Monday, 30 August 2010

Kestros Development Diary 2: It's All Good Fun Until Somebody Gets Sectioned.


Madness is a long-time favourite in all forms of entertainment. Once it was confined to literature, opera and theatre. Shakespeare couldn't get enough of it! In more recent years it branched out into other media. Film, television, video games - occasionally even musicians can't help but snapping in the public eye and creating an ongoing cycle for the modern voyeur where the same standard of questions repeat forever: 'Has Britney Spears gone insane?' And, 'More importantly, have her legs gotten fatter?'

How do you portray insanity convincingly?

"There's fennel for you, and columbines:
there's rue for you; and here's some for me:
we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays:
O you must wear your rue with a difference..."

William was fond of a bit of complete lunacy. This is why he is fondly celebrated within England; he captured the victim complex of this windswept little island and retold it on a backdrop of alien Europe sections. He had King Lear screaming at the weather before stripping off and running into the wilderness, only to emerge later on as some flower-decorated wild man. The long-suffering Ophelia finally snapped from manipulation and decided to take a nap in a brook. In King Lear, the weather served as a metaphor for the King's wayward mental health. As his brain exploded (RE: gore: there are no literal head explosions in King Lear but if I remember correctly, somebody's eyes get ripped out) the landscape was hit by a giant storm which is almost treated like another character. In Hamlet, there is some witty play on the names and properties of flowers and herbs during the 'mad scene' of Ophelia.

This is entertaining, clever and provocative. But it isn't what I'd call convincing by today's standards. I've met people I'm certain are insane before, the frightening thing is that they don't wear the warning signs. They don't tear off their clothes in company and start trying to hand you flowers - they hide it well. People don't notice the madness bubbling beneath the surface until it's too late and they cover the house in tin foil, or start believing in werewolves, or start listening to Lady Gaga, or think the rain is a sign of the apocalypse.

It's all good fun until somebody gets sectioned.

My madness - by which I mean the madness I'm writing about - is gradual descent from normality into bubbling, drooling mess. This is one difficult element to blog about as it's a potential 'spoiler' (before the damn thing is even written, and that); three characters are insane by the end, two seeming perfectly healthy at the start. It is never quite a snap but a slow and sturdy fall from grace. The journey is more exciting than the destination - and in a story all about 'downfall' there is nothing more fitting. Sanity remains a subjective thing, so this is a job for unreliable narration. Warning signs may hint at the future. Or they might be drug-infused banter.

A background element is the chaos of MASS HYSTERIA; life in a metropolis when the threat of the opposition attacking becomes something very genuine and real. People are prone to this behaviour even now - the effect it potentially has - within a time where conformity is a prerequisite to functioning within a society - is devastating.

Whose eyes are you looking through today?


The cult is a widely-accepted religion built on the Catholic church and the beliefs of Ancient Rome. The symbol of this faith is the inverted Christian cross, with a mythology explaining that a family of gods are responsible for all creation. This is named THE CHURCH OF ESTERICES and the influence of it goes beyond simple worship into all areas of life: law and government, business, science, medicine and education. It often goes beyond bad taste and indulges in a sort of self-perpetuated blasphemy with gods being mindlessly used to flog luxury goods and propaganda ideals. The idea is as preposterous as the Catholic church selling premium vodka in Jesus Christ-shaped glass bottles - but it happens without anybody batting an eyelid at the thought.

The Illuminati also served as an influence for this. A popular conspiracy in the real world is that this shadowy group controls the media and the elite; dropping their symbols (the all-seeing eye, masonic black and white tiles, horns of Baphomet) as occasional hints in everything from corporation logos to pop music videos. In Vessand this is blatant - a deluge of religious symbolism everywhere to confirm the grip the Church has on the population.

A common slogan, maybe the equivalent of 'Jesus saves', runs:


The core value of this following is balance; a sort of yin-yang concept combined with Catholic guilt. It explains that the world was born in an event that caused a great deal of pain to the top god - much like natural childbirth - and that sin was created out of this as a sort of afterbirth to counter and highlight positive virtues of earth and humanity. The punishments are dire but the apparent rewards are sweet. The political effect is a casual equality with official tolerance between the sexes, age groups, and social backgrounds. The reality falls short with hushed up bigotry and snobbery.

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