The Mythos Project, or Conservative Retellings

 With the rise of big tech censorship and open calls to silence voices that do not agree with the zeitgeist, I’ve been slowly coming to a premise that you may be able to guess from this post’s title. The coronachan stimulus bill’s insane inclusion of language concerning ‘illegal’ streaming sites pushed my thoughts over the edge.

I’ve been thinking to myself, what will we do when we can’t watch or read or play the stories that entertain us and spice our lives?

What will I watch at Christmas when Die Hard - which already must be rented or bought - is banned because ‘the terrorists didn’t deserve to be killed. John should have sent a social worker,’ or ‘John is too macho’? What’s left when something newer like Cobra Kai - which I find fairly moderate politically - is either morphed out of shape and bent to political purpose, or simply removed entirely?

I could list many IPs and go into detail concerning the things that might cause such canceling, but I don’t think I need to. Some will dig into my specific examples anyway and miss the point. Through either age, neglect, or censorship, old stories will begin to disappear.

It’s the worst for movies because the physical market has shrunk considerably. There are some things that likely never made it off VHS, and piracy controls have always been strongest for TV and film.

Practically every game ever can be run in emulation, so legality aside there are options, and I would guess that passionate gamers care for their collections fairly well. Still, it’s troubling that fresh, reliable copies and equipment can be hard to come by. Preserving the gameplay itself is one matter, but some games from all decades sported amazing stories, and that’s what matters here. 

Fiction in print seems to be somewhere in between these two. You can find copies of most things you’d want - at least I can - but at some point the used prices will rise too far due to rarity, or else the tomes will waste away from neglect or damage. If there were stories in your past that you’d like to share with your children, what will you do when you can no longer access them?

My current practice is to code the things that are important to me into my new stories, but I think we can be even more intentional than that. We can take the ‘conservative’ mythos that we so value and retell our most precious stories the way that subversives love to retell fairy tales. The difference being that we would keep the morals of a story intact, and in some cases even sanitize or further solidify them.

Let’s chat about encoding the old stories first. People do this anyway - it’s impossible to escape - but putting intentionality into the mix is always more effective when seeking a specific product.

Here’s my example: 

Coming to Power is a sci-fantasy epic that grew out of essentially everything I ever consumed. It gestated for many years and was complete within the last few years. So what of our mythos is encoded in it? Those who have read the book may be amused.

Jon could reasonably be called a composite of Mario, Link, Simon Belmont, Goku, Aragorn, and Bastian (Neverending Story). His eagerness to participate in the heroic quest was an echo of Bastian’s passion, and a reaction to the reluctant heroes I often encountered since I read a lot of fantasy from the 70s/80s. See Thomas Covenant and others.

His power over coherent light began as an analog to Mario’s fireball combined with Link’s full health energy sword projectile, the aesthetic solidified once I discovered the searing beams of devastation in Dragonball. That’s the superficial stuff, but the themes are there too: Saving the girl, defeating the darkness inside and out, and finding honor and glory after doing the right thing.

Masters of the Universe comes into play with my Hero’s Metal setting, where the characters are extremely powerful and have specific talents and roles. The world itself is alien and old, with mysterious ruins and possibly even magitech. Pierce does the right thing because it’s right, just like He-Man, and as a bonus, we’ve got elements of Conan in there for flavor and depth.

Some of this was intentional, some of it was not. All of it adds color, spice, and strong bones to the world-building and narrative.

You can check other examples of this type of encoding with Alexander Hellene’s Swordbringer series and Brian Niemeir’s Combat Frame: X-Seed. Please leave comments as to other examples you might have in mind!

So being aware of our influences and sometimes highlighting them is all well and good, but what if I want to experience Die Hard with my son and it is no longer available?

Come ‘round the fire, young ones, and let me tell you the tale of John McClane and the Fall of Gruber.

I don’t know about you, but my memory isn’t too great, especially in the moment when I need it, so why not write it down?

Now I’ve got more than one reason not to simply transcribe Die Hard beat for beat, as great as it is. But even were I to try, the conversion to prose is going to change some things. Between my own bents, the conversion process, and possible lack of diligence in the transcription (ie: paraphrasing), the story will be altered somewhat. This is how myths are grown.

Somewhere in the distant past, a blacksmith forged a really nice sword and a brave knight performed many great feats with it. As the tales of this knight passed from mind to mind the blacksmith was forgotten but the sword still needed an origin. So then, the knight found it. But no, he didn’t just find it, a fairy gave it to him. No, not a fairy but a lady. Oh, and she lives in a lake. Etcetera. 

Forgive me for a terrible glossing over of the Arthurian mythos, but you get my point.

This brings me around to the main point. It’s time for conservative retellings. 

Now I don’t really like the word ‘conservative’ but I’m using it because it’s widely understood. Maybe we can chat about the term another time.

The point is that we are on the verge of losing some important culture, from Ghostbusters to Daredevil to even Tolkien himself. In some cases, the original versions of things may be banned, as outlandish as that may seem. In most, I would guess they’ll just be allowed to fade away and become unavailable. In many situations, the new versions of things will continue to alter the underlying morals and themes and become the new definitive version. It’s that latter scenario that has Tolkien fans concerned about the upcoming Amazon series. We’ll see how it goes.

In any case, I think the idea of retelling is something for conservative creators to consider. Now we wouldn’t have as much leeway in adapting something like Die Hard as leftists do with fairy tales - I use it as an example because we are currently in the Christmas season. But I think the restriction of copyright in this instance could prove to be a strength. It forces the reteller to apply the age-old methods of myth creation and alter the story fairly significantly while keeping the original spirit intact. Iron out flaws, accentuate the goodness.

I’ll leave you with a quick example using my favorite of Christmas movies. Don’t take it too seriously because I’m not either. It’s just an example.

In my Die Hard retelling, Joe MacMahon travels to Supra City to attend his scientist wife’s unveiling of Time Window technology. The Christmas connection is that they are going to peep on the birth of Christ as a proof of concept demo. No sooner has Joe arrived at the Very Tall Science Building than terrorists seize the building and commandeer the time equipment.  Their demands are simple: be allowed safe passage from Supra City, time equipment in their possession. When and if demands are not met, they will start casting hostages through Time Windows to be lost forever. (Dangerously overloading the equipment’s power levels allows for actual travel!)

When Brahms Stoober, the big bad, begins to play with the tech, it creates a stack of Time Zones that Joe must ‘climb’ in order to save his wife and stop the baddies. The air ducts become unstable wormhole connections between Zones. The machine gun becomes a plasma rifle. Sergeant Al would be largely the same, but perhaps the men are both veterans instead of police, or there might be some other force that they fight for. Keep the foot injury and the general sense of John - I mean Joe’s - toughness.

When Joe finally defeats Brahms they fall through the cascade of Time Zones and while Joe ‘lands on his feet’, Brahms does not and is plummeted into the depths of time.

That was a quick brainstorm but I think you can see how the spirit of the tale is retained while the superficial things are altered 1:1 or sometimes 1:10. Magnified or diminished.

It doesn’t have to be all this on the nose, either. We could do a Gremlins story in any setting, even with different rules for the monsters. We could do Ghostbusters in space, the focus being on good vs. evil, order vs. chaos, individualism vs. the bureaucracy, etc.  

Of course all of this pertains to writing the stories and does us no good producing video or games - we will have to learn to collaborate with our fellow artisans to recreate the full cycle of the culture - but all of these mediums start with story first anyway.

So that’s my call to action. It doesn’t mean we all switch gears and retell these stories exclusively, but that we keep these ideas in mind and remember that our tales can be preserved through the means man’s myths always have - retelling.


Read Coming to Power and see how far someone’s ‘high school novel’ can grow if you get diligent and let it. Then check out my other books and the books of all the #pulprev and #superversive indie authors!

Thank you for reading.

Cyberpunk 2077 Review

Cyberpunk 2077 - synthesis of a grand tradition

I hope this will turn out to be a fairly non-conventional review, but that it is also useful for those who enjoy the analysis and perhaps for some who are considering the game.

I’ve reached a point where I’m not easily taken in by hype, and my expectations toward anything, especially entertainment, are tempered. That’s not to say that I’m pessimistic that a game or movie could blow my socks off - in fact I’m ready for that moment whenever it comes - but that I go into anything expecting an on-par performance and nothing more.

This typically means that some aspect of a game or show or film will surprise me and make my time/money investment feel worthwhile, and occasionally the piece as a whole will floor me.

I’m lucky to even have a copy of Cyberpunk as this one was gifted to me by my Mom. I laugh because even near mid-life sometimes our Moms treat the boy in us. If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have been able to justify the cost since I can be ascetic like that. 

All that out of the way, I think my overall impression of Cyberpunk 2077 can be boiled down to this: 

I am duly impressed.

This is not ‘the game I’ve been waiting for all my life’, or ‘the greatest game I’ve ever played’. But it’s far far far from a disappointment, or even a ‘buggy mess’ as some have termed it. Most of your feed is going to be littered with quick takes, interesting or silly screenshots, and polarized commercial-level opinions calling it ‘disappointing’ ‘mediocre’ or conversely ‘solid’ ‘enaging’ or whatever.

The truth of what you’re getting in this game is this:

It’s a massively ambitious art project with the goal of synthesizing the Cyberpunk TTRPG ethos into an accessible yet wide and sometimes deep package for the masses to enjoy. 

On the art:

I appreciate this greatly as a fan of sci-fi and cyber aesthetics. More, I’ve spent hundreds of hours pursuing game development as a hobby (mostly in Unreal Engine) and I deeply appreciate the craftsmanship that’s gone into this game world.

One can tell, I think, that the goal of the art direction wasn’t to push forward the cyber aesthetic but to sum up what’s come to this point. We’ve got neon, corporations, invasive advertising, and mixed cultures. There are grunge, punk, rave, high fashion, military, police, and business peeps all moving through the city at their various paces.

If you pick it up, or if you’ve got it already, then next time you play take a slow stroll through Night City and look around. You’re seeing millions of 3D models and thousands of textures coming together to immerse you in a cyberpunk world, and the fact that such a program can work, especially with all the animated crowds and vehicles, and the rpg system underlying the player character running too, is astounding. Think back to your youth in gaming and see it through those eyes. 

Will you find the rough edges of the theme park if you look? Yeah, but that’s because the only thing as well made as real life is real life.

On the story:

I’m just inside act 2, and I think the story is very good. There have been some moments of truly excellent writing (which I won’t spoil) and much that does its job at an above-average level, with a small helping of average and very little of low quality. That last is only to the point that I remember it’s there but couldn’t give you a concrete example even if I was doing spoilers.

The story tackles some ideas that I’ve been playing with myself, such as (and I don’t think this is a spoiler given the promos and hype) having another person in your head.

As far as the stuff that impressed me, I’ve been pleased with the themes of family, found family, loyalty, honor, and legacy. I expected none of that in what is normally considered a nihilistic genre. I certainly didn’t expect the main story to have this much heart. The fact that the player can lean into it just adds an extra dimension you can’t get in other media.

Is it perfect? No. Again, nothing is. Some story beats take way too long when what the gamer in me really wants is to roam the town on my bike and slice and dice criminals with my katana like the love child of Hiro Protagonist and the Punisher. 

The first interlude for example had me interested in the story but still drumming my fingers for what I think was forty minutes. I think we could have streamlined that a bit, though I enjoyed it for what it was.

On the technical side:

I touched on this in art, but once again I was impressed that though some people are reporting issues, I’ve had surprisingly few despite running the game with only a 2Gb graphics card. I’m sure my 32Gb of RAM figures into that, not to mention my decent CPU and SSD, but it’s still impressive to me that they’ve optimized the game that well.

On the gameplay:

You probably won’t hear many diverging opinions here. It’s hard to make a AAA game that misses the mark with its RPG mechanics, skill trees, loot variety, etc. So all that is good.

The brain dance ‘minigame’ is pretty impressive but I’ve only done one sequence.

What impressed me the most was the melee. It feels visceral and hectic in a way most games don’t. I want to get deeper into the boxing situations because it just seemed to flow so well. Melee is so enjoyable that I think I would be a katana vigilante even if I wasn’t trying to channel my love for Snow Crash.

Which brings me to my last point.

Going forward:

What can CDPR do to cement this as the definitive cyberpunk game, a classic of ye olde 2020s? I’ll give my thoughts as if they could ever see them here.


This DLC needs to be either free or low cost. It needs to add the rest of Cyberpunk’s life paths, and ideally would have new stories (maybe shorter?) with more personal stakes rather than taking us through the main story again. They can do that too, but I’d put that as a secondary objective.

Vertical space.

We need control over it. I should be able to fall from a balcony and catch a ledge rather than die. We should be able to pilot the AVs and own one. The higher reaches of the city need to be in play. This is a lot of technical level design work, but it will bring the city to its true potential.


If they really want this game to be legendary, this dreamy and ambitious leap should be on the table. We need Snow Crash DLC. We need elements of Cash Crash Jubilee brought in, if not a whole quest line. Let other cyberpunk IPs make their cameos and even take over the stage for a little bit. Adapt them into Night City for a fresh experience for everyone. It sounds crazy and it’ll never happen, but if it was done it is something that would not be surpassed in gaming for decades if ever. Maybe the modders can make it happen...

Those are the main things I think of, and I’d hope to see some of that come to pass.

Final thoughts:

So, generous as usual with my thus nearly worthless numerical score, I’d easily put Cyberpunk at a 10/10. That probably means it’s really a 9 for me, once I’ve played enough to shed any dopamine blinders, which probably means for the average person it’s an 8. Do with that what you will.

What it all comes down to is that if you want to videa game a Cyberpunk experience with modern tech and mechanics, this game is it. Not that there are really any other options… So thankfully I think 2077 has succeeded in its mission.

If you’d like to take some magipunk superheroes out for a spin, give RawJack a try.

If you want to see my idea of a high-powered heroic protagonist, go pick up
Coming to Power.

If you’re interested in my idea of fun world-building check out How Black the Sky.

The Mythos Project, or Conservative Retellings

  With the rise of big tech censorship and open calls to silence voices that do not agree with the zeitgeist, I’ve been slowly coming to a p...