[ occasional pirate ], [ scribbly fellow ], [ hat devotee ], [ improviser ], [ cat dad ], [ sometimes unhappy in the brain ], [ AFOL ], [ consumer of eye-candy ], [ beer drinker ], [ enraged cyclist ], [ please talk to me about Transformers ], [ very bad at DIY ], [ enthusiastic duct-taper ]
[ occasional pirate ], [ scribbly fellow ], [ hat devotee ], [ improviser ], [ cat dad ], [ sometimes unhappy in the brain ], [ AFOL ], [ consumer of eye-candy ], [ beer drinker ], [ enraged cyclist ], [ please talk to me about Transformers ], [ very bad at DIY ], [ enthusiastic duct-taper ]
There are some great solutions to life out there – like auto-upload to Flickr. I can then promptly forget about what I’ve built and photographed. I don’t even remember when I dismantled them either…
So I found this little MOC from September last year! A timely posting of pictures will follow.
This combines my twin loves of the Chima minifigure heads and smashed up, ruined buildings. It’s quite early in my MOCery but I still like it. What I see now is the continuation of my inability to plan and see ahead, as well as my lasting hatred of roofing. There’s a lot of careful asymmetry, which I think is a reaction to my very clear habits as a child of rigorously symmetrical spaceship assembly. I was enormously frustrated by never having enough Lego to make everything match. I’m now slowly re-symmetrising my Lego builds.
I had a lot of fun with the shattered glass in the windows (lots of transparent bricks and cheese slopes) and with getting the foliage to cascade nicely across the front.
Every Picture Tells A Story
Probably. I’ve long adored the Chima heads with their modern grungy take on Fabuland. The problem is that they all have double faces, which looks really weird from behind. Helmets are the only way forward since hair looks even weirder.
I imagine them to be a squad of marines sweeping through a long abandoned town. Ghosts peer out at them from every shattered window and cracked door. Jittery, constantly unsettled by a silence broken only by eerie sounds of decay the troops are painfully aware of the pointlessness of their search and angry about their losses during a different time…
Building just the front half makes it easier to sort out a raggedy roof, especially when it’s held together by leaves and tiles. The foliage tends to be quite fragile and I need to find some nifty ways to clip it all together. I can see that I had only recently dismantled Lego 9496 Desert Skiff which gave me the cool window frames. I guess I also had an Endor set around then too, as one of my marines has a nice rebel helmet (not a euphemism).
Ah, so nice to dig these things out. I’m, sure I’ll find more. Should you wish it, there are some more pictures of this build on Flickr right here.
Guldwych Ryme was torn between his intense need for comfort and pressing desire to live. The one had him clutching his blanket and the other stinking with sweat. Chem’s visit and scorn had ignited something new in the professor. Lying on the bunk across from him, barely six handspans away, was Tosser. She lay fully stretched out with her feet resting on the wall by the top of the door. She shifted to place one large fist under her cheek and gazed at him curiously.
“The captain’s not going to off you just for being a bit ill,” she said reassuringly, “you’d have to be seriously unwell. You know – spitting up Bellytoads or something. Even then we’d probably just lock you in a cabin until we could find a nice deserted spot. Everyone gets wing sick at first. Why, we had one lad, what was his name… Temblethey, Twomas? Temas. He spent the first week bent over a wing spraying the crops. Course, it turned out he actually had Gasclian Revolt. That was a shame, seemed like a nice lad when he wasn’t retching. Him we had to put down. That’s what this part is-” Tosser indicated the taut spiral tattoo that ran from the tip of her right elbow into what might have been an unfurling leaf “- mercy. You’ve got to have mercy. Anyway – you’re not ill like that are you Ryme?”
Guldwych stared at her. He didn’t yet know her well enough to judge if that was a threat or just another rambling story of the kind she’d amiably filled their cabin with since he came aboard. Knocker and Tosser had been the friendliest towards him by far. Considering he’d known Eslie Chem longer than any of the others he had been disappointed to find that he didn’t know the man at all. With an eye for his survival over all else, he embraced a path of caution.
“No, no I’m not.” He tugged the blanket off and sat up. After a moment he swung his legs off the bunk and carefully folded his blanket into a fat triangle and placed it neatly on the pillow.
“You’re right Tosser. I’m perfectly well thank you, and it would be a comfort to know that the captain knows it too.”
“Great – I’ve got a job for you, ” With a grin Tosser was on her feet, wrapping her seemingly endless hair into a tight knot at the back of her head, “come with me.”
Standing she filled the tiny cabin, forcing Ryme to gesture ‘after you’ while crouching back onto his bunk. He followed Tosser down the narrow corridor and into the brightness of The Sky Viper’s deck. Ryme remembered to clip himself onto the lifeline before Tosser turned to remind him. Ryme felt quite proud of himself, and the beaming grin of her approval certainly did no harm to his self-esteem.
The rectangular deck was packed with boxes, bags and crates. All taken, Ryme assumed from the recently raided Golden Zephyr. He couldn’t imagine where they were going to put it all. It looked worse than the detritus Traverstorm had left in the university common room when he returned from the Far Colonies.
Tosser spread her arms wide and bellowed, “bounty!” to a chorus of laughs. Ryme noticed Chall and Eslie Chem seated on the narrow brass railing that encircled the wingship’s deck with their backs to the wind sharing a thin rubber-capped bottle between them.
“I’m so glad to see you feeling better,” declared Eslie as he drew the glass pipette from the bottle and carefully squeezed a single drop onto his tongue. He twisted the pipette back into the bottle and handed it to Chall, who dispensed a drop for himself.
Eslie heaved himself off the rail and swaggered over to Ryme, his lifeline twitching like a tail behind him, “Adjusted to the sky life yet, Guldwych?”
Ryme almost flinched at Chem’s tone and the nasty curl of his lips. “Hello Eslie, I’m feeling much better thank you.”
He avoided looking over the rail behind Chem. Their altitude, witnessed again might just unhinge his stomach. With more resolution than he felt, Ryme squeezed a casual smile at Chem and turned to Tosser.
“Right, this is all stuff off the Zephyr. Most of it we know what to do with,” Chall rattled his rings against the little bottle in muted salute, “but this lot – well, even Chem don’t know what it is.”
“Why don’t you just ask the crew?”
“Ah, well there is no crew anymore, ” Ryme could feel Eslie’s smirk boring into the back of his head, “wasn’t just Irmleigh who went to the sands Guldwych.”
Had Ryme been sitting in his comfortable office he would have made appropriate sympathetic noises at such news, and inside he would have felt little. Now that he was standing over the property of dead men he was no more struck by pity. It wasn’t his fault they were dead. Obviously this Flame and Irmleigh had some history. Given their lifestyles it was guaranteed to end violently. Why take responsibility for that, or for the dead man’s crew?
Ryme ignored Chem and crouched down to look in the crate Tosser had opened. The outside was scorched, almost obscuring Meridional University’s coat of arms. The ‘Do Not Open’ labels had been disregarded. Inside were phials and jars sunk into a mass of shredded paper. Ryme plucked one out. On reading the label he almost dropped it in shock.
“These must not be opened – these are exceptionally dangerous. Why were they even on the Zephyr?”
“Well, they probably nicked them off someone professor,” said Tosser “where do you think we got them?”
“I mean, these are from the university’s poisons vault. These are Vileteeth. They should have been impossible to steal.”
“Nothing’s impossible to steal Guldwych, ” retorted Chem with a snarl, “everything can be taken – pride, poison, lives…”
Ryme looked properly at the bottle in Chem’s hand. “What is that you’re drinking?”
Chall spat on the deck.
His tooth slid across the planks, leaving a trail of bloody saliva.
Chall yawned wide with a rattle of falling teeth. Chem laughed and spat out his own teeth, then joined Chall in showing off the curling fangs emerging from their bloody gums.
Unless you’re the Borg of course. I’m not the Borg though, so everyone is perfectly safe – I have zero wish to assimilate anyone into my miniscule collective.
There are all sorts of amazing shapes people make out of Lego. It’s much easier to make square things, so I thought it would be good practice to make a bunch of squares, or what they told me at school is called a cube. How hard could that possibly be? I’m still pretty early in my Lego MOCery and am prone to such errors of hope.
I’ve also been enjoying examining the intensive greebling of master builders like Peter Reid who designed the recent Lego Ideas Exo Suit amongst many other brilliant spacey things. And I’ve got quite a lot of my old Classic Lego Space stuff from the ’80s so I’d be able to add in plenty of cool blue and transparent yellow.
A Square Has 4 Sides
And a cube has loads more – mine has 11 I think (no lid). The idea was that each side could have something different on it. A cool plan I think. before that though I needed to figure out how to join them together, and in a leap of unplanned genius, how to make it studs out on both sides of each square panel. Not easy.
Lego sometimes feels like it gets irregular once it’s being squeezed. I ended up with a lot of brackets and Technics pins to clip it all together. Each side became two bricks thick, which obviously then presents further issues with joins…
It was a great opportunity to use lots of bits and pieces, and continues to vindicate with my filling Pick A Brick tubs with round 1×1 tiles and transparent 1×1 wedges.
What Do You Look Like Inside?
So this is what the cube looks like split open (before deconstruction in this case). All those square jumper plates really do keep coming in handy! I decided it should be a Blacktron laboratory.
It looks pretty cool fully assembled, but is yet another in a long line of things I build that are nearly impossible to effectively photograph.
The little guys inside are my old Blacktron dudes with the skulls from Guy Himber’s Lego Skulls Kickstarter. I think they’re cute! I’ve babbled about them before, and I’m still very fond of them.
I’m not going to do justice to the story in my synopsis, but here goes… the planet Jeep, colonised centuries ago has been rediscovered by the Company. The entire population is female, and when the ‘Mirrors’ (soldiers) arrive they quickly contract a virus that kills all men, about 30% of women and leaves the world in quarantine. Enter Marghe Taishan, employee of the Company, anthropologist visits the planet while testing an experimental vaccine which might be the only hope of leaving Jeep for the Company employees quarantined there. It’s clear that Marghe can’t learn anything about the people if she stays in the Mirrors’ isolated base so she sets off into the wild.
From there it would be incredibly simplistic to say that she ‘goes native’ given the depth and complexity of the world she adopts and is adopted by. The women of Jeep live in tribes connected by an intricate system of trade, obligation and duty – ‘trata’. It’s into this web that Marghe is soon bound, bringing the women of the Company into trata too. And that’s just the start – explaining much more is a frightful spoiler show.
What we get is rich, interesting and intensely human characters presented in a familiar yet wholly new and refreshing social context. Marghe goes through a hell of a journey to understand Jeep, the women who live, have babies, farm, go to war and fall in love, and most of all to understand herself. At times the book veers between fantasy, science fiction and cultural exploration. It’s a synthesis I found very satisfying and intriguing. Once she finally settles and begins to learn how reproduction and cultural heritage work the whole story unfolds in another dimension entirely.
Apparently this was Nicola Griffith’s first novel – it’s superb. I found it by spotting the SF Masterworks livery. Sometimes that collection feels like it’s just every sci-fi book ever written, but this is definitely a gem that deserves to be in print constantly.
I’ve no doubt that there’s a host of essays covering the gender and sexuality themes running through Ammonite – they’re interesting and well explored and ever so interesting. That and the story and the characters that kept me reading. It’s one of very few books that went straight onto my ‘re-read soon’ stack.
Rosenhatch Traverstorm reached out and ruffled Maxwell’s fur. The little cat seemed completely unaffected by their most recent misadventure. Maxwell arched his back in delight and let his tail unfurl in a stuttering swish before hopping along the heap of boxes to keep up with his source of stroking. If anything, Maxwell seemed even happier than before, glossy coated and bright eyed. Rosenhatch hadn’t seen much of him over the last few days, and he thought Maxwell looked a damned sight healthier than anyone else.
Two days and nights of hammering, carrying and generally being in the way of those with real skills and craft had taken its toll. The crew was on tight shifts of sleep and work now that the most vital repairs were complete – The Dove’s Eye wouldn’t be falling into the Bane just yet. There was a crucial balance between being awake enough not to individually fall to one’s death and preventing everyone from falling to their deaths.
Rosenhatch, although desperately tired had not slept for more than a handful of restless blinks. This was not because he was needed; very much the reverse. He had sought out tasks, however menial and unnecessary to feel useful. The Death Cheater’s eye found him again and again with each bandaged hand, each stitched face, every snapped life line as it was coiled and knotted into the shape of the fallen crew member. The losses kept him awake.
He had missed his friends during those intense few days and their familiar comfort. Maxwell had apparently embraced his lack of responsibility and had take to keeping poor Jacob company. The lad was still unconscious. Rosenhatch rather envied him his comatose state, though not how he’d achieved it: the cumulative trauma of his abduction, exodus from the charnel pit in a cascade of gore (which had stained The Dove’s Eye’s foredeck a bleak crimson) and the ocular explosions as the horrid spawn escaped their incubation behind his eyes. Being battered by every object in his cabin when they burst out of the Sky Mountain probably hadn’t helped either. Maxwell had invested himself in purring deeply on the boy’s chest, but had consented to accompany Rosenhatch’s next task – assessing the fitness of their cargo.
Lord Corshorn’s men still crawled along the apparently endless store of rope that threaded through and around the airship. The occasional smack of a hammer resounded through the airship as the wrights improved on the hastiest of their repairs.
Much of the rear portion of the airship was taken up with storage. Previously an ingeniously organised work of Jasparz the captain’s second, but now a chaos of smashed crates, swinging nets and dubious stains. Rosenhatch rolled aside a breached container of gawlet syrup and consulted the check list he’d been given. Maxwell simply hopped from one box to another in his new heaven of shelves and surfaces. Lord Corshorn’s primary concern was that they still had water and food, but that had already been assessed, which left Rosenhatch with the much lower priority of his and Harvey’s equipment.
Maxwell found their kit and idly batted at the netting holding it in place until Rosenhatch caught up. Miraculously, Harvey’s traps for the Crystal Finches appeared to be intact- a testament to the centipede’s obsessive packing rituals. Rosenhatch unwound one from its feet of protective ribbon. Each trap was a cube of mirrors inside a blackened frame. The bottom of the box hinged open in two parts, in a trapdoor held with tight springs. Rosenhatch gingerly tested the device and was rewarded with a sharp nip across his thumb tip as it was caught in the mechanism. Still functional.
Rosenhatch tracked down the case of optics and lenses that he had reluctantly entrusted to the cargo hold. It was scattered across the floor. The microscopes were broken. The refining lenses had a variety of spiderweb cracks which rendered each useless. Rosenhatch would have to rely on the rather cruder equipment he kept in his backpack for any close examinations.
Some of their reference works had been lost to the ragged tear along the hull but Rosenhatch was quite pleased to imagine encyclopaedias raining down on the desert. They would have to repack Harvey’s shell-mounted cannon and do a full count of the rounds remaining after their skirmishes with the winged beasts and the strangely meaty internal walls of the Sky Mountain.
With some satisfaction, Rosenhatch began re-stacking crates and sweeping debris into similar-looking drifts. It was likely their expedition could proceed, and Rosenhatch hoped they would be underway soon. They had almost reached their target of the Razored Ridges before going disastrously off course high into the sky. Lord Corshorn estimated that they were only a day or two further away now. With luck they would be able to locate the Crystal Finches with a minimum of further trouble. Before they could begin the search, Rosenhatch needed one other vital component to be restored: Harvey.
Rosenhatch had been keen to get his friend brought down from the top of the balloon as soon as possible, but with the insect’s many legs stitching the torn bag together Corshorn had insisted that they deal with the hull and ropes first. Harvey had been left broiling in the sun virtually unprotected for far too long. The heat itself wasn’t such a problem: Harvey’s kind lived in the dark humus of hot humid jungles. The dry air was quite a different proposition for an insect happier burrowing through a rotten tree trunk.
When Rosenhatch and the others winched him down from the balloon the centipede’s legs had twitched constantly, unused to the sensation of gripping just air. In a kitten that would have seemed a sweet dreaming, but with foot-long razor sharp claws Harvey was far from cute. The crew had wrapped him tightly in canvas to protect themselves and the balloon.
On delivery into his cabin Rosenhatch had carefully unwrapped his friend and laid on damp blankets. Rosenhatch had always felt responsible for his friend and colleague, for Harvey was something more than either of those things. As Rosenhatch lost himself in the tidying of the cargo hold he drifted away to far-off land and the series of accidents that had brought them together.
I’ve loved toy shops for as long as I can remember. If I happen to be in town there’s an excellent chance that I’ll pop into John Lewis just to look through the toys. Naturally I’m drawn to the Lego, but everything gets a good look and poke at.
I missed the original release of the Lego Winter Village Toy Shop 10249, so I made my own one a couple of years ago which worked out pretty well except for a few vital parts I was missing. Then I adapted it for the next season which ended up kind of gingerbreadish.
It’s a very appealing build and I’m thrilled that Lego have re-issued it this year. We’ll be getting it and establishing a Christmas Lego box for annual building and displaying. We’ll stick all the amazing Christmas themed Star Wars figures in it too.
Bigger Is Better
The Lego Winter Village Toy Shop is adorably dinky which means you can’t actually put many toys inside, so it sucks as a shop in all but the most distant alpine gift shops. Time for an upgrade.
I began by just scaling up the original design by a few studs or brick heights. It makes everything so much bigger! Especially the spaces between everything. I wanted to use all the new pretty colours I’d acquired recently, like a small quantity of sand blue and dark red plus the brown and gold colour scheme from the gingerbread version.
The roofing gave me the usual hell, but I learned some new things about hinges and fixing slopes in place, so I guess it was all worthwhile. One day I swear I’m going to make the roof first and then make the rest of the building.
The scaled up size gave me a lot of trouble in trying to recreate the nice decoration under the peaked roof. A chance flipping over of a Lego box gave me the ‘O’ in the sign and a happy half hour trying to make letters that fit with it. I’m pleased with the result:
There was a little bit of space left though and I couldn’t think what to stick in there. The result… a dog?
With the scaled up size I figured I’d have tonnes of space to put stuff within. I take great pleasure in tiling the floors – it’s an addiction of some kind I’m sure.
The attic space gets filled with old toys and kittens of course:
The first floor is yet more toy storage (for reasons that will become clear shortly), and a spot for sewing things. The sewing machine is one of my favourite little builds. It uses the Classic Lego Space Utensil Control Panel 2342 which I loved as a kid.
The ground floor, despite being almost twice the size of the original still has almost no damned space in it! But as you can see, I’ve done my best to cram it as full as my favourite toy shops. I’m very chuffed with the Scooby Doo coloured chest of drawers and the micro spaceships on display in the window. The rack opposite the windows is supposed to be board games. That may or may not work.
Overall I’m well pleased with how it came out! It’s time to take it apart and build something else.
Guldywch lurched backwards, tripped over a confiscated casket and landed in a mess of corkscrewed wood shavings and broken glass. Tosser’s attention was held by the awful sight of her crewmate Chall and Eslie Chem. Chem’s face was distorting under the force of ivory stretching his cheeks to tearing point – it curled out of each rip, a long viciously sharp tooth coiling around his face like a hundred rams’ horns. Chall shrieked as his skin was torn into ribbons. Flesh hung between the forest of teeth that erupted from his spine, and continued with every part of his body pierced by tightly entwined gleaming tusks.
The horrid sight of Chall overcome by this riot of teeth consumed their attention. The dropper bottle that the pair had been drinking from rolled across the deck towards Guldwych and struck his boot. Its label confirmed his fears: Vileteeth. The bottle was well decorated with skulls, red warnings and the now broken thick wax seal. Only an idiot would ignore the label and consume the stuff. An idiot, or… Ryme’s dizzy thinking was interrupted by Tosser seizing his arm and whipping him upright in a single motion that made his head spin further.
Chall was forced almost double by the weight of the teeth snarling around and through each other – he looked like a frozen briar, trembling in the depths of winter. His face was a tatter of skin grossly stretched by bars of teeth.
“Professor?” was the best she could manage.
“It’s Vileteeth, Tosser. This is what it does – spurs the body into violent overproduction of teeth from every bone until the poor victim is gnarled knot of calcium.”
“Will Chall get better?”
“It won’t directly kill him, unless the teeth penetrate his organs, which with the strength of this reaction is I suppose quite likely. Otherwise affected cases either starve through being unable to open their mouths, or are euthanised.”
“Why would they drink it? That’s crazy.”
“I’d say a mistake, but for the clear labelling and that I know Eslie Chem is neither illiterate nor an idiot. On its own this is a death sentence.”
Only once Chall fell to his knees did they look to Eslie Chem. Unlike his drinking partner, Chem remained upright, shaking violently as the curling teeth from his mouth slashed at the flesh of his face. Instead of white tusks ripping through the rest of his body, Chem’s clothing was merely bulging in disturbing angular ways, thrusting back and forth through his shoulders and waist. He was making a low sad whistling as he jerked, one hand clenched tightly around the railing the other twisted into a claw as if reaching out for Ryme.
The professor peered speculatively at Chem, “Eslie’s having quite a different reaction. Look Tosser – those aren’t teeth coming out of his arms, they look more like horns, or armour. Much more insectile than toothy.” He began to step towards Chem, his fears lost to curiosity.
“Professor,” said Tosser, “your jacket is smoking.”
Ryme noticed the burning sensation in his shoulders for the first time and hastily tore his jacket off. The leather was quickly becoming a smoking mass. Without a second thought he hurled it overboard. The smashed crate he had landed on was also smoking.
“Quickly Tosser – get that crate off the ship before it burns through the deck.”
So saying, Ryme cautiously seized an armful of the wood curls and glassware and heaved them over the side. Tosser just grabbed a box and threw it from the centre of the deck. Too late they spotted the darkening stain that spread deeper into the wood where Ryme had fallen. A moment later that spot turned black and with a wet snap fell into the ship. A cry of surprise came from below. Suddenly the orange sands of the Great Bane were visible straight through the ship.
“What in all the awful beasts of Elgrin is happening to my ship?” Captain Flame strode out of the cockpit, slapping her lifeline in without a moment’s thought. She took in the hole in the deck, the scattered boxes, their contents and finally the wretched tangle of Chall and the still shuddering Eslie Chem. She turned to Ryme, “an explanation if you please.”
“This cargo, from the Golden Zephyr . It’s all dangerous – that hole is the result of Paama’s tears mixing with the air. It’s a fascinating sea creature with a rather unusual reproductive cycle,” he noted Flame’s expression, “and its tears are an acid.”
“Wonderful. What about that,” Flame indicated her crewman.
“Ah, well I was just explaining to Tosser here – that’s the effect of drinking Vileteeth. I believe he’s had rather a large dose, which explains why he’s so powerfully affected.”
“I rather fancy Eslie has taken something quite different in addition to the Vileteeth. You see, it affects teeth and bones, but Chem is only experiencing the familiar response orally. As we can see here, ” Ryme began prodding and poking the shivering, but otherwise immobile man. “this, for example resembles much more closely the horned shapes found in the armour of some insects. And this, well – botany’s my speciality but this looks distinctly like the edge of a wing case.” Ryme tugged at the protrusions by Ryme’s shoulder, apparently having forgotten that the man was more than a mere specimen.
Flame was about to express her growing irritation with Ryme when there was a sudden, audible crack. It came from Chall, whose twisted form clenched briefly and then exploded in a hail of tooth shards. The shrapnel caught Tosser in the chest and flung her overboard. Flame threw herself to the deck but was still struck along the arm and face by fragments of ivory. Ryme was mostly protected by Chem’s body, but being startled bumped into the rail behind him.
Chem came suddenly to life, in a smooth twisting step he shredded the skin and clothing from his body and punched Ryme hard in the face, flinging him over the rail. Chem stretched his now clearly insectile form, stalked across the deck and seized one of the opened crates.
He glanced down at Angel Flame where she lay stunned. He clicked out, “Goodbye Captain Flame, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for all your help.” With a respectful nod he snapped open his wings and took a running leap off the Sky Viper.
Sometimes I dearly want to play with Lego but my brain is just not working in a useful construction-conducive way. At that point I usually just turn the TV on. On this occasion I spotted Tremors on Netflix. I looove Tremors. It’s a fantastic little comedy monster film. It sufficiently distracted my head and allowed my fingers to do the building.
I have fond memories of Lego Blacktron from the ’80s. I loved their old black and yellow colour scheme, but in tiny versions it feels like transparent red works better. This one is more of a blackmoor goldfish than anything else. I rather enjoyed finding nice swooshy lines to fit together.
Really, I wanted to take pictures of them against a black background, but I quickly figured out that would be difficult… I’m none too bright.
I’ve got loads of cool Technics cogs and bits and bobs, but I lack the engineering wit to make actual machines. They make for a fine cosmic drive though.
The third ship is a bit more witchy. I don’t know that I like it as much as the other two, but I felt mean leaving him out.
I think they make a fine space-faring trio. Not bad for tablescraps! These might be the first spaceships I’ve made from Lego in more than twenty years.
The coffee was a thick sludge of molten cream and muddy whorls. Estfel sat hunched at his desk, face just inches above the cup’s contents. He stirred the coffee into greater disturbance with his index finger. A remarkable bruise had blossomed in the night, running its watercolour blemish from left temple to collar bone. Estfel cinched his coat a little tighter around his bony shoulders. His naked feet continued to tap out a hungover dance on the wooden floor, nails tapping madly. His fellow editor, Melee Galabrendle lay face down on the floor, using the drafted pages of a forgotten night as mattress and quilt. She was mostly clothed, having not been convinced by Estfel’s protestations that it was a balmy summer evening perfect for swimming.
Estfel leaned back in his absurdly perfect wooden chair, feeling the spars creak along with his knees and shoulders. It would seem that his unwelcome defenestration had left a fine array of bruises down his back. Melee had been kind enough to yank out the shards of glass which had given him a lizard’s frill down one shoulder. They now lay at the bottom of a glass of violet water before him. All in all they had enjoyed a successful night – a few pleasant drinks, a scrap and hours of manic writing and editing. Obviously it remained to be seen whether they had produced the next issue or simply thought they had.
Over time Melee and Estfel had learned to resist the urge to bundle up a night’s work and thrust it straight into the printer’s hands. Issue two hundred and thirty-seven of The JournalsBiologinary remained a valued collector’s piece, partly because articles were distributed freely throughout the issue without page numbers or titles, and partly because of Melee’s spectacular rant about Estfel’s inability to spell her surname. Although they absolutely stood by issue two hundred and thirty-seven, they had agreed to lock their office when drunk and throw the keys out of the windows. Later they agreed to open the window first, and gave strict instructions to Almonq at the printers to under no circumstances print anything submitted before midday. This allowed for the inclusion of pictures and the removal of personal attacks – on each other – academics were fair game.
An uncanny keening arose from the floor. Estfel filled the other cleanish cup with thick coffee from the steaming jug on the window sill and slid it to the other side of the desk.
It was a remarkable jug, though it did its best not to show it. Shortly after Melee and Estfel had taken over The JournalsBiologinary (at issue two hundred and eleven) they had been presented with it as a thank you gift from the husband of one of the former editors. The thanks were for so utterly defeating the original editors, one Helmin Borescal and Turgen Kislove in a high stakes krocus game. Estfel couldn’t tell you which of the two had had a husband, since krocus involved both vast quantities of whiskey and precision with dicing mirrors. Melee had delivered the master stroke of the game, successfully blinding Kislove for three days in the eighteenth round. The stakes by that point included ownership of The Journals, Estfel’s house, Melee’s (fictitious) collection of Undergrowl pottery, unspecified but suggestive acts on the part of Borescal and Estfel’s left arm.
After a degree of arbitration, Melee and Estfel turned down Borescal and took over The JournalsBiologinary. Anyway, the jug arrived at the office a few days after they did. Melee almost threw it in the bin, but Estfel had taken the rare act of reading the note that came with it. Apparently the jug was lined with feathers of the Crystal Finch, which even after separation from the bird retained its extraordinary properties. The innate light within the birds’ crystalline feathers generated an awesome amount of heat, which was cleverly funnelled and controlled within the jug by a series of mirrors and sliding ceramic filters to heat the contents and keep them hot. Perhaps not the noblest use of such a rarity but a damned useful one. Estfel remembered to twist the cone on the jug’s top which would prevent the coffee within from combusting by hiding the feathers from each other. He had no desire to explode the entire office.
Melee hauled herself into the chair opposite, shedding her blanket of paper. Her bruised and bloodied knuckles kept her attached to the desk. Her head lolled alarmingly, each nod bringing her closer to the coffee cup. Estfel let her get halfway through the coffee before bothering her with human interaction.
“Good morning my dear.”
“There is, I trust, something good about it?”
“It looks very much like we wrote the whole next issue last night. There’s certainly enough paper, and I could only count what wasn’t beneath you or clutched like a scarf worm to your bosom.”
Melee peeled a sheet of crumpled paper from her forearm, wincing as she did so. There was a pin through the paper, an envelope with another piece of paper and her arm.
“Is this in it?”
“I’ve no idea. I still can’t read what isn’t in front of my eyes.”
Melee smiled sweetly at Estfel and flung the pin into his coffee. “I think it probably should be.” She flicked the envelope onto the desk. Estfel noted that it was addressed to them both and had what might be his own boot print on it. She turned the note over and held it insultingly close to Estfel’s face. Estfel was impressed by the steadiness of her hand.
“To the… blah blah, it comes to blah blah, honoured editors – I like that bit, maybe we should update the contents page – blah blah… have reason to believe that Meriodonal University has been infiltrated by Chiverly Hermit Beetles and further that a large quantity of restricted materials,” Estfel stared at Melee until she turned the page over, “in the poisons vault have been mysteriously removed for reasons unknown but not through the normal bureaucratic routes. Yours, in anonymity.”
Melee grinned, “it’s a proper story Estfel – a proper story!”
“Shame about the anonymous bit though.”
“Let’s get to work – breakfast, wash, put the pages in order and bang out an editorial on Hermit Beetles. We’ve got a journal to publish!”
Okay, so I am genuinely filled with apprehension. I have decided, after many years of vaguely going ‘yeah’, to actually participate in National Novel Writing Month. The aim sounds sooo simple – write 50,000 words in a month – specifically, November. So that’s a convenient figure to divide by 30, giving me a target of 1,666 words per day, plus a possibly endlessly recurring .66666 words. That might mean it’s impossible – there will always be another fraction of a word left, until I get to day 30 anyway. I imagine anyone who can actually count will be able to assure me that this is okay. In my head there’s now an infinite hyphenation of fuck.
I formally signed up on the NaNoWriMo website today, which in my head commits me to action. I also found a range of enjoyable diversions like making a cover for the story! Apparently that makes it 452% (or something) more likely that I will complete the story. I am pleased to have improved my chances.
How Will I Make The Time?
By sheer force of will. That thing I’m massively well known for. On the plus side, I do have a bit more free time at present, which I’m already using to do more writing (see the blog for genuine success), as well as Lego time and wandering aimlessly. I already write in chapters of 1,000 words – time limited to an hour for The Desert Crystals. It’s been a good discipline. In theory, all I need to do is slightly more, every day instead of about once a week. I’m still intimidated.
I have considered getting up an hour earlier, but that’s just laughable. Getting up is the worst part of existence, and bending my day will only make this harder. So I’m going to have to fit it into the evenings and lunchtimes. I can do this.
Also, having just chucked this post through a word count – it’s 828 words anyway, so I am mostly being a tool (excluding this sentence).
What The Actual Fuck Will I Write About?
Well, it literally came to me in a dream… which is really handy as I was drawing a complete blank for a fresh idea (to me, at any rate – geez, whaddaya want from me – originality?) I like in the NaNo support materials the frequent refrain that it is quantity not quality I’m aiming for. Editing, refining, making it worth reading – that’s all for another day. In fact, self-editing will only make this process untenable. I’m already feeling better!
So my story idea is Watchers. That’s a crap title I admit, but I can change it as often as I like. That sounds like a fantastic distraction from doing the writing itself. But yeah, I had a dream: we have been invaded by aliens (I love sci-fi), who have taken no action and have not threatened the peoples of the world. Days (or weeks) later people wake up to the discovery that they’re being watched by hollow androgynous figures who follow us around and just… watch.
Preparation (say what)
I’ve been scribbling ideas about what might happen, which is unusual and painful for me. I am not a planner, I have never written anything, including an email while knowing what the end would be in advance. I do feel like I need a better overall scheme of things as preparation, but equally I’m well aware that I probably won’t have much of one. The idea has developed somewhat and I’ve got a super-vague story running order, but I reckon that gets me at best to about half way. I have no ideas about characters yet. That should be a problem, but right now I believe they will emerge.
I’ve always found in improv and in writing that it will work out okay in the end (except when it doesn’t), and that the trick is to be as detailed and thoughtful at the beginning as possible. Progress, and an ending that makes sense will emerge from the material, especially if I keep thinking about it while allowing the story to take over.
It all starts on Sunday 1st November. Expect to hear and see nothing of me for November. That’s not entirely true – I’m three weeks ahead on The Desert Crystalsso they’ll still be available each Friday. I’m planning to post each day’s writing as a new chapter every day. That’s a kind of ongoing personal pressure which internally I’m quailing at so it’s probably a good idea. I’ll also be repeating my new mantra “this is something I want to do” all day.
I like towers; I like building them. There’s a lot of appeal to their height and for me, the way they go straight up is really helpful since I’m incapable or unwilling to plan ahead (I can make good arguments for both…) So just building up is ace. I’d seen some clever ideas about making towers when I built Lego 9472 Lord of The Rings: Attack on Weathertop. It’s a lovely little build in its own right, and I was taken with the use of hinges to join it all together. I’d previously experimented a bit in the Ogre’s Tower which turned out well, but I had a new reason to try.
I’d been inspired by issue 12 (?) of Blocks magazine, which has a lovely feature on making staircases. I liked the spirally ones, so I had a notion of a tower with a staircase in the middle.
I semi-chose a hexagonal structure to build around it. I cannot tell you how many times I smashed the ridiculously fragile staircase apart. It became annoying.
That Tower’s A Mess
In my current preference for asymmetry, I kept going with a worn, rubbly look. But it proved to be deeply unsatisfying. Added to that I reached the top and finally clicked that I’d have to make a roof for it. Oh god, a hexagonal roof. Why, what had I done to myself?
Unhappy, annoyed. I took it all apart again and reviewed my brick inventory.
The Lego Shop Pick-A-Brick a few months ago had a glut of lovely smooth green bricks. I got many.
I think my fear of symmetry is born of a worry about running out of bricks. It’s daft because 1) I’ve got quite a lot of Lego and 2) I can get more Lego. Thus re-educated I went for strict symmetry for all sides, with the exception of the door side and the one opposite (because I did run out of those bloody arches).
I ended up with something vastly prettier than I had intended.
Right up the very end though, even after making the scenery I still hadn’t figured out how to do the roof. The best I came up with was brick built leaves as seen below. It’s okay, but was rather chunky and I didn’t have quite enough 2×2 slopes in the colour I wanted.
I ordered more; they failed to arrive. I changed the plan. I did have 12 old grey space Lego wings, horribly discoloured but they made the same shape with less mess. I completely covered them up with Technics helicopter blades and skis! There’s still a gap at the top which I’ve found frustrating and just covered up with my sole 3×3 grey plate.
Obviously most of the tower’s sides look kinda the same, but I think there’s a shot of each side in the Flickr album below.
For the base (it’s a standard 32×32 baseplate) I’ve used up every olive green 1×1 slope I possess… Some of the jumbled shapes are formed from slopes hinged at different angles to create as much chaos as possible to contrast with the strict lines of the tower. I’ve also got the rebuilt pattern of the floor spilling out into the rubble which made me quite happy.
I think my very favourite thing, apart from successfully roofing the damned thing are the trees. I’ve not been successful in finding many great ways to combine foliage elements, but gazing at my neatly sorted boxes of bits tickled my building brain into action. It’s robot arms, plus plugs, palm tree tops and Technics bits. The leaves are all upside down and I had the perfect number of transparent orange upside-down tiles to top each of them and make them look suitably alien.
I’m well chuffed with it. It is of course impossible to see the gorgeous spiral staircase now…
Light strove to penetrate the gloom, but the best it could do was a blurry shivering shoal of shadows. Beyond the sepia veil horrors awaited their turn. He could barely blink, shuffled, tried to rise and was hastily restrained by gentle hands on his shoulders. He tried to relax, despite the blur around him and was suddenly aware that everything hurt. His whole body was one huge bruise. From his littlest toe to his left eyebrow – all sore, and stiff like he was cast in clay.
“It’s alright young Bublesnatch, you just stay there.” The voice of Jacob’s hero, Rosenhatch Traverstorm soothed the boy, “you’re on board The Dove’s Eye and you’re perfectly safe.”
Jacob struggled to understand why he might not be safe. Why would he not be aboard the airship he’d called his home for the last year? Just thinking brought a wracking ache through his face. What happened? He lay on his bunk, and before that? Ah, there it was, it tore away the mud that slowed him, a brief glimmer of light before the roaring tide of nightmares lunged out of the darkness and claimed him.
“Poor lad,” muttered Traverstorm, giving a gentle ruffle to Jacob’s shaggy hair. He then swapped the soaked cloth draped over his forehead with a fresh one from the bucket by the bunk.
The bandages wrapped around the boy’s head hid the ragged hole where his left eye should have been. Rosenhatch had gathered the disgusting maggots which had burst out of Jacob’s eye into a biscuit tin. That tin had been lost during the wild escape from the Sky Cliff, and with it all hope of studying them. Without that opportunity there seemed little hope of saving Jacob’s other eye. His eyelid rippled with the larvae swelling inside.
Using an eyeball to incubate your young was a particularly horrid habit, but wasn’t really any more unusual than the various mites and beasts which used each other as cuckoo’s nests. Quite whether the larvae would grow into the terrifying black winged creatures that had attacked them was unclear. It seemed a reasonable guess, but only because they hadn’t encountered any more of the Sky Cliff’s inhabitants. Except for the Sky Cliff itself, with its disturbing meaty rocks and gory waste.
Rosenhatch had carefully noted the details available from Lord Corshorn’s captain’s log in hopes of one day revisiting that particular hell hole with a rather more violently armed expedition. To his knowledge, no one at the university had conducted such an investigation, or indeed encountered such atmospheric atrocities. It would be extremely interesting to properly chart the place with Harvey. At the very least they would be able to get some good photographs. Their recent exploit had left them only with broken cameras, let alone pictures.
His eyes fell again upon Jacob’s unbalanced face. It could as easily have been Rosenhatch lying there, one eye a popped mass of pus and the other trembling with imminent birth. Rosenhatch had found the impressive stash of The JournalsBiologinary in Jacob’s cabin, strewn across the place after the tumbling flight. He had noticed that most of the issues featured Traverstorm himself in his various expeditions. He rather suspected that the boy was a fan.
“I’m sorry if this isn’t what you’d hoped for from an expedition Jacob. In truth, they rarely do go as planned. Trabine does give an excitable account of our adventures, but an awful lot of it is either travelling, running or screaming.”
The boy moaned in his sleep. Passing out isn’t really sleep though, Rosenhatch mused. Thinking back on his own experiences of fainting from exhaustion or terror he imagined that he had a fair idea what the boy was going through. Not that Rosenhatch had lost an eye, or risked losing both of course. No, Rosenhatch had been remarkably fortunate. Even out in the archipelago when death seemed terribly, terribly close it had been Harvey, rather than himself who had suffered the ultimate penalty for their adventuring.
Rosenhatch was determined that no matter what the future held for young Bublesnatch (which looked pretty damn bleak at present), he’d not flinch from the noble duty of retrieving the lad’s soul bead and ensuring it was passed on to his family. Whether reincarnation was the boy’s fate or not, he’d not be lost to the sands like those taken during the Sky Cliff’s assault.
The thought lead him directly to his old friend who was recuperating from his heroic zippering of the airship’s balloon. It was hard to be sure how much of the Harvey he knew had truly returned in the giant centipede. Certainly Harvey had undergone the requisite rituals to re-seed his mind with the memories and personality safeguarded by his soul bead, but incarnation in such a different form was fraught with unforeseeable dangers. For his soul to survive one such shock, let alone the second reincarnation into another centipede just a few years later.
Rosenhatch had not lightly made the decision to gift Harvey Czornwelss’ soul bead to a fresh species. They were lost. Marooned in the dark and threatening jungles of Undergrowl. The rest of the expedition was gone; dead or fled. The jungles had proven exactly as lethal as their worst fears had promised.
Alone, surrounded by the clicking and rasping horrors of the jungle Rosenhatch had sought out Harvey’s corpse. He had climbed high into the canopy to the nest of Marwglyms whose babes feasted on Harvey’s flesh. It was not an experience he relished the recall of. He fought off the seven limbed younglings for long enough to hack open Harvey’s skull. While holding the monsters at bay, he fumbled inside the cold blood and jelly that concealed Harvey’s true self. He finally peeled the soul bead free, stuffed it bloody into a pocket and half climbed, half fell to the ground.
After days of delirious wanderings his wounds growing septic he found himself curled beneath a rotting log populated by insentient centipedes. Rosenhatch fully expected that would die in that dank hollow and both his and Harvey’s souls would lie in the dark forever. In desperation he took the momentous decision to seize a passing centipede. Its three foot length thrashed at him as he prised its mandibles open and forced Harvey’s soul bead deep into the beast’s mouth.
Coming Soon: Part 36 – We Tell Ourselves We Can Live Forever