Feb 17 2016

Pookasona Commissions!

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Two pookas and a jackalope, being adorable.

For Easter (and just for the fun of it) I’m opening up commissions for your fursona/OC depicted as a pooka or jackelope, NeverNever style! These will be pencil sketches, colored with blended pencil, emphasizing the charm, shyness, and natural character of the pookas– or the lack of all same in the case of the jackalopes. πŸ˜‰

I’ll be starting with five slots, and if those fill up super-fast I’ll open up another five.

The commissions are $25, plus an additional $10 for each character after the first. If you’d like the original as well as a high-res scan, I’ll mail it to you ($5 for US delivery or $10 international), payable via Square, Dwolla, or check. Slots are first-come first-serve, and you can respond via a comment here or e-mail at thegneech@gmail.com.

Thanks! πŸ˜€

1. CLAIMED (Inkblitzer)
2. CLAIMED (anonymous)
3. CLAIMED (Jakebe)
4. CLAIMED (M. Mitchell)
5. CLAIMED (Mooncat)
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Jan 17 2014

Quick Note to NeverNever Fans

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Heyas, just a heads-up that I am taking down the NeverNever website for a while, because the website technology is seriously out-of-date and I won’t have a chance to update it until sometime in the spring.

I’ll bring the site back up when I have a chance to work on it! Meanwhile the books are still available if you gotta have your pooka fix! πŸ˜‰

Thanks!

-The Gneech

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Aug 17 2011

Fear of Being Committed, No Wait, That’s Not Right

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This week I punted on a story that just wasn’t going anywhere; I hate doing that, and I especially hate doing it when the editor for whom I was doing the story seemed so keen to have it, but it was frankly not my best work and I suspect he would have had to reject in the end anyway. Better in the long run at this stage to let it go so both he and I can devote the mental resources to something else.

This, combined with the gear-grinding on Arclight Adventures, has led me to reflect on just what it is I want to accomplish with my creative endeavors, why it is that I do them — and why I seem to have been having difficulty with them lately. And I think I’ve discovered at least one psychological factor that’s been holding me back, i.e., “fear of commitment.”

Y’see, Suburban Jungle and NeverNever consumed so much of my life for so long, that there is a part of me that’s frankly afraid to get that wrapped up in something again. I loved doing my comics, don’t get me wrong, but there were plenty of times when it could also be a draining, demoralizing, downright painful experience, and part of me is shying away from that.

Another issue has been my own underlying motivation for doing the work, and here I have not been pleased with what I saw in the mental mirror. Y’see, for both NN and SJ, my motivation was that I loved the work — I was making those comics because I wanted them to exist, I thought they were good and worthy things that would make the world a better place by being in it. This has been less true of my more recent projects. In fact, at the end of the day, what has been motivating me lately has been ego.

I don’t want the entirety of my creative output to be “ten years of webcomics and done.” I don’t want the history of pop culture to say of The Gneech: “Known, by those few who do, as the guy who did The Suburban Jungle.” I want to leave a bigger footprint.

A natural feeling, perhaps, but a terrible reason to be doing any major undertaking. Somebody recently described me in my LiveJournal as “dedicated to my own epicness” — said as a joke, yeah, but it still had the sting of truth to it. I should be thinking about the work itself, and the readers out there who will hopefully get something out it, not about what it will do for my prestige and/or fragile egg of a sense of self-worth.

So … what to do about it? Well, for starters, I’m blowing away all of my current “projects” (which have been more placeholders than actual work anyway), except for the Short Story Geeks Podcast, because I have made a commitment to my fellow podcasters on that one and I intend to honor that. But for everything else, as of this blog entry, I’m no longer “working on X” for a half-dozen half-formed ideas.

Second, I’m going to look at each of the things I have been working on with a critical eye and determine which, if any, are actually worth doing on their own merits, rather than because I think it’d be “good for my career,” so to speak. If a project can actually justify its own existence, then I will add it to my to-do list, even if the due date is “sometime after 2015,” but if not, it’s going into the proverbial sock drawer indefinitely.

I do know of at least one project which will move up in the priority list, a YA collaboration with Mrs. Gneech, actually, which we’ve been talking about on-and-off for several years now. We recently sat down and hashed out a lot of things about it, to the point where I think we have a pretty good vision for what it should be like. It’s not something that really builds on anything I’ve done before (except in the vague sense of having some fantasy elements), nor really is likely to have immediate appeal to my established audience, but it is something about which I can confidently say its existence would be a +1 for the world. πŸ™‚

As for what other projects will be added back in, I couldn’t tell you at this stage. If you have one you’d like to advocate for, I’d love to hear it!

-The Gneech

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Aug 04 2011

The Weirditude of Gender Nerdery

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This will be a long one, Websnark style. I apologize for the length, but I’ve got a lot to say here.

Imagine, if you can, what life was like for geeks and budding geeks in 1975-1976. Batman was all about camp. Star Wars was a pile of notes on George Lucas’s desk. The only really cool thing we had was Star Trek, and that was a canceled, not-terribly-popular show that was on life support by means of a Saturday morning cartoon. The only people who cared about it were NASA employees and the uncool kids.

But we made the best of it, and when you had enough kids together you could actually decently “play Star Trek” with a different actual person taking the role of Kirk, Spock, etc. Since I had the largest collection of Star Trek figures, including the Enterprise Bridge Playset, I got to call the shots on what we would do with it. On one particular afternoon, we actually had something like six of us together, including a girl whose name has long been lost out of the fuzzy recesses of my memory. She had dark hair, and I remember liking her because she was into all the same fantasy/SF stuff that I was, or at least didn’t go “Ew!” at it the way most of the girls did. But she lived in a different neighborhood, which when you’re six years old, might as well been another planet, so I rarely had the opportunity to play with her.

In any case, I was handing out figures for people to play with; I kept Spock for myself naturally, but pretty much let everybody else take whomever they pleased. But I left Uhura in the box, because she was such an nonentity. All she ever did was answer the phone and occasionally say, “Captain, I’m frightened.” What kind of a character is that?

This girl — I’m going to call her Melissa for purposes of the anecdote (and because I do remember knowing a girl named Melissa) — strenuously objected to this when I suggested she play Scotty. “I don’t want to play Scotty!”

“How can you not want to play Scotty? Scotty’s cool!” (May not have been my exact words … I was six.)

“But I’m a girl!”

This stymied me. It had never been an issue before: most of the time there were no girls around to play with anyway, and so if there were girl roles required, one of the boys would just take it. Playing a cross-gender role was something you just did if it was required to make the playing happen. (I myself became quite adept at the role of Kimba’s girlfriend, which seemed perfectly ordinary to me at the time and caused me much confusion when it bugged my best friend later. But that’s another story.) But for !Melissa it was apparently a big issue, and that left us stuck, because there was only the one girl figure: Lt. Uhura, who was only surpassed in boringness by Yoeman “Look At My Legs, Captain” Rand. If there had been a Lt. M’Ress figure, or even a Number One (Majel Barrett as human supercomputer, one of the coolest characters in Star Trek ever and therefore absolutely hated by the network), all would have been fine.

(It’s worth noting that Uhura did become cool later, particularly in Star Trek III, but that was decades away. Even her badass moment in “The Lorelei Signal” episode of the animated series only came because none of the Men Folk were around to be badass instead. And remember also, I was six, and didn’t realize that the reason Uhura was boring was because race and gender politics forbade her from being interesting at the time.)

This was my first real confrontation with the phenomenon of The Chick, and it’s something that really starts jumping out at you once you notice it. As someone in the blogosphere recently said (and I’m still looking for the exact quote, I’ll get back to you with it): many writers, especially of pop or genre fiction, default to male (and usually white male) for a character unless there’s a specific reason to do otherwise. Need a leader? White male. Smooth talker? White male. Gadgeteer? White male. Romantic Interest? Oops, guess we’ll make this one a female. Etc. Among other things, this leads to there being a character who is The Diversity Kid (“Chinese girl in a wheelchair, score!”), whose main role is to be The Diversity Kid, and who always rings false in the role.

Even being aware of this tendency isn’t enough to keep it from happening in your work: in NeverNever, both Mopsy and Jenny sometimes fall into the “The Chick” category, although I did try to make them interesting characters in their own right. (I was a little annoyed with myself at how often Jenny needed rescuing, but on the other hand just about everybody in the cast needed rescuing at least a few times.) Suburban Jungle was a bit better in this regard, largely because I started with a female protagonist and built the cast to be the people who were important to her life. Given how easy it is for me, a person who at least likes to think of himself as being proactive on this issue, to fall into it, it’s not hard to see why this is an ongoing phenomenon.

Now, fast-forward to today, where gender issues in geeky lit are in a state of high dudgeon. DC comics recently got reamed for its notable lack of female heroes and female creators (not to mention comics’ record generally for stuffing women into refrigerators). There is a strange backlash against girl geeks going on, especially ones who are what is traditionally thought of as “attractive” … and of course there’s a backlash against the backlash.

Into all this wanders My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which as I mentioned before is a very girly show for girls that is girly, but is also just a straight-up awesome show, thus having a lot of crossover appeal. That there should be bronies, geeky male fans of a girly cartoon show, should be considered a Grand Thing, shouldn’t it?

Well apparently, not everyone thinks so. Consider this comic from Shortpacked!:

Shortpacked!, by David Willis, for Aug 3 2011

Now, I’m not a regular reader of Shortpacked! so I don’t know the context here. This comic came to my attention by way of a MLP:FIM blog in which the blogger didn’t wanted to be associated with the term “brony” because to him it apparently means “male MLP fan who is a jerk about it.” This, as far as I can tell, is nuts. (Which is also my reaction to fans of anthropomorphic animals generally who don’t want to be called “furries.”)

But there are a lot of things in this comic that stick in my craw. First and foremost, it’s clear that the guy is being a jerk; however, this is being held up more or less to be, “This guy is being male.” That in itself is a trend I’ve been sick of for years. Second, there is a noticeable disconnect between MLP:FIM and the merchandise it is ostensibly being made to sell, and that creates natural frustration on the part of fans who want to support something they like by buying the merchandise. (“I love Rainbow Dash, she’s got so much attitude! I’ll go buy a Rainbow Dash toy! Er, what’s this doe-eyed waif with Rainbow Dash’s name on it?”) I can’t speak for everybody, but speaking only for myself I don’t have a problem with the doe-eyed waif qua itself, my problem is that there isn’t anything with the Rainbow Dash I was looking for. [1]

But my real problem is in the line “Males have 6/7ths of the Justice League, 90 percent of the Avengers, 12/13ths of Transformers, and now you’ve taken My Little Pony.” Presumably this is intended as an indictment of the concept of The Chick, which is a concept that needs indicting. But it’s also built on a fundamentally bad premise: how exactly has My Little Pony been “taken” and from whom? Does one jackass mouthing off suddenly turn all of the ponies into colts instead of fillies? Is the woman in the comic now somehow prevented from liking My Little Pony because it’s not an all-girls club any more? The little rejoinder at the end, “Sorry, we noticed something we didn’t have,” also sticks in my craw because, of all the crazy things, it feeds negative stereotypes — i.e., the rapacious and plundering white male.

In short, the fundamental premise of this comic seems to be that boys shouldn’t be liking stuff for girls because girls have so little stuff of their own. But isn’t that just as ridiculous as saying that girls shouldn’t like superheroes because superheroes are meant for boys? Either that or “boys are pretty much all jackasses and anything they touch is ruined,” which is also a premise that I don’t much care for. (The irony that this comic was written by a guy is also not lost on me.)

Some of this is just the natural growing pains of any fandom, I imagine. The original brony rant about “I’m totally not a brony!” was an almost point-by-point copy of the same “I’m totally not a furry!” rant I’ve seen a hundred times. But really, it’s getting old. Anything with human beings involved is going to include assholes sooner or later, and people really need to get over that.

Oh, and for the record, I handed over the Uhura figure so !Melissa could play her, and a good time was had by all. Until we realized the delicate hands of the Uhura figure didn’t have an opposable thumb and so couldn’t hold a phaser. But that’s also a post for some other time.

-The Gneech

[1] Well, there is the one set of tiny little ponies from the show, noticeably missing Applejack and Fluttershy. What’s that about?

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May 23 2011

The SJ 10-Year Books Now Up for Funding at Kickstarter

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If you’d like to get in early on the Suburban Jungle ten-year retrospective, No Predation Allowed, I have set up a Kickstarter project to cover the printing costs. Besides acting as a kind of “pre-order” for the book, depending on the funding option you choose you can also get a copy of the “Dreams of Summer” portfolio, NeverNever books, or a commission from your ever-lovin’ blue-eyed cartoonist!

If you can’t help with funding, that’s okay too, just help me spread the word about it! πŸ™‚ Thanks, everyone!

-The Gneech

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Apr 15 2011

The Books Are In!

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Attack of the War-Cats has arrived! Pre-orders will go out tomorrow. Thanks, everyone!

-The gneech

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