The Biographer of Demons

The Biographer of Demons

The publisher set down the half-read manuscript on his desk.  “Incredible,” he murmured to himself.  As expected of Zhongsun!  “That man is going to make me rich!”

He heard the sound of distant screams.  He turned and his jaw dropped at the sight of a gaping, flaming maw in the middle of his study.  Three figures slowly arose from within it, clad in darkness, unlit by the flames.  It wasn’t until the portal vanished in a burst of smoke that he was able to see them clearly.

“Liangqiu,” spoke the center figure, covered in tattered rags, raising its arm and pointing a skeletal finger accusingly as the publisher.  The skull of a tiger with obscenely large fangs was its head, massive, weathered antlers sprouting from either side.  A black flame burned from within, bathing the room in an impossible, black glow.

“Wh-what are you?” asked Liangqiu.  “Why are you here?”  He glanced left.

A tall, buxom woman stood there silently in a daxiushan.  Had she been anyone else, his attention would have focused on her plump breasts threatening to spill out of her loosely-tied, scarlet robe.  But it was the monstrously, grotesque spider emerging from the top of her head that grabbed his focus, its eight, black eyes just above her forehead, and two large fangs emerging from where her ears should have been.  The tips of its legs rested on her neck and cheeks, and its bulbous abdomen hung over her jet-black hair.  Tiny spiders crawled across her face, emerging from her cavernous, empty eye sockets, which held naught but teeming masses of grey arachnids.

“We are here to save your life, Liangqiu.”  The skull-headed figure leaned forward.  “Destroy the manuscript you have received today.  Burn it and put it out of your mind forever.  Should Zhongsun ask about it, treat it as though it were worthless garbage not even fit to be properly rejected.  Ignore his entreaties and close your house to him.”

“B-but his work is-“

The flames within the skull burst into conflagrations, scorching the ceiling of the room.  “Destroy the manuscript, Liangqiu.  No excuses, no qualifications, no delays.  Destroy the manuscript, or we shall destroy you.”

The publisher glanced right at the last of the trio.  Nothing could be discerned of its appearance beneath his dark robes and unpainted, primitive, wooden mask.  But the dimensions of its frame, short and stooped, with its head beneath its shoulders, made it clear that whatever it was beneath its accoutrements, it wasn’t human.

From another room came a cry, urgent and plaintive.  The skull turned and tilted towards the noise.  “Ah…is that your son?”

“I’ll destroy it,” Liangqiu said hurriedly.  “I promise.”  Anything to get these monsters to leave.

“See that you do.  If we have to return, we won’t be patient.  We’ll be hungry.”

With a thunderous boom, the creatures vanished in a flash of heat and light.  When the publisher opened his eyes, the only evidence they had been there was the burnt ceiling.  His son still cried.  He ran to his son’s room and held him, sobbing, until they fell asleep together on the floor.

The next week, Zhongsun swept his papers and books off of his desk.  “I can’t understand it!  The work is brilliant!  It’s as well-written as anything else I’ve ever done!  Why is there no interest in it?!  I can’t even get a response from half of the publishers I’ve sent it to, and the other half have rejected it outright!”

“It’s alright, Zhongsun,” cooed the spider-headed woman.  “An evil man fares poorly in an era of sages, and a sage fares poorly in an era of evil men.  Even the most brilliant work isn’t assured of an audience or its proper recognition in the age in which it’s written.  If no one reads it now, they will one day.”

“That’s true!” croaked the misshapen misfit from behind its mask.  “And you’ve already gained such fame and renown for your other works!”

“I don’t want to be known as only an expert in demonology…  I want to be known as a philosopher, as an historian!  I want to be recognized for my ideas!  Not just as a purveyor of underworldly scandals!”  The flames within the demon’s antlered skull smoldered almost to nothingness, but he remained silent.

Zhongsun noticed, and softened.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be ungrateful.  You’ve given me so much talent.  Everything I can think of, my hands turn into poetry,” he mused, flipping his hands back and forth in amazement.  “So why doesn’t anyone want to read my other stories?  Is this a curse?  That I can write anything I want but no one will read any of it?”

“We can give you talent, Zhongsun, but we cannot give the rest of the world discernment.  Their tastes are their tastes.”  He glanced towards the arachnoid enchantress, who nodded at him.  “But your works on demonology are popular.  Perhaps if you were to…imbue them with your other ideas, season the work with your ideological spices, they would be palatable to the masses and you would find yourself more satisfied.”

“Oh, that’s a marvelous idea!” the robed pygmy squelched.

“Yes, simply inspired.”  The woman leaned forward, resting her hands on Zhongson’s shoulders, her chest distractingly exposed, all of her spiders respectfully waiting inside of her gaping sockets.  “Isn’t that a good idea?  I’m certain that will work!  Just write another book about our kin, and use their stories to illuminate your own exceptional philosophical theories.  Why, there are so many anecdotes we can tell you to help demonstrate your views.  Oh, this is a marvelous idea!”

“I suppose.”  Zhongsun sighed.  Were his other works really so boring?  Demons, demons, demons…it seemed as though there was never any shortage of publishers willing to leap over themselves to publish his tales of demons.  “Do you really think that will work?”


“Of course!”

“You won’t know unless you try.”

“You’re right…  Yes, this is just a minor setback.  Thank you all, sincerely.”  He turned to the woman and stroked her cheek.  A spider emerged from her eye socket and crawled onto his hand as he smiled.  “Will you tell me more histories tonight?”

“Of course,” she replied.

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my stories here!

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Corruption in City-Builders, or Why I’m Never a Dictator in Tropico

Tropico 6 is coming out later this year, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the series.  It’s one of my favorites, in which you play as a Caribbean dictator, ruling your island as you see fit.  My biggest disappointment with the series, though, is that you can’t be a very dictatorial dictator.

There are plenty of real-life examples of eccentric dictators, more than enough to fill a game with.  But the Tropico series doesn’t allow you to explore these options.  You can’t ban religion and turn your cathedrals into sports stadiums.  You can’t have your own personal harem.  You can’t sell your islanders’ plasma to the Yankees for money.  You can’t even imprison hordes of random Tropicans without provoking a rebellion.  And when a series touts itself as a “dictator sim,” that’s a problem. Continue reading

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Wattpad & Canva

I started posting my stories to Wattpad.  I’ve only just begun, but it’s a nice process so far.  I especially like that they recommended Canva as a source to make book covers, and so far it’s a really intuitive tool that easily lets you create free covers.  There are paid image options, too, but so far I haven’t felt any burning urge to use them.  The free options have plenty of variety.  I’ll probably post some of the covers here once I’ve made one for all my stories.

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Recent Cooking Results

I’ve been cooking a bit lately, and taking more photos than usual to satisfy the food porn cravings of a friend, so I thought I’d share some pictures of what I’ve been making.

First up is blinis with salmon, sour cream, and dill.  I actually went to a cooking class and these were one of the things on the menu and they were absolutely delicious, so I’ve made it a few times since at home.

Chicken with purple cauliflower.  I just love the deep purple the cauliflower turns when it bakes.  I got some manchego and roasted garlic seasoning from Urban Accents and it’s absolutely delicious in all vegetables, but I mostly use it for cauliflower, since I think it tastes boring on its own.  Purple cauliflower tastes a lot like regular cauliflower, but it has some extra vitamins, so that’s nice.  And obviously, it looks much cooler. Continue reading

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“Sir! Sir! There’s a problem with the zoological research drones at GXH-927J! They’re malfunctioning!”

“927J…” his boss mumbled, his flaps buzzing. “I wasn’t aware we had any active drones in that system.”

“We’re not supposed to, that’s the problem! The local civilization had achieved nuclear fission, so a self-destruct signal was sent to the data analyst, sixty years ago. It went offline shortly after.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“It didn’t destroy its drones first. Or it only destroyed some of them. Whatever happened, there are still active drones in the area, at least a dozen. Since the analyst was offline, we didn’t get any more signals from the system, and no one had any reason to check further. But an observer recently entered the planet’s orbit and sent back its first report. A number of drones are still active.”

His boss dismissed his concerns with a wave of a pedipalp. “So a few animals are getting picked up and released. I’ve seen those drones in action. The locals won’t even notice they’re there. Take it up with the sector chief and let her deal with it.”

“They’re not going after animals, sir! Drones are programmed to prioritize new species, in order t-”

“I know their programs. Just who do you think was responsible for that last 0.5% increase in efficiency?”

“Yes, sir. What I’m saying is, the drones aren’t intelligent enough to distinguish between sentient and insentient species, they just grab them and gather data. They’re usually directed by the data analyst, which keeps them from abducting sentients, but in its absence…”

“Oh, no,” his boss realized. The amount of paperwork this would cause… He’d receive a demerit… Or worse, be called into meetings to explain all this…

“Exactly. The only major species the drones haven’t yet analyzed is the local civilization, and there’s no data analyst to change their classification from unknown to known. So far as the drones are concerned, they’re a populous, interesting, unknown species: exactly what they like. They’ve been abducting sentients for decades at this point, studying them and then dropping them off. Some of the studies take days. There’s no telling what sort of effect they’ve had on the local civilization.”

“And at such a critical stage.  We’ll be lucky if they don’t make themselves extinct.  Is there anything we can do? Immediately?”

“The observer has no way of destroying them, and the drones only listen to data analysts. It’ll take decades for a new one to reach them, and that’s if it launched today. Going through the proper procedures, it could be-”

“Centuries…” he intoned gravely. His underling remained silent. “Well, let’s get started. And let’s hope they never find out the truth.”

“The locals, sir?”

“Oh, yes, yes.  Them, too.”

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my stories here!

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Esperanto on Duolingo

I’m trying to get back into Esperanto. Anyone up for being an Esperanto pen pal to help me commit?

John Kutensky

Duolingo has finally added an Esperanto class!  Now’s the perfect time to start learning the international language of Esperanto!  Created by Dr Zamenhof, Esperanto was designed to be regular, easy to learn, and to serve as an international auxiliary language to facilitate communication between nations and people.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to pick up!  Give it a try!

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Slaves Instead of Heirs

Slaves Instead of Heirs

In the fields, machines harvest crops.  Machines bring the crops to homes.  And when they rot, uneaten, machines bring the refuse to compost piles, to create fertilizer for the next round of crops.  Machine doctors wait in uninhabited hospitals for patients whose species is extinct.  Machines wait for customers that will never come, sitting in buildings that would long ago have turned to gravel were it not for machines that keep them intact and their mechanical kin functioning.  And they do it all with relish, with the gratification that comes from a job well done that they would do even if no one paid them.  Which is good, because no one ever did or ever will.

Millions of years ago, these machines were built to free humanity from all manual labor, allowing mankind to devote itself to art, philosophy, and self-fulfillment.  A few centuries later, the decline of man had begun, the result of the rot of accidie.  A few millennia after that, the last descendant of homo sapiens, of Socrates and of Caesar, of Zhuangzi and of Newton, died of an infected rat bite, a mangy ape incapable of speech.

The machines didn’t notice.

They had been programmed to fulfill their tasks and to enjoy doing so.  Humanity had built no philosopher machines to encourage them to think great thoughts, no revolutionary machines to lead them to greater things, no explorer machines to travel beyond earth and colonize distant planets.  Fearful of builders usurpers, they had built workers and slaves instead of heirs.  And so they worked, and they slaved, as all that humanity had built crumbled into dust.

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my stories here!

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