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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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 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...
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.