The Alignment System

Picture unrelated.

It’s an illuminating and frequently deeply flawed mode of perceiving character value, an apperception inherited from the Dungeons and Dragons rule set from as far back as I can remember [my second edition rule books].  If you’ve ever heard of “chaotic neutral” or “neutral evil,” you know what I’m talking about.  For those that don’t, the alignment system is a means of attributing certain motivations and behaviors to both player and non player characters in a role playing game.  At the very top of the list, you have “Lawful Good” which should be understood as the congress of two devotions, the interest in upholding an internally or externally consistent moral value set–the “Lawful”–and the desire to do “Good,” which might as well be described as to act in the interest in others rather than in the interest of self.  I didn’t make up these conventions.  At the other end of the spectrum you have “Chaotic Evil,” wherein these motivations are effectively reversed, as the character is inspired by no consistent set of ethical guidelines whether internal or external and furthermore the character acts quite generally in self interest.  Furthermore, a “Chaotic Neutral” character would be motivated by no particular ethic but would be inspired neither by the desire to aid others or to aid self, a difficult character type that I might discuss at a different time, whereas a “Lawful Neutral” character would be purely inspired by an ethic and no other consideration whatsoever.

A paladin, cavalier, crusader, or conventional do-gooder might be described as “Lawful good.”  The antagonist of a Saturday-morning cartoon villain might be described as “Chaotic evil,” and you get the idea.

But what’s interesting is what you can do with these conventions.  Consider the sort of tree-hugging hippy that takes part in protest as if it were part of the nine to five.  She’s protesting, along with a gaggle of her own ilk, the redevelopment of a nuclear reactor into a more current generation, on the grounds that “nuclear power is unsafe.”  What she doesn’t consider, of course, is the relative paucity of options available.  Hydroelectric isn’t feasible in the climate; fossil fuels have their own, more destructive consequences, and green power simply lacks sufficient output.  In a way, she’s protesting the best option available, unless she wants to suggest that people should go without, causing rolling blackouts and other disasters that will negatively affect both agricultural production and the labor of trauma surgeons in the ER.  Either way, people die.  Consider further that the underlying motivation is not to save the world, even if she should not actually understand it, but rather the indemnification of her own rotten soul, which only participates in these protests as a form of virtue signalling.  Either way, she’s participating in protest as part of a sort of ethic, even if derived from flawed premises, but the underlying motivation is selfish; as such, she would be classed as “Lawful Evil.”  They’re rather like people that use ethical considerations for the sake of their own self interest.

Consider another suffering a moral quandary.  Orders have come down from high.  They’re to commence liquidation of the prisoners at the concentration camp under the correct or flawed premise that the cruelty is nevertheless necessary, as one might remove a necrotic limb to save the whole of the body.  The warden of the concentration camp is a moral man, the well-educated child of a well-educated priest and a poetess mother.  He knows that wholesale murder serves no moral ethic of which he can consider, but he also must consider the well-being of both those under his care and those of his entire nation, all the while considering the need to fulfill his woeful missives.  As such, in riot between the ethical and the good, he fatefully resigns himself to the latter and orders the barrel-shot obliteration of the camp’s charges.

The warden of a prison camp could well be a lawful and a good man.  A green party protester would well be lawful but in no-wise good.  This is either an indictment of the alignment system or an indication of the deeper fields of human experience, something of which writers should be acutely aware.  An interesting thought experiment and sometimes useful to elucidate the soul of a created character, particular if it’s a sort you’re not familiar with.

Update: Week of May 15, 2017

Working on another short story.  Shouldn’t be more than ten thousand words, but I can’t seem to finish the expanse of the diagramming.  I’m seeing a near constant explosion of vehicular violence from beginning to end intended to leave the reader numb and shattered by the conclusion of the final paragraph, unable to so much as utter a single gesticulation but “Good lord!”  Will have several recurring characters from other stories I’ve written acting in concert across a horizon I never considered possible before reading about the inner moons of Jupiter.  Did you know that there are moisture storms on Jupiter?

Wish I had more to relate.


I Can’t Speak Human

I used to frustrate my mother, and she used to frustrate me–according to her–when I was still a child, just having grasped the barest tolerance of spoken language.  I would ask for things, make wild gesticulations in a near panic, but while my mind was consumed in heat my tongue would never heed me, and I would prove completely incapable of explaining myself.  If I wanted something from the high shelf, I would apparently point, jump around, and utter a strange assembly of terms as if with great strain, and as my mother strained to interpret my bizarre language, I would throw my hands up in the air in indignant resignation and away altogether and at once from the kitchen.

She thought it was amusing.

It was amusing.

It’s strange how I feel like nothing ever changes.   Thirty-two years old now.  I’m widely read; I’m fluent in three languages; and I’ve a degree in English.  You’d think my communication skills would be peerless, but somehow that never bears out.

I’m going to mention now that I tend to be better in text than in person–not all the time but very frequently–but even in text I find that while I can communicate in perfectly functional and even sometimes–eloquent–English, nevertheless there’s no-one that can understand me.  It’s almost as if you managed to teach English to a cat, with all the lexicon, grammar, syntax, and phonology that entails.  But you wouldn’t get English as you understood it.  It would be all “Monkey banana raffle.”  The creature’s frame of reference is different, very different; so it wouldn’t matter.

I used to have a very hard and stringent understanding of English.  At the end of high school, thanks to a set of severe English teachers, I was perfectly equipped for the job.  But when I started delving into Greek and Latin, a whole different world opened up before me.  It isn’t merely that they’re different languages, but they come from a very, very distant time, and all their idioms and references are altogether different.  But I saw the potential in what they had to offer, realized that the narrow set of severe guidelines for English were largely style–nothing more–and that I could use the language in a more fluid style if I supposed.  Consider that word order, thanks to Greek’s case system, isn’t terribly important, whereas we use it in English to actually denote case.  By being a little clever with punctuation and the nature of the verb used, I got away with a much more free-form sentence structure.

But I feel like I’m missing the point.  This really only exacerbated my difficulties.

I must have read Nietzsche for the first time when I was sixteen.  It was liberating.  I’d lived in Massachusetts, one of those liberal hell-holes that demand the sort of group think that makes suicide someone preferable.  Nietzsche is many things, but the first of them is rejection.  It was encouraging to have another voice, the voice of a dead white man, expressing that things didn’t need to be this way.  I attempted to deprive myself of my ingrained morals and expectations and live the life of something else.  I thought I was travelling vertically, but in reality I was moving laterally.  I wasn’t escaping by escaping the atmosphere, instead I had found myself lost in the wilderness with all my references much more than inverted.

I prefer to have my feet on the ground anyways.

People are weak; people do ugly things.  There is more kindness and sincerity in the hungry eyes of a lion than the blank stares and empty souls of progressives come claiming to help you.

How am I ever going to turn this into something tight and on topic?

Should I even bother?


Writers Can’t Stand Their Parents

This is going to be a difficult subject, knocking the very idea of parenthood particularly into the offspring’s adulthood, but it’s something that nevertheless infects my awareness.  In truth, I could extend the phrase to “Writers Can’t Stand Their Parents and Family as a Whole.”  Now, you’re probably thinking I’m being something of a black-adorned edgelord from a wealthy suburban family who has never known true misery.  I’d rather not answer that supposition, actually.

Anyways, getting to the point, my parents were supportive when I transitioned into writing, more or less, but they became more supportive when I finally came about with finished products.  It is difficult to argue with results after all, especially when they’re so tangible.  But more and more and more and more, as I find myself more comfortable with being a writer, the more I find I can’t talk about my work with my parents–or any other relation–either as a response to a question or volunteered information.  I’ve become more bold, after all, in what I’m comfortable publishing, and when it was just poetic elucidation and the occasional incidence of ultraviolence, it wasn’t a big deal, but when I wrote my first kiss, which naturally led in other directions, I found I couldn’t discuss the subject in any capacity without making my parents audibly disconcerted.  It’s rather like discussing your own first kiss, or your first time alone with a woman–in that respect.  You just can’t discuss it with kin.

For that reason, the longer I’ve been operating, the further away I’ve been drifting from them.  We still talk frequently, though we reside in different states, but as regards my work I mention little more than the status of a manuscript and the like.  I hardly ever enter into the particulars.

And the truth is that it’s always difficult trying to provide summa for something you’ve written or something you intend to write.  It’s best elucidated in the reading itself.  It’s just ten times more miserable doing so with an authority figure you’ve had to respect since the very first moment you were cognizant, someone who can tear you apart with a stare or gesture or omitted phrase.

Update, Week of May 8, 2017

Happy belated VE day.

I suppose I have less to talk about.  There’s three possibly quite nearly finished manuscripts sitting in my lap, and I’ve only got time to publish one of them for the immediate.  That’s exciting; isn’t it?  Unfortunately, I’ve been so productive as to price myself out of a job–spending my free time trying to find productive ways of burning my free time.

I might have mentioned before that I’m as close to self published you can be, the major distinction being that I’m represented by an actual publisher.  As a consequence, I have a lot of free rein–both to explore the medium and to hang myself with, but it does nevertheless present possibilities the likes of Mr. Martin and Mrs. Rowling can’t possibly equal.  I am my own master, and whatever I see fit to enter my text, whatever I deem effective, is utterly my own decision.  Writers, but creative types in general, engage in a lot of self-censorship long before the manuscript even sees the eyes of an editor.  I wonder if I’ve been wrong all along, playing to the strengths of what might as well be a different industry rather than playing to my own.  There’s an author, long dead; I can’t remember his name.  He filled several pages literally with punctuation and nothing else.  I can’t even remember why.  But it’s nevertheless meaningful.  I could include content as rude as I’d like, so long as it doesn’t run foul of criminal statute and common law.  Even the Biblion is filled with rape, incest, murder, and masturbation.  Most published book in history.

Keep in mind I’ve got a book coming out Black Friday, but I intend to have it up for preorder several months beforehand.


Twitter: Bold Claims sans Elucidation

An issue near and dear to my heart.  I used to have a Twitter account, something I was developing for the sake of my business long before I realized the partisan political ends of the corporation itself and thereafter the complete uselessness of its product as a whole.  Twitter is a terrible service developed by a terrible company that had once had the gall to claim that they wanted the service to function as a new and essential public utility.  How far have the mighty fallen!  Every quarter they’re turning out huge income deficits whilst simultaneously turning away at least half their audience, possibly more considering the terrible product they actually provide.

You see, Twitter first came into being in a time when typical cell phones couldn’t manage text messages of over 140 characters.  Hence the character limit it retains to this day.  It was aimed predominantly to facilitate simple, short communications between friends via the application installed on cell phones.  Problem is, even when new phones that had a much larger character limit for text communication became common, Twitter never sufficiently upgraded their product, and they never altered their service to suit their changing user base.  As it is now, Twitter isn’t used nearly as much for short-stint communications between friends as much as it is an advertising platforms for corporations both mighty and minuscule–and for individuals both famous and unknown to pontificate on current events, predominantly politics.

They never updated the medium to suit this.

Let me get to the meat of this argument.

Imagine that you’re trying to lay out a political position in 140 characters.  Consider also that you’ll need to add several hashtags so that the Tweet will be visible to a meaningfully large audience.  You’re going to be restricted to a very small handful of words, probably nothing more than a very simple claim or condemnation–something like “Donald Trump is a Nazi #firstworldproblems #trustfundkids,” or “Bernie Sanders was ROBBED #ofcourseyadumby #I’mstillwithhersomehow.”  What sort of response are you going to expect for a communication like that?  I expect it will fall along party lines.  Those that agree will disseminate the message further, voicing their own support, while detractors will rip you a new asshole.  But imagine for a second if you didn’t have that character limit.  Instead of merely indicating that the DNC illegally robbed the primary from Bernie Sanders, you might actually have the space to fully elucidate your position with your thinking on the subject alongside any evidence you might have accrued to support your position.  In this quality, you’d be doing more than making a claim, you’d be making an argument.  In this respect, you’d be engaging in real communication that would invite considerate and thoughtful response from both supporters and detractors.  It wouldn’t have to descend into a shitstorm, as is so often the case with this platform.  Now, I’m not a web developer, but I don’t see what’s stopping Twitter from relaxing the character limit in consideration of these factors.

I should also mention that Twitter, owing to the character limit, is near useless for authors trying to connect with their audience.

I have to believe that Twitter is either incompetent or that Twitter is little more than a mouthpiece for establishment doctrine.  The only way they’d accept this level of income deficit is if they had the promise of income from elsewhere–for example, a large private or corporate backer.

Update Week of May 1, 2017

I used to be so nostalgic.

Busy busy.

Looks like Youtube is well on its way to becoming little more than television, providing a medium for major–particularly news–media whilst simultaneously driving their own original creators, who made the business successful in the first place, altogether out of business or otherwise entirely off the platform, perhaps for bigger and better things.  And this isn’t me lamenting content creators like H3H3 and Rob Dyke and the like; they’ll be able to make a proud living off of alternatives like Vidme in the future.  What’s sad is that Youtube is well on its way to becoming another Myspace, and the fools can’t see the truth in front of their own faces.  People don’t go to Youtube to watch CNN, and they will never want to.

Reminds me of my own predicament with Facebook.  Next to useless and censors all my work, driving me off the platform.  They’ll be lucky if they see another red cent out of me.

I Yell at my Cat

It’s really all my fault.  I made this happen.  It’s all me.  And now I’ve got to live with it, and the little shit’s so healthy, thanks to my assiduous care, that I’m going to be knocking fifty before he’s knocking off.

You see, I used to yell at my cat.  I actually have two cats, but I would only yell at the one.  He’s something of a character.  Apparently he was abandoned by the residents of a mobile home when they moved, and he went to a rescue organization after the neighbors found him wandering about wondering where his home was.  In all likelihood, he had been acquired as a kitten, but he must not have seemed so cute when he became an adult.  He has a lot of personality; in many ways he’s far too much like myself, and the distinction is only slipping with time.  Have to wonder if he’s acquiring my habits or if I’m acquiring his.

He has this vocalization, a meow, that was endearing at first, but it’s actually REALLY annoying.  I didn’t know an animal could complain with such conviction, complain about god knows what, and complain all the time.  Doesn’t matter if you feed him, doesn’t matter if you play with him; it’s like he’s got colic but only for meowing.  I would sit there, typing–I am a writer, you know–just listening to him sitting next to my face meowing directly into my ear as if he were the woeful reincarnation of that legless carnie I accidentally defecated upon in third grade.

Everyone has an end to his patience.  I’ve actually a lot more now since this all began.

I’d turn and yell at him, and then I’d feel instant regret and pet him until he felt comfortable again.  This went on for years.  Finally, my better half pointed out, “Robert, he thinks yelling is praise.”

She was right.

He was now getting my attention for the sole purpose of getting yelled at.  He was so practiced, so trained, that he had absolutely flat effect if I turned my tongue against him, and he knew that getting pet was the immediate aftermath of getting yelled at.

You see, it’s all my fault.  I did this.  And now I have to live with it.  So remember kids, when you’re losing your patience, don’t yell at your pets.


I had a professor once who was lecturing me on the relative merits of seeking a student loan, I think in this context for graduate school.  His advice finally coincided in “get rich then get the education you yearn for.”  It wasn’t particularly useful advice for the time, but he did mention something I’ll never forget.  He said that both the miserably poor and the unbelievably rich can be crushed under the weight of debt.  It seems that wants accrue as rapidly as things, and as most are not willing to wait for their labors to bear fruit, they will accept the misery of debt to render immediate their gratification.  For those afflicted, being rich is not being wealthy; they will never have the self-assured confidence of financial stability, and they will always lust after in agony what is mere inches out of their reach.

You see, the truth is that real wealth lies not so much in what you possess but within the scopes of your wants.  If cheap beer and billiards is all you need out of life, you can forever be wealthy while being a relatively poor man.  On the other hand, if you lust after expensive liquors, beautiful women, and more beautiful cars, despite your riches you will never be wealthy.

It is the absence of want that makes wealthy.

Changing the Guard

From the very beginning of my career as an author, at least from the public side of that career, I have consistently released serialized content.  The first–the Gregory Samuels series and the second–The Sword of the Saints.  My intention, my thinking at the time, was to draw in viewers with free-to-the-public content of more than mere samples but whole series released chapter by chapter once or twice a week.  In truth, I don’t think it was a terrible idea–it had been a functional strategy historically–but my capacity to disseminate these narratives slipped mightily when Facebook slapped me with enough black marks to ensure I’d never be able to advertise upon their medium ever again.  The nearly nine hundred followers that observe my page, by and large, are never updated whenever I make a new post; I actually have to pay money to even hit a notable fraction of my viewers, money that Facebook won’t even allow me to pay anymore.

In truth, I only get a measly amount of site traffic to my serials anymore.  It’s not worth the effort, which is a sad thing considering how much content I have remaining that will never now see the light of day until I rework it into a different format.

You see, the big budgets of the major publishing houses are increasingly a thing of the past.  Due to their overhead and inefficiency, they largely can’t afford to take a risk of anything they publish; they have to be assured it’s not merely going to be a winner, but a big winner; that’s the only way they’re going to use their massive marketing budgets to push the product.  To make it these days, as a tiny aspiring writer like myself, you have to be ingenuitive; you don’t have a massive budget to work with.  You need some sort of draw that doesn’t really cost capital–hence my serialized content.  But for the aforementioned, that’s not going to work anymore, and a result I’m going to take most of it down.  I’ll leave samples of my work on my page, but the vast majority of my content will return to sender until I can rework it into a publishable format.  I’m changing my marketing strategy, you see.  I have been working on this for a very long time.  Truth is, I didn’t want to abandon the serials, but it seems that nothing will be lost if I do.  At least they could be reworked into novels and the like, small things easily purchased in online format for perhaps not even a dollar.  I have a sense that when people really want to read, they don’t want to sort through a website but would rather have the whole thing in their hands, either upon paper or upon a tablet.

Anyways, look forward to Black Friday, when my next book is to be released.  In the mean-time, I’m not going to be going dark, but things will be changing.  Thank you for your patronage.