Let’s jump into the breach once more.

After a weekend filled with unwanted work and even less wanted headaches I really don’t have the patience or concentration to work on a long, packed Sunday post.

Instead I’ve decided to go back nine years, when Morrowind was released and Mr. Soule was given his first swing at supplying the musical backdrop for the series. And while there were problems and heavy limitations, you could already hear the mix of epicness and serenity which would set the basis for the next two games. And in a setting where exploring ancient ruins of multiple empires and races that have risen and fallen, living in an Empire that’s on the “falling” side itself… It’s very fitting.

It’s orchestral ambient and it’s the perfect thought-music to sit down and think about plots for Fantasy RPGs to.

Enjoy. Even while it’s short.

Jeremy Soule – Nerevar Rising (Morrowind Main Theme) [The Elder Scrolls III – Morrowind Soundtrack] | 2002 | Orchestral

Let’s mix it up.

Everybody who knows me, knows that I really love mash-ups. But I also really love mixing genres that most people would say don’t go well together.

Today I’m feeling somewhat under-the-weather, so I’ll share a song with you, that is by a band who exemplify this in a very good way.

I love Goth Music.
I love Jonny Cash.
I kind-of, really like Rockabilly.

It was pretty much inevitable that I would stumble upon Ghoultown at some point in time. I did so, in 2007. Somewhat late, yes. But not too late to be able to grab a copy of their “Tales From the Dead West”. Which is a very atmospheric album all on its own. The mix of goth, country and rockabilly (I prefer to call them gothabilly, even if some people put them under psychobilly and/or horror-rock) goes together really, really well. You can listen to this in the midst of a hot summer as well as on dark, cold winter nights. It just fits.

It’s not the Swiss Army Knife like some Depeche Mode, Dead Can Dance or This Mortal Coil CDs, but it’s a fun little piece. And the songs are of a consistently high quality. They can be dripping with dark, western mood, they can be funny and they can be powerful.

And so they make me think of interesting things to write and put into RPG scenarios. It’s uncanny how well western imagery can be planted into different genres without there being a great dissonance (Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica (80s) are the two best examples of this. Also how the Magnificent Seven are based on The Seven Samurai and how Yojimbo also influenced quite a few classics.) Western, as a genre, is deeper than most people give it credit. And even though Germany lacks the emotional and spiritual bond that a US viewership would have with the movies, the really good ones could gain traction even here.

Few are the people who haven’t seen The Good, The Bad And The Ugly or The Magnificent Seven or Maverick, Tombstone and Back to the Future III! And even fewer are the people who haven’t enjoyed the Galaxy Rangers, Brave Starr, Zorro, Lucky Luke (No, I won’t go into the whole Spaghetti-Western thing here. That’s… … Go, read up on it! It’s interesting on its own! Really! – As is the wide array of Western sub-genres. Really. Take a look, ok? ), Kung Fu, Brisco County Jr., Saber Rider (again with Western and Japan) as kids. Or watched Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza or even Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman with their parents on weekends. And lately, we had Firefly. It was short, but it didn’t die because it was a bad show. It died because Fox is staffed by a bunch of assholes. … I mentioned Star Trek and the original BSG already, yes?

Western/Country music is also a really deep and interesting field. It’s not all just X-phobic ramblings by racist rednecks and homophobes. There’s some really great stuff in there. Then there are the soundtracks to Western movies. The atmosphere they could built with such a minimal set of instruments and nature sounds was… No! Still IS! …amazing. – If you’ve got an Xbox 360 go grab Red Dead Redemption and just marvel at how wonderful the soundtrack is and how well this game can set the atmosphere. It’s well worth it. And I will get to this music field one day, because it’s simply amazing. It’s the polar opposite of High Electronical Ambient, and yet I love it in many of the same situations.

Enough rambling!

Music!

Today two songs from the album of the day, because I’m nice/I want to torture you. Take your pick.

I chose “Ghost Riders in the Sky” first, because Johnny Cash also covered/played this song. So it was kind of fitting. I also like their rendition very much. It’s a good example of a classic Western tune that is dark and twisted on its own, without any Goth elements to it, and now played with those elements amplifying it all. … I think I want to play some Deadlands now. (And, yes. You can use this article to get into Deadlands and ask me about it read up on it. That’s no coincidence.)

[expand title=”Lyrics”]An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry

Yippie yi Ohhhhh
Yippie yi yaaaaay
Ghost Riders in the sky

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat
He’s riding hard to catch that herd, but he ain’t caught ’em yet
‘Cause they’ve got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire
As they ride on hear their cry

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil’s herd, across these endless skies

Yippie yi Ohhhhh
Yippie yi Yaaaaay

Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky [/expand]

The second song is “Killer in Texas” which showcases Ghoultown’s inherent Goth qualities with a darkl, macabre story set to an almost traditional Country sound which is then accompanied with Rockabilly and Goth elements.

[expand title=”Lyrics”]I’m a cold-blooded killer
my soul is ripped and torn
got the black heart of texas
I’ve got the devil’s horns

cuz I’ve spent my life to bring you harm
drank your blood to keep me warm
moon was full when I was born
I’m comin home, it won’t be long

chorus:
there’s a killer in texas
a killer in texas
there’s killer on the rails

I’m a hell raisin outlaw
out here stealin lives
killed a man for starin
by cuttin out his eyes

cuz I started life in evil’s hands
no way in hell I had a chance
you glorify the deeds I did
forgot about the soul I had to give

train keeps on rollin
my life is ever blowin
like dust across the lone star state
drink one more drink yeah
to wash down our sins
cuz nightfall has come and gone again

I’m a cold-blooded killer
I’m always on the run
just look at me mother
ain’t you proud of your son?

cuz I’ve spent my life to bring you harm
drank your blood to keep me warm
moon was full when I was born
I’m comin for you, it won’t be long[/expand]

Ghoultown – [Tales From the Dead West] | 2001 | Gothabilly

Let’s Go Into Space.

The last few weeks my mind has been torn between the World of Darkness as well as SciFi, for different reasons.
And both interests have music and sounds that go with them, at least in my personal part of the woods. And my mind. Mostly my mind.

Science Fiction, for me, is mostly about vast, far-reaching vistas and the stories told in them. (And also stories about problems that are solved either by science and/or human/alien ingenuity as well as about how society will change and adapt across short and long time-frames and the experiences that come with them, and NOT about stuff being solved by faith/religion/belief… But that’s another, long, ranting and hate-filled post waiting to happen…)

And to get into that space-of-mind there’s nothing like Ambient music.
About Five years ago, I had the great opportunity to stumble upon the artist “deepspace” over on last.fm – He was one of my recommendations. And is still one of those encounters that make me willing and glad to give the last.fm folks money from time to time. It just proved to me that their algorithms work. (And that proper tagging and sorting of music for personal consumption is important. But, again, a different post. Also long, but with a lot less hate.)

His albums “The Barometric Sea” and “The Barometric Sun” blew me away. Not because they are upbeat or uptempo. No. Quite the opposite. Quite the exact, polar opposite. They are deep, slow, ponderous and they pull you in. When I close my eyes while listening to those CDs, I get sucked away into deep space. I feel the hard radiation emanating from Pulsars washing over me. I feel the harsh caress of solar winds pushing me towards the hard and jagged embrace of Oort clouds. I can see light break, fracture and be distorted by hard-gravity wells, black holes, white holes and the occasional supernova. I let my mind expand to take in and measure the whole galaxy and I can start imagining wonderful, awe-inspiring stories happening all over it.

While I’m deeply in love with the hard, harsh and quick style of Cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk/transhuman literature, I am still heavily drawn towards that epic, immeasurable scope of slow, socio-historical science fiction. Okay, I admit it. I like to throw in some forms of FTL travel and FTL communication, but I generally like describing starships behaving like they should under Newtonian physics. I like short bursts of thrust then long “glides” and turns and then new bursts of counter-thrust as a means of travelling inside a solar system’s gravity well, for example. While the image of space-fighters is a cool one (And I like reading about them, see my love for the Rogue Squadron comics and novels!), I much rather have combat to be between ships that hold a substantial crew. And it should be short and deadly as well as slow and ponderous at the same time. A captain should be able to detect her opponent launching a salvo of torpedoes. But they will take many minutes to cross the vast space between those two ships. And when her ship’s counter-measures and point-defense fire don’t manage to take them all down, the crew should know that something horrible will happen in a few minutes that they’re powerless to defend against. They can only prepare themselves and the shortly-needed medical and technical first-aid and triage. And they would need to keep calm nerves and deal with the chance of sudden, inevitable death they just know will come to some of them.

At the same time, I want to have a ship enter a virginal solar system and start taking in all its grandeur. The colour, age and power of its sun. Its orbiting planets and moons and gas-giants. It’s comet-clouds and its apparent age. The cataloging of ancient features and the extrapolating of its history and past by scanning, looking, measuring and testing all the different inputs and samples one can obtain. To be exited about finding similarities which mean that a planet is habitable. Or be excited about getting results that, if repeatable and substantial, could mean a re-definition of old-held beliefs.

This is the Science Fiction that I enjoy reading and writing about.

And this kind of Science Fiction goes well with something special.
A free one-hour long ambient track by “deepspace”.


deepspace – Another Empty Galaxy | 2008 | Ambient

(If that doesn’t work for you, go directly to his last.fm page and download from there. It’s free, it’s legal and it’s completely awesome. And while you’re at it… Write this guy some encouraging words, will you? He deserves them… | http://www.last.fm/music/Deepspace/_/Another+Empty+Galaxy)

Listen to it now.
Download it and listen to it when you’re in the mood.
Or when you want to get in the mood.

But listen to it.
And try to think about something vast and beautiful.

And this time, I’m closing with two pictures that go well with today’s track.
[right-click -> “View Image” to see them in their full glory. Credit is below each picture.]


(http://tsarye.deviantart.com/)


(http://pipper-svk.deviantart.com/)

FutureTech – Now

Okay, apart from all the iPhone talk, let’s focus just on Siri now.
I just watched the ad for it, and read some live-tester comments.

And, for fuck’s sake… That’s pure SciFi. That’s the stuff that makes a future, SciFi society. The iPhone doesn’t have an AI, but… With constant internet access and the ability to adapt to your language? You’re not going to notice.

I mean, really. Just look at the ad. How the people interact with this (and by tester testimony, it seems like this is not re-touched). How the woman sets the time. And how the iPhone replies. How the guy at the start interacts with a new message and then pulls up his playlist. Oh, and the line “Text my wife I’m gonna be thirty minutes late.” spoken and executed… Send some serious geek-shivers down my spine.

Sure, the iPhone and other phones had voice-control, but this… This is something different.

This is a slice of all those things we were not promised in SciFi novels because no one thought we’d ever be connected like this. This is stuff that Shadowrun4 and Eclipse Phase started showing us. I remember in 2004, when Shadowrun4 came out, how utterly dismissive I was of Comlinks and “WiFi everywhere”. It’s now 2011. And the iPhone 4S will be a near-perfect Comlink or a non-sentient muse.

Fuck jetpacks, fuck flying cars.
We’re living in the damn future.
And I really am loving it.

A House of Bones

[Suggested listening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsf2LoLk3SA]
{Warning: Content contains slight amounts of horror.}

Somewhere in Eastern Europe, there is an Ossarium. No, not Sedletz. The bone house I’m talking about is far more ancient. Far more sinister. It was build before any of the great mortal wars swept the area. Before the carpenter’s faith swept across the many tribes living and dying across Europe. It was built at night. Diligently, one bone after another, for several years.

The bones were only taken from virgins of both genders, who were native to the area. And who were all kept alive while their bones were being extracted in slow, meticulous rituals. They were only allowed to die after the last bone left their body. After the bones were cleaned, purified and put into place. The souls of the sacrifices were to bind the bones to the sacred place. To anchor them. To serve as fuel for the ritual that was being prepared.

It took many years. Decades. Over a century. Not all candidates were worthy. Not all had the will to remain alive during the grueling process. So the builders had to wait for a generation after putting another two or three pieces in place. Sometimes they had to skip one, when birth rates were too low ensure survival of the tribe. The tribe was being taken care of. It was prevented from leaving, it had to listen to screams of excruciating and exquisite pain whenever young people were taken by their protectors, but it was taken care of. There was never famine nor invasion. And anybody daring and ignorant enough to try and attack the tribe was fought back and hunted down by horrifying creatures with names that sounded like slabs of dead meat falling to the ground when pronounced.

For the humans, it was a place of revulsion, horror and terror. For its builders it was a sacred site. A temple to their traditions and their forefather.

And when it was done, the tribe ended. There was a ritual. A feast. Screaming. And afterwards there was only the House of Bones and a few ramshackle huts in the deep and twisted reaches of the thick Easter European forests.

Then, for a year and a day, there was silence.

Only then, after many years of hard, painstaking, bloody and ritual labour, the resident was laid to rest in this House of Bones. This Temple to the Form of Death. It was allowed to slumber in peace, for hundreds of years. Undisturbed. Surrounded by tormented souls, changed and twisted by pain and death, clad in their once mortal remains, formed into a shrine to its ancient inhabitant. The forest grew wildly around it. Yet never touched it. And even in the most dire of winters, the animals never disturbed the gnarled and weird fruits near the House of Bones.

In the towns and cities that sprang up around it in later years, there always were more than the usual share of murderers and killers and rapists and kidnappers. Something brushed against their dreams, fully by accident, and changed the way their minds worked forever. Driving them mad with the desire to form, to change, to twist and to modify. Lacking the supernatural power to do so was, to those poor, damned souls, like giving a starving man a loaf of freshly baked bread and delicious, spicy wine and then sowing his mouth closed. Their souls withered and died inside them. Leading them to an early death. But never before bringing harm and horror to their surroundings.

Then, much later, came the fateful day in the winter of 1944. Retreating and hunting armies burned swathes across their paths, destroying and twisting the landscape without a second thought but the desire to destroy their enemies and save their own lives. And during all this, the House of Bones was broken. A loud roar was heard all along the Eastern Front. Making hardened soldiers sick with fear and waking ancient creatures that haven’t felt the sun’s touch for many centuries, filling their dark souls with dread.

The next night, huddled figures, unafraid of the war and soldiers around them, raced to the location of that sacred site. And what they found drove them to fearful frenzy. It would take nights before some were captured, after some were lost to the sun’s fiery embrace by their own longing, before the truth was made known: The seals were broken. The bones smashed. The… Thing was gone.

Since this day, the House of Bones again lies undisturbed. Partly out of tradition, mostly out of fear. Because even in the withered hearts of ancient demons there is a spark of dread left smoldering. Dread of the thing that spawned them all, cursed them all, formed them all.

And a few of those ancient beasts know, that even while their kindred monsters are fighting a war against the coming of Gehenna, an ancient horror beyond any and all imagination is loose on the Earth. Hiding somewhere. Slowly growing stronger and stronger.

And now the very eldest of Clan Tzimisce are holding conference. Should their monstrous and uncultured brood be enough? Vampires who, for the most part, know nothing of this and are more concerned with railing against rules as if they were unruly children? Or should the hated Camarilla be nudged towards this. Given some proof for the existence of something truly antedeluvian? Because the elders know that behind the facade of public snubbing, there are factions inside the Camarilla’s higher chambers who are very much silently preparing for, and even sometimes waging, a war against the oldest of horrors.

And their scholars, compromising the hated Tremere, would undoubtedly find some evidence they cold use, should they “accidentally” stumble upon the remains of the House of Bones.

But would it be worth it?
Would they be focused enough on the obvious terror to miss some smaller, yet also critical, pieces of Clan lore?

Decisions. Decisions.
It’s time to change and form the world again.