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Oct. 31st, 2011


Beautiful Pain - Halloween Edition

Happy Boo-Scary Day! 

Back when I lived in San Francisco, between Summer 2003 and Fall 2004, I made lots of CD mixes. Two in particular had been intended both for my own use while driving and to introduce my then-roommate to "that Gothic stuff. These two mixes - Beautiful Pain I and II - featured combinations of must-hear Gawth classics, deep cuts from familiar artists, and relative obscurities. Though not in any way intended to be definitive Darkwave collections (and only two of dozens of tape-and-CD collections I made of such stuff), the Beautiful Pain series remain two of my all-time favorite mix compilations.

Listening to them today while working, I kept mentally mixing Halloween-themed songs into the mix. And so, the following playlist was born - like Frankenstein's Monster, a shambling patchwork of living death, intended to defy the gods of daylight decency. (Mwah-ha-haaaaa...)

And so, I present it unto you, my friends. Beneath this cut lie nearly four hours of dark delights.

Have a Happy Dark New Year!

Dare you enter the realm of Beautiful Pain...?Collapse )

Blessed Samhain, Happy Halloween, and may all the gods of Light, Darkness and Shadow smile upon you, now and always. 


Oct. 4th, 2011


10 Totally Arbitrary Party Songs for Halloween

Top 10 lists suck. No matter how educated you are about meaningless pop culture, the arbitrary subjugation of a vast subject to an even more arbitrary rank is fairly stupid. 

And yet, damn our souls, we find ourselves drawn like starving flies to read, and sometimes even to make, such lists. Is there some atavistic reflex involved? Simple curiosity? Maybe just the urge to argue with someone? I don't fucking know. 

All three impulses seem to have been involved in the list below. After reading Infobarrel's Top 10 Halloween Songs on a friend's blog, I remarked that any such list lacking "Bela Lugosi's Dead" is a failure. She agreed, stating that she wanted to see someone else do a better list. This post was my reply. 

Now, as a lifelong lover of all things dark, spooky, horrific and Halloween-y, I could make this playlist last all year. I have, or at least had, a Halloween playlist on my iTunes that's at least 12 hours long. Given my tastes for Goth rock, punk, metal, European Classical, ethereal, blues, dark ambient and so on, I would actually consider the entirety of Endura's Black Eden or Black Sabbath's first album to be far more unsettling than, say, "The Monster Mash." That said, I wanted to stick to the spirit of the Infobarrel list, setting up a party-style mix that wouldn't drive the average listener out the door or into the medicine cabinet. Even so, I couldn't resist the urge to pack the list with darkwave stuff - I mean, really, what could be more appropriate? And while the likes of Christian Death's Only Theatre of Pain is more bleakly evocative of the holiday's grim spirit (so to speak...), I chose with an ear for general consumption. If I were compiling this list for, say, a Goth club, I'd choose very differently indeed

So yeah - with full recognition that this is a stupid list, I present  my 2011 Top 10 Mainstream Party Songs for Halloween


‎10: Halloween Theme - John Carpenter

Yeah, it's obvious. Still really damn creepy, though, and a perfect way to start the night. 

9. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Halloween

Yes, I know - The Misfits, Ministry, the Dead Kennedys, everybody's done their take on the holiday. Still, as much as I love The Misfits' version, this one still hits just the right balance between cheek, creep, nostalgia and fun.  

8. This is Halloween - Danny Elfman (Nightmare Before Christmas)

You could make a Halloween soundtrack just from Elfman's work alone. Still, I have yet to see anyone resist singing along with this classic when it plays.  

7. Monster Mash - Bobby Boris Pickett and the Cryptkickers

Again, really obvious. Still, it's a classic for a reason, and like the song above, it's something almost everyone seems to groove on when it plays. 

6. Bloodletting (long version) - Concrete Blonde

If Goth has its "Free Bird" (and it does - see below), this is its "Hotel California." And like that classic rock earworm, it sums up all that's best and worst about its genre by existing in an almost zen state of cheesy perfection. 

5. Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo

Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo exist(ed) for the sole purpose of making fun, spooky and often unsettling music. It's no wonder the band played its final gig (as seen below) on Halloween 1995, fulfilling a regular engagement that I would give my left arm to go back in time and attend. 

4. Tubular Bells (single version) - Mike Oldsfield

Like the Halloween theme, this song and its attendant film mark archetypal moments in popular culture. No matter what you think of the movie itself (and incidentally, the original version of the song, which is a 49-minute instrumental opus which predates the movie), both stamped indelible impressions in modern pop culture, the likes of which seldom occur. 

3. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

Ditto that for the debut release from the cornerstone band in the heavy metal genre. Sure, Sabbath made better songs (and the Type O Negative cover is arguably more spoooook-eeeeee... hilariously so), but this one remains a landmark of doomy delight. 

2. Bela Lugosi's Dead - Bauhaus

Goth's "Free Bird" is this: an overlong, overplayed but still utterly perfect screen-shot of a mood, an era, and a style that speaks even to the unconverted. Any Halloween song list without this track is doomed to fail. (For the record, Goth's "Stairway to Heaven" is probably "Temple of Love (1992)" by the Sisters of Mercy.) 

1. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - Johann Sebastian Bach

From the days when the Plague might actually kill you in the street, this ultimate tribute to all things spooky probably began as an excercise in mathematical musicality. Somewhere in there, though, lurked the souls of monsters yet unborn. Bach, buddy, we salute you. Thousands, if not millions, of people have tried to hit this dark accord, yet nearly all have fallen short of the glory of this, your most enduring masterpiece. 

Oct. 3rd, 2011



So yeah... I used to have this Livejournal thingie that I used to post on a lot... and then I forgot about it... which means I forgot to mention here that...


Goblin Markets - The Glitter Trade is the second sourcebook for Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium. I began writing it in 2004, and it's seen a dizzying spiral of events since then. 

This past month, damiana_swan and I finally herded all the necessary cats in a row, and then released the book in two editions...

* An exclusive full-color hardcover, available only through our publishing company Quiet Thunder Productions...

* ...and a general-release B&W softcover that can be sold through gaming shops and on

In both editions, the book runs 224 pages, putting it on the larger scale of RPG sourcebooks. 

Word on the book has been great, and we're really proud of it. 

Beyond our happiness with the book, we'd also like to get the snail-mail addresses of some of our contributors and sponsors. We've lost track of some of y'all over the years, and want to get your books to you. 

If you helped us sponsor the book last year, please let me know where we can reach you. 

Thanks - and enjoy the Goblins. 

Oct. 2nd, 2011

Quantum Box

Reckoning Day for the Corporate Citizen

The Corporate Citizen is in the dock. He (and let's be honest, the Corporate Citizen is masculine) has a fire under his ass right now that no amount of bribery, mockery, or denial can extinguish. He may have bought the Supreme Court, Congress, the cops and maybe even the president, but he's in trouble. The crows have come to roost, and this time we're not going to just go away. 

This protest isn't about overthrowing the economy or killing the Corporate Citizen. It's about HOLDING THE CORPORATE CITIZEN ACCOUNTABLE. Just as a private citizen must be responsible for his or her actions, so the invented legal entities that reflect corporations must be held responsible for their own. 
Supposedly, they ARE accountable. This, however, is not the case. The current economic crisis, for starters, was not caused by natural or random events. It has been caused - and continues to be exacerbated - by deliberate corporate malfeasance: epidemic outsourcing, continual pollution, political bribery, criminal negligence, tax evasion, theft, even mass murder. Deep pockets and legal arcana keep the Corporate Citizen immune to most of his actions. 
This. Must. End. 

That's what this movement is furious about. Not about market-based capitalism, but about deliberate exploitation far beyond point of harm. 
When a private citizen endangers or damages his society, he is held accountable. Society's citizens and agents call him to account for his actions, demands and end to them, judges restitution, and often delivers punishment. 

That's what's happening here now. 

The Corporate Citizen is a criminal. And We The People are holding him to account.

Unlike the so-called "tea party," this movement is not being underwritten by corporations and fuled by racist Fear Of a Black President. This, simply put, is righteous fury - fury in the classical Greek sense of punishment for one's misdeeds. 

The Corporate Citizen has been running amuck, and continues to do so. For the last few years (the last few DECADES, to be honest, but it's all finally catching up with the white middle class), the effects of this rampage have been catastrophic. Sandi and I are business owners ourselves, and what has been done - by Exxon, BP, Goldman-Saches, Enron, Blackwater, Halliburton, GE, News Corporation, Monsanto, Blue Cross, etc. etc. etc. - is NOT "business as usual." It is deliberate rape, pillaging and scorched earth in the name of profit for a handful of people. 

These Corporate Citizens, and many others, are damaging our personal environment, poisoning our physical environment, dismantling our social environment, and purchasing our political environment. This is causing untold amounts of disasters for the world at large. For the sake of a few executive bonuses and some fat stockholder checks, these Corporate Citizens are committing vast global crimes. They are dumping toxins. They are buying police forces. They are holding the truth hostage in exchange for trivia. They are allowing contractors to rape and murder human beings, then using legal loopholes to escape punishment. They embezzle government funds, undercut public knowledge, and dodge the taxes that help pay for the infrastructures that support them. 
Individuals are not allowed to do such things. Corporations should not be allowed to do them either. 
An individual who dumps poison into a lake is jailed; an individual who commits murder is imprisoned; an individual who steals, defrauds or otherwise takes someone else's property against her will receives a criminal sentence. Corporations do these things EVERY SINGLE DAY and yet remain untouched. 

This movement isn't about overthrowing one's ability to buy food at the corner store. It's about holding Corporate Citizens to the same standards as we ourselves are held - by strength of outrage and force of law.
Some critics - many of whom support "citizen revolts" that upend queer rights or question Obama's citizenship - dismiss the Occupation because it supposedly lacks a "list of workable demands"... as if Occupy Wall Street was a hostage situation, not a rightful protest. First off, this circism denies the legitimacy of the FIRST Official Statement approved by the movement - its Declaration of Independence, if you will.

Secondly, it ignores the fact that the media-darling "tea party" has made no such unified statement in three years of existence, beyond a pathological hatred for the President, "liberal agendas," and a "Big Government" they fully supported when the GOP was in charge. 

Most of all, it declares contempt for a movement that's actually on their side because LESS THAN A WEEK INTO THE UPHEAVAL, no list of "ransom demands" has yet been issued. No doubt, an actionable process is already in motion. Before change can occur, however, the wronged party must make itself heard. That's what's going on right now. You can't issue reforms until after you've being recognized. 

And really, folks - if the current lack of a An Occupy Wall Street Bill of Rights is what's bothering you about this movement, please go pick up a few history books that weren't published by News Corporation and approved by the Texas Board of Education. If and when you do, you'll see that the first American Revolution (the one we know by that name), and the second (aka, the Civil War), and the third (aka, the Civil Rights Era) all began the same way: with no more "structure" than a bunch of people who were fed the fuck up with "business as usual," and who were determined, despite all opposition, to change it. 


Copyright (c) 2011 Satyros Phil Brucato. Rights of circulation with attribution are expressly given by the author. Rights of reproduction for profit, with or without attribution, are expressly DENIED to outside parties, with the exception of fund-raising agents for the Occupy Wall Street movement.  

Sep. 22nd, 2011


Why is Sex Taboo?

In response to my friend Inara's question, "Why do you think sex generates so much anger and fear among mainstream folk?" I had this reflection and response:  

Sex is scary. It's unpredictable, vulnerable, and primal. Society makes rules to maintain at least an illusion of stability, and sexuality is too powerful a force to ever truly be reliable or "safe." Sex changes, creates, and sometimes ends lives. People will do things for and with sex that they wouldn't do for anything else other than MAYBE drugs. Hell, in a biochemical sense, sex IS a drug, as it releases many of the same hormones and chemicals as intoxicants do. 

Sex provides the ultimate in intimacy. There is no way, short of giving birth or killing someone (both of which, again, can come from sex) to be closer to another human being. The heady connections involved in sex bring out the best and the worst in human beings. No other act bonds people together so powerfully, and no other act can elevate or shatter a person so completely. Rape, torture, sexual shame and murder are so closely intertwined because no other act violates a person on so intimate a level or displays domination (and contempt) for another person so potently. When we have sex, we share in another person's body, energy, emotions and spirit. Sex where connection is denied is soul-killing; sex where connection is enhanced becomes one of the most thrilling human experiences. 
Sex resists control, even when when the act is performed to demonstrate control. Bodies, microbes, passions and energies don't behave in 100% reliable ways, so sex is always a risk. Society, in order to function, must at least APPEAR to be in control. Sex is innately uncontrollable, so societies wrap it in taboos. The original meaning of "taboo" reflects things that are forbidden BECAUSE they're sacred, and no better word describes "mainstream society's" ambivalence toward sex than that. 

I've been working this week on a paranormal romance story, so the issue is closer to my heart (and other parts of my anatomy...) than usual... which, for a satyr, is saying a lot


May. 2nd, 2011


Heavy Metal History Playlist Remix: The Return (HUGE Post of DOOOOOM!!!)

Okay, yes - Osama bin Laden is dead. Good riddance. Now let's back to more important issues - like METAL!!!!!

Late last year, I posted a vast entry about my evolving Heavy Metal History playlist. Since that time, the playlist has grown yet again. Partly thanks to suggestions I received after the last post, and partly thanks to my own obsessive desire to fill in the gaps, I've since expanded the stupid thing to... um, roughly 12 hours of ear-splitting noise.

Not like I had anything better to do or anything... ;)

(On that subject, Powerchords is alive and well and currently over 40,000 words in length... some of which will need to be trimmed, dammit, if we're to have a book in an affordable publication range!)

To be fair, there are plenty of tracks and artists on the following list that would have purists clutching their bloody, battered heads while howling in fury, "BUT THAT'S NOT MET-AAAAAL!!!" And it's true; bands like Heart are not Metal; artists like Nirvana would be horrified to be referred to as Metal; and songs like the original "I Put a Spell on You" don't sound like what we think of as Metal. Nevertheless, I stand by my choices. Metal's bloodline runs deep and red, melding often with genres like Punk, Goth, Hip-Hop and even Pop. This was especially true in the 1970s (when Boston, Queen and Zeppelin were about the hardest things a kid like me would hear unless he had a buddy who dared to own Sabbath or Motorhead albums) and the '90s (when hair metal had so ruined Metal's rep that no one dared admit how much Ministry or the Smashing Pumpkins sounded like... um, Metal). From a dude who's been into hard rockin' juju since my '70s childhood, I have to give props to the whole spectrum: the power-pop arena-rockers, the Aqua-Net commandos of MTV's cheesy heyday; the anarchists in the UK and the militant rockers who instilled fear of a Black planet. From Screamin' Jay's drunken taunts to Apocalyptica's power cellos, this playlist kicks musical ass.

And now begins the killing... followed by light salad. Read more...Collapse )

Sleep well...

Apr. 29th, 2011


We Can Be Anything

Things are happening here in Seattle. They’ve been happening for years, but this past weekend, at Norwescon and elsewhere, the tempo picked up speed. A year or two ago, SJ Tucker prophesied, “Someday, people will look back on this time and this Tribe and wonder what it was like to be us.” Last week provided a preview of that future pondering.

So what’s it like to be us? Pretty damn good.

As so often happens, hard times have turned trouble into treasure. Economic upheavals and storms of stupidity have brought out the best… and sometimes the worst… in us all. There have been breakings and partings and tears… and yet, as with Pandora’s infamous box of horrors, there’s a bright and shiny prize at the core. This past weekend, I saw people who’ve spent far too much time in the shadows blaze forth with dazzling intensity. We have no shortage of Shiny in this Tribe of ours, but the wattage just surged these past few days.

The brightest star among us this weekend was Torrey Stenmark, whose Na’Vi make-up dominated the convention. She’s worn the garb before, but seemed to truly live it at Norwescon. She couldn’t take five steps, it seemed, without someone wanting a picture of – or with – her. At one point, a couple of non-con-goers spotted her, squealed “AVATAR!” and gingerly approached to ask Torrey, “Um, do you charge for pictures?” One young woman was celebrating her birthday that night, and she grinned like a Joker henchman as her friend snapped several digital mementos of Torrey and the birthday girl. Torrey had won a couple of awards for her costume that night, but to me that acclaim seemed secondary to the response she got outside the masquerade contest. The highlight, as I understand, came during a moment I missed: Entering a concert-in-progress by Vixy & Tony, Torrey walked in just as they were about to begin the song “Anything” – a song inspired by and dedicated to Torrey herself. Announcing her victory in the costume contest to a packed audience, Torrey (I’m told) received a well-deserved ovation and many intrigued photographers. Following on that, the song itself must have made a lifetime memory for everyone involved. Congratulations, Torrey! You literally shined this weekend, and we love you dearly.

Shanti might not have been blue, but she blazed this past weekend as well. A dancing fixture of our various gigs, she released a preview of her debut album, Fragile Dreams, at Norwescon. Playing to a full crowd – and backed by Sunni, Betsy, and last-minute savior Rob Lindfors – our dear Leannan Sidhe proved how rich the musical element of our Seattle Tribe has become. Selling through her whole run of discs, Shanti had to run out and make more in order to meet the demand. Congratulations, Shanti! Your rising storm is subtle yet clear.

One of my favorite people in the world got his spotlight too this year. Bryan Syme and I met three years ago this past weekend, chatting between panels during my first year as a guest at that convention. A few days earlier, Sandi and I had noticed his art table in the Dealers Room, decked out with bright beasts and supple girls. We’d been impressed with his artwork then, but wound up even more impressed with the man himself. Bryan’s quiet intensity clicked with us both; we wound up talking for hours on Sunday, and became close friends almost instantly. Since then, he’s literally become part of Sandi and me, tattooing us both and illustrating Arpeggio, Ravens in the Library, Goblin Markets and Powerchords. Bryan and his wife Tabitha also share their Monday night gaming group with us – the group that’s turned Sandi into an enthusiastic gamer girl. Bryan’s artwork has been a part of Norwescon for years; this past weekend, though, things really took off. Bryan sold damn near every piece he’d had for sale, enjoyed his first year as a noted pro, and shared his considerable skill and talent with numerous admirers. Congratulations, Bryan! You kick ass, and folks have noticed.

The greatest pleasure this weekend, though, came from seeing my Beloved shine. Sandi has spent years in other people’s shadows, lending her quiet power to more obvious luminaries – me included. This year, though, she made her first major showing as a pro in her own right… and damn, did ever she run with it! From debates about dramatic POV to lessons in open-hearted love, Sandra Damiana Buskirk radiated grace and passion. Her photographic skills made their usual appearance too, but Sandi’s greatest moments set HER near center-stage. Holding her own with longtime pros, Dami impressed people who’d never heard her name before. Congratulations, Beloved! It’s a joy to see you shine.

This Norwescon seemed to be good to almost everyone. Rob Carlos (who astonished us all last year with a literally psychic portrait of Sooj… a person he didn’t know existed) scored a Guest of Honor invitation for a future convention. K Kevin Wily got richly-deserved time in the spotlight for his own achievements. Inky strutted her Baroness bartender stuff, while Tierney and Cat brought Ember Days to the convention. We got to spend time with old friends – James, Jules, Camille, Scotty, Kelly, Beth, Andy, Ogre, Mickey and more – hang with a few happy acquaintances, like Francesca, Jen and Quintus, and make a few new ones, like Liz, Powell, Lee and Gummi Bear. Gummi, in particular, is a treasure. His story is not mine to tell, but the man he is today is proof of the magic we all shared this weekend: the inner magic with which we survive, prosper, and sometimes even shine.

As I’ve so often said, the greatest magic is not some cartoon superpower or infernal art. It’s not a product we buy or a spectacle we watch from afar. In a world where we’re told every day how special we are NOT, magic is the force of what WE CAN BE. It’s the art of changing the reality we are given into the reality we achieve. It’s not easy, it’s not soft, and it’s all too often absent from our lives.

To hell with a lack of such magic in our lives.

In ignorance and fear, we often turn away from our potential, or squander it for someone else’s gain. Especially these days, when well-funded campaigns strive to keep us scared and powerless, that magic seems ephemeral. It’s so easy to lose hope – to surrender up to fear, indulgence and division. But we must NOT surrender. We must stick together, nurture one another, and claim our future from despair. Sometimes, sadly, that means letting people go, losing precious things or habits in the name of greater health. Most of all, though, it means BELIEVING IN YOUR POTENTIAL and CLAIMING YOUR POWER… not taking them as prizes stolen from other people, but recognizing them as legacies you had inside yourself all along.

The other night, Sandi told me, “Denial of joy is not a virtue.” She’s right. This weekend, we shared joy in our Seattle Tribe. Let’s recall that legacy in the months ahead. Let’s carry it, feed it, and illuminate the rest of the world with our light. May we be generous where others remain greedy. May we soar, not alone but in unity.

Like Bowie said, “We can be heroes
.” Not for one day, though, nor for one weekend, but for as long as we choose to be.

This past weekend, at Norwescon and elsewhere, our Tribe blazed. Stars awakened. Hopes paid off. Sure, there are luminaries and powers greater than we are. There always will be. But this weekend revealed the incandescence we achieve when love and work pay off. As Vixy sings, “we can be anything.” Artists. Aliens. Dreaming healers. Stars.

Congratulations, everyone. Y’all rock. Thank you for being You.

Even when life feels hard, we live our dreams when we believe it is so.

Apr. 3rd, 2011


Satyr’s Mighty FantiSex Gaming Spectrum

Let’s face it: Fantasy is kinky. Even without the overt eroticism of bondage death–traps and chainmail bikinis, the Fantasy tradition (and its incestuous cousins Horror, Romance, SF, and Badass Action) brims with sublimated sex. Swords, wands, cups and caves, virile heroes and hungry heroines, vile wretches and lusty wenches – the tropes and characters of Fantasy provide exciting exorcism for our carnal urges. For obvious reasons, these elements crop up (so to speak…) in various forms within Fantasy-based roleplaying groups.

Like sex itself, however, overtly erotic roleplaying is never truly “safe.” While Fantasy books and films are (like other erotic pastimes) essentially solo acts, roleplaying is (like still other erotic pastimes) interactive. And whenever stupid primates gather around erotic subjects, the stupid and primitive elements often win out.

(Nothing to see here - move along...)

Is that the ways things always go? Of course not. Like any other art form (and yes, RPGs qualify as an “art form”), Fantasy gaming can address sexuality in all its myriad contradictions. It can be cheesy, playful, tragic, offensive, sensual, comedic, and often a mixture of all of them and more. Toss in the subtle sublimation and balls-out kinkiness of various Fantasy genres, and all potentials go through the roof. Although most groups prefer to apply some self-imposed element of “taste” to the proceedings, the line between “tasty” and “tacky” is very much in the eye (and other body parts…) of the beholder.

(Don’t even ask about Beholder sex. It’s tacky.)

Though young men present the obvious Erotic Fantasy fans, anyone who’s read
Jacqueline Cary or gamed with many of the female gamers I’ve met (including my partner, first wife, and most girlfriends) can attest that girls can beat boys (literally!) when it comes to imaginative carnality. The old saw that Fantasy-oriented females prefer chaste scenarios simply isn’t true. Anyone with a libido might want to explore their urges through Erotic Fantasy; gay men, straight women, try-sexuals of all potential gender configurations – Fantasy has room for everyone… at least in theory, anyway. For the most part, sadly, FantiSex remains het-based with occasional girl-on-girl action. When other genders are rightfully factored in on a large scale, someone inevitably throws a Dragon Age tantrum. Sometimes, we can be such children!

(Yeah, I got yer "straight male gamer" right HERE!)

Mass-consumption Fantasy hovers between a Some Adult Content, No Sex, or Cheesecake City approach. Gamers, though, like to tailor our worlds to personal tastes. And so, as with most forms of real-world sexuality, Erotic Fantasy gaming plays out across a spectrum of explicitness and consent. Pondering such dynamics at Stupid O’Clock this morning, I conceived of Satyr’s Mighty FantiSex Gaming Spectrum: a reflection of my personal experiences and observations about sex, gaming, and the way things go when eros and Fantasy gamers collide.

Not limited to the range between Harry Potter and hairy hentai, the Mighty FantiSex Gaming Spectrum depends on the desires and boundaries of all participants. At the top end, everyone’s on board for high-octane fun; at the lowest extreme, one or two group members traumatize the rest until the group implodes. Ideally, the balance should be easy to maintain; in real life, things often slide along the spectrum, hopefully asserting a comfortable dynamic wherein good times are had by all.

And so, we reveal Satyr’s Mighty FantiSex Gaming Spectrum. Feel free to comment, link it, re-post it with attribution, and generally meme the fuck out of it. Sex usually works better when we understand what we’re doing.




Generally common within adolescent all-male gaming groups (maybe adolescent all-female ones, too), the Carnal Party presents an erotic free-for-all wherein participants happily live out whatever sexual fantasies they please. Huge-cocked barbarian dudes pound away at melon-chested wenches (or perhaps other huge-cocked barbarian dudes) while nubile slave girls scrub one another’s carpets clean. Real-world consequences like pregnancy, disease and gravity are pretty much ignored – save for jealousy or betrayal, which make lovely plot devices. Everybody's nekkid and nobody cares.

The traditional dynamic within large segments of the Sword-and-Sorcery and Action Badass genres, Carnal Party is consensual, explicit, and in no way realistic. Typified by the Eros Comix approach, such Fantasy can be straight, queer, kinky, or whatever flavor floats the common boat. Unlike dynamics at the other end of this spectrum, this erotic threshold is absurd yet mutual. The key word here is “party.” If someone in the group feels offended, this dynamic slips toward Cheesecake City… or worse. 


Intentionally erotic but often more serious than Carnal Parties, a Mutually Consensual dynamic assumes an explicit “fantasex” atmosphere. The realm of Merry Gentry and Gorean roleplay, this style favors a more traditionally “feminine” approach than Carnal Party. Everyone knows what they’re here for, but emotions, relationships, physics and consequences do matter. This style often favors a stronger kink element than Carnal Party and is, in fact, the “default setting” for lots of actual BDSM play. Again, though, the key word is “consent”; regardless of the genders or preferences among its participants, a Mutually Consensual group fits the tastes and boundaries of all members.


Playfully risqué and frequently explicit, the NSFW dynamic crops up a lot in mixed-gender groups from adolescence onward. Erotic content is common but not pervasive, frequently amusing, often absurd, and generally mutual. In my experience and observation, it often features a lot of half-serious (or all-serious) flirtation between players. Typical in certain manga, anime and romance-fiction genres, NSFW sexuality dynamics often revolve around misunderstandings, cheese- or beefcake, unrequited love/ lust, and “Oops!” moments where clothing and propriety wind up on the floor. Characters tend to be randy but not erotically obsessed, and the atmosphere favors comedy with occasional serious undercurrents.


More “adult” than NSFW but not as pervasively erotic as Mutually Consensual, a Mature Audiences dynamic presents sexuality within a complex framework of emotions, relationships, violence, and other “gritty” subjects. Erotic content, though often exaggerated beyond real-life levels, appears as part of a larger world… in most cases, a dystopian one. Emotional and physical anguish are common in this setting, and participants often need to “sign a waver” when joining this type of dynamic. Explicit moments frequently fade to black, but don’t always do so… sometimes provoking real-life emotional responses, willingly or otherwise. The default position for Anne Rice or World or Darkness-style fantasy, this dynamic doesn’t have to be a downer. In the hands of a serious-minded group, it can be lots of fun. Still, it’s volatile territory, with a larger chance of sliding into offense than other safer or more playful options.


A middle-ground between MA and No Sex, Please, SAC features the occasional hot kiss or wild romp. Explicit eroticism, though, is left to the imagination. Cheesecake might appear – but if so, it’s tame. Kink, if present, winds up sublimated. There might be hookers, hook-ups and busty bar wenches, but no “dirty deeds” to speak of. Most comic books and fantasy films stick to this territory, ripe with exciting imagery but essentially kid-friendly.


The safest option on the list, this dynamic assumes that – with the occasional exception of mild genre tropes – erotic content is pretty much absent. Characters do not have sex, act sexual, or encounter erotic situations. They might experience romantic relationships, but naughty bits remain offscreen and emotions stay minimally complex. Star Wars, Star Trek, Narnia and other “kid-itional” fantasy works fit this dynamic, as do serious-minded works by Professor Tolkien and other pre-Sexual Revolution fantasists who stashed their freak flags in the closet where they felt such things belonged. The preferred dynamic for kids under 16 (although younger kids tend to run higher or lower on the scale when adults aren't around), NSPWG can get rather boring if adult fantasists prefer to get... adult.


The Boris Vallejo school of Fantasy, Cheesecake City features stagy amounts of erotic exaggeration. Melon-chested warrior wenches pout and sweat-thewed swordsmen preen through adventures that would fill Freud’s notebooks three times over. Lots of folks wind up chained to walls, but there’s little actual sex to speak of. Though tame on the erotic scale, Cheesecake City can offend certain participants, especially ones who share an objectified gender or slandered ethnicity. The realm of Conan and his ilk, it’s a tradition with timeless adolescent appeal. 


Short for “Your Kink is Not My Kink,” this dynamic veers toward non-consent. One or more participants explore/ indulge their erotic preferences while their companions wince and shrug. Erotic content usually favors light fetishes or offscreen carnality on the part of one or two characters as the rest seek the No Sex, SAC or Mature Audiences dynamic. While not typically destructive, this sort of thing can be annoying; Your ‘Umble Satyrblade and a few of his partners-in-crime have stepped into this dynamic occasionally, to the accompaniment of rolled eyes and heavy sighs from fellow group members. The film Gamers: Dorkness Rising features several examples of YKINMK in action, one of whom is occasionally played by the lovely Jen Page.



Here, things go wrong. One or more participants verge off into Not Okayland… and then stay there while the other members cringe. Unlike YKINMK, this erotic dynamic’s pervasive offensiveness winds up damaging the group. The realm of dudes who roll three 6-sided dice to determine cock size (and then have their characters run around naked, hugging people), this end of the spectrum is usually Boys’ Town. That said, I’ve seen the occasional girl gamer or female author (*cough* LKH *cough*) run loose at the turboslut-and-tentacle-rape end of Tropeseville while her companions groan, recoil, and eventually quit.


At the squickiest extreme, an erotic dynamic can turn into psychological assault. Thanks to players (or Game Masters) who either don’t know or don’t care about other players’ limits, erotic content becomes grotesque, unsafe and occasionally traumatic. Players can and do feel psychologically assaulted within such games. This dynamic can trigger flashbacks to real-life violations; in the hands of a cruel player or GM, it might even be intended to be so. 

Sadly, this dynamic crops up more often than it should; worse, it’s occasionally done on purpose. My all-time favorite gaming group formed back in college when one male player, jealous because a female player stopped dating him but continued dating someone else in the group, conspired with the Game Master to rape his ex-girlfriend’s character, kill his “rival,” and paralyze the other characters into watching the scene. Next game session, that player, his best bud and the GM had that particular game all to themselves; the rest of us had quit and formed our own group (with a Mature Content dynamic that occasionally veered into YKINMK), which gamed together for roughly five years. This sort of thing happens a lot with Fantasy Rape-Playing dynamics. Quite often, players leave such groups with feelings of real-world pain and fury. In short, don’t do this. Ever. 

So, yeah - a range of possibilities. Like all things either gaming or sexual, it's not definitive... but then, what ever is, anyway?


- Satyros

Copyright (c) 2011, SatyrPhil Brucato. Permission granted to link or repost with attribution.

Mar. 29th, 2011


ARPEGGIO-COMIC: My Webcomic's New Community

For those folks who haven't yet seen my urban fantasy webcomic Arpeggio - and especially for those folks who have! - I've created a new LiveJournal community called arpeggio_comic - the urban fantasy saga of a clueless teenage bard.

Drawn by
Bryan Syme, edited and posted by [info]damiana_swan, and written and lettered by Yer 'Umble Satyrblade, Arpeggio follows Meghan Susan Green, a gifted guitar-slinger whose talents reach further and deeper than she might believe possible. Exploding from solitude into uncertain local fame, Meghan sets events in motion that no one can predict... least of all herself.

In the tradition of my work on Deliria, Mage and short stories like "Ravenous" and "Special Guest," Arpeggio explores the modern fantastic realm wherein "everyday heroes" encounter their inner magic powers... for better and worse! On the Arpeggio community, we'll be hosting comics, conversations, updates and links related to the adventures of Meghan and her world.

So yeah - come on by. Join up. Check us out, share your thoughts, and please spread the word about Arpeggio as we move into our next and wild story arc, CRASH INTO LIGHT.

Thanks... and enjoy!

Mar. 6th, 2011

Tell Stories

The Novel Thing

Cold water’s rising fast, drowning the city in thick deep gulps. Branches dance in the trees above our heads. Cain trembles next to me, chest-high in the rising flood. Something wild, drunk and terrible runs loose up the hill near Turner Street, smashing bottles and laughing at the rain. We saw that pack of hurricane commandos busting car windows as we headed down the hill. We’d slipped past them, then, hidden by shadows and quiet as night. Not far off, I hear them now, their echoes ripe with predatory thunder.

Cain whines deep in his barrel-dog chest. Poor guy’s shivering. So am I. Thigh-deep in swirling dark stink, it’s all I can do just to stand. The lock in my hand is a Yale SFIC – sturdy, thick, but not much challenge. The chain on the gate is heavy but cheap. I’ve found my way around worse. The iron spikes on the top of the gate are sharp enough to cut, but I’ve dealt with them before as well. It wasn’t raining then, though, and I wasn’t soaking wet. I wasn’t starving, and I couldn’t see the ghosts. Now I can’t tell where they end and I begin.

At the Wolfmother’s gate, I’m a stranger in my skin, rain-blind and soaking on a hurricane night. In my head, there are galleries, litanies, symphonies, cascades of words for which there are no words. There’s a wolf in my heart and water past my knees and a spectre in my throat who hardly ever speaks. I’m a holy mad girl on a suicide quest, and I’ve dragged my poor dog along for the ride...

Those of you who follow my works and works-in-progress know that The Novel remains an unfinished thorn in my side. Though I've authored over a dozen novel-length projects, over a hundred game books, two complete screenplays, half-a-dozen film treatments, comics, short stories, serials and so on, The-Novel-Comma-Dammit continues to elude me. It's not that I haven't been trying; plenty of false starts in various folders attest to that (*). It's not the word-length or the time involved, lacks of offers or of - gods know! - ideas. But while friends of mine like Cat Valente, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn and James A. Moore seem to wake up in the morning burping out new novels (**), I find myself going back over and over and over the first few chapters of the novel-in-progress you may have heard of here before: Holy Creatures To and Fro.

This week, inspired by
this series of essays John D. Brown and the ferocious effort poured into a book by my friend Lineia Corell, I dug into those first chapters once again. This time, I think I've beat out the bugs that have eaten my previous attempts at the book. I've thought that before, though, and it's hard not to feel discouraged when you re-write the same six or eight chapters yet again, wondering if they'll ever be good enough to pass the internal editor's approval. I commented to Sandi the other night, as I rolled into bed like a lion with an aching tooth, that I'm more than slightly pissed at myself because I know damn well that many (perhaps even most) published authors don't pursue standards nearly as exacting as the ones I've applied to Holy Creatures. The proof lines our bookshelves, piles up on tables at B&N, scatters through used bookstores all over town. The number of mediocre-to-outright-dreadful novels Sandi and I have seen this past year assures me that I could easily publish something without revising it to death. Why, then, do I keep crashing and burning against this form?

I suspect part of the problem lies in the editorial self-aspect I call Trouble Monkey. The symbolic incarnation of all sentiments of "I Suck," Trouble Monkey digs around in my subconscious for thick handfuls of poo to throw against the inside of my skull. "You're wasting your time," he assures me. "No one will want to read THAT!" Seeing as how I can't write "My sexy vampire boyfriend" books to save my life (I've tried...), and given the current trends in publishing, it's easy to believe him... and to stop writing the book... again. In his better elements, Trouble Monkey is part of my Editor aspect; searching for things in my life that could use improvement, he picks up anything that seems broken and uses it to beat me awake in the middle of the night. The last few days, I've used Trouble Monkey's "encouragement" as a doorway back into Holy Creatures, one through which I've returned to the haunted mindscape of Silk, the primal runaway who identifies a bit too closely with the werewolves of her favorite author's work.

Originating as a short story inspired by Lovecraft's tale "The Outsider," Holy Creatures decided it wanted to be a novel when the initial story shot past 8000 words without an end in sight. A magical realist urban fantasy, it features a feral kid haunted by the ghosts inside and outside her head. No wizards, no vampires, no car chases or ripple-abbed Native Americans (just a few hawt Goth boys). Holy Creatures keeps getting put aside when I score a new paying gig because I'm not sure it'll have a publisher when it's done. Nevertheless, it clearly wants to be written. I finally broke through my previous novel-writing walls when I realized that my preferred style is more internal than external. Once I stopped trying to write like "She went to the door. The door was open. She could hear the werewolves howling outside," Silk's tortured mindscream began pouring out of my fingertips. I guess that means I've found what I needed to find. Once again, I'm curious to see where it goes from here.

Holy Creatures clocks in at roughly 40,000 words as of this week. I'd like to add a few thousand more to that by next week's end. Seeing as how this week has also involved several thousand words for Powerchords, the new episode of Arpeggio, and a light edit-pass on a freelance gig, I think that's do-able. All I know is, it seems to be working this time... and I really want to break my Novel Curse with it!

To that sentiment, I'd like to add thanks for Inky, Lineia, Emily, Andrea, Raven, and most especially my Beloved Dami. All your help, support, encouragement, and countless hours of reading draft after drafts of Silk's adventures is very much appreciated. Thanks, guys, for helping me make it this far.

(My beloved Coyote Ward, looking remarkably like Silk... in part because she's an inspiration for Silk.)

Above my head, the tree-wind chatter rattles like ritual drums. I feel ghosts here in the earth, restless bits of other lives. Underneath the twigs and brambles, I sense rotting bodies and skittering bugs. I’m standing here at the threshold of worlds, and the only thing between me and sanctuary is a stone wall and the lack of a tree.

I know the damn thing’s around here somewhere.

And there it is...

* - Rutherford Faire, Hour of the Goat, Rosefox & Flame, Trickster's Lesson, Catharsis and Red Shoes, for starters...

** - This is not in any way a comment on their quality. It's just envy talking. :)

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