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Bakker's The Prince of Nothing series
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Zarathustra
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's starting off okay so far. I'm only 32 pages in, so this is probably a bit premature, even for initial impressions. With that said, I've got mixed feelings about the prose. I still find myself in awe sometimes, for instance, in the first paragraph:

On page 13, Bakker wrote:
His father sang into the tumbling world--a Metagnostic Cant of Translocation, Kelmomas realized. Sorcery scooped him whole, then cast him as grains across the face of nowhere. Light lanced through the sound of clacking thunder. Crashing, crushing darkness became the miracle of sky.


That last sentence is a wonder: a moment of transcendent transition captured in a handful of words that nevertheless manage to convey extremes wide enough to span life and death, being and nothingness. Pure magic. It reminds me of another great quote a dozen or so pages later:

On page 28, Bakker wrote:

It made her all the more accursed and inhuman, spearing matters to the pith with but a single breath.


While Bakker is neither accursed nor inhuman, he can certainly spear matters with a single breath! But here we also have an example of one of his habitual phrases that is starting to bug me the more often he uses it. "... all the more...". Just a few paragraphs up on that page, a sound was "all the more titanic for the tremulous keen that had preceded it."

Perhaps this wouldn't have bugged me so much if he hadn't appeared mere sentences after his other habitual phrase that is starting to bug me, " ... not so much as ..." For instance:

On pages 27-28, Bakker wrote:
The purple cleft that was her eye did not so much as obscure her beauty as shout her complicity.


And:

On page 22, Bakker wrote:

A dead peashrub branch jutted from the intervening ground, forks dividing the orange image of his father not so much into pieces as possibilities.


And:

On page 30, Bakker wrote:
He screamed, no so much for the sum of his torment as for its division ...


Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine and doesn't bother anyone else. When I first started reading Bakker, I thought these phrases were convenient, pithy ways of making points and comparisons. But they stand out, well, all the more with increasing frequency of use.

I'm also torn between his interjections of wisdom at the beginning of so many scenes. My conflict arises from the beauty and penetration of his insight, pitted against a frequency of use that increasingly turns these interjections into obligatory writer's gimmicks. Most of them truly are profound ... but there are so many of them. I'm in awe of his ability to come up with them, but at the same time doubtful that so many are needed.

For instance, the paragraphs beginning with:

Quote:
To be desolate is to be of a piece with things inanimate ... (page 22)

There was a serenity in confusion when it was profound ... (25)

To be human was to be bound, aye, to suffer what one was, always ... (28 )

Everything we say to one another, we also say to souls absent. We continually speak to the speech that comes after our voice ... (29)


Each of these begins an entire paragraph worth of musing into matters that little affect the story, but merely show off how smart Bakker is. The very thing that makes Bakker's writing so unique and praiseworthy is starting to become the thing that takes me out of the story, gratuitously revealing the artist's hand.

But maybe Bakker is aware of this. After all, he writes:

On page 31, Bakker wrote:
Like all artists, they were loathe to forego all visible signs of their labors.


Laughing
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Z,

Thanks for your reading update. I enjoyed reading all your previous impressions of this series. And I'm looking forward to how you will experience what is to come.

It's interesting, I have had this discussion with Madness, how certain writing patterns stand out for readers. I hadn't noticed these two that you express here, for me it's for instance the 'scowling' and 'raucous', over-applied that stands out.

Onwards to Golgotterath...
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter three was brutal. Damn. I know it's going to get worse, but the river crossing and the march across Agongorea (sp?) was a devastating piece of "travel narration." Most of the chapter was a description of their movement, with scant pages devoted to Proyus POV. This is the kind of thing that other writers might do for a few paragraphs, but Bakker had me engaged for an entire chapter. He does transitions well, the slow change from one state of mind to another. The way meat or qirri alters the soul, for instance. The men "turning into sranc." Degradation becoming holy. I thought for sure the chapter would end with men eating men. The sight of their goal saved them.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hiro wrote:

It's interesting, I have had this discussion with Madness, how certain writing patterns stand out for readers. I hadn't noticed these two that you express here, for me it's for instance the 'scowling' and 'raucous', over-applied that stands out.

Onwards to Golgotterath...


We used to have a thread for documenting those instances in TGO.

Zarathustra wrote:
Chapter three was brutal. Damn. I know it's going to get worse, but the river crossing and the march across Agongorea (sp?) was a devastating piece of "travel narration." Most of the chapter was a description of their movement, with scant pages devoted to Proyus POV. This is the kind of thing that other writers might do for a few paragraphs, but Bakker had me engaged for an entire chapter. He does transitions well, the slow change from one state of mind to another. The way meat or qirri alters the soul, for instance. The men "turning into sranc." Degradation becoming holy. I thought for sure the chapter would end with men eating men. The sight of their goal saved them.


Really looking forward to reading your impressions going forward, Zarathustra Smile.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm starting to notice 'scowling.' It never registered before.

Bakker definitely has a distinct rhythm, from the structure of individual sentences, to the peppering of dialog with authorial insights, to scene structure, and finally the mixtures of scenes themselves where he alternates between drama and narration.

He knows how to conjure images indirectly, giving you enough to infer the meaning so that not only is he not telling, sometimes he's not even showing. He often allows us to conjure the image ourselves, decoding his language like a cipher. I'll try to dig up an example. The 'miracle of sky' quote from the first paragraph (see above) comes close, but there are other examples where his descriptions are like impressionism. He certainly doesn't make it easy on the reader. You have to meet him halfway.

One of my favorite aspects of his language is his verbs. I really should start a list. One that sticks in my mind at the moment is "pestled," as in "they pestled their knuckles into their eyes." I didn't even know it was a verb, only familiar with the noun. Most people would have just said "rubbed." But the concavity of the eye socket definitely conjures a mortar, and the motion is a circular grinding, not just a rubbing. Perfect.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
Bakker definitely has a distinct rhythm, from the structure of individual sentences, to the peppering of dialog with authorial insights, to scene structure, and finally the mixtures of scenes themselves where he alternates between drama and narration.


+1

I really think that Bakker solidified his writerly voice after WLW.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I ordered an unholy consult from Amazon, hopefully this book we will have the proper diagnosis for kellhus.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to let everyone know, I'm going to be spoiling the crap out of this as I go. I suppose it's time for spoiler tags.

The second "marching to Golgotteroth" chapter (can't remember if it's 5 or 6) was every bit as brutal as the first one foreshadowed. Spoiler:
As I suspected, they have to start eating their own. But I was shocked to see it happen, nonetheless. And I hadn't even guessed that the Scalded were following, much less that they'd use them for food.


I really like how that issue is not just a question of necessity (which we might understand), but also a twisted religious mandate (which requires something like faith to understand), as well as a philosophical musing on mind/body duality (which no one fully understands).

Also, I liked how Khellus's treatment of Proyus in the last book is starting to make sense, how it's explained. I hope we see an expansion of that justification. It seems like just a sketch so far, with some problems:

Spoiler:

Why would Khellus need to break Proyus's faith in order to have an Unbeliever do what's necessary, e.g. tell his men that it's okay to be cannibals, when Keyutus (or however you spell it) can see the same thing? He even tells Proyus this before Proyus admits it to himself. Even the men themselves know what needs to be done, and set about doing it without being told. Did Proyus just need to be broken enough that he wouldn't punish or stop his men? Well, he did punish them after the first night of cannibalism, flaying 25 of the "mutineers." I'd really like this developed.

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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 5:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well.

That was unexpected.

[Serious end of book spoilers]Spoiler:
Really? Kelhus? After all that? Bit anti-climatic what?

And now the No-God walks again huh? Babies still-born, a wailing and a weeping and a gnashing of teeth...

Ok, I'm going to assume some time will pass before the next series, was 20 years between the first and the second.

Also assuming that the hints about Mimara's baby and the judging eye mean the baby is probably some sort of saviour? (Which means she and Akka and the baby probably survived. (Or at least the baby.))

And Kelmomnas...damn, I hate that kid. Assume his "invisibility" is going to figure in the end.

Poor old Proyas.

I liked the Dunyain having effectively taken over the Consult. Not sure exactly how the god got involved though. Because the kid was his vessel?


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really hope there is a reason for each of the characters converging upon Golgotteroth, a role for each to play in the end. Akka, Mimara, Sorweel, Cnair, Moenghus, Serwe, etc. So many of them seem to have the same purpose, to either kill or accept Khellus. Surely they can't all have their character arcs resolved in this one issue, or at least not in the same way? Or maybe they can. I expect whatever they find at Golgotteroth to be pretty convincing, one way or another.

You read too fast, Av. Laughing How can you appreciate such complicated prose at that speed??
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:

You read too fast, Av. Laughing How can you appreciate such complicated prose at that speed??


No shit. I feel like Bakker has graduated from genre to full on (L)iterature with the last two volumes and - surprise, surprise - it doesn't reward shallow reading.

Not that Avatar or anyone here is like that. I mentioned to Hiro the other day that the handful of you here really impressed me with the depth of understanding.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 4:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
You read too fast, Av.


It's a curse I tell you. Laughing I eat fast too. Laughing When I like something, I can't stop until it's all gone.

Must say, over the last two books (maybe even the last 3) I've felt that he's maybe unnecessarily over-complicating his prose for effect. Some very convoluted ways of saying things at times.

Carrying on from my last post...

Spoiler:
Notable that the Heron Spear was not found and used.

Suppose the arc of the next series is going to depend very much on how much time passes. How long was the No-God manifest in the 1st Apocalypse? I want to say 10 years, not sure though.

Anyway, seems likely that somebody (Akka / Mim / Baby / Kelmomas?!? (he is an Anasurimbor afterall)) will find the spear and use it against the No-God again. Who will depend on how long it takes I guess...Another 20 years is probably going to leave Akka a bit past it...


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:

Must say, over the last two books (maybe even the last 3) I've felt that he's maybe unnecessarily over-complicating his prose for effect. Some very convoluted ways of saying things at times.


When he turned in the two separate drafts of TGO/TUC circa new year 2015 the long-time editor at Overlook familiar with the series quit abruptly (unrelated to the drafts Wink). Apparently, they just ghosted on Overlook.

TGO and TUC definitely would have benefited from due diligence on Overlook's part - even without an editor familiar with the work. For instance, I turned in 23 pages of line by line mundane error (spelling, punctuation, formatting - not even mentioning canon errors) for TGO and about 4 for TUC (which Bakker got to spend more time with). Bakker, assumptively, turned those over to Overlook.

I'm reading TUC right now, slowly, in what pristine reading sessions I can find in my day-to-day, and none of the mundane errors I found were fixed by either Bakker or Overlook...

Smdh.

Avatar wrote:

...


To the spoilers:

Spoiler:
In the recent r/fantasy AMA and in the Second Apocalypse forum Q&A thread, Bakker mentioned that he envisions the third series as a kind of "new Sagas" and that the third series will pick up a few weeks after the Disaster at Golgotterath.


For those finished TUC, post-TUC AMA and Q&A thread:

- r/fantasy Bakker spoiler AMA

- SA Q&A thread
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:

Must say, over the last two books (maybe even the last 3) I've felt that he's maybe unnecessarily over-complicating his prose for effect. Some very convoluted ways of saying things at times.
I don't disagree, necessarily, but I'll say that I like the effect, over all. He is, without a doubt, making his prose as complicated, sophisticated, intelligent, and deep as he possibly can. I'm amazed that he can do it so often, paragraph after paragraph, on the publishing schedule he has. I can come up with things that blow my mind in my own writing, but it takes me a while longer.*

With that said, I'll admit that his style has become a bit less transparent in later books, giving the impression of being forced or "in your face," rather than serving story. I don't know if it's because after 7 books in this style it is not as impressive as it used to be, or if he's pressed by deadlines and can't edit like he used to on earlier books. I think if he'd edit out a few more, "To be human is to be ..." paragraphs, they wouldn't stick out and stop the story so much. He really shouldn't have them on consecutive pages. They lose their impact when they're no longer precious gems of wisdom hidden throughout the prose. He's turning his own rare talent into something common, by sheer repetition. It's an ironic problem, because the more stuff like this he comes up with, the more his genius shows, but sometimes readers would rather see the story.

I'll join you guys for final thoughts when I'm done. Right now, Spoiler:
Khellus has just returned.
I'll get there soon!

*[I've been revising my novel for so long, I've given up on making it a single book. I've grudgingly admitted to myself that no matter how deep I cut, it can't be published in a single volume. Basically, I've written my first three books, which isn't a bad thing, really. I think Bakker had a similar "problem" ... ]
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking forward to your thoughts. There are a variety of opinions regarding the ending.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I made a real effort yesterday, about 70 pages. Less than 200 to go!

Spoiler:
The fake out assassinations of Khellus are starting to get old. I don't like when authors lie to us for the sake of suspense. And I really hate when a major character dies without accomplishing anything. Why was Sorweel even in this story, if he had no point? Why devote so much time to him?

I suppose at the very least Khellus will use the opportunity to rethink his abilities, his sight. Maybe this will have some consequence on the story after all, his relationship to the gods. If not, it was a waste of 100s of pages of character development.

Why was Kelmomas able to see what Khellus could not? If that's not explained, it's a big glaring plot hole, and pretty damn convenient (for Khellus ... and Bakker).


Sorry to chime in with nothing but complaints. I'm liking the reunions, at least. I like what happened with Proyus Spoiler:
(his sacrifice ... I still don't know if Akka manages to save him).
However, I don't like spending over 100 pages at the same spot for no apparent reason. I thought these people didn't have anything to eat. Why are they lingering for 1/4 of the book on the doorstep of their goal? Where is the urgency? 100 pages after crossing the Occlusion, Bakker is still saying things like, "And so they came, the nations of men, to Golgotteroth ..." Yeah, I KNOW they came! Why are you still describing something that I read last week? How many times are the characters going to look up at the Horns and shiver? What are they doing, besides giving Akka, Esmi, Mim, Sorweel, and Kel time to have some scenes? This is a serious pacing issue. It would be like marching to Mordor with 100,000 men of Gondor and then camping inside the Black Gate for a week while Sauron does nothing. It makes no sense, and robs the climax of all its urgency. There doesn't seem to be any danger whatsoever in the world's most evil place.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So the battle finally started. Spoiler:
The Canted Horn just fell.
At first, I gotta say, I had a hard time getting through the battle descriptions. All the different names, from people to nations to towers to gates, made it a chore. The action seemed fairly predictable and mundane, even boring. The beginning of the battle was silly. All of a sudden lone sranc throws a spear? Really? I couldn't even tell from the narrative that they were close enough for spears. I wish more of the battle was told from the perspective of individual characters, rather than the omniscient view of the author.

The interludes with the Blind Slave etc. are utterly impenetrable. Totally confusing. What the hell?

Spoiler:
The Horde spilling over the Occlusion was cool. The laser was cool. The Horn falling was momentous, awe-inspiring. I liked that it woke babes a continent away.
But much of this just seems like Bakker going through the motions, rushing to the end (though, honesty, I wish it would get here faster).

I sort of liked Akka and Proyus switching positions at the end, regarding Khellus, but this moment did not feel earned, at least for Akka. He knew all along that the Great Oreal was marching upon Golgotteroth, and all of a sudden it just occurs to him that this is what they are doing? And that's what convinces him that Khellus is true? What else did he expect? What did he think all these men were marching across a continent for? There's no clear explanation of his suspicions, for 4 long books--and then he simply gives them up?? This point cannot be overstated: this is the second most important character in the entire series. His motivation for more than half of the series--for more than 20 years--has just turned on a dime, 180 in the opposite direction, without even waiting to consult the Eye yet! And we're supposed to just go with it? This moment deserves more than a glance at the Horns and Golgotteroth falling to justify it.

If Akka thought Khellus's Great Ordeal was all a sham--like Cnaiur still does--then what exactly has eliminated that possibility? It could still be a sham, a ploy, a deeper plot ... which I really hope is the case. I'm hoping for a good shocker, a game-changing surprise at the end. Something to redeem all the pointlessness.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Z wrote:
The interludes with the Blind Slave etc. are utterly impenetrable. Totally confusing. What the hell?


The Blind slaver is Iyokus. Read it again with that in mind and it will be clearer.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the end.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brinn wrote:
Z wrote:
The interludes with the Blind Slave etc. are utterly impenetrable. Totally confusing. What the hell?


The Blind slaver is Iyokus. Read it again with that in mind and it will be clearer.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the end.
Ah, that helps. I had to look up who Iyokus was, but it helps. Now, am I supposed to know who the Vile Angel is? Everyone and everything has three or four names/titles in this series. Stuff like that didn't bother me with Tolkien (Quenya, Sindarin, etc.), but Tolkien was much better at creating names. Bakker seems to just throw letters together. (Names are hard.)
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Vile Angel is a summoned ciphrang known as Kalkaliol (sp?).
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