World of Warcraft: New Transmog to Match Hidden Artifact Appearance

I shared my WoW: Legion hidden artifact appearance last month and mentioned that I might be re-doing my fire mage’s transmog to match it. Well, here she is in her new, golden, white, and turquoise hues:

WoW Legion Fire Mage Artifact New Mog Sm

This may be my favorite transmog to date. I’ll try and get a better screencap later; this one doesn’t really show some of the details. I’m also making good progress on completing 200 world quests in order to unlock another color variant for The Stars’ Design appearance, so, yay! 🙂

Image: screenshot from World of Warcraft

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

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Why the Doctor Can’t Change the Fate of Krypton

Like you can gather from the season 1 rating post, we’re re-watching Doctor Who. An expected consequence is I’m having bit of a Doctor brain. Case in point: the comic I found funniest in this collection of imaginary text messages between Batman and Superman involved the Doctor.

Texts from Superheroes Krypton Fixed Point

Batman: Why do you always change in a phonebooth?

Superman: I like them. A blue one showed up on Krypton once. My father said it’s where heroes come from.

Batman: Was it bigger on the inside?

Superman: YES! I think my pediatrician owned it. He’s the one who told Jor-El to send me to Earth. He said being the last makes us stronger.

Batman: I’m familiar with The Doctor. I’m surprised he didn’t save Krypton.

The Doctor: Fixed point in time. I am so sorry.

LOLed—and groaned.

Yoinked from Texts from Superheroes, a project of stand-up comedian Andrew Ivimey and Internet comedian Diana McCallum, and part of the From Superheroes Network.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Medieval Fantasy City Generator

Creating medieval(esque) city maps just got a lot easier: Oleg Dolya (watabou) made an automated generator to do it.

Medieval Fantasy City Generator Small

Choose size of city with the click of a button, and color scheme and line or shading types from the options. You can export the image either as png or svg. Unfortunately the ward names (temple, merchant, crafts, etc.) aren’t saved on the exported map, though.

Watabou also built a 3d-visualiser to support Medieval Fantasy City Generator called Toy Town. Although I haven’t played with that, it sounds like both should be a great help to storytellers—unless you enjoy the process with paper and pen, of course!

Found via N.K. Jemisin on Twitter.

Image: screenshot from a map created by Eppu Jensen with Medieval Fantasy City Generator by watabou

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Ancient Clay Cup Animation

Oh, wow: quite possibly the oldest attempt at animation ever comes from some four thousand years ago. It’s a depiction of a goat jumping up a tree to eat the leaves:

The sequence laid flat looks like this:

Wikimedia Burnt City Iran Clay Cup Reproduction

And here’s a photo of the cup:

Wikimedia Burnt City Iran Clay Cup

Found via The Real Iran on Tumblr. My Tumblr source doesn’t unfortunately give any more info, but it sounds like the cup was found in the Bronze Age site of Shahr-e Sūkhté (or Shahr-e Sukhteh) in Sistan, southeastern Iran.

Just reading the Wikipedia page for Shahr-e Sūkhté makes my imagination run—a large trading route hub with connections to Mesopotamia, Central Asia, and India with rich material culture would make an excellent setting for historical or speculative fiction. (For example, among the archaeological finds from the Burnt City is apparently the world’s first artificial eyeball.)

Finding real-world inspiration like this is when I really wish I was a writer!

Images: Animation via Wikimedia. Reproduction via Wikimedia. Cup photo via Wikimedia (Shahr-e Sūkhté, Iran; late half of 3rd millennium BCE; clay).

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?


Quotes: They Could at Least Coexist in the Same Space Well Enough

“With that, Maggie took Frank’s arm, and together, they strolled down the broad avenue without talking. That was one thing Frank liked about Maggie—she didn’t feel the need to fill the silence with gabbing. He wasn’t even sure if she enjoyed his company or not—and frankly, he could say the same of hers—but they could at least coexist in the same space well enough. There were worse things.”

– Michael J. Martinez: MJ-12: Inception

Maggie and Frank belong to a team of superpowered U.S. operatives in a 1940s Cold War speculative world. Even though Maggie is the token female character, it’s really very refreshing that the author doesn’t try to shove in that bane of Smurfette stories, the inevitable romantic subplot.

Martinez, Michael J.: MJ-12: Inception: A Majestic-12 Thriller. New York, NY: Night Shade Books, 2016, p. 247.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

My World of Warcraft: Legion First Hidden Artifact Appearance

Somehow I’ve completely missed the fact that the World of Warcraft: Legion expansion includes so-called hidden appearances for artifacts. I confess I haven’t been terribly excited about the appearances to begin with; I tend to transmog my artifacts to look like some of the older weapons in game.

This past weekend, however, I got an exciting random drop on my fire mage: an item that triggers a hidden artifact appearance. It’s called The Stars’ Design, and using the item opens the appearance directly (without any quests or other tricks). And it’s quite beautiful—I managed to get a screencap!

WoW Legion Fire Mage Hidden Art Appearance Stars Design Sm

Once you’ve gotten your first hidden appearance, apparently there are additional color variations you can open by running 20 Legion dungeons, doing 200 world quests, or killing 100(?) enemy players. I don’t do pvp, and I’m still dungeoned out (from *cough cough mumble mumble* when we were running them in a row to gear up for raiding). But: I’ve had less much time for playing this year than before, so when I do get a chance I tend to grind hours on end, so perhaps 200 world quests would be doable… 🙂

Image: screenshot from World of Warcraft

This post has been edited for formatting.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Thor: Ragnarok Trailers

Good grief, it’s November already! For some reason, the fall always gets away from me, but this year it’s felt even faster than usual. It’s now only two(!!!) days till Thor: Ragnarok opens! Here are the teaser trailer and the official trailer:

Thor: Ragnarok Teaser Trailer [HD] by Marvel Entertainment

“Thor: Ragnarok” Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment

I’ve long thought that the Thor movies have been the least succesful Marvel Cinematic Universe stories. In fact, excepting the hilarious sequence in Thor: The Dark World where Mjölnir flies between realities through the portals, both were quite deplorable. I hope writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost plus director Taika Waititi can change that.

Sidenote: every time I see the teaser trailer with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, all I can think of is…. VIKING KITTENS! Aaaaaaaaa-ah!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Quotes: Declining to Get Thrilled

From an early Hercule Poirot mystery comes this hilarious quote:

“[…] said Inspector Davis. ‘There’s not going to be much mystery about this crime. Take a look at the hilt of that dagger.’

“I took the look.

“’I dare say they’re not apparent to you, but I can see them clearly enough.’ He lowered his voice. ‘Fingerprints!’

“He stood off a few steps to judge of his effect.

“’Yes,’ I said midly. ‘I guessed that.’

“I do not see why I should be supposed to be totally devoid of intelligence. After all, I read detective stories, and the newspapers, and am a man of quite average ability. If there had been toe marks on the dagger handle, now, that would have been quite a different thing. I would then have registered any amount of surprise and awe.

“I think the inspector was annoyed with me for declining to get thrilled.”

– Doctor Sheppard in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

I’m reading Agatha Christie in English for the first time, and it’s a hoot! Not only are her mysteries top notch, her language is a delight. My (admittely hazy) memories don’t measure up to what I’m seeing now; I don’t know whether it just didn’t translate well or whether I was too young to understand. I’m discovering so much dry humor to irony to outright satire that I’m pretty much snickering my way through the novels.

Christie, Agatha. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal, [2006, orig. published 1926], p. 73.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Writing, Reading, Living Different Cultures

I saw a Twitter thread about writing culture by author Joan He, on the face of it about her (or your) own but by extension that of others, and it has plenty of food for thought:

 

As a reader, and specifially a reader of speculative and historical fiction primarily not in my native language, I run into differences in culture a lot. And as a person in a multicultural, multilingual relationship in a strange country where I’m a cultural and linguistic minority, from time to time I find myself slammed against more deep-seated cultural assumptions.

Joan pointed out that culture is a way of thinking, or cognition, or perspective. As an example, I’d like to share two failures of cultural expectations from my personal experience.

Ratatouille Anton Ego Perspective Quote

At a con once, I wanted to get a book signed by an American author. I happened to know from their online presence that the author is an introvert. Even though we were both at a public place where introverted authors and panelists often don a more outgoing persona than they do in private, as another introvert I wanted to make sure I’d be especially considerate. However, quite without intending to I tripped over a distinctly Finnish quirk.

One of the big unspoken assumptions in the Finnish culture is that silence isn’t a negative. (Erik and I have both written about it for instance here, here, and here.) In essence, how I understand it, silence means space, and space means respect to other people.

Accordingly, at the abovementioned autograph session, when it came my turn I said my hellos, presented the author with my book, and waited silently. It wasn’t until the author asked me “Did you read it?” that I realised they expected me to say something else. And I had thought I was being courteous not to burden them with yet another dose of chitchat on a weekend full of being “on” at a busy con. I can’t remember for sure, since it was a kind of a deer in the headlights moment for me, but I think I was able to stutter my way to an exit without actually breaking into a run. In any case, not terribly smooth on my part.

I’ve also had a previously friendly person walk away from me when, in the middle of a presentation, I (I’m guessing “merely”) nodded to them to acknowledge their presence and silently continued to listen to the speaker (I’m guessing instead of starting a conversation with the friendly person). Although it’s been years, I still find that an utterly, completely, and thoroughly puzzling reaction.

Over the years, I’ve built a store of strategies and stock exchanges I can pull out if needed, but it’s been hard to try and perform—for it is essentially a performance—in a way that feels unnatural and at times even rude to me. Even after 10+ years, I still can’t bring myself to commit to it wholeheartedly. I suspect I’ll always be the odd, quiet one in Anglo-American contexts, but that’s my background and temperament.

So: yes, cultural assumptions and perspectives are difficult to convey, whether in writing or otherwise. Adding surface details to a fictional culture is easy, and it can be a fantastic tool for both creating distance from the everyday world and deepening the invented one. I love seeing glimpses of the practicalities that fictional characters deal with; I would find—and have found—stories seriously lacking without them. Never, though, should the surface glitter be where invention on the part of author ends; that is as unsatisfying as a lack of external cultural markers.

Being a truly exceptional author has, for me, come to mean not only the ability to create layered, nuanced worlds (or convey the complexities of everyday life in historical fiction). In addition, skilled authors I enjoy the most are able to avoid massive infodumps and to suggest underlying cultural values subtly, as inseparable part of narration and dialogue. And that’s a very challenging thing to do. It sometimes takes me more than one read-through to feel I’m beginning to understand a story. Then again, worthwhile things often are the most difficult ones.

Image via The Autodidactic Hacker

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.