Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Gen Con

Shortly after I post this I will be off to Gen-Con. Arriving late on the 16th, unless I have fucked up the timing in the transfer in JFK, in which case I will be arriving later.


This is what I look like.




Rules for Approaching Me

  1. Draw your blade with your left hand and lock eyes.
  2. Perform the 9th ablution.
  3. Scatter Salt Before me in a diamond pattern. (Don't break eye contact while doing this.)
  4. As you close the distance, spin a quick 180 to reveal the specially created mask of St Aldhelm (NOT Anslem, too many people make that mistake) and speak his 66th Aenigmatica in Latin.

- I will leaving my laptop at home and using my Mobile to communicate. WhatsApp messages, emails and G+ messages will reach me soonest. Emails will be replied to in minimalist fashion. Texts and calls will cost me money. Reddit and Facebook messages will not be seen.

- No Gifts Please - I'm at my carry-on limit for luggage.

- My gender is the obvious one on sight. (Male). If you want to get funky with the pronouns I will probably just sigh and roll my eyes, I will not take any special offence.

- I am really bad with faces and names. It's highly likely that I will forget exactly who you are. This does not mean I don't value you as a person. If you are worried this has happened its ok for you to subtly weave your name into conversation in the manner of the first page of a 90's X-Men comic:

"So, Storm, who I've know for thirty years, how will we defeat the Sentinels?"

"I don't know Wolverine, who I've also known for thirty years, what about you Scott Summers, my other close personal friend, who some call Cyclops?"

- I have difficulty processing information in complex social situations (like parties) and large crowds so;
  • I will almost certainly have at least one meltdown.
  • If I'm feeling stressed out I will probably try to remove myself from a situation.
  • If you see me trying to remove myself from a situation, please do not follow me asking me why I am removing myself from the situation and trying to make me 'feel better'. I will come back when/if I am ready.
  • If you at any point tell me to 'cheer up' or remark on my visible social discontent, you will be destroyed with immediate orbital bombardment.

- I realise my haircut looks 'a bit fascist', it's just for comfort, and to suit the shape of my square head, not a political statement.

- I'm also probably going to be wearing a lot of black. Seriously, its to hide the sweat from my ripe and decaying body. Its not political.

- I do not want to hear about your political views.

- Regarding sitting in a big block at the Ennies; look you can sit wherever you like but if you are going to the awards ceremony in order to support me, and I don't think this is really necessary to say out loud with my audience but the atmosphere is currently somewhat heady so I am going to make it public and in print;

Treat everyone who gets an award, and everyone in the audience no matter who they are or what side of any internet argument they have been on, with civil respect. Nobody in the room should be made to feel unsafe. If I detect anything to the contrary amongst people who are there to support me, then, regardless of who you are, you will experience and very rapid, immediate forceful and unpleasant confrontation with me directly.

And you will have ruined the night. And nobody wants that do they?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

GETTING CUT IN BITS

Here is a terrible placeholder post where I left the bad spelling in becasue it amused me.

This is based on Zedeks post here -  and Richards comment about 'Partibility' not being a part of the D&D background CulturePool.

So here are some ideas for magical, 'Epic Level' heroes. The GodFighting types, and what happens to them if they die or if they just get sliced to bits, either by a Deamon or as part of a Glorious Sacrifice that Saves the World... Or just becasue they fucked up.



WIZZARD
A book - probably, and a magic animal, like a familiar.
Probably the book and the familiar have different intentions and try to influence their owners to do opposing things. "You have to stop this thing from happening/no you have to MAKE it happen!"
Probably all high Wizzards become frustrating dementia-addled horcruxes on their death and the old spells hang around like feral pets.


FIGHTER
An ever-burning fire, of RAAAAGE! / A magic Shield - maybe thats more Paladin.
A throne of SKULLS.
A majic sword obviously.
Or a loyal yet magic hound like Jake in Adventure Time or that one in the Silmariliiion.
The dog thing and loyal-but-basic-but-still cool animal friend theme would work well here.
Most of the more-practical warrior stuff would fit in well here. What happened to the soul of my 11th-level fighter? Oh a gods wearing him as a suit of armour now.
What I think of more as I play this is that it would be a good idea for a 'Primal' First-Age or Age of Heroes or even Neolithic or Biblical-style game. You could play a game in one of those eras in 5e, but with a low technology level. Then once all the characters die heroically fighting the gods, move to an early modern era with LotFP, so the low power level and grimness of the rules matches the 'fallen world' feel. Everyone feels weaker and less heroic. And the magic thingys the PCs have to find, and even the landscape they have to traverse, is made from their dead heroes from the previous game.
I can imagine a fighter so basic and brutal that one part of them is transformed into a hammer, for the maiming of nerds, and behold, their seperate part is ALSO a hammer, to do exactly the same thing - smash nerd face.


THEEF
A sneaky dimensional portal, one end is hidden and you have to be clever to find it, the other end keeps moving about but its usually in a rich guys bank vault, or somewhere else people don't want you to go.
A flock of creepy birds, like Rooks or Crows.
A secret interdimensional place, like a Tardis or that Harry Potter station.
A fast ship.
Oh god I just re-invented the Black Peal - NO.
A mask maybe? Or a lie? A particular lie that only exists because of this particular thief, and wherever the lie is, the spirit of the thief is also.


CLERICO
A fountain or something that heals the pure.
I feel like this has already been covered by well, every religion pretty much.
It would pretty much depend what god they were into. Something like a huge waterfall might work.
An ever-boiling storm or cyclone for the heavy-metal gods.
An ever-healing bush for the hippy gods.
Widsom fruit for the knowledge gods.


A CONAN
A big valley full of angry animals like dinosaurs because they were so badass when they died the world just crrraccked open and SAVAGERY came out.
Or a really ANGRY horse that is a mount for a god.
Or a fucking insane mountain with snow on top where you can SHOUT AT THE GODS.
Maybe the strength of a Barbarian could become a whole herd of MASSIVE animals like Buffalo, and the spirit could become a harsh north wind or something.
Snow and Biting Wind would be an appropriately Northern-Esque result.


REN-FAIRE
Oh god, I suppose a merry chuckling river or a cheeky monkey or something.
OR an ever-playing viola that can irritate the mildest heart.
Or a foolish dog.
Or maybe a pleasant forest where the 'music' is the wind in its branches?
Or a fucking BIRD.


GALAHAD
I'm thinking sombre protective ghost/magic defensive shield.
Like a Hornburg-style last-fortress. A last-defence-against-evil situation.
An eerie flat lake with strange shadows and possibly a sword-dispensing lady in it.
A Paladin turning into a magic lady and a sword on being bisected feels strangely right. The lady to carry the sword around myteriously, bestowing it on people and then turning up to take it back.
Or a promise. That would be an odd one. Whenever you swear in a certain way or on a certain idea, phrase or object, they are there somehow, incarnated in the oath, and the oath is only possible because of them.


WICKER-MAN GUY
SSSSUUUPPPPERRR.... TREEEEEEEEEEEE!
No forests on Flat Earth Wake UP.
Also maybe a big animal or a whole forest.
Really a druid should just retuuurn to naaaature. Probably become a breeze or grass or something.
Or literally turning into a stone circle, with each stone being a bone, or a place they dropped their blood, like Thors last-three-steps.



JET-LI-GUY
Shit, do you just become pure Chi-Force?
Oh you could actually become a punch, like a literal dragon-punch or Iron-Fist thing where now a new move exists in this reality and any time someone does this particular punch it CANNOT BE BLOCKED except by a defence thing that is also you.
So your chi (aptly enough) seperates into this perfect Yin/Yang thing, accessed through a particular martial form, which can only be countered by its other half. Which might be in the posession of your adopted brother who KILLED YOUR SENSAI.



A STRIDER
A Ranger is a hard one really. Less basic than a fighter but not as froofy as a Druid.
Probably something like a route, a safe journey that connects places and keeps travellers protected.
One part of Strider became the only safe path through the SkullFuck mountains, the other became the trading winds that carry us over the Awesome Sea.
A messanger figure would work as well, like a long-flying bird belonging to a God.



LOVECRAFT FANBOY
Anyone wanking off to Chthulu is going to get eaten by Chthulu. The only thing they should leave behind is a path of temptation and certain DOOM. Like a True Detective mystery or a rumour of perverse and uncontrolable power. The ruins and remains of each Warlock and Sorcerer provide the path of damnation for the next. So maybe the mystery itself is what is left behind, like a pervy Dan brown book. Embedded into the substance of reality itself, something that pulls you into a Ligotti Story.




Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Could you 'Dunkirk' a D&D Adventure?

Chris Nolans film 'Dunkirk' operates across three different but intersecting time periods.

The first is the soldier on the beach, whose story lasts a week.

The second the men in the boat, who's story lasts a day, the last day of the soldiers week.

The third the pilot in the aircraft, who’s story lasts an hour, the last hour of the last day of the soldiers week.

The film intercuts between all of these, transforming them into one story.

So you would need an event taking place across three interacting but generally separate zones of action.

It's difficult to think of anything more perfect than Land, Sea and Air. D&D has its planes of course, and that gives us the perfect method for introducing different time signatures because what could be more intuitive than the land of the Dead having slower time than, for instance, the Plane of Fire?

Lets say a battle on the border of the Plane of Shadow, involving skeletons and ghosts, with involvement from the Plane of Life, or whatever the equivalent of that is in D&D, something involving plants, Dryads, tree-people etc, then finally in the last hour the Plane of Fire comes into contact as the final decider.

And you would need necessary end of the events of the slower time-planes to be in some sense fixed, so that, by the point that the last (fastest) plane comes into action, its actions are still meaningful and will have some effect.

Then we come into the deep problem with all time-fiddly stuff and roleplaying - maintaining meaningful choice. But if the PCs were part of a larger conflict, relatively minor parts, not deciding heroes, then the general structure of the thing could be decided ahead of time and they could still make meaningful choices _inside_ that structure on their own scale of action. Then when we get to the end it turns out actually they were super-important.

So it would go;


  • Death World - Drones in a larger conflict
  • Plant World - Still kinda drones but at least they know more. Might do something useful.
  • Fire World - Actually super-important thank you very much.




So, off the top of my head; Bad Chaotic Death-Lord is besieging a mega-castle with a planar gateway inside, gonna lead his Skeleton Boyz into IRL. 'Good' Lawful Death-Lord is trying to stop him as the main job of being dead is staying dead.

Its a giant attritional WWI conflict with Skeletons digging trenches and huge war machines on each side. The bad guys are aiming for the PLANAR GATE. "If they reach it they will have access to all possible worlds, and be able to re-write history!" And it looks like the Good Guys are losing, or at least being pushed back.


So the scene sequencing might go...



ONE – INTROS

Death - Intro to the attritional Skeleton war PCs are drafted into. Oh gosh look how terrible it is and how fucked we are. The planar fortress has but a week to stand. Things are certainly happening on a GIGANTIC SCALE, in which we are but _drones_. We are certainly minor characters in _this_ conflict.

Plant - "Hey Plant Queen, is me/us those PC's. Remember your ancient agreement with that likeable Death Guy not to allow reality to get skullfucked by Skeleton ISIS? Well the Castle is a day away from falling and we need you help like now!"

Fire - PCs inform Burninating fire spirits about the Castle falling in like, an hour, and they set off for last-ditch special-forces intercept. Grab the PCs on the way there. Or maybe this is an explanation scene with the PCs begging for aid & trying to persuade them.




TWO - THE BIG PUSH

Death – In the middle of resisting a giant assault the PCs find out that those bad-guys are trying to hatch doom-vultures or something. looks like they will be ready in a week. Perhaps someone with initiative and imagination will decide to do something about that.

Plant - Plant Girls arrive at the start of the last day, another chance for a large-scale overview. Yes this does look utterly fucked. But it looks like someone brave has launched a last-minute counterattack towards that Giant Glowy thing which may be the Key To Victory so lets join in.

Fire - Fire Dudes flying about through space. Things at the Reality Castle look utterly, utterly fucked, some baddies virtually at the gate and the counter-attack against the  Big Glowy Thing has stalled with troops pinned down. Better help them out. Look out! Its goddamn Doom-Vultures! Luckily/Unluckily the PCs did/didn't do something about that.



THREE - GONDOR CALLS FOR AID

Death – It’s the last day & someone needs to run for help to the Plant World, maybe the PC's? "We're fucked here, go and call on the ancient Dryad Pact". PC's run off and hopefully end up in the Plant Scene from Section One.

Plant - 'I'm losing too many Root Sisters, go and call on my questionable half brother in the Fire Kingdom". "Go quickly, the castle falls in an hour!" PC's turn up in the Fire scene for section one.

Fire - Ah fuck from up here we can see they have a SUPERDEMON SUMMONING CRYSTAL. We can try to take it out but that would be CERTAIN DOOM. We are going to be extremely reserved and Macho about it.



FOUR - TIME CROSS

Death - It's the big push guys, we need to sally forth and try to take that Glowy Thing in the enemy lines. If we do that then we can win and if we don't, well slip below 50% on Rotten Tomatoes... Who will lead us out of the trenches - probably those dudes!

Plant- I think here Fire and Plant cross times? Maybe we see a fire dude fall out of the sky and have to try to rescue him? But will there be anyone left to rescue? And maybe it’s all pointless anyway? Gasp. Fight your way to the crash site!

Fire - The Fire Dude the PCs are being carried by falls out of the sky, probably blasted by that SUPER DEMON, they already know how long it’s going to take to be rescued as they did that in the last scene so they just need to hold in the impact crater, protecting this wounded guy, until the Plant People from the previous scene show up. Were they fast enough?



FIVE - CLIMAX - UNIFIED TIME

Death - We're nearly there! Despite heavy resistance we have almost reached the Big Glowy Thing, but what's this? A secret SUPER DEMON. If only we had some convenient allies. Gotta hold the line and hope help falls out of the sky.

Plant - We've (probably) rescued that downed Fire Guy, look, on that ridgeline, some familiar-seeming characters locked in battle with a SUPER DEMON - looks like they need some help. Lets go!

Fire - "I might have been shot down by those assholes but thanks to you guys saving me I can get you round the flanks of this battle. While the Skeleton Bros fight the SUPER DEMON and the Plant Girls take it in the side, I can get you to the Big Glowing Thing! And with my FIRE POWERS I can melt the shit out of it!"

Oh fuck its MAIN VILLAIN - right here, next to their Superweapon with everyone present in the same time signature!

And then it’s just a standard fight.


...........................................


I think the only way this is going to work is if the PCs split up, or if they maybe have dual or triple souls due to being actually-alive people and that means different parts of their souls can go to different parts of this fractured reality, like the multi-part souls of Ancient Egyptians, who based their beliefs on Arnold K's Centerra...

There is also the possibility of using D&Ds actually-different realities to have the battle happening across all three planes at the 'same time' but the times themselves are compressed depending on what level of reality they are coming from. Though that would be a challenge to conceive.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Aldhelm Drops the Motherfucking Mic


He wrote 99 riddles but the last one's long.

(Line breaks added by me for ease of reading.)


"The Maker, whose timeless columns lift the world,
The Lord of lands, with reined-in bolts unhurled
As towers turned in spacious skies, created
My multitudes on lands He generated.

I stay on watch (it never helped to doze),
But still I sleep as eyes abruptly close,
For while God rules the world as He propounds,
I too embrace all things beneath its bounds.

No one's more shy than I, nor fears ghosts more,
Though I stay bolder than a bristly boar.

No trophy-taker causes my defeat
Save God, who rules from His high airy seat.
More fragrant than ambrosial scents, (it's true!)
Emitted by a perfume, I can outdo
The scarlet roses, lilies from the yard
As well as, full of sweetness, whiffs of nard,
Though now I rot in filthy, reeking stool.

While God the Archer deigns, by right I rule
The universe beneath the highest star;
I grasp things, gross and graceful as they are.

Behold! I see God's secrets down through sky,
Yet under land foul Hell attracts my eye;
I lived before time, older than the Earth.

Behold! My mother's womb begets my birth,
More gorgeous than gold amulets that glitter,
More gross than thorns, more vile than low-tide litter.

Behold! I'm wider than the limits of Earth's lands,
Yet can be held within a person's hands;
Colder than gleaming frost and winter, though
In Vulcan's searing blazes I may glow.

No nectar on the plate is quite as sweet,
Nor wild gray wormwood quite as foul to eat.

Like hungry Cyclops, I am never sated,
But stripped of food I'd be no less elated.

More swift then eagles, hawks, or Zephyr's wings,
Gross worms, slugs, slow swamp turtles, and those things -
Black beetles spawned in putrid dung - outpace
Me faster than my talk about this race.

I'm heavier than lead - no counterweight
Of stone upon a scale could compensate - 
Lighter than down that makes pond-spiders sprint,
Tougher than flames that spew from bowels of flint
Or iron, softer than a kidney stew.

There are no ringlets on my head to do
Up my high brow with curls or fringe for show,
Though my style lets my forehead's tresses flow
More than a curling iron's crimp allows.

Look, I grow fatter than the greasy sows
With flesh they fill with beechnuts as they eat
While swineherds celebrate their plumper meat.

I'm drawn and pale; fierce hunger tortures me
While I'm deprived of meals of luxury.

I'm sheer. more clear than Titan's orb, I know;
When clouds shed fleece, I'm brighter than the snow,
Yet darker than a dungeons blackest glooms
And dismal spirits Tartarus subsumes.

I'm made with round, smooth form or, to be clear,
Like globes, stars' orbits or a crystal sphere,
And, on the other hand, I'm stretched and spread
Like Chinese silk for robes or slender thread.

Behold with words of wonder; I embrace
Beyond the worlds six zones that measure space.

No life persists below or over me
But God, whose Word controls totality.

I'm bigger than black whales in gleaming waves
And smaller than thin worms that bore through graves
Or motes that shimmering Apollo's glow.

Through lush field on a hundred feet I go,
Yet never trod ground on a walking trip;
This means my insight outstrips scholarship,
Though I have never learned books' precious signs
Or anything of syllables' designs.

I'm drier than a scorching summer sun,
Bedewed and drenched more than a rivers run,
More salty than an ocean wave that gleams;
I flow more freshly than Earth's crystal streams.

Adorned with countless kinds of colouration
That paint the present worlds configuration,
I'm wan and pale; no colour will remain.

Believers: note my words that seem arcane
(Which skilled speech teachers hardly could explain),
And yet no doubting reader thinks them lame.
I ask the windbag scholars for my name.

EXPLICIUNT ENIGMATA 
(THE RIDDLES END)"

From here

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

There's Probably No Pre-History?

I think the term 'Pre-History' should be changed to 'Pre-Record History' or maybe 'Inaccessible History'.

Why?


PART ONE - WHAT IS 'THE RECORD'?

Ok, so what can we agree is history? Let's go through it one-by-one.

Writing - if someone wrote something down and we can get it, especially they themselves were deliberately trying to record their own past, then everyone can agree that yes, this is definitely history.

This is kind of a shit definition since even people who would strongly defend it can probably think of things that are definitely history but that don't involve writing. But it’s also the clearest and most inarguable one that has the most consensus. Like, most people would agree that things other than a painting can be art, but everyone agrees that paintings are art.

Hugh Trevor-Roper, who was a bit of a dick, asked the question "Does Africa have a history?*", which is a typically dickish way of putting it since most people will immediately say "Yes of course Africa has a history, even the non-literate bits that didn't write anything down."

So there is something to examine here in the way we think about the validity of the record. If the subject we are talking about is near-modern people who were non-literate, or mainly non-literate, and who we interacted with in a creepy and colonialist way, pretty much everyone will be willing to say that group has a history, even if it’s unclear to us. We are assuming and accepting the existence of a history which is present but which we cannot directly perceive.

Whereas if we are talking about actual deep-history non-literate stone-age cultures, well we didn't colonise those people and we have no perceivable relationship with them so we are happier dumping them into 'pre-history', which is a slightly different mental category.

(And just to be clear, I don’t think it’s bad to have a ‘hard’ definition that might be unfair or limited in some way. The world needs hard definitions, without them things become a bit of a blur and people don’t even know what they are arguing over any more.)



Oral Stories - still the baseline of intra-person communication for most people on earth. Much more low-fidelity than writing but capable of doing some crazy stuff (Polynesian oceanic navigation, aboriginal Australian stories that seem to record deep-historical geological events). You can run a pretty damn complex society on oral transmission alone. Insanely and utterly near-impossible to ever get an accurate date out of them.



Big Stone Things - If someone spent a lot of time building something FUCKING MASSIVE like a pyramid or a coliseum, then even if it doesn’t have any writing on it, or if it does but we can't really understand what it says. Or if we have sweet fuck all about the exact and specific reasons that it exists (i.e. Stonehenge or anything Neolithic), we still never claim that it is anything except history. Because look at it; its huge and made of stone.


Pictures and Art - Ok but to what extent. So a European oil painting or a Mughal Miniature is history. Are those French cave-paintings history? Probably? How about a piece of bone with cross-hatch scratches and ochre marks? Mmaybe?

That brings us to;


Small Made Things that Probably Aren't Art - An Assyrian clay tablet with a bit of Gilgamesh on it must be history because that’s a thing, and writing, and the writing is itself about past events, making it double-history. History Plus. What about a Greek Cup with some gods and centaurs on it? Ok that's in. What about an unmarked clay cup but the tag on it says it was excavated from so-and-so level on such-a-date in the ruins of Mojinder-Daro? What about an unmarked clay cup? What about part of an unmarked clay cup? What about a single shard of worked clay, but you know where it came from?



Bodies - So a bunch of Iron Age bodies in a bog, with particular weapon wounds and forensically-identifiable damage so we can see that they have been in a battle and estimate the kinds of combat and weapons used; that's almost certainly history. I mean the wounds are a record of a precise series of events. Like words. So they must be history.

That guy that got frozen in ice with his hair and tattoos and whatever. That should be history probably? We can read the wear on his teeth, see the fractures in his bones that healed and puzzle over his tattoos.

Here's a question for you - at what point, from what origins, in what context and of what subject do a bunch of bones move from being a record of history to something other than that? When they are from an indeterminate person? When from a non-human hominid? A near-human hominid that could probably speak a bit?



Genetic History - So this is a very weird one. I suppose we can break it into two parts.

Analysing the Genetics of Old Bodies - This is almost certainly history. We can slot it in as an expansion of or improvement of forensic and cultural Archaeology. If we can look at tooth wear patterns and shards of iron in a wound then adding genetic knowledge to that seems reasonable.

Reading Our Genetic Book - The archaeology of our own bodies. So the ways in which this is like history is that its literally a code - information. An abstract piece of knowledge you can print out on a sheet and which says *only what it says*. Once recorded and understood, the information is the information.

The way in which it is unlike written history is that in using it to build an image of the past, we are creating this imaginary supposition, a winding webwork of descent and change which we try to overlay on, and adapt to, what we know from other sources. The way we interpret this is unlike other forms of historical analysis.






Part 2 -"PREHISTORY WAS JUST A BIG WASH OF PEOPLE BEING HUNTER-GATHERERS."

NO IT WAS NOT AND COULD NOT HAVE BEEN.

First- 

Look at the enormous cognitive, cultural and behavioural differences between people living at a stone-age level of technology in our formally-recorded history. By the standards of 'Pre-History', all these people are simply 'Hunter-Gatherers'.

Hugh Trevor-Roper said another interesting thing, which I've mainly forgotten; "It is not in how they get but how they spend that men show their nature*". Hunter-Gatherers might have done relatively similar things to get their living surplus but they spent that surplus in becoming radically culturally and maybe even cognitively different to each other.

I'm just going to assert at this point that the world had a greater diversity of culture and cognitive styles before the advent of civilisation, with a lower total population, than it did after, and that the growth of civilisation, which has raised the population level, has also reduced diversity of thought and experience.

And I'm not doing evidence because this has taken too long already, because I'm not smart or well-read enough to do it and because it would take years to really do it properly.

So, having blindly accepted that, we now know that 'pre-history' had a great diversity of particular and specific cultures, more than we have now. The societies and groups of that time had specific structures of authority and specific cultural desires. They wanted different things and saw the world in different ways. They had cause to co-operate and cause to compete, and did so in specific ways.


Second - 

There are no non-specific actions in the human past. 'Humanity' never left Africa, particular groups of humans did, and of those groups one particular group must have been the first, and that particular group must have had an authority structure; a way of making decisions. And that means there is a particular range of times and places you could go and see, directly, the decision structures that lead to humans leaving Africa.

You could tell a story about it about a particular group of people, and it would be a true story. We will never know what it was, but the information did exist at one point.

The same is true for every human migration in 'pre-history', humanity didn't cross the land-bridge to the Americas, specific people did, and moved to Australia, and, crucially, arrived in New Zeeland.

And its here that 'pre-history' which I think might not really exist, meets 'history', because no-one reading this is going to tell the Maori that they don't have a history, yet if we go purely by the technological and material record, the colonisation of New Zeeland by the Maori was 'pre-history' even though it happened in near-modern times.

The same with every technological development. 'Humanity' never discovered fire. Specific people did, and then many probably re-discovered it in many places, but these too were particular people. Same with flint knapping or building a particular kind of canoe. Nothing happens to Humanity, humans do things.

And our current global configuration, the way societies work and are laid out, is utterly dependant on these particular actions and decisions made by these particular people.



Part 3 - IS HISTORY THE RECORD? 

(or is History What Happened, regardless of whether we know it or not?)

If History is the record then, logically, we know all history at any particular time. Because we know what we know. We know everything in the record; that’s what history is. Therefore we know all history.

No-one accepts this as reasonable or true.

History cannot be defined simply as what has been recorded.

It might be more interesting and accurate to define it as a process. As the act of remembering, of contextualising and questioning and of searching for memory.

And, if we go back to the beginning, if Africa has a history (but we don't know what a lot of it was), then Pre-History also has a history.

The mistake we have made in thinking about the world is like having a photograph of something really important, and the photo being really blurry and out of focus, and then confidently stating that the events depicted in the photo are 'The Blurred Times'.

"Ah yes, the Blurred Age, things were terribly out of focus then you know. All a big wash of shapeless forms."

Except we know that for the people in those circumstances, things were not blurred. They were particular, individual, highly distinct and mutually consequential. It is accepting our own lack of knowledge about the time as a reasonable label about that time.

That is an insane thing to do.

If I have one central element to my argument its that we should stop accepting the idea of a 'Blurred Age' and instead think about the existence of a specific, unique and consequential series of events which we will never be able to fully access.

The difference between these two modes of thought might seem minor but it changes our moral and intellectual relationship to our own past and our own selves from something comfortable, superior, thoughtless and wrong to one inquiring, curious, humble, ignorant and right.

So there is no 'Pre-History', only 'Inaccessible History'.