Sunday, October 29, 2023

More evidence that Orcs revel in physical pain

NOTE:  This post is related to my exploration of the Fantaspora Hypothesis, a proposed explanation for the existence of similar humanoid species in countless fantasy settings.  The Fantaspora Hypothesis is a proposal that fantasy humanoids originated on our Earth as hominins that coexisted during the Paleolithic Era.  Because the description of humanoid species has been a much-debated point of potential racism in roleplaying games (indeed, they are often called races), and because many (perhaps most) modern humans have DNA indicating a hereditary relationship with actual archaic hominins, I'm afraid there could be stuff that comes across as offensive to some without my even realizing it.  If this is the case, I ask that you please don't assume ill intent, that you let me know, and that you give me a chance to think about it and make corrections as needed.  Thank you!

A Paleolithic Orc family unit

Background:  SCN9A is a gene that has been investigated for its impact on pain sensitivity in humans.  SCN9A encodes a sodium channel, which points to a potential (no pun intended) role in the transmission of nerve impulses.

A few years ago, an Orc variant of the gene (with three specific differences in sequence) was associated with higher pain sensitivity in data from hundreds of thousands of modern humans of British ancestry.

In other words, those of us who have this Orc gene feel more pain.

Find the full paper HERE.

What's new:  Researchers have experimentally connected the presence of the Orc sequence variants with a specific type of pain sensitivity in a set of Latin American Human subjects.  After sensitization with mustard oil, those with the Orc gene had a lower threshold for mechanical pain.

What it all means:  There are a few interesting takeaways from all of this.  One is that, while Orcs apparently evolved in Eurasia, these specific changes in DNA have been maintained most strongly in Humans with Native American ancestry.  Why is this?  Well, the jury's still out.  It does, however, appear that the presence of these genes in modern Humans is the result of mixing of earlier Orc and Human populations, and that they are not simply maintained from the time before Humans and Orcs split evolutionarily.

Orcs may have a higher sensitivity to mechanical pain.  Interestingly, this is the sort of pain that one could imagine would be most common in battle - the pain of being poked with things (vs. pain from heat or pressure).  Why this has occurred is yet to be determined, but the idea that Orcs may charge into battle ready to revel in...and perhaps even be motivated by...the pain that awaits them...well, this isn't too hard to believe, is it?

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Remembering Keith Giffen, 1952-2023

One of the creators most influential to my appreciation of superhero comics passed away this week, as the world lost Keith Giffen on Monday 10/9.  I first saw this on Bleeding Cool News, and it seems as if Rich Johnston may have been the first to report on it there.  Giffen is the creator of Ambush Bug and co-creator of Rocket Raccoon, Lobo, and Jaime Reyes.  Most crucially, Giffen had an unforgettable run taking the Justice League into uncharted territory during the Justice League International era, following the Legends crossover series.

Giffen at GalaxyCon Richmond in 2019, by John Manard, CC-BY-SA 2.0

In true BWAHAHAHA fashion, Giffen's family posted this to his Facebook page at his request:

What a blessing to be able to know this man's work.

The Justice League comics of Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, et al., are among the most beloved stories of my formative years as a fan of comic book superheroes.  While I was familiar with the Super Friends and aware that the JL of decades past had featured the heaviest hitters of the DC universe, as far as I knew, the Justice League was meant to be this ragtag band of misfits (to use a cliché) that struggled, argued, and threw out quip after quip while fighting the bad guys.  I can still remember purchasing Justice League #3 on a family trip and being carried away by it in the event that could easily be seen as a starting point for my existence as a comic book lifer.

Mr. Giffen was one of...if not THE...first comic book writer(s) whose name I actually knew.  His genius will live on through his creations and through the remarkable characterization he helped to give to the creations of many others.  He will be missed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Fantaspora Hypothesis

In my mundane life...meaning when I am not adventuring over a tabletop, or in my head, or maybe even out in the real world...I am a scientist.  Thus, when I think about fantastic settings, I tend to think about them in a way that's...well, I hesitate to call it scientific, but we could probably go with sciencey.

Couple this with one of my favorite conceits in fantasy tabletop gaming - that all worlds are connected and reachable from our own Earth - and a lot of how and why questions immediately present themselves.  Why are humans everywhere?  How do they even share some aspects of Earth culture, but clearly not all?  What about all these near-human species that also tend to show up a lot, sometimes with slight differences from the equivalent species on another world?  Etc.

The way I currently see it, there are a few broad categories of explanations here.

From Pixabay

First of all, these fantasy worlds might have come about in a way that was simply influenced by generic Western fantasy.  I think that Codehaven (C0d3H4v3n), from my hopefully-not-abandoned effort, is an example that leans this way a bit.  Somehow, through existence in a computer, or in a pocket universe created by a human, or...uh, something else, probably...the fantasy world has taken on clichés associated with fictional fantasy settings in our world.

Second - and this one can be connected to that first explanation - the fantasy world(s) might be an actual creation of the human mind in some way.  Here, I'm thinking of some stories that feature characters who find themselves in a realm they previously believed to be fictional.  The old D&D cartoon might fit this...or maybe something like the Japanese predecessor to Super Mario Bros. 2, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, in which a family gets pulled into the fantastic environment of a book.

I guess the thing that differentiates this from the first category is that something like a fantasy world in a computer probably has an origin story that involves specific programming, and some rogue code, and maybe a magical event to fully set things in motion...while this second idea is more along the lines of consciousness and imagination creating reality by their own power.  It's really all connected, though.  Or, at least, it can be.  A high fantasy writer who wakes up to find themselves in a world of their own creation kind of fits both models.

Finally - and this is the one where I get to be extra sciencey - maybe the people and societies of all of these worlds actually branched off from the same original lineage.

I really like this one.  It's possible that some of the roots of my obsession(?) with it can be traced to the notion in DC Comics that ancient Atlanteans are connected not only to the Warlord's home of Skartaris, but possibly also to current (or near-current) populations of Kryptonians, Rannians, and Thanagarians.  I even worked some details of this idea into the very background of the Paleolithic adventure I ran a couple of years ago (in the overarching potential headcanon, at least).  And really...connecting Atlantis-type mythology, our interactions with other ancient human species, and the potential for plane-hopping adventures...well, that's all pretty much in my wheelhouse!

I call it the Fantasy Diaspora - or Fantaspora - Hypothesis...a proposal that the many interconnected fantasy worlds of our fiction and gaming are populated by descendants of ancient inhabitants from our very own Earth.  It sounds awfully pretentious, and it's probably been done before, and I love it.

As always, hopefully more to come...

Monday, October 9, 2023

The Department of Monstrous Matters

Hmm.  I'm thinking about trying to give this blog more of an identity.  Something beyond "whatever I'm obsessing about at the moment."  Which, I suppose, is the beauty of a personal blog.  But...well, I wonder if a default focus might help to keep me more...well, focused...?  Hmm again.

Anyway, this is an idea that I've thrown around in my head for years...and am playing with for inspiration now...

Dragon head icon by Faithtoken, licensed via CC BY 3.0

Hopefully more to come...