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Writing

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In an article written almost four years ago (He did there confound all the languages of the Earth), I discussed the problem of learning many languages from a writer’s point of view. Learning other languages is very cool, but many people don’t realise how much time it takes. This inevitably means that you can’t spend that much time with languages you already know. Just look at my time log from last week: 67 hours Chinese, 29 hours English and 2 hours Swedish.

The backside of learning more languages

For most people, this isn’t  a problem, because knowing your native language to a certain level or knowing English to the level I have learnt it is enough in most cases. However, for people who aspire to become authors (meaning someone who at least tries to realise dreams of living off writing things), learning foreign languages becomes a problem, at least superficially. I have spent at least ten thousand hours learning Chinese and several times as much learning English. I have also spent some time learning French, albeit not that much. If I would have spent that time honing only my Swedish skills, I would have a mastery of my native language far superior to what I have now.

Similarly, if I hadn’t started learning Chinese, my English would probably be much better today than it actually is. Instead of spending all that time learning a new language, I could have read hundreds of novels in English and possible written a handful myself. I chose, Chinese, however, and I haven’t written a single novel in English, even if I do have a draft of a novel in Swedish (more about that later). I read a total of one (that’s right, one) novel in English last year. Compare that to my average reading pace which was close to one hundred books per year before I started learning Chinese.

Two sides of the same coin

Now, it might be argued that the entire discussion is bunk. What if I can write more interesting things in English or Swedish precisely because I have learnt other languages? What if the experiences I gained on the way enables me to write novels that no-one else can write? Besides, most things about writing is, I believe, not related to the specific language in question. Writing a novel is about much more than the words; it’s about much more than language.

Should I write in Swedish or English?

However, novels still need to be projected through language, regardless of which one it is. The question for me is which language I should choose, which is the core question of this article. As mentioned above, I have a draft of a novel written in Swedish. I think it has potential, I think it could become pretty good if I rewrite it and incorporate all the changes I know the story needs. In short, I think the book is too interesting not to finish.

Roughly a month ago, the idea popped up that I might want to rewrite the novel in English instead of Swedish. This felt a bit wild and crazy at first, but I now have a slightly more balanced opinion (I think).

English vs. Swedish

Why I might want to write the novel in English:

  • I like the English language
  • More people can read it
  • It’s an interesting experiment

Why I might want to write the novel in Swedish:

  • I write better in Swedish
  • It’s an opportunity to reconnect with Swedish
  • The draft is already written in Swedish

External vs. internal factors

One relevant question is whether external factors matter or not. One reason for writing the novel in English is that more people are likely to read it (I’m much more well-known in English than in Swedish, mostly because of Hacking Chinese, but also because few of people I know who speak Chinese also speak Swedish). Still, the chances of being picked up by a real publisher is close to zero (that’s probably  true in Swedish as well, though, especially for this novel).

The fact that a Swedish version of the novel would be better is also mostly an external factor. If I care very much about what other people think of my writing, I should write in Swedish simply because I’ll do a better job. If I don’t care, the language choice doesn’t matter in terms of whether the novel is well-written or not.

At first, I thought that the draft being in Swedish was a limiting factor, but I’m now convinced that it isn’t. The reason is that I would need to rewrite the novel entirely anyway (too many things need editing), so doing it in another language might actually feel more worthwhile. It would allow me to change all the details without feeling I’m just editing a vast number of sentences.

Conclusion

To be honest, the conclusion is quite obvious. However, I only figured that out after writing this article, so what you’ve just read is a journey through my own decision making process. The conclusion is obvious because the choice I make doesn’t necessarily limit future choices. It’s not like I choose between English or Swedish and that I can never use the other language for future novels if I feel like it. This means that the choice isn’t all that important.

Thus, the conclusion is that I should simply use the language I feel like using and don’t care too much about any other factors. I won’t start rewriting the novel until this summer in any case, but right now it feels like I want to try to write in English and see what it feels like (and what other people think about it).

If it doesn’t work or I don’t like it, I’ll know and I can write in Swedish thereafter. If it turns out well and I like it, I guess I’ll have to make the same choice again each time I start a new project. With time, I might even complicate the matter further by adding Chinese to the list of options, although that prospect is still very distant.

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A project started seven years ago has now been completed, I hold the final product in my hand. Although the text was finished about a year ago while I still lived in Taiwan, it took some more time to finish the product, including taking care of illustrations, layout, and much more. It is quite an exceptional feeling to hold something like this in my hands, the result of so much work over such a long time. Magneter och mirakel is a role-playing game written in Swedish. It will be possible to order after the weekend, when the official release at a gaming convention in Gotherburg is over. In the mean time, enjoy some pictures!

More information about the game can be found on our official website, or in brief form here, in English. Even more information, including a free preview and some other downloadable material will be available shortly.

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This is the first of the posts in which I explain and motivate the items on my 101-in-1001 list. The list itself can be viewed here, where you can also find a list of all posts related to the list. If you want to follow my progress in more detail, you should check my profile page at the Day Zero Project.

Publish my role-playing game Magneter och mirakel

It shouldn’t take five years to write a role-playing game, even if you rewrite the text from scratch twice and the final result is almost one million characters. It’s time to publish this game and it’s time to do it pretty soon. Read more here about my biggest writing project so far. I plan to publish Magneter och mirakel early next year, hopefully before the end of March so it’s ready for the annual gaming convention in Gothenburg on Easter. Note that the game is already written and this goal is about having it published. The game itself took thousands of hours to write.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: 20 hours
Progress so far: 10%

Publish the story-telling game Nostalgia

This is perhaps the best gaming concept I’ve ever been involved in, but Martin and I didn’t make the most of the concept’s potential when we published Nostalgi in Swedish many years ago. This is the new edition, re-written from scratch and in English. I’m writing it mostly on my own and this time the full potential of the concept will be realised in the final product. Read more about Nostalgia here. In the best of worlds, Nostalgia will also be published in early 2011.

Perceived difficulty: 6/10
Estimated time needed: 50 hours
Progress so far: 25%

Publish yet another Kaleidoskop game

Writing role-playing games is one of the things I like doing most, and if it weren’t for the problem of illustrations and all the practical problems involved in publishing, I would write a lot more. Still, I have the ambition to publish at least one major game during the relevant time period. It might not be something I write entirely on my own, but I don’t mean small contributions to other Kaleidoskop games.

Perceived difficulty: ?/10
Estimated time needed: 50 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Contribute 20 articles to Haragada

This is also a game based on a cool concept (albeit not as cool as Nostalgia and rather more focused on setting). It’s a collaborative project and a revision of an earlier game with the same name, although there will be few similarities between the two editions (the next version might be more than ten times longer, for instance). I don’t plan to be heavily involved in high-level work on this project, but I will do my bit and contribute at least 20 articles in various lengths.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: 20 hours
Progress so far: 35%

Complete my current novel

As is the case with Magneter och mirakel above, it simply isn’t okay that it should take many, many years to write a novel, especially when the reason that it hasn’t been completed yet is that I’m lazy, not that I’m a perfectionist who takes too much time on details. Read more about the novel here. I have finished the first part out of four and the planning for the two coming parts is mostly completed.

Perceived difficulty: 9/10
Estimated time needed: 100 hours
Progress so far: 20%

Write another novel (about Taiwan)

This will be a novel based on my experiences living in Taiwan. It will be some kind of pseudo autobiography, meaning that it’s about me but will not be an account of my stay in Taiwan. This project is just a collection of ideas, but I definitely want to write something about my two years in Taiwan.

Perceived difficulty: 9/10
Estimated time needed: 200 hours
Progress so far: 2%

Write ten short stories

Writing short stories is partly a preparation for novel writing, but it’s also part of it. For instance, I plan to write a short story collection which deals with the same issues as the first novel mentioned above. It will be directly related to that project and apart from experimenting with style, I want to explore the setting more.

Perceived difficulty: 6/10
Estimated time needed: 20 hours
Progress so far: 10%

Write an article about the snel hest meme

Yes, I like horses. No, not real horses, I like the abstract concept of a horse. This is extremely hard to explain to other people, even Swedish people who know what snel hest is, because this is more than just a silly mathematical equation. I’ve tried to explain this in Swedish, English and Chinese, but I still haven’t written anything about this idiosyncrasy of mine. Let’s change that!

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Progress so far: 0%

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It is done. I have used 28 790 words to complete the first part of my novel. This would mean around 80 pages in a standard paperback, and roughly constitutes one third of the story I plan to write. This is a very big step indeed, and I’m going to elaborate on that as soon as I’ve tried to introduce the project itself. It’s a bit odd, but I think this is the first time I mention the book on this website, with the exception of progress reports.

I’ve been writing fiction since I was very young indeed, but apart from a few short stories, I have never really finished anything. As I grew older, I wrote even more, but focused on things related to fiction, but that wasn’t fiction itself, such as role-playing games. All this time, though, I’ve been wanting to write a novel, but it’s only now I can say I’ve started down the road that leads there. I might have had a cursory look before, but this time it’s for real.

When I started the 101-in-1001 list in April 2006, I decided it was high time to do something about my creative writing, and thus put both a role-playing game and a novel on the list. Even though I subsequently failed to complete any of these two tasks on time, I still invested a lot of time in both and I’ve no doubt that I will complete them in a foreseeable future. Here is some basic information about my novel:

Working title: PKK
Language: Swedish
Completion: 2010+
Genre: Science fiction (soft)
Pages: ~250

I always choose working titles that have nothing to do with the project and that can never be used as a real title, simply because of the risk of getting stuck with a name that once sounded nice, but turned out not to be very good in the end (Magneter och mirakel for instance). PKK, as in the Kurdistan Worker’s Party is such a name.

The choice to write in Swedish was far from obvious, but I turned English down mainly because  I don’t feel comfortable writing everyday conversations in that language, my never having spent more than a couple of weeks as a tourist in England. In the future I might return to English, but it’s Swedish on the menu for now.

Late 2009 is of course a vague guess and only goes for the writing itself. As for polishing, corrections, proof reading and publication, I have no idea.

The genre is science fiction, though this is not obvious most of the time. With “soft”, I mean that the focus is not on science itself, but rather on its consequences for humanity and individuals.

The 250 pages is also an estimate, but I will not write a novel much longer than that (please read this article to understand why).

So, one might ask, what is this novel all about? Regrettably, I cannot give a straightforward answer to that, at least not one that makes sense in a practical way. This is indeed a drawback of the concept, but it’s inherent in the story that it becomes spoiled if disclosed. In short, it is a story about two very different women who together tries to make sense of momentous events that take place around them. Thematically, the novel is heavily focused on worlds of experience, both of individuals and of groups, and how these interact (or more often, fail to interact) and what this has to tell us about everyday life. What is real in the first place is also a fundamental question, both in a practical way and philosophical way. Philip K. Dick can perhaps be said to be the most important literary influence, so if you’re familiar with his works, perhaps you can understand better what I’m talking about here. I did say it was hard to summarise, didn’t I?

Regardless of this, completing part one feels great. Of course, it’s only a draft and a huge amount of work remains still to be done, but I have proved to myself that I can write regularly and that I enjoy it. These two qualities will make me able to finish this novel, of that I’m sure.

That will have to wait for a while, though, because I have decided to take a break and focus on other writing projects for a while. Preparing for part two, I plan to write a series of short stories introducing and exploring the themes, characters and setting of part two and three of the novel. I might also have another go at my role-playing game Magneter och mirakel. Thus, I will have time to plan parts two and three more thoroughly and then go on writing. I already have quite a detailed structure of the entire story, but as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to write and so needs even more careful planning.

It will therefore be a while until I can tell you about progress on part two, but for now, I’m very satisfied with having completed part one.

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I think it is difficult for outsiders to understand how highly I value Antioch (website in Swedish) and my participation and running of the game. Often when involved in role-playing projects, the tendency is to put in a lot of effort and receive mostly frustration and pent-up creativity. Not so with Antioch. Sure, I have invested a lot of time in Antioch, but if I compare administrative and boring time (including transportation etcetera) with actual, enjoyable playtime, playing Antioch online is probably the all-time winner.

Some years ago, when I with a friend developed the basic setting of Antioch with its grand plot, I incorporated some ideas and concepts which I thought absolutely brilliant (I still like most of them, actually, which is quite remarkable since brilliance is something ephemeral). I included the item to participate in 250 sessions of Antioch on my 101-in-1001 list in order to be sure to actually develop this story.

Since Antioch is mostly in Swedish, I feel I ought to explain what it is here, in English. Antioch is an online role-playing game that is played over IRC (entry on Wikipedia), which implies text only conversations. It might be regarded as a highly interactive way of co-authoring fiction, with the added element of improvisation. Long ago, I wrote why I enjoy online role-playing (in Swedish), but it mainly fulfills a need of outputting a certain amount of creativity, preferably daily. Antioch was started in 2005, which means that my accumulated 280 sessions (roughly) amounts to about two sessions a week. This is not particularly accurate, because the urge to play and the availability of decent players to play with have varied of the years. At the moment, I play far more than twice a week.

There are many reasons I like Antioch in particular, but I will discuss two of the briefly. First and foremost, the interchange of creativity between players is sometimes marvellous. It is simply astonishing and wonderful to be part of experiencing the seed of an idea grow, first into a small plant, then, over the years, to a vast tree with many branches. A heavy focus on continuity means that many events that took place literally years ago, still influence play and continue to be developed.

Second, the same can be said about characters. I have two characters who have been in play more than one hundred sessions each and they might be said to be vast trees by this time as well. They have so many relationships to other player’s characters and each other that they feel more alive than anything fictional I have encountered before. I have lived with them for three years (in one case, much longer, but that is outside of Antioch) and I still have not grown bored, and they have not stagnated and died as is usually the fate reserved for fictional characters.

Even though it might not be apparent, Antioch has also honed my writing skills. I do not put much effort into what I write when I play, but still, the habit of producing text is with me. Also, Antioch is an abundant source of inspiration, and in fact I have decided to write a novel which will be based on what has transpired from our playing. I cannot yet say what will happen to Antioch in the end, but at the moment, an injection of three new players make the game same more alive than ever and I look forward to many more enjoyable sessions.

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I have several points on my 101-in-1001 list that have to do with writing. I am now accustomed to writing articles in English, and since I have spent a lot of time writing non-fiction, I do not feel that it constitutes a problem. However, writing fiction in English is something completely different, something I have never tried voluntarily before, so including an item on the list that has to do with trying to write fiction in English, seemed like a good idea.

Rather than writing something truly independent, I decided to create a piece of fiction based on a role-playing campaign I am currently involved with. I wrote three parts from my character’s point of view and they have recently been published on this website under the title Thistle among Roses:

Part I: Omega Alpha
Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps
Part III: Death and Deliverance

Three parts seemed sufficient for two reasons. Firstly, I have used a theme (dream/nightmare) that I will also use for my novel project (in Swedish) and after part three, the story of the campaign begins to diverge too much from what I have in mind, and thus my motivation to write drops. Secondly, I feel that three parts (roughly seven pages of running text) is enough to say that I have tried writing fiction in English.

So what are my impression after the experiment? Well, it is certainly not up to me to assess the quality of the prose, but I feel fairly comfortable and with more practice, I might perhaps be able to produce fiction that is actually worth reading in its own right, as opposed to being part of something else. However, Swedish is my native tongue and even if I would like it to be otherwise, there is a huge difference in my level of mastery between the two languages. Also, writing a given sentence in English probably takes at least twice the amount of time, compared to writing a sentence of commensurate quality in Swedish.

So, is this my last foray into writing fiction in English? Probably not, but at least for now, I have given up any notion  I might have had writing somewhat more ambitious fiction in English. I might review this decision later, because I really do enjoy the English language and intend to continue develop my abilities. However, at the moment I fell that the importance of writing fiction in itself, surpasses my striving to learn more English, so I will stick to Swedish for future fiction, while continuing to write articles here in English.

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Introduction to A Thistle among Roses
The following text is meant to represent diary excerpts written by my character (Julie “Thistle” Simons) in our current Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle, but there are a few things I would like to say about this project before I set out. To start with, I am entirely new to Vampire and I have been miraculously avoiding the game until very recently. Therefore, it seemed fitting to play a character who knows about as much about the world as I do. She was embraced two weeks prior to play and therefore shares my own confusion and ignorance about what is so cool about vampires.

Furthermore, this is an experiment in writing fiction in English, something I have not done before to any great extent (I cannot remember a single instance, actually). The text is deliberately pretentious in style, which feels somewhat odd, because that is not a style I would ascribe to myself normally. However, I will do my best to capture the world of my character as I perceive it, whilst trying to keep at least some dignity. Any kind of feedback is welcome as long as it is contstrucive and I would like to say thank you to those of you who have already contributed.

Some problems will arise for those of you who are not fluent in Swedish, since I do not intend to reproduce material already existing in Swedish (like information about the other characters, for instance). Apart from that, I hope that the diary will speak for itself, so now the time has come for me to step aside and let Thistle in.

A Thistle among Roses so far
Part I: Omega Alpha
Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps
Part III: Death and Deliverance

Some useful links
Wikipedia entry on Vampire: the Masquerade
Discussion thread on Rollspel.nu (in Swedish)
Thistle described in that thread (also in Swedish)

Part III: Death and Deliverance
A faint breeze touching my face, the muffled sound of traffic, a chink of light between the heavy curtains; slowly I opened my eyes. I inhaled, felt the cool morning air fill my lungs, and as I exhaled, I let the nightmare flow out and dissolve. As usual, the illusion felt frighteningly real and with its clutches driven deep into my still drowsy soul, it refused to let go. Gradually as I breathed, reality returned and the night’s dream gradually faded into memory, one bit at a time. Breathing in…

…breathing out, standing outside the derelict building, the others engaged in conversation about how to best charge the occupants and free the sheriff. They went in, leaving Sam and myself outside in the chill, dank air. Realising that the two figures were gone from the room, we tried to warn the others, but it was too late. Gunfire erupted from inside the building and after some confused commotion of noise and fighting, one of the figures had disappeared and the other was unconscious.

…breathing out, back at the Elysium, trying to find somewhere safe to put the rescued sheriff. Two strange figures arrived, allegedly goons sent by Robert’s mentor. After some questioning, they left with both the sheriff and the captured man, or whatever he was, who had been torturing the sheriff. Sam was acting more strange than usual, and invoked on us his bizarre interpretation of the word “art”, using only a severed arm and the brick wall of the Elysium.

…breathing out, Robert ordering me to follow him to his apartment and me refusing. Oh, how I wish he wouldn’t be so obstinate. I would’ve liked to tell him I was sorry, but I instead I became angry and yelled at him again. I tried to resist when I grabbed me and shoved me into the boot of his car, and I might actually have had a chance to get away if it hadn’t been for Sam, the bastard. I thought he was on my side, but obviously not. I was all alone.

…breathing out, lying sprawled on the floor of Robert’s apartment, realising that he has passed out. Feeling a heavy tiredness coming over me, I went to sleep, curled up in a corner. Sam avoided me, and I couldn’t believe why he had betrayed me like that, why he had taken sides against me. Then, finally I fell asleep and the dream ended, or so I thought.

More urgent matters of the day forced out the memories of the night, today was the first examination on the course in mathematics and I had to pass, because otherwise my meddlesome parents would cause problems. I spent the entire day revising, but even though the understanding was there, I never seemed to be able to apply it to the questions asked. At noon, I left for the university and took the exam. Leaving, I thought I’d failed. I went home, fell asleep early, exhausted by the mental effort.

And then the coin of dreams flipped again, and waking up, realising I was in Robert’s apartment, I panicked. The memory of my day of studying receded and the imminent terror I felt the night before began to return. Robert and Sam still seemed to be asleep, so I slipped out and hurried towards the university. Behind me, I could almost feel how they woke up, how they would start searching for me to bring me back among their horrible midst. Ahead of me, I had an exam to pass, having made a special arrangement enabling me to do it in the evening. The questions were exactly the same and the answers flowed from my mind onto the paper without effort. Handing in the exam after a third of the allowed time, I felt sure I had nailed it.

I felt a pang of nausea as I closed the door behind me, and had to lean on the wall for support as I dragged myself to the bathroom. I felt like I had been depraved of something essential for months, I felt hunger, lust, thirst, need for… no, I wasn’t yet prepared to follow that line of thought to its obvious conclusion. In a few minutes, my actions would soon show what was true anyway. Inside the ladies’ room, there was a girl standing in front of one of the mirrors, brushing her blonde hair from her temples. I don’t know what triggered my reaction, but it might have been the sight of her pale, vulnerable neck.

As I hit her from behind, her forehead shattered the mirror into a hailstorm of glass, falling with us towards the tiled floor. Blood spurted from a gash over her left eyebrow and not being able to control myself, I began licking it desperately, tearing at the edges of the wound, trying to increase the flow. It felt like having walked through a thousand mile desert, almost dying of thirst, and then being offered one droplet of life-giving water at a time. I craved more. Ignoring her frail, flailing arms, I slammed her head backwards into the floor, exposing throbbing arteries. Instead of just sinking my teeth into the poor girl, as I had done with the young man in the park, I tore at the flesh, ripping tissue and severing blood vessels. I’m surprised that I managed to drink any of it, because it was cascading in such quantities that most of it must surely have been splattered onto the floor, my clothes and the dying female struggling underneath me. When it was all over, I experienced the strangest feeling, as if I had cheated my way into paradise.

I must have passed out for a few seconds, because when I woke up, the feeling of bliss was gone and understanding what I had done, a mounting despair grew in my heart. Her innocent, young body was sprawled on the floor, a pool of blood still expanding as I watched. There was blood and glass everywhere, but instead of the attraction I’d just felt to it, I felt only aversion and anguish. Not only had I done again what I did to the young man in the park, but this time, I had also killed someone, I had done to her what was done to me two weeks ago. It had to end, and it had to end now.

Not knowing quite how I got there, I found myself on the rooftop, balancing on the edge of a fifty-foot drop. I looked across the skyline, the sky to the west still bearing the fading colours of the dying day, I realised that I did not belong here. What I once had been was stolen from me and I had become part of a nightmare. For two weeks, I lived with it, because it affected only me. Until tonight. Slowly, I leaned forward and began to fall to the ground, towards death and deliverance.

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Introduction to A Thistle among Roses
The following text is meant to represent diary excerpts written by my character (Julie “Thistle” Simons) in our current Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle, but there are a few things I would like to say about this project before I set out. To start with, I am entirely new to Vampire and I have been miraculously avoiding the game until very recently. Therefore, it seemed fitting to play a character who knows about as much about the world as I do. She was embraced two weeks prior to play and therefore shares my own confusion and ignorance about what is so cool about vampires.

Furthermore, this is an experiment in writing fiction in English, something I have not done before to any great extent (I cannot remember a single instance, actually). The text is deliberately pretentious in style, which feels somewhat odd, because that is not a style I would ascribe to myself normally. However, I will do my best to capture the world of my character as I perceive it, whilst trying to keep at least some dignity. Any kind of feedback is welcome as long as it is contstrucive and I would like to say thank you to those of you who have already contributed.

Some problems will arise for those of you who are not fluent in Swedish, since I do not intend to reproduce material already existing in Swedish (like information about the other characters, for instance). Apart from that, I hope that the diary will speak for itself, so now the time has come for me to step aside and let Thistle in.

Introduction to A Thistle among Roses
The following text is meant to represent diary excerpts written by my character (Julie “Thistle” Simons) in our current Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle, but there are a few things I would like to say about this project before I set out. To start with, I am entirely new to Vampire and I have been miraculously avoiding the game until very recently. Therefore, it seemed fitting to play a character who knows about as much about the world as I do. She was embraced two weeks prior to play and therefore shares my own confusion and ignorance about what is so cool about vampires.

Furthermore, this is an experiment in writing fiction in English, something I have not done before to any great extent (I cannot remember a single instance, actually). The text is deliberately pretentious in style, which feels somewhat odd, because that is not a style I would ascribe to myself normally. However, I will do my best to capture the world of my character as I perceive it, whilst trying to keep at least some dignity. Any kind of feedback is welcome as long as it is contstrucive and I would like to say thank you to those of you who have already contributed.

Some problems will arise for those of you who are not fluent in Swedish, since I do not intend to reproduce material already existing in Swedish (like information about the other characters, for instance). Apart from that, I hope that the diary will speak for itself, so now the time has come for me to step aside and let Thistle in.

A Thistle among Roses so far
Part I: Omega Alpha
Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps
Part III: Death and Deliverance

Some useful links
Wikipedia entry on Vampire: the Masquerade
Discussion thread on Rollspel.nu (in Swedish)
Thistle described in that thread (also in Swedish)

Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps
I was swimming in an ocean of pain, thrashing about, desperately trying to stay afloat. The roiling surface was coloured by my own blood, emanating from a gaping hole in my heart, the centre of my universe. A ghastly light without source lit this inner ocean, revealing to me that there were no shores, no means of escape and no way to end the suffering. But then, suddenly the churning stopped, the light faded and I felt solid ground underneath my feet. As the fluid drained away, so did my strength to fight, and when all support was gone, I found myself lying facedown, a wooden floor expanding farther than I could see.

After what felt like only a few minutes, someone picked me up by the scruff of the neck, and forcing my eyes open to slits, I peered out at yet another nightmare. I seemed to be on some kind of stage with an audience gathered in small groups, some standing together, subdued voices reaching me, but their meaning swallowed by the distance, others sitting around a large table, also engaged in conversation. None of them seemed to care about me. Then I turned my head and saw who, or what, was holding me, and if I’d had a beating heart, the sight would have made it stop dead. His face was the face of a man long dead, bleak cheekbones protruding through the thin scraps that had presumably once been flesh. For a moment, I stared into his eyes, which seemed to have been put into the sockets from somewhere else, not quite fitting. I was drawn into the abysmal blackness of his pupils, and the more I looked, the more they dilated, until the void engulfed me.

I can only vaguely recall what happened after that. His gaze seemed to pierce right through me and I could still see him, even with my eyes squeezed shut. He scrutinised my soul for an eternity before releasing me, letting me collapse into a heap on the cold floor. Rolling into a foetal ball, I tried desperately to wake up, to open my eyes and see the white-painted ceiling of my apartment and once again realise that it had been nothing but a bad dream. But however hard I concentrated, the voices and conversations on and around the stage kept seeping into my mind, refusing to go away, mentioning my name, pulling me back into the whirling nightmare. Eventually, a deep, rasping voice, filled with authority and power, agreed to keep me alive. Why I don’t know, if this is what existence is about, I hardly see much point in going on.

Lying there on the stage, alone in my universe, I thought about the young man I’d lured into the shadows the day before. Looking back to what happened that evening, I can’t understand what force drove me to do something like that; it was like I was possessed by some evil spirit who forced me out from my apartment to prowl the streets, almost as if I was hunting for something in the night. At the time, I just felt an urge to be with someone, anyone. For myself, alone. I found him standing somewhat tipsy in a corner, looking like he didn’t know where to go next. Smiling shyly, I asked him if he wanted to share a fag with me. He laughed heartily and probably thought I was an exchange student or something, but yes, he’d love to share a cigarette with me. As we began to walk slowly, he explained to me that Americans generally mean “a male homosexual” when they say “fag”, and that my question therefore had been rather funny. As if I didn’t know. I laughed with him anyway. I’ve always been good at mimicking dialects and I find British English to be rather quaint.

Soon, I couldn’t control myself and ignoring all social codes, in the shade of a vast maple, I pulled him towards me and kissed him hungrily. He must have thought me mad or high, but he didn’t try to resist me until the blood began to flow. I honestly do not know what happened, but suddenly there was blood all over, on his neck, on the lapels of my blouse and on my hands. In my mouth, the taste making me dizzy. I felt exalted, I felt life return to my thirsting body and with it came a sensation of absolute bliss, like if we had already had sex and this was the perfect climax. It was ended abruptly, however, when someone cannoned into me from behind, knocking the wind out of me and sending me sprawling, facedown on the wet grass. Soon, the bastard followed me down and made sure I couldn’t move. I heard my young lover’s shrieks subside, gradually giving way to muffled whimpering.

When I finally was pulled to my feet, I could turn my head enough to see what was going on behind me, although strong arms still encircled my chest from behind and effectively pinned my arms to my sides. A small man, dressed in what looked like a shabby lab coat was staring into the young man’s limp face. I don’t know what kind of mesmerising gaze that little man possessed, but after a couple of minutes during which I dared neither to act nor to speak, the young man stumbled away, muttering incomprehensibly about going home to sleep. The small, weasel-like man turned his very much unwanted attention to me and told his unseen companion a lot of things I didn’t understand. He said that my blood was thin and that he couldn’t determine my lineage and that there was something unusual with me that he couldn’t pinpoint. After a moment’s consideration, he told his burly companion to “convey her to our vehicle”, as if I was some sort of commodity! The grip was relaxed, but as soon as I turned around to look at my assailant, something sharp and hideous hit me squarely between my breasts, and all my strength dwindled away as he hoisted me onto his shoulder and carried me away.

Fully occupied with feeling miserable and worrying over whatever happened to that young man, it took me a while to become aware of the fact that it was Sam who was dragging me across the floor, away from the stage. I noticed that people had been speaking about me, that some sort of deal had been sealed in which Sam and some other fellow called Robert had been designated as our guardians. I didn’t know who “we” were, but everything that lead away from that stage had to be good, so I stumbled to my feet and, supported by Sam, I made my way out of the great hall into an entrance lobby. During the ensuing conversation, I was able to sort out that this Robert fellow wasn’t particularly pleased by having this extra responsibility thrown upon his shoulders. I kept close to Sam, both for physical and emotional support, and he valiantly defended me in front of these objectionable types.

Later, the man in the lab coat, whose name was Dr. Moss, called us inside to talk with Calebros, the Prince of New York. A whispering conversation with Sam made me understand what this was all about. The Prince turned out to be the horrid being who had scrutinised me on the stage, and I averted my eyes from him the whole time, trying to forget the face I associated with that deep, rasping voice. He gave us a mission to free a sheriff, a man whose name I had never heard. When we were on our own again, the endless rant about our being worthless vermin continued, but fortunately, he soon left us to go fetch his car. Perhaps I should say something about the others, except for Sam and Robert, who have had their share of this story already. First, there is Dylan, an eloquent Irishman who seems to be the most sensible in the group, always having something relevant to say and treating me like a person and not something the cat dragged in. Second, there is Rafi, who looks like he’s from the Middle-East, but claiming to have lost his memory, he doesn’t know much about his past. Perhaps he is nice, but I feel somewhat uneasy about him.

I bought a packet of cigarettes to calm my nerves, but surprisingly, my lighter sparked more than just a flame. Rafi, the fifth member of our little group, panicked and threw himself on the ground, seemingly wanting to get away from me. Sam quickly stepped between us and as soon as the flame died and my cigarette was merely smouldering, Rafi regained control of himself. Again, they were upon me like vultures, with Robert in the lead, scolding me for the obvious crime of lighting a cigarette. Actually, it felt rather good to know that these people had weaknesses, that they were afraid of something I wasn’t. When the situation had cooled down somewhat, Dylan gently pointed at me and mildly told me to look down. I wish I hadn’t.

I inhaled the smoke deeply, but I hadn’t noticed that some of it didn’t take the normal route to freedom via my nostrils, but rather sought its way out through the front of my coat. Not believing what I was seeing, I undid the buttons and put my hand inside to let it run over my blouse, feeling the outline of my bra and… something else. The cloth covering my left breast was torn and underneath the fabric, an inch from my sternum, was a gaping hole, as if the nightmare had been true and someone had really driven a stake through my heart. Seeing my distress, Dylan guided me through a procedure I can neither explain nor remember clearly, but after focusing on something else and somehow telling my body to heal, the wound was gone. Still, I know it was not a hallucination, because the clothing is still in shreds.

We soon left for the harbour in order to investigate something concerning Rafi. Apparently, he had arrived in the city on a ship on which he was the sole survivor, the rest of the crew having been mysteriously slaughtered. There was also something about a coffin, which seemed to be the important bit. However, someone managed to drive of with it without us realising it until it was too late. Apart from the first half of the registration number, we didn’t have much to go on.

After a while, when I felt stronger, I wanted to return to my apartment, which turned out to be a fairly bad move. For some outlandish, freaking reason, they, and I mean all of them, but particularly Robert, had gotten into their heads that my life was to be wiped clean. He even had the nerve to stand in my living room and propose to set fire to the entire apartment! I forgot all my fears and just tried to get everyone to leave as soon as possible. What frightened me most was that all of them seemed to be against me, albeit that Dylan had a more rational approach and actually tried to make me understand why I had to join them and not stay here. Even Sam was against me. Thinking of the poor man I had assaulted the night before, I decided to join them, not wanting to let that happen again.

We finally arrived in Riverdale, where this sheriff guy was supposed to be, the only problem being that we had no idea where to begin. While standing there arguing what to do next, I dropped my cigarette, and not thinking more about it, I lit the last one I had left. However, I dropped this as well, and bending down to pick it up, through a cellar window, I caught a glimpse of the most horrible scene imaginable. Before I recoiled, I realised that a mutilated body was hanging from the ceiling with two men standing nearby as if interrogating or examining the corpse. What had I been drawn into, standing outside this building late at night, preparing to charge in to rescue a man I’d never heard of? If there was a god, I’d pray to him for this to be a nightmare and for the morning sun to bring deliverance rather than death.

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Introduction to A Thistle among Roses
The following text is meant to represent diary excerpts written by my character (Julie “Thistle” Simons) in our current Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle, but there are a few things I would like to say about this project before I set out. To start with, I am entirely new to Vampire and I have been miraculously avoiding the game until very recently. Therefore, it seemed fitting to play a character who knows about as much about the world as I do. She was embraced two weeks prior to play and therefore shares my own confusion and ignorance about what is so cool about vampires.

Furthermore, this is an experiment in writing fiction in English, something I have not done before to any great extent (I cannot remember a single instance, actually). The text is deliberately pretentious in style, which feels somewhat odd, because that is not a style I would ascribe to myself normally. However, I will do my best to capture the world of my character as I perceive it, whilst trying to keep at least some dignity. Any kind of feedback is welcome as long as it is contstrucive and I would like to say thank you to those of you who have already contributed.

Some problems will arise for those of you who are not fluent in Swedish, since I do not intend to reproduce material already existing in Swedish (like information about the other characters, for instance). Apart from that, I hope that the diary will speak for itself, so now the time has come for me to step aside and let Thistle in.

A Thistle among Roses so far
Part I: Omega Alpha
Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps
Part III: Death and Deliverance

Some useful links
Wikipedia entry on Vampire: the Masquerade
Discussion thread on Rollspel.nu (in Swedish)
Thistle described in that thread (also in Swedish)

Part I: Omega Alpha
Where to begin? I truly don’t know, because the events of the last two weeks have totally shattered my world, and finding a stable point of reference seems beyond my capabilities. I write this because I think that perhaps it will help me reconstructing my world into something coherent and comprehensible, but deep down I know that if I can’t find something or someone stable, all my efforts will be in vain. Nevertheless, I will try, because I don’t have much choice, do I? I suppose it would make sense to start from the beginning, even if the beginning seems more like an ending to me. It is now Friday, 22nd October and it’s exactly two weeks since I fell asleep, died, or whatever happened to me.

It was a Friday like any other, although I had yet to establish routines in New York, having lived there for only two months. My studies in mathematics weren’t going very well, mainly because I didn’t attend enough lectures and spent too much time exploring New York’s streets by night rather than delving deeper into the mysterious world of abstract mathematics. This particular night something terrible happened. I guess I’ve only got myself to blame, but I can’t help projecting my anger and fear towards the man who did this to me. I met him at a party to which I’d been haphazardly invited the same evening, and to which I went because I didn’t have anything else planned for the evening and because I felt like relaxing with people I wouldn’t have to face the next day in class.

When I arrived, I was warmly greeted by the young man I’ve now come to view as the one who ruined my life and destroyed my world. He was cute, with blue eyes glittering with wit. I suppose I felt like being cared for, felt like trusting someone even if he was a complete stranger. He kept me mostly to himself during the evening and I let him do it. I’m pretty sure our emotions were mutual, albeit that his ultimate purpose proved utterly different from mine. I’ve never been hooked on drugs, but smoking joints and dropping various fairly lightweight narcotics has never scared me before. However, I should have known better than to do it with someone I’d only known for a few hours, even though he was the most charming young man I’ve ever met.

Hours later, I found myself lying on my side in the wet autumn leaves of Central Park. I felt miserable in all ways imaginable, cold to the bone and with a gnawing and inexorably growing feeling that something was terribly wrong. I must have passed out, because when next I regained consciousness, I was lying on a sofa, all wrapped up in blankets, still feeling more dead that alive, but somehow safe. Residues of the drug in my blood must account for the weird room I found myself in, because it was a place of nightmares. A man was standing by a narrow window, looking out at the moonlit city, and before my soul was recaptured by Morpheus, I felt gratitude towards this unknown man. I knew that I had been betrayed and left to die, and that for some unknown reason, I had been saved.

The following days (I had not yet begun to use nights to denote passage of time) were blurred into a continuous haze of eerie dreams and I was never sure when I was awake and when I was asleep. Afterwards, I’ve been able to figure out that I must have spent at least five days in that hellish place, assuming that the drugs didn’t take more than a few hours of my life. I learnt that the man’s name was Sam and I know that he was kind to me, but that’s something patched together from many fragments of conversations I only partly remember. I have no distinct memory of what he was like or why he treated me well. The dreams were driving me crazy and early one morning, I felt I had to escape, to drag my way back to whatever reality awaited me out there.

Don’t ask me how I managed it, but I somehow crawled my way out of the gloomy apartment and out into the waking world. The chill of night was still in the air, and revived by it, I forced myself to flag down a taxi and head for home. I remember the driver looking at me quizzically, but I was too exhausted to do anything but rasp the address and note that his eyebrows rose in surprise yet again. Obviously, he didn’t think that a dishevelled creature like me could live in such a posh part of the city. I arrived home just before the break of dawn, and with clothes and shoes still on, I lay down on the bed and…

…awoke. I can’t explain it any other way, but that’s how it felt. I was still ill, like I’d been down with a fever for several days and now was recovering. Sunlight fell through the half-drawn curtains, warming my stomach as I lay staring into the ceiling. I blinked a couple of times, trying to remember the fleeting nightmare, but the memories of lying on the ground, dead and fallen like the golden autumn leaves, were quickly fading. When I blinked again, I had forgotten the surreal apartment and its considerate tenant. I didn’t realise that something was wrong until I found that the milk in the fridge had gone sour. I found a heap of newspapers and letters inside the door, and looking at the date of the topmost issue of The Economist, I noticed that it was Thursday 15th. Whether I had been terribly ill or the nightmare was real, I had been away almost a week.

I spent the entire day trying to understand what had happened, and figured out that the drugs must have caused the nightmares and the definitive feeling of dying. By a miracle, I had somehow made my way to my apartment and survived the ordeal. My absence at the university had been noticed, but I was able to explain it away by telling them about my illness, leaving out the bit about drugs. During the day, I gradually felt better and when the sun began to approach the western horizon, I had dismissed the past few days as an exceptionally bad and bizarre trip. When I finally went to bed again and the coin of nightmare and reality was flipped again, I found that a naive notion.

For eight days now, the coin has been spinning, shifting me from one nightmare into another. When I wake up, I can’t rid myself of the feeling that the dream is real, but as time passes, the conviction fades. After that first morning in my apartment, I’ve never been sure of what is real. Perhaps nothing is, and even my writing these words is part of a complex labyrinth of delusion I can’t find my way out of. I stay up all night, and when I fall asleep before sunrise, I dream about waking up from a nightmare that lasted all night. Then, when the sun is about to set again and I go to bed, I wake up again, the dream of the day receding like the light of day. Which one is real? Am I only dreaming this weird existence of being dead in a city that sleeps, or am I indeed awake now and during the day merely dreaming that everything is all right?

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The last couple of weeks I have been lazy or busy, depending on how one choose to regard it, which has had the effect of my not updating the 101 in 1001 for a while. Instead of posting a load of separate accounts of the various tasks, I have decided to deal with them jointly in a single post.

Bad news first. Or rather, challenging news first. I just browsed through the list and realised I have a long way to go. Sure, I have been able to complete some demanding tasks (like swimming 10 000 metres, for instance), but with a year and a half remaining of the 1001 days, I still have 84 tasks to go. Challenging indeed. I decide not to call it bad news, since I still think it is possible to accomplish everything I have set out for. However, I will have to develelop a much more aggressive attitude towards achieving my goal.

Then some good news. There are some tasks on the list I have finished, but not written about:

– Have read a total of 10 books by Philip K. Dick: Few authors fascinate me in the same way as Philip K. Dick. His books often surreal, bizarre and philosophical. They are always expertly written. His mind works in a way truly original and produces ideas which lie far beyond anything I myself would have come up with. Novels written by him are not always spot on, but they are always worthwhile.

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
2. The Man in the High Castle
3. A Scanner Darkly
4. Ubik
5. Galactic Pot-healer
6. Martian Time-Slip<
7. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
8. A Maze of Death
9. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
10. The Father-thing

– Have read a total of 5 books by Ray Bradbury: I have actually read more than five books and all of them have been reviewed. The best of Ray Bradbury is extremely good, but the problem is that there are too many mediocre stories that pull down the average quite a bit. Here are the books.

1. Fahrenheit 451
2. The Day it Rained Forever
3. S is for Space
4. Something Wicked This Way Comes
5. From the Dust Returned

– Have read a total of 5 books by Neil Gaiman: Not including The Sandman (comic), I have read more than five books by Neil Gaiman (with The Sandman it becomes sixteen). In recent years, Neil Gaiman has ascended to the position of being one of my two favourite authors, equalled only by Philip K. Dick. Here are the five first books:

1. American Gods
2. Coraline
3. Good Omens
4. Stardust
5. Neverwhere

– Finish my freelancing praject “Tornet mot stjärnorna”: It took roughly 150 hours of writing to accomplish this, not including time not spent with pen and paper (i.e. thinking, dreaming and talking about it). Although there are still mechanical things left (correcting errors reported by proof readers), I consider this project done.

– Learn to sleep comfortably on my back: This is a somewhat old task as well, since I finished it last autumn. I cannot say that I sleep as comfortably on my back as I do in other positions, but I can do it when I want to.

– Make someone change from Qwerty to Dvorak: I accomplished this some time ago when a friend of mine, Gastono, changed from Qwerty to Dvorak. To my knowledge, he seems satisfied with the change.

Hopefully, these insights into this project will help me to finish it and hopefully it will also lead to more activity online regarding the 101 in 1001. Wish me good luck and I will probably be seeing you soon again!

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