Sunday, April 19, 2015

Knot News: Eric Iverson's Northern Victory Series Receives Television Adaptation

This is a Knot News Update!

Our latest entertainment report is sure to please all you alternate history fans out there.  Eric Iverson, often referred to as the Master of Alternate History, has recently come to an agreement with HBO Entertainment to produce an adaptation of his popular Northern Victory series.  For those who don't know, the Northern Victory series (also known as Timeline-191) takes place in an alternate universe in which the United States won the War of Confederate Succession and follows the victorious United States over the ensuing years.  

"I never thought this day would come, but it very excited to see my work come to life like this," says Iverson. 

HBO has ordered an initial first season of thirteen episodes, planing to adapt the first four books of the twelve book series.  If the initial run proves successful additional seasons will be ordered, and possibly Iverson's other works as well.  Other works considered for adaptation include WorldWar, set in a world where aliens did not invade in the middle of the Second World War.  There's also his famous Agent of Istanbul, in which the Byzantine Empire fell to Muslim invasion in the 15th century.  

However, despite much enthusiasm from the alternate history and science fiction communities, not all alternate historians are greeting this news so happily.  As Iverson is the most prolific alternate history writer, he is also subsequently one of the most criticized alternate history writers.  The messaging board Alternatehistory.com remains incredibly skeptical of the recent news. 

"I mean, I guess it's good that it brings new fan to the genre, but those book are completely SPD," says prominent board member Thande.  

SPD is an acronym for Space Punching Dragons, a common alternate history fan expression for work that involve supernatural points of divergence, or are considered extremely implausible. 

"Next thing you know we'll be flooded with noobs posting timelines about how the British could have resisted Operation Sealion," says mapmaker Bruce Munro. 

"Everyone needs to just chill, it could be worse, but I will say that Adolph Hitler character was clearly in expy of Jake Featherston ," adds Sean Korsgaard.

We decided to get another view on the matter, so we contacted Matt Mitrovich of the popular blog The Alternate History Weekly Update.  Known across the Internet as by the name Mitro, Mr. Mitrovich had this to offer:

"I think this is one of the greatest things to happen to our fandom for quite some time.  Iverson is one of my person idols, and I'll be sure to tune in.  As for the claims that it's unrealistic, so what?  When you get down to it there's plenty of things in World History that seem kind of out there.  There's the Empire of Draka's conquest of Africa, there's the Aztec Moon Landings, Japan's discovery of the New World, the founding of the United Arab States and the list goes on and on."

We attempted to contact Jordan Harbour, host of the popular Twilight Histories alternate history television series, but he was busy with his lawyer negotiating the rights to an upcoming series of movies based on his award winning multi-million dollar television series.  

If nothing else, we here at Knot News are very excited for Mr. Iverson and his upcoming series.  We're also sure that we'll bring you reviews as soon as the episodes come out.  You can bet that if you stick with Knot News you'll have the news as soon as it happens.  

Why I Critique All Beliefs

Well, we've had a lot of fun and non-controversial post lately, I'd say it's time to shake things up.  As an atheist I often get asked why I criticize all forms of religions, even the ones who don't actively or directly  do bad things to the world.  That is precisely what I'm going to cover in today's post.

So, is everyone entitled to their beliefs?  Absolutely, we (Westerners) live in a great society where can believe in whatever you want to believe no matter how silly it is.  However, freedom of belief and expression cuts both way.  That means even though you're entitled to your own opinion there is nothing stopping me nor anyone else from pointing out how silly it is.

In short, freedom of belief does not mean freedom from criticism.  It is also worth noting that there is a difference between disagreeing with someone's views on principle and, oh, I don't know, shooting up a magazine's staff because they made a cartoon making fun of your religion's central holy figure.  

Anyway, let's talk about religious criticism.  Now, when it comes to obvious example of religions behaving badly, such as the Religious Right or Da'ish, even liberal religions will speak out against them...usually.  While many do speak out their is also an unfortunate tendency to engage in the No True Scotsman Fallacy and the Moving the Goal Post Fallacy.  Essentially, by claiming the bad people not to be real Christians, or Muslims or fill in the blank, these so called liberal religions hope to suppress criticism of their own beliefs and/or assure themselves that they're on the good side and have made the right life choices.  Unfortunately, what this actually does is simply stifle much needed conversation about reform and religious excess.  

This also leads us to the classic "well at my church we don't do X" argument.  When atheist critique religion we're usually happy to leave more moderate believers alone provided they don't say or do stupid things (see above).  However, it is important to note that beliefs often inform actions and not all beliefs are equally valid.  Similarly to what I've state above, moderate religions might not actively do harm, but a wet basement isn't bad in and of itself, yet it can still provide a breeding ground for mold and other bad things.  By perpetuating the meme that religion is always and inherently harmless and a force for good, and by silencing all criticism of religion, moderates create a breeding ground for religious extremism, fundamentalism and other forms of nastiness.  

Sometimes all atheists need to do is point out a faulty belief to send the religious on the defensive.  This isn't usually intended as a direct jab, but simply stating an obvious fact.  Then there are those who claim racism, which is most often seen when critiquing faiths such as Islam and Judaism.  It should here be pointed out that atheists criticize systems of belief; we only critique individuals when they do something particularly scone worthy as motivated by their faith.  I've been say for awhile now that the people most hurt by Muslim beliefs are Muslims themselves especially women, children, homosexuals and intellectuals.  Also, Islam is a religion not a race, and as already stated, criticizing Jewish belief isn't the same as criticizing Jews as people.  

Atheists hope for humanity to achieve its best, and that means constantly asking questions and getting answers.  Nothing should ever be sacred or above skeptical analysis.  Rationality, skepticism and freedom of expression are keystones to any great society.  We abandon them at our own risk.  

I hope you've had an informative time.  Also, there's no shame in praising and pointing out when people do something right.  To that end I'd like to share this link to a collection of Dave Thompson's Twitter posts.  You probably know Dave as the former editor and co-host of the great fantasy podcast PodCastle.  Dave is a writer is his own right, and is a very devout Christian, he's recently been tweeting about what he sees as people appropriating Christianity for their own purposes, especially with regards to the recent rulings in Indiana.  You can find Dave's thoughts on his Twitter account starting around April 15 and 16.  

Well, that all from me for now, I'll catch you next time with something fun in sort.  See you then.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Goosebumps Means to Me

When I was a kid I was a bit of a reluctant reader.  Blame it on my PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) manifesting as boarder line dyslexia, but I had my issue.  Still, despite that there was one series that I always read without fail and that was RL Stine's Goosebumps.  I just couldn't get enough of those books, and yes, I was a big fan of the TV series as well.

Wherever I went I always made sure to have at least one Goosebumps book with me, and I'd always scour book-order catalogs for new books to add to my collection.  It always gave me my daily dose of monsters, thrills, chills and all without being too scary.  Now, you might find it odd that I was reading a horror series but didn't want it too be too scary.  I have, and very much still do, struggle with anxiety and panic attacks.  At the same time I've always been a fan of Creature Features, Mad Scientists and other such things.  Goosebumps gave me a chance to get all of that and provide a little bit of thrills without overwhelming me.


Did it have its flaws?  Perhaps.  Is it maybe a little cheesy in hindsight?  Maybe, but so are plenty of Silver Age comic books, and plenty of people love them just the way they are.  In fact, some people love them because of the way they are.  Were the effects in the TV series off at time?  A bit, but it was the 90s, and having low budget effects doesn't automatically equal a bad series; just look at Doctor Who.  

I loved the way each book brought something new to discover, but there were also sequels now and again.  I loved those awesome covers (the original covers, that is).  I loved going to the video store (back when those were still a thing) and looking for new episodes on video.  I also read Ghost of Fear Street, which is pretty much exactly like Goosebumps and also by RL Stine, but not quite as often and I still wish I'd read more of those.  

It's pretty safe to say that I was, and still am, a big fan of the Goosebumps series.  So, why have I written this blog post then?  The first reason is obviously to talk about how much I love it and what an impact it had on me.  The second is to address a concern I had.  I've recently come across a blog called Blogger Beware in which the blogger, Troy Steele (no relation to Joe Steele...that I know of) provides snarky reviews of the Goosebumps books.  Seems like a blog version of The Nostalgia Critic right?  Well...not so much.

The main difference is that Doug Walker's actual views on the movies and series he reviews tend to be a lot more subtle and nuanced than his Critic persona, and he'll often praise when they do something right or otherwise offer kind words.  As for Troy Steele, I found nothing to suggest that his views are anything other than what he actually thinks, and that's kind of disturbing.  

Then there's his comment section.  Good Ford, and I thought 4chan was bad!  There will every now and again be a kind soul who wants to polity disagree and offer advise, but not only will Troy be a rude/condescending asshole to them, but he hordes of fanboys will come charging in as well.  If there's one thing I can't stand its herd mentality and people hating for the sake of hating.  Both of which can be found in abundance on Blogger Beware.  

All I'm saying is there's a thin line between snark and hate, or put another way, there's a thin line between snarky and just plain mean spirited.  Blogger Beware crosses that line early and often.  It's not like it's impossible to be snarky, fun and respective all at the same time.  There's Doug Walker and the Channel Awesome gang (even if their fans are a little boneheaded at times) and there's Little Snarky Two Shoes.  Of course, in Little Snarky's case she definitely cares about the books she reviews, and when she does parody its decidedly of the affectionate variety.  Also, she and Channel Awesome are actually funny, entertaining and can write more jokes than just being hateful and mean spirited.  

You know what, let Troy and his immature fanboys hate all they like.  There's no doubt in my mind that RL Stine has touched a generation of readers.  Don't believe me?  Until Harry Potter came around Goosebumps was the number one best selling children's book series.  In fact, if there was no Harry Potter it would be the best selling children's book series of all time.  RL Stine was one of the first authors who inspired me to be a writer and to create my own stories.  I can't possibly thank him enough for inspiring me and beginning my journey down that path.  

Goosebumps is continuing to be published, and the classic series is re-released; personally I like the original covers better, but at least a new generation of readers is getting introduced to the classic series.  The Goosebumps books are a star that will continue to shine for years to come.  Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of RL Stine is getting kids to read; because what's really scare is a world without readers in it.  Mr. Stine, I have I do you proud, and I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me and so many other readers over the years.  That's what Goosebumps means to me.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Griffalco's Fictional ISOT TL

In today's post we're going to talk about the rise and fall of my first, and thus far only, timeline on Alternatehistory.com.  Wait, what?

Yes, it was called Griffalco's Fictional ISOT TL.  My user name is Nick Griffalco, and if you've ever encountered a user by that name then surprise, that was me.  It was inspired by the Fictional ISOT Map Games, but like my timeline you'll need an account to view those as they're in the Shared World's section.  My timeline is in the Alien Space Bats and Other Magics section, which you also need an account to view, but more on that in a minute.  

The Fictional ISOT map games involve players transporting fictional nations, characters, objects and various other things to an Earth devoid of human life.  Then each player writes a post describing how things play out.  Each post covers anywhere from a third to a quarter of a year.  These games are always creative, I learn about a lot of new series and it's always a lot of fun.  There have been plenty of spin-off timeline written by single author, and so I decided to try my hand at it.  

Actually, it really all started when I decided to create a series of Fictional ISOT maps to post in the map section; which can be viewed without an account by the way.  However, I decided it would be even better if I were to create a proper timeline for the maps to be a part of; so I did.  By the way, ISOT is alternate history slang for a mass teleportation, usually to the past, named for SM Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time trilogy   

The timeline was essentially a scrapbook from an alternate world.  It included excerpts from encyclopedia and newspaper articles, interviews, short fiction, documentary manuscripts, news announcements and much more.  I made sure to fill it up with all kinds of fun series like Percy Jackson, Legend of Korra, Fullmetal Alchemist, Code Geass, Leviathan, Captain Planet, Hunger Games, Neanderthal Parallax, and a whole lot more.  I figured it would be kind of like writing fanfiction, which I have experience with, so how hard could it be?

My style was considered a welcome twist on the Fictional ISOT timeline, and I received kind words and encouragement from many ISOT timeline experts/veterans.  I even got a shout out in a thread about ISOT timelines.  It stood poised to be a great timeline and potentially one of the next big things on Alternatehistory.com.  So, what happened?

Drgyen happened, that's what.  He started out as just another commenter and I was more than happy to have someone to talk about the timeline with.  Soon, however, I was talking with Drgyen more than posting updates to the timeline.  Then things started to get ugly.  Drgyen went from simply suggesting how the timeline ought to go to practically demanding that his ideas be made canon.  Speaking of cannon, I stated from the start that I was going to have a very pick an choose attitude to the canon of the various series I used.  Drgyen, however, always made a point of telling me, in the harshest and most aggressive and attacking way possible, whenever I'd contradicted canon.  

For that matter, Drgyen tended to be excessively aggressive and attacking even when it turned out I hadn't made a mistake.  I should have showed him the door, I should have seen his behavior as a red flag from the start but alas I didn't.  I was so happy someone was commenting I didn't want to screw it up, but I fear I may have in the process inadvertently driven away more level-headed (and much more civilized) readers.  Admittedly, I only really had the vaguest of ideas how I wanted things to go, and I was in large part making it up as I went along, but that certainly didn't excuse Drgyen's excessively attacking and frankly asinine behavior.    

After awhile I began to feel like Paul Sheldon from Stephen King's Misery.  I'd promised myself I'd stop the timeline if it ever quit being fun and began feeling more like a chore.  I wasn't going to continue if it mean I was going to constantly get screamed at no matter what I did.  It got to the point that I could have kicked Drgyen out, but the timeline was such a jumbled mess and so far from my original vision that I decided there was no point going on and so I pulled the plug.  

Still, I made sure to write a farewell address and formal closer to all the fans who'd stuck by through thick and thin, and who had conducted themselves in a much more civilized and polite manner.  I included details on what would have happened and how it all would have had a happy ending (I'm a sucker for those).  I did consider rebooting the timeline and starting from scratch using the lessons I'd learned from the first timeline, but the passion was gone and I wanted to move on to other projects.  

Still, it wasn't all for naught.  I did learn about writing timelines, I got to meet writers I admire and I even got a few good scene/bits of writing after all.  My favorite bits were about the Planeteers (assembled from across the nations of the ISOT), the Olympics and the start of the Jaeger program to combat the Kaiju invasion.  As you can see it was pretty crazy, but maybe it just might have worked under the right circumstances.  

Still, I'd hate to end this post on a sour note.  So, as a special treat I'll show you three maps from various points in the timeline.  


First we have a map from just after the initial ISOT



Next we have from a few years down the line as more nations appear


Finally, we have a map from a few more years after the second map, and when things start to really get fun/crazy



Not featured are the various aliens, both from other planets and other dimensions, that started to show up at this point as well.  What more can I say?  It was crazy, fun up until a point and I hope you guys enjoyed hearing about it.     

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Knot News: Gulf of Mexico to be Renamed Gulf of America

This is a Knot News Update!


Congress has come under fire lately for their inability to pass meaningful legislature, but that may soon change.  Both the House and Senate have recently passed a bill to rename the Gulf of Mexico as the Gulf of America.  The bill has been widely touted as a means of dealing with illegal immigration from Mexico.  However, just how changing the name of a body of water will effect immigration remains unknown.



"I mean sure, we should probably have discussed immigration reform and talk about making it easier for immigrants to get into our great nation.  In fact, most Americans would probably have gotten behind something like that.  Of course, if they wanted that sort of thing those SOBs shouldn't have elected people like me, now should they?" states Speaker of the House John Boehner. 

The Gulf of Mexico touches more nations than just America, and as such this bill could have international ramifications.  Knot News reached out to other nations to get their opinions on this most pressing matter.

"America.  What can you do, eh?" remarks Canada.

"Oh, I say, I do say.  Americans are always pulling such silly and short sighted schemes as this," states the United Kingdom.

"Mexicans?  They should have been passing legislation to deal with the gays!" declares Russia.

"Allahu Akbar!" adds Saudi Arabia and Iran.  

"Poland can into space!" says...well, just guess.  

While it is always important to get an international perspective, we at Knot News view it as equally important to give the people of America a voice in their new.  Or rather, in our news.  With that in mind we asked several average, hard working Americans what they had to say about the pending legislation. 

"Gulf of Mexico?  That's near Canada, right?"

"You want fries with that?"

"Damn Kenyan Socialist!  They all taken our money and....wait, Republicans sponsored the bill?  Oh, nevermind. You have fun with that!"  

"Frankly, who cares man?"

"Its just a bunch of water."

Wow, seriously?  Nobody gives a damn?  Well, in any event, the bill will potentially be signed into law on Monday of next week.  The President has yet comment on if he plans to veto the bill or not.  Knot News will keep you covered on this developing story.

Seriously, though.  You people riot over Pluto becoming a dwarf planet, but you let this slide?  You care more about a ball of rock and ice millions of miles away more than you do the frikin Gulf of Mexico?!  What is the world coming to?


Knot News is America's Least Trusted News Source!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Poem: The Friendliest Folks Live Underground

I think it's about time for another poem.  This poem is called The Friendliest Folks Live Underground, and it was inspired by something that occurred on my high school senior trip.  The trip was a week long journey to Venice, Paris and London.  I'd previously taken a two week trip to Italy the summer before my junior year that stopped in Venice, Florence, Orvieto, Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri, Rome and the Vatican.  So this was my second trip to Europe, and were all hectically hustling and bustling through the London Underground.

The teachers were being a bit much so I decided to have a little fun.  I purposefully waited slightly too long, and let people push me aside.  This resulted in me not getting on the train in time.  The look on the teachers' faces was absolutely priceless.  I had a pretty good idea of how to get to the stop, but I was a little nervous.  Fortunately, a nice old lady asked me if I was okay, and I told her my plan and she offered a bit of advice.  I got on the next train, ask some of my fellow passengers when I wasn't quite sure of my plan (and they were more than happy to help), and pulled into my destination much to everyone's relief.

After that the teachers made a point of making sure I got on all of the trains on time.  However, I did get a bit more fun exploring the British Museum on my own.  Only had two hours, and did take time to help my fellow travelers find exhibits, but I made sure to get in plenty of major exhibits.  Plus I took the long way out to see more stuff, and I bought the guide book.  As for the poem, the rhyme scheme was inspired by Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, and the line about Camden Town reflects my own feelings of unease from when I payed it a visit as part of the tour.      

Anyway, enough about my travels, let's get on with the poem:


Hush Now
Don't make a fret or sound
For the friendlies folks live underground
You missed your train
You feel the strain
But kind old ladies help ease the pain
They say under London it's a labyrinth
Like the one in Minos' home
Where the minotaurs roam
And while in Camden Town
There you'll find shady folks
But underground everyone's best of blokes
So when you pull into your destination
Everyone's waiting for you with a great big smile
And all the while you realize that you have found
The friendliest folks live underground



Friday, April 3, 2015

Introducing Knot News

Well, I'm a few days late for April Fools Day, but you know what they say.  It's a holiday somewhere in the multiverse.

Anyway, in belated celebration of April Fools Day, I though I'd add something new to the blog.  During my high school days I ran an unofficial school paper known as The Loyola Inquirer (my school was called Loyola College Prep).  I'd make up fake news stories along the lines of The Onion or The National Inquirer featuring people I knew, or anyone who wanted to be featured.  It was quite the hit and everyone always got a good laugh out of it.  

So, in that same spirit of humor and parody, I'm going to give that old parody paper a new life here on the blog.  I'm going to be rebranding it as Knot News, America's Least Trusted News Source.  I'll feature people I know, celebrities, politicians, well known institutions and anything else that I can think of.  I say this a lot, but the sky really is the limit with this.  

I'll probably have the first edition posted soon, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, if you would like to see yourself featured in a Knot News story be sure to let me know and I'll be sure to pencil you in.  I might do multiple stories per post, or I might do a single story per post.  I'll figure it out eventually.  

Until then I look forward to many great parody stories to come and I will see you then.