The Joy Of… Mixing Ancient And Futuristic Things

Although this is an article about art, comics, literature, film etc… I’m going to have to start by talking enthusiastically about computer games for a while first. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

A coupe of days before I originally prepared the first draft of this article, I suddenly noticed that the fourth instalment of the “Temple Of The Lizard Men” series of fan-made “Doom II” levels had finally been released 🙂 And, unlike some modern “Doom II” levels, it would actually run on my computer too 🙂

If you’ve never heard of “Temple Of The Lizard Men” before, it’s a series of full-length fan-made sci-fi/horror level sets for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” which revolve around fighting lizard monsters in ancient Aztec/Maya-style temples. It’s kind of a little bit like the original “Unreal” mixed with some elements from “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter“, but with more horror elements.

This is a screenshot from “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” (2017). Yes! A modern “Doom II” WAD that both looks cool AND works with slightly older versions of “GZ Doom” too 🙂

Anyway, like with another really cool set of “Doom II” levels called “Ancient Aliens” (and the previous “Lizard Men” level sets, like this one), I really love it when people blend ancient-style architecture and futuristic sci-fi.

Some other example of this blending of ancient civilisations and futuristic sci-fi include Iron Maiden’s “The Book Of Souls” album, which does this in the opening song. Then there are the various zones in “The Crystal Maze“, and the scenes from Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” that were filmed in the Mayan-inspired Ennis House. Or perhaps the futuristic version of Ancient Egypt in “Stargate SG-1“, or.. Well, I could go on for a while.

So, why are mixtures of the ancient and the futuristic so incredibly cool?

The first reason is that because “old” things are juxtaposed with things that are meant to be from the distant future, it creates something of an association between the two things within the minds of the audience.

This means that whenever the audience see old buildings, old castles etc… in other contexts, they seem cooler and more “relevant” due to their association with modern creative works (for example, although it doesn’t really contain any sci-fi elements, “Game Of Thrones” changed my entire attitude towards the middle ages). So, these types of stories, films, games etc.. help to make history even more interesting than it already is.

The second reason is because of the contrast between the distant past and the distant future. Usually, creative works in this genre will include the idea that people in the ancient world were more intelligent and/or advanced than we usually think. And not only is this really intriguing but, in some cases, it’s actually true too. For example, just look at ancient Persia – they had a type of air conditioning and a type of refrigerator too.

Thirdly, there’s the fact that things in this genre include two time periods that we’ll never get to see directly (yes, we can deduce things about the past from historical artefacts/documents and we can attempt to predict the distant future, but we never get to directly experience either).

So, seeing a representation of both time periods within the same creative work reminds us of the vast scale of time. It also makes us realise that the present day is somewhere between the ancient past and the distant future. So, by extension, our lives already include elements from both.

Finally, this genre is cool because it reminds us that some things are truly timeless. Whether it is lighting design, architecture, visual arts etc… things in this genre help to remind us that there’s nothing entirely “new” in the world.

————-

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Advertisements

Today’s Art (10th April 2018)

Due to feeling even more uninspired/unenthusiastic, this picture ended up being a (very) heavily digitally-edited drawing. Literally, when I was preparing this picture, I eventually just scribbled an abstract sci-fi landscape on paper and then, after I scanned it, tried to turn it into something better with lots and lots of random “trial and error” digital editing.

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

“Sunday Afternoon Scribble” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (4th April 2018)

Well, due to tiredness, this digitally-edited painting just ended up being a painting of a random room. My original idea was to paint the kind of futuristic spaceship bedrooms that turn up in old early 1990s American sci-fi TV shows (eg: “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Babylon 5” etc..) but, me being me, it ended up going in more of a gothic cyberpunk direction.

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

“Spaceship Bedroom” By C. A. Brown

Three Quick Reasons Why Cyberpunk Art Is Easier To Make Than You Think

Cyberpunk art is a genre of art that has a reputation for complexity. If you do an internet search for cyberpunk art, you’ll probably see lots of hyper-realistic and hyper-detailed pieces of art that might make you think that you can’t make art in this genre. Well, you can.

As long as you know a few basic art skills, then you can make cyberpunk art. Yes, it might not look like the hyper-realistic art you’ve seen online, but it will still be cyberpunk – like this:

“Backstreets” By C. A. Brown

“Coast Road” By C. A. Brown

So, here are a few things that will reassure you that cyberpunk art is easier to make than you think. I’ve probably mentioned some of these before, but they are worth repeating.

1) Look at computer games, low-budget movies and anime: One way to reassure yourself that cyberpunk art doesn’t have to be hyper-realistic is to look at old science fiction computer games, modern low budget cyberpunk computer games, low budget cyberpunk-influenced movies and pretty much any cyberpunk anime.

Because these things have limited graphics technology and/or money, they have come up with interesting-looking but less “realistic” versions of the cyberpunk genre. They use stylised drawings, more primitive computer graphics or more “basic” set designs. Here are some examples:

This is a screenshot from the most cyberpunk scene in “Trancers” (1984). As you can see, the film-makers created a convincing cyberpunk location by adding a few neon lights, a couple of machines, some modified cars and some fog to an old diner. It isn’t a very large or elaborate set when compared to a film like “Blade Runner”, but it still looks cyberpunk.

This is a screenshot from “Cowboy Bebop” (1998) – Due to the challenges of traditional animation, this classic anime TV show uses less “realistic” artwork but is still wonderfully cyberpunk.

This is a screenshot from “Technobablyon” (2015) – a low budget computer game that still manages to create a compelling cyberpunk world, despite not using the kind of almost photo-realistic graphics that high-budget games from 2015 used.

So, yes, realism isn’t an essential part of cyberpunk art.

2) Lighting: A lot of what makes cyberpunk art “cyberpunk” is the lighting and colours. As long as you know the basics of painting realistic lighting and know a bit about complementary colours, then you can make cyberpunk art.

One of the easiest ways to make any piece of art look cyberpunk is simply to set it in a gloomy area and to make sure that all of the light sources in your painting or drawing are artificial (eg: neon lights, computer monitors, shop windows etc..). You can also make your art look extra cyberpunk by ensure that all of the light sources in your art fit into 1-3 complementary colour pairs:

This is a digitally-edited painting of mine that uses artificial light sources and gloomy lighting to create a cyberpunk atmosphere (“Old Video” By C. A. Brown)

Some good general rules to remember here are that, to get a good cyberpunk “look”, at least 30% of the total surface area of your painting must be covered with black paint (so that the lighting and colours stand out more).

In addition to this, if you don’t know how to paint neon lights or glowing screens – then just make the edges of the area in question darker than the centre. Like this:

As you can see the centre of the computer screen and the centre of each neon light tube is brighter than the edges (Detail from “Disused Sector” by C. A. Brown)

3) Detail: Last but not least, although cyberpunk art doesn’t have to be “realistic”, it is usually a good idea to make it look as detailed as possible. This is mostly because the cyberpunk genre relies on the idea of “information overload”. So, the more background detail you can cram in, the better.

This is probably one of the most detailed, but not the most realistic, paintings I’ve ever made. It’s also a cyberpunk painting too. (“Architecture” By C. A. Brown)

Although it is certainly possible to make undetailed cyberpunk art (and I do this far too often when I’m in a hurry), if you want your artwork to look really cyberpunk – then just cram in as many intriguing, strange and/or futuristic background details as you can.

——————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Review: “SiN” (Retro Computer Game)

Like with “Blood II: The Chosen” and “Shogo: Mobile Armor Division“, “SiN” is one of those games that I first discovered on a magazine demo disc when I was a lot younger – but only got round to actually getting the full version nearly two decades later. If I remember rightly, I thought that the demo was kind of cool, but didn’t really get into it that much. Then again, I was playing it on a Pentium 166 computer, so it was probably a bit slow…

Still, when I noticed that the “SiN Gold” collection (which also contains the expansion “Wages Of Sin” that I’ll review in early April) was on special offer on GOG last summer, I just had to get the full version of this half-remembered game. Although the extras for the GOG version of this game aren’t spectacular, the manual is definitely worth reading just for the hilariously immature 1990s style humour. Yes, even the manual contains comedy!

Plus, although I rarely directly recommend one game site over another, the version of this game that is available on GOG is closer to the original game than the version available on Steam. This is because the Steam version apparently contains some censorship (eg: the removal of suggestive content, marijuana references and/or pop culture references from some of the game’s textures), whereas the GOG version seems to be the original uncensored version.

Anyway, this review has been nearly two decades in the making. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “SiN”:

“SiN” is a first-person shooter game from 1998 by Ritual Entertainment, which uses a modified version of the “Quake II” engine. Set in a dystopian cyberpunk future, you play as John Blade – an elite member of a private security organisation called HardCorps (pronounced “Hardcore”, because it’s from the 1990s).

Being from 1998, Blade only looks THIS realistic during the game’s few pre-rendered cutscenes though!

After a report of a robbery at the local bank, Blade goes to investigate – with a sarcastic ex-computer hacker called JC providing remote support for him. Of course, what begins as a routine “shoot the bad guys” mission quickly turns into something much larger and much more menacing…..

One of the first things I will say about this game is that it contains some of the best and some of the worst elements of 1990s FPS gaming. It is a game that you will hate to love, or love to hate or both.

For everything it gets right, it also gets something wrong. For every moment of gameplay that is brilliantly fun, there will be another one that will frustrate the hell out of you. Let’s just say that I’m glad I got another two decades of FPS gaming experience before playing the full version of this game!

Seriously, don’t let the easy on-rails turret segment at the beginning of the first level fool you, this is a challenging game!

Yes, this isn’t an easy modern FPS game! Even on “standard” difficulty, this game is hard. HardCorps, even! Sometimes, this challenging difficulty is achieved in enjoyable and fair ways (which fans of other challenging old FPS games like “Final Doom”, “Blood”, “Duke 3D” etc.. will love). When it is at it’s best, the combat in this game is thrillingly challenging, and well within the traditions of 1990s FPS gaming.

Yay! Late 1990s FPS gaming 🙂 Seriously, there will be very few combat-based screenshots in this review because the game’s combat requires your full attention and reflexes!

Plus, this game contains a proper saving system – with none of that annoying modern “checkpoint saving” rubbish either! So, remember to save regularly! Seriously, save your game once every minute at least! I’m not joking here…

Seriously, you’ll be seeing this death animation (and hearing the accompanying voice-over from JC) a LOT! So, save often!

But, for all of the “good” difficulty, a fair amount of the game’s difficulty is also achieved in all sorts of cheap, borderline unfair and/or annoying ways.

This can include things like placing long-distance snipers directly behind the beginning of a level (and it’ll take you several deaths before you work out where they’re shooting from), sending infinitely respawning waves of henchmen at you during one level, extremely gloomy areas with few to no light sources, a *ugh* stealth level, a (thankfully optional) vehicle segment, occasionally stingy ammo/health/weapon distribution etc…

Yes, a stealth level! One of those boring, frustrating, slow-paced levels that has no place within a thrilling FPS game!

The game’s difficulty curve is also a little bit uneven too – with earlier boss battles being considerably more difficult than the final boss battle at the end of the game, to give one example. Likewise, some of the game’s more difficult levels occur earlier or during the middle of the game, rather than consistently towards the end.

So, yes, you will need the kind of perseverance and determination that can only be gained by playing other fiendishly difficult retro FPS games and/or modern fan-made levels for “Doom II” in order to complete this game. And, yes, it can be completed! Just don’t expect to do it in a single weekend though!

Like a lot of old FPS games, “SiN” is a full-length game! It’s up to you whether you consider this to be either “good value for money” or “Oh my god! This game is so long! I’ll never finish it!“, but it contains something like 20-30 challenging levels – with some larger levels being split into two halves.

However, the quality of the level design is extremely variable. For every great, interesting-looking, thrillingly fun and/or inventively non-linear level – there’s also a level that you will probably get completely and utterly stuck on.

Often, you’ll be able to work out what to do after you’ve spent 10-80 minutes wandering around in circles. But, occasionally, you’ll find yourself so stuck that you’ll actually have to look online for a walkthrough – only to find that the solution is seemingly “obvious”, but implemented in a way that doesn’t make it obvious to the player.

For example, all you need to do to lower this lift is to press a little button. Yes, that tiny little thing shrouded in shadows that is really, really easy to miss if you don’t know to look for it! *shakes fist angrily*

I almost had to check a walkthrough for this bit. Fortunately, I eventually happened to look upwards and notice a crane on top of a tall building nearby that I was supposed to shoot.

Still, that said, some areas of this game look really cool. Yes, there are a lot of generic-looking levels, but this game can get really creative sometimes – including locations such as an oilrig, a vaguely “Goldeneye”-style jungle segment, a surprisingly good underwater segment, futuristic areas with cool lighting, a creepy mansion etc..

Seriously, more of the game should look like this!

Finally! An underwater level that I DON’T hate!

The weapon and enemy designs in this game are acceptable, but not quite as creative as many FPS games from the mid-late 1990s. Although the later levels give you some slightly more interesting weapons and include a greater variety of enemies to fight, many of the early levels mostly involve just fighting almost identical henchmen (who are very vaguely similar to the Strogg from “Quake II” but with different graphics) with the standard pistol, shotgun and assault rifle. *yawn*

Still, there is a certain element of skill to the combat, since this game allows for headshots (which you’re going to have to use regularly, since the henchmen are bullet sponges otherwise). Likewise, in the earlier parts the game, enemies will occasionally shoot your weapon out of your hands.

However, you have to manually pick up any ammo etc.. that enemies drop by pressing the “use” button. Yes, you’ll get used to doing this after a while, but it can be confusing at first.

Even so, the later parts of the game are certainly better, and the monsters on offer include robot spiders, robotic zombies (the Strogg again?), large muscular mutants and even a monster who reminded me a bit of the Bandersnatch mutants from an early 2000s Playstation 2 game called “Resident Evil: Code Veronica X“:

Yay! Survival horror 🙂

“SiN” also comes from an age where FPS games weren’t dreary, “realistic”, ultra-serious things. In other words, this game actually contains some creativity and humour! Whether it’s the numerous sarcastic conversations that Blade and JC have over their radio or lots of silly background details, this game doesn’t take itself ultra-seriously.

For example, the bad guys in the first level quite literally kiss their asses goodbye when they die.

Yes, this humour might not be to everyone’s taste, but it really helps to add some light-hearted fun to the game, not to mention that it also keeps the player’s spirits up during some of the more frustrating and/or annoying parts of the game. For example, whenever Blade kills one of the monsters, robots, mutants or identical henchmen you’ll face throughout the game, he’ll sometimes say a vaguely “badass” line such as “Ha! Schooled ya!” etc… Seriously, this is wonderfully 90s 🙂

However, I should probably also point out that this game is a bit “politically incorrect” by modern standards. I have mixed views about this.

On the one hand, the game’s immature humour can still be absolutely hilarious at times. However, some other parts of the game do seem a little uncomfortable by modern standards – such as the game’s “men vs women” theme (eg: Elexis’ speeches, Blade’s frequent use of the word “bitch” etc..). So, yes, this game can be somewhat eyebrow-raising when played these days.

In terms of music, this game is reasonably good. Although some of the music is kind of forgettable, some of the music – especially in the later levels – is fairly good, and it really helps to add some atmosphere to the game. Seriously, I’m kind of annoyed that GOG didn’t get the rights to include a MP3 copy of the soundtrack for this game as a bonus (like they’ve done with some other games).

The voice-acting in this game is absolutely brilliant too. Whether it’s Blade’s gloriously cheesy “tought grizzled action hero” dialogue, or JC’s constant sarcasm over the radio or Elexis’ melodramatic “sophisticated villain” dialogue, the voice acting is wonderfully fun 🙂

All in all, this is both a great and a terrible game. If you’re looking for 1990s nostalgia, you’ll find it in abundance here. But, don’t even think about playing this game unless you’ve had a couple of decades’ worth of FPS gaming experience! This is a game that demands perseverance, and which will barely play fair with you sometimes. Likewise, the level design is of varying quality too. Still, it’s imaginative and silly and creative and… well… FPS games don’t really do this kind of thing any more.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a three.

Short Story: “Rusty” By C. A. Brown

Dude, you haven’t played in fragging… weeks!‘ Harry sighed as he sat back on the synth-leather sofa and stared out of the rain-streaked window at the rainbow constellations of neon signs below.

Beside him, Gary took a long draught from a can of pina colada. ‘It hasn’t been that long. I mean, didn’t we plunder that Portugese Galleon recently? I remember standing on the fo’c’sle whilst that dude in a fancy shirt tried to run you through with his sword. Then we had that funny argument about whether bringing a pistol to a sword-fight is cheating.

You just mispronounced “fo’c’sle”. You’re out o’ practice, matey.‘ Harry raised his arm and rolled back his sleeve. For a second, he stared at his wristwatch, as if he was checking the time like an old person. In a low voice, he said: ‘Calculate time elapsed since user Capn_RUM420 last logged into Treacherous Seas.

In a perfectly-modulated voice, the wristwatch said: ‘Time elapsed is five weeks, three days, ten hours, thirty-four minutes, nine seconds, four hundred micro…‘ Harry muted the voice and rolled down his sleeve.

Gary raised an eyebrow and finished his pina colada. ‘I thought it was just a few days. Damn.‘ He took a deep breath. ‘Only one thing for it.

A huge grin spread across Harry’s face as he reached under the sofa and pulled out the virtual reality helmets. He handed one to Gary. Like knights armouring up for battle, they donned their helmets and stood up. Against the gloom of the helmet, Gary heard Harry growl: ‘Awaitin’ orders, cap’n!

Below the rim of the helmet, a smile crossed Gary’s face: ‘Raise the sails!

At that command, the helmets activated. In less than a second, jaunty accordion music and the piercing stench of brine filled the air. Gary staggered as the deck of his ship swayed beneath his feet, his virtual beard swinging quietly below his chin. The dead weight of the cutlass on his hip and the brace of pistols on his chest helped him to keep balance, but he still found himself gripping a wooden railing.

Beside him, the eyepatch-wearing parrot on Harry’s shoulder let out a mocking squawk. Harry grinned: ‘Still findin’ yer sea legs, cap’n? Anyone would think ye were a landlubber!

They must have messed with the buoyancy settings since I last played…‘ Gary hastily corrected himself. ‘Er… I mean, quiet ye bellyachin’, mangy dog! Or I’ll have ye flogged at the mizzenmast for mutiny!

Yes, sir. What are yer orders cap’n?‘ Harry stood to attention. The parrot pecked at the air purposefully.

Gary reached into his coat and pulled out a scroll. As he unfurled it, a table of statistics appeared on the tea-stained parchment. He gasped: ‘Blusterin’ typhoons! Where be our gold? Don’t tell me ye spent it on DLC!‘ With a beady eye, he glowered at the shiny new eyepatch that Harry’s parrot was wearing.

Must have been stolen, cap’n.‘ Harry said nervously. ‘I suggest we plunder it back. I’d bet ye a doubloon that there’s a schooner near here loaded with bounty. And, I’d wager, rum too!

Frowning slightly, Harry stared up at the crow’s nest and shouted: ‘Roger? Any ships.’

A voice shouted back: ‘Aye, cap’n! Sail ahoy to starboard. Sittin’ low in the water too!

Taking a deep breath, Gary bellowed: ‘Starboard cannons! Let’s shiver their timbers!

A series of deafening roars and pops thundered through the air. The deck juddered violently. Thick clouds of white smoke engulfed one side of the ship. A satisfied smile crossed Gary’s face. He really had forgotten how much fun it was to fire the cannons. A second later, a quiet splashing sound echoed over the deck.

Above him, Roger’s voice shouted. ‘Our shots fell short, cap’n. The ship be turnin’ away, shall we give chase?

Gary let out a sigh and shook his head. Harry glowered at him, before a mischievous grin crossed his face. In a solemn voice, he said: ‘Ye are unfit to command this vessel. Under the pirate code, I challenge ye for the captaincy.

F***in’ seriously?‘ Gary muttered, hearing the bleep of the game’s profanity filter ring through his ears. Harry suppressed a laugh. Getting back into character, Gary shouted: ‘All right! I’ll run ye through, ye treacherous dog!

In a second, the air was filled with the clashing of steel as their cutlasses met. As they swashbuckled furiously, Gary realised that the swordfights were quicker than he remembered. That the weight of the thirty inches of steel in his hand was greater than he thought.

Clumsily, he parried and swung, feeling confident once again. But, just as a satisfied smile crossed Gary’s face, his vision flashed red. Cartoon blood spurted from his sword arm. Harry let out a triumphant laugh and raised his cutlass for a killing blow.

Without even thinking, Gary reached towards his chest with his other arm. He grabbed a pistol from the bandolier, angled it forward and fired. A soul-shuddering crack filled the air and, against the clouds of white smoke, green text swam in front of his eyes: ‘USER Brine_Hound763 fell to a pistol ball. Respawning in 10..9…8..

When Harry reappeared on deck, he shook his head: ‘All right, ye won cap’n. Ye fought like a n00b and, by yer own admission, ye cheated. But, ye won.

Gary grinned at him: ‘Must be beginner’s luck.

Short Story: “Common Factor” By C. A. Brown

After what seemed like an eternity, De1La knew she was home. It had been five days. Five long, strange, alien days since the message had shown up in her assignment tray. The edges of the text box had been painted red, complete with ink blot textures and micro-circuitry that had been rigged to chirp like a cicada until the circuit was broken. It had taken her less than three minutes to open it.

In high-contrast print, it read: ‘REPLACEMENT NEEDED. HAZARD PAY. ACCEPT? Y/N

De1La hadn’t hesitated. Twenty-six years of Hollywood movie conditioning and spy games had told her that choosing “Y” when confronted with scary red messages is what interesting people do. Doubly so if the messages are worded in a mysterious way.

On some level, she knew that this was because games and movies would be pretty boring if everyone didn’t choose “Y“. There was even a protocol about it called “MONOMYTH“. A set of rules designed to ensure that the main character, player or not, would eventually choose “Y” even if they insisted on acting cool and selecting “N” like some kind of post-ironic meta-sarcastic hipster.

Of course, it hadn’t taken long for “MONOMYTH” to seep into real life. For the perfectly-pressed suits at some Corp somewhere to realise that cribbing their next killer app from a late-night game session might be a way to write the seven hours off as productive time. Surprisingly, there was little protest. Senders loved the fact that they could act like feudal lords, ordering and summoning at will. Readers loved the fact that life was a little bit more like the games.

But, everyone gets burned by this kind of thing eventually. The system had maybe a few months left before this number reached a critical mass. Unfortunately for De1La, the “MONOMYTH” design principles were still just about excitingly new enough. So, she had gleefully chosen “Y” and felt excited about it.

When the follow-through message arrived, it had sounded interesting. The group’s main reporter, JedFridge, had come down with a bad case of Maltese Mycotoxosis and they needed someone else to be their boots on the ground. Someone to give them a window into the world outside of spy games, chat chambers and synthetic food. Someone to inject a new conversation topic when debates about the reasons behind the brief change of James Bond’s service pistol during the late 1990s had reached their logical, fractious end.

So, De1La had been dispatched to the BrightFields Festival. Undercover, of course. Since she couldn’t just install a new player texture, she’d had to dip into group expenses for the wardrobe. It was a hideous mixture of neon, geometric prints and hologram vests. A far cry from the understated glamour of the average spy game.

The five days had gone on forever. Although she’d thought that countless virtual 20th century cocktail parties would prepare her for it, she soon realised the limitations of her training. The people who design games don’t go to mainstream events and the people who go to mainstream events don’t design games.

When she’d arrived at the pearly gates beside the robot-manicured festival field, she’d expected to overhear hundreds of interesting conversation snippets that would provide her with interesting avenues of investigation.

She didn’t. Every conversation seemed to consist of complaints about musicians she’d never heard of, repetitive tales about getting trashed on the latest designer chemicals and/or boasts about having the latest communication hardware.

About the only thing it was useful for was building her cover identity. So, when some guy in a checkerboard suit asked her if she’d was going to catch RayGlow’s set later whilst tripping balls on FourCream, she’d been able to confidently collate and repeat: ‘His second album was so crypto-derivative. You’d need something stronger. I once almost fried my synapses on Yellow42. Good times.‘ Just like speaking hesitant Russian to get past the guard at the beginning of Mission In Moscow III, it worked like a charm. The guy believed her.

On the fifth day, De1La realised that she didn’t have a single story to add to her report. For a while she’d thought about just describing what she saw but, even with the GonzoBuddy writing software she’d installed on her portable console, the algorithms couldn’t find a way to make the text fragments she fed into it sound like anything more than a bad poem.

Then, when hanging around near to the main stage after some up-and-coming NeoDubCore mixer had finished his third set, De1La got talking to one of the backing musicians. The green-haired woman had been sitting at the back of the stage cranking some kind of decapitated violin like it was an organ grinder. Although mixers didn’t mix with the riff-raff, backing musicians were little more than riff-raff themselves. Hired on three-hour talent contracts, then discarded. Still cheaper than licensing a hologram though.

Pointing at the instrument, the musician had told De1La that it was a called a Hurdy Gurdy. De1La had laughed and said ‘No way. Really?‘. Within three minutes, she had learnt that it worked like a mix between a violin and a keyboard. Within four minutes, she’d learnt that it was seriously old-school. Older than the electric guitar. Within five minutes, De11a felt at home for the first time in five days.

Even though De1La had never touched an instrument in her life, she recognised the passion. She recognised the fascination. She recognised the dedication. She recognised that she was talking to a fellow geek for the first time in days. It was like water in a desert. It felt like the two of them shared some common trait, heavily shaped by culture and circumstance, but still fundamentally the same. Like two dialects of the same language.

It was then, and only then, that she wrote her article and sent it to the group. It got nine views. She was practically a celebrity.