What’s In A Name? (My 100th Post!) [Video!]

[This is my one hundredth post! Given the blog’s about a name of mine, this piece seemed an appropriate one. To mix things up, I made a video! There’s a transcript below so  you can read it if you’d rather, and so you can check out the links.]

Everyone loves the chance to be someone else sometimes, right? Apparently, I do more than most… Much of this is through my fantasy persona Skylance, who I’m hoping you know by now!

Despite his owning this blog, Skylance isn’t really a concrete figure in my head… just a name I always liked. I guess if I had to pin him down, he’d become the warrior as whom I played with my friend and my sister, even though he was called Jake (and then, when he died tragically, his younger brother Timothy). Read about them here if you’d like 🙂 Skylance rides dragons, fights evil, that sort of thing. Your standard fantasy lad, really.

I have a few other characters as well:

Lance
For when Skylance just isn’t socially acceptable (and, to be fair, my definition of socially acceptable is pretty generous, to the point that my ultimate (wait, what? You don’t know what ultimate is? Click here please!) teammates call me by my beloved fantasy name) I will opt for Lance (again, no surname). Most often, this comes in handy when I go bowling. I could (and will..?) write a whole other post on bowling, and the peculiar habits and rituals my mate (Knight) and I have invented for it, but suffice to say, whenever I bowl, I do so as Lance, and insist anyone with me chooses an equally cool name. I have to give quick shout-outs to Storm, The Jouster, and Sassy Rivers here – three of the strongest guest bowling names we’ve had. Respect.

Tobias Khash
Hoorah, a surname! This is a bit of an odd one that started at university. I decided to book restaurant tables under a fake name, because why not! It’s not like the restaurant asks for ID before they’ll seat you. Not quite sure where Tobias Khash (think ‘cash’ but with a long ‘a’ – subliminal messaging that I’m loaded and important, right?) came from, but when I book a table, he shows up.

Holden
Where to start… My best friend and I named my ‘alter ego’, which is essentially just the quite different person I become when I’m in a mood. The transformation is drastic – from loud, reckless, tactile social butterfly to a cold, calculating introvert who loves nothing better than discussing hypothetical disasters without a hint of empathy. That paints a fairly negative portrait – I actually really like the guy. He writes brilliant angsty poetry and is often ‘summoned’ by the completion of a particularly powerful book (1984 and Norwegian Wood were both big hits with Holden). And, of course, Catcher in the Rye, whence he gets his name. We share the same disconnect, imagining we’ve been shot, holding onto childhood innocence… Essays could be written on him (Holden loves being deep and complicated) but for now this will have to do.

jaywalker
At uni, I wrote a few raps. My most ‘successful’ (in that my friends would occasionally request performances on nights out) was about being an engineer and the love of maths and fear of girls that come with the job title. I performed it with a couple mates and we unofficially called ourselves ‘Awfully Tame’ (the opposite of Wretch32’s ‘terribly wild’ in his song Traktor on which the chorus is based). My rap name within the band was the above bastardisation of my own name, plus a gangsta link to borderline illegality, because an engineering rap star would be at best borderline cool. I’m still undecided on capitalisation – originally it was JayWalker… unlikely to matter as my rap career has stagnated somewhat since!

Jake, Skylance, Lance, Tobias Khash, Holden, and jaywalker. If we ignore the various nameless fantasy warriors and creatures (I’m 25, of course I don’t still imagine I’m a magog (not the biblical kind, the fire-throwing demon from Heroes 3, obviously) assassin who throws blue fire!) then I think that just about covers it…

I hope you enjoyed this view into how balanced and cohesive I am!

Please Send Dragons

Being the creative, whimsical, free-spirited soul that I am (by that I mean easily distracted as well as… [drifts off mid sentence]) I occasionally find myself bored, and then daydreaming, and then wishing for a dragon.

It’s a slippery slope.

I can remember countless times I’ve been sat in a school chapel, sports hall or meeting room, ears under attack from a unending drone on responsibility or rules or the emancipation of the proletariat (I probably should’ve listened to that one), and just thought,

‘Imagine if a dragon smashed its way in here now. That would spice things up.’

It works best when there’s a big window, the destruction of which is overwhelmingly pleasing to visualise. Rose windows in chapels are my favourite – sorry god, but a giant reptilian jaw gonna look so sweet smashing through one of those!

[My inner writing voice is telling me that tips for a great daydream are where this piece is headed (Tip #1, ‘Rose Windows’, I guess?), so…]

#2 ‘Vantage Point’. Pick a window a good distance from you. Unless you’re going to daringly tame and ride the dragon (respect) or slay it nobly (there best be maidens watching, else you’ve just wasted a dragon) you want to be at a safe (out of the way for the first few seconds) distance to chuckle as your fantasy comes true and that classmate/colleague/tennis coach you never really liked gets scooped up in the mighty beast’s jaws. If you’re going into an event with the expectation of being bored, at least the foresight might allow you to pick an optimum daydreaming spot (I always liked some elevation where possible, or a nice corner in an office).

#3 ‘Sly Grin/Wee Nod’. There are two purposes here. The first is to provide an intense feeling of satisfaction and generally ‘being cool’. To achieve this, imagine yourself giving the dragon (and the bodies of your currently-deceasing unliked colleagues) this combination: sly grin (because you’re far enough away to be safe, clever you) and a wee nod (a show of mutual respect between you, virtually a demi-god for being called Skylance, and this mythical beast). You can even do this dual-action in real life, because of the second purpose: feigning interest in whatever’s actually going on. Your boss, examiner, chaplain etc. will be thrilled.

There are, of course, obvious drawbacks to imagining dragons, which is why I will soon post about my excitement for the impending zombie apocalypse, my preferred option.

This seems like enough nonsense for one day (one week in fact, sorry I’ve been so quiet!). Have a great weekend!

P.S. As a little aside, I really admired and respected my school chaplain, who was a great man and to whom I mean no offence, but the subject matter just wasn’t my jam. Plus, rose windows!

Deus ex machina

“a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object…often implies a lack of creativity” (thanks Wikipedia)

I wouldn’t say as kids that we suffered from a lack of creativity, if anything, our imaginations had gotten the better of us here, as we’d killed off all three of our characters, without thinking where that left our game…

Happily, their younger siblings were conveniently present, but against a Geri Haliwell-inspired Shadow Master, there could be little hope. Enter Kyle!

I decided to write this today as it’s Kyle’s birthday – we’ve not spoken in a while but I’ll link him this article later as I’m not sure he even knows about this! Kyle was another good friend who may have joined us in this game on occasion before he moved to Illinois from our hometown in Massachusetts. By the time of these events, he’d definitely moved, but that didn’t stop his fantasy counterpart saving the day!

In a fashion reminiscent of (and likely copied from) the White Power Ranger, who returned super powerful and immune to evil influence (I will have the utmost respect for anyone who can correct me if I’m wrong here), Kyle intervened to single-handedly fight off and banish the Shadow Master, while clad, if memory serves, in all black armour (because white would’ve been too obvious). What a badass!

Certain death avoided, the younger siblings (I became ‘Timothy’, my sister possibly chose ‘Jamie-Lynn’, but we can’t for the life of us remember what new name Andrew picked… ) lived to fight another day, safe in the knowledge that on the rare occasions our own prowess failed us (and, as we’d soon scheduled, printed and laminated our own ‘magic university’ timetables, that was a rare thing indeed) our absent friend would return once more.

Kyle – happy birthday, and I hope you appreciate what a part you still played in our lives after you moved away!

[The above is 333 words, by complete chance, and the last one was 444 words. If anyone knows of any symbolism I’m inadvertently messing with here (I’m worried 666 will be soon) do let me know!]

It’s Raining Many (Aggressive Shadowy Spirits)

mist
Death was just the beginning…

Not the start of my young adult book about a troubled vampire (I jest even though I am writing one!) but the follow-up to my last fantasy post here.

To recap, three heroes, imagined by myself, my best friend Andrew and my sister Emily, within our vast fantasy world, had just been killed by Andrew’s uncle (the one area devoid of imagination, up until this point at least, had been the names – we quested under our real life monikers) . Did death spell the end of our wild adventures running around the garden shouting and hacking at goblins? Did it heck! (Minding my language, children (or at least the reminiscences thereof) present.)

Barely had the Shadow Master slew us (this particular fight scene involved our jumping around on the trampoline and then falling over dramatically) when our three younger siblings (each conveniently similar to their predecessors in gender and appearance) turned up on the scene, ready to do battle at the tender age of probably about seven. Good on them!

The following scene was never actually acted out; however I imagined it hundreds of times and described it to my sister often enough that it may as well have been: it began with the tense first bars of Geri Haliwell’s cover of ‘It’s Raining Men’ and a deep, menacing laugh from the Shadow Master. He raised his dark, jagged arms (he was composed purely of sharp, black shadows obviously) and twisted shapes began to seep up from the ground. Insubstantial, misty at first, they darkened and took on human forms – these were souls, ghosts, wights – the ‘shadows’ our adversary commanded. As the music builds (perhaps without the lyrics which, while wonderful in their own right, don’t really suit epic battles of good and evil) the Shadow Master flings his arms higher, launching the poor trapped souls of the dead into the air. The three young warriors, still mourning the triple homicide of their siblings, steel themselves as the first verse reaches a crescendo and…

“IT’S RAINING MEN!”

The shadows drop from the sky, surrounding the children, and begin their assault. It’s a terrifying onslaught. Did I mention their siblings had just been killed? And now this: swarms of shadowy corpses hurling themselves at our intrepid adventurers. The odds don’t look good. How could a bunch of even younger kids defeat someone who’d just killed the slightly older kids?  I don’t mind telling you now (to whet your appetite) that this younger trio would go on to great things, becoming world-renowned heroes and even making it to university, but how would they survive this? Enter our deus ex machina: Kyle.

[Incidentally, at 444 words, the above is exactly four times the length of an excellent recent piece by a good friend of mine, which you can check out here]

Fighting My Best Friend’s Uncle

It wasn’t under the name Skylance, but it was definitely that state of mind, when one can get lost in a far away fantasy world. What started as playing on the monkey bars at school, pretending to be spiders, became a expansive world we travelled as magical heroes, battling evil forces at every turn. The world grew each time we entered – it would go on to capture and demand our imagination for years. We three (my little sister often joined myself and my best friend Andrew) fought against countless enemies, but notably the mysterious Shadow Master, who, in one particularly shocking twist, turned out to be Andrew’s uncle, and killed all three of us.

Happily, that was just the beginning.