Sword Art Origins

Image caption: The Town of Beginnings! – Sword Art Origins #1 (Minecraft Sword Art Online Roleplay. Uploaded to youtube by: Hayden Blake, Mar 18, 2022

Lately I’ve been interested in Minecraft roleplays, specifically the Origins series. I’m not their target audience: they’re mostly made by gamers in their teens and twenties, whereas I’m a book reader and author in my . . . well, let’s just say “middle age.”

Minecraft roleplays are a form of collaborative, animated storytelling, using Minecraft worlds as the theater. They’re tough to watch if you don’t play Minecraft. Compared to a TV show, their production quality is terrible–but that’s part of their appeal for me, because it means a low barrier to entry for creators who don’t have tons of money or access to television executives and whatnot, so I get to see raw creativity. Sometimes, what comes out of it is amazing.

Here’s how it works: a group of people will have a shared world and some general idea of a shared plot that goes on for a season. Some are there to play, while others have youtube channels where they post their final, edited videos. One of the biggest Origins series, My Hero Origins, had 30 youtubers and 32 other players. Their fans, which number in the hundreds of thousands, are constantly commenting and participating in the shared world with fanfics and fan art.

The full list of series is on the OriginsMCRP Wiki, but my personal favorites are Fairy Tail Origins Seasons 4 and 5, Origins of Olympus Seasons 2 and 3, and My Hero Origins. I’m hoping to have some time to point out some of my favorite characters and moments.

Sword Art Origins is in the Isekai genre and is a fan response to the manga and anime Sword Art Online. All the characters joined a virtual game, some serious gamers and some just to try it out, and were trapped by “the godfather” in a game world, where they must clear 100 levels to escape. I’m not a fan of that plotline, but the series is more polished and more consciously crafted than previous Origins series. It also represents a turning point because a wave of players have departed the Origins group, including @ItsRichieW (the original creator of the group), @ReinBloo, @TheFamousFilms, and @_HaydenBlake. Hayden Blake’s departure is a mystery to fans and colleagues alike: she just made a Twitter announcement that her YouTube channel, with its 50,000 subscribers, was for sale. Her character’s story arc in Sword Art Origins, like many others, will stay unfinished.

My favorite episode in this series is “Found in Minecraft SAO,” which aired May 18, 2022. Previous episodes took place before the first-floor boss, which not all the characters would necessarily survive. This one skips forward in time, bypassing the boss fight, and treats us to a rendition of Scarborough Fair by the characters Crocus, Enzo, Sierra and Venom. After that, they wander about home a bit in domestic bliss, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and then they chase each other off into the sunset.

Obligatory pandemic post

I see it’s been two years since I posted last. The pandemic knocked me for quite a loop. I didn’t get Covid, not yet anyway, but everything about my life feels different now. I think I’m back to posting to my blog, which makes me think I might be adjusting — question mark???

Minecraft Writing Prompts

Back In 2016 I participated in a Minecraft Club for Sacajawea Elementary, and I developed a curriculum for 15 minutes a day of writing about Minecraft. I’ve revised it a little for home use. 

Please feel free to adapt and share widely. It’s available under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial) meaning that you are welcome to adapt and share it, but not to sell it, provided you give credit. An example of how to give credit is: “Minecraft Club Writing Prompts by Kristin King, used under CC BY-NC” or “Adapted from Minecraft Club Writing Prompts by Kristin King, used under CC BY-NC”. Here is a link for more information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

The prompts are all in one file, Minecraft Club Writing Prompts. Enjoy!


Fanfiction for Kids

Some time back, I taught a fanfiction workshop for the fifth and sixth graders at my kids’ elementary school. Disclaimer: I have no formal education in teaching. Now that everyone is homeschooling for a while, it seemed like time to dust off my work and send it out. This is made for elementary school but could also work for middle and high school. The important part is: Writing ought to be fun.

When planning a fanfiction workshop, I thought about what would have helped me as a young writer. I was constantly writing stories, but I felt like they all had the same character in them . . . a girl with an embarrassing similarity to me! There’s nothing wrong with that, but it made me feel self-conscious about my writing. I was also self-conscious about writing stories featuring my favorite book characters. I didn’t realize that authors are always borrowing characters and plots and then reworking them. Why not just make it explicit?

Here are links to my posts. Use these because it looks like the links internal to my posts are broken. . . and I don’t have time to fix it.

And here are links to some of the materials I made, including worksheets, overheads, and a booklet I wrote as a kid.



Long Time No Post

Well, then, hello. I’ve been off WordPress a while, working on my novel in the meantime, meaning I haven’t had much creative energy left over. But I’m getting back on so I can post some resources that folks might find useful for homeschooling. Because that’s where we are now, and for the forseeable future: many kids on their own to learn as they personally see fit. Of course, that will be a whole lot of screen time. So I have a couple projects to share that I hope kids will enjoy. They’re targeted at elementary students but could certainly be adapted for high school and if anybody wants to work on that with me, let me know.

I’m not planning to share much about my personal life, but our family is healthy, sheltering in place, and has lots of groceries. So that’s good.

Stay safe, stay well, et cetera.

Compatriots in writer’s block

This is the week that some of my fellow writers are bringing me inspiration, not because they are putting out stellar work but because they’re being honest about the struggle to put words to paper, or, once they’re written, submit them for publication.

Some stuff happened in my life (which is now done with) and I had about a 3-month interruption in novel writing, and I’m finding it hard to pick it back up. It’s a self-confidence thing. Also, until recently it had been two years since I’d submitted one of my stories. Pretty darn hard to get published if you pre-reject yourself! I now have three out of six out, with a plan to send one out per day. In theory, it will get easier.

Anyway, I’ve ordered this book, penned by a friend whose words always encourage me: In the Quiet Spaces by C.E. Young. It’s en route and I’ll report back.

Asking the wrong questions, getting the wrong answers

Normally I find the Guardian to be a good news source, but this article frustrated me: “How America’s Identity Politics Went from Inclusion to Division.” The author, Amy Chua, is taking the position of “expert” on a topic for which she’s missing essential context. As are the editors of the Guardian, and probably most of the readership. So people who are quite rightly annoyed by a certain ideological narrowness in the politics of the Left today will go on sharing it on social media and various fights will break out. But this is a time when collectively, our lives depend on knowing what’s wrong and what to do about it.

Here’s the narrative Chua gives:

Perhaps in reaction to Reaganism, and a growing awareness that “colorblindness” was being used by conservatives to oppose policies intended to redress racial inequities, a new movement began to unfold on the left in the 1980s and 1990s – a movement emphasizing group consciousness, group identity, and group claims.

Perhaps she was unaware of the influence that third-wave feminism had on “the left” or the fact that “the left” is not monolithic. How, one wonders, could the she have missed that? Well, who is the author? Amy Chua is a law professor, with expertise in the areas of international business transactions, development, ethnic conflict, and globalization. The view of the world looks vastly different from where she’s standing.

Me, I’ve spent two or three decades grappling with the miscellaneous neuroses of activist groups. I agree with Chua on many points, such as insularity, exclusion, and so forth. But I disagree that these are problems of “identity politics,” and say rather that they stem from a misunderstanding of the original context of “identity politics,” which was a truly revolutionary and inclusive movement by Black feminists that existed back in 1978 and is ongoing today. And people who really want to put an end to narrow-mindedness would do well to understand who has been already doing that work and why, rather than to sweep everything remotely reeking of “identity politics” under the rug.


Why would somebody focus politics on their identity, anyway? Is it “tribalism,” as Chua suggests, or is there a different goal? There’s no answering this question without delving deeply into the Combahee River Statement.  Here’s what the collective has to say about identity politics:

This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.

They go on to explain that as Black lesbian feminists they face oppression on many fronts, including race, gender, and class, and because of their identity they cannot agree with any single-issue politics, because it leaves out too much and too many people:

As we have already stated, we reject the stance of Lesbian separatism because it is not a viable political analysis or strategy for us. It leaves out far too much and far too many people, particularly Black men, women, and children.

Because they experience multilayered oppressions, they feel the need to fight them all:

The major source of difficulty in our political work is that we are not just trying to fight oppression on one front or even two, but instead to address a whole range of oppressions. We do not have racial, sexual, heterosexual, or class privilege to rely upon, nor do we have even the minimal access to resources and power that groups who possess anyone of these types of privilege have.

For their own work, they chose to prioritize issues at the intersection of a number of oppressions but also noted:

During our time together we have identified and worked on many issues of particular relevance to Black women. The inclusiveness of our politics makes us concerned with any situation that impinges upon the lives of women, Third World and working people.

This is not tribalism. This work includes anyone who faces any type of oppression. And in fact, it tangibly benefits a much broader group than themselves, right down to working class white men.

And this is ultimately their goal:

As feminists we do not want to mess over people in the name of politics. We believe in collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society.

I mention the Combahee River Statement because I find it particularly inspiring, but it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to feminist thought by women of color. In fact, it was written in 1978 and theorizing has gone farther than this. Right now I’m rereading the book This Bridge Called My Back, Writings by Radical Women of Color, written in 1981, with works by 29 women. I’m taking it slow, because there’s a lot here, all of it potent.


So for anybody talking about narrowness of politics and calling it “identity politics,” for heaven’s sake, get up to speed on conversations that have been ongoing since at least 1978. Racism and a suspicion of feminism have kept these dialogues out of mainstream awareness . . . it’s long past time for that to end.


When free speech is expensive

This Saturday, the University of Washington College Republicans are bringing in a speaker from a right-wing group called Patriot Prayer, amidst protests by campus groups. The president of the university has warned people to stay away from the area for the entire day because the university has information that people are coming with the explicit purpose of instigating violence. Now, it also turns out, according to an article in the University of Washington’s Daily newspaper, that the College of Republicans is also suing because the University is imposing a fee of $17,000 to provide security. That is some expensive free speech!

Last year, on January 20th, when a protester was shot (by somebody who came to the university, with a gun, with the intent to use it, at an event sponsored by the College Republicans) he and his family and community paid dearly for medical costs. He almost died. This was free speech for the wealthy and powerful speaker, who wasn’t even a UW student, but expensive on many levels for everyone else.

In a free society, who should bear these costs?

Let’s suppose the College Republicans has to pay the $17,000 for security. I assume they could. But most student groups couldn’t, which in practice means they wouldn’t be allowed the same free speech rights as the College Republicans.

Something’s wrong here, not only with the situation, but also the way we’re all thinking about free speech. I have this to say to antifa activists regarding the “No Platform” strategy:  right now, it is the wrong tool for the job. More powerful and constitutionally defensible tools exist. For instance: what if every campus group demanded $17,000 for the combined costs of bringing out a speaker and paying for security? A call for “Equal Platform” — now, that would be free speech.

Above all else though . . . folks, be safe out there on Saturday.


Could collective cognition be manipulated?

After my last post I wondered if the term “collective cognition” is already in use, and a quick Google search shows me the answer is yes. The next question: could it be manipulated? Also yes. Here are a few “teaser” sites for further exploration. But I’m going to resist the temptation to follow my curiosity because I have a backlog of writing projects . . . including novel revisions.

Since at least 2001, corporate strategists have been studying the manipulation of collective cognition. For example, here is the abstract to an article by John Mezias in the journal Long Range Planning, “Changing Collective Cognition: A Process Model for Strategic Change.”

Firms face increasing pressures to modify their strategies and adjust to rapidly changing environmental threats and opportunities. Yet strategic reorientations are difficult to achieve, especially as most methods fail to recognize the cognitive aspects of change. While some methods such as facilitated workshops have become increasingly popular to help top management teams better facilitate strategic change, these have largely evolved on the basis of successful experience rather than on an understanding of cognitive processes. This paper seeks to fill this gap, by drawing both upon theoretical literature and experience with successful change facilitation practices from Europe and the US. Its focus is on the cognitive aspects of strategic orientation and provides a practical guide to those who use this process.

In other words, when corporate leadership wants to make a change to strategic organization, this article is recommending also changing collective thought processes.

Here’s an outline of topics covered:

  1.  Introduction
  2.  From theory to practice
  3.  From the individual to the collective
  4. Changing collective cognition
  5. Problems with recognizing a need for change
  6. Problems with mobilizing change forces
  7. Problems with overcoming change barriers
  8. Unlearning, learning and cognitive reorientation
  9. The facilitated Change Workshop
  10. Summary and conclusion

But why stop with changing collective cognition within a single corporation, when the world is full of potential customers and policymakers? That’s definitely happening within the field of education. Corporately funded think tanks are pushing messages, for instance, that public schools are failing, and encouraging people to become “change agents.”

And what do you know, the manipulation of social media is indeed being studied. This from “Mnemonic convergence in social networks: the emergent properties of cognition at a collective level” by Coman, Alin, et al, published 2016 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

 Here we report results on the formation of collective memories in laboratory-created communities. We manipulated conversational network structure in a series of real-time, computer-mediated interactions in fourteen 10-member communities. . . . The social-interactionist approach proposed herein points to optimal strategies for spreading information in social networks and provides a framework for measuring and forging collective memories in communities of individuals.

Apparently they built collective memories out of nothing? Well, if that capability is available, somebody’s going to use it.

And that’s quite enough dystopia for one day. I am an optimistic person, though, and I do believe there are utopian solutions that involve intentional, democratic, and compassionate attention to collective cognition.



(Picture is from Doctor Who: “The Lie of the Land,” featuring aliens who had the power to manipulate collective memory provided one person gave consent.)

doctor who lie of the land

From Doctor Who “The Lie of the Land”

Musings on collective cognition

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while is Carl Jung’s concept of a collective unconscious and the omission of a complementary term, collective consciousness. The emerging fields of AI and of rapid transmission of thoughts by social media is making the idea more and more interesting all the time.

Many people in different fields are working on the question of defining things like cognition, sentience, consciousness, and so forth, and in different fields. I haven’t studied anything deeply but I get bits and pieces now and again, like the concept that human consciousness/identity/”I” is simply an illusion made up by a vastly more complex brain. If that’s the case, then perhaps a single voice could pipe up, such as an artificial intelligence, call itself the mind of the world, and convince others that only it has the power of speech. And maybe that would be a collective consciousness.

So I think about weird things like that.

Or perhaps humanity has always had not one but many collective consciousnesses, with some dominating the conversation and others forced to remain silent. The ones on top would be, for instance, news outlets, celebrities, and respected authors.

In that case, what effect is social media having? Is another collective consciousness rising to the surface, as when people use hashtags such as #metoo and #blacklivesmatter, quickly followed by #notme and #bluelivesmatter. If so, it’s based in humanity but it’s also inhuman. It’s an emergent consciousness.

Depending on how you define consciousness (cognitive scientists disagree), this is an overreach. But maybe collective cognition is a safer and less new-age concept.

Here’s Wikipedia’s current definition of cognition: “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”. This definition leaves out the question of “who or what is doing the thinking,” because we’ve always assumed it to be a human or other animal. Maybe it’s time to question that.

Back to the idea that maybe social media and artificial intelligence could give rise to collective consciousness, we had better be damn sure that what we are building, accidentally at the moment, serves the interests of humanity and the Earth.

Then connecting that concept to the idea “the medium is the message” — that is, if you communicated the same idea over the TV, radio, or speech, the media you used would make a much larger difference than the idea you were expressing — our social media platforms impact our collective cognition.

Connecting that idea to Facebook in particular, it just changed its algorithms for what kinds of posts get higher in our news feeds. It’s a good idea to do something, since social media encouraged fake news, which helped swing a presidential election, but there will inevitably be unexpected side effects. We need to watch them.

Now, taking that idea and putting it into a crystal ball, what is likely to happen in the near future? What kinds of positive change are likely and which impossible? Well, in the absence of a catastrophic failure of technology (could happen), there’s no going back. Social media is with us to stay.

The one thing we can  impact is who owns it.

So that’s it, a tour of my musings. Like the image I’m featuring, they turn the ways we typically view the world on its side. Hope you enjoyed the ride.


(Image features a sideways view of the globe.)


Daniel R. Strebe, March 27, 2015, from Wikimedia Commons