by Max Barry

Latest Forum Topics




by The Garden of Earthly Delights of Jabberwocky. . 124 reads.

The Mad Surfer, January 2021

The Official Newspaper of the 10000 Islands
January 2021

December 2020 | November 2020 | October 2020 | September 2020

“A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”
― H.L. Mencken

Weather: excellent
Water temp: perfect!
Waves: bodacious!

Whether the season means Kris Kringle or Kwaanzai or Krampus, TMS will go out on a limb and risk offending the overly sensitive by hoping you have a great holiday season...even if you don’t believe in such humbug! [/align]

The Council of Nine
Last Updated: November 2020

Chief Executive: Markanite
Delegate: HumanSanity
Minister of Labor: Free Las Pinas
Minister of Immigration: Thedairos
Minister of Education: Grea Kriopia
Senator for New Republica South: Controlitia
Senator for Himes West: Wille-Harlia
Senator for Blue Canaria North: Wischland
Senator for Lyonnesse East: Aschente

-Deputy Ministers of Education: Kohnhead, Dokansia
-Deputy Senators for Himes West: Central Russia, Margaux

There's never a dull moment in the world of XKI politics, and this election cycle is no exception. As our Chief Executive Markanite opened the Election Board in the wee hours of morning, he found Murphtannia (WIP) waiting at the door to file his application for candidacy for the seat of New Republica South. Before break time, Dokansia had thrown his hat into the ring. It became a crowded field when Solarampa entered the fray as an Independent.

Blue Canaria North incumbent Wischland made it clear early on that she intends to serve another term. So far no one is inclined to argue with her.

Candidate declarations and accompanying stirring speeches can be found here: Link


It's time to rediscover the LinkXKI Casino and a whole new level of entertainment! Come and experience all that's new at the LinkXKI Casino. It's a whole new game!
You're gonna need a bigger wallet...



We've been harping here on the interconnections between all things, which is not as cosmic as it sounds in the business world. The recent trade boom, which were the result of natural events, has harbored another windfall for XKI bourgeoisie. Here's The Regional Reserve with the full account:

Following the good times delivered by the recent events (lots of shipbuilding and trade), Islanders had a lot of loot in their pockets to spend over the holidays. Wanting to have a pretty good ending to a pretty bad year, they flocked to their cities to buy the latest in gifts and wonderments for the kiddies. And for the adults, too! But several major snowstorms locked down the roads, driving these taco-heavy Islanders down into the subways to complete their holiday shopping. As a result, each instance of owning the shop item Inter Island Subway will add a hefty 1,000 tacos (or a kilotaco, for you metric system users) to the owners wallet!

Mortimer Printout - January 2021
Economic Outlook
Sector: 1 - National Improvements
Item: Inter Island Subway
Bonus: 1,000 Ŧ
Mitigation: N/A
Adjustment: N/A
Stock Market:
From 01-December-2020 to 31-December-2020
Average Change: -1,548 Ŧ
Percent Change: -4%—Stocks Decline
Average Dividend (Base/Dividend): (290/280)

Individual stock performances can be found here: Link


Those who pay attention know Margaux as our standing Secretary of State as well as Deputy Senator of Himes West, but in their spare time they also serve as a TITO Knight and an active Recruiter for XKI, still finding time to pen a few verses as our Poet Laureate. Somehow, we managed to sneak in a quick interview.

TMS: What country are you from?
M: I am from the U.S.

TMS: What’s the grossest food you ever had to eat to be polite?
M: Sushi, I kept a straight face throughout it all.

TMS: Who is your favorite musician?
M: Elvis Presley, hands down my favorite.

TMS: What afterschool activity did you quit as a kid, and why?
M: I did Running Club, and then later did Track & Field and Cross Country. I just loved running.

TMS: If you could turn the ocean into a liquid other than water, which one would you pick?
M: Apple Juice. I just really like it.

TMS: What is your favorite conspiracy theory? And do you believe in it?
M: I'm not much of a person for conspiracies. So, sorry I don't really have any.

TMS: Do you have a favorite author? If you could make them write for any TV show which TV show would it be.
M: Rick Riordan. Well, the Percy Jackson series is my favorite from him. They started a movies series, but it's pretty bad. So, I wish he would help them make a new one.

TMS: If you could ban 1 food from the face of the planet what would you ban?
M: Sushi, sorry but I hate it.

TMS: What is your favorite hobby?
M: Running, before I stopped doing it semi-professional. I was really good at it. Now, I do it to keep in shape.

TMS: Who is your favorite comic book character?
M: Spiderman.

TMS: What vice could you never give up?
M: Being a night owl. I don't have a sleep schedule.

TMS: If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?
M: Wolf.

TMS: What will be the title of your autobiography?
M: "Run and never look back."

TMS:Why are you so formal?
M: Because, if I'm respectful to them, then they will respect me.


With the departure of THX1138, our Editor flew into a panic. But the apparent emergency was abated as we've added a new member to our dedicated, hardworking staff. You know Wischland as a TITO Tactical Officer as well as the head of the Knight Mentor Program, all in addition to serving as Senator for Blue Canaria North. How she fits it into her schedule to write for us we'll never know. But it could explain why she's rarely at our office. In any event, here is her take on WA affairs.

Stepping into the hallowed halls of the World Assembly at the beginning of the month, I knew I had big shoes to fill in taking on TMS’s WA Scene section. For a regional hermit like myself, the WA was a vast unknown, full of intricate mysteries and insider secrets. Nonetheless, I had a job to do, and I was confident I’d be able to figure things out well enough with a little elbow grease.

If you’re thinking that was the perfect setup for me to reveal that I was completely overconfident, then, boy oh boy, are you correct. As the papers piled up and the debates extended into the night, I realized a WA newbie like me would need a lot more than a can-do attitude and snazzy business suit to get to the true heart of this illustrious institution.

As the nights drew on, I knew I needed to get my act together. Fueled by exorbitant amounts of coffee and my ever-approaching deadline, I scoured through old debate records, translated all that fancy legalese, and analyzed voting patterns. I shook hands with eminent and not-so-eminent WA delegates. I cavorted with fellow reporters and cajoled reluctant authors. And little by little, I finished my research and wrote out this analysis of December’s WA proposals. Enjoy and thank you all for reading!

SCR#333 “Condemn The Free Joy State”: An in-character resolution meant to recognize the issue writing contributions of noted issue editor The Free Joy State. WA rules made this resolution a tricky one, as author Cretox State couldn’t discuss the subject’s substantial work as an editor. Although The Free Joy State is no doubt worthy of recognition, opposition to the rather fluffy resolution itself formed. Regardless, enough people seemed to think the appreciative condemnation was warranted, and the resolution passed with 70% support.

GAR#527 “Protected Working Leave”: Cretox State was on a roll, authoring both the first SC and GA resolutions to pass this month. This resolution is exactly what it says on the tin, allowing workers to take paid leave for health and family reasons without retaliation from employers. Although the resolution sparked some debate about whether it would help or hurt small businesses, it was written with enough professional-sounding terminology and formatting, and on a popular enough topic to easily pass with 81% support.

SCR#334 “Commend The Templar High Council”: A well-deserved commendation for the subject’s roleplaying work. The resolution itself was also notable for expanding commendations to a new area of NS. Beyond that, it was also just a fun and well written proposal, so props to author Praeceps for that. Unsurprisingly, the resolution flew through the vote with just shy of 89% support.

GAR#528 “Repeal: ‘Protecting Sites of Religious Significance’”: A fairly standard repeal, targeting the many loopholes, broad definitions, and overdone bureaucracy of the original proposal. Although the repeal was near universally supported during debate amongst the GA elites, the wider WA community didn’t seem to receive the memo and the repeal passed with only 69% support. Perhaps they were turned off by the title, and were confused about why a seemingly beneficial proposal needed to be repealed. Goes to show the importance of first impressions and persuading the general populace.

GAR#529 “Repeal: ‘Rights of the Employed’”: Given that the original resolutions barely squeaked through the vote, it’s unsurprising that a repeal was attempted only a few months later. Author Cretox State pointed out many unintentional consequences of the original resolution and cited other GA proposals as doing enough to make “Rights of the Employed” redundant. The repeal passed much more easily than the original proposal, with 80% support.

SCR#335 “Commend Praeceps”: Everyone’s favorite bunny finally got their long-overdue commend. The Resolution lauded their region-building efforts in The North Pacific and SC authorship. Well-written and with a truly worthy subject, the resolution saw next to no contestation during forum debate and easily passed with 89% support.

GA “Water Fluoridation Act” (Did not pass): Author Scalizagasti’s first attempt at GA authorship, this resolution mandated that WA nations research fluoride levels in drinking water and fluoridate it as necessary to promote health. Unsurprisingly, supporters of National Sovereignty were in uproar, claiming the resolution was overstepping the WA’s bounds, while public health supporters were busy expostulating the virtue of water fluoridation. It seems that most nations were not a fan of letting the WA determine the fluoride levels in their water, or thought that fluoridation would just be too much work, and the resolution failed at vote with 58% Against. Props to the author for a good first attempt though!

SCR#336 “Commend The Western Isles”: Although the frequent use of bold text confuses my poor over-caffeinated brain, TWI is generally recognized as worthy of a commend. The question was whether this resolution was good enough to do it. It focused heavily on internal RP of the region, and was criticized for being overly fluffy. While RP is certainly worthy of a commend, I can’t help but wonder whether the GA shouldn’t focus on recognizing more intraregional achievements. I like TWI well enough though, so I’m not terribly upset that the resolution managed to pass with 53% support. Given that slim margin of support though, it’s little surprise that this resolution has already been repealed. But more on that next month.

GA “Repeal: ‘International Road Safety’” (Did not pass): Another newcomer to the GA, Free Azell took a stab at authorship with this repeal. For a repeal, it’s quite short and slim on details. Makes it a breeze to read, but lacks the persuasive punch needed to successfully convince enough nations to vote for. The repeal failed with 54% against. Better luck next time Free Azell!

SCR#337 “Repeal: ‘Commend The Holy Principality of Saint Mark’”: Yeesh. The drama surrounding this repeal is a perfect example of all the icky things in the SC. The repeal itself is well written and does an excellent job of pointing out the problems of the original resolution without attacking Saint Mark. But it seemed to strike a lot of nerves. Nations were calling the resolution toxic, using ad hominem arguments, and attacking the author as lazy. To top it all off, the repeal was quorum raided. It all had me sheltering under my desk, until the repeal passed with 69% support. Word to the wise: when the debate posts get really long and start using all caps, run away as fast as you can.

GAR#530 “Fairness in Collective Bargaining”: This resolution was unproblematic, seeking to expand upon GA legislation concerning labor unions. Simply written, well-reasoned, and without any obvious discrepancies, this came down more to nation’s ideological beliefs rather than any problems with the resolution itself. A breath of fresh air following the messiness of the past few WA proposals, this resolution passed with 65% support.

SCR#338 “Commend Verdant Haven”: As an issue author myself, I’m always overjoyed to see prominent issue authors get their due commendation. NS literally wouldn’t be the same without them. The resolution recognized Verdant Haven’s authorship and contributions to Forest, to an overwhelmingly positive response. Passed with a bit over 90% support.

GAR#531 “Tariffs and Trade Convention”: Good thing I took a macroeconomics class, because this resolution would have been gibberish without it. Essentially, it prohibits trade restrictions like tariffs between WA member nations, increasing free and fair trade. Free trade is an incredibly complex and difficult topic, so props to author Imperium Anglorum for tackling it so well. The resolutions passed with 62% support, with much of the opposition seeming to come from those who didn’t understand the proposal. Economics can have a steep learning curve so it’s unsurprising, but a shame nonetheless, that there was so much confusion over this resolution.


Providence by Max Barry

I've read all of Max Barry's novels, and consider myself a fan. His first four books were intelligent, witty, clever and offered insight to underlying human motivation. With Lexicon, he wandered into the abstract, taking an intriguing concept and turning it into something of a turgid mess with vague circumlocution and too long, repetitive chase scenes. With Providence, Barry attains a clarity of purpose and prose, eliminating the verbose waste of Lexicon.

I'll try to talk about this without revealing anything critical. We're dealing with two themes familiar to science fiction readers: that of humans in conflict with aliens in a distant part of the galaxy, and that of Artificial Intelligence. I've been reading science fiction since roughly 1960. This is only relevant insofar as it means I've had a lot of exposure to scifi themes. These are two tried and true tropes, ground that's been trod and retrod, because they resonate.

H. G. Wells brought aliens home to us in War of the Worlds. Olaf Stapledon took the conflict to far flung galaxies in Last and First Men, which spawned a thousand SF novels. Both gave us alien enemies whose thought processes did not resemble ours. A salient point about Barry's aliens: they are really alien. Barry resists any temptation to anthropomorphize them into cute cuddly creatures. They defy human expectations. And their defense/attack mechanism is mind boggling. I’m not a scientist, so I struggled to comprehend it, which made it all the more terrifying.

Then there's the A. I. This notion may have originated with the myth of Pygmalion, which grew into Shelley's Frankenstein, and took on another dimension as Hal 9000 in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hal became dangerous, but was still framed in terms we could grasp as the shipboard computer took on the aspect of a senile uncle who gets out of control. Barry's AI is so far above us, it may not even be aware of us, no more than we are aware of our own DNA...or bacteria. However Artificial it is, it is still Intelligent, and Barry looks at many of the ways we are inclined to let AI do our thinking for us in modes we do not understand. Not only do we fail to grasp the mechanics of what AI do, they use concepts that are beyond our comprehension, particularly when they begin self replicating, when they no longer need to ask our permission. In that last case, it really isn't even necessary for them to communicate with us. As one character muses, “ I don't think there's one alien species out here. I think there are two.”

As that quote might suggest, Barry never fails to take into account the human perspective, through the POV of the main characters, which serves to emphasize the non humanity of both our alien foe and our AI. The main characters are well delineated and consistent throughout; no one acts unexpectedly out of character. Near the end, at that crucial moment the author could easily rely upon a hackneyed deus ex machina, well, Barry has that covered too. I won't say whether the cavalry arrives in time, but give Barry credit for having long since provided a logical explanation for how events unfold. I found myself with raised eyebrows or a frown of consternation at a couple of passages wherein the continuity suffered, but after re-reading them, I suspect those unwieldy paragraphs to be the work of an overzealous editor. I would love to discuss it in greater detail, but I don't want to give anything away. All in all, I found Providence to be easily the most satisfying of Barry's novels. Terrific job, Max, and I look forward to your next. I highly recommend it.

Sandy Shoals

Dear Sandy, while my brother researched our genealogy, he submitted a DNA sample. As a lark, I decided to do the same thing. Much to our mutual surprise, we discovered we are half brothers. Our parents never revealed this fact to us; we were raised under one roof as one family, and the subject never came up. To my horror, he has begun telling people we aren't related, going so far as to cancel my “brother" status on social media. I'm mortified. As far as I am concerned, we are still brothers; that's the way we were raised. How should I handle this? – Bewildered in Boise

Dear Boise, my decidedly dim view of social media would ordinarily lead me to dismiss that aspect, but I recognize that it bears some importance to most people, a mystery to me. There's really not much you can do about your brother's reaction, and when mutual acquaintances ask you about it, just let them know it's out of your hands. You can hope your brother will eventually see he's being a blockhead and capitulate. In your shoes, I would play it down so he can see he can't get your goat. I had brothers, too.


Kohnhead, our Deputy Minister of Education, has announced the newest Featured Nation as Megistos!

The Holy Santa of Megistos is a massive, environmentally stunning nation, ruled by ᴇmpᴇror Solacᴇ with an even hand, and renowned for its keen interest in outer space, anti-smoking policies, and digital currency. The hard-nosed, hard-working, democratic, humorless population of 1.318 billion Mᴇgistians have some civil rights, but not too many, enjoy the freedom to spend their money however they like, to a point, and take part in free and open elections, although not too often.

For the full monty, read this: Link


Recruiter Alert!! TITO XO and Lyonesse East Senator Aschente has announced the House Cup and Shield Competition for January 2021. This Competition runs throughout the entire month of January, so be sure you have an Accelerator account, prepare your missive, and proceed thence to do your part to make XKI more densely populated: Link

Taco Island Charities has initiated the Ninth Annual Paffnia Prize, which is given for the most heralded innovative idea in XKI in last year. Get all the information you need about this highly coveted award by going here: Link


It's true that XKISP has lost some of its initial impetus, but Islanders are still claiming precious lunar real estate every month. On the Moon as here on Earth, it's all about location, location, location. Flying Eagles staked his claim near the coveted Mare Jesioneka. For all the details of his space adventure, read this:


The Mad Surfer is looking for highly qualified, motivated, dedicated writers. But maybe you would like to try your hand at it, too. And now WE CAN PAY YOU! Yes, we actually now have a payroll department! Pay commensurate with talent and ability to ingratiate oneself with Editor. Stringent job examination includes placing a mirror in front of your mouth to see if it fogs up. Please notify Jabberwocky or The Mad Surfer to apply.

Ministry of Labor is seeking an artist to render six Knight statues. For details, read this:

To the consternation of local gamblers Free Las Pinas has retired from their post as Casino Manager. This naturally leaves an enormous void which Ministry of Labor is eager to fill. For details, read this: Link

There is currently an opening for Emissary to Europe. Apply here: Link

You, too, can be one of the lucky few. Have TMS delivered right to your virtual door: Link

The Mad Surfer is:

Staff Writers: Wischland, Sandy Shoals, Jabberwocky.
Associate Editor: Grea Kriopia
Editor in Chief/Circulation/Advertising: Jabberwocky