Barreto Manufacturing, Inc. - TILLERS

The Turkey City Lexicon - annotated for 40K by Matt Farrer circa 2004 - and Farrer's analysis of Abnett's eye-ball kicks

I wrote a suggestion on how to create a Space Marine OC (the whole thread is a good reading for aspiring fan authors so I'll link it), and it got me thinking about writing within the 40K setting. Back in the day when Black Library still had their own forum, I saved Matt Farrer's annotation of the Turkey City Lexicon (the original, pre-internet version of TV Tropes). I searched the subreddit for it earlier with no results, so I'll share it again here.

Please note: The Turkey City Lexicon is specifically, explicitly non-copyright and is encouraged to be shared/reposted/expanded. Posting it here in its entirety violates no copyright legislation in any country - in fact, Matt Farrer himself asked us to share it with our fellow writers. Hat off to you, Mr Farrer, for your contributions to the 40K lore from a longtime fan.

[Originally posted to Black Library Online, November 2004, by user Matt Farrer]
The Turkey City Lexicon (Annotated with some Games Workshop observations)
The Turkey City Lexicon is a terminology guide that’s been floating around in one form or another since the late eighties (Google will turn up plenty of hits if you want to see one of the original copies; I got this one from the SFWA website). The Lexicon is deliberately not copyrighted and is intended to be copied at will and passed on to other writers (note that you shouldn’t try this with anything else on the SFWA site, if you go there – there are some great articles but most of them are copyrighted).
There’s a tendency for people to look at the Lexicon as a list of “common mistakes” or “things not to do”, which is not entirely correct as I understand its purpose. Certainly seeing a common problem set down pithily can help crystallise that particular example of bad technique, but a couple of the terms in here are complimentary and many others aren’t necessarily fatal problems. As in “you might want to watch out for funny-hat characterisation on page four, although with the narrative voice you use it works well”. What it is meant to be is a useful resource for critiquers, giving you a quick and easy shorthand for a known quantity you’ve observed in writing. In the above example, you don’t need to spend half a paragraph describing a shaky spot in the characterisation, you have a quick term to cover it and save space and time for both of you.
The early, simple version of the lexicon by Lewis Shiner was expanded and added to by Bruce Sterling, not, in my opinion, always for the better. There are no real differences in actual content between the two, so for this version I’ve picked whichever version of an entry I thought was better phrased. The GW-specific notes are my own – I’ll add more as I think of them, if I have the time. Discussion of any or all of the entries is of course welcome - it's what I'm posting this for.
Anyway, let’s get on with it.
The meta-rule:
Cherryh's Law
No rule should be followed over a cliff. (C.J. Cherryh)
MF - There are times when the literary or dramatic effect of breaking any supposed "rule" about writing is going to be worth it, and that includes any and all of the points about writing offered in the Lexicon. Such principles are based on experience that shows that certain approaches work better than others, but getting carried away with imposing a set of rules as though they were holy writ simply turns into an attempt to stamp out creativity and have every writer write exactly alike. Know the principles, understand why they work as they do, but don't wear them like shackles.
Part One: Words and Sentences
Brenda Starr dialogue
Long sections of talk with no physical background or description of the characters. Such dialogue, detached from the story's setting, tends to echo hollowly, as if suspended in mid-air. Named for the American comic-strip in which dialogue balloons were often seen emerging from the Manhattan skyline.
"Burly Detective" Syndrome
This useful term is taken from SF's cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne's proper name, preferring euphemisms like "the burly detective" or "the red-headed sleuth." This comes from a wrong-headed conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as "vertiginous." Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.
Brand Name Fever
Use of brand name alone, without accompanying visual detail, to create false verisimilitude. You can stock a future with Hondas and Sonys and IBM's and still have no idea with it looks like.
"Call a Rabbit a Smeerp"
A cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature or behavior. "Smeerps" are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish.)
Gingerbread
Useless ornament in prose, such as fancy sesquipedalian Latinate words where short clear English ones will do. Novice authors sometimes use "gingerbread" in the hope of disguising faults and conveying an air of refinement. (Attr. Damon Knight)
Not Simultaneous
The mis-use of the present participle is a common structural sentence-fault for beginning writers. "Putting his key in the door, he leapt up the stairs and got his revolver out of the bureau." Alas, our hero couldn't do this even if his arms were forty feet long. This fault shades into "Ing Disease," the tendency to pepper sentences with words ending in "-ing," a grammatical construction which tends to confuse the proper sequence of events. (Attr. Damon Knight)
Pushbutton Words
Bogus lyricism like "star," "dance," "dream," "song," "tears" and "poet". Used to evoke a cheap emotional response without engaging the intellect or critical faculties, getting us misty-eyed and tender-hearted without us quite knowing why. Most often found in titles.
Roget's Disease
The ludicrous overuse of far-fetched adjectives, piled into a festering, fungal, tenebrous, troglodytic, ichorous, leprous, synonymic heap. (Attr. John W. Campbell)
"Said" Bookism
An artificial verb used to avoid the word "said." "Said" is one of the few invisible words in the English language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less distracting than "he retorted," "she inquired," "he ejaculated," and other oddities. The term "said-book" comes from certain pamphlets, containing hundreds of purple-prose synonyms for the word "said," which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in American magazines of the pre-WWII era.
Tom Swifty
An unseemly compulsion to follow the word "said" with a colourful adverb: "'We'd better hurry,' Tom said swiftly." This was a standard mannerism of the old Tom Swift adventure dime-novels. Good dialogue can stand on its own without a clutter of adverbial props.
Part Two: Paragraphs and Prose Structure
Bathos
A sudden, alarming change in the level of diction. "There will be bloody riots and savage insurrections leading to a violent popular uprising unless the regime starts being lots nicer about stuff."
Countersinking
Expositional redundancy. "'Let's get out of here,' he said, urging her to leave."
Dischism
The unwitting intrusion of the author's physical surroundings or mental state into the text of the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and cigs. In subtler forms of the Dischism, the characters complain of their confusion and indecision -- when this is actually the author's condition at the moment of writing, not theirs within the story. "Dischism" is named after the critic who diagnosed this syndrome. (Attr. Thomas M. Disch)
False Humanity
An ailment endemic to genre writing, in which soap-opera elements of purported human interest are stuffed into the story willy-nilly, whether or not they advance the plot or contribute to the point of the story. The actions of such characters convey an itchy sense of irrelevance, for the author has invented their problems out of whole cloth, so as to have something to emote about.
False Interiorisation
A cheap labour-saving technique in which the author, too lazy to describe the surroundings, afflicts the viewpoint-character with a blindfold, an attack of space-sickness, the urge to play marathon whist-games in the smoking-room, etc.
Fuzz
An element of motivation the author was too lazy to supply. The word "somehow" is a useful tip-off to fuzzy areas of a story. "Somehow she had forgotten to bring her gun."
Hand Waving
An attempt to distract the reader with dazzling prose or other verbal fireworks, so as to divert attention from a severe logical flaw. (Attr. Stewart Brand)
Laughtrack
Characters grandstand and tug the reader's sleeve in an effort to force a specific emotional reaction. They laugh wildly at their own jokes, cry loudly at their own pain, and rob the reader of any real chance of attaining genuine emotion.
Show, Don’t Tell
A cardinal principle of effective writing. The reader should be allowed to react naturally to the evidence presented in the story, not instructed in how to react by the author. Specific incidents and carefully observed details will render auctorial lectures unnecessary. For instance, instead of telling the reader "She had a bad childhood, an unhappy childhood," a specific incident -- involving, say, a locked closet and two jars of honey -- should be shown.
Rigid adherence to show-don't-tell can become absurd. Minor matters are sometimes best gotten out of the way in a swift, straightforward fashion.
Signal from Fred
A comic form of the "Dischism" in which the author's subconscious, alarmed by the poor quality of the work, makes unwitting critical comments: "This doesn't make sense." "This is really boring." "This sounds like a bad movie." (Attr. Damon Knight)
Squid in the Mouth
The failure of an author to realize that his/her own weird assumptions and personal in-jokes are simply not shared by the world-at-large. Instead of applauding the wit or insight of the author's remarks, the world-at-large will stare in vague shock and alarm at such a writer, as if he or she had a live squid in the mouth.
Since SF writers as a breed are generally quite loony, and in fact make this a stock in trade, "squid in the mouth" doubles as a term of grudging praise, describing the essential, irreducible, divinely unpredictable lunacy of the true SF writer. (Attr. James P Blaylock)
Squid on the Mantelpiece
Chekhov said that if there are dueling pistols over the mantelpiece in the first act, they should be fired in the third. In other words, a plot element should be deployed in a timely fashion and with proper dramatic emphasis. However, in SF plotting the MacGuffins are often so overwhelming that they cause conventional plot structures to collapse. It's hard to properly dramatize, say, the domestic effects of Dad's bank overdraft when a giant writhing kraken is levelling the city. This mismatch between the conventional dramatic proprieties and SF's extreme, grotesque, or visionary thematics is known as the "squid on the mantelpiece."
MF – I’ve heard several versions of the supposed “Chekhov’s Gun” principle, no two of them meaning exactly the same thing. For example, the version I first heard is “If a character produces a gun, then it should be used to shoot someone, or threaten someone, or go off by accident, or fail to fire when it’s needed, and so on. If it does none of these things, then it is superfluous and should be taken out altogether.” That’s a point about narrative tidiness rather than timely deployment of plot elements.
White Room Syndrome
A clear and common sign of the failure of the author's imagination, most often seen at the beginning of a story, before the setting, background, or characters have gelled. "She awoke in a white room." The 'white room' is a featureless set for which details have yet to be invented -- a failure of invention by the author. The character 'wakes' in order to begin a fresh train of thought -- again, just like the author. This 'white room' opening is generally followed by much earnest pondering of circumstances and useless exposition; all of which can be cut, painlessly.
It remains to be seen whether the "white room" cliche' will fade from use now that most authors confront glowing screens rather than blank white paper.
Wiring Diagram Fiction
A genre ailment related to "False Humanity," "Wiring Diagram Fiction" involves "characters" who show no convincing emotional reactions at all, since they are overwhelmed by the author's fascination with gadgetry or didactic lectures.
MF – A trap hard SF often falls into, in my experience. I suppose the related ailment in GW fiction would be “fluff-diagram fiction” (sorry Gav), in which the story is sidelined by the author’s desire to lay out in detail some aspect of his take on the game-universe.
You Can't Fire Me, I Quit
An attempt to diffuse the reader's incredulity with a pre-emptive strike -- as if by anticipating the reader's objections, the author had somehow answered them. "I would never have believed it, if I hadn't seen it myself!" "It was one of those amazing coincidences that can only take place in real life!" "It's a one-in-a-million chance, but it's so crazy it just might work!" Surprisingly common, especially in SF. (Attr. John Kessel)
Part Three: Common Workshop Story Types
Adam and Eve Story
Nauseatingly common subset of the "Shaggy God Story" in which a terrible apocalypse, spaceship crash, etc., leaves two survivors, man and woman, who turn out to be Adam and Eve, parents of the human race!
MF – Not an issue for GW writing for obvious reasons. See Alfred Bester’s “Adam With No Eve” in the brilliant anthology Starburst for a rather good twist on the idea.
The Cosy Catastrophe
Story in which horrific events are overwhelming the entirety of human civilization, but the action concentrates on a small group of tidy, middle-class, white Anglo-Saxon protagonists. The essence of the cosy catastrophe is despite the supposed devastation the hero actually has a pretty good time (a girl, free suites at the Savoy, fancy cars for the taking) while everyone is dying off. (Attr. Brian Aldiss)
Dennis Hopper Syndrome
A story based on some arcane bit of science or folklore, which noodles around producing random weirdness. Then a loony character-actor (usually best played by Dennis Hopper) barges into the story and baldly tells the protagonist what's going on by explaining the underlying mystery in a long bug-eyed rant. (Attr. Howard Waldrop)
MF - Not unrelated to Roger Ebert's remarks about the Talking Killer device, aka "Before I kill you, Mister Bond..." The killer gets the protagonist at his mercy and then decides to put off killing him so that he can fill the hero in on exactly what's been going on, and bring the reader up to speed at the same time. You know, like I did at the end of Crossfire. Although this is a plot device rather than an actual story type.
Deus ex Machina or "God in the Box"
Story featuring a miraculous solution to the story's conflict, which comes out of nowhere and renders the struggles of the characters irrelevant. Oh look, the Martians all caught cold and died.
The Grubby Apartment Story
Writing a little too much about what you know. The penniless writer living in a grubby apartment writes a story about a penniless writer living in a grubby apartment. Stars all his friends.
The Jar of Tang
"For you see, we are all living in a jar of Tang!" "For you see, I am a dog!" Mainstay of the old Twilight Zone TV show. An entire pointless story contrived so the author can jump out at the end and cry "Fooled you!" For instance, the story takes place in a desert of coarse orange sand surrounded by an impenetrable vitrine barrier; surprise! our heroes are microbes in a jar of Tang powdered orange drink.
This is a classic case of the difference between a conceit and an idea. "What if we all lived in a jar of Tang?" is an example of the former; "What if the revolutionaries from the sixties had been allowed to set up their own society?" is an example of the latter. Good SF requires ideas, not conceits. (Attr. Stephen P. Brown)
When done with serious intent rather than as a passing conceit, this type of story can be dignified by the term "Concealed Environment." (Attr. Christopher Priest)
Just-Like Fallacy
SF story which thinly adapts the trappings of a standard pulp adventure setting. The spaceship is "just like" an Atlantic steamer, down to the Scottish engineer in the hold. A colony planet is "just like" Arizona except for two moons in the sky. "Space Westerns" and futuristic hard-boiled detective stories have been especially common versions.
MF – Then again, one of the fun things about the GW settings – the 40Kverse more than the Warhammer world, it seems to me – is the way you can rip all kinds of stuff off and stuff it in there to do a 41st-millennium tribute to it. Not necessarily a bad thing, providing you don’t end up in Bat Durston territory (more about him another time).
[From another post:] In case you are not familiar with the term, a Bat Durston refers derogatorily to a science fiction story which is little more than a traditional western using sf settings and icons. Taking the comparison to alternate history, the better stories in this genre should create the story’s world for some reason other than merely creating a nice setting for an adventure.
The Kitchen-Sink Story
A story overwhelmed by the inclusion of any and every new idea that occurs to the author in the process of writing it. (Attr. Damon Knight)
The Motherhood Statement
SF story which posits some profoundly unsettling threat to the human condition, explores the implications briefly, then hastily retreats to affirm the conventional social and humanistic pieties, ie apple pie and motherhood. Greg Egan once stated that the secret of truly effective SF was to deliberately "burn the motherhood statement." (Attr. Greg Egan)
MF - He wasn’t kidding, either. Greg Egan writes some of the most powerful and disturbing hard SF I’ve read, precisely because he’s not afraid to back away from the full implications of the science and technology he writes about.
I think that 40K writing is vulnerable to this to a certain degree: I’ve seen quite a few stories that dip a toe into the grim, violent, insane world of the 41st Millennium, stay there for a moment but quickly falls back into “but the Imperium is actually an OK place and lots of people there are nice and happy just like us”.
Discussion on this welcome.
The "Poor Me" Story
Autobiographical piece in which the male viewpoint character complains that he is ugly and can't get laid. (Attr. Kate Wilhelm)
Re-Inventing the Wheel
A novice author goes to enormous lengths to create a situation already tiresomely familiar to the experienced reader. Reinventing the Wheel was traditionally typical of mainstream writers venturing into SF without actually reading any of the existing stuff first (because it's all obviously crap anyway). Thus you get endless explanations of, say, how an atomic war might get started by accident, and so on. It is now often seen in writers who lack experience in genre history because they were attracted to written SF via movies, television, role-playing games, comics or computer gaming.
MF – Not that coming into the genre that way is a bad thing per se, but when a writer hasn’t had much exposure to written specfic in this way it usually shows, and not in a good way. To quote Terry Pratchett, you should be importing, not recycling.
The Rembrandt Comic Book
A story in which incredible craftsmanship has been lavished on a theme or idea which is basically trivial or subliterary, and which simply cannot bear the weight.
The Shaggy God Story
A piece which mechanically adopts a Biblical or other mythological tale and provides flat science-fictional "explanations" for the theological events. (Attr. Michael Moorcock)
MF – Although he wrote them himself: arguably his finest and most powerful story, called “Behold The Man”, does this for the life of Jesus. I remember it disturbed me when I read it, and I’m not even religious.
The Slipstream Story
Non-SF story which is so ontologically distorted or related in such a bizarrely non-realist fashion that it cannot pass muster as commercial mainstream fiction and therefore seeks shelter in the SF or fantasy genre. Postmodern critique and technique are particularly fruitful in creating slipstream stories.
The Steam-Grommet Factory
Didactic SF story which consists entirely of a guided tour of a large and elaborate gimmick. A common technique of SF utopias and dystopias. (Attr. Gardner Dozois)
MF – See the opening of Huxley’s Brave New World for an example of this done effectively.
The Tabloid Weird
Story produced by a confusion of SF and Fantasy tropes -- or rather, by a confusion of basic world-views. Tabloid Weird is usually produced by the author's own inability to distinguish between a rational, Newtonian-Einsteinian, cause-and- effect universe and an irrational, supernatural, fantastic universe. Either the FBI is hunting the escaped mutant from the genetics lab, or the drill-bit has bored straight into Hell -- but not both at once in the very same piece of fiction. Even fantasy worlds need an internal consistency of sorts, so that a Sasquatch Deal-with-the-Devil story is also "Tabloid Weird." Sasquatch crypto-zoology and Christian folk superstition simply don't mix well, even for comic effect. (Attr. Howard Waldrop)
MF – I’m not as convinced as the Lexicon that these two genres are utterly incompatible. Well, obviously not, since I work in a setting which combines them without hesitation. Which isn’t to say that the combination doesn’t need to be handled delicately, since those aforementioned different mindsets lead to different storytelling conventions as well as different world views.
The Whistling Dog
A story related in such an elaborate, arcane, or convoluted manner that it impresses by its sheer narrative ingenuity, but which, as a story, is basically not worth the candle. Like the whistling dog, it's astonishing that the thing can whistle -- but it doesn't actually whistle very well. (Attr. Harlan Ellison)
Part Four: Plots
Abbess Phone Home
Takes its name from a mainstream story about a medieval cloister which was sold as SF because of the serendipitous arrival of a UFO at the end. By extension, any mainstream story with a gratuitous SF or fantasy element tacked on so it could be sold.
And plot
Picaresque plot in which this happens, and then that happens, and then something else happens, and it all adds up to nothing in particular.
Bogus Alternatives
List of actions a character could have taken, but didn't. Frequently includes all the reasons why, as the author stops the action dead to work out complicated plot problems at the reader's expense. "If I'd gone along with the cops they would have found the gun in my purse. And anyway, I didn't want to spend the night in jail. I suppose I could have just run instead of stealing their car, but then..." etc. Best dispensed with entirely.
Card Tricks in the Dark
Elaborately contrived plot which arrives at (a) the punchline of a private joke nobody else will get, or (b) the display of some bit of learned trivia only the author is interested in. This stunt may be intensely ingenious, and very gratifying to the author, but it serves no visible fictional purpose. (Attr. Tim Powers)
Idiot Plot
A plot which functions only because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author's convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own. (Attr. James Blish)
Kudzu plot
Plot which weaves and curls and writhes in weedy organic profusion, smothering everything in its path.
Plot Coupons
The basic building blocks of the quest-type fantasy plot. The "hero" collects sufficient plot coupons (magic sword, magic book, magic cat) to send off to the author for the ending. Note that "the author" can be substituted for "the Gods" in such a work: "The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest." Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance. (Dave Langford)
MF - Nick Lowe expands on the idea in an excellent article at www.ansible.co.uk/Ansible/plotdev.html . Cheers to Bill King for the link.
Second-order Idiot Plot
A plot involving an entire invented SF society which functions only because every single person in it is necessarily an idiot. (Attr. Damon Knight)
MF – The assertion that this applies to the 40K Imperium is not a new one. Floor’s open…
Part Five: Background
"As You Know Bob"
A pernicious form of info-dump through dialogue, in which characters tell each other things they already know, for the sake of getting the reader up-to-speed. This very common technique is also known as "Rod and Don dialogue" (attr. Damon Knight) or "maid and butler dialogue" (attr Algis Budrys).
The Edges of Ideas
The solution to the "Info-Dump" problem (how to fill in the background). The theory is that, for example, the mechanics of an interstellar drive (the centre of the idea) are not important. What matters is the impact on your characters: they can get to other planets in a few months, and, oh yeah, it gives them hallucinations about past lives. Or, more radically: the physics of TV transmission is the center of an idea; on the edges of it we find people turning into couch potatoes because they no longer have to leave home for entertainment. Or, more bluntly: we don't need info dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people's lives have been affected by their background.
Eyeball Kick
That perfect, telling detail that creates an instant visual image. The ideal of certain postmodern schools of SF is to achieve a "crammed prose" full of "eyeball kicks." (Rudy Rucker)
MF - See the other thread.
Frontloading
Piling too much exposition into the beginning of the story, so that it becomes so dense and dry that it is almost impossible to read. (Attr. Connie Willis)
Infodump
Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended to explain the background situation. Info-dumps can be covert, as in fake newspaper or "Encyclopedia Galactica" articles, or overt, in which all action stops as the author assumes center stage and lectures. Info-dumps are also known as "expository lumps." The use of brief, deft, inoffensive info-dumps is known as "kuttnering," after Henry Kuttner. When information is worked unobtrusively into the story's basic structure, this is known as "heinleining."
"I've suffered for my Art" (and now it's your turn)
A form of info-dump in which the author inflicts upon the reader hard-won, but irrelevant bits of data acquired while researching the story. As Algis Budrys once pointed out, homework exists to make the difficult look easy.
Nowhere Nowhen Story
Putting too little exposition into the story's beginning, so that the story, while physically readable, seems to take place in a vacuum and fails to engage any readerly interest. (Attr. L. Sprague de Camp)
Ontological riff
Passage in an SF story which suggests that our deepest and most basic convictions about the nature of reality, space-time, or consciousness have been violated, technologically transformed, or at least rendered thoroughly dubious. The works of H. P. Lovecraft, Barrington Bayley, and Philip K Dick abound in "ontological riffs."
Space Western
The most pernicious suite of "Used Furniture". The grizzled space captain swaggering into the spacer bar and slugging down a Jovian brandy.
Stapledon
Name assigned to the voice which takes centre stage to lecture. Actually a common noun, as: "You have a Stapledon come on to answer this problem instead of showing the characters resolve it."
Used Furniture
Use of a background out of Central Casting. Rather than invent a background and have to explain it, or risk re-inventing the wheel, let's just steal one. We'll set it in the Star Trek Universe, only we'll call it the Empire instead of the Federation.
Part Six: Character and Viewpoint
Funny-hat characterization
A character distinguished by a single identifying tag, such as odd headgear, a limp, a lisp, a parrot on his shoulder, etc.
MF – This can work if done deftly and with minor characters. Stephen King excels at it, and Ed McBain is pretty good too.
Mary Sue
A ridiculously perfect and idealised character, moving through a story which serves no other purpose than demonstrating how ridiculously perfect and idealised Mary Sue is. None of the other characters have anything to do other than rave about Mary Sue's wonderfulness; challenges and obstacles exist only for Mary Sue to solve effortlessly to admiring gasps from everyone else.
Also known as "avatars" or "self-insertion", since the most common Mary Sues are thinly-disguised versions of the author and are more about wish-fulfiment fantasies than conventional storytelling. Endemic to fanfic; the term apparently originates from an early and infamous example in an old Star Trek fanzine.
MF - There are lots of definitions and examples of Mary Sue, although the term as it's used here isn't really attributable to one author any more. The definition supplied here owes much to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's rather good one at http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004188.html .
GW fanfics and homebrew backgrounds aren't immune either - you can find them pretty easily once you know the signs. The twist is that the Mary Sue is often a Guard regiment, Space Marine Chapter, Eldar Craftworld or an entire galactic state.
Common warning signs: "The Mary Sue Regiment fought so ferociously in the Battle of Sueville that even the [famous Space Marine Chapter] were awe-struck that unaugmented humans could fight so hard, and their Chapter Master officially declared the Mary Sue regiment the equals of Space Marines". "Inquisitor Mary Sue has demonstrated such amazing ability that the High Lords have personally ordered that nobody is allowed to stand in her way or question her actions". "Now that it has declared independence from the Imperium the Mary Sue Republic has become a haven of enlightenment and progress, where technology is being developed at an exponential rate with no aura of superstitious mysticism, painless and fully-effective techniques to protect psykers from daemonic attack have been developed, alien races of all kinds are putting aside their differences and living contentedly side by side, and where every Imperial who sees what's going on immediately defects once they see how wonderful and free life among the Mary Sues is".
I've since found out that even the original "Ensign Mary Sue" in that old seventies fanfic was a satire on the trope, so clearly it was already a fiction cliche by then.
Mrs. Brown
The small, downtrodden, eminently common, everyday little person who nevertheless encapsulates something vital and important about the human condition. "Mrs. Brown" is a rare personage in the SF genre, being generally overshadowed by swaggering submyth types made of the finest gold-plated cardboard. In a famous essay, "Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown," Ursula K. Le Guin decried Mrs. Brown's absence from the SF field. (Attr: Virginia Woolf)
...stamped on their forehead
The story lets a character get away with something illogical or impossible because they have "hero" (or "villain", "sidekick", disposable underling", or whatever) stamped on their foreheads. There's nothing wrong with heroes triumphing against the odds or villains being brought low through their own flaws, but those consequences need to come about because of the characters and their actions rather than despite them.
Adapted from Aaron Allston's roleplayers' glossary from a few years ago, which included "He's got 'PC' [player character] stamped on his forehead" as an all-purpose excuse for why characters unquestioningly accepted or trusted one anothers' actions while treating non-player characters differently. (Aaron Allston.)
MF - This was partly prompted by the "script immunity" and "Hollywood Shield" ideas in the discussion thread, although the scene I had in mind for it was actually in Walking Tall, where the main character is manifestly guilty of all manner of assaults and property destruction but is acquitted in court when he makes a sentimental speech about down-home values. It doesn't even resemble making a legal case for his innocence, but he gets let off because he's got "hero" stamped on his forehead.
Submyth
Classic character-types in SF which aspire to the condition of archetype but don't quite make it, such as the mad scientist, the crazed supercomputer, the emotionless super-rational alien, the vindictive mutant child, etc. (Attr. Ursula K. Le Guin)
MF – You can pick the GWverse submyths for yourselves, I’m sure.
Viewpoint glitch
The author loses track of point-of-view, switches point-of-view for no good reason, or relates something that the viewpoint character could not possibly know.
Part Seven: Miscellaneous
AM/FM
Engineer's term distinguishing the inevitable clunky real-world faultiness of "Actual Machines" from the power-fantasy techno-dreams of "Fething Magic."
MF – Except the original Lexicon didn’t say “fething”. :grinning_emoticon: Well worth remembering for 40K and Necromunda fiction, which deliberately shies away from the sleek, clean, super-reliable dream-tech of settings like Star Trek.
Consensus Reality
Useful term for the purported world in which the majority of modern sane people generally agree that they live -- as opposed to the worlds of, say, Forteans, semioticians or quantum physicists.
Intellectual sexiness
The intoxicating glamor of a novel scientific idea, as distinguished from any actual intellectual merit that it may someday prove to possess.
The Ol' Baloney Factory
"Science Fiction" as a publishing and promotional entity in the world of commerce.

Additional suggestions from other forum members:
User Chiron: Script Immunity
The tendency of lynchpin characters to be blatantly immune to harm, despite the fact that they consistently place themselves in situations that they cannot reasonably be expected to survive.
User Vortemir: Hollywood Shield / Imperial Stormtrooper Syndrome
Bad Guys will never be able to hit essential characters no matter what they're armed with or how hard they try.

[Originally posted to Black Library Online, October 2004, by user Matt Farrer]
A term from the Turkey City Lexicon that might be useful here is the "eyeball kick", Rudy Rucker's term for that perfectly-turned descriptive phrase that creates an instant, telling visual image for the reader. An example that springs to mind from the opening of Necropolis:
After a minute or so, raid-sirens in the central district also began keening. The pattern was picked up by manufactory hooters and mill whistles all through the lower hive, and in the mill whistles and outer habs across the river too. Even the great ceremonial horns on the top of the Ecclesiarchy Basilica started to sound.Vervunhive was screaming with every one of its voices.
That last line provides the eyeball kick.
Some other examples that spring to mind: "[he] screamed out two mouthfuls of silent spun glass" (Stephen King); "the sky above Chiba City was the colour of a television tuned to a blank band" (William Gibson); "a great moist loaf of a body... features as bunched as kissed fingertips" (E. Annie Proulx); "[after walking through snow] my feet, in wet socks, slowly turned to marble and fell off" (Donald Westlake).
I don't know if there's a way you can break down an eyeball kick to pick apart the technique, since its whole impact comes from lateral thinking and the effect of an incongruous image that nevertheless fits exactly with what you're describing. It's an imagination thing rather than a technique thing. However, the paragraph from Necropolis that I used above is also a very good example of how to maximise the effect of a good piece of description, and worth having a closer look at.
Firstly, the rest of the paragraph has been describing the machinery that makes the sound, and doing so in fairly neutral, inorganic terms: "keening", at the start of the para, is about as close as we get to an emotive word. The rest is a pretty calm description about how a series of klaxons and horns are going off. That increases the wrench when we suddenly switch gears into words that you'd use to describe a living being in agony: "screaming with every one of its voices", which gives weight to the sense of foreboding that dominates the early pages. This is reinforced further by the way that the previous sentences tend to be longer, with more connecting commas and lots of adjectives to slow their rhythm and give a more discursive feel, while the last sentence is a simple, flat declarative. Using the rhythm of words and sentences for a setup and payoff like that is a very good way of driving home a piece of exposition or description, and it's something that Dan uses quite a bit.
Secondly, look at the way that the passage, which at first blush is about the sounds of the sirens, actually helps build a visual image as well. We've been going through all the various parts and districts of Vervunhive, watching as different kinds of buildings in different areas go off. Look at how the mental "camera" moves down the lower hive, then down the river, then up to the top of the Basilica. Then in the last sentence we get an eyeball kick that describes the whole of Vervunhive as a single entity: the effect is like pulling back sharply from an individual scene or building and seeing the whole Hive at once. And that concludes the main piece of visual scene-setting at the opening: notice that in the next line Dan can start in on conversations between individual characters around the Hive because the major scene has been laid out.
The broad point to take away from this is that each piece of text should work on as many levels as possible, and even a short passage like that one can be far more than the sum of its parts. I suspect that the reason a lot of bad fiction (including, I am sorry to say, a lot of fanfic I've seen) seems so flat and plodding is that each sentence is put down to do one thing: make a statement, provide a description or what have you. But there's no depth to the prose, no interaction between them to create any rhythm, or momentum, or startling switch in imagery. It's like a song from your favourite band, with each element (vocals, percussion, each instrument) separated and played end to end. It sounds so much better when they're all working together.

That's it. Got any suggestions for new 40K-specific tropes to add?
submitted by Medicaean to 40kLore [link] [comments]

A thousand words wasn't enough? Here's five thousand.

List acquired here.
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Offseason Review, Day 18 - The Carolina Panthers

Team: The Carolina Panthers

Division: The NFC South
2017 Record: 11-5, 2nd in the NFCS
In keeping with our team’s vaunted tradition of inconsistency, 2017 saw us dramatically improve over our 2016 record. Where the previous season was a 6-10 slog in which everything that possibly could go wrong did, 2017 was an uplifting bounceback in which the team succeeded in spite of enormous challenges, injuries and off field distractions. Though the division was murderously difficult, we finished in second and tied the Saints’ 11-5 record. Though we lacked receiving talent (particularly after losing Greg Olsen almost all year), we put together enough offense in order to succeed. Where we were consistently on the losing side of every close game in 2016, we were on the winning side of them in 2017.
So we open this, my third offseason review for the Carolina Panthers, by asking the same question I did the other two times: Who the hell is this team?

Coaching Changes

Defensive Coordinator - Sean McDermott left us after the 2016 season go coach the Buffalo Bills, and now we’re losing Wilkes to the Arizona Cardinals. It’s one of those rare cases where I think that the coaching change is best for both parties. Wilkes has a very clear vision of what he wants to do and Carolina didn’t offer him the personnel to do it. I think Arizona will.
Replacing him is defensive line coach Eric Washington, who has already received head coaching looks. So I have every faith that we’ll be losing him in another year also. Washington has already promised some positive identity changes that I think have been a long time coming. I’ll get into what those entail more when we talk about our draft picks, but there are definitely changes coming to the defensive side of the ball.
Offensive Coordinator - Ultimately, the great strength of the Carolina Panthers throughout the Riv-Era has always been their defense and I don’t expect that to change. What is looking to experience a sea change is offense, because we finally fired Mike Shula. WE DID IT GUYS! FREE AT LAST!
Getting rid of Shula was long overdue, and something Panthers fans and analysts alike can universally* agree was a huge upgrade. For more details on why Shula was the man of blood for the Carolina Panthers, please refer to Brett Kohlman’s excellent video on the subject. Virtually anyone would have been an upgrade over Shula, but replace him the Panthers selected Norv Turner. And while the choice wasn’t inspiring or sexy, I think it will be a very positive change for us.
And yes, Vikings fans, we are aware he performed poorly for your team. But Turner’s Air Croyell system is a very good fit for the players we have (and I would argue a much more natural choice for Cam Newton as opposed to, say, Teddy Bridgewater). The system relies on a big armed quarterback, which we have. He requires a big bodied receiver, which Funchess provides, and who played very well down the stretch last year. We have an excellent receiving tight end in Olsen, and a vertical threat in Torrey Smith that was totally absent from the roster last year; two other staples of successful Norv Turner offenses. And most importantly, he is far better equipped than Mike Shula to make use of our greatest offensive mismatch, which is Christian McCaffery. Receiving backs like him that can exceed in zone concepts and provided a mismatch against LBs and Safeties, have always excelled under Turner and I expect CMC to excel there as well. And we have an amazing short yardage power run game that serves as the foundation of Norv’s attack. Carolina has good personnel for what he likes to do, and I think his vision is much better for the team than what Shula’s would have been.
Ownership - Less consequential for the on field product, but extremely important for the team, Jerry Richardson is no longer our owner. Goodbye racist, sexist old man. Hello socially progressive David Tepper. Tepper is a breath of fresh air, both for his unstuffiness and personability compared to other NFL owners and his clarification that he’ll be willing to make changes if he feels that the Panthers’ composite parts aren’t working. He’s also a great pickup for the NFL. As an investor, Tepper enters the League as its second richest owner. He’s the 3rd richest owner in all of professional sports. The NFL has had a lot of undo talk about its demise; about its drop in ratings, the growing CTE controversy and numerous other scandals big and small from cheerleaders to kneeling players. It’s brand reputation isn’t in the best place right now. So for a guy like Tepper to purchase the team sends a strong message that the League is still a worthy investment.
*Almost universal. I may have been the world’s last Shula apologist

Departures

Star Lotulelei, DT - Star Loutulelei and Kawaan Short were taken in the first and second round of the 2013 draft and have anchored our DL ever since. But in the intervening years, Short has become an elite all around DT while Star has gradually seen his performance deteriorate. Over the last three years, he’s averaged only 11 tackles and 2 sacks per season, and has been a liability both in run defense and pass pressure situations. He got an enormous paycheck from Buffalo, and more power to him. He ain’t worth what he got paid.
Kurt Coleman, FS - Speaking of people who got overpaid, Kurt Coleman has left the Panthers. Coleman’s career in Carolina got off to a bang rather than a whimper, when he recorded a ridiculous 7 INTs and 9 PDs in his 2015 season. Those numbers slipped to 4 and 7 in 2016 and 0 and 3 in 2017. Now I’m actually going to go against the grain here and say that while we made the right call in releasing him, the Saints also did in signing him. Coleman is too slow to cover even modestly athletic tight ends, but he’s an extremely cerebral player. If you roll him out there to assist your CB, he’s going to get burned. But if you allow him to watch a play develop and attack the ball, he can really succeed. Obviously you can only afford to do that with your FS if you have a CB that succeed on his own. In 2015, Coleman had that with Norman. In 2018, he’ll have that with Lattimore. But he wouldn’t have had it here, so letting him go was the right call.
Ed Dickson, TE - One might look at Dickson’s 437 yards last year and think he had a pretty good season, but the stats are misleading. First, he was playing for Greg Olsen, who was out most of the year with a broken foot. And second, over half of it came in just two games. When you take out the 238 yards he had against New England and Detroit, when you see is a guy who averaged about 2 catches and less than 25 yards per game for the rest of the season. He’s still a solid blocker, but just isn’t good enough to justify us writing him a big check at this stage of his career.
Jonathan Stewart, RB - When the 2018 offseason opened and it became clear that we’d have some major issues with the salary cap, I quickly identified two players that constituted the easiest cuts on the roster. One of them was WR Russell Shepard, whose contributions to the team were so minimal that he’s not even going to get a writeup from me. The other was Jonathan Stewart. Humorously, both of them are in NY now because David Gettleman, who once wrote the Diagram of the Panthers’ success, has quietly become stupid Taravangian in the years that followed.
I speak for all of Panthers Nation when I say that Stewart has nothing but love from us. He’s our franchise leading rusher and was the heart and soul of our run game for years. And he’s an incredible guy and an enormous locker room presence. But he’s not what he used to be. Recent reports out of the Giants camp have suggested that he’s struggling to hold on against younger competition, and I’m not surprised. He was an amazing runner, and an amazing runner far later than his two ACL tears should have allowed him to be. But he’s gotten to that age and his time has come. Saving $7 million by cutting him was the right decision.
Derek Anderson, QB - I’m honestly a little baffled that DA doesn’t have a job. He’s not good anymore, but he’s definitely a more qualified backup than what at least a few teams are rockin’ these days. We decided to go younger and cheaper as his play in camp and the preseason has deteriorated, and even if I don’t think our QB2 is currently on the roster, I have a hard time imagining that he comes back to us.
Andrew Norwell, LG - I’ve saved the best for last. While most of our departures were perfectly acceptable attrition, Norwell’s hurts and it hurts bad. Norwell was, unequivocally, one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL last year. Why’d we let him go? Because we already doled out huge money to Trai Turner last year. And Turner deserve every penny of what he got; he’s a great player. But there’s only so much cash you can afford to have tied up at offensive guard. Norwell got paid more than most premier LTs do. We just couldn't compete with the offer without letting every other need on the roster go unfilled. But regardless of the prudence of the decision relative to our other needs, it’s major blow to the team and one of the changes to the roster that has the potential to wreck our season.

Arrivals

Dontari Poe, DT - Dontari Poe will be replacing Star on the DL, and it’s a significant upgrade. Not only were Poe’s 39 tackles in 2017 more than what Star accumulated in the last three seasons combined, but despite it not shining through in sack totals, we was a very disruptive force in the passing game. He had a significant number of QB pressures, even if he didn’t get home that often. And if he can do that in the Falcons’ somewhat lackluster pass rush, he’ll do very well in our much more stout defensive line.
Torrey Smith, WR - Traded for CB Daryl Worley (who wasn’t working out in our system), Smith represents a vertical threat that the Panthers straight up didn’t have after Ted Ginn was allowed to walk in 2017. And I’m very confident that if we can make Ginn work in that role despite his weakness as a receiver prior to joining us, we can make Smith work as well. A vertical threat wideout is extremely important to the Norv Turner scheme, and Smith was as good an acquisition as any to fill the need.
Jarius Wright, WR - After it became clear that the Russell Shepard experiment wasn’t working out, we signed slot receiver Wright from the Vikings. This too is a significant upgrade. Wright was Mr. 3rd Down for the Vikings, and represents the kind of receiving threat that we didn’t have enough of. His presence will help diversify a WR corps that was extremely one dimensional last year.
Ross Cockrell, CB - Replacing Worley is veteran Ross Cockrell, previously of the Giants and Steelers. Cockrell is a solid addition for us. He’s a disruptive corner who excels at getting into plays and breaking up passes. He’ll play a lot of ball opposite of CB James Bradberry on zone packages, which is his most natural fit. This is a cheap upgrade over Worley after Bashaud Breeland failed his physical when we attempted to sign him. And as angry as some of our Anti-Hurney fans were about that failure, it’s kind of telling that Breeland is still out there on the market to this day.
Da’Norris Searcy, S - Searcy is difficult to make heads or tails of. He played well for Buffalo early in his career, then was inconsistent with Tennessee after moving there. I ultimately doubt he’ll be much worse that Kurt Coleman, but I expect that Safety is once again a liability in 2018.
Jeremiah Sirles, LG - Sirles was a guard for the Vikings. He’s good depth and he’ll compete with Taylor Moton, Tyler Larsen and Amini Silotolu for the LG spot. One of them has to be at least serviceable.
CJ Anderson, RB - Of all our free agent acquisitions, this is the one I’m most excited about. CJ Anderson is an excellent football player. Effective as both a zone and power runner (and I expect to run both to compensate for our OL), he completes our backfield as the between the tackles guy that Stewart used to be. And he is an incalculably better player than Stewart at this stage of their careers. Not only did he complete a 1,000 yard season behind a worse OL than ours last year, but he’s a solid receiving threat that Stewart never could be. When CJ lines up with us, it will no longer be a tell that a run play is coming as it was with Stewart. I am absolutely thrilled to have my favorite Bronco on the Panthers for 2018.
Overall, we were tight on cap space and had to make some sacrifices. While Norwell’s loss hurts a lot, none of our other departures are consequential. Despite this being Marty’s first year in control since Gettleman’s firing, he’s kept up the Gentleman approach to free agency of signing cheap, upside free agents who fit our system and put a band aid on our needs. This is your typical unexciting free agency class for the Panthers that probably outperforms expectations. It’s what we do here.

Draft

Like our previous draft, this one represents many significant identity changes, though mostly on the defensive side of the ball rather than the offensive one. And like the last draft, it features a large number of upside players drafted at pretty reasonable prices. So let’s get into it.
DJ Moore, WR - Rd 1, Pick 24 - The degree to which we needed WR help coming out of the 2017 season cannot be overstated. Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright helped, but they didn’t fix the need. An offense cannot live passing to Devin Funchess alone. And especially with Funchess likely hitting FA next year, a replacement needed to be lined up for him in any case. Moore specifically fills a lot of needs. Our WRs are bad at getting separation, bad at getting yards after the catch and bad at working finesse routes like curls and slants. DJ Moore excels in all these capacities. I invision his being used a lot like Steve Smith used to be, at least as once he matures in our offense. Get the ball in his hands and let him go. Moore is a very technically gifted player with quick acceleration and an excellent vision of the field who can turn chunk plays into huge gains and competes aggressively on 50/50 balls. Obviously you never know how these guys are going to translate to the pros, but in terms of skillset, he projects as the most complete wideout we’ve had in years.
Donte Jackson, CB - Rd 2, Pick 55 - It’s no secret that our secondary needs help. Though the defense was pretty stout last year, the passing defense was...not...that. And one of the reasons it failed is that it lacked speed. Donte Jackson doesn’t. His 4.32 40 was THE fastest run at the Combine this year. While he is short at 5’11, he has the speed and the route running proficiency to track down any speedy wideouts in the League, and his vertical ability allows him to play larger than he his. Though many project him at nickel because of his size, Jackson played all over the field at LSU. And while he’ll certainly spend time at nickel for us, the coaching staff has already indicated that he'll do most of his work outside. I expect Jackson to be an early contributor to the secondary.
Rashaan Gaulden, FS - Rd 3, Pick 85 - The race for weakest position on the roster last year was a tight affair that came down to WR and Safety. Simply put, we had nobody at safety who could help out our CBs in pass coverage. And safety is what we drafted Gaulden to be. Though Gaulden spent much of his time at Tennessee as a nickel corner, he also played plenty of free safety, which is the position he’ll spend most of his time with us. Ultimately, I don’t expect much out of him in year one. But he’s got all the tools, speed and ball tracking ability to play safety, and once he’s had time to reacquaint himself at the position for the NFL level, I think he has starting potential for us.
The selections of Gaulden and Jackson signal a major change in our defensive philosophy. Throughout the Riv-Era, we’ve played almost exclusively zone, leaning on outside corners that are 6’2+ and un-athletic but football smart. The safeties were reserved for in-the-box work rather than coverage support. These two guys were taken to play man. And I think that you’ll see a lot of Cockrell and Jackson switching spots between our zone and man looks, respectively. We went into this draft wanting to add speed to the secondary, and speed is what we got with these two players. I have limited expectations for 2018, but I really believe that both of these guys represent a long term investment in a different future at DB.
Ian Thomas, TE - Rd 4, Pick 101 - Contrary to what some have suggested, that Thomas was picked to be Olsen’s heir apparent, he was picked to compliment Olsen. Though Thomas has excellent tools to be a receiver, his work with us in his early career will primarily be as a blocker. And in that capacity, I think he gets on the field early and often. He was one of the best pure blocking TEs in this class. Which isn’t to say he won’t catch the ball. But he’s fairly raw as a route runner and it will take time to develop that part of his game. He can contribute immediately as a blocker, though, and I think he’ll be an excellent compliment to Olsen’s talents as a receiver in years to come.
Marquis Haynes, DE - Rd 5, Pick 136 - Haynes was a bit of an odd choice for us, given that we are a strictly 4-3 team, and he was projected more as a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE. And while you’ve heard me say “I don’t expect much this year” about the last three picks, I actually think Haynes is going to make an impact immediately. The basis for my optimism optimism is twofold. First, we use situational pass rushers like a motherfucker, and that’s exactly what Haynes is. He’s a third down guy with a lot of speed who can blow past blockers and crush QBs. Haynes projects well as a situational DE and as a OLB that we can plug into pass rushing downs. And second, nobody has drawn the reviews from camp that Haynes has. While I recognize that with linemen on both sides, nothing matters until the pads go on, Haynes is exactly the kind of speed rusher that our team’s needed for a while now, and the early reviews indicate that’s where we’ll see him. I expect he’ll be involved quite a bit on 3rd down situations even as a rookie, fortifying our already stout pass rush in those situations.
Jermaine Carter & Andre Smith, LBs, Rds 5, 7, Picks 161 and 234 - I’m gonna lump these guys together because they’re related players and because their selection caused a minor riot on panthers, where the idea of spending two super late round picks on linebackers was hailed as preposterous blunder over which Hurney deserved to be hanged. While LB is the deepest position on our roster, it won’t be forever. Thomas Davis is going into his last season. While Shaq Thompson is already there as his heir apparent, nobody is there to back up Thompson. That’s what Carter was taken to do. Carter is the kind of player who has the athleticism to be the rangey tweener that both Thompson and Davis are. And while Kuechly has a very dependable backup in Jarred Mayo, this is likely his last year on the roster as well. Smith is the an all over the field tackle machine in their vain. He will likely have to sit out the year to rehab his knee and build strength, but he’s a very canny pick for a team that will need a backup for Luke by the end of the year. And both players, especially Carter, were reliable ST contributors in college. Given our new emphasis on STs (last year was the first since I started following this team when our STs weren’t complete ass), it’s not surprising to see some picks thrown at the unit. And Smith in particular was remarkable value given where he was projected prior to his knee injury.
Kendrick Norton, DT - Rd 7, Pick 242 - This was another hugely controversial pick on panthers at the time (and guys, really...it’s the 7th round), but I’m a huge fan. Norton is a big bodied, athletic nose tackle type who can immediately contribute his strength and length to our run blocking. Obviously guys like Poe and Short are the starters, but a healthy rotation on the DL is crucial, and Norton is a good run stuffer than I can immediately contributing to that part of our DL. He’ll be a rotational player, but given how well he played for a resurging Miami, this projects as an exceptional value pick.

Strengths and Weaknesses

As always, I need to preface with a big ol’ fat “who the hell knows with us”. Last year I was crying doomsday about how awful our OTs were going to be. In reality, Kalil was serviceable and Daryl Williams (who I specifically called “miserable in pass protection”) was one of the best OTs in the NFL. Meanwhile I predicted that the secondary would be a strength because I’m hilariously stupid. So yeah...we can be a bit of an enigma. But having said all that:

Strengths

The Run Game - The run game last year was as much a strength as it was a weakness. As u/Barian_Fostate pointed out, we were really damn good at short yardage rushing, and really damn bad at everything else. But I think that can change. For starters, Norv’s rushing attack is a lot different than Shula’s. He’s very good at using receiving backs, as well as drawing up plays that aren’t just runs up the gut into crowds. And the composite parts of his run game are fantastic. Cam Newton, Christian McCaffery and CJ Anderson make up about the most complete stable of rushers in the League. So I have complete faith that we’ll sport a dynamite run game this year. Likewise….
Passing Weapons - This is going on the strengths list not so much because it’s strong compared to the rest of the League, than because it represents a massive upgrade over last year’s group. Since the Kelvin Benjamin trade, our offensive playbook opened up and every phase of the offense improved. That’ll happen when your only wideouts are slow as shit with identical skillsets. This year, we have DJ Moore to create yards after the catch, Smith to provide a vertical threat that was totally absent last year, Funchess operating as our sole big guy (a role he excelled in last year, far more than Benjamin) and McCaffery creating matchup nightmares underneath. Greg Olsen is healthy again, too, which in and of itself is a huge upgrade over last season. Cam is a different QB when he doesn’t have Olsen to throw to. These are all good upgrades on their own, and where Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright fit in isn’t even determined. Their success is just a bonus. It’s the most well rounded group of weapons Cam has had since 2013 and I’m very excited to see what he can do with them.
Linebackers - Does the internet need more ink spilled over the greatness of Shaq Thompson, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis? I think not. They’re awesome. They’re going to continue being awesome.
The DL - Our pass rush was elite last year and I don’t expect that to change. Mario Addison remains one of the most underrated pure pass rushers in the NFL, and Peppers was excellent as well. Bryan Cox and Deshone Hall should be good supplemental pieces, and I do think Haynes will make a rookie impact. Add in an interior line anchored by Dontari Poe and Kawann Short and you’ve got a DL that can ratchet up up QB pressure like nobody’s business. Oh. And Vernon Butler exists. Maybe.

Weaknesses

The Secondary - We have only two areas of the team that I would consider potentially crippling liabilities, and this is one. Bradberry had a great rookie season but was very inconsistent last year. And he’s locked in at CB1. Cockrell almost certainly presents an upgrade at CB2 over Worley, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be any good. It’s all well and good to say that we’re making speed a priority and playing more man, but we’re essentially relying on two rookies to do it, and not premium draft picks either. Safety is still a huge area of concern, because Searcy is a SS just like Adams is. And while Adams started last year hot, he looked like the geriatric that he very much is by the season’s end. While I ultimately think that the defensive front is strong enough to paper over this weakness to some extent or another, a weakness it remains.
The Division - While I think the Panthers are as talented and rounded as any team in the NFC, the NFCS is a motherfucker. Both the Falcons and Saints have Super Bowl caliber rosters, and the Buccs beefed the hell out of their DL. I don’t think any of us can feel secure about our places going into this season, but it’ll be a bear of a division to win and anyone who doesn’t will be fighting or a wild card spot in a conference that is loaded with good teams.

X Factors

The OL - Contrary to what you may have heard, our offensive line is not in terrible shape. Our Center is solid as long as Kalil stays healthy, and RT and RG are both excellent. But while the right side of the OL is stout, the left is...a bit of a question mark. Matt Kalil wasn’t a disaster last year, but he wasn’t good. And Norwell was one of the best guards in the League. Replacing him will not be simple. If one of last year’s 2nd round pick Taylor Moton, Jeremiah Sirles or Tyler Larsen can step up and be even serviceable at LG, and Matt Kalil can continue the level of play we got from him last year, I think we’re gonna be okay because the right side is so good. However, if Kalil regresses without Norwell at his side, and we can't find someone to play LG at an average level, we could be in serious trouble. The potential for this to be either okay or a complete disaster is what keeps it as an X Factor rather than just a Weakness.
The Sophomores - One of the exciting things about this season is our second year players. None of our players not named Christian McCaffery did much of anything last year, but that’s not really on any of them. Moton played very well as a swing tackle, but the stoutness of every OL position but LT made it difficult for him to crack the lineup on any continuing basis. And Curtis Samuel, Corn Elder, Deshon Hall and Alexander Armah were all injured early in the season or preseason and barely saw the field. Every single one of those players has a chance to step up and improve the team this year, but we’re positioned such that none of them has to. It’s almost like we’re getting two drafts this season. They have the potential to inject a lot of unexpected talent and depth into a roster that performed just fine without them, or to do nothing and take up spots of our 53.
Norv Turner - I’ll put this plainly; if Norv can build what we had under Chudzinksi, we could be in fantastic shape. If he forces Cam into massive dropbacks, we’re going to have a problem. I think Rivera can moderate some of that out of him, and he’ll ultimately prove to be a wise choice. But after losing Norwell, there’s certainly a risk there.

Position Battles

There aren’t many. Most of our positions are pretty well set. But there are a handful, so let’s go through them.
Left Guard: Somebody’s gotta replace Norwell. My money is personally on Taylor Moton, just because of all the potential contenders, he’s the one with the best combination of size and athleticism. But Tyler Larsen and Jeremiah Sirles will certainly make a run at him. Of those two, Larsen would probably be the best outcome. A lot of people, both within and without the fandom, have ceded the job to Amini Silotolu already, but that’s a mistake. He’s the favorite now because he’s been the backup forever but none of this is decided on OL until contact practices start. He’s not physically gifted enough to beat out the other guys, and I think that will become apparent very quickly once the pads go on.
CB2: Bradberry has CB1 locked down, but the position opposite him is wide open. In the end telling, I doubt there will be one guy for the spot. Keyvon Seymore will get plenty of time there against faster guys, and Cockrell in traditional zone looks. When we give man packages a go, you’re going to see a lot of Donte Jackson. Rather than having one set CB2 like we have in the past, i think we rotate this a lot based on needs and matchups this season.
Safety: Adams has the SS spot locked up, but who plays FS is an open question. Indeed, whether or not there will even be a traditional FS is an open question. Obviously, you want to see Gaulden step up, but anyone who’s counting on it from a rookie converting to full time safety is being a touch optimistic. It’s really Searcy’s battle to lose, at this point.
QB2: I frankly don’t believe that our QB2 is on the roster right now.

Schedule Prediction

I hate trying to do this part, so I’ll just tackle it the same way I did last year. Instead of filing all of our matches under the L or W columns, I’ll categorize all these games as likely wins, likely losses, or toss ups. So here we go.
Week 1 - Cowboys: Likely Win
Week 2 - @Falcons: Likely Loss. I think we split with the Falcons, but we’re pretty shitty in their house and I don’t see that trend reversing itself this year.
Week 3 - Bangles: Likely Win
Week 5 - Giants: Likely Win
Week 6 - @Redskins: Likely Win. I could see us blowing this one, but I think our roster is in a better place than theirs at the moment.
Week 7 - @Eagles: Likely Loss. Did you see what they did to us last time? Shudders.
Week 8 - Raven: Toss up. This game is gonna be fuck ugly. I’m thinking something like 10-13. I think we have a slight advantage, but I am in no way comfortable about going up against that defense. And Ravens fans should feel the same way.
Week 9 - Buccaneers: Likely Win. I want to be perfectly clear that while I think the Buccs are going to be a terror this year, so long as they don’t collapse under the weight of their own internal bullshit. Their DL is fucking terrifying. I think they’ll be a real challenge, but as we tend to play like shit in Atlanta, so too do the Buccs in Carolina.
Week 10 - @Steelers: Likely Loss. I could see this turning into a real shootout or a total ass whoopin. And while Leveon Bell doesn’t especially scare me (no RB does when you get down to it; we’re very good at shutting down run games), Antonio Brown is the kind of player we have absolutely no answer for.
Week 11 - @Lions: Likely Win. We demolished the Lions last year with a worse team, and we did it in Detroit. I think the Lions will be good but I’m not overly worried about this one.
Week 12 - Seahawks: Likely Win. I fucking hate playing Seattle and there’s always a chance that Wilson torches us. But the secondary’s not what it used to be, and the OL still sucks. Even when we played the Hawks before, we played them close. So it think homefield advantage and their attrition has us with the advantage in this tilt.
Week 13 - @Buccaneers: Toss Up. I like Tampa’s odds in this game. But I can’t bet on my team to lose to the Buccs as long as Koetter is their coach and Smith is their DC.
Week 14: @Browns: Likely Win
Week 15: Saints: Likely Loss. I’m going to pick us to lose to the Saints until I see some regression in them or some serious progression in us. Our regular season showings against them last year were fucking embarrassing.
Week 16: Falcons: Toss Up. I feel pretty good about the Falcons in our house. It just feels like the kind of seasons where all the teams in our division cut each other to ribbons. But I’m not confident enough about the strength of our secondary to say that we’re likely to beat them either.
Week 17: @Saints: Likely Loss.

Conclusion

For those keeping score at home, that’s 8 games that I think we’re probably going to win, 5 games that we’re probably going to lose, and 3 games that I think can go one way or the other. Knowing us, we’ll probably snatch some improbable victory in there and blow some easy game that should have been a layup as well. So I’ll go ahead and say what my friends in the Carolina fandom probably don’t want to hear; My gut says we’re a 9-7 team this year. Our upside is as high as 12 wins, but 9 feels about right. Not good enough for the playoffs, but not a disaster either.
The reason for my relative pessimism is that while I think we’re moving in some very positive directions, it’ll just take a while to bare fruit this year. We’ve got the right idea in terms of the offensive strategy and the changes to the defensive approach, but the blood we’re relying upon for a lot of it is either too old or too young. This will be a “proof of concepts” season where we see which of our new ideas works and which don’t, and then next year we’ll see us double down on what works and really kick some League ass. But there’s a lot in flux right now and I think we’ll have to take the good with the bad while we figure it all out.
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[ALL] The Super Diaz Bros' Last TV Supper

Max and Chloe don’t exist. They’re Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, the magical child and the manic pixie dream girl. Rachel is Max aged up, reborn and transformed in a ritual of fiery lust. Chloe is the Kewpie mayo, Max is the mustard and Rachel is the ketchup (or hawt sauce) to Frank’s Hawt Dawg Man. This is Brody’s backpack, courtesy of Kalikabanos Apparently, Mushroom is a “reused asset” from Max’s journal. Here’s the little angel Kate, sketching a noose on The Tree from the Overlook. The same tree that 16-year-old Chloe draws 18-year-old Max being hanged from, even though Max was 13 the last time they saw each other. Next up is Kate's diagram of quantum entanglement (maybe?), which looks like Brody’s hobo symbol for “get out quick”- two people escaping through a portal, or two spears penetrating an eyeball (pump the eyeball to get out of class early). The same Kate who drew a little one-eyed wolf wearing a bandolier, just like the bearry-blue Sky Pirate and his 3 foam bullets, just like Captain Bluebeard and her 3 bullet necklace. The same Kate who was saved from falling off Blackwell by Miracle Max the magical child, just like Chris was saved from falling off a ladder by Daniel. Confused yet?
Blackwell is full of artsy kids because they’re all fragments of Frank, the man who animated them. Kate has two classmates who like to sketch, Daniel DaCosta and Stella, and all 3 of them sit at the same table in the nightmare diner. Birds of a feather flock together. Sean and Max are sketch artists too, always outlining their surroundings. She fills her journal with sketches of the day’s events. The Diaz brothers are Kate’s little wolves. Chris is Frank’s inner child, powered by youthful creativity. Charles is Frank as a washed-up athlete in a Springsteen music video, reliving his glory days through the TV. William is Frank all cleaned up, the too-good-to-be-true sitcom dad. He's not content being Dorothy- he wants to be the Wicked Witch, the Wizard of Oz and all the characters in between.
Chris is a sponge, soaking up pop culture from a million different sources to lay the subliminal groundwork for future Frank’s fantasy world. Everything he consumes is thrown into the mental blender along with his own life story. Each time TV’s Frank pushes the button a new schizophrenic smoothie pops out- LiS, BtS, and LiS2- but that same great Frank flavor always rises to the top. Beaver Creek is a combination of Leave it to Beaver and Wolf Creek, Greg McLean’s horror film about Australian backpackers being hunted by a serial killer. When Mark Jefferson calls his class “pesky kids” and yells at Max for snooping around the Dark Room, he’s mimicking an unmasked Scooby Doo villain: “And I’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” The scene shifts every time you switch the lens- Rachel sees her lying dad kissing his mistress. James sees himself saving Rachel from a bad influence. Chloe sees a corrupt politician giving an angel the kiss of death.
Red, yellow and blue: The primary colors are very popular with comic book colorists, movie poster makers and Chris Eriksen. USA and Pepsi Cola, Hulk Hogan and Mickey D’s. Combine all 3 and you get Superman, the ultimate superhero. Click the CS title screen and the words flip from mustard yellow to ketchup red. All the logos were hand-crafted by Chris, yellow on the front and red on the back. Sean kicks aside the red, yellow and blue toy truck- the one from Chris’ house- before sitting down with Lyla. Chris uses the blue and yellow Power Bear to recreate Bane breaking Batman’s back. Choosy Diazes choose Bane brand ketchup. You and I merely watch the television. Chris was born in it, molded by it. He’s Max Headroom inside the boob tube, a deer in the snow globe. He’s Eminem (M&M) dressed up as Robin, Franklin the (Teenage Mutant Ninja) Turtle wearing a Fistful of Dollars-style scrap iron vest as his turtle shell. His shirt represents all the characters inside of him, heroes and villains alike.

Got My Mind Hallucinatin’

All of Frank’s hallucinations are birthed from a little seed, something that catches his ear or strikes his eye. It worms its way into his subconscious, a gut feeling that grows and grows until it explodes outward like a psychedelic chestburster. When something irritating invades an oyster’s shell, the oyster will wrap it in many layers of calcium carbonate before finishing it off with an iridescent coating of nacre. The result is a pearl, a strange and wonderful little orb concealing something unpleasant. An alluring fantasy built around a kernel of truth.
Frank’s pearls consist of 3 main parts. The first is an irritant, like a family that reminds him of his own. He responds by smothering it- Frank murders the father and “liberates” the mothechild. As Daniel says, “The mom was nice, the dad was kind of a weenie.” The third piece is the shiny sugar-nacre coating. He reimagines his actions as a sweet and sour adventure in Francis’ Fantasia, the delicious outer layer of Willie’s Everlasting Gobstopper. The dead are resurrected into, in the words of Matt Groening, “a sort of weird, zombified ideal of the American family”. A beautiful lie to protect his own innocence. Sean tells Daniel they’re going on a grand adventure, James hides Sera from Rachel, and nobody knows what William was lying bout. Sean makes a game of it to see how far they can walk. It's reminiscent of Life is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni’s movie about a Jewish family sent to a concentration camp. The dad spares his son from the horror by convincing him that they're all competitors in a grand game to win a battle tank.
Video games train us to see the world as our piñata. Smash these urns, slash that grass, run over those pedestrians and be rewarded with a grab bag of goodies. Mario bashes blocks and all sorts of powerups and coins pop out. Magic Mushrooms to embiggen the body, Super Leaves for a flying raccoon suit and Fire Flowers to become his fire form. If he snags a Super Star, he becomes temporarily invincible. The gas station is where all the seeds from the woods come to fruition for the Diazes. They read warnings about bears and see claw marks on the trees, then encounter a gas station run by a Mama and Papa bear with a bunch of bear carvings. They find a bunch of crazy mushrooms and up pops Mushroom in a basket. They spot a raccoon and Shazam! there’s a raccoon suit for sale. If Sean checks his bag it’s full of leaves- Super Leaves.
Sean listens to “On the Flip of a Coin”, raids the coin jar and uses a rock to force open the money box at the park. As Daniel plays the Power Bear claw machine he says he’s gonna “beat this boss”. He wins a Minibear, a red plastic egg with a baby Power Bear inside. Like Poké Balls or Chloe’s snow globe collection, the Catcher in the Rye’s gotta catch ‘em all. Frank is Megaman going from boss to boss, collecting their “tiny tools” and leveling up with each conquest. When Daniel power bombs the bear boss, the Super Diaz Bros. are showered in loot. Daniel-Sean is the young bear come to take down the grizzled Hank Stamper. Daniel even calls his bedroom the Bear Lair.
It’s a Peter Pan plan in action, over and over: Frank breaks into a house, kills the father and steals the child. Pompidou, Mushroom, and Baby Rachel were all taken from the rich to give to the poor. When Samuel's waxing poetic about Rachel, he calls her a good egg: a baby dragon. In the drama lab dressing room, Mario’s mystery block is floating behind Chloe. Rachel asks if she brought her flowers. Later they set fire to The Tree together, and Chloe rescues some flowers from her trashcan. The rope from the fallen tire swing forms a question mark as she cracks open the viewfinder to collect its coin. Life needs a little mystery, Chloe.
Flip of the Coin recommends that Sean leave his fate in the hands of a coin flip. But the flip is rigged by you, deciding which fork he should take. Frank can feel your eye gazing down upon him, your hand tugging at the strings. He’s been a very bad boy, so he hides his naughtiness under the blanket. Thomas Bowdler was the man who censored Shakespeare, Big Willie himself. Disney is notorious for neutering their source material this way. Bowers has Bowdlerized his own life- not just to protect his inner child, but also for the home audience. Best freakin’ fighters forever.. That’s a dollar for the swear jar! That is, until the shit hits the fan and the f-bombs start dropping- right before a real bomb goes off. Fun fact: Some freakin' idiot edited a line in The Tempest from “Full fathom five thy father lies” to “Thy Daddy’s dead, thy Daddy’s dead”.

I Think I <3 You

Chris’ favorite book is a twist on Where the Wild Things Are, and references to it pop up everywhere. It’s about an angry young boy called Max who turns his own bedroom into a fantasy world to escape his parents. He tames the beasts within and becomes the King of the Wild Things. Swimmers are Otters, football players are Bigfoots, Rachel’s a dragon and Chloe’s a shark. Max becomes an otter in Chloe’s water, and there’s a graffiti shark eating an otter on the wall outside. When Chloe looks at Mr. Sharkie, she says, “Fun fact: shark babies eat their siblings in the womb. Maybe that's why I'm an only child?" The Tin Man frightens Dorothy with the threat of wild animals the same way Sean teases Daniel. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! What a big foot you have, Grandma!
Daniel is always trying to one-up Sean and wants every animal he sees to be his pet- including the dragon in the clouds. He wants to be King of the Wild Things. Chloe tells Rodney and Rachel that no flamethrower, no army of robot ninjas, not even a dragon on a leash could stand in her way. Rachel is Frank’s Fire Flower flamethrower, his baby dragon in a bottle- the spark that sets Arcadia Bay ablaze, the inferno that roasts Duurgaron, and the hellfire he unleashes against all the raging bulls of his own private nightmare. A sentient tool, like Max the human camera/time machine or Esteban the living compass. On Chris’ wall there’s a drawing of Power Bear punching out Chloe, a ninja riding Rachel, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fighting Hawt Dawg Man.
The Caped Eyeball is the one-eyed monster (One-Eyed Willie), the All-Seeing Eye, the Bad Dad that must be defeated. Frank is a hotdog harvesting hero, Kate’s backpacking monkey misses his banana, Hayden’s stealing all the pencils, Rachel’s rewriting Big Willie’s script and Barb punches the “stupid man cow” right in the dick. This is neither a banana nor a cigar nor a Mario Bros. pipe. How many sexually suggestive symbols can you spot in this picture of a Penis Bear sheath? Note the red and blue “spears” pointing towards the portal.
Next to the pirate ship in the hospital, there’s a toy robot and 3 stuffed animals: Chris’ Henry, Max’s Captain, and Victoria’s baby lion- which also appears in William’s car when Chloe is apologizing for decapitating Rachel. Mikey leaves a drawing of a time-travelling robot (Max) riding a T-Rex (Rachel) in Drew’s room. There’s a letter asking him for help with a robot in his hospital room. The same toy robot appears next to Robot Rachel, transforming into a Destructicon with the power of love. From magical child to destroyer of worlds, the Wild Thing that makes Frank’s heart sing. Jimi Hendrix, dressed all in red and yellow, made national news by sacrificing his red Stratocaster at the end of a performance of Wild Thing. He dry humped it, he fisted it and he painted it with lighter fluid squirted out of a mustard yellow bottle (positioned at crotch level). Then he set fire to it and smashed the shit out of it. It wasn’t very subtle. Spoiler alert: Max’s guitar is a sexual organ.

Lisztomaniac

Lisztomania was the Beatlemania of the 1800s. Franz Liszt was a composer and virtuoso pianist touring Europe. Fans began swarming him, throwing their underwear on stage and clamoring for souvenirs. Coffee grounds and cigar stumps for vials and lockets, a piano string to make a bracelet- anything to give them a personal connection. This was well before the time of radio and TV, and celebrity worship of musicians was a novel idea. Lisztomania was considered a contagious medical condition.
To use Samuel’s analogy, Franz’s fans went after him like squirrels chasing food. Eliot stalking Chloe is a mirror of Samuel stalking Rachel. Hans Christian Andersen said an electric shock passed through the room when Liszt entered, and a ray of sunlight passed over every face. Eliot writes “when she left the room it was electric” and Samuel says Rachel was sunlight. Eveline Hańska said Liszt’s glassy eyes sparkled like cut diamonds lit by his wit. Samuel says Rachel is a prism and a dragon made of diamonds. Eliot says Chloe’s eyes flash bright like coins (Mario coins?)
Franz was the social equal of kings and queens. Rachel is Blackwell royalty. When he skipped out on a lover in the middle of the night, she broke all the furniture in their hotel room. Like Daniel wrecking the Three Seals room, or Chloe smashing up the Junkyard, or Chloe throwing a fit when she finds the pictures of Rachel and Frank. Doctors tried to immunize people against Lisztomania, so Max says fuck you to the flu shot.
Lyla creeps up behind Sean as the boy on the bus listening to Phoenix’s Lisztomania walks away. Her bookbag straps are covered in little bombs, like the album cover. Manic pixie dream girls are a popular fantasy- the quirky girl that seems to exist solely to break the awkward male lead out of his shell. Chloe takes Max from chickenshit to Everyday Hero and Lyla is Sean’s personal love witch. She’s the devil feeding his obsession with Jenna, the way Victoria fuels Nathan's destructive desire for Rachel.
Figurines, avatars and people are all fungible to Frank. Almost everyone in LiS2 has a hard shell of unmoving hair, like a Ken doll. But Lyla has a headful of snakes that jiggle back and forth with every twitch of her head. There are two other people with living hair: Doris Stamper and post-accident Daniel. The movement is downright unnatural at times, glitching out like Officer Matthews' dashcam, or Sean's souvenirs.. or Max Headroom. Hair is a fixation for several serial killers. Frank from Maniac scalps women to bring his mannequins to life, Quentin weaves Squirrel’s pigtail into a bracelet, and George from The Lovely Bones keeps a bit of his victim’s hair in his secret serial killer sketchbook. The most treasured trophy a Franz Liszt superfan could receive was a lock of his hair. He received so many requests that he bought a dog to send people clippings of dog hair in lieu of his own.

Lyla Versus Powerman

There’s a lot of other weirdness surrounding Lyla. Her name sounds like the deflating lilo from Spanish Sahara, and she could be an aged-up Ayla from Can Ulkay's Ayla: Daughter of War. It's about a little Korean girl who's adopted by a Turkish soldier after her entire village is massacred- Frank's kind of story. There's also a horror movie called Ayla, about a 4-year-old sister brought back to life as an adult woman 30 years later. There’s a fuzzy red ball attached to her backpack, like a moogle’s pompom. Moogles are teddy bear fairies from Final Fantasy that speak in electronic squeaks. Every so often there’s a synthesized chirp in the background while Lyla chats with Daniel. Even stranger, someone keeps revving up a chain saw. Before Sean enters the gas station, he finds an advertisement for an Ash-82 posted by Sam R.
It's a reference to Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, the first movie to star Ash Williams- who Frank has blended in his mind with Ash Ketchum, the star of Pokémon. Chloe’s tape recorder, Daniel’s fear of the trees and Daemon Merrick’s fire pokér incident can all be traced to scenes from Evil Dead. In Evil Dead 2 Ash cuts off his possessed right hand and replaces it with a chainsaw, like Hook’s hook or Barb’s ripper fist. He eventually upgrades the chainsaw to a Power Glove. It’s a robotic claw, and before that it was a Nintendo accessory. Combining the two gives us the Power Bear claw machine.
There’s a circular saw in Esteban’s garage, and while he’s down there Lyla will text Sean threatening to take his hot dad. Father and son can discuss Sean’s essay on Slaughterhouse-Five. Remember Mikey’s Slaughter-Maze of Duurgaron? Remember in The Shining, when an axe-wielding Jack chases Danny around the maze? The last thing Sean says before going inside is “Hello, Friday night”, perhaps a reference to the gender-swapping villain of Friday the 13th. In Army of Darkness, Ash travels back to the Middle Ages, where he envisions himself as a king blowing away witches with his “boom stick”: a 12-gauge double-barreled Remington. Chloe helps Rose by fetching her broomstick, and dresses up as a witch for Halloween. First Samuel sweeps, and then he paints. The chainsaw is Sean’s brum-brumstick, and he cleans house with the help of Lyla the Love Witch. Sean is the barbarian slashing, stabbing and bashing his way through hordes of dragonkins. Lyla and Daniel are the mages, terrorizing them with fire and ice, lightning and acid.
In Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional, a corrupt cop named Norman Stansfield doubles as the Big Bad Wolf. He looooves blasting Beethoven and popping pills before hunting little piggies with his shotgun. Léon is a professional “cleaner”, a supernaturally talented hitman who single-handedly blows away teams of bodyguards. He’s strictly a lone wolf, with only a houseplant for companionship- like Louis Bloom or Max’s Lisa- until he meets little Mathilda. When Norman murders her family Léon takes the girl under his wing. As he teaches her how to be a hitman- his partner in crime- he slowly becomes the Woodcutter to her Red Riding Hood. Mathilda even wears a red beanie to match his grey one. Chloe says to Rachel, “I’m the lone wolf, you’re Little Red Riding Hood.” When the Big Bad comes to blow their apartment down with rocket-propelled grenades, Léon hacks open an escape route for her with his axe: The Woodcutter cutting Red out of the Wolf’s belly. Fun fact: In Pulp Fiction, the Wolf is a different sort of cleaner- he cleans up other people’s mistakes, erasing all the bloody evidence.
Now, imagine for a moment that there is no Norman, and Léon isn’t such an amazing badass. He fantasizes about killing trained gunmen while he's slaughtering unarmed women and children in their homes. Fine and dandy when he’s blasted out of his mind- but when the buzz wears off and he sees a little girl return from the grocery store to find her dead family, it’s a rude awakening. So the Big Bad Wolf reluctantly becomes the Woodcutter. At the end Léon suicide bombs Norman and Mathilda goes back to being a schoolgirl. She’s the one telling his story, but she never actually saw who murdered her family. Frank is recreating this, and the noble sacrifice is his ultimate fantasy. Barb impaled on Duurgaron’s blade as she smashes his bracer, Chloe taking a bullet for the Bay, Jesus dying for our sins. Chloe’s sacrifice is her superhero ending.
Frank prepares to “jugulate” the Diazes with Phoenix’s Lisztomania, a song about a broken-hearted boy whose first love turned him into a wolf. For Rachel, it’s Broods’ Taking You There: “In the dead of night I'll meet you in my sleep, and in the morning light you'll wake up next to me.” The camera tracks Rachel and Chloe from the strangest angles: Frank’s POV as he stalks them from the bushes. He listens to Syd Matters’ To All of You, a song comparing American girls to dolls, before following Chloe into the girl’s room. Each time Frank descends into Hell as a devil and comes back up an angel. Reborn from the ashes like a phoenix, with a new face and a new Beanie Baby at his side. Chloe is the Corpse Bride of Frankenstein.

Talkin’ Chainsaws

The unidentified electronic twang from Lyla’s conversation also evokes Terry Cashman’s baseball song Willie, Mickey and the Duke, which has a similar sound effect when Terry time warps to the 1980s. There are many references to baseball: The glass lens, Frank’s cap, Brett and Frank’s tees, Chris’ baseball cards and Chloe’s bat. Harry Aaron Prescott is Sean Prescott’s father, and Hank Stamper is the bearish father figure that Sean must defeat. They’re both nicknames for Henry- as in Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, the man who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. Chloe hammers the vending machine until it gives up its Baby Ruth. Chris’ teddy bear Henry is a chip off the old block. Most important of all is the ball and glove from Sean’s sketchbook. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre features Leatherface, a chainsaw wielding fellow who wears a home-made skin mask inspired by Ed Gein. It makes his head look like the unholy love child of an oversized baseball and its glove. Together, Lyla and Sean are Lilo and Stitch.
Bringing this insane mashup full circle is Fun and Fancy Free, a Disney double feature narrated in live-action sequences. The second half stars Mickey, Donald and Goofy as 3 peasants who face off vs Willie, a magical giant with the powers of flight, invisibility and shapeshifting. Willie the giant is the god-like father figure and Mickey is the rebellious young buck who slays him, like Mickey Knox. Except Willie resurrects at the end of the movie, escaping the cartoon and tearing the roof off the narrator’s house: William jumping out of Chloe’s dreams and into her truck. He’s Chloe’s dark passenger, à la Dexter Morgan: the childhood trauma driving her to kill.
To follow Frank’s train of thought, you have to let your mind flow in an abstract stream of consciousness, each idea merging into the next. He takes Bruce Lee’s words to heart- “Be formless, like water.” Willie, Mickey and the Duke begins “The Whiz Kids had won it”- to Frank, that’s Sidney Lumet’s The Wiz with Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as The Scarecrow. Hence the wizard teddy in Mikey’s room. Willie Mays could be the greatest five-tool baseball player of all time. Frank uses his father’s toolbox to do his work- Torches and icepicks and chainsaws, oh my! Mays shares his birth year and the year of his MLB debut with Mickey Mantle, possibly the greatest switch hitter of all time. Switch hitting, ambidexterity, gender fluidity and shapeshifting- the essence of Frank.
The Duke was a triple threat, excelling at baseball, basketball and football- perhaps why the Eriksens are a basketball family and the Norths are a football family. There’s a baseball movie called Major League where the players have recycled names like Willie Mays Hayes and The Duke. Charlie Sheen is “Wild Thing”, who becomes a star pitcher after getting glasses. Cashman’s song also has a line about Yogi Berra- the inspiration for Yogi Bear- reading the comics all the while. Daniel is Boo-Boo, Yogi’s baby bear sidekick. “Hey hey, Boo-Boo” becomes a text from Lyla calling Daniel her boo, and “We must not forget ze booze!”- that is, the boos.
The first half of Fun and Fancy Free is Bongo the bear’s coming of age tale as he battles Lumpjaw for Lulubelle’s paw. Bongo, of course, is the name of Chloe’s dead cat-not-really-a-cat. Hank Stamper is Lumpjaw. Jiminy Cricket is playing the story on a record player next to a doll (Lulu) and a teddy bear (Bongo). Bongo’s primary weapon is his unicycle, which he uses like a buzzsaw vs Lumpjaw’s vicious claws and giant tree cudgel. Chris plays his angelic mother’s old record when he wants to hear Moon and Moon. The singer is a huntress searching for a bear to lick her clean, a husband to come shoot the big bad hand that’s pushing her down. It seems Papa Power Bear put Baby in the corner.

Travis Keaton

Arthur Miller, the Trinity Killer from Dexter, has a predictable cycle. First he finds a 10-year-old boy and lures him to a hidden location. He pretends to be a cop to gain his trust. He makes the boy dress up in PJs and calls him Arthur as they play trains together. Then he feeds him special ice cream and buries the sleeping boy alive in cement. Arthur is Peter Panning himself, preserving his own innocence before “the accident”.
Next he finds a young woman like his sister Vera. He forces her into a bathtub with him, “hugging” her from behind as he slices an artery in her leg. He uses a hand mirror to watch her face as she bleeds out, then cleanses himself in a scalding hot shower. When Arthur was 10, he peeped on Vera in the shower. She saw his face in the mirror and slipped, crashing into the shower doors. A shard of glass cut her leg and she bled to death. Arthur lost his sister and his childhood innocence on the same day: Chloe losing William and Max back to back.
The third actor is a mother of two. He takes her up to a rooftop and orders her to jump. If she refuses he threatens her children. Arthur’s mother Marsha jumped off a bridge after Vera’s death. The final victim is an older man, preferably an alcoholic. Sometimes he splits this part between two men. He picks a fight with the first, allowing “Henry” to beat him down. Later he returns to bludgeon Henry with a hammer: Hammerin’ Hank. Henry blamed Arthur for Marsha and Vera’s deaths, making his life hell until Arthur got big enough to silence him. Charles blames Chris for Emily’s death and Chris clearly wants to kill him- he shoots Charles’ head, roasts his reflection and blows up his snow effigy. Chloe fantasizes about murdering David as she looks for his wrench. Esteban is in a very vulnerable position when “Sean” enters the garage- he can’t see who came in. When Brett picks a fight with Sean, he’s already covered in bloody hand prints.
Consider Jefferson’s master plan. First he takes photos of Kate “sleeping” like an angel- preserving her innocence on film. He releases the video of her corruption, encouraging other students to bully her. Jefferson acts like an older brother or a cool uncle, and he grooms Kate to see him as a father figure. When she comes to him for support he blames her and says she’s just looking for attention. If Max is sympathetic, he says Kate doth protest too much- basically calling her a slut. Innocent Kate is little Mark, and corrupted Kate is his mom jumping to her doom. If Jefferson and the Trinity Killer ever met, they’d be BFF.

Team Killer

Let me tell you about the other TK that Frank idolizes- Ted Kaczynski, the brilliant mathematician who tried to turn back the clock on civilization and rewind us to our hunter-gatherer roots. As a child he was temporarily quarantined in an isolation facility, leading him to empathize with caged animals. After scoring 167 on an IQ test he was skipped ahead to the 6th grade. Overnight he went from being a leader among his peers to an easy target for bullies. At 16 he got into Harvard on a scholarship, before he even got his driver’s license.
Ted lived in a residence at 8 Prescott St. before moving into the Eliot House dorms. At Harvard he was tricked into participating in a psychological study conducted by Henry Murray, who was rumored to be conducting studies as part of Project MKUltra- the CIA's attempt to create a mind control program through drugs, hypnosis, torture, sensory deprivation, and the sexual abuse of children. You can read about it on the CIA’s website. Ted was required to write essays about his hopes and beliefs, which were handed over to a man paid to bully and humiliate him. The sessions were filmed and the subjects were made to watch their own reactions to the abuse ad nauseam. This happened every week for 3 years.
In Ted’s mid-20s, his social isolation and sexual repression began to take its toll. The sounds of people having sex drove him crazy, and he believed his landlord was turning the other tenants against him. He dreamt of psychologists trying to control his mind and popping back up if he killed them. He went to see a psychiatrist planning to discuss a sex change operation. Ted didn’t identify as a woman, he just thought it was the only way he’d ever get to touch one. After a brief career in academia, he abruptly retired and retreated to a cabin in the woods. He planned to live with as little contact with society as possible, aside from occasionally biking to the library. When developers began to destroy the woods around his cabin, he decided that conflict was inevitable.
When Kaczynski’s mail bombs first started showing up, he was nicknamed the “Junkyard Bomber” because they were all made from readily available scrap. The first was a pipe bomb with wooden plugs inside a handmade wooden box. When opened, a trigger would strike the matches and ignite the bomb. He often included bits of bark, and two of his targets were named Wood. His final bomb killed a lobbyist for Big Timber. Ted worked alone- obviously- but he included little messages between imaginary co-conspirators to throw off investigators. He inscribed his bombs with the initials FC, for Freedom Club. His manifesto never refers to himself in the singular, always we or FC. It’s like he saw himself as a superhero in the Justice League. His nickname was changed to the Unabomber because he targeted universities and airplanes, including a bomb in the cargo hold of American Airlines Flight 444
Warren is the Unabomber. At 16, he’s quite gifted and one of the youngest students at Blackwell. He fights with Nathan Prescott, the typical rich bully riding his Dad’s coattails, and is friends with Eliot: 8 Prescott St. and Eliot House. Eliot’s dorm is almost as woody as Rachel's house, and he argues with Warren about Ed Wood. 44 Cedar St. isn’t just referring to Child 44 and Zombie- it’s a layered reference to Flight 444 and TK’s obsession with wood. Eliot sketched the rocket that appears on Daniel’s t-shirt. The psychic bomber built Sean’s rocket out of a used toilet roll, duct tape and matchsticks. Lyla the love bomber hates airplanes.
Max has to respond to Warren’s text before he blows up her phone. He teaches her to build a pipe bomb from odds and ends lying around the school so she can break into Principal Wells’ office. It’s revenge against the ivory tower father figure who let his cries for help fall upon deaf ears, like when Max tried to report Nathan’s gun. They’re blowing open a doorway into Wells’ mind- making him listen- the same way Chris blows up his ciggy butt snowfather with an exploding “cigar”. The Junkyard is everyone’s secret hideout, a natural location for the Junkyard Bomber and his Freedom Club. Chloe wishes the whole town would get nuked, and if you let the storm wipe it out nature will reclaim Arcadia Bay.

Munchkin Murder

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” is the lyric from Beautiful Boy that Jefferson likes to quote. It’s a song John Lennon wrote to comfort his son Sean after a nightmare. Lennon was a great artist but a terrible person in a lot of ways, including beating women and abandoning his first son, Julian. Mark David Chapman was a Beatles megafan with a troubled childhood. His father abused his mother, his mother constantly told him he was destined for greatness, and the children at school bullied him. He described his mom as “right out of Glass Menagerie”- the Tennessee Williams’ play on Rachel’s board o’ inspirations. Like Max in Where the Wild Things Are, he made a fantasy world inside his room, with a town of people that lived in the walls and worshipped King Mark. When he was happy they went about their daily jobs, and he gave them Beatles concerts put on by toy soldiers on a cardboard stage. When he was angry he smashed the town and murdered little people by the thousands.
After hitting puberty, his fantasy changed to having a secret dungeon in the basement of his school filled with women that he touched but didn’t have sex with. On the plane Max learns that none of Jefferson’s victims were physically or sexually assaulted. At 12 a little girl he’d decided was his one true love broke his heart, and he obsessed over her for the rest of his life. Years after Max left the Bay, Chloe is still writing her angry journal entries (but ready to take her back in a heartbeat). At 14 he started using drugs and ran away from home, living on the streets for a couple of weeks. After one hell of an acid trip he thought he’d become John Lennon. At 16 he discovered Holden, the Catcher in the Rye. His favorite movie was Wizard of Oz and he also identified with Dorothy. As an adult he became a very popular summer camp counselor. The kids called him Nemo, after Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Chris has a Nemo submarine in his bathtub. Mark also worked briefly as a security guard.
Mark became a born-again Christian in 1970, four years after John Lennon declared the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. The comment stuck with him for the next 10 years. His mental health ebbed and flowed, alternately attempting suicide and trying to reenact Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. The “little people” returned to Chapman’s head and he developed a persecution complex. He tried to change his name to Holden Caulfield and became fixated on saving kids from falling off the cliff of phoniness.
The breaking point came when he found a book full of photographs of John Lennon showing off his wealth- the height of hypocrisy for the man who penned Imagine. Mark started stripping naked, playing Beatles records and begging Satan to lend him his power. In 1980 he flew to New York to stop John Lennon from leading any more children to their doom. He hired a prostitute and gave her a massage instead of having sex with her, mirroring Holden’s experience. He left a little shrine on the hotel dresser with mementos from his life, including a postcard of Dorothy wiping away a tear from the Cowardly Lion. Before shooting Lennon Mark bought another copy of Catcher in the Rye, believing that afterwards he would curl up into a ball and vanish into the pages of the book. In his statement to the police, he said he was split in two parts. The big part was Holden Caulfield, and the small part- his child self- was the Devil, urging him to kill.

Dancing in the Dark

This is Donnie Darko, his little sister Samantha and her stuffed unicorn Ariel. They’re chilling in a motel room watching TV because their home was wrecked in a freak accident: a red and white spiraled jet engine landed directly on Donnie's room. The funny thing is, there was no plane flying overhead. Donnie narrowly avoided being crushed because a man in a giant rabbit suit named Frank told him to wake up and walk outside.
Frank starts paying Donnie nightly visits because he stopped taking his medications. The last time Donnie was unmedicated, he started setting buildings on fire. At night he becomes a sleepwalking zombie, taking his marching orders from Frank. The night that he escapes the jet engine Donnie sleepwalks out to a golf course where Frank tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. He wakes up with a black marker in his hand and 28:06:42:12 on his arm- the same way Chloe wakes up with words like “Nevermore” written on her palm. The same way the insomniac Lyla uses Sean as her human post-it note. She tells Sean he’ll see more of her skills if he falls asleep first. Frank uses Donnie like Dr. Caligari uses Cesare. Every time Frank tells him to “wake up”, Donnie activates and does his bidding. Before Chloe burns down The Tree with Rachel, her dream graffiti options are “wake up” or “wake up”. The episode is titled Awake.
Donnie’s hallucinations are seeded just like Frank Bowers'. The mysterious jet engine was spawned from the roar of planes flying overhead as he waits for the school bus. You can hear the planes as Lyla walks Sean home from the bus. As she points one out the power line bisects the screen, mirroring the moment when Sean considers calling her back. It also hints at a split personality. In the Title Screen there are two porch umbrellas outside Sean’s house, a grey one on top of a green one. In game there is only the green one. Samantha writes a little story about Ariel leading a prince into a magical world. Frank is a twisted Ariel, Donnie’s White Rabbit leading him into Wonderland. Donnie's girlfriend says his name sounds made up, like a superhero. To change into his costume he simply flips up his hoodie, no telephone booth required.
Donnie’s science teacher is a hip young professor called Kenneth Monnitoff. It’s never explained why a professor is teaching at a high school. He tells Donnie that, in theory, a metal spacecraft flying faster than the speed of light could pass through a wormhole to travel back in time. In fact, any metal craft will do- a DeLorean, an airplane or a one-eyed rocket. When Max rewinds her broken camera in Jefferson’s class, she declares herself a human time machine. Her sketchbook has a drawing of a rather phallic looking rocket, with an arrow pointing to the cap that says “me”. Next to it stands a little character that looks like a cross between Frank the rabbit and Max from Wild Things. Both the squirrel in the woods and the demon Mushroom that Daniel is playing with in the motel look like they’re morphing into Frank- who, by the way, is one-eyed underneath the suit. The giant Wild Thing is a baby chick powered up- a magical child wielding its awesome powers on Frank’s behalf.
There’s another teacher at Donnie’s school named Kitty Farmer. She’s the coach of Sparkle Motion, the junior dance squad that Samantha belongs to. Kitty worships Jim Cunningham, a local self-help author and motivational speaker. He runs a talent show that leads to Sparkle Motion being selected to fly out to LA to perform on Ed McMahon’s Star Search. It’s very similar to the setup where Jefferson selects an Everyday Hero to go to San Francisco. Jim Cunningham has a secret “kiddie porn dungeon” in his home, and the implication is that Kitty is grooming children for him: Kitty Farmer is a Kiddie Farmer. Donnie is watching a double feature of The Evil Dead and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ when Frank opens a portal in the movie screen for him, showing him Jim Cunningham’s house and instructing him to burn it down. Donnie commits several attacks inspired by The Last Temptation- he sees himself as Jesus and Jim Cunningham (JC) as the Antichrist. Sadly, that’s a story for Part V.
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