Usagi Tsukino, the crybaby, poor study, bad girl of movement in the clunker.
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I’m breaking my… well, let’s call it retirement though this isn’t any kind of announcement. It just sounds better to be retired or semi-retired and occasionally pop up than to call the sometimes months between six or seven posts ‘hiatus.’ But I digress.

I’m breaking said retirement because this Something Positive strip highlights something I think the best writers know, but often times the best readers don’t. Kharisma, who’s currently going by ‘Nancy,’ has gone through tremendous character development since her first appearance. In her time of being disinherited, working at soul crushing jobs, becoming a phone sex worker specializing in being an ex-cheerleader being demeaned by the geeks she once demeaned, attempting to marry creepers for their money, being set on fire, attempting to kill horrible people as a part of a game (for their money), being wrongfully convicted of murder, being broken out of prison and ultimately going on the run accompanied by… by… a thing that may or may not be real… Kharisma has developed and grown. She’s gained depth and emotions and empathy. She’s learned many things, not the least of which is how to use Robert’s Rules of Order properly in a sentence.

What she hasn’t done, at her heart, is stop being a completely terrible person. She’s grown enough of a soul to feel badly about it, though she can get used to it.

That’s a good thing. Character evolution doesn’t have to mean evolving to the better. Sometimes, it’s just just a new kind of terrible.


I am, by nature, a roleplayer.

This perhaps isn’t a shock given the existence of this blog in the first place. I play roleplayings. Occasionally, I write for roleplaying games. I’ve got two roleplaying games fleshed out and ready for a creation that may never happen. When given Doctors’ diagnoses, I mentally argue why I deserve a saving throw.

This, naturally, extends to the online arena. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time playing MMOs. While I’d tried Everquest back in the day, it wasn’t until City of Heroes — now so painfully gone — that the form sunk its hooks into me. Since then, CoH, along with Champions Online, Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic have all grabbed my cerebral cortex and refused to let go. Among others, of course, but that’s not important right now. 

However, there has often been a question… are these really roleplaying games? Do they truly constitute the assumption of a role, the playing within the context of that role, and the resolution of that role’s activity. Given the lack of a proper gamemaster responding to your actions, is there really a role being played, or is there just a well constructed avatar? And doesn’t everyone more or less just admit this isn’t any kind of RPG? They used to be called MMORPGs — Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Now… they’re MMOs. It’s still ‘massively multiplayer,’ with thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of players, but the ‘role playing game’ is left off.

It’s actually a more complicated question to answer than you might think.

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My first really long essay in a while, on my Grognard Pedant blog. It’s mostly about RPG theory fu, to warn.

This is webcomics — my own entertainment is paramount.
John Troutman

The start of the school year — or “f’ing September,” as we tend to call it — is a brutal thing. Nothing not school related happens, and it has gotten worse over the years. This year, we had an exceptionally tough summer with some heavy infrastructural upgrades and network expansions/changes/reformulations, and none of it is known to work until you have a full student body using it.

As a side note — so far it’s going very well indeed. But I digress.

Needless to say, my already pitifully small number of posts became “no posts at all,” and that’s the way it was. Honestly, I’m in no position to pick back up (in part because I have a rather ambitious plan for online doings — no, it does not involve a Kickstarter — that will shape what my online life for 2013 and beyond will look like, and so this is not the time to redevote my scrivenorial efforts to essay-writing) anytime soon.

But I just had a discussion with a coworker that I absolutely needed to pass along to you, the folks who I like passing stuff along to.

The discussion was on a technique he used for commenting code, and through it composing and documenting code. And it’s brilliant.

And it would work for almost any form of writing, cartooning, or creative endeavor just as well.

More after the break. I’m Terry Gross, and this is Fresh Aire.

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Sometimes, even at this late date, people ask me why I’m so fast to disregard Authorial Intent in a work.

It’s a fair question. After all — all creative people feel inexorably bound to their creations, for good or ill. It feels like a tiny chunk of you has been wrapped up in descriptive text, imagery, lyrics, melody or what have you. And for many (not all) people, there is generally something you’re going for. Something you want to say, whether directly or indirectly. Something you want to imply. Some meaning behind your words. That meaning may be prosaic — sometimes a running gun battle is just a running gun battle — or obscure. (Sometimes a running gun battle is a metaphor for the individual finding himself opposed by his own dark reflection while the world of conformity around him is shattered in collateral damage which rains down upon the innocent and guilty alike. Also there are doves. Just accept that part, okay?)

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"Yeah, alcoholism sure is a hoot!"
—Crow T. Robot,Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Giant Gila Monster

The thing that bugs me is without the drinking? I was actually regaining my appreciation of Hazel. There was poignancy involved, and a sense of growth, however slow. She was still essentially selfish and afraid of anything resembling change, but that was beginning to add to her character arc again.

Plus the fish thing was fun.

But, from zero to Kegstand. The joke’s good, but my interest in Hazel’s continued story took a fast nosedive. Here’s hoping this is just a one-off and not an excuse to have Hazel’s alcohol-fueled hijinks return.

Man, I should just dedicate this thing to Girls with Slingshots and be done with it. 

I would like to decry Hazel for her dismissive attitude at the end of this, but… honestly, it’s way less horrifying than the practice of awarding children living animals as prizes at carnivals in the first place. Sprinkles is just acting according her nature as a cat, and I have to imagine the goldfish had a better and faster end than most of these fish get at the hands of 5 year olds who get bored with them after a week.

Readercon’s Convention Committee, after taking the time to carefully examine the decision of their Board of Directors and the firestorm of controversy that followed that decision, has issued a statement detailing their response to the situation. In brief: they have admitted culpability, apologized in detail and depth, overturned the decision of the board, applied the Zero Tolerance policy in full to “Bob” (yes, I know I’m the only guy left on the internet who doesn’t name the parties involved. Allow me my indulgences), and accepted the resignations of all the board members. They have also committed to updating and improving their policies — hopefully taking out the Zero Tolerance bits while developing a means of response that protects the safety of the convention — and papering the next Readercon with notices and guides for avoiding harassment and reporting it when and if it happens. They have also offered refunds to anyone who prepaid for Readercon and doesn’t feel they can attend regardless of this response.

Go ahead and click the link above. It’s worth the read.

On the whole, this was the best response they could have had. It clearly accepts responsibility for what happened, takes steps to vindicate those who spoke up, restores the penalties as they were listed — heck, give me a second and I’ll reproduce the penalties section:

The concom has voted to overturn the board’s decision in the matter of harassment committed by [Bob], and to permanently ban him from attending or participating in Readercon in any way. He may not purchase or otherwise acquire a membership; he may not participate in the program; he may not be or work for a dealer in the bookroom; he may not join any Readercon committee; he may not volunteer. We have informed [Bob] of this ban and he has not contested it.

I am a big, big fan of unambiguous statements, and this is a doozy. It makes it clear that this is a real ban, not one that can be worked around. (I can’t imagine Bob intended to try and work around the restrictions anyway.)

Of particular note is their acceptance of responsibility and their apology. They didn’t try to mitigate their responsibility or deflect any of the blame. They simply stated their culpability and their commitment to resolving the situation.

My post on the subject was largely about how the original ruling by the Board had caused a lot more damage to everyone involved than simply banning Bob in the first place had done. So, the question now is — how does the response mitigate that damage? Is Readercon out of the woods? Are the victims? For that matter, does this allow Bob to express contrition and move on as well?

I don’t know.

I think it was the best response they could have — in part because it feels sincere, instead of feeling like damage control. (Whether or not it was sincere is beyond my capability to report, in as much as I lack clairvoyance, telepathy or magic.) However, there was a lot of reporting and damage done, and it took long enough (thanks to the realities of a ConCom’s deliberations even in the Information Age) that there was plenty of time for the poison to spread in Readercon’s well. Will their numbers be down next year? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Further, the review and redevelopment of their Harassment policies is all to the good. Lacking nuance can only lead to pain, as we’ve learned. I hope what will emerge is a policy that outlines a series of potential penalties, up to and including a permanent ban. What may work better — which is to say, erring on the side of safety and affirmation of the victim’s experience while eschewing absolutism — is to ban the perpetrator for the foreseeable future, and then list at what point the perpetrator can petition for reinstatement, as well as the criteria that will need to be shown. That puts the burden on the perpetrator to show proper contrition through action as well as words, and gives the Convention cover should they elect not to reinstate him or her. That’s just one potential way to improve the current policy, of course.

As for the victim and her supporters — the sense of vindication and justice would have to be profound. There is something to be said for the glaring spotlight of indignation being shone on the subject of Con Harassment. While Readercon is (and must) reviewing their policy and will be under a microscope during the process, this situation should be a wake-up call for every fan-run convention: no one wants this to happen again, either to an attendee or to a convention itself. With luck, there will be a lot of different reviews going on.

(An interconvention committee might be a good idea — letting experienced con-runners debate and discuss the issues openly, to help put together a model antiharassment policy for individual conventions to adopt or adapt as needed. Many eyes make for fewer bugs, et al. Of course, herding cats would be easier than fans blah blah blah aphorism.)

Finally, what does this mean for Bob?

Bob’s going to have a rough time of it. There isn’t a convention or fan gathering he can attend without having at least some attention focused on him for this. And I can’t say this breaks my heart — my sympathies remain with the victim. Still, what should have been specific to a single convention (though public enough to give warning to others to watch his behavior) has become fan-wide, and I don’t see Bob recovering from that anytime soon. Internet justice is the justice of chainsaw and grenade, which is why it’s a bad idea to fall back on the internet community’s response for corrective behavior.

Still, all this is resolved, in terms of this specific incident. The discussion is ongoing and will be for some time. With luck and work, this will lead to conventions having clearer, better put together policies against harassment and much greater transparency in their execution of those policies.

Nothing’s going to make this a winning situation for Bob, Carol or Readercon. Nothing could. But maybe — just maybe — this can turn into a win for fandom and fan organizations in general.

Yeah, I enjoyed this one. Well, maybe Luke Cage didn’t need to channel his inner Rayne Summers, but what can you do?

Not that. But I digress.

The whole marriage between Storm and the Black Panther seemed… just wrong to me in the first place. Maybe because the apparently predestined marriage of a Kenyan woman from what was likely a Kikuya, Ameru or Maasai tribe that was actually still organized around traditional lines (save that they abandoned the rich religious spirituality that each tribe developed individually from common roots so they could worship a mutant who could make it rain — a function normally ascribed to a sangoma)to the tribal leader of a rival tribe that was actually the ruling clan of the most technologically advanced nation on Earth managed to completely ignore the incredibly complicated multi-ethnic and multi-national situation spread across the African continent in favor of simply making them “African.” Or, let’s be blunt, “black.”

Or maybe it was because they made an admitted editorial decision to target African American women with their comics — itself a good goal — and felt the best way to do that was to ramrod and retcon a relationship between their two African characters, ignoring decades of history for the characters, an incredible and diverse backstory and web of relationships for Storm, and pretty much all of the byzantine and politically nuanced development of the Black Panther in favor of popping a rating.

Or maybe it was because in 1980 a backstory was established where a 12 year old Ororo saves the Black Panther from racists, but in the run-up to this spontaneous marriage the Black Panther saves her from them instead, because… um… I guess because otherwise it wouldn’t appeal to their target market? Heh? Oh, and then they had sex.

Stop and be skeeved, my friends. Stop and be skeeved.

Or maybe it was the fact that all of the above is racist, sexist, and reductionist when put together.

So I don’t mind this development, and I dearly hope the plan is to spend the next thirty years not mentioning this marriage ever again.

On the other hand, I have to applaud the strange groundbreaking concept of annulment for the dissolving of a comic book marriage instead of a universal cosmic retcon/reboot, one of the two being horribly killed, or the pair making some kind of pact with the devil. It’s a shocking, risky move, I know.



During SDCC DC Comics confirmed that Renee Montoya won’t be showing up in the new 52. Not surprising actually as the writer most associated with her, Greg Rucka, has said that his conversations with DC “made it very clear they had no interest in seeing Renee continue, either as the Question or…

I missed this last year. It’s freaking great — beautifully drawn (and in an idiosyncratic style most mainstream comics lack right now) with characters and situations that remind us how rich the DC Universe was before the New 52. I don’t mean to suggest the New 52 lacks richness now, but it’s not the same.

Honestly, I don’t know why DC doesn’t have selected Pre52 titles as online comics right now, but it’s something I’d like to see. I’d heartily encourage fans to keep up a Fannish Pre52 universe (even form an alliance to do so, maybe even on the old ‘Webring’ model which now just makes me sound old), but given the huge effort such a thing would take for, essentially, no money? I’ll just enjoy things like this when they come up.

Still, if itswallie wanted to continue the adventures of Pre52 Wally West, I sure as Hell wouldn’t say no….

The latest run of Young Justice is called “Invasion,” and while it is not in any way the same, it draws certain elements off a late 80’s comics crossover called “Invasion,” in particular focusing on the discovery and exploitation of the Metagene and ways to eliminate powers, control metahumanity and the like, as well as the use of shapeshiftes (Durlans in the original).

"Invasion," the comics crossover was plotted largely by Keith Giffen, working with scripter Bill Mantlo. Mantlo, known more for his Marvel work, where he created and developed long runs on the Micronauts and Rom, as well as creating properties like Cloak and Dagger, was involved in an automobile hit and run in 1992, which gave him irreparable brain damage. He had some progress getting better, after institutionalization, but his insurance ran out and he ended up in the only care facility his family could afford (and that just barely). The story is heart-rending for anyone to read. For someone who grew up with his comics, it is agony to think about.

DC? Warner? You don’t owe Bill Mantlo anything, legally. He did a job for you, did it well, was paid and you both move on. I don’t mean or want to claim otherwise. (I might have choice words for Marvel in this regard, but not DC). But here you are, drawing elements off work Mantlo did for you for a storyline in a popular cartoon. This is an opportunity. An opportunity for great press. An opportunity to have a public statement — to say “we recognize that we have no financial obligation to Bill Mantlo, but we and all the modern comics industry owes a lot to this man, and as the “Invasion” storyline develops, we want to demonstrate the kind of heroism we have always stood for.”

Please. Subsidize Mantlo’s care. It might be too late to give him the kind of recovery he once could have had, but at the least you can greatly improve his quality of life. At the least what progress could be made could be made.

I don’t have much I can offer as inducement, but here’s what I can offer. I’ve been critical of the New 52. I don’t apologize for that. But if you do this… I’ll buy every issue of every comic in the New 52 produced in its first year. It will take some time — I’m not particularly flush — but as long as they remain available via Comixology I’ll do it. I’ll buy all the good ones I couldn’t get to. I’ll buy all the ones I don’t care for. Hell, I’ll buy all the ones I actively dislike. Red Hood and the Outlaws? I’ll buy every. Stinking. Issue.

Like I said, it’s not much, but it’s what I can offer. It absolutely pales in comparison to what you can offer Bill Mantlo, his family and his legacy.


After years of enduring Rayne’s sense of humor, self-centered demands, lack of attention span, and willingness to buy the two of them a house—

Hey, it’s not all bad.

—John’s heart has slowly ossified until all that remains is a calcified valve that barely allows blood to pass through. In asking John to listen to a heart that no longer speaks to him, he has reaped what he has sown. Sad eyes, Rayne. Sad eyes in-deed.

Upon hearing of the death of Gore Vidal, I had an immediate, almost visceral reaction, which I immortalized in Twitter form. That is the rhetoric of the age — immediate thoughts, put out in a form that was immediately visible for all to see. It was, in its way, the anthesis of Gore Vidal’s writing.

Still, I stand by it the next day, and will cheerfully reproduce it here:

@Demiurgent: Is it wrong I hope the inappropriate cartoons of Gore Vidal entering Heaven show him knife fighting William F. Buckley for all eternity?

I called the (inevitable) political cartoons of Vidal at the Pearly Gates inappropriate for two reasons: one, because Gore Vidal didn’t believe in Heaven. As with Christopher Reeve (an Atheist) and George Harrison (a Buddhist), there is something vaguely offensive of depicting Gore Vidal’s undergoing Heavenly judgment in an affectionate style. And two, because Vidal claimed Buckley was in Hell, and I have to believe if given the choice, he’d pursue him down there.

But, if there’s a Buckley knife fight. I’ll forgive them. More after the break.

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I am not a Christian. I am also not a Conservative. I have opinions which are not held by neither the average Conservative Christian nor the average Christian Conservative. This is my right, even as they have the right to be Christian and Conservative.

However, I am also a writer. Right now, I’m writing a (I believe this is the term) fuck-ton of fiction.

I work very hard, both in terms of necessary research and in building writing skills, in making realistic, sympathetic Christians, Conservatives, Conservative Christians and Christian Conservatives in my stories. I have been dismissive before, and been rightly called on it. And I try to learn from my experiences. And, when I’m writing, I’m trying to reflect the world and nation I live in — in particular, a nation where forty percent describe themselves as conservative or very conservative and (as of 2008) seventy-six percent describe themselves under the very broad rubric of Christian.

I have very little interest in making forty percent of the characters in my stories one dimensional strawmen. I have even less interest in making seventy-six percent of the characters in my book intolerant ideologues. And when I write about those forty or seventy-six percent, I would like to do so accurately.

Why? Well, one seminal Christian principle, which is common to many other religions, is summed up in two verses. Matthew 7:12 (Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets) and Luke 6:31: (And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.) I would like my own philosophy, ethics, beliefs and principles to be represented well in the fiction of others. Further, I would like a character modeled on myself to have nuance and depth, being more than a mouthpiece for an overly simplistic interpretation of what someone on the other side of the aisle thinks about Liberals or Agnostics. The only way I know to encourage that is to live by it.

And if it doesn’t happen? If my ilk are characterized… well, as ideologues of any political or philosophical bent often characterize those different than themselves? Hey, at least one of the two of us will write with the empathy and compassion mandated by Scripture, right?

I’m actually building up a longer article about Sinfest, because it’s doing some really interesting stuff with a lot of nuance, and it deserves deeper analysis.

But, sometimes, things don’t wait for the 5000 word essay.

In this case… there’s really nothing that says "we’re a 30+ year old submovement within the basic struggle for equal and civil rights for women that has debated and discussed the meanings of sexual identity and the reclamation of personal sexuality and sexual decisions as the ineffable right of the individual versus their political and cultural overtones" like a man telling you that you’re all wrong.