Archive for May, 2011

A Twitter-Tale of Rapture Survival

At 6pm on May 21st 2011 the Rapture was scheduled to begin, according to religious leader Harold Camping. Of course, this didn’t happen. But since New Zealand was supposed to be the first country to experience the Rapture, I figured it would be a great chance to start a War of the Worlds-style fictional documentary of the Rapture, posted through Twitter and using the hashtag #FirstRapture

If you missed it, here’s the entire tale below. Enjoy!

@crhindmarsh: 5pm NZ time. NZ is one of the earliest countries to see the rapture so I’ll be documenting live on Twitter using the hashtag #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 5:10pm NZST: 50 minutes until the rapture in NZ. Pretty quiet so far. I’m anticipating a night of watching horror movies. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 5:30pm NZT: 30min til Rapture. If I get rapturized, I’ll try to log onto Twitter in Heaven and let you know what it’s like :P #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 5:50pm NZST: 10min to Rapture. Got the phone numbers of my religious friends to check for rapturization and some horror movies #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 5:55pm NZST: 5min to Rapture. Should have got popcorn. Think I’ll just crack open a beer instead #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 6:01pm NZST. Sadly I have not been rapturized. No signs of doom. What a bust. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 6:05pm NZST Got in touch with 5 of my 7 most religious friends. Most likely the other 2 are in the bathroom, not Heaven. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 6:11pm NZST Huh, power went out. 3G is still working so I’m on Twitter with my phone. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 6:19pm NZST Just had a huge flash in the sky, like sheet lighting out of nowhere. Refusing to jump to conclusions. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 6:31pm NZST Power’s still out. Someone just smashed a window at the end of my street. Going to check it out. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 6:39pm NZST The smashed window was someone looting the local liquor store. Tried calling the cops but phone’s not working #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 6:50pm NZST Just remembered I have a crank radio. Lots of static on the air, but could have sworn I heard “emergency” #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7pm NZST: I can hear more looting. Can’t get in touch with my gf so going to ride my motorbike to her place. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:06pm NZST Motorbike won’t start. Going on foot to my girlfriend’s house. Taking my first aid kit just in case #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:11pm NZST So dark outside. All the streetlights are out and there’s no stars. Going to talk to a couple of people up ahead #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:15pm NZST No cars on the road. It’s spooky. A few scattered people like me around trying to find friends and family #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:21pm NZST Fell in with a couple of people trying to find their friends. They say their other friend just vanished #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:28pm NZST There’s smoke on the horizon. Nearly at my girlfriend’s house. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:41pm NZST Fuck got attacked by pack of things, dont even know what they were. They got Robert and Jean, people I was with. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:44pm NZST Hiding in someone’s backyard. I can hear those things walking past. I’ve got Robert’s blood on me. So scared #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 7:50pm NZST Don’t know why I’m still documenting this but people need to know. Coast is clear now. Going to run for it #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 8pm NZST They didn’t see me get away. Realised I forgot my asthma inhalor. At my girlfriend’s house now, but it looks dark #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 8:06pm NZST Searched my gf’s place but no one home. Just piles of clothes and shoes on the ground. Crap, those freaks are back #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 8:10pm Got a photo of one of the things that got Robert and Jean. Don’t know what the fuck it is. http://ow.ly/i/bQUK #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 8:14pm NZST The things must’ve seen me go into the house. Beat one of their heads in with a crowbar I found. Blood all over me #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 8:26 NZST So scared. There are screams coming from all round the city. I need to keep moving. Going to the mall for supplies #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 8:30 NZST There are swarms of insects flying around. Found an abandoned car full of blood. I can hear growling again. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: Don’t know what time it is. Got attacked again and one of those things bit me. Trying to find a place to hide #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: 8:52pm NZST Have to be silent. Broke into a house to hide. Bite mark on my leg hurts like hell http://ow.ly/i/bQW2 #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: They found me again. I think they can smell the blood. Locked myself in a closet but they’re banging on the door and growling. #FirstRapture

@crhindmarsh: This will be my last post. Phone’s nearly dead and those things are nearly inside. God help me. They’re here. #FirstRapture #TheEnd

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Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

May is Zombie Awareness Month, so I decided it would be apt to write a post on how to survive after 90% of the population have turned into dead cannibals and are trying to gnaw on your legs. As you read this guide, remember that adaptability, above all else, is the key to surviving post-Z-day. This guide, like any others, is just that: a guide. Use your best judgement, and hope that it doesn’t result in your untimely demise (and reanimation).

1. Know Your Zombie:

I’m not referring to whether the zombie is created by a virus (e.g. Solanum) or through supernatural means. That don’t matter a bit. I’m talking about more practical distinctions.

There are generally considered to be two types of zombie: fast and slow. If the zombie apocalypse involves slow zombies, consider yourself lucky. You can fight off or run from a slow zombie more easily. Individual zombies can be separated from the horde and taken out one-by-one. Chances are you’ll be laughing all the way to the reconstruction of society.

If you’ve got fast zombies, though, you’re in trouble. These things will be on you quicker than you can say, “Oh fuck, I’m going to die a virgin then have my innards ripped out and eaten. I’m kinda bummed about this situation, to be honest.” Your best chance of surviving fast zombies is to shut the fuck up and find a good hiding place. Ensure your group is the right size: not so many people the zombies are attracted for a tasty snack, but not so few you’ll end up facing an attack without brothers-in-arms. (Or to have someone to throw into the path of the zombies. Take one for the team, bro!) Which brings us to our next point…

2. Pick Your Teammates Wisely:

You notice how in every zombie flick there’s always a few annoying/selfish/cowardly people who get everyone else eaten?

Kill them. Kill them now. Or just blindfold them and dump them out in the zombie-infested city if you’re not the murdering type. You’re doing them a kindness. Well, not really, but fuck them. You don’t want them around. You need people in your group who are skilled in some way. Expert killing machines are always a good one. Doctors, too, as long as they’re not too compassionate. Anyone who can jerry-rig some explosives or fix a SUV with only some duct tape and rubber bands. As for anyone with no useful skills, they have to go. Homeopath? Lawyers? Beauty therapists? Zombie food waiting to happen. (Note: if you are say, a writer, you’re going to have to fake some skills if you don’t want this to happen to you.)

Maybe you’re feeling a bit squeamish about leaving all these people to die. Well that’s because you haven’t reached Step 3…

3. Cut All Ties With Your Humanity:

Lots of people are going to die. Your family is going to die. Same with your friends and the cute chick that works at the movie theatre. And they’re not just going to die. They’re going to get back up and try to eat you. If you hesitate in killing them, you’ll be joining them. Once you learn to embrace your deep-seated sociopathic tendencies, you’ll end up safer and happier.

Say you’re running with your family from a zombie attack and your cute little son trips over. Now, a normal, well-adjusted person would stop to protect their child. And then what happens? You get eaten, along with anyone else in your family stupid enough to stop as well. Not cool.

But if you’ve become dead inside, you will actually see this as an opportunity. The zombies will stop chasing you to enjoy some nice juicy child flesh, leaving the rest of your family alive and with one less mouth to feed. If all your family members are too nimble-footed to trip, consider pushing one of them.

4. Weapons

Many people, especially you Americans, will pull out their shotguns and assault rifles and Stinger Missiles at the first sign of a zombie apocalypse and try to shoot the zombies like they’re playing Call of Duty.
Stupid. Fucking. Idea.
Here’s why: you’ll kill some zombies. Whoopdee-fucking-doo. But you know what all that gunfire’s going to do? Attract more zombies. From miles and miles around, they’ll come for you.

“No problem,” you say. “I’ll just shoot them as well!”

Great. Until you run out of ammo. Then, instead of the ten zombies you started out facing, you’ve got 200 of the bastards bearing down on you, and you’re sitting there with your empty Glock looking sad.

No, you want weapons that are quiet and can either decapitate the zombie or destroy its brain. Swords, axes, decent sized bats. Whatever you’re comfortable with. If you absolutely must have a firearm, use it only as a last resort, then get the hell out of Dodge before more zombies show up.

Oh, and don’t be a moron and try to set them on fire. How long do you think it’ll take before that fire destroys the zombie’s brain? In the meantime they’re still going to come at you, and then you have to deal with a FLAMING FUCKING ZOMBIE. This is much worse, for obvious reasons. And that’s not even counting the risk of setting your hiding place on fire and burning yourself to death.

Final Thoughts:

Chances are, if a zombie apocalypse comes, you’re going to die. Sorry, but it’s the truth. If you do happen to be one of the lucky ones, remember: the future of the human race depends on you. So be smart, know your exits, and DON’T GET BITTEN!

Good luck. You’re going to need it.

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Fantasy Map-Making

I won’t lie; one of the main reasons I write fantasy is the chance to build new cultures, creatures, and worlds. Don’t listen to the naysayers; playing God is awesome.
Of course, one of the most important parts of world-building is creating a map for your brand new world. I’ve spent many an hour lovingly stroking maps at the start of fantasy books. There’s just something about a good map that makes the whole world come alive. (Ironically, my favourite map is actually not from an entirely different world. The map in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan is freaking magnificent.)

For my debut novel, THE CONVERTED, I never got past a sketched map in the back of my notebook, and no map has yet been added to the ebook. If and when I write additional stories in the same world I will probably come up with something a bit more concrete and make it available.

But since I am publishing the draft of FALSE GODS as an online serial as I write, I decided it would be wise to have a map available to assist people as they read. I considered just going with a rough sketch, but that wouldn’t do the world justice, so I decided to dust off my meagre Photoshop skills and see what I could come up with. Here’s the finished result (click for a bigger picture):

In this post I’ll talk about how I came to this point. I won’t do a full tutorial at this stage, because half the time I was just screwing around trying to get stuff to look right, but I’ll give you a look at my process.

Before I even start writing, I like to have an idea of the geography. By far the best tool I have found for this is Fractal Terrains. This nifty software allows you to randomise an entire world, and it will calculate altitudes, climate, and dozens of other variables. You can then tweak the world as you choose, until you get something you’re happy with. The demo version is available here, so go check it out.

The continent I chose to use for FALSE GODS is shown below:

As awesome as Fractal Terrains is, I like to do much of my brainstorming and world creation on paper. Being too lazy to actually print out a copy of the map, I just put a piece of paper on my computer screen and traced the image. You are free to do something less weird.

The next step was to add in cities, regions, borders, rivers, and anything else important to the story. It wasn’t until after I’d done this that I actually began writing the story. By now I had a fair idea of the geography, in addition to the other world-building I’d already done.

Then it was time to make the proper map. As mentioned above, my Photoshop skills are limited, so I turned to the interwebs for aid. Cartographer’s Guild is a website for map-making enthusiasts, and they have numerous tutorials on their discussion forums. There are some incredibly beautiful maps on the site, and I encourage you to check them out if you’re interested in making your own map.

Using one of the tutorials so generously provided, and a fair amount of trial-and-error and slamming my head into the keyboard, I got something I was happy with.

I played with the saturation of the image and overlaid a folded paper texture to grunge the whole thing up a bit. Then I was done!

It didn’t take nearly as long as I’d feared to make something I’m pleased with. More importantly, it was fun.

What do you guys think? How do you make your fantasy maps?

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Writing Prompt Wednesday

We’ve got something a bit more fantasy-oriented for today’s visual writing prompt. Get writing, folks!

You’ll find the original here.

Happy writing!

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Flash Fiction

My Photo Flash Fiction piece “Blast Off” is featured today over at bookPumper.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Cheers!

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