestor.”

“Oh come now!  Come off of it!  Like I don’t have eyes and ears within the house—and without.  She wants a baby,” she announced with a certain disquiet, rubbing the flat of her stomach thoughtfully, “and she wants it out of me.  You were only to be the stud—but goodness me how you have proved so much more.  I always wanted a knight, you see.  Always wanted my first to be magical, that is before he was taken out back and his head chopped off before the children developed an attachment.”

“I had a feeling,” he replied, sweating his brow into his hands, “that I was never intended to survive the ordeal.”

“But whether you realize it or not, what you’ve done is immeasurably more meaningful.  A husband!  Unheard of!  But it’s going to happen.”  She strode up casually, the side-slit velvet robe revealing the gossamer nightgown swaddling her youthful features beneath.  With a single motion tearing at the seams of her bodice she revealed the entirety of her chest, leaving nothing to the imagination.  “Isn’t this what you want?” she quizzed with the cruelty of the widow spider, running her fingers carefully across her nipples while her elongated tongue slowly traveled the distance to her own supple breasts.”

He snapped to attention, rising with the long-practiced novelty of salute before she again slammed him on the bed with boom that resided throughout the monstrous domicile and straddled him, continuing, “You know, you don’t give me the impression of a virgin, and neither do you seem particularly fearful of us—so just what is it?”

Without meeting her gaze, with his eyes fixated upon the meaningless treasures accorded in every direction, he responded with a whisper, “I don’t like being told what to do.”

“I’ll have to remember that,” she giggled, “husband; after all I have very high hopes for you.”

Scarlett Johansson Will Never Be Menacing

People are up in arms about this new Ghost in the Shell movie–live action this time–and starring such actors as can be generally acquired by the ancient fucking reptiles that inhabit the fissile wastes of the West Coast.  Never mind that the remaining corpus of material has been either illustration or animation, working with the advantages and disadvantages therein; never mind that the rights to produce the movie were not by any means stolen from its legal possessor; what they’re mad most about is that the starring actress–and a good portion of the rest of the cast–are white and that therefore this film represents some sort of perverted whitewashing of the superiority of the yellow race.  But I couldn’t care less about that.  Never mind that the material for the Ghost in the Shell franchise is borrowed rather liberally from the science fiction authors of the Western World; never mind neither that this is generally how creative inspiration works; it doesn’t fucking matter.  If the creator of the licensed title believes that he can make a better product that will sell more tickets by using a certain cast, you’re damn right he will.

Truth is, I’m up in arms as well, but it’s for altogether different reasons.  I’ve actually long been a fan of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, among the few Japanese media besides Kurosawa that I can tolerate.  And I’ve seen some very faithful interpretations of Major Kusanagi’s character.  She’s tough, generally self-assured, and she can seem menacing without seeming a monster.  She’s a military brat of an older tradition, and it’s something I can appreciate.  And frankly, I don’t think Johansson is a decent actress in general; I certainly don’t think she can faithfully render the major’s character.  She does certainly have the vacant stare that might be possessed by a full-body prosthetic, but I frankly think that it’s a failing not of non-verbal communication but the cry of the long atrophy of that bit of gray matter affixed to her brain stem.

This might seem mean to me in retrospect, but then I’d remember her terrible interpretation of the Russian language.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 14

Midshipman’s Log Part 104

Gregory Samuels

October 29, 1252 CNS

I bet you’re thinking it’s all sunshine lollypops and rainbows everything.  I admit, I really didn’t expect to see what I did; makes me terrified about what might have been on the other side of the door that horrifying night when I was plaything for whatever remained of my half-score of comrades smiling wickedly between the shudders of absolute darkness.  So you might remember, I managed to monkey-rig a sort of vault-cracking device that got the bulkhead open—just enough to get me access to the armory, the mess, even the command module.  I believe I was voraciously consuming the stale and time-besotted contents of a chicken sandwich of questionable mayonnaise whilst I was recording my long day’s triumph.  But we’ve got a few hiccups, not the least of which is my repeated need to shatter the porcelain goddess with the barely-digested contents of my last few days.  post-it_18Admit I hadn’t eaten much for days, but this just isn’t fair.  I’m trying to keep down a lot of water; there’s a real danger of dehydration, but there’s some sort of rust content or something in the pipes.  Sometimes they run clean, but at other times they put out H2O stained with this sort of greasy substance.  Besides someone literally scumming the water recycling system with tubs and tubs of hydraulic grease, I literally have no sane conclusion.

Anyways, you’re probably sick of my rambling, would prefer I get to the point.  Well, I can assure you I safely made it to the command module; got the doors locked behind me.  I traveled unmolested to the starboard armory, but—well—she won’t be doing anyone much good.  You couldn’t force a lock like that.  The door was ripped open—I think from the inside—and the arms were completely torn to shreds.  addendum_02 armoryI was able salvage a few mags for my pistol, but I think that’s the most I’m gonna manage.  Broken to fucking pieces.  Whatever’d done it even discharged a good portion of their contents; chamber was all scored beyond recognition.  Would have killed a normal man, and I don’t think a normal man could manage that kind of assault against inanimate objects.

Anyways, I have a tendency to wander.  My father used to make fun of me; I was never really able to communicate with other people.  There was always this disconnect.  I’d bend over backwards to make whatever rose into my noggin comprehensible to normal people, but it was difficult, and I frequently failed, and I often came across as cruelly callous and otherwise evil.  It’s not like I intended to ostracize myself.

So, back to my points.  My bowels are on fire.  Anyways, I made it unopposed to the command module.  Shit was locked down tight, same as I left it.  Who the fuck was sealing the bulkheads?  Worry it might be a question left to the generations and the academics after they haul my rotten corpse out of the waste disposal system.

So anyways, I made it back to the command module, checked out navigational data; the navigational AI was on the verge of tears.  Told her to grow the fuck up.  She complained that she received some communications from passing vessels.  This caught my attention; someone heard our emergency message.  But that was it.  They heard it, but someone from the command module relayed a response, saying that our hardware was malfunctioning and to ignore further communications of this nature.  Didn’t even follow protocol.  Passing transports might take it as a dead give away that something’s wrong, or they might not.  I don’t know.

Anyways, I go on duty in a few minutes; the lieutenant will have my guts for garters if I don’t take stock, and it’s been too long since anyone’s cared about routine maintenance.  Apparently, some shit-head ripped out a bulkhead with stock stolen from the holds.  I really have to complain about the quality of the food here.  Think I’ve gotta make another trip to the head.

Panic Attacks

Now, I know a little too much about this subject.  It was the reason I sought the assistance of a professional in the first place.  While I’ve gone for a long time without specifying whatever ailment I have suffered, this will unfortunately narrow the list more than a little uncomfortably, but it’s something I’m willing to risk considering the subject matter.

Now, if you’ve never suffered a panic attack, never had a condition that provides them, never had reason to worry on this subject, much of what I’m saying will be difficult to comprehend.  There are a lot of unpleasant experiences one can endure in life, but there are few that produce such dread in the sufferer.  When I used to see depictions of mental disease in media, just for example, I could never really comprehend how anyone, even a loony, could behave with such reckless disregard; I thought their depiction was something purely imaginary meant to titillate crowds.  And while there’s a certain amount of that, there’s also a kernel of truth within.  Let’s say you’ve got a character suffering hallucinations and delusions, seeing people where there are none, who is nevertheless aware that he’s seeing what others apparently can’t.  You’d think he could throttle his reactions and at least play nice with normal people, but the problem is that delusions are so powerful.  You could acknowledge logically in your head that the demon standing at your bedside can’t possibly exist, but the very experience of it is so powerful and unpleasant that you nevertheless can’t help screaming and then hysterically sobbing.

A panic attack is one of the most unpleasant experiences you can experience.  You will feel such terror that you may nevertheless know unreasonable, but you can’t help from feeling it, and this terrible sense of dread can continue for long miserable hours until the strain upon your head and your heart makes you seriously contemplate suicide.  It isn’t that you want to die; you don’t even need to have a history of suicidal ideation; the experience is simply so powerful and so dreadful that you may wish you were dead.  And when it’s over and when you’ve gotten over it, every time you develop a niggling of fear, you can’t help wondering, “Is this the buildup to yet another panic attack?”  And the fear of another attack alone may give you another attack.  It feeds back into itself continuously until your mental and physical health are shattered and you’re a mere fraction of your former self, wallowing in the corner blubbering in tongues that were never meant for human ears.

God save us.

Sword of the Saints: Sinner Chapter Twenty-Five

“You may remember, Sir Arius, that this is and remains my house, and while within you shall be obligated to my rules, inasmuch as is possible.  The Matron Tyletus has arrived here at my beckoning to partake of our familial custom and ideally to smooth over any feathers ruffled during the day.  In a way,” she continued, making direct and unblinking eye contact, “I am overwhelmed at your outpouring of the most obvious affection for myself and my own, but please allow me from here on in to make such decisions as to the status of houses and the breaking of strong men upon the battlefields.”

He grasped his chin, pausing thoughtfully at length before giving answer, while a room filled with strangely glistening eyes fixated upon his deep set features shadowed in the chandelier light.  “Then allow me to apologize to the Lady of Tyletus,” he rejoined, standing at a torso-length bow, “whom I so clearly abused thanks to the exhilaration of the day’s bloodletting.”

She clearly hadn’t been contented, and the strain on her face was most obvious, curling ever further into some terrible eldritch thing far beyond the sullen nature of a mere frown, but ignoring the candor of the kinsmen’s slayer she resumed the whispering, hissing colloquium with the Matron Barsica while once again eating utensils scratched upon wondrously lacquered plateware.  His continuing stand went unacknowledged, and the room resented his presence thoroughly and once again.

He collapsed again upon his marked station and stared across at his grinning betrothed as if his only respite remaining in this life, his strongly-marked chin resting upon the table’s well-planed timbers stained in the carmine of wild cherries.

“I don’t even know what I’m doing here,” he intoned below the general din, while the Lady Rina drew close to hear, letting clatter unpleasantly her dining implements upon the sealed table.  “What am I doing here?  I’m only following the script, doing what I’d been expected to do, doing what I would do, considering—what have I done wrong?” he continued somberly.

“The other women will resent you generally,” she replied with unforeseen insight, “and what passes for males will assume the intent of their mothers, generally speaking the various Ga Zakazi of the house.  You will not be loved; you will not be adored; you probably won’t be provided any approximation of decent behavior, lest you carve it from their skulls still screaming.”

“You’ve been reading epic literature.”

“You know me.  It’s difficult not to, all things considered.  And besides, why don’t you away with me and allow the guards a few fair moments of respite?  Heaven knows they’ve been worked to the bone keeping all different manner of murderous intruder from penetrating the house and letting open the new flood-gates of immeasurable bloodbath.”

“But I still haven’t eaten.”

“And you won’t.  Even valid men are prohibited in this regard.”

“Fine.  Let us away.”

The Foreseeable April

A boring span of time in all likelihood wasted in editing and editing and editing again my original book into something sufficiently different.  Already went through a draft that looked quite presentable, but I know better than to trust my initial instincts.  So we’re going to endure several iterations and outside eyes before we determine the manuscript completed.  After that, I’ll have to see, in likely several forms, how the finished product looks on Amazon.  After that, assuming I’m allowed, I should be able to put it up on preorder to be ready for sale on Black Friday.

I’ve also got a fantasy project waiting in the wings.  Not sure I’ve discussed this very much before.  While there’s already running a “Sword of the Saints” serial, there’s also a “Sword of the Saints” novel featuring different characters doing different things but nevertheless in the same universe but at a different time.  It’s fantasy; it’s dark; and it’s occasionally very dark, starring protagonists for whom antihero would largely be an understatement or a complete misunderstanding.  Thing is, the novel was finished, but on a closer inspection, I’d like to provide a book 2 into this volume for a number of reasons.  That means more writing, a great deal more writing, but I think it will be worth it.  If the volume does well, I’ll consider writing a volume 2 consisting in two books, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself.

Anonymous Conversation

I remember there was this pundit on television complaining, as they are wont, about the nature of anonymous conversation, and that it should be done away with.  And his argument was simple, if people can’t be held accountable for their speech, even if only socially, then they could conceivably say anything, no matter how dangerous or how benign.  I don’t think he thought through the wisdom of those words.

We live in a country, unfortunately not a world, where the right to free speech is legally protected by the federal government.  It is not provided by the federal government, merely protected; it is provided, according to the various writings of the founders, by one’s creator, essentially imbued.  Unfortunately, this does not protect us from all consequences and recourse should we choose to exercise our free speech.  It is altogether too easy for a man to lose his living and endanger his family by speaking his mind, most particularly if he’s speaking the truth.  Essentially, there are some perspectives that are considered acceptable speech within broad society, and there are others that are not.  Speech that genuinely mimics the hogwash of the mainstream media is particularly prized while alternative perspectives–say for an extreme example, fascism–are considered so inimical as to invite and justify physical violence, the words of the first amendment be damned.

Previously, to speak your mind and get away with it, you’d have to distribute leaflets, but that required the use of a printing press, which would make you generally simple enough to track down, but the internet has provided altogether new opportunities.  Internet forums of likeminded or even alternatively minded souls can communicate either with the use of a handle or with no identification whatsoever, sometimes not even requiring registration with an email address.  It was slow going, and I never imagined it would succeed the way it has, but this ultimately blossomed into an alternative media movement composed not of monolith conglomerates but legions of individual posters proclaiming a generally united message, themselves so difficult to track down as to require the various illegal means of the alphabet agencies so happy to abuse the word of law for short-term gains.  In the last presidential election, the influence of such entities as 4chan cannot be overstated.  They disseminated alternative opinions both broadly and without major hindrance, and many of these reached national importance, particularly in the form of memes–quite famously “Pepe” the frog, which the mainstream media hilariously tried to dismiss as a white nationalist emblem, only serving to further its dissemination.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 13

Midshipman’s Log Part 103

Gregory Samuels

October 23, 1252 CNS

I’ll freely confess that I rarely come across as collected, but this day was a glory, absolute glory, if only it weren’t so strange.  Aside from that, getting more than a little cramped in these conditions, getting sleep when I blessedly can.  Cabin fever, pure and simple, but what do you expect in the starliner life, even if the ship is massive enough for an internal rail network?

So I’m sure you’re waiting at the edge of your seat, eager to hear about my success or failure.  At least someone.  Back on Pilar Secundus, I never knew anyone that did.  Guess I’m lucky this’ll be your job.  Fuck you.

So, some shithead made off with anything resembling breaching gear.  No thermite, certainly no thermal lance, and even the fucking plasma cutters were stolen.  Puts me in a shitty position, as I mentioned, starving to death down here.  At least I haven’t had any unexpected pokes in the night.  Of course, it’s always night down here.  Anyways, they hadn’t seen fit to rob me of the various acetylene torches placed in appropriate positions along the hallways.  A fair sight less efficient than a plasma torch, but there was enough fuel, once I cannibalized the lot of them—just enough, bet those shitheads didn’t think of that.

post-it_16 torchFound a few valves, adhesive membranes, whatever I could, and there was a large supply of liquid helium bound for some research station someplace unpronounceable.  I’m writing this as I’m downing a stale chicken sandwich I stole from the mess.  I’m not complaining.  Anyways, took me several hours work, the bulkhead doors are like exterior armor, a foot thick on each side with an internal atmosphere to permit the movement of armored bolts to keep the whole arrangement in check.  Took me forever—five hours, hot bloody work with bits of burnished metal shooting past my face.  Couldn’t find a welding mask, had to do with O’Leary’s spectacles.  She was usually a miserable bitch—Irish, whatever that is—but she gave me a hand, passing back and forth what remained of my hand-tools until the whole arrangement was ready.  I applied the adhesive membrane and connected via tubing the helium to the aperture, all of this attached to a novelty water-pump.  Prayed to all the gods I don’t believe in that the pump wouldn’t break.  O’Leary didn’t have much to say.  Anyways, turned on the pump and ran down the hall, didn’t want to be surprised with a hail of shards.

post-it_17 olearyGods above what a mess—composite armor, not the simple rolled steel of a bygone age—would have lacerated to ribbons a whole score of men.  Way was open, O’Leary said she had somewhere to be.  And here I am.  Delicious.  I’ll be to the command cabin before you know it.

Learning a Language

It can be daunting, right?  The last time you learned a language, it took you nearly twenty years to be fully competent and you’re still learning things about your native tongue, facets and subtleties that might be forbidden to others.  And so when you encounter someone bilingual, trilingual, or–good help you–a polyglot, it’s like being in a room with a living deity capable of feats to him simple and to you utterly unassailable.  Luckily, I’m here to relate that this really isn’t the case.

When I was in grade school, I took French for many years, time in which I happened to build some approximation of a standard French pronunciation, but when I see full adults trying to learn a language, speaking it without an obviously foreign accent is often a skill utterly beyond them.  The further back you go, the more that can be intuitively adopted, the easier it is to get native fluency, but you have to remember that you spent twenty years getting your native fluency in your own tongue.  If someone insists to you that he has native proficiency in several languages, he either grew up speaking all of them in his household, he’s a genuine polyglot, or he’s a simple liar that doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Generally, if someone says that he knows French in addition to his mother tongue, he means that he can read French and speak it for the most part without the aid of a lexicon, but he’s never going to insist he can equal your typical native speaker in knowledge of all those myriad subtleties.

Now, I’ve got experience in French, German, Sanskrit, Classical Greek, and Latin.  The first of these I simply don’t have the time to pursue anymore, though I can usually get through a reading of French; the remaining two languages I can read more than adequately, but nevertheless I’m far from being a master, but most professors would nevertheless term me fluent.  And that’s just the thing; “fluent” in this context is still a matter of extent but for the most part it means “good enough.”

I’m always learning more about Greek and Latin, and I’m slowly but surely becoming a more excellent reader.  That’s how it is for most people.  It’s a continual process that never ends.  There is no peak mastery; there is always at least one more hill.  That’s just the way it is.