Anchored Tersets and You

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Recently there was some heated discussion online about a “new poetic form”, the “anchored terset.” Described in the literary media as “radically condensed” and coined by Lisa Matthews as part of the Northern Poetry Library’s celebration of National Libraries Day, the form comprises three words and a full stop. It is argued that such a condensed form is democratic and suited to social media; anyone may find the time to write three words. This was at the core of criticism of the form, and while much of the vitriol can be discounted there are fruitful lines of critical enquiry concerning the form. Poetry can be described as compressing or abbreviating complex ideas in concise ways which are then unpicked by the reader. Compressing an idea into three words that evoke the right associations to paint a picture or provoke thought is immensely challenging: it may be easy to write three words but picking the three best words is not easy.

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Assume for a Moment God is Real (Eureka Seven 47)

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One question that has not been frequently raised in all of Eureka Seven‘s discussion of religion and godlike planetary intelligences is the matter of an afterlife; it is by now proven as fact that a planetary intelligence exists, and that its intention towards humanity is, in a way, peaceful. It has reached out with a messianic figure twice now and found a proper counterpart for Eureka in Renton. It is faced with humans led by Dewey who believe themselves superior to the divine, who would seek to enforce mastery over it. At the end of episode 47, Dewey claims that mankind will not bow down to, or live in fear of, an “unknown creature.” If God is supposed to be inscrutable, incomprehensible and omnipotent, then the line between faith and fear is – from this perspective – blurred.

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Short Story -Going the Wrong Way

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A recent discussion online about The Slayers, an anime I quite enjoy, put it in a slightly different context; I had forgotten, as the person I was reading said I most likely had, the amount of dull “demon politics” and worldbuilding that intersperses the great visual humour and fantasy parody. It does have quite a lot of this, and the most memorable parts – the very bizarre and slapstick fantasy jokes – are less common than I remembered.

This story is my effort to try and be what I remembered The Slayers being – a quite silly story of a bad day for a classic fantasy hero escalating out of control. Indeed its villain is a character I find recurs in my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns – a one-note miniboss who began as a shameless ripoff of Lina Inverse and who has become something a little more.


 

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Board Game Review – Code of Nine

One of the things I like most about the board game Archipelago is its hidden-identity mechanic; it feels distinct from other hidden-identity games in a way that only Dead of Winter comes close to. Each player has a unique game-end condition as well as a loyalty; one may or may not be a traitor, but each action must be weighed against the possibility that it will end the game. Each game-end condition is itself paired with a scoring condition – as the game is purely competitive, there is not purely a shared, known victory condition, but numerous ways to score of which only a few are known. Thus the uncertainty comes in knowing only a small proportion of the scoring conditions, and the remainder must be learned from reading how the other players act.

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Board Game Review – Red 7

Red 7 is a compelling card game, a fast-playing skill-based numbers game that offers a number of variants in the box to bring it from a simple family game to something slightly more complex. It falls within the set of quick games that are not quite fillers or party games, but which nevertheless only take half an hour or so to play – games like Traders of Osaka, Splendor, The Game and Code of Nine which have enough complexity to satisfy experienced boardgamers, but simple enough rules and a short enough playtime to fit easily into an evening between games.

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Board Game Review – Traders of Osaka

Traders of Osaka, a rethemed reissue of Traders of Carthage, is a comparatively light economic game with an enjoyable strategic depth behind concise and easily taught rules. It uses multiple purpose cards in several roles, minimising the array of components in a similar fashion to Glory to Rome, which is a design decision that can – as it does here – efficiently communicate a lot of information. If a card has multiple potential uses, any given draw will add that number of tactical options and so the market manipulation aspects of Traders are given complexity beyond chasing high value cards. The game also offers the potential for players to recover well from errors; unless a large number of mistakes are made in succession, a single setback is unlikely to completely put a player out of contention. Perhaps its greatest strength, though, is its use of open information to give players a lot of control over the game state and play strategically – while also making apparently hostile moves potentially profitable.

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Short Story Part 2 – As Above, So Below

I love the Dominic / Jurgens / Anemone plotline in Eureka Seven far too much. As soon as I began writing an E7 inspired cyberpunk story I knew I had to run with that idea of the Establishment man sympathetic in his naivete, and so it became clear this story had to be told on two levels – Below, the world of free-running, gang crime and vague oppression, and Above, the crushing bureaucracy of terror.

What made me edit this into a pair of short stories with uncertain ends, rather than a novella or longer piece, was my inexperience of writing crime fiction; I thought it better to write something I was confident in (world-building and characterisation) than a subpar mystery.


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Short Story Part 1 – As Below, So Above

These two short stories form together the opening to what was originally going to be a longer piece of writing which I found never quite worked out. In time I may return to it, but for now I think they stand quite well on their own.

The initial plan was to write something in the cyberpunk genre that also captured the dystopian psychedelia of Mirror’s Edge, Eureka Seven and Jet Set Radio, given my own spin via the music of Public Service Broadcasting. My aim was to create a world of postwar dreams soured into high-technology surveillance state, where overwhelming optimism was reinforced via a 1984-esque mass media reminding people over and over of the marvels of technology and the luxuries of the modern world so they come to accept it. This seemed a natural place for free-running countercultural gangs…


 

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Where Does Close Reading Become Projecting Meaning That Isn’t There? (More Thoughts on Iron Blooded Orphans)

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Both the greatest strength and potentially greatest weakness of G-Tekketsu is its laser-focus on masculinity and the “expectations” placed on men and women in a fiercely macho, dog-eat-dog society. It has failed to go anywhere fast so far with its story of Kudelia’s move from naivete to competence as an activist or political figure, with her still – some distance into the series now – bemoaning her lack of competence. Indeed, it has perhaps become even more reductive in how it presents its women. There is a narrative justification for this – this is a ship of sex-obsessed children in thrall to a salacious polygamist’s apparent living the manly dream, and the story is ostensibly about the demolition of their masculine ideals. Yet this inevitable demolition – and the foreshadowing does still suggest it is inevitable – has yet to come in any concrete way.

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My Mind Wanders As I Watch “Your Lie in April”

This article was written for the Reverse Thieves Anime Secret Santa project.

Your Lie in April opens in a way that suggests it will be a very unremarkable handling of well-worn themes in fiction about musicians; the iconoclastic performer whose playing style disgusts the Establishment and enthrals audiences, the retiring prodigy who has lost their confidence, etcetera. This is not to its detriment; it may not shake the boat in how it tells its story but it nevertheless, in episode 2’s scene of Kao playing her recital piece in a violin competition, depicts in a relatable way the thrill of hearing familiar music in unfamiliar settings. The “different” classical musician, the one who makes a stuffy musical canon fresh and new again, is a real-world phenomenon primarily of hype and PR; artists like Charlotte Church, Vanessa Mae et al come and go, each bringing their own easily hypeable angle to a musical genre that the media wishes to claim irrelevant.

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