• InterventionCon and Borderlands

    So this past weekend was the third (already?) InterventionCon. It’s a fun, if smallish, local con put on by an impressively small staff who nonetheless manage to give it a “big con” professional feel. The basic theme of the con is “your online life, offline,” basically giving it a “meta-geekery” vibe similar to Dragon*Con (but on a much smaller scale). There’s a bit of comics, a bit of anime, a bit of cosplay, a bit of technogeekery, even a tiny hint of furry, but no one element really jumps out. This big tent approach is good in that everyone is welcome, but it also has its downside, in that there’s no really strong pull for any group. Despite being open to everybody, InterventionCon is not a “must-go” con for anybody, at least not yet.

    Granted, I see most of the con from inside the Dealer Room (or “Artist Alley/Vendor Room” as the con refers to it), which possibly colors my perceptions. On the other hand, the Dealer Room is also usually the main hub of activity. There are several breakout panel rooms which usually have a double-handful of people in them at any given time, a videogaming room, and an open gaming room, and several corridors. Although the Marriott where the con takes place has a huge and impressive restaurant/lounge area (which at a furry con would be overrun with fursuiters and artists), as far as I can tell InterventionCon doesn’t go down there. What crowds there are to find, are in the Dealer Room.

    The other thing I’ve noticed about InterventionCon, is that there isn’t much of an art culture. Most people in the Vendor Hall are there as vendors, selling books or crochet ponies or what have you, not doing art at the table– and the attendees don’t seem to be expecting it, either. I was never asked to do a badge or a sketch (my primary profit-makers at most cons), even by people who seemed very taken with my work. Furthermore, those people who were offering sketches at the table, were undercutting themselves badly. One artist wanted to charge me $10 for a fully inked, elaborate sketch; another $15 for an inked and shaded pair of characters. In both cases, I shoved $20 bills at them, just to drive the lesson home.

    gneech_chanWhile sitting around at the con not doing any badges or sketches (le sigh), I decided to noodle around with new persona ideas for myself, including this cute little guy, who combines the whole “dapper lion” thing with my little buddy Keroberos. Only problem is, I still can’t figure out how to get more of the sea green and similar colors I wanted into the design without becoming garish. I’m an autumn, and if the persona is to reflect me, he should totally be dressing in gold and burgundy.

    Also, I think way too much about that kind of stuff.

    But Enough of That Art’n’Creativity’n’Stuff. Let’s Blow Shit Up

    As InterventionCon rolls up its sidewalks at 3:00 on Sunday, that left me with all of last evening to occupy myself. I could have watched that Doctor Who we’ve got on the DVR, but instead I downloaded BorderLands 2 to give it a try. Mrs. Gneech and I are forever on the lookout for brainless shooty games we can play together, and this one is about as brainless and shooty as they come. Gung Ho FPS in a quasi-post-apocalypse SF setting with a soundtrack by Escape From LA, Borderlands 2 is snarky, sarcastic, and winks at you from the other side of the 4th wall to make sure you don’t take all the explosions and bloody head-shots seriously.

    Does it work? Eh… sort of. The snarky humor and Wile E. Coyote violence are basically there to punch up pretty cut-and-dried FPS gameplay… go here, kill baddies, pull lever, kill baddies, find boss, kill boss, rinse and repeat. The loot is completely randomized, which does sometimes make for strange and amusing results. I picked up a gun which does something like 70+ points of damage and has a sniper scope (as opposed to the more common ~20 points of damage on the first level), so I spent a lot of time starting a battle from far distant cover and going “Boom! Headshot.” Borderlands 2 also floats around somewhere between FPS and MMO, with quest-givers, side missions, and explorer deeds, and encourages you to hook up with other players (via Steam) and take on missions together. However, your character model is determined by your class (all the women are “sirens,” for instance, and all the sirens are women) and the character models only vary by means of three different heads and palette-swaps. So it won’t be long before every character looks exactly identical to every other character.

    Correspondingly, the difficulty seems to be all over the map, too. There’s a giant set-piece battle at the end of the first section of the game where you’re in an open area fighting a giant brute of a guy who is not only on fire, but who keeps setting you on fire as well as opening up giant fire pits all over the level. If you die, you simply respawn around the corner, which is handy, but every time you do, he goes back up to full health again. This led me into a loop for the longest time where I could just get to him, nick him a little, and then run out of ammo and get killed. Over and over. I finally defeated him basically through an exploit– I left the arena all together, which lured him over to one corner that stuck out so he could shoot at me, and he got trapped there by the AI pathing. So all I had to do at that stage was peek around the corner, snipe at him, and duck back until my shield recharged, then do it again. Since he was an otherwise unbeatable boss, I didn’t feel too bad about this– I figured that if the game is gonna cheat, I’m gonna cheat right back.

    On the plus side, I do like the animation-esque art style and the western-bluesey soundtrack, which give me (positive) associations with Full Throttle. And I can see how the game would be fun with a full party, although I haven’t had the chance to try it yet. However, I suspect it’s going to be real hard to find a group that isn’t made up of four sirens, just because she’s the most appealing character design. We’ll see!

    -The Gneech

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  • Not-Sucking Is Magic: My Little Pony

    Well, I binged on the first five (six? I lost count after the Ursa Minor) episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic via YouTube last night, while workin’ on various stuff. It was enjoyable and I can see why it’s popular, although it didn’t cause me to squee with the light of a thousand suns the way it has some others.

    I can see the Powerpuff Girls influence in it, and that can be nothing but good. I also wholeheartedly applaud a Very Girly Show For Girls That Is Girly that has things like well-defined and likeable characters, plots with conflict, and themes of self-reliance and personal development, without actually being a show for boys where the characters all have long hair and squeaky voices (a pitfall PPG could occasionally fall prey to).

    In the episodes I watched, it never quite reached the level of awesome, although it did have moments that approached it, such as “I cannot tolerate such a crime against fabulosity!” and “But … the rainbow one kicked me…” With a few nudges in the right direction, it could easily become awesome, but my gut feeling is that Hasbro wouldn’t tolerate it.

    So what’s my analysis of the whole Brony thing? Well, some of it is the same “breath of fresh air” phenomenon that made the original Star Wars such a hit after a decade of sci-fi movies that made you want to kill yourself. My Little Pony is a well-written, enjoyable, decently-animated show, which means it blows the doors off of anything else happening right now. Since the collapse of TV animation in the late ’90s, there’s been painfully little that wasn’t outright crap, and since it’s not crap, MLP shines like gold. And while I don’t want to belittle the quality of the show, I do think the lack of competition has a lot to do with the sheer enthusiasm of the fandom that’s building up around it.

    Fans are gonna glomp onto something, and if there’s only the one thing around worth glomping onto, it wins. Once upon a time, animation fans could geek out about Animaniacs, Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Powerfpuff Girls, Balto, Cardcaptor Sakura, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Lion King, even the good old-fashioned Looney Tunes, and all still be fairly current. But all those things are old now (sorry, but it’s true, people like the New Hotness), and even if they weren’t old, they’re not being broadcast. You have to already be a fan of those for them to still be relevant to you.

    If MLP was going up against the WB at its height, or even Cartoon Network during the Space Ghost: Coast to Coast era, it would have had a harder time of it, true, but on the other hand, it is a show being made right now that could stand up to those and give them a run for their money, and in the current climate that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

    -The Gneech

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  • New Short Story Geeks Podcast

    Episode five is up! We respond to listener e-mail, take on the subjects of authorial focus and what it actually means to “kill your darlings,” and check out some stories ranging from the faintly-silly to poetically sublime.

    Unfortunately, there are some issues with the sound; I was trying out a new headset, and the results were not all I’d hoped for. I tried to even it out as much as I could, but even with Levelator the gain was just all over the place. Back to my old headset next time!

    The good news is, the show is much shorter this week. 😉

    -The Gneech

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  • Bad Dog Book Club Discussion of “Blackbird Singing”

    Gotta love positive reviews! 🙂 Thanks for the kind words, fellas. Not sure what you were getting at re: “body movements” near the end, I’ll give it a re-listen and see if I can figure it out.

    -The Gneech

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  • That Must Be a Heck of a Review!

    I have Smashwords set to alert me if reviews of the Brigid and Greg e-book collections go up, and this morning I received a notice that there was one to see. …except, the link isn’t responding. In fact, all of Smashwords.com is unresponsive this morning.

    Holy cow! My one review was so awesome it slashdotted Smashwords! This is huge! Alert the media! “Rising internet writer gets such awesome reviews he breaks publisher’s website!”

    The power! The unlimited POWER!

    I promise, I’ll use it only for good.

    -The Gneech

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  • A Good Review! I Love Good Reviews!

    Graveyard Greg posted a nice review of Fictionlets, Vol. I at Smashwords. Thanks, GG!

    I also notice that he’s totally stolen the term “fictionlet” and using it on his own website, the cad! Curse you, GG!

    Man, I can’t take these love/hate relationships.

    -The Gneech

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