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[Table] IAmA: I am Carlos B. García, creator of the indie Action RPG Anima Gate of Memories and writer of Anima Beyond Fantasy books! AMA!

Verified? (This bot cannot verify AMAs just yet)
Date: 2014-06-13
Link to submission (Has self-text)
Questions Answers
Hello Carlos ! I have a theory, based on the illustrations and the crossing timelines, that states Keith Kaiel Sith was divided, because of Rah's machine and the relative failure of his own project before it, into an empty but powerful body that is Némésis, still recognizing Elhazzared as his mother of some kind, and an angry and unstable spirit of darkness called Lazarus that unleash its power from time to time. Are they really related ? With that kind of relation, or something else ? Thank you ! It is very difficult to answer that question without revealing a primeval point of the story. However, at least I will tell you that you are correct in saying that there is a relationship between Khaiel, Nemesis and Lazarus, but not the way you imagine.
Isn't it the point of times like this to reveal important hidden things ? :p But if it's supposed to be explained in a future book, then I agree and just would ask, as a friend told me to: was Eljared/Elhazzared really Rah's wife and the mother of his children ? I will give a cryptic answer. Yes and not, at the same time.
Hello Carlos! And thank you very much for this AMA and for being an amazing person :). I am a bit curious about the team behind GoM. Would it be possible for us to know more about artists, game designers, programmers, etc ?(and how did they come to work in this project) Thanks a lot! Sure;
The development team of Gate of Memories is very small. That how we where able to develop the game with our limited budget.
The core team of Gate of Memories is composed by just three people;
Carlos B. García (Myself), who is the game and story designer, level designer, IA, Sounds and Effects. Well, I am somehow a jack of all trades.
Miguel Hernandez Galarza, who is the psychotic programmer of the team who answer with a "meh" to everything.
Sergio Almagro, a guy from Matrix who is in charge of 3D models and animations. Sometimes I think he lives in a fantasy world fed by touhou characters.
We are also very happy to have the external help of Wen Yu Li as character and monster designer (that guy is the real monster), Mike Salyer who help us with the voices, and Anastasia for the music (who has presented herself a few minutes ago).
Hello Carlos ! Me again. I couldn't help but notice the similar looks and style of appearance between ID in the game Ark of Sinners and Millenium. Are they the same kind of entities, but on different levels of existence/supervision (Ark for one, Gaïa for the other) ? My theory is that both are some kind of materialization from the "security/balance/randomizer system's IA" of both systems that are the big weird clock in the Ark and the Yggdrasil clock. Is any of this correct ? Thank you again ! Almost correct. In fact, both are the same entity. Id is one of the many identities / faces of Millenium. In fact, in the Iphone version of the game, if you finish it on the Hardest level, you obtain an Easter egg equence in which ID reveals herself as Millenium.
There are a lot of people very excited due to the awesome-looking story of Gate of Memories, specially with The Messengers inclusion. Can we expect to learn a lot about them? Will other entities and important characters/organizations have a place in Gate of Memories. Thanks for your words. Yes, In Gate of Memories you will learn everything about the Messengers who appear in the story; their past, their lives, the motivations that make them become what they are now... In fact, that is one of the central points of the story of Gate of Memories.
By the way, can you give a little advance about the Perfect World Guide? About the Perfect World Guide, it includes a detailed background of everything related to the game story; detailed explanation of all places, characters, legends, weapons... A complete story of everything, along with why everything is there and the visual designs and evolution of places and characters. Oh, and for the RPG lovers, we will include the stats of everything.
Wonderful to read that :D. Only if you can answer: Is Memitim's story in your plans for GoM? Yes.
Will you someday release something like a sketchbook ? With some forgotten sketches like the ones Wen Yu Li have done for the Gear pilots, the ones preparing for the actual concepts and illustrations of each game, and such things ? It's actually pretty good RP material even if it's unfinished or not used in the final products. But maybe it's mostly Wen's property, or up to him to share them or not ? In fact, we will anounce next week an sketchbook as an Add-On in the Gate of Memories KS campaign with all our unused design and evolution of character along the years.
Hi again ! Have you decided who are the 13th Cardinal and the real Shadow of the Emperor, or is it amongst the things you let every GM decide for themselves ? If you have, can you give us names or at least hints ? Thank youuu ! Yes; the Cardinal is decided (in fact, you will obtain a glipse of who he / she could be in Gate of Memories), but in general, we always want to give each GM the chance to decide by themselves.
We all know that, and most of us respect dearly this decision. For me, it's one of the great advantages of this role playing game, along with the freedom of character creation, choice of settings and styles of play (supernatural levels and visibility, rules about reputation, sanity, adventures or intrigues...). But it has always tickled me and many Anima fans: in your mind or perfect campaign that you would make play as a GM: what would be the fate of Elisabeth ? Would she marry, in your personnal preference that is absolutely not meant to be canon: nobody ? Lucanor ? Matthew ? Magnus ? Nemesis ? Eltheldrea ? Malakias ? Malekith ? Celia ? Someone else my twisted mind can't think of ? I agree with you.
what about 0 Messenger? This is will be the last answer for today; in Gate of Memories, you will get a little glimpse of Zero.
How is the Alpha version coming along? Do you have a estimated date on when you will be ready for testing? If there is no problem, next week we will send the all the alphas.
Thank you :D and have you an idea about the date when who walked with us vol 2 will be released? Not yet.
of all, I'd like to thank you for creating a world so vast and rich as the Anima one. I know it isn't easy, and I cannot imagine how much care and work went into its completion. I really hope the second campaign will be a success as well, it sure deserves it. My questions are: 1) Gate of Memories will have a linear story or the player will be able to decide which path to follow, like the order to challenge the Messengers? 2) Will there be replay gifts, like unlockables or secret bosses or a "nightmare" difficulty settings etc.? 3) Anima RPG this one: will you ever release Nemesis stats? Verrry curious about those. Thanks for your words. Answering to your questions, Gate of Memories will allow you to follow very different routes to complete the story. The funny thing is that decisions substantially alter the course of history to follow; even the final enemy is the same, and may even completely ignore some enemies; you can even choose unexpected allies. There is also a “secondary story” (I really don’t want to talk too much about it, since it would spoil an important story point) that is only open after a Game+, so yes, there is a lot of replay value. And nope; no stats for Nemesis planed right now.
Hello there! I have a question related to the Beyond Fantasy RPG and that is what kind of books can we expect in the future? And will you ever try to work on making a campaign/module/adventure book? Would be really interesting to have an professional adventure to play. Thanks! Our next Book is Beyond Light and Darkness. About the adventure, we really want it, but there is no time for us to do so. If someone is interested in helping us, jut mail us. ^
Will you be okay with GM/writer fans sending you prototypes of little scenarios, that you could just correct, deepen a bit then release in PDF like Dramatis Personae ? :) Sure.
We see a looot of characters and creatures in Wen-M's gallery. Do you know who all of them are, and in which book you'll use them ? In other words, do you always provide him backstories or sometimes just some "draw me a cool new empire dude/stylish and powerful girl" or something like this ? Do you sometimes tweak your stories and plans to match an illustration, like it would seem happened with the change of hair color for Eltheldrea between Gaïa vol.1 and vol.2 ? I always give Wen a detailed description of relevant characters; I could have asked Wen to change Eltheldrea hair in minutes, but she had to have it with to represent her "alter ego". Of course, that don't apply to general chars; I can simply tell him "I need a muscular barbarian" without other description, and I know I will like his work. That guy is a monster.
Okay okay, so I think he shows you the sketches before validation ^ I really hope we will see all these "another dimension Lucanors" in the sketchbook ! Could be amazing to have these deformed reflects for a campaign featuring his counterparts from the Wake or something like that :D. There is a private joke in the Studio who will always remember the first design of Lucanor that Wen sent us as "The adventures of the happy young Lucanor!", since it was very different from our concept.
Do you have a favorite Character in the fiction of the Anima world? If so, whom? Difficult question. I love almost all them. Choosing one is impossible. I think that I could say that I would say one between Lucanor, Elisabetta, Millenium, Eljared, and one which has not make any appearance in the books yet.
Oh no... I just forgot so many others... Forget that list. I like too much of them.
Do you currently have a campaign going on (probably frozen because of work's madness, but still) ? Maybe GMing or playing other RPGs ? If so, what are your gaming style as a GM and/or a player ? Yes; I am currently finishing a campaing based on the intereings which I have been playing as GM for two years. I never use relevant chars from the core story. Oh, and I like more than anything storytelling.
So, that means... you always create a lot of things for each campaign ? Do you plan on using these later in official productions like novels or add-ons ? Maybe like the Sirius chains of Ki, Celia, Lemures or Pazusu ? I NEVER use official NPCs or player characters from my campaigns in setting books. The reason is because I like to think that the games I play are "official" somehow, and I would never compromise the story. So nope, I don't use powers or techs either.
Oh ! And what are the characters of your players like ? Current levels and classes at least ? :D. Oh, they are currently Lv 8-9.
Aaaand maybe their categorias/social positions/raw concepts ? Like fire mage, demon summoner, paladin prince of Dalaborn, silver griffin, ancient-blooded teleporting thief with big ears and nose... XD. Ahaha I can't say too much of them, in case some are reading this AMA XD.
My last Anima tactics questions (I promise!): When will we see Fate and/or Crimson Death? After the 2015 book will there be a Saga V or VI? Are any more Organizations planed for Anima Tactics? Yes; i think that both will be released next year.
any more Organizations planned? :) Not right now. Tol Rauko will be added later.
I can't really tell by your answers: Tol Rauko will be added later than the next book, later from now(=in the next book) ? Later than the next book.
Are all the entities related to the Blood Legacies the same level of power and the same kind of things ? Will we know more about where they are and what they do than Rudraskha and the little bit about Kagustsuchi ? Maybe amongst the Aeons in the Anima Tactics next book ? They will be explained in B. Light and Darkness.
There will be more to it than Beryls and Shajads then ! A global overview of all kinds of divine beings I guess ? Yes; all things that could be considered "gods" or those who the people call "deities".
Aeon is the term for all Divine beings right? and the sleepers are the ones that their awakening would end the world? Is a little more complex, but in general yes.
Hi Carlos ! Why a second ks campaign? As a 1st campaign backer, will i get extra benefits if this one is a success? Thank you! That is correct; all upgrades from the second campaign Gate of Memories will be added in the game regardless of which KS you are from.
It seems that the system has deleted your second post since it has not any question mark. Can you repeat it as a question?
Are there any current plans to port over other character concepts from GoM to Anima Tactics after the Bearer, Ergo and the Nameless? There is an aditional character from GoM that will be released in AT, but I will kept it as a secret until the game is released. _¡
1) Could you tell us about the Queen of Winter? 2) The same for Zerath? :) I could pass a lot of time talking about those two characters... So I think I will pass or this will consume a lot of time and new questions appear like mushrooms. :)
Hi Carlos. I really love the World of Gaia with all its different Cultures and Nations. Shortly, i could take a glimpse at the 2nd Gaia Book, and i cant wait to get my hands on the english version. Can we hope for another Book, maybe about the Places in the Wake? Let me give you a list of the planed books;
Between Light and Darkness -The Wake -The Lost Logias -Tales of Gaïa -The Worlds Beyond; Khalis and Lunaris -And at last; The Powers in the Shadow (Which closes the story of Anima).
Closes the whole Anima thing, or will you plan to do some more novels/comics/videogames/cardgames/scenarios supplement/campagin books/miniatures/Anima Tactics books ? Closes the Anima RPG core line. I hope i will find time to do novels. It is one of my dreams. Of course, AT will go on working.
Wonderful thing to know ! Some of us are really looking forward to the opportunity to better understand Tol Rauko, Selene and maybe more (Consortium ? Yehudah ? Magus ? The Walkers ? Demonic circles ?) through minis and the related books. Oh, and... didn't you forget Los Que Caminaron Cos Nosotros volume 2 ? Or is it the same as Between Light and Darkness ? I consider it a second volume, not a new book.
About where in the schedule ? ^ Hehehe... I can just tell that next one is B. Light and Darkness. Oh, and that if Gate of Memories works, I think we will be able to increase the book releases a lot.
Is Iosara (from Anima Tactics) a man or a woman (or something completely different)? This character's gender has always been ambiguous. That's the point of Iosara. It is a deliberately androgynous character. If you want to spoil the answer ... his / her current body is genderless.
Sorry that it's not really in the instructions but... what about Guilty Gods ? I liked that first two decks and it would be awesome to have more in the future. Maybe some kind of promotional "Arcane Deck" would work, with all the important characters, entities and enemies of Gate of Memories in it ? :D. The cards are ready; we just need that the editorial release them. :)
Could we have a hint on the factions illustrated in the next batch ? I'm guessing something like Shephirah(or somebody else, as Phandemonium wasn't the dark one)/light and something related to the void/emptiness, as there are many of this kind of creatures and characters already illustrated. Am I close ? :D. Hell and Justice.
A special miniature of Celia has been leaked a few weeks ago. (Link to scontent-a.xx.fbcdn.net Will it be released later? As a "full-power" version of Celia? Sorry; I really can't say anything about it. It is a secret. :)
Can we expect Guilty Gods English release? Ask FFG in the forums, so they can see the people interest and release it sooner. :)
Ah ha! I knew it. My Anima Lore sniffing knew it had to be important, so much so that it didn't get mentioned as a small note in passing. Excellent. Amazing. Even more excited about this now. Another Question: Did Rah really die at the end of the story included in Gaia Volume One? Yes / No. He was uncreated. He uncreated himself; destroying all traces of his existence and plans. That way, none, not even the powers in the shadow, could stop his legacy.
Oh ho. Well That is interesting indeed. In a recently completed RPG campaign I did he had been 'destroyed' by the system, but was quietly within Tol Rauko (spelling error?) pulling the strings slowly, until the Seventh gate was opened again, and he got the second chance to try what he did so long ago. I like however, that idea just as much. His Legacy is obviously a major piece of the current era! Another Question: Is there a single being (baring the obvious Powers in the Shadow, and the Shajhads and Beryils [My Spelling gets the feeling its wrong again]) that you would call the strongest in the world? Yes. By far. But I will not tell who.
Lucanor. Got it. wink Next Question on my List: Have you seen the Fate/Stay Night and/or Fate/Zero (which may be too recent, but bleh) Anime and have they had any influence on Anima if you have seen them. (Type/Moon is one of my favorite storytelling companies.) No just Fate; In fact, I took the inspiration of The Messengers that appear in Gate of Memories from Tsukihime. I just love natsu lore and story.
New Question Chain! So does Lucanor actually have an idea of what he's really getting himself involved in? He is probably the most aware person of the world of the huge mess he is going into.
Hell'o ! My question is kinda about the first campaign of GoM : I remembered some people were able to get (as a very limited pledge) the next book from the RP series. Will it be release at the same moment of the game or later ? Yes, the books will be sent when the game is released. ^ _ ^
So, what role do Psychics play in the overall world? I've noticed they are fairly rare in comparison to many of the other classes, and even more so they seem to have the craziest power curve of all the classes as well. Any insights you can share about it? In fact, they are quite minor “power” in the world scheme, since even if they have huge powers, their weakness are also great. Only Lucanor gives the psi the importance that it has.
will we know about his real grand scheme and its ramifications later ? Maybe the book about organizations ? Can you spoil us a little more ? He is one of the main characters in the novels and more about him will be revealed in Lost Logias and Organizations books.
Cool. How do you know that the backer pledged for a book? For example my pledge included almost all addons from the first campaign but I haven't received any email. Yes; You had to mail us when you decided the pledge. If you did, then your book is reserved.
Yeah, I can believe that. Its quite sad though, Psychics are my favorite classes to play, but there isn't a lot to go on with them. How do the various 'in-the-know' factions feel about them? Do they just consider them weird mages? Also how do you feel about 'balance' in RPGs? Yes, those who know how the supernatural works knows very well how psi works and that it is a diferent power from magic. I think that everyone does its own balance. It is very important, but it depends of the gamplay style of each group.
Ironically, even though I asked about him...I didn't want to know too much yet. I use him a lot as a foil for my players who think themselves so clever. (Hint: they aren't. Ever. Ya know what I mean?) It is better that way. So it can be exactly who you want him to be in your games.
Ugh, but I haven't sent any emails. Any advice? Oh... The problem is that the book was a limited Add-On, and I think that all them where already reserved. Please, mail us once the second capaign is over (we are now really busy) and I will try to see if there is any book remaining. Don't worry. We will do something.
Interesting. I am planning my biggest game so far with six players, and I was curious if there were any groups out there that would support a Psi character, like the Magus Order does for mages? (It could even be the Magus order for all I know!) I could easily make my own, but I was curious as I like to use preexisting material where I can. Are we going to be getting a more in-depth description of the Inquisition and their stats, and deeper knowledge about how it and the church work? No. There is no "organization" that teaches how to use psi since there is no "apprenticeship" in those powers. There are more "natural". Of course, a lot make use of them, like Wiss, The Church, Heavens Order, Samael... You will get all the info about the inquisition that you want in Organization, and some in Gate of Memories.
Can you confirm for me if mine is reserved please? Because i didn't receive any confirmation. If you sent the mail before we anounced that the Add-On was close, don't worry, you have yours reserved. Please, mail us later with your KS name and tomorrow we will confirm it to you ^
Ah. Alright. Sorry if I seem to be just taking up too much of your time haha. Like I said in our emails I tend to be very into Anima. Just let me know if you want me take a break okay? (for now, another question haha!) Next Question: In Gate of Memories we learn about the Messengers (Thus I assume Ergo as well.) Do we learn more about the Bearer, and why she was chosen (or chose) to do what she does? I dare to say that it is the core of the story. You will learn everything about her.
Can you tell the email please? [email protected].
Will we ever have a map representing the world before the Barrier ? In The Powers in the Shadow book.
As a curiosity, where does the Bearer go when you take control of Ergo in Gate of Memories? Does he take control over her body like some kind of "incarnation"? Fun question. The thing is that Ergo consumes the essence of any person who has signed a pact with him. The fact that anyone who has carried him in the past loses its name becoming just "The Bearer of The Calamity" is a prof of that. Using Ergo's power consumes more power of existence, and to manifest Ergo in the World, creating a fake body for him, The Bearer must sacrifice a lot of existence power, and to from his body, she must cease to exist for a short period of time.
If the stretch goal of next gen consoles is not achieved, will the game still come to the consoles after the PC release? If the extended campaign is successful, we hope so.
I have another question. Is there some ending planned for Gaia or it will be an open-end scenario where each gaming group can decide Gaia's fate? I would HATE to decide the fate of Gaïa; it is a world for you and each of your games. Of course, that doesn't mean that we will not tell "a story" with an ending (the core story), but the world will always be open for you all. Gaia is very huge...
Ok. Let's hope it is, because the game looks awesome! :D. Thanks. I am glad that you like it.
Oh, so these would be even further developped than in the novels of Gaïa 1 and 2 ? I'm very very happy about these not being stand-alones ! They were awesome ! :D. Fast and easy answer; Yes.
Expanding and new optional rules produces new combination possibilities that can be more powerful than before, that's why I called it a boost. Even a revised basic system can be a boost when combined to other pre-existing options differently than the old system. But hey, after some heavy reluctance I finally found peace with most of the new magic system, so... why not a bit of diversity on this side too, after all ? More than an optional system, it is a re calibration of the actual one, changing some elements and introducing new options in a new way. It is still in an early development stage, but I am happy so far.
A question I have is about Gaia Vol II. in english, I mean if it comes out with the game won't it have to have been translated first? I haven't seen word on it yet, and I have a reserved copy, but I only read english, so...yeah...I am sure there is a question here haha...and not just me worrying. In fact, we are still waiting for FFG to finish the translation. Don't worry; even if it is released later by FFG (which I hope that is not necessary), you will have first the game and then the book.
Glad to read that it brings you joy ! Do you already know, well... where to put it ? The next book ? LQCCN 2 ? The Wake ? (as they're all kinda related to creatures) Working on it too. Too soon to tell :P.
Hi. Why Wiss and Empire are clearly favoured in Anima tactics? For example Wiss have reactive AP recovery which was specifically denied by errata for Samael. Mnn... Difficult question, but I honestly don’t think that those two factions are really overpowered. In any case, very soon we will publish an addendum to re-equilibrate forces.
Glad to hear that. This addendum will be like the previous one (level cost change and al'Djinn nerf) or it will affect actual abilities? As for these two factions, many see them as being favoured (and Azur being underdog). It will affect skills too.
What are exactly the fairies and the faeric people in Anima's Universe? The creatures that live from the fantasy as a very unique concept. The ones who are “closer” to the “lost imagination” of the mankind.
Silly question: are they quite similar to the fairies/changelings in "Changeling: the Dreaming" (a tabletop RPG published by White Wolf in the same universe as "Vampire: the Masquerade")? Somehow, yes.
Then, are they the "fairy tales folk" of the related Interreign described in Gaïa 2, or something completely different that will be described in some other book like The Wake or Khalis ? There are, in fact, just that. But elves an other similar creatures are considered part of them too.
Is Bringreus being Gaia's version of Alex Mercer? Nope. In fact, there is not even a single thing similar in both characters.
Is Bringreus directly related to Nascal or his work, or is it a completely different entity ? Absolutely unrelated. Nascal was just unlucky.
Their powers looked similar to me (and Alex Mercer is probably the most powerful VG character as for now, I mean real gameplay power). What do you think of [PROTOTYPE]? Loved the first one. Hated the second.
Well, it seems that the storm has passed and the quiet came back. Thanks Carlos for all these precious answers and precisions ! If you have time, you've missed a few questions that sometimes were higher in the topics that your latest message, but I think everyone is pretty happy with all this. Don't forget to make recaps (or just post links) for your respective communities/forums/social and playing circles, and to make the most of this Kickstarter campaign that will benefit all and every one of us ! Cheers ! :D Maybe we'll share again about some more Anima soon ? ;) In fact, we are going to go on answering questions for a few hours...
I really hope there will still be some good ones ! Just didn't saw them coming for quite some time, and maybe rushed my judgement. Could you forgive me ? ;) No need to ask :)
When I saw Caliburn and Gae Bolg on the same page I smiled, when i read them I just lol sooo hard I´m still on the hold to do some sort of "fate" campain. My question is obvious... do you like jojo? Only 1 and 3. The rest is not as good as those.
Hi again Carlos: Aeons were mentioned in the Anima Tactics Saga I & II rule-book, is there any news on these at all? (also still hoping my earlier questions get answered :) ) They will be released in the next AT book :)
As well as Void summons? Yes.
Are you planning to expand or add new optional rules for Summoning on future books? Yes, but it is still in a early stage.
Can we expect your return on Cipher forums? Peoples are starving for rules clarifications there =) Sure; just give me a few days.
Last updated: 2014-06-17 12:26 UTC
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submitted by tabledresser to tabled

As Hong Kong goes, so will our future

Posting this here because I don't know where else to--if it seems idiosyncratic or inappropriate, mod as appropriate.
I’m going tell you a story of how I turned down two of the three job offers that were extended to me a few years ago, how a funny thing about regret is that it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something that you haven’t done, and what the ideal sound for pedestrian road-crossing signs might be.
I’ll then try to convince you that as Hong Kong goes, so will our future.
The year is 2012.
I’m (more) sheltered, young(er,) stupid(er), at the edge of swapping one corporate retail gig that taught me Hanlon’s Razor is fraudulently optimistic with another one, which will turn out to be a marginally improved but quintessentially similar affair.
A woman who heroically put up with my earliest twenties had just formally written off our four-year stint as unsalvageable. Let’s add listless and sad to the list of adjectives that I now know applied to me then [1].
In Anno Domini 2012, I do what relatively sheltered, stupid, listless and unconsciously sad young people stereotypically do: travel. Get Away From It All. Unplug, recharge, re-align my spine. The vacation time I hadn’t spent at soul-grinding job #1 (actual company value: “learn from challenge and change”) is about to get used.
Where to, then? A place far away and exotic enough to fulfil escapist illusions, but first world and English-speaking enough not to present any actual difficulties. So… New York? Not foreign enough. London? Insufficiently exotic. Mumbai? Maybe, but the head-shaking thing....
Hong Kong ticks all the right boxes. Added bonus: circa then, I fancied myself an avid poker player, and Macau is right there. Added bonus: so is Taiwan, origin of my Former Significant Other. I formulate ambiguous plans to hop right over and shoot her a deeply poetic postcard that will definitely, absolutely not be maudlin or laced with self-indulgent reprobation, and generally mega-cringe on an industrial scale, not at all.
Time off: secured. Airfare: booked. AirBNB: in my inbox.
I get my cell carrier to unlock my phone, a mostly US-centric indignity that used to be even more obnoxious. I overpack, under-prepare and buy a comically touristic 18-270mm lens with shit image quality that ends up getting carried everywhere but barely being used. I marvel at the layers of make up caked on briskly competent Singapore Girls. It dawns on me that crossing world in fourteen hours is a wonder, and something merely a few generous ago would’ve been thought magical, but that leg cramps and crying infants beat out meditations on gratitude.
I did say yes to one job offer extended to me in Hong Kong.
Friends-of-friend favor, but a job nonetheless. A Vancouver couple—let’s call them Jessica & Paul—had attended university, started their careers and lived in Canada for almost a decade before being pressured by their tremendously well-off families to head back for the kind of dog & pony show wedding customary with tremendously well-off families.
J&P were sanguine about elders taking complete charge, as the event was largely for their benefit. They self-exempted from plan-drafting, letting others coordinate for maximum pomp & circumstance. But they got sketched out upon meeting the media crew hired to document everything—as the saying goes: spouses might be temporary, but wedding photography follows you to the grave. Unwilling to dispute parental fiat and lacking a significant local social network, they put out an APB with NA West Coast homies for anybody in HK who had at least skill and equipment to be, or at least impersonate some fractional facsimile of a back-up photographer.
Here’s why J&P felt insurance policy was necessary:
The person facing away is the director of the five-man pro team: him(zir?)self, a lights guy, two DSLR-wielders and the muscle who loaded and unloaded traveling musician style hard suitcases that were never opened or used out of the kind of van you’d call cops about if you happened to see parked in the neighborhood. The faces made by everybody in that candid shot were the faces everybody involved with the wedding process made when interacting with the media crew, a number well into four-digit territory when accounting for service personnel manning various venues.
By no means a full itemized receipt of this motley crew’s antics:
  • The director spoke in Ruby Rhod falsetto and analogous affectations. He interrupted while people were giving speeches with demands about placement & posture—something crowd rumblings seemed to find especially egregious because older people were essentially being heckled.
  • While groomsmen and bridesmaids (11 of each) were engaging in traditional games, dances & assorted tomfoolery at the house of bride’s parents, the lights guy fell on and through a whole sucking pig parked on the living room table. I realize that sounds implausibly Rush Hour 3-ish, but it happened, & I mourn the loss of veritable hectares of crispy-brown pigskin to this day.
  • At the luxury sky-high apartment belonging to the parents of the groom, the crew installed two CIA investigation-style lamps and used flashes. Lest you believe this to have been a bold stylistic choice: after working up some courage, I asked for the thick curtains covering the full pane windows to be drawn. The hosts genially agreed, and the director immediately asked to redo previous shots.
I never learned how the hiring decision was made, although curiosity abounded in light of how well all other proceedings were managed. The topic seemed to be a sour one, not with J&P themselves, but with their respective sets of parents, who I ended up spending time with in subsequent informal settings.
Long before any of the above went down, I was contacted through social media intermediaries and after introductions over noodles, contracted to provide additional documentation of the grand union in exchange for a day’s worth of traditional HK wedding wiggeries among complete strangers, elaborate brunch, tea ceremony and eleven course dinner all included. Both parties got good value from the barter—J told me, charitably or otherwise, that this ended up being her favorite shot for the day.
Having discharged of my duties honorably, J&P became my local patron saints. We hung out, a lot. Maybe they cherished short-lived escapes from the intense marital churn foisted on then by families and old friends. They graciously disabused me of my harest-brained touristic ideas, were generally helpful and acted as guides.
At a Tuesday breakfast, P’s guttural dad, a whiskey and cigar old-schooler, propositioned me with the first job I turned down.
He was gruffly cordial but buried his face in a newspaper until my literature degree from Berkeley surfaced during random conversation, where upon I turned into the sole locus of his attention span for the remainder of the meal. After preliminaries to minimize the possibility that was a total imbecile or fraud, he extended an offer for teaching at an exclusive English-speaking private academy he was alumni of, along with member and/or chairman of assorted boards.
I walked away from that morning flattered but discounting the matter as the kind of idle chatter rich people engage in. Three phone calls from his secretary later, it was clear that I was mistaken. Job details and compensation benefits were discussed[2]—or rather, recited at me—in great detail. Point blank yes/no questions were re-iterated through calls made at my local HK number and a Skype session by two different representatives of the institution.
P himself shared in hushed but explicit terms that it was a Big Deal for his father to take that much interest, and that he was hoping my no would stay a no, because if it happened to be a yes and I’d turn out to be a fuck up (P phrased it more elegantly, and in an endearingly apologetic manner) his dad would invariably insist that it was all P’s fault.
To P’s relief, the no stayed a no. I did my best to convey that I had deliberated at length—true—that I was impossibly humbled by the insane way the proposition materialized and escalated—also true—and that the “lock in” stipulations did not freak me out, but I had other plans in North America—bald-faced lies.
In the event of an infinitely quantum-branching universe, this fork is in the top three I’d like to revisit.
The second job I turned down was offered by an out-of-breath stranger.
I mean that literally: I never learned his name, and he was panting during the couple of minutes we chatted.
It happened on the streets of the Hong Kong island, en route to Causeway Bay. I was looking for Goldfinch Restaurant, featured in for War Kai Wong’s In the Mood Lor Love[3], a movie that looks like art but feels like sex, while dragging my ridiculous 3 pound lens along. Nose buried in smart phone navigation, I ignored the yelling until a hand descended on my shoulder.
Young guy. Close to thirty, maybe? Sharp dress shirt, tailored slacks. He huffed and puffed, hands on his waist as if he had sprinted for a while. In curiously halting English—because he seemed to have escaped an office from the nearby financial district, where people tend to be hyper-functionally bi-lingual—he expressed his desire to hire me for a party.
A party? Yes, a large, loud club—he made “untz untz” mouth sounds and made the universal, vaguely piston-like fist motions associated with dance music. Where? Nearby warehouse, he said. Happens all the time. Every month, he added while I was attempting to process the surreal aspects of what was happening. He smiled broadly, no signs of embarrassment or discomfort other than the hard breathing.
I eventually regrouped and asked why.
Because of my look—he pointed at my shaved head and moved a splayed hand from top to bottom, as if presenting an especially entrancing offer on a late-night informercial, or an oversized catch while out fishing with buddies—and said: white. His winning smile grew galactically incandescent. Look here, I said for lack of anything meaningful, doing what? Photos? I pointed at my camera bag but he shook his head emphatically. Drinks. Doing, aah, making drinks. Bartender, he exclaimed, looking happy to have remembered the precise term.
I excused myself: I don’t know how to do or make drinks. He once again denied me, forcefully, and said it doesn’t matter. Great look. People really like white guys doing drinks. I got the sense that he was clinically, absolutely, incontrovertibly correct in the assessment, a rock-ribbed certainty born of out personal experience combined with knowledge of an entire field of expertise—hospitality, underground raves, techno, some mash-up thereof. I considered what was happening for a few seconds, wary of an elaborate scam that might be in process of being perpetrated, but mostly just confused. Mental images began congealing along my brain stem—flipping bottles in a dim, sauna-like hall, splashing whiskey into dirty glasses while rhythmic throbs ripple across a neon-frenzied background. A drunken, heavily tattooed wiry guy reaching ominously into a pocket because I gaped in the direction of his date too long. White powder residue mixing on a sticky counter-top with cigarette ash and squeezed-out lemon slices.
I’m good, I said, and started to turn.
Wait, wait, he exclaimed while settling a hand on my shoulder again. The transformation from smiling to crestfallen was shockingly abrupt. Please, it’s fun. He fumbled at his shirt’s chest pocket for a pen, realized something else he was looking for wasn’t there and reached for his wallet[4]. An old receipt emerged. He scribbled down his phone number and said, great look, smiling again before waving and running away.
I found Goldfinch Restaurant half an hour later and never called the top HK authority on hospitality, underground raves, techno back.
Plink, plink, plink.
The sound is instantly recognizable, insistent, close to alarming but not quite, just at the edge thereof.
It’s the ideal sound for pedestrian road-crossing signs, attention grabbing without escalating into inducing anxiety.
I don’t have anything else to say about that, but I don’t think I need to.
Time spent across the Pacific, as cliched and silly as it may have been in conception, was what I needed to snap me out of lingering shards of infantility.
For the first time, the urgency necessary to live with agency manifested itself unexpectedly. I was called to pay attention and to listen. To say yes. To say no.
Approaching the back half of my life, I dwell on these thoughts.
For the record, I did do well enough playing no-limit hold’em in Macau, and mercifully spared my ex, and my own conscience, of any histrionic correspondence.
It was also the beginning of a life-long love with Hong Kong, its people and what it represents.
William Gibson’s second trilogy concerns itself with many fun things like being a hair-raisingly good read, for example, but many serious ones too, like the concept of interstitial spaces.
The term is of medical origin but has been recast to describe the porous, amalgamated, adaptable in-betweens that formulate versions of the future before they become evenly distributed, spots where people innovate, hybridize or exploit loopholes to escape the pressure of social expectations and historical circumstance.
These spaces can be geographical or conceptual—often, they overlap.
In Virtual Light, the Bridge is a real place. The Bay Bridge links San Francisco and Oakland. In the novel, the bridge is earthquake-damaged and abandoned but gets appropriated by poor and marginalized people as an autonomous refuge, outside regular laws and customs. It starts organically, out of need for shelter and relief from oppressive oversight. Skinner, a Bridge veteran, describes the beginning:
This one woman, she kept saying plant the whole thing with ivy, Virginia creeper… Somebody else, they said tear it down before another quake did it for ’em. But there it was. In the cities, lot of people, no place to go.
The novel describes how one night, people climbed fences surrounding the defunct bridge and ran across, clinging to towers. The officials of the surrounding city decided, rather than risking the bad publicity of using force, to allow the collection of society’s unwanted to set up new homes, an alliance of outcasts, a functional but unplanned community of people who have created their own habitat, their own space, constructing eclectic dwellings and markets out of everything imaginable and available.
The Bridge is also an idea. Skinner again:
Shit happens. Happened that night. No signals, no leader, no architects. You think it was politics. That particular dance, boy, that’s over. (…) No agenda… no underlying structure.
The Bridge represents people figuring things out by themselves, out of sheer necessity. Neither attractive nor easy, it allows for a kind of liberty from norms that’s impossible in established, formal spaces. In the interstitial in-between, freedom or agency are not ideals, they’re pre-conditions.
Gibson’s Bridge was inspired by a specific place.
Hong Kong, in-between imperial Chinese main-land and imperial United Kingdom.
Hong Kong, in-between opium wars.
Hong Kong, in-between water and sky, in-between trade routes, crossroad of the world.
Hong Kong, in-between Cantonese, English and Mandarin.
Hong Kong, in-between the highest ranking on the index of economic freedom and increasing economic inequality.
Hong Kong, in-between concrete, steel and glass.
Hong Kong, in-between cars, airplanes and the MTR.
In-between, a flower blossoms.
The year is 2019.
The room for interstitial in-betweens narrows.
Political and cultural pathologies of today have various flavors of dysfunction, but a strong unifying thread is present: less agency.
Less privacy: you don’t own the data you generate, nor should you expect that online information you generate is protected from commoditization. Nation-states and their tentacular investigative agencies constantly probe—such is and has been a simple fact of life for decades—but cultural norms themselves are eroding into perpetual, low-intensity fear of being unmasked and un-personed, often over setting off ambiguous trip-wires. We’re slowly sliding toward a state of Stasi paranoia—whether by governmental fiat, corporatist kowtowing or online zealotry, the operative part of white terror is terror.
Less freedom of assembly and transaction, off or on-line. Security and prosecution of hate speech, real or imagined, or arbitrarily defined toxicity, are named as reasons (or excuses) to curtail activity that might be deemed undesirable by sufficiently powerful parties. Through a mix of surveillance, capricious enforcement and lack of accountability for abuse, the space to figure things out, to insist on rights and self-determination, shrinks.
Less flow of information. “Fake News” is now a pungently familiar lament, but it doesn’t capture the degree to which online channels have been weaponized for elaborate manipulation. Content is scrubbed, blocked, shadow-banned, gated, filtered, algorithmically de-ranked, de-prioritized, de-monetized. Machine learning is strategically deployed to herd attention toward the anodyne and the profitable, with the messy back and forth of figuring things out relegated to illegitimacy.
Nothing in the last three paragraphs is specific to Hong Kong protests, although a barrage of links would’ve been easy to assemble. This was on purpose: you should recognize how the paragraphs apply to you, whatever your own political convictions are, wherever you happen to live.
As Hong Kong goes, whoever you are, so will your future.
As Hong Kong goes, wherever you are, so will your future.
As Hong Kong goes, so will our future.
In 2000, while answering questions submitted online, Gibson dared to hope:
QUESTION: Do you think the internet will be entirely consumed by dot com commercialism, or will there still be a place for information sharing and community?
WILLIAM GIBSON: Always room for interstitial activity.
He didn't say anything about it being easy.
Elsewhere, u/chaoslastorder posted a tremendous series of meditations on mainland attitudes and the foreseeable future of China and its prospective chart through 21st century.
I recommend all of it, since it’s better writing than anything you’ve fought through to arrive here, & it cements my contention that what’s happening in Hong Kong right now is prelude to and weather-wane for the sharp edge of tomorrow.
I don’t have an agenda to conclude on a triumphal note with, a call to arms, not even a blog to plug.
But for the record: I love Hong Kong. I love its people. I love what they stand for and what they’re doing.
From afar, and with whatever menial ways my everyday life allows for, I love them and wish them godspeed, for they are fighting my fight, and yours, and all of ours.
Beyond everything else, I’m certain of the following: this is the best sound for pedestrian road-crossing signs.
光復香港 時代革命 五大訴求 缺一不可
[1] Acronymized to ATIM-KATMT, just shy of being catchy. But there’s something to the concept, no? Some self-deprecating wistfulness, a slightly up-tuned version of “Things I’d Tell Myself Of 10 Years Ago.
[2] Hold on to your butts; this is a WILD ride: it was supposed to be a five year contract minimum, starting with year one wage in the neighborhood of $20,000-ish. Each year, compensation would go up by another $20,000—e.g., second year would amount to $40K total, then $60K, you know, arithmetic & shit. Two fully paid round trips to NA per annum would be fully sponsored. The nuttiest part: room and board was also covered up to a max of $2.5K/month, except that if the contract wasn’t fulfilled, I’d owe all of it back. It was explained that this style of contract was trial-and-errored as the best way to “lock in” instructors and provide a stable cadre of educators at the institution, since it was considered key to both academic achievement as well “compatible values,” a term which was uttered at me over and over again to the point where I briefly considered it as the best possible name for a punk band, ever. Any attempts to wiggle out of the “lock-in” provisions were summarily ignored and additional money was put on the table—by the final turn down, it was up to $30,000-ish for the first year followed by cumulative $25K each new year.
[3] I couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant. Looking it up, it turns out it was forced to move. I find to be heart rending beyond anything I'm capable of expressing and am not ashamed of tearing up while writing this. If you find that to silly or weird, you’re well within your rights to, but please consider (re)-watching In The Mood For Love.
[4] I remember it with hallucinatory clarity: light brown inside, darker exterior due to discoloration from the dye of his jeans.
submitted by sl1200mk5 to TheMotte