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.
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.
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.
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.
So long time readers of this site know that I used to write a lot of articles on Witchcraft and Wicca. As I've split off content production on to different sites though, that's kind of the one thing that hasn't been brought along. Something personal? It's here. Something nerdy? Nerd & Tie gets it. Have a fun convention story? I incorporate it into UnCONventional. But my witchcraft stuff? Uh... maybe my Tumblr gets it?
Well not so much anymore.
On Saturday, which is also Mabon, the first episode of Bullshit-Free Witchcraft launches. It'll be a monthly show, but I'm going to be releasing the first three episodes weekly right away... with the fourth coming out a few weeks after (near Samhain). The show is my occasionally snarky (but still serious) take on the modern Witchcraft movement, and I think anyone interested in Witchcraft will enjoy it.
So I went to Geek.kon this year, and it was a weird time. Like 90% of my friends who usually go decided to sit this year out, so it was a bit more of a lonely experience than that con usually is for me.
That's not to say it was a bad time or I didn't see friends -- like I got to talk to some people I rarely see, and I had a lot of fun.
It's definitely a slightly different con now -- but with the mass walkout of a lot of people including a lot of veteran staffers and their old security team, it was obvious that the con is going to have some adjustment pains -- people are having to learn to do things that others always took care of. I have a lot of nitpicks, but I told the staff all of them... so... hopefully they listened?
It's hard to tell if someone is hearing me or just being polite when I throw unsolicited advice at them.
That's not to say there weren't improvements this year too. I like the new vendor layout better (though adding full height pipe and drape to the two middle islands would make the room a little less overwhelming), as it got rid of the "dead aisle" in the old artist alley (people weren't spending as much I hear -- but I think the fact that the city is mid-natural disaster is a significant component of that). Registration FINALLY works well now too -- they used to have a hell of a time with long wait-times, but it's finally fixed. Like I can't even begin to explain how much better that was this year -- it's almost shocking.
Attendance was up this year, which is also good for the event.
Honestly, I don't blame the people who walked out for leaving or even staying away -- I would have probably done the same in their shoes. But the fact is what happened is in the past, and there's still a lot of good here.
I started talking about this on someone else's tumblr post, but they weren't Wiccan (and their post wasn't about Wicca) so I didn't want to derail their stuff any more than I already have. I figure non-Wiccan Witches have had to put up with enough Wiccan bullshit over the years where they don't need to listen to me bitching about internal squabbles if they don't want to.
So I've been a Wiccan for over twenty years. I'm a solitary eclectic who found the faith in my teens, and when I was younger I was very involved in what would in common parlance today be called "the discourse."
Back when I was more actively involved, I spent a lot of my time arguing with what I used to call "Wiccan Fundamentalists." They were the people who insisted that any Wiccan path or tradition that wasn't British Traditional Wicca (BTW) was not actually Wicca at all.
Nevermind that established traditions like Dianic Wicca (and arguably even Buckland's Seax-Wica) technically weren't BTW. Nevermind that non-BTWs made up the majority of the faith. Nevermind that Doreen Valiente, arguably a co-architect of much of the Wiccan faith, published a self initiation ritual in 19-freaking-76.
Needless to say it was a fight the fundamentalists couldn’t win.
We had the numbers, so they took a new tack.
Instead now eclectics and solitaries (who, y'know, already had names for themselves within the community) were to be grouped together as "NeoWicca," while "established traditions" were just "Wicca."
While they still got to call eclectics and solitaries less-than-Wiccan, they simultaneously got to pretend to be "more fair." Y'see, now established Seax-Wica and Dianic groups, with having a formal structure can be considered "real" Wicca alongside BTW, which then silenced the argument often used in defense of eclectics.
But it doesn't work as a dividing line. The Wicca of someone who picked up Z Budapest's books and chose to follow the Dianic path may be very much following the same tradition of people who came from established Dianic Covens -- but now the former is "NeoWiccan" and the latter is just "Wiccan."
It's a big old pile of bullshit.
We had a word. We had a name. We didn't need a "new" one. Some of us were eclectics. Some of us were solitaries. The late Scott Cunningham didn't write about "NeoWicca" -- he wrote about Wicca. And while the man may not have been perfect, he knew what the religion he was writing about was called.
"NeoWicca" is a line drawn by fundamentalist voices in the community meant to make others "less than," and I'm really sick and tired of it.
(I want to point out that I am not blaming all BTWs for this – just the exclusionary voices in our community) - Traegorn
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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
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