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The Challenges of Writing in a Shared Fictional Universe With a Long Running Story
Posted Feb 27, 2018 - 13:57:13


So earlier this week, the first "plot installment" for No Brand Con 2018 went live. For those unaware, for most of its seventeen year history, No Brand Con has kept an ongoing storyline with a revolving cast of mascot characters. The story starts online before the con, and then concludes with live performers during the event.

For the first couple of years the con did this, it was produced almost like an Alternate Reality Game through the forums, but starting around year six shifted to telling the stories through what is effectively a web series. For seventeen cons (including the upcoming one this year), the con has told (with varying levels of complexity) twelve stories, ten of which were done in the format of the web series. I was involved in the production of eight of these web series, but only really wrote or co-wrote six of them. While that means I'm probably the dominant voice in the fiction, I only really had control over the continuity for half of these stories.

On quite a few occasions, I was working within the restrictions of writers who came before me. Like there was a major plot hole in No Brand Con 2005's "BrandCorp" storyline where a major character (Wilson Oakes) disappeared between Opening Ceremonies and the Cosplay Contest intermission at the con. Since the other significant villain from that story (Executron) kept appearing, we just told people Wilson Oakes had been killed off during the con, and made jokes about it. When we revisited BrandCorp again in 2011, I made one of those jokes canon in a video that recapped the earlier story to close the plot-hole.

In other cases, later writers made changes which will complicate future storylines. Like, Duct Tape Boy flies a No Brand Hero owned spaceship for the No Brand Con 2009 storyline (which I co-wrote). Yet in the No Brand Con 2016 storyline (which I was not involved in), Duct Tape Boy can't drive a car and needs someone else to do it for him. Starting this year, I'm back to writing the thing and we haven't resolved it in-fiction yet. I'm going to probably have to puzzle that out eventually.

I'll probably make a joke about Duct Tape Boy having a "Class S" license which only lets him drive Spaceships and Commercial Vehicles over 26,000 pounds or something.

Finally, there's just the complication of doing a zero-budget web series over a period of time this long. Getting consistent performers is hard. The one reason the Gardening Ninja shows up so much in the web episodes is, frankly, because I play him. Besides the six years I helped come up with the story, I helped edit and produce another two. I was just around. To lift the curtain a bit, some characters like Duct Tape Boy can be recast. While there have only been a small number of "main" Duct Tape Boys, I think like eight different people have played the character in some capacity at this point?

Most characters have visible faces though, so recasting isn't an option. Often we just write around this (including only the available cast in the plot). Other times it introduces plot issues. The second incarnation of Greenboy, for example, was initially played by Conner Vail. I can't remember why, but for some reason Conner wasn't going to be available to play the character anymore. Knowing this ahead of time though, we wrote into the No Brand Con 2011 plot that he was captured by BrandCorp and physically transformed ala-Captain America (or as I usually reference, Bo Abobo from the Double Dragon movie) in that year's third episode. David "Mousse" Janacek took over the character for a few years, and all was well.

Except then Mousse wasn't available anymore.

A few stories just had Greenboy off screen, but this year the story would have felt weird not to use him. Frankly, with the plot being based around Duct Tape Boy's disappearance, not having Greenboy would mean the Gardening Ninja was returning to zero familiar faces. Greenboy needed to be there, and Mousse was not an option... but Conner was. So we introduced the plot element that at some point Greenboy was de-transformed. We don't know how yet, and maybe we'll never explain the events that lead to it.

But hey, it's in the story now.

I mean, I guess it helps that the rules to our world are a little absurdist. I mean, ostensibly it's a cast of C-list superheroes who (in canon) help run an Anime convention while fighting off Egyptian Space Mummies and an evil, tiny robot. Some other writers (*cough*STAN*cough*) have gone a little bit too absurdist, but overall it kind of works.

It's just a massive pain to figure out what the heck actually happened sometimes though.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 0 ) ]

A Long Ramble About Finding Unexpected Freedom
Posted Feb 1, 2018 - 12:19:58

So there's this guy I've known for years who has the strangest fixation on me. Like it's super weird.

Every time he's mildly displeased with his own life, he decides that *I* need to be "knocked down a peg." Like he's decided he's the arbiter of humility - and yes, the irony in that is incredible. I also shouldn't say that it's just me -- he's also weirdly focused on my friend Nick. That, in many ways, is even stranger as he and Nick have barely interacted over the years. At least this dude and I have had contact.

There are long periods of him being perfectly fine, but then out of nowhere he'll lash out again. In some conversation, often ones that don't even involve me, he'll post to Facebook how "Trae isn't funny" or how I'm so arrogant. I won't have said anything to trigger this though. He'll just do it all on his own.

It's like it's a fixation.

It used to bother me more - like in 2010 I wrote a whole blog entry about this guy (Edit: Two entries actually - that linked one is a follow up to this one). In the comments of that post he said he was glad my feelings were hurt and that he hoped I "learned something" from it.

It was so fucked up.

I realized then that this person was not and had never been my "friend." I mean it should have been obvious before, but it was super clear now. I talked with a mutual friend about how weird this was, and we both agreed this dude was weirdly obsessed with me. As I knew that my work in the con scene would keep thrusting me into the same room as this guy over and over again, I couldn't get him out of my life. It wasn't an option - but he now became someone to be managed not befriended.

I know that sounds cold, but it was the only way to emotionally insulate myself.

You see, he co-runs a company that offers a particular service to conventions, and -- honestly -- they are really good at what they do. I'd argue that they are one of the best groups out there for what they offer. Some of the cons that worked with them early on no longer want anything to do with them though.

All because they don't want to deal with THIS ONE GUY.

I'll admit I've only pretended to be friendly to him the last few years because it was convenient for me. I put up with his garbage because I needed something from him. But the cons I work with have moved to different providers (a decision that was made NOT by me ironically), so I haven't been pretending anymore. A few weeks ago, he randomly lashed out (again) and I told him how weird it was and that he needed to stop.

He said the conversation wasn't "fun anymore" -- I of course asked when the hell it was ever supposed to be "fun."

That brings us to last night.

On a mutual friend's Facebook status there was a discussion about the Ready Player One movie and how the poster wasn't excited about it. I made a minor reply about the (lack of) quality of the book's prose and posted a link to ProZD's video on it. I was very much not a part of the conversation, but at least half a dozen other people were. All of them were critical of the film - and then he appeared. And, in his response to someone else, specifically tried to call me out by name.

In a discussion I wasn't even really a part of.

He went on some rant about "snobby geeks" who think we're "better than all the other geeks out there" which is bizarre. He also said we didn't like it because of all the pop culture references, and how we're anti-pop culture? Like I'm not sure what he thinks "geeks" are into. Like... what we love IS pop culture these days. Half the properties referenced in the very trailer we're criticizing are things I love. Loving that stuff intensely is what MAKES me a geek in the first place.

And I could go into a whole thing about how you can love something while still being critical of its flaws, but that's not the point. The point is, this was a discussion I wasn't involved in and he weirdly made it about me for no reason. There was a whole discussion, all while I slept, and in the morning I saw the fallout.

Well, half of the fallout.

You see, I couldn't see any of his posts. After arguing with people WHO WERE NOT ME in a discussion I WASN'T INVOLVED IN he decided that his only available course of action was to block and unfriend me on Facebook.

That's not... that's not a normal reaction to things.

So, I guess I should come to a point here. The point is, in what I believe was an action meant to thumb his nose at me, he has actually done the opposite. I had left him on my "friends" list because it was socially necessary. I had continued to be socially "friendly" because there were potential social complications to cutting ties. As he's decided to cut ME out though, it makes everything so much simpler. I am finally free of having to interact with him.

It's done.

It's like a weight has been lifted. I mean, it feels great when toxic people choose to do the work of cutting themselves out of your life for you. I honestly feel amazing, and I had to do literally nothing to make it happen. Ultimately, an act I believe that was meant to harm me has brought me nothing but joy (and shit ton of giggles this morning). And if the person this is about ever happens to read this, I guess I just have one thing to say to him...

Go fuck yourself Josh.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 2 ) ]

I'm Losing My YouTube Partner Status
Posted Jan 17, 2018 - 14:50:53


So I posted that video to YouTube earlier today, as my YouTube Channel is one of many that will lose their partner status in the next 30 days. The old criteria used to just be that a channel had a minimum number of hours viewed. Now you need at least 1000 subscribers (which I only have a couple hundred) and 4,000 hours of views in the last 12 months. I think my 2017 hours amounted to 206... so... yeah. Even if I somehow find the subscribers, I'm not going to be able to keep my status.

And since my more popular videos are my short ones, I don't see me re-earning the status any time soon.

And it just sort of sucks, y'know? I've had partner status since they were "creator" pages, and to lose it after all of these years is frustrating and annoying. There isn't really a competitor anymore either, so it's not like I can just hop over to another site with this kind of community.

Ugh.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 0 ) ]

So 2017 Has Been a Mess
Posted Dec 16, 2017 - 15:09:06

Dinosaur

Holy crap, this year. I mean, just holy crap. To say that 2017 has been one of the most stressful years of my adult life would be an understatement. 2017 has, overall, been a god damn mess.

I mean, I'm not going to say much about the ongoing lawsuit I've been defending against, and how it's continued to eat a second year of my life. I mean, it's definitely a big bottle of no-fun.

Crysta and I also moved halfway through the year, leaving our home of seven years in Lafayette, IN to go back to our old neighborhood in Eau Claire, WI. Even though the move was a "good thing," the act of uprooting is inherently an emotional mess. I mean, it was hauling all of our stuff 500 miles over the course of multiple weekends. I think I clocked that over the course of three days I had spent twenty hours on the freeway -- and that doesn't take into account the loading and unloading done between trips.

In 2016 I had two working shoulders. In 2017 I have on a good day one and a half.

There's a lot more stuff going on, but I'm not sure how much the other people involved would want me airing it publicly. Needless to say, this is just the surface of it. I literally took time off of one of my comics on multiple occasions for the first time ever. That's just unlike me. I haven't even mentioned the existential dread that encompasses the nation right now either.

I mean, it hasn't been all bad. I mean, later today, I'm going to go see a Star Wars. I really hope 2018 gets its act together though.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 0 ) ]

I Think We Have Reached Peak Cyberpunk Desk
Posted Sep 15, 2017 - 22:25:28

cyberpunk deskcyberpunk deskcyberpunk desk
cyberpunk desk

One of the biggest challenges in moving was relocating my workspace. I spend a lot of time in my home office, since I work from home for the "corporate America job I'll never mention on my website," use this as my recording studio, produce all my comics from here, and do all of my Nerd & Tie stuff. It's been a while since I shared the evolution of what I refer to as my "cyberpunk" desk, so I thought I'd update you with the current iteration.

The first three photos are from 2010, 2012, and 2014 respectively, but it was a lot more complex before we left Lafayette. The "day job" system went from one to three screens recently though, so I had to scramble a bit for space. There are three main computers here, the company owned Windows 7 system, my main system (a five year old MacBook Pro), and my Linux machine. There's also a Windows 95 laptop running the clock, a Kindle Fire for streaming media while I work, and the Commodore monitor can be switched between multiple devices (including a 3DO and TV tuner). That's not to mention my iPad, the other Kindle Fire (which I use for reading), or the recording equipment.

And the mini fridge is full of Diet Coke.

I used to joke about having a "cyberpunk" desk when I only had three screens going, but that just seems so quaint nowadays. I used to say I'd never have enough screens -- but guess what? I kind of think I do now.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 3 ) ]

So Yeah, We're Moving Back to Wisconsin
Posted June 6, 2017 - 16:45:02


So I've posted about this on social media a bunch, but I'm realizing that I've never said anything about it on my blog. A blog which supposedly is here to chronicle my major life events... even if it's kind of fallen silent these last few years.

But hey, I'm trying to fix that right now.

Crysta is finishing up her time at Purdue, and with our lease ending soon at our current apartment we had to decide where we wanted to go. I mean, it's really the only reason we've been in Lafayette this whole time, and I can literally work from anywhere. We talked about a few different options, and in the end we decided that we needed to regroup and just kind of go home.

And for us, even though none of our family is there, our home is Eau Claire, WI.

So we signed a lease on a new place this spring, and this last weekend we drove to Eau Claire, picked up the keys for (and unloaded a bunch of our stuff into) our new apartment. It's in our old neighborhood, and it just sort of makes sense for us right now.

We're moving gradually throughout the month, making multiple trips, and it's (of course) stressful as ever. We'll be in Eau Claire full time on July 1st. I'm doing my best to keep UnCONventional, The Chronicles of Crosarth, and Nerd & Tie updated on their regular schedules, but please forgive me if things slip once or twice. The only time I ever missed an UnCONventional update was when I moved back in 2010, and the rest of that stuff didn't exist at the time.

I'm excited though, and this is going to be good.

I should also point out that I'm becoming fully active in No Brand Con staff again, and am now their co-head of Advertising and PR. Because of that, I will no longer be covering anything No Brand Con related on Nerd & Tie. Any future stories on that organization will be handled by Nick or Gen, though I don't foresee many. Frankly, we last ran one on them several years ago.

But yeah. We're going home.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 1 ) ]

Con Season is Here and UnCONventional Book 7!
Posted Mar 13, 2017 - 17:52:04

Book 7

So it's spring, which means two things - I've got a new UnCONventional book out and it's convention season.

To start out, UnCONventional Chapter Seven is now available for purchase. I'll have it at any cons I'm doing from here on out, and it costs just $25. If you can't find me at a convention, you can buy the book either directly or on Amazon.

Now, I'm only doing a handful of conventions this year, but I literally have three coming up in the month of April. This is my schedule right now:
  • INDYpendent Show - April 2, 2017
    Wyndham Indianapolis West - Indianapolis, IN
     
  • Karoshi Con - April 8, 2017
    Northern Illinois University - Dekalb, IL
     
  • No Brand Con - April 21-23, 2017
    Chula Vista Resort - Wisconsin Dells, WI
So yeah, if you feel like coming out to any of these events, I'd be super happy to see you. It's going to be a fun time.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 0 ) ]

The Return to Nerd & Tie Title Cards
Posted Feb 9, 2017 - 10:44:41

I haven't posted here for a while for a lot of reasons, but I figured I should do some sort of update. With that in mind, I figured I'd do something I haven't done for almost two years, and that's dig up some Nerd & Tie title cards. Here are some of the best ones:







There are more, but these are my favorites.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 0 ) ]

Ten Years Ago Today.
Posted Dec 15, 2016 - 11:39:54

Me and my wife

I swear, as I've gotten older, time seems to slip by me faster and faster. Sometimes you look back and milestones just sort of hit you out of nowhere. My lovely wife Crysta and I have been together for a while though, and we've built a happy life four ourselves - one of random adventures, shared sorrows, and just all around awesomeness.

And Ten years ago today I kissed her for the first time.

That's right, ten years ago today, I started dating the woman I'd marry. We'd met the week before at the annual OA F'mas Party (long story), but we'd actually kept almost meeting for months before hand. Hell, I'm literally in the background of her Facebook pictures from a backyard "To Slay Zombie Newton" concert in the previous October.

The backyard of a house the two of us would later live in together.

I can't imagine my life without Crysta, and it all started this day, ten years ago, in a dorm television lounge at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. It's been an amazing ten years, and I look forward to what's coming next.

It's hard to see how it could get better than this though.

- Traegorn
[ Comments ( 1 ) ]





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The Chronicles of Crosarth - a webcomic of Steampunk Adventure, updated Mon & Wed
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