Symel is my gift to anyone technologically oriented like me, especially those who have heard the words "free software", "Linux", and "GNU". Watch as the tech industry oligarchs who make our computers not work and shower us in blue screens pay through cartoon satire, and the worst of proprietary software is severally ridiculed! Though Symel is not supposed to be just "mean spirited", it is also supposed to poke fun at hacker and free software culture (GNU/Linux adoption, programming, and so forth), make billions of parodies of cult media, and of course be entirely free content (also known as "free culture" or "free media") under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3 (free to modify, use, study and redistribute).

Symel is copylefted, which means that my work is free content but you have to preserve its free status - so any public modifications or redistribution have to be under the GFDL as well. Like a lot of creations of the hacker culture (if I can compare myself to the greats such as RMS), Symel started out with me playing around with some animation tools (KolourPaint and a GIF animator). First through animated GIF files, then later semi-machinima (movies made through, usually 3D, game/software rendering engines) creations created in the sadly proprietary and Windows-only Game Maker utility, and now I am working on my own animation tool called Piga Animator which I will use to make my Symel cartoons from a free software tool and operating system (I am writing it in the divine programming language of Gambas)!

Symel is a project supported by Malcolm Wilson Multimedia which is in turn hosted by the great

The Symel Universe

Symel is set in Antarctica, which, if you did not know, is a continent at the very southern edge of the Earth. To be precise, Symel is set near the base of Little America on the Ross Ice Shelf, which is politically part of the Ross Dependency owned by Aotearoa (aka New Zealand). Little America was a historical research base ran by the United States (it is now actually adrift on Iceberg B-9) and in my web cartoon it is still functional with live-in military personal. However, Symel is not centred around these soldiers but about the lives of a penguin colony. These penguins are deliberate parodies of the Linux kernel mascot Tux, which is why they have yellow beaks and flippers unlike real penguins. Already doing a parody of Tux, I decided to set the cartoon in Antarctica; a good strategy because a frozen snowy wasteland is easier to animate (my depiction is just white with a snowy line).

The main character of course is Symel, a high ranking female penguin in the colony (her characteristic feature is her long eyelashes, I know penguins do not have them but it is a cartoon!). She is a brilliant programmer and a passionate supporter of the free software movement (the name I just made up, why should penguins have normal human names?). Her husband is simply named James. He is a lot calmer than Symel with a lot less interest in fighting for free software and more interested in sitting back and idly experimenting with technology. The whole penguin colony is ruled by a penguin only known by his title: the Quakemaster! He is a wise, elder penguin, known being adept at all things engineering and scientific and of course for playing a good game of Quake. In fact, that is how he became ruler.

The penguin colony is a Quakeocracy, so the leader is picked via a Quake III, or similar, deathmatch. The penguins main adversaries include the American soldiers, who do not enjoy the penguins presence, and the Killer Whale, who is only interested in eating them. In addition, Symel and her kind also occasionally attract negative attention from certain high ranking people in the proprietary software industry. I also have a running Christmas gag which involves a villainous cruel Santa (believe it or not, it has no relation to Futurama's Robot Santa) who is more interested in engaging his own vices than giving presents to the needy. Symel is intended to be a situation comedy, with different circumstances and plots driving the jokes and narrative.

GIF Format Animations

These are my animation experiments that I created as animated GIFs from January 1, 2006 until January 2007 (Common Era if you did not guess!). Some of these are mere doodles, without much work being put into the plot or jokes. Others however, are creations that I worked hard to try and make truly amusing. Either way, enjoy! I made a lot of these while playing around in Knoppix a Live-CD distribution of GNU/Linux.

1. New Year
2. Internet Explorer
3. Broken Windows
4. Walkman
5. King Kong
6. United Penguin
7. Killer Fish Sticks
8. The Whales Strike Back
9. The Revenge of the Yellow Dog
10. The Penguin Attacks
11. The Unix Witch
12. The Demon Fights
13. The Bug Fairy
14. The Quakemaster
15. The Shotgun Package
16. An Interview with Santa
17. A Nice Cup of Java
18. Happy Bugyear!
19. New Years, Old Years
20. Why Vista?

Note: I do not recommend opening these in separate tab, as the GIF will play even if the tab is not selected. Also, sorry for any spelling or grammar mistakes as these are simple rough animations made without much thought (and I was 11-12 years old). There are some uncompleted cartoons in slide form that I might upload at some point as well.

Note: the "H&G Comics" banner at the end of these GIFs are inaccurate. Once me and my brother Hamish (thus "Hamish and Graham Comics") were intending to create a bunch of different comics and cartoons and host them on one site: H&G Comics. However, in part due to us expanding our programming and wiki horizons, this never came to pass. The banner is still on these GIFs because I have not gotten around to removing them yet, in part because I will need to dig out my old slides and animation creator and remerge them. They would be replaced with MWM banners.

Game Maker Animations

Some animations I made during 2007 and 2008 using Game Maker. These feature better movement animations, sounds, voices and music. I was in 2007 working on a one year anniversary special, but the project dwindled until my plot idea became too antiquated (it was centring around the release of Windows Vista). Elements from it will probably be recycled in later attempts. I have made several Game Maker animations, some of which are just random jokes with no relation to the normal Symel universe. However, none of them have been converted into a format that I can upload yet.

Some of my completed but not yet uploaded cartoons include:
1. New Years (a recreation of my first GIF animation)
2. Red Bull (a parody of some energy drink commercials)
3. At the Races (a random cartoon)
4. Microsoft HQ (what OS does Steve Ballmer use?)

There are some that are not completed that I could work on as well such as "Symel's Enemy: Quake Wars", which was intended to be done around the release of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. I could still recycle the concept as a full parody of Quake II, Quake 4 and ET:QW. There were also some other shorts and I could still make some Game Maker animations while I build Piga Animator (even if it is very slow to do it with Game Maker on my old Windows 98 SE laptop). The funny thing is that Mark Overmars, the creator of Game Maker, apparently does not like people using his creation for non-games; but then I do not like what he has done with Game Maker 7 and beyond with YoYo Games. I am very keen on the G-Creator project though. It is an in development Game Maker-derived game development tool made to use the Java programming language and is going to be free software and run on GNU/Linux and other platforms (it was originally a Game Maker to Java converter called "G-Java")!

Symel, the Quakemaster and other voices: Graham L. Wilson
James and other voices: Hamish Wilson
Steve Ballmer, Santa and other voices: Iain Wilson
Wallace (you will see him later) and other voices: Malcolm Wilson
Windows and other computer characterizations: Text-To-Speech Clients

Symel - Antarctic Explorer

A little pointless HTML-based ASCII art graphic adventure game I made for fun back in 2006 whilst playing around with Knoppix one day. This new version is nothing new, and is just a go-over of the original. Still, if you wish to be mildly amused you may go through this little glimpse into the Symel universe. Someday I might try and make something more out of it and actually add some puzzles, though that will require some more advanced scripting. Still, possibilities...

Play Symel - Antarctic Explorer

Symel and the One Clever American

This is a story I wrote for an academic assignment in late 2007 early 2008. It features the American soldiers of the Little America base as the villains, particularly one clever Private. It also talks a bit about the nature of Quakeocracy, penguin law and life inside of the flock. It is released under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence just like the cartoons. I may go over it and edit it at any time for grammar or spelling fixes at any time be warned! I write school stories that contain technical jargon and concepts in them because if my teacher can not understand it I get a good mark anyway (not that the story is all that technical...). I was instructed to make it into a play script so that is available as well under the same terms (could eventually be used as the basis for an actual animation). I can not find it in the original story form as of this writing so I just have revised the script up, which might be more useful in the long run anyway as Symel is not a literary project!

Download the play script Open Document!

Symel: Please, Please, be Fair Use!

This is going to be my second attempt at a special, eg: something longer than two minutes; it will also be my first attempt at using the Piga Animator software I am developing. As the name implies, it will be a bit of a copyright pusher ("fair use" is copyright lingo for the use of copyrighted material in such a minor way that it is not a violation of copyright). I have been told that I am pretty good at parody so it will be based around a plot line that lets me do parody. I should warn you that a lot of it is cult but some of it is more well known and the pool vast enough that someone will likely get at least one joke (I describe the whole thing as "post-modernist suicide"). It is mostly going to contain science fiction parodies of things such as Star Trek, Babylon 5, X-Files, Star Wars, Doctor Who (classic, not that terrible new stuff), Red Dwarf, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (not the movie!), and more. It should also contain some parodies of non-science fiction stuff like Blackadder, Lord of the Rings and lots of computer games from the shareware golden age like Doom! Coming, when it's done, maybe 2050. Mu ha ha ha ha!

Development Screenshot of Piga Animator
PigaLore wiki article on Piga Animator

Who am I?

My name is Graham Lawrence Wilson, possibly best known (or unknown) to my fellow GNU/Linux users and free software enthusiasts as one of the crazy people who set off to, and still work at, creating a series of free real-time strategy games based on Age of Empires or as one of those involved in bringing the Chzo Mythos more comfortably to GNU/Linux. I am the technical director and webmaster for Piga Software, which is making Free Empires and other free software (including Piga Animator, though we focus on mostly games). My other main past time is plotting alongside one of the most dedicated computer game communities on the planet, the Blood and Blood II community. My main contribution to that madness thus far has been my role as assistant moderator of the Blood Wiki, a free content wiki encyclopedia about the two games and their various attachments, fan made or otherwise (just recently I have also taken up control of the Wikia wikis for Red Dwarf and Warren Zevon). Me and my brothers are always cooking up even more horrible machinations on our computers, so watch out! You can contact me by e-mail at this address: "glw AT linuxmail DOT org" or "graham AT icculus DOT org" (the "AT" and "DOT" are there as one level of protection against spammers).

Note: for the things that don't have links, see the "External Links" section.

External Links

1. Comixpedia: the free content wiki encyclopedia of web comics and cartoons is kind enough to host an article about Symel.
2. Brogo: a web comic made by my older brother.
3. Piga Software: me and my twin brother's free software development organization.
4. Blood Wiki: a wiki maintained by me and my twin brother about the games Blood and Blood II: The Chosen (plus a section on Shogo: MAD).
5. Tongue Tied: a wiki all about the science fiction situation comedy Red Dwarf, which I moderate.
6. Warren Zevon Wiki: a wiki about the life, times, and music of Warren Zevon, which I moderate.

Maintained and now created with Fedora GNU/Linux!

Last Updated: January 26, 2014

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted worldwide without royalty in any medium provided this notice is preserved.

Copyright (c) 2006-2013 Graham Wilson. Permission is also granted to copy, distribute and/or modify text from this site under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Either Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.