Monday, 27 February 2017

The Three Keeps of the Eclipsed Kingdom

There are many, many castles, keeps and towers in the Eclipsed Kingdom, but three above all are emblematic of that nations character, madness, faith and power. So long as these three still stand the Eclipsed Kingdom itself will still exist.


The Infinite Cathedral


In the exact centre of the Eclipsed Kingdom, and therefore in the centre of the world, directly under the black formlessness of God as he blots out the sun, and therefore at the centre of the Universe, is the Infinite Cathedral.

Here is the seat of the Black Pope; Pontifex Nigrum in Tenebras Exteriores. Here is the centre for worship and pilgrimage for a universal faith. Truly and literally Universal for not only on this world is the Gospel of Azathoth spread.

The Cathedral itself squats like a triple-lobed beast. In the centre, just below God, is the Basilica of  Nyralthotep. Spreading out in three giant limbs are the infinite naves of the Cathedral. These vast buildings send out buttresses like tentacles into the earth and, though every surface is corrugated with towers, steeples, belfry’s and sometimes entire sub-churches, which obscure the shape of the Cathedral when seen up-close, from a distance the three naves can be seen plunging into the ground like vast curling roots.

The Monks of St Culix have explained the shape of the Cathedral in the following way, though few possess the wits to follow them;

By the grace of god it is a shape with one pole and no antipole, with one surface and no edge, with three separate limbs yet they are one.



Like this, but a Cathedral.


To stand in the centre of the Cathedral, before the throne of the Black Pope, is to stand where three gigantic naves meet. From inside the naves seem utterly straight, with no turn, bow or shift of orientation. Each one proceeds off into the distance as far as the eye can see.

The wise have said that if a member of the faithful begins walking down one of the naves, they will return to the point where they began without turning either right or left. This pilgrimage has tested many, for in the distance of the naves, the windows grow dark, the air cold, and then, after a time, the stained glass is lit by the terrible light of alien suns and the pilgrims encountered may be those from other worlds.


This, but forever.


The crypts of the Infinite Cathedral are likewise without end and these form the prison in which are held  the most powerful and significant of the enemies of the faith. Also within these crypts are the souls and intelligences of those of the Clergy of the Church who have grown too weak to possess their next body and now wander without flesh.

The monks of St Culix have said that the Cathedral itself is slowly growing, relative to the world in which it is embedded, curling itself deeper and deeper into the earth yet always curling back upon itself.

It is here that the Cardinals of the Faith take their whispered instruction from the Black Pope, here that the Orders of the Holy Inquisition make their base. It is here that the power and glory of god is at its greatest. It is here that Azathoth himself will first incarnate himself on this world, when that time finally arrives, as it inevitably must.
  



The Silent City Of The Sleeping King


Before the great revelation and the coming of Azathoth, this castle and the city below were the centre of a golden age and the seat of a burgeoning Feudal World-Empire. Now they are the quietest place on earth, home of the Ordinis Carcere, the Silent Knights, and of the Dreaming Court of the Sleeping King.

He is still enthroned there, still with the thirteen poisoned daggers of the first Cardinals of Azathoth in his back, still sleeping, and kept asleep only by the endless insane tuneless piping of the chained and maddened bards who ring his court.

If the piping should ever stop, the King will wake and Azathoth will come for him. All will end.

And it will end, but until that day, he sleeps here. Around him are the selves of his dream. His court. They are undying vision-people conjured from his sleeping mind, as strange, incoherent, protean, beautiful, meaningless and meaningful as dreams themselves. And just as everyone we meet within a dream is us, all of the court are the King.

They dance and speak to each other, sometimes talking idiot poetry, sometimes murmuring only the forms of words like the background players in a masque, sometimes rambling mundanities or dangerously sparking into something near consciousness, their eyes fixing on an individual like the manic targets of a mad beggar. The Fool especially, if he is present, his jokes and bawds sometimes seem to hover frighteningly close to something like awareness of the real world.

Some dream selves fade in and out over a matter of minutes, never to be seen again, some are common characters, often returning albeit in different shapes and forms. Some are monsters, some nightmares, some beauties, some heroes.

The king has been sleeping for a long time and his dream has grown strange indeed.

The only person here who is not a dream, yet who seems like one is his half sister, the Cambion Sorceress Esmerillion.

Nevertheless, this is still the centre of the Temporal Government for the Eclipsed Kingdom. Every Baron must swear loyalty to the King and they must all come here, at least once, to do it.

Not all of them make it out. Some go mad due to the pipes. Some are killed by the Dreaming court for impossible dreamlike reasons; because they remind an imaginary person of a thought, because they have the wrong sign in their name, because they are too small or too large, because they have a look, because they do not have a look.

Others are given quests and orders by a member of the Dreaming court which cannot be completed. "Become your own son", "Bring me the colour blue" "Climb a tower in a ladies eye and bring back the treasure she does not have". Though these are but the dreams of the King, to ignore them might be seen as ignoring the will of the King, and the will of Azathoth, who's prophet he is, and many high lords have been forced to set out on incoherent maddened quests to impossible places, for impossible things, before they can claim their high position.

Beyond the throne room are the silent halls.

Though they were not always of this kind, over the centuries, the Ordinis Carcere have changed and adapted the shapes of the rooms and the nature of the walls.





Perhaps this was simply to avoid the terrible music of the pipes, perhaps it was to more deeply fulfil their oaths of silence, but they have slowly encrusted the halls and rooms of the Castle with strange repeated shapes and bizarre angles until, in every room, in every corridor, there is absolutely no ambient noise.

The halls of the castle are so quiet that those entering say they can hear their own blood pumping in their veins, that they can hear their own scalp moving over their skull. Any noise made is eaten by the strange additions to the walls and ceilings, as soon as a door is closed a scream inside a room cuts out as if a switch had been turned.




The Knights themselves make absolutely no sound whatever the circumstances, moving through the dead-quiet halls like ghosts.

It is here, and in the utterly silent dungeons that the Ordinis Carcere organise and disperse their forces, ranging all over the Eclipsed Kingdom and beyond in search of people to imprison, for whatever reason can be found, and searching also always for bards, to drag them back to the Court of the Sleeping King and set them to piping, for the bards themselves wear out quite quickly and become little more than dried husks after only a few days.

Down within the dungeons are the most significant prisoners of the Carcere, (those not surrendered to the Infinite Cathedral). Many of these are themselves prison breakers and escape artists. The Ordinis Carcere loathes and despises these people especially and makes a point of hunting them down and securing them absolutely. They are chained in cages in the centre of soundproof rooms.

The Castle itself stands on a promontory of volcanic rock. Its multiple battlements tumble down the sides of the stone into the roofs and pinnacles of the Silent City.

Once it was the home of the greatest craftsmen, artists, poets and lords of all the world. Though it is half-sunken in ruin and utterly quiet, this is still where the Eclipsed Kingdom holds the best of its artisans, scriveners, scribes and the small mercantile class which the Kingdom still cannot do without.

I know he's basically the patron saint of the OSR at this point, but what can you do?

Very little can be found in the city without first knowing what you are looking for, the centres of ruined buildings may still hold secret life, unlikely alleys or locked gates may disguise secret homes or places of work. Somewhere in this city a handful of people may still be getting very quietly drunk, or playing a game of silent chess.

The burgers of the town and True Citizens of the Silent City have all had their tongues removed and communicate only by written or gestured sign. Long ago this may have been in sympathy with, or by order of the Ordinis Carcere, but by now it is simply a ritual and proud sign of citizenship and of voting rights in the city’s silent council.

The people speak in whispers, if they speak at all.

The city itself is, in effect, an extension of the prison, and of the castle. At night the streets near the Castle are spread with quiet white sand by silent churls and any sign of a footprint before dawn is investigated as a capital crime until the culprit is found. The Carcere are maddened by the idea of one of their most special prisoners escaping, especially since they might well help more prisoners to escape elsewhere! Many citizens of the city have double roles as servants of the Carcere and report back to them in a complex network of informers.

Still, there are conspiracies and lies everywhere. The Kingdom has many enemies and even within the kingdom the various orders, factions, baronies, families and lines plot continually against each other for power. Some half-elven lords and ladies are actually plotting against themselves, with one half being either unaware of what the other half is doing, or simply out of deranged mania. Some sorcerers may be plotting against future or former selves, or alternate versions of themselves.




The Castle Of The Fissure King


Of all the Keeps of the Eclipsed Kingdom, the Castle of the Fissure King is perhaps the strangest and most mutable. Though the Infinite Cathedral twists back on itself in directions impossible to perceive, it at least has a reasonably stable outer form. The Castle of the Fissure King seems to change position, shape, nature and relation according to the situation of those who seek it.

·        It is always the home of the Calicem Servi, the Grail Knights.
·        It is always the resting place of the Grail itself.
·        It is always somewhere in, or on, the Fissure.

Yet for all this, exactly what it is seems to vary with the observer.

Some describe it simply as a vertical castle cut into the walls of the fissure. Some as a single keep standing upon an impossible pinnacle of stone. Some as a kind of bridge-palace crossing the Fissure itself, or as two palaces mirrored, rising like recurved horns from the walls of the Fissure on each side and meeting in the middle. Some as a beautiful and classical castle poised on a mesa or hill in the valley of the Fissure itself. Some as a mansion on an outcrop of stone with a river passing beneath it.



The Fissure itself changes in its form depending on those who seek it, or who seek to cross it. On maps it is described, by most, as a deep, vast valley on the borders between the Eclipsed Kingdom and the wasteland beyond. But any map seeking to describe the Fissure will quickly tear or break, and the tear itself will be at exactly the place that the Fissure is shown in the map. It cannot be represented.



For those who have sought it out it has sometimes been a huge, verdant, valley with a river running through it, full of forests and incredible animals, even the ruins of ancient peoples and lost civilisations. For others it has been the edge of the world, a black cliff proceeding endlessly down into an unknown netherworld, the floor lost in howling mists driven by screaming winds that pile over the rim like tornadoes. For others it has been a deep crevasse, almost impossible to cross, but on the other side, a mirror world exactly like the side just left, or did the Fissure somehow turn them back on their path and return them to their origin? For some it has been a turn or curve in the world itself, where gravity twisted, as if the skin of the world turned over like the bent page of a book and continued on the other side, upside down. For some a rift valley, filled with lava and sulphuric gas with the black castle of the Fissure King rising out of the bubbling poison. Some find it the Cliffside border of a mighty black ocean that appears on no map. Some say it can only be approached from one side and that whatever side it is approached from is the only side that it has.




To seek out the Fissure King is to enter the realm of spirit and of faith. Those who are strong with faith in Azothoth may find their way easily, if their faith is true. Those who lack True Belief, or who deny his Truth may find impossible challenges and situations. Yet sometimes the Fissure will test the faithful and forgive the heretic.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A Timeline of the Zak Wars

This is my attempt to put together a timeline of the case against Zak Smith/Sabbath. I tried to do so, where possible, using only verifiable links that are publicly available for anyone to access.

In situations where harassment is alleged, its very difficult to draw the line between giving exact information and opening people up to potential anonymous abuse. If I don’t give names and links for a lot of these things the whole thing becomes an exercise in redaction. If I name a lot of names then I could easily be accused of ‘directing harassment’ towards those parties.

I’ve tried to use only links that are still publicly available and to name individuals only when necessary to precisely describe what happened in an incident.

PLEASE. Do not contact any of the people in the links below in any kind of negative or harassing way. It would be better not to contact them at all. No-one in these circles is open to persuasion and nothing will be gained. Just read what they wrote.

it should be noted (as a quick google of my name will confirm) that I am financially (through Maze of the Blue Medusa) and socially connected to Zak, so you should read with that in mind.

My overview of the chronology is at the bottom.

(Also, apologies to anyone sane from outside the culture that has to read through this.)


February 2010 – The Canon Puncture Incident

The hosts of the Canon Puncture Podcast talk about Zaks game with his group. They say some things that Zak regards as condescending towards the girls in the group, Zak requests an apology and the hosts apologise. This gets spoken about on story-games.com and Zak comes in to describe the situation. You can read that thread here;



February 11th 2011 – The Hyung Tae Kim Incident

Anna Kreider makes an argument against the art of Hyung Tae Kim, you can read it in full here;


Zak disagrees and the two of them get into it. Zak calls her a prude. Later, on March 10th 2015, Kreider posts her own chronology of her interactions with Zak, you can find it below.


December 2011 – The Maxim Article

The US magazine Maxim carries an article about Zak and his group. You can read the article itself here;


An argument breaks out over representation. Much of this happens on G+ and has subsequently been deleted. You can read a transcript of that (by Zak) here;


This was the best evidence I could find of the origins of an important disagreement that, like everything in this chronology, piles on into the next thing. If anyone has any publicly available links describing or showing what happened then let me know.


February 29th 2012 – Zak Encounters Somethingawful

Zak says that the enmity between him and the Somethingawful forum dates from this contact. In his own words;

The backstory on this is an enmity with Something Awful beginning with me attempting to talk to them about their extreme statements here, years after noticing they took Mandy to task for having extension cords on her wish list”

Link to his post is here;



April 2012 – The Carcosa Thread on Story-Games.com

Zak starts a thread about the 2nd Edition of Geoffery McKinneys Carcosa book. An argument breaks out about Anna Krieder, you can read the thread here;


Zak is banned from story-games after this thread.


September 27th 2012 – The Math Skills Fight on Somethingawful

Zak argues with the posters on the somethingawful forum about dice notation. During this, he is accused of misogyny in regards to one of his players. You can read about that here;


This adds to the enmity between Zak and Somethingawful which he has said is the engine behind the Tom Hatfield Failforward article in July 2014.


August 2013 – The Numenera Succubus Incident.

Game Writer Monte Cook  releases his game Numenera. This game includes rules for a Science Fiction Succubus. This causes a massive scandal and argument (google “Numenera Succubus”) especially on RPG.NET;


Links are all over this post by Zak;


The post also includes Shanna Germain, Cooks partner and co-creator talking about her reaction to the arguments made against her and the game.

This is also the point that Zak is banned from rpg.net, you can find that here; https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?698051-Infraction-for-Zak-S-17)-Permanent-Ban


December 16th 2013 – The James Desborough Rape Threat Accusation

About 10 months prior to this Ben Lehman publicly accused James Desborough, RPG writer, of being "Someone who threatens their critics with rape". Desborough has been involved in culture-war arguments with this faction for some time. Several people +1 this post.

John Stavropoulus an RPG writer not aligned with Desborough’s faction or opinions, checks up on these claims and finds no evidence to back them up.

Zak in his own words; “The short of Jon's research is this accusation turned out to be bullshit even though 80some people +1ed it and it got shared all over the RPG internet.

Now Jon didn't name names, because he "doesn't want a witchhunt". Which is respectable. But I'm not Jon and I do think the RPG community as a whole deserves an apology from every single one of these people for confusing and distorting a very real and very serious issue of real violence that actually affects peoples' lives.”

He names names. Some people retract their +1’s, others do not. I’m not going to provide a link to that post but it is still up.

Zaks naming of names on this issue is used as evidence of harassment from this point on, in particular as evidence of him having a ‘list of enemies’.


December 17th 2013 – Paul Ettin Recommends plussing the Rape Threat Post

In response to the above incident, Paul Ettin, RPG.NET moderator recommends +1’ing the accusation against Desborough of making rape threats;



July 3rd 2014 – D&D 5e Released

The new edition of D&D comes out and it is revealed that Zak and the RPGPundit are counted as consultants. This marks the beginning of Consultancygate.


July 4th 2014 – Paul Ettin Admits Trolling

This is from a chat log you can read here;


In lines 1174 10 1178 he admits that he does not think Desborough made rape threats but plussed the accusation anyway.


July 7th 2014 – My Defence of Zak

As the abuse of Zak intensifies I write this post about him in defence;

July 7th 2014 – The Pigfucker Post

A few hours after I post my defence of Zak, I wake up to find this article in which he lays out his own (by my standards, highly aggressive) policy on internet arguments, and also accuses someone of (metaphorically) fucking a pig;


July 9th 2014 – The “The Internet is Screaming” Post

Zak defends himself from accusations again;


The person quoted in this post subsequently retracts that statement.


July 2014 – The David Hill Death Threats

I think it’s about this time that David Hill, game designer, claims that he has received death threats, including the names of his children’s teachers and phone calls to his address. These claims go on to become a major part of the case against Zak.

The only publicly available link I could find in which David Hill repeats them is here in post 49 of this forum thread;




July 19th 2014 – The Scrap Princess Defence

Scrap Princess, who is trans and who is a co-creator with me of numerous projects, makes a public statement about the accusations here;


(Which is blissfully short.)


July 21st 2014 – Fred Hicks Weighs In


Fred Hicks of Evil Hat productions makes a public G+ post in which he seems to support the allegations and apologises for not doing so earlier;



July 26th  2014 – The ‘Outing’ Incident

This is where Mandy, Zaks girlfriend talks about some of the trolls attacking her and Zak and uses a variety of openly available aliases for someone who turned out to be trans. You can read the post here;


Going forward, this incident forms one of the core pieces of evidence against Zak in future arguments. If you read someone saying that he outs trans people as a form of retaliation or revenge it is probably referring to this incident.

Zak in his own words;

The person was not revealed to be trans until Wordmercenary/Tom Hatfield said she was. It was not public knowledge so how could Mandy or I have known?”


July 31st 2014 – The Failforward Article

This article is where the real bomb goes off. From this point on the situation massively intensifies. The article is shared by a very large range of people and is cited in nearly every major attack on Zak from this point on.


You can read the clearest and most detailed debunking here;

https://www.seebs.net/log/articles/791/consultancygate-an-overview
Archive; https://archive.is/pYOA8


July 31st 2014 – The First Dongion Accusation

This tumblr reblog of the failforward article is the earliest I have been able to find that links the Dongion blog to Zak. It also links the Dongion to the Outing Incident.

https://donotlink.it/Wp95




August 2014 – “Get at him” Screencap

In August of 2014, in response to the spread of the Failforward article, Zak posts this. It is used in many subsequent attacks on him as evidence of his harassment campaign;




From the image; “hit him up? Correct him? Eat him?”

Zak – “get on twitter. tweet at him, ask questions, give links.
I have a girlfriend in the hospital and 111 trolls to deal with please just either help or don’t but pls no silly nerd questions.”

Complete public text of the post (provided by Zak) here;


August 2014 – “Destroy” Screencap

A few days later, in response to another article, Zak says this;




I remember seeing this go up and thinking that it was the stupidest shit I’d ever seen him do. I should have said something right away at the time.

The Destroy screencap forms a major part of the evidence against Zak and is brought up in most subsequent attacks on him.

It should be noted that the link is aimed at a Metafilter thread and that you can go and look at this thread here, if you want to see if it was, in fact, destroyed:


Here (from Zak) is the full text of the post;



August 2014 – Zaks Response To The Claims So Far


In his own words; “it debunks, with evidence, every single claim made up until that point in every single venue”


Inexact Date but probably Jan 2015 – The Ettin Dongion Accusation

Ettin, the rpg.net mod, accuses Zak of running what he calls a harassment blog, the Dongion, which you can find on his tumblr;


A link to the blog is here;



January 1st 2015 – Mandys Chainmail Bikini Feminist Defence

Mandy makes a long post on her tumblr giving screencaps of various kinds of abuse she has received and talks in detail about the alleged outing of a trans person. You can read it here;



March 10th 2015 – Anna Krieder Posts Her History With Zak

Anna Krieder makes this post;


Which is a chronology of her interactions with Zak from her perspective, so now you have a chronology in your chronology. She locates the opening of hostilities to April 2012, not February 2011 as I have above in the Hyung Tae Kim Incident.

Zak responds to this article in this post from August 2016;



March 13th 2015 – The Sampat Mob Assault Accusation

Elizabeth Sampat accuses Zak of riling up a “mob to the point that I was assaulted in front of witnesses.”

In the link you can see one of the accused assaulters arguing with Sampat;


This is Karolyn Gehrig, disabled activist https://twitter.com/karolynprg

The other accused member of the mob was Charlotte Stokely. Adult film actress https://twitter.com/char_stokely


August 2015 – Red and Pleasant Land Wins At The Ennies

Zaks book Red and Pleasant Land wins multiple awards at the Ennies. Stacy Dellorfano of Contessa gives a speech to accept the award in his absence and a few people walk out in protest.


August 1st Zak documents the twitter response to his win here;


August 4th, Kiel Chenier talks about that incident and about the abuse he got for supporting Zak here;



October 20th 2015 – Zak Mocks David Hills Views on Star Wars

In this post, Zak persistently mocks and argues against David Hills views on the Star Wars frachise. This has been described (in the comments below) as "a blatant attack on David Hill, using screenshots of social media accounts that Hill has said he blocked Zak from."



August 26th 2016 – Zak Calls His Critics Psychotics

Also knuckle-draggers, edition-warriors and sociopaths. This is claimed to be an act of harassment by some (see the comments to this post). You can read it here;



July 26th 2016 – The Magpie Games Incident

Mark Diaz Truman, one of the heads of Magpie Games, a storygames publisher, writes an article about aspects of his gaming circles that trouble him. You can read it here;


He is accused of defending Zak and therefore aiding a harasser. All the usual people arrive to do all the usual things.

Peoples responses and attitudes to this article become another form of contention which is carried forwards into future arguments.


July 28th 2016 – The Invisible James Raggi Accusations

In this public thread by Mark Diaz Truman;


Someone accuses James Raggi, one of Zak’s publishers, of.. something? Then deletes the accusation. You can still see the replies to the ghost accusation but not the thing itself.



July 28th 2016 – Zak Talks About Mental Illness in the RPG Community

In this post Zak, without mentioning anyone specific, talks about how to talk to mentally ill people;


This has been described, (in the comments below) as "an accusation that his critics fabricate and distort facts due to being mentally ill. I would argue this is a clear attack, and in the context of the previous posts can be understood as continued harrasment "


February 17th 2017 - The We Eat Blood Incident

White Wolf announce that they have produced an interactive text game with Zak. Their announcement is here;


Outrage begins immediately. Numerous threads are started, the primary ones on RPG.NET (I was banned from one of these). The main charges against Zak are;

·        That he is a known harasser of transwomen, gays, minorities etc.
·        That he used a false name on Reddit, impersonating Shannon Applecline, the owner of RPG.NET.
·        That he named one of the characters in the game, Avery, after one of his enemies.

The SAppelcline Situation


I remembered seeing the SAppelcline identity on Reddit multiple times, very often after a thread was pointed out by Zak on G+. I was bothered enough by this that I contacted Zak directly about it.

He gave me a response with enough detail to persuade me that it was likely true. But;

·        Even if true, it still indicates questionable behaviour. Zak knew the person using the identity, treated it as a joke and did nothing to prevent them.
·        It’s utterly unverifiable to any neutral observer.

The Avery Situation


Zaks argument is that;

·        This name was chosen with no particular reference to anyone real.
·        The only opponent of his it could be named after is Avery Alder, the creator of Monsterhearts and they had no significant contact until the Magpie Games Incident, July 2016. He says the script for the game was finished and locked before that point.
·        He regards the Avery character as a hero in the game, someone witty and funny and cool who saves your life, it would make no sense for him to name her after an enemy.
·        The Avery character is directly based on Zaks (trans) friend Bailey Jay, with her approval.


February 19th 2017 – Stacey Dellorfano Responds

Stacy Dellorfano, who runs the feminist Contessa event, responds to the accusations against Zak and describes the various different kinds of harassment and abuse she has received, sometimes from the same people who are opposed to Zak, whilst trying to make Contessa a thing;



February 21st 2017 – Sarah Horrocks Responds

The co-creator of the We Eat Blood game, Sarah Horrocks, is trans. You can read her tumblr response to the accusations here;


Which include, interestingly, an anonymous commenter, without irony, explaining to a trans woman what transphobia is and that she doesn’t really understand how it works.


February 22nd White Wolf’s Response

White Wolf responds to the accusations here;




My Overview


What follows is my opinion only.

It looks like we're looking at four major acts or periods in the history so far.


Act One. The Long Build Up/The Sex Wars

Feb 2010 to Dec 2013


This probably has roots in forum arguments in the past but it enters the public record in February 2010 in the Canon Puncture Incident and proceeds through to the Desborough Rape Threat Accusations of December 2013.

This period is characterised by the relatively long periods between each incident and the fact that opponents and arguments don't always carry over or fold into the next incident. Alienation and anger build up slowly, are sometimes diffused, but don't go away.

Most are triggered by arguments over sex and responses to Zaks gaming group (mainly women, mainly models).

·        Canon Puncture Incident - Zak defends his group from condescending comments.
·        Hyung Tae Kim Incident - Zak argues about the validity of sex in art.
·        The Maxim Article - Zak defends his group again, from accusations that their public profile is bad for gaming.
·        The Carcosa Thread - This starts off about sexual violence in the game in question.
·        The Math Skills Fight - Zak defends his player, is accused of misogyny.
·        The Numenera Succubus Incident - Again, triggered by the presence of sexual materials in the game.
·        The James Desborough Rape Threat Accusation - Desborough angers many of the same people with his arguments about the validity of rape in games, is then accused of making rape threats.


 The First Calm

Jan 2014 to July

(I should be clear that there are no periods of absolute calm or truce, G+ threads and twitter comments and forum threads run continually throughout the whole history, but most of these are private and low-level. The periods of calm described are relative.)


Act Two. The Summer of Hate

July 2014 to August 2014


As soon as it came out that Zak and Pundit were consultants on 5e, the attacks, accusations and counter-accusations come in thick and fast. This is a very short period of great intensity.


The Second Calm

Aug 2014 to Jan 2015 



Act Three. The Small Wars 

January 2015 to July 2016.


During this period we get mutual counter-accusations, the Ennies walkout and the Magpie Games Incident.

The Third Calm

Aug 2016 to Feb 2017


Act Four. We Eat Blood

Feb 2017.


Zak brings out a collaboration with White Wolf and all the old accusations are resurrected and combined with new ones.

..............................................

We can see major responses and spikes whenever Zak is found to have worked, or to be suspected of working with, a different gaming company or group or whenever his popularity spikes. Firstly in the long build up, many arguments come about from the 'Playing DnD With Porn Stars' Escapist Series, which grew in popularity as it went on.

Then directly after he works on 5e we get the Summer of Hate. Then the Ennies win. During the Magpie Games Incident Mark Diaz Truman has to publicly state that he is not going to work with Zak after people allege that a planned project with Zak is the reason for his post.


Then after Zak is linked to White Wolf, we get another eruption.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

A Review of the Leopard (issue Zero) by Sarah Horrocks

I didn’t want to recommend anything on this blog without knowing what it is, and reading something seemed like a much more worthy use of my exile, so I bought the Issue Zero of the Leopard by Sarah Horrocks.

(If you want to read her (likely final) opinion on ZakStorm 2017, and also see someone explain to her exactly what transphobia means, here you go.

If we imagine the emblematic Sarah Horrocks tumblr image; a fifteen year old eastern European girl wearing dishevelled clothes, staring straight into camera on something that might be a film set for a very arty horror film or an extremely grim fashion shoot, except the image seem to have been ripped from a 1980’s VHS tape, there are fragmentary bloodstains on the girls clothes, there is a line of text along the bottom which might be subtitling, except its unattributed and whatever it says could be from a Cormac McCarthy book you haven't read, a downer section of the book of revelations or a particularly grim philosopher you faked reading in school, its declamatory, if it’s part of a conversation it seems like there's nothing the other person could say to respond to it.

Well this comic is a bit like that. It's dark and alienated and enthralled with the horror of it's own passions. So, pretty much like Sarah Horrocks if you've ever listened to her podcast. It's somewhat gnomic and by no means shy of pulling an Ancient Mariner and grabbing the reader by the hand and holding them with its glittering eye to unload its doom-laden tale. With, in my case, rather varied effect. But for someone more willing to enter into its particular world, or perhaps with each issue read in a grand sweep so that the volume of events carries the reader with it whether they would wish it or not, it might be preferable.

Don't read it in a library, like I tried to.

Even if you are not into Sarah's work, if you are a serious comics nerd then you might want to pick up an issue just to look at the craft. She is very good at a variety of things.


COLOUR

So, there are two sections to this with two different narrators or main figures. The first section has a really dominant and overpowering use of colour. Strong, near-primary, panel-dominant opposing or contrasting colours, not unlike Basil Wolvertons Spacehawk.

(To be clear, this is the only way in which this is like Spacehawk. In every other sense they are n.o.t.h.i.n.g alike.)

The effect of this on mood is quite interesting, it means that for an angst-laden, body-alienated, Germanically-intense Sarah Horrocks comic, the opening section is quite lively, quite exciting. Fun is the wrong word, but the boldness and energy colour brings is there.

The colours pool in and around Horrocks people who are scratched together by her anguished line. Kind of like if a genius schizophrenic crow had learnt to make portraits of people by gouging lines into pale bark and was really, really resentful about its crow-life, but still pretty good at its job.

And we do see these people from a crow-vantage, as if a bird had become trapped in the room with them and was dashing about, not quite understanding what it sees.

And in the second half, all that goes away and colour fades and mutes into a counterpoint to the pencils which expand in the visual silence left behind to take over the theme.

This part is about a girl in a room and what seem to be smudges of colouration, more part of the artists intent than straight depiction, deepen and sharpen in redness and intensity over several pages until it seems like the girl and the room are covered in blood, which they pass through either uncomprehending or indifferent.

The only light is from flickering screens which are universally old-transmission blue even though one of them is showing the Streefighter Arcade game. It's Horrocks so even Dhalsim looks sad as fuck.

Then the lights fade and give way to blue and the final pages are a really glorious image of a storm enfolding this tiny island of pain which held the main character and then as we turn the page even that gets highlighted with white into some Boreal-Rorschach of dooooooooom.



TIME AND EMOTION

In the first section memories collapse into these shattered rectangular rivers of carefully-broken glass, and the colour effects mix with this, producing odd intensifications, signalling the readers place in time, shifting the emphasis of memory to produce a horrific effect.

The comic as a whole (so far, based on this one issue) is more a field for a great conflict of passions rather than the plot business of getting people in and out of places.

I really, really like her control of panel, (I hate most mainstream lazy-ass pseudo-movie time control), and she uses a wiiiide variety of time and place shifts controlled subtly with colour, position, text and mood. This is much more formally obvious in the first section but she is still using relatively subtle time/place/emotion shifts in the more-centred second part.

Quick example, page 10;

Top third has one panel with an in-panel time/emotion shift shown with a bisected colour front and offset speech balloon.

Narrow cross-page mid range has a callback to a thematic figure with negative image crowheads intensifying mood and probably being symbolic somehow. Colour range of the negative image leads on from the second part of the upper panel.

Bottom third has a three-panel sepia psuedo-photographic portrait triptych indicating a narration over recalled memory with a speech balloon narrative continuation and emotional intensifier/ironic or dark commentary on those memories at each end...

.....so far, so almost normal for this third, but wait...

AND it has a cutout section with the colouration matching the opening half of the first panel from the top, this has some kind of hag-figure, who is utterly unexplained. She is broken up into vertical sub-panels (this is the only time white intra-panel borders are used on this page, the rest are black or absent) as if she was somehow trapped in a sequence of her own time, also she looks like she is behind prison bars, literally held in a cage at the bottom of a page of darkly ironised memories.

Most pages show a careful intermixing of time and emotion with a similar level of fluidly-displayed skill.


LINES

You would need someone with a better eye for art than me I think to talk about her pencils.  The crow-scratch metaphor doesn't really hold past an initial glance. By the time we get to the end the lines feel more like brush-strokes (It's possible they *are* brush strokes, I don't have enough familiarity with art to tell for sure.)

Just get Zak to talk about the lines.

I asked, he said; "She has two kinds of lines: one magnificently Schieleian, one more scabby and experimental but interestingly unpredictable."

The incomparable and brilliant Matthew Adams had this to say; 

"her linework, though very fluid and looking effortless, shows great design (so does her colour) and thoughtfullness, like every line is needed, not wasteful. it is very caligraphic, and you can see the influence of good manga art. it doesn't have the intense obsesiveness of some of zaks work, like you can sorta see zak comes from the fine art/painting field and sarah comes from the comics/manga field (of course this isn't obvious in all their art, it’s a generalisation and you can see the comics influence in zak's work and fine art influence in sarah's).


SO


This comic is about two years old, I have noooooo idea where she has gone with this series since, but if you want to watch something alienating and horrific unfold slowly, with a high level of narrative skill, then here you go.

Click Me