Blackwood Gazette #209- Yolanda Desantana Named Monteddor’s Most Desirable Woman

By Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

23/1/282- Look out, Triumvirites…Yolanda Desantana is officially the Most Desirable Woman in Monteddor, according to a random group of people working for what I’m told is a prestigious fashion publication in Monteddor.

The woman most well-known for pretending to be a vapid socialite for most of her adult life before engaging in patricide and leading a ruthless takeover of the Blackwood refining industry that resulted in a brutal civil war that cost countless Monteddorian lives will be featured on the cover of “Moxxxi” this month.

Included in the feature are photos of Desantana wearing the latest fashions designed by Gustavo Frederick-Alanstead Gallardo , as well as an interview:

“People have underestimated me my entire life. Part of that was by design, but it wasn’t that difficult. There are certain expectations of a magnate’s daughter from birth; I simply played those expectations like a mandolin. Most of those who looked down on me from a pedestal are now doing so upside down from a chain in a slaughterhouse, with their necks sliced open and bleeding into a bucket.

“Tee. Hee. Hee.”

Charming.

The article explains the editors’ reasoning as such:

“She’s bold, she’s beautiful, and she’ll blow up your house if you rub her the wrong way. Yolanda Desantana is the owner and CEO of Desantana Blackwood, which pretty much makes her the most powerful woman in the Triumvirate, if not the world (sorry, Empress Marcellette). Not only that, but she governs Monteddor’s Desantana Province with a firm hand and commands the second largest military force in Monteddor, after Alejandro Julianos (with whom she has formed a nearly unbreakable alliance, so his troops are pretty much her troops at this point). Don’t ask her if they’re dating though…the first person we sent to interview her hasn’t woken up yet after doing just that!”

I can’t help but imagine these people in a room, surrounded by Desantana military personal, scribbling out platitudes that don’t come off as pandering. I know I wouldn’t be able to resist a little bit of snark, and I’m amazed that last line was even included. Here’s hoping whoever wrote it still has their fingers.

Blackwood Gazette #209- Yolanda Desantana Named Monteddor’s Most Desirable Woman

Blackwood Gazette #142-IIC Military Conference Brings Out the Big Guns (Literally)

By Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

16/6- Only one thing went through my mind as I found myself seated (in the front row, no less) of the Industry and Innovation Conference’s military technology presser: this must be some sort of prank, right? Surely, the editor of the Oeil de Fleur office was waiting in the wings to tell me he was just having a run at me, and tell me that I could leave and get in line for the Pertifour showing. Alas, no such shoe dropped, and thus I was stuck there, surrounded by Crowndonian troglodytes.

In any case, the show. The conference started off with a very loud bang, one that left my ears ringing for the rest of the day, as Stravaski Arms (formerly Velcom, re-branded after that hand grenade debacle last year) wheeled out a new gun-helmet.

“Whatever you look at, you can shoot!” said the presenter with blood thirsty fervor, a nervous looking demonstrator standing next to him with the gun helmet strapped to his head. “You simply turn your head toward the target and blow into the triggering tube. Your breath of life then inflates a bladder within the helmet, triggering the mechanism and ending the life of whatever unlucky [expletive removed] just happens to fall under your gaze. A demonstration!”

The demonstrator looked to his left, at a Chernoskian rat-monkey locked in a nearby cage. He blew into the tube, and I waited for the rat-monkey to disintegrate in a red, pulpy mist. Alas, the recoil from the helmet knocked the demonstrators head back, and the bullet went ineffectually into the wall. The presenter made a nervous joke about working out the bugs, and the curtain fell to sporadic applause.

Next up, Hornsower’s International rolled out a wagon covered in strip fed, crank operated monstrosities. What appeared to be a blanket covered the bottom half of the wagon. The man next to me snarked something about ‘skirts’. Very droll, I’m sure.

“What you see here, is nothing new,” the presenter said. “Battlewagons have been a part of the battlefield for hundreds of years, but as anyone who fought at the Battle of Des Anges can tell you, getting them where they need to be over terrain blasted by craters and littered by the soulless husks of your fallen enemies can be a chore. We at H.I. believe we’ve overcome that obstacle.”

The blanket was dropped and the bottom half of the carriage was revealed. There were no wheels on the carriage, not in the traditional sense, but metal tracks wrapped around a complex series of gears. The crowd went nuts.

“Introducing the Hornsower repeating track system. A battlewagon equipped with these is guaranteed not to get a wheel stuck in a hole, or its front end lodged in a trench. Get your guns and your men where they’re needed most with Hornsower!”

The presentation ended and the rest of the presser went on in a manner I’m sure most of these military conferences go…new models of guns, improved jacketing of ammunition, more potent gun powder. It all blurred together into a feverish mish mash of death and smoke filled zealotry. I doubt the smell will ever come out of my suit. But there it is, dear readers. THE FUTURE!

***

Related:

Blackwood Gazette #20: Velcom Rep Calls Demonstration Disaster a “Fluke.”

Real World Inspirations: Albert Bacon Pratt’s Helmet Gun (1916), via weirduniverse.net

Blackwood Gazette #142-IIC Military Conference Brings Out the Big Guns (Literally)

Blackwood Gazette #117: Rinkenbach R&D Announces the Announcement for its Fourth Generation Clockwork Butler

By Ada Herschel, Science and Technology

11/5- It’s been over three years since Rinkenbach R&D released the latest iteration of its popular Clockwork Butler line. The line, which put inventor and alchemist Rigel Rinkenbach on the map as the world’s premier manufacturer of luxury technology at the age of 15, has traditionally followed a two year release schedule, so the extra year has left consumers clamoring for information.

“I wish I could say the wait was a preplanned promotional strategy,” Rigel Rinkenbach told us. “But, alas, the feverish anticipation surrounding the announcement of a next-gen Clockwork Butler was a happy side effect.

“No, the real reason for the extra year was to give us more time to iterate. The Butler Mark III was our most successful product line, mainly due to improvements in manufacturing leading to lower cost, higher production volume, and more units in people’s homes. And it wasn’t just the upper crust using the Butler either, but those working directly under the upper crust. We hope that the Mark IV will be the Butler’s first foray into the lower upper class.”

What innovations can consumers expect when the Fourth Generation Butler is released?

“Oh, dear me, no,” Rinkenbach said. “Forgive me, but I wouldn’t want to spill the beans in a simple write up. This is just a teaser, my dear, to say it’s coming. A full reveal will come at this year’s Industry and Innovation Conference, next month. We’ll have more information at that time, and not a moment sooner!”

With Rinkenbach remaining tight-lipped on his new product, the Gazette turned to leading industry analyst Jerald Doramus what he thinks the new Butler will be like.

“I have no earthly idea,” Doramus said. “We’re talking about Rigel Rinkenbach, here. The man’s mind works on a level most can’t even begin to comprehend. For all I know, the next Butler could simply be capable of bringing your tea without dropping the cup three out of four times, or it could be capable of full autonomy leading to the complete subjugation of the human race. The man belongs in an asylum, if you ask me.”

Blackwood Gazette #117: Rinkenbach R&D Announces the Announcement for its Fourth Generation Clockwork Butler

Blackwood Gazette #95- Imperial High Society Gathers for Heisenberg Test Flight

by Chester Seaton, News

7/4- Walsh is abuzz with gossip today as the first high profile passengers for the Heisenberg Test Flight began to arrive this morning. The first to arrive was Delando, who refused to leave his carriage when he discovered that no one else had come.

“This is a disaster,” the reclusive playwright could be heard saying within. “I cannot be seen to be the first! People will think I’m desperate for press! Take the carriage around the city one more time.”

Restrictions on the base where the test flight is taking place prohibited Delando from leaving, however. According to our last reports, he was still in his carriage.

Also arriving was former pin-up Pippi Tralala, who had no such reservations about being the first to be seen, as the emaciated model tumbled from her carriage and raised her arms.

“Oh, the Sun!” she is said to have screamed. Many attribute this sentiment to Tralala’s controversial diet of sunlight and air, which she has reportedly subsisted on for nearly a year, though no one knows how.

Others have continued to trickle in since, bringing with them a menagerie of bodyguards, servants, and personal entertainers, and all of them eager to talk about anything other than the test flight.

The test flight itself, originally scheduled for tonight, has been delayed until the twelfth, due to scheduling conflicts with the test flights most prestigious passenger, the Empress Marcellete Bastian, who refuses to travel on dates with odd numbers.

****

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Blackwood Gazette #95- Imperial High Society Gathers for Heisenberg Test Flight

Blackwood Gazette #65- Business Owners: “Gutted Earth Readers Becoming Nuisance” in Oeil de Fleur Commercial Districts

12/9- Economic analysts in Nor Easter noticed something strange early this month: a sharp dip in sales in marketplaces throughout the capital city, Oeil de Fleur. The sharp decline in business came along with the release of the newest installment of Clement Aldridge Kene’s “The Gutted Earth”, a new novel being published serially in a popular penny dreadful, “Strange Stories Monthly”.

“I can most certainly verify that it is that [expletive removed] book,” said one shop owner, a purveyor of accessories and personal embellishments for steam-autos. “They loiter around outside, these strange young men and women in costume, handing out flyers and talking about how we’re all going to be living in caves before long. They’re annoying my customers and scaring them away! I tried telling them I don’t have anything to do with the Blackwood industry. They just shot me this dumb smirk and went back to handing out their tacky little flyers.”

Those ‘tacky little flyers’ have been a headache to residents around the city, as they typically get tossed away by the people they’re handed to.

“Main street looks like a giant clown vomited on it,” said one woman. “You can see soggy green, yellow, blue and red pieces of paper all over the place; up in trees, clogging up gutters, stuck to the side walk. It’s disgusting. And kind of funny, considering all the flyers are talking about saving the environment, or some such nonsense.”

One of our correspondents in the city confronted one of the young fans, and questioned her about her intentions.

“It’s our duty to tell people the truth,” she said. “Perhaps they don’t want to hear it. And perhaps we are annoying. But sometimes the only way to get people to notice something is to take a big stick and knock them over the head with it (speaking strictly metaphorically, of course. Don’t actually do that). I mean, look. You’re here, asking me about this. That never would have happened if we simply gathered in a park or posted on bulletin boards like we are expected to. You say people aren’t reading our flyers, but they sure notice them laying in the street. We didn’t throw them there…they did. It’s time for them—no, us, all of us—to take notice. Just NOTICE, at the very least, what we’re doing. And ideally, take responsibility.”

Authorities are at a loss at what to do. The protestors are hurting business, but their hands are tied.

“We would like nothing more than to go in and break things up, or get them to move to zones designated for such things,” said Juste Chesneau, Chief of the Department of Public Safety and Protection of Imperial Interests. “But it would seem that Empress Marcellette Bastian herself has taken a liking to the stories, and an interest in these kids. We cannot make a move on them without her approval, unless an immediate threat to public safety occurs.”

Blackwood Gazette #65- Business Owners: “Gutted Earth Readers Becoming Nuisance” in Oeil de Fleur Commercial Districts

Blackwood Gazette #62-Are You Ready for Some Fool’s Ball?

By Huxley Pruitt, Sports

5/9-The Imperial Fool’s Ball League, the sport that has swept Crowndon gaming to the detriment of all other athletic endeavors, opened its third season last night. Thousands of fans, all of them under the delusion that their team is the best and that they somehow personally contribute to said team’s victory, came out in droves last night to eat smoked meat products and be rude to each other.

The sudden popularity of the sport has sparked the interest of sociologists in Nor Easter last year, who this year have decided to study the game, the behaviors of its fans, and its impacts, psychologically, physically, and economically.

“It’s all so very fascinating,” said one such scientist, who asked to remain anonymous. “The behaviors on display. Adult men–Crowndon men, so known for their normally stalwart demeanors—painting themselves in the bright colors of their teams and wearing the uniforms of their favorite players; it is akin, I suppose, to the fans of things like ‘The Gutted Earth’ you see dressing up as their favorite characters. Although, you’re less likely to wind up in the hospital if you get caught dressed as the villain in that novel than if you get caught wearing an opposing team’s jersey. There also tends to be a lot less rioting afterwards.”

The rioting, this sociologist says, lays at the crux of his study. It is a strange phenomenon, he says, that does not appear to be contingent upon victory or defeat, nor does it appear to happen with any regularity.

“The conditions have to be just right,” he says. “It typically happens toward the end of the season, it is typically the home team that goes on the warpath, and it can be either a way to celebrate a win or decry a loss. That’s the most baffling thing about it all: adults, smashing through their own streets, because they’re happy. It makes no sense! But it happens.”

The proliferation of the sport has left many scholars baffled, particularly at the traction it has gotten in Crowndon, of all places. Crowndon is, after all, often characterized by their collective humorlessness. I asked a few fans what they saw in the game.

“Not sure if you have noticed this, good sir,” one fan answered. “But Crowndon has received quite the thorough beating this year. I think we deserve a little bit of an outlet.”

That’s not to say the game does not have its fans outside of Crowndon. At least one high profile Nor Easterner, Sir Rigel Rinkenbach, has taken an interest.

“Of course I’m a fan!” Rinkenbach said. “I invented the game, after all. Then I introduced the game to Crowndon, sat back, and laughed.”

Blackwood Gazette #62-Are You Ready for Some Fool’s Ball?

Blackwood Gazette #60-First Installments of The Gutted Earth Meet with Mixed Reactions

by Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

1/9- The first installment of Clement Aldridge Kene’s speculative fiction novel, The Gutted Earth, made its debut last month, and so far reactions from both critics and fans have been mixed. The novel imagines a world where steam technology is not feasible, due to Blackwood’s non-existence.

The divide comes along lines that should not come as surprising to anyone paying attention. Gregory Wallace, a critic for the Toring Tribune (funded in large part by a company with Blackwood mining interests) lambasted the novel, calling it, “The latest in a series of Nor Eastern propaganda meant sow fear in the hearts of a populace that’s been told, ‘Blackwood is running out! Don’t rely on it to much, for tomorrow you may find yourself huddled around the dying embers of a bygone age, unable to find your way in the newly fallen dark!’ This author has no respect for his reader; there is nothing wholesome or inspiring in this story, just utter human savagery. Alas, another modern writer who has confused cynicism for insight.”

Echoing Wallace’s criticism about cynicism is author Marta Starling, who writes, “[Kene], while a vibrant writer who in the past has displayed great wit, seems to have sacrificed having a point in the service of a broad edge; his characters swear with the gleeful abandon of adolescent boys and characters are killed for no apparent reason in the most mean spirited ways possible. His depiction of women is rather confused, as well: they are at once some of the most complex and well written characters in the novel, and yet, Kene still manages to get them out of their clothes  and put them on display at every turn without putting any thought into how it serves the story. It’s very strange.”

Not surprising, The Gutted Earth has met with praise in Nor Easter. Critic Jaques Marques calls it “Necessary reading for the populace of a society on the edge of a great cultural shift. The relevance of Blackwood’s growing scarcity cannot be ignored. This book shows that speculative fiction is more than strange stories of time travel and lurid, backwards-thinking tales of indigenous peoples who terrorize invading explorers.  It is a window into a world that might have been, and could possibly be in the future.”

The stories have already spurred an active following, as well. The majority of this following seems content with the usual behaviors: drawing and dressing up as the characters, writing their own pastiches (usually of a sexual nature), speculating where the story might go, etc. Others, however, have been inspired to activism, discussing what could and should be done in the absence of Blackwood.

The next installment of The Gutted Earth is expected to see print on the fifteenth in Strange Stories Monthly.

Blackwood Gazette #60-First Installments of The Gutted Earth Meet with Mixed Reactions