May 20 2020

Everything I Wanted: A Spoileriffic Discussion of She-Ra

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Everything I wanted.
Yeah. So. Spoilers. The title warned you.

The show that asked, “What if Star Wars was incredibly gay?” and then answers, “IT WOULD BE AWESOME AS FUCK!”

There’s so much for me to say about She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, I don’t even know where to begin. I already knew, when I was defending Catra as A Cinnamon Roll Who Wants to Kill You that this was a show I was going to be very heavily invested in. Catra literally feels to me like Noelle Stevenson plucked her right out of my brain and put her on the screen—to the point that I wrote to Ms. Stevenson directly and leveraged all of my comics/animation contacts into trying to find a way to get onto the writing team… without success, alas.

Catra would look at Leona Lioness or Tanya Regellan and say “Oh, you too?” She is also directly the inspiration for Shade-Of-the-Candle, whose own transition from snarling murdercat to laughing bandit has parallels to the arc Catra actually follows. As Emmet Asher-Perrin so aptly put it, “Catra was an instant favorite on the show among its fans. But there was something about it that nagged at me, something more specifically related to her type, and what that type said about me, and what it meant that I kept returning to it.”

And I’m not gonna lie, I was scared for Catra. With every season ending with her in a worse place than the last one, and knowing in very personal detail exactly the self-destructive cycles she was going through, I was terrified she was going to go down with the ship. Redemptive Suicide is such a terrible trope, but such a common one in fantasy and SF, that I was at least 65% convinced that was going to be her fate.

(Mere words cannot express how happy I am to read that Shadow Weaver’s final fate was intentionally written as an “Up yours!” at that specific trope.)

I stopped watching the show halfway through season four, because Double Trouble pushed too many of my buttons—I didn’t have it in me to watch these characters I was so fond of just unravel and tear each other apart, and after the end of season three I couldn’t bring myself to watch Catra do any more horrible things without some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. So I suspended my Netflix account and waited. There was no way I wouldn’t watch season five when it came out—but I couldn’t finish until I could actually finish, if that makes any sense.

So… where do I stand, now that the show’s over? Like the title says, it gave me everything I wanted. Catra to have a true redemption. A true, explicit and undeniable romantic relationship between Catra and Adora. Adventure, excitement, and really wild things. Strong characters, deep and compelling villains, beautiful animation. The first ever canonically and unambiguously queer protagonist in mainstream western animation. On some level, I must face that I resent that I couldn’t be part of it. When I knew getting involved in the show wasn’t going to happen, I created The Reclamation Project to redirect that energy, so good has still came of it, but for me She-Ra will never not be “one that got away.” It’s a historic, once-in-a-lifetime event, a revolution that I was only able to watch and not participate in. And there’s nothing I can do about that except get over it.

On the other hand, the sheer joy that S5 has filled me with blots out those dark thoughts. Scorpia going from doormat to utter badass. Entrapta—who I’ve historically been very down on—not just coming to grips with the difference between “people” and “things,” but also giving Catra one of the most understatedly but purely kind moments in Problem Cat’s whole life.

Wrong Hordak. Just freakin’ Wrong Hordak. He’s another character who feels like he was ripped out of my brain.

Catra’s sheer desperation for Adora in the final two episodes—and that Catra’s (requited!) love for Adora literally saved the universe.

I could do this all day. I’ll stop. If you’ve seen the show you know all these things.

What does it mean to me? I don’t know. I know that Suburban Jungle has touched lives—but not on the scale or sheer power that this show has. Is there still something useful for me to do? If so, what? And how do I do it? What can I bring to the table in a world that already has this in it?

I’ll find something.

Apr 01 2020

Back to Good

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My best self.

I… might do art streaming again tomorrow.

It’s been so long since I did art streaming, for so many reasons.

It’s been so long since I did art, for so many reasons.

With “social distancing” and my jobs drying up, I need to do something, and I need contact with people. But mostly, I just need life to be good again. “Back to good” is a slogan coined by the D.C. metrorail system’s attempt to renovate their systems and rehabilitate their reputation with the public, and I gotta admire the ballsiness of just coming out and saying, “Yeah, we kinda suck right now, and we’ve gotta get back to good.”

That’s what I need to do, too. I’ve spent the past three years in an almost constant state of “tryhard,” watching my fortunes dwindle, my attempts to get anywhere be frustrated, and my mental health and creative drive evaporate. In late 2019 it just completely came crashing down around me, and in January and February I began the long climb back out of the wreckage… only to be greeted by the pandemic. Wow. XD

But to be completely honest, I feel strangely peaceful about it all. I’ve got a roof over my head and food to eat for the time being, and unemployment checks coming in at the very least while I continue my hunt for a day job. It’s not the “frugally comfortable” level I’m used to, but it could be a lot worse, and I can build on it. I can get back to good.

So what makes life good? Fun, friends, art and writing, creativity and gaming. I’ve got a big ol’ queue of art I’ve promised to folks, and with everyone doing Stay-At-Home Con, the best way to get some socializing in is while sitting there getting work done. :)

I hope if you’ve enjoyed my art streams in the past you’ll come back, and if you’re curious you’ll come around and give it a try!

-The Gneech

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Dec 31 2018

On Connection

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Groovy, baby.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Carl W. Buehner

Ever since writing my 2018 report the other day and putting thought into 2019, I’ve become increasingly aware of a theme woven into the music of my life and now coming to the forefront: I must develop my ability to create connection, both on a personal and professional basis, and within my writing.

Because when I look at what isn’t working in my life right now, I see two sides of the same coin: needing to learn how to network in order to build my coaching practice on the one side, and being told repeatedly, “Your writing is crisp, clean, and professional, but the book just didn’t grab me…” on the other. Both of these things are about creating an emotional connection with people, whether directly or indirectly.

I’ve always been vaguely aware of this in terms of watching the audience for Suburban Jungle (and my place within the furry fandom generally)– it’s just like my friendships have been over the course of my life. SJ has a smallish knot of devoted fans, some of whom are intensely devoted to it. (NeverNever was like this too, only moreso.) As long as I can remember, I’ve had a few very close friends, and often been very challenged around getting outside of that group.

Those tight friendships (and very devoted fans) mean the world to me and I don’t want to downplay them. But it is increasingly clear to me as time goes on that I need to widen my circle. A small number of tight friends can make a handful of referrals in my client hunt, but their potential is quickly tapped out on that front. A very devoted fan might buy all of my books and support the highest tiers of my Patreon, but they are only one fan and cannot subsidize my life (nor would I want them to).

And besides the straightforward inability of the math to get me what I need, these small circles also don’t give me what I want. I want to help people with my coaching. I want people’s days to be better because I was in them. I want to have crowds at my table, and people writing fanfics or doing in-depth analysis of my work on Tumblr. As nice as it might be to be recognized as a genius posthumously? I want my work to be loved now.

When my Aunt Iris died, half of Fairfax and Loudoun counties came to her funeral, and everyone– everyone– had something to say about the way she’d connected to them. By comparison, when my father died a year later, his funeral was attended by maybe twenty people, including his three children, their spouses and children, and some of my friends.

That stuck with me.

I loved my dad. Everyone there did. But there is no denying that his life was, in its way, small and limited. I don’t want mine to be.

So what am I going to do about it? I think I was starting to come to awareness of this gap when I came up with my writing goals for 2019, because I listed my goal as “Create self-satisfaction, expression, and meaningful impact in others’ lives by means of becoming a successful and widely-read author/artist.” I added as one of my goals to change my relationship to, say, my Patreon, by focusing not on the dollar amount it brings in, but by the number of subscribers who sign up and the amount of comments that are left.

Similarly, I tweeted last night, “I’ve got ~1500 followers on Twitter and ~450 on Tumblr, and I would like to double those numbers by the end of January. But I’m looking for, y’know, real people who will like my work, not bots. Any suggestions on what I should do, real people?” And that’s an important distinction! I don’t want fluffed up “metrics” that don’t mean anything, I’m not some dot-com-era middle manager looking for clicks.

How will I do this? By finding ways to make my writing grab people. By making more genuine connections with the people I meet. By being with people, instead of either up on a stage or hiding at the back of the room.

If this past year was finally learning how to be friends with myself? This coming year is going to be learning how to be friends with the world.

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Dec 27 2018

Gneech’s 2018 Report

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As I write this, I’m sitting at the drawing table pictured, wearing the headphones and necklace pictured. The rest is a bit harder to pull off. >.>

So! How was 2018? On the grand social scale, of course, it was a dumpster fire. This is hardly news. All the worst people, frantically trying to destroy not just the USA but the whole world, before it all comes crashing down and they end up shooting themselves in the bunker. It’s as inevitable as it is sad. But those of us who are working to build something better will keep working.

On my own personal front, by comparison, it’s been what you might call a challenging year– not in a drama and angsty way, but in the form of taking on difficult obstacles and working to overcome them. This came mostly through the coach training, which was a deep dive into 49 years of mud and gunk that needed cleaning out, but was also singularly more effective than decades of counseling had been on that front. (Which is not to bag on my counselors over the years, but they just didn’t have the intensive focus of the coach training.)

So, looking back on my plans for the year, how did I do?

  1. Gneech, Life Coach. This is up and running! I have passed my exams with Accomplishment Coaching and I’m about 2/3 of the way to my first ICF certification. Right now I’m working on fluffing up my client base a bit more, and I expect to go on to become a Mentor Coach for next year’s program. I’ve got a coaching blog up and running, and I’m looking forward to big things on this front in 2019.
  2. Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. Well, I did help! She’s still working on it. >.> The business exists, we’re getting our insurance through it, so that’s good! The rest of it is up to her. :)
  3. Stable and Reliable Income. This piece is still under construction. As the coaching business grows, it will naturally come to pass.
  4. Figure Out What’s Up With My Writing. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to work on this with the coach training going on. I have a project in place to take this on again in 2019.
  5. Sell. A. Book. Didn’t happen, ‘cos above.
  6. Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Seven done. Eight 1/2 way done. Nine will have to come next year.
  7. Continue Fixing the Country. I’ve marched, I’ve voted, I’ve campaigned, I’ve called my reps a million times. It’s an ongoing process.
  8. Take a Vacation. Alas, did not happen.

It essentially boils down to “the coach training was huge and intense and took most of my mental energy.” So a lot of other things didn’t get done while that was happening. I have no regrets, though– this was something I badly needed.

What did happen was that for the first time since I can remember, I really and truly became friends with myself– like, all of myself, even the parts I had not been willing to talk to since I was four. There was a specific moment that I had never forgiven myself or let go of the pain and shame from, which I confronted and processed… finally. Only forty-five years later! But better late than never.

Confronting this moment led to the birth of Nii-chan, about whom I’ve written at length elsewhere. In a lot of ways, she is the best version of me, and whenever I find myself wondering what I want to do about something, or who I should be in a moment, I ask myself “What would Nii-chan do?” She’s like the integrated version of the Three Lions and an Otter, but even her version of Business Guy is a lot happier. (Nii-chan is also practice for my next incarnation, so I can hit the planet running when that comes to pass. I don’t want to waste forty years of my next life trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.)

So, yeah. It’s been a big year on that score. But where do I want to go in 2019?

  1. Bring Rough Housing to Its Conclusion. 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of Suburban Jungle, and it seems a fitting place to bring that chapter to a close. My current plan is to finish the story at the end of issue ten. As my hand tremors get worse, it is becoming harder to keep up with what was already an ambitious production schedule, and honestly, I think that story-wise, RH will be done at that point. So I’d rather finish something and feel good about it, than to drag it out to stay within the familiar.
  2. Writing Goals. My goalposts on this front are two short stories sold, an agent secured for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, a furry novel written for NaNoWriMo, and an anthology project created with FurPlanet.
  3. She-Ra Writing Gig. Seeing Seanan McGuire geek out about landing the writing job on Spider-Gwen made me realize that I wanted that experience in my life. Spider-Gwen is a character that Seanan was pretty much born to write, and honestly, I feel the same about Catra and myself. I have no idea how I’m going to convince the She-Ra writing team to let me on board, but I’ll find a way.
  4. Full Coaching Client Roster. My goal is 14+ clients by this time next year, including five Creativity Klatch clients and three Mentor Coaching clients.
  5. California Trip. I miss Big Sur like whoa.
  6. 222 Pounds. Something that wasn’t on my 2018 list was losing weight– so naturally I made big strides on that! XD Specifically I lost 30 pounds since May, bringing me to my lowest adult weight yet. I have another 50 pounds to go to be at my goal weight of 222, but I am confident that I will hit it this year.
  7. Continue Continuing to Fix the Country. Keep going ’til it doesn’t suck.

So, yeah. That’s where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I think 2019 is gonna be a great year. :)

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Nov 16 2018

Stan Lee Cosplay Tribute by Sneaky Zebra

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Made of awesome and win.

So many things to say about Stan Lee, but I have no words still.

-TG

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Oct 18 2018

D&D Weather

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Angband, by Angus Mcbride, or, A Million Gazillion Orcs

Sunny days and crisp weather have arrived here, and that always puts Dungeons and Dragons on my brain– because way back in 1983 a bunch of us would hang out behind our high school on days like this and play through a very freeform megadungeon game of my own creation. I particularly remember a moment I’ve written about before, where one of my players (who always wanted to run ahead on his own) opened a door, only to be informed that behind it was a massive chamber with 200 orcs… to which his response is “I slam the door and run away!” Fun times. XD

At the time, I didn’t use the D&D rules, partially because I had all of a Holmes Basic Set and an AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide to work from (making for an incomplete and often contradictory ruleset to begin with), but mostly because I didn’t have the patience to sit down and puzzle it all out.

What I did have the patience for, for whatever reason, was to create my own ridiculously kloodgey homebrew system that took bits of D&D and blended it with bits of Heritage’s Dungeon Dwellers series and then, at the table, was mostly ignored. This game system was called “Mid-Evil,” which I was very proud of at the time. >.>

Did I mention I was 13?

A year later, I tried to leverage this same mostly-nonsensical system into an espionage/modern action game called “I Spy,” which was just as nonsensical and took the inspiration for its one usable scenario from a segment of “The Bloodhound Gang” from 3-2-1 Contact.

So, yeah, “ambitious, but not sophisticated,” about sums me up in those days.

But as dorky and sophomoric as all these things were, they had fire and a pure love of the game that still makes me grin to remember. As I began to develop more sophistication I moved on to MERP and from there to the HERO System, becoming ever more enamored of “realism” and “maturity”– mostly because I was still young and insecure about such things.

A lot of my games from this second period were very sophisticated by comparison– I had a “street-level superheroes” campaign that delved into dark topics and psychology and presaged things like The Killing Joke by a matter of years. But at the same time, a lot of my gaming sessions felt like work– we were trying so hard to Make Art out of the game, that we would lose sight of the fact that we were a bunch of nerds sitting around a table rolling dice to control the fate of fictional characters.

These days, I’d like to think I can have the best of both worlds. I have primarily returned to D&D (using the actual rules, even), but I work with the players to integrate their characters’ personalities and background into the campaign. There are random encounter tables, but they are built with an eye toward reinforcing the theme or environment of the adventure instead of being a giant kitchen sink of weirdness. There are serious NPC allies, enemies, or wildcards, but there are also moments of pure goofiness.

But most importantly, I remember these days why I fell in love with the game in the first place– those crazy moments of shared story that we were all creating together, where the stuff on the paper was there if we wanted it, but also didn’t matter if it didn’t actually make things more fun. And I’m always grateful for D&D weather, because that’s what it reminds me of.

-The Gneech

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