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Sunday, 29 October 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 - Prepare For The Wordness

It's that time again, dear readers.

Once again I am stepping into the mad, glad world of the National Novel Writing Month, in which myself and a mob of other certifiable wrimos will try and write fifty thousand words during the month of November. If we are really lucky, those fifty thousand words will come together in such a way as to be readable as a novella! (Or novel if we really hammer the word count.)

I blog about this every year - but I think it's worth blogging about. The entire idea of the event is to elevate people from the status of "One-Day" writers to, you know - writers. It doesn't need to be good. It doesn't need to be genre-defining or groundbreaking. All it needs to be is on the page. So anyone who has always wanted to try writing and just...hasn't... this is your time, this is your excuse. A mad dash, a sprint to the finish.

I've taken part every year since 2003. This will be my fifteenth year of word-count combat. It's not every year that I put together something that I am pleased with, but enough that I can look at my output and feel that my time wasn't wasted.

See, writing is a skill. It's a thing that gets better through doing. You learn what works and what doesn't. Through reading and also writing, you learn what flows, what doesn't. You learn how to describe a character, how to write dialogue, how to write a character that is believable, how to pace a story either through the standard three-act story pattern or via some weird method known only to you.

This year, I am kind of hyped for what I am writing - but then that happens with fair regularity. This time it is going to be set in the Starfinder universe, a game setting I am highly looking forward to playing and running in. I have a plot in mind, a bunch of characters to throw at it, a series of scenes I am looking forward to writing. It's definitely hype time.

My blog throughout the next month will be all to do with NaNo-related things - probably to do with my characters, my plot, themes behind what I am writing. I did it last year, too - it helps me keep on track and ensures that I'm not taking a big brain-detour while novel-writing.

Also, frankly, I don't have a lot to say about the political situation we find ourselves in right now. It's fucked all the way down. So, you know. Escapism. Nice.

Anyone want to join me on this journey of wordiness?

You're all very welcome.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Clash Of Steel

I'm going to say three words.

Giant Robot Duel.

Giant. Robot. Duel.

...okay so...I was far more hyped for this than my usually-sensible mind would allow me to be. Often I will see the obvious difficulties in achieving something, like health and safety and planning and stuff like this, and just understand that it won't work out the way I want it to.

This, though?

This hyped me. But it hyped me for a very different reason.

So if you actually watch the video you will probably be unimpressed and I can think of a few reasons why. They had one presenter too many (the dude was just there to annoy us I swear to god), it's over-produced, it's scripted, and it's cut in an odd and irksome way.

The thing is, though. The thing IS.

We just watched two robots fight. With pilots. Technically they aren't robots. They are MECHS. We watched a Mecha Duel.

And even if it was scripted - even so, even given that assumption - fucking robot just grabbed a lighting rig and used it as a shield. What? WHAT!?

Okay. calming down now.

Don't look at it as the first match of a new sport. Look at it as a proof of concept that such a sport could even exist. Look at it as a statement - that the three bots that were brought out were all built, and built by relatively small teams, and were built in such a way as that they could be multi-functional. They made robots, and then made those robots capable of fighting.

Imagine ten years from now.

Imagine if the concept gets carried. If teams, BIG teams, put together proper robots and organise proper duels. In order to arrange something like that they'd have to be remote controlled, and you'd have to have safety measures like Robot Wars on steroids - but if you were careful, you could show something like that in an arena.


We CAN build them. We CAN make them move. We CAN use them as weapons. (Just ask the Pentagon.) The technology exists, and can be utilised, and as is proven by this rather cheesy video, it can be used to create a sporting event.


And if my future is going to be a late-capitalist mid-cyberpunk nightmare of Running Man-type proportions, then at least, I want to distract myself from the awful predations of my pitiless corporate masters by watching Giant Robot Duels.

It's not too much to ask.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Don't Do What Donny Don't Does

Anybody remember this bit from the Simpsons?

The cartoon show has often been held up as predicting the future. Lots of shit has happened in the Simpsons which has then happened in real life, but then, when a show runs for 620 episodes in a singular setting, it's going to hit some beats somewhere. Throw enough pebbles, you'll hit the window.

Some examples - to save you sitting through a bullshit Buzzfeed article - include when Roy Horn (of Siegfried and Roy) was mauled by his own tiger, the NSA was caught spying on everybody, when voting machines went (TOTALLY ACCIDENTALLY) wrong, when FIFA was corrupt (yeah as if we couldn't see that coming without Matt Groening), and when ebola broke out.

This scene, however - this scene (aside from providing the best way to say "Down I Go" I have ever heard) seems to predict the future in a big way.

If there has ever been a President that has existed solely to tell future Presidents what not to do - if there are any - it's been Donny.

Donny Don't just has no idea. idea. It's actually somewhat comedic as to how incompetent he really is, and I am embarrassed that at one point I was convinced that he was just playing dumb in order to lull people into a false sense of security. He's dumb as a post. The job - the job of being President of the United States - is a difficult one, and I wouldn't want to put myself in that position. Even somewhat take-it-easy Presidents come away with grey hairs. So why would this man, who persistently failed in the business arena in ways that seem basic to you and I, actually have the skills to be President?

There's such a thing as the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that at the bottom end of the ability spectrum, there's a lack of awareness and cognition which would allow the individual to realise that they kind of suck. Now I'm trying to contain my cynical misomania at this point, wherein I'd break out Carlin lines about thinking about how smart the average person is, but - Dunning-Kruger is real. I bet that anyone who reads this can think of at least one, and probably more, people they have encountered who be blunt... just too dumb to realise they were dumb.

Donny Don't is doing everything that a President shouldn't, and he's not really clued-up enough on the job to know that he shouldn't.

Examples? Do I need to give any, really? Well, okay, how about -

  • Being a white supremacist.
  • Playing golf, all the time.
  • Inciting war with whoever looks at him funny.
  • Doing shady deals with Russia.
  • Pulling out of UNESCO because Israel or something.
  • Being a speaker at an anti-LGBTA seminar.
  • Pulling out of the Paris agreement because who knows.
  • Describing everything he dislikes as being false.
  • Leaping onto Twitter whenever upset or offended, which is often.
  • Having zero respect for the position he occupies and the country he serves.

The worst thing about all of this?

He can get away with it.

There is no recall election for the President - that has to wait until an actual election year, and I suppose that is for the purposes of the country not immediately trying to unseat the head of state the moment he says or does any one unpopular thing. Hell, I guess if there had been the ability to recall, Barack Obama would have faced one recall election a week from - I'm going to be honest - racists and right-wingers.

There being no recall, however, relies on most people who take the role of President being halfway competent. It's a polite assumption that whoever wins the election will at least be partially versed in statehood, that they won't immediately start insulting other nations, that they will show a measure of decorum.

I am about to do something that you will not often see or hear me do, so take note of the time and date.

George W. Bush showed decorum as part of his position. There were moments wherein that decorum went away ("Now Watch This Drive"), but for the most part, the man was lampooned as being clueless, not brazenly rude. The man understood that sometimes, you sit down, you shut up, and you listen. The man didn't lash out every time people talked out against him - and fucking A did we speak out against him. He was the President. He was above getting into mud-wrestling matches over what was perceived as a personal insult. Even Dubya was above having bitch-fits on Twitter because he had seen something that didn't sit right with him.

(In fairness, Twitter wasn't that big when Bush became President - but hey.)

Should George W. Bush have been impeached for his part in the Iraq and Afghan wars? I'm leaning toward yes. Should the public, had they had enough of him, been able to recall him as President? I'm leaning toward yes - but you'd have to set the bar for that pretty high. His approval ratings were fairly low when he left office.

The issue is that impeachment doesn't seem to happen when the person sat in the chair shouldn't be in the chair. It's a long and rather complicated process, that needs to hit several legal milestones, and can be upset if some of the people involved would rather see their pick still in situ - even if they did the thing they are accused of doing.

So Donny Don't is here now, and he's here doing things, and we can't get rid of him, and he's busy throwing shit on the walls and breaking flower pots and shouting obscenities at the grandparents. The damage he is doing, he is doing forever. He is burning diplomatic bridges that will take years if not decades to repair.

He isn't even smart enough to know that he shouldn't be doing it, or that it is wrong. He's got shit all over his hands, and he's smiling, because this is just lovely.

The only positive thing we can take from his Presidency is that there will be a living, breathing example of what happens when you elect someone into power who you wouldn't trust with an electric toothbrush.

If we aren't annihilated by nuclear fire before he is voted out, that is.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Angels In The Rain

I've talked before about Blade Runner.

The world it shows us is an uncomfortable one, because it is one we see ourselves entering, as if powerless to stop it. Not in the precise grain of the story - but the world, the ambience, the setting and surrounding, and the theme. Disposable people that just want to live a little, hunted, persecuted, not allowed.The authority figures, each of them morally corrupt and generally awful, including our so-called protagonist. Corporate logos shining in the sky over the bright towers, that we aren't allowed to live in. A life in the stars that you can't have.

I just got back from Blade Runner 2049.

It's not as good as the first film, let me just get that out of the way. In my opinion Blade Runner was the best film ever made. Saying 2049 isn't as good isn't an insult of any kind - but there will be people whose demand is that it be that film. That it put the lightning back in the bottle, and nothing can do that.

It was wonderful. It filled you up while you watched it, like you weren't being told a story, you were being put into a world that already existed whole-cloth and you just weren't aware of it.

It conveyed concepts to you with deftness, though it didn't feel rushed. Far from it. It didn't convey you from point to point to point like a bus. It walked you through, like a good museum guide. It let you take things in. It let you absorb, and see, and think. It let you experience what was going on.

Just watching it was an experience. Just seeing the frames flow together one after the other, hearing the sound effects, the score. Just experiencing each individual shot, and each transition. My god. There were a couple, just a couple, that made me deep-inhale loud enough that I probably upset the people I was watching it with.

I just wanna compliment Ryan Gosling a minute.

His performance is...let's say, understated. His face, though. His fucking face. It's heartbreaking. He pulls these microexpressions - like sometimes it is subtle and sometimes it's like a volcano. It is deeply upsetting, more than once, to see the man in question feel the way he does.

Yet again, we're shown our own world, turned back on us through a lens of science fiction. It's moved forward though - in the original, Los Angeles was dying, the poor majority left in the ruin while everyone that was well enough fled offworld. In 2049, that end has happened. The triage has been carried out - and we're a big red X.

The story...

That, I'm not going to talk about. I want you to watch it and find out.

Suffice to say I will be going to see it again, and soon.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Character Characteristics

So the world is truly awful right now, and terrible things have happened to good people, and some terrible people haven't suffered any consequences. Puerto Rico has been demolished, and the US citizens there aren't getting the support they deserve because, frankly, the administration is racist. Shit is hitting fan in a big way.

I don't know if I have anything to say about that, that hasn't been said. Climate change is real, support and protect people even if they're a different colour to you, and stop being such pricks to each other.

So instead, rather than sink into the dark place of seething at the evil and inaction of others, I am going to take my brain for a walk into the world of role-playing games - a favourite hobby of mine.

Let me ask you this: is there a group of people you know so well, that you can predict how they will react to most situations with a high degree of accuracy?

If you've gamed for a while, with a similar group of people - like maybe three or four gaming groups, or say ten or so people that are in various games you are also in - then you may notice that people have habits with their characters. I know I have blogged before about the traits I like to see in characters, especially my own. Sometimes, though - people have traits that they don't even necessarily recognise in themselves.

Like for example one of the guys I have known since I was a wee bab - he has a series of traits that are solid enough to warrant remark if they aren't adhered to:

1) The character must be a survivor, above all else.
2) The character should be able to make a pit, hole or trap of some kind, rather than engage directly.
2.5) The character might have a follow-up trick that makes that pit, hole or trap deadly.

Further musing on this revealed that it isn't just him that has stuff like this. I am not gonna mention names - hell, the people reading this might know who they are - but still.

Another player has a total lack of emotional connectivity to the character, or anyone that character really interacts with. They also have a habit of getting bored, and either escalating the situation exponentially, or sitting it out.

Yet another usually ends up playing a Viking. Whatever character they are playing, they manage to become a Viking - and generally have the same problem-solving attitude.

In a similar mould, another player always appreciates a good big guy. Not always - this has changed recently - but the big guy with the big gun or the big axe is a solid fan favourite.

We all know the player that wants to talk before they fight, and that's a good thing to do. The same player also has a knack of working out a way around actually engaging a situation as expected, instead taking a side route or defeating a challenge via left-field methods.

A particular chap has three character traits nearly omnipresent in their characterisation - sarcasm, a noir aesthetic, and a willingness to try almost anything. Usually accompanied by a blink, a head wobble, and the word "Sure".

Everyone also knows the one with the detailed backstory. Family, special things that they do, a long list of traits relevant to the place their character is from. This doesn't always necessarily translate into something useful in a fight or a conundrum, mind.

One guy I know always plays a Dwarf, another always plays an Elf, regardless of what their actual characters are.

One person in particular has a tendency for their characters to have vices that they indulge in at any opportunity - not to a disruptive level, nor an unrealistic one. They are just particularly venal. They always cleave strongly to a particular theme, too, which changes from character to character, and may not have much to do with their class or type.

Another is deceptive. Like at every opportunity. Wheedling and conniving, even if there's not necessarily anything to be gained from doing so.

Do you see yourself in any of these particular traits? Do you see a weird, potentially embarrassing list of RPG quirks that I display when we game together? Pop a comment down below.

Something with depth, next week. I promise. I just needed to get out something less grim.