In the Alters’ World (and the series of books found here), creatures of legend reveal themselves to the world. Born through genetic abnormalities, defects and mutations, the Alters have lived for centuries as outcasts of human society, hiding their true nature from the world while colorful stories have been written by many to describe what they’ve seen. How are these creatures different from what was described in the stories? What relationship do they have with humanity? Every entry of the Alterpedia will delve into a new creature from around the world. This week we cover:
The hopping vampire of Chinese Mythology, often seen by westerners only in poorly dubbed films from the far east or in video games where they do not recognize it as anything more than an old Chinese stereotype. But, having its roots in the Qing Dynasty for almost 400 years, the stories of Jiangshi have a great cultural impact to those in China.
But what are they? How do we differentiate them from “normal” Vampires and Zombies? What exactly do we know about their behavior, their appearance and the abilities they have that their western cousins may not? Certainly, they seem to be similar and yet distinct, but how distinct?
Haha, the news media is talking about there being a new novel from the “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” brood. Stupid media, they did that years ago, polishing up their lives with “interesting” bits and releasing it as a novel called Dollhouse. Yet you guys are acting like it just happened. We all know the Kardashians haven’t gone back to reading and writing since disagreeing with the dietary advice they got from “Green Eggs And Ham“. Man you guys are slo-
Oh crap, there’s more of them?
Who the hell is that? Jenner? What the hell is a Jenner?! And what do you mean they have a publishing deal for a book that won’t even release until next year? They look like they’re still in high-school!
Apparently, if you’re in that bloodline it doesn’t matter if your manuscript is written in crayon. Though it wouldn’t be the first time a member of the K Clan managed to make a lot of money with only a 9thgrade reading level.
One of the things that sometimes makes the fantasy genre a bit stagnant is the lack of new source material. There’s a lot of work required to just write a novel, movie or television series, let alone build your own mythology from scratch. So when you look at anything within the genre you’ll typically find they have all of the same earmarks and it can seem impossible to come out with something different.
The problem with that thinking is that we definitely haven’t tapped into all of the world’s mythologies. There’s still a lot of room for the genre to grow. In an effort to broaden your horizons, I’m going to spend the next few weeks (possibly months) trying to show you a small glimpse of the other interesting folklore in the world. But first, let’s take a look at the problem…
The Earth is a crowded place now, we’ve filled it to every corner and have found ways into even the most inhospitable of places. From hot, arid deserts to frozen wastelands, if there’s an opportunity to be had, you’ll find a human being around there somewhere. We are the most adaptable creatures to have ever walked the Earth and we have spread so far that you cannot find any place not in some way claimed by us without going to the very depths of the oceans.
So it makes sense that in today’s age a lot of people wonder about the effects there are on us as a people when we have no where left to go. There are no new countries to be founded, no new lands to explore. We must accept where we are and that means dealing with neighbors that we cannot change. Human expansion has gone from a physical act to a purely academic one and that can be frightening. Do we find middle ground with those neighbors or do we cut ties to them?
Valentine’s Day is coming, the day of love, romance and feeling like someone would care if you were struck down by a freak accident. Someone will come to your funeral, you’re technically not dying alone. Or, hey, maybe you’re just out to get laid. That’s cool too.
But you’re not doing any of those things, are you? You’re reading this blog instead. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that as a part of my audience you’re a Sasquatch.
There’s nothing wrong with being a Sasquatch. But let’s be perfectly honest, it’s hard getting a date when you’re wandering the woods in your birthday suit. The only person respected for disappearing in the woods for weeks at a time with nothing to their name is Les Stroud.
So let’s see if we can figure out how to fix you up so you can have a date next Valentine’s.
The future of humanity is going to see a lot of changes as to what it means to be human. We’re going to create new versions of ourselves that we didn’t previously believe to be possible. But more than that, we’re going to create new things that look like us which may eventually even begin to think like us.
And we know this, we can’t escape it. Every time we successfully produce a robot that can walk on two legs or even fake an awkward smile, we’re stepping closer to that day when we may have to redefine humanity. And so, it makes sense that we have a lot of stories in science fiction that explore these things. We need to write them to explore the possibilities and address the issues we have with the ideas of a new, unfamiliar world that may be come.
One of the best examples of these sorts of stories is the film Robocop. Alex Murphy, killed in the line of duty, is brought back from the dead in a Cyborg shell, stripped of his memories and his sense of identity. The people who created his new body, OCP, don’t want him to have that humanity intact because it would get in the way of making him a cold, calculated law enforcement machine. But in the end, isn’t that free will and sense of compassion part of what makes a good police officer? It’s a fascinating question to explore and seeing Robocop’s new life unfold is both inspiring at points and incredibly tragic at others.
But when looking at the remake, it becomes clear that the new take on Alex Murphy’s life is going to go in a very different direction. The new Alex is aware of who he is and how he has been changed. The new Alex remembers his family and he remembers what they mean to him. There are decisions clearly made in the production of this new film to try to make Robocop more human than he was before. But does it really help make him more human? Wasn’t the tragedy of the original Alex Murphy already human enough?
The future is uncertain, and everyone’s opinion of it is different. But so are the things people envision when they think of the future. Why do people feel so passionately for or against something as simple as tomorrow?
Sometimes it’s because the things they see when they think of that “tomorrow” are things they don’t quite agree with. Progress means change and sometimes change can be uncomfortable, even bad. But rarely do we know that something is a bad thing until it has already happened. We like to think that we’re fairly good at predicting the future. But really we’re not and that has a negative effect on our world view. Studies have shown people with more conservative tendencies have a larger fear center in their brain, meaning there’s a chance that our desire to avoid change is less about rational thought and more about fear of losing what we already have.
Of course, when you talk about fearing the future and fearing what could be lost, there is no more fundamental fear than losing ourselves. One of the most hotly debated issues when it comes up relates to the future of us and our relationship with scientific advancements. What will we be like “tomorrow”? Will we still be compassionate? Will we be caring? Will we still even be human?
As is now my tradition for Mondays, I try to draw some line in the sand where people can see where I stand on things important to me. Honestly, even as an opinionated guy, I’m not always sure what requires a line or not and sometimes the things that come to mind are a bit too esoteric or abstract.
But in today’s world, the abstract is more important than it ever was. Once upon a time, when we didn’t understand something that was happening, we had to put a face on it. When we couldn’t figure out lightning or thunder, we called it Zeus or Thor. When we couldn’t understand the changing of the seasons, we trapped a woman named Persephone in the underworld. When we couldn’t understand the stars, we said they were lanterns hung in the heavens by a powerful deity.
Today, we don’t have that luxury, we have to be able to come to terms with the abstract because we can’t afford ourselves to refer to it by a new god. Those who don’t believe in a god won’t be prone to doing so and everyone else already has their god of choice. When we look into the night sky and we see something that we don’t understand, it’s intellectually dishonest of us now to try to fill in the blanks with stories of pure fantasy. So, for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years, back to before a lone ape-like man stared into the sky and felt the need to explain it grip at his core, when we look into the sky we are truly alone with those abstracts.
Some would, could, and have argued that this takes away some of the magic of what is happening around us. Some would suggest that we should fear knowing too much and bringing about our own destruction. But the problem for them is, no matter how much you may resist it, the future is coming. There are so many quiet gears moving behind the scenes that people don’t want to acknowledge in the clock that keeps pushing us forward.
Even the Amish can’t escape traffic
So when I look at the abstract, what do I see? Where do I draw my line on…