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Resonance of the Will and Mind by whalewithlegs Resonance of the Will and Mind by whalewithlegs
In the early years of the Muir expeditons, leading researchers were shocked at the rate of death and disappearance among their colleagues in the field. Outrage swept the scientic community and forced a massive policy overhaul at the Academy. The administrative branch, formerly something like an NGO, was officially handed over to the government and by association to the army. Among the more controversial policies implemented at this point, the Prisoner Exchange Program was also one of the most successful. In fact, several of the most important field agents today were originally brought to Muir after being convicted of nonviolent crimes and assigned to serve field duty.

While many such programs have met with major success, as such, the last personnel disappearance did in fact involve members of the Exchange Program and led to the formalization of the Field Psych. Division. The disappearance is a well-documented case because of its pivotal role in the recognition and understanding of hypothetical memetic life and its influence on the field teams.

Thought the identity of the dissappeared individual, 'Subject M,' is classified information, I am at liberty to give you some of the surrounding details. Our whole team was at this point suffering from a collective depression, most likely due to overexposure to adverse field conditions, but 'M' had taken it particularly hard. A previously larger-than-life gregarious figure, known for making spur-of-the-moment decisons and arguing with superiors, 'M' had over the course of several weeks become withdrawn, expansive. When on assignment he would keep himself apart and spend a quantity of his time brooding.

We were on a 3-month foray into Northern California territory and had taken to stringing up our cliff bags hammock-like in trees overnight. In an area near Redding, we were just beginning to set up camp at dusk when we encountered the as of then unknown Soul's Tuning Fork. It was already nearly dark and I was setting up the nylon webbing on my bag when the Fork, which had been buried in humus nearby, started up suddently from the ground, twisting as if buffetted by high winds. The tines of its hide rattled against eachother with a sound like a massive rainstick, leaf litter and soil falling from its back in cascades. I literally dropped my bag and jumped up in the air, only to be overcome with a sensation like a series of sparks going off inside the center of my head, each spark coming faster than the one before. Unable to stand I fell on my face in the dirt. The sparking sensation became a continuous stream which faded out and was replaced by an overwhelming agitation bubbling up from the pit of my stomach, a churning, vivid, and glowing sense of well-being, purpose, and belonging. Only several seconds had elapsed as I experienced all this, and looking up, I was able to catch sight of the Fork climbing the sky. Soto snapped the picture with which the public is largely familiar.

Needless to say, we had all experienced this profound sensation and the pervading gloom which had overhung the atmosphere had been entirely wiped away. None of us could sleep that night. We ended up breaking camp and undertaking a night survey, winding down again only as the immediacy of the experience began to wear off in the bright light of dawn. Over the next several days, the feeling generally wore off totally, sending some of us into an even deeper funk than when the one we had when we started. 'M,' however, had become almost fanatical, an amplified version of his previous self, and would talk of nothing but the experience. Four nights afterward, he disappeared into the woods. A team of Specials went after him but neither he nor his remains were ever recovered.
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:iconxhodocto385:
Xhodocto385 Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2016
awesome, is it some kind of memetic creature with programmable matter bodies?.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2016
yep, exactly! Literally, it's a community organism in a sense -- the smart matter body is one life-form, and the memes that colonize it, giving it shape, are from other sources :D
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner May 14, 2011
Very hallucinatory. There is something terrifying about this piece---I think because it begins like a science fiction story and then becomes so irrational. What's the ecology of this animal? It drives people insane and eats them?
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner May 14, 2011
The unspoken undercurrent here is that the explorers are being infected by a series of alien memes, which essentially give them various psychoses.

To explain: the memetic creatures are basically colonizing the bodies they live in, and the body itself evolves throughout its 'lifespan' in reaction to the meme inhabiting it, until it reaches critical memetic mass and becomes a memetic colonly creature before breaking apart and re-seeding itself. Because of the panmetamorphic nature of the memetic creatures, they breed in part by passing on daughter memes by any means of perception possible. What we would normally see as terrestrial niche competition takes place on a memetic level. The people encountering the creatures are experiencing memes that are meaningless in a human context, but have unintentional side-effects; basically, they're taking on living memes and don't really realize it.

As another complicating detail, the smart matter bodies frequently obtain nutrients through a type of limited matter transmission, so this thing may or may not eat people. It would probably find it easier to consume a non-moving object, and the purpose of its behavior here is not fully understood; it could be defense, foraging, reproduction, combinations of the previous ... or something entirely different!
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner May 15, 2011
Hmmm. How is this system different from real life? I mean, we encounter physical manifestations of memes all the time (speech, art, artifacts), any of which might infect us, and cause us to aid in their spread. Memetic competition and evolution are a fact of life.
So then the difference between Earth and Muir is that on Muir the intelligent life uses nanotechnology to sculpt life into communication?
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner May 15, 2011
Very true! I set out to undertake this project as something of an analogy/exploration for the human condition, so realities are comparable.

The detail that I wanted to make sure to emphasize about the Muir invasive creatures is that they're not DNA-based. Their bodies are an organically-derived matter, not a construct, although they have been harvested and used in such a manner, most likely. Because of their physical makeup, their bodies respond directly to memetic influence, and are in a constant state of flux. There is no native intelligent life on Muir, so when I say that they're seeding tools, i mean that at some point in the distant past they were seeded on Muir, whether intentionally or not.
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner May 15, 2011
Hm. I'm trying to visualize how that would work. If we imagine DNA-based life as collections of molecular machines and disassemble the environment in order to house and copy themselves...how does meme-based life work? What is the medium that translates ideas into physical action if not consciousness? Nanotechnology? Lets say that nanobots infest you as soon as you enter the environment, then they monitor your brain activity and create objects in your environment that reflect your mental state (like utility fog). Of course, seeing and interacting with these objects creates feedback. If memetic constructs are able to effect each other, you get emergent organization (life). So perhaps the meme-ecosystems are really a alien computer's user-interface left to communicate with itself. Introducing humans (conscious observers) into the system might make very interesting things happen.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner May 15, 2011
Man, that's a good justification, and you're right in a couple of areas, but I think I gave you the wrong impression when I said that the story has underpinnings of human experience. I didn't mean that it was human-centered. I steered away from DNA and nanotech exactly for that kind of reason: they're very human explanations. Even saying that the creatures exist as an aliens' interface (which is a damn awesome idea, by the way) is still a pretty human solution. That doesn't mean that I don't want an explanation, but rather that I'd lean more toward it being a plot element; the scientists can't explain initially, or ever, how the bodies work. That idea works together with a main dilemma being that they don't even understand that the creatures are operating on a memetic level. They don't understand that they're being infected and they don't realize that they're infecting the creatures in turn, simply by their presence. In this piece in particular, the creatures' odd behavior might even be a reaction to human memes. Essentially, a lot of this detail wouldn't make it onto the plot ... in fact, I should give your ideas more creedance, maybe as a conflicting scientific hypothesis 'in-story.' Hmmm...... if you don;t mind, that is :3
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner May 16, 2011
No, I understand. Lem's style of sci-fi isn't quite on the same plane as (for example) Vinge's. Nothing is explained---the fantastic elements are surreal rather than...unreal? Anyway, I don't necessarily mind unexplained strangeness, though. For example, I just read an excellent book called Zoo City, in which anyone who has murdered anyone else gets shackled to a spirit animal. No one knows why. But the explanations don't matter. What matters is how the spirit animals change the rules of the game, and the people who play it.
I think the challenge for this story is that you will have a lot to establish before the behavior of the characters starts making sense. Not only is it an alien planet, but it's an alien planet that drives people insane. Not only does it drive them insane, it infects them with memes. Not only does it infect them with memes, but the memes are alien and incomprehensible. That would make it difficult to tell the story sequentially. Although actually I think this case-study format works well for it---I think it does things a book-book couldn't do.

And sure, feel free to use my ideas as a straw-man in your book :)
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner May 16, 2011
Well, not just as a straw man .. maybe as a conflicting thesis of a credible researcher? The more I think about it, I don't want to reject your idea out of hand just because it's not what I was intending ... basically I can say that my 'theory' is one school of thought, but that 'my' researcher within the plot has just as much information to work with as 'your' researcher. :3

Yes, the case-study format seems to work ... there's not a lot of character development possible when all your characters get messed up consistently. Actually though, I use another idea to make some semblance of character development possible - certain memetic creatures have bodies that generate antimemetic fields, and others have organs that actively work against matter transmission. Not perfect devices, but they're there c:
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(1 Reply)
:iconviergacht:
Viergacht Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2009  Professional General Artist
That's a terrific critter design, and the rendering - the combo of chunky woodcut-like lines and the delicate shades - really looks great. The story was wonderfully creepy, it reminded me of "Vaster than Empires, and More Slow".
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2009
Thanks! The whole thing was a little experimental, both design- & writing-wise, so I'm glad that it turned out legible & interesting. Oohh, a Le Guin story that I don't think I've read ... thanks for the plug! A story that keeps coming back to mind for me is 'Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck' ... I've seen it called both interesting & terrible in turn, just to forewarn you if you read it and find it no that great.
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:iconmyth22:
MYTH22 Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
:clap: Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. The picture I found both lovely and scary, and the story complemented it so well. Absolutely fasinating. You have a grand imagination, and I enjoy taking "trips" into it.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2009
Thanks, man! I'm glad that the story was generally well-recieved. I have no illusions about being a writer, haha :lol:. I'm actually surprised that the picture came off as scary to people too! Blind spots to our own art & whatnot :D
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:icondsil:
DSil Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2009  Student General Artist
Love the design. So unconventional and unique.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2009
Thanks! I tried :D
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:iconcommander-salamander:
commander-salamander Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
I have been trying for a while to figure out what exactly I want to say about this. But my initial response to it was so visceral and deep that it is something that I cannot express in words, excepting this: I would follow it.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2009
Aww, I appreciate this kind of response so much! You're a really interesting person and an amazing artist ... making something that gets you viscerally ... well, gives me some hope that I'm heading in the right direction :)
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:iconcommander-salamander:
commander-salamander Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
One result of this piece is that I now have to go off and ask myself a few questions as well as read a few books. I don;t think very many works of yours actually just allow people to just glance and continue on, they ask to be digested. Refreshing!
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2009
hmm, what do you mean, "ask myself a few questions as well as read a few books?"
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:iconcommander-salamander:
commander-salamander Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
That being, why your image affected me and maybe I should read some philosophy.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2009
ah, I see. Well, I can tell you that philosophy is interesting but keep in mind that philosophers are neither happy nor employed in general :p
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:iconcommander-salamander:
commander-salamander Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't deny it! Mostly for my education, I have discovered large holes in it that need filling.
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:iconiamsp00t:
iamsp00t Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2009
Holy Cannoli I love this and the accompanying story. When this semester of life-taking-over animation is over, I can finally get back into my world building. BUT ENOUGH EXCUSES. You rock and I have always been amazed at your ability to successfully integrate patterns into your fauna. Keep it up yo.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2009
Hehe, thanks! Man, a semester in animation is a crazy busy time~!
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:iconstrangledcry:
strangledcry Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2009  Professional General Artist
Spooky. Love the atmosphere in this one too. I also really like how the pigmentation isn't pinned down...like it's constantly shifting. Hm.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2009
ha! I spent probably way too long on the skin, painting then making semi-transparent about 5 or 6 layers (atmospheric value, light source value, temperature shading, local color, more highlights shadows, etc. etc.). Not sure what I'll do with this sort of thing next time!
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:iconm0ai:
M0AI Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
Totally loving the branching fractal coat on this creature!
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:iconynthamy:
ynthamy Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009  Professional General Artist
What an amazing creature! I really like the mystery around it
And the fact that it makes rainstick sounds (one of my favorite sounds) makes it even cooler
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009
Thanks, man! I couldn't think of a better sound for it to make! :D
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:iconosandstorrm:
osandstorrm Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2009
"hypothetical memetic life"... wow, this was great. By the time I finished reading, the back of my neck felt all prickly.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2009
wow, that's an awesome compliment! Thank you so much!
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:iconsphenacodon:
Sphenacodon Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2009
That's just awesome and scary. I love the fractal patterns in the creature's integument, they make it look very Escherish, as does the twisting, writhing body. I wouldn't want to meet this thing in a dark alley. Or anywhere else.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2009
Thanks very much! I think I could have done a little better with the fractyllic integument (I love using that word so much)... maybe planned it out a little more thoroughly/methodically to make it more geometric and reminiscent of Escher. oh well, next time!
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:iconsphenacodon:
Sphenacodon Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2009
That could potentially bring it into Lovecraftian territory - imagine a creature with infinitely branching fur, looping its body into Moebius strips, seemingly merging into the background, its impossible angles and curves driving the mind to insanity...

Damn you Lovecraft for making geometry scary (and MC Escher for making it cool too). :fear:
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2009
Aeghhh, that's such a good idea ... now I have to use it :)
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:iconsphenacodon:
Sphenacodon Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2009
:iconawesomeplz:
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2009
:iconimreallyhappyplz:
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:iconpristichampsus:
Pristichampsus Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2009  Professional General Artist
If you're not depressed when you see it, do you still get depressed afterwards?
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2009
its possible. highly dependent on individual human psychology :)
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:iconpristichampsus:
Pristichampsus Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2009  Professional General Artist
Hmmm.
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:iconfermentedmind:
fermentedmind Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2009
The story really enhanced it which made it crazy, creepy and cool. Interesting experiences there bro.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2009
Thanks! this is still something a little new I'm trying out, so I'm glad you liked it!
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:iconkecen:
kecen Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2009
It's a paper gecko! It reminds me vaguely of the paper messengers from Spirited away. Perhaps they congregate in this form with not flying.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2009
oh yeahhhhh, i remember those! I guess that's a pretty fair comparison to what I was thinking of!
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:iconspinery:
spinery Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2009
You're progressing with the literary quality of those descriptions faster than I could imagine. I like the informal chatty stuff ('formerly something like an NGO' ).

As for crits... too little of intorduction of 'Subject M' IMHO, to get the reader bond with him. Like, emotional stuff you remember about people... 'he liked 80's rock. He used to carry about an old-school walkman... casettes and everything'. Faulty? 'He managed to smuggle a stash of porn mags. None of us knew how, and he wouldn't tell. I always wondered if I could smuggle a mobile phone... and to what result. Yet he was adamant about it'.

'He saved X's life, when X, stunned by some... other encounter, ran away, failing to dodge the trees. Literally. He hit a tree, stood up, ran, hit another... When M caught him, he already had his nose beaten into his skull and three broken ribs. If not for M, there would be one less of us. Now. Perhaps."

'He used to talk about his wife a lot. Ex-wife, in fact. She left him after they discovered him smuggle cocain from Mexico'

etc.

And then - introduce. Again, not with generalizations and psychologic terms, but proper events. First an event, then a generalization.
'Y approached him once about his strange behaviour. We heard them quarrel from the distance. I'm saying distance, because, at that point already, approaching M meant you had to distance youself from the rest of the group - that far he was keeping. Y was enraged afterwards, said it's all useless, an accident waiting to happen, and cursed the lack of proper psycho tests and medications we all should have had in the first aid kits.
And then it happened'.

Also, action pacing and ordering:

I literally dropped my bag and jumped up in the air, only to be overcome with a sensation like a series of sparks going off inside the center of my head, each spark coming faster than the one before...

suggested: I jumped. Leapt away, as if. I think my bag fell off my shoulder. It caught me suddenly, while still in mid-air. As if some sparks went off, right in the center of my head, rapidly increasing in frequency, amplitude and volume. When I reached the ground, the knees wouldn't listen, the arms wouldn't reach. I slumped down like a ragdoll, face-forward into the naked ground.

Or something. :P

Fast action = short sentences. Things happening continuously. 'time stretch' through description... one thing following into the other, things happening simultaneously.
'dropped my bag and jumped in the air' - implies the bag reached the ground before you jumped up... so it's like 'okay, the bag's on the floor, jump in THREE, TWO, ONE...' :lol:


I also have a question/suggestion - does Muir's memetic nature make it more prone to access via the 'manhole' technology?
How does the other side, the Muir side of the manhole look like?
Like... perhaps the manhole technology needs a recipient... something that transforms into an exit, the other side of the tunnel... and Muir was the only alternate universe in which you could find an object, a creature, that would become the other side... that would reply to the signal... etc. :)

I can't see anything wrong with the image. On the contrary, I see FUCKING AWESOME. I love the palette, color, lightning, format, pose, shades, shadows, EVERYTHING. It's the time for one of those annoying DD blurbs.

Just one ';perhaps' - the bold line on the head, how about introducing a white line separating it into two? like... dividing the black outline with a white line? To reduce it's weight, and introduce some more complexity?
Or giving it a fade-to-background value at, idk, gradient reaching from 0% to 60% transparency? I feel it's too heavy... Especially up close. But it's nothing crucial, I love it the way it is...
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2009
Hmm, thanks GIGANTICALLY :iconimhappyplz: for the criticism!!1 I try not to hold any pretentions about my writing ability. I know that a lot was lacking from the story, and I can't begin to describe how much the concrete examples helped .. I want to cut and paste them into the story. One again, I'm really stunned by the divergence of our thought patterns and by how well they also mesh :).

Hmm, 'bold line on the head' .. which do you mean? The main head outline being split by another white line? Part of not doing an actual fade to transparency was due to my incompetence with using Ye Olde PaintShoppe .. I'm not sure if the program can actually perform a gradient to transparency! I concur that the head outline could possibly carry more impact being LESS thick actually ... indeed, it could help the visual weight of the whole thing ... like, look at how thick the head outline i compared to the outline on the top of the neck where it curves back up into the body. needs to be thinner than that and yes, possibly translucent.
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:iconspinery:
spinery Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2009
I still think you got a lot of style. It seems pretty introvert... now that I think of it, it may be a good path to follow... harder, but more promising. Like... how to maintain this introvert quality and still cram in a lot of details.
Keep it in a tone of a private journal or something... I don't know, women are good at things like that. Women and James Joyce XD

I mean, seriously... read the final episode of Ulysses, "Penelope"...
[link])#Episode_18.2C_Penelope wikipedia.
Stream of consciousness of a woman, and I heard it from a female professor that it's quite accurate. :D

Yes, Joyce is a good reading to get a variety of styles... Perhaps with a critical commentary to accompany the book.

Neural networks need inputs, otherwise they get stale :) I think it's called 'synapse trimming'... or a loose translation from my mothertongue.
I find all this very productive myself. I miss analytical thinking a lot now that I'm not at the university...

Oh, btw, I thought out a cool OC excercise... I will have to wait to get a new computer, because my electronic environment needs some attention and reinstalling BADLY, and I can't do all that without a functional stationary machine... Somewhere this week hopefully...

Yes, lack of thickness of the line on the head, that what I was referring to... a white subdivision of the line could do the trick... could be the best of both worlds, as it would keep the mass, but wouldn't be so strong graphically.
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:iconwhalewithlegs:
whalewithlegs Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2009
Yeah, i've got the introvert thing pinned, but i'd liek to be able to 'ghost' other personality types so all of my potential characters aren't closet introverts :D. Gotta work on the details, yes. Hmm, Joyce you say ... i'll look into it.

Synapse trimming, I like it. Yes, my interactions with other people have suffered in the recent years ... starting to break back out of that mode now though. Hmm, i'm still not sure what you mean about the line exactly. Putting a thin white line down the middle of the black, like a white hot dog in a black bun?

Yes, moar OC! Hopefully I won;t be sick anymore by this weekend & able to think more clearly!

In other news, I keep thinking of making a 'fan' cover for Wild Hog ... just something about "Wild Hog: Hog Wild!" strikes me as funny. With testicles thrown in somewhere for good measure of course. :D
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:iconspinery:
spinery Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2009
got the introvert thing pinned down
Eh heh heh, that sounded a little bitter? XD

'White hot dog in a black bun'
:iconpervyplz:
:iconfapplz:

Maaaan, how the hell do I say 'Yes that's what I meant' to that? I mean... Yes, but... you know... this is a public place... people read these messages...

:iconimveryhappyplz:


I'm still mostly AFK, but as soon as I can, I'll let you know about OCs... I really have to dig some time out of somewhere, hopefully before January...

Wild Hog: Hog Wild! Man that's AWESOME! And YES, PLEASE DO! Hell, I can't believe I didn't reply to this already! The moment I read this, I spat out a conceptual page that explains a bit about the Hog's levitational abilities and stuff... but that later! :D
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