Saturday, 29 November 2008

Taking first, for the rights of Reyvateils everywhere.

So Falling Through The Generation Gap is, as of this posting, officially the number one Google result for "diquility". That's fairly impressive, considering the term is used in a lot of discussions of AT; I suppose it's that we're probably the only site that actually uses the term repeatedly and often, rather than simply mentioning it in passing.

I'm quite heartened by this, not because I specifically want traffic, but rather because I like to imagine that if there were Reyvateils out there searching for info on Diquility, they'd be able to find helpful advice straight away; and also, if people are searching for generic info on the world of AT and the first thing they find is something that treats that world as a real, meaningful place... that's really awesome, and I'm quite honoured that I could have been responsible for that.

We're also, incidentally, the first result for "reyvateil rights" (in quotes); sadly enough, though, my writings here and on my other blogs seem to be the only results for that query. A shame that no one else has considered the concept worthy of serious discussion, especially since there are such obvious parallels with the oppression of various groups in our own world throughout history. I suppose AT's a small fandom, but still, I think there's a lot of potentially enlightening elaboration to be had there, which is why Falling Through The Generation Gap exists. I hope, through it, more fans can be brought around to seriously thinking about the rights of Reyvateils when they enter that world; I think it's an issue that, if you're at all a fan of the Reyvateil characters (or even if you aren't, but especially if you are), deserves some serious thought.

Speaking of FTTGG (or the Reyvablog, as its players fondly refer to it), I'd like to re-promote this particular link and see if I can't get a few of you to spread it around. It's presented from an in-game perspective, but it was written with a dual purpose: as well as making the players aware of many of the unfair ways in which Reyvateils are treated day-to-day on the streets and in the media, it also contains a message to those of us in this world, about how the characters people idolise might feel about artwork that shows them being degraded and humiliated.

If you sympathise with a fictional character and feel uncomfortable with the way a lot of artwork treats them as objects, and want to encourage other people to reflect, for a moment, on whether the characters they love would really want people thinking of them in that way, I encourage you to link to this entry if you can. It's not about being anti-porn; I'm quite fine with the existence of works that portray sexualised situations for the purposes of other people's pleasure. I just don't like that images that specifically degrade and brutalise characters are becoming widespread and even normative, because I don't like seeing the characters I love portrayed that way and I don't like thinking that others are becoming desensitised to the idea of their casual mistreatment. If you think the same way, linking to this campaign is one way to raise your voice in harmony. It may make someone think twice.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sometimes, even a really sketchy image can capture your heart....

Do you ever get that? When you run across an image that isn't the best of fanart, not the most detailed, has plenty of errors, yet still somehow manages to evoke something so sincere that it ends up becoming a favourite?

That's how I feel about this. (Worksafe warning: contains naked Mir curled up; just a sketch, vague.) Simple, yes, yet there's something about the lines of her face that evokes such sympathy from me. I've always been touched by this pose of hers; it's a striking pose for the very final boss to have. Instead of being an imposing, monstrous demigod at the end (okay, she's that in her penultimate form, but still), she's just a frail little girl hiding away behind protective shields, hugging her knees in fear. That combined with the fact that beforehand, all she's basically saying to you is "go away... don't come near me...", creates such a heartrending image of someone who, more than anything, just wants all this conflict to end, even if she's scared that if she's the one who ends it, things will only return to the way they've been before.

Mir can't give in; she needs the world to change before she is prepared to stop fighting. If she concedes, she has no guarantee that they will. But Lyner proves that humans can be safe by being the first to back down, and once she's convinced of that, she gives in easily. She never wanted to fight.

I feel personally tortured by GUST...

...with the release of this heartbreakingly magnificent Phantasmagoria music box, already sold out in preorder, and this Jakuri mug (endearingly entitled "The Last Boss's Black Mug"), which is not yet sold out but which I can't imagine ever being able to procure.

At the very least, you can listen to a snippet from the music box on the page. Doing so fair broke my heart; it's simply beautiful. I think it officially sounds a lot nicer than the version of Phantasmagoria on the Hymmnos Orgel Collection, even if it's only a brief snippet of the song; there's a deep, rich warmth to the sound that makes me all nostalgic, probably because I actually used to have a little music box that only came out at Christmas-time (we kept it with the decorations the rest of the year) and so the sound reminds me of that. I miss that music box. Makes me want to see fanart of a Reyvateil gazing longingly through the windows of a toy shop at a music box on a snowy day....

Even if I can't have these, I'll be saving the pages for posterity. Still trying to work out why the Jakuri mug is trembling at me from the top of the page, though.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Can we do it? On January 20th, we start finding out.

Further to my previous post on the topic, I've been cooking up some January 20th-related images that I plan to add to t-shirts to wear on and around the time: here and here.

I'm pretty proud of my idea of the first one in that it works as well to describe Obama's inauguration as it does to describe interacting with fictional worlds: social change is our responsibility, in both situations. And I'm really pleased with what I managed to do with a certain couple of imposing and important structures in the second... wow. And I'd never have made that parallel, either. They do kind of look alike, don't they?

Jakuri for VP! Hey, she'd overturn this civil rights mess that's wrecking the country currently. Vote for her and she'll SING EQUAL RIGHTS BACK INTO THE CONSTITUTION, people.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Ringing and singing the changes....

I just learnt that President-Elect Obama's inauguration day is going to be January 20th. And all we Ar Tonelico fans know what that date means, I hope...? :)

It's going to be a wonderful day for new hopes, new awakenings. A wonderful day for new worlds.

(Also, I suddenly had the thought that it would be so amusing if January 20th fell on a Tuesday next year, because then we could call it AT2's Day. And I looked up, and it so totally is. Not since Sonic 2's Day have there been such release-date lulz. Well, release-date lulz are usually fairly hard to find, but still.)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

"And the world is turning... to a different beat."

So as I mentioned the other day, I've been running/playing in an RP based around an activist blog run by and for Reyvateils. Its purpose as I conceived it was to both explore the legitimate issues raised by this species' creation and situation, and to raise the profile of activism issues within the fandom by getting people to sympathise with the issues through a fandom they were interested in.

Today, I think it actually had that impact on me. Last night, I'd been participating in a thread involving underpaid restaurant workers who were wearing "tip us, we sing" badges (like the ones at Coldstone Creamery) because the hourly wage alone couldn't pay for their life-extending agent, and so they were forced to sell out their song. For Reyvateils, this is a big deal; it's not just vocal noise, there's a big part of their identity and deep inner self expressed when they sing, and it's something that both induces intense emotion in them and drains their energy quite a bit.

Then this morning, a friend posted a blog entry about employees at Starbucks and how she felt bad for them, and how she was trying to be encouraging and pleasant to them and they were really squee about it because she was the only one to have given them nice comments all day. And I just really... felt it, was moved by that, and felt like I wanted to go around being nice to Starbucks employees too (I don't normally drink at Starbucks when on my own, but employees of similar places, I guess). And I think the reason I was able to feel so hyper-aware of how much that must mean to them was because I'd been roleplaying that thread.

You always hear people scoffing at the idea that fiction could ever change someone's attitudes in a positive way (as if that wasn't what the messages in fiction were there for? As if it's all just pretend serving no purpose, even when it's obvious the author is trying to make a statement about how we act in this world?). Whenever you come across anyone acknowledging that fiction might impact a person, it's always regarding the negative aspects of it, how it can desensitise people to violence, to vengeance, to wanton cruelty. I do believe that there are, certainly, fictions that can do that; but I think what goes woefully underrecognised is the power of fiction to make us empathise, which seems like such an obvious thing to say about fiction (it makes us feel for the characters? Really?) yet is rarely thought about in terms of how that might impact how we go about our daily lives.

I felt like the experience of fiction connected me, today, with the lives of people in this world who deserve acknowledgment and respect. And I'm glad for that.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Melody of MetaFalicia!

I suppose that's like the catgirl from Darkstalkers, but aware of her identity as a fictional character? Also, I'm deeply amused that it's been pre-emptively classified as a "Music & Party" game. The idea of games being categorised by the themes of their plot rather than the style of their gameplay is actually really appealing; I mean, Ar Tonelico is about music, very deeply, and so the category is not inaccurate, but I don't really think that's what they meant. I do wonder how that error got made; did someone ask what AT was and one of their collegues said "oh, it's about music and stuff"? Very amused indeed.

Seeing the page up on a major game retailer's site is actually rather nice. It's like... this is real. This is really real, and come January, you'll be able to go into any GameStop and pick it up off the shelves and hold it, and other people who may have never heard of AT will be able to see it, and they might buy it, and things. It's just really squeeful, somehow.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The wheels of fandom keep on turning...

Hoping to get back to the podfic project eventually while my voice actress recovers from being sick. In the meantime, I've slowly been building up entries on this blog; contributions from Reyvateils, and respectful humans, are welcome.

And I kind of wanted to say more there, but I'm all out of words. There is a fledgling fanwork; enjoy it, and I hope to nurture it and watch it grow into a complex and interesting work of fiction, with the help of some kind contributers.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Self-inserts: gotta love 'em.

I never really set out to actively write myself into the AT universe; these guys just kind of grew, organically, which is part of the reason there's two of them. Just thought I'd post them here for posterity: my two original AT characters, Leish and Ayulsa. For those who saw Leish's profile a while ago (all one of you), this is a version 2.0; some things have been tweaked a little.

Leish Enfandria
"Please, everyone, raise your voices in joyous prayer."

Species: Reyvateil (Beta)
Age: 34
Height: 5'4"
Appearance: Pale brown hair usually tied back in a short braid, golden-brown eyes, slightly freckled skin; small, skinny, with boyish features
Magic: Mostly of the Earth element

Leish is the cheerful type, bookish and friendly, known for his slightly formal bearing and his staunch devotion to the Church of Elemia. A Cardinal who treats his job extremely seriously and is given to visions, trances and other mystical experiences at the hands of the Goddesses, he can come off as a little dreamy and spacey at times to those who don't know him well, but his dedication to his work soon disavows most people of that opinion, even if he does leave his personal quarters in a mess and half-eaten sandwiches of his tend to turn up in the strangest of places. Like his partner Vianchiel, he dislikes conflict both philosophically and personally; their shared feelings about helping humanity through peaceful actions are part of why they get along so well.

What almost no one knows is that Leish, despite being male, is actually a Reyvateil, an experiment gone slightly wrong. He was created with a Reyvateil's body, enabling him to use Song Magic, but the song-spirit that entered into him at birth saw itself to be male. Unable to reconcile his appearance with his internal self, he struggled with despair until his creators took pity on him and altered him physically to look like a boy, suggesting that he go out into the world and craft a normal life for himself while forgetting his Reyvateil powers, and offering their sincerest of apologies.

While Leish did leave his creators and join the Elemia Church, having been filled with a sudden sense of spiritual wonder at the world inspired by his newfound happiness, he was never able to quite forget that he was a Reyvateil too, and still frequently feels driven to raise his voice in song. Unfortunately, the physical alterations to his body pretty much ruined his voice permanently, and quite frankly, his singing is painful to listen to. His bad voice doesn't actually keep his magic from being quite powerful, but since it's not pleasant to hear, he shies away from practising it; he considers that even if he were good he'd never want to sing in public anyway, since he'd be even more embarrassed about being exposed as a Reyvateil. He considers the trade to have been worthwhile, even if at times he finds it frustrating.

What's most embarrassing of all for him is that his install port has a really obvious location; it's on his right hand. Naturally, he's never seen in public without gloves of some sort. He tried to train himself to be left-handed so he wouldn't have to be constantly reminded of it, but it didn't work very well, so he just puts up with it these days. If he catches anyone staring at his hands, he gets extremely flustered; everyone by now assumes that he has some kind of skin condition that he'd rather not talk about, or that his hands are shrivelled and deformed due to a sickness, which, since they're quite small even in gloves, doesn't seem unlikely. He's learnt to swallow down his revulsion and shake hands (with his left, which still bothers him due to emotional associations, but at least doesn't feel quite as violating) for the purposes of diplomacy, but if you touch them without giving him a chance to prepare, he'll freak out. He's normally not prone to panic at all, but that's one way to get him very upset very quickly.

He can be a bit obsessive about his interests, namely the intricacies of church dogma, and he's prone to getting just a tiny bit preachy about his beliefs, though he tries to keep a lid on it.

Leish has a Cosmosphere, and he has costumes, too. Unless you're Via, though, good luck getting to see them; he'd never wear them in public, even the tame ones, and he's not up for letting anyone except his partner into his Cosmosphere any time soon. The very fact that he has one is embarrassing, and it's hard for even Via to dive very deep into him just because he has so many reservations about diving itself that even his first level is difficult to clear, though she hopes that by working through his Cosmosphere he'll become more relaxed about the fact that he's a Reyvateil and maybe even be able to fully embrace his magic. His Mind Guardian is Aazzmissaggamoth (a shortened nickname, believe it or not), a small golden dragon statue after the Chinese style.

Ayulsa Shinsekai
"For eternity, a new world."

Species: Virus
Age: Unknown; appears about eight
Height: 4'1"
Appearance: See reference sheet
Magic: No Song Magic, but can interact with the Binary Field
Favourite pastime: Nature hunts
Favourite lullaby: EXEC_HARMONIOUS/.
Favourite food: Cookies 'n' cream icecream (with oatmeal chocolate chip)
Least favourite food: Chicken stew
Greatest frustration: That he can't sing like his mother, even when he tries to copy her

A virus created by Mir, Ayulsa takes a humanoid form in the physical world much as Ayatane does. Specifically, his appearance is that of a young boy with scruffy, brownish-blond hair with lavender tips, wide green eyes, and corrupted Hymmnos sigils running over his skin that glow with a faint blue light; he is typically dressed in brightly-coloured, practical clothing of the sort that might befit a child of seven or eight years old. He considers Ayatane to be his brother, and looks to Mir as a parent figure.

Ayulsa was the first humanoid virus created to aid Mir with her plan to redeem and revitalise the world of Ar Ciel. Remembering her own youth and the boundless love she held for humanity then, she saw the image of a curious, kindly child as best suited for this task, and indeed Ayulsa possesses many of the personality traits his mother had in her childhood: he is gentle and made uneasy by violence, creative and playful though in a manner that is not too boisterous and is mindful of the world around him, and easily awed by the joys and wonders of life.

While Mir tried to craft for him a personality that would make him happy as well as making him of use to her plans, she put no limitations on his development, believing that all intelligent entities have the right to the freedom of mind and emotion they tried to strip from her. As such, he doesn't feel himself beholden to her and will often get distracted from his tasks by his own interests, which Mir allows, not so concerned as she once was with the efficiency of her plan's execution at the cost of the principles she believes in. He still cares for her deeply, though, and by default will be found at her side, engaging in some simple frivolity, reading, or simply observing the world around, ready to be called into her service at a moment's notice.

Despite his docility and guileless playfulness, he possesses the intelligence of an adult, though his emotional responses remain largely those of a child. As a result, on a social and personal level he appears to be young and naive, but can almost seem adult when discussing practical matters, and has a startlingly large vocabulary.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A pondering on the power of the Word.

Something I was thinking about with regard to spirituality and AT's world: the official timeline (which I'm pretty sure by now is not a spoilery document, as it covers AT1 only, and I don't think these details will be released outside of the timeline) begins with the creation of the first word. It's very Biblical: in the beginning, there was the Word. And, incidentally, that word was "chs": a verb meaning become, turn into, or transform.

"Chs" is actually a more popularly used verb than those meanings would seem to account for in English, given that it seems to mean "become" only in the sense of fundamental change (e.g. "the kind of person I will become"), not in the senses of becoming happy or becoming used to something. This catalysing word, this primary word, this word which suggests that the universe's most divine instrument is its ability to turn one thing into another (which seems to make sense; given that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, the force of movement behind the universe, the thing that causes it not to remain in static state, would seem to be the transformation of energy into different states), seems to be echoed repeatedly in the songs of the world.

Perhaps we could say that the Reyvateils are subconsciously working this vital word into their music just because it is such a strong underlying current within the universe, but I think it's more than even that; I think there's a very obvious reason the word is used a lot. If the divine force of the universe is the capacity for change, then that capacity should be a fundamental part of magic. And indeed, magic, too, is very obviously about change, transformation, becoming. Our obvious image of magic is turning the latent energy in ourselves and in the universe into heat, or light, or growth, or a healing power. There is little in magic that does not involve some manner of change, even if it is the changing of a thing from a state in which it was moving to a state in which it is not (meta-change that seems like the opposite of change, yet also requires one). The Reyvateils are consciously or subconsciously aware that chs is the force behind their magic, and as such they invoke it, and as such their magic is powerful -- and the series creators show that the Reyvateils aren't just making pretty mouth movements, but are actually a species that gets magic quite a bit.

Incidentally, I think it's interesting that in AT's case we get to know what the first word was. In the Bible we get "the Word was God", but does that mean that "God" was the first word (making the first word a self-definition, "I", which is interesting philosophically in itself in that it seems to suggest that the creation of the world is tied up with the defining of the world, and that maybe how we define the world has immense power to affect it), or that God was a word, but we don't know which? Hmm, ponder....

Three-Way Handshake, remastered

Just so's you know, Three-Way Handshake just got a bit of a retool thanks to some extra info I heard regarding Jakuri's drama CD that I really wanted to play around with. Updated version is at the same location, here; if you read it and liked it the first time, you might want to take a look at the revised version.

And yep, I think that's about it.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Hands on hearts, raise your voices, one and all...

In this time when many Americans are feeling particularly uplifted about the possibilities unfolding in their nation-- and others, noting that social progress has not occurred equality on all fonts, could do with a little more uplifting-- PsychDragoonX from A Reyvateil's Melody has contributed some words that should stir the hearts of even the most jaded American. I bring you... the preamble to the US constitution, and the Pledge of Allegiance, in Hymmnos.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Was granme erra walasye oz UNITED STATES
Was granme erra art 0x vvi.
zahha herr dgal
quen quowjaz
gyusya dgal falfa
grandus walasye
grandus arhou oz LIBERTY sos walasye oz iem en futare
1x AAs ixi

To protect the United States with desire,
With the desire to protect,
Create their nation,
Create justice,
Control notional peace,
Protect the people,
Improve Welfare,
Protect the blessings of Liberty for the people of now and the future,
With great excitement, create the Constitution for the United States of America.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands: One nation, under God, indivisible, With liberty and justice for all.

Rrha zweie ra grandus zuieg oz UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Rrha ki ra en dgal en echrra.
Rrha wol ra 0x vvi
en dgal
en Saash
na pakz
1x AAs ixi
Rrha ki erra LIBERTY en quowjaz en ciel.

Entranced, I guard the power of the USA
Concentrating, for the nation that it resonates (stands for)
For one nation
Under God
Concentrating for Liberty and Justice for all.

I am deeply, deeply amused. I think it's the last lines of each of these that do it.

In other news, seriously thinking of doing a revision on Three-Way Handshake, now that I've discovered a little extra tidbit that was in that scene on the drama CD that I really want to explore, and I think I know just how to drop it in there. If I'd known about this in the first place, it would have so been in the original....

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Three-Way Handshake -- Ar Tonelico fanfiction (Spica/Jakuri, 1,572 words, mildly suggestive fluff)

Inspired by a snippet from Jakuri's drama CD in which the two of them get captured and locked in a cell, and Spica gets shot down by Jakuri after trying to hit on her (yes. I know. It is really sort of awesome). I didn't mean for this to turn out as PG-13 as it did; the latter part was the part I really wanted to write, but I needed to give it some sort of setup. I'd originally intended for Spica's flirtation to be a brief couple of lines, but ultimately, I have trouble not being wordy. This was meant to be a drabble, honestly.

No AT2 spoilers in here. It's pretty much all concept, and the drama CD is set before AT2 anyway. Blacked out for worksafeness, though, even though this is really tame.

More notes after the fic.

Spica had been hoping to catch a little rest, but for a prison cell, this place was cloyingly warm. She glanced over at Jakuri to see if she was having the same trouble getting to sleep; she was dying to remove her own heavy outfit, except that she had nothing else to wear, and Jakuri's clothing, such as it was, could hardly be any more comfortable.

The Reyvateil, it turned out, was the heat source. The shimmering haze that danced over Jakuri's skin, a sea of flame-tongues discernible only by the distortions they left in the air, was tinged, in the part of Spica's mind that understood harmonics, with an unmistakeable magenta hue. As she watched, the swell around her only intensified, and Jakuri mumbled a "don't stare" that was mostly muffled by having been said into her pillow. Oh, my. This could be interesting.

She reached out to stroke Jakuri's cheek, not even needing to make contact before her fingertips began to tingle from the heat and light that was pouring out from her. Her touch still cool by contrast, she drew idle, swirling patterns on her skin, able to feel, as she repeated the motions, the little traces she left behind as spots where the warmth was not so stifling.

"Nn. What are you doing?" Jakuri said, grumbling and eventually summoning the willpower to swat lethargically at Spica's hand.

"Hmm, such interesting circumstances we find ourselves in here. It's okay, there's nobody watching." She leaned in to whisper her words against Jakuri's ear, feeling her own face begin to blaze with the reflected warmth. "Don't be shy."

Jakuri buried herself further into her pillow. "I'm not being shy. I'm just not interested." And the flame was swallowed back up in a rush, as if for punctuation.

Oh. Well, she'd misread that signal. She sank back into the bed with more than a twinge of guilt, Jakuri's back stonewalling her. Reaching out with her mind to try and get a sense of the situation, she could feel Jakuri's every muscle clenched rigid, her jaw clamped down to keep her song from spilling out of her, the harmonics still rolling over her in waves though she was evidently trying to choke them down. The tension in the room was even more insufferable than the heat had been, and she sighed internally. Perhaps a subject change would help.

"...Are you still feeling rough? I could tell it was making you uneasy, being cut off from your magic like that."

Jakuri made a vague sort of groan that fell halfway between what-are-you-talking-about-now and do-you-seriously-expect-me-to-expend-energy-on-answering-you. It didn't deter Spica, who was, in part, feeling some genuine concern that the incident might have shaken Jakuri more than she was willing to admit, though mostly she just wanted to break the deadlock.

"I know I found it a slight, so it must have been much worse for you." She remembered Jakuri's ranting about how she was a Reyvateil, as if she'd felt that losing her song impinged upon that identity, as if to take away her singing voice was to divide her in some unacceptable way. She could understand; she'd been truthful when she'd said she hadn't been exactly comfortable under the ward either, and seeing Jakuri try not to choke as she struggled to convince her instincts that, no, there was nothing actually in the way of her breathing had given her a pretty clear impression of what must have been going on in her mind.

"Do I really look like I want to talk right now, Spica?" Her harmonic awareness picked up the subtext there, a flanging echo behind the spoken words: do I look like I want to bare my soul more than I have to right now, Spica? There was another, dissonant chord mixed in with the protest, and Spica knew her words hadn't been entirely an affront; a little undercurrent of relief, of thankfulness, that she understood enough to notice wound warm and bright through words that were otherwise knife-edged. And now that one wound had already been opened, the possibility of communication broached, the longing to bridge the empathic gap had flared up in her still further; a longing she knew Jakuri felt too vulnerable now to act on but that she was testing at anyway, sending out little tendrils of energy towards Spica that she quickly withdrew again, like someone teasing a loose tooth with their tongue. Once or twice she thought she heard a whimper from her, a thin, hot sound as one of those tendrils got a little too close and was swallowed up by Spica's own warmth.

If she didn't want to talk, then Spica wouldn't make her talk. To press a Reyvateil to do anything with her voice-- and not least Jakuri, who had always been particularly sensitive about that, even for her species-- was never a safe endeavour, for one thing. But she couldn't let her go on like this, especially now that she'd shown, however obliquely, that she was willing to open up.

She began to hum, low in her throat, a bass note that she could feel resounding in her muscles and unravelling the knots that had accumulated there over the course of the day. She knew she ran the risk of only angering her further, but whoever was on Jakuri's mind, she needed to harmonise with someone if either of them were going to get any sleep tonight. Feeling her bumping up against her like a moth butting a lightbulb was already doing a number on her nerves, and she was willing to bet it wasn't doing much for the Reyvateil, either.

Jakuri rolled over to face her with a huff, though her expression was more curious than annoyed. "Spica...."

Not wanting to let up on her humming in order to speak, she let the frequency carry her emotions. It's just so you'll sleep. I'm sorry for assuming. Just relax into it. There was only so much she could convey without words, but she figured Jakuri would at least pick up sleep, sorry, relax.

Her hopes seemed confirmed when Jakuri's posture eased up, and the Reyvateil began to purr at her own, higher frequency. Forgiven, was hurting, feels nice, she thought she caught in her response, the feelings flowing into one another and crashing over each other in their haste to be expressed, their warm foam breaking against the shores of Spica's mind. She wrapped an arm around Jakuri's shoulders and felt her scoot closer, angling her head towards Spica's chest so as to best pick up the resonance; Spica laid her hand on Jakuri's ribcage, feeling the vibrations travel up through her arm and snake down into the base of her spine. She wondered who all that emotional overflow had been for, if not herself, but thankfully it didn't seem to be bothering her as much now that she at least had a release valve for the pressure.

Calm. Happy. Tired, Jakuri hummed, hugging her arms close to herself as her eyelids fell closed. Good. Relax. Rest, Spica continued, and Jakuri took that rest and wound it into her own vocalising, emitting a warm, steady tone that drove out the last prickles of aching from their bones.

Slowly, over time, Jakuri's part of the chorus began to waver, and Spica felt her harmonics settling into a deep and easy rhythm as her consciousness faded out. ...strange... special... human... was the last thing she managed to emote before her voice left her completely, and the steady sound of her breathing took over its role.

The soothing pulse of her harmonics reverberated through Spica, too, and she found her own eyelids suddenly weighted. Strange. Special. Human. She smiled to herself as she drifted away, her thoughts echoing the concepts with the same wordless resonance that had voiced them.

She awoke to the feeling of Jakuri's warmth most pleasantly draped about her. Physically speaking, she'd rolled away at some point in the night and collapsed into an artless tangle of limbs on the other side of the bed; but that nonetheless spoke volumes, since she'd never seen her sleep any way other than curled into a fetal ball, and she could feel the distinctive chords of Jakuri's energy lazily twined around hers, their rises and falls slipping between the pulses of her own life like they had always been there and knew exactly where they fit.

She was quietly confident that her companion would wake up, probably in a decently better mood for the peace she'd managed to find during the night, and demonstrate little evidence of morning embarrassment. This was natural like breathing to her, natural like singing; that she'd been so reticent to harmonise was the abnormality, for normally Reyvateils melted into everything that surrounded them as easily as warm summer light. But that was, she admitted, part of what she found so delightful about them. And if she'd helped her friend to get back, even a little, to being the blithe spirit she was intended to be... well, that was all the reward she needed.

Almost, anyway, she thought, running her fingertips over Jakuri's pale throat and feeling the pulse-like flutter there. She brushed her lips against the sweet spot and let the quiet purr of her systems sink deep into her body; capturing, for a few moments longer, the one song of hers that she would never cease to sing.

From the author: Probably the second "expository" piece I've written recently (the other was for another fandom), in that it basically exists to showcase an idea I had about the game's world and how it works; in this case, my thinking was that harmonics is essentially a state of being produced by things in the area vibrating at the same frequency, or carrying the same energy, and that by making sound intended to express soothing emotions you could cause the harmonics of someone who was anxious to resonate at a more comforting frequency.

And yes, Jakuri's final words there were in the drama CD, more or less. I think she was more trying to say that Spica was different from everyone else she knew than really emoting at her that much; it's ambiguous.

And the title, for those who didn't know, is a reference to this.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

So my computer got a virus....

...and, much to my displeasure and my general ethical qualms with deleting viruses, I had to try and get rid of it. Cue me downloading a whole slew of antivirus programs in an attempt to get anywhere near it; I knew it was there because Spybot Search & Destroy kept telling me that something with a weird name was trying to change the registry and wouldn't let me refuse the changes, and I kept getting popups for sites that tried to download more viruses onto my system (while surfing sites I knew wouldn't serve me popups), but I didn't know what it was. Eventually, I got Prevx CSI, which offered to scan my system in two minutes. It took about five, but it did find all the malware, and got rid of it (for a fee, which included a year's subscription). It told me to restart so it could finish cleaning up the files. So I did.

When I got back to the desktop, all seemed well, except that my wallpaper had disappeared.

My... Mir wallpaper.

I guess it really did clean all the viruses off my system. (I managed to restore the wallpaper, by the by.)

So something I've realised about Hymmnos: one thing that's really unusual about it is how it's quite programming language-like in structure, yet it's also heavily focused on emotion. Normally the cyborg/artificially-created computer-based race is portrayed as less emotional than humans, or sometimes equally as emotional, but with Reyvateils being the only people left who can sing these highly emotionally-focused songs, with Mir having been a deeply emotional person and also the most powerful Beta in existence, we can hypothesise that Reyvateils are, at least ideally (in that their emotion seems to be linked to their power), more emotional than humans. That's a really interesting combination, the idea of an AI race being hyperemotional, and one that I've not seen done often.

Also, was pondering quite randomly, in the wake of the Prop 8 debacle, whether there might ever have been any social discrimination in Sol Ciel regarding human/Reyvateil relationships. They seem accepted now, but I can imagine a time when it was considered beneath humans to have relationships with Reyvateils; and even now the dynamic that the relationships do have seems very unequal, and I wonder if the relationships between males and human females are like that as well or if it's only Reyvateils who are treated that way. Food for thought (and fic)....

Presia metafalica rifaien tou yor sphilar....

haounomiko just posted this touching statement for the benefit of all of those who have lost rights now that California's Proposition 8 will, presumably, be passed.

Even if you're not gay, lesbian or bisexual yourself, even if you never plan to get married, please pass this message of support and comfort around for the benefit of those whose pain at being marginalised might be eased, just a little, by knowing that someone out there cares.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Epic adventures in the wild, woolly world of podficcing...

So a friend and I spent most of today working on a fanfic. I say a friend because while I don't normally collaborate, this was a particularly special occasion: I'd decided after listening to some podcasts that I wanted to try and record the first ever Ar Tonelico podfic. Basically, think audiobook, but for fic: a story told in spoken word. But I don't have the voice of a Reyvateil, so I had to enlist some help.

The actual acting went great, and I was planning to have the project ready for you all today, but for one annoying hitch: our equipment wasn't very good. I'm not sure if it's the mic input on my laptop or the microphone itself (which I went out and bought specially for this project, and I got the best quality one they had at reasonable price), but there was enough static and feedback that even hours of tinkering in various editors couldn't remove it fully. So what we ended up with was a file that's barely audible at low volumes, and muffled and muddy at high volumes.

We're going to try again and see if we can get a better setup with another computer or perhaps some different equipment, because I'm really pleased with what we've got so far, but in the meantime, that's what I've been doing all day. I really rather wanted to have that up for you right now....

Monday, 3 November 2008

"Yorr desfel?" "Was ki ga desfel.", don't worry, speakers of Hymmnos, the subject line bears no relation to my mood. Rather, I'm expressing my delight at discovering today that hearing these lines now makes me shiver instinctively, because as soon as I hear them I am keenly aware of what they mean. ("Are you feeling hatred?" "(In my fierce concentration that I hope to end,) I'm feeling hatred.") They're not just pretty syllables for me any more; I react to them as I would react to any word or phrase I knew, without having to think about it. I still don't know much Hymmnos, at all, but still, that little reaction made me happy.

And it's such an elegantly compact language, too; the fact that I can hear "was ki ga" and get out of it an emotion, the intensity of that emotion, and the singer's meta-feelings about having that emotion demonstrates just how much you really can convey in three words with the right grammar. Any attempt to express those concepts in English, or most other languages I know, is always going to come out sounding clunkier than "was ki ga". You hear that, and you know what it means, and you don't need any more; it's sweet simplicity, poetic, almost haiku-esque.

Incidentally, I found a different translation of the opening to EXEC_SPHILIA/. from the one I'm used to reading, here, and I have to say I think I understand the song a bit better having read it in this version:

Wee paks ga faf yora accrroad mea?
[What do you give me?]
Was yea ra pauwel en wael yor.
[I give you the power to be happy]
Wee paks ga chs mea?
[What will I become?]
Echrra en chs ar dor.
[Unity, and reconciliation with the world]
(Lit: Resonance to become one world)
Was paks ga chs na mea,
[I will become not me]
en paul yor yora harton mea
[To feel your love for me]...

That last bit I think is particularly profound: I will become not me, to feel your love for me. Given that from what I've heard this song is likely a dialogue between Jakuri's different sides, she's talking, most likely, about separating herself into aspects of herself in her Cosmosphere so that she can give herself love and reassurance as if someone else were giving it to her. That's really quite poignant, when you think about it; she's like a child hugging herself, almost, in this part of the song.

Also, that "What will I become?/Unity, and reconciliation with the world" part really gets to me, in a good way. It's what I've always hoped the eventual outcome of her story will be: not just even that she'll bring that about, but that she'll become that, a raw force focused on making it happen, blazing energy and light for change. Me like.

That said, there are some shaky parts to the translation ("desfel" translated as "being shy" seems to be the biggest error; I don't immediately spot any others, but again, I'm no Hymmnos scholar), so I'm not sure how authentic it is on the whole, but still... I like the new meanings that may have been revealed here.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Reyvateil's Dilemma -- Ar Tonelico fanfiction (OC, 1,097 words, no warnings)

So you want to know how to relate to me? All right, then. I'll tell you how, in two easy steps.

First, you need to remember that my body's an instrument.

Second, you need to forget it.

You don't know what it means to me to sing. I understand that; you can't sing, and neither could your parents, or grandparents, unless there's a Reyvateil in your family line. But when you assume it's just something clever we do with our voices, a pretty frippery to amuse you, your ignorance cuts to the core. You write off the centre of our beings as a neat party trick, and expect us to feel complimented.

We don't. We never will.

Did you think the instruments woven into my hair, the images and patterns with which I adorn myself, were just there to enhance my attractiveness in your eyes? They're symbolic of what matters to me most in this world, of the act that defines, for me, who I am.

But you don't get to define me as that. If you understood what you were saying when you did, perhaps. But you don't. So let me enlighten you.

When I sing, I'm not just making noises with my vocal cords. Nor am I even just expressing my emotions, though that's a part of it, too. When I sing, my whole body resonates with an idea, an intent; a basal concept, like love, or longing. Interspersed throughout that are subtler highs and lows, nuanced turns of emotion and meaning that come together, like highlights and shadows, to paint a picture that I myself become. I am the emotion, I am the song, and I pour out my heart until I feel my insides are being turned out; until I feel the very boundaries of my body are melting away into sound waves, released into a swell of expression within which they alternately surge and drown. A drop of liquid in endless seas am I, with no seeming power to affect the whole, yet this ocean is made of nothing more than a million million such droplets, and my movements vibrate through them all as they vibrate through me, defining me as I define them. I know myself part of a seamless concordance, a vastness of motion and life.

When I sing, natural law shapes itself to my will. My whole body can float as if it were weightless; and you do not know what a release that can be, to escape the aching pull of gravity and drift as if I were no more than smoke or dust. My touch can crystallise water, or ignite tinder to flames, the very atoms of the universe gyrating or stilling as my mind and heart command. I can call down the brightest of energies into my body, flood my nerves with a blazing clarity that seems to strip every imperfection from my bones, sets my whole frame vibrating to a note so pure you would break down and cry just to hear it.

And in all of this, I am motion beyond containment, I am life beyond motion, I am alive beyond life; I am fused with a consciousness primordial, undying, and I exult in this as it strips away my ability to comprehend anything other than nn, ma, fou, wee, was, rrha, a scale that rises within my heart and climaxes, not in anything so crude as an explosion of light, but in a swell of serenity that makes me feel stretched out across the universe a million miles wide.

This for me alights a consuming passion, a drive, a fire, a need. It's not a need like lust or hunger, nothing so simple, nothing so base; it's higher, brighter, stronger if possible, an inexorable pull towards a calling that encompasses far more than just my self. It is the heart of existence, singing in harmony with me; and not just me alone, but everyone, because we all vibrate the same at our cores. But still, when I feel it resonate with the very heart of my being, it feels as if the universe is singing just for my soul; my soul!; can you imagine the wonder? It takes me into it and holds me dear, and I never want to leave. It is the beginning and end, the embodiment, of my world.

The very beginning and end.

I dream in sine waves, in square waves, in harmonic oscillations. When I sink into unconsciousness, the last thing to echo in the back of my mind is always, unfailingly, a rhythm.

I vibrate with song, with the need for song, every moment that I draw in breath. If I am not singing, my chest is always aching. At any moment, just because it pleases me, I could lift my voice in rapture; but I do not, because you would not understand. I do it alone, and I shudder and bite back tears, choking down my need for more. I would sing to you constantly if you would let me, surround your every waking moment in music's sweet caress, soothe your doubts and calm your fears. If it were for that pure expression, I would never want to stop.

But you take that wonder, that gift of my own heart, and cheapen it. You drown my natural emotions with artificial energy boosts that keep me from feeling my magic's release, leaving me frustrated and empty. You make me take crystals into my body to "strengthen my songs" that cause me agony, not caring that I wasn't born to sustain that level of intensity. You force me to sing for you, as you want, when you want it. And then I stop wanting to, because it doesn't feel the same any more. When the joy of singing, my deepest self-expression and my fullest offering to this world, is thus muted, the conflict rends my heart in two.

My song defines me, explains me, represents me to the universe. When you take that for granted, when you use it as your tool, how do you expect me to feel?

So yes, I want to sing. I want to sing often, and full-throatedly, and for as long as I like. But that doesn't mean I'll sing at your command. And if it does so happen that I want to sing for you, just for you, don't come to expect it of me. Cherish it, as you would any other gift. Don't try and force it out of me.

My body's an instrument. But that doesn't mean you can play.

From the author: Based on Pat Parker's powerful and challenging poem on race, For The White Person Who Wants To Know How To Be My Friend. It's a poem whose opening lines set up a most difficult dilemma for us: how do we respect and acknowledge the things that are different about a person's heritage, while not treating the person like they are their differences? I wanted to explore that idea, and along with it, the idea of how a Reyvateil might feel about the parts of themselves that are unique.

I'm not usually in the habit of writing original characters, but for Ar Tonelico I've written so many. The Reyvateil concept just lends itself to it so easily; I'm easily as fascinated with the concept in general as I am with specific characters, and I hope people who feel the same will enjoy these.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Silence, Swallowed -- Ar Tonelico fanfiction (Lyner, Misha, 718 words, no warnings)

I'll come back for you. I can't come every day, but I will keep coming back to see you again.

You can still hear me, right? You just can't answer me. So, I'll tell you what's going on in the world.

I'll tell you exactly what you’re saving out there....


The words of the Chronicle Key resounded within the room, its acoustics lending Misha's voice a richness the slight girl could never have produced on her own. The echoes filled the darkness, creating the illusion of a thousand Mishas singing there, the warmth of their words enveloping him like a blanket, pressing in on him like a shroud. With the only illumination a shaft of sun from a skylight high above-- and that seemingly more for atmosphere than to provide a light to see by-- the room felt tiny even though the depth of the sound told him otherwise, and the disparity unsettled him still further.

"Misha, I came back, just like I said." He looked up at her, perfectly poised, like a statue, an instrument cast in bronze. Nothing really felt appropriate to say to her. "Hi."

She kept on singing, of course, Chronicle Key flooding his mind with its imagery. He didn't understand the words, but the song was magic; the sentiment contained within it rang clear within his heart, unmistakeable as a clarion call. Oh, please, set down your weapons, let go your strength, rest, rest.... Her voice cried out to the world, tirelessly, and he could feel the world beginning with him, the song reverberating through every bone and sinew only to pass out the other end and continue on, leaving him forever marked. His muscles ached with the resonance, ached where she'd carved words into them, carved his flesh with sound.

"Misha... I... I want to tell you about...."

But the words wouldn't come. It wasn't just that trying to talk to her, while she sang there, unmoved by him, made him feel stupid; nor even that her stature, goddess-like, detached from the world yet praising it in the highest, seemed so far removed from the Misha he knew. It was that this chamber seemed to permit no other words, no other meanings, than those contained within the Chronicle Key. The song filled up all the available space, drowned out all other concepts. This was its place, and a place for it alone; any word that so much as tried to rise up against it would die.

That, he realised, was the power of Misha's song. It put all other intent to sleep. As long as she sang, nothing could occur in this chamber that was contrary, even tangential, to the Song.

He gave up trying to talk, then, and just watched her face. Her eyes were closed, further distancing her from her surroundings, though her eyelids flickered occasionally as the song's emotion stirred her. Her heart, he knew, was dancing constantly to the tune of it; she could not but feel its every sadness, its every plea, its every exultation as if they were truly her own. That was what she'd told him, once:

"--and I become the song."

There was no Misha there any more; not in that moment, not while she sang. The Song was the only thing that could truly live here; all else was submissive to its decree. She was only living song, only raw intent, only a singular will crystallised into the purest of tones: and that will belonged not to her, but to the Chronicle Key.

He watched her lips move in synchrony with it, almost as an afterthought, as if the Song would live regardless and she was only a front, like Tastiella, to make the whole thing seem less surreal. He watched her face, her shining face, the dim light rebounding off it and casting it in golden tones, faint sparkles on her cheeks where the light had picked out motes of dust.

Except those sparkles were moving down her face, in little channels and currents, and the note of her voice was cracking, and he knew that there was a Misha there, after all, trapped behind all that.

If her tears made sound when they hit the ground, Lyner was none the wiser, for their words were swallowed up by the Song.

From the author: Inspired by Tastiella's response to Lyner's asking if Misha could answer him: "No. She is singing. That is the only answer she can give you." I thought that was particularly poignant, and was imagining what would happen if Lyner went back to try and talk to her, as he said he would, before the Mir-possessed Shurelia kicked her out of the Chronicle.