Jun 08 2021

Blog as Social Connector

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I miss my LiveJournal.

Putting some thought this morning into the much-mourned LiveJournal. I mean yes, technically LiveJournal still exists, but even if it hadn’t been yucked up by its sale, it was already a ghost of its former self at that point. At its height, LiveJournal combined the experience of a blogging community, an active Twitter feed, and an RSS reader all in one. With powerful community-searching and keywords, and a PAGINATED, CHRONOLOGICAL FEED (*bows and presses hands together at such a wonder*), LiveJournal was a way to connect with your current friends, find new ones, and have as deep or as frivolous a conversation as you wanted without being sabotaged by the algorithm. You could get bot-swarmed by trolls, that’s a danger everywhere on the internet, but there were also tools for dealing with that.

Of course, the problem was that it was expensive to run, and as the airline industry (and just the *#$^ing existence of MS Word) proves, some individuals may be willing to pay for something that doesn’t suck, but people in the aggregate will not pay a single cent for an objectively much better experience if they can get something terrible that does the same job for cheaper or free. And so Facebook, Twitter, and other “you’re the product not the customer” scramble-your-feed-for-pay services flourished, while LiveJournal, where you had to put in your own HTML code and pay for the privilege, did not.

Unfortunately, the 21st century has shown that the nature of modern technology is to start out pretty cool and over time get progressively worse, and social media is no exception. There are still some blogs around, writers banging away stubbornly on their keyboards because that’s who writers are, in the same way that newspaper comic strips technically still exist. But I can’t remember the last time I got involved in a meaningful discussion with a community through them. I gather that Discord (and to a lesser extent Telegram) is the place for that kind of connection, but I’ve never been able to operate in that kind of environment. I like my discussions to be high signal-to-noise and siloed by topic–in a way that I can find and reference later, mind you–but forums are just as moribund as blogs are.

So what to do? Twitter’s own users regularly refer to it as “this hellsite” and lament their own seeming addiction to it. (See also, Hank Green’s recent video, “Is Twitter Redeemable?”)

Facebook is and always has been a dumpster fire, partially due to the technology, but mostly due to the “hate speech is peachy as long as it pays” avarice of its owners. Tumblr is a niche platform that keeps trying to evict its only users. Pillowfort and Dreamwidth are the Good Guys, but they also don’t have the enough of a user base to create and sustain community (and Pillowfort has been plagued by bugs and long term shutdowns). I don’t have an answer; it may be that the journaling format was just a 15-year blip that has gone the way of BBS’s and editorial pages, and I should just let it go.

But I really like it, and I want it to come back.

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Dec 18 2018

The Blogosphere Is Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down…

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So, Tumblr has famously splinched itself. Patreon is trying desperately to serve its most dedicated users against the will of every bank in the universe. Facebook is and always was a dumpster fire. LiveJournal was Russianized ages ago. Twitter has a Nazi problem in its upper offices. And now WordPress is “updating” itself into unusability.

I don’t mind telling you, I am frustrated.

For a shining window of time (say, 2000-2005ish? I’m terrible with dates), blogging was AMAZEBALLS. There was so much cool stuff to read! People just expounding on any nerdy thing that interested them! People would actually have discussions about stuff! Flamewars did happen sometimes, but they were considered a breakdown of the system, not an inescapable fact of life.

There’s no point in saying “What happened, man?” ‘cos we know what happened. Bots happened. Apparatchiks looking for targets happened. A bunch of broken sadboys happened. Corporate pettiness, short-term thinking, and mendacity happened. The religious right happened. A ton of bullshit happened.

Well I also don’t mind telling you, I’m not giving up. The human capacity for creativity, beauty, and deep thought is limitless, and humanity’s desire to connect, share, and grow is limitless as well. Once there were storytellers, then there were poets, then there were philosophers and playwrights, then there were writers, then there were bloggers. The mode evolves, but the drive remains.

I don’t think that the heat death of the blogoverse is inevitable, and I fully intend to rage against the dying of the light on that front. But I also know that even if the form completely chokes, that drive will manifest again in another form. And I will be watching, ready to pounce on it.

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Aug 14 2017

In Which I Need to Start Getting Somewhere

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So recently, at Barnes & Noble, my attention was drawn to a hardback on the “fantasy new releases” table, featuring what was described as “flintlock fantasy with airships, a touch of humor, and an engaging female hero.”

I nearly burned the place down. ¬.¬

After the writing, revising, submitting, re-revising, submitting again, and so forth that Sky Pirates of Calypsitania has gone through, to see this thing sitting there made me want to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS SHOULD BE MY BOOK!”

So. Yeah. I was upset. Deep breaths. Let’s work this thing out.

On the positive side, clearly someone must think there’s a market for the kind of books I want to write. I mean, there it is. But I have to connect to it.

And to be clear, I’m pretty sure that the author of that book worked just as long and just as hard on it as I did on mine. My own personal green-eyed-monster popping out notwithstanding, I wish them success.

That doesn’t alter the fact that I had this extreme, intensely emotional reaction to seeing “my book with someone else’s name on it” right there on the very table where I have been trying to get my book for years now. What I have to do, is direct that energy in a positive direction.

If this is the team that put the book on the table, I reasoned, then it could serve me well to hook up with that team. A little research turned up the agent of not-my-book. I went back and rewrote the opening, again, to address feedback the book had received on the previous round, getting thumbs-ups from my beta readers, and sent it to that agent. Given that this particular agent has a strict “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” policy, however, the response could easily range from an excited followup any day, to chirping crickets until forever.

I don’t intend to wait. As far as I’ve been able to make out, the main thing that makes a writing career succeed (besides lightning in a bottle) is sheer volume. The most popular and well-paid writers I know get that way by writing a lot of books. And as much as I love Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, it is only the one.

What this boils down to is, I need to work on another book. I’ll keep shopping Sky Pirates around as long as it takes, but I can’t leave my career on hold waiting for any one project to move.

I have been trying to write a more “mainstream” fantasy, and I got maybe a third of it done as part of last year’s NaNoWriMo, but I keep running into a fundamental paradox: in trying to adhere to more standard tropes in order to make the book “sellable,” I feel like I’m just aping other people’s work, which in turn makes for a book that I’m not sure I would read, myself.

Of course, it’s just the first draft of said book, and so there’s an argument that I should just finish the thing, with “rip out all the Tolkien” being one of the goals of the second draft. But if I know all the Tolkien needs to come out anyway, then leaving it in there for the first draft feels like creating work I don’t need to do.

So perhaps I should just leave that one in the drafts folder and start a whole new project that’s more like what I want to write.

But I need to do something. I need to get somewhere.

-The Gneech

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Feb 17 2015

Kingsman: You Are a Bad Movie and You Should Feel Bad

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“Jeeves is a secret agent, starring Colin Firth.” I should love that, right? I mean, I have one or two other buttons you could push, but this should be a slam-dunk “instant favorite” for me.

Nope.

I loathe this terrible, awful, no-good movie. Besides not actually being very good at what I would have considered its selling points, it is also deceptively marketed and prurient in its intent and tone. All of the “charm” is not charming. All of the “humor” is not funny. And instead of being escapist superspy fare, it’s just idiotic, hateful, sophomoric violence-porn with no aesthetic or story value.

In short, it sucks.

NOTE: There will be spoilers ahead, if it is indeed possible to “spoil” a movie that is already rotten. But you’ve been warned, in any case.

So we start things with a clear “George Lazenby couldn’t make it” James Bond stand-in being sheared in half by Gimmick Henchman, with one half flopping to the left and one half flopping to the right, Wile E. Coyote style. It’s dumb, but they’re trying to establish an OTT aesthetic, I get it. Amazing how there’s not even a drop of blood in this room full of rubber body parts, but yeah, okay, I get it. CGI dismemberment is fine as long as it’s not bloody, sayeth the ratings board. That enough would have knocked the movie off my faves list, but it isn’t the real problem.

So then we move into the main meat of the story, where Forgettable Protagonist Boy gets inducted into the Kingsmen, hitting all the same beats MiB did better, while Colin Firth investigates the mystery of Samuel Jackson as Lisping Steve Jobs Wants to Destroy the World. It’s serviceable if a bit dull, but leads to where the real problem is.

Samuel Jackson as Lisping Steve Jobs has stolen the macguffin from Secret Agent Super Dragon: he has a hate plague app implanted in cellphones all over the world, which makes people go berserk and kill everyone within plot device radius. He decides to run a test of this at the !Westboro Baptist Church; Colin Firth attends to investigate, gets hit by the mind control ray, and then spends the next ten minutes slaughtering everyone in the church, because he’s a badass superspy in a bulletproof suit and they’re all just degenerate hicks.

And then I walked out.

I’m told it gets worse from there. I don’t even want to imagine. But let’s dissect this moment of cinematic poo-throwing, shall we?

First and foremost, it’s clear that the movie thinks that filling the church full of annoying bigots makes it totally okay to spend ten minutes showing them all slaughtered one by one, in close up from almost Colin-Firth-cam view. It’s all super-quick cuts and choreography, and again without a drop of blood. You’re not supposed to be thinking about the horrors being inflicted on these people, you’re supposed to be impressed by what a badass Colin Firth is. (Luckily for us, we were reminded by a PSA at the beginning of the film that if a kid puts on harris tweeds and shoots up a school after seeing this, it’s totally not the movie’s fault.)

Well guess what, movie? It’s not okay. Do you maybe not understand what makes bigotry bad? The reason these hate group people are awful is because they would think it was funny to have a single person walk into a room full of [group they don’t like] and wipe them all out in gruesome ways. Ha, ha, darn those wacky bigots! …Wait.

Presumably the movie will then follow up with Colin Firth being all horrified at what he’s done and whinge about not having any choice, etc., etc. (I don’t know, because as I say, I walked out); and while that may theoretically be an out for the character, the filmmakers had a choice. You were the ones who chose to revel in this crap; you were the ones who said, “Hey, who wouldn’t want to vicariously slaughter a church full of crackers?”

I was shaking with rage when I walked out of the theater. Not just at what the movie had done, but that none of the previews or reviews had objected to this, or even fucking mentioned it. I went in expecting classic superspy escapist fare; instead I got loathsome violence porn. If I’d wanted to watch a goddamn Tarantino movie I would have had my head examined watched a goddamn Tarantino movie. One of my standing policies is to never willingly watch movies in which “murdering people and laughing about it is totally okay, as long as they’re the wrong sort of people” is a core value.

To hell with you, movie, and to hell with your poisonous mindset. You are absolute garbage, and you’ve brought shame to everyone involved in the production.

-The Gneech

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May 01 2014

The Full Cobain

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c/o Fleen

The Mighty Godking Goes Full Cobain

Writing a pithy post that adequately sums up my feelings about all of this is essentially impossible because a certain subsection of nerds seem determined to never, ever stop being terrible people, and put all of their energy into being terrible people, and make sure that they win simply by exhausting anybody who’s even halfway decent.

…but I do have one response, and that is to take a page from Kurt Cobain:

“If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of a different color, or women, please do this one favor for us… Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records. –Kurt Cobain”

I write a blog, I does a Twitter, I make comics. And this one goes out to the dickheads out there who seem determined to make life as difficult as possible for fangirls and geek girls and girls generally: don’t read my stuff. Just pass it by. I will make do without your eyeballs, attention, and (when there is opportunity for you to spend) monies. You are not needed; you are the fleshy little wart on the ass of Life, purely extraneous and mostly unpleasant, and I don’t want your business.

And for everybody else who makes comics – or other nerd stuff – you should be telling these people the exact same thing. You’ve probably been implying it anyway, but it’s time we all vocalized it.

This is a good policy, and I hereby adopt it, and attempt to spread the word.

-The Gneech

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Sep 07 2013

I’m Not In It For the Cookie

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When talking about problematic social stuff, there is a concept that gets thrown at me a lot which, depending on my mood at the time, occasionally really rankles. The first time I was really hit by it was some years ago now, when Drezzer Wolf was revealed to be gay in Suburban Jungle, and someone described him with a heavy sigh as “the obligatory alternate-lifestyle character.”

My own thoughts in response ran along the lines of: “‘Obligatory?’ I’m creating this comic in my own time and paying somebody else to host it– who the heck do you think I’m obliged to? Here’s a crazy thought: maybe Drezzer is gay because that’s what’s right for the character! So sorry you have to put up with a gay wolf in a furry comic, you poor old thing.”

In the years since then, I’ve seen this idea come up again and again, that there’s some kind of “obligation” to do what I consider basic decency, or that I’ll somehow “score points” for expressing an opinion (usually of a feminist or anti-racist variety).

To those who try to undermine my beliefs or opinions this way, I have only this to say: fuck you.

Seriously.

If you disagree with me, well fine, you disagree with me. Nobody agrees on everything. But at least have the common courtesy to work from the assumption that I say what I say because I mean it. There isn’t anyone in the world whose good graces I care about enough to espouse a cause I don’t believe in. I’ve quit jobs and dissolved friendships based on my convictions before and there’s no reason to think I won’t do so again.

Similarly, the other day an author I like awarded me what I assume was a feminist cookie for my comment that I don’t like being called a ‘brony’. I’m pretty sure she meant it in a friendly sort of way, but it still touched on that same nerve. It could be that I come across as looking for approval; I’ve never been very good at guessing how I appear in other people’s eyes. But really, I’m not.

I’m not in it for the cookie; I’m not obliged to anyone (except myself); and I’m not here to score points. If I wanted to fish for approval, there are much easier ways to get it than discussing these sorts of topics.

-The Gneech

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