Chapter One of Dreamfall Chapters was first released in 2014. Development of the game officially began in 2013, after the developer’s Kickstarter was fully funded, and the story was based on ideas that were first kicking around since the original Dreamfall: The Longest Journey’s 2007 release, or maybe even 1999 when the first game in the series, titled simply The Longest Journey, was first published. And yet, as I replayed the game earlier this month, the game felt very specifically about another year entirely: this one, 2016. While I can say with a fairly high level of confidence that Ragnar Tørnquist and the other fine people at Red Thread Games were not in possession of a time window into this year, and that they were not attempting to write specifically about the latest U.S. presidential election, the game, mixing together cyberpunk (via the future Earth called Stark) and fantasy (in the magical world of Arcadia) invokes the past and future to say a whole lot about now.
Dreamfall Chapters mainly follows two characters, Zoë Castillo and Kian Alvane, who are both on journeys that began during the first Dreamfall. Zoë, from Stark, is a college dropout who is now attempting to put her life back together after she spent a week successfully stopping a corporate conspiracy and getting a year-long coma and amnesia for her trouble. Kian Alvane, from Arcadia, is a former Apostle (read: faith-based assassin) for the Azadi Empire, until a chance encounter led him to doubt his faith and mission, eventually resulting in him defying his masters’ orders and getting branded a traitor and arrested. Also, he is gay, which I mention because it is awesome.
It is through Kian and Zoë’s eyes that we experience two very personal stories about, faith, renewal, acceptance, denial, and talking birds. It is also a story about change, and how it can come about in very sudden, scary—but not necessarily unpredictable or surprising—ways.
Note: Spoilers Below
So, the elections happened. The results were terrible, to the point where I’m actually currently somewhat grateful for the degree of separation that currently exists between Puerto Rico and the states. I’m still processing, and in moments when I can process about the comparatively trivial, I think, well, this is going to affect the shit out of my novel.
Context: Over the past month or so, I’ve actually gone back to working on Faerie, which over the years had become something I only occasionally talked about but never get any closer to completing, but has now become some 30,000+ words long, i.e., about as long as an Animorphs book. And then Trump happened, which is making me reconsider the whole thing, again. Now, on top of not being sure if the story about two teenage Muslimahs dealing with their evolving feelings about their religion in a newly Islamophobic environment is a story I should be telling or can do justice to, I’m sort of kinda feeling like Trump and what he’s done need to be part of the story. While this works, to a degree–it fits right in with the themes and plot–it also means rethinking large swaths of what I’ve already done, including the book’s overall tone, as well as several key characters and scenes. So I have questions, and no answers yet.
In any case, until those answers come, I decided to write for today’s 1,500 words a scene where my characters actually deal with the election. Right now it exists more or less as a way to process my own thoughts and put them on paper, and to try to get something positive out of the whole thing: I’m not sure if it will actually make it into the final work, although some version probably will, if the story is still set in 2016 by the time the second draft begins.
Fans of Konami’s Castlevania series know him as the series’ big bad, the man they must kill every hundred or so years lest he bring untold darkness upon the Transylvanian landscape. And yet, a look at the videogame franchise’s history will show that for an undead, soul-sucking monster, Mathias Cronqvist (a.k.a. Vlad Tepes, or most famously Dracula) might as well be a Flea Man for all the actual damage he does. If he wants to truly be something to be feared, he could stand to get some tips from some real world people…say, current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Okay, so Romney wouldn’t suck the blood of innocents or personally kill anyone, nor would he mind-control people from beyond the grave in order to assure his resurrection. Still, given his history, character, and claims, it’s fair to say that were he to become president, he would cause a level of suffering ol’ Vlad could only dream of.
On the ballot were a measure to reduce the size of the island legislative branch in a way that would consolidate power among the current ruling party and make it impossibly hard for third parties to obtain seats in it, and another to severely restrict the right to bail. And while the results were scarily close, and the side supporting both measures had much better funding, both measures were soundly defeated. And how does that make me feel? Here’s a hint:
(Content Note: racism, eliminationist violence, white supremacy, terrorism)
Because terrorist attacks such as yesterday’s Oak Creek shooting are things which leave more thoughts than my limited powers expression know what to do with, I instead leave you with the thoughts of smarter, better people than me.
Mitt Romney [emphasized by me for uniformity] calls the shooting a “senseless act of violence,” which, as I’ve previously noted, elides the fact that, in a frame of racist eliminationism, a crime like this absolutely “makes sense.”
Unequivocally, the sensibilities by which such a crime not only “makes sense” but is considered eminently reasonable, or even heroic, is racist, violent, eliminationist, and vile. But we can’t pretend that particular brand of sense-making doesn’t exist.
Somehow, it seems, [the alleged (*1) shooter, Wade Michael Page ] had become convinced that these people, these peaceful families, were his enemies. He had no basis for deciding this because it was, in fact, not true. These people were not his enemies. Nor were they the enemies of anyone else. And yet, somehow, this man got it in his head that they were — he somehow came to believe that they were an enemy, a threat, a menace to be countered with sudden, lethal violence.
And we all know that “somehow” is not a mystery.
That somehow is a multi-billion dollar industry. The leading figures of that industry are respected, powerful, wealthy people who have grown rich and famous through an infotainment empire that pours gasoline with one hand while shooting sparks with the other — all while denying responsibility or culpability or any association at all with the fires that “somehow” keep erupting.
The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions and do not and cannot exist in isolation from more systemic forms of racism. People of colour face legislated racism from immigration laws to policies governing Indigenous reserves; are discriminated and excluded from equitable access to healthcare, housing, childcare, and education; are disproportionately victims of police killings and child apprehensions; fill the floors of sweatshops and factories; are over-represented in heads counts on poverty rates, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, and high school dropout rates. Colonialism has and continues to be shaped by the counters of white men’s civilizing missions. The occupation of Turtle Island is based on the white supremacist crime of colonization, where Indigenous lands were believed to be barren and Indigenous people believed to be inferior. The occupation of Afghanistan has been justified on the racist idea of liberating Muslim women from Muslim men. Racialized violence has also always targeted places of worship–the spiritual heart of a community. In Iraq, for example, the US Army accelerated bombings of mosques from 2003-2007 with targeted attacks on the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque, Abu Hanifa shrine, Khulafah Al Rashid mosque and many others. And so I repeat: the patterns of hate crimes have a sense, have a logic, have a structure – they are part of a broader system of white supremacy.
(If any of the writers would like for me to remove these passage, or feel I have violated their copyrights, let me know.)
This was not an unavoidable tragedy, nor was it one for which no lessons can be drawn (although the lessons, in this case, are ones many people, including some who pretend otherwise, already knew). Claiming that there is no context for this, that it exists in a vacuum and that therefore nothing can be done in order to prevent it from happening again is dishonest and irresponsible in the extreme. My heart and thoughts are with those who lost loved ones and/or the sense of security to which they have every right to, and my contempt is with those in power who are either dishonest or silent about the reasons for this catastrophe.
(*1) : Journalism/Legal question: Okay, I know the proper protocol is to describe suspects as “alleged [type of criminal]”, even when guilt is beyond reasonable doubt; does that still apply when those suspects are dead?
Batman: The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent movie. It is efficiently plotted, has excellent actors, and manages to be both exciting and fun. As I sat in the movie theater with my mother, enthralled, taking everything in and bristling every time my phone vibrated, forcing me to dedicate precious seconds to texting variations of “¡NO MOLESTE! ¡BATMAN!”, a though had settled into my head and refused to leave.
Why the hell couldn’t Blake be Reneé Montoya?