Monday, December 10, 2012

Let's ease back into things, shall we?

Well that was a hiatus. Or a blog death. Here I go reviving things, or something.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to start up with new content, but I figure it'll be sooner if I can remind myself that this exists more often. So, I'll start by posting recommendations to articles I find, because a lot of the time other people say things a hell of a lot better than I ever could.

So without further ado: I've been in several arguments within the last while about whether or not women actually did anything in history. Apparently women never fought, or held any sort of power, that sort of thing. Sure was news to me. Historically treatment of women has been lousy, but that doesn't mean none of them ever did anything. Historical records can hardly be called free from bias.

Today I was reminded of those arguments by an excellent post I found on the subject. Have a look at it here, and also have a look at some excellent commentary I found here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

On Climate

Whoa. Okay, I seriously did not expect to be dead for quite as long as I was. I'm about to be incredibly busy again, but hopefully healthier, so posting will hopefully get more regular.

Had a hard time deciding what to write for this rant. I have this great long list of things I need to write, so here's a worldbuilding one as sort of a warmup. (Yes, it's a "things the writer thinks would be interesting to see" rant, alas.)

Remember the weather rant? Weather's a good plot device, moves people around, screws things up, all that good stuff. Zoom out, a bit, though: weather happens in the context of the local climate.

Climate is a pretty big deal.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More on Discrimination in Fantastic Settings: The Skyhook Society

Hey guys! Sorry I've been dead lately. Unfortunately I'm still fairly dead and have not got another full post written up yet. However, the Border House does.

I argued that having the same tired discrimination tropes that we see in daily life was not necessary in settings completely unlike real life. We almost had a discussion in comments (guys! Check back on your comments occasionally! I respond!) and I think I want to do another post on that at some point, but I found an excellent post on the Border House that brings up another good point: the way discrimination is shoehorned into fantastic settings often doesn't make any sense. It's worth a read. Here's the link.

I should be a bit less dead later this week, so we'll see what I can get together in terms of real posts.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On Knowing What to Expect From Character Interactions

Not all character interactions in a story, especially an RP, are fun and butterflies. (Well, they darn well had better not be, anyway.) Interactions can and should go sour, they should spiral into arguments or awkward silences or send the characters off sulking in opposite directions, because realistically nobody is universally liked, and nobody universally likes everybody. A "negative" interaction can be just as sound and interesting as a "positive" one, often even more so. Sometimes, though, when I see an interaction go bad, shortly afterward I see one of the players involved, often the initiator, react with surprise and dismay: why won't anyone interact with me?, they say.

Well, here we go to answer that question. Note: This is about the reactions of characters, not about how to respond to constructive criticism from players.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Random Question Time

Going to be dead for a while due to finals, so starting a new blog category is clearly the way to go: random questions! These'll show up when I'm too dead to write! So, for this one:

What was your favorite/most-remembered song or soundtrack from video games from when you were a kid?

Pokemon Silver/Crystal for me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On Discrimination In Fantastic Settings

This applies to both RP worldbuilding and story-writing, and has already been done (probably better) here.

So incredibly often I see settings that are clearly not historical, but set in some romanticize, fantasticized past, a "here there be dragons" sort of a place, with corrupted, vaguely rose-tinted versions of the sexism, racism, ablism, homophobia, and other discrimination that ruled in the corresponding time period of world history. "It's historical," creators too often shrug when asked why. "To omit those aspects would be unrealistic." Or sometimes, slightly more justified but wait no not really, "Utopian societies are unrealistic." News flash: If we do ever get rid of discrimination, there will still be societal strife from different sources.

"Unrealistic." Your main character's dating an elf, he has a magic sword and a hyper-intelligent flying horse that doesn't need to eat and you're saying you can't cut the discrimination of the time period you're supposedly emulating-- because it would be unrealistic.

Bullshit. Is it really that hard to imagine a society without those issues?

Now, plenty of good writers do include discrimination in their societies, but they treat it realistically, as the complex problem that it is, and show its effects. They show how it gets into all facets of society, not just as a few jokes made by less savory characters, or a few incidents of ill-treatment. They don't just treat it as an excuse to have characters be horrible to whatever group. They show that no group is perfect, depict everyone (not just the good guys) as people, and don't use the tired, rotten trope of the hero high on the societal privilege ladder saving his poor simple minority friends who can't help themselves. They don't apply the rosy filter of "but it was the good old days" to it. And of course if the setting is actually historical and properly researched-- medieval Europe or imperial China, for example-- historical accuracy is a legitimate answer. "Alternate timeline" settings may also pass, depending on what ways they are alternate in. But if it's not portrayed as a complex problem, and hasn't got any real basis in history to be true to, I really don't see why it's necessary. 

This is probably not the last you'll hear from me on the subject; future posts may go more in-depth.

Writing rant disclaimer:
Some of you may have read some of my fiction or participate in an RP I am part of. If you notice that something in my writing has something I have labeled as a problem in my rant, go ahead and tell me so! I may not have noticed that I'm doing whatever it is, so that can help me! However, I do want to keep this place polite, so please no unnecessary bashing of my characters, or, for that matter, anyone else's, be it a fellow commenter or a fellow RP'er.

Blog note: You might notice the "Frustrations" label. "Frustrations" posts are usually going to involve a fair helping of my opinion and social commentary. Keep this in mind, and feel free to disagree in comments, but do so civilly, please.


Okay, so I didn't know the school computers ran a bunch of Steam games. That's pretty cool. Thanks for that knowledge, dude next to me. Can you tell me how to access them? Thanks man.

Wait. Why are you still hovering? There's a controls tutorial and I'd already worked out that it was WASD. No seriously, I know how to play a game. Dude, you've worked with me, you know I'm going into game design for crying out loud. No! Seriously! I can do this myself! No! I don't want to do easy mode! Didn't you have homework to do?!

Granted, I have not had the experience of being (assumed physically) male in a setting where software or games were in use, but from observation, the "hovering helper" behavior is most often targeted at females. It's not restricted to gaming; I've seen it with software, and math homework, and the like.

I could write it off as politeness, but really... no. It's not politeness, but a failure to take me-- to take women-- seriously at work here. The "helping" behavior is founded, as near as I can tell, upon the assumption that the help-ee doesn't/couldn't possibly know what she's doing (or, apparently, how to ask for help...). Again, I'm not talking about, say, a beginner's class where everyone is getting hovered over, or helping a known beginner who has already asked for a walkthrough; this is just what I've observed from using computers in labs and classrooms, with girls and women of both unknown experience and known competence. Especially in the latter case, it's insulting. I've played games before, but clearly I'll need help to play another one? Er...

So... especially if you know that I've used a computer, played games, learned software, done math, worked physics problems, or done whatever before, please acknowledge that. Please acknowledge that I have the agency to ask for help if I need it, and don't start hovering unsummoned. Please don't insult me like that.

(Think I'm misinterpreting? Tell me so in comments, but show me reasoning and keep it civil, please.)