Short story: La Séptima Bala

I’m pleased to finally announce the release of La Séptima Bala, an online short story, with gorgeous illustrations by my collaborator René, and told with a subtle bit of enforced interaction. Read it at

La Septima Bala

Early morning: the girl who knew the secret of the seventh bullet meditates on a rooftop. From La Séptima Bala.

We did the final artistic push on this at the end of 2014 (René and I live on different continents, so getting together to make art requires extra effort). All the line art in the project is René’s, but we went through to-and-fro refinement on pretty much every aspect that ends up in front of your eyes. We worked together physically on colouring the illustrations, which took much longer than most people who knew what we were up to seemed to expect. Perhaps by the end of this paragraph you’ll have formed your own opinion as to why this might be. Anyway… the story is set in the north of Mexico and we were extraordinarily careful both about how this informs the palette we used and how it runs through the development of the story. It turns out that “working together” means having long and bitter debates about details concerning, but not limited to, the butterfly (who knew that monarch butterflies‘ wing colours differ depending on whether they are migrating or not?), the snake, the snail, the sky, the ground, the architecture, the clothes, the history of the Mexican revolution, the quality of the tattoos of people walking past where we were sitting, the drinks we were having, the difficulty of finding power sockets in coffee shops, the dreadful mess Peter Jackson made of telling The Hobbit story… well pretty much everything really. We had, obviously, a wonderful time.

Here’s a little montage of René drawing and colouring. All the action took place in various coffee shops around Bangkok (mostly Rama IX), although René doesn’t drink coffee. If you look carefully you’ll see he’s actually sipping a glass of water (that’s pretty much all I allowed him, frankly) while the foo-foo drink in front of him is in fact my “fusion” iced chocco-tea with whipped cream and caramel. Yeah, I know; totally classy, me. (When I write, I drink black coffee, as dark as sin and as bitter as my heart; or neat single malt — honestly! this is true! — but, uh, not when I am colouring-in).

montage of artist at work

Brother-in-pens René at work (although, note that “work” here means not getting paid). I wasn’t goofing around not contributing, oh no… I was taking these pictures to document the process of making La Séptima Bala.

Some thankyous are in order to others who helped too, including those who joined in the “user testing” phase. I’m grateful to everyone who took the trouble to give me feedback (especially regarding some subtle parts of the click-to-progress mechanism, which inevitably resulted in material changes). Lots of people contributed to other things too, but I’ll call out just a few by name.

  • There’s one tiny bit of Japanese script in the whole project, but Masayo-chan not only drew my attention to the mistake in it, but also pointed out that I had subsequently “corrected” it using a character that wasn’t written that way in the early 1900s where the story is set (I direct interested readers to educate themselves, as I had to, on the topic of Japanese script reform).
  • Jed generously spent hours chasing issues with sound and JavaScript while I was with him in Glasgow.
  • Matthew cut straight to the problem I was having with preloading and made some common-sense suggestions about the underlying tech.
  • Myf drew my attention to the project’s Mexican illustrator’s woeful understanding of snail anatomy, which I corrected myself because sometimes when you need a job doing properly, etc., etc..
  • Abi’s laserbeam proofreading eyes cauterised errors that I’d been looking past for months.

Finally, as usual for online Beholder projects, you can visit the site without being pestered by adverts and wotnot thanks to the ongoing presence of the server, which is powered by the generosity of sysadmin Mark (and JBB’s fat pipe).

La Séptima Bala has been a lot of work for what is actually just one page on the web. Please read it at I hope you enjoy it as much we we enjoyed making it together.

2015 Beholder news: Planetarium update

It’s been quiet in the blog here. 2014 was a busy year for the things which prevent me doing Beholder projects (of which Fudebakudo, of course, is one). But I managed to spend most of December working on a forthcoming project with René (my brother-in-pens), which we’re hoping to release on the Beholder site in a month or two. It’s an interactive short story with René’s gorgeous illustrations and has a slight Fudebakudo flavour to it.

Planetarium mathemagician

The mathemagician holds up a crystal sphere in Planetarium, because… well, because he does.

In the meantime — before we put that project live and announce it on this blog — I’ve also been working on updating the Beholder online puzzle story, Planetarium. Those changes went live today. If you’ve looked at Planetarium before you’ll see the illustrations are bigger and a little brighter than before, and it now uses the main Beholder site’s “responsive” layout (plays nicely on your mobile phone).

Fudebakudo mug is broken

mug with broken handle

Avoid the obvious pun opportunities (gettting a handle, mug) and instead focus on the nice background shot of a T-shirt. The camera did. Whoops.

NoooooOOOO! This morning a falling spice jar broke the handle off my favourite mug. Let this serve as a reminder to us all of the impermanent nature of this world.

Iran’s kunoichi

Photo-journalism in The Guardian today: Iran’s female ninja (obviously that’s kunoichi on the Fudebakublog because we are so… so… into all that stuff. Yeah.)

Actually The Atlantic has a slightly fuller set of the photos taken by Caren Fixou, the Reuters photographer who somehow located and infiltrated the secret ninja kunoichi lair.

Fudebakudo master goes rogue; displays art in public

In a shocking breach of centuries-old tradition, a Fudebakudo master has gone public.

Fudebakudo in public

Ba Desheng publicly reveals the art. Unbelievable. Note elderly bystanders pretending not to be interested.

According to the British free “newspaper” Metro, “Ba Desheng gives a whole new meaning to the term martial art, using kung fu moves to sketch out giant Chinese letters — known as calligraphy — in front of impressed onlookers.” Read the whole story at the Metro, if you dare.

We can only speculate as to why Ba Desheng decided to reveal himself in a world where Fudebakudo masters normally pass amongst us unnoticed. His choosing to wear the classic red-and-black “signature colours” is a very bold statement. A cry for help, perhaps? Is he imparting a desperate message to the rest of the Fudebakudo world? Perhaps. Sadly we will never know because he left the inkstone out of the mix, and the ink is so watery that when the sun came out his urgent message was lost forever.

Strange times indeed.

(So, Chinese letters are “known as calligraphy” — thanks for clearing that up, Metro).

Wee aikido graphics: free as in beer

Uke and tori

Uke & tori (useful terms)

Some aikido graphics (drawn for the “welcome pack” of my local aikido dojo, Spelthorne aikido club) are now available under a creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This means you can use them for your dojo’s website or welcome pack or even aikido book — provided you credit Beholder, and propagate the license. It also means that perhaps you no longer need to infringe the copyright of Oscar Ratti’s superb drawings from
Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere.

See for the images.

This isn’t the full set — there are more images to come.

Battle cat advert

Here’s the ad we’re running in the current (Christmas) edition of Martial Arts Illustrated magazine. MAI tends to have a lot of photos of grimacing, bald men in their pages, and no kittens. So Fudebakudo has changed that, at least for one issue.

Photo credit: Neil Hamilton (Flickr:neilh205) under a CC attrib 2.0 generic license.

Also, for the story behind battle cats in Fudebakudo, see this previous blog post: Battle cats.