TORN’s Spy Report on the Amazon LOTR/Second Age Series

It’s been a while since we got an update on the upcoming Amazon Second Age series. Not since the leaked Synopsis. The poor fandom twisted itself into knots speculating about supposed nudity in a Tolkien adaptation, and then… nothing.

Well, that has suddenly changed. The One Ring.Net has been sending out crebain to spy on proceedings, and they have turned up a fair amount of information. Maybe. I am still taking this with a grain of salt. It’s possible the production has leaked misleading information, or that the crebain have got the wrong end of the stick… but, for now, it is all we have to work with.

https://www.theonering.net/torwp/2021/07/20/110907-spy-report-incredible-details-from-amazons-lord-of-the-rings-characters-sexless-nudity-halflings/

First off, we’ve got some legal confirmation: we’re talking a licensing deal for Unfinished Tales, and the Second Age-relevant parts of The Silmarillion. Implicitly, I think I’m fairly safe in betting that they have access to ‘A Description of the Island of Númenor,’ ‘Aldarion and Erendis,’ ‘The Line of Elros,’ ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn,’ ‘Akallabêth,’ and ‘Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,’ plus the appendices of The Lord of the Rings. More speculatively, they may also have licensed enough to establish Sauron’s earlier backstory, perhaps through a flashback to the War of Wrath. Ditto enough to show Morgoth corrupting the Orcs. And if we’re talking about bits from The Silmarillion that are theoretically there in the Second Age, maybe even enough to show a surviving Maglor (a man can dream…).

(There’s also the possibility that they will eventually show the Disaster of the Gladden Fields too, depending on whether they want to tie this series to the Jacksonian Prologue. The Druedain are also a possibility. We’ll wait and see, I suppose).

It is also interesting to note that the Tolkien Estate is happy with progress, and that they are more involved than previously. This, of course, is partly a result of changing leadership (Christopher Tolkien would not have been keen), but also suggests that Amazon is on its best behaviour, in the event that the First Age rights ever become available. I have long thought that this series is really one very expensive trial balloon, with the long term goal being the Quenta Silmarillion itself.

Secondly, the production seems to be separating out the storylines involving Men, Elves, and Dwarves. Maybe also with some chronological jumping around, a la The Witcher television series. Speculatively, I’d suggest we’re looking at parallel stories – Númenor (Men), versus Eregion (Elves). The rise of Númenorean Imperialism on one hand, the forging of the Rings on the other, with the two eventually merging when Númenor bails out the defeated Elves. The Dwarf storyline is more intriguing, since the Dwarves don’t actually do very much canonically in the Second Age. It is possible that the production might be moving Durin’s Bane to the Second Age, but otherwise we’re looking at something invented whole-cloth.

(I wouldn’t actually be opposed to Durin’s Bane making an appearance. Giving the Dwarves their Downfall moment is thematically appropriate, considering what happens to the Elves and Men).

And then there is an array of other interesting details:

  • Proto-hobbits is something I genuinely was not expecting. This really could go in multiple directions… maybe a tribe of small people, whom the Numenoreans stumble across during their explorations? In that case, they might be more a shout-out to The Lord of the Rings than something that directly affects the plot of the current series. Or maybe the proto-hobbits will play more of an ‘audience surrogate’ role, to ease the viewer into this older (and more alien) version of Middle-earth?
  • The existence of Ice Trolls implies that we’re seeing bona fide fighting in the first season, and not just intrigue and build-up. Maybe something to do with the invented Dwarven storyline?
  • Nudity is non-sexual (told you!), and will be played for concentration-camp-style horror. As I noted previously, nudity can be a powerful visual demonstration of humiliation or vulnerability, and this appears to be going for that, in the context of the (First Age flashback?) creation of the Orcs. Very ambitious, and I fully approve of such an artistic depiction.
  • Short-haired Elves. I’m guessing they mean something like Jenny Dolfen-style Maedhros, rather than buzz-cuts, but it would be a pleasant break from the uniformly ethereal platinum-blonds of the Jackson adaptation. Generally speaking, if an artistic choice moves this adaption away from Jacksonian visuals, I am on board. Though the question then becomes how you visually differentiate Elves from the Numenoreans…
  • Annatar’s reveal being delayed. I take this as meaning that we’ll see Annatar in the first season, but the series won’t reveal who he is until later. Sure, anyone with access to the Internet (or who has read Tolkien) knows who this chap is, but I think it can still be milked for dramatic irony and Hitchcockian suspense. We know who Annatar is, but Celebrimbor doesn’t, and that itself creates tension.

All told, it’s an interesting accumulation of rumour. Well done to the crebain for this one. 🙂

Hate Speech Laws: The Polling

After the March 2019 Christchurch mosque attack, the New Zealand Government set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into matters surrounding the tragedy. The Commission came back with recommendations, including a tightening of laws regarding Hate Speech. The Ardern Government has indicated support for such proposals, but has yet to formally push them through Parliament.

I have previously noted that Gun Laws is not much of a Culture War issue in New Zealand. Hate Speech is something different, being a good deal more polarising. I myself am moderately opposed to the proposed Hate Speech legislation – I feel it a mistake on the part of the Ardern Government, since I do not think this is a political battle worth fighting, and I do not think tighter Hate Speech laws would have done much to prevent the 2019 attack. It’s also a tad hypocritical from Ardern, seeing as it basically brings back Blasphemous Libel by the back door, while for the more historically minded, the New Zealand Left has historically been on the receiving end of governmental censorship. 1951 being only the most infamous example.

On the other hand, I do not think these proposals will Destroy Democracy, or result in harmless people going to prison. The courts are required to interpret legislation in light of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and as such will be interpreting these laws in accordance with the principle of Freedom of Speech. Anyone prosecuted under these proposals will have almost certainly been doing something that is currently illegal… which means that this whole thing is more about the Government thinking it needs to Be Seen Doing Something in the face of terrorism, rather than an effort to force a change in behaviour.

Anyway, the more ardent opponents of this legislation have set up the Free Speech Union to lobby against it. And they have released a poll on the subject:

https://www.fsu.nz/polling

My immediate thought, of course, is to note the framing of the question:

The Government has proposed new Hate Speech Laws which could see individuals sentenced for up to three years in prison for speech deemed harmful to designated groups of people. What is your view of the proposed Hate Speech laws. Is it strongly oppose, somewhat oppose, somewhat support, or strongly support?

It’s a question more likely to elicit a negative response (naturally. It’s a poll organised by the opposition to the legislation). If a group wanted to elicit a positive response, it’d be something like:

In response to the 2019 attack on the Christchurch mosque, a Royal Commission of Inquiry has proposed measures to tighten laws governing Hate Speech, with tougher penalties for individuals inciting violent hatred in the community. What is your view..

Framing can be a powerful thing.

Anyway, the topline numbers are 43% oppose, 31% support, 15% neutral, and 12% unsure.

Much attention has been given to the apparent gender divide (men are much more likely to oppose the legislation than women), and the fact that the opposition skews more old and right-wing, with support skewing more young and left-wing. Taking a look at the polling data myself, I feel that’s a tad superficial reading.

(The fact that the poll only considers National, Labour, Greens, and ACT, but not New Zealand First is also extremely noticeable. It’s almost like the FSU is freezing out Winston Peters, for some reason… oh wait, David Farrar’s the pollster).

So far as the gender gap goes, it is true that men are more likely to be strong opposers, and women strong supporters, but these account for less than half the population. The gender gap is much smaller among the moderates and fence-sitters. Women are also much more likely to be unsure, which means the topline gender gap gets inflated.

Then there are the age-groupings. Young people are more supportive of Hate Speech Laws, whereas older people are more opposed. True enough. Except that the strong opposers are basically consistent in number across all age-groups until you hit the over 60s. The 46-60 group may be most opposed overall, but their opposition is moderate, rather than strong… and there is not a monumental difference between the percentage of strong supporters in the under 30s (23%) and the over 60s (17%). In short, it’s a foggy correlation.

In fact, a fair number of comfortable assumptions really break down once you take a closer look at the data.

Christchurch and Wellington are considered the hotbed of Hate Speech Law support. Which makes intuitive sense… Christchurch was the site of the 2019 attack, while Wellington has a reputation as the home of Green-tinged social liberalism. Except that Christchurch is also easily the home of the largest number of Neutrals, and Wellington has the smallest number of strong supporters in the country. Auckland is quite polarised, with high levels of strong support and (especially) strong opposed.

(Speaking of Auckland… it’s one of the oddities of New Zealand politics that our largest city is slightly to the Right of the country. Quite alien by international standards).

And finally, there is the support and opposition by party affiliation. As tempting as it is to reduce this to a mere matter of Right vs Left, a la US-style Culture War, I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. Just as the 2015 Flag Referendum really became a proxy vote on the Government, I rather think that Labour supporters feel instinctively obliged to support an initiative of a Labour Government, and National supporters feel instinctively obliged to oppose it. In each case, support or opposition tails away the further you get from the designated pole, but there are clearly plenty of ‘meh’ responses.

The weirdest element of the party affiliation data is the Hate Speech Law opposers among the Greens, and the corresponding supporters in ACT. This might be a product of statistical noise – these are small parties, so you are dealing with a comparatively small number of people. Or you might be dealing with people who like to mess with pollsters. However, it is at least worth noting that every Green supporter who opposes the Hate Speech Law is strongly opposed, whereas most ACT voters who support the Hate Speech Law are strongly in favour. Contrarians among the minor parties don’t do things by halves.

**

So yeah. Outside the people with Very Strong Opinions on this matter, I would be hesitant about reading too much into these polling results. There are some broad generalisations you can make, but they remain just that – generalisations. There are plenty of caveats if you bother to actually look closer, and that’s quite apart from the framing of the initial question. I do feel Ardern is making an error here, however.

Weaponising They Are Us: The Draft Script

You may recall that mass shooting at the Christchurch mosque a couple of years ago. It feels an eternity, of course, what with the shooting taking place in the Before Coronavirus era.

There is currently an attempt to make a film about the event, under the title They Are Us. Thus far it has attracted a fair amount of criticism, especially from the inhabitants of Christchurch, and from the local Muslim community, who feel that the tragedy is being exploited for external gain. I myself was on the fence a bit, since the unified response of all New Zealanders to the shooting is actually something worthy of celebration. One can focus on the positives of that horrible day, without turning it into a glorified Snuff Film or a Jacinda Ardern propaganda piece. It’d still be a tough needle to thread, of course, but I felt it could be done in theory.

After seeing the media leakage of sections from the draft script… my mind has changed dramatically. This is bad. This is very bad:

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2021/07/they-are-us-draft-script-winston-peters-david-seymour-simon-bridges-condemn-offensive-hollywood-portrayals.html

The proposed They Are Us film wouldn’t actually be about New Zealand in any meaningful sense. It’d simply be weaponising New Zealand for American Culture War purposes, and that is seriously offensive.

One thing to remember about New Zealand politics is that in contrast to the United States (or even Australia), gun-ownership is not a politicised issue. Only very small fringes actually care about the subject (in normal circumstances). Our gun regulations are written with the support of both big parties, and tend to be responsive to events, rather than an ideological football – the last big update of New Zealand firearm legislation was done in the aftermath of the Aramoana shooting three decades ago. And among people who do own guns… they are weapons for shooting animals (recreational or otherwise), or for target-shooting, not for “protecting” yourself.

As such, when the (conservative) Leader of the Opposition is shown parroting lines from American political conservatives on gun-ownership, it really grates. Especially when the guy in question was in favour of Ardern’s measures – the film script literally turns him into a Culture War Villain when he was nothing of the sort.

ACT leader David Seymour gets it even worse. Now, ACT is probably the only New Zealand political party that translates reasonably well to the US political system – specifically, they’d be the secular, business-friendly wing of moderate Republicans, and are the group in New Zealand most likely to hate Coronavirus lockdowns. They act as a sort of ideological pressure group on National the way the Greens do to Labour, and Seymour has been going to town on Free Speech issues these past few years.

But rather than treating ACT as a ‘classical liberal’ party, the film script reinvents them as the ‘Independence Party,’ crazy Christian gun-loving nutters. Seymour himself is replaced with (fictional) Solomon Marsh, a character who might well fit in with Australian One Nation types, but who really has very little to do with the actual New Zealand Right. Even New Zealand’s small Christian conservative parties don’t act like that.

The real reason the script is being written that way is because the film project wants to tell a story of Good People triumphing over Bad People, and the script-writers’ notion of Good and Bad People corresponds pretty well to a particular view of the US-centric Culture War. The technical term for such a project is Propaganda. It may even be well-meaning Propaganda, but no-one should see this as anything other than an attempt to deliver a Moral Lesson… one that mangles its portrayal of real people (living and politically-active people at that) in pursuit of its goals. And that’s wrong.

(I won’t even get into the midnight Jacinda Ardern melodrama, or the Winston Peters weirdness. The Christchurch shooting and its aftermath is a subject matter that demands sensitivity and caution, and the script-writers have completely mangled it).

The Adventures of Annalax: Volume XXV

Session Fifty-Four

This session was about tying up loose ends, and transitioning to something different (at last!).

Manya gave birth to the shadow creature thing the Hag had cursed her with. The child – which is growing quickly – is an aggressive little psychopath. Annalax still doesn’t know why we just don’t kill it. It’s an added complication the party doesn’t need. On the other hand, Manya seems to have accepted it, despite the fact that the thing is explicitly a curse.

Meanwhile, Ember approached Annalax, with a suggestion. He wants to get his hands on some hidden Drow religious scripture. It has been established to Annalax that this religious scripture is not actually against Her Ladyship (Lolth being explicitly neutral about the thing), but Annalax really does not want to mess with the power hierarchy in the Underdark:

  • EMBER: “Don’t you want to demonstrate how strong and clever you are?”
  • ANNALAX: “I know I’m not stronger or cleverer than the High Priestesses. I also like living.”

It is a matter for further investigation, however.

Then it was finally off to the next town.

On the journey, Annalax had a conversation with Melania, Thendwyn’s adopted orphan. Melania was raised in a city of War Clerics in the Dreamland, and is quite the little Amazonian. Which also means that (1) she says her nightly prayers to the War God, and (2) she is really, really into the idea of Glory.

Annalax offered to teach her Magic, if she stopped with the War God worship, but that didn’t work. He also tried to convince her that there is No Such Thing as Glory (only survival), but that too didn’t work. Oh well. There was also a paraphrased conversation that went along these lines:

  • ORPHAN: “Women are superior to men?”
  • ANNALAX: “Yes. Just as Drow are superior to non-Drow.”
  • ORPHAN: “Why are Drow superior?”
  • ANNALAX: “Because we are Her Ladyship’s chosen people.”
  • ORPHAN: “Why does that make you superior?”
  • ANNALAX: “Because it does.”

Annalax isn’t a Cleric, of course. He’s basically a medieval merchant’s son, confronted with the question of Christianity vs Islam… having to resort to “Because the Priest says so.”

On arrival at the next town, Annalax used his Thieves Cant to hunt around for Roguish hospitality.

Session Fifty Five.

This next town was significantly larger, and was primarily notable for its fondness for all things herbal. Plants, plants everywhere… with the ruling clique being a group of Druids. Elknel, Ember, and Einarr spent some time with the Druids, even discovering that the local goddess is apparently Lolth’s aunt.

(Annalax’s view? Lolth has no aunt. Lolth needs no aunt. And if she does, it is certainly none of his business).

Annalax was, however, able to find the local Rogues. Who, appropriately enough, specialise in herbal merchandise.

In return for promising to help them out with some drug running, Annalax organised accommodation for the party. Einarr took great interest in the Rogues’ stockpile of aphrodisiacs for some reason (albeit, it took some time to make him understand that ‘pecker’ does not refer to chicken beaks).

Einarr was also able to offload some pillaged items at the town Jewellers. He got a surprisingly good price for them too, which might have been a result of shopkeeper terror.

On learning that this town had a Jewellers, and moreover that “sapphires were all the rage,” Annalax had an idea. He headed over to the Jewellers, and cast Disguise Self…

  • DM: “Roll Stealth.”

Annalax rolled a natural 1. Not to worry, he was wearing his special cloak, that gives him advantage on Stealth checks.

Annalax rolled another natural 1.

Annalax is a DEX 20 Rogue, with Expertise in Stealth. His Stealth modifier is +11… and (with advantage!) he managed two Critical Fails. Ouch. Sometimes the dice just hate you.

(Why, yes. It was time for Dice Jail).

Annalax abandoned his jewellery scheme, and headed to the tavern instead. There he found a group of rough sorts betting on dice. Annalax decided to join in, albeit for trivial stakes (five copper coins).

He used his Sleight of Hand to cheat, of course. Not that it did him any good. While his Sleight of Hand gave him advantage, and his opponent disadvantage… Annalax rolled 11 and 12, and the opponent 13 and 14. Ouch.

Worse, on the next round, his opponent rolled a natural 20 on spotting his cheating. Double ouch. Annalax cast Invisibility on himself, and fled the tavern.

(The Dice Gods really decided to smite Annalax this session).

But our Drow wasn’t done yet. He went back to the Rogues’ Hideout, and enquired about two things:

(1) The identity and residences of the people who had caught him cheating.

(2) The drug most hated by the local constabulary. Which he promptly purchased from the Rogues’ stockpile.

So that night, Annalax simply broke into the houses of the tavern-goers, and left some kakilma leaf in compromising positions. Then, after disguising himself as Godriel (of all people), he dobbed his victims into the Town Guards. The only real crime these people had committed? Catching Annalax cheating at something. Why, yes, Annalax is not nice. Not nice at all.

Annalax has also learned of an extremely wealthy and extremely feared local nobleman, one Lord Kamon. He has another scheme up his sleeve there too…

Back to the Annalax Index: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/the-adventures-of-annalax-a-compendium/

Inspired Quill D&D Campaign

As you may have noticed, this past year or so I have been taking part in an on-going Dungeons & Dragons campaign, playing Annalax, a particularly ruthless Drow businessman.

It’s a pastime that is proving quite popular at the moment. My publisher and some of their other authors have actually been running an online game these past few weeks, and I can report that their sessions are now viewable on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIfj486ZDnw&list=PLitoycMfudEqxjvSZ37ZdSsYYXTQ33FBX

Yay for geeky authors. 🙂

Spinning Destruction: The Official Information Act vs The National Library

New Zealand’s Official Information Act (1982) is a glorious thing. It allows members of the public (within limits) to access governmental information, including the advice provided by public servants to Ministers.

Now, early last year, there was a furore over plans by the National Library to cull its Overseas Collection:

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/party-like-its-a-d-455-the-destruction-of-the-new-zealand-national-library-overseas-published-collection/

The matter has not gone away, with a group of concerned people setting up Book Guardians Aotearoa to hold National Library governance to account. It turns out that BGA have used the Official Information Act to get their hands on communications between the Senior Communications Advisor of the Department of Internal Affairs, and a public relations company called Double Denim. The communications are about how best to spin the culling of the Overseas Collection:

https://bookguardiansaotearoa.com/2021/06/29/lies-damned-lies-and-public-relations/

An email from the Senior Communications Advisor from 27th November, 2019, sets out the need for a media campaign:

The National Library of New Zealand are looking to find new homes for a portion of their overseas published books – this collection no longer meets our Collections Policy which was updated with extensive consultation in 2015. We are now focusing on growing our New Zealand and Pacific collections – collecting our stories and memories because no one else in the world is going to do that for us. We would like to make every effort to rehome a portion of this collection and give these books away rather than pulped. We’re wanting to reach New Zealander’s [sic] who love to read – we know from research despite the falling literacy rates New Zealanders are still passionate about reading. This campaign would need to be clever and tap into our kiwi [sic] sensibilities and pride. We’re open to the idea of taking donations to raise money for literacy or simply giving these books away for free.

Ugh. The National Library already has a statutory duty to collect locally-published items. One does not grow a local collection by purging everything that isn’t local, and trying to invoke nationalism in this context is just sickening.

It also turns out that they were willing to spend $20,000 of taxpayer money on telling the New Zealand public that they shouldn’t worry that their National Library is axing 600,000 (potentially irreplaceable) books. These aren’t all manuals on Windows 95, and everyone knows that the vast majority will be getting destroyed, rather than re-homed.

By 4th December, 2019, the officials were deciding not to push the “books are electronic now” angle, instead pushing matters of storage. As the linked article also notes, there was a communicated warning against spreading misinformation, specifically about the National Library filling gaps for other libraries… only for the Director of Content Services to give a television interview in March 2020, where this very misinformation was repeated.

Anyway, quite apart from the bureaucratic notion that destroying culture is somehow preserving it, the article raises an important point – there simply aren’t anywhere like the numbers of local books being published to warrant this “cull for space” (anticipating 90,000 New Zealand items a year versus fewer than 3,000 actually being produced). Oh, and that the public relations campaign – which the public are paying for, of course – is also making a conscious effort to cloak itself in appeals to Maori and Pacific culture, as though Maori and Pacific researchers don’t have the same need of those purged 600,000 books as anyone else. It really is a depressing situation.

New Zealand and Pacific Culture does not exist in a vacuum, cut off from the rest of the world. Anyone who thinks otherwise should not be running a bloody National Library.

Addendum: A depressing article on the disposal: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/flogging-the-family-silver-for-2

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now: The 1980s New Zealand Left Split

For those with a morbid interest in New Zealand political history, Chris Trotter has an interesting article on the merits of the 1989 Labour/New Labour split:

https://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2021/07/should-left-have-left-labour-party.html

What the hell are ordinary members supposed to do when your party’s Government goes crazy? Trotter argues that if the left-wing activists hadn’t left the party to form their own, they’d have been purged.

As a New Zealand Leftist myself, I’ve occasionally pondered this very question – the merits of staying and fighting, or of jumping ship. Bearing in mind, I was a mere six years old at the time of the split, so the matter is more theoretical for me. On the other hand, I grew up in a left-wing household, so such matters remained dinner-table discussion throughout my childhood. I still remember my Labour-voting parents cheering the defeat of Richard Prebble on election night 1993.

I feel Trotter errs on three points:

(1) He misapplies the example of Blairism.

(2) The voter-base didn’t follow the activists.

(3) He understates the damage of a disunited New Zealand Left during the 1990s.

On the first point, the mythology of New Zealand Labour is very different to Britain’s. New Zealand’s mythology is that the Labour Party went crazy right-wing in the 1980s, and has been running away from it ever since. Britain’s mythology is that the Labour Party went crazy left-wing in the 1980s and has been running away from it ever since. The Left of the UK Labour Party gets clobbered with the ghosts of 1983 (as though the SDP and the Falklands played no part in that result), with Blairism explicitly feeding off desperation over “electability”.

The New Zealand Left avoided Blairism because the local Labour Party has no narrative equivalent to British Labour’s 1983 or the US Democrats’ 1972. There is no election where the conventional wisdom holds that New Zealand Labour lost because it was too left-wing (at least on economics). Given that 1990 was an all-mighty rejection of the Fourth Labour Government, the scope for a Blairite/Rogernome to purge the Left on electoral grounds feels narrow indeed.

On the second point, I’d actually suggest that while the Alliance took a large chunk of the left-wing activists out of Labour, it did not necessarily take a large chunk of left-wing voters. The Alliance vote-share in the 1990s included old Social Credit voters and Greens, rather than simply being a measure of “Lefties angry at Labour.” Moreover, it is worth remembering that in 1990 it was Labour – not National – that managed second place in Jim Anderton’s own electorate of Sydenham. In short, the core of Labour’s voter-base stayed loyal, even in the face of gross Governmental betrayal.

My own parents are actually examples of this. Both of them voted Labour in 1990, while having no time for the economic reforms – albeit, this was First Past the Post, so their votes didn’t matter anyway. I myself have retrospectively agreed with them, on the basis that Labour in 1990 had absolutely no chance of winning, and it was more important to strengthen the Opposition against the incoming National Government (which, indeed, proved far worse for the Left than even Labour had been). If there had been the danger of Labour winning 1990, or if I’d been living in an electorate with a Rogernome MP, I’d have done differently, of course.

That flows through to the third point. The New Zealand Left spent the 1990s mired in two different and simultaneous civil wars – the wider Labour vs Alliance one, and the factional Helen Clark vs Mike Moore one. Both of which hamstrung the Left’s ability to actually fight the National Government. Recall also that the 1993 election vote-shares were National 35%, Labour 34%, Alliance 18%. Sure, as I have noted, that 18% were not necessarily New Labour-style left-wingers, but the fact still remains: the left-wing split got the Government of Ruth Richardson, Crown Health Enterprises, and the Employment Contracts Act re-elected. On a third of the vote. Ugh.

(Yes, the Alliance took out Richard Prebble. And, yes, that was glorious, even if it rather confused ten year-old me. But the same result might have been achieved by putting the effort into unseating him via an Independent, rather than splitting the vote up and down the country. Prebble’s scalp doesn’t make up for saving Richardson).

So yeah. While I harbour no ill-will to the old Alliance-types, it is not a road I personally would have gone down. Looking at the actual results, it’s also not the road that most of the New Zealand working class actually took, however upset they may have been at the horrors of the 1980s. That sort of disconnect between activists and voters can only ever end badly. Moreover, contrary to Trotter’s insinuations, remaining with a hijacked party does not imply passive acceptance of the hijackers. There is a case that it requires more courage to stay and fight than to run away to the safety blanket of impotent ideological purity.

2021 Reading Log: June (+ Writing Update)

Completed reads for June:

  • The Homeric Hymns
  • The Shield of Heracles, by Hesiod
  • Catalogue of Women (fragments), by Hesiod
  • The Astronomy (fragments), by Hesiod
  • The Precepts of Chiron (fragments), by Hesiod
  • The Great Works (fragments), by Hesiod
  • The Idaean Dactyls (fragments), by Hesiod
  • The Marriage of Ceyx (fragments), by Hesiod
  • The Great Eoiae (fragments), by Hesiod
  • The Melampodia (fragments), Hesiod
  • The Aegimus (fragments), by Hesiod
  • Fragments of Unknown Position, by Hesiod
  • Doubtful Fragments, by Hesiod
  • The Epigrams of Homer
  • The War of the Titans (fragments)
  • The Story of Oedipus (fragments)
  • The Thebais (fragments)
  • The Epigoni (fragments)
  • The Cypria (fragments)
  • The Aethiopis (fragments)
  • The Little Iliad (fragments)
  • The Sack of Ilium (fragments)
  • The Returns (fragments)
  • The Telegony (fragments)
  • The Taking of Oechalia (fragments), by Homer
  • The Margites (fragments), by Homer
  • The Cercopes (fragments), by Homer
  • The Battle of the Frogs and Mice, by Homer
  • The Contest of Homer and Hesiod
  • Inanna’s Descent to the Netherworld (2 versions)
  • Dumuzid’s Dream
  • Dumuzid and Gestin-ana
  • Inanna and Bilulu (fragments)
  • Dumuzid and His Sisters (fragments)
  • Nergal and Ereshkigal
  • Enki and Ninmah
  • Dracula’s Guest, by Bram Stoker
  • Enuma Elish
  • Marduk’s Ordeal (fragments)
  • The Myth of Etana
  • Erra and Ishum
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • The Death of Gilgamesh
  • Enmerkar and En-suhgir-ana
  • Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta
  • Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave
  • Lugalbanda and the Anzu Bird
  • The Marriage of Martu
  • The Dialogue of Pessimism
  • Enki Builds the E-engurra
  • Enki and the World Order
  • The Eridu Genesis
  • The Journey of Nanna to Nippur
  • The Herds of Nanna
  • A Song of Praise to Nanna
  • Inanna and Ebih
  • Inanna and Shu-kale-tuda
  • Inanna Seizes the E-ana
  • Inanna and Enki
  • Inanna and Gudam (fragments)
  • Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld
  • The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzid
  • Enlil and Ninlil
  • The Creation of the Pickaxe
  • The Worm and the Toothache
  • How Grain Came to Sumer
  • Enlil and Nam-zid-tara
  • Ninurta and the Turtle
  • The Exploits of Ninurta
  • The Return of Ninurta to Nippur
  • Enki and Ninhursaga
  • Enlil and the Sud (fragments)
  • Ningiszida’s Journey to the Netherworld
  • The Flood Story
  • The Sumunda Grass
  • Pabilsag’s Journey to Nibru (fragments)
  • Gilgamesh and Aga
  • A Dog for Nintinuga
  • An Axe for Nergal
  • The Debate Between Hoe and Plough
  • The Debate Between Grain and Sheep
  • The Debate Between Winter and Summer
  • The Debate Between Bird and Fish
  • The Debate Between Copper and Silver (fragments)
  • The Debate Between Date Palm and Tamarisk (fragments)
  • A Drinking Song
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie
  • The Discourses of Epictetus, by Epictetus
  • The Enchiridion, by Epictetus
  • Fragments, by Epictetus
  • Essay on the Generative Principle of Political Constitutions, by Joseph de Maistre

Hesiod, Homer, and fragments are the Evelyn-White translations. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the verse translation, by Temple. The Discourses of Epictetus is the first volume of Matheson’s translation, with the final two books being read online (Higginson). The Enchiridion is the online Higginson.

As you can see, a fair number of ancient and fairly obscure mythological texts this month, especially from Classical Era Greece, and (even older) Mesopotamia. Each was read individually, forcing me to list them individually.

In the writing department, I had a quiet but not unproductive month (real life got in the way a bit). I churned out a 3,900-word science-fantasy piece, The Night of Parmenides, which is my first story explicitly set in my home city of Dunedin. I also did a bit of work on Old Phuul, adding a net 2,000 or so words, after edits. The Old Phuul manuscript now sits at 38,000 words.

The Adventures of Annalax: Volume XXIV

Session Fifty-Two.

Good to have my character back.

To cut a long story short, everyone save Annalax and Elknel started in prison, chained up by the Hags. The helpful Nightmare (the one who did a deal with Zhan) turned up, tricked a guard, and obtained the prison key. In return, Zhan allowed the Nightmare to hide in his Dreamscape, a pocket dimension. So the party was free… except for Manya, who had been put elsewhere.

Annalax and Elknel were told (via a psychological message from the Emissaries of the Shadow Cat) to use their Silver Keys. They did so, only to find themselves reunited with their companions.

Annalax’s immediate thought was to seek confirmation that these were indeed his companions, and not Nightmares in their form. Einarr responded by demanding strong drink… which was good enough, I suppose.

Then it was off to hunt down the Hags. Whom we found easily enough, because the Level 11 characters were distracting their servants. There were three of them – two Dusk Hags and one Night Hag – and they were busy doing unspeakable things to Manya. And by unspeakable things, I mean she was bound to a wooden cross-beam X thing, like Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Annalax’s response? The time-honoured Fog Cloud and Hide. He actually wasn’t interested in attacking the Hags directly… that was for his doofus companions. No, Annalax was using Mage Hand to actually get Manya out of there.

Except that he kept rolling terribly. Luckily Manya was able to break herself free, while the Hags were dealt with in short order.

There was a parting shot though. The three party members responsible for directly killing the Hags found themselves on the wrong end of a Deadly Curse. Einarr found himself twisted even further into Devil form. Elknel got cursed with Lycanthropy, and Manya founded herself pregnant with a Nightmare Baby.

Oh dear.

Complicating matters… the party stumbled across a Magic Mirror, which pulled everyone who looked into it into a mirror dimension, where they met their mirror-doubles. Ember, Elknel, and Zhan were pulled in. Annalax, Einarr, Thendwyn, and Manya were sensible enough to stay away. In fact, Annalax got a couple of the Emissaries to pop through and take a look, while carefully removing the Mirror from the wall, and bundling it into his cloak. He had ideas for that Mirror.

Alas, the fools were finally able to escape, and the Mirror was broken for Magical Reasons. Oh well. Annalax can console himself that he got his hands on a Straight Razor that only cuts in the dark. Which is just asking for a new business venture.

Session Fifty-Three

A level-up, the first in a long time. Annalax grabbed the Drow High Magic feat. Not necessarily the strongest feat out there, but one that should prove fun. He also grabbed the Web spell (thematic), and swapped out the useless Parley cantrip for Mind Sliver.

So Annalax’s current stats:

Class: Rogue (Arcane Trickster)/Level Eight

  • STR: 9
  • DEX: 20
  • CON: 11
  • INT: 15
  • WIS: 10
  • CHA: 12
  • Will Power: 10
  • Cantrips: Mage Hand, Minor Illusion, Mind Sliver, Dancing Lights, Prestidigitation, Shape Water
  • Level 1: Dusk Warp, Disguise Self, Silent Image, Sleep, Detect Magic (At Will), Darkness (once a day), Faerie Fire (once a day), Fog Cloud (once a day), Levitation (once a day), Dispel Magic (once a day)
  • Level 2: Invisibility, Web

In-game, it was back to the town, where the townspeople had been returned after their stint in the Dreamland.

Einarr’s reward for levelling up was a dream-trip to Hell, where he met the Hell-versions of dead companions, Kirius and Magni. Both of whom are quite keen on destroying the Eternal Flame.

Elknel has romantically fallen for Yvette, the village girl whom the town was previously intending to sacrifice to the Nightmares. Fade to Black, and all that.

Manya’s Nightmare Pregnancy (think Rosemary’s Baby, I suppose) is an on-going issue. Annalax’s suggestion of forced abortion didn’t fly because this is Magical. My own head-canon, incidentally, is that Drow are just fine with abortions.

The big-ticket item of the session was the Emissaries of the Shadow Cat putting Zhan on trial for collaborating with the Nightmares. Or at least doing a deal with one of them.

Annalax didn’t like this. As far as he’s concerned, our party mission was dealing with the Hags. If the Shadow Cat has issues with Nightmares… that’s its affair, not ours. Neither Annalax nor Zhan follow the Shadow Cat, and claiming that they owe any duty to it feels wrong. Besides, Annalax is (at heart) a businessman. He understands the importance of risk-taking and gambles, and the deal with this Nightmare ultimately paid off. So Annalax spoke up in Zhan’s defence.

But the end result was that Zhan received some lectures on the importance of party co-operation. Zhan has also repaid the loan from Annalax in gratitude.

The session ended with a look at Zhan’s weird Dreamscape, with its extensive library and tower.

Back to the Annalax Index: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/the-adventures-of-annalax-a-compendium/

Perilous Treasures: Published

It’s the Winter Solstice here, which means (Northern Hemisphere) e-zine Eternal Haunted Summer has released its Summer Solstice edition for 2021:

https://eternalhauntedsummer.com/issues/summer-solstice-2021/

My story, Perilous Treasures, is out, as part of it:

https://eternalhauntedsummer.com/issues/summer-solstice-2021/perilous-treasures/

As previously mentioned, this was a fictional attempt to portray the very vexed medieval issue of writing down pagan material.