Surprise Wisdom From D&D

Every other Saturday is D&D day. I love the campaign I’m in. We’ve been playing together for 20 years, in several different campaigns. The DM is a great storyteller. The PCs are interesting and complex. The plot is phenomenal to the point where I’m jealous.

Something interesting came up in out-of-character conversation:

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Something Bigger Than Life

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That’s right, the long-awaited reboot of my award-winning serial, The Watchmage of Old New York, is here! Click here for the Amazon buy site, or buy on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or Kobo.  Don’t miss out on this, old fans and new will love what I’ve done with the story.

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You’ve probably figured this out, but I read a lot. Books, comics, the backs of shampoo bottles, if it has words, I will consume its soul, therefore gaining its powers.

This is a metaphor, but apt.

A few months ago, I wrote about how Inside Out explored human emotions by personifying them. Instead of being something abstract, suddenly Joy was a character, a joyful one, but with significant flaws. Sadness was a pariah, but with a hidden virtue. Anger, Fear, Disgust, all given life. This is how the mind works…

Sorta…

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The Mask: Comics and Secret Identities Part 2

Welcome back. This is a continuation of a previous post. I suggest that you read the first part before this one, just so you know where I’m going with it.

Superman and Clark Kent as an Anomaly

Superman poses an interesting contrast to the traditional mask in that he doesn’t wear one. It’s a constant joke among fans that no one recognizes him. I mean, how can anyone be that stupid? I’ll explain below, but first I want to talk about what makes Superman unique.

Both Clark Kent and Superman can be called his “true persona.” He was raised Clark, and until his powers manifested, he was an ordinary boy and unaware of his lineage. This parallels the classic stories of Hercules, Moses, Harry Potter, Jesus, etc. But when he comes into his power, Superman leaves Clark Kent behind. He still carries much of his personality and morality, but they are not the same. He smashed that shell like the many buildings he’ll smash in the future. When you can look at the Earth from a dozen miles up, you never look at it the same way again.

I want to find who said this, but the writer is wearing a mask.

But Supes wants to be Clark Kent again. He doesn’t have to lead a human life, but he chooses to. The “new” Clark Kent is Supes fantasy of what his life would’ve been like if he was a human, not a Kryptonian. In the movie Kill Bill, Bill claims that Clark is an example of how Supes see humans: weak, bumbling, and awkward. I say that it’s a mask, but the one Supes wears to experience some of his old life. Through his upbringing, he is neither human or Kryptonian, but a little of both.

I wish they focused more on this in the recent movie, or at least the next one.

As for nobody recognizing him, it’s because people don’t see the man, they see the mask (or uniform). Last year, Jimmy Fallon did a bit where he had Mets pitcher Matt Harvey ask people questions about what they thought of Matt Harvey. No one recognized him out of his uniform, and hilarity (sorta) ensued.

People didn’t recognize Harvey–even though he was the hottest thing in New York–because he was out of uniform. It makes perfect sense to me that they wouldn’t associate Clark with a red and blue blur (Smallville reference).

Masks and Identity in The Watchmage of Old New York

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In my serial (and forthcoming novels) The Watchmage of Old New York, masks and disguises play an important part of the setting. The Dwellers–mythical creatures drawn into our world through people’s dreams and beliefs–all wear magical disguises in order to survive in the city. They know the cruelty of humans, and they understand the danger if they were discovered.

When I devised that, I drew on a few scenes from Maus, where the jewish mice wear (polish) pig masks to move around the ghetto. Maus always had a strong effect on me. Most of my family immigrated before the Holocuast, but still.

If you haven’t read Maus, start.

I know that in real history, some Jews were able to hide their ethnicity, and even do it in America. Here, Jewishness (and all ethnicities) is in danger of being assimilated by the larger culture. They’re–if you will–being thrown into the melting pot. It’s tragic to immigrate and save your life, only to lose your identity.

The Watchmage has to hide his identity as well. At the time the serial begins, he’s already 150 years old, and has lived several lives. Each time he has to build a new identity, but he doesn’t have the luxury of leaving and starting again elsewhere. He will spend all of eternity taking new identities, living many lives that are never his.

Everybody Wears a Mask: It’s Called The Internet

I’m not the first person to point this out, but we all wear masks. You are not the same person at work as you are at the bar. You’re not the same around children as you are around the elderly. That’s normal. A person is not a piece of paper. A person is a gem with a thousand facets, and each facet shines with its own light. People are way too quick to judge another as “fake” when they see a facet they’ve never seen before.

If we were to approach the world as a simple paper, it would surely tear us apart. The masks that we wear protect us from the world. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world is not a pleasant place.

I’m wearing a mask right now. So are you. You’re reading this through an interface, where you can use any avatar you want and reply as any persona you want to be. Hell, you can be Batman for all I know. We live in a world of masks now: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, they’re all masks that let you deal with the world around you.

Don’t be sad. Don’t be ashamed. When Spiderman or Batman dons the mask, they become something greater than what they were. There’s no reason why you can’t too.

Excelsior.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist).

Philosophy Explained Through Art…and The Matrix

I enjoy reading about philosophy. I think it’s a writerly thing, especially speculative fiction writers like me. After all, it’s our job to ask “what if?” “What if a great power is awoken, and the only way to stop it is by throwing his ring into a volcano?” “What if there’s a secret wizard society, and children go to a special school to study magic?” “What if there’s a world where the seasons can last for decades?” You get the idea.

I found this page very interesting. It’s almost a crib sheet to the major schools of thought, explained through art. Of course, you don’t have to follow one school exclusively. I find myself shifting from one to the other. Such is the nature of a thoughtful mind. Debating yourself is one of the best ways to learn.

I’ve been thinking about the “Brain in a Jar” theory lately. To summarize, we may be brains within a jar and our reality is nothing but an illusion (like The Matrix). Maybe we are avatars in some virtual reality game, or characters on a TV show? We have no way of proving or disproving this, since we are prisoners of what we can perceive, existing in our own private universes. If we can’t perceive something or perceive it’s effects, then we can’t prove or disprove its existence.

Dammit, I am!

Sometimes I wonder if this theory pertains to fiction. What if we aren’t the brain in the jar, but the ones who put the brain in the jar? When the aliens create The Matrix, are they creating a true reality for us to exist within?

The answer I keep coming to is that maybe it’s not real as we define reality, but it does exist. To exist, something must be perceived or it’s effects perceived. This chair exists in my reality because I see it. The wind exists because I feel it and see it blowing leaves around. That damn jackhammer outside exists because I hear it and see it shattering the sidewalk outside my goddamn apartment (sorry, just frustrated at the construction crew that’s been outside for over a month). Thoughts exist too because others can perceive or be affected by them.

Fictional characters may not be “real,” but they do exist. They affect our thoughts. They make us laugh and cry. They empower us or bring us despair.

We may be characters in someone else’s book or video game or whatever, but maybe not. Regardless, this reality is real because it’s real to me. I exist because I think. Would I exist if someone else thought of me? If a tree falls in the woods…

So if aliens have our bodies hooked up to weird tubes and created a virtual reality or not, I have to assume that it exists either way. We all do. Except for Keanu Reeves. He’s the One.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist).

Some Inspirational Bullshit From Me

So I had a bit of a philosophical moment last night (yes, there were “sandwiches” involved).  I thought about how in the vastness of the universe, nothing we do has any effect or real meaning.

You’re bringin’ me down, man

This was bringing me down and ruining my sandwich, but then I thought something else.  The universe may be infinitely vast, but we are not.  We exist in a small place, in a small amount of time.  Who gives a shit?  Everything that we do affects the world around us as we know it.  It effects the people we know, and the environment we live it.  It’s about scale.  If you think small, think local, than anything you do has “universe” changing effects.

You can’t change the universe, or even the world.  You can, however, change yourself, your family, even your town.  The ant may be insignificant to us, in an anthill, each one is as important as can be.

Take it or leave it.  It’s all fucking philosophical stuff that has no meaning besides what you give it.

Maybe the sandwich was given to me by aliens?

Mind…blown