So UnCONventional is wrapping up in a month, and a ten year long story is coming to a close. It's such a weird thing, but I thought I'd talk about what comes next.
For those of you who don't recall, I actually announced Chapter 10 would be the final one over three years ago (though I didn't expect to put Crosarth on hiatus back then).
I didn't want to just keep repeating myself over and over again, and there are so many stories I want to tell that don't fit with the premise. I'm not done with comics, but I know that this story is a finished one. A lot of webcomics just sputter off and kind of... stop. UnCONventional has an ending.
But I guess you're asking (assuming you care) what I'm doing next.
First off, The Chronicles of Crosarth will resume mid-2020 and finish out the final volume. I have to do a lot of editing to Volume Three for its print edition first. I honestly just keep finding typos in the online versions of pages -- and the fact that I was rushing them is why the comic went on hiatus in the first place. I want to finish that story right too.
Secondly I'm working on a new comic in the same art style as UnCONventional. Right now I'm developing the main cast and setting, and I hope to launch it in early 2020 as well. It's an idea I had a couple of years ago, and a couple of familiar faces will pop up in it (my Patreon supporters know one already). The full announcement will come at the end of UnCONventional, but the mystery project will 100% be set in the Room 825/Full Circle/UnCONventional universe.
(Like five people might remember those first two entries.)
I know it's risky to end my most popular creation, but let's face it -- if I didn't I'd just be doing something uninspired and meaningless. It will be a completed work that I can be proud of, and it's hard to ask for more.
And if you really want my storytelling in the meantime... check out my rpg actual play podcast I guess?
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So Otaku World Expo is a first year con that looks like a disaster waiting to happen in every single way. Like even if Vic Mignogna wasn't being invited, and the official twitter wasn't tagging in known jackasses to promote it.
First off, let's talk about their website. It is, as the kids say, "terrible."
This isn't 2004 anymore, and when I see a site like this it means one thing: they aren't paying attention to the small details. If a con's not putting effort into their first point of contact, what else are they dropping the ball on? I mean, look, first year cons having terrible websites isn't super uncommon -- but this is at a level that's really only still acceptable if your con is a free con being run at a high school. Or like a free con at a university.
I mean, "free" or "less than $10" entry is what this site screams. And if that were the case, I'd be more forgiving.
Spoiler: This con costs a lot more money to attend.You read that right -- $40 for a one day pass, and $70 for a two day pass. Those are the preregistration prices. For a first year con. For contrast, prereg for a 4 day badge at Anime Expo is $85. A 3 day badge for Acen, prereg, is $63-$80 depending when you do it.
Those were big cons. Medium sized cons like Daisho Con or Anime Milwaukee charge $50 for a three day badge. But hell, SMALL anime cons, like No Brand Con, charge $30 for a three day badge at prereg. $40 at the door.
And make no mistake -- these guys will be lucky to hit AMKE's numbers.
Cons are plentiful on the west coast. Even if no one else ends up on that weekend, there are other places for attendees to spend their money.
As in, spend less money for more con. Cons that are likely to be run better.
And finally, the one thing that I always find concerning is when a convention doesn't tell you who the hell is running it. There's no owner listed. No parent organization. Nothing.
"Otaku World Expo" is not the name of a corporation or LLC legally operating in California. So either it's owned by a company with a different name (which is fine but it should be listed), or is being run by an individual. If it's the latter, it's just hilarious. Like if a con is run by an individual it should still LIST THAT PERSON'S NAME. The first rule to first year cons is never trust an event that doesn't tell you who is in charge.
But if the con is just being run by some guy, it also means the con owner is personally liable. Like if someone sues. Or, which is way more likely, if the con tanks and can't pay the bills
Even if people show up, first year cons often lose money. And they're relying on people still caring about Vic Mignogna a year from now. Like this is going to make Wine Country Comic Con's numbers look good.
(If you don't know about WCCC, google it -- and they failed with Vic as a guest BEFORE any victims came forward)
The first rule to starting a con is always be prepared to lose every penny you put into it the first year. Some cons get lucky, most don't. And if the prices are this high? Dude is not prepared for how much this might cost them even if people DO show up.
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There is an ongoing problem in the con running community, and it's the instinct to avoid any sort of public turbulence. Reactions to the Vic-pocalypse have driven this home, but it was this instinct that allowed a missing stair like him to stay for so long in the first place.
And I get it. Con staff's are scared to piss off people. Most don't have the money for lawyers and legal fees if someone were to sue, so they don't speak up. But if your primary responsibility is keeping attendees safe, sweeping things under the rug is never helpful.
The first time I heard about Vic Mignogna was at Anime Milwaukee 2010. It wasn't anything remotely close to his worst accusations -- a friend felt uncomfortable with comments Mignogna made, he hugged another friend without her consent -- but combined with the rumors out there, we chose to quietly blacklist him from the con we all worked for (NoBrandCon).
It wasn't much, but it was what we could do.
But it's not just the sexual predators (of which there are a number still floating around the con scene), but other screw ups made by staffs. Sometimes its poor planning, sometimes its money mismanagement, sometimes it's something malicious -- I've seen all of these things happen in the twenty three years I've been staffing cons. And for most of them, things always get hidden away. There are show promoters who would run a failed event, then quietly move towns and start a new one under a different name... attendees none the wiser.
Which is why we started reporting on stuff at Nerd & Tie. We wanted a record of this stuff to be at least semipermanent beyond the ephemeral social media posts that get lost to time. People and cons need to be held accountable. Have we been perfect? No. Have we published some "hot takes" which were kinda terrible? Yes. But we've strived to be accurate, and overall I think our record is pretty good.
(That said, please contribute to our legal fund - http://gofund.me/nerdandtie )
But the reaction from some of the con staffers out there has been... not great? I mean, yeah -- I don't expect people we've written negative pieces about to be big fans of mine. But even some con staffers in the world at large who I've never written about have taken shots at me. One guy who works for Anime Milwaukee, COAF, Naka-kon, and Kumoricon has literally called me a "blight" on the community.
He's the reason I'm skipping AMKE this year.
And it's ridiculous. Like a different guy who runs a bunch of cons has complained that I'm just dragging up "drama" and it's just nonsense. I'm writing down the stuff hardly anyone was willing to do so for years. There are others out there with me (like File770 has been doing this forever), but we're all small operations. This isn't "drama," this the community we're stewards of.
Guys like Mr. "Blight" think that we're being over nitpicky reporting on stuff like Tokyo in Tulsa, but when a con severely mismanages a situation, it should be remembered. People should know that Person A did a bad thing that time. It's important.
Screw ups need to be documented and remembered. And it's not to say people should never forgive cons for their mistakes, but that forgiveness should be an INFORMED forgiveness. It's the only chance we have at getting better.
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So yesterday was National Coming Out Day, and like most things with my queerness I have an odd relationship with it. I'm nonbinary genderqueer, but I spent most of my 39 years on this earth deeply in the closet.
A good chunk of that time was because I honestly lacked the vocabulary for what I was. But even when I knew the words, I still kept it to myself. I never had a single "coming out" because of it. I first told my wife. Then I later told a few friends. Then years later I finally told my family... sort of.
A year before I came out to my family I ended up in a conversation about nonbinary identities, and my father did what he sometimes does when confronted with new ideas outside his experience - demand excessive citations to an occasionally emotionally exhausting level.
(It's not that he's unwilling to learn, but you kind of have to specifically, point by point walk him through it.)
He didn't know that the conversation was a canary in a coal mine, and I literally put it away for a year and a half. It got to the point where I was tired of hiding something that big day to day though, and I knew I needed to tell my family before I was public about it.
So I told my mom.
Her response was "Do you want me to tell your Dad for you and instruct him not to ask any follow up questions or bug you about it?"
I said yes.
A few months later I quietly updated all of my social media and website bios to reflect it. While I prefer gender neutral pronouns, masculine ones don’t bother me at all so I never made a big deal about it. Frankly I'm pretty pronoun indifferent most days.
But I also didn't make a big deal out of it because the imposter syndrome roots deeply into my bones. I spent so long in the closet I don't know if I'll ever fully feel comfortable claiming that I'm a part of the LGBTQ+ community - even though I am.
I didn't completely come out until I was 37.
And I wish I'd done it sooner.
(Also, back when I had a band we actually played a concert at UW-Eau Claire's Coming Out Day event. That was 11 years ago. Wow. )
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I saw one of those "most famous cryptids from each state" lists going around, and I was disappointed to see Indiana's item was yet again the Beast of Busco. And I mean, it's a good choice -- but it's far from my favorite Indiana cryptid. That will always be, for me, the Crawfordsville Monster.
And right now I'm going to tell you about it.
The Crawfordsville monster was, as you'd expect, sighted in Crawfordsville, IN. I used to live a half hour away from there, and it's your average Indiana town. They like to brag about how Lew Wallace wrote Ben Hur there.
Will Shortz, the NYT crossword puzzle guy, is from there.
The monster was first spotted in 1891 by a couple of ice delivery guys one night. They described it as a "horrible apparition" hovering in the air over them and it freaked them the shit out.
The local paper (because of course this made the local paper) said it was pure white, had no definite shape, was 18 feet long and 8 feet wide, and was moving through the air via pairs of "side fins."
Also it had one flaming eye, because of course it did.
Hundreds eventually claimed to have seen the monster, and like a lot of these things, the stories got more elaborate. News spread first to Indianapolis and even made the papers in New York.
It was wild.
A couple of guys (John Hornbeck and Abe Hernley) decided to track down the beast, because of course they did. And, amazingly, they found it and followed it around town.
It turns out it was a flock of birds.
Specifically it was a flock of killdeer, which have white underfeathers. Crawfordsville had recently installed electric street lights which confused the crap out of the birds and were hovering around town en masse.
And so Indiana's best cryptid story, in my mind, is the time Crawfordsville, IN freaked out about a flock of super confused birds.
And more people should know about it.
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(A version of this originally appeared on my tumblr)
A couple of weeks ago had a guy come up to my table at Coulee Con and told me how great he thought comicsgate was, and I honestly had to work so hard not to yell at him. And I mean, this guy had terrible opinions, and I pointed out that comics have always been political (like have these people never read Captain America or the X-men?) but a couple of things struck me.
Like this was a pretty sociable guy, but he showed no indication of seeing how uncomfortable I was. Like my whole body language changed. He just didn't give a shit. It never occurred to him that I might disagree with him.
(I mean, he saw me as another straight guy at a con - most people outside the LGBTQ+ community aren't going to recognize the genderqueer pride flag that was plastered across my shirt)
What was weird about the experience though was that he was telling me about some comics he liked. It wasn't like dealing with the trolls you usually end up with online. He wasn't trying to be a bad dude. He wasn't into this stuff because he knew it would piss off "SJWs." I don't think that thought ever even occurred to him.
He was just into some comics that happen to be made by some gross and awful people. But since he's not the target of those people's hate, he just dismisses it.
It's literally privilege in action.
He can sit out "politics" because his very existence isn't politicized.
And I told him that. I hoped he'd listen.
He did not.
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I just had a dream where I was pitching a reboot of/sequel to Quantum Leap.
I need to share the concept.
Our lead is Samantha Beckett, and the year is roughly nowish. She's the daughter of Scott Bakula's Sam Beckett (obviously), and we can just retcon that in as never being mentioned (we'll say she was at boarding school in 1999 during The Leap Back or something). We all remember that her father, Bakula's Sam, never came home -- but because he's been time traveling for so long, he's irrevocably altered the timeline. In the new one that exists, there was no time accelerator built, no project. It's our world technologically and Bakula's Sam just vanished one day.
Samantha became a quantum physicist, and is a brilliant one at that. One day though, she finds a mysterious package. It's the handlink left in 1945 in the episode The Leap Back. When she touches it, her childhood memories of seeing her father's Quantum Leap project in construction flood back from the other timeline.
She remembers being told her father was lost in time.
Samantha is on a mission. She's going to find her father and bring him home. She knows the science well enough (having already co-authored several papers on "the self repairing timeline theory") and now remembers some key pieces from her father's project to build a functional Quantum accelerator. She reaches out to her grad school mentor (who didn't have a name in the dream, but I'll call Ed here) for help. He's gruff, cantankerous, but emotionally supportive.
He thinks she's nuts until she shows him the math.
He's going to be her Al.
If the show can afford it (which was being debated in the dream) they find actual Al too. He's a retired Navy Admiral who has no idea what's going on until he touches the handlink. Then, like Samantha, he regains his memory. Al uses his Navy connections to find funding for the project -- and signs on to save the best friend he forgot he had. Al will remain back at the accelerator, rarely be in episodes, and mostly stay off screen.
And Samantha Beckett steps into the quantum accelerator, to set right what once went wrong, and (budget permitting a Scott Bakula appearance) save her father.
Whoever owns the rights, call me.
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So I know I haven't posted much lately, but that's largely because I've been spending a lot of my time producing a new Actual Play roleplaying game podcast Stormwood & Associates
for Nerd & Tie.
Long time readers of my blog (the few of you who still exist) will immediately notice that Stormwood & Associates
is using the Super Awesome Action Heroes rules I came up with over a decade ago. It's a modern fantasy campaign, and I'm honestly really excited about it so far. Besides myself, the game features Nick, Gen, and my good friend Kyle Johnson. GM duties kind of rotate among us (though I'm doing a little more often just because my sessions are driving the main story).
We're putting out new episodes of the show every Friday, and you can (of course) find us on iTunes
, Spotify, Stitcher
, or anything that can accept an RSS feed
Please consider listening, it's super fun.
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Right now I'm sitting in a Burger King, waiting to move.
I was in a small car accident a few weeks ago (no injuries, just vehicle damage). Because the auto shops in town were all backed up, the earliest I could get it in was today – the day before No Brand Con.
Which I help run.
Anywho, I arranged a rental car, but while I dropped off my Versa at 9am, I can’t pick up the rental until noon, because the car rental place wanted to charge me like fifty bucks to move the time earlier even by two hours.
Which I am not about to pay for.
So here I sit, waiting. I have a lot to do, but I can’t really get started. I don’t have a car to load things in yet. I can’t do steps seven through twelve when I’m stalling on step one. So here I sit, anxiously waiting, unable to do anything yet.
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