Thursday, October 9, 2014

WTF...Thursday: Tetris

It’s been a while since I was clear headed enough to look upon the face of stupid and not blink. It’s hard to speak of stories that make me go “WTF” when the shit being shaken off of walnut trees is making me go “I wanna die”. But as I finally started to feel clear again I looked up and found myself seeing something that just could not be fathomed. For this, I have donned the appropriate attire and lifted my mighty keyboard once more to cast it against the wall in sheer aggravation.

But what I have returned to tell you of is not going to be easy to hear. No, in fact, I think it may drive many to the brink of madness. Those of you out there who are writers of any sort will cringe at the very mention of what I have come to say to you on this day. So, if you are reading this on a phone, or a tablet, or anything else that would allow you to be standing, I will need you to sit for a moment and brace for the shit I am about to lay out for you.

Are you sitting? Okay, if you are, click the jump…

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Writing Fantasies: Alternative Mythologies 6d - The Efik Religion

The fantasy genre is pretty euro-centric. So I’ve decided to research mythologies of the world to find some Alternative Mythologies to enrich the source materials and carry the genre into the future. Don’t forget to share on Twitter and Facebook, as this is definitely a message that doesn’t get out enough.

One of the great myths of West Africa perpetuated over time was that all of their religions were primitive compared to the ones they were eventually converted to. And often the idea is that the conversion was “helpful” to them because it stopped them from being “savage”. As seen with the Akan and the Fon, this is clearly not the case. I hope after the last few entries you’ve seen a lot of the similarities with other religions show the Europeans weren't as culturally superior to the Akan and Fon as they thought they were.

Europeans can do some crazy shit.
So it was a great surprise, to me at least, that one of the cultures in West Africa actually asked for evangelicals to come to them. In 1842, as the Atlantic Slave Trade was coming to a complete end, two of the rulers of the Efik people in the southwest corner of Nigeria, King Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town (formerly Ikot Itunko) and King Eyamba V of Duke Town (formerly Iboku Atapka), issued letters to the European traders that they wished to maintain their long standing relationships with Europe and would like to have missionaries and traders come to their land.

This King is less gaudy than the Pope.
For the kings, it was primarily a business decision. Prior to the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Efik people’s primary export was, unfortunately, their neighbors the Igbo. With the end of the slave trade, the kings saw an opportunity to improve their region and their standing by keeping their European contacts. Issuing letters in December of 1842, the two kings happily invited the Europeans to modernize their territory and evangelize their population.

Today, many of the Efik people are Christian, but there are still others who follow the old religion. Which leads one to ask: if they weren’t forced to do it, what motivated the change?

To answer that, let’s take a look at what they believed before.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Writing Fantasies: Alternative Mythologies Part 6c - The Dahomey Religion

The fantasy genre is pretty euro-centric. So I’ve decided to research mythologies of the world to find some Alternative Mythologies to enrich the source materials and carry the genre into the future. Don’t forget to share on Twitter and Facebook, as this is definitely a message that doesn’t get out enough.

One of the most influential but lesser known cultures of the West African region was the religion of the Fon people of the Dahomey Kingdom in modern day Benin. Though the Fon people were followers of West African Vodou, the Dahomey variation of Vodou was unique for bringing in several pre-existing animist traditions that spread through the rest of West African Vodou and even into the Vodou practiced in the western world (especially South America).

Because of this, they share a similarity to the Berbers in the way that other, better known, cultures are given credit for ideas that originated there. In fact, when looking through concepts that are better known for their representation in Vodou, you can find that several of them originated with the more animist inspired Fon traditions from the Dahomey Kingdom.

So, before eventually hitting Vodou down the line, it’s only fair to take a look at the major contributions made by…

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writing Fantasies - Alternative Mythologies Part 6b - The Ashanti/Akan Religion

For many of the cultures to come out of West Africa, what we know in the western world is often a derivative of one of their abstracts. Of course, the best example of this is Vodou, the culture we’ve long since associated with the darker aspects of their own superstitions, rather than the more mainstream beliefs. But even outside of Vodou you'll find that the common knowledge of West African cultures is generally limited to things which are the easiest for us to process.

One great example of this is the Ashanti, one of the most commonly known cultures of West Africa. People who are familiar with the word immediately know of the Ashanti folk hero Anansi the spider. But after that point you’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows more about who they are. In fact, most aren’t even aware of the fact that the Ashanti are a subgroup, a single part of a greater whole, and that the majority of their beliefs actually originate from the people who share their language: The Akan.

Akan conceptual symbols, the "Adinkra"
It makes some sense that the Ashanti take the limelight here, they are the largest subgroup of the Akan and thus most Akan that we’ve encountered over the centuries have been Ashanti. But what’s important about it is that details like that lead to us sometimes not understanding the culture as a whole. And so, today, let’s address the larger group’s beliefs (as well as I can in the space I have).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writing Fantasies - Alternative Mythologies Part 6a - Introduction to West Africa

When I started the Alternative Mythologies series, I did so with two major reasons in mind. The first was that the fantasy genres, by and large, have stagnated in the recent years. Our novels, games, and movies all fall under similar categories with the differences primarily in presentation and angle rather than source. As a result, some parts of the fantasy genre have been on the decline. The popularity of Urban Fantasy proves that it’s not the genre itself that’s a problem, but rather that people want to see something different from what has been done for so many years. New material can’t hurt.

Dare you to guess which one this is without looking it up
The second is that we’re living in a more global society than ever before. International markets have become more vibrant and viable for creators to work with. People in the domestic markets are becoming more aware of the outside world. We are slowly becoming an open multi-cultural society. There’s always been a vein of people who follow the teachings of another culture and those people have usually been marked as outcasts and weirdoes in the western world.  But today we’re finding those weirdoes are becoming mainstream rapidly.

There won't be true equality until this starts happening
Some may point at the internet, but the fact of the matter is that silly white people getting Chinese tattoos has been a thing for at least a couple decades. Rather, the reason is more fundamental: as people have become more accepting of each other, so too have we become more accepting of our cultures. Some start to complain that it’s “cultural appropriation”, but someone trying to show respect and love for someone else’s culture is not a bad thing, it’s a sign we’re starting to appreciate people and history other than our own. And, the fact is, we really could afford to know more about places like…

Monday, September 8, 2014

Alterpedia Historia: The First Ones

(I hate that I have to say this, but this is a fictional account of the history of a fictional world. I do not believe these things, nor should you, as I made them up. If I receive any comments that I did not do my research into these events, you will be mocked.)

In the Altered World series of books, there is an organization called the Alter Control Task Force. Though ostensibly an organization for policing activities of the Alter race, an attempt to prevent an eventual race war, they are actually representatives of a city-state on the ocean: The Republic of Argyre.

The Republic of Argyre, an artificial island anchored to an oceanic ridge in the pacific, is a city-state established by Alters for the sake of harboring their kind and establishing a relationship with the mainstream human population. Despite being an artificial island and attached to no primary landmass, the city’s structure is capable of potentially supporting all 12 to 15 million active Alters on the planet.

How did a race of people who’ve lived in hiding for centuries manage to construct such a city? Why would they build their city in the middle of the ocean? Where did they get the resources for such a task? In the Alterpedia Historia, we will answer these questions, but before we can, first, we need to start with the beginning. First, we need to start with…

Monday, August 18, 2014

Alternative Mythologies (detour 2): Guanches & The Distilled Essence of Mythology

So far, Alternative Mythologies has been my attempt to show you a glimpse of the world outside of our typically Euro-centric fantasy genre offerings. And along the way it’s easy to notice similarities that abound. People try to explain the animals they encounter in the wilderness, they try to explain the weather, they share a fear of death or of the idea that the dead may remain. Some of them may combine aspects to become things such as a rainbow which is really a massive serpent, or a cobra which holds the earth aloft. Come to think of it, a lot of mythologies involve the general idea of "snakes".

Seen here: all places where people are concerned about snakes
But the similarities make sense: our cultures have intermingled at one time or another throughout history. We not only respond to the world that we know, but the world others have known. Shared fears and shared concepts bleed across borders and vast distances. And, as I spoke of last time, at least one culture is so intermixed with every other culture around them that we hardly know them while still knowing almost everything about them. The Berbers are, for all intents and purposes, the Beatles of Mediterranean mythology.

But what happens when you take a culture and stick it in a place where there’s nothing to really interact with. Put the Berbers on a set of small, tropical islands off the west coast of Africa, away from the empires and constant movements of the Mediterranean seas, and what do you get? Well, you get people who have the most distilled essence of what mythology looks like when there is no need to explain the gods of other people. You get a people who have no Mongols, Hippos or invading drunken barbarians to worry about. In fact, while it remains true that a major driving force behind mythology is what scares or confuses people, only one thing has ever really scared or confused the aboriginal natives of the Canary Islands:

A fucking volcano.

So, of course, the only real story I have from the mythology of the Guanches of Canary Islands is one explaining eruptions. It’ll do.