Five Hundred and Eighteen Words of ‘518’

Another day, another NaNo at an end–made it to 35212 words this month–though the validate-your-word-count thingy says I only did 34941. Well, fuck you, word-count validater–you don’t know shit!

Anyway, to say farewell to April, here’s 518 of the words I wrote this month for ‘518‘, in which our protagonist, Ira, discusses with an alien classmate, ‘Art’, the definition of lying–which is one of the stereotypes humans are labelled with in this universe–as they search an abandoned space station for intruders…

Enjoy.

*~*~*

The area around us was clear in all directions. So I asked him, “Tell me, Art—what makes something a lie?”

“Presently I have the feeling you’re asking not so that I will give my definition, but so you will give yours.”

That put a smile on my face. “Usually one of you would have humoured me longer. Or just started calling me names. You know, funnily enough, in the, uh… culture, I guess you’d say, that I belonged to… lying was condemned. ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’, they said. Everyone still did it anyway, obviously, but I read,” I looked around quickly again. Still nothing. “–about this guy, or what he’d written rather, on that subject.”

With a gesture I invited him to follow me down the corridor so we could continue the search, and I could start babbling on about the words of Augustine of Hippo.

“He said there were three parts to a lie. One, that the information’s false. Two, that the person making the statement believes the information’s false. Three, that they intend that the person they’re making the statement to is deceived by the false information.”

“But doesn’t it necessarily follow that if you believe your statement is false, you must intend for that person to be deceived?”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? He got kind of convoluted with his reasoning; that being if someone asked you if there was danger on the road or something, and you knew there was, but you said there wasn’t because you thought the other person wouldn’t believe you, then that would be a false statement without the intent to deceive.”

I turned and looked around behind us. Nothing back the way we’d come yet.

“But that does have the intent to deceive,” Art argued. “It just doesn’t have the intent to harm.”

“Nah, because the intent is that they’ll believe the correct information—therefore not deceitful. Similarly, when I tell you I’m no good in combat, it’s not because it’s true I’m no good in combat, it’s because I don’t want to deceive you into thinking I can always be relied on. Because I know I can’t.”

They didn’t call me ‘Irascariot’ back on Earth for nothing, after all.

Art was silent for quite a while taking that in.

Eventually, and to my surprise, he told me; “Thank you. Selena don’t attach so much complexity to such matters, so I am grateful for the explanation.”

“You don’t? Say it ain’t so.”

“Indeed, we save such complexity for the institution of the hierarchy.”

I stopped in my tracks. That was the second time since I’d met him I’d been sure Art had told an actual joke.

“But just so you know, Ira; I would not have concluded that your conduct in one situation would definitely translate over exactly the same to every other. I would only have proceeded on the assumption that anticipating similar conduct would be reasonable. I appreciate, however, that certain others may not understand that difference.”

“Well, I’ll try not to be quite so manipulative towards you in the future,” I assured him.

Things Are Over-Thinked Apart

Wow.

I think before yesterday the highest number of views my blog had ever had in one day was 20, and I’m pretty sure that was the day my brother found out I had a blog.

Yesterday I posted my thoughts, plus outlined a new little research project I intended to start, concerning the Hugo Awards. Today my blog was viewed almost 200 times, mostly (it seems) thanks to my last post somehow ending up mentioned in a Hugo Awards News Round-up post written on ‘File770‘; an online fanzine written by a Hugo-winning fan-writer. It probably sounds stupid when I say my heart skipped a beat looking at all those little lines on my ‘views in the last 48 hours’ counter, but it did.

Didn’t get many likes out of it–I guess the post sucked. Oh well. You can’t win ’em all!

Not to mention a whole two random people dropped by to correct one of my careless mistakes–it was horrible! Horrible, I tell you!

But, that’s not what I wanted this post to be about when I thought about writing a post this evening–no, the actual subject of this post was supposed to be my complaining about the decision that I’ve come to recently.

It’s been on my mind for a while now, but I kept telling myself no, everything’s fine the way it is, you don’t have to go to all the effort it would involve just to make your book–

*Sigh*

I can’t deny it anymore. ‘The Ritual of DUELS’ is going to have to be split into three books.

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s not my strong suit, and as I’ve gone through chapters of ‘DUELS’ over the past year and a half, since I first conceived of it back for the NaNoWriMo of 2013, continually having to cut stuff out to keep it within an acceptable length for a YA book, I’ve kept saying to myself: “Oh, I’ll just mention that bit of world-building in the next one, I’m sure I’ll want to do a sequel.”

However, there’s just too much going on in the book. It’s not just the world-building, I don’t have the time or space to develop the themes or the character relationships the way I want–I’m going to end up with the ‘Ah, they’ve had three conversations so I guess they’re in love now!’ trope I’m always complaining about, ironically showing up in my own work (not exactly, but it’s in the same spirit), and there are too many instance where I just ‘cut-to’ a different scene and expect the reader can fill in the gap for themselves. I truly believe that even though the reader could fill in the gaps I’ve left, the story would be better with those parts filled in, and I’ve decided to make the attempt for that better story.

It’s annoying, because as I’ve said before, ‘DUELS’ was almost finished. But the more I think about it, the more I think splitting the book into a trilogy–allowing more time for the characters to develop, the world to become real, and the story to flow–this is the right way to go.

*Looks out at the hard road ahead, to the bright future of a book that was given the attention it deserved*

Ugh.

The Great Schism

[In this picture, the 1st protagonist of ‘DUELS’, Xiang, tries to catch some of the pages of their book that the 2nd protagonist, Tarquin, has chopped up with his sword of ink, but accidentally sets them on fire with his pyrokinesis, while the 3rd protagonist, Elodie, dubiously regards the guys she has to share co-main character status with. There’s no caption, because they’re all too awkward to speak to each other].

#SadPuppies : Stop the Hugo Awards Bullies?

[EDIT: 29th April, 17:44. It’s kindly been pointed out to me that the book I picked for my in-depth analysis for this year’s nominations was one of the (supposedly few, from what I had understood) that wasn’t on the Sad Puppies slate. That’s on me, but the less in-depth analyses (out-of-depth? Har, har, har…) are still set for this weekend, and maybe that will help me decide on my actual selection. Stay tuned.]

Ah, the Hugo awards. A tradition so close to my heart that I only heard about it when #GamerGate noticed it; which is especially bad as I’m supposedly a sci-fi fan, but I’m not actually a gamer.

So I’ve been doing some research as only I can do it—shoddily and with as little effort as possible—and it made me think back, back to days of yesteryear. In 2013 when I first started this blog one of my first posts was about the STGRB controversy. For those of you who don’t know, STGRB stands for ‘Stop The GoodReads Bullies’, and was a group who formed one side of another SJW conflict—however, this was a little different to the more recent debacles we’ve grown to love.

The basic background was this: a number of popular intersectional feminist book-reviewers had been declared ‘bullies’ by a group of mostly independent authors whose books had been criticised by them for reasons of sexism etc. Now, the timeline here was very murky, or at least it was when I first became aware of it, concerning who had stated this whole thing. There were accusations of ’rounding up mobs of fans’ flying back and forth from one side to the other (I’m sure the SJWs have a word for that in their Newspeak lexicon… eh, I probably don’t want to know) and of course, accusations of doxxing, threats and harassment.

Those who supported STGRB claimed that their books had been criticised unfairly, and that when this occurred more often than not the friends and followers of these feminist reviewers, many reviewers just as popular, would immediately give their book a correspondingly poor rating on Goodreads without even thinking of actually reading it for themselves—and with many of these being indie authors, drive the average rating of the book down significantly and negatively impact the impressions of potential readers.

Reviewers, on the other hand, considered these authors to be sexist, thin-skinned whiners who wanted to limit their free speech, many of whom by contrast to the indie authors among them had substantial enough fanbases or followers that when they complained about their bad reviews, a wave of negative comments and messages would be sent to the reviewer in question. A popular tag or ‘shelf’ used by these circles was ‘bba’ or ‘Badly Behaving Author’, which STGRB particularly despised as it indicated the reviewer was reviewing the author, not the book. Their cries not to be censored seem almost ironic in light of how things are now.

There was a lot more going on than can be summed up in three paragraphs, of course, but I don’t think my thoughts on the STGRB debacle have changed all that much in the last year and a half. These were said thoughts:

  1. The reviewers should have the right to declare the book to be whatever –ism they wanted to.
  2. The reviewers should have the right to be as cruel in their reviews as they wanted to.
  3. Although I personally think it’s uncalled for, the reviewers should also be allowed to say whatever they wanted to about the author personally. Goodreads is a consumer guide after all, and some consumers don’t want to give their money to people they think they wouldn’t like.
  4. The reviewers should not be rating or reviewing books they had not read, either because they wanted to back up their friend’s opinion, or because they wanted it to be a comment on something they’d heard about the author.
  5. The authors had the right to complain about any reviews they were given; especially if the review was misrepresentative of their work or of their character, though I would add to that that if you’re talking about an author with a massive fanbase; then one, I would expect their skin to be pierced only by the most outrageous of unfair reviews, and two, I would expect them to realise in advance that while they’re not their fans’ mother it never hurts to make known that you don’t want someone you’re in a disagreement with to be harassed by your supporters. The same goes for particularly popular reviewers taking on indie and small press books.
  6. Criminal behaviour such as doxxing, threats or harassment is criminal. On both sides.

I think that about covers it. The old STGRB blog seems to have been taken down, but I saw a few of their detractors up and about after I googled the term, though since Goodreads implemented one or two of the policies they wanted maybe STGRB have just gone away. Honestly, looking back on it I find both sides kind of unpalatable, though at the time I leant towards the STGRB side: they were both pretty censorious and both loved playing the victim. I also never liked the term ‘bullies’, I’ve always associated it with children on a playground and these people were all adults, despite how many of them acted.

Anyway, it only matters now in that for me it’s an interesting point for comparison, and you can probably see why I’ve brought it up, though I don’t really associate either side in that controversy with either side of what I’m about to discuss, just that I’m getting a little déjà vu. And speaking of which…

Sad Puppies.

Accusations of isms and political agendas within both present and past nominations. Accusations of being only concerned about the author and their politics rather than the quality of their work. Accusations of rounding up the mob to see that their whims are done. Accusations of promoting or detracting from books without reading them—and this one I believe, sadly, has definitely been going on this year.

That was always what bothered me the most about the STGRB thing, and is something still I disagree with, even if I do agree that if the SJW clique really has been dominating the awards, then that needs to change so that other deserving authors can have their chance. Of course, for all I know, the SJW clique has been doing the exact same thing in previous years, and just as I saw two years ago, ‘revenge’ ratings are also out and about.

When I first thought of writing this post I wanted to come to grips first of all with what the Hugo Awards truly were; because there has been some debate about that and what is ‘supposed’ to be decided by the award. The best sci-fi books of the year? The most popular? The most well-crafted? The most meaningful?

All but the most popular are subjective, but if we’re going to use that as the metric, we have to admit… sometimes some awful shit can become popular. You know what I’m talking about. And yet, supposedly, if it is what’s voted for—and anyone can vote if they pay for membership, then a critical failure (whether it deserves such derision or not) is still worthy of a Hugo Award.

But what other metric are the Hugo Awards supposed to be decided by? What the literary elite considers ‘quality’? Not that that necessarily isn’t quality just because it not necessarily is, but then what else do we have the Nebula Awards for—assuming I understand the purpose of the Nebula Awards? Are they not the crème de la crème for said literary elite, in contrast to the Hugos’ vox populi?

Because the elitist-populist divide as it is seen by many following the controversy is as important a sticking-point as the left wing-right wing split—more important, to some. And I don’t know if there’s a real test to see whether a certain work is imaginative avant-garde versus pretentious garbage.

I mean, I’ve liked the avant-garde. One of my favourite TV series of all time is Patrick McGoohan’s ‘The Prisoner’—which you’ve probably already guessed from looking at my avatar if you’re at all familiar with the show—and that show, particularly the ending, could be very experimental in its expression, I think a lot of such experimental works have both major artistic and entertainment merit.

And some of them can fall into both avant-garde and popular categories; I mean, it’s rare—a lot of the avant-garde stuff, even the ‘good’ stuff, requires a lot more thought and reflection than what the average reader/viewer might consider entertainment—but then so does a lot of the really ‘hard’ science fiction: a more straight-forward exploration of complicated scientific theories, maybe, but to some people far more impenetrable than the more emotionally-driven artistry that certain works use instead of traditional narrative; works for whom evoking feeling is as or more important than evoking thought.

Are these the type of books the Hugos are meant to be giving recognition to?

I’m not in the in-crowd in the science fiction literature world—as an author I hate to admit it but I honestly relate far better to TV and movies and am only now getting into this because I’m writing my own sci-fi book (well, technically I’ve already written one, but it was YA, and I’ve always seen it in the context of the YA market rather than the sci-fi). I don’t know if, in recent years, the Hugos have become decided by a criteria more suited for the Nebulas, if this is about solely works approved by a clique of intersectional feminists dominating an award supposedly meant to be without political bias, if it’s a mix of both these things. I may be misunderstanding everything entirely.

One thing I really don’t think it is, is a reactionary attempt by straight white cis-men with delusions of persecution trying desperately to hoard whatever prestige comes from the Hugos away from more deserving women and minorities who were ‘just starting to be heard in the science fiction community!’… two hundred years ago when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. She’s a unique example, perhaps, but a telling one all the same.

All I can really do now is begin to take a closer look at the nominations themselves. This is a two-fold operation—first to analyse at least the literature nominations made over the last… Mm, let’s say five years for now, that’s how long the militant SJWs have been a really visible force in my opinion, and see if any patterns or talking points emerge from such analysis when contrasted with this year’s slate.

Second to read at least two of the books myself: one from this year’s slate, one from a year or two ago, just for comparison—and also because I haven’t been doing enough serious reading lately.

I know, I know, in the past I’ve more than deserved the title of ‘Grand Lord Universal Procrastinatrix (it’s Lord rather than Lady because… patriarchy), Mistress of Starting what She does not Finish’, but I’m going to do it! I swear!

Here—we’ll take a look at the analysis of present and past nominations another time; for now I’ll leave you with the selection of which of the ‘Best Novel’ nominations this year I’m going to read.

‘Ancillary Sword’, ‘Skin Game’, and ‘The Dark Between the Stars’ are out because I’m too lazy to read even the one preceding book in the Ancillary series; besides which that and the last one just don’t seem like my kind of book. ‘Skin Game’ sounded more my style, but as the fifteenth book in a series, I don’t think I have the time to catch up on the continuity enough that I—a continuity fiend—would feel happy judging it.

This leaves ‘The Goblin Emperor’ and ‘The Three Body Problem’, and the former had the phrase ‘hoping for the possibility of romance’ in its summary on Amazon, which made the eight-year-old boy within me go ‘Ugh! Lovey-dovey stuff!’ so, ‘The Three-Body Problem’ it is!

This originally Chinese book is perhaps not something I would have ordinarily read either—it seems a lot more ‘hard’ sci-fi than what is wont to compel me, but the ideas that I gleaned drove its plot from the Goodreads summary and a few of the top reviews on its Goodreads page really intrigued me despite my apprehension that I won’t be able to understand the science involved.

But it’s good to challenge yourself once in a while, isn’t it? Besides, one of the ideas it mentions relates somewhat to something in my book, and I need to make sure no one will ever think I ripped off this story. Otherwise I’ll have to build a mass memory-deleting machine, the power will go to my head, and I’ll become the laziest Evil Overlord Earth has ever known!

Look for my first glance at the Hugo Awards nomination slates on the weekend; I want to do a final post on ‘518′ before NaNo ends, and of course there’ll be another Missing Word Story on Friday.

Aren’t you glad it took a whole two posts before I started talking about SJW issues again? 😉

Bad Lip-Reading

So, you know when your main character has traded their voice for a cybernetic eye but then has their holographic word-display device shot off their wrist when a hostage negotiation goes south and has to try to get people to read their lips in order to understand what they’re saying?

I mean, I’m sure us authors have all been there at some point, right?

Well, what happens when the rag-tag team of plucky revolutionaries finds they’ve neglected to bring a lip-reader along on their mission to blow up an alien prince?

That’s right, Bad Lip-Reading!

(Not the YouTube channel, though if you don’t know that one you should really look for it sometime. Hilarity ensues)

It’s fun for the whole family, or in this case for me and my Mum anyway, as I mouthed some words at her today and she tried to guess what I was trying to say so I could write a scene where people are trying to guess what someone who has no voice is trying to say about a bloodthirsty alien who had infiltrated their ranks in order to bring down an Empire.

First word, ‘Blight’ [what the alien menace is known as to… pretty much everyone but themselves]

My Mum: … Blood?

Second word: ‘Parasite’ [the nature of the Blight, as our ‘hero’ is trying to explain to the other Humans]

My Mum: … Marrow Sats? Barrow Sats?

Third word/phrase: ‘You were being used’ [further attempt to explain the Blight’s agenda]

My Mum: You are mean toast?

Final word: ‘Fuck!’ [expletive]

My Mum: Oh, well I definitely understood that one!

And then the geniuses realised they had a pen and paper the whole time. Surely they will save the world!

Lost in Translation

[CAPTION] 2nd piece of Toast: “Why must you be so mean, Phil?

Missing Word Stories: From Saturn

Hey, purple penguins! Have you ever seen the Johnny Depp film ‘From Hell‘? Did you like it? Did you ever wonder what would happen if a fifteen-year-old girl wrote up a really short and stupid synopsis of it, left some words out, and got her friend to fill in those blanks by giving her only the type of word that was missing to go on?

No? Well I’m going to show you anyway, because the one I did last week was quite popular, and I’ll do anything for attention as long as I don’t have to put any effort into it!

So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, allow me to present to you–from the long lost days of the summer of 2005–the dark and twisted tale of… From Saturn

From Saturn

And no great story can fail to capture the imagination of an equally great artist–to with, here is the accompanying illustration in which our tragic hero Eomer dies (spoilers!) of hammer overdose and Claude Rains the purple-haired prison cook runs off to Mexico (hence the sombrero) with Maude’s bag, while Saturn looms threateningly in the background.

From Saturn Illustrated

Yeah… my friend and I really liked Johnny Depp and Claude Rains back then. Even if I couldn’t spell his name right in my last post…

The Diverse Walking Dead

Since I became a zombie at the end of the post I did before my book commentary on Wings—and that one I wrote over a year ago, so even a zombie could have posted about it— and my other post about the Hadringar, I thought it might be time to write about dead things.

Not about the actual TV show ‘The Walking Dead’, I’m afraid, though in a way it does tie into it. If you’ve been following TWD fandom, you might have heard of the ‘Blacklander’ phenomenon; the idea that there can only be one black main character on the show at a time, and if another one comes along the previous one has to be killed off.

Well, it only refers to black male characters now so that there’s still something to complain about, but the point is they still complain about it. This started in Season 3 when the only black main character was killed, another black guy showed up for a few episodes and was then killed, and then another black guy showed up [who, in all fairness, has since been killed]. I’m sure this has nothing to do with characters being killed left and right in every season, or possibly actors wanting to go off and do other things, and everything to do with hatred of black people.

Uh, black men—because the two female black characters introduced that season were still alive at the end of the last one. I guess by those standards ‘The Walking Dead’ believes in Asian and homosexual supremacy, because 100% of the Asian and gay cast have survived up to the end of Season 5.

… now I want to see a spin-off show where a bunch of gay Asians lead by George Takei roam the zombie-infested countryside, head-shotting zombies and protecting the vulnerable black, white, and heterosexual populations. It would be AWESOME.

Anyway, I don’t like that I’ve been going on about the whole Social Justice thing so much lately—I promise after this one I’ll get back to the usual, apolitical ramblings of a complete moron—but the thing is that this thing, this ‘OMG! You killed off the black character!’ thing, is soon going to be affecting my own work. Such are the realisations you come to when you actually work on your projects for a while—thanks NaNo!

So what is the crux of the matter but the fact that you can only have so many main characters in a single work before you begin to get confusing, (and I’ve already got a lot of characters), but ‘diversity’ covers far more than just ‘black and white’? There’s what, 200+ countries in the world? And different regions within those countries who receive less attention than others—I mean how many times is your exciting drama set in South Dakota, for example? There are a dozen different ethnicities out there and a lot more combinations of those in mixed-race people that I’m sure exist in the world, but how often do they get represented? What about queer versions of these characters? Disabled versions? Religious minority versions?

Ultimately there’s only so much room for diversity, even if you eject your white men out altogether, which I haven’t. But the humans in the book I’m working on this month are diverse because I wanted the characters to each relate some way to a different aspect of the alien invasion, which is happening differently all around the world. So I include as much as I can by having only one or two examples of each.

Thing is, I’m writing a sci-fi drama involving conquest! Terrorism! Murder! Assassinations! People are dying all over the place! And if I kill off, say, my Jewish character—that means I killed off ‘The Jewish Guy’! Anti-Semitism abounds! I have two Chinese guys, so I guess I can kill one of them and still not be racist, but what about my Russian character? Sure, he’s a straight white male, but I wouldn’t want to offend Russian people—or have them think the killing off of a character in a book was, like, a condemnation of Putin’s doing whatever he’s doing in the Ukraine or something.

Granted, most Russians probably wouldn’t give a shit. And, frankly, writing my story the way I envision it comes before the feelings of a bunch of hypothetical Russians. But there’d be plenty of SJWs ready to give a shit on their behalf and I kind of wonder how they came to see the world that way—one character being automatically associated with everything associated with one, trivial aspect of that character and a mountain of bullshit that exists nowhere in reality.

It’s kind of weird. But what can you do about it?

I mean I know what I’m going to do about it—i.e., nothing. As I was saying in my post on the New Mary Whitehouse (Mary Whitehouse has joined the zombie hordes! Run!) earlier this month; some people think the way you treat characters in a book is always intended to be, or whether intended or not simply is, a commentary on the superficial ‘diversity’ status of that character.

Muslim villain? You’re perpetuating hate against Muslims. Kill off the gay character? You’re telling gay people they deserve to die. Have a white character rescue a black character? White Saviour. Have a black character rescue a white character? Magical Negro. Woman displays traditional femininity? Reinforcing gender roles. Woman displays traditionally masculine traits? You believe masculinity is superior.

So many of these exist in no-win situations it makes some people think they shouldn’t even try writing diverse characters, because honestly? They seem to get more vitriol for ‘doing it wrong’ than the straight white cis-scum brigade gets for their supposed ‘erasure’.

Well I am trying: trying to write a good story, anyway, and in this story characters who are superficially diverse for reasons other than blatant tokenism also have diversity of inner character, and if people don’t like it they can do whatever they want to do about it—it’s a free country, assuming you’re not enslaved to the kyriarchy, or your own narcissism.

I mean, as long as they don’t, like, kill me or anything. I promise, I’m a nice zombie. Barely eaten anyone all week.

In other news, I hit my NaNo target of 30K yesterday, so have a cartoon of all my diverse characters in celebration and place your bets on which ones will survive the book! XD

Diversity and DEATH!

[Sorry, Americans—I couldn’t really render some of the individual state flags very well… or even recognisably. And sorry to you too, LGBT folks… I didn’t have a purple pen, so the bottom stripe in the flag is now pink].

The Harrowing Hadringar

Another in my posts showing the background of ‘518‘, this is species 517 of the 518 known species in the universe in-universe: the Hadringar. (Same word for both plural, singular, and descriptor–e.g. ‘it was a facet of Hadringar culture’. Planet’s name is ‘Hadringatte’)

The Hadringar were luckier than the Humans in the book, their species was discovered by the Bani Alliance and voted democratically to become part of the Alliance rather than being taken over. However, there are enough Hadringar upset with this development that terrorist groups have formed, some of which wish to make another alliance with Humans as they (wrongfully) see their situations to be similar.

Unfortunately, the Humans have no idea what’s really going on with Hadringatte becoming part of the Alliance, and so have agreed to snuggle up to these fluffy creatures, which leads to much mayhem. Behold; the Hadringar!

Hadringar

The colour of the main body in this picture is darker than it should be, and in retrospect the stalks look a little too thin, but overall I’m happy with this drawing. My inspiration was simple–a fluffy, down feather had caught on a chain-link fence I was walking past, right next to some grit that kind of looked like eyes and paws coming from the little feather. Later on, I saw a little dome in the window of a sweet shop that had lollypops sticking out of it, and voila.

Fun fact: when I showed this drawing to my Mum and explained the function of the spheres, she replied, “Hm, I wonder why nothing like that ever evolved in real life…”

Yeah, I wonder why, Mum. I wonder why…

[Excerpt from ‘518’ describing the Hadringar:]

*~*~*

Catching the eye more than the Humans would have if this hadn’t been the first time I’d seen my own people in five years, were the Hadringar. They were about the height of a German shepherd, cotton-candy pink balls of fluff with these creepy big insect-like green eyes at one end, just above their big paws.

Along their backs were—and I hate to call them this—the lollypop-like protrusions. Long pale stalks with spheres the size of small melons tipping the ends in several swirling bright colours. They’d evolved to almost perfectly mimic a type of stationary life on their planet; a plant, for lack of a better term. That plant’s protrusions contained a nectar-like substance that attracted certain creatures to feed on it.

The same protrusions on the Hadringar contained a liquid sedative that attracted the same creatures so that the Hadringar could feed on them. That was their purpose, I mean. I imagined these days Hadringar lured their prey to themselves out in the wild about as often as Humans caught, killed and prepared their own food. Or maybe not; you could never make assumptions about these things.

There were two present in the cathedral, both with weapons mounted on the two lollypops closest to their eyes, and both with other devices strapped along their backs as well. One stood the furthest being away from me in the room, by the second entrance…