Purity

Wednesday, 9 August 2017 20:21
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
The more I write (and I've been writing for more than fifteen years, half my life or longer), the harder it is to ignore the murkiness of the writing endeavor. I write original fiction and fanfiction, and I also write reviews. The things I look at when I write reviews are sometimes the same as what I examine when I'm writing, but just as often totally different. That can create an absurd type scenario where I criticize a series of books or games for repeating variations on a certain trope, but still be writing that trope into my own original fiction. Not even (necessarily) to subvert it, and on the whole as a media consumer I prefer aversions to self-conscious subversions.

The most obvious case that comes to mind for me right now is a multi-chapter fanfic from years ago that I never finished. This included both a love triangle and an antagonistic, hate-to-love type romance, all wrapped up together. And this was at a time when I had an even stronger aversion to both than I do now. And these were the central threads of the plot, not some supporting B-plot. More recently -- I even wrote a DW post about it -- I was writing a nation of inhuman people as analogues of a real cultural group (my own, but still), which is a thing I've strenuously objected to in the past.

And now there's my Yuri Jam game, if it gets off its feet. When I was coming up with the concept, I was mainly thinking about a cutesy idea of "mad scientists", a kind of character trope that has lost all credibility to the point where it's automatically camp and humorous, in a self-aware way. At least in theory. It's impossible, however, for me to ignore the underlying creepiness of the story, even if I'm trying to tell it from a point of view that places value judgments on the protagonist's choices, and even f the game is built in such a way that it locks the player out of making any truly outrageous character choices. I have to find a way to write around and through it, and address it head-on while still allowing the game to be a little funny.

And I find myself wondering how it is that I keep finding so many corners to paint myself into.

Name Generators

Tuesday, 4 July 2017 12:51
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
As a writer, RPer, and all around nerd, I have a whole bunch of name generator websites bookmarked, and am always on the lookout for new and exciting ones. Of course I have also tried my hand at creating some small, primitive generators myself, like this one.

But one of the best qualities of worldbuilding, whether in games or in books, is the ability to simulate greater depth than you actually have. No one can build a world as rich as the real one, and if you tried to do it you would never have time for writing the actual stories taking place in this world. The trick is to make it look like the gaps in your knowledge are full of something that you just happen not to have mentioned. Part of it is investing more work into the things your characters have knowledge and interest in, or rather the reverse: make your characters proficient in something you're interested in developing.

What all that means is that most SFF writers aren't conlangers, and they don't need to be. You can simulate the richness of a unique language to the satisfaction of most, usually just by creating a quick-and-dirty phonology guide, and then staying out of your own way by being careful about idioms, puns and wordplay. The reader's (or player's) imagination provides the rest.

Part of my process is that I find it terribly difficult to write about characters if I haven't named them. This means I'll usually have a string of names before I have any kind of set phonological rules to follow. It also means I find it very hard to change those names, even if they were only meant to be working products. What I would like to be able to do is design a naming tool that you could input a string of names into, and it would break them down into an approximation of individual syllables, and then use those units to construct a series of new names.

I'm pretty sure I have the skills to do this, but it would take time and a fair amount of thought going into designing it, instead of just jumping into tinkering with code like I'm used to.

I'm open to feedback on the technical aspects of this project. I'm also interested in discussing the meta theory behind it, but based on the premise that I laid out. I'm not here for "everything you said is wrong, you're not a real fantasy writer unless you build your own language from scratch". Or anything along those lines. Comment at will, if you cross a line I promise I'll let you know.
lea_hazel: Pride flag (Politics: GLBTQ)
Nonbinary gendered characters are almost not common enough to have tropes associated with them. Almost, but not quite. The idea of a third gender, bigender, or agender is not actually that recent, after all. It seems to emerge independently, time after time. In modern media, these representations arise just often enough to have a handful of common tropes associated with them. Most of these are tied closely to speculative fiction, where one has the great privilege of learning that one's gender identity is inherently science fictional, alien, unrealistic. Some of them also appear in contemporary setting fictions, although those are less common and even more tied than usual to moral ambiguity.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
My new phone has a lot more space in it than the one that got stolen, so I have been lenient with downloading apps. For example, I downloaded a podcast app that lets me get new episodes wherever there is wireless, without having to remember what day everyone updates. I was wandering around looking for interesting podcasts and happened across Galactic Suburbia and their episode on the new Ghostbusters. I've been listening to it in bits and pieces since it's fairly long and I usually listen to podcasts on the bus.

It got me thinking again about what I did and didn't like about the movie. It also made me want to go look for a supercut of all the times the 2016 movie referenced iconic lines from the original, but that involves going on YouTube and I bet I don't need to explain why I don't want to do that.

Read more... )
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
I read historical romances once in a blue moon, when I have a craving for three hundred pages of their particular brand of frustration. Earlier in the weekend I picked one up on half a whim and have been tearing through it ever since. With some breaks.

Pro: crossdressing, briefly.

Con: heroine has that obnoxious protagonistic habit of insisting, over and over, that she's not pretty.

Read more... )

TV

Wednesday, 3 August 2016 22:22
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
I watched the whole of Stranger Things over the course of the last few days. My brother has been bugging me to see it. Not that he gave a plot synopsis or anything like that. He's gonna want to know what I think about it and I thought it was pretty meh. The only character I cared about was one, and I cared about them specifically because (without giving any explicit spoilers) the narrative seemed to dismiss their very existence.

How do I explain to my brother that this show was literally made for him?
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
Last night I finished The Cloud Roads, which I had intended to read for I don't know how long. Capped it off by downloading the preview for the second book of the trilogy, The Serpent Sea. I was reminded of it recently -- I had thought it was from a Writing Excuses cast with Martha Wells, but apparently they never had her on and I was confusing an episode about writing inhuman characters with the one where they recced the book. Probably because Ellen Kushner is another fantasy author I probably should have read years ago.

I enjoyed the book tremendously. The protagonist is male, which is usually a thing that would tamp down my interest. Because of the xenofic aspect, though (his species has about five biological sexes), there are aspects of his arcs which are.... Put it this way: you know how some people use slash fic as a way of examining vulnerability in detachment from femininity, to make it less personal? That. I am definitely working on a full review, but I was hoping someone in my circle had read it. Book's been out long enough that someone must have written on the subject, but I think I must be using the wrong search terms.
lea_hazel: Pride flag (Politics: GLBTQ)
On Monday evening I returned home from a grueling evening class, intending to "just quickly" check my social media before turning in. Now, normally I am a lot less active on Twitter than I am on Tumblr, but I like to check in and make sure that my account has something on it other than links to my blog posts. It was on this occasion that I discovered the hashtag #OwnYourOwn.

Own Your Own was started by the YA lit blog Interrobang and championed by Kaye M., a Muslim American YA writer and intersectional feminist activist. Read more... )
lea_hazel: Pride flag (Politics: GLBTQ)
This week was the one year anniversary of my becoming a full-time writer (in mentality if not in paycheck). Looking back on the good and the bad is sobering. On the one hand, I did not produce as many stories as I would have liked, or expected. My quality of end product is lacking. On the other hand, I can look back on a work of original fiction that I posted a year ago (Hail the Hunter) and think, "wow! that was a long time ago."

I consider that last one to be a pro. Read more... )

This subject is emotional to me, so most of the above is probably a meaningless mess of words. I will look back at it late rand be probably horrified. I just need to get it out right now, because it's been gnawing on my mind.
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
A few weeks ago, I posted to Tumblr a link to a game I wrote in Twine. Well, not exactly a game. This Twine story contains images of the Minor Arcana, the lesser-known component of the Tarot deck. The code allows you to select random cards and arrange them in one of three different ways, the better to exploit Tarot's rich history of symbolism as an aid to characterization.

Normally when I use Tarot cards, they serve primarily as a handy go-to source of writing prompts, perfect for little warm-up exercises when I'm having difficulty revving up the writer's engine. Read more... )
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
This is a story of how Person of Interest worked three long seasons to earn its surveillance dystopia, when other shows of the genre failed to show their work.

This week, Person of Interest returns to the screens for its fifth and final season. After a four season emotional roller-coaster, fans are eager but understandably apprehensive about the conclusion. No one promised us a happy end. In fact, as the show wore on, it became clear that its premise, which initially relied on crime drama with a thin dusting of ambiguous sci-fi, had become radically transformed. Viewers entering the fourth season now knew that the show's world presents a freshly budding dystopia dominated by a conscious and independent artificial intelligence.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
Diversity and representation have been climbing up the public agenda of late. When it comes to writing disabled characters, there are a few recurring pitfalls that I’d like to address.

Be Specific

You want to write a disabled character. First, you need to know what their disability is. “In a wheelchair” is not a disability. A wheelchair is a mobility aid, one of several different kinds available to the mobility-impaired. That’s your character, by the way. Did you mean, perhaps, that your character is paraplegic? Paralysis due to traumatic spinal injury is, again, one of many conditions that require or warrant the use of a wheelchair. Are you certain that you want your character to be paraplegic? True, this is the thing that most abled people think about (or avoid thinking about) when conjuring the mental image of a wheelchair. However, it is far from the only reason for someone to use a wheelchair.

Read more... )

This essay is not an encyclopedia; it’s barely an introduction. I hope, however, that it has given its readers some food for thought, for engaging with their own writing as well as the media they consume.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
Queen at Arms, a strategy and romance visual novel, first became known to me under the working title 'The Silent Princess'. Thankfully this title was dropped pretty quickly since, despite being accurate in the literal sense, it gives an entirely false impression of the game's content. Read more... )

Ultimately I would say QAA is a compelling game, although not an excellent one. What recommends it is that it tries to bring something new to the table, and in the experience it can offer to the player. Despite multiple romance paths, achievements and hidden secrets to discover, it has limited replayability value. Recommended with reservations.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
This is the story of how DC comics depowered Barbara Gordon.

For twenty five years, Barbara Gordon played the role of Oracle, a master-hacker and world-class information broken, leader of the Birds of Prey and a revolving roster of superheroines, and one of the smartest people in the DC universe. This Oracle persona was developed by John Ostrander and Kim Yale after her spine injury in the famous (or notorious) storyline The Killing Joke. This storyline was rightly criticized for treating Batgirl as a prop in a story that focused on the relationship between Batman and the Joker. The Killing Joke is commonly included in lists of “fridgings”, brutal plots visited on female characters, for the purpose of providing motivation for male characters.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Feel: RAEG)
Casil has immersed herself fully in a flawed understanding of disability that I tend to think of as the “character balance” fallacy. In a tabletop RPG, character types are generally written to be balanced, so that each player will have a fun and interesting experience. A swordfighter might be better at up-close combat but vulnerable to magical attacks, for example, while a mage might have the ability to shoot long-distance firebolts but be unable to wear much armor. Ideally, characters have equal advantages and disadvantages. Some games even have systems where you can “buy” advantages with disadvantages. Want more points to spend on more impressive spells? Find something that will make your character’s life more difficult, and maybe you can make that work.


Excerpted from Human flaws and disability: NOT the same thing by Tili Sokolov, because it struck me that it was an unusual but apropos perspective. I got there via Jim Hines' No, We’re Not All Disabled, a very even-toned takedown of the original blog post in question. Note that the original post, which Hines quotes extensively, is the kind of ablist bullshit that makes a weird vein pop in my forehead, so. Content note to those who don't need that toxicity in their lives on a Friday afternoon.

Now this just reminds me that I need to write more about "how (not to) write disability" and I've been putting it off.
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
Poor Supergirl. She never can seem to settle on a proper supporting cast of her very own. Sure, all comics superheroes go through endless permutations -- power changes, costume changes, forgettable one-off villains -- but always there is some sort of baseline to come back to. Always there is at least a mentor, or best friend, or love interest that recurs in every incarnation. And always, always a nemesis. A hero that doesn't manage to establish a proper rogues gallery is bound to falter.

Read more... )

The core idea behind the TV show, aside from Supergirl's ongoing efforts to achieve an independent reputation, seems to be that Kara, unlike Clark, actually remembers Krypton. This, I think, is a good start. How it progresses remains to be seen.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
The best thing about How to Get Away with Murder is Viola Davis.(1) The second best thing about HTGAWM is that it is a show about smart people making stupid decisions. I might have mentioned this is one of my favorite characterization themes. Annalise is brilliant from the start, shown to be both creative and ruthless in her problem solving abilities. She habitually takes the most difficult cases and prides herself on being able to turn around desperate situations.

Read more... )

(1) I may have teared up just a little when I found out she would be playing the incomparable Amanda Waller for DC's Suicide Squad movie.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: The outlook is somewhat dismal (Feel: Crash and Burn)
Feeling low-key worn down for a few days and wondering if it's a discipline problem, a motivation problem, or the weather getting to me. Then I receive some incontrovertible evidence of legit physical illness. In an unpleasing phase of matter. Most likely just an upper respiratory tract infection, best dealt with by taking hot showers and some OTC meds. If on Sunday I'm still feeling lethargic or have other symptoms, I'll make a doctor's appointment.

Meanwhile I want to talk about Blindspot. I have no idea whether any of my mutuals watches this show which I am still trying not to call "the Lady Sif show"* so I might be shouting into the void here.

See, the meta-plot of Blindspot, which used to be a two-bit sci-fi cliche revolving around amnesia and mysterious shadowy organizations (and maybe time travel)... is now about wire-taps. And illegal surveillance. And high-ranking members of named organizations having moral crises about whether the good they do outweighs the bad, and changing their minds, and then changing their minds back. Three characters struggling with the same choices in different ways, and none of them easy with the decisions they made.

I don't know where the hell the whole tattoos-predict-future-crimes angle of the show is going, and I'm not sure I (need to) care. Blindspot is now a show about power, and the people who abuse it, and whether or not they can believe that they're doing it for the greater good. I just... need to know where they're taking this. There are two more ultra-drama cliff-hanger type episodes followed by a long hiatus, and then the second half of the 22-ep season. And it's been renewed for season 2.

It's now officially more interesting than it has a right to be.

*I called Person of Interest "the Ben Linus show" for years.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
I've been thinking again on the dilemma of villains.

Common wisdom has it that every story needs a central conflict. Conflicts come in many varieties, and certainly are not restricted to individual antagonists. All the same, most of the stories we see in mass media are structured around the opposition of a protagonist and an antagonist, although not all antagonists can be termed villains. A villain can easily be considered as a special category of antagonist.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
I binge-watched the first season of Killjoys concurrently with reading Kameron Hurley's God's War. The latter sat at the top of my metaphorical TBR pile for years, after having received multiple enthusiastic recommendations. I started reading it and was quickly sucked in, although at intervals there were lulls in my reading. Not surprising, given the pervasive violence of the narrative, that now and then I needed a short breather.

Killjoys suffered somewhat in comparison... at first. Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

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