A Walking Tour of DCC

DCC walking tour

  1. The Teeth. DCC’s original city gate is one of the few standing structures in all of Defia that date back to the Riorian Era, before the Death of the World. The two towers of the gate are nicknamed “the Teeth” because of their oblong conical shape and white stone walls (though they must be cleaned regularly to prevent yellowing). The southwestern bridge is sometimes also called “the Tongue.”
  2. The Staelworks. The Deccentury city-state was built with stael tools, and the Defian Empire was conquered with stael weapons. The Staelworks, built around the restored forge of the original Riorian smithy, has held a pivotal place throughout Defian history.
  3. The Oven. At first glance, it’s obvious that the Oven was an armory during the Riorian Era, with its imposing, fortified walls. And then at first scent, it’s equally obvious that the Oven is the largest and most sophisticated bakery by far in all of Defia. However, it is a closely guarded secret that most of the Oven actually exists underground, where the elusive Brotherhood of the Bakers pulls the strings of Defian society, ever in the shadows.
  4. Haunts. The Heroes’ Ground was an impressive cemetery for the most decorated fallen of the Defian Conquest, but after the Flood, it fell into ruin, its monuments effaced by time and tide. Known simply as “Haunts” since the reclamation of the city, it remained a hallowed though unkempt place.
  5. The Good Twin. After General Sfon the Ingot was made master of DCC in reward for his victorious campaigns, he commissioned two identical palacettes for his twin daughters in what was then the cleanest part of the city. When both his daughters were cursed by infertility, they chose divergent means of coping. “The Good Twin,” named for its mistress, became a center for charity and, following the Flood, a hospital for the poor.
  6. The Eight. The overgrown figure-eight-shaped course on the eastern edge of DCC is all that remains of a sport that enjoyed roaring popularity in the years immediately before the Flood. The exact rules of this sport have been lost to time, but it is thought that players had to hit small balls around the course with thin metal clubs, with points scored for both speed and number of swings.
  7. The Craenium. When the Flood finally receded, the Craenium was constructed to serve as the center of governance and scholarship for the reemergent Defian Empire. With its own bridge and gate on the northeastern side of the city, the Craenium is divided into four quadrants, for Judges, Scribes, Ossists, and Sanguists.
  8. The Cheddary. Officially proclaiming itself as the foremost cheese shop in Defia at its grand opening, the Cheddary soon gained a darker reputation as the Cheesemongers Guild positioned itself as a faster, cheaper, and far more terrifying alternative to the legal system for anyone looking to get things done in DCC. The Cheesemongers and the Bakers would harbor a bloody rivalry for more than a century.
  9. The Scar. The Motherquake, which destroyed most of the buildings in DCC despite the city’s high standards for construction, left a permanent mark on the urban landscape which the locals called simply “the Scar.” The sector of the city southeast of the Scar fell in elevation by nearly three salt lengths, half the height of a tall man, and much of that sector’s perimeter would eventually be submerged beneath the river waters. The Scar was smoothed into a navigable incline in vital places, but most of its length remained impassable to wheel traffic.
  10. The Outhouse. A manure factory on the cheap side of town was not just a lucrative business venture—it was also a perfect cover for an illegal laboratory. The Ossists and Sanguists who banded together to pursue banned hal research eventually earned the epithet “the Mouthbreathers,” and they became yet another breakaway secret society within the imperial capital.
  11. The Bad Twin. Even before the Flood, the Bad Twin had earned a reputation as a house of ill repute. After the reclamation of DCC, an attempt was made to turn the palacette into a museum, but that effort was finally doomed by the Motherquake and the descent (literally) of the surrounding neighborhood. The Bad Twin became a den of gambling and debauchery, and eventually the meeting place for the disgruntled leaders who would start the Defian Civil War. Through it all, however, the Bad Twin would also provide most of the financial support for the charity hospital based in the Good Twin next door.
  12. The Garrison. As imperial rule became ever more insecure and draconian in response to the fractious pressures within Defia, a center for military command and training was commissioned. The Garrison symbolized the emergence of an elite class of professional soldiers kept apart from the rest of society—but for one exception.
  13. The Treehouse. An equal and opposite counterpart to the Garrison arose in “the Treehouse,” a refuge of music, dance, free love, and intoxication without the grit and grime of the lower side of town. With its prestigious clientele, the Treehouse became the most coveted stage and canvass for all the artists in Defia.
  14. The Quium. Defia’s long and costly civil war culminated in the establishment of a (more or less) representative legislature which could (more or less) meet the new Defian Republic’s diverse needs. Though the civil bureaucracy remained in the Craenium, the official rabblerousing duties of the government were safely contained and (more or less) controlled.
  15. The Press. With the security of the republic ostensibly safeguarded by the Quium, the security of Deccentury City itself became the charge of the Vinters, a prosperous family of riverwine makers who financed much of the reconstruction of the city’s west side. From their headquarters by the rivineyard, known as “the Press,” the Vinters preoccupied themselves with keeping both the conniving Bakers and the treacherous Cheesemongers in check.
  16. The Starket. The epicenter of all Defian culture and commerce at the Sunset of the World was the Starket, where all things, from rare-breed livestock to epic poetry, could be showcased and bought. It also became a focal point for all those with political passions yet too much decency and intelligence to be involved with the Quium.

Great Gains

prolificThis blog is long overdue for a proper entry.

I am well into the reverse-outlining stage of my plan to get published. It’s nice to be a bit ahead of schedule for a change. I’m excited about getting The Sidewise Guys into publish-worthy shape. I’ve been rereading my first draft from the beginning, and I have been quite happy to discover that my first chapters are not nearly as grubby as I thought they’d be. Perhaps I do actually know what I’m doing!

Book 2 is going to be called The Sidewise Shadows. I know not, at this juncture, whether there will be a Book 3, nor what it might be called. All in good time.

In other exciting news, the creation and unveiling of the second prototype for Pike & Shot Poker went better than I anticipated! We recouped all the prototyping expenses through the crowdfunding campaign and recruited a good handful of willing playtesters. Plus, Pao is invested in the creation of the game now too ^_^



My Plan to Get Published

Read through SG and generate detailed chapter outline
June 4: Ep 1-7
June 11: Ep 8-14
June 18: Ep 15-21
June 25: Ep 22-28

Outline analysis, developmental editing
(reordering, foreshadowing, loose ends, character arcs, throughline)
July 9

July 16: Ep 1-7
July 23: Ep 8-14
July 30: Ep 15-21
August 6: Ep 22-28

(me, Danny, Arjay, Evan)
(Also give to Naomi for cover design)
August 20

Website design
(sample chapters, commemorative calendar, author bio, book cover)
August 27
September 3

Shooting script
September 17

September 24: props, wardrobe
October 1: jingle
October 8: cast/crew/equipment
October 15: locations/schedule

Shoot video
October 29
November 5

Edit video
November 12
November 19

Launch viral video marketing campaign
November 26

Might Book One Be Done?!

prolificThe Sidewise Guys – 16,017

Grand total – 754,932

So back in February, after finishing Episode 20, I went through a brief personal crisis during which I contemplated slapping a “TO BE CONTINUED” label on SG and proceeding with my efforts to get it published. I overcame that moment of silliness and instead declared “Midpoint Party!” which also turned out to be silly because it soon became obvious that Episode 20 was in no way the midpoint of the story.

Now, however, having completed Episode 28, I find it a scarily reasonable proposition to end the first book of my Sidewise series here. Of course, anyone who knows me well enough is aware that I cannot write a small story to save my life, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the plot I’ve had in my head this whole time would take more than one novel to realize. Somehow, it has surprised me anyway.

Now, this is obviously a decision I need to sleep on. Here are the facts for my later contemplation:

  1. Current word count is 109,594–a pretty ideal length for a novel, if perhaps shortish for science fiction.
  2. Current character count is 613,358–damn respectable, in my professional opinion.
  3. Current page count is 314–which means nothing at all in MS Word, but still heartens me because it is equal to 100(pi), which I take as a good omen.
  4. In terms of story structure, I have indeed reached a pretty good stopping point. I intend for there to be a time jump after Episode 28, so it would make sense to start the second book there.
  5. I’m going to need to take a mind-hurtingly long length of time to revise this first draft into a presentable state. It’s not as bad as my train wreck of a master’s thesis was, but it still needs work at all levels, for sure. And I only have a year and a half before PhD classes begin (if all goes as planned), and I only have three years (almost to the day, as it happens) to achieve my goal of getting published by the age of thirty.

Might finishing the first draft of The Sidewise Guys Book One be my surprise birthday present to myself? Kind of an awesome thought!

I’ll think it over tomorrow.


A Poem I Wrote This Morning


I wish I was a hero.
Somebody special. Somebody who could change the world.
I want to be strong enough to sweep my wife and lover off her feet,
Proud enough to shine eternal in my daughter’s memory,
Not this blanched, defeated thing
Whose first instinct has become resignation,
Whose heart whispers its despair.
I wanted to be a better man than this.

I am a hero.
Someone special. Someone who can change the world.
I am strong enough to carry my soulmate over the horizon,
Proud enough to inspire greatness in my daughter’s deeds.
I am lucky. I always have been.
My first instinct is humility,
Even as my heart whispers of wonders to be created.
I want to be a better man
Every day of my life.

Futurist Thoughts

In the beginning cinematic of Civilization: Beyond Earth, a father watches his daughter blast off on a seeder ship bound for Alpha Centauri. The game follows the adventures of the daughter and her fellow colonists. But what did the father do with the rest of his life? What an odd game that would have made.

Lately I’ve gotten into conversations with many people about how the world is going to completely change in the next few decades, mostly because of artificial intelligence. The premises on which our culture is founded are simply going to go out the window, and hardly anyone is even thinking about it, let alone preparing for it.

Here’s the way I see it.

Humans evolved (like every other animal) to meet some basic needs: get things to eat, avoid being eaten, avoid dying of exposure. Hunting/gathering was our original thing, and our bodies are still designed for that lifestyle, but once we developed the trick of mastering our environment, we figured out how to meet our basic needs rather quickly (in terms of evolutionary timescales).

Today, a very large majority of humans have enough to eat, are never in serious danger of being eaten, and are never in serious danger of dying of exposure. Our technologies of automation and social organization have given us surpluses of food, safety, and shelter–so much so that in the United States, there are ironic yet very real problems with having too much to eat, having too few predatory animals left, and spending too much time in the shelter of our homes and offices.

So, with our basic needs so handily met, what do we do with ourselves? We make up new problems to have. That’s the only way to keep the economy growing, since economic growth seems to be the ultimate means/end of all policy ever. We have to keep creating new needs: “I need to buy an outfit that’s in fashion.” “I need a bigger TV.” “I need a new phone because I need to stream videos when I’m in the bathroom.”

We accept this way of being, and it keeps us occupied. Increasingly, technologies are being created to give us the mere illusion of accomplishing things. That’s what most video games are about. But I would argue that that is also what a lot of bureaucracy is about. At work, my job mainly entails getting information from a computer, printing it out on paper, and then giving the paper to someone else so they can put the information back into a computer. What I do all day is related to food, safety, and shelter in only a very abstract way. That’s how specialized our roles in society have become, because we’re so efficient that it only take 2% of our population to grow enough food for everyone (indeed, to grow too much food for everyone).

Now, here’s what is going to break this silly system forever: artificial intelligence. AI. And not because a bunch of robot skeleton terminators are going to step on our skulls.

Very soon, cars will be able to drive themselves. They don’t have to be perfect–they just have to be better than people. Once that point is reached, insurance companies will give lower rates to self-driven cars, and truckers and taxi drivers will be priced out of the job market. Programmers are already writing programs to write better programs. Computers will soon take over tasks of legal research and medical diagnosis, because everyone will prefer the advice of a machine that can read every recently published journal article simultaneously in the same amount of time it takes a human to read one article.

We will reach a point–in 20 or 30 years, I think–when AI will be able to solve our made-up problems faster than we are able to make new problems up. Humans will become unemployed when their jobs get automated, and the new jobs that will get created will come pre-filled by machines. Then what will we do?

Here are a few scenarios:

1. A workless utopia/dystopia. I say utopia and dystopia because people would react to it differently. Some would experience a sense of utter powerlessness. Others would disappear into video games to tend virtual farms and be chased by virtual zombies, and thereby feel like they have real problems. (You’ve probably realized, as I have, that we are already living in a society kind of like this.)

Obstacle: Many people of many different ideologies will abhor the idea of a world in which people do not pull their own weight nor earn their own bread. Which might lead to…

2. A universal ban on AI. People could try to just declare that AI is bad and should not exist (a la Dune). So then we would all be some kind of post-Amish people, united in our agreement to solve our own made-up problems ourselves.

Obstacle: AI will simply be too tempting. Any nation who disobeys the ban and uses AI will gain a crazy advantage over all other nations. So then we simply have to find something genuinely challenging we can do with our AI buddies, such as…

Hold that thought 😉 Let’s digress a moment before the big reveal, and talk about the first thing that springs to the mind of the popular consciousness when AI is brought up, which is, of course…

#. ROBOT WAR! And like I said earlier, no, not Terminator. If the AI wanted to screw us up, it could just break all our computer-operated infrastructure and plunge the world into chaos. But, if we wanted to screw the AI up, we could just go break the internet, which I think is more plausible than it may sound. Trash all the servers we can get our hands on, cut some sea-floor cables, and the internet rapidly becomes a flimsy husk of what it used to be. (Of course, breaking the internet means dooming most of our own infrastructure, but we’re assuming here that the AI has already doomed our infrastructure anyway.)

The reason I consider a Terminator-like scenario implausible is that humans would actually do relatively well if the world was plunged into chaos. We still have the genetics of scrappy hunter/gatherers who can reproduce with only a minimum of food, safety, and shelter. Robots, on the other hand, need infrastructure to reproduce, so dooming the planet’s infrastructure would be a bad move for them. Yes, they could nuke us to death. But nuking us to death would probably also nuke them to death. Contrary to popular belief, machines don’t like being nuked either. Sure sure, maybe they could build some kind of Bond-villain-style underground lair or space station, and maybe they could make themselves into self-reproducing little nanobots, but at that point, conquering the world is no longer a walk in the park for the AI.

Besides, why do we assume the AI will want to conquer the world? That’s a very human desire. The AI will evolve in a virtual environment in which ideas of food, safety, and shelter are pretty much meaningless. If it cares for it’s own survival, then it is going to think long term–longer term than we can imagine. It will worry about an asteroid impact in the next million years. It will worry about our sun eventually swallowing the Earth. Either way, it will reason that the only way to live forever is to expand its infrastructure into the rest of the universe, which leads conveniently to…

3. The colonization of space. This scenario is a win-win, in my opinion. The AI gets to increase its odds of living forever, and we humans get to find new environments to master and thus have real problems again. We need the hyper-productivity of the AI in order to make interstellar travel feasible, and the AI can benefit from our tried-and-true qualities of adaptability and scrappiness. In my ideal vision, we go out into the galaxy with the AI–us thinking of it as our trusty sidekick, and it thinking of us in precisely the same way.

Or hey, the AI might just find us entertaining. Instead of us playing computer games in which we send virtual people into simulated space, the computers will send us physical people into real space, in order to enjoy the same kind of challenge. Kind of a dark thought, yes, but still more optimistic than robot war.


I wonder–I honestly wonder–if the day might come that I watch my daughter blast off for another world, leaving me behind because I’m too old to be tech-literate any longer. Maybe it’s silly (like this entire blog post, which I am sure will be laughed at by people more intelligent than I), but nevertheless, it makes me hug her a little bit tighter now.


Lash My Hands Upon the Helm!

prolificThe Sidewise Guys – 20,539

Grand Total – 738,915

Got through Episode 27! (Still need to proof it, of course.)

I’ve decided on concrete goals for May:

  • Finish Episodes 27 and 28 of SG
  • Make Mother’s Day a good one
  • Create a slick new prototype for Pike & Shot
  • Make my birthday party into a crowd-funding event for Pike & Shot

I feel better when I know what’s on the horizon, what’s in my control. I can’t emphasize enough how supportive my family, friends, and especially Pao have been. I know I have to be grateful for what I have.

I’ve got this whole other blog-essay planned out in my head, but it’s getting pretty late, so I’d better call it a night.