A Pun-Tastic Word Game on Kickstarter

I contributed to a Kickstarter for Word Realms by Asymmetric and am encouraging you to check this one out. I’ve played Kingdom of Loathing and I love the jokes, the puns, and the pop culture references. (Hrmmm… Could this be why I also like Munchkin?)

Anyway, I thought you might want to see the video and decide for yourself if this is something worth plunking your hard-earned cash down for.

    Mood: The puns, the puns… I must have all the puns.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Hah. LAUGHABLE.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walk-ish with a side of con recovery.
    In My Ears: A fan. A very loud and annoying fan.
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Movie Last Viewed: Indiana Jones as part of a marathon
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Cluster bracelet in gold
    Latest Release: “Don’t Ignore Your Dead” included in Don’t Read This Book for the Don’t Rest Your Head RPG

Back from Balticon

This year, I took the trip to Balticon to promote Redwing’s Gambit on behalf of Galileo Games. My experience with literary conventions has been mixed so I had no idea what to expect.

I don’t want to turn this into a rant, but there were internal glitches that greatly affected my ability to promote myself at this show as an author. So, let me get this business out of the way first. Overall, I felt that the organizer’s attitude was very scattered and in some cases boiled down to: “Well, I don’t know who you are so you’re not as important as our other guests.” E-mail is one thing, but this was reinforced at the show. The organizers admitted there were problems this year, so I don’t hold it against them, as long as it’s fixed. Unfortunately, this was a common theme at this year’s show.

Despite the problems with scheduling, I felt there was a very positive, non-threatening aura at this show toward new guests on the floor. If new media has been suppressed in the past like a shy kid at a dance, here it was the belle of the ball. It’s pretty exciting to see established authors published through traditional media alongside podcasters, podiobook developers, e-book publishers, etc. This, in my mind, is where we can benefit one another as a community.

I was thrilled to run into C.J. Henderson and Keith R. A. DeCandido; both are established authors and have been so supportive and understanding of my work over the years. I really feel like when I connect with authors like these, it’s that little boost that keeps you going. I had the chance to babble incessantly to Brennan R Taylor, my publisher, J.R. Blackwell, my editor and photographer extraordinaire, and author/comic scribe/etc. Jared Axlerod. Many thanks for that, the stories, and the laughter.

New friends, too, were formed out of the clay that is convention hob-nobbing. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Paul Alexander Butler for his great stories and his deep, deep love of games. He’s the store manager over at Games and Stuff and recommended some fun two-player games to try. (I’ll be putting that together in a separate post for all to read.) Secondly, author Simone Caroti who penned The Generation Starship in Science Fiction: A Critical History, 1934-2001, was awesome to chat with, too. The award for friendliest author is split between Guest of Honor (and fellow cat lover, it seems!) Jody Lynne Nye and new media guru Nathan Lowell who made me feel very welcome. There are others who I’m SURE I’m forgetting — such is the way of lost business cards. (Like lost socks, only instead of having a cold foot, I have a missed connection.)

I think the biggest thing for me that came out of this show was a better understanding of where I “fit” within the science fiction and fantasy genres. For me, I’m so heavily focused on story and characters that the details are only important in the service of that tale. Science fiction fans are very well-read and some are hyper-focused on the plausibility of the sciences postured within the context of a tale. I’m more focused on the anthropological aspects because, to me, how a character feels when faced with astronomical wonders, technological feats, and superior explorations into the furthest reaches of space is what shapes a story. If, in the service of a story, I have to sacrifice some scientific particulars? I’ll do that because I feel my job as a storyteller isn’t to relay a precise depiction of “X” — it’s to suspend disbelief. All this means, is that when I write science fiction, I shape my boundaries to hone in on characters and do my absolute due diligence on the subject when required.

That’s not to say the specifics don’t matter at all. I just feel that there’s a certain contingency of fans, in any genre, who get very upset when the details don’t perfectly jive in some beautifully-architected way. Sometimes the lack of detail-jiving is intentional; other times it happens by complete accident. If those bad details break a reader from their love of a tale and stops them from reading that’s one thing, but plots and story arcs and characters are entirely different aliens altogether.

For many reasons, I enjoyed the trip and the experience. I was blown away by scientists like David Allen Batchelor and their seemingly unlimited font of knowledge. I enjoyed being able to talk to people who were way, way, way smarter than me to understand a part of their world. My head is bursting with fresh ideas and optimism. If that doesn’t tell you a small thing about the calibre of the people at this show, then I have failed my job as a wordsmith.

Now, to plan for the next one.

    Mood: YAY! DUCKS!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I was bad.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Does cat wrestling count?
    In My Ears: Errmm…
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Movie Last Viewed: Indiana Jones as part of a marathon
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Cluster bracelet in gold
    Latest Release: “Don’t Ignore Your Dead” included in Don’t Read This Book for the Don’t Rest Your Head RPG

On the Words “Strong Female Characters”

There’s been a rash of people talking about “strong female characters” for a while. The phrase really grates on my sensibilities because many have used it to describe the fact that their characters are feminist. And then my head explodes.

Descriptors are adjectives on a character write-up. Class: Barbarian. Sex: Female. Primary trait: strong. So yes, in that case the character is strong and female. Whoopie. In order for her to be feminist or strong or whatever, she’d have to be characterized as such. Ah, grasshopper, therein lies the crux of my description problem: character traits versus characterization. No character has internal strength that’s visible to the reader unless they are thrown into a scenario where that shines through that scene or set of scenes. But, even then, there’s a character arc that follows through the story that provides her with the opportunity to change. So some characters may start out as “weak” and wind up “strong” through the heroic journey. We may not like change in real life but a story has to have it. Has to. Conflict of all sorts is what drives the characters to go forth and do.

Feminism, on the other hand, has been grossly misrepresented in my opinion. In recent years, this term has come to mean “a fierce, independent woman.” This, cats and kittens, is NOT what feminism is. Let me quote this definition from the Feminist Majority Foundation: “Feminism n. the policy, practice or advocacy of political, economic, and social equality for women.

So how exactly is a “strong, female character” a feminist? She’s not, because you can have a strong character who doesn’t give a flying fig about feminism nor does she live up to those ideals. The woman who stands by her misogynistic man can be strong. A female character who subjugates other women to save herself can also be characterized as “strong.” A woman who believes in the precepts of feminism but doesn’t really do anything that speaks to her ideals can be strong, too.

The nature of strength, like any other internal attribute, is relative. The term is about as useful as saying a character has blonde hair. What I feel is “strong” may be different from what another author or reader does. This (like the treatment of women) can also be cultural depending upon where you live, what family you hail from, etc. This is where the story becomes crucial to shape a character, regardless of whether or not she’s iconic.

That’s not to say I ever want to be antagonistic about the use of the terms “strong, female characters” or “feminism” — especially within the context of fiction. What I’m trying to convey is that perhaps talking about strong, female character types warrants more discussion about feminism, and not be simply thrown into a line to placate the crowd based on a common perception. (Though, for as much as I am complaining about the misuse of language, we’ve come a loooooooong way baby. Try reading or listening to a chronological progression of fiction featuring female characters through the twentieth century some time. It’s an ed-u-cation.)

Personally, I think it’s a disservice to any reader to lump all male, transgender, and female characters underneath the same banner. (Same goes for ANY class of human beings, really, whether its based on religion or race or profession or age, etc.) Instead of putting guilty labels on characters, I’d love to see more discussion about what an author is doing within the boundaries of that specific story. Maybe by identifying how an author is characterizing a particular character others will start learning what feminism really is — if that is their goal. Otherwise, I’ll just chalk up “strong, female characters” to what they really are: the modern-day woman.

    Mood: Pulp-y with a side of OJ
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: In recovery. (SERIOUSLY.)
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walk.
    In My Ears: Screaming dust bunnies
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Movie Last Viewed: Indiana Jones marathon
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Cluster bracelet in gold
    Latest Release: “Don’t Ignore Your Dead” included in Don’t Read This Book for the Don’t Rest Your Head RPG

Reasons #2,358 Why I Love Animals

Baby Elephant Avatar

March of the Penguins? Nope. Today’s post is about the funeral march of the elephants. I’ve heard about elephants doing amazing things, like painting with their trunks, but stories about their interactions with humans often elude me because I’m not well-versed in conservation news. This one struck me in the eye. In March, elephant conservationalist Lawrence Anthony passed away from a heart attack. Before he died, the elephants started walking to his home, which was over twelve hours away. Once there, they stood watch for two days. Their way of saying good-bye to their friend?

What an incredible story. Read “Saying Goodbye: Elephants Hold Apparent Vigil To Mourn Their Human Friend.”

    Mood: In Awe
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Am I supposed to confess that? Or…
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walk.
    In My Ears: A metallic concoction of guitars and scratchy voices
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Movie Last Viewed: Harry Potter as part of a marathon
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Cluster bracelet in gold
    Latest Release: “Don’t Ignore Your Dead” included in Don’t Read This Book for the Don’t Rest Your Head RPG

Anti-Intellectualism (Or Why We Need Teachers)

Mean People Suck

I stumbled across an article from The Guardian titled Anti-intellectualism is taking over the US and this passage induce a fair amount of anger in me:

The anti-ethnic studies law passed by the state prohibits teachings that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” and/or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” — SOURCE: Anti-intellectualism is taking over the US: The rise in academic book bannings and firings is compounded by the US’s growing disregard for scholarship itself

This infuriates me because books are an opportunity to teach, not censor. I read controversial books, banned books, books that could have turned me into a racist bigot — but they didn’t. Why? Because they were used to teach me about other human beings, cultures, places in the world. I learned (hopefully you think this, too) how to be a better, more tolerant, human being by reading, discussing, critiquing lots and lots of books — and I’m still learning!

We need good teachers who are experts in their field and their techniques because we can’t all be proficient at every subject matter in existence. It is possible, even outside academia, to be a student. Yes, you can acquire information from reading a Wikipedia entry or talking to someone, but I believe you can’t really learn something unless you are given the opportunity to understand it in an environment that promotes education. Memorization, terse headlines, these are the ephemera of our day. But teachers? Irreplaceable.

    Mood: Feisty
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Two with the potential for three.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walk.
    In My Ears: Birds chirping.
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Movie Last Viewed: Harry Potter as part of a marathon
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal Cluster bracelet in gold
    Latest Release: “Don’t Ignore Your Dead” included in Don’t Read This Book for the Don’t Rest Your Head RPG
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