Thursday, December 17, 2009

Captain America Lives Again!

...and various other assorted sundries.

The pic is from my birthday, the big 48, nearly a month ago. Time flies during the holidays around here. The shield was a gift from my eldest daughter, Super Drama Teen, who, being twenty years old now, should probably just be called Super Drama Daughter or some such.

I got other cool stuff -- a nifty Silver Age JLA and Flash t-shirts from Nate, the two FF movies from Super Adorable Kid, some magic cards and an awesome Silver Surfer glass from Super Dependable Teen, a copy of a very useful and avidly sought after, long out of print, roleplaying resource book from SuperWife, and... hrm... probably a few other things I can't remember. But the shield, which Super Drama Daughter found on vacation in Gatlinsburg and hid out for me for months, was the highlight.

I have such great kids.

Last summer, I started up another blogspot page, all about this pulp hero RPG scenario I came up with set in the fabulous 1930s. Check it out, if you've a mind to.

In other random bits of geek blather, I've been watching the first season of THE VENTURE BROTHERS on DVD over the last couple of mornings before I leave for work. Remember THE TICK cartoon? Remember how unbelievably hilariously hysterically bust-a-gut nearly laugh yourself into an aneurysm it was, pretty much constantly, in every single episode?

Well, if you're looking for another pulp hero parody/pastiche cartoon series that is consistently about half as funny as THE TICK, and that occasionally gets up to being nearly 2/3s as funny as THE TICK, then this is your show.

That may seem like damning with faint praise, but I can't think of anything else on that's even half as funny as THE TICK used to be, so, whatever. THE VENTURE BROTHERS is cool, mind you, and I'm enjoying it. It's just, kind of, THE TICK-lite.

Continuing the random, I think it's time. Time for Joss Whedon to just admit it. However much he hates it, he needs to stop running away from it, stop living in denial, and just embrace it: the only thing he can do right is BUFFY. (DR. HORRIBLE was cool, but it's not going to work as an open ended series.) He needs to stop wasting years and years and years that we and Eliza Dushku and Anthony Stewart Head are never going to get back, buckle down, gear up, and do a goddam FAITH series.

And if he'd honestly rather die than re immerse himself in the BUFFY verse, well, I'll write the fucker. I'm easily as fat as Whedon. And I have the same kind of whiny voice he does. Plus, I have a cool Captain America shield. What more could anyone ask for?

Monday, November 30, 2009

I just threw up a little in my mouth

From my Inbox:

From Sgt Herman Hansley
Camp MXP-512 Third Infantry Division
Abul Uruj, Baghdad, Iraq.

I am Herman R Hansley, a native of Iraq. I am a
Military Contractor with the America troop currently
serving in the third infantry division Unit in Iraq.

I am currently on duty break. My partner Darren D.
Braswell, 36, of Riverdale, Ga., died Jan. 7th near
TalAfar, Iraq, when the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter
in which he was a Passenger crashed. Braswell worked
For the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, before
his death We secretly moved some abandoned cash in
a mansion belonging to the former president,
Saddam Hussein and the total cash is
US$20,200,000.00 Twenty Million two hundred thousand Dollars.

As I write this letter to you, these boxes are in
Security Company as I secretly moved it out of Baghdad
to safe place.

Sir I seek your consent to help me move this money to
your country location.

You do not have to be afraid of anything as no one else
knows about this and everything is safe. I would be
pleased and grateful to you if you could assist me
and my late partner Darren D. Braswel in receiving
this boxes for us on your behalf as I will be heading
back soon to camp in Iraq to join my colleagues.
Of course, I shall compensate you with an attractive
percent of the total funds for your role/efforts.
We have limited time now as you know that our
evacuation agreement is been negotiated by the USA
and IRAQI government, kindly get back to me

Moving the funds out of the security company is not
going to be much of a problem as arrangements are
being made towards that. All I want from you is your trust,

Please get back to me with your full name
Contact phone number

Preferable without delay and let's negotiate terms.

Your response will determine our subsequent correspondence.

You can read more on this website for more information and

Yours in Service.
Herman R Hansley

For years I've been getting these things... I suspect we all have. And like most of us, I've pretty much ignored them. I mean, if all these people actually were the relatives of deceased African ministers who had stashed millions in a numbered account, the number of deceased African ministers would start to rival the population of Brooklyn. It all seemed very... unlikely. And silly. And sad.

But this... this just makes me mad as hell.

I would like it very much if the United Nations, or Interpol, or some similar entity, would catch these people and put them in jail for a very long time.

Barring that, maybe we could track these pricks down and 'extraordinary rendition' their asses to Gitmo for a few dozen Presidential terms...

Monday, October 05, 2009

A novel approach

Just a reminder: all this sf/fantasy goodness is now available in electronic format at Amazon's Kindle store.

It's 1983 in New Sparta, NY, and Warren Dawson is beloved by everyone... his friends, his family, even random strangers on the street. Everybody loves Warren and wants to make him happy. The TVs only show his favorite programs, the radios only play his favorite songs, the movie theaters always have his favorite movies. And, naturally, all the women are beautiful, and all of them love Warren unreservedly and uninhibitedly...

When Warren's best friend Jimmy starts to notice just how strange the reality he and all his friends inhabit truly is, he becomes a threat to the odd, timelost Utopia that Warren has so carefully constructed around them all.

Which sets the stage for a final, epic battle between Warren Dawson and his closest friends. Utilizing powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, Jimmy and his buddies must go to war with a man who would be God, to settle the final fate of the entire human race...
and every living inhabitant of WARREN'S WORLD.

In the late 21st Century, the Global Union has mostly united mankind and brought lasting peace to the surface of the Earth... until the dead start rising from their graves to attack the living. Across the globe, panic and terror cause chaos to erupt, civilization to crumble,
and humanity itself to totter on the very brink of extinction.

Only three members of the Global Union's top secret Science Sector have any inkling of what is actually going on. Now they must undertake a perilous journey into the airless depths of outer space and beyond the borders of death itself in a last ditch attempt to save humanity from the evil alien Fear Masters that seek our utter, final destruction.

Can two tough as nails secret agents and a beautiful, brilliant super-scientist 'git 'er done'? For the answer, check out THE FEAR MASTERS, by D.A. Madigan.

When Jim, a thirty something bachelor geek with no life outside the pages of his favorite SF books, comes across a wrist watch that allows him to travel in time, he immediately sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream by traveling through time to assemble the greatest collection of
mint condition Silver Age superhero comics in human history.

But in the future, the secret agency known as Time Watch isn't pleased that one of their devices has fallen into the hands of an outsider, and they are ready, willing, able, and eager to do whatever it takes, up to and including killing Jim, to get their watch back.

As Jim flees from his pursuers across time and space, he quickly realizes that he may well be the human race's only hope for avoiding extinction at the hands of the insidious alien intelligence that is pulling Time Watch's strings from behind the scenes. They want humanity, ALL of humanity, dead... and Jim is now the only living human being who knows the truth.

Armed only with his wits, his time watch, and the aid of a beautiful female personal computer from the 22nd Century, Jim must avoid his pursuers and somehow thwart the genocidal agenda of an ancient, immortal, unearthly collective mind that seeks to bring all human
history to a most final termination.

Welcome to Sparta City, circa 1995, where seven super-powered teenagers fight for their lives and their freedom against covert cabals of ancient, evil immortals who yearn to outfit them all with high tech alien mind control slave collars - or low tech earthly bodybags, whichever works.

Yes, here in Sparta City, it's the neurotically networked 90s as they never really were, a time and a place when centuries old evildoers scheme, conspire, machinate and manipulate, while teenage superheroes leap, flip in midair, hurl lightning bolts, cast illusions, punch, kick, fly at supersonic speeds, kick ass, take names, and generally blow stuff up real good.

Seven stalwart students at Sparta University, inadvertently given unique and insane ultrapowers by an exotic on-campus psychology experiment gone horribly awry, and now avidly sought after as super-powered slaves by every other secret super society on the planet -

GALLANT, team leader, who at the age of 19 is both selfless and cynical, and whose super-agility and inhumanly unerring aim make him an all but unbeatable hand to hand combatant and absolutely deadly with anything he can throw, especially the hard energy discs and explosive energy globes his alien tech gauntlets generate;

TESLA GIRL, an 18 year old French Canadian hottie who can turn heads with her high voltage beauty and whose electrically supercharged metabolism can generate lightning bolts powerful enough to melt a combat tank into molten slag;

STRAIGHTLACE, the 18 year old diminutive blonde babe with the attitude of a pit bull who can fly faster than a speeding Sidewinder and smash through solid concrete without taking a scratch;

RAMPART, 19 year old African-American star athlete and honor student who can leap tall buildings in a single bound while carrying a Cadillac Seville over his shoulder;

LOBE-O, wheelchair bound 16 year old supergenius with an advanced college placement whose telepathic powers can trace a fleeting thoughtwave through a million muddled mundane minds;

GLAMOUR, a husky Innuit plain Jane psych major whose psychically projected mental illusions seem real enough to leave lipstick marks on a frat boy's cheek, or boot shaped bruises on a bad guy's ass;

WARPER, the 19 year old star college quarterback who can open teleportals with his mind, when he's not charming phone numbers out of any nearby cuties with his All American good looks;

MAINFRAME, the ageless, bodiless former maintenance man who now only exists as a self aware electronic impulse haunting any machine or set of circuitry he cares to inhabit at any given time;

Together they are ZAP FORCE, reluctant heroes fighting to protect an innocent and ignorant global populace, or at least, their own damn selves, from enslavement or death at the hands of the ancient evil immortals who secretly run the world:

BARON SAMEDI, centuries old blustering boss-man of the voodoo-themed Clan Loa, whose sheer raw strength can crumble solid concrete and whose brutal will to dominate will not be denied by uppity interfering newcomers like those no good Zap Force punks;

THE BARONESS, Baron Samedi's crafty, malevolent and utterly ageless wife and co-Monarch, whose vast mental prowess can (and does) enslave entire populations, including, of course, her own entirely unsuspecting husband;

THE OLD ONE, an inhumanly brilliant schemer born before written history began, who remembers the angels, gods and devils of ancient Sumeria and Babylonia as his contemporaries, peers, and more often than not, siblings, and whose own Royal Clan, the Eldest, is the most respected, hated, and feared of any in existence on Earth today.

STEPHEN SANTERIOS of Clan Loa, psychic assassin and master of the incomprehensibly advanced technology left behind on Earth by the long gone alien H'nnr

Put it all together and what do you got? ZAP FORCE!!

Of all of those, THE FEAR MASTERS is so far my top seller... in the last three months, I've sold 7 copies of it to discerning and apparently satisfied customers (at least, they didn't ask Amazon for a refund). This is so far a break out month for me; from May 1 through today, I've sold 10 copies, total, of my work. In 60 days or so, I'll get $34.80 direct deposited to my bank account. I may buy my wife flowers. Or, you know, just my kids some groceries.

Anyway. To the above tally, I'm happy to say I've formatted and added the following:

ENDGAME : When Webster Madison awakens at the far end of the universe in the super powered fantasy body he'd always wished he had, he was thrilled... until he learned that the price for his power would be his participation in a deadly alien game that could cost him not only his new avatar-form, but also his sanity, or even his life.

Now Webster and thirty other transformed roleplaying gamers from Earth find themselves enmeshed as living chess pieces in a contest whose rules they cannot comprehend, and where every move can result in sudden, horrible, grisly death, while the alien overlords responsible for their transformations test their new champions, often to destruction.

Those transformed human champions who survive these trials will be sent on a mysterious mission even more hazardous than the game itself, with an enormous reward waiting at the end for those who finally win through. Or so they are all told... but Webster suspects that in a world where no one is what they appear to be, nothing they have been told is the truth, either... and if he cannot somehow determine actuality from illusion in this dangerous labyrinth of perilous power, neither Webster nor any of his fellow super powered pawns will make it through the ENDGAME...

EARTHQUEST : When Webster Madison, Hired Gun is dumped at the other end of the galaxy from Earth by treacherous aliens, he must fight his way back home across the hostile stars. Hijacking a ship full of slaves, he successfully leads the human cargo in rebellion against the crew and embarks on a career as an interstellar buccaneer and liberator of the oppressed.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sam Curtis is using his newly found superpowers to reshape the world in his own twisted image. Should Webster somehow manage to set foot once more on his native planet, he will find himself walking into a deadly trap elaborately planned and set by his deadliest foe...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Man vs. Swine

So, the plague has infested Castle Anthrax.

It started last Friday. Super Adorable Kid was finishing up a week's stretch at her biodad's, and he called to tell us she was spiking a fever. When she got back to us Saturday morning, her fever was around 101, and over the next 24 hours, it went as high as 103.9, never quite breaking the magic '104' mark we had set to ourselves as the point at which we'd take her to the emergency room.

It was an eerie Saturday night. I'd worked until, I think, 7:30 in the evening, and upon getting home, I got to watch what SuperWife had been describing to me all day (on my breaks, I always call home) - Super Adorable Kid flushed from fever, every square inch of her skin radiating heat like a sun lamp, shivering and complaining bitterly of the cold and begging for a blanket, which of course SuperWife wouldn't give her, due to the high fever.

We tried kid's ibuprofen and cool showers, and could not get that fever down. By ten o'clock the next morning, we were near panic. My mom was due for a visit starting tomorrow; we were worried even at that point that we might have to wave her off, and anyway, she's a nurse, so we called her to consult over the phone, and she advised us to get Super Adorable Kid to a doctor immediately, as it sounded to her like the swine flu.

So we called our doctor, and it turns out they have an after hours acute care facility just for kids, and thought she sounded bad enough that she should come in immediately. So we took her over there, and after waiting for an hour and a half in a lobby full of coughing kids, and another 45 minutes in a small consultation room, a doctor we didn't know came in, swabbed her throat, advised us it was probably just the flu but he wasn't sure if it was swine flu, came back in ten minutes later to tell us she was negative for strep, and sent us home, with instructions to keep doing what we were doing.

While we were there, a nurse took her temperature, and it was 99.6... the lowest we'd seen in 48 hours. But the digital thermometer she used had a little plastic roller that you run along the forehead, whereas ours is a digital that you insert the contact point into the ear, so I'm still not sure their thermometer got a good reading of her core temp.

So we got her home and took her temp with our thermometer and it was back up to 102.

That was last Sunday. Sunday is the one day a week I always have off; you can imagine, it wasn't a very restful day of rest for me.

Along about Tuesday, Super Wife started showing symptoms. Now, Super Wife has had bronchitis before, and anytime she gets anything remotely like a chest cold or the flu, it goes straight into her lungs and turns into bronchitis. The last time she got sick was a month and a half ago and although she got a Z pack, and it seemed to get her most of the way back, she never quite got to a point where she wasn't coughing if she laughed too much or breathed too hard. So she started heading downhill fast, fast enough that I didn't have to exert anything like the amount of pressure I normally do to get her to go to the doctor's. (She's quick on the trigger to send me or any of the girls to the doctor if we get a sniffle, but she will not go herself. She's the last person in the family she ever wants to spend any money on. It drives me insane.)

So she was home sick from work Wednesday and went to the doctor's office Thursday and came home with an inhaler of medicine and a double Z-pack, and she seems to be improving, but she's still weak and wheezy, and given that the people who seem to be dying from this thing are doing it because it gets into their lungs, I'm pretty worried about her.

Also on Thursday, our pediatrician called us back and advised that they were pretty sure Super Adorable Kid had swine flu. Yay.

Thursday I also started to cough, just a little bit, at work. I work for a call center (no matter how assiduously I try to avoid call center work, I always seem to end up being sucked back into it; it's like I can get away from hell for a little while, but eventually I always end up back there) so I was hoping it was just allergies combined with having to talk to idiots all day, but Friday, which was my day off, I started to spike a fever and feel pretty crappy.

I would have loved to have stayed home on Saturday, when I was scheduled to work 11 to 8, and any sane employer would have encouraged me to do so rather than bring swine flu into their workplace, but if anyone has ever called my current employer sane, they need to take it back. At the call center where I work, employees earn no sick time until they have worked there a year. You get no PDO (paid days off) until you've been there six months. If you get two full attendance occurrences within a year, you get fired, and there are no exceptions made for any reason, and I'm not kidding.

Different types of things trigger different levels of 'occurrence'. If you're between one minute and two hours late, or you punch out between one minute and two hours early, it is an infraction, and technically you need 10 infractions to add up to an occurrence... but there is a sliding scale. In your first 12 months, any one infractions actually equals 6 infractions. In your second year, that goes down to like 4, I think. In your third year, it drops to 2, and when you've been there four years, your attendance infractions actually count as one for one.

Now, missing a day of work unexcused, for any reason at all, is a full occurrence, so you can only miss 1 day of work in your first year... the second day, you are fired. No exceptions. It doesn't matter why you missed work, your supervisor cannot excuse your absence, it is zero tolerance.

So, if you come in late or leave early twice, you have eighteen infractions. Miss a day of work, and you have 10. Get up to two full occurrences, and you're gone.

If this sounds very confusing to you, well, it is. I believe that it is deliberately made very confusing so that at the uppermost levels of management, somebody somewhere can be a little bit subjective about it if they want to... in fact, I know they can, because a month or so ago, when we had bad flooding in downtown River City, about half the call center couldn't make it to work, and management decided that that particular day would not count as an occurrence. (You didn't get paid for it, but it didn't count against you.)

I understand the policy. At any other job I've ever had -- and having temped since 1985, I've had over a hundred, I'm sure - where they have sane attendance policies, people will generally, at least once or twice a year, call in sick when they're not sick. Maybe you've got a sick kid, or maybe you've got to go to an appointment, or maybe it's a nice day out and you need a mental health day, or, whatever... if you work for an enlightened employer, you call up and say "I've got a sick kid, I can't come in today", and if your employer is a dick, you call up, put on your sick voice, and say "I've been throwing up and I can't get off the toilet, I'm gonna try to make it in tomorrow". And nobody fucks with you.

They may not like it; they may very well suspect, when they hear the 'sick voice', that you're faking it to get out of work, mostly because they've done the same damn thing themselves; everybody has, one time or another, unless you have the kind of employer who will let you call in for any reason besides sickness.

My current employer has decided they're not having any of that. But how do you eliminate fake sick days? Well, you eliminate ALL excuses to call in for work; you enact a policy whereby, if an employee misses any work at all, they're fired. No excuses. No exceptions. Show up for work on time when you're scheduled and work your whole shift, or don't show up at all, ever.

The analytical part of me also wonders just how much this deranged policy has to do with the fact that I only have this job because my employer had to get permission from the Federal government to do a pretty big merger last year, and the Federal government stipulated that if they were going to do that, they had to agree to bring about 2000 jobs that they had previously offshored back to America. Given how hard it is to actually stay employed by this employer, what with the policy I am describing, and several others I have not, I'm wondering if they aren't positioning themselves to go to the Feds in another year or so and say "We've tried to staff these jobs with Americans, and Americans are no good... they won't show up for work, and we can't keep the positions filled. We need to offshore these jobs again." This little bit of paranoia is especially born out by what a supervisor at my call center once told me - any month where they only have 51% turnover in staff is considered a good month. But they don't often have good months.

So, yes, I do understand the policy, but it's either malevolent or insane. The elimination of people calling in sick when they're not sick is, on one level, a laudable goal, and call centers do need to be pretty strict about attendance and punctuality. But this is my fifth call center, and it's the first place I've ever worked where, no matter how sick I actually am, I absolutely do not dare to call in sick if I think I have the strength to crawl to the bus stop.

So, even knowing that I almost certainly have the swine flu, I went into work on Saturday. I was pretty miserable, with my fever spiking up and down all day, but I took a lot of medicine in with me and I'm not bronchial like Super Wife is, so I got through it. Most of the people I spoke with, however, opined that I should really be at home, a sentiment I heartily agreed with.

Today I'm doing okay. I've been stuffed up, but taking a handful of pills every 12 hours or so... ibuprofen for fever, Mucinex for the cough and congestion, sudafeds for the runny nose. I had no fever all last night, but woke up with it back up to 101.7... took some ibuprofen and a shower, and got it back down. Now I have no fever again, or didn't last time I checked it. I just feel kind of punk.

After a restless night, I switched over to sleeping in my 9 year old's room (she was back at her biodad's for her weekend visit earlier today). Her bed is the futon I used to sleep on (my mom and stepdad bought it to put in the guest room when I had to stay with them for a while back in '97, and when they moved out of that house, they gave the futon to me, and I've had it ever since, and slept in it until I moved here in 2004, when I turned it over to Super Adorable Kid). I mostly did it so SuperWife could have the bed in the back room and watch TV; she wasn't tired and I was. I wound up sleeping until 2:30 in the afternoon, which seems to have done me a world of good.

Super Adorable Kid had been scheduled to go camping at Red River Gorge for a family reunion this weekend, and SuperWife had been scrapping with the ex all week long, trying to get him to see that even if Super Adorable Kid weren't feverish on Saturday, she might still be contagious and she shouldn't be sleeping on the ground in 40 degree weather. He finally, grudgingly, saw reason on Friday and agreed not to go to the Gorge; it was only when SuperWife called his sister and told her that Super Adorable Kid probably had swine flu and the sister called him and gave him an earful that he came around. It's unfortunate that things are this way, but the kind of relationship he has created with us, if SuperWife or I say "stop", he immediately says "go". He honestly thinks that everything is about him, and if SuperWife or I are expressing concerns about our mutual daughter's health, well, that's just a blind, what we're REALLY trying to do is mess up his camping trip, and he has to dig his heels in just to spite us.

So, anyway, she didn't go camping, and she seems to have been fever free all weekend, which is something. Now she's got a rash and is scratching her head and neck a lot, and she's still coughing too much, but I think she's getting through the flu, at the very least. Which is a huge relief.

This thing isn't hitting me anywhere near as hard as it's hitting SuperWife. I can hear her coughing her head off from down the hall in the bedroom, and it's really stressing me out. I have to go back to work tomorrow, and risk spreading this thing to any number of other people who, I'm sure, if they could take a vote, would much rather I stayed home... but I can't lose this job. There is nothing else out there for me; I keep looking. I'm amazed that in the middle of a recession bordering on a depression, I managed to find work at all. I've called our personnel department twice to ask if they are planning to make any exceptions to the attendance policy for swine flu, and both times the person on the other end of the phone has said, basically, "Uh...." followed by a long silence.

Of course, whoever I get on the phone isn't authorized to make an exception for any reason, that has to come from the very top. And I know that. And I also know that if someone were to decide, okay, we'll let people with swine flu stay home and recover, well, anyone who wants to call in sick will say they've got swine flu, which is exactly the sort of thing that this completely fucking demented and utterly irresponsible attendance policy is intended to prevent.

But the end result is going to be, the entire call center is going to end up down with the swine flu.

Anyway, that's my ongoing battle with swine flu. I strongly suggest that if you haven't already gotten it, you wash your hands every twenty minutes, carry antibacterial spray with you everywhere you go, and avoid the infected like lepers.

SuperWife is coughing again, so I'm going to wrap this up.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

George R.R. Martin is not my bitch

Daniel Keys Moran's latest comment threads point me to this driveling idiocy, which, given the source, surprises me not at all with either of those two qualities. In that comment thread, I respond thusly:

As for entitlement issues, and Neil Gaiman:

It's interesting that Gaiman opens that essay complaining because American Airlines won't provide him with what he considers to be a necessary tool to facilitate his writing while on one of their flights, at a price he thinks is reasonable. American Airlines provides him with a service (getting him from point A to point B within an acceptable time frame) for a price he's willing to pay. Gaiman seems to feel there's a contract between him and AA, that they will also, for the price of his ticket, facilitate his word processing while he's in their care, just like, apparently, all the other airlines he normally flies with do. But, as he points out later on in an entirely different context, the contract doesn't exist. His sense that they should give him this thing that he wants cheaply, that is not part of the service they render, is, er, hm, what should we call it... oh, yeah... an 'entitlement issue'.

Then he goes on to say this, in re: the astonishingly lazy George R.R. Martin:

You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.

Yeah. We want to know what happens next. And the author isn't telling us. Know what he's doing instead? He's taking the money we've paid him to tell us this story and he's spending it doing pretty much every other thing in the world except what we're paying him to do, which is, finish the story.

There is a contract. When you pay your money to the storyteller in the marketplace, the contract is, he tells you a story. Now, I'm willing to accept that when I toss a shekel in his upturned turban, maybe I won't LIKE the story, but unless the motherfucker dies before he chokes out the ending, at the very least, I believe that the implicit contract betwixt him and me that came into existence when he said "I'll tell you a story for a shekel, my good man" and I said, "Very well, here is your shekel, prate onward, o scribe", encompasses him telling me the ENTIRE story. Not just half or two thirds of it, at which point, he'll decide it's much much more important for him to watch a Giants' game, or go off to some storyteller's convention where people will kiss his ass for a week or so, or head back into his hotel, where he can sign a lot of merchandising and film contracts regarding the half or 2/3s of a story I've paid him to tell me and that he hasn't finished yet.

I'm not paying for a book, I'm paying for a STORY. He hasn't finished the story yet. And sure, if it's a long story he's entitled to breaks and meal time and some rest & recreation, but when I keep coming back to the marketplace looking for him to pick up where he left off and he's still over by the fountain under an awning watching the Punch & Judy show while good looking matched Swedish twins put butter on his toes, and it's pretty obvious that the operators of the Punch and Judy show and the good looking Swedish twins are both being sponsored by my shekel, I'm going to start feeling a little bit put upon, a little bit aggravated, a little bit as if someone is failing to live up to their end of the unstated contract.

But there is a contract, and the contract is this: You start a story, you finish it, and if you're having trouble finishing it, you at least show that you're making an effort to do so, that your contract with me is a priority for you, that it matters, that it's important.

You want to break that story down into increments and charge me for each increment, that's fine, but I want to see that you're making progress. I want to see good faith. And if I don't, I'm going to scream my head off about it, and why? Because that's really all I can do. If the storyteller is indeed so feckless and faithless that, while continuing to take my shekels through all his merchandising contracts and such, he still puts every other thing in his life ahead of continuing to tell me the story I'm paying for, well, there's not much I can do, except scream my head off, which I'm going to do.

This is one of those things where you're either a paying audience member or a story teller. If you're one, you simply have no sympathy for the POV of the other. I can understand this, vaguely; there are only six people in the world who have read my first novel UNIVERSAL MAINTENANCE, but I regularly hear from all six of them, wondering when I'm going to write the sequel. And I tell them all the same thing: when someone wants to pay me a realistic amount of money to set aside a year or so of my finite lifespan to turn out that sequel, I'll write it. Which I think is fair.

George R.R. Martin has been fairly compensated for not only the entire projected SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, but, most likely, at this point, for every single other thing he's ever written in his life, and, most likely, he's been compensated at a pretty high rate for every football game he's ever going to watch again before he dies, too.... all of it, out of the coin that has been generated by A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE... a story that he has, as yet, to finish. The contract is for the story, not the increments of the story. If he can't finish it, he can at least keep working on it. He can show us it's a priority for him.

Or he can start issuing refund checks.

And if he can't do that, or he chooses not to do that, then, at the very least, while he's living in the million dollar home the Ice and Fire fans bought for him, watching football on the big screen high density TV the Ice and Fire fans bought for him, jetting to various exotic foreign lands using tickets that his Ice and Fire fans bought for him, and staying at hotels that his Ice and Fire fans are paying for, and going to cons to receive the adulation of his Ice and Fire fans, when we ask him "say, George, when's the next Ice and Fire book coming out", he could not whine and shriek and stamp his feet and wave his arms and cry like a giant fucking grey haired baby and call all of us names because, you know, we've given him millions of dollars for this story and he doesn't even want to bother pretending he's actually working on finishing it.

There is a contract. There is. I'm sorry if other authors of serial fiction out there take all this personally and find it all very inconvenient, but there is. And it's not for the book, it's for the story. You start a story, you need to at least make a pretty game attempt at finishing it. George R.R. Martin not only wants to cop out on his contract, but he also demands universal respect, admiration, and adulation from his fans while he takes our money with one hand and flips us off with the other.

Beyond all that, let me say this: Nobody, not one single Ice and Fire fan, has ever assumed that George R.R. Martin is our bitch. That's a straw man, and an egregiously dishonest, ludicrously stupid one, at that. We just think George R.R. Martin undertook to tell us a story, and he's fucking off, on our dime. And it pisses us off.

Or at least, it pisses me off.

Here endeth the lesson.

It's not exactly succinct, and given that nobody reads this blog any more, it's not going to inspire any fawning sycophant to record a catchy little You Tube ditty, but, still, I think it's much more cogent than the entirely self serving nonsense it refutes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Random

Random nonsense as it occurs to me:

* My new job sucks. I could go on and on and on, as I once did about previous jobs on previous blogs, and it would be hilarious and all the people who aren't reading this blog would find it hilarious if they read this blog, but then one of those people who aren't reading this blog would mention it to someone I work with and I'd get fired and my wife would kick my ass. So all you get is 'my new job sucks', and 'you' are me, anyway, because nobody else is reading this blog, so 'you' already know all this stuff, anyway.

* Tip of the oscillation overthruster to that master of fuck a doodle doo John Rogers for tipping me to the phrase shipping, which I still can't believe I never heard of until a few minutes ago. In addition to being an asshole, I'm apparently an ignorant wipe, too. WhatEV.

* The guy over at Perfectly Cromulent Blog isn't getting any comments these days, either. This makes me feel simultaneously sad and comforted, reinforcing once again the long standing realization that I am, indeed, a dick.

* So far, out of all my e-novels at the Kindle site, my runaway best seller is Time Watch. Now, mind you, I like Time Watch fine, but why it should outsell everything else I've got up there for an order of magnitude I could not possibly tell you... except that so far, it's the only book that anyone else has ever linked to from anything like a popular blog. Which is probably all the difference there is.

* And at that, when I say it's a runaway bestseller, I mean, over the last six months, it's sold about 20 copies. Which is about ten times what any other title I've got up there has sold over the same period.

* My new job REALLY sucks.

* And so do nearly all Republicans/conservatives, from what I can see.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Please Help If You Can

Back in September of 1979, I was wandering aimlessly on the third evening since my family had helped move me into the dorms at Syracuse University. I heard music coming from the quad, and drifted over. A band with a female lead singer was playing AMAZING rock and roll, so I sat down at the periphery and listened. I caught the name of the singer after a few more songs, and a week later, bought her self named debut album at a local campus record store.

Along with the first two albums by The Cars, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' DAMN THE TORPEDOES, Blue Oyster Cult's SECRET TREATIES and AGENTS OF FORTUNE, and Carole King's TAPESTRY, that self titled debut album, CAROLYNE MAS, became a vital and permanent part of the musical backdrop of my adulthood. I've always thought it was a great pity that Carolyne Mas never caught on; she had a fantastic voice, was a wonderful guitar player, and a terrific songwriter. A few years later I managed to find her third album and snatched that up, too. It wasn't as good as the first, but it still had a lot of really solid tunes on it.

Fast forward to last summer -- I came across an article online about Carolyne Mas, about how she'd never quite made it in rock and roll and was currently, in her early 50s, running a shelter for abandoned animals in Florida. I put up a blog entry lamenting the unfairness of a world in which hack non creative types become incredibly successful while genuinely talented artists languish as unknowns.

Fast forward again to a few weeks ago, when that blog entry got its first comment... from Carolyne Mas. She thanked me for the entry, said she loved my writing style, and suggested I help her write her biography.

That began an email correspondence, the latest installment of which is below (in response to a note I sent on Monday, asking if she was doing okay, as I knew from a phone call on Friday she was heading into a rough weekend):

"We're not okay...I have been desperately trying to raise money. I have no money for cat food, dog food, and now people food. No matter how many times I post my plea on FB or MySpace...we are all on the verge of starvation. I am trying to make sure my mother and my son have something to eat. There is a place that gives free meals on Sundays, so we will be able to eat then, all of us, if we can get the gas to get there. I am worried about the cats and dogs, too.

I have sent this letter to all the production and publishing big shots I have known, who are all wealthy, with no response. When you are poor, no one wants anything to do with you. It's a sick world, especially the entertainment business...if you cannot serve them in some way, you are invisible.

Here is a link to my letter...]

Hope I can hang on long enough for you to finish this...

Love, Carolyne"

This is not a joke or a hoax. This is a real person who is really at the end of her rope and has no idea where else she is going to turn, or how she's going to eat, or feed her husband, or the hundreds of abandoned animals in her care, past this Sunday, assuming they manage to get to a food bank and the food bank actually has any food.

I don't know this woman at all well, but I believe her to be one of the genuinely good people in this world, as well as an enormously talented performing artist, and while there is little to nothing I can do for her, or my family can do for her, at this distance and given our own financial situation, still, I can reach out on the Internet, and I am doing so.

If you check out this link and scroll down a little, you will find a lot of information about Carolyne's life and career and current undertakings and desperate situation, and you will also find a PayPal link. I'm sure Carolyne will be deeply grateful for any contributions whatsoever that may come in. As will I, for whatever that may be worth.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

It's just a jump to the left

Okay. So, I started a new job on Monday, and I could do a whole blog about what I've learned regarding this job in the last four days, but the economics of our day to day family life demand that I not get fired, so I will abstain. Suffice to say, it's a call center, and when I complete my classroom training in another three weeks, I'll be taking calls from disgruntled and stupid customers at horrifying hours of the day and night. You can review my old blog entries made while working in other call centers for anything further you might need; nothing is different about this job, except in the ways that this job is worse than those I've held previously.

I'm pretty much over, and I'll tell you why.

The latest thing was, I had set up this scenario to run for my Monday night gaming group using the SAVAGE WORLDS RPG system. SAVAGE WORLDS is extremely simple minded and unrealistic and I'm not crazy about how several of its essential mechanisms work, but the system's slogan is "Fast, Furious, Fun!" and that, at least, is accurate. I would never use the system for any kind of serious campaign, but for different, more shallow adventures, it's pretty workable. So I came up with this scenario and I was really psyched to run it, as it's set in 1938 and features larger than life pulp hero/villain archetypes, which is a subgenre I've loved since I was a kid reading DOC SAVAGE paperbacks at my babysitter's house. I was really looking forward to it, it was going to be a lot of fun.

But those hopes began to die when I started my new job.

See, I'd known that after six weeks of training, I'd have to bid on a shift and chances are that, having no seniority, I'd end up with one nobody else wanted, meaning, I'd be working nights. My Monday night gaming group ran on, well, Monday nights, so it seemed pretty certain that once six weeks went by, I'd no longer be able to game with those guys, but that was okay, as the scenario I'd come up with was designed to run maybe four sessions at most. So all was cool. Yes, it seemed likely that after training was over, I'd have to drop out of the Monday night group indefinitely, but at least I'd go out with a bang.

Now, the path to getting my new job was long and arduous and required several phone conversations/interviews with various HR people and supervisors, as well as a drug screen and a background check, over the course of several months. During these contacts, I was told repeatedly by several different people that for training, we'd be working Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. After training, we'd have to bid on shifts and most likely would start out working at night, as very few people want to work at night and that's what we'd get stuck with... a very familiar dynamic to me from past call centers. But for the first six weeks, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5.

Which worked well with our Monday game group, as it met from 6 to 10. Four hours isn't much to run an RPG in, and I wouldn't have wanted to try running any kind of RPG for much less than four hours a session, but getting out of work at 5 would leave me ample time to make a 6 o'clock start time.

So I thought, anyway.

But Nate's going on vacation next week, so that was one Monday we weren't going to have. Which was no problem, as my scenario was only supposed to run 4 sessions, and I still had 5 weeks available for sessions before training concluded and I had to quit the group. So it was still going to be cool and I was still totally psyched.

But then, one of the other guys (he doesn't like his real name used on the internet, on the sight he goes by Cruel Despot, so I'll call him CD) announced he'd be out for a week in there, too... not the same week Nate was going to be out, but a different one.

So that dropped my six weeks of availability down to 4. But I could still do it, no problem. Gonna be fun, totally psyched...

So then Nate found out on a Thursday that the following Monday (last Monday, the 29th of June) he was going to have to go out of town for work and wouldn't be around. Fuck. Okay. At first I figured we just weren't going to get to play that week, which sucked, and I was sad and disappointed. But then, everyone in the group -- CD, another guy named Chris, and Nate -- agreed to do it on Wednesday night instead. Okay. Going to be cool, totally psyched...

Then at work, first day, right out of the box, we were informed that our fifth and sixth weeks of training we'd be working 2 pm to 11 pm, instead of 8 to 5. Which meant suddenly I'd have to quit the Monday group two weeks earlier than I'd thought. So I started sending emails on my break again, and that dialogue went something like this:

ME: I only have four weeks until I start working evenings. Two weeks of those we can't play. Suggestions?
CD: Run it anyway as a one shot, or for two sessions. I want to play.
NATE: Hell to the yeah.
CHRIS: Whatever, dudes.

So... okay. I could cut back, I could streamline, I could cram. I could run the scenario for one or two sessions. I could make that work. And I was incredibly psyched to run. Even comopressed, it was going to be SO much fun. I just love Golden Age pulp.

So there were two other guys who were kinda sorta thinking of joining the Monday night group, which as I have noted, met from 6 to 10 on Mondays. I'd been hoping they'd both play in the scenario, as 5 player characters would be better than 3. One of them, whom I knew only by his board sig, ElSanto, had sent me a few emails full of excellent ideas for Golden Age type pulp heroic player characters. So I was really hoping he'd be able to play on Wednesday.

Another, a guy named Conner, I hadn't heard a word from. But after the run had to be pushed from Monday to Wednesday, I heard from ElSanto... he was sorry, but the only night he could make it was Monday. Goddamit. Okay, that was disappointing.

Then I heard from the other guy. He wasn't really interested in the 1930s or 'the whole pulp thing', as he put it. So he wasn't going to play, either. Bummer. Oh, well. Anybody who doesn't like Golden Age Pulp is a waste of space and organized protoplasm, anyway, so... whatever.

But I still had three players for Wednesday, and was totally psyched. It was going to be SO cool. I was really looking forward to it.

So then at the end of our first day, after I'd made all these adjustments and absorbed all of these changes, our trainer mentioned that she was changing training hours from 8 to 5 to 9 to 6.

That dialogue went like this:

TRAINER: Did they tell all of you you'd be working from 8 to 5 for the first four weeks of training?
CLASS: Yes. Over and over again.
TRAINER: I'm going to change that just a little, to 9 to 6. I really think it will help you to get a little later start in the morning. You'll be more awake.
ME: You fucking bitch. I will kill you, I will skin you, I will suck the marrow from your bones, tan your filthy hide and make it into taut, supple drumheads that I may beat out the rhythms of my rage with the long and weighty lengths of your femurs, which will feel so very right and comfortable in my vengeful hands.

Or at least, that's how it went in my mind.

(Should the human race become telepathic, I will find it impossible to remain employed.)

So, I sent emails out again. Did people still want to try to run this thing, if I couldn't be there until 6:30, quarter of 7? I hated losing any time at all from such a narrow, finite window. But I only had two potential sessions left to run this thing where a reasonably sized group could get there, and I really wanted to run it, despite what seemed to be an absolute determination on the part of God to do everything short of hitting the Earth with a planet killing meteor to stop me doing so.

That went like this:

ME: Uh, so, my hours just got changed and I'm working until 6 and I probably can't get there until like 6:30, quarter of 7. I hate that. Do people still want to play?
CD: I'm cool.
NATE: Totally.
CHRIS: Uh... I forgot to tell you guys but like two months ago I promised my girlfriend I'd do something with her and her family on Wednesday and she just reminded me so, uh, too bad, so sad.
ME: You fucking bitch. I will kill you, I will skin you, I will suck the marrow from your bones, tan your filthy hide and make it into taut, supple drumheads that I may beat out the rhythms of my rage with the long and weighty lengths of your femurs, which will feel so very right and comfortable in my vengeful hands.

Okay, I didn't really say it, or even type it, that time, either, but I badly, badly wanted to.

It was especially exasperating, as I'd gone to great efforts to attend a couple of RPG sessions that Chris had GMed, the previous week. But... whatever, dude. Skin you later.

At this point, I just gave up, because it seems obvious that if I persist in this folly, God is going to send a plague of boils or a voracious and unstoppable onslaught of hideous mutated giant boll weevils or some such shit to keep me from ever running this scenario.

Which makes me sad. And frustrated.

Just to add further general aggravation to the situation, it appears that apparently by some bizarre alchemy, this complete collapse of my planned scenario has transmuted itself into the complete collapse of the Monday night gaming group. Those two guys who were going to join the group? They decided to start their own Monday night group instead. Chris and CD? They've joined the new Monday night group, abandoning our previous one.

It's like, I get a job where I'll have to work evenings, and everything falls apart all around me.

I had no idea I was such an essential person.

Anyway. By itself that wouldn't have been enough to sour me on the RPG site, but, well, it's been coming for awhile, and this is just that fabled final straw. Beyond all the crap I've already reported above and in previous entries, well, I'm just tired of the idiocy and, more importantly, the hypocrisy, that is redolent on the site. What do I mean? Well... listen, O Prince, as I weave for you the tales:

A while back, I happened to casually mention in a thread on the site a particular incident that had occurred in my RPG back in the 90s, in Syracuse. I thought it was funny, and that others would find it amusing. As nearly always happens, I vastly overestimated the intelligence, maturity, open mindedness, and wisdom of my fellow gamers, especially those at But let me tell you this anecdote as I told it to them:

The group of player characters in my game at the time had broken into a wizard's lair and stolen several valuable items. One of the most valuable they couldn't sell in Ona Tengu (the area where they were) because it was powered by a kind of magic that was very illegal there (necromancy) and they would have been executed if anyone had suspected they had such a thing.

So they had booked passage on a ship to a less lawful realm, but it didn't leave until the next morning. They were pretty sure the local underworld was aware they had the item, and would try to kill them and get it. So they rented an inn room, and took turns sitting up on watch in the hallway outside the inn room door. (In a previous scenario, a different group of characters played by the same guys had been in a similar situation, and they'd stood watch inside the inn room, and an assassin had snuck up to the door and pumped the room full of toxic gas through the keyhole. So this time, they posted their guard outside the door, to preclude that.)

So I was going to have the local crimelord send an attractive bimbo to try and lure the PC guarding the door away.

Naturally, the players were going to be suspicious of any kind of approach... players generally know when an encounter or occurrence is random or planned, based on what kind of dice the GM has them roll. So they were suspicious of anything that happened, especially if they hadn't rolled a random encounter. (Some GMs roll such things behind their DM screen, specifically so that players won't have this kind of information, but I make rolls like this where people can see them, so they know I'm not cheating. It's just how I DM.)

Now, what the players were doing in this instance is called metagaming... playing your character with knowledge that only the player has, usually based on a game mechanic the character has no idea exists... and I have rules to deal with it. There are skills in my RPG that allow characters to Persuade each other to do things, even if the player of those characters knows better and does not want their character to do those things.

So I was going to have a cute dancer or tavern servant or something go down the hall and make a Sex Appeal roll on whoever was standing guard. The player would be pretty sure it was a trick, given the lack of a random encounter roll... they'd be fairly certain this was an event planned by the GM, and therefore, part of some scheme... but if the non player character succeeded at the skill roll vs the player character's Willpower, then it wouldn't matter what the player suspected... the PC would be successfully seduced and removed from position.

At the last second, it occurred to me that in my RPG setting, there is no homosexuality taboo and nearly everyone is bisexual... so it could just as easily be a male cute young thang as a female assigned to the seduction/distraction task. Certainly, it would never occur to the local crimelord that he needed to specifically send a woman to do the job. So I told the player whose character was on guard (his name was Chris) to roll a d6. He said "What do I want?" and I said, "Well, knowing you, probably an odd number". He rolled a 4. So the cute young thang set to seduce the big burly male mercenary was, indeed, male.

In my RPG setting, this wouldn't make any difference, which was why I did it... to underscore that the world my players were gaming in was not our world, but an entirely different reality, and their player characters, having been raised in that world, would have somewhat different values, morals, and taboos than the players themselves did.

So this is how that went:

ME: So you see this incredibly sexy inn servant coming up the stairs... you saw this same NPC serving drinks in the bar downstairs when you came in. Long reddish blonde hair, silky soft, beautifully applied make up, young,soft skin the color of coffee with cream, big brown eyes... you smell just a hint of a very pleasant, musky perfume mingled with a very sexy natural body scent as this sexy thing sways past you in the hall, carrying a tray of drinks to one of the rooms further down. You get a wink and a smile as you watch the NPC go by with the tray. A few minutes later, this same server comes back out and walks back down the hall, and pauses a few yards away from you and says "Gods, I hate this shift. What are you still doing up?"
CHRIS: Uh... I ignore her.
ME: Ignore beauty such as this? Roll 2d6 and add 2.
CHRIS: Goddamit... okay. Erg. 9.
KENNY: Dude, you are totally into her.
ME: In character, I don't think your character would just ignore her.
CHRIS: I want a Willpower roll.
ME: Okay... roll. (rolls dice) I have a 19 total.
CHRIS: I can beat that... (rolls dice) Fuck. A 12. Okay, I'll say "Well, I'm keeping watch and I need to concentrate so I'll talk to you later."
ME: Okay. You see a disappointed pout come to the NPC's lovely features. "Look," that lovely voice says, dropping to a whisper, "it's dead downstairs; the barkeep won't notice if I don't come back for a little while. This room across the way is empty... wanna slip into it with me for a quickie?"
KENNY: Dude, don't do it!
NATE: She's going to make a Sex Appeal roll and I'll bet she's got this huge rating.
SCOTT: It's a good thing it's not my watch or I'd already be there. She wouldn't even have to roll on me.
KENNY: Dude, you're a horn dog.
NATE: You'd get us all killed.
CHRIS: I tell her I can't, really, but I'm flattered.
ME: Well, your character knows he SHOULD say that, but I'm not sure he actually can. Roll and add to your Willpower.
CHRIS: Goddamit. (rolls dice) A 23.
ME: (rolls dice) Yeah, but I have a real good rating... 29. Your character totally wants to go.
CHRIS: Goddamit, goddamit! I know this is a total set up from the Kinship!
ME: Your character goes off with the good looking young waiter, and I'm sure has a great time...
NATE: Wait. 'Waiter'?
SCOTT: It's a guy?
ME: Well, I've told you guys before, there is no homosexuality taboo on the River, so your characters wouldn't care. It's not our world.
CHRIS: What the fuck...? It's a GUY?
ME: It wouldn't make any difference to your character, Chris...
KENNY: Dude! It's a DUDE! You're totally going to bone a DUDE! Your character is a fag!
SCOTT: {coughs into hand} Homo!
NATE AND KENNY: (playing air guitar) Lolaaaaa... Lo Lo Lo Lo Lolaaaaaa... Lo lo lo lo lo Lolaaaaaa...
CHRIS: (yelling) That is so totally stupid my character is not gay I would totally never play a gay character I would never even let a guy get close to me that is so fucking bogus I AM TOTALLY NOT QUEER THAT IS SO UNFAIR YOU CAN'T DO THAT...

So I told this story on the site. I mean, it's fifteen years later, right? People are more enlightened now. Everyone would see how funny the whole thing was.

Or so I, entirely erroneously, presumed.

You would have thought I'd confessed to killing someone's kid.

IDIOT 1: You can't make people be gay. That's crazy. Players should have total control of their characters, especially something as important as whether they're gay or not.

ME: It.. okay, in my rpg setting, the kind of homosexuality taboo we take for granted in our world does not exist. People can be attracted to other people regardless of gender. I'm not 'making' anyone be gay, it's simply that my culture does not place enormous social pressure on all its members from birth to only behave in a heterosexual manner.

IDIOT 2: You are totally overestimating the impact of culture on sexuality. People are born straight or gay. And all my characters were born totally straight. Totally.

ME: Look, in most RPGs, characters are pagan, right? You don't get a choice in that. The background culture worships many gods, so, so do your characters. You don't feel offended or outraged that your character is going to worship some weird made up deity from a Monster Manual because that's what people do in the world where he grew up.

IDIOT 3: That's not the same, being gay or straight is totally different from that, and all my characters are straight. The world they are born in has nothing to do with it.

IDIOT 4: Also, you can't just make somebody's character do something they don't want to. Even if it was a girl trying to lure me away, I should get to decide if I go or not.

ME: So, if some good looking NPC makes a Sex Appeal roll on you, and you fail a Willpower check, there should be no consequences?

IDIOT 5: The player decides what his character does. Unless you're using a mind control spell or something. Sure she might be hot but my character might think about the good of the mission and how the party needs him and decide not to go with her. Or maybe my character is married or just isn't in the mood to have sex right then. It's up to me, not you.

IDIOT 2: Also, my character isn't gay. I would never sleep with a man under any circumstances and neither would any of my characters.

ME: So, the player always controls the character, even if the behavior is out of character?

IDIOT 1: It isn't out of character. My character might decide to go with the chick, but he might not. It depends. I'd play my character in character. But only I get to decide what that is.

IDIOT 3: And he would never under any circumstances be gay. That's final.

This "how dare I make anyone be GAY" thing is, in my opinion, beneath contempt... it's nothing but homophobia, which was made pretty clear in the succeeding posts in the thread. The more the members of this particular posse protested that they had nothing against gay guys, it's just that THEY weren't gay, and weren't interested in roleplaying gay characters, and none of their characters should ever be gay, or would ever be gay, under any circumstances, the clearer it became that these were some deeply homophobic motherfuckers, at least some of which were probably repressing their own particular impulses and fantasies to an entirely unhealthy extent. And I have no time for that idiocy, any more than I had time for the one player who rolled up a member of a dark skinned race in my game and didn't want to play him, because he just wasn't comfortable if his PC wasn't a white guy, like him.

So all that soured me on the site, too. But the last straw was an incident that occurred just last week.

As background, let me take you back to the height of the Doc Nebula Flame Wars. This was a period when most of the site was up in arms at me, because I do not like Dungeons and Dragons, I think it's an incredibly stupid fucking game system, and I also think that adults who play Dungeons and Dragons instead of using any of a hundred or more better game systems, or making up their own, are kind of retarded, or, at the very least, have no idea what roleplaying actually is, and are apparently unwilling to learn. And I'd said so, repeatedly, on the site.

Now, this is a site devoted to roleplaying games, and one where supposedly, freedom of expression is cherished and championed. However, apparently one of the big unwritten taboos of the site was and remains, Thou Shalt Not Talk Shit About D&D Because We Worship It Beyond All Sense or Reason. D&D is a childish system, a simple minded system, an unrealistic system, a brainless, dumbass, fucked up and retarded system, and this is inarguable to anyone who has ever roleplayed using it and who has more than four functional brain cells. Everybody I knew who was serious about roleplaying started out with one of the various D&D versions, eventually (usually quickly) became disgusted with its limitations, and moved on to more sophisticated systems allowing greater depth and breadth of roleplaying.

And, in point of fact, many of the people on the site made similarly disparaging remarks about D&D, although they still played it. And many site members also insulted each other with great regularity. However, apparently, my derisive comments regarding D&D, and those who played it irregardless of its obvious limitations and built in stupidities, were intolerable. And so, the flame wars raged.

So at one point, I posted an essay on what freedom of speech meant, and how it was necessary for people of maturity and good will to take responsibility for their own responses, when something that was not intended to insult them wound up offending them gravely. I truly believe that we generally choose to be offended by something, although often we are not consciously aware of it, and if we spend all of our time reacting with umbrage and outrage to everything that offends us, we are not being particularly adult. Freedom of speech doesn't work well in an environment where people scream like four years olds every time somebody says something that conflicts with one of their precious provincial biases or dearly held preconceptions.

I posted that essay in a sub forum where I had moderator privileges, and warned people in advance that while I was looking forward to a spirited debate as regards the ideas in the essay, I would, as moderator of the forum, delete any posts that were simply abusive and/or pejorative.

The first response I got was "DOC STOP BEING SUCH A FUCKING DOUCHE!!!!" And, as I had said I would, I deleted it.

And oh my God. You would have thought I'd bombed downtown Louisville with flaming grandmothers, or something. I could barely keep up with deleting all the abusive, insulting, infuriated tirades of personal invective. I deleted and deleted and deleted. Every once in a while someone would post something pertinent to the actual discussion, and I'd leave that up and respond to it, but those posts were about 1/10th of the flood of hysterical abuse that came pouring in. And most of the abuse was no longer about my hateful intolerant insults in regard to D&D and those who played it, or even what a jackass I was to post essays on freedom of speech and how mature adults should behave in response to it. No, now I was horrible, appalling, and a megalomaniac because I DARED to delete people's posts. I should be stripped of my privileges as moderator in my own sub forum. I should be thrown off the site. I should have a rebar shoved up my ass. It was an outrage.

Well, all that was months ago, but it served to convey to me that apparently, on the site, it is considered to be an absolutely unforgivable offense for a moderator in a forum to delete anyone else's posts, for any reason whatsoever, period, the end.

So, last week, a site member who was posting in another site member's sub forum hit 1000 posts, which is quite a milestone on the site. And he mentioned it in his post. And was clearly pleased at the accomplishment.

So the next day, the member with moderator powers in the sub forum, who has a long standing personality war going on with the first guy, went in and deleted half a dozen of the first guy's posts, to drop him back below 1000. And then he changed the visible signature paragraph on all HIS posts, to make it clear he'd done it just to be a dick.

So the first guy started a thread in which he described what had happened and replaced all the posts that had been taken down. And I read this, and I could not believe what a complete asswipe the other guy had been, and I also could not believe that the rest of the site, which had come after me so hard and furious when I'd deleted posts by other members for what was a very good reason, was going to just sit there and let the dumbass get away with deleting another member's posts for a completely childish and spiteful reason.

So I went in and posted something about what an amazing jackass he was.

And the sky fell in on me.

I'm not kidding. Here's how that went:

IDIOT 1: You fucking hypocrite. You did the exact same thing deleting other people's posts and now you're getting in someone else's face for it? You are scum.

ME: Uh... I deleted posts that were personally abusive and insulting, after advising people that I would. He deleted posts just to be a dick. That's not the same thing.

IDIOT 2: Shut the fuck up, you're stupid.

ME: I... hold on. Even if it is the same thing, when I did it you people crucified me for it, and now, none of you are saying a word to him about it...

IDIOT 3: It was just a joke. Those two have a history. You should just stay out of it. You're such an asshole.

ME: Okay, wait. So when I delete other people's posts for a good reason, I'm scum, and everyone screams at me, but when some other guy does it for a joke, just to be an ass, that's okay?

IDIOT 4: Shut the fuck up.

IDIOT 5: Somebody wake me up when he stops crying like a little bitch.

IDIOT 6: I can't believe you're trying to start a flame war over this. Delete your thread or I'll delete it for you.

ME: ...what...?

IDIOTS: Shut the fuck up.

I want to say I don't understand, but of course I understand. The guy who deleted the other guy's posts, just to be an ass? He plays D&D, albeit with about a thousand house rules loaded on top, and frequently brags about how much he loves D&D and would never play with another rules system. So apparently, as long as he loves D&D and says so frequently in public, he can do no wrong.

Me, on the other hand... my input to the site is only just barely suffered by most other members as long as I never express any kind of negative opinion regarding Dungeons and Dragons. My constant suppression of my opinions regarding that particular gaming system, and the retarded morons who game with it, is the price of my continued sufferance on the site.

So, I'm pretty much over

But if you love Dungeons and Dragons, it is definitely the place for you.

Go to it. Bear its children.

I'll be over here, scheming to make all your characters gay.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If an eye offend thee

So over the past week or so I've learned a lot more than I ever really wanted to know about how the human eye functions.

It's like this -- your eye is basically a big sack of vitreous jelly. Inside this sack are various things like the cornea, the pupil, the lens, the iris, the conjuctiva, and many other really funny sounding words. Most of these things take in light and then beam it onto the retina, which is not, as I had thought, the center of your eye, but is, in fact, this lining at the back of your eye that essentially acts like film in a camera... the light image that is taken in and focused by all the other whatnot gets beamed onto this film at the back of your eye, where the image is then passed on through your optic nerve to the cells of your brain that interpret this data.

Now, when you're young, your vitreous jelly is, in fact, jelly, and that works really well. But as you get older, and especially if you are very nearsighted, your vitreous jelly becomes less solid and more of a fluid. And this doesn't work so well, because when it's a fluid, it doesn't press so firmly against the retina, and in fact, it kind of falls away from the retina. And when this happens, all sorts of little fuck things that were always suspended in the vitreous jelly, but which were held firmly there by the vitreous jelly and which didn't move around, start to float around.

So you start seeing flashing lights and a lot of great big hairy floaters, pretty much all the time, or, at least, half to a third of the time, and this gets very fucking annoying and makes it hard to see and you think "Jesus fucking Christ I'm going blind". Which is terrifying to any member of our species that has enjoyed functional vision for 47 years, but is especially terrifying to me, among whose greatest joys in life are reading and writing, which I will no longer be able to do if I'm suddenly fucking Matt goddam Murdock without the goddam radar sense.

Anyway, last Tuesday I started seeing flashing lights and a lot of great big hairy floaters and these phenomena persisted until they were very nearly driving me batshit and I did some internet research and found a lot of interesting phrases like retinal detachment and macular degeneration and "You too can be just like Stevie Wonder without the musical talent or dreadlocks" and so we scheduled me an eye exam. And as soon as we scheduled me an eye exam the fucking floaters and flashing lights went away so I canceled it and said "Hurray!" And then the floaters came back like gangbusters so I scheduled me another eye exam and went to that yesterday.

The eye doctor who examined me was a bona fide sonofabitch. His bedside manor was, er, brisk and robust, to say the least. When my head was not where he wanted it to be in the apparatus that holds your head where the doctor wants it to be, he would grab me by the face and move my head until it was where he wanted it to be. His fiendish assistants put nasty stinging shit in my eyes that dilated the fuck out of them, and then the doctor beamed gigantic laser photon particle rays into my dilated eyes which caused me the closest thing to pain I have ever experienced without actually experiencing pain. And he did this for hours. And when I did not look exactly where he needed me to look at any given time he would snap "No, no, down to the RIGHT" and when I finally got it correct (it was hard, due to the photonic particle death ray shit), he sneered "That's better, little learning curve there". Which made my wife kind of gasp at his rudeness.

But then he said "Well, you're fine, there are no retinal tears or detachments, this is just the sort of thing that occurs to people at your age, especially very nearsighted people. It will happen to your left eye at some point, too." So that was kind of a... relief? Although I wanted to ask him if his first name was puh-Rick. But I didn't.

Then he said "However, you're at risk for a retinal tear for the next three weeks, so I'd like to see you again at that time for another exam". Then he led us back out to the front where another of his evil assistants put more stingie shit in my eyes to undilate them (it didn't work, I was pretty much blind the rest of the day) and then yet another evil assistant charged us $140, as I am unemployed and have no insurance.

Then we left, and I made an appointment with the Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic, which is much, much less expensive and has a sliding scale for unemployed people with no insurance, for my follow up. Which I should have done before I went to Dr. puh-Rick, but I tried and they couldn't get me in for a couple of weeks.

So, anyway, I'm kind of relieved that I'm not going blind at the moment, but, on the other hand, this whole "your vitreous jelly turns into snot and collapses inside your eye when you're approaching 50" thing seems like a design flaw. I'd like to sue someone, please.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lack of expertise

Over at Kung Fu Monkey, John Rogers asked people to submit their Odd Areas of Expertise, positing first that you needed at least 10,000 hours of practice in a field to qualify as an 'expert' at anything. Here's my response:

::sigh:: My odd area of expertise is Game Mastering. Sad. Hit me with the Geek Bricks now.

I GMed my first game sometime in... call it early 1980. That was college, and I was the one in my clique that would always DM, so figure I ran 30 sessions a year for the next 3 years, 10 hours a session, which is a pretty good approximation, as we often gamed all weekend back then. So that's 900 hours... throw in another 100 hours for KILLQUEST, a game that the Late, Great Jeff Webb and I invented where you had identical maps in each of 3 pizza boxes and two players running teams of 5 superheroes denoted by numbered push pins on each map. You needed a GM to keep track of all the different heroes' movements on the master map, and I did that a lot, too, because no one else wanted to. Plus, GMing individual 'conflicts', when, like, Kurt would run Wolverine and Andy would run Batman and they'd fight each other.

So, up through 1982, call it 1000 hours.

Right around there people started graduating and moving out, but there was still a core group to game with. So drop it back to 20 sessions for '83. That's 200 hours GMing... maybe more, if you factor in a few hours every week prep work, but, still, call it 200 hours. Then around 1984 The Eisner Award Winning Comics Writer (who hadn't won any Eisner Awards yet) returned to Syracuse from New York with his first regular assignment, and also, with the CHAMPIONS superhero RPG system. So we started running CHAMPIONS... 4 DMs, alternating, whenever we could. Call that 20 more sessions a year. So another 200 hours. And now we're up to 1985, when I DMed hardly anything... maybe 30 hours total the whole year, as people were moving around and the old crowd was pretty well broken up.

But around then I started gaming fantasy stuff, not superhero, with an entirely different group. In 1985 I came back from Basic Training and created my own fantasy game, ran the first session in July. Changed that around a little bit, started running it regularly in January 1986. I've run that game, and, occasionally, a few other random things, for at least ten sessions a year every year since, about half the time much more than that (like, 48 sessions a year). Run length has shortened as I've grown older gracelessly. Call it 35 sessions a year, 8 hours a session, TWENTY THREE FUCKING YEARS... Jesus. 6,440 hours. Conservatively.

Add in the 1400 hours I had in superhero RPGs and you get... 7,880 hours.

However, for, what, 10 years of that elapsed time, at least, I played probably 2 or 3 hours in someone else's game for every 1 hour I GMed my own scenarios, and I studied how they GMed for... I dunno... call it half that time. So figure at least another... I dunno, call it 5,000 hours GM training/apprenticing.

So that's 12,880 hours GMing roleplaying games.


Now. I've written 7 novels and a memoir of my time in Basic Training, call it 100 hours for each, with seems fair. That's 800 hours. I've written... fuck, I don't know... 40 LONG articles on Silver Age superhero comics, gaming, TV shows and movies, and other geek crap, and probably 50 short stories/novellas. Approximate 3 hours each, that's 270 hours. I've blogged a LOT since, oh, 2000, and posted a lot of comments on other people's blogs. Written a fuck of a lot of email. Say 10 hours a week every week since 2000, that's 4,680 more hours pounding the keyboard, trying to put words into some kind of reasonably elegant and occasionally witty order for someone else to read and understand. That's 5,750 hours right there. Plus all the plots and scripts I did in college understudying the Future Eisner Award Winning Comics Writer, and have done since on spec or just for fun. That's... fuck. Got to be another 10,000 hours writing excellent entertaining funny ass bullshit I can get five different sources to 'publish' if I don't want them to pay me, and can't get anyone with the power to cut a check to even take off a slush pile and glance at.

All this, and a lot of the time in there, I've held down full time jobs. Not voluntarily, mind you. And the last four years, I've pretty much been a full time husband and stepfather to three daughters. And that last is a 24/7 deal, so, that's 34,944 hours being a husband and stepdad.

Huh. So I'm an expert Game Master, an expert writer (of crap no one will pay me for), and a Master Class spouse/parent... and yet, while I do feel reasonably expert at throwing a game scenario together and running it, or sitting down and pounding out a story in nearly any format not intended for adaptation into moving pictures, I'm still a rank goddam amateur at husbanding and stepfathering.

So which of these things is more demanding?

Or maybe I just suck.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"It's not STAR TREK"

I saw the movie with an avowed Trek fanatic. When the lights went up, I asked her what she thought. Her response was that it was good, but it “wasn’t Trek.” Not having paid much attention to the Roddenberryverse since “TNG,” I didn’t have much of a response. But then as I left the theater I thought: “Not Trek? The movie has gaping plotholes, a skirt-chasing Kirk, time travel, and a bullshit pseudo-scientific resolution to a life-threatening situation...who are you kidding? It’s totally fucking Trek!"

Thus spaketh Pete Vonder Haar, in his review of the recent STAR TREK movie.

I haven't seen the movie, so I can't speak in any way to its actual content. Nonetheless, I will say a couple of things:

'Avowed Trek fanatics' are not good people to go to movies with. Or spend any kind of time with. They're not as bad as avowed Warren Ellis fanatics, but neither are suicide bombers. For whatever that's worth.

And, I'm pretty sure Pete is missing the point here.

The definition of STAR TREK is not, unfortunately, anything to do with sensible story structure, a sexually predatory Kirk, moronic time travel, or insanely egregious abuses of anything and everything remotely resembling science in the name of plot convenience. Now, it's true, if one were to do a STAR TREK movie or TV show that didn't have these things, the average Trek fan would be enraged, baffled, and perplexed all at once, but, still, it's possible, if only in the most extremely theoretical sense, to do a STAR TREK dealio that makes coherent sense and that doesn't scoff at all accepted laws of physics. It's so unlikely as to qualify for Dr. Manhattan's 'thermodynamic miracle' tag, but, still, it's possible. You could do a good SF movie and it could be STAR TREK.

But you'd need William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.

Unfortunately, when Pete's movie date said it 'wasn't TREK', whether she was aware of it or not, that's what she meant. This is the first time we've seen anyone try to make anything called STAR TREK that had a character in it named James T. Kirk who wasn't portrayed by William Shatner. And like it or not, this is the crux of the issue of the movie's acceptability as 'real' STAR TREK: will fans accept a non-Shatner Kirk... or won't they?

Obviously, it's going to depend on the age of the fan, and how much of the 'real' STAR TREK they've actually seen, and/or enjoyed. But it's important to note that this movie was not made for Classic Trek fans, nor was it made BY Classic Trek fans. This movie was made by young punks who don't give a shit about STAR TREK for other young punks who don't give a shit about STAR TREK.

So the answer to the 'is this real STAR TREK' question will largely depend on what marketing demographic you fall into. If you're a geezer, like me, and you have very fond memories of watching the original STAR TREK when it was actually broadcast, and you still get a nostalgic tingle when you catch the occasional old ep on G4, and you loved WRATH OF KHAN and pretty much hated every STAR TREK movie since WRATH because they all sucked, but you went to see them anyway, right up until they started making STAR TREK JR movies instead of actual STAR TREK movies, well, this will never be 'real' STAR TREK for you.

But nobody on corporate Earth gives a shit about you; you are, like me, not in a desirable target demo. And as far as everyone who makes any kind of decisions about entertainment gives a shit, nobody gives a shit. We can go fuck ourselves.

So this movie will never be STAR TREK to those of us who actually know what STAR TREK is, but it will become STAR TREK to all the young dickweeds who have no idea what STAR TREK actually is. And that would aggravate me, but, well, long ago, STAR TREK became 'science fiction' to everybody in my generation, and succeeding generations, that did not know what 'science fiction' actually was, and that was REALLY aggravating, so I have no aggravation left for this nonsense.

But let's be clear: William Shatner is James T. Kirk. Nobody else can do it. If you want to reboot the franchise in an alternate universe where you can do all new stories and completely ignore everything that is established as real, actual STAR TREK, well, do it with a new goddam Captain.


More reasons to beat the living shit out of Brian Michael Bendis

Apparently, the Wasp is dead.

I'm so much happier when I don't know these things.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Return of the Late Great Jeff Webb

Just a brief note to say that I spent most of the morning reloading much of Jeff's artwork onto two separate Blogspot sites. As blogger seems much more tolerant of 'adult' material than Angelfire was, I'm hoping this time the stuff will stay where I fucking put it.

Anyway, if you love fine fantasy art, you must check out No Costumes Required, where you'll find the majority of Jeff's superheroine good girl art, and The Fantasy Worlds of Jeff Webb, reprinting that art book of Jeff's more fantastic art that I did for an Australian publisher, who disappeared on me the minute I got it finished. But you get to see it free! You lucky, lucky person, you.

It's all definitely Not Safe For Work, though. So be advised.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

X marks the spot

So, this will make X happy, anyway --

All right.

Give me a minute to lay this out. This is tough for me.

It‘s not admitting to error that I find difficult. I don’t have any trouble with that. I’m not invested in maintaining some façade of personal perfection; I make mistakes and it really doesn’t bother me to admit to it. I’m far from perfect… as everyone who’s paid any attention to my behavior on this site already knows.

I’ve been both incorrect, and ethically wrong, in some or much that I’ve done, and I’ve caused a lot of bad feeling here. I regret that, and that’s a sincere declaration of contrition and remorse. Not so much for the consequences it’s had for me, but because I genuinely don’t enjoy confrontation or hurt feelings. Regardless of how it may seem when you look at my track record with these things, I really don’t like causing these kinds of emotional explosions that spread so much ill will so far, so fast.

These kinds of conflagrations do seem to follow me around the Internet. For what it’s worth, there are general reasons for that, and then, specific reasons for each specific instance.

In general: I’m a strange guy. I don’t fit in anywhere all that well, not really. Just as one example, while I consider myself a progressive liberal, many of my political and social opinions put me at odds with most others who identify themselves that way. I don’t mean to go into details on that here, but trust me when I say, when I get into it on things like affirmative action, or gun control, or legalized abortion, or any number of other hot button political/social issues, many if not most others who identify themselves as ‘liberal’ look at me with horror.

I try not to have knee jerk opinions. I try to think things through. I don’t think quickly, but I try to make up for that by thinking both deeply and broadly, by doing some research, by listening to a lot of different people, before I synthesize all of this, think about it some more, and then finally formulate how I feel or think on any particular subject.

Because of this, I’ve learned that whenever I voice an opinion anywhere, it will nearly always be a controversial opinion. Long ago, I tried very hard to be extremely diplomatic when I voiced such opinions. I employed circumlocutions and verbal finesse. I went to great lengths to express myself in the mildest possible terms, mortaring every statement with delicate euphemism and subtly artful understatement, if not outright vacillation. I was at great pains to find ways to state what I felt about a subject in such a way that I could not possibly offend anyone.

It was an enormous amount of effort, and it had the following results:

(a) Many, many people had no clue what I was trying to say, and
(b) there was always somebody who got offended anyway.

After this happened again and again and again, I, perhaps, overreacted. I shrugged and said what the hell. I decided diplomacy was not my bag. I decided it would be better to be clear, to be straightforward, to try my best to communicate my points and views as saliently, as openly, as simply, and as bluntly as I could. I decided that, given that I couldn’t seem to avoid offending people with a controversial, non mainstream opinion anyway, I might as well stop presuming other people couldn’t handle my truths, and start presuming that honesty really would be the best policy.

The results of this have been a mixture of success and failure. Success, in that nobody ever seems to have any great difficulty figuring out exactly where I stand on any subject I voice a view regarding. Failure, in that I now offend a great many more people.

But, again, I’m going to offend people anyway, because my opinions are rarely opinions people seem to want to hear, regardless of where I go. That being the case, my choices seem to be that I can either (a) shut the hell up about what I think on subjects when those subjects are being discussed, or (b) I can lie to make other people happy. Circumlocution and diplomacy don’t keep people from being offended, and they don’t make people happy. They simply make people more confused.

You know what makes people happy? Agreeing with them. On every subject they bring up. At all times, and under all circumstances. They will love you forever for this. Anyone will. It is nearly impossible to dislike someone who feels exactly the same way as we do about every subject that is important to us. Or at least, who presents a persuasive and convincing charade of doing so.

But I never agree with anyone about everything, and I rarely agree with any group of people about anything.

As a general rule, if you’re out on the Internet talking to people, you aren’t inclined to shut up about your views. And as a matter of personal ethics, I’m not inclined to lie about mine.

That’s how, in general, I’ve reached the point I’m at now, as regards how I communicate with others, especially on the Internet.

In specific, on this site (and I’m not trying to excuse or justify my behavior, I understand and accept my own part in recent events, and as I’ve said, I regret those events -- I’m just explaining, for what it’s worth to those who take the time to read all this):

Here’s how I remember things. And this may be wrong, and if someone with more emotional fortitude than me wants to prospect back through old threads to try and confirm or deny this, have at it, but I can’t handle that kind of stress right now. Anyway, what I remember happening is something like this:

I came on the site looking for players for my home brew campaign. I posted a lot of stuff about the campaign, mostly having to do with the setting, which, for what it’s worth, I’m very proud of, as it’s entirely original… which is to say, it isn’t based on any other game setting I’m aware of. There are bits and pieces I’ve stolen from some of my favorite novels and movies over the years, sanded the serial numbers off, and repurposed to my game setting, but still, pretty much the entire setting, and it is a very detailed setting, has come out of my head.

I heard from several site members saying things like “Sounds really interesting. I read those articles you linked to about your GMing style too and that sounds good. I’m very interested.”

And hope would soar in my heart that I had actually found someone who would genuinely enhance the gaming experience for myself, my wife, my daughter, and my buddy Nate. I would get all excited. I would actually dare to dream.

And then: “Are you running 3.5 or 4.0?”

I’d say “I don’t play D&D; I’m using my own original system.”

Please understand, I have been largely unaware until I came to this site that over the past 20 years or so, Dungeons and Dragons has come to so completely and utterly dominate the fantasy roleplaying scene. When I was younger, there was another pattern entirely. I hesitate to describe it for fear of offending people again, but, well, let’s just say, when I came to the campaign that I picked up the precursor of the system I use from, my fellow gamers there were all people who had started with D&D years before, and who had wanted to play in a different style of campaign, and who, not finding that kind of campaign commercially available, had made up their own, along with their own rules systems that allowed them to do the kind of roleplaying that D&D really wasn’t set up to facilitate.

In other words, I came out of a context and continuum of gamers who did not view Dungeons and Dragons as the only acceptable sword and sorcery system; who, in fact, felt that Dungeons and Dragons was much too limited for the kind of roleplaying they wanted to do. And I was not prepared for… well… the kind of response I immediately got from people who had told me they really liked what they’d read about my campaign and my DMing style, when I indicated I did not use D&D, which was:

They’d say “Oh. Not interested.”

And that was the end of it. Even if we’d already set up a meet. The instant they found out I wasn't running D&D, they were done. None of them were willing to try out anything new and/or different, none of them, despite liking the setting and what they‘d read about my GMing style, were willing to give me, my campaign setting, my rules system, or my other players, a shot. These were site members who had ardently advertised on the site about how much they wanted to get into an RPG… but… if it wasn’t D&D -- they were flatly not interested.

To be as fair as I can be, I didn't know D&D was a prerequisite, but by the same token, most of the members of this site have no reason to believe they need to specify, when they advertise they are looking for a game, that they are only interested in D&D if the setting is sword and sorcery. They take it for granted, and that's perfectly reasonable. I simply didn't know.

And I didn’t react well to that. In fact, I reacted poorly to that, and I'm aware of it. And again, I’m not trying to make excuses. This is simply where I was coming from. I was extremely disappointed, and somewhat insulted, and rather offended.

So, I got snarky about D&D, and by extension, about the D&D players whom I had just had such disappointing interactions with. It was never my intention that my snarkiness be taken as a general statement about everyone who played D&D, but, well, I was pissed.

So that’s specifically where all that came from. I was disappointed and angry and upset and I let it show. And that's a deep regret for me.

That, in and of itself, didn’t have to lead to volcanic insult exchanges, though. The flame apocalypse happened because of a second, compound aspect of my personality -- I dislike being disrespected when I don’t feel the disrespect is merited. (Most people feel similarly in this regard, but, still, I am genuinely strange this way; I cannot stand having people praise me, either, if I don’t feel the praise is deserved. Asskissers bother me as much or more than ad hominem attackers.) And I enjoy writing, and I love crafting insults.

The way those two combine is, if I feel someone has launched an unmerited and unprovoked personal attack on me (a flame, in other words) I will do my best to return the favor to that person ten fold. I genuinely feel that when most people flame, there is little artistry in it, little actual wit… it’s usually the same old tired sexual aspersions, genitalia references, and strings of profanity one can see on any unmoderated message board anywhere on the Internet, or hear, for that matter, in the back of any public or private school bus inhabited by kids older than 9 any where in America. I enjoy attempting to elevate the insult to an actual art form. I don’t start out going for the jugular, but I feel that if someone steps up to me and aims a kick at my crotch, well, they are licensing my response… and I enjoy accepting their invitation.

In fact, I must confess that I've lately been moved to admiration for a site member I never liked very much before this, when I read something he'd said just recently that seems to justify the flame in all its glory: [i]"In this medium, flame wars and vitriolic commentary are the only fire and acid with which to properly slay a troll. They will come back from everything else. "[/i] When I read that, I felt a genuine bond with the site member that wrote it. I cannot tell you how heartfelt and fervent my agreement with that sentiment is. If I could get a good Latin translation of those two sentences, I would carve them over my mantle. Seriously.

Unfortunately, we’ve all seen where that attitude, however wise or cogent or sapient it may seem to me to be, has led recently on this site. And however much those words resonate with me, still, I regret my part in the recent flame wars, and I sincerely apologize for my contributions to them.

One significant reason that things have gotten this far -- much farther than on other sites -- is that Sysop says he values freedom of speech, and he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. The behavior that has been manifest in the flame wars that have erupted all around my presence on this site over the past four months would be enough to get me banned forty or fifty times on any other hobby site I’ve ever been to. Sysop doesn’t want to do that. I respect that. The result of that has been that I’ve been able to be the catalyst of much more prolonged hostilities here than on any other site I’ve been to… but also, that I’ve had the opportunity to really think, for probably the first time, about the consequences on a community of (a) being extremely blunt in voicing my always non-mainstream and generally provocative, controversial opinions, and (b) in reveling in opportunities to return flames tendered towards me ten or a hundred fold back on their originators.

So I’m rethinking my approach once again, and I have this site, and Sysop particularly, to thank for that. Also, specifically, I have to thank Caesar Agumbus and DefJeff, for their sage counsel through PM and in threads, that has helped me work through all this in my head. As I say, I do not think fast. But I try to think both deeply and widely. And I try to listen to others, when I have the opportunity.

So I've come to a point where I have this to offer: my sincere apologies for the truly excessive amount of conflict I've caused on this site in the past four months, and my genuine willingness to undertake to try to be more aware, and more considerate, of the various hot buttons and tender spots of various site members in the future, all in an attempt to maintain a greater level of civility in future exchanges between me and other site members.

Obviously, much is going to depend on the reception this particular apology receives, and in point of fact that's so obvious I don't think it needs any further elaboration. Presuming that, as a result of this apology, there are further interactions between me and other site members who are not immediately involved in game sessions with me, then I'd like to make the following respectful observations and/or requests:

As I will be trying earnestly to avoid provoking further hostilities or reigniting past ones, I'd like to pray forbearance from other site members. If I offend you, and you feel there is even the remotest chance that I did it inadvertently, please let me know in as civil a fashion as you can, and give me a chance to work things out with you. Either a PM or a "WTF, Doc?" in the thread will be fine. But though I'm going to try hard, I have to say, if I write something that I don't feel is aimed at any one in particular, but which is just me saying what I think about something, and I get a truckload of obscene personal abuse back, it's going to make it much more difficult for me to stay civil.

To this I will add, I am very proud of all my stepdaughters. They are all smart and strong and they take zero shit and that's because they all take after their mother in these regards and it is the constant wonderment and delight of my life that all four of these amazing, unique and incredible women have allowed me to share their lives. My middle stepdaughter has come to this site looking to make friends and increase her roleplaying experience, and she can certainly take care of herself, and I have no problem with her making friends with anyone she chooses to. She's got a good head on her shoulders and is a very good judge of people and whatever she wants to do with her life and her time is okay by me, because she has to date demonstrated an extremely unusual level of maturity and wisdom in those choices she has made. Based on what we have seen of her intelligence and decision making abilities, my wife and I trust her judgment implicitly.

That's not to say we don't worry about her, because that would be impossible, and I'm sure those of you who are parents know exactly what I mean.

Still, barring absolutely dire circumstances, I'm going to let her take care of her business herself, and I'm not going to get in the middle of anything unless she specifically asks me to... and she won't. But anyone who cares at all about maintaining any kind of friendly or even civil interaction with me on this site should remain aware at all times that, just as everyone else has their buttons and/or sensitive spots, my children are one of mine.

If I annoy you or displease you, if you wish to maintain a grudge against me, if you don't think you can ever be friends with me, or even for the sake of politeness and the general well being of the community attempt a facade of civility towards me, okay. I doubtless earned your opprobrium and I'll wear it.

But I'd ask you to leave my daughter out of it. If you're mad at me, be mad at me. Don't snap at her. Don't put her in the middle of it.

I hope that's understandable to, and understood by, everyone.

To summarize: I've fucked up, I know it, I'm sorry, and I'll try to do better moving forward. I hope we can all play better together in the future.

In terms of pouring oil on troubled waters, this has worked very well... while responses came slowly at first, eventually a few of those I'd been feuding with allowed as to how gracious I was, and once it began, as always happens with our essentially herd dwelling race, the effect snowballed. Now I'm, if not exactly popular on the site, then, at least, reasonably well respected.

A few of those who dislike me most were very grudging in their acceptance of this apology, hedging their bets with "well, okay, as long as he behaves" type nonsense. But once a lot of other people, especially a few tribal elders, had accepted, they really had no choice; either they publicly manned up or they looked like utter tools. (Either was fine with me.)

Which was the point of the exercise. It's psychological jui jitsu. With one stroke, I turned everything upside down. When you're the guy who has offended everyone at the party and you just go sit in a corner and sulk because they're all such assholes, it doesn't matter if you're right. Everyone else at the party feels very righteous in their indignation as regards your behavior. (Especially if you're right about them all being assholes.)

But when you come back with your hand held out spouting a sincere seeming apology, they often don't know what to do. It befuddles them. It sure isn't anything that THEY'D ever do.

But it puts the onus on them. Where before I would have had difficulty meeting many of these people in real life and staying pleasant, now I can walk into any group any of them play in with my head held high. Some of them I'm sure still don't like me at all, but now they're required to either be hypocritical or look like jackasses. Either way works for me... although, to be honest, the hypocrisies that civility always requires are a big reason I don't mix much in real life.

Now, mind you, the wild card here was my stepdaughter. If she hadn't been on the site, and if certain of my jackass attackers hadn't been so willing to hold a grudge against her as well as me, I'd never have apologized. I would have made a career out of trolling those motherfuckers until either they left the site in tears or the site administrator broke his own rule by throwing me off it. I would have flamed them down to the bedrock; as Heinlein has noted, some jerks you simply have to insult until they apologize. But with someone else in the mix whose feelings are important to me, I had to take a different approach.

I don't regret it; everyone is happier now, and the apology, for what it is, is sincere... I certainly acknowledge that I played a big part in all the trouble. But here's what tact is... not saying all the shit that's really important, because all the important shit is what really offends people. And the problem with that apology is that it's a tacit agreement between me and them that (a) I will no longer point out the hypocrisy of imposing one standard of behavior on a stranger while not requiring yourself or your friends to adhere to that same standard, and (b) I will no longer express my opinion that D&D is a fucking retarded system and anyone who has been gaming for longer than five years and who claims to be a roleplayer and who is still rolling up half-gnoll ranger/wizard/ninjas who will spend their entire imaginary lives killing imaginary orcs and goblins with an imaginary sword in an imaginary underground dungeon has something badly, badly deficient in their essential character matrix. At least, if that's the only kind of game they're comfortable playing, they do.

This is a basic truth. It offends many of the people on the site, surely. Yet one of the people who plays in my regular RPG session also plays in another D&D session, mostly because he's pretty young and has a lot of free time. He admits my game is much, much better with far better roleplaying and a much more believable setting and rules system, but he has buddies at the other session. Still, he's described all the other guys at the session, and apparently he's the youngest by a decade, the only one there who weighs less than 300 lbs, and other than one of the guys who is married, he's pretty sure he's the only one there who has ever actually had sex with another human being who was conscious at the time and not being paid for their services.

And this is hardly an atypical description of an adult group of 'roleplayers' who play D&D.

Once upon a time, D&D was what you started out with if you wanted to roleplay. It was, in Nate's wonderful term, 'training wheels'. If you roleplayed and you liked it, you would invariably and naturally begin to find the inherent shallownesses and limitations of the D&D rules system and two dimensional backdrops frustrating, and look around for something else to play. And if you couldn't find another system you liked available at your local game shop, you'd make up your own that suited you better, and which didn't require your Lawful Good character to kill every Chaotic or Lawful Evil entity they ran into... or die trying.

To me, when I walk into a geek shop and there are a bunch of 30 year old guys sitting at a table playing D&D, I can't help but feel a vague contempt. It's probably a character flaw; who am I to be judgmental? I roleplay too. But to me, D&D is the roleplaying equivalent of Chutes & Ladders, while my game system and campaign setting are, I don't know, Civilization, or at the very least, Risk. You walk into a public place and see a bunch of obvious adults spinning the little arrow and getting all excited because they hit a ladder, or screeching in rage because they landed on a slide... to me, that's pretty much the same thing as watching a bunch of adults rolling d20s so their 17th level Paladin can do 12 hit points of damage to a beholder, while the thief is picking the lock on a door down the hall, and the cleric is standing by to throw a Cure Light Wounds when necessary. It's just childish. It ain't real roleplaying. And the people I know who get into their late 20s and early 30s and D&D is still the only RPG they want to play? It may be tactless to say it, but anybody that looks at these guys knows there is something badly wrong with them.

However, these are truths that I may no longer articulate, else I shall be exiled once again.

Now it will turn out that out of the three people who still read this blog, two of them love D&D and never play anything else. And I will be in deep fucking doo doo again.