Today’s Art ( 29th October 2015)

Oddly-placed typewriters! Absurd Belgian copyright rules! Mysterious corridors! Yes, what else could it be but page seven of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? This is a new short comic which I decided to make for Halloween and it’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” horror/comedy comic from earlier this year.

Anyway, stay tuned for page eight tomorrow 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 7 " By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 7 ” By C. A. Brown

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Why Literature Can Never Be Censored

2015 Artwork why literature can't be censored replacement sketch

Even though this is an article about imagination, censorship, self-censorship and the power of literature, I’m going to have to start by talking about my reactions to reading another article that I saw online a couple of months ago. There’s a good reason for this and I’m not just rambling about my own thoughts for the sake of it.

Likewise, although I’ll try to keep this article suitably undetailed, I should probably warn you that I’ll begin by discussing a genre of fiction that some people may disapprove of. I am writing about this genre purely because of the questions it raises about censorship, self-censorship and the nature of the imagination.

Anyway, although I won’t link to the exact article I read (for reasons that will probably become apparent later), I stumbled across an absolutely fascinating interview (on a popular American humour website, no less) with a professional author who writes lots of … how shall I put it?… short E-books that are designed to be read in private.

This is, if I’m being honest, a genre I’ve always been curious about writing in. But, on the rare occasions that I’ve challenged myself to write something of publishable quality in this genre, I’ve always ended up toning it down quite significantly. I’ve always worried that it would be too shocking if I didn’t self-censor quite a bit. Well, after reading the interview, I had a very different perspective on the genre.

From the interview, I quickly learnt that – even if I didn’t self-censor – my stories would, by modern standards, actually be extremely tame. Hell, they would probably be boring.

I won’t go into detail about some of the more obscure sub-genres of fiction described in the interview – other than to say that the fact that some of them actually exist freaked me out a bit.

And, when it comes to this subject, I like to think that I’m a fairly open-minded and non-judgemental person. Still, at least I was open-minded enough to realise that, although several of the sub-genres of this type of fiction certainly weren’t my kind of thing, the writer still had every right in the world to write and publish these stories.

Naturally, this also made me think about the power of the written word and of the dangers of censorship. In the western world at least (apart from Germany, thanks to a rather bizarre censorship law they recently passed), literature is one of the last bastions of true free expression. It is, as I think I’ve probably mentioned before, one of the few truly anarchic spaces that we have left.

Writers have, thankfully, been able to get away with far more than film-makers, videogame developers or comic creators have and I think that this is due to the difference between the written word and visual media.

In prose fiction, everything takes place entirely within both the writer’s imagination and the reader’s imagination. As such, literature is justifiably free from censorship for the simple reason that to censor literature is to censor thought itself.

Likewise, in order to understand a collection of letters on a page, you have to look closely at it for a few seconds – whereas, with visual media, it’s contents are obvious even from a distance. Prose fiction has much less of an immediate impact than, say, films do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing in favour of film censorship here, but this does explain why things like films, comics and videogames have been victims of censorship far more often than literature has.

A great example of this can be seen in the horror genre in 1980s Britain. Back in the early-mid 1980s, there was a silly moral panic about “video nasties“. These were gruesome horror movies on video that, by modern standards at least, are fairly tame.

Anyway, a bunch of stuffy old conservatives and preachy tabloid journalists got themselves worked up into an absolute tizzy about these films and this eventually led to the regrettable decision by the conservative government of the time to extend official film censorship to videos as well as cinemas.

However, were you to visit a bookshop at the same time, you could apparently find a plethora of splatterpunk horror novels which contained far more gruesome horrors than any film at the time did.

Hell, even when I first read second-hand copies of these books back in the ’00s, they still seemed wonderfully edgy and genuinely shocking. In fact, when I was finally old enough to lie about my age convincingly enough to buy some real horror movies, I actually found them to be quite disappointing by comparison.

Not only that, thanks to the fact that literature is often eclipsed by other forms of popular entertainment these days, controversial or shocking works of literature can thankfully slip under the radar in a way that, say, even slightly controversial videogames cannot.

I mean, even when “Fifty Shades” made a particular genre of literature popular again, there wasn’t really quite the kind of silly outraged moral panics and moralistic howls for censorship that there would be if someone had produced a film containing the exact same content as the book apparently has.

Yes, I’m aware that there’s a film adaptation of “Fifty Shades” but, from all I’ve read about it, it apparently had to be toned down a lot in order to avoid censorship and controversy.

Literature is a slightly obscure entertainment medium, it’s contents are not always immediately obvious and it takes place entirely within the anarchic private space of our imaginations. It is for these reasons that literature is not only one of the most powerful entertainment mediums in existence but also one of the few things which is thankfully well and truly out of the grasp of puritans, prudes, political fanatics and armchair censors.

Literature is a little pocket of anarchy in a world that is increasingly becoming dominated by censorship. Whether it’s the frothing moralistic censorship of the political right, or the self-righteous buzzword-ridden censorship of the political left, we’re living in a world where self-expression is often constrained by a few people’s personal feelings of disgust or offence.

Not only does literature manage to dodge most of this outrage by virtue of being literature – but also because of the sheer volume of it online. Even if a few people used their personal feelings of disgust to censor someone’s e-books, then there would be hundreds of other self-published authors out there who would take that writer’s place in less than a microsecond.

Although, when it comes to things like films, comics, videogames, advertising etc… the miserable censors on both sides of the political spectrum might win the occasional high-profile “victory”, literature is – thankfully – an entertainment medium that is far more powerful than all of these censors are.

———–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th October 2015)

Windows! The laws of physics! Badly-drawn panels! Yes, what else could it be but page six of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? This is a new short comic which I decided to make for Halloween and it’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” horror/comedy comic from earlier this year.

Anyway, stay tuned for page seven tomorrow 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 6" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 6” By C. A. Brown

Small Details And Character Development

2015 Artwork Small details character traits article sketch

Even though this is a short article about writing more realistic characters, I’m going to have to start by talking about myself for about three paragraphs. There’s a good reason for this which I hope will become apparent later in the article.

The night before I wrote this article, I had a series of bizarre dreams. The strange thing was that, at least a couple of these dreams seemed to be set in (surreal versions of) my past. Whilst there is nothing entirely unusual about this, it led to an introspective chain of thoughts (again, nothing unusual for me).

Anyway, during this chain of thought, I ended up remembering some of the (often surprisingly trivial) origins of a couple of my fears, fascinations and/or personality traits. Unfortunately, all of the things that I actually thought about are probably too weird or strange to write about in detail here.

But to give you a non-strange example – I always drink tea without milk or sugar. The reason for this was because, when I was at university, I only drank tea occasionally and I couldn’t be bothered to buy an entire bottle of milk or bag of sugar, for just one or two cups of tea. Thanks to this, I now find the idea of besmirching a perfectly good cup of tea with milk and sugar to be almost sacrilegious.

So, why am I talking about all of this stuff?

Well, I’m talking about it because it made me think about character development in stories and comics. Although it’s perfectly ok to leave at least some of your character’s more interesting personality traits unexplained (after all, no-one understands literally everything about themselves), at least a couple of your characters’ personality traits should ideally have an origin story of some kind.

In many ways, this is much more interesting when the origin story is strange, unexpected or trivial.

Not only can this be a brilliant source of either comedy or horror, but it’s also a lot more realistic too. After all, pretty much everyone has at least one part of themselves – either a phobia, a fascination, a mannerism etc… which has a funny, trivial or strange origin story.

In addition to this, if you include a couple of these small origin stories in your comic or story, then it’ll make your audience wonder about all of the parts of your characters that you haven’t explained. If your audience are curious about your characters, then this also means that they’ll be more interested in the story that you’re trying to tell.

In other words, including a small explanation for some (but not all) of your characters’ personality traits can be a great way to make your audience larger fans of your work than they previously were.

———
Sorry for another ludicrously short article, but I hope that it was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (27th October 2015)

1990s Art Heists! Morse code transmitters! Medieval armour! Yes, what else could it be but page five of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? This is a new short comic which I decided to make for Halloween and it’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” horror/comedy comic from earlier this year.

[And, yes, I’ve edited this page slightly more than usual. Mainly because I got the city wrong in the fourth panel of this page in my original draft]

Anyway, stay tuned for page six tomorrow 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 5 (edited version)" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 5 (edited version)” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Frozen Time” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork Frozen Time WAD review sketch

Well, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD and I thought that I’d check out a Cacoward-winning WAD called “Frozen Time“.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I used the “GZ Doom” source port when playing this WAD, although the Doomworld page for this WAD also lists a couple of other source ports that this WAD will work with.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Frozen Time”:

Screenshot_Doom_20150628_145334

“Frozen Time” is a single-level WAD that is set around a giant wintery castle in the middle of nowhere.

Interestingly, this level starts off suspiciously quietly and you don’t even so much as see a monster until you’ve solved a puzzle involving a hidden switch (which shouldn’t be too difficult to find). Thankfully, this part of the level is fairly short and this helps to prevent it from becoming annoying.

Plus, there's a really cool building too.

Plus, there’s a really cool building too.

Although there are some indoor areas after this part of the level, the bulk of the level takes place on the roof of a gigantic castle – which looks absolutely spectacular:

Yes, if you started whistling the "Game Of Thrones" theme right now, you aren't the only one...

Yes, if you started whistling the “Game Of Thrones” theme right now, you aren’t the only one…

However, although the level design in this WAD looks really cool, there are at least a couple of flaws with this level. For the most part, this is a fairly well-designed “Doom” level that is filled with challenging battles and beautiful scenery. However, some of the puzzles in this level are absolutely fiendish.

In other words, expect to have an absolute blast when you play through the castle area for the first time and then expect to spend at least an hour wandering around aimlessly, trying to work out what you’re supposed to do next.

There’s one area where you’re supposed to rocket jump onto a platform in order to pick up a key. Even though parts of this puzzle can be skipped by jumping over a wall in another part of the level, the game doesn’t seem to let you progress until you solve the puzzle properly and press certain key-activated switches.

The switch you need to use this key on also seems to work normally when you don’t have the key ( it doesn’t do anything after you press it, but it also doesn’t display a “you need the yellow key” message), so expect to be confused by this.

Not only that, there’s also another area where, in order to progress to the end of the level, you have to shoot a tiny switch that is hidden inside a large pillar. So, yes, this level can get more than a little bit frustrating at times:

If you don't know what rocket jumping is, or how to do it - then you probably shouldn't play this WAD.

If you don’t know what rocket jumping is, or how to do it – then you probably shouldn’t play this WAD.

Yes, you need to find this tiny switch (which only seems to be accessible once you've used the yellow key)  in order to complete the level - good luck....

Yes, you need to find this tiny switch (which only seems to be accessible once you’ve used the yellow key) in order to complete the level – good luck….

Frustrating puzzles aside, this level is enjoyably challenging and, although it never quite turns into a slaughtermap, expect lots of challenging combat when you play “Frozen Time” – culminating in an epic duel with two cyberdemons in a vaguely “American McGee’s Alice” – themed area:

Curiouser and Curiouser....

Curiouser and Curiouser….

Even though this WAD doesn’t contain any new weapons, some of the weapons have slightly different sounds. The shotgun makes a slightly more mechanical noise when you pump it between shots and the rocket launcher has a much deeper and more resonant sound when you fire it. Both of these sound changes are really cool, although the new chaingun sounds make the gun sound slightly quieter and less powerful than it should sound.

As for the monsters – although this WAD only contains the standard “Doom II” monsters, some of them use new textures. The coolest of these is probably the cacodemon – who now looks suitably wintery:

And a merry Christmas to you too :)

And a merry Christmas to you too 🙂

Most of the other new monster textures are fairly standard though – the imps look like the “dark imp” monsters that have turned up in countless other “Doom” WADs (although they are basically just ordinary imps, with new textures) and both the pinky demons and hell knights look paler than usual. Interestingly, the Mancubi are now a dark shade of grey:

Ok, this looks kind of weird.

Ok, this looks kind of weird.

Hmmm... He probably should have worn a coat or something.

Hmmm… He probably should have worn a coat or something.

All in all, “Frozen Time” is a beautiful and atmospheric WAD, with enjoyably challenging combat. However, it is let down very slightly by the frustrating puzzle design that will probably leave you completely stuck for about an hour or so.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it’d probably just about get a four.

Today’s Art (26th October 2015)

Bats! Belgian Maids! Barons! Yes, what else could it be but page four of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? This is a new short comic which I decided to make for Halloween and it’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” horror/comedy comic from earlier this year.

Anyway, stay tuned for page five tomorrow 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 4" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 4” By C. A. Brown