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28 Feb 20:09


[They do not move.]
28 Feb 04:26

The Creative Life 101: Never Late than Better

by John Kovalic

We had some flooding in South central Wisconsin, last week, and Casa Muskrat was hit.

We’re safe, we didn’t lose much of anything, and all is dry now. Still, lugging the contents of an entire basement to another floor is Nature’s way of telling you, “you’ve got too much shit.”

(Also “hey – I bet you didn’t know you had muscles that could hurt, here!“)

One thing that did get hit, though, was the deadline for the latest Munchkin project.

As it stands, the project will wrap up two days late – not bad, given a week of human pack-muling boxes that were far heavier than they had any right to be.

Still, coming in late with a project is Not Good.

Let’s not mince words: I hate blowing deadlines. I hate it like poison.

I tend not to use the word “hate” much, but something else that makes me gnash my teeth is when younger artists casually throw around that Douglas Adams line, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Mainly because none of us are Douglas Adams.

If you’re trying to break in as a writer, or an artist, here’s the thing: deadlines matter. A lot.

Pros know this. Newbies learn, with luck.

But sometimes, life gets in the way. Waters rise, basements flood. Possibly you simply misjudged how quickly you could pump work out.

And that deadline is staring you straight in the face. Snarling.

What to do?

Hide? No.

Hide REALLY well? No, no, no no, no, no, HELLS, no!

Prevaricate? No.

Communicate? Yes!

The moment you suspect you won’t make deadline, get in touch with your editor/art-director/publisher/assorted-team-member immediately. No really. The moment!

Even if you’re a week away, let them know the second you suspect things Aren’t Going Quite Right.

It never feels great, but you know what’s worse? Leaving your team in the dark. Having them believing all’s fine and dandy dandy – and then springing the news on them the day of the deadline. Or worse, two, three or four days later, when someone calls to ask “what up, dog?”

In fact, even if thing are going dandy, let your editor/art-director/publisher/assorted-team-member know that, too. I like updating folks on a weekly basis, at the very least. Even if the news is “no news this week.”

And even if things are going great – YAY! Good for you! – but you’re not talking with your editor, she’s probably thinking something’s wrong. Very, very wrong.

DO NOT GIVE ART DIRECTORS ULCERS! They are on your side!

Pick up the phone. Talk with the editor you’re working with. Let her know what’s up.

Talk, call, e-mail, chat, text, Skype. Anything.

Don’t let your team down: let them know.

Make explanations, not excuses. Most editors and art directors have been there. Ain’t nobody who’s ever picked up a pen or a stylus  that’s never blown a deadline, whether or not it’s through no fault of their own.

Even if you haven’t done so yet (and I find that hard to believe about anyone, TBH), you’ll blow deadlines.

Don’t get me wrong: I love deadlines. I like the squishing sound they make, as you tramp them down, triumphantly.

But on those rare occasions when that might not happen?

First thing I do, I pick up the phone.


PS: We’re back to posting TWO new Dork Tower comic strips a week, thanks to our wonderful Patreon patrons! Join the fun and see the comics early, plus a lot, lot more, for as little as $1 a month ($.12 a comic!)

PPS. HEY! Thanks for sitting through that. As a reward, here’s a photo of Douglas Adams from 1980, at London’s Forbidden Planet, and the copy of the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy he signed for me, then.


23 Feb 14:52

The Simpsons

In-universe, Bart Simpson and Harry Potter were the same age in 1990. Bart is perpetually 10 years old because of a spell put on his town by someone trying to keep him from getting his Hogwarts letter.
18 Feb 14:05

The Oxford comma. The Oxford comma is the comma after the...

The Oxford comma. 

The Oxford comma is the comma after the penultimate item in a list. It’s normally a matter of style — you can happily choose to leave it out — though in some cases it can clarify what would otherwise be an ambiguous meaning, as in this well-cited book dedication “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” Or, more pertinently, in a recent legal case where ambiguity hinging on the lack of an Oxford comma is costing a dairy firm a $5m overtime payment to its drivers.

HT: Jon Hoare

16 Feb 15:39

Again and Again – DORK TOWER 16.02.18

by John Kovalic

13 Feb 14:52

The Dream-Space of Abstract Threat

by Zak Sabbath
"Something real and tangible, yet fraught with infinite suggestions of nighted mystery, now confronted me."

Reading Lovecraft's Shadow Out Of Time again--it's great.

The usual sort of nervous academic narrates a story of experiencing a strange split consciousness, being not wholly himself, strange visions and dreams of massive landscapes, compulsions to consult obscure texts. All this is wonderfully done--better than usual, I'd say, Lovecraft in top form: shadowy but crisp, obscured but never vague, never embedded more in the mundane than necessary to feel grounded.

The narrator does eventually get around to describing why all this is happening to him. Spoilers:

Specifically goofy-shaped psychic aliens that take over peoples' brains and zoom around in space ships, rovers and boats and zap each other with "cameralike" weapons.

These guys:
Fun, definitely, but ironically lacking all the emotional and aesthetic qualities that seemed to horror enthusiasts to be distinctive enough that someone decided to coin the adjective "Lovecraftian".

This is one of the paradoxes of Lovecraft: his actual inventions were, if not banal, at least, technically, almost wholly typical of the kinds of pulpy sci-fi of the era. It was how he described them and--moreover--their effect on people, that was magically creepy.

The quality of any given Lovecraft story tends to depend a lot on how he manages the transition from the dream-space of abstract threat (his forte) to actually telling us what the monster is (a big roll of the dice).

My restrictions as a prisoner gradually disappeared, so that some of the visions included vivid travels over the mighty jungle roads, sojourns in strange cities, and explorations of some of the vast dark windowless ruins from which the Great Race shrank in curious fear (Beautiful, awesome) There were also long sea-voyages in enormous, many-decked boats of incredible swiftness, and trips over wild regions in closed, projectile-like airships lifted and moved by electrical repulsion (Wait, you were in a blimp?)

It's not exactly the old cliche that "what you imagine is scarier than anything you could see" I think it's more that the dreamstate of only half-imagining is a more powerful evocative state than the fully described thing. That juxtaposition of that half of it that is nailed down with a few specificities with that other half that could still be anything and you haven't thought too hard about it is essential.

This is one reason why the actual Call of Cthulhu book and its laying out of the "mythos creatures" always seems a little disappointing--although these squidbeasts and tentacled pyramidheads are the lynchpin, justification and most identifiable characteristic of the Lovecraft stories, they aren't the actual heart of the magic.

The magic (as in most horror) is in the delirious prose evocation of the emotion of guessing at and anticipating them. The simple word "Azathoth" contains much more of it than the image or stats in the book. (Lovecraft's first mention of it was in a note to himself that just read "Azathoth--hideous name".)

I think a lot of weird fiction after Lovecraft (and influenced by him) recognized this--and tried to find ways to suspend that moment of not-knowing-what-the-fuck as long as possible. When Ligotti describes language and life itself as the horror he's trying to do this, when Grant Morrison describes a demon as made of the collective despair over like Hiroshima he's trying to do this: the story can't be let down by the final boss' banality because the final boss still has a gap of effective indescribability.

Lovecraft knew the trick, even if he didn't ultimately rely on it: the "non-euclidean angles" and the "concepts beyond our understanding"--these were word-constructs, not descriptions of mere things you could picture and get bored of.

To describe the indescribable space of dream, (by which I mean the consciousness characteristic of real dreams which films and books and games can sometime approximate) I'd say:

There is an unquestioned assumption that something is there and real, without the sobriety, distance and clarity that the mind constantly unconsciously uses to understand the thing's full shape and limits. The important questions that would establish how a thing is in the world are not answered but also never asked.

Games have one disadvantage in getting you into the dreamspace of abstract threat in that in even the spookiest situation you generally know the thing does have stats and is embedded in a world where foes are basically challenges that can be addressed. The possibility of uncontested annihilation is off the table. It always boils down to a bag of procedures or numbers.

On the other hand, games have one tremendous advantage: unlike a short story or film, the game does contain something that is there and is authentically of unknown and unknowable shape--the future of the campaign.

It is undeniable that the campaign will keep going and it is undeniable that no-one can describe in full detail where it will go. The campaign need not simulate the ecstasy of potential dangers and evolutions, metastasizing meanings, it is that. You are in the midst of a genuinely half-shaped and half-shapeless thing. With a book, you could skip to the end and the unknown turns into a package, a product, a mere evocation of infinity, not the actually infinite. In game, as long as the campaign is still on, you are still watching form solidify from a shadow that is not yet used up: continuously and in real-time.

The demon of RPGs means Tiamat is far more statted, described and knowable than she is in any story where she might appear, but it also means what will happen when I meet her is far less knowable. When I pick up the ring it might mean something and it might not.

And that--feeling being in the middle of that--is kind of great.

12 Feb 22:16

#781 Pill Bug

by Steve DeGroof
10 Feb 20:01

How to grow your own fresh air. In his 4 min TED talk, Kamal...

How to grow your own fresh air. 

In his 4 min TED talk, Kamal Meattle explains how to grow your own fresh air inside with just 3 common house plants. The areca palm works hard in the day, mother-in-law’s tongue during the night, and the money plant cleans out volatile chemicals. He transformed the air inside a New Delhi office park by filling it with these 3 plants to some wonderful health and productivity benefits. You could do much worse than add a few of these to your office.

09 Feb 19:22

The History of Unicode

2048: "Great news for Maine—we're once again an independent state!!! Thanks, @unicode, for ruling in our favor and sending troops to end New Hampshire's annexation. 🙏🚁🎖️"
09 Feb 14:07

How to Survive Cold Season, 1761

by Elizabeth Archibald

Giovanni Battista Ferrari, Hesperides (1646)
Fever: To prevent catching any infectious fever, do not breathe near the face of the sick person, neither swallow your spittle while in the room. 
Cold in the Head: Pare very thin the yellow rind of an orange. Roll it up inside out and thrust a roll up each nostril.  
Cough: Drink a pint and a half of cold water lying down in bed... Or, make a hole thro' a lemon, and fill it with honey. Roast it, and catch the juice. Take a tea-spoonful of this frequently.  
The Country Gentleman, Farmer, and Housewife's Compendious Instructor 
What, you don't want to spend the winter with a cocktail garnish up your nose? Maybe you shouldn't have swallowed your spittle, my friend.
07 Feb 15:24

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Burial Ground


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Some of them are trapped in a ghostly cycle, forever arguing on twitter.

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Just 1.5 weeks until BAHFest Houston and tickets are selling fast!

06 Feb 15:21

#780 Late Knight Tweet

by Steve DeGroof
03 Feb 18:43

Crumbling foundations.

by Jessica Hagy

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The post Crumbling foundations. appeared first on Indexed.

28 Jan 22:32

The Streisand effect. A term coined by Mike Masnick, for what...

The Streisand effect. 

A term coined by Mike Masnick, for what happens when you try and censor or suppress information: it draws attention to it.

It’s named Streisand after Barbara Streisand tried to have an aerial photo of her house removed from a set of California coastline photos intended to document coastal erosion. Views of the photo apparently went from 6 to 420,000.

More about the Streisand effect.

28 Jan 22:31

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Will He


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I have a stomach virus today and am using my free will to decide not to be clever here.

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23 Jan 01:12

Scientific Paper Graph Quality

The worst are graphs with qualitative, vaguely-labeled axes and very little actual data.
17 Jan 18:27

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Come Together


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Saying we need to bring together art and science is like telling a longterm couple they need to get married.

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14 Jan 05:03

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Elephant in the Room


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The elephant's perception of itself was also warped by the limits of self-knowledge.

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Just two weeks to submit your proposals for BAHFest MIT and BAHFest London!

13 Jan 13:13

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Make Love


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I wonder if transitions like this always have a Most Awkward Year of usage.

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Thanks to my Patreon typo squad for catching FOUR typoes in the original draft of this comic.

11 Jan 22:37


by aaron
11 Jan 16:11

Succubi Image of the Week 521

by TeraS

I adore cuteness, I’ve said that many times on the Tale. There’s something about succubi being cute, perhaps a bit shy, that just makes me smile. A pair of succubi for this week’s image who have, I think, adorable expressions… and their chibis are too cute by far…

The Grass Is Always Greener For The Succubi by Paprikakun

The Grass Is Always Greener For The Succubi by Paprikakun

This art is titled The Grass Is Always Greener For The Succubi and is by an artist on DeviantArt called Paprikakun. You can find the original page with this art here and this artist’s page can be found here as well.

There’s a story behind this art, just in their expressions, the little bits of cute like the bow on one of their tails, the blush. There’s a neat little tease in how they are looking at one another, but at the same time there’s a sort of ‘oh you didn’t’ vibe that makes me smile.

Amazing succubi characters, they just look right together. Lovely details, their hair, eyes, their outfits, the shaping of their tails. How Miss blue-hair’s having her bangs toyed with is just deliciously fun too.

A favourite of mine, and I’m sure will be the source of a story sometime too…



05 Jan 15:09

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Rapunzel


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Thinking about the frequency of showering and availability of basic cosmetics should ruin pretty much any fantasy you have that's set before about 1930.

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29 Dec 14:11

Awww, so acute.

by Jessica Hagy

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The post Awww, so acute. appeared first on Indexed.

23 Dec 02:23

The True Meaning of Christmas

They all made fun of Autometalogolex, but someday there will be a problem with Christmas that can only be solved if Santa somehow gets a serious headache, and then they'll see.
21 Dec 21:30

Succubi Image of the Week 518

by TeraS

It’s a few days before Christmas and for this week’s image I felt like I wanted something reflective, thoughtful, perhaps inspiring in a way. There’s some succubi art that I discover which is more than just what the succubus herself looks like. It is an expression of something more and this time of year, perhaps, it is a reminder as well…

Lilith's Redemption by Fireskin

Lilith’s Redemption by Fireskin

This art is called Lilith’s Redemption and is by an artist on DeviantArt called Fireskin. You can find the original page on DeviantArt with this work here and this artist’s page can be found here as well.

I find it a bit difficult to put into words the impact of this art, at least to me. I have my own beliefs and thoughts about Succubi and this art, in a way, speaks to me of something I’ve always pondered, both in my writing and other creative things I have done. That theological discussion isn’t the point of today’s post on the Tale of course, but I did want to express that, for me, the expression Lilith has here is a mixture of emotions that are quite telling.

This is a work of art that sets a mood and does so extremely well in the shadowing, the light, the form that Lilith is. She is the focus here, in the midst of all that surrounds her, but does not hold her. She is her own, by her choice, and with that comes the power she is.

Something to think about when looking at this art perhaps…

Please do visit this artist’s site!



21 Dec 00:03

Virtual Assistant

If you ask it to please turn off that feature, it apologizes a whole bunch and promises to try to be quieter, then switches to a slightly lower-volume version of the clip with "sorry!" after the louder sounds.
18 Dec 14:08

Rubberducking. Did you you know, a rubber duck can help you...


Did you you know, a rubber duck can help you solve your problem? Or, a teddy bear, or, heck, a table, whatever. Have you ever been called over to someone’s desk to help them solve a problem, and as they explain what they were doing to you they figure out the answer themselves?

Rubberducking is the simple technique of explaining your code, or whatever you’re working on, to a rubber duck, and, in the process of explaining it, finding the answer yourself. Surprisingly effective, and way cheaper than hiring a contractor for the day.

18 Dec 14:07

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Melville


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Anyone emailing me to mention that Moby-Dick is actually a good book will be forced to sit in town square on a short stool, wearing a hat that reads 'stater of the obvious.'

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15 Dec 01:47

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Pie


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I don't believe in the concept of personal property that isn't mine.

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14 Dec 16:03

Seven Years