Preface

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Welcome to the blog and website of Hugo Jackson, author of The Resonance Tetralogy, and general creative person. Please feel free to explore the site as you please, and don’t be afraid to comment!

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BritFang Cosplay

Talk of Fame – The Problem with Furry Populism

Furry is an odd fandom. Aside from recent blockbuster animations like Zootopia and the Kung Fu Panda series, franchises like Starfox, and one-shot-shows and token characters in various other media, it is almost completely self-reliant for the content on which it feeds and grows. It all comes from within. Books, artwork, animation, even music (which arguably must be one of the hardest things to advertise as being specifically furry given that music itself doesn’t have a visual aspect and doesn’t always have words to denote the stylistic distinction). So it’s no surprise that, in an online community much like any other, there are also YouTubers, and, more recently, video game developers. Sometimes both at once.

L never wrong

So if you’re inclined to subscribe to any, prepare to hear this… a lot.

The whole fandom is kind of a franchising anomaly; you’d think that a community with a very finite pool of mainstream media content would have difficulty remaining cohesive and finding new things to do with itself, but I’m not sure anyone estimates the sheer creativity of this particular group. Aside from Steampunk, which has a far greater outside influence given its back-and-forth in literature, fashion, and media, furry is one of the few places where someone can be an entirely original creation and not be scoffed at. Anime or video game OCs don’t have that distinction, because the expectation is that you are always defined by the characters that already exist, and anything that diverts from the canon is pretty poorly considered, often dismissed as inferior. In furry fandom, everyone literally IS their own fanfiction creation, complete with everything that would guarantee a failing grade on any given Mary-Sue test. Furry is a living, breathing community of people’s uninhibited feelings and desires.

And that can be a real problem.

HOW DARE! DON’T TOUCH MY FAVES!

When I say ‘problem’, it’s less in the sense of ‘people shouldn’t be allowed to do that’ and more that ‘when there are no limits to the content we create for ourselves, we see the truest extent of people’s capabilities and psyche’. As anyone who’s looked through a YouTube comments section knows, the internet is a scary place, and it can get even scarier when you have a giant glittery wolf face grinning seductively at you from the other side of the screen with a million equally sparkly minions barking to the same tune. Or, if you don’t like canines, there are a few other figureheads you could grapple with, some without nearly as much head hair or moral scruples.

Kakashi

You know who I mean.

The hierarchy of infamy in Furry is typically dominated at the top level by fursuiters and artists/animators, because, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a hugely visual fandom. Writers, prominent Twitter users/bloggers, musicians, and most others tend to fall into an undulating mass underneath, with con organisers and web admins the free radicals that can be absolutely anywhere in that they do a heck of a lot and everyone seems to know who they are, but they generally maintain low visibility in photos or art. Except Dragoneer.

So when you have a fandom that essentially creates its own characters, when one starts to become more well-known and popular than others, usually via YouTube videos, memes, or insanely prolific social media accounts, they start to don the mantle of ‘popufur’, whether they want it or not. (You would assume, if they’re a YouTuber, that they do.) They become their own product to sell to the community.

And thanks to YouTube’s ad revenue, that’s totally a thing you can do now: market yourself. Whether it’s advice, goofing around, playing games, making ridiculously offensive remarks under the guise of comedy, commentary on current events in or out of fandom, or just a furry twist on anything else that hasn’t yet been ‘ruined’ enough, you can Do That Thing.

IMG_20170706_195423

And look, there they Do Those Things! (Image made by RhyeRhythm on Twitter)

Now, any celebrity, YouTuber or not, will know the double edged sword of popularity; your mere presence can be hugely polarising, and the more you do, the more intense the polarisation can become. Sticking to the thing you’re good or comfortable at is usually a safe bet, but there’s always a push to get more views, subscriptions, and money by extension. I get that. I consider every Tweet I make to be some kind of investment to selling my own books. You have to start thinking that way when your social media becomes your major marketing tool, and even moreso if it’s actually a source of income. There will likely come points where the character and person inside it become inseparable; anyone who is giving their very presence or personality as a selling point needs to have a sustainable way of doing so. When a person becomes the product they’re selling and their own means of production, unless they’re incredibly resilient, focused, open-minded, flexible, or determined, they will come up against conflict. And not everyone handles that well.

People need to remember that fame and success are very different things, and that both of these terms have very different interpretations depending on your perspective. Sadly most of this article so far is kind of a preamble to my main story, a personal case study of how a fandom with a community network that’s very intrinsic to its own sustainability starts to fall down when populism doesn’t reciprocate.

EdCB

Yep, sorry. Please take a break if you need it, it gets a little hot from here.

“Fame has only the span of a day, they say. But to live in the hearts of people- that is worth something.” – Ouida.

LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME

There’s no denying that, if you have a fursuit, it’s nice to be both noticed and appreciated. If you have a creation that you’re proud of, be it a book or piece of art, or video game, or music, it feels great to have it shared. And if you make a YouTube video or write a long post, having people laugh or console or engage with you (where appropriate) is great. There’s no reason you shouldn’t feel good for being able to engage with your passion in a constructive way. But you also have to understand that every path comes with obstacles, that you can never be all things to all people, and there will come times when your work will be criticised. I wrote a long post about my first bad review.

But…

Okay, here’s the context. This is not intended to be a hit piece, I promise. But it is a sincere attempt at an objective assessment of character and judgements as part of the furry fandom. And to be honest, it’s not unique to furries. There are Facebook pages you likely see every day that do exactly the same thing.

There’s a popufur who began his furry journey on Second Life, by the name of Klace Vakarian. As I’m sure most of the people who will be drawn to my blog will recognise, Vakarian is the last name of a character from Mass Effect.

me3_garrus_vakarian_3_by_chicksaw2002-d57v12b

AND HE IS BEAUTIFUL

I can’t really criticise here too harshly, because my fursona’s surname is Clow, a la CardCaptor Sakura. But Vakarian is a very obvious name to choose given the franchise’s popularity. It shows, on the surface, a potential for appropriation. And it’s not necessarily an unfounded observation when we see what happens later.

Klace Kickstarted a furry video game on Steam, called Major/Minor, presumably a reference to music given the prominent self-insertion of Klace’s popstar fursona and not a lift from a 2013 acoustic punk rock band from Ontario of the same name. Cool, furry video game! It was made with RPG Maker, so in the end it becomes more like a choose-your-own-adventure game, or slightly branching visual novel. I’ve never made a video game, but from what I hear this engine is pretty simple to get to grips with.

The gaming community is very particular about certain things; firstly, the presence of furries; secondly, quality of the game; thirdly, evidence of changes and information manipulation. The sheer mention of furries meant that it stuck out like a sore thumb (for both furries and its critics) in an indie market which had not yet been sufficiently tapped outside of flash games and Dust: An Elysian Tale. Trolls aside, at the time, furries were eager to take more or less anything they could consume.

But it wasn’t without its faults. It (and Klace) received a good amount of criticism for the game, which, for a first-time attempt, isn’t unexpected. I used to browse Kotaku and IGN a lot and I’ve seen even just from those brief minefield excursions that criticism often blurs the lines between creator and project; sometimes subconsciously, sometimes not. “What the hell was the writer/dev smoking?” would be one example of a sideways criticism that isn’t necessarily a direct attack, but definitely isn’t a great thing to read. But open criticism should be a fair process and any creator needs to take this into account. Even I grudgingly admit in the dissection of the negative review of Legacy that I should at least pay attention to the review’s points, even if they could be invalidated or dismissed later. I did not request the review to be removed, though. It’s not fair.

Klace did, however. He did it a lot. The biggest conspiracy around this game (oh, aside from the weird DMCA claim) was his continual flagging of negative reviews, much to the concern of many users and community members, and the bizarre decision to re-release the exact same game as a ‘complete’ version in order to create a completely new review standard, despite his assertions that people should ‘carry their reviews over’. If it’s not a different version of the game, why bother?

And that was even ignoring the content of the more constructive reviews, that foretold of similarities between his story and the Persona series, a hugely popular Japanese RPG series which has dialogue in a very similar format. Given the similarity of the language used between the two, I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been some kind of eye cast this way by Atlus.

We all want our work to succeed effortlessly, but criticism, if given properly, is not a personal attack. It can be embarrassing to know something you did has a flaw, or needs improvement, or has a plot hole, or whatever, but these are aimed at making These Things You Do better. Removing any form of negative remarks to try and instill an air of perfection is misleading and arrogant. And lots of people do this, not just Klace.

I’m not going to pass judgement on his game because I haven’t played it. I don’t intend to. There were rumours floating about that his version of RPG Maker was bootlegged, which may create some weird legal ramifications if  true, but I don’t know if they’re substantiated.

Persona 3

To be fair, the same thing happens to me when I see furry media almost anywhere.

But anyway, when I first discovered Klace it was on Facebook. Klace is a person who constructed his social media platform and spread word about his game by making memes of himself and sharing them ad infinitum, and adding literally anyone with a furry avatar that he could find. I was one of them. I figured with his enormous friends list (of FIVE THOUSAND, literally the maximum Facebook will allow) that he must be super popular or super important. For some emotional background, this was at a sensitive time for me when I was trying to become a sort-of-semi-professional cosplayer but had run into fairly debilitating drama.

This next part is my personal experience/beef with Klace that he likely has no idea about, but affected me in a pretty big way. I apologise that this will be a less objective section of the article. But I hope it will at least appear relevant as a demonstration of poor community interaction.

It’s here that I may have to admit to being the one who inspired him to make a Facebook page for his game, possibly. I glanced through his gargantuan friend list and his feed, to see everything on it was basically direct from him. Not necessarily unusual in and of itself. Or there was stuff from others, about him. Or fanart of him. Fan memes. Or the same thing of his I just saw, shared again two days later for more hits. It’s like he ate a Facebook ad service and was slowly puking it out in the form of selfies.

But anyway, I thought he at least seemed active and had a lot of people willing to interact with him and who took his approval very seriously. Feeling disheartened about my own lack of success in both cosplay and my dwindling book sales, I thought I’d try appealing to him for a share of my stuff. I’d already accepted his friend request by this point, and I was pretty new to the community so I perhaps pre-emptively expected too much from any interaction that wasn’t solely about him. I had my own facebook page for my books (you can see it here) and I thought, wow, if he has a reach of 5000 and a good load of engagement, maybe he’d be willing to share my page and give me a hand. And fuck, I needed the boost then. Over a year later, I still haven’t broken 200 likes.

I sent him an invite to my page before going to sleep, eagerly anticipating what interactions I might wake up to.

The next morning I log on to see no new likes on my page, no response to my invite, but my own invite to a BRAND NEW MAJOR/MINOR PAGE which already had over 500 likes. In a matter of HOURS.

Klace took a big, sparkly, pink-and-rainbow shit all over my face.

He and I are walking the same line, at different paces. We both want shares, financial stability, and appreciation for our work. But we’re worlds apart. Here’s me, an author who’s been pouring my soul into these books since 2006, desperate for even one more like or sale or share, trying to sell it on its own merits and not become someone who has to post about it every few minutes and irritate the community I’m trying to sell it to. Here’s him, using a crowd he’s built using suggestive artwork and cute selfies in a fursuit head by a very talented maker, whose video game endeavours may as well have already been funded for life.

How many people on your friends list right now use Patreons, or Ko-Fi, or have a pinned Tweet that says ‘commissions always open’? How many times a day on your feed do you see ‘If you can’t commission, please RT/share?’. When your platform literally has the ability to fund an entire video game’s worth of development in less than a week, imagine what you could do for the community.

So I can’t lie, I was pretty fucking crushed to see that kind of selfishness from a substantial bulwark of the community that I had only recently felt confident enough to open my heart to. It put me off trying to write or engage with people for quite a long time, and as you can tell, I’m still pretty bitter about it given he has over 30 times the amount of followers I do on Twitter and frequently boasts about how his haters can’t understand how he got $30,000 worth of funding in under a day. That’s over twice what I make in a damn year. And if you’re still here reading this, it’s got to sound like I’m sitting on and slowly absorbing, through one end or another, a huge bunch of sour grapes. You wouldn’t be wrong.

paper tear

So… yeah. I have felt like doing this to my books a few times over this.

Sorry, I said this wouldn’t be a hit piece. I got distracted. Because it fucking hurt. But you see the effect negligence can have if you’re deemed unimportant by someone. That’s a big problem when you’re part of a very inter-connected and generally insular community, and especially if you’re trying to make yourself a figurehead of it.

But that’s just you, right?

Well, yes, and no. Because this attitude isn’t a one-time opportunity snub. It happens a lot online, and especially in the cosplay/fursuit community. I see people frequently complain about fursuit and artist elitism. Klace isn’t unique in that regard, sadly. On the other hand, you can’t expect everyone to share everything just because they have reach. It would be legitimately overwhelming. So there has to be a balance. But using him as an example again, you can read between the lines in his feed that everything he shares is to do with him, or a meme that he’s taken from somewhere else instead of retweeting it from the source.  Because if you take it for yourself, you get all of the exposure for the share. You see where this appropriation habit sneaks in? There are entire bootleg empires on Facebook set up that do ONLY this, and are sickeningly effective at it. Klace didn’t take anything directly from me except the concept of owning a Facebook page for a project. But it’s simple common courtesy: if you ask people to like your page, you typically like theirs back. That’s how a community works and grows organically. Asking someone for a share without the offer of anything in return is a poor show, and, if you put it in the more tangible context of an art trade, which I see a lot on Facebook, damn inexcusable.

Maybe it was coincidence that he happened to make his page at the same instance that I sent him my invite. I’m sure he’ll say that’s what it was, but the timing was fucking shit, to be blunt.

The problem with an attitude like this in a community that is absolutely, fundamentally reliant on itself for the creation of its content is that your platform starts to become higher and thinner the further you climb, to a point where getting toppled is remarkably easy. The less you give, the less inclined people will be to support you when you absolutely need it, and the quicker you’ll fall into obscurity at the end of it. If all you have to fall back on is:
a) a suit someone else made for you
b) art someone else draws for you
c) memes of yourself

and you give nothing back except the SHEER GIFT THAT IS YOUR VERY PRESENCE BECAUSE OMG IT’S *INSERT FURSONA HERE* SQUEE, your magical shell of saleability starts to look mighty thin.

And more importantly, when you steal memes (or art, more drastically) and take credit away from the source, you’re actively damaging the community by shitting on the little guy and taking away their fair share of a voice. I have always felt that you should be judged by your own merits, and the content you create yourself in earnest, and the way you treat others, are a big part of that. Mara Wilson is great at calling out people who steal others’ Tweets, and she is fortunate enough to be in a position where she could choose not to care entirely. But that level of understanding breeds a better, stronger community at the base of it and encourages everyone to try for their own achievements. If they’re always being overshadowed by the popular guy who steals all their quotes and memes to try and further solidify their platform, they’ll very quickly get discouraged, and may leave the community entirely.

This point is paramount: your popularity or success should never come at the sacrifice of others. Be honest, and if you support others, you’d be surprised what you would get in return.

I may begrudge my Twitter numbers by comparison to others, but damn if those I know and talk to on a regular basis aren’t some of the most supportive and encouraging people I’ve ever met. And I don’t have to keep mentioning myself and looking cute for them to talk to me, which is an absolute blessing. I feel proud to share art and creations by others; shock horror, even books that could potentially directly compete with mine! Because we’re in the same boat, ultimately. Their success becomes a gateway for mine, and vice versa. It makes sense to bring everyone up alongside you because that’s how a community becomes stronger and opens new pathways for wider success further down the line.

When all you have to sell is yourself, give nothing back, and show no support to your fellow creators, you’re not part of the community, you’re just a product. And products expire.

Major/Minor did not push any boundaries in my view. One of his major talking points and favourite self-memes is that Major/Minor is ‘clean’ furry material, i.e., no adult content, as if that was somehow a new concept. Legacy and Fracture are non-adult. Klace would have known that if he had bothered to take time to look at my book. I’m not even the only clean author/creator around, not by a long shot. And Klace will frame Tweets of his own clean-media praise with pictures of himself in underwear straddling another fursuiter, in obscenely tight underwear, or coyly tell people *giggle* “don’t search for me on this porn site, you’ll burn your eyes” as if he was some black-and-white movie harlot trying to seduce Clark Gable. It comes off as insincere and opportunistic when juxtaposed in this way.

For one final demonstration of this attitude of appropriation, we’ll look at the Furry YouTubers image I posted earlier. Klace took hold of it and announced that he’d be there as well, but he altered it.

 

See the difference? Top right. Instead of putting himself in, say, the black space in the lower-right center, he pastes himself directly over a user called ZennieTweets. That may denote a history I’m not aware of, but regardless, it’s blatantly tactless.

Oh, and no credit to the original user who likely spent a considerable amount of time and effort to put these guys into this image in the first place: RhyeRhythm. But at this point, did you expect anything different?

smileoptimism

Yeah. I’m going to bed.

ADDENDUM: Because I’m an anxious twerp, I want to stress this point: I believe ‘popufur’ is a state of mind or particular subset of behaviours, the idea that popularity is the end goal over success of creative content. YouTubers and fursuiters are not automatically popufurs. Any community member or creator could easily fall into these traps, and I almost did when I was trying to become a popular cosplayer. If you’re conscientious, kind, humble, and actually boost the community that supports you instead of seeing yourself as separate, above, or removed from it to take advantage of its generosity and excitability, then you’re already way out of danger.

Wonder Woman: Things It Got Wrong, And Stuff It Did Right

Wowee, it’s been a long time since I was last on here.

Anyway, seeing as I’m trying to get back into writing again I thought it’d be a good idea to flex my fingers and start the gears grinding by writing up some thoughts on Wonder Woman, after seeing it with my wife this last weekend. We talked about it afterwards for a long time, and these are a mix of both our thoughts about it.

I will start by saying it is a good movie, probably DC’s best in latest memory. Still suffered from the over-serious washed-out colour plates that make everything look like it’s been hidden inside a neglected swimming pool for too long, but eh, I’m used to everything being mostly shades of grey in theatres now.

Gray.Fullbuster.full.464204

Not this Gray. Although admittedly, it would make movies a lot more compelling.

Oh, heavy spoilers follow, by the way.

So, What Went Wrong?

Initially, it looked fantastic. Little Diana was the rebellious, battle-starved little Amazonian I hoped she would be, but very quickly after she entered adulthood, her agency and presence was taken away from some fairly lazy storytelling mistakes.

A Stronger Girl Than A Woman

Firstly, the establishment of her as a fighter was great, and we absolutely needed to see that. She has trained almost her entire life to beat people up and this culminated in her unleashing a small piece of her as-yet-undiscovered goddess powers on her beloved teacher. But the second a threat enters Themiscyra in the form of some angry Germans chasing Chris Pine, she is relegated to hiding behind a rock.  Chris Pine immediately removes her autonomy and pulls her behind it, and she hasn’t even witnessed the effect of their rifles at this point. She has waited her WHOLE LIFE for a fight, it arrives on her beach, and she loses almost all of the passion which we’ve seen in her up to this point. She always defers to her mother, but she was throwing shields and arrows AT HER FRIEND’S FACES not minutes earlier and this one man who has proved nothing superior about himself except his lack of buoyancy manages to strip her of a chance to have stood on the beach and threaten the Germans away like she already has the power to do.

You could argue that she was shell-shocked from almost explodifying Cool Mom Antiope and embarrassing herself in front of Real Mom Hippolyta, but this brings up an inherent conflict in her portrayal. Here she is, demonstrably the most proficient and powerful fighter in all of Amazonia, brought up to know that Nobody Must Ever Find This Island and We Are Here For A Reason, and also from very early on that Men Are Very Corruptible and Ares Is Out There. She knows all of these things. It is literally in her very being as the God Killer weapon made by Zeus. But she became a deer in the headlights when faced with the arrival of men. Part of this may be due to the contradictory nature of the Amazonians themselves, a race of women eternally training for a war which their leader is in denial (or fear) of ever happening. That doesn’t make focus easy. But this was a Diana who was JUMPING OFF A FUCKING CLIFF just to avoid her babysitter. Tiny Diana was fearless, rebellious, and wanted to kick ARSE, Her behaviour at the beach doesn’t quite ring true, and while this is essentially the first step of Diana becoming the figurehead for the Amazonians and there needs to be some kind of growth to her emotions, at this point in the journey she’s far less headstrong than when she was a child. I’m not ever sure whether she really regains that over the course of the movie, either.

wwbarda

Regardless, Wonder Woman has nothing on Big Barda.

It is still a good movie.

Amaz-oh no-nians

Antiope is a tactician. The best Tactician Mom, if Worried Mom Hippolyta is to be believed. I wonder if the movie confused ‘tactician’ with ‘combatant’ though, because she is remarkably efficient at fighting, but it is very basic military tactics that if your archers have the high ground, YOU DON’T GET DOWN. Now, granted, they are facing guns, which they have never been up against before, but even then, assuming that the guns used are the German Gewehr 98, which were used a lot in the Ottoman Empire (I wasn’t paying that much attention to the rifles in the movie so they may be different models), with iron sights they only had an effective range of about 550yds, AND they’re firing up against gravity, which vastly influences their aim and the force of their bullets. Especially given the size of the cliff (we’re given an extraordinary view of Diana jumping off it to save Steve), a few steps backwards would have completely negated the German’s ability to shoot any of them at all, and they’d be completely at the mercy of intense cavalry and infantry charges.

But, Antiope, or whichever overexcited Amazonian had been watching too much anime that day, decided to try out her Attack on Titan moves to swing down and shoot the invaders first-hand, which not only lowers her into a more effective line of sight for her enemy, but also completely removes her advantages of angle and stability when aiming. There’s a lot of overchoreography of the fights in Wonder Woman, and this is probably the worst instance of it. Anyway, the Amazonian gets shot, and dies.

The Amazonian who has been training her whole life, is physically pristine, gets shot in the abdomen and dies by a single bullet. There are soldiers with absolutely zero training who are less goddess-like who’ve sustained multiple gunshot wounds and have still survived to kill dozens of enemies. It was just… it was very unnecessary. It was a plot-convenient death to spurn Diana into action. It should not have been this way. Diana should always have been ready to fight. If they needed to be shot on the beach, they needed to come directly to the beach, and not essentially remove themselves from a hugely tactical position. It’s just not very smart. And I would feel that way about any movie tactician/troop making that decision, not just because they’re women. If they are supposed to be military elites, especially incredibly well-read ones given Diana’s praise of their library, they need to be portrayed that way.

Ikakku wrong

The longer you look, the worse it gets.

It is still a fun movie.

Princess on Parade

The movie continues with Diana’s trip to England, and this is where the worst betrayal of her character happens in my view, if only because it’s so consistent and subtle that you don’t quite notice it until you reflect on it.

An awful lot of Diana’s exposure to WWI London is played for laughs. Firstly, Steve (Chris Pine’s character) implores that she cover herself up. Diana, in her sacred armour of the goddesses, doesn’t even protest. She is given the meagre retort of ‘Well, what do women wear here?’, but is given no opportunity to be proud of her heritage, her body, or encourage other women around her to do the same for themselves. It’s so representative of what women actually go through that I don’t even know if it’s a commentary or not that she gave minimal resistance. She’s treated like a nuisance or an embarrassment and the excuse given (by Steve) in the movie is that she needs to abide by the UK’s customs. This is not how I wanted to see Wonder Woman treated. She should have strode right into London, armour blazing (which is hard to do when your saturation levels are set so low), and giving no apology to Steve for anything that she is. She is an Amazonian Fucking Princess. And she’s pushed and shuffled around by him like a confused relative, or an exuberant foreign exchange student nobody really wants to deal with. Which I guess is not that far from the truth from Steve’s point of view.

This diminishing treatment of her is further amplified when she walks into the meeting of the ministers. They all stop talking, appropriately, because she’s FUCKING WONDER WOMAN, and begin their sexist comments about how she shouldn’t be there, because she’s NOT DRESSED LIKE FUCKING WONDER WOMAN. Instead of using the silence to empower herself, sit on a bench and say ‘Carry on”, like the badass she should be and without being given the opportunity to approach them as she did the Themiscyran senators earlier in the movie, she just makes a few quiet noises and obeys Steve’s herding back into the antechamber.

Steve kind of ruins the movie for her. There’s so much focus being given to how he keeps trying to protect her outside of battle that she isn’t given a chance to show strength of character. She fights like the best of any superhero, but at any other time she plays right into the direction Steve is facing, because he is already facing that way. Exception is made to her infiltrating the gala, and her assaulting the German trenches, and these are the points there should have been more of during the movie. Not just her fighting, but her taking a stand instead of being ushered from place to place and being told that her mission to defeat Ares was all secondhand to Steve’s suicide mission in the war.

ww wet chris pine

And, disappointingly, his pants.

It’s still an important movie.

Blunder Woman

My wife mentioned this, and I hadn’t really noticed it before now; there’s only one woman in the movie who could be considered ‘normal’, the terribly British Etta Candy. Etta spends about as much time diminishing Diana as Steve does with downplaying her beliefs and habits as bizarre quirks that should be subdued for the sake of acting ‘properly’, although she does it in a much less insidious way because she appears ready to take her place as Angela Lansbury’s cheerful, bouncy, younger reincarnation. Her awkwardness is a stark contrast to Diana’s elegance, however. You’re either a goddess or a well-meaning bluster of tea and purple tweed and there’s nothing inbetween. Oh, or disfigured and undesirable, as is the case with Dr Poison. A play is made by Steve trying to seduce the Dr at the gala, and for a time she’s almost taken in, apparently because her disability prevents her from getting the affection she desperately needs. She begins to fawn, and suddenly snaps out of it when she sees Steve looking over her shoulder at Diana when she gatecrashes the ball (by knocking an old lady unconscious, we are led to believe). So here you have a woman who, despite having incredible knowledge of chemistry and a burning (hah) desire to further her work, is almost completely seduced by a man within ninety seconds of his arrival, and is so embittered by jealousy as soon as she sees another woman in his view, that she storms off. It’s such an awful trope straight from a high school drama.

Not even Wonder Woman HERSELF was safe from Steve’s ridiculous charms. What’s slightly disturbing about the way relationships like this develop in a story where you have a woman who doesn’t understand her surroundings or is very out of place, is it almost feels like she gets persuaded to have sex by a man who has secure footing. Steve knows his world. He knows he wants sex. He even mentions it their very second time alone together, on the boat. But Diana regards his nudity with an almost girl-like innocence when she sees him in the bath, and even though she delivers the fantastic line “when it comes to procreation, men are essential, but for pleasure, not necessary”, she still gets talked into bed with him at around the beginning of the third act. It’s just… yes, he’s the first man she’s ever met. She does not have to sleep with him. He’s obstructive and pushy and secretive and literally denounced her ideas as crazy, and yes, very attractive, but she’s WONDER WOMAN. Wonder Woman should not be that easy.

All of the other women on screen (civilians, mostly) are victims begging for help; even Dr Poison’s brilliance turns out to have been manipulated by Ares so we never even discover how much of her work is genuinely hers, or even whether Ares invented the ideas FOR her. All of their foundations, except the Amazonians, are based on the actions of others. And Wonder Woman herself acts so rarely on her own that the movie may well have starred Steve from the beginning.

So as much as Wonder Woman is a movie that needed to happen, there are no capable women who aren’t already goddesses. And that’s… not very feminist. There’s no Peggy Carter, who loved Steve Rogers so completely yet still held her own against him in an argument and beautifully in her own series. I wanted Diana to be Peggy. Unashamed of her goals and unafraid of what the world thought of her, even if it was one she’d never set foot in before. DC has beaten Marvel to the punch by making the premiere Hollywood blockbuster woman superhero movie that should always have been available, but they didn’t do the best they could. It wouldn’t even pass the Bechdel test (not that that’s necessarily the best indicator of a movie’s strength of character, mind you, but it’s something to consider).

sad WW

Yep, that about sums it up.

It’s still a movie you should see.

Well, crap, did ANYTHING work?

There were three parts of the movie that were great.

First, young Diana. Awesome, every little girl should have that much spirit in her, and after seeing how eager she was to be strong, THAT’S how the movie should have continued.

Secondly, her busting out in armour to assault the German trenches because she’d FINALLY had enough of following Steve around for half a damn movie was amazing. Seeing her sprint and leap into enemy strongholds was phenomenally powerful, especially given the current political rhetoric that’s trying to limit or control women’s bodies and autonomy RIGHT THIS MINUTE, that image is something that should be seared into the mind of every woman when someone tries to infringe on their beliefs. And my wife was saying that moment, where Diana says “I must do this, there is no other choice”, that she herself has felt that way, it’s a very feminine thing to act instinctively when there’s a wrong that needs to be corrected. That’s the kind of empowerment I want to see from any hero, especially of marginalised race, sexual characteristics, weight, age, gender, anything.

Finally, the thing that I liked most about the movie was how Ares treated Diana. He knew from the very beginning that she was a weapon. Not once did he ever consider her less than an equal to him because she was a woman. He knew she was a threat, or an equal, which made his conversation with her even more powerful, and the climactic fight even more intense. If you can write a VILLAIN that treats a woman that respectfully, why is it so hard to get the PROTAGONIST to do it?

exhausted

A new, potentially better, Wonder Woman movie could be built around this line alone.

The bottom line is, it’s still a movie that will inspire millions. It’s a movie that should set a precedent that the formula CAN and DOES work, and that it can be done better than any time before. Women creators, POC creators, LGBTQIAP creators, young creators, ANYONE, should be able to see how a hero can be or do anything. And damn, if it isn’t about time we had some decent representation in superhero movies.

Just… do it a little more thoroughly next time, please?

 

New Review! Cosplay! Acting!

Following on from my last, rather vocal post, here’s something much more satisfying to talk about: another review! This one is by David Popovich of Bookworm Reviews, and it’s a video!

I’ve never had a video review before so this was very exciting. And he was certainly fair, too. I’ve never considered Legacy to follow groundbreaking or vastly original ideas, but I’m really glad that he enjoyed it and considered the tropes used well (even if they are well-used). Best comment: “It’s like reading an anime.” That was the highlight for me, especially as I’ve been influenced a lot by anime for a good seventeen years or so now, that he thought it came across in my writing is a great compliment for me. That’s the style that I see playing through my head when I write.

Not gonna lie, I was kind of like this thinking about it over the last few days

Not gonna lie, I was kind of like this thinking about it over the last few days

So that was all at once an awesome surprise, a great relief, and a big motivation. Fracture is going through some more ‘final first draft’ edits (that I’m actually a little overdue on, erk) and I managed to get a lot done after watching the review last night. I hope to finish it this morning, not least because I have a butt-ton of other stuff to accomplish this weekend. Most principally of which is…

COSPLAYING ALL THE THINGS

I haven’t mentioned my cosplay at all yet because I was waiting for some photos to be taken that weren’t of me looking confused or standing in THAT ONE POSITION I ALWAYS STAND IN FOR EVERY PHOTO so finally I have something to share.

Ain't no thing like me, 'cept me... and a few others.

Ain’t no thing like me, ‘cept me… and a few others.

Boom. Or, more like, whirrrrr....

Boom. Or, more like, whirrrrr….

The above two photos are by Tomisina Lynn Portrait Photography, by the way.  This is my Rocket Raccoon, although I don’t expect anyone currently on the internet to not know what Guardians of the Galaxy is. I also have a comic book version that won me a first prize at Oak City Comic Con in Raleigh this year:

Scooby Doo took a turn for the awesome, finally

Scooby Doo took a turn for the awesome, finally

And there’s my Beowulf from Rooster Teeth’s RWBY series.

No, it's not a bear, and I'm not doing that thing they supposedly do.

No, it’s not a bear, and I’m not doing that thing they supposedly do.

New acapella album coming soon: Jazz and Howling

New acapella album coming soon: Jazz and Howling

Photos are also by Tomisina Lynn

You can follow all of my cosplay ramblings and progress photos at BritFang Cosplay on Facebook. DragonCon is my next big upcoming event, sort of our yearly pilgrimage, and it’s going to be a big one with lots of amazing dehydration. Just as well it’s only minor repairs left, because I’ve had even MORE projects that I’ve been involved with, although very few are currently ready to advertise because they’re not finished yet. I do have these two, though:

Redwall Audio Drama (Fan-Made)
Escape Pod Episode 484: That Tear Problem

I do voice acting projects now. Once I have time after DragonCon I will audition for more, but to be honest it’s been a very intense few months, so time management will be essential… especially when you have a habit of wanting to do everything at once.

Me vs. my head. I don't know which is which.

Me vs. my head. I don’t know which is which.

So that’s an update from me! Stay tuned in another two months for more insecurities and self-assurances!

So I got my first negative review of Legacy on GoodReads…

And I wanted to address it, because for one thing, despite only being posted last month, it refers to the very first version I self-published in 2010, so pre- Inspired Quill edits.

Kuzco knows the score.

Kuzco knows the score.

I’ll post the review, by user ‘Anila’ below:

Post-nuclear-apocalypse furries wielding magic crystals.

Honestly. I’m struggling to talk about this book without just… pointing to that sentence up there and raising my eyebrows. I should probably play nice because this was a Kindle freebie but really. Post-nuclear-apocalypse furries, I swear, what the actual hell.

Okay, okay. An attempt at a real review, in some form.

– Plot: Balanced between ‘completely transparent’ and ‘where the fuck did that come from and why didn’t you bother to foreshadow it’, with the former dominating the earlier portions of the book and the latter taking up much of the conclusion. Note that when I say ‘balanced’ I don’t mean that it all came out well, ’cause it didn’t: the stuff that was completely obvious was often ignored by the characters, which left them looking stupid, and the things that came out of left field were crucial to the plot, which meant pretty much the whole conclusion of the book just had to be swallowed whole. Also, the epilogue jumps two years and just roughly summarizes the interval, in which all kinds of interesting things and developments happened, in a few paragraphs. Really?

– Setting: Grandiose self-aware infodumps that really, honestly, read like a child’s history essay at points. Completely inconsistent technology/awareness thereof – no one is confused when ancient secrets about nuclear physics become a topic of discussion, yet they’re still predominantly wielding swords and bows. Is this supposed to be a medieval-tech society? Is it industrial? Is it electronic? I HAVE NO IDEA, and apparently neither did the author.

– Writing: Started off on a bad foot with countries being referred to as “sovereigns” (that means ruler, not nation) and carried on from there with words that were either incorrectly applied or just plain made up. “Malefically” remains my favorite of the ones that don’t actually exist.

– Characters: Stock fantasy tropes, occasionally with a side of annoying (whatsisface the raccoon) or just plain dumb (the guy who, given the opportunity to kill his lifelong rival and one of the major antagonists, FAILED TO STAB THE DUDE AND NECESSITATED YET ANOTHER LONG DRAWN-OUT SWORDFIGHT WHICH ALMOST KILLED HIM). Relationships were predictable and uncomplicated, and I just generally don’t give a fuck.

Basically: If you want sword and sorcery with woodland creatures, read Redwall. If you want innovative epic fantasy, read any number of other series – if it’s the young female protagonist who must learn to master her powers that gets you, I suggest The Final Empire. But at the end of the day there isn’t enough originality in the concept nor quality in the execution to make this one worth your while.


Much review. So wow.

Much review. So wow.

Okay, so initially that wasn’t easy to read for me, as it’s not particularly polite, but whatever- I’m over it now. As soon as I hit the first sentence I figured it was going to be written by someone who thinks the idea of furry fiction as a whole is pretty laughable. If, on a profile, you write a big declaration that you get HONEST reviews (in big capital letters that MEAN SOMETHING, DUH), generally you’re assured that someone is going to be outspoken and phrase things combatively.

There’s a difference between being honest and being rude. For someone so particular about word definitions, I would suggest learning it.

The main points I take from this:
-Anila took almost as long to review this book as it has taken me to write my second.
-Criticism of the word ‘sovereign’ being used as a term for nation is fairly petty. It’s a fantasy novel, people use unique terms for things all the time, even ‘made up words’ that are apparently so abhorrently amusing. If you’re going to be a reviewer of fantasy books, best prepare for some disappointment if this particular trope bothers you.
– ‘Malefically’ (adverb: ‘in a malefic manner’) is so a word. Even if it isn’t listed by most dictionaries, it’s not a stretch to see that ‘malefic’ actually is, and that ‘ally; is normally added to words to create an adverb form. Getting pedantic over alternative definitions or extractions of words pisses me off. I was criticised at one point for using the word ‘decimated’ as a synonym for ‘ravaged’: I got a comment that read “what, they had 1/10 of the population killed?”. If that’s your favourite definition, then fine, good for you, but there’s another: ‘ kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of ‘. Congratulations on your short-sightedness.
-Foreshadowing is apparently meant to reveal the whole story before it happens. Someone who admits they ‘generally don’t give a fuck’ isn’t going to notice it.
-Reading the ‘in progress’ comments under the review, the reviewer shows more lack of attention to detail, probably brought on by my ‘rough’ writing and poor use of tropes. When Maaka (the surgeon, a falcon) operates, she criticises that BIRDS DON’T HAVE HANDS. Correct. Maaka uses tools strapped to his wings, and objects operated by his beak. He never has hands. Bravo for observation on that one.
-Old review is old.

Too many useful applications for this gif right now, I'm spoilt for choice.

Too many useful applications for this gif right now, I’m spoilt for choice.

Reading this has actually made me aware of some inconsistencies I need to address, like the disparities between the older technologies and Eeres’ current portrayal, and my tendency to infodump (which my editor already brought up with me during the edit for the new version ALMOST THREE YEARS AGO) but I’ll be going through with further revisions of Legacy fairly soon anyway as my publisher goes through its back catalogue.

And considering it’s still averaging a solid 4-star plus rating, I’m not too worried. You can’t please everyone. I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope for a greater response from a Fullmetal Alchemist and Sabriel fan, but never mind. It’s not like every anime/manga/book fan is going to be nice. I don’t even mind (object as much to) a bad review as such if it’s phrased intelligently. But, well…

Yep.

Yep.

Still, I got two stars. That’s more than her review of Game of Thrones, so screw those guys.

I’ll Hold You To That

The title was something someone said to me when I confirmed I’d hopefully be able to update them on a project towards the end of the week. I don’t know if it can be considered innocuous or if I’m just stressed, but it really pissed me off. Probably unnecessarily so. I’m working pretty hard at the moment (although I’m not sure I’m able to say specifically in what capacity), doing a lot of things for other people, and for one that I’ve already been helping both automatically and at their request to say that felt… like a kick up the arse, but not in an encouraging way that I normally appreciate. There’s a group of around a dozen people I’m working with/for, a lot of whom I haven’t been able to touch specifically because I’m working on projects for both this person and someone else. It just jades me when I felt I had started to get on top of things.

I guess you can always do more. But it’s not like I don’t have my own stuff that I really want to finish. I’m a little over a third of the way through Fracture’s edits, and there’s some amazing cover artwork for it that’s coming on really well that I’m desperate to show everyone. And even aside all that, I have an enormous laundry list of projects that I want to finish in my lifetime one way or another.

I actually have a pillow on my desk for this very purpose

I actually have a pillow on my desk for this very purpose

My Wish List

This one’s a little flipped round, because this is a wish list of things that come from me, not to me from others. This is what I have in my head at any give time, for all the projects I want to do. This might explain why it annoyed me so much.

Writing

In the Resonance Tetralogy
Fracture (in edits)
Ruin’s Dawn (started)
Resonance End (plotting)
Spiritus Ex (plotting)

In The Song Chronicle of Thera (Steampunk series)
Firesong: Ballad of Phoenix the Blade (started)
Moonsong: Fugitive of the Snow
Therasong: Heart of the World

In Clandestine
Book One: Protectors
Book Two: Shieldbreaker
Book Three: Tears

Other writing projects
Fantasy Stereotype High School (plotted)
Aeterno (plotted)
Foundation (plotted)
If You Think That’s Hell, You Should Try Working Here (plotted)
The Story of Phoenix the Mechanical Werewolf and Tohru the Electric Corgi: A Steampunk Children’s Tale (drafted, published on Tumblr; would like to get illustrated some day)

Being even half this productive would be great right now

Being even half this productive would be great right now

Costume Projects
Rocket Raccoon (2-3 outfits)
Steampunk Werewolf Mk III (because two isn’t enough punishment for me, apparently. It’s just the head, though. Probably)
Pangolin Fursuit
Mega Lucario
Yugo (from Wakfu)
Mystogan (I swear if it doesn’t work this time I’m going to kill you, you bastard)

Miscellaneous
Voice acting projects, auditions are always ongoing). I’ve been really lucky to be involved with some great productions so far, not least of which includes guest narration of episode 484 of the fantastic Escape Pod podcast. My episode is called That Tear Problem, by Natalia Theadoridou, and you can listen to it here
I have ideas for various comedy podcasts that I haven’t even been able to plan yet, but they’re a distant second to every other item on this list at the moment.

And this doesn’t even mention the stuff I do for work. How hard I work will determine what I get paid. I order for this to be sustaining, I need to dedicate time to my work, or I lose the opportunity to take time to work on what I want to.

In terms of deadlines, only one of these has a specific time limit aside from my work work, and that’s the Rocket Raccoon costume, which I want to get done for Animazement at the end of May. Fracture, unfortunately, while I will get the edits done as soon as I can, may sit impatiently for its release window, as my publishers are fully booked for this year’s novel releases. Small presses have immense respect for artistic integrity, and there’s nobody I would trust more than Inspired Quill with handling my books, but unfortunately it’s partly the nature of the beast that you can only manage a certain number of releases per year until you can widen your foundations. I have always wanted to keep my books affordable and if I self-published it, I’d be forced to charge a fairly unreasonable minimum price to get a markup that would earn me a living.

Pictured: current events

Pictured: current events

So while I know I’m not always great at keeping with things, it’s not like I’m being lazy. Please don’t accuse me of that. If I’m TRULY not doing anything, I’ll have to convince myself that I might actually deserve it, even just for a little while.

Because if there’s one person who has always told me ‘I’ll hold you to that,’ and unforgivably so, it’s me.

Endings and Beginnings

It’s been a while since I last posted in here, and there I was thinking that I’d turned over a new leaf in productivity.

Well, I have now!

Fracture’s manuscript is finally finished. It needs editing and it’s a little shorter than Legacy so far, but there’s a lot in there. I hope I can do justice to all the great comments people have been sending my way. Thank you again for all your encouragement. It means the world to me.

To give some background as to what I’ve been up to and why this is ACTUALLY different: I quit my full-time job to write; specifically to finish up the Resonance Tetralogy and dedicate myself more to my passions and try to make them part of my living. They’ve been in my head and part of my dreams for such a long time. I couldn’t take having to restrict myself from them any longer. I’ve been very lucky to be supported in this, and I will try my hardest to get everything finished quickly. I think I’ll have a much greater incentive to do that from now on. No distractions, no excuses. Except cosplay, but that won’t take over my life so extensively. I swear.

funny-anime-girl1

This happens a lot when I’m writing. Or making costumes. Just generally.

So, what happens now?

I write. Passionately and extensively. I’ll also pepper this blog with updates so everyone can know what I’m up to and what the status of the book is, where you can get it from, and various other things I’m doing either in conjunction with Resonance or separate from it. This’ll mainly stay a creative blog though. But I’m always happy to answer questions, and if something is of particular interest to me I’ll make an article out of it. I’m looking forward to that.

Plus there's that real world crap to catch up with. Ugh.

Plus there’s that real world bollocks to catch up with. Ugh, I’m so behind.

So, as a teaser for the next few weeks/months… you guys like artwork, right?

Cool.

I will be pre-emtively excited while dropping infuriating hints, to you all, bwahaha.

I will be pre-emptively overexcited while dropping infuriating hints to you all, bwahaha.

 

Bright Young Things

So I’m really into Wakfu now. For those who don’t know it, it’s a French animated series based on an MMORPG (or MMPORG, if you get the reference), and stars a young Eliatrope (being who can control portals) called Yugo. He’s awesome. He hadn’t been on the screen for more than a few seconds (well, after we saw him as a baby) and I’d already decided I had enough of an affinity with him to cosplay him in the future, because he’s that damn cool. He’s kind and optimistic and capable, and I’m actually a little blown away by how taken I am with him. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised though, because I am still dedicated to the Mysterious Cities of Gold series, and Esteban was full of exuberance and adventure and good will, even if he did tend to get himself into danger a lot. Naruto is a similar character, albeit a lot more outspoken and defiant (and rude). And the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series followed Aang, who had nothing but compassion for the world, and struggled to see it brought to peace, and was dedicated to making his friends happy and safe. He’s my favourite part of that three-series journey, as he leads it perfectly.

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again...

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again…

It just brings to mind the reactions people have had to Legacy; specifcally to Tierenan, the deuteragonist (of sorts) who travels with Faria and follows her adventure.

A Hero Who Didn’t Know He Was A Hero

Without exception, everyone who’s spoken and written to me about Legacy has told me how much they like Tierenan. He’s run away with my audience, heh. And he deserves it- he’s a very cool guy, and I don’t think any of the other characters would complain that he gets as much praise as he does. The weirdest thing to me is that he was the character I planned least. He just happened. I didn’t spend ages constructing a specific development arc for him within Legacy or honing his personality. He came as he was and fit in perfectly. I’m really grateful for that, because if I’d tried to write him, I probably would have ruined him.

And we all know how that turns out.

And we all know how that turns out.

The people who know me have said that he’s me, but I always saw myself as Alaris; not a main character, for one, and also more of a support role and a play-as-much-by-the-rules-as-possible sort of person. The more I think about it, though, the more I realise there’s more in Tierenan than I first anticipated, whether it’s reflective of me or not.

When I first wrote Legacy I kind of brushed him off as someone to fill in the gaps between Faria, who carries the main narrative, and Aeryn and Kyru, whose story I had been invested in since the very early concepts (even before any of them were animals). To a degree, I figured that what he said either wouldn’t matter or would be there as a commentary to prevent the whole thing from being too serious. I always wanted him to be likeable though, and not as artificial as a lot of obnoxious Disney comedy placeholders are. But through spending time with him, I think specifically because he wasn’t constrained by preconceived plot ideas, he took a shape of his own that reacted to the environment and the other characters. It really was a more natural progression for him, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

One thing remained constant, though: his unfaltering hope. I’ve always wanted my stories to be full of hope, and he is the sole character that carries it from the moment we meet him. I think people fall into the trap of making stories dismal or harrowing or unpleasant, especially for young adults, and they focus so much on the loss of innocence and certain cruel realities of the world for no reason other than to be evocative. It’s probably what irritates me most about the direction the Harry Potter series went in, especially in the final book. War begets casualties, of course, but stories are such an investment for the reader. Killing off everyone you care about (and not even giving them a final justification or battle scene) doesn’t make you fulfilled as an audience member. Personally, I find it very unsatisfying. Especially for young adults who’re about to make their mark on the world, they shouldn’t be discouraged from trying, or from dreaming big or wanting to protect or include everyone. There’s already so much cynicism in the world, and I think the ones who will change it need to be given hope. Not promises, but hope.

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”- Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I’m really glad that Tierenan is liked so much. It’s humbling to me. I want to keep his light going in the rest of the books, and it would be an honour if he was talked about in the same way that Aang and Yugo and Esteban and Natsu and Groot are some day. And not just by me :p

We're on the fence about you, boy.

We’re on the fence about you, boy. Haven’t forgiven you for the weird plot developments.