Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rant about Westworld

Oh boy.

Westworld is a cool show about artificial intelligence, horror, and westerns in general.  It's beautiful.  The acting is great.  It is the kind of awesome Science Fiction that My People (the geeks who hide and enjoy this sort of thing).  

I mean, it's like BSG in terms of feel.  It's riveting.  And it's a deep, thinking thing, right?


I finished Westworld.  As I told a friend, I don't know how to describe my current opinion on it.

I found it interesting, dramatic and etc, all those things you say about a dark sci fi show these days.  Ever since BSG made the mold, you do key into the rhythm.

I like it, but because it's a great analogy for tabletop gaming.  Not the questions on AI.  I dislike the fake west the show uses.  But it's set dressing, but the fakeness of it compared to actual history seems crystal clear to me.

It makes sense that the show would wield bad Wild West cliches like a sledgehammer.  I don't like those cliches, but it's obvious they exist as part of the park's escapist appeal.  The guests remind me of the more uncomfortable gamers I've gamed with.  In one or two cases, I identify more with a guest character- I've been that player character in a game.

  The one person who finds breaking the emersion for the sake of a joke to be offensive.

Westworld avoids talking about it, but the park's methodologies line up more with a tabletop RPG than video games.  Of course, video games want that same sort of interactivity.  Like RPGs, though, Westworld and video games also want narrative control.

Well, not all RPGs.  Game Mastery isn't 100% the same as managing the hosts in Westworld.  But some scenes verbatim mimic instances I've experienced as a DM.

It's the moments of cruelty and utter malice from human guests to robot NPCs that remind me.  It reminds me of my teen gaming years.  There is a part of players who sit down to a game of D&D and they become depraved monsters.  They destroy towns, create chaos and are like unto a storm upon the shared imaginary game world.

The Storyteller as Monster

Westworld does offend me in one way.  Westworld's first season uses stories.  Not in a pleasant metaphor.  It goes right down to the basic Crichton ideal.  The thought of human entertainment having this horrific component to it.

The monster in it is the storyteller.

Not the robots.  Not the humans, per se.  The one who created the world, its god, and master, is a storyteller.  Anthony Hopkins' Ford creates the narrative of Westworld as a park.  He walks it and making whatever tales he wants it.  Even his name is a reference to creation in so many ways.

The one who is pulling the strings.  The one using the Hosts and providing obstacles is the Storyteller.  The main antagonist is a storyteller.  And it's implied that the tales, the stories being done, are lies. 

It's a sacrilege to me.  I enjoyed Westworld.  But part of the end theme was that the nature of human stories didn't ennoble us.   Instead, damns our servants.  That when humans are part of a story, it scars other intelligent beings, even when we have the choice not to.

But I hoped there was something deeper to be found than "our lies cause suffering."  Recent news suggests its costs might keep another season from coming.  I dislike the notion of scifi being kept by costs.  

On the other hand, I like the idea of just a singlular season for a show.  Smaller is better in some cases.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Inksketches, December 23rd 2016

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Inksketches. Week of December 16th 2016

Ok.  So I started a new series this week.  And work kinda delayed my ability to get this up sooner.

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

Twelve Spirits of Xmas

I decided 12 days before Xmas I would do a series.  A dozen spirits for the sake of the holiday.  And because Christmas is subtly super-horror themed (A Christmas Carol, for example, is about an old man being tormented by ghosts) I like playing around with that.  12 spirits of fantastical and horror natures, etc.

Also, these arts are easier if you have a plan going in.

The notion of twelve days of Christmas is about Christmas being day one of twelve, ending with when the three wise men appear in the Christian mythos.  As interesting as that is, the American holiday is secular.  It's so secular, it's hard to take serious the notion of a "war on Christmas."  Xmas is more of this cultural manifestation of the Bene Gessirit litany against fear.

It will flow over you and through you.

As such, these "12 Spirits of Xmas" are less about the Christian mythology and more about the cultural touchstones from other places.  Xmas is a complicate thing.  I can't cover all of it's complex history, but I find it better as a secular holiday.  The notion of a time to be decent to one another, regardless of creed, faith or whatnot, that empotimizes my personal secular humanism.

Being against that idea is just a form of violent thinking that betrays itself.

Enough babbling.  Let's get to last week's arts.  Each comes with a link to dA and more ramblings of my own on them.

Cyberwood character design.  Scale is intended.  

Cyberwood bird.  Heehee.

Another portrait for character designing Cyberwood things.

I posted this one before.  Kinda proud of it, tbh.

The Wild Hunt could be considered a stretch, but it's one of my favorite aspects of Yuletide.  (I didn't intend it, but posting it Wednesday kinda sounds amusing to me).

Poinsettias are neat.  They ALSO are named after an American ambassador.  The spanish, Nochebuena, sounds neater.  And the original natuahl, Cuetlaxochitl, is kewl.

This is more of a made up manifestation.  A nymph of poinsettias?  IDK.  It does look different than its brethen.  Nochebuena are mexican, and that part of the holiday deserves a bit of credit.  Also, they aren't that toxic.

I mean, a mexican plant accused of something it isn't?  Never!

I knew the Krampus would come into one of these.  And while I'm glad I finished it, not my best work.  I could do better.  But I think the colors made it better in the end.

ALSO.  I'm up for any suggestions for more of these Xmas spirits, especially if it is something subtle or not as obvious for me to do.  I'm leaning toward doing Mistletoe and Holly at some point, and have already hit the Norse end of things.  Always up for something that leads to interesting research, amigos.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Spirit of Xmas Song

On the first day of Christmas, Old Saturnalia wakes from whence it hides.  More than a thousand winters have come and gone since it once held it's crown, yet its loudest spirit remains.  Called now the Spirit of Christmas Song, Old Saturnalia's hair is still as dark as it was when he was young.  His infectious capacity for song guarantees all others remember words for the songs of the Yuletide.

His is a spirit of liberty and song.  Saturnalia oft acts to remove anything that might restrict the opportunity for such song.  In his madder moments, however, he still repeats some of the old rites once more...


Given that Saturnalia has- Er, that Xmas is coming up, I'm going to try to do 12 Xmas days or whatever they're called.  First up, Saturnalia, that joyful reminder that the Romans celebrated a holiday of gift giving, free speech and feasting.  They didn't work that particular week.  Romans couldn't declare war.

It celebrated Saturn, who lost control of the universe to his son Jupiter in the whole god thing.  Romans being Romans, just explained that their earliest king happened to be Saturn in exile, who ruled over nymphs and fauns and etc.  Ja.  Or something like that.  Very Roman.

If they had heard of Superman, Romans would've explained how Krypton was really Rome, kinda sorta.

Saturnalia influenced other celebrations.  A part of it, which we don't observe now, is the notion of role reversal.  Saturnalia enabled slaves to become masters, for a change of positions socially.  It wasn't permanent, but it is an aspect of the festival that seems intriguing from this side of history.  Saturnalia was meant to remember a mythic age where humans were innocent and didn't need labor.

There are traces there of something familiar, I think, in the secular notion of humans celebrating kindness for one another.  Even if it is filtered through that blood-soaked madness of Roman religion.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Inksketches, December 9th 2016

It is times for the arts!
Ok, so I delayed a bit posting this up.  My hometown has... well, it has had snow, which doesn't happen often enough to be problematic in the past.  

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

I missed a day this week.  I feel bad about that, but it was sleep that took it away from me.  So, I'm just going to be happy I got sleep rather than worry about missing an art for a day.

Still working on Cyberwood things too.

Going to try for more nature pics in the next bit.  They are good practice.  And tbh, interesting to art.

This one I feel asleep while arting, so technically it took two days to do.  I think the building isn't my best, but the foreground does make it feel "Cyberwood."

A bonus art?  IDK.  This was me trying to design a house in the Cyberwood.  Idea fodder for later.   

Robins.  Ok...

Something festive, no?

This is an American Robin, which is technically a thrush.  (I don't know how big a difference that is with european Robins, only that European-Americans have a tendency to rename North American animals after European ones, regardless of how related they actually are).  Robins tend to be mythological, symbolic animals all the same.  They have associations with Spring and fire.  Having a red chest will do that.  

As manifestations of spring, it makes sense that they should appear at the apex of winter's darkness.  As the sun the dies, a tiny bird refusing the dark would be one heck of a heroic tale.  But for me, I gave the fella a pipe.  

A fire in the cold.  A bit of pipesmoke in the snow.  Early bird, annoyed he can't get the worm.

Most highways and their asphalt disappeared as the Cyberwood encroached.  Some of the most solid routes remained because of game trails.  But other activity, often intelligent, worked to maintain them.  But sometimes the cyberplants themselves kept them. 

Maybe as traps?  

Maybe as a reminder of something else.  Something they want to remember.  Either sentiment or perhaps something else darker.

Character design.  Kinda okay with how she turned out, prolly should revisit her a few times.

She does not like lettuce.  I don't know why, perhaps cyberlettuce is a jerk.

Malena of Roses was a typical resident of the gardens after the Great Shiro were birthed.   Roses, like other human settlements, was small, yet valued its own traditions.  They identified with the cyber-roses of their home, using it as their sigil as well as their main building material.
Also, some bonus art.  Malena's head sketching.  Gonna try more of these.  Masks are fun.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Inksketches, Week of December 2nd 2016

Oh.  Hai.  This week I kinda went full hog on Cyberwood stuff.

The cyberwood project still percolates in the back of my head.  I've moved from illustrating established things to trying to feel out the pieces for a larger story.  I have part of an outline for a comic, but I still feel like I have to get other parts of it felt out.  

So, I experiment and pour out some ideas on it in my dailyart.  Full colored pieces every day, it turns out, isn't quite the same as a "sketch."  It helps make my art better, for sure.  But dude, my writing suffers a bit in the face of it.

I do have a collaborator, so a great deal of Cyberwood is a soup of different ideas.  This is really my interpretation of the morass of it.  I imagine this plethora of stuff will bounce around and generate more new ideas for us in developing this thing.

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

All right.

Let's see what I did this week for the cyberwood.




Bonus ART

Sunday and Monday's pieces were meant to be a diptych.  So, together they look like...





What did you think?  Enjoying my foray into the Cyberwood?  Let me know what you think.  This project so far has been fun for me.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sam (Short Story)

My name is Sam.  Samael.  Your Uncle Sam.  Y'know, the Devil. You can also call me Satan.  And no, it's not my fault.

If you've got the fear of God, you probably have some harsh words for me.  If you got some issues, you probably think I'm an excuse to be an asshole.  Probably.

But for a few people, I've always tried to help.  Every day I visit the same coffee shop on the corner.  The name has changed so often over the years, I just think of it as that coffee cafe in my head.  The sign still says coffee on it, even a hundred years after it opened.

I like to sit there and think.  I stand and just look out at the people.  The place sits at the intersection of Hecate Avenue and 13th street.  A crossroads.  My kind of place.

That day, I knew I was going to help free someone.  Freedom is what I do.  That's me, Sam.  Freedom guy with coffee staring at people.  Not awkward at all.

The dark man at the crossroads.


I blinked out of reverie.  The cafe feels crowded.   Coffee.  So many people in line.  Lines.  Tired.  Sleepy.  My head drifted away.  Someone or something was calling my attention.

"Hey, excuse me?"

These people work too hard.  Chained.  They all looked like they wanted to break free.

"I can't free them all,"  I told myself.

"Hey?!  Can you hear  dude?"  A woman's voice woke me from my reverie.  Her voice.  No, his voice, I reminded myself.  He had his own chains too.

I then looked up.  A barista offers me a towel.


The young woman's bright blue hair matches that one smile.  That smile trained by months of serving other overworked Americans.  This was their temple, their morning  in service to their corporate gods.  The blue haired woman was a priestess.  A priestess whose libations of coffee made the great chained rack of American corporatism go round.

"Your coffee, sir, don't you want to clean up a bit?  Are you ok?"

I looked down.

"Ah."  The contents of my own beverage steamed hot, up from my dark black slacks I'd chosen to wear that morning.  "Oops. Sorry if I've caused problems...?"

The barista gestured at his name tag.  Julia.  The lock on her chains, not that he saw that.  He felt it.  I could tell.

" just been staring- you always come in here, and this is the first time I've ever seen you spill your cup."


"Oops."  I wiped up hot coffee and creamer.  "Jules is it?"

"Is there anything else I can do for you sir?"

"Do  believe in the devil, Jules?"  I let the old tone enter my voice.  The one that always made them curious.  The question mark hung in the air.  Almost manifest and real.

"My name is Julia.  And..."  The barista tries to look away from my eyes.

She can't.  She sees the black there.  The redness.  My dark hair.  For a moment, I see it  her face.  Then she reverses herself.

Not her.  Him.

"And no, I don't."


"Besides," Julia busies himself helping wipe up my spilled coffee from my table. "There isn't a devil.  Not a single one.  There are at least three different beings mentioned in the bible."

"Religious?"  I ask. I already know the answer.

"No, but I like to know what people try to sell me."

"Ah."  I grasped his hand.  It looked feminine.  "This is a crossroads, Jules.  People meet me here.  Tell me, do you want to be free?"

The makeup and clothes he wore, they were chains.  I could see the green flecks of jealousy he had toward me.  The same look an imprisoned person has for a free one.

I dressed this way on purpose.  I looked like a man.  Everything in my clothes, masculine.  The look in the young woman's eyes was jealousy.  Annoyance to be trapped.  And fear to be free.

"Let go of me."  He said.  His voice growled.

"Do you want to be free?"  I repeated.

"Why?"  Julia asked.

"Say one believes there is an order to the universe.  I can change that.  Don't you want to see your chains broken?"

"Alright.  Do you mind letting go of my hand now...?"

I let go of the woman's hand.  Chains, even pretty ones that look like nail polish and lipstick are still chains.  I felt the chains.  All of them.  They jingled at my power.

"Sam.  I am Sam.  To some folk, you must obey the order. The rules.  That you kneel when they say.  They tell you that anyone who defies the order of the world, why, they are evil.

"One gives knowledge of fire.  And other secrets  some from the cold, knowledge that bends the order of the universe.  Who does that?  A snake.  I am the snake.  And I break chains.

"But what of the reverse, Jules?  What if the one who defies the order of the universe doesn't want personal gain?  What if the devil wants to help?"

"What about souls?"

I cocked an eyebrow.  Always with this flap trap.

"A metaphor.  But why would the devil want that?  What if the devil wants to see what you become if given the chance to be what you want?  What if he breaks the chains that hold you back?  You have so many chains on you right now."

Jules shrugs.  I seemed to have spent the barista's allotted time for bullshit.  I smiled.  He moved to walk away.

"Thank you for listening,"  I say.  "Be free, Jules.  Your chains are broken."

"That isn't my name."  He says.  He pauses, feeling his throat.  It sounds deeper.

Jules stares at me.  The female body melted away as my power flowed.  Each chain shatters as my power  Jules' female body into a male one.  Surprise on his face, his blue hair  that.

Exhausted, I slumped back.


I waved a hand as I stood up.  I walked away.

Too tired to talk.

Uncle Sam, the devil, whatever I was, had freed one person. It exhausted me.  But maybe that would be enough.

One chain at a time.  Jules called after me and I left the Crossroads.  Others had need of me.

"One day, it'll be enough."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Inksketches, Week of November 26th 2016

Oh carp.  This past week I kinda punted on the blog a bit.  Oops.

I didn't mean to do that.  Thanksgiving and trying to recover from some other things kept me from updating this thing like I mean too.  I still managed to get back on the art horse, so, here are the things.

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

I'm open to suggestions for these things, though I don't promise to do them.

If you want me to art you something specific, consider commissioning me.  Send an email to damniampretty@gmail.com and we can work something out.  ;)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Inksketches, November 18th 2016

Demons, Cyberwood and other things.  I took this week off work as part of #DesertBusX.  I needed the time off and tbh, Desert Bus is awesome.  So this is my "vacation" art.  
On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

This was me just riding the demon thing a bit more.  I asked a friend for a subject for something demonic.  Designing seals is one of the funner bits demon stuff lets me do.  I've always liked goetic keys and similar iconography.  They are brilliant abstract pieces of art.

Here is the lines for the piece, which I imagine are just as good as the colored version:

A Desert Bus for Hope submission.  Only one I really felt like doing,  The art challenges are interesting parts of the whole thing.  The target was to present a positive vision of humanity's future.  I think I did, but the winner of the challenge was pretty good too.

"This cyberherb obsesses over human civilization and humanity in general. It is a medicinal herb with some culinary uses. However, autorue also is fairly poisonous in large amounts. Hepatotoxic, it can lead to live failure. Autorue knows this. The cyberplant infests human settlements heavily. It will often fling sprigs of its own flowers into human foods as often as possible.

If one sleeps in the open, there is a risk that autorue will poison the sleeper. Those aware of the danger wear mouth coverings to protect against autorue sprigs being put down their throat. Those unaware often find the claim they must fear the "Rue"ridiculous.

Autorue cannot grow in some colder climes. But most often it can be found around human settlements, and as those numbers decline, so do the number of active autorue to be found around them. The plant seems obsessed with curtailing human numbers."

Something from the ever-growing secret #Cyberwood project.

 Character design.  Someone from a bit of flash fic.  Kinda interesting to see how it turned out.

Oh. I have no idea what this is meant to be. It feels eldritch-ish, but I don't know. Just felt like it had to come out.

As for the phrase "waking mountains"... My best guess on this one. Maybe this is a mountain spirit. Maybe a totem of some kind?

Or just a giant thing? IDK. Just seemed worthy of being my arts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seals, Juveniles and Names.

After reading through most of your papers, I see our first great filter has past us.

I imagine most of you
noticed how many of your classmates aren't here.  As it always happens in demonic studies, research on Larvae has changed half of this class.  They decided they can't handle further studies in this field.  They found something they can't stomach, a truth that made them unable to keep going.

Is it because you have stronger stomachs?  Or is it because of costs?  I'll be honest with you, these studies have driven many away, regardless of field.  Interactions with demons have forced battlefield medics to commit suicide.  The most hardened emergency room doctors experience mental breakdowns in their situations with them.

I need you to understand.  Only a few can stomach this material.

Now, back to the next stage of the demon life cycle.  You've already dealt with the dark parts of the larval stage.  Now we move onto the phase where demons diversify.  The juvenile stage varies greatly.  Among demonologists, it is referred to as the Imp stage.

What defines demons at this phase is intelligence.  Larva are able to sense and form plans, but are animals in their thinking.  But demons that form groups and work together, they begin to do so as Imps.  A group of such demons is called a Host.

Upon entering a host, the host gives a larva or imp their first name.  A mix of ultrasonic, infrared and noises, a name has a critical importance.  The rest of the host can speak that name.  A demon's biology affixes to that name.  It serves as a call for them.  For demons, this forms the basis of their strategy and tactics as a Host.

But for imps, their names are still somewhat mutable.  Older demons have a harder time resisting their name.

But Imps are able to resist their own names.  Older demons can be bound or commanded through the correct use of their name.  Imps can resist that.  As they age into their adult and later stages, they become more and more controlled by their name.

Remember that by their nature, humans can't pronounce demonic names.  Being able to repeat them can be a useful defense.  But Imps can ignore that.

Imps, like most demons, grow in response to humans doing the evil acts that hatched them.  Imps and later demons are able to feed off more broad emotional stimuli.  But the stimuli must all still share the same root dark act that hatched their spores.

The Imp stage doesn't last long, not if the Imp finds a suitable Host.  When an Imp develops its own seal, that marks their transition to full adulthood.  A seal, unlike a name, is something all Demons have.   A host often will collect their seals together, as they can function like their names.  A seal can summon that demon, command them, as well as empower them.

The downsides to having a Seal is how it constricts a demon.  They all must obey their seal.  A few demons have attempted to erase their seals from existence.  But they failed.  Seals function the same as imagination does for humanity.  It is an inherent part of their psychology and lives.

Now, we will spend the rest of this lecture on how to identify and utilize seals.  With a bit of effort, they can help defend against demons.  But this is the riskier part of this work, as a misused seal can summon the wrong demon...