David Brin at Kepler’s

Back from a visit to Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, to see David Brin, who gave a very lengthy and fun talk about (among other things) his new novel, Existence. The audience was fun, too — a lot of IT and bookish types—who asked a lot of interesting questions. Actually Brin talked about a lot more than the novel—passionately and often amusingly discussing topics including the Fermi paradox,  love, competition, libertarianism, liberalism, Adam Smith, “The Fifth Element” (film), the possibility of life in outer space, dolphin intelligence, and even Kevin Costner! I’ve only read the first of his uplift novels, Sundiver, but the friend I went with has read many of them. I’m definitely ready to read more, now. Here is the official trailer for the novel:

See also:

* David Brin on Adam Smith

* David Brin’s Uplift Novels

* Brin on “The Postman: the Movie”

Gromyko Semper x 2

Surrealist artist Gromyko Semper, who illustrated M.A. Fink’s The Found Diary of Avery Alexander Myer,  has a solo show on exhibit at Blanc Gallery in Makati, Manila.  Semper has teamed up with an American postmodern poet, William Nace; their theme is “Spectres of Mnemosyne.”

Semper’s “exhibition creates a series of new private icons whose feet nonetheless rest on the ground. “I made them look like icons but I took off the halo they should have had I wanted them to be ‘fernal’, as opposed to infernal, that is to say of this world and part of it.” He builds his new alternative icons instead of scolding old ones, engineering a new democracy of iconographies, which democracy and vouching for the private memory could be the better weapon against any iconography’s bigotry and consequent authoritarianism. Semper sees these icons as portraits of our respective selves as physical figures of vanity for social consideration and awe but of our respective inner selves as “mnemosynes” of honesty “ (Leo Plaw, Fantastic Visions).

Semper’s work will also be featured with other important 21st century surrealist artists in the International Surrealism Now exhibit, hosted by Keith Wigdor in Lisbon Portugal, September 2012.

“Add to this his prodigious work ethic, and we recognize in Gromyko Semper an artist who does not play games with his time. These are not tricks of craft, but deliberate, passionate and ever-flowing assaults on the mundane. Gromyko sings to us that the entire human experience is ours to drink, all history is now ours to bathe in, all visual textures of heightened complexity are ours to feed upon. As viewers, we cannot help but take his outstretched hand” (John Paul Thornton, Style RPA).

Spectres of Mnemosyne can be viewed until June 24th at:

Blanc Gallery Makati
Unit 2-E Crown Tower
107 HV dela Costa St.
Salcedo Village, Makati City

+63 920-9276436

Employing the Men in Black

copyright 2010 ontarot (aka M.A. Fink)
As presented in Mage: The Ascension, the Men in Black hew closely, if generally, to the “real” mysterious figures loosely associated with the Mothman mythos. Dressed in nondescript black or dark gray suits, black or mirrored sunglasses and oddly fitting hats or gloves, their skin seems strangely artificial, as does their speech and mannerisms. They drive black (of course) Caddies or Lincoln Continentals. Family members asked to enter these vehicles are rarely seen again.

How you wish to use Men in Black in your game fiction is up to you, of course. You should be aware of their variations in American conspiracy mythology, however, if you wish to change or expand their role in your story. Are they agents of some hush-hush branch of the U.S. Government? Clones of the Technocracy? Alien investigators that are actually aliens?

Some reports have them seemingly unfamiliar with everyday objects: fumbling with tableware, trying to drink from the jar of jelly on your table or demonstrating the handwriting of a seven year old.

Some might wheeze and cough as if seriously ill. Others smell bad (inorganic? rotting?), or wear their clothes uncomfortably. Language and syntax may be oddly “manufactured.” Time references are out of date or fractured (“We’ll be back in 1/6th of an hour.” or “Five of the clock, post meridian.”)

Perhaps they use “skin oil jet printers” to plant your fingerprints. Maybe they whisper out of the sides of their mouths at each other, almost simultaneously while interviewing you, as if communicating in code.

Maybe your Men in Black were first seen at the Holloman AFB in New Mexico back in 1964. Are they part of Majestic-12, the department created by Truman in 1947 to exploit the Roswell crash?

Or perhaps something like Men in Black have appeared all throughout history! Are they part of the Technocracy at all? Maybe they are aliens interfering with Earth’s timeline. What a shock to player characters when they trace the same three mysterious figures in black throughout recorded history!

For myself, while I like the version presented in the rule books, I disagree with the decision to make the MiB’s have Arete, i.e. be Awakened. Having an aware Avatar should not be something that can be manufactured, so to speak. So I am inclined to equip my Mysterious Cloned Agents with the latest in high tech equipment (along with enhanced stealth or interrogation abilities?), which makes them scary enough when handled properly, I assure you. When they dissolve into viscous goo after being killed, watch your players’ faces as you describe the process in vivid detail the first time.

For further study, I refer you to these sources: John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, Grey Barker’s They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, Robert Todd Carroll’s slightly snarky but very useful The Skeptic’s Dictionary, the magazine Fortean Times and, last but not least, both volumes of Kenneth Hite’s marvelous resource for games with conspiracy themes, Suppressed Transmission from Steve Jackson Games.