Seriously, How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

Part One

(due to the length of this post, I’ve broken it into two and will put the other half up next week)

About a month ago, I posted about the way the world was pre-the Shadow World, in generalised terms. I wrote about the vying forces that stood for control and freedom, for elitism versus populism. All of this affected the people and world as the Shadow World merged with it and nature itself changed, so that groups and ideas lived on in new forms. Cyborg sects and the aquatics, to name but two, have identities forged from people and events that occurred before their current existence was made possible.

So much later than planned, I can now go into some specifics. Yes, there were struggling factions and opposing ideologies conflicting across the world, but now I’ll mention some of who or what those were. Later on, I’ll talk about the Raging, the era that came soon after, where so much mayhem and destruction occurred, that truly separated what was left of our world from what it now is in the present day of Sojourners in Shadow.

Seeing as I mentioned the Oligarchs in the aforementioned post, I’ll start with them. By their time, the United States of Europe had been in existence for a while. However, Great Britain had broken off and then, within Europe itself, various leaders rose to power. Some led small central nations, others rose to prominence in regions within larger countries. These then joined forces to preserve their power and the cause for which so many followed them. The US of E now had a hole in its centre, and this was not appreciated. The Oligarchs faced opposition all around them, and also within their own territories, which is why they became stricter on control and created the Gendarmes.

As for Great Britain, it broke away, yet that did not go so well (I came up with all this a few years back, so Brexit had nothing to do with this). By this time it was an elected monarchy that ruled, yet political and social friction led to various parts of the kingdom separating. Eventually, only England and Northern Ireland was left, and yet they refused to give up the name. Scotland, Eire, Wales and Cornwall (also separate) formed the Gaelic Union. These two sides competed economically and politically, yet never with genuine action. At least, that was until the Shadow World came and the islands were flooded with magic. The people found they could act on their own, and so they did. Governments could only watch as the enmity they had fostered and exploited tore their civilisations apart.

Great Britain, the lesser version, had entered into an alliance with Russia, to compete with the United States of Europe. Russia faced threats from all around. Nations were becoming more aggressive, more extremist, more intolerant. Bases were constructed across Russia, to ward off invasion from China, from Europe, and even from the USA. However, it was Russia who then took the offensive, claiming Alaska was theirs. The resources there were needed more than ever before. So Russian forces massed in the east, then invaded.

Alaska became a warzone, with three sides fighting. On the one hand there were Russian soldiers, and then there were American soldiers trying to expel them. Yet there were also the Alaskan people, who wanted both sides gone. The American government wanted the resources there as much as the Russian one did, and was equally ruthless about it. As both sides fought and mined and took without concern, the natives chose to fight back. They were all still fighting when the Shadow World hit.

But Russia suffered further change. With the government based in the west and enforcing its will more and more, and then with the east militarised, there was a pull of will, with leaders in the east able to argue against those in the west. This led to the Siberian Secession. Russia, much like its ally Great Britain, was now a lesser version of itself as Siberia stood alone. This led to instant conflict. The Russians built an immense stronghold in the Ural Mountains to prevent attack, and to base an invasion from. Some even claim they were designing, possibly creating, super-soldiers before the Shadow World forced the hand of humanity.

As for the soldiers in Alaska, they found themselves deserted. Siberia was more intent on facing down Russia. With the invasion of Alaska not going nearly as well as needed, those sent out were cut out, left to make their own way home or die trying. Instead, they remained. The descendants of the three competing sides reside in Alaska now, all considered native at this point, and resisting cyborgs and mutants, who desire the resources still there.

I mentioned the government of the USA just now, but that isn’t what you typically think of either. The USA had a Second Civil War. Also known as the Bloodless Revolution. Due to inept governance, states chose to secede, while many people were protesting and resisting rule already. The Saints of Bushido were a growing movement. So the president called out the army. Soldiers refused to shoot their own people, or each other as the divisions grew. Soon the entire military was firm in its neutral stance. This held the nation together. Leaders met, resolutions were found. The USA remained, however its was from then on much less centralised. States became much more powerful, even having their own military forces, and people soon identified themselves by state first, country second.

The Alaskan pillaging was ordered by the government, with the support of the other states which needed the resources, and yet it led to more distrust of central authority. Who might be next?

The division grew and grew. By the time the Shadow World was summoned by Dylan Winter, there were the Atlantic States and the Pacific States. They were all still part of the USA, yet now stood as groups, stronger together, and each side looked in a different direction for gains and threats. By this time, it was the Pacific States who were invested in Alaska, while the Atlantic States were doing deals with the US of E and Northern African countries.

I could tell more of the USA, yet I’ll end there. But this growing division is why things went so wrong, so quickly, once monsters and magic appeared. California and Texas were quick to become independent. Various leaders stood up and took charge. Science was let loose to fight back. Many cyborgs and mutants have their origins here.

There Be Dragons

A brief post on dragons in Sojourners in Shadow. Also on a few still talked about in legend.

Dragons came with the Shadow World. Arguably, they best represented it. While most monsters were strange, terrifying, unnatural, they were also mortal and flawed. Some could do magic, yes, but soon humans found that they could too.

Dragons were magic. They came in many shapes and sizes, they flew over continents with ease and made their nests wherever they chose. No one could contend with them. They tried, of course. Humans used science while hateful devil-beasts gathered and struck in numbers. It was all laughable. For one, magic did nothing to the dragons. It was like spitting at a rain storm. As previously stated, dragons were magic. It was their life, their blood and spirit, and they not only wielded it with ease but could do all manner of tremendous acts. Spells are needed by most magic-users, to focus the mind and summon the will along with what power someone possesses. Dragons breathed magic.

I should also take this moment to point out that dragons breathed fire too. Also, this was utterly incapable of harming them. It was their natural element, many would say. In fact, most would say dragons were just like fire – capable of giving, of life enhancing ability, and also highly destructive and tempestuous. Never piss of a dragon was an obvious general rule in the world while they reigned over it. Yet many suffered and never knew why.

Dragons left a century or so ago. They returned to the Shadow World, or at least that is the main claim. No one can say for sure. After all, the dragons didn’t explain themselves. The only person who may have an idea is Havoc, son of a dragon. Yet he is neither giving of information about his mother or her race, nor is he someone you can just stroll up to and bother with nosey questions. Much like a dragon, Havoc is known for letting an enemy live one moment and annihilating a settlement for disappointing him the next. Yet there is strong evidence that the dragons left of their own accord and went home. As previously stated (again), dragons were magic. They were huge flying beasts who spoke, could bless or curse others, and wipe out cities overnight to make a nest. They didn’t match anything this world contained, even after the Shadow World’s arrival. Not only that, but before they left, it had become noticeable that most dragons spent a lot of their time sleeping. In the early days they had soared through the skies, ravaged the land or etched their superiority upon humanity. Over time, they slowed down, then barely moved. Then they left.

A few quick details about the dragon race:

While they had their own names, they never shared them with non-dragons. They took the names of places they resided in or were associated with.

They tried to reproduce but never did. Havoc, of course, is something separate from that. There were never any new dragons. They seemed immortal and sterile. Another reason to leave.

While all were masters of fire, some also mastered other elements of nature.

They often chose islands and volcanoes to live on or in. They were also drawn to magical hot spots, for obvious reasons.

Dragons are very well remembered, also for obvious reasons. Because it has been a long time since they were around, the fear they easily conjured has lessened, as has any hatred. Even at the time, many lesser beings came to understand that the dragons never saw themselves or anything they did as either good or evil. They acted as they saw fit. They looked down on all other life. Impress them and you gained greatly. Annoy them and you were a memory within moments. While they caused many disasters, especially when they first arrived, rarely was it malevolent. People just got in their way. But they also did things to intimidate and conjure submission. Clearly some dragons enjoyed their role in the world’s hierarchy. But by now, people of all kinds speak of the awe inspiring beings, they tell tales of what they did and people enjoy listening, despite the horrors of those who had lived through those stories. People are glad the dragons are gone, many hope they never come back, but some do wonder if they could just see one again some day.

As for those remembered as individuals, here are a few famous ones:

Cornwall – Red. Male. Lived at the end of Cornwall, moved about to various posts along the coastline. Liked to watch the sea. Huge wing span. Would fly off to who knows where but always came back. At first had no time for humans, later taught them a bit, enjoyed the company of some. When he left our world, was sad to go.

Damascus – Green. Female. Devastated the city and curled up in the ashes. A long dragon. Later came to be a sleeper dragon and did not take kindly to the advances of the mutants. Warded them off. After that, they stayed away and she slept on until the dragons left.

Panama – unknown gender. Gold. Many think the reason the destruction of Central America didn’t reach Panama City is due to the dragon. Possibly even why things went weird. A nuclear attack versus a dragon’s magic, so close to a magical hotspot = a weird region to this day.

Gibraltar – Blue. Female. Had a mischievous nature, extorted ships coming in and out of the Mediterranean. Mostly playful, would scare those on ships rather than just attack and sink, but if any fought back she would destroy vessels and devour the survivors.

Hawaii – Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea – Two dragons who took up residence in volcanoes of Hawaii. One Black. One Silver. Genders assumed to be one male, one female. Romanticised story. Claim each dragon moved in, fought for dominance, then fell in love and became a couple. Their fighting terrified the people, but their relationship proved to be a blessing. There are other stories of them fighting a huge sea creature and controlling the weather.

That will do. I said the post would be brief. I should really learn to implement that word more honestly.

Yet this is just to give a flavour of what these beings were like, and how, despite their long absence, how their presence still lingers. People remember them changing their world. Literally.

The Sicilian Briton

Reposting because it continues to have relevance and I continue to find the Sicilian Briton a fascinating man.

uppitymonkey

I finally found my history book, the Age of Arthur, by John Morris. I read this a long time ago, a very good read, but one individual and his words stood out.

The Sicilian Briton was an unknown monk who wrote about the unfairness of wealth versus poverty and ranted against the rich and powerful. Considering the mood of today, I find his words even more pertinent. I’m not convinced I agree with everything he has said, but here are some lines that really strike home and could apply to any time period. Ours especially.

“Listen to your rich man calling your poor man ‘wretch’, ‘beggar’, ‘rabble’, because he dares to open his mouth in ‘our’ presence, because in his rags he reproaches ‘our’ morality and conduct, … as if the rich alone had a right to speak, as if the understanding of truth were a function of wealth, not of thought.”

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How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

The world of Sojourners in Shadow is a chaotic one to say the least. It has order in places, and many seek to impose their order on all, but so far none has come close. Factions, armies, sects, secret organisations, cults, nations, gangs, crews and elite squads are everywhere. Some formed by necessity, some by the charismatic will of a leader, and also some exist due to deep running ideologies. People are following the paths begun by their ancestors, laid out in blood and sweat. The way things are now is because of what went on before. The choices individuals and groups made over the centuries are scars of the face of the world. Plenty of people alive now have little knowledge of the past, and yet so many of them are living the way they are because of it.

What the world was like when the Shadow World came. What those in power did when it did. How the masses reacted when magic and monsters appeared among them. How they responded to the actions of their leaders. How nations interacted. How people were swayed one way, then another. How technology developed. How civilisation fell apart so that new ideas and new groups could take over. How those ideas and groups took shape. How and why some ideas and groups vanished and others remain to this day.

All of this is highly important when it comes to understanding the world of the present in Sojourners in Shadow. The people, the vast majority of them, cannot hope to know all this. As readers, I think it will help to get to know the basics.

The core divide in how a terrible event provokes reactions is that of how two sides respond. The two sides are those in power and those without power. Understanding this is key in going forward.

When the Shadow World was brought to ours by Dylan Winter, there were two main responses:

Governments = Holy shit, there’s monsters and weird magic everywhere! We have to do something!

People = Holy shit, there’s monsters and weird magic everywhere! Someone has to do something!

This was followed by:

Governments = We need strong measures. We need to be shown to be in charge and in control.

People = We need help now. We need for those in power to listen to us and if not, then to follow someone who will.

Obviously, this created a tug of war situation. The more people demanded change, the more governments felt the need to suppress that feeling. The more governments made moves to control their people, the more people sought something new. The more both sides pushed for the things they wanted, the more each side responded with stronger demands.

To be clear, this was happening before the Shadow World integrated with our own. With advances in technology and the world developing as it was, many nations were experiencing authorities who spied on their every move while at the same time the public continually found ways to express themselves. Foreign influences were sited as threats to national security. Uneven wealth distribution incited more and more anger. Trade deals between regimes were applauded by those who benefited and denounced by those who did not.

Figures emerged to exploit the growing tension, becoming political leaders or social champions. Revolutionary movements became more commonplace, even in democracies. Tyranny became a widely used accusation. Law and order were hailed, even when they took away rights. Free speech was the motto of numerous organisations, typically used to suit only their own agenda.

To so many, the struggle was a simple one, that between good and evil, right and wrong. Those people on the other side were all bad, hurting everyone else, and they deserved everything they got. We on this side are all good, living correctly, and we will win.

Yet in truth this was the ancient struggle the human race had always experienced, that of order versus chaos, control versus freedom, community versus individuality. Both sides believed they represented the majority and were doing what was best for them. Populist movements had the backing of most, it had to be said, and yet many were led by charismatic charlatans or ambitious megalomaniacs. The elitists countered with every facet of their authority, using media, law, even terror if they had to, clinging to power with all their might. They preached that they were the guardians of decency and equality, that they ran things so that everyone benefited, and breaking the system – whichever system that was being used – would only lead to anarchy and collapse. They convinced many to support them, bribed and coerced others to do so as well, and so across the globe the clash of elitism and populism became the foremost struggle.

Eventually this went beyond mere loose collective thinking. Organisations and groups formed, with clear identities and goals. Here are a few from each side:

Populist movements:

The Saints of Bushido

The Glorious Hedonists

The Movement for Renewal

The Peasants’ Revolt vs the People’s Rebellion vs the Socialist Renaissance

The Humanist League vs the Salvation of All Souls

 

Elitist movements/forces:

The Varangians

The People’s Judiciary

The Gendarmes

The Terracotta Army

A quick explanation about some of these groups. The Saints were people who believed in living a martial yet peaceful existence, based in the USA. By contrast, the Movement for Renewal was essentially a cult, calling upon the doom of humanity so that it could be reborn. The three revolutionary groups were left wing uprisings that ended up clashing with each other across Europe, Asia and Africa. As for the Humanists versus the All Souls, this was a conflict begun in verbal exchanges that led to violence. A meeting was held where humanists and atheists confronted religious leaders about the hysteria of their followers following the Shadow World’s arrival, and especially the persecutions it resulted in. Yet the religious entourage was attacked and killed. Naturally the non-believers were blamed and this unleashed a wave of fanatical fury around the world. It was dubbed the Harvest of the Heretics. After that, humanists had little choice but to become militant themselves.

As for the elitist groups, some were truly mass movements as well, often with a fascist viewpoint or existing to counter another ideology. Others were funded and commanded by establishments, sometimes encouraged to fight the populists, more typically paid to do so. The Terracotta Army was a genuine mobilisation of people, when government loyalists in China took to the streets, going so far as to claim they were the first emperor’s guards reborn. On the other end of the spectrum, the Varangians and the Gendarmes were paid enforcers. The latter were quite famous in their day, serving the Oligarchs of Central Europe. They were named after police and yet their sole purpose was to do the tasks the ordinary officers wouldn’t do. It was they who made the Fascista the most marketable gun in the world for a time. The M-33 Carbine was made in the USA yet it was once the Oligarchs equipped their enforcers with it and it performed so well that it was sought after by all oppressive regimes. Light, easy to use and aim, with a solid stock that did a fine job as a club, this weapon became the symbol for oppression everywhere. It earned the name the Fascista and that’s what people call it even now, despite the history behind it being forgotten by most.

I will go into more detail about how the world was doing and how it changed once the Shadow World was summoned another time. This is a general overview. Enough, I hope, to make the point clear. Seismic events were occurring. People were crying out for justice, while those who sat in judgement feared being overthrown. Some preached about the end of the world and many listened. Some demanded that advancements in technology became available to all and only a few agreed. Protests led to riots and those led to organised resistance. Countries were at each others’ throats and stabbing each other in the back, all in the name of progress. Some nations were led by tyrants, others by those who wished they were, and others yet by committees or congresses, which tried to appease all the angry voices. None succeeded.

The world was going mad and no one knew how to mend the ills. Perhaps it was too late. It could be claimed that the time to save humanity had long past, so there was only the struggle to see who would stand victorious among the ashes. Perhaps. No one will ever know. Dylan Winter, like so many, saw the world as needing a tumultuous change. Unlike them, he found the way to bring it about. When he did, when the sky darkened and magic began to take effect, when monsters came into being among humans, the world was a powder keg waiting to go off. He wasn’t the one to light the match. He lit his own bomb and dropped it. Every friction, every conflict, every fear and doubt and glare of hatred was swept up in this new maelstrom. People who wanted change found new power to make it happen. Those who attempted to restrain change were forced to adapt themselves or being destroyed. There was no going back. Normal was a thing of the past, and yet the desires and needs of people never went away. They found new form. People who believed the world had been about to end or called for a return to more primitive ways became aquatics. Others like them who though in terms of advancement were drawn to becoming cyborgs. Martial thinking found life in new armies, whether cyborg, mutant or human. Order collapsed, and yet pockets of it remained and was therefore easier to maintain. Change was happening, but rarely did it occur the way those who had sought it so passionately had wanted it to.

What is occurring in the world as I am developing it is far removed from the events I speak of here. I have no intention of writing stories about back then. But it is important to know, and to think through, the past of any world in order to understand what you are handling in the present. The world I possess is developing even as I write it, and yet the foundations for it were set in its past. People – whether human, monster, mutant or machine – are still fighting for survival, progress, ambition, their future. Most of what once had been is ruined or lost, but some parts linger, either in the persons of the Grand Master, Jamshid or Prime, who lived back then, or in automated death-machines programmed when brutal answers were needed. Secrets wait to be found. History might yet be told. What lies in the future for the people of the present could well be explained in their past.

Current Events

With various elections going on, I can’t help but think of the Optimates and the Populares.

Here’s a piece about them:

“The Optimates were the dominant group in the Senate. They blocked the wishes of the others, who were thus forced to seek tribunician support for their measures in the tribal assembly and hence were labeled Populares, “demagogues,” by their opponents. The two groups differed, therefore, chiefly in their methods: the Optimates tried to uphold the oligarchy; the Populares sought popular support against the dominant oligarchy, either in the interests of the people themselves or in furtherance of their own personal ambitions. Finally, it is well to remember that the Senate’s authority was based on custom and consent rather than upon law. It had no legal control over the people or magistrates: it gave, but could not enforce, advice. Until 133 bc any challenge to its authority was little more than a pinprick, but thereafter more deadly blows were struck, first by such Populares as Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, then by Gaius Marius, and finally by the army commanders from the provinces.”

Here’s the link to where I swiped this from:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Optimates-and-Populares

Basically there are those who support the status quo and those who seek change, and when that change isn’t on the cards, things happen. People look to populist leaders to bulldoze their will into becoming reality, whereas others seek to prevent them by gatekeeping and narrative controlling. We see this happening now. It happened back then, in the Roman Republic, and many times since.

I find all this fascinating from a current perspective as well as my love of history. But it has been enlightening for me as a writer too. I have been planning and working on a blog post to explain how things went in my world of Sojourners in Shadow, talking through the social and political reactions to the Shadow World’s arrival. Reactions that moulded the way events played out and how things resulted in the present setup I am writing stories in. I’ve often seen it as people movements vs government control, but now I have a deeper meaning to bring in, as well a witnessing real things happening to learn from.

In times of change, stress, turmoil and fear, people look to leaders who will do more than represent them. They want leaders, speakers, guardians, champions. Whether it be Trump, Le Pen, Saunders or Corbyn, I see people flock to those they feel represent them, when the system doesn’t seem to anymore. For me, in my writing, the arrival of the Shadow World and the appearance of monsters and magic means systems, traditions and institutions fall by the wayside. That leads to tremendous change. It also leads to harsh conflict. Right now, in the real world, we see conflict of words and ideas. I need to play that out much further.

The Order of Mechanised Tyranny

When you have faith in specific institutions, and that faith is ripped apart by cataclysmic events, how do you continue? Do you admit you were wrong and try a new path? Perhaps some would. That was not the course of the Grand Master, leader of the Order of Mechanised Tyranny. He is one of the oldest beings alive, having lived before the arrival of the Shadow World. He was a general in the army of the United States of America, and he had total faith in his country, its armed forces, and also in God. He knew his homeland was safe because of the deity he worshipped and the soldiers he commanded. When he witnessed the downfall of humanity, he saw his faith prove worthless. The armed forces could not overcome the magic and monsters that appeared. Soon they were outclassed by the creation of super-soldiers, cyborgs and other machines. As for God, there were no answers to the general’s prayers.

The general did win victories, however. When his forces were supplemented with super-soldiers and cyborgs, he was able to defeat a machine army. Power won the day, not faith, and certainly not humans. He saw the future in the cyborg race. More and more people were getting improvements – either soldiers for defence or the rich for better lives – and he demanded his forces become the main focus. He never took to mutants; perhaps there was still some lingering of his old faith in seeing them as abominations. Maybe. Few know the mind of this individual as he once was. What is known is mostly who he is and the sect he leads, the latter reflecting the first. The Grand Master forged the sect in his singular vision. He has never faltered since.

To return to his past, the general had lost faith in God and saw the only chance of survival for the human race was biomechanically improved soldiers. More than that, he saw humanity reborn, not just mechanised but forged within as well, moulded into a dedicated and dutiful force. No civilians, no politicians, no weaknesses. Cyborgs of all kinds were being made, and this was not something the general approved of. Control of the country had been sliding away for some time, the general had more recently been serving a new and localised government, so saw no issue in choosing to take command himself. Others had failed them all. He would not.

The general managed to get his soldiers altered, himself too, and they began their march to a new, stronger way of life. Others were made to join them. More and more became cyborgs, but more than this, they became soldiers who followed his orders and pledged themselves to his way of life. Obey, serve, fight, kill, die. Cyborgs began in one place and could have been a united race, yet factions emerged and then they splintered. The Grand Master and his aggressive, militarised sect were a major driving force in that disruption.

Yet the sect was more than military cyborgs. The Grand Master was not the only follower of faith to lose his way. Others in organised religion saw the Shadow World and the chaotic consequences as either end times, punishment or evidence that no higher power was protecting them. Many who once believed fervently became fervent enemies to faith. Those who saw the Grand Master’s sect recognised the anger he possessed and joined him, proclaiming their loyalty, pledging their enmity. More than this, a number of those who had commanded in religions now saw their power waning, and spotted opportunity in this sect. Preachers of faith turned into preachers of anti-faith. Militant believers were now militant disbelievers. The Grand Master was soon commanding much more than a mere army. He led a passionate, fanatical legion of soldiers.

It has been suggested that perhaps the Grand Master allowed these once-believers into his ranks to laugh at religion. An insult to God even. None know. Maybe he saw kindred spirits or merely useful tools. Whatever his reasoning, the Grand Master made a choice and his sect changed, and he saw the benefits. He had lost his faith in God, as well as his faith in humanity, his country, in the military as he had known it. All of it was gone. But he had pushed and remade his military might to become something stronger, and now he could remake the religion as well.

The Order of Mechanised Tyranny is a sect of conformity, with all the trappings of the military and religion. They march in step by ranks, crushing all opposition, converting those they choose to. They are religious yet without any god to waste their time on. Everyone is uniformed, to the extent that all are regarded as male. They all wear the same, including masks, and their swords are attached to their right arms regardless of favoured sides. Everything and everyone must act as one, as the Grand Master wishes it. His will is done, his vision is fought for. When he had been a God-fearing general, he had fancied he had a special destiny, or at least a favoured standing from which he could act for the good of all. His faith in God had been ripped away, but his faith in himself had faltered, then regrouped, and now was stronger than ever.

His followers believe in him equally, and also in his new way of life. Their religion is about their sect, their laws, their truths. For instance, they have Six Sins, which are disobedience, disloyalty, cowardice, dishonesty, slothfulness and mercy. Anything that could harm the sect is bad, essentially. They must all be dedicated and focused, working tirelessly, never doubting. Their Nine Virtues are courage, dedication, intelligence, purity, resolution, integrity, excellence, diligence and sacrifice. These may sound worthy virtues, and they are, and yet for the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, many of these words have a slight twist in meaning. For them, being resolute is about being ruthless. Integrity insists that when you proclaim your loyalty, you mean it, that your actions follow the same course. Sacrifice can mean soldiers giving up their lives for the sect, but also the ‘sacrifice’ of non-members as they are defeated. These lists are drilled into the minds of recruits, often during Recitals. There are three a day, every day, in any base or outpost around the world. Attendance is mandatory unless your services are necessitated elsewhere, such as guard duty. They do not pray, but they recite their laws and other mantras. Their faith in the sect must be absolute.

A quick mention should be made of their understanding of eternal life. This is something few outside the sect know of. Basically, all personal information goes into the sect’s database. All that individuality which is surrendered on joining, this is stored, and so is kept for all time. Members of the sect long dead are in there. They are remembered at Recitals as well. Past victories, and sometime defeats if useful for instruction, are recalled. The sense that the sect lives, and thus do all who live in it, is the new truth to them. Those born in the sect are given an identity as children, then taken away and stored, so they can believe equally. After that, they are just more ranked members, moving parts of the greater whole, fighting on. To the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, the saying is true – life is struggle, struggle is war, war is life. We are always at war. We live for ever.

Mentioning all of this, I must return to those previously mentioned fanatics who made the sect what it is, at the Grand Master’s behest. To outsiders, all members look the same and are the same really, and that is how he likes it. The truth is that there are some differences. Most are soldiers, with officers leading them. Yet some belong to other groups. One is the clergy. This is the result of those ex-religious, anti-faith recruits. The Grand Master utilised them and created a branch of his sect to fuel the rest with speeches and incitement. Soldiers who show enthusiasm along with eloquence are nominated to enter this group and, if successful, become as powerful as officers. Cardinals, for instance, act like roving high commanders, showing up to ensure unquestioning loyalty is ever present. In that regard, the clergy are part cheerleaders, part secret police.

Obey our law. Judge others according to it. Anything else is wrong. The meek are accursed, the strong will take the world. We are the strongest and the world is ours to claim. This is the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, a sect built and honed by the Grand Master himself, driven by his will, and it pleases him greatly. There is much more to be learned, about both the man himself and his followers, but for now, all anyone needs to know, is that when the red and black clad legions appear, make ready to fight for your life. They will not stop until they have it, one way or the other.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

A while back I said I really liked Rec 3 and how it was a better film than expected, and also how I hoped it wouldn’t be pre-judged for being a poor sequel. It was a fun film, had a sense of humour about itself and the franchise, but also had good characters and an emotionally driven plot.

So having done that, I feel it is only fair to give a nod to Dead Snow 2. For pretty much the same reasons.

To give some background, the film Dead Snow is a Norwegian cult horror film, where some friends go up a mountain and end up fighting Nazi zombies. There is a historical context for it, revealing that the Nazi soldiers had once controlled this region and been slaughtered by an uprising. They were vicious murderers and greedy looters back then, and nothing had changed for them now they’re undead. They want their gold back and they’ll kill everyone just because. Also, the zombies aren’t slow, gurgling automatons. Rather, these soldiers are armed, quick, deadly. They are presented as highly intimidating early on.

The film itself is fairly Evil Dead 2: a Norwegian zombie retelling. Lots of humour, quick cuts and gore fights. It is a lot of fun as well as a solid horror film.

The sequel continues on from where the original left off. Spoilers here, but the lone survivor, who found a gold coin in his car and then sees the zombie leader outside, manages to escape, taking off the leader’s arm. He had already lost his own during the first story, trying to not turn into one of them after being bitten. That whole sequence was very Sam Raimi inspired, funny as well as wince inducing.

That all becomes important as the character wakes up in hospitable with his arm sewn back on, except it is the arm belonging to the Nazi officer, Herzog. This leads to bloodshed and police involvement, as the arm kills of its own accord, yet the film pushes on beyond this to reveal the Nazis are fulfilling a mission from their previous lives and are intent on destroying a town. Martin, the survivor, has to stop them, and finds out his new arm is not only super strong and bloodthirsty, but can also raise the dead. Both he and Herzog are then building their own forces to face off, culminating in a showdown, where dead Nazis fight dead Commies.

There’s more to this though. I need to mention the Zombie Squad, three Americans who are very geeky but actually quite good at killing the undead. They become involved in this Norwegian skirmish, as does a museum employee, and they’re all quite fun. Best thing is that Martin Starr, aka Gilfoyle from Silicon Valley, is one of the squad. I remember watching the film for some time thinking: wait, is that Gilfoyle? Nah. Looks like his 12-year-old brother at best. But it was him!

So without going on about plots and themes, etc, I want to talk about why I rate this film and think it’s worth watching. Also, why it confounded my own presumptuous nature.

Basically, I saw the trailer for this and swore. I saw Americans in a Norwegian film. I suspected this would be a very American movie. I suspected an American company had got hold of the rights or something and had made some crappy sequel (much like the Descent 2). I saw no reason for this to exist. It looked kind of dumb, as well as just a bunch of random stuff happening. I leapt to my steed of outrage and proclaimed this was some kind of BS sequel for cash and would impair the original!

I ended up watching it anyway, thinking: ah well, if it’s bad, it is bad. Nothing new there. A bad, unnecessary horror sequel. Join the long queue.

Very early on, I got that this was more comedy than horror this time, and it was really enjoying itself. It is still gory, brilliantly so, but the emphasis in tone was certainly more to having a laugh. It isn’t a parody of itself, this isn’t Gremlins 2 or anything, but it does know what it is. Nazi zombies, splatter gore across the camera, jokes and deaths. It goes all out. Many death scenes for nameless characters are pretty unique, or at least striking.

Something I loved quickly, and still do, is how much the film embraces grotesque, horrible humour. This is not a film to enjoy if you don’t like bad things happening to people. Babies are blown up and you hear silly baby noises, making it clear this is comedic, not serious. Early on, you meet an American kid who is all peppy and chatty and just very ‘American kid in a movie’. I did wonder if he’d be a major character, tagging along. But no, he’s dies very quickly. Hilariously too. He isn’t just thrown through a barred window by the zombie arm, but when Martin tries to revive him with CPR, his powerful limb crunches through the boy, spraying blood over Martin’s face. Nope, this film isn’t just about nasty deaths, it makes it very clear this is bad taste humour.

Quick mention of the actor playing Martin, Vegar Heol. He’s really good at humour. I didn’t find him a particularly notable character in the first film, but here he has a lot to do and does it very well. His reaction to a zombie eating its own sick is fantastic.

Oh, got to mention that zombie. He’s a superb example of what this film is aiming for. Basically he is a poor bloke who gets killed by the Nazis. Martin revives him by accident. Then kills him in surprise. Then revives him again, then he is killed by an axe to the face as the Zombie Squad arrive. Then he is revived again. If you’re noticing a pattern, well, it keeps going. The poor sod gets killed and revived several times, and often gets the rough end of things besides that. Being used as traction is never good for you.

The film has a very fun yet also weirdly kind of emotional ending, but I refuse to give that away.

So Dead Snow 2 is a much better sequel than you may think. I wouldn’t put it up there with Gremlins 2, yet, I have to admit, it isn’t far behind. I really enjoyed it. Reminds me of the twisted humour of Peter Jackson’s Braindead (called Dead Alive by North Americans). I liked the characters a lot. The American geeks are a bit on the nose, sure, with the Star Wars references, but nothing that put me off, and I tend to have a low tolerance for that kind of thing. The film is in Norwegian often, also spoken in English other times, so if you’re not a fan of subtitles, well, you’re missing out on a lot of great films.

Dead Snow was a really good horror zombie film, with good comedy and striking gore. I loved it, have it on DVD, seen it a few times.

Dead Snow 2 is more focused on being funny, on pushing the edges of decency, and doesn’t bog itself down in explaining what is going on. Herzog and his men are Nazis, they are trying to complete their mission, Martin has a zombie arm. That’s it. The film does kind of counter some of the stuff from the first one, I guess, where they were only loot hoarders. Doesn’t matter much.

Anyway, if you like horror comedy, watch Dead Snow. If you can handle it and want more, especially if you want the comedy turned up to eleven, then watch the sequel. You might be grossed out. You should be really, and appalled at killing kids, but feel free to laugh too. It’s just a movie. A surprisingly good one.

Well holy shit, in checking facts and names about the film, I found that Stig Frode Henriksen, who plays the repressed museum employee, was also in the first movie as one of the friends. Had to check and, wow, yes it is him, can see it now, but would never have recognised him. Fair play, mate.