Thursday, August 28, 2014

The goal is change.

Mix it up and rearrange,
Fix it up for them all
Happ'ly ever after, curtain call.

There is no goal.

There's no role
Where's just sun
                           or rain
All dance, joy or pain.

You give them enough rope

And you wait and cope
In lieu of change/acceptance, that appeal
You show everyone that it's real.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The first rule anyone is taught is that you can't bring them back from the dead.

(cw death)

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago…

There lived a group. And they did not like how death came. They did not like death at all, truth be told, and each had sought, alone and with others, to bring an end to it.

But finally, they turned and looked and each other, and they saw that they were all old, and in the end, they could not find a way to make magic save people efficiently. They hoped other technologies might do that, given time, but theirs could not, not in their lifetime.

While the first laid on their true deathbed—“deathbed” had become something of a relative term in this group, as you might imagine—they gathered around and made one last circle. For there would be others, but this would be the last with all of them.

The Old One, now the Dead One, gave everything that was left in them. The others gave all they could. More than One died that night. We might call this a death curse, though at the time this group only knew each other, and would be much likelier to call it a death spell. They did not think much of death by battle; it did not occur to them that death spells might become  most commonly offensive, rather than sustaining.

And in one moment, each gave all the magic they knew how to give, and each spread it, letting it ring through every place and every life they could touch.

And that is why, when you are very young, we tell you that magic cannot bring people back from the dead. It can. It does. Miraculous recoveries are made every day, people “die” on the operating table every day—not every spontaneous remission is because of their sacrifice, but many and much of them are.

But if you wish to bring back someone who has died anyway…it is often better to use technology other than your magic. For whenever someone finds a way to keep someone alive, or to bring them back, we focus the new spell through the Dead One’s bones and let it touch every place and life in calling distance. If you want to use your magic to bring someone back anyway, you must first discover something that no one else ever has.

If you do, I hope you’ll tell us. I’d love to lay those old bones to rest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

About 30 Years Ago...

Large groups of people were dying. No one really knew why--not for a while, at least. And no one really knew how it was spreading, which was a fact that scared a lot of people. There seemed to be a focus on gay men, which...didn't help to calm the superstitious.

But there were places the infection seemed to skip. Or it would flare and then suddenly stop spreading. Sometimes people got it, had all the same symptoms, then got better with no real explanation.

(Rulekeepers in a hundred different districts had the same conversation: "You know you're not supposed to--"

"And I suppose if you'd been in my place, you'd just have let them die?")

It was an opportunistic infection, and blood-borne, which made it easy enough to hide. You just had to not maul anyone, and not bleed on anyone with an autoimmune disease. As long as you didn't have some random autoimmune disease suddenly infecting a lot of people all at once, a little care and a little inertia kept the werewolves' masquerade together.

It broke rather swiftly after the AIDS epidemic hit.


Once people knew about werewolves, people gradually gave up on arguments like, "But that violates the laws of physics!" Really, after the initial shock, most decent scientists started saying, "So what are the rules of magic?"

There were general murmurs in the vampire community that the werewolves weren't really facing as many difficulties as they might--they'd been good at the publicity fairly early on, focusing on little kids who'd gotten AIDS off of blood transfusions, who'd been saved by werewolf immune systems. It threw gay werewolves under the bus, but the general consensus among the werewolves' P.R was., "...So?"

The vampires decided they could probably swing something similar, and that it would be easier to do so if they chose when they were found, rather than waiting for one of those, "But what if vampires and fairies and and and!" people actually found something. They decided to wait for the werewolf fuss to die down and then come forward.

They placed the emphasis on ingenues with deadly diseases, too, though they pulled the focus to people who had been turned a bit older--200-year-old vampires who looked six tended to be more frightening than someone who had been turned in their 20s.

It worked out pretty well. The garlic-flavored blood packs don't quite taste like real garlic yet, but you can get some really fancy stuff that does, and people have even stopped putting real garlic in now.


It didn't take as long for the fuss to die down the second time--or rather, everyone was waiting for something else to turn out to be real. Mages went next, with the fairies, because they were just similar enough that it made sense for them to come as a package.

The focus of their spin was mainly on the fact that magic only worked on one's own self. "Like, I can change my own hair color"--a pause as the hair goes through a brief kaleidoscope--"but if I tried to do the same thing to you, nothing would happen." The mage shrugged, and after enough people said the same thing convincingly enough, most people stopped fretting so much about mages. I mean, there are places you still don't want to go, if people know you're a mage, or a werewolf, or a vampire, or a fairy, but there are places where you can live mostly unhindered, at least.

No one brought up that "one's own self" was a rather subjective term. There's a reason why so many people are so protective of their tarot decks, for example. And once you realize that, sometimes you can bend your mind to the point where other people do register as part of you--or the land does. The latter is actually pretty common among fair folk. I am my tree; I am my land; of course I am; are you not?


And so everyone pretended that they had dropped their masquerades. To be reasonable, if you're a cute girl who became a werewolf against your will, or a vampire who only became one because you were dying of cancer at 20-40ish, or a mild mage who's willing to look 'normal' or 'cute', or a fairy who can pass for mage, you don't have to hide your magic anymore. If not, you can pretend to be one, or you can keep pretending to be mundane human.

Honestly, I'm still expecting some more mythical creatures to be real. Given how easy all these spins were, I'm guessing someone is still waiting for their moment. Either way, hey, maybe by the time I'm dead you'll be able to actually want to be a werewolf without losing your job.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

(Mostly) Sexism in Games

My brother asked me how I felt about sexism in semi-medieval and modern settings, and I proceeded to...write. I liked it enough to clean it up a bit and post.
There is something to be said for historical accuracy as complete as one can make it. However, people often don't shoot for historical accuracy--they put something like a hardcore version of our modern-day sexism. I see the same thing with racism, heterosexism, etc. Even in places/times where the definitions of race/gender/sexuality would have been very different, I rarely see recognition of that.

That is actively dangerous. It leads more people to think that various roles--gender/sex, race, etc.--have been stable through centuries and are only now being changed. This grants them power. "How could we change this, when it's been true for thousands of years?" "How dare you try to change this, when it's worked perfectly fine for hundreds of years?" Yes, both of those statements are irrational--but they are also powerful, and that's what concerns me.

I like tabletop settings which remove sexism; they're more flexible and often more fun--if only because most examples I've seen have better worldbuilding I prefer. But I also like tabletop games where different cultures have different sexism, or some cultures have none, and/or claim to. It's interesting, and it emphasizes the fact that, yes, these categories may be categories in their own right, but they largely have the power we grant them.

If someone is inserting sexism to be "gritty", ick. If someone is inserting sexism for "historical accuracy", then A) name the cultures, and B) I expect genuine historical accuracy; anything else is just using "a long time ago" as an excuse for lazy and prejudiced storytelling. If someone removes sexism as escapism or to see how that works, I actively approve. If someone is playing with sexism--including where it differs from our sexism, including where different cultures have different expectations of men/women/other genders, I sincerely approve; that's cool.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Written for the prompt "first times" at a slam poetry meeting. Originally entitled "Kisses".

The first time
You see him
You think--

After the first week
Of seeing him
You think--
                     He won't see me,
but I'll ask.

The first time
You ask,
A girl beats you to it,
and he says,
"I'm sorry. I'm gay."

And you look down
And see the breasts that your sweatshirt can't hide anymore,
And you think--

And you make it to the (girls) bathroom
Before you cry
Over what you are
And what you are not.

The first time
You two speak,
He says, "Hello."
And you do not hide how your heart flutters.

(You have hidden too much today.)

You say, "Hello," back.
And there is a question on his lips,
But he asks about homework instead.

The first time
You come to school in a binder
You draw the Mars symbol on the back of your hand,
And you say that you're a boy today.

Some laugh,
Some try to use your pronouns,
Some just ignore you.

He says, "I'd wondered."
And you blink.
And you realize.
And you say,
                        "And when I'm a girl?"

He shrugs,
Confused and content.
"I like you."

And there is a question on his lips--
The same one--
"Can I kiss you?"

Thursday, February 20, 2014

True Love

There's a land where true love is very important, because curses happen. Among anyone considered replaceable, this isn't as big a deal--it's good for your servants to have true love, but not necessary.

Quite a few servants disagree on this point. They tend to not mention this aloud.

True love is undeniably important for anyone of sufficient power. Modern-day, this expresses itself in democracies just as well as everywhere else--"Where will my opponent be if cursed? He doesn't have a true love to save him." It puts some closeted queer candidates in a double-bind: should they be The Candidate Without A True Love, or The Gay Candidate? And, of course, there's been a recent increase in it being necessary that the person you're married to be your true love, even though marriage has never been necessary for breaking any curse.

But this story is from a different time, and a different place, neither of which necessarily ever existed. The bones have happened more times than one would bother to count. The specifics hardly matter.

Fairy tale logic; play along.

There was once a beautiful kingdom, and it was prosperous, so all the surrounding kingdoms and dukedoms and other countries sent their children to meet the princess, hoping to be her true love. One of them was, and there was some scurrying behind doors to make sure this was diplomatically viable, and then they were married the very next day.

They lived together in great happiness for many years. One day a wicked fairy came and cursed the queen (no longer a princess), but the king had been carrying his mirror, his comb, and his brush, and had thus found his way to a spirit who knew where the queen was. One kiss from him, and she awoke.

But another fairy, who was very much in the business of seeing that stories went as they were supposed to, noticed something when the king went out to save the queen. The fairy did not like it, and put the king under a curse. This curse was an odd curse to put on a person who had a true love--it sent him to sleep in his own chambers, not to awake until woken by his true love's kiss. But the queen shared chambers with him, and in a land such as this, it was hardly odd to wake one's partner with a kiss.

The queen followed tradition. It was true, this was a rarer tradition, but it was tradition none the less. She called to all the members of the castle for one who would come with her to ride out and find what was needed to save the king from this dreadful curse. Most of the hall was silent, and a handful hesitated; only one stepped forward. That one left with the queen, as it always was. No others stepped forward, and so the two rode forth from the castle, with provisions fit for weeks of journey and tools for hunting should they need to be gone longer. It was rarely necessary, but whenever one made a reasonable guess, the guess was always a day short of necessity.

The queen turned to the servant, stopping their journey. "I know why you came with me."

The servant sat up straighter on their horse. "I came at your majesty's request."

"Many could have come at my request. You came because you love him."

The servant was quiet a moment. Then they said, "Yes."

She nodded. "The same as me."

The servant nodded quickly. "And you can hardly blame me, when I know you know how easy he is to love, and may well have fallen in love with him for the same reasons that--"

"Of course I cannot blame you," said the queen. "I knew when I married him that I was not his true love."

The servant went still and silent, not even breathing.

"He is my true love, and I do not regret that--I doubt I could. But you are his. And, I believe, he is yours." The queen did not look away from the servant, and the servant could not look away from the queen. "True love need not be requited to work. I am proof of that, though I believe he does love me in another way. Yours is requited, which is very lucky. Had you not loved him in return, I would have had to come up with a much more obscure tradition."

"He--he loves me?" they exhaled.

The queen's practicality softened. "Yes," she said, "very much. And if I had ever been able to convince him you loved him, I believe you would have known this long before." The queen reached up above her head and took a branch with holly and moss on it. "Here. I know these species; I can describe it specifically enough to pretend that we might have spent days searching." She turned back around and set her horse into a trot.

"W--wait," they said trotting behind, "What?"

The queen turned, not slowing. "If the other lands know I am not his true love, it will hurt trade, and make us look easy to attack. This cannot be public. But you are his true love, and you love him. It would be dreadfully hypocritical of me not to allow it, given how he and I came together."

The branch was laid; the announcements made; the servant kissed him; the fairy enjoyed the story as it was. And, in one way or another, they all lived peacefully and prosperously ever after.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Prompt credit.

I wept.

I can remember flashes of what came before, if I really try, but I usually don't. The parts that weren't bad were boring, or else things I imagined anyway, and there's no reason to remember when I first had an idea. Whether I thought of some character's gold eyes from coins passing palms on land, on their boat, in their death.

But I remember the ship, barely a boat. I remember hiding, and what I did to pay passage, and being found anyway, not being given one tenth of the protection he'd promised.

I remember them deciding what to do with me, and I know, from my sisters (and my brothers, and my other siblings--they thought us women; that does not make us so) what they might have done.

But then came the storm, to sweep us away, and their fear outweighed their lust and reason both. They tied my arms and legs that I might not survive, though between the sea and the storm they had no need to waste rope or weight.

I wept, had been weeping, but by the time they finished tying me up to throw overboard my tears were gone. There was hardly any point, crying or not. I would not change their mind. Even if I could, the rain hid them, and the sea would hide them better.

We were scared. I'd been scared and hidden in men's clothing. They'd been scared and threw me overboard.

I wasn't scared when I hit the ocean and got the wind knocked out of me. I wasn't scared when one of my sisters swam up and smiled at me. (I'd thought she was a brother, in the first moment, wondered if there were male mermaids. There are, though she was not one of them. Just as my brothers and many of my other siblings were thrown over when seen for something they weren't, she was thrown over when seen for what she was, seen for what no one had ever believed her to be until it got her drowned.)

She took the ropes off my arms and held me, pulling me down fast enough that the weight pulled my feet up instead of down, and she pulled me down deeper, deeper, enough that I should have been blind but somehow I saw something.

Mariette leaned close to my ear and whispered, "Breathe." I don't know why, but I did.


When I woke, my lungs burned. But my ears were better, sharper; I knew how to move my tongue; the water soothed me when I let my body work my lungs as reflexively as it had always done. My legs...weren't. They were not the tail I have now, not yet, but they were joined, and the rope that had bound them was twisting into my skin. Now, it's a line of gold-brown against my shiny dun. Then, it itched.

I pushed myself up, learning a new body, shrugging out of a shirt that had not fit well when dry and unripped. "Elena," I said to the person who had saved me.

"Mariette," she said, and smiled. She had beautifully sharp teeth. "You'll hunt for yourself when your tail comes in. Until then, I'll help you."

"Are you, ah..."

"I'm a woman. Most of us are." She cocked her head to one side. "And you?"

I blinked. She'd seen me half-dressed. "A woman."

She almost smirked, but her eyes were warm. She knew something I didn't, but I'd learn it soon enough.

I hunted, and I learned, and I sought ships. And every time a ship threw a soon-sibling overboard, we tore out chunks and drowned the sailors and brought our new sibling into our fold. Sometimes we spread; sometimes we joined the seafoam and the wind and the storm; always we sang.

We were never bad luck. Just the fools who threw us overboard.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dungeon Crawl

It was my first dungeon walk, and, in my defense, it was not my fault that Genevieve stepped on a trap. Okay, yes, it is possible she would have been paying more attention to where she was going if it hadn't been my first dungeon. Or if I hadn't almost lost a hand, a foot, and my voice, however that last one was going to work. But this one still wasn't my fault! Technically!

Honestly, that fact was more surprising than the bars and walls snapping from the ceiling and floor.

I blinked a few times while Gen crouched to tap at the bars with a little stick she kept on her person at all times. Some lights may have flickered, but given that the light was coming from her torch and mine, that may have just been light and dark playing off metallic bars. Eventually, she put the stick away again. "You have to say something true to get the door open," Gen said.

"Uh," I said with great wit and grace, "Then why can't you just--"

"It has to be a person on that side, Charlie." My gut twisted a little, and I may have flinched. She rolled her eyes, though it seemed more aggravation at the situation than at me. "Pick something."

"Two and two makes four."

Silence. A notable absence of movement.


She said something under her breath and the bars definitely gave off some type of light, and it looked like some of it was either going to her or coming from her. "Something true and personal," she corrected. "But," taps with what appeared to be a different stick, how many of those did she have? "It doesn't look like it should need to be a secret. Just something about you. Like, say your name."

"Charlie," I said, and my gut twisted a little, but I had enough warning to brace for it this time so I didn't flinch.

"Hm." Gen furrowed her brow. "Try a full sentence? The spell doesn't feel picky like that, but you never know."

I clenched my jaw, then let it go. "My," breath, "name is Charlie."

No movement, though this time there was a grinding sound. Gen's eyes sharpened on mine. "That isn't true." I started shaking. "Honey," she said, in that I-have-exactly-enough-energy-to-be-gentle-one-more-time voice, "What is your name?"

"I--" Cecilia, Cyan, Francine, Genevieve, Jennifer, Tiana, Titania, Ariel, nothing ever ever ever

(I didn't notice at the time, but looking back I remember her suddenly giving me the same look she had when she'd almost led me into a lightning trap. "You don't have to; you can say something--" I didn't hear her.)

"I don't know!"

There was a different grinding noise, then it went silent and the bars snapped away as easily as they'd come out.

Gen stood up and offered me a hand, which is when I noticed I'd fallen. "If you need someone to lean on, I can help," she said as I stood. "But let's get out of here first, yeah?"

I shook a little. "Yeah."

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I keep
into the part of my brain where my art lives
and finding it


I'm not sure if it's exhaustion
(Have I been sleeping enough?
Eight hours a night.)

Or writer's block
(I've never understood the phrase--
There's always been something there,
I just couldn't get it out right.)

Or something else entirely
(I've had times when  I couldn't find the spot
the place where my art comes from
but this isn't it.)

I imagine it will come back.
She was with me this morning
He may yet visit this evening
Zie tends to come unexpectedly.

But for the moment I am

© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart