From the Archives

There is a Star Trek fan club called Starfleet. Once upon a time, a chapter in Lynchburg, Virginia spawned multiple daughter chapters in nearby cities such as Roanoke, Blacksburg, Hampton, and Bluefield. We all enjoyed pretending to be futuristic starship crew, and that all our chapters were part of a squadron of ships assigned to the most unusual missions. It didn’t take long at all for us to start writing fiction about these ships, and even un-subtly working in many references to our other sci-fi and fantasy favorites.

Over the course of six or seven years, some of this fiction turned into 100,000 words of interlinked storytelling covering multiple chapters, dozens of characters, and many alternate science-fiction universes. We were pretty shameless. But you know, looking at it two decades later… it’s not bad! We’ve all grown as authors since then, but you can tell we were on our way. I’m pretty proud of our hard work, and I think Tom, Beth, and Jerry should be too.

By an odd coincidence, this month I decided I needed to learn how to make an e-book, for… no special reason. And what better place to practice than with this material that would need clean-up, formatting, and other new skills. And here’s there result: 1993’s “The Multiverse Cycle”, in its complete form for the first time in 22 years. And due to matters of copyright, free to anyone who’d like a look.

multiverse-front The Multiverse Cycle in EPUB format for iOS, Nook, and other readers

The Multiverse Cycle in MOBI format for Kindle and other readers

Check your documentation for details on adding these books to your e-reader library. And – enjoy!

Ordering Pizzas in Fan Film

A few months ago, Maya and I went to a convention at which someone was showing their latest fan film effort. I won’t say which con or which fandom, but it’s well-known. I remember many thoughts going through the filmmaker side of my brain while the other half sat back to be entertained:

“Wow, the production values are stunning. Good job on them getting the talent and funding.”

“How did they get that guy to show up? Are they that well-connected, or did he just think it would be fun to be in a random fan thing?”

“This story’s kinda weird, but that fits the universe in which this is set, so okay.”

But most importantly: “After going to all this trouble, why can’t the lead performer act worth beans?”

Now, I’m no award-winner when it comes to acting. I’ve done community theater, no-budget film, and sketch comedy on stage. Humble stuff, yet I’m proud of it. But one of the things I do know about acting is that in 2015, any computer can read lines. But if you are playing a real, live person, everything you say has emotions, opinions, history, and personality in it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a single line: this is how human beings behave!

Here’s a line: “Well, I’m going to order pizza.” Alone, that line means nothing. But think of all the different ways you might say that in real life! Perhaps you haven’t had pizza in a month, and now you can order your favorite. Perhaps you are bored by pizza, but you know it’s the only thing the rest of the room will agree on so you’ve given up. Perhaps you’re defiant, because the rest of the room is ordering Chinese, but screw them. Perhaps you are a Vulcan, and you must act like the ordering of pizza means nothing to you but inside, pizza reminds you of the mother for whom you could never properly express love. (Now we’re getting into the tricky stuff.)

Too many fan film actors just read lines as if that’s enough. Since the character speaking isn’t real, there is no need to consider who they feel about the line, what they are thinking inside, the context of the situation and the others nearby; it’s just typing on a script page. And it doesn’t matter if your Kickstarter collected a million dollars and you got Benedict Cumberbatch to appear, if you just read the lines, your film is going to suck.

And that, by the way, is why I’m not naming names. Even the cheapest fan film represents a massive outlay of time, resources, and effort on the parts of multiple people. I can’t just sit here and sneer at that hard work. I celebrate it, and I hope they learn and they get better, because that kind of dedication will always beat “Oh, I always wanted to make a fan film, but I somehow never got around to it.” That really sucks.

Harassment

Whether it be a fan con or a lifestyle event, from this day forward I will do everything in my power to make sure that every convention with which I am involved has an anti-harassment policy in place, well-publicized, and enforced. For decades, I have been under the impression that my subcultures were better than the everyday rank-and-file, and we didn’t do that crap. Over the last few years, I’ve had this mistaken impression corrected.

Today, someone actually said directly to me, “Cons don’t need anti-harassment policies because the women are always lying anyway.” And that does it. I don’t want my life polluted by these kinds of people, much less the lives of my friends. I can’t fix it myself, but I can be one more drop of water in the inevitable erosion of this mountain of idiocy. So yeah, I’ll be checking.

And I can name two events off the top of my head that have beat me to the punch: Intervention in fandom, and Debauchery in lifestyle. Since day one, neither event has been willing to put up with harassment against gender identity, skin color, or any similar method the greyfaces use to try to split us up. These conventions aren’t the only ones willing to stand up for their attendees, and more are joining the tide. Rising Star, Black Rose, and Virginia’s MarsCon either have or will soon have such policies with the eager support of their staffs.

I hope anyone who reads this is with me. Eventually, we’ll reduce these fucktards to the impotent, whining fraction they should be.

Threads of a Dilemma

Yesterday, I saw a trailer for a Fox Network “comedy” in which a lady wore the Japanese schoolgirl outfit known as a fuku, or seifuku, and I was repulsed by the sight. I have friends who own seifuku costumes. Heck, I own one. Why was I so horrified?

I knew I liked looking at ladies in various unlikely outfits at least as early as my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons. If you look at how they dressed female characters back then, “practical for fighting monsters” is the last concept that would cross your mind. I could only assume that the chainmail bikinis had to include some kind of magical deflector shield to be usable armor. Back then, I found the idea silly, but this was just a game, and it didn’t bother me.

Once I discovered anime, the seeds of doubt took root. I still loved some of the even more-implausible outfits, but seeing the characters move and be voiced by humans changed my perspective. I felt somehow more obliged to believe that someone would really wear this, and that was a bit of a stretch. Japan isn’t the most sexism-progressive country, and I wondered how women felt about being depicted in these costumes designed only to draw in the male gaze.

At fan conventions, I began to find out – or at least to become further confused. There were ladies all over the place wearing these costumes – at least the ones which could physically be hung on a human being’s body. I wanted to look, but was it okay to look? Which emotions were acceptable while I looked? What expression should I maintain to not seem creepy? The whole thing confused the hell out of me. If the costumes were not sexist, then why were there no obvious male equivalents? Why did they seem designed solely to encourage sexual thoughts in the viewer? And if they were sexist, how could these women – many of whom I knew to be intelligent, capable, and unwilling to take crap from anyone – be wearing them, and having such fun doing so?

Now I have an answer. There may be other answers but this idea has cleared up a few things. I’ve been into costuming since I was little, but in recent years I’ve chosen to wear rather more flamboyant outfits, for reasons which could be several blog posts on their own. Now some would call these outfits degrading when worn by any gender, but I stumbled upon a secret: if I’m wearing a costume *because I want to*, it’s not degrading at all. Someone else can try to convince me it is, but that’s my decision to make; and if my costume choice makes me feel appealing, confident, and happy, then people’s negative opinions don’t matter much.

And that’s the answer to my dilemma. If anyone wears something that makes them happy to wear, then I’m free to enjoy it. The inverse also holds true: no matter what the garment, if someone’s wearing something they don’t feel good in, something they are forced to wear to cater to another person’s whims, it’s bad. And these can be the exact same outfit, because at the end of the day, it’s just clothing. It has no power besides what we allow.

That’s how a seifuku on Fox turned my stomach. The lady didn’t want to wear the outfit, it was forced on her by someone to make it clear they had no respect at all for her. Hell, the costume was more over-the-top sexualized than you’d ever see at a con – which on its own doesn’t have to be a problem, but here was meant to say, “You are not a person, you are an advertising prop.” Nauseating.

So I’ll go back to looking with a clear conscience; I only hope that the wearer is having ten times as much fun wearing it as I am looking, because that’s how it works for me when I’m dressed up. I still can’t recommend the chainmail bikini for actual monster fighting, though. Dramatic poses only!

February: A Con Odyssey

Just did Farpoint in Baltimore, and MystiCon in Roanoke back to back. Both cons are five hours away from my home. Pro tip: don’t do this.

Farpoint was the second stop for Luna-C, so as usual I spent most of the weekend preparing for the performance in one way or another. Of course, I simultaneously love live performing from the depths of my soul and it triggers my anxieties as only a job interview can, so it’s both relief and regret when the show is done. Regret must win, though, since I’m always eager for the next show. We premiered my “Lonely Villain” skit which I think is quite funny; and I got to play Scotty again, which has been one of my lifelong dreams.

I also premiered the My Little Pony “Twilight Sparkle” costume at Farpoint, and I must say it was a pretty big hit. I’ve known since the fandom took off that I would need an MLP costume before long, so of course I had to do it in my own special fashion.

(more…)

Back from Shore Leave!

The new car behaved itself well! Much less general wear on a car = much better gas mileage, as I made Baltimore and back on only a tank and a half. Dwight and Dawn were excellent company: among other things, I got to hear a Duran Duran album I hadn't picked up yet. Huyndais handle differently with three people and a trunk of con luggage in them than they do with one, something I'm not yet completely used to.

The Hunt Valley no-longer-Marriott is an interesting hotel. Every year I manage to get lost in their hall layout at least two or three times, and combining that with the eye-searing carpet makes me suspect that it will be a rough place when the stars are right. Also, the room was too darn humid the whole time. Clothing in my still-packed bag felt a bit damp this morning.

The con itself was a lovely time. I picked up a nice Ron Weasley wand replica for the "Warehouse 9 3/4" skit and a replacement UFP patch for my Trek flight jacket. Didn't get to hit the vendor area much, which no doubt was good for my wallet; but I attended an interesting costuming panel and was a panelist on another, got many good costume photos of Kara that I must send her, and of course performed with Luna-C.

I glitched twice during my first skit, though I was assured it was unnoticeable from the audience. Phew! The other three went nice and smooth, and in fact I think the Holmes and Watson podcast skit got more laughs than ever. From a backstage perspective, the skits I wasn't in seemed to work very well, with good comic timing and plenty of laughs. I believe this was one of our strongest performances! (And we got to meet Kate Mulgrew very very briefly backstage beforehand, which I enjoyed!)

Afterwards, I got hit in the head with being 43 years old: I needed a nap. I wanted to watch the Masquerade but my body wasn't into it. We did head down to the Ten-Forward party at 11… the music mostly stank, but I finally got to put a name to Paulette Guillory-Gardner, a lovely lady with whom I've been crossing convention paths often. My Alice costume went over well, and I even got a picture or two with a White Rabbit before it was time to head back up to bed.

In the morning, we headed down for the Luna-C breakfast and wrap-up. Dana Stewart gave me exactly the Doctor Who costume idea I'd been looking for, complete with a bad pun to go with it – win-win. I grabbed a couple more click-base random starships, but I think from now on I might spend the extra couple of bucks and buy the specific ones I want from eBay. I don't like getting duplicates, when I don't have lots of folks interested in trading.

The drive home was too long, frankly. The company was still good, but I just wanted to be home. Still, made it in safe by 7:30, said my goodbyes to Dwight and Dawn, stuffed a sandwich in my mouth and was unconscious by 9:30. All in all: quite the good weekend.

A perfect combination of human and Sadinger genes

Start in 1993. Take some anime fans who’ve just found an awkward, stilted translation of the script for one of their favorite flicks. Add some expensive non-linear editing equipment that one of the fans was pretty good with. Throw in an evening’s recording session in an echoey downstairs rec room, and I give you: The “Project: EDEN” Fandub! (Well, clips of it, anyway. And, SPOILER, they do give away the ending.)

Some of the fun stuff: none of the voice actors seemed to be able to pronounce “URDAS” (the Eastern Bloc-styled colony) the same way twice. In some of our early takes, David Arthur’s redneck accent was so thick, we thought we might still have to subtitle him. I spent days trying to figure out that the script we’d obtained kept saying “three-level bug” when it meant “trilobite”. Professor Wattsman’s squeaky voice nearly wiped out my throat for the evening.

Honestly, the best voice actors that night had to be Jerry Conner, Beth Lipes, and Cindy Arthur (now Jenkins). Good thing we made them our leads. Jerry did an incredible job editing together what he had to work with, and I think we all gained new respect for those eighties anime dubbers who were just trying to end up with something intelligible on a limited budget.

Recursive Discordianism

I’m trying to decide whether or not to post my Alice costume up on cosplay.com. I’ve been looking around the site, and it looks like crossplaying *without* making any attempt to pass is pretty damn rare. Like, I can’t find anyone else.

Why is it that even when I’m being weird, I have to be different?

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A Visit to Technicon

Technicon 27 started with our water heater cracking open.

Okay, so the two weren’t causally linked. The situation remained damn frustrating, though: Starr had been scheduled to work her 7am-7pm shift, but we both really wanted her to come to the con, which meant we would probably get there around 2 or 3 Saturday morning. So be it: such is life. Then her work called in the wee hours of Friday to say she’d actually been scheduled 3am-3pm, which wouldn’t be any easier on her, but meant we’d show up in Blacksburg at a decent hour!

Then we both came home to work to find our driveway awash. For once, there was nothing both vital and water-soluble in the garage, and the heater is all we lost. But one of us had to stay to get it fixed, and I was the one with the Guest badge and panel commitment, so off I went.

I have learned to despise that drive. I love the con, and I love seeing friends and family; I’m so glad I didn’t have to miss out on my twenty-fourth straight Technicon. But that drive is beginning to get on my nerves. At least I caught the tail end of the Meet Our Guests social, and enjoyed meeting artist T Campbell (with whom I shared a hotel room).

Technicon was small this year; that’s not a criticism, just an observation. They chose not to run a dealer’s room this year, though they had most of the other trappings: a video room, anime, card and tabletop gaming, and various panels and presentations. I participated in the Amateur Film panel with rubinpdf and other members of Galtham Films, who made up about 90% of the attendance; I had a good time, and hope that impink will post images of his revised TSE Mirage design.

Late in the evening, southernsinger performed what was almost a White Plectrum sing-along rather than a concert: the fraction of new attendees in the audience may well have felt slightly left-out. I helped judge the six-entry Costume Call – though the event was small, the costumes were wonderful, and we had a heck of a time picking the ones we liked best. trenn won “Best in Show” with a great Seventh Doctor, but ypawtows did score a mention for “Best Use of an Undead Smurf in a Short Subject”.

I ran my late-night panels as usual. This year, I just wasn’t in the mood for complex presentations, and aimed more for a “friendly discussion circle” atmosphere. At least a few folks told me they enjoyed them, so it must not have been a terrible idea. After closing out the room, I had just enough battery power left to swing by jlfranklin‘s room party, which was nearly shut down itself. Back up to the room and sweet unconsciousness.

Sunday, it felt surreal to have no closing programming, no chances to say goodbye to folks. I just got on the road as soon as possible, spent a nice lunch in Roanoke with my Mom, and then did that cursed drive again. I was so tired and strung-out when I got to Chesapeake that Starr and her dad managed to get a glass of wine in me at Olive Garden, and now I’m not sure whether my vagueness around the edges today is exhaustion, the effects of drink, early con-crud setting in, or Monday.

Anyway. For me, Technicon 27 was a great success. It’s the only time I get to see lots of people who mean a great deal to me, and I had much fun. My hall costume got remarks such as, “Okay, you are now officially my favorite person ever.” I have another Guest badge for my collection. Furthermore, I got to continue a TCon attendance streak beaten only by an elite few.

Was it a success from the con’s point of view? I don’t know. I heard a rumor of around 150 badges, staff and guests included. The venue wasn’t the best, though I know the staff’s choices were limited this year. I suppose we’ll see – I wouldn’t mind attending a full three-day Technicon 28 if they can pull it off.

Thanks to the con for the invite! While I don’t know at the moment where or when it may happen, I can’t wait to see everyone again…

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