Tag Archives: Writing


This month’s “Son of Pictonaut” very nearly didn’t happen, devoid of inspiration I was conent to let it pass me by. At least until I was seized by an idea 3 days after the end of March.

This month’s image was “Person Going Through a Broken Wire Fence” by Zachary DeBottis on Pexels. On some level I felt a bit like I was channelling John Darnielle. Not necessarily in terms of style, but more in terms of “vibes.” I did after all, finish reading “Wolf in the White Van” last month. But what we have is a stream of consciousness piece that heavily references information I scraped from Wikipedia articles on historical events. Which events should hopefully become rapidly apparent once you start reading the story.

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The Wanderer

At lot of things have happened since the last post I made here, back at the arse end of 2016. I had a small nervous breakdown, my dad died, I bought a house, I got married. But one thing that there hasn’t been a lot of is writing. At least not fiction. I’ve got a short story of about five and a half thousand words that I started in the wake of my father’s death from what I have been quanitly calling “MEGA CANCER,” but it remains unfished. His suddden, but not unexpected beefing of the coil mortal isn’t really to blame for the lack of words, merely one of a myriad of other contributing factors. Other things have been the focus of my attention: my wonderful wife, picking up art again; fiction just hasn’t been a priority. Although I did release an RPG back in 2021 based on a setting I helped write , that was pretty neat. You can find RoadSpire here.

However, at the start of this month my good friend Sam resureccted the Piconaut Challenge (with my permission) under the name “Son of Pictonaut.” It would have been rude not to participate. So here we are, image in hand; the work of Caspar David Friedrich, the iconic The Wanderer above a sea of fog.

The story is a prequel of sorts to both Yogic and Shaman that I have cheerily titled “The Old Ways Must Die.” Enjoy.

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The Titan Awakens

Over the last couple of days I’ve been playing a lot of Paradox Interactive’s Stellaris. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a galaxy spanning real-time strategy game that is absolutely loaded with random events and AI interactions. These random events and the scenarios it throws up make the game ripe for making self-created narratives in your head.

I started playing it in May, and had some great laughs with a ruler who became addicted to drugs and in doing so accidentally became immortal (I’ve generally been assuming that it’s Melange.) A few weeks back a patch was released that made a lot of my older games incompatible, so I started a new one. I came back to it this weekend to help take my mind off things happening in the real world. (For those following me on twitter you’ll already know that this wasn’t exactly a success.) After two days of almost solid gameplay I stopped for the evening and promptly wrote 2,000 words about the crazy nonsense which had been unfolding. I’ve interspersed the story with some edits of screenshots I took as the game was unfolding. I hope you enjoy it.


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Whimword – Adamant

Star Fortress Adamant

Beyond the stars we call home,
In the places where dark things roam,
Within the folds of stellar mists,
There a grand fortress sits.

At the sight of the Old Empire’s demise,
There Star Fortress Adamant lies,
A bulwark against the horrors of space,
The last protector of our benighted race.

With walls thick and gates never ajar,
Forged within the heart of a neutron star,
Bristling rail cannons and fields of plasma lance,
Launching salvoes that make foes dance.

Never yet have its walls been breached,
Nor the strength of its shields been leached,
The fortress protects from cosmic ill,
We sleep safe at night by their strength of will.

Adamant stands against stellar strife,
Its forces buying freedom with their life,
From its maw its soldiers sally forth,
To lie foes out upon reality’s swarth.

Clad are they in blood-red plate,
Mono-filament sabres held straight,
Astride steeds with hearts fuelled by anti-matter,
Their shod grav-hooves raising a clatter.

Their armour all blows it turns,
From tyrant’s claw to star-dragon burns,
Protection fierce that cannot be broke,
Nor their mighty spirits bear a yoke.

From their course they do not stray,
No matter the cost they are forced to pay,
Their home’s title no quirk of nomenclature,
Adamant by name, adamant by nature

Whimword – Soupçon


The cauldron bubbled as the colloidal data gushed from its rimy transfer hose; mixing with the liquefied quartz storage solution. It became a seething sea of froth and foam, as icy, crystal white tried to mix with lurid, actinic green. The fibre optic inlet pipes strobed with a terabit storm of code, but the two liquids still resolutely refused to be miscible. The internal clock was megahertz below spec, and the run-cycles remained irregular and off-pattern.

It wasn’t working.

“Ugh, the SysAdmin Magus is not going to be happy,” Delthani v7 sighed and swept her sweat matted hair out of her eyes. “I don’t think I can face another neural flensing.”

Dejected, she slumped to her workstool, head in hands. Her eyes drifted up to the side of the cauldron. Beneath the patina of defrag slop, and carbon slag, she could still see the glimmer of her grandmother’s name in faint bronze letters:

Delthani v5

~ Bionic Alchemy ~

~ Cyber Witchcraft ~

v5 wouldn’t have put up with the SysAdmin’s outrageous requests. Her mother – the infamous v6 – would have broken the asshole’s skull right across the quantum write-head mooring. But no. v7 was a people person, she wanted to please. She wanted to be helpful, even if it landed her neck-deep in some datamancy which couldn’t work either practically, or theoretically. But she’d always had a hard time saying no to people, especially the ones in the fancy computation-hats of the lead Ops team. Ye Gods, she wanted one of those hats so bad.

She wished her mother was still here, not a kiloserver sectors distant. She could have gotten her out of this mess. Hell, if v5 was still around she probably could have gotten this mess to work! She played by the old rules, the ones from back before the BIG patches.

Delthani wanted to cry, but she couldn’t. The cauldron was sucking all the moisture out of everything. Hydroscopic little shit that it was. She supposed she should clean this all up and try again. She stood up and went to fetch the tungsten pail of bit-quench from the shelf. Next to it sat a slim vial, no bigger than megabyte ampoule, glimmering purple and iridescent in the cauldron-light.

Where had she gotten than from again?

It had been a gift from that mad, old net-hag in the exchange burrows. She’d promised that it was “the total antithesis of a problem.” Delthani had mostly taken it just so that it would keep the old hag happy. She was a nice sort, and exchanged old ero-chat logs for pastries and calculation off-cuts.

“Well maybe just a soupçon. A cheeky little dash. What’s the worst that could happen?”

As in trickled in the cauldron flashed hard red: boot failure. But before she could curse, it flashed pale blue and held. The status feed flashed.

# Compile Complete #

“Well bugger me…”

Whimword – Catch

The Ship Breaker (A Tale of Space Fishing)

The mono-fillament line snaked out through the soupy, interstellar morass of the nebula. It spooled out from the primary mass of the Great Xolotar, drifting klik after klik until it floated megakliks distant, rotating gently on its own axis.

The Xolotar’s arcane, machine intelligence tracked eddies in the dust clouds and mapped the bow wakes of far off freighters. From a million different fragments it ran a quintillion different calculations, and pieced together a pixel fine map of the prey-ships within its sensor-sphere.

And with that, it set its lure.

The lure at the end of the line pulsed with a faint EM signature, matching the obscured siren song of standard navigational pulsar 847-2Xp or as the Xolotar’s data files also called it “The Bright Corpse Star of the Sticky Wicket.”

The lure sent out its ersatz radio pulse. Four weeks later it drew an ore freighter towards it, drawn off course by the promise of a safe passage out of the nebula, and straight into the clutches of the Xolotar.

The lure magnetised and clamped onto the freighter’s hull, digging into the plating with barbed snares and jagged teeth. The line snapped taught, and began to draw the ship in.

The freighter thrashed and twisted, cranking its engines into full reverse, but it couldn’t break free. It was caught. Inexorably the Xolotar reeled the ship in. It would not escape now. It would be landed in the grand, rendering jaws of the ancient ship-breaker. Its grinders and cutting lances would shred this ship. The Xolotar would feast once again. It would consume, and it would grow. And then it would do the same all over again. Just as it had done for a thousand years.

Whimword – Web

A Baited Trap Now Sprung

The lift doors slid open. There were two quick, rapid thumps; like a ball hammer hitting a thick slab of meat. Blood sprayed the walls, and two security guards fell to the floor. Their SMGs fell from their hands and skittered across the floor. They were both quite dead. Agent Max Peril exited the lift. He knelt down and snapped the lanyard from around the neck of one of the dead guards. Pocketing the key card, he crept into the heart of the facility, gun raised.

Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly

A woman stood in the gloom of the surveillance room, lit only by the glare of the monitors. Her hair seemed a dark, deep red; like the colour of freshly spilled blood. She watched Agent Peril traverse a maze of corridors, deactivating security doors, dispatching guards, raising merry hell.

“Sweet creature!” said she, the spider in her web, “You’re witty and you’re wise! Come to save poor little, helpless me from the big mean men.” She flicked a small red switch on a panel in front of her, sending a foot-thick security bulk-head shuddering across a corridor that Agent Peril had just vacated.

“Come ever onwards my brave little hero. Come deeper into the trap I have set for you.”

She pushed a small blue button and activated the laser grids, choking off egress through the air vents and service hatchways.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive!

Agent Peril plunged through the facility, borne forward on the wings of duty, chivalry, love, and an all-consuming and entirely irrational sense of judgement and self-worth. He went willingly towards his end. A fool rushing in, where angels feared to tread.

A fly

Into a web

Whimword – Palatial

A Palace for Corpses and the Dead Ghosts of Empire

The plumes of soft, powdery, grey dust drifted downwards slowly under the asteroid’s weak gravity. It had begun to settle around the feet of the landing gear. The ship sank into the thick loamy crust as it compacted the matter beneath it.

Dracnyr stood at the base of the boarding ramp, watching the hull still crackle with the greenish-blue hues of star-fire. It’d be at least a day before the storm of ionised particles from the local yellow dwarf quietened down, and probably another two before it was safe to take off again. Which left Dracnyr the unenviable joy of hunkering down and waiting out the storm.

Dracynr flexed xyr vacuum armoured tentacles and began to inspect the local area. Xe strained with the myriad facets of xyr compound eyes, the dust clouding the deep basin in which the ship now sat, obscuring anything beyond a couple of tendrils. Dracynr blinked and slide the nano-molecule nictitating scanner membrane across their bulbous quintuplet of eyes. The scanners filtered out the noise, interpolating shadow fractals, tweaking photon gain, and splicing in the wavelengths beyond xyr biological capability to see.

The basin began to resolve slowly as the membrane layered the composite images together, scrubbing out the fog of dust and revealing whatever was out there in the cold and the dark.

As the shapes took form they seemed smooth, regular, and vertical, not loose and jagged slopes Dracnyr would have expected from an asteroid basin. Not even the smooth regularity of a cliff-face. It felt far more artificial than that. The walls of basin became coarse and pixelated colonnades nearly half a klyx high. Xyr view traced down from these grand and imposing pillars to the open space on which xyr ship rested. It was a klyx wide and ran in a line for nigh on a decaklyx, bordered by short walls with regularly spaced archways. At its head a titanic portico filled the entire wall.  This dead and cold palace exuded a precise and almost offensive grandeur. But how could anything live in the hard vacuum? Why would anything build a palace in a place such as this?

The images sharpened. Dracnyr zoomed in on the majesty of the portico. Its back wall was smooth, blank. The ghosts of what may have been doors or windows flickered on the mass-density scan, all had been bricked over and sealed shut. High above the ground, on this now featureless back wall, there was something written on it. No. Not written: Carved. In great, ragged letters, brutally hacked into façade.

Tendebantque Manus Ripae Ulterioris Amore

Sunt Lacrimae Rerum

Nos Culpa

The translation banks held all languages alive and dead known to Dracynr’s people. It grunted. Dry. Empty. It did not know what it said.

Whimword – Dirigible

To Tame a Beast

The ropes were thick with soot and grease. They hung heavily from the pallid, white belly of the sky-beast. Stirred by the breeze they undulated and twisted; never still. Uyildi sat in the shadow of the sky-beast’s titanic form, on the hard, unyielding surface of the black-stone field and watched ropes. They snaked through the air a cubit-score above her head, as the sky-beast drifted lazily about its tenuous tether to the spire of the gnarled and crooked iron-tree over two hecto-cubits cloudward.

Uyildi knew the theory, as all the dust-folk knew the theory. Climb the iron-tree as high as you dare, then leap from its branches and try to catch one of the sky-beast’s trailing tendrils. Most failed here. Missing the rope entirely, or catching it but being unable to hold onto its slick surface. People burst like ripe melons when they hit the black-stone from those heights. Then there was the not inconsiderable matter of climbing the ropes all the way to the sky-beast’s back. A few had tried to forgo the leap and reach the pinnacle of the iron-tree so as to clamber along the mooring ties. But that high in the tree the footing was treacherous, the way narrow and sharp. They always fell.

The way along the sky-beast’s spine was said to be slippery and shifting, like walking on churning sand, and with the wind and precious few hand holds nearly all who made it this far plummeted to their deaths also.

In living memory only two souls had made it to the gateway. The doorway which was said to lie in the centre of the sky-beast’s spine. Neither of them had returned.

Uyildi stood up and checked her equipment. Her family’s great-wrench lay tightly strapped across her back, nestled against the weight of the persuasive form of the sacred hammer. She ran her hands through the spools of her ascending ropes and trialled the motions of her rising clips and fastening hooks. Last of all she flexed the wing sheathes beneath her arms. If she fell, like hell was she going to die like a fool.

She knew the invocations and incantations to summon forth life from the beast’s turgid heart, her mother had taught them to her ever since she was a child. Reading from the wafer thin tube-spools, all yellowed and cracking; a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.

She also knew what awaited those who could awake the sky-beast from its ageless slumber: mastery of the skies. It was a risk worth taking. It was why there was always someone willing to try.

Uyildi took a bite of hard white cheddar and washed it down with chill stream water from her canteen.

Then she set off to the roots of the iron-tree, to start her climb.

(This piece was declared the “winner” with the title of Word Boss)

Whimword – Gloaming

So last week I made my first foray into the world of Whimword. I consequently “won.” Obviously there was the temptation to bow out and live out my days with a perfect record, undefeated upon the field of battle. But you see, the thing with Whimword is that when you “win” you have to pick the next word. And having done so, I thought skipping out on putting together an entry for aforementioned word would be (to use the technical term) a dick move.

The word I chose was “Gloaming.” Which is should a wonderful word to say. So thick and heavy and round in its tones; a much better word for twilight or dusk. this one is a bit shorter than the last, and veers a bit closer to the dangerous and turbulent waters of poetry.

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