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Monday 27 July 2020

LeCraft: Species - Elf

The Elf is the species that has come to depict what fantasy (certainly post-Tolkien 20th century fantasy) represents in the popular imagination. You might consider more monstrous but intelligent species as more representative of fantasy, but I would argue that this is an older fairy-tale depiction of the genre (dragons and goblins). That, instead, the angelic meta-human elf has come to represent all the various dreams and hopes of various fantasy writers and creators from Tolkien onwards. Indeed, that in contemporary fiction the elf is likely to be removed (such as in GOT) in an attempt at 'realism' or 'grittiness' shows the impact these creatures have had in the genre. Throughout the development of 20th century fantasy the figure of the elf has constantly been developed, subverted or ignored, but has always represented what is perfect or admirable by us. Something that in itself is often shown as impossible or actually undesirable (f.e. the Vulcan's lack of emotions depicted as a flaw and yes, Vulcan's are elves).
The Elves then are depicted as tall slim good-looking white people with pointy ears. Occasionally, they are white people with purple or jet black skin and white hair. They are feminine and perfect, beloved by many and detested by others. Frankly, I'm sick of the super-model saviours of the fantasy world. Time for something more otherworldly. If elves are an ancient long-lived race, why are they so often the willing stooges of imperial humans in fantasy? That's not too smart.
My dislike of European cultural stereotypes in fantasy fiction hopefully does not lead to my introducing equally woeful Native American stereotypes or something similar, something that I've observed in a great deal of 90s RPG settings. I'd like a species that was sufficiently 'other' and not merely a pastiche of a historical culture (from a romanticised viewpoint, i.e. simplified).
The elf in my world is an attempt to get past this Tolkien created narrative and bring back the elf as a more sinister fairy-like being, which is in itself not original. However, I do not wish to simply introduce a species of Western folk tale fairies (Sidhe) into a supposedly non-specific and alien setting. Thus, this is merely a starting point for their description, that point being 'other-worldly oddness' and inherent danger.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, in order of newest to oldest;
Exoskeleton with a 'human' shape
They are considered attractive and they have pointed 'ears'
Part evil fae, 'the gentleman with thistledown hair'
Part praying mantis
Part cat (chesire)
Part china doll
Part Manga 'big eyes' (cephalopod 'universe eyes')
Hard 'porcelain' or 'ceramic' skin/exoskeleton
Their 'carapace' (exoskeleton) is intially translucent, allowing them to 'glow', but thickens and colours as they age.
They have an insectoid evolution.
Height ranges between five and seven foot tall (1.5 to 2.1 metres) with the average on the slower scale, typically under 5' 6" (1.67m).
Their 'skin' colouration is typically a pale yellowish like ancient porcelain, complete with irregular mottled multi-coloured blotches, most of which are too small to be seen, i.e. minute freckles of odd colours.
The huge mop of fluffy 'hair' of the elf is in various bright colours such as; candy floss pink, electric blue, neon green etc.
Their eyes are large and black without visible iris or pupil. Two sets of eyelids to protect them.
Large wide mouths with small sharp needle-like teeth and long pointed tongues.
The elvish physique, slender and curving, whether male or female leads to humans uncousciously refereing to elves as 'her'. Likewise dwarves are 'him' and orcs and goblins 'it'.
They are incredibly strong considering their small frames.
Although there are two sexes there is less male/female difference than humans, leading to a certain adrogyny but there are some size and weight differences unlike, for example, the dwarves.
Elven blood is blue and this has been theorised as being due to their closeness to magickal forces. The reason is, in truth, much more straight-forward, but highlights the view that most humans have of elves as being akin to magickal beings and almost semi-divine in nature.
Elves are physically seemingly quite fragile, they have scrawny spindly limbs that are made to look even smaller by their large heads, long fingered hands, and (commonly) a large unruly mop of wild hair.
All elves have exceptionally large almond-shaped golden eyes similar to a feline (complete with a third eyelid) that shimmer slightly and glow gently in low-light or fiercely when using magick. They have very small fine noses, with long thin nasal bridges and small slightly upturned stubby nose 'tips'. Elves have quite wide mouths for their size, but very thin lips and small teeth (similar to human children), their tongues are, however, especially long and pointed. Their most famous feature however is certainly their pointed ears, which are both very long and large, their ears typically point upwardsjust passing above the top of the head, they are also partially movable and able to point towards a sound source.

SPECIES DESCRIPTION, as before newest to oldest;
They have long-life, actually connected unconcious, but are not immortal and certainly not angelic.
They are, or can be; Cruel, Death-obsessed, Suicidal, Hollow, Petulant, and Morose...
The elf's metaphorical origins story: In the post-apocalypse (how they think of this world) there are those that remember the before, and those born after who simply accept the world as it is and don't feel any loss for what they have... lost. The elf then thinks of themsleves as those that know the before and this causes them stress.
Elves have a connection between each other, not as direct or definite as a Borg hive mind, but something more than a mere abstracted collective unconscious or a world-soul.
Heightened sensitivity to the vibrations of magick, to the connections between sapient lives.
The soulfulness of the elf as a damaging connection that needs to be managed by solitude and natural balance, or else, the elf falls into a resentful negativity with violent outbursts of self-destructive anger.
Power is a weakness, the harder they push back the worse they are broken. Only calm reflective acceptance and balance is the answer to the constant feedback they feel.
Elves and Orcs, perhaps because of their 'histories of violence' have the possibility to become steadfast friends (as individuals/characters, as pecies everyone remains reasonably neutral, although their is some distrust everywhere) but they also have the possiblity of forming dreadfully hate fueled vendettas.
Their anger (extreme aggression and depression) is a genetic disease also called the 'weight of ages' and it is a primitive instictual self desctruction in the face of ultimate horror. This contrasts with the righteous orcish arrogance of their prideful rages.
Elves value aesthetic perfection above all else. This and other factors makes the elves rather detached from 'normal' society and interactions. An elf might react with great joy to some ancient carving or obscure object, but yet seem utterly unmoved by something otherwise hideous or tragic. Elves do not value friendship in the same way that other species do, although they are very loyal to their own people and those they have come to trust, they seem somewhat cold and aloof in their dealings with others, but this is just another manner in which the elf attempts both to attain aesthetic purity (a key concept for elves) and to atone for the past sins of the elven people.
As such a long-lived species (most elves live at least 1000 years) an elf is never in a hurry to act or make a judgement, they prefer to consider things at length. However, this does not stop elves from violent or rash actions, indeed, they are an aggressive people prone to seemingly meaningless cruelty.
Part of their origin myth is that the elves were once servants of the “Vile Mysteries”, the chosen ones whom these dark powers formed in their image to please and serve them. Some elves came to see the actions of their masters and creators as wrong and in a great war, broke the power of the Vile Mysteries, overthrew them and freed the other species from their control. Such rebellion came at a price however and the once great elven people were now cursed and thrown out of their former paradise. Abandoned into a cold and empty world, the once mighty people are now struggling with the guilt of their past and their apathy towards the future. There are still rumours that their more powerful uncursed brethren (the “High Elves”) are elsewhere hidden in mighty fortresses and biding their time for the return of the Vile Mysteries. (Note: Whatever truth lies in the myth has been obscured by elven ego and their desire for martyrdom).

Highest: Calm
Component: Nature (connected)
Lowest: Overwhelming sadness
Elements: Solitary, reflective, sharp

Reproduction: asexual, external pod laying and fertilising
Slang name: Dolls
"Stares into space like a dead china doll." Elliot Smith, Waltz #2

Tuesday 21 July 2020

LeCraft: Species - Goblin

(As with all of the forthcoming Species posts, these are mostly compilations of notes made over the last few years and are therefore mostly a gathering exercise, rather than anything final or definite)

Goblins here are the 'little' species that has been variously portrayed as; hobbits, gnomes, halflings, goblins themselves, but also, gremlins, gretchin, snotlings, tengu, bogies, and etc. However, in the 'literature' goblins have always been portrayed as a low-level enemy, typically the first encounter with a player group is against goblins, who are not much of a threat unless in larger groups. They are typically malevolent, chaotic and mischievous. The altering of many of these classic tropes in the 90s saw Goblins become somewhat like the Ferengi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, comically greedy and more than a little annoying. Similarly in World of Warcraft, the Goblin's key attribute was their obsession with 'tinkering' and (as in Warhammer) for making things that go BOOM!
Rather then than unnecessarily splitting the 'good' little people from the 'bad' instead I want to depict a species that is not merely a cipher for our own guilt at the portrayal of actual little people (people of restricted height) in our media.
Goblins, like Orcs, are not 'monsters' meant only to be a (minor) challenge to the players, but are a species of the same depth and complexity as every other.
That said, I'm therefore combining a lot of the very human species signifiers that all the listed 'creatures' have been described by. So, my Goblins are; as homely as hobbits, as inquisitive as gnomes, as mischievous as the classic goblin, with a love of nature and technology (often at odds), and as capable as being a solitary intellectual recluse as they are a social reckless troublemaker.
Also in the back of my mind are stories of; little green men, wildmen of the woods, Homo habilis, and generally folk tales of fairy people from all over the world.
Why Goblins and not Halflings? (the D&D non-copyright infringing hobbit)? Well, I am not overly fond of Tolkien's description of his hobbits. Although, I suppose that goblins fulfill much the same function for myself as they do for him. For Tolkien, the hobbit represents something 'we' as modern people have lost in our world, that is, a practical connection with the earth, a decent truthful friendliness and playfulness. This manifests itself, for Tolkien, as West Country farming folk with the occasional academic hero (Bagginses). The olde England we've lost with progress (i.e. the evil of Saruman) and so the hobbits are peculiarly English (something even Peter Jackson can't lose) and Victorian. I have in mind a similar sort of metaphor for everything modern humanity tends to destroy without thinking; from the Amazon to Australian Aborigines, the Sami, the Picts, the Ainu, all the lost peoples of Earth. Their connection to the land is not magick but comes from a practical intuition, a natural people but not perfect either.
Disclaimer: (I will write in greater detail about this, possibly after I've also posted the species of 'Dwarves') The goblin is meant as a culturally complete (non-Eurocentric) alien race, something non-human and not an analogue for any actual or existing people or culture.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, in order of newest to oldest;
Shaggy green fur
Long lithe limbs, multi-jointed, with 4 articulated hands and one prehensile tail/tentacle with three 'nubs'
Barrel or sack like body/torso/central section
Large head, swivel neck that is long and retracting
Beaked muzzle
Three central eyes, with the third eye being a literal magickal eye (hidden?)
Part Sloth
Part Monkey
Part Parrot
Part ugly cute
Part Hobbit
Part Jerrawerra, the hairy man of the woods
Dense oily sweet-smelling fur
Stooped, bow-legged stance but fast and agile
Never wears clothing but wears accessories
Green fur, tail, 3 eyes, narrow mouth
Goblins are small hairy green people.
Rather, mostly green, a dark forest green compared to the lighter Orcish green, but some are instead red, some mottled.
They have a smell that while not distracting is distinctive, although it is true that Dwarves find the smell "annoying." A patchouli-like smell, or something floral, vegetable or herbal without being easy to place. To some, i.e. the Dwarf, they smell more like rotten vegetation.
Oily slick short fur that covers almost the entire body except for; face, hands/feet and midriff.

SPECIES DESCRIPTION, as before newest to oldest;
Magickal symbiotic creatures live inside them, moths in the fur like a sloth.
Society is built around trust of communication. Typically in the fantasy genre, talking (an excess of), as well as singing and laughing are all seen as child-like in relation to the dark and brooding silent masculine hero of the gritty new fantasy. Therefore this small 'weak' creature whose strength is in words, in articulating, in listening (sometimes), in dreaming, could be seen as a female-other.
Lies are not taboo or unknown, just pointless. "You can't lie to a Goblin, they just know."
Goblins as the arboreal freedom loving rhetoricians that define traditional 'cute' or 'small' species of fantasy literature; hobbits, wow goblins, dragonlance kender, various monkey-folk and so forth. Even the chaotic spirit of the gnome from d&d and wow.
They love technology, family, and mischief.
Goblins don't wear clothes.
Goblins avoid armour.
Goblins avoid physical contact.
As a species that base 'victory' on verbal dexterity rather than physical prowess, they are entirely sexually equal society.
Although they see sex as an enjoyable recreation, more so than most other species, they have no hang-ups about gender or orientation.
Goblins are agile; mentally, verbally and physically, even to the point that they tie themselves in knots, but they also love peace, quiet and a good feast.
Related to dwarves? No. All species should be unique.
Also, less like the Star Trek Ferengi; species specific character; greedy, selfish, short-sighted.
Arboreal ancestors, something mischievous and monkey-like.
A focus and love of rhetoric, persuasion, rule-making, but also freedom, with a love of heights and climbing, but a lack of concern about private property, they are group orientated.

Highest: Joy
Component: Communication (food)
Lowest: Greed
Elements: Open, Curious, Playful
Goblins admire human endeavour but are jealous of Dwarven skill. They are cowed by the Elves reckless self-destruction, but are amused by the Orc's prideful rage.

Reproduction: Sexual, hermaphrodite species, although with 5 'grades' of gender but without male and female designation. Mostly 'male', mostly 'female', somewhat 'male', somewhat 'female', both. This is also something that can change of the course of the Goblin's life.
Slang name: Grease-monkeys, oil-bears

Some images that most closely resembles the image of the Goblin in my mind. The first are from an artist and puppeteer operating as 'Handsome Devil Puppets' and this was taken from her Instagram account. It is of a puppet of the West Virginian Mothman cryptid that was a work in progress, the final version is trimmed and appropriately mothlike with antennae and wings, but I especially liked the 'sloth-like' fur.

Saturday 18 July 2020

Quotes Worth Saving (32): Paul Valéry

The ABYSS OF HISTORY is deep enough to hold us all.

Paul Valéry, 1919.

Quoted in the below article by Pankaj Mishra in LRB, which is recommended reading

Tuesday 14 July 2020

LeCraft: Species - On Variety

I'm going to start publishing my design notes for the different sapient species, but rather than have the appearance of each creature be definite, instead I want to keep a variety of imaginative descriptions that allow each player or games runner to effectively create the species as they see fit.

This is because I don't want to limit other's creative visions and instead tie them to how I think everyone should see each creature. Not least because I also think this helps develop the idea that magick has permeated through all things, such that each evolutionary channel for a species exists simultaneously.

So each species can have as many of the descriptive 'extras' that I will use, but they will always have certain core components that should probably be kept as this explains their species psychology. Note that I'm suggesting that appearance can and should be customised but that I feel the 'role' that each species psychology plays in the elucidation of the world view should be left as I have attempted to describe it. This is because, for me, each species is an aspect of abnormal psychology that greater describes the 'puzzle' of the story world, in that it is a mirror of human creativity, frustration and loss.

Let the player choose their own interpretation, some will want it to be defined for them and others will want to set their description wider. Give all approaches a chance. For the games runner their choices can affect the entire species or merely change individuals, as mentioned, both can be allowed. Ultimately what goes is left in the hands of the story teller and should be used to better develop their story/word.

D&D 'variety'

Friday 12 June 2020

Foodie Fridays: Jamie's Clandestine Fish Pie

Jamie Oliver's Clandestine Fish Pie Recipe

Deleted from his own website and replaced by an inferior version, this is the original and best fish pie recipe.

1 kg potatoes (mashed)
1 x Carrot (grated)
2 x Celery sticks (finely diced)
1 x Red chilli (finely chopped)
Parsley (1 x 30g packet)
150g cheddar cheese (grated)
1 lemon juice and zest
Handful of spinach
2 x plum tomatoes
Fish pie pack, defrosted
King prawns, ditto
Olive oil, glug!
Seasoning, the usual suspects

In a big oven dish; grate the carrot and cheese, add the chopped celery, chilli, spinach, parsely and tomatoes, add the fish and prawns, zest the lemon and squeeze the juice, big glug of olive oil, season AND mix!
Top with mashed potato.
Bang into a pre-heated oven at 180c (fan) or 200c for 40-50 minutes.
Serve with (nice) bread and butter.